Microsoft re-announces already invented tech (again)

Todays announcement from Microsoft of “Surface” just smacks of the original Mac-Windows competition from more than 20 years ago.

Apple pre-announced the Mac and then there was a hoopla of bluster from Microsoft about their new Windows platform. Which of course didn’t ship for more than a year and was nowhere near as feature complete. But it got people thinking and waiting for the next big thing.

This time round we had some hubbub about Jeff Han’s multitouch user interface and then Apple pre-announces a product with it – the iPhone. To ship mid-June this year, it’s a great deployment of a fascinating technology (I always speculated that computers should have at least two mouse pointers for manipulation). It has similarities to Jeff Han’s interface for picture manipulation but the interaction with the iPod side of the interface and the way it uses gestures for safari is pure gold.

Microsoft, ever the innovator, has cloned Jeff’s interface. And that’s about it. But, aha, you say – they’ve made it horizontal.

MSNBC (a subsidary venture of Microsoft) says in a rather gushing interview:

When you place your wi-fi enabled digital camera on the table, for example, Surface ‘sees’ the camera and does something extraordinary: It pulls your digital pictures and videos out onto the table for you to look at, move, edit or send. Images literally spill out in a pool of color.

I ahve a funny feeling it won’t be as simple as that unless this is a new breed of Windows that doesn’t require drivers at all. And what if you didn’t want your photos to spill out onto the table. What if you just wanted to use it as a table. These demos are all very well but they’re not really related to reality. To my mind it’s a great toy but one that requires infrared sensors placed around the room to enable the table to see your interactions. It’s not just a table. And not really as interesting as the Reactable.

Microsoft did manage to get Popular Mechanics to gush about how revolutionary this coffee table would be.

Gates could hardly contain himself as he left his fingers play along a surface of smooth plastic which displayed rippling water.

It was just like a pool of water…but without the wet, cool effect.

This device will be shipping by 2008 and will cost $5000 – $10000. Or you can get the iPhone in about 14 days (if you’re in the US) or by 4Q07 in Europe.

My prediction: This will be a success of Mira-esque proportions. Simply relegated to replacing the touch screen kiosks we see everywhere….

Cancelling the iMac. Say it isn’t so?

Wil Shipley writes a rumour-starter that the iMac is due to be EOL’ed this year. In the interests of getting this started, let’s examine it.

When the Apple Product Matrix was young, it made sense to have an iMac. It fit – showing the product as a friendly consumer-oriented device:
Powerbook
PowerMac
iMac
iBook

Everything else has gone through a rebranding exercise. The PowerMac has become the Mac Pro. The Powerbook, the awkward MacBook Pro. The iBook retired as well in favour of the MacBook. The Mac moniker comes first – it’s a deliberate reinforcement of the Mac brand certainly in areas where it was missing completely (Powerbook, iBook).

So what of the iMac

I think that in a world where Apple has rebranded again, it might be worthwhile wondering where the “Mac” went. We have the MacBook Pro and the MacBook. We have the Mac Pro and then we have the …. Mac mini and iMac.

What I’d like would be for Apple to keep the current lineup and complement the Mac mini with a MacBook mini (something analogous to Sony’s TX-series subnotes) or even the new Metro concept design from Intel.

What Apple will do?

Microsoft postpones PDC. Scoble and Foley comment.

Microsoft announced late on Thursday May 24 that it has cancelled the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) that was slated for this October.

I’m having fun thinking this is because Leopard was delayed until October and Microsoft would need a few months to replicate some of the features.

As the last two PDC conferences (2003 and 2005) were all about Longhorn a client-side operating system that never shipped, it’s entirely possible that Microsoft has nothing to talk about.

As Scoble says: this means a couple of things: no new Windows and no major new Internet strategy this year.

Scoble also writes:There still is a ban on .NET code in core parts of Windows. They aren’t getting enough performance yet from .NET. … letting Microsoft’s developers write .NET code for Windows would unleash a bunch of innovation.

??? I don’t think the coding environment is the most important thing for innovation. Having a culture of innovation is much more important. And that’s not been at Microsoft for such a very long time.

He brings up another point: if Microsoft is unwilling to use it to develop Windows or Office, why should the rest of us base our life on it?

This reminds me of the Win32 API fiasco.

and lastly:

Some other things I’m hearing from the Windows team? That they are still planning out the next version of Windows. So, I don’t expect to see a beta until 2008 (probably second half of the year, if we see one at all) and I don’t expect to see a major new version of Windows to ship until 2009.

You’re kidding, right?

