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My new workstation

May 7, 2010 1 comment
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Once you go Mac, you’ll never go back

February 19, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time now but never got round to doing so. Late last year, I finally decided to take the plunge. I bought myself a MacBook. In fact, I actually bought an Acer laptop but decided to take advantage of my refund policy and exchanged it for a MacBook.

As one of the many millions of iPhone users, like many, the phone was my first exposure to Apple. I’ve always been a Bill Gates guy. I use a lot of third party software that was (during that time) only available on PC. Moreover, I am certified in Microsoft products (MSCA). I was aware of the user friendliness of Apple computers and the ‘apparent’ buggy Microsoft operating systems, however that was not enough to persuade me to even try out Apple. The problem was, in hindsight, I never had any major problem with Windows. Well, I had plenty of problems, I just managed to fix them and as a lifelong Microsoft user, I did not have a frame of reference (I have dabbled in Linux) … until I started using Macs.

The latest generation of Macs run on Intel processors. With the use of special emulation software (Parallel Desktop), you can install Windows on it.  Windows will run concurrently (in a window or in full screen mode) on your MacBook. Furthermore, you can seamlessly transfer files between the two systems. That way, you can run whatever software is only available on Windows (however, most software worth a damn also come for Mac nowadays, unless the developer is living in the 90s). I believe Microsoft Windows runs better on Mac hardware! It seems Apple has hit the homerun with their latest generation of Personal Computing devices.

Secondly, it is worth mentioning I bought the white MacBook  (MC207B/A), which is the entry model. Since I am not into gaming or intense power hungry multimedia application, I thought that would suffice. After a few months of use, I noticed a crack on one of the edges. I Googled this and apparently it is a known, though not widespread, problem. I was very careful and always put my laptop in its case (Tucano Second Skin) when not in use. I took it to an Apple store and they promptly changed it for me. Yeah!! Replaced it with a brand new one! No questions asked! This was many months after I bought it and it was only a hairline crack. Plus, I did not buy it from Apple directly. [Remember I bought an Acer first and exchanged it?  I bought mine from the high street (Comet for my UK readers)]

I was clearly impressed with their service and I was later told that Apple is aggressively pushing to gain market share and they take such issues seriously.

Yes, there was a learning curve, but Apple simply makes better products and its software are way better as well. The Word processor Pages and spreadsheet program Numbers are in my humble opinion easier to use than MS Office.  Plus you can easily save and export to Microsoft users. Anyone who has used Macs will tell you the same. I do not know of anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time on both and yet still favour Microsoft.

Microsoft is living proof that the best is not always the most widely used. The imperfections of our world are rife with those examples (namely the QWERTY keyboard). The keyboard that most of us type on now was designed to slow us down. Yes! When it was designed during the typewriter days, the keys were arranged in such a way to slow down our typing speed to prevent the typewriter from jamming.  The Dvorak keyboard is much faster. To give you an idea, most of the fastest typists in the world use the Dvorak keyboard. The average person types at 30-60 words per minute on the QWERTY. Barbara Walters, the world’s fastest typist, attained speeds of 200 words per minute on a Dvorak keyboard. Typing errors are also alleged to be less frequent on the Dvorak keyboard. However, since we have moved on into the electronic age, the leftovers from the industrial age seem to have stuck with us. A classic example of the worst being in prevalent use. Microsoft is another example. Call it whatever you want, first-mover advantage, monopoly, being in the right place at the right time, etc. The reason we use Microsoft now is purely because everyone else is using it too.

I am not bashing Microsoft; I have been their biggest fan since God knows when. I am still a big fan of Billy Gates too, despite the fact that I now realise he has profited an awful lot from selling substandard products (I still admire his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

What more can I say? I am already thinking of swapping my desktop (which, by the way, is a Windows 7 powered five-screen command centre set up) for a Mac powered one.

Yes, I am a convert – a lifelong Microsoft/PC user and loyal fan now on the other side. I’ve even signed up to be notified of the release of iPad. Rest assured I will be one of the first ones to get that too. Apple simply makes better products, period.

Plus it is the ‘cool’ factor as well.

If you are going to get a new laptop, I wholeheartedly recommend getting a MacBook. Apple also runs free training courses, which will help you get up to speed with its system and products. These courses take place almost on a daily basis in most Apple stores.

Microsoft is in for a hard time, as they are losing out to Google on the Internet front and at the same time having its OS business eroded by Apple. In pure business school speak, if I were to apply Porter’s competitive advantage model on Microshaft, I would say at they rate they are going, they’ve got nothing except the war chest of cash they have amassed from over a decade of monopoly. For social media, I’d go Facebook, for Internet search, I’d go Google, for personal computing devices, I’d now go Apple. Microsoft is in every business but does not seem to excel particularly well in any of them. Their main cash cow is still Windows, which is bundled with new PCs, and their Office/business suites. Before, the only reason we used Microsoft is because, well, we didn’t really have a choice. But now we do!! With Macs! Obviously it is too early to predict the demise of Microsoft, but it is safe to say its heydays are over.

