Digital Nomad... the conclusion

At the last LUG meet, I presented my findings from the Digital Nomad project I undertook, along with wifi encryption hacking (in theory). This project was started because of hard disk failure, complete paranoia at ever losing anything, and curiosity - can you JUST use a browser and some cunning Web2.0 offerings to run your life? (See Running your life and BACKUP posts) It has now officially concluded and I'm very proud to say the answer is YES! I gave myself bonus points for services that are free or dirt cheap.
Here's the full list of services that come with the MLED "I like this" seal of approval:
Google Docs: If you have a Gmail account, utilise all the associated features to the fullest. You can put almost all your eggs in this one basket - Google provide blogging, reading, email, calendar, docs & spreads, photos, and they even have had a stab at social networking. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The best news is that Google Gears is being extended to include Google Docs, making this even more suited to serious and/or business needs. Gears lets you continue everything off-line, essentially your work is backed up and collaborated/shared as soon as you go online. Big thumbs up for Google.
Zoho: Google's offerings have this superb competitor. They seem to be leading the way on some of their innovations, I've not found better or an alternative. This is very seriously geared towards businesses, and they do charge for heavy usage. Features that look particularly note worthy are Invoice, Projects, CRM and DB & Reports products. I have stopped using this suite because Google is too convenient and easy for me, but if you're seriously looking to undertake a shift to the web-centric domain, do NOT ignore Zoho.
Scribd: The YouTube of documents. At the end of this year, I'll probably upload some of my notes to actually participate in the sharing. This site has a great store of docs, white papers and articles and uses ads to monetise. I have found it immensely helpful as a resource so far, but it's not quite like Wikipedia in terms of quick access to general knowledge. It's the opposite angle to document making Web2.0 suites - it wants you to upload all your old notes and documents for sharing in the cloud, rather than providing you with a way to make new ones. They have an API and some interesting ways of embedding documents, presumably aimed more at journalists. I could see some potential uses for this as documents backup and hosting technical manuals.
Seeqpod: If my mp3 player is not pumping beats into my brain, then Seeqpod is how I now get at music. It's superb. You can build playlists or just randomly search/stumble your way around tunes.
Flickr: Yahoo! did good. I absolutely love Flickr, and it is serves as a backup as well as a way of publicly displaying photos for me. I have forked out for a pro account so that I can freely display and store as much as I dare. A lot of people use Facebook for photos, but I'm not in favour of this as it cuts down images, doesn't quite have the same freedom as "sets" and "collections". But lets face it, Flickr is designed specifically for photos, whereas Facebook is now something of a joke where I now get spammed by silly application invitations.
Liquid Planner: Worth a click if you're a manager. As the title might suggest, it makes planning easy and fluid. I have yet to properly start using this, so I can't really give too much feedback on how it handles, but the account I have, the interface, and the feature list are all very impressive. A lot of people talk, blog about, and use Basecamp for business, and based on its popularity alone I recommend it in the same breath. I've not tried it though, so it's not properly featuring in this list.
Jungle Disk: Storage and backup pleasure. Uses Amazon S3 at the moment, and should another company like M$ or Google release an alternative then I'm sure the company will explore using those as a back-end. They're working on version 2.0 of the software which is already cross platform and superb. They've just taken on a new worker and announced a bundle of features that they plan on adding.
Meebo: Messaging made easy. I have messaging accounts on Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, Jabber and I'm looking into AIM now that they've partnered with Meebo and started to crawl back into the spotlight. Before I used Pidgin to unite all those accounts in one window, but now I use Meebo because it does the same but inside a browser. As a bonus, they have some products that they're constantly adding to and updating, my favourite so far being the Meebo Me blog plugin ---->
Netvibes: Homepage 2.0 and they're French! This makes the perfect home page as you can literally put anything in a widget, so I no longer have to visit MySpace and wade through ads to check my messages, nor do I have to visit online comic pages. I'm probably missing out on half the features they have because I honestly haven't found time to explore, but it's certainly very powerful and worth looking at.
Blist: I got an email from them yesterday saying they've added social features - i.e. proper collaboration and sharing with permissions. This is a superb place to work on and collaborate on databases, and more specialised than Zoho's offering I think.
Remember the Milk!: A reminders plugin for Gmail that sits where relevant text ads would normally be in the right hand column. This is incredibly useful for both simple and comprehensive to do lists. There's also a plugin for Google Calendar that I haven't explored because it provides text message reminders just like Google Calendar does, and I was worried that I'd get the two confused or conflicting.
I Want Sandy: My new PA! Remember the Milk! has passed by for me now because I Want Sandy acts fairly human and allows you to add entries to task lists and a calendar via text message, texting you back with reminders. UK residents need to communicate with the service via Twitter at the moment because it doesn't have phone support for networks other than O2 UK and T-Mobile UK (I think). Twitter is the future, so even if your phone network is supported out of the box, grab a Twitter account anyway.
The concept of Digital Nomad is something I've come to both enjoy and rely upon, but with the good comes some disadvantages. Whilst you have a free (£/$/€) set of apps that you can access on literally any internet connected device, it limits you to such devices. Being permanently connected can prove costly in certain areas of the world! Additionally, I think it'll be a long while yet before professional and specialist tools such as video, music and photo editing suites reach the internet platform. So don't throw out your computer and bulky software suites yet, there's still a few years of life needed from them. But what this project has shown is that being on a public terminal or a friend's laptop shouldn't slow you down if you've got the right service accounts.
For Kluggers: here is the link to the wifi hacking tutorial I discussed at the meet.

