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Microsoft’s Echoes Does NOT Eliminate Phone Numbers

Grand title for a grand plan: Mary Jo Foley reports about Microsoft’s grand plan to eliminate phone numbers .

The problem is, it really does not eliminate phone numbers, just makes them more convenient for use. It’s not Mary Jo’s fault, she just quotes Bill Gates:

“Right now the mobile phone, the desktop phone, the e-mail that you have on the PC, or instant messaging, these are all very different things, and the issues about how much of your information or your schedule, your current activity you share with people who communicate with you is not well designed…. By bringing together all of these kinds of communication, we can greatly simplify them. We can get rid of phone numbers, have it so when you say you want to contact someone, based on who you are and where that person is, they can decide whether to take the call or take a message about that, and so a great efficiency improvement that can be made there.”

Microsoft’s new Echoes service platform will indeed assign a mobile number to Windows Live contacts, and synchronize everything with everythingsmile_wink allowing communication via voice call, email, SMS.. you name it.

Nice. But let’s think for a minute.

When I grew up we had rotary phones, I probably knew a few dozen phone numbers by heart, since every time I called a friend I had to manually dial it. For the rest, there was the big thick phone book.

Along came the first push-button phones and we could program a few numbers into speed-dial. The issue was no longer knowing all he phone numbers, but remembering which button was which.

Don’t worry, I am not about to walk through all the technology improvements in such detail, as most of my readers remember the rest. Phones with more memory, LCD screens, directories, cell-phones, PDA’s, PC-based programs..etc all have one thing in common: they still use phone numbers, we just don’t have to remember them. Heck, I don’t know all my own phone numbers (but GrandCentral doessmile_regular)

These devices did not eliminate phone numbers; they just made it more convenient to use them. Just like Microsoft’s Echoes (supposedly) will.

All that said, convenience is important, so Echoes is a great plan if and when it works and gets universal acceptance. Of course the flip-side is it’s reliance on Windows Live. Anyone smells lock-in? Let’s not forget for many people Windows Live log-in is their former Microsoft Passport login. The infamous Passport that went down so often depriving users access to basic services, including their own finances. The Passport that Microsoft handles a bit too casually. Here’s a little anecdote just to make the point:

A few months ago I wanted to try Microsoft’s Health Vault ( a system so over-complicated that I can almost guarantee patients won’t be able to use it) and it required my Live (formerly Passport) login. Then it told me my password was not secure enough and forced me to change it. I thought I was changing my vault access only, there was no warning whatsoever that this would change my login to all other systems requiring Live login. I only found out when I could not log in to Microsoft Money, where I manage all my finances.

Conclusion: Echoes sounds like a good, useful plan, just beware what it means to be locked in to a Microsoft platform.

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Facebook Runs a Sweatshop – Literally

Facebook runs a sweatshop – literally. The evidence is in the yellow circle on this Valleywag-supplied photo of their Palo Alto office space.

While employees are struggling with the heat, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is clearly wearing shoes instead of his trademark Adidas flip-flops at the D6 conference in Carlsbad (photo by Dan Farber):

Therein lies the solution: bring the flip-flops back. But don’t stop there: mandate beach-wear in the office. An amazingly simple solution to many of Facebooks problems:

  • - No more heat problem
  • - Increased employee morale, probably enough for them to forget about revoked housing subsidy
  • - Additional incentive to stay in the office longer
  • - Reduced energy bill
  • - Going Green is trendy, there’s another $5B added to their valuation.

I’m a genius. Sending Zuck a $10K consulting invoice. island

Update: Why can’t WordPress 2.5 dislay bulletpoints properly?

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SaaS and the Shifting Software Business Model

Barely two years ago we debated whether little-known Zoho was worth paying attention to. The majority view was that their Office applications were weak contenders that would never challenge the Microsoft suite’s position. I think I was in the minority stating that I really did not need more than 10-20% of Word or Excel’s functionality, but online-anywhere access and collaboration made the switch worthwhile.

Today Robert Scoble reports he is seeing online applications wherever he turns:

Today I’d say the skill set is shifting once again. This time to something like Zoho Writer or Google’s Docs. Because if you visit Fast Company’s offices in New York, for instance, they want to work with you on your copy in live time. Fast Fast Fast is the word of the day. It’s in our title, after all. Now some people still use Word, but last time I was there one of the editors told me he was moving everything over to Google’s Docs because it let him work with his authors much more effectively.

These are no longer yesterday’s wannabe applications. Zoho Sheet recently added Macro and Pivot Table support , going way beyond the average user’s needs (and certainly exceeding my spreadsheet skills, which are stuck somewhere at the Lotus 1-2-3 level). Zoho Writer today added an equation editor and LaTex support. Heck, I don’t even know latex from silicone, what is it doing in my editor? smile_wink
As I found out it’s important for Zoho’s academic and student users, once again, going way beyond an average user’s needs. (the other update today is mass import from Google Docs: nice, special delivery for Dennis, but I still would like to see a list of all my online docs, be it Zoho or Google, open them, edit them, and save to whichever format (and storage) I want to.)

Online applications have arrived, they’ve become feature-rich, powerful, and are the way software will be consumed in the future. They also change the business landscape.