To conclude, once you go Mac, you’d never to back!

 

Categories: Technology Tags: , ,

Free News vs Paid News (Microsoft, Google, News Corp)

November 23, 2009 1 comment

Question: What happens when an industry is losing revenue and two giant companies are trying to outdo each other?

Answer: The consumer suffers and ends up paying for it.

The digital news landscape is changing fast, with Rupert Murdoch now deciding to charge for online news content. The media mogul’s News Corporation, the firm behind papers from the Wall Street Journal to the Sun (UK), is planning to stop Google from indexing its news websites.

You may ask, “What’s the problem?”  After all, the newspaper industry is suffering from declining print and advertising revenues as increasing media consumption is taking place over the Web, so certainly it makes sense for newspapers to charge for their content.

The problem is, as with everything else in life, nothing is ever so cut and dried. Throw Microsoft in the equation and things become interesting. The software giant’s search engine Bing has been playing catch up to Google ever since… god knows when.

Microsoft has been having discussions with News Corp, where the software firm will pay the news company to stop Google searching and indexing its news website. The desired outcome would be that Microsoft’s search engine Bing would be the place users will turn to for news – and if Google wanted to retain that kind of news content, it would have to start paying. It seems clear that Microsoft’s interest will also hurt Google’s margin.

This suspicion was confirmed when the Financial Times reported that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.

What is clear is that Microsoft and News Corp are united against the idea that Internet news should be free. Microsoft is willing to offer money to publishers to switch allegiance and News Corp is prepared to use legal means to prevent Google ‘stealing’ news.

However, if Internet users decide that Microsoft Bing’s results are biased because of alliance with news providers, they will be more reluctant to switch from Google and the plan could backfire.

In the words of James Harding, editor of the Financial Times, “We are setting out to rewrite the economics of gathering and delivering news…”

Harding likens the culture of free (news) to that of the music industry, which (according to him) has been all but destroyed (by P2P/piracy). Well, if the music industry is any indication of where the news industry is heading, then I am sure Harding himself would realise the concept of ‘free’ will never be completely stamped out. Just take a look at the amount of Internet traffic that is generated from P2P downloading. The ‘culture of free’ is still rife and there is nothing the media companies can do about it.

Nevertheless, I have always subscribed to the notion that whatever has value is worth paying for (this includes good quality news and information). But I cannot help but feel we, as consumers/users, are being seriously short-changed here.

Before: We had good ‘unbiased’ search results from Google and we had free news
After: We have ‘biased’ search results from Microsoft, and we pay for the news.

Go figure!

DWTC says: Competitive advantage is never sustainable. Rival companies will always find ways to chip away at your success. Google’s USP of being able to deliver accurate unbiased search results will be undermined if Microsoft was to have its ways. Do not be surprised if we one day see ‘pay per search’ on Google. DWTC is hoping Google will one day foray into news industry so he can cancel his Wall Street Journal subscription.

 

What’s up with you Europeans? (Sun-Oracle deal)

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Oracle, the world’s largest enterprise software company, recently proposed an acquisition of Sun Microsystems (makers of Java) in a deal worth $7.4bn, and it’s now the subject of an anti-trust investigation by the European Commission (EC). The merger of these two American (well, global) companies has already been cleared by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). So are the Europeans flexing their veto muscle just because they can?

Well, it is not usually so cut and dry. Firstly in the past five years, Oracle has gone on a major acquisition binge. In less than five years, it bought more than 50 enterprise software companies including PeopleSoft for $10bn, Sibel Systems for $6bn, and BEA for $8bn. That is, on average, buying more than 10 companies a year!!!!  Or roughly one every month! In the process, Oracle more than doubled its revenues and profits.

As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them”; I think Oracle’s version might as well be, “If you can’t beat them, buy them.

So perhaps it is right for the EC to pay close attention, as any future lack of competition for Oracle will not only stifle innovation but also punish the consumers in the long run.

The problem is Sun Microsystems is losing $100m every month whilst the Europeans ponder the deal. IBM and HP have been poaching Sun’s customers since the deal was announced in April, as the future of Sun remains uncertain. According to the EC,  “The database market is highly concentrated with the three main competitors of proprietary databases – Oracle, IBM and Microsoft – controlling roughly 85 percent of the market in terms of revenue”. Oracle is the market leader in proprietary databases, while Sun’s MySQL database product is the leading open source database. The Oracle databases and Sun’s MySQL “compete directly in many sectors of the database market and MySQL is widely expected to represent a greater competitive constraint as it becomes increasingly functional,” the EC added.