AOL's turnaround strategy

AOL has been a company that has seen some slowdown recently. I wouldn't go so far as to compare them to Yahoo! but lets face it - if they hadn't had a drastic re-think about where they're going, AOL were headed for being bought out.
So what have we seen from them recently that proves this new thinking? An entry on the Meeblog announced that Meebo were entering an alliance with AOL. Today Kevin Rose pownce-messaged a Digg story about AOL and their purchase of the social network Bebo for $850 million.
At the moment in the web 2.0 domain, we are seeing the tech giants looking to lower their costs and continue with their organic growth, while smaller firms and startups rush around like mad things trying to innovate the industry. The balance of this rain forest should hold up through the coming recession as the big players look to take on their favourite picks of those inventive startups.
What we have seen from AOL has been their top management frozen, satisfied with their position and not really pushing the company on to new heights. What has resulted has seen other firms like Google and Facebook enter the market and start to gobble up the revenue. Mention of the name AOL to me conjures the image of a company matured and resistant to change.
So it comes as a great relief to me to see that they appear to be concerned about their profitability - seeking alliances and acquisitions. With such a large company here, the "Big Bang" instant turn around is much less of an option, reassuringly they pursue something of a market adaptation strategy which will allow them to evolve and rejuvenate. After all, we all remember AOL as that company that gave away CDs with free internet and a bundle of warez that slowed down your Windows machine to a grinding pace.
Bring it on AOL! Let's see your offering in this age of web 2.0 and beyond, we await your contribution to the revolution. Take your time though, because incremental change is surely the way to secure your longevity.

Recession around the corner? Doom doom doom... or not.