They haven’t finished mapping out what it does mid-2007. And you’re saying we won’t see a major new version until maybe 18 months later? I’m tempted to give this one a major DUH! (especially seeing my comments above on the content of the last two PDC shows). Even on the long finger, expecting a major new version of Windows before 2.5 years has passed seems a rather bewildering measure. It took them how long to get Windows Vista out? Considering it was ON TIME…

Still a grumpy bugger today. Orange still on my mind.

More on Skype and Orange

In an earlier post I whined about Skype and Orange.

Without fanfare, SkypeIn now seems to be working. It’s still a little slow connecting first time and sometimes requires a second connection to get the link up but that’s progress at least.

Now. Orange.

They didn’t get back to me.
They sent me another bill for £174.
That means they lied twice. Firstly in saying they would get back to me, secondly in promising that everything would be fixed in the next bill. Their solution now is that their billing integrity team will work it out by the NEXT bill and I have to cancel my direct debit to them. So there’s a good chance (based on the fact that they’ve been unable to keep any promises so far) that I’ll be cut off when they try to get payment on the 2nd June despite their assurances to the contrary. And apparently giving them a month is not enough for them to have sorted out a problem.

Orange will tell you, when you call them, that they are dedicated to providing great customer service. Absolute rot.

I’ve spent countless minutes on the phone to them and right now I hate them. Passionately. It didn’t help that I had three call drops while on the phone to their customer services people. And I wasn’t moving. It meant explaining the issue in full FOUR TIMES. It brings into sharp relief the OTHER problems I’ve been having with:

  • Dropped calls while moving. Every time. Seems the software used to handover calls from tower to tower is simply just shit.
  • Poor connectivity in Lisburn. And Mallusk. And East Belfast. Which I presume is pandemic because they couldn’t just be picking on me, eh?
  • Fast downloads are impossible as every time it fails over from GPRS to GSM and the data rate is pitiful. This happens everywhere. Centre of Belfast. On a hill with direct LOS to a tower. Everywhere. It’s pathetic.
  • The general crappiness of the Sony Ericsson K800i. It’s refusing to charge from the wall charger this week and the joystick seems to take notions on when it’s going to work. And the keylock isn’t reliable enough for keeping the phone on your pocket. Muting the sound means you can’t get keyclick back. And the button for surfing the internet is too close to other important keys so I’m continually connecting to OrangeWorld when I just want to hit the “back” button. I won’t wax on about how clunky the email client is or how poor the battery life is. It’s just a crap phone. And I’m beginning to hate it.

So, what are my options. Looking at the other providers, there are very few compelling deals for the UK and the myth of 3G connectivity is proving to be just that.

I’m being enticed by the thought of the Nokia e65 or n95. A phone with decent WLAN would be nice. But is it worth waiting for the iPhone which will undoubtedly be crippled by our local providers insisting on branding it or will it even have a sniff of 3G coverage.

Until our mobile operators sort this out, we’re forever going to be in a technological backwater. It’s certainly not the kind of result you want if you’re a bedouin worker wanting a a good service from a respectable telecoms provider.

As for Orange. They’ve certainly made me passionate about them since they convinced me on bended knee not to leave them in January. Avoid them like the plague. I stayed on with them and talked about the great tariff I was promised. I was very passionate about it. Now – after months of bad billing and customer services representatives who freely admit they’re only there to TALK to you and not actually to SERVICE you, I’m at the end of my tether.

They’re going to have to pull something out of their ass to change my mind now. Starting with their finger.

Broken Things (Julie Miller)

You can have my heart
Though it isn’t new
It’s been used and broken
And only comes in blue
It’s been down a long road
And it got dirty on the way
If I give it to you will you make it clean
And wash the shame away

You can have my heart
If you don’t mind broken things
You can have my life if you don’t mind these tears
Well I heard that you make old things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have my heart

So beyond repair
Nothing I could do
I tried to fix it myself
But it was only worse when I got through
Then you walked into my darkness
And you speak words so sweet
And you hold me like a child
Till my frozen tears fall at your feet

(Best performed by Juliet Turner IMO)

Exploit the Negative

Exploiting the negative is an interesting theory:

“If everyone tried following their bliss everyone would be trying to get to the same place at the same time. It’d be a fucking traffic jam. But since no one likes going into the negative there’s more room for opportunity – less competition, less traffic.”

This isn’t about trying to make lemonade because all you have is lemons though there are probably a hundred business plans out there which tell you how to exploit the fact you have a job lot of T-shirts/odd-sized boxes/carpet remainders.

This is about actually exploiting the negative. Look inside the places where you are lacking, where you have failed, and see what can be made of them.

