Category Archives: IT

Flash Vs. HTML5: Google Will Decide

tablet2.100

The future of Adobe Flash is in the hands of Google.

Apple’s reluctance to support Flash on the iPhone and the iPad is putting tremendous pressure on the future of Adobe’s ubiquitous platform, present in 98% of browsers worldwide.

The Adobe Flash Player  is the engine behind 99% of  Video in the web. Adobe Flash Player 10.1, soon to be released, was supposed to take Flash Player dominance together with online video to mobile handsets. But Google and Apple insistence in an Open Web with HTML5 native video (among other capabilities) that make Flash irrelevant can ruin Adobe’s plans. Apple bet of non supporting Flash even on the iPad shows they are pretty determined to kill Flash.

Abobe is going from being the ‘good guy’ that enabled video on the Web, to the ‘bad guy’ that imposes proprietary technology and that crashes browsers too often. Is Flash doomed to die then? It is up to Google.

Apple and Google close romance is turning to an end as both turn to competitors rather than friends in smartphones, office applications, browsers, OS, and soon in tablets and ebooks.

With Chrome OS now targeting the trendy tablet feast too, the support of Flash Player on Chrome OS and Android can give an edge over Apple’s rivals.  Having all video on the web on Google powered smarphones and tablets, that would be a huge advantage to Google.

But Google could also well decide to stick to its principles and go full speed on the HTML5 open web vision, shared with Apple. If Google moves all YouTube content to HTML5, who on Earth is not going to install an HTML5 browser? Even the stubborn IE6 laggards would finally wake up and change. How long would it take for other web video properties to move to HTML5 and drop Flash?

Update: Good ZDNet post on the HTML vs. Flash war.

Update 2: Good explanation on Gizmodo about HTML5 and Flash

Update 3: Great post on TechCrunch on the Future of Web Content

Telecom Slowdown? Seven Reasons for Hope

mobilephonespenetration

We have seen recent announcement of job cuts in almost all Telecom and Tech companies, including Microsoft and Google only to name those that are new to those announcements.

GigaOm recently echoed a recruitment firm report that estimated almost 200,000 job cuts in the tech industry in 2008.

Still there are reasons for hope that the downturn will be less severe with the Telecom and Tech industries as with others:

  1. On a global scale, the demand for communications and computing is far from decelerating. As can be seen in the chart above, the penetration of mobile subs is still low in regions such as China,  India or South East Asia that are adding an aggregate of 150 million new mobile subs each year!
  2. The rise of netbooks should contribute to fulfilling the demand for affordable computing in emerging countries and also on Wireless Broadband penetration in mature markets, as netbooks are a great opportunity to bundle more 3G mobile data plans. Laptops will outsell desktops for the first time in 2009 and that is good news for mobile operators.
  3. Broadband stimulus package. As President Obama said in the inauguration speech, it is time to “dust ourselves off” and begin the work  “to lay a new foundation for growth”, building “digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together” […] “to meet the demands of a new age”. Broadband infrastructure is a must to incentive innovation and competitiveness, and other countries are pursuing similar initiatives, including UK, Singapore and Malaysia to name a few.
  4. Airlines should be worried about the slowdown, not telcos. Telcos have a great opportunity to sell more Telepresence and more Enterprise Communication tools to help enterprises save travel costs.
  5. How can consumers save more than staying at home watching IPTV, facebooking or browsing the web? Purchasing online cheaper and better (more informed at least), can save a few dollars for families.
  6. Telecom equipment vendors have not given yet prove of slowdown in telcos investment. Ericsson CEO said when announcing Q4 results “To date, our infrastructure business is hardly impacted at all”. Huawei even dares to predict 29% growth in 2009. Nortel filing bankruptcy is not a bad news for the surviving equipment makers, as one competitors disappears
  7. It will not be worse than the Internet/UMTS licenses crash in 2001. The Economist says “It cannot defy gravity, but the technology industry is faring better than it did in the previous downturn.” The article explains why IT investment is no longer a luxury for enterprises and how innovations such as SaaS that make companies more efficient can only grow.

That the slowdown is affecting the Telecom and IT industries is out of  question, as the drama of thousands of people losing jobs demonstrates. But there are reasons to hope that these sectors will be the ones to lead the recovery, and we hope that will happen soon.

Some interesting reading and charts from The Economist:
Technology stimulus plans – Paved with good intentions
Computers per person per region in 2009 – Chart
The outlook of mobile phones in 2009 – Chart (Origin of  chart above)


Netbooks, Moore’s Law And Which New App Will Come for Rescue?

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The rise of Netbooks, of which 21 million units* will be sold in 2009, may put in jeopardy the progression of Moore’s Law, as netbooks cannibalize sales of laptops. As a result of Moore’s Law, the price of a mid-range PC has not changed much since long, but every year the power of the machine you buy doubles the one available a year before. This exponential growth in performance can be easily tracked in the amount of storage that you get each year for a $25 SD card (8GB in 2008 vs 4GB in 2007) or for a $100 hard drive (1TB in 2008 vs 500GB in 2007). For microprocessors the rule is shifting from doubling clock speed, to doubling the number of cores every 12-18 months. This geometrical progression results in a laptop in 2018 with 256 cores and 32 TB solid-state drive.