I read a great article in the Financial Times yesterday about the fear of recession, which must currently be hovering above the heads of everyone over in Silicon Valley. Just in the same way that in 2000 the tech giants tried to play down the likelihood of one taking place, we see even more alarming evidence through this constant dominance game play that's taking place. The 'Microhoo' frenzy, the deeply complex politics that surrounded the 700 mhz auction, the ways in which different companies did or didn't roll out all/some of their products at CES or the mobile device conference, talk and rumours that float around forums and blogs of mergers and alliances: these all have seeds of worry sewn into them, that to many are beginning to look like more than just the regular state of play.
My view is one of “so what?” because we passed through one recession at the start of the millennium and the other side of it has seen some awe-inspiring innovation. If this next one does happen, I hope it makes some of the giants think about consolidating their positions and looking to longer term and more sustainable strategies. And I really hope that some of the startups that hit the scene as it kicks off make it through to the other side so that we get to see the innovation boom on the up-curve. It would suck to be a founder and watch your idea drown because of bad timing.
The last recession came after the crazy boom/bubble of the dotcom. What is this one following? Certainly innovation in the PC makers domain, and what's cool for them is that the revenues and cash flows of these companies is much higher and more stable than it was for the poor dotcoms that had to pass the rigors of the 2000 recession.
I'm not worrying for companies like HP and Cisco who have provided commentary on what they see on the horizon, because I'm optimistic any slump will be short lived. It will force some of the giants that have been toying with acquisitions to stop, take stock, evaluate their position, and develop inwardly – ensuring the integration and compatibility of the services that all their subsidiaries provide is adequate to move forwards once the other side of the recession is reached.
Really the biggest sector that will feel the heat of a potential recession is the advertising, search and social networking world. The Facebook craze has passed, and people are just waking up to the quantity of personal data that's been created in the mean time, which is causing concern and making many review their use of social networking services. Facebook are fast becoming yesterday's news because everything that everyone was really looking forward to with the company has happened – they have launched; half the online world has signed up; a platform/API has been launched; applications have come into our lives, annoyed us, and been tossed into an optional second page of our profiles or plainly deleted; Microsoft has bought a slice of the ad revenue cake (hello M$, what are you doing with this??); a program caused scandal with our personal data and shocked a realisation as to how open our details are to the world; and now we just wait for ... what?
Google have spent their time since 2000 just growing and buying, almost in a whimsical way. They, for me, have been the most fun to watch in an acquisitions and general game play sense. They've definitely got the assets to chide them through this possible period, but what's going to be their first move on the other side? I'm frantically waiting for Google to shock me. I'd be really pleasantly surprised if they could release an Amazon S3 rival and an Apple mobile device running their own OS on their own network. When you think of all it's achieved, it's amazing to think that their core business is still search and advertising. I'm looking to Google for a solution that keeps both consumers and businesses connected to the Cloud wherever they are and whenever they need to be. Someone wrote an article today that I got in the GigaOm daily email saying they believe Google should buy Adobe to gain their resources and knowledge, but they were looking more closely at AIR. Surely though, the potential that that kind of acquisition has is more complex and incredible than just AIR, but it's a good point. Microsoft, too, would benefit greatly from adding Adobe to their portfolio.
Whatever way you look at it, if you're a decision maker in the valley right now you should be looking to cut costs and push for the greatest possible market share. Startups – if you haven't already, get your venture funding on speed dial. If today's article in The Guardian is to be believed, the “Queue for the soup kitchen may start here”.

Who's running your life?

