Monthly Archives: May 2008

Rebooting Vista

I have nothing against Microsoft, although many posts in could seem to be against them. I admire Microsoft and Bill Gates for what they have done from the computer industry to change our lives.

Still I can not be happy when I just had to reboot Vista twice after one of these spontaneous crashes of IE and Acrobat Reader. I never had to resotre my previous PC. With Vista I have done it four times in a few monts. My wife keeps telling me why I bought the Vista desktop PC, and she wants me to bring back the 2002 Windows XP machine.

When is Microsoft going to fix Vista once and for all?  

Updated: After restoring the system Microsoft offered me a few updates, including SP1. Let’s see the improvements.


Will we ever use video calls?

Videocalls are available in UMTS networks and supported by most 3G handsets in the market. Still, how many people do actually use it? Have you tried it yourself?

Among the factors that prevent people from video calling, the privacy issue is one of the main concerns. You do not want your boss to videocall you and find that you are not working from home as you told him. Other people are shy to be seen in a videocall because they do not like to see themselves in video. And then, there is the uncertainty whether the other party has a 3G phone and whether your friend will like to be disturbed by an intrusive videocall. Other factor not to dismiss,  is simply that people do not have in their mind that they can do a video call from their phone. In other words, they are not educated to use video calls.

Whatever the reasons, the fact is 3G video calls have not taken off (yet).

Still video adds significant richness to communications, compare to audio only, be it for 3G video calls or video conferencing in general. I do use Skype video calls with my family and friends, and once you are used to it, you do not want to do voice only. Skype says that 28% of the calls between users are video calls.

Clearly video calls are not to be used for all communications. Same as sometimes it is more appropriate to use SMS than a phone call, in many cases an audio call is preferrable to a video call. Texting is less intrusive than a phone call, and a phone call is less intrusive than a video call. Still for a more intense communication video is a better option, but you might want a degree of intimacy with the other party before opting for video.

In the enterprise segment, videoconferencing is clearly growing and the ultimate video communication tool, Telepresence, is getting traction. Corporates do find value in video communications. As with many other technologies, enterprises are adopting first and consumers will follow, as it happened with mobile phones, laptops or mobile email.

Skype, and all new laptops with webcam incorporated, are set to be one of the drivers of video communications. The agreement with Jaman to insert movie clips in Skype calls, as reported by GigaOm and TechCrunch, should only help to add more value to our video calls, and incentive its use.

Coming back to 3G, as UMTS handsets become affordable for teenagers (the greatest early adopters of new ways of communication) I would not be surprised to see 3G video calls taking off soon. These kids have grown used to being recorded in video since birth, so the shyness factor clearly disappears. They use the phones in many ways most of us can not do, and do not expect video to be an exception

If James Bond and Austin Powers used video calls in the seventies, wouldn’t the twenty first century kids do it too?


Telepresence. Think twice before you fly

For effective human interaction, nothing beats a face to face meeting, but we are getting closer. As you can see in the amateur clip below Telepresence is already available. Three 65-inch plasma screens set around a meeting table display other location participants in full size, with the closest to physical presence experience that you can get. With a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 30 frames per second of h264 video, the quality is astonishing. Both 720p and 1080p resolutions are available, requiring 3-9Mbps or 9-12Mbps bandwidth.

Heavily promoted by Cisco, although also available from others, this is a great application to fill the pipes for the fiber services that are becoming available in US, Japan and other developed markets.

If videoconferencing is already popular in corporations as an important improvement to audio conferences, Telepresence really becomes a serious alternative to travelling. You will think twice before flying for short meetings if you have the option of Telepresence. No wonder, Cisco is expecting this to be a $1 billion business.

News of the day? 3G iPhone will be launched in June

Gizmodo reports that sources have “confirmed” that the 3G iPhone will be announced on 9 June during the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. It is expected to be available worldwide right after the launch. Gizmodo says:

In Spain, for example, the 3G iPhone will be available for sale at the June 18th grand opening of Telefonica’smegastore—an Apple Store-like shop located in the company’s historical building in Madrid’s Gran Vía— with nationwide availability the next day or after a few hours. The other European countries with iPhone availability will have similar launch schedules.

Other sources provide details such as the new iPhone incorporating a 5 megapixel camera, GPS and up to 32GB of storage. HSDPA supporting bitrates of up to 7Mbps is also expected to be part of the new toy.

In fact speculations of an announcement in June were reported many weeks ago. Now everything seems to confirm it will actually happen. Back in March, Analyst of Bank of America, Scott Craig also anticipated the launch and revised his forecast from 8 to 20 million iPhone units sold in 2008. Apple’s investors should be happy.

Google might also be part of the show at the WWDC, presenting more native applications on iPhone, together with Apple’s confirmation of the official iPhone SDK available end of June.

 In short, if you are planning to buy an iPhone, wait a few weeks.


The End of Microsoft Era?

So The New York Times predicts in The Computer Industry Comes With Built-In Term Limits.

The premise is that no company is able to dominate the Computer Industry spanning two technological eras. Microsoft has reigned on the PC era, as IBM did during the mainframe times. When Microsoft software monopolized personal computers in the 90s, IBM tried to catch up with Lotus acquisition to no avail.

An analogy of why even if Microsoft acquired Yahoo, chances are that Google would still dominate the Internet Era, where applications run in a browser hosted in the cloud, and the OS matter less and less.

I would add that Microsoft did beat IBM (and to some extent Apple) during the PC era based on the “openness” of Microsoft software compared to IBM OS/2 or even Mac. While Microsoft software did run on any manufacturer’s PC hardware, OS/2 was associated to proprietary IBM PS/2. IBM in the late 80s was the almighty computing company trying to impose proprietary solutions, compared to challenger Microsoft open to any HW and to thousands of developers.

In other words, Microsoft represented towards IBM in 80s and 90s, the same openness promise that Linux and Open Source represent towards Microsoft today.

Some interesting data about Microsoft on-line business (MSN) in NYT article:

  • MSN last profitable year was FY 2005 with $402m earnings, just before the MSN dial-up business was killed by broadband (as with AOL)
  • MSN loss was $74m in 2006, $732m in 2007 and $745m in the first 3 quarters of FY 2008
  • Google profits were $1.5bn in 2005, $3bn in 2006 and $4.2bn in 2007
  • MSN represents only 5% of Microsoft total revenue
  • In the last two years Google share of searches in US went from 58% to 68%. MSN went from 13% to 6%

Does Microsoft need to buy Yahoo? Yes. Will that be enough?


Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

This is the short version of Randy Pausch‘s Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. You can see his original complete lecture at Carnegie Mellon here. It is 76 minutes long.

A moving speech about life. Thanks Randy.

At last Mobile Web, thanks to iPhone

In January, Google disclosed that the traffic to Google from iPhones had surpassed any other smartphone, despite iPhone accounts for only 2% of the worldwide smartphones, Nokia’s Symbian 63%, Windows Mobile 11% and RIM 10%.

Later in March, M:Metrics confirmed that 85% of iPhone users access the web from their handset, compared to 58% of smarphones, and a mere 13% of the overall market.

Want to know why iPhone users spend their time on the Web? Watch this video:

Have you tried to do the same from a Nokia N-series? even from a Windows Mobile handset? Do not try. The improvement in usability that iPhone and its Safari browser brings over other handsets is huge and really makes Mobile Web, at last, usable.

Hopefully, Android will be able to follow iPhone’s solid steps into Mobile Web.