Nebooks are driving Moore’s Law in a different direction. A Netbook has the power of a PC of 3-4 years ago, just at a fraction of the cost. And the reason netbooks replace laptops is that they can run the same basic applications that most people use: web browsing, email, writing docs or Skype. Although conceived as an ideal second ultraportable computer for road warriors, netbooks could become the prime PC for basic use in the office and at home for many in these times of recession.

Software, and in particular Windows, have driven the evolution of the PC hardware with “hungrier” software versions every few years. But Vista failed to bring any breakthrough features compared to Windows XP, and netbooks are benefiting from that.

What do software developers have in their roadmaps that will need 256 cores in ten years? Video editing, media encoding or photo processing software need powerful CPUs, but unless the future bring us an OS with disruptive user interfaces with 3D virtual reality, HD, plus voice and gesture detection, it is difficult to imagine why we will need 256 cores in a laptop or desktop PC.

What is sure is that Multi-Core CPUs fit nicely with server virtualization, and that will make data centers which host the cloud more cost-efficient. The demand for multi-core processors for servers will sure drive the CPU market, but will it be able to do it at the same pace as desktops were doing before? If we are to believe in the success of the cloud, not only the value is shifting from the OS to the Cloud, also the demand for stronger processors is.

We could well end up in 2018 with 256-core servers in the data centers and ultra small low-cost dual-core devices in our pockets connected to the cloud.

* The Economist: Less is Moore

Update:
Intel could report soon the first quarterly loss in 21 years. Even if they say Atom margins are similar to those of the high-end processors, there is always the doubt if cannibalization has anything to do with the loss. On the other side AMD says they will not address the market for netbook processors, instead putting all eggs on the high-end CPUs that will power cloud servers. Will we see the 256-core CPUs somewhere else than in servers?

Welcome 2009!

fireworks

Year 2008 will be remembered for the financial crash but also as the year when

And despite the gloomy economic outlook, Technology might be one of the sectors that suffer the less in 2009, as Governments are likely to incentive investments mainly on two axes: green tech and Internet infrastructure.

Making Internet access universal and reducing the carbon footprint of Information and Communications Technologies are tasks at hand in the coming years, and this is the right time for governments to stimulate the economy by committing to these goals.

Year 2008 saw a few ISPs trialling metered Internet access and opening a debate that I hope 2009 will close as government incentive investment in building a better and ubiquitous broadband access. Fiber in the developed world and wireless broadband (WiMAX and 3G) in the emerging markets where copper does not exist will bring a better Internet to more people.

Telcos should worry about stimulating demand for communications rather than capping it. Wouldn’t telcos be happier in a world where telepresence is used in all enterprises and HDTV is the standard for movies downloads? Telcos should not worry about over-the-top players like YouTube or iTunes making business on their infrastructure, but rather on how to better serve them by adding more value than pure connectivity.

My wish for 2009: Universal unlimited Internet everywhere.

Happy New Year. May the Net be with you.


Modular Data Centers: Containers for Clouds

Mike Manos, Microsoft Data Center Chief, has unveiled in his blog the design of future “Generation 4” Microsoft data centers. With the mission to provide massive easy-to-scale computing infrastructure to power the Cloud, Microsoft envisions pre-assembled containers equipped with a few thousands of servers each and its associated cabling and cooling system.

Microsoft is already using the flexibility of “containerized servers” in their Generation 3 Data Center under construction in Chicago. Generation 4 pretends to take the concept of building block even further with a central spine infrastructure for mechanical, electrical and security components, to which the pre-assembled containers are connected in a plug-and-play mode. The containers are designed for high efficiency, minimizing both footprint and the use of water or air for cooling.

The target is to achieve an average power usage effectiveness (PUE)* of 1.125 by 2012. Taking into account that current average data centers have a PUE of almost 2, that would be a huge achievement in green IT, even though Google alreadly claims to be at a 1.21 PUE in some of their facilities.

Microsoft modular container-based design is ideal for a scalable cloud infrastructure that can adapt computing capacity to demand. On top of that, not only operation costs are reduced due to the optimized footprint and cooling, but also CAPEX is improved with server containers assembled in a single manufacturing plant for far less cost than deploying the servers on-site.

Watch Microsoft video illustrating the Generation 4 Data Centers. An interesting approach to counter attack Google’s thought leadership earned with their patent filing for floating, wave-powered data centers.

Microsoft is taking Cloud computing seriously, as Allan Leinwand of GigaOm writes today:

“… in conjunction with announcements of the Azure Services Platform and Office Live, there is no doubt that the giant in Redmond is aggressively focused on delivering enterprise cloud computing. ”

*Definition of PUE extracted from Google corporate site:

PUE is defined as the ratio of the total power consumed by a data center to the power consumed by the IT equipment that populate the facility:

Power Usage Effectiveness

For example, a PUE of 2.0 indicates that for every watt of IT power, an additional watt is consumed to cool and distribute power to the IT equipment.