Firefox has gone over the 500 million downloads mark! That's a fantastic achievement for Mozilla, and their CEO recently got interviewed on the GigaOm show. In tribute, I'm getting together one of those text widget button bookmarks saying Firefox to put in the sidebar of this Wordpress blog. I love the way that blogs let you express yourself and add another routine to your life. And it's the internet running your life that I want to talk about...
I decided that I should have a try at moving everything in my life on to the internet, which I would usually run locally on a PC. What I mean by that is moving the operation of functions like email, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, messaging, file storage (media – photos, music, videos) and of course blogging onto the internet, thus eliminating the need for software such as MS Office. I even managed to find a great set of tools for To Do lists and I discovered that Blogger makes an excellent Paste Bin for code snippets because you can post by email, as well as make it private and not worry about anyone else finding it.
The immediate problem I've come across is that I have no decent program yet for image editing such as for websites, and I found myself looking back to the local install of Gimp. I'm holding out for a porting of Photoshop onto Linux, an article appeared on Slashdot not so long ago about this. Also, whilst sharing music and videos is easy, editing and producing them is still far far away from being any good with a Web 2.0 program (if anyone knows one, PLEASE comment with it!). But the good news is I did find a lot of ways to move most core functions onto the internet.
Email, Documents and everything else I would usually do in Office all initially got taken over by Google's Apps for me. Then in addition, for more advanced or professional looking projects, I used an account with Zoho, as it's packed out with lots of fantastic features and forms an excellent Office suite. On a side note, please Yahoo! once you've sorted out this acquisition issue, can you please buy Zoho or at least affiliate! Those apps are fantastic for creating documents, but if you read my last post about document and data backup and storage, then I really suggest using Jungle Disk for data and Scribd for documents.
For project management I strongly recommend where Liquid Planner are going, as after an enjoyable learning curve I've come to realise where they're taking computer assisted project management.
Media sharing and storage is really easy, there's a ton of video upload sites – Video and being my two favourites for videos.
I now exclusively listen to music streamed across the internet. I use all the time where I can create playlists and save them onto the account; but I have given a go, and I really liked that too. These music services are great because I find myself either wanting to listen to a whole album as background noise while working, or wanting to just quickly find a track I’ve heard and save it for later; both of which are easy and possible with Seeqpod. The next step for these services will come when they port onto mp3 players that have inbuilt wifi like the iPod touch. I can’t WAIT for this to happen!
For photos sharing and storage, I use (personal and close friends) and (public) the most and find the simple rotation tools useful for quick snaps, but you'll need a locally installed piece of software for editing to Photoshop level.
I really enjoyed what Remember the Milk has to offer consumers as a Gmail plugin that requires installation of an extension to good old Firefox. It creates an extra column on the right hand side of your Gmail inbox (where there's usually relevant text ads) that shows all your tasks in a very simple to use and easy to glance at and understand To Do list. I've found it addictive, and have adopted it as the primary tool for managing my time. There's also a plugin that fits into Google Calendar which I'm desperate to try but haven't yet because it also uses text messaging to remind you about events and I'm worried about it potentially conflicting with the weekly text message repeats I am already running in Google Calendar. Google – hint hint, buy Remember The Milk!
Lastly, who can forget and their fantastically simple way of tying most of the things I've mentioned (even Zoho) into one website. Netvibes is now my homepage, as it saves me a lot of time checking all the different sites that I've widgeted in there. It even lets you capture web comics! I really hate checking MySpace and Hotmail, as they're both sites that I barely ever get contacted with, but sometimes I do and the message will be important and a real pain to miss. MySpace in particular has the most horrific browsing experience possible, so being able to just peek at Netvibes and see its status is a massive relief.
I'd really like a site such as Netvibes to work on making an online life a real possibility by continuing with their integration and accumulation of all the internet services that you might need to use into one page, or at least tabbed pages of widgets that almost feels like a WebOS like Orca. (Note: this is closing down and beta accounts have moved to StartForce)It’s just a case of learning how to get the best out of these WebOS’s, web apps and portals, figuring out which works best for you personally, and learning to overcome your reflex of using a locally installed piece of software.
I'm really getting excited about the potential that Web 2.0 seems to have, and the limit seems to be entrepreneurial imagination. The only concern is security; as if the password on your Netvibes (or WebOS) account is weak and someone gains access then they have access to all areas of your life. And ultimately, let's face it, anything that you put onto the Internet is going to get picked up by everyone's Big Brother and/or the Chinese.
I've just picked up on something called Yoics, and I'm going to go figure out what it is...
UPDATE: I had one of those nagging doubts in the back of my mind while writing this entry, and I kicked myself when I realised just now what super obvious and essential tool I missed - Meebo. In the same way I've switched entirely to Seeqpod for music, Meebo now runs all my instant messaging. I know Pidgin is great for having all the protocols, but it still requires an install: although kudos to the team for making it cross platform. Anyway, as you can see from the side bar ---> I'm a very big fan of Meebo, and I use it every day. Meebo's one of those free services that you're so reliant upon that I'd definitely be prepared to pay for it.
Also, have announced that they're closing down. Who's going to replace them? Stage6 had the perfect compromise of speed and quality unlike most of its rivals.