Software margins choked by the cloud? – asks Matt Assay at CNet, pointing out a shift in Microsoft’s tone about cloud computing, recognizing that in the future they will host apps for a majority of their customers, and that their margins will seriously decline:

There’s not a chance in Hades that Microsoft will be able to charge more for its cloud-based offerings–not when its competitors are using the cloud to pummel its desktop and server-based offerings. This is something that Microsoft (and everyone else) is simply going to have to get used to. The go-go days of outrageous software margins are over. Done.

Matt cites Nick Carr who in turn recently discussed

…the different economics of providing software as a Web service and the aggressive pricing strategies of cloud pioneers like Google, Zoho, and Amazon.

This is fellow Enterprise Irregular Larry Dignan’s key take-away from the Bill & Steve show, too:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged the fact that a lot of computing is happening in the browser and not in applications. He also said that the future of software will have “a much more balanced computational model” and that Microsoft will have to compromise.

Of course it isn’t just Office. The obvious business application is CRM, where Salesforce.com pioneered the concept and delivered the first On-demand product. But now a funny thing is happening: the pioneer is increasingly being replaced by more inexpensive competitors, including my Client, Zoho. Yes, SaaS disrupts the traditional software market, but there’s another equally important trend happening: the commoditization of software.

Commoditization is beneficial to customers, but a death-spiral to (most) vendors. Except for the few that drive commoditization. Zoho makes no secret of doing exactly that.

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Windows 7: Multi-touch and Salt in the Wound

Today the world is raving (not really) about Windows 7′s multi-touch capabilities. Yet the overwhelming feeling I have about the latest Bill & Steve show is disappointment. I feel betrayed…abandoned. They created this turd Vista, then instead of fixing it they move on to the next thing. I’m left behind with this piece of junk. Incidentally, here’s another telling Vista screen, captured today:

You know, the famous Vista copy problem supposedly fixed in SP1. (OK, I realize this is deletion rather than copy, but it’s file manipulation nevertheless … I assume it’s the same problem)

I really wasn’t kidding when I said:

Windows 7, whenever it comes, should be released as “Vista Final”, free to all Vista victims along with Microsoft’s letter of apology.

Read more here: Between the Lines, ParisLemon, CNET News.com, All about Microsoft, InfoWorld, InformationWeek, Gizmodo, GottaBeMobile, VentureBeat, Outside the Lines, WinExtra, Scobleizer, TechCrunch, The Inquisitr, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs …etc…etc.

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Webolution

My lower back tells me this pic I stole from Sean Percival is so right…

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One Day Left for Early Bird Rate to Launch: Silicon Valley 2008

I’ve pretty much said everything there is to say about Launch: Silicon Valley 2008, a joint event of SVASE and Garage Technology Ventures.

The presenting startup applications are in, being evaluated, and thirty of them will debut on June 10th @ the Microsoft Mountain View Campus.

There is another important deadline now: Monday is the last day you can register at the Early Bird rate, which represents a $50 discount.

See you there in June! smile_shades

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Ballmer for President

Dan Farber calls Steve Ballmer a flip-flopper for casually re-evaluating his pursuit of Yahoo during a speech in Moscow:

“Yahoo was never the strategy we were pursuing, it was a way to accelerate our online advertising business…We will spend money on some acquisitions. You can do a whole lot of things with 50 billion dollars.”

This Eastern-European tour didn’t start quite well for Ballmer, who received the egg-treatment in Budapest, but now it may just take a positive turn. After all, being a certified flip-flopper qualifies him as a Candidate for President (not of Microsoft, but the USA). He needs a new job anyway, now that Scoble is about to take over at Microsoft.smile_shades

Update: OK, so he’s late to run. I hear there will soon be another vacancy he can apply for…

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We Don’t Know What We’re Doing But We’ve Got the Money to Fix It

In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about Twitter. Their blog-post addressing system failures is outright shocking.

We’ve gone through our various databases, caches, web servers, daemons, and despite some increased traffic activity across the board, all systems are running nominally. The truth is we’re not sure what’s happening.

Translation: sorry everyone, we have a popular service and have no clue why it’s constantly crashing. It’s bad. really-really bad. But hey, at least they are honest. And the $15 million they’ve just picked up should be enough to hire someone who actually knows how to get out of this mess. (Update: they just did)

Update: On second thought, I am less optimistic forgiving. Twitter already raised $5M before this round, that should have allowed them to bring in expertise they clearly lack. If only their priorities were on fixing the service instead of chasing more money.

I keep on re-reading the blog post:

I have this graph up on my screen all the time.

So what? Here’s the chart I often check, provided by Zoho’s Site24x7 service:

I have no idea where the spikes (performance degradation) come from. I’m just as clueless as the twitter team. The difference: I’m not providing a service people became dependent on.

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SAP Sets the World on Fire

SAPPHIRE 08 in Orlando: Bush fires in Florida right after we left. (This miracle house is worth a look: everything around is charred except the house and lawn.)

SAPPHIRE 08 in Berlin: The Berlin Philharmonic is on fire.

 

Who says old SAP can’t set the World on fire?  smile_sarcastic

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Re-blogging: The Difference Between Press and Bloggers

I don’t normally do this, but I figured if re-tweeting on Twitter is accepted, then re-blogging should be OK, too.smile_wink

Some of my fellow Enterprise Irregulars are at SAP’s European Conference, SAPPHIRE 08 in Berlin, and James Governor juxtaposed two photos taken there:

James leaves it to the reader to work out which group the bloggers are.smile_eyeroll