Top 5 Disruptions in the Past Twelve Months

These are the top hottest five topics that we have covered over the past twelve months with the biggest potential for a disruption in both the Communications Industry and in our habits.

1) Mobile Internet, the Internet way.
The iPhone and Google’s Android have revolutionized Mobile Internet in the handset, making web browsing such a cool and better experience that operators have embraced unlimited data plans for the first time, in bundle with these “next-gen” handsets (well, in fact operators did it first with Blackberry for unlimited enterprise email). Downloadable Mobile Apps were already available for Symbian, J2ME, Windows Mobile and Blackberry, but never have they been hotter than they are now on App Store and App Market. The Winners: Apple and Google (and even Blackberry to a certain extent). The Losers: Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Windows Mobile. The short-term winners, long-term who-knows?: The Service Providers that are cashing-in the flat fee Unlimited Data plans, but sacrificing their chances to ever control again the Mobile Internet as they did before.

2) Cloud Computing.
Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, Google Apps, IBM “Cloud consulting”, or Google releasing Chrome to run complex apps on the browser at full speed, have made headlines in 2008. Startups such as Animoto run on Amazon’s cloud to enjoy flexible on-demand computer scalability (no wonder Amazon is also an investor in Animoto). The hype is such that these days everything is getting cloudy (or re-defined as cloudy) : GPS navigators face competition from the clouds with Google Maps (maps run on the cloud, with real-time info update and interactive recommendations/ads). Even speech recognition now runs in the cloud with Google Mobile App. The Winners: Google getting us to spend more time online, pioneer Amazon that gets economies of scale, and the IT vendors, such as HP or IBM, that will equip clouds. The Losers: Microsoft, for the moment. SaaS running on a browser make the OS less relevant. The catastrophe of Vista has only help the Cloud cause with enterprises eager to consider alternatives. Microsoft is building huge data-centers and will be a big cloud player too. For the moment, the cloud will put pressure on them.

3) Internet TV.
Hulu has brought national broadcast TV shows to the Internet. YouTube has confirmed the revolution of Internet Video, now well into the mainstream. YouTube not only is reaching agreements with content owners to be an ad-based platform for content distribution, but it has been a huge platform for politicians for the US 2008 presidential campaign, and now for President-elect’s change.gov. Not to mention the new habits of kids to search YouTube for information instead of searching Google. The Winners: All of us that now have virtually unlimited video content, including old-time TV jewels, just one click away. The Losers (yet to be confirmed): Broadcasters that will cannibalize higher CPMs revenues of traditional TV, with much lower CPMs prices in the online world. The effect is still small but innovative models will be needed before the cannibalization goes too far.

4) Wireless Broadband. With HSDPA or EVDO widely deployed, the 3G networks are now beginning to deliver on past promises. WiMAX has also seen in the past twelve months many commercial launches, and will play a key role in emerging markets where fixed broadband is not a financially viable option. The Winners: Mobile Operators that will get an additional source of revenues selling Mobile broadband, and opening the door to Machine2Machine applications taking advantage of ubiquitous wireless connectivity. The potential losers (not yet): Fixed Operators will need to keep fixed broadband ahead in terms of performance, to avoid substitution by wireless. Mobile Operators will lose too, as their hopes to make Mobile Internet different from fixed vanish.

5) Netbooks.
Asus EEE PC has been followed by most laptop vendors (supported by Intel low-power low-cost processors such as ATOM)  to bring a new class of 1 kg laptops with less than 9″ screens, ideal to enjoy full Internet on the go. Combined with Wireless Broadband, these low-cost laptops are not only a great companion for road-warriors but also are likely to power Internet access in many emerging countries as an affordable PC solution. The Winners: Millions of new Internet users worldwide, as well as Internet addicts. Flash memory manufacturers. The Losers: High-end lightweight laptop makers, that will face competition from low-end machines with enough power for everyday use. DVD/CD writers and disc makers, with discs replaced by memory cards and the disc writer by a card reader.

Converging into Clouds

Online players, such as Google and Amazon cope all bets to reign over the Clouds, benefiting from their global reach and huge experience on web scalability. Others foresee IBM -talking about utility computing for decades- or HP, after acquiring EDS, as strong contenders to put IT systems on the clouds.

But what about Telcos? Wouldn’t they want to play too? At then end, operation of network services is what they have been doing for ages. Telcos own the connectivity, which is a key element in cloud computing. They can promise their business customers a guaranteed bandwidth and latency, that other on-line Internet players, simply can not commit. And they are close to their corporate and SME customers, to whom they already sell PABXs, internet access, leased lines and mobile phones. So telcos know their market in their local countries better than Google. Do not underestimate the power of the Operators. They have the strength to being able to gather an ecosystem of partners they can bring to their enterprise customers.

Internet giants, IT players and telcos, they all want a place in the cloudy sky.

SingTel to package SaaS offerings
IBM launches four new cloud computing centers