Why is it that no one seems to think about doing this? What if there was a flood or a fire, and your server/desktop got destroyed? How screwed would you be, personally and/or professionally? Tekzilla did a great episode not too long ago that gave a really simplified consumers guide on backing up your files, both in Windows and on Mac.
For me: my photos, personal details like banking records, documents and presentations past and present, chat logs, saved histories, preferences and bookmarks. These are what matter to me the most in terms of my digital life. We're all really lucky at this stage in digital evolution as we've already been blessed with reliable online services that can reduce not only the need for high storage capacity on our computers but also the worry that we face answering that question - what if a hard disk just stopped working?
For example, Google handle my email, and I'm safe in the knowledge that I can access that on any internet-connected machine and it have the exact same user interface to it and thanks to its insane storage, I'm not limited on attachment sizes or concerned about deleting items. Looking at the two accounts I have with Google, personal and public, they are both now over the 6gig size, which I find impressive. Even more incredible is that I've managed to fill up 4%. I use Google over other mainstream email accounts like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail just because I prefer the simple interface that seems to me to load a lot faster on slower connections. I have also been impressed by the ease with which you can use Google's Partnerpages - they take over the running of email on your domain and also give you the full suite of Google Apps.
But we've progressed beyond mere email now with web services. Online storage looks to allow us simple uploading of photos, video, and music and a lot of those services also provide a social network dimension that allows the sharing of all this data. Having ads served to me is a price I happily pay for using the services of Facebook, Flickr, Youtube etc. But what if you want something that I'm going to define as “more hardcore” - no ads, bomb-proof reliability, and the sky being the limit on capacity?
A lot of companies have launched themselves on Amazon's S3 service, using it as their storage back end. I believe this to be genius, as it means that these companies can be paying their fees to Amazon, outsourcing the cost of setting up and maintaining the servers to them, leaving 'Mr. Web 2.0 Entrepreneur' free to focus on an innovative front end. There are two examples of such companies that I am going to explore: Jungle Disk and Scribd.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I have just recently made the total switch over to Ubuntu Linux. Whilst Canonical and the open community that contribute to Ubuntu are doing a phenomenal job of increasing compatibility and function, it's still a nuisance that so many programs and services are locked in on providing solely for Windows and/or Mac users. An example of this is Carbonite, who provide a highly recommended online backup service to Windows users. So some folks at my LUG did some research and came up with a short list of linux compatible online storage services, of which my favourite stands as Jungle Disk.
Jungle Disk is not only available for Windows, Mac and Linux but also lets you install a program to a usb pen that's compatible with all three OS's and will backup in just the same way as on your own machine. Their Why it's better page accurately outlines their best features, but what wowed me the most was the section on “Pay only for what you use, with no minimums”. This feature is something that's part and parcel of S3, which is why I really like what Amazon are offering to other companies that can be passed on as a sensible option for all end consumers.
Scribd takes on a much more user-friendly community approach to its use of S3. It markets itself as the 'Youtube of documents'. Users can upload documents, with unlimited storage, and they share these documents. This free consumer community side will prove to be a very useful tool for education and I look forward to watching this grow. It's had excellent press so far, and they've done the most sensible thing in creating a platform including API so that it can take on a much more commercial business market. I've already signed myself and a couple of friends up to the API, who each have very specialised knowledge in certain fields and have been looking for a straightforward way to publish their work while being able to monetise in a controlled fashion. Scribd will embed ads into your documents and then the ad revenue is split between them and you. Obviously with this business model, they can quickly jump to the absolute front of the race, provide a collection of widget options, and with this embedded ads system pioneer the use of widget ads.
Next I'd like to see more competition in the S3 market to drive innovation, as always. Someone should develop another S3 style service because I feel front end operations are already suitably saturated with some great companies like Jungle Disk and Scribd. Let's see some more of the tech giants offering web 2.0 startups the backbone systems to launch their ideas from, and ultimately it should also do something for internet infrastructure in the process which can only be seen as a good thing.