It’s taken a lot of soul searching but it’s sorta worked for me. In many cases it’s meant letting go of some things which used to be vital to my continued existence.

For instance, dealing with separation and divorce means actually setting aside quality time with my kids rather than just living in the same house. The negative was unavoidable but I think it made a happier Dad and therefore happier kids.

Creating a profitable company frees you up a lot but when you fall out of love with the work you are doing, it means you can look for new challenges. You might learn to love the old work again, or you may find yourself a new muse.

Faced with a bad outcome, looking at ways to exploit it might just give you a renewed lease on life.

I’m not making this shit up.

Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money. – George Carlin

Losing my religion

The morning hasn’t brought a shift in mood. If anything I feel worse. It’s reflecting in my personal life as well as my online life. It’s bad enough when online friends are asking me where I am these days as I had become part of the furniture – a question-answering, IT-literate piece of furniture perhaps. I just don’t feel like I’m really there. Short story? Despite professing the contrary, I can’t trust to love when it’s not my life that would be utterly ruined. I just don’t have the faith any more – I remember losing my faith in God, in magic, in the tooth fairy but I’d always kept my faith in myself and in other people and most importantly in love. This year, I think I have lost faith in everything.

I’m working on rebuilding my faith in myself – most notably by leaving the company that I spent the last 4 years building. I’ll still own it but it’s no longer challenging. I need to find something that really makes me think, makes me work, makes me get up in the morning. So I’ve applied for a corporate wage slave job and I’m going to rejoin the rat race for a while and see if I can find my love of my own way again. It’s odd that I need to find some external verification of my value by leaving my homegrown businesses which I have nurtured for 4 years and subjugating myself to a large international organisation and prostrating myself at the temple of Mammon where the chants of “win-win” and “action item” and “restructuring” fill the halls. I don’t expect anyone else to understand and I’m sure I’ll miss the flexibility. But I really need a change. My heart is broken and I need to throw myself at something that will take my mind off things.

I’m also not mad keen on the redesign but it comes just when I’m moving to new laptop too so some of it might just be unfamilarity. I wonder if this works better with Safari rather than Firefox? Hmmmmm.

The new laptop has a smaller screen than the old as I’ve moved from a 15″ MacBook Pro to a 13″ MacBook. Why? Portability really. I just move around too much and I don’t “need” the bigger screen and wasn’t using the kick-ass graphics card either.

The new job, should I get it, will be all Windows-based. Which sucks. But then when you run your own business you can choose to be a Mac person or not. For the first time ever I’ll not have the admin passwords. That’s going to be weird.

This isn’t my only blog, but it is my only personal blog. All the rest of them are company, or project based. This is the only place where I can be honest about my feelings without having to edit the content for an audience who only want to hear about the latest and greatest.

Ask me about anything. My answer will be “I don’t know.”

Skype and Orange: a post about suckage.

SkypeIn works….from local land lines. *sigh* It doesn’t work from my mobile (Orange network). This is an improvement considering the problems I was having before but it’s still a pain in the butt. Skype have STILL not gotten back to me on resolution from the original report (can you believe it was MARCH) and I’m losing faith in them which peeves me because I have invested time and money in Skype solutions for myself and clients. I have a mostly useless Belkin Skype phone here.

Orange. Bill for £185 this month. “Billing error” apparently. They forgot to take note of the inclusive minutes and texts. If I’d not noticed, I’d have just been wondering why I was feeling tapped this month. Reminds me all that we are to these companies is a monthly Direct Debit. They didn’t seem to notice that my bill this month was more than THREE TIMEs higher than it has ever been and was actually 8 times larger than it should be. At least they’ve promised to get back to me with something as soon as they can which is streets ahead of the “when we can be bothered” you get with Skype.

At this point I cannot recommend either service to clients. Big companies just don’t get to be this sucky.

Accents with extra local flavour.

Juliet Turner is one of my favourite artists. Her enriched-with-extra-local-flavour accent was a bone of contention with my wife who hated her Omagh-tone and banned her from the house. See how that turned out (though obviously it wasn’t because of that). I’ve seen her live once and would do so again. I remember sitting in the residents lounge of a hotel after a post-Y2K celebration dinner and singing Juliet Turner songs with a complete stranger. It was like a secret we shared and while we sang, no-one else even spoke (which considering the amount of beer they had consumed that night at the free bar, was extremely surprising). Belfast Central was one of the songs we worked well with, because it’s a duet, another was the Tom Waits classic, “I hope that I don’t fall in love” which she duetted with Brian Kennedy. I think I’d like to hear her sing “She moves thru the fair” which was done really well by All About Eve about a hundred years ago in 1988.