“Just one piece stands out as an anomaly, Oracle will almost surely spin out or kill the MySQL business Sun acquired that sells free database software for Linux systems,” said Rick Merrit of the EE Times.

When news of the EC enquiry was made public, the DoJ shot out a press release expressing its disappointment, which not only puts the DoJ in an awkward position but, according to the Wall Street Journal, “is an unusually public display of disagreement for the Obama Administration, which has been stressing its cooperative ties with Europe, on everything from climate change to the war.”

The deal has already been approved by Sun’s shareholders.

I guess the big question is, does the anti-trust ruling protect competition or competitors?

David Wong’s Two Cents – The Americans have a vested interest in ensuring their companies are in a ‘dominant’ worldwide position and with the current economic climate such a merger would definitely not hinder their objectives. The Europeans, on the other hand, have always hidden behind a ‘veil of socialism’ and used anti-trust ruling to ‘layeth the smack down’ on companies deemed to be getting too powerful. DWTC says – The deal will go through, Europeans will lay down some stipulations like they always do  (probably regarding MySQL and possible structural and behavioural restrictions).

 

Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

What you should know about the Facebook Juggernaut

November 8, 2009 3 comments

facebook-logoMark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, debuted on the Forbes billionaire list with a $1.5b net worth, then dropped off when the economy turned sour.

Zuckerberg was quickly dubbed the next Bill Gates. Apart from the obvious similarities that they both dropped out of Harvard, both are in the tech sector and they both had been accused of gaining initial success from software codes written by someone else (Microsoft with DOS, and Facebook with ConnectU), they both share a lot more less obvious similarities.

Both Gates and Zuckerberg enjoyed creating computer programs and playing computer games in school. Both had professional parents (Gates’ father is a lawyer; Zuckerberg’s father is a dentist). And, both attended exclusive, private secondary schools.

Now Zuckerberg is back on the Forbes list with a $2 billion valuation from his 20% stake of Facebook, as the company he founded accepts $200m from a Russian investment group.

With 300 million registered users (and millions joining every month), and the countless hours we spend on the site every day, Facebook’s monetisation programme might just prove highly successful.

Facebook has already overtaken YouTube as the third most popular site on the Web. It hit all the important milestones faster than any company before it. Facebook also launched a new real-time search engine, a clear jab at Google.

Facebook has always been in a position to take a lead in real-time and social search because of the sheer amount of data the site has collected about what people are doing, the things they’re interested in, and what their social graph looks like. Paul Buchheit, the founder of FriendFeed, said the human link data at sites like Facebook “could ultimately be more valuable than the link data from the web” that Google’s search engine is based on – someone just needs to mine it.

Zuckerberg, an uber-geek, has been described as being “oblivious” and a “boy in the bubble” by Rolling Stone magazine. Regardless of what has been said, anyone who has met venture capitalist luminaries in pyjamas just because he could, and had “I’m CEO, Bitch” written on his business card, commands respect.

One thing that bugs me is the question of “How did Google let this happen [Facebook get away with it]?”. Google is a company with the keys to the “library of Alexandria” and the ability to technically render “two Sat-Nav companies worthless” by providing its services for free.

If Google couldn’t stop Facebook, who can?

The smart money is already betting that he is the next Bill Gates. History will look back and say: Gates and Microsoft revolutionised the way we use computers, whilst Zuckerberg and Facebook revolutionised the way we social network. When Facebook goes public, it will be a big payday for a lot of employees.

Can Facebook unseat Google as the new darling of Silicon Valley?

No Business Plan? No Problem

November 8, 2009 2 comments

Can you really follow the mantra “Build it and they will come”? Apparently, yes, you can. Gather a large following first, then figure out how to monetise it later. YouTube did it, Facebook did it, and now Twitter is going down that same route.

Twitter recently closed another round of funding which values the company at one billion dollars. The only problem is there is “no clear” business plan, or at least that is what the media would have us believe. A simple Google search on the keywords “Twitter business plan” returned 275,000,000 results. I guess I am not alone when it comes to the obsession with Twitter’s plan to make money.

Sound like the ’90s dotcom boom? Well, not really.

If the ’90s dotcom boom taught us anything, it is, IPO first, make money later. The problem is they all had a “plan”, they just did not keep to the plan.

If YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are going to teach us anything, it is to build a large following first, make money later. Even though they had “no plan”, they are all making money (except Twitter for now) or show great potential to.

Moral of the story: most business plans are not worth the paper they are printed on (or the hard disc they are ferromagnetically etched on)

Leaked documents show Twitter is hoping to be the first to one billion users, and, in their own words, to become “the pulse of the planet”,

Think Google and Facebook are gonna sit and wait and do nothing? (Forget Microsoft, Bill Gates is too busy redistributing his wealth now that he’s retired.)

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