Karma - what goes around comes around

After my previous outlook of 'everything's great' and my theory that there was a genie sat behind me, it seems that karma has come back to get me. It is true that good luck must be followed by bad luck, and my bad luck has come in the form of an Asus eeePC.
The Asus eeePC IS a revolution. Screw all the media and rave reviews about this device, just go out and buy one right now. It is so simplistic that my nan could operate it without being told what to do, and yet it really packs a punch with the power and streamlined Linux distro combination. I love it. There's just one problem though - Asus didn't deem it important enough to make the little Xandros distro compatible with WPA PEAP encryption.
Asus's target audience with this device is simply anyone that wants a great little machine for on-the-go work, play, and most importantly quick internet access. They won't tell you this (and for some reason neither will 3) but the 3g usb dongle that you can get for just £10 per month works out of the box, which surely makes this device the best completely mobile device out there at the moment, especially as you can do all that for under £300. I spent £250 on my black 4g 701 eee at PC World because I was impatient, but online retailers are dispensing them at an alarming rate for just £220. The 2g version is going at £190, but I'm struggling to see why anyone would get one as you lose out - no space for any documents and no inbuilt webcam.
To me, the natural audience fit for this device is students of literally any age. It's cheap, the solid state disk makes it more robust, it does everything that a windows laptop does and it is TINY. The massive downside for this demographic is that most of them frequent educational establishments during office hours, most of which have some kind of wifi (good thing) with WPA PEAP encryption (bad thing if you're an eee user). The UK rolled out a fantastic project called JANET eduroam, which means that any student from any university can go to any (not just their own) university and use their login and password to access the wifi. To protect this, eduroam employs the use of WPA PEAP, which is admirable as universities have always been a real sore spot in terms of infrastructure security.
So WHY then does the eee not have the ability out of the box to connect to WPA PEAP? That's just nuts. I've done much trawling of the awesome forums and wiki run at and no one seems to have hit a solution for Xandros. The only answer is to install Windows or Ubuntu.
Kudos to Ubuntu BIG TIME, as I've now entirely switched from Windows XP to Gutsy on my main desktop; and I'm astounded at its customisation tools, general out of the box compatibility and speed. The only two things I'll say is that no one should try this at home without a nVidia graphics card, and if you invest in a printer have a good check on the Ubuntu site for which printers work out of the box. I now have dual screening working all lovely and I'm really impressed.
But I shouldn't have to install XP or Ubuntu onto my eee. WPA PEAP wifi should just work. So wake up Asus, start shipping with this feature out of the box, and release a patch for those already purchased! It's frustrating to the extent that the iPhone is. I watched the latest episode of Diggnation last night, and Alex Albrecht pointed out that the iPhone is SO close to being the perfect mobile handset, but there's really silly details missing like MMS. The same goes here with the eee, it is amazing, and I love my new eee and find it hard to put down, but it's still a couple of features short of being the dream ultra mobile SSD laptop.

Someone up there loves me right now...

Over the last couple of weeks, I've encountered a situation where I've thought to myself, wow, I wish this type of tool existed because that would be extremely useful right now. Then, as though some invisible genie was sat behind me granting my every wish, I would log on and find just that tool had been launched and hit the media.
The latest example of this that I'm super excited about is Scribd. Man, Web 2.0 sure loves to leave out its final vowel when naming. Anyway, this startup has followed in YouTube's footsteps, but looks to create a community around sharing papers.
I'm excited by this because there's a lot of white papers that float around, those from TechRepublic have had the most interesting titles to me recently, and this service will greatly encourage the circulation of these whilst still allowing them to be monetised. Some of the charges for white papers out there are quite insane, and I hope that by adopting Scribd's platform, the people that produce such white papers will feel much better about opening up their distribution to a wider audience (and for free). This is certainly the perfect way for freelancers who are specialists in certain fields to publish and promote their work while earning from ad revenue.
More findings later...

Danger Inc.

Om's article on the Sidekick purchase by Microsoft held for me a real gem at the end, where he says that "Clearly, Microsoft needs help and Windows Mobile has been relegated to the Business segment". What I find interesting here is that despite this claim, certainly here in the UK, Windows Mobile phones certainly appear to have a large presence. Just walk into any high street phone store, and the selection of smart phones is somewhat limited to pda-phones running the Windows Mobile OS. I've had one, it was perfectly usable and ActiveSync is a dream. I'm actually happy if that's what the business segment uses.
But it's not just that, I think that the next few years are going to hold bigger business development in store. Or at least I hope they do! The reason for this is that I, and those in my age range that I'd like to term 'my generation', have grown up around technology - more specifically very user friendly consumer technology. My generation expects a good GUI, help and support, good compatibility; but at the same time we have a certain arrogance about us when it comes to things like instruction manuals. We have a basic underlying understanding of technology based on our growth around these devices developping with us. The average 'young person' has their own mobile phone, their own computer (or regular access to one), an mp3 player, and after that it depends on lifestyle as to what other gadgets they might have. When this age band hits the job market properly, I think we're all going to get a shock at how backwoods and out-dated these working business systems are, and I look forward to how demanding we are and how much pushing we provide to development of business back ends.
I just hope that efficiency always remains really close to the absolute top of every firms' strategy and operations, and that rounding the corners off and smoothing the edges on systems isn't something that creates a conflict of interest against this efficiency drive.
The first comment posted, from Curtis, has an excellent and obvious point. Microsoft must have been grumbling throughout the release of the iPhone and subsequent handsets that followed that tried to clone some of its features. I reckon we'll see Windows Mobile landing comfortably on a Danger device, thus combining killer hardware with a very smooth desktop experience. Hopefully, the full functionality of a Vista/XP desktop will be available through one of these such devices.
In a way I'm kind of sad. My friend made the excellent point  that Microsoft seem to suck at innovation. From Day 1 they have been keeping an incredibly close eye on Apple and copying lots of their innovations and new features. Now we see that instead of innovating their own device to compete head on with the iPhone, they buy out a pretty excellent pre-existing company and all their products.

