The world can be a strange place and our paths can take us to unexpected places.
And so it would be a surprise to many, myself included, that I found myself in a room of about 200 executives conducting a live question and answer with Steve Ballmer. Yes me, the Linux loving avowed Microsoft skeptic in a room with Steve Ballmer asking a question directly to the CEO of Microsoft. How did this happen?
As it turns out, every year Microsoft invites a handful of partners to it’s “Partner Executive Summit” (PES) which takes place the day before the Microsoft World Partner Conference (WPC). The invites for PES are given to Microsoft partner companies that have an existing strong relationship with one of Microsoft’s competitors, but have shown a keen interest in switching to use Microsoft products instead. In the case of the company I work for, we have an existing Unified Communications business but recently have embraced Microsoft Lync as the best solution going forward. Thus, Microsoft invited me to attend PES which included the Ballmer Q & A session.
But would I ask a question? Part of me wanted to lay-low in fear that the Microsoft Secret Service (I made that up btw) would say “a-ha! That’s him! Grab him before he says something critical and embarrassing!”. On the other hand I thought it would prove that I was nothing more than an internet Troll if I only criticized Microsoft from a safe distance and not have the guts to voice my opinion in person.
So, as the Q & A session wound down and it was starting to look like there weren’t many more questions, I raised my hand and asked my Steve Ballmer my question. To paraphrase, I asked this “Given that Microsoft is trying to recapture it’s “mojo” in the consumer space, and given all the recent talk about “start of a new era”, “Microsoft re-invented” etc. why didn’t Microsoft take this opportunity to name it’s new operating system, especially on phones something other than “Windows”?
When I asked this, Steve Ballmer kind of chuckled and dropped his head which I interpreted as a look of “I’ve had this argument before”. Then he said the following (again paraphrasing) “First, the number one most important thing is the product. Make an awesome product and it will make it’s own buzz and doesn’t matter what you call it. If we called it “Freeva”, to pick a name at random, it wouldn’t matter if it turns out the product isn’t very good. So if we are fixated on the name, we’re worrying about the wrong thing.”
“Second, intelligent people can have this debate, but ‘Windows’ is an incredibly powerful brand name that still has a ton of value. Something like the top 4th or 5th most recognized brand in the world, so I disagree that it’s something we should abandon.”
Steve Ballmer also revealed that there was an internal discussion about a name change about 2 or 3 years ago, but they decided to stick with the brand.
So there you have it. Straight from Steve Ballmer.
People have asked me what I thought of the answer and to be perfectly honest, I thought it was a great answer. With respect to “make a great product”, I 100% agree and it shows that Steve is focused on the right things. But I still don’t agree that “Windows” was the best name choice. While it may not make-or-break the new products, I believe that Microsoft could have created significantly more buzz if they had created the perception that they were launching a completely new operating system, rather than just an upgrade.
Brand recognition is important, but not as important as what the brand is recognized for. For example, “BP” has very high brand recognition, but unfortunately it’s for flaming drilling platforms and oil spills, so much so that they considered re-branding all of their service stations back to “Amoco”.
Certainly “Windows” is not in the same category as BP, but I think it’s fair to say a Windows upgrade or new device running Windows doesn’t generate anywhere near the kind of hype that Apple, and now even Samsung are getting out of their product launches.
So like Steve said, intelligent people can disagree, but I’ll give him credit for sticking with Windows and believing it can be re-invented.
In this world of ever increasing numbers of computers and gadgets, it may seem strange to be predicting the end of the I.T. worker, but that’s exactly what I think the future holds.
Two trends in technology are converging which will diminish our need for people skilled in fixing our computers. In other words, the I.T. department at your office is going the way of the Dodo bird and here’s why.
People are increasingly moving their day-to-day computing needs onto (relatively) inexpensive portable devices such as smart phones and tablets. These devices continue to evolve at a break-neck pace, quickly gaining usability and features while dropping in price. Being skilled at fixing computers is based on the underlying premise that they are worth fixing in the first place. But that is no longer the case. When you device breaks or stops working, just throw it away and get a new one.
This very same trend has already happened with many other electronic devices such as T.V.s, VCRs, DVD players, wrist watches etc. It almost never makes economic sense to fix these devices. When the cost of the people exceeds the cost of the equipment they are paid to maintain, you get rid of the people.
“But what about my data?!” I hear you asking. Don’t worry about it. In the near future your devices will no longer store data locally. It’s all in the “cloud”. Just fire up your new device and all your data is there.
In short, the proliferation of cheap devices combined with the speed and availability of high speed internet access will have a dramatic impact on I.T. departments. Fewer and fewer organizations will be large enough to warrant full-time I.T. staff.
Yes there will still be I.T. people hidden in “the cloud”, and someone will still need to keep the networks running, but the days of the desktop P.C. technician are numbered.
The Canadian government has so badly mishandled opening up competition in the telecom sector that it’s now at risk of so badly damaging Canada’s reputation that even if they eventually do get around to lifting foreign ownership restrictions, companies may still be afraid to invest.
Naguib Sawiris, is the Egyptian billionaire who financed Wind Mobile on the premise that Canada was open to creating more competition in the telecom sector. When asked recently if he regreted his investment, he replied “Totally. I would actually, if they would give me my money back, minus 10 per cent, I would take it any day.”