On the other side of the fence...

On the other side of the fence from this ‘Microhoo’ situation, I believe the following will come to be over with Google, Apple and AT&T:
AT&T will work on developing stronger ties with Apple inside their current partnership. We all hope that things only get stronger for the iPhone on AT&T. This will evolve into a working relationship in the area of the 700mhz spectrum. AT&T will get Apple’s appetite wetted for using the available blocks to get into Android alongside Google. Apple will drag AT&T into the Android Google field as it has shown interest in knocking other companies out of D block bidding by themselves not bidding. AT&T then wants to go on and develop their own strategic relationship (possible alliance) with Google to provide a pure feed to access Google’s own mobile internet.
If you remember, Google was buying up all those old cables across the United States. Attaching their massive network of super computers to these cables would be enough to build their own “Googlenet” that can be accessed on Apple Devices. It can also be reached running an Android-Google-OpenSocial-OpenPlatform device so created by various other companies can compete with Apple and with Microsoft-Yahoo! Devices. You see, Yahoo! will bring to Microsoft a suite of media services and an enormous user base that it can latch onto its mobile OS.
Microsoft will now also apparently have a hand in the development of devices such as Side-Kick. This will of course have the effect of finally driving people from 2g to 2.5g and through into full 3g, which is perfect as our infrastructure greatly needs investment. We will consequently begin to run WiFi much more on devices, hopefully pushing the gradual jumps into the 700mhz blocks and encouraging both the blending of WiFi and Bluetooth and the development and growth of WiMAX.
If only...


Let's face it, right now this is the biggest item to hit any and all business tech media. I've been trawling all my usual sources and they're all providing their own coverage, even Mr. Shpigler the 'shark' appears on the front page of Snotr (Mininova's new video site) with this angle on negotiations:
(Edit: I can't make the Snotr video embed. I'm working on it, but for the moment just click here to see it. Sorry!)
And why shouldn't they be covering it? The effect and fallout from this move is what I believe will put 2008 on the map as that year when we expected "baby steps" happening (recalling coverage on GigaOm where the big prediction for 2008 was consolidating services and the blurring of lines between online and offline services) but instead got "bigfoot steps", where suddenly we not only need to look at the innovations provided by wave after wave of super slick web 2.0 (and beyond) startups, but also at the Big Players.
My favourite coverage to date came tumbling out of my printer this morning because I thought it merited being a hard copy ("eww" - is how I usually view hard copies with that same disgusted look as The Plague from Hackers, but this really was good) which came from (kudos Ari Levy) and is now on 'Update 3' of the story. What I liked about this article was its detail, as we are told even what parties are whispering in the ears of Microsoft's and Yahoo's decision-makers. So hats off to Morgan Stanley who apparently don't only make the shiniest credit card in my wallet, but are also accomplished consultants who have tents pitched outside Redmond right now.
What irks me though is that no one seems to care to DO something with this coverage, like go out on a limb and tell the world not just what the potential consequences of all of this are, but which one of those is most likely to play out. So I figured I'd have a try:
Potential scenario #1 (aka Most likely)
Microsoft drop an offer in Mr. Yang's letterbox (subtle dig at how long this event is taking to unfold, it's almost like they're writing to each other with snail mail) to the tune of $35 per share, still with their 50/50 money/shares split, but this time give it the "don't push your luck sonny" seal because we all know Yahoo! are going to ask time and again for it to be tipped beyond the $40 threshold.
Yahoo! accept because they're running out of options and money so fast that soon they'll start to lose the confidence of those 250+million users that they have from the glory days. What no one can predict is how well the two company's services integrate. I sincerely hope that Yahoo!s successful projects like Flickr and delicious get used effectively.
Should Microsoft go down the integration path with Yahoo! products, then they should do this as if walking on eggshells and look only to make boundaries between entities blurred. What I mean by that relates back to my original point on GigaOm's 2008 prediction of consolidating services. So many services have certain features that we prefer, be that because they're better or easier, meaning that the average user of these online services has to have a million different accounts and logins. I am mega keen on ideas like OpenID, and we're told now that some of the bigger companies like Microsoft and Google are signing up to these which can only be seen as a positive step.
I'm drifting, so my point is that when the time comes, Microsoft should set an example to Google of the best way to integrate another firm into your own and it should be open to the Yahoo! ways of leaving a product's name and subsequent image well alone.
It should also ignore my last point when it comes to MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Instant Messenger - join them up - and work on a truly genius way to manage media. Yahoo! has some great media ideas that could really help out Microsoft with its online competition against Google. Microsoft clutch at Windows and Office because they are the standard now. But once people need more 'on-the-go' features and collaboration ability, then people are going to start to look towards Google Docs and Spreads, Zoho and all the other countless greats that are out there on the internet. I think that Yahoo! could really help Microsoft achieve their Office Live goals.
Potential scenario #2:
Google and Yahoo! end up uniting against Microsoft. This seems pretty unlikely to me. The Bloomberg article states that Eric Schmidt and Jerry Yang spoke on 4th February about a partnership. This would be huge for Google, who'd suddenly have one less competitor to think about in their home domain of search and advertising as they'd gain the resources of Yahoo!
But just how likely is this? In my opinion not very likely at all. I'd actually like this not to happen. I'm a firm believer in there being healthy competition, because it's important to remember that competition drives innovation. Whilst Google's insane growth rate since 2004 is something that deserves a sizable pat on the back for each and every member of their staff, it's not going to continue at that pace if they've got no one to be in a race against.
BUT (yes, this but is much bigger) what's especially important to note is that Google aren't trying to BUY Yahoo!, they want a partnership. What does this really mean? It means that we're looking at a different strategy type. Microsoft's can be seen as dominant and expansive, and Google are simply just playing against that. They're not actually interested or threatened by Yahoo! alone, and in creating this partnership, Yahoo! would still be stood on its own two feet. They know that 'Microhoo' would be a much greater blip on their radar, so the suggestion of a partnership is a play at Yang's fierce independant streak. Very clever Mr. Schmidt!
Potential scenario #3:
Yahoo! stay solo. As mentionned in #2, Yang clearly (and quite rightly, he made a big player) has a fierce pride in his company, and would love to see it stood solely on its own platform, with its gigantic user base and smooth set of media features. It is at this stage that I'd like to say SORT IT OUT with Yahoo! Live, because I'm reading lots of bad things about the service. But that's all I'm going to say, because I'm sure it must be seriously difficult to roll out something like that, to that many people, while being in the media spotlight, with a takeover proposition looming over your head.
I am a big fan of Yahoo - in fact I think Yahoo was my first email account as a child and I even wore my Yahoo baseball cap to "Geeks vs Chavs" night at my local watering-hole to show my support - I'd love to see them continue to thrive on their own, to be my underdog in the "Big 3" (Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! - what I currently deem as the three biggest players in tech) and to show everyone what it means to have that many trusting consumers that are there because they get an excellent service.
How likely is this though? I think it's slightly more likely than a partnership with Google (perhaps), but lets face it, the stakeholders over at Yahoo! are seeing more $$$ coming their way by walking the M$ path. They'd be pretty stupid to stir Microsoft up, get them bidding in the price bracket that they've been angling for, and then to turn them down. Similarly, Microsoft could (relatively) easily just storm on in with a hostile takeover.
If asked to put my money where my mouth is, I'd be hedging my bets on Microsoft winning this round. I think they'll suggest a price more in the direction that Yahoo! are hoping for, and Yang will announce that they've taken it.