In other words, Mr. Sawiris expects to take a major loss in Canada and if he could find a way to bail out with only 10% loss (approximately $100 million) he would.
But even more worrisome, Mr. Sawiris is not afraid to tell others investors to steer clear of Canada, “Anybody who asks me, I tell him, [...] Don’t come here”
Very few people reading this will have any grasp of how much the technology Dennis Ritchie developed impacts their daily lives.
Without exaggeration, every single computing device that you are likely to interact with on any given day can in some way be traced back to work done by Dennis Ritchie.
It doesn’t matter if you use Microsoft Windows, or an Apple iPhone, they all rely in some way or another on the programming language “C”, which Dennis help write back in the 70s.
I have absolutely nothing against Steve Jobs, but the pronouncements by uniformed media pundits on his relative importance were, to say the least, highly exaggerated. Apple makes fancy gadgets that a lot of people happen to like at the moment. Nothing more. The iPod, iPad, and iPhone will be the Sony Walkmans of the future. Yes they are fantastic devices for their time but will be quickly replaced when the next hot gadget craze comes along in a few years. Apple (like Sony in the 1980s) deserves a ton of credit for what they have accomplished. Their devices are and always will be iconic symbols of their time, but they certainly are not the most important. Not by a long shot.
On the other hand, I think you could make a strong case for the C programming language and the Unix operating system being the most important bits of technology ever developed. Absolutely every modern device runs on or depends on a system written in “C”. Pick up any device with a microchip and chances are it needs “C”. Computers, phones, cars, TVs, microwaves. All of them.
It really is awe inspiring when you stop to think about it.
Steve Job and Apple announced iCloud this week and this was revolutionary and exciting for the media because Apple has taken the name “cloud” and put an “i” in front of it! Wow! Thanks again Apple! We worship you!
Why does every Apple announcement remind me of the scene in toy story where the little green aliens say “Ooooohhh…the Claw” ?
“Apple’s cloud is timid: it’s about storage and synching as opposed to a streaming, real-time, extension to your actual machine.” – Article from Wired
But I digress… The point of this post is really that Microsoft continues to spiral down. Granted, they’ve traditionally been flying so high that the downward spiral will take years before it hits the ground and give plenty of time to pull the nose up, but for now that hasn’t happened.
Microsoft recently announced a new version of their OS. Supposedly a “radical” departure from past versions. And to demonstrate just how radical of a departure it really is, they gave it a new and exciting name … Windows 8! (yawn). I’ll just repeat what I’ve said a dozen times already, unless Microsoft can resist the urge to call everything “Windows Something”, it will never turn this ship around. Windows is un-cool! Nobody wants anything Windows related.
And get this, it’s going to have aspects of the interface from iPhone7 layered on top of the traditional Windows OS. So a user-interface layered on top of a user-interface. Sounds desperate. Microsoft grasping at anything as an excuse to launch Windows 8 without actually doing anything new. I predict that sales will show that they should have called it “Vista 2″.
Google’s vision is much more far reaching and long term. Google envisions a day when your device is nothing more than a window into your virtual computer on the cloud. All the power, all the storage, all the applications running “on the net”. That’s what true cloud computing is and I commend them for that. The problem is that to truly realize this dream requires a very high speed (and more importantly, low delay) network. Not today, not tomorrow, but soon.
From CNN Money: “Netflix’s first foray into international markets has been rough. Why? Blame Canada.”
I just published some instructions for getting SNMP running on Tomato so it can be monitored from something like cacti.
The complete instructions are here.
Following a pattern that often repeats itself, when an old-media company is unable to innovate and compete on its own, it goes begging to the government for protection.
And so it is with Canada’s media and cable companies. With the end of the cable monopoly in sight, they are begging the CRTC to regulate over-the-top services.
These companies (Shaw, Bell, etc) control virtually every aspect of Canadian media delivery. Everything from the content itself all the way down to the physical wires and airwaves that beam the content to homes. Yet, they are so fat-and-happy with their position that even the mere thought that they might need to do something to compete sends them crying to the CRTC for relief.
Like the music industry before it, their demise can’t come soon enough.
Gartner is declaring that Microsoft will not even have a 1% share of the tablet space until at least 2015. Their reasoning is that since nothing Microsoft has today is suitable for tablets, Microsoft will have to wait until Windows 8 to re-launch their tablet strategy and that isn’t due until at least 2012.
But as I’ve said before, if Microsoft is going to put “Windows” on it, they might as well not bother.
Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said in a recent interview that Microsoft is increasingly irrelevant. “I think we just don’t care that much [about Microsoft] anymore … They used to be our big rival, but now it’s kind of like kicking a puppy.”
Zemlin points out that Linux is dominant in every sector except the Desktop. And while the desktop is certainly not an insignificant portion of the market, this is also likely to change dramatically over the next 5 years as mobile devices start to replace laptops and desktops.
Think of it this way, is your next purchase likely to be another $1000 home computer with windows, or with some other device like a $300 tablet? There is no longer any compelling reason to buy a home computer with Windows so the trend is inevitably away from desktop PCs.
It won’t happen overnight but I’ll bet that sometime over the next couple years you’ll cast your gaze over to your home PC and realize it has a layer of dust on it. At that point you’ll realize that your beloved PC, the one that you thought you could never live without hasn’t even been turned on for weeks.