EU and US continue to have different perspectives on Google

Interesting to read Mr Almunia’s (EU Commissioner responsible for competition) comments re Google and any apparent bias in the results of their search engine – as against the recent findings of the FTC.

Ed Black’s recent piece in Forbes makes the case for the FTC decision.

I suspect this has some way to run.  Competitors clearly unhappy that Google is exploiting its position.  Not unfair for Mr Black or Google to point out that others are not without sin either.  But I guess the real concern is the sheer size, dominance, influence of one player and the standards that must be seen to operate for such a player.

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Is Google serious about Docs?

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Have been trying to use google docs for a few days now.  Have struggled through some issues and figured them out.  But now that I have produced a proposal document for a client, using google docs, it seems that I cannot have the cover page configured with different header/ footer and no page number.  And having checked in the google docs fora I see messages such as: ‘Sorry, there is no option to have different headers and footers on the first page. Can you download to Word or Open Office etc. and do the fine formatting there?’

Back to my question: Is Google for real?

 

 

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Impact of YouTube – is it only beginning?

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Read a great piece reviewing history and recent developments in YouTube: Streaming Dreams.

We are all very familiar with YouTube – home video, music videos, links published in emails and on Facebook pages.  However John Seabrook paints a picture of the ambition of Google for YouTube – in competing with mainstream television for your time and the dollars of the advertisers.

Will be very interesting to watch the development of commercially produced content (lots of channels referenced in the article) including programmes developed specifically for distribution via YouTube.

We’ve seen the developments which have led to so many people struggling to read books, watch longer movies and television documentaries.  YouTube in many ways has been part of this – watch three minutes not 60 minutes.  However now we seem to be witnessing YouTube partly trying to morph to the longer format.  Three minutes is a good format for getting you to watch when you’re not supposed to be watching e.g. in work; but to sell lots of advertising (in the current environment) want you to stay for more than three minutes.

I just wonder of YouTube is missing a trick.  I think the big challenge for all of us is getting quality from all the distractions.  Yes – distract me, challenge me, stimulate me.  But I only have so many waking hours in the day.  I need environments such as YouTube to satisfy me – have I really been satisfied having spent x minutes in this environment?  If I have then surely I will look to spend more time there.

 

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Steve Jobs – Biography by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

A man in a hurry who never seems to have been particularly happy.

By any measure of business success he achieved a great deal – built a company (Apple), lost and regained control of Apple (including rescuing Apple), shaped another company (Pixar), developed and commercialised a range of outstanding products.

It was interesting to read the book as someone who has lived through most of the same period.  In a previous role within KPMG I was very involved in the role out of Apple technology across the firm (and the development of specialist software for the platform).  I also recall the subsequent decision to migrate to the Windows platform because of a perceived lack of business applications software for the Apple platform at the time.  And in my current role I have not yet returned to the Apple platform – to date preferring the combination of Microsoft, Google and Android.

Jobs is not portrayed in a particularly attractive light as a person nor as a boss/manager.  His treatment of people falls far below that expected.  Yes he was within his rights to demand focus, attention to detail, brilliant engineering, quality output from his advisors, etc.  But the haranguing of employees and vendors, the tantrums, the rejection of ideas and subsequent relabeling as his own ideas – none of these would warm you towards the man.

I suppose Jobs is an example of the entrepreneur who stays in control.  In many cases we talk about the need to transfer control from the entrepreneur to the professional management team – on the basis that the entrepreneur brings the idea and the energy for the startup but may not have all the skills to see the startup through to full development into an established company.  Perhaps the appointment of Sculley was the attempt to do this.  But it failed and failed badly.  A couple of points here: it can only work if it has the support of the entrepreneur and the timing is also critical.  In Apple’s case it happened too late, it did not have Jobs support )in spite of the initial ‘love-in’ and perhaps Sculley was not the tight person.  The other essential question though is how do you maintain the innovation momentum  when you switch control to the professional management team?  In theory the entrepreneur should have more time to devote to product development, research, etc.  But would this have resulted in the stream of new products from Apple (post Jobs’ return) if he has not been at the top of the organisation?  I don’t think so.

I often distinguish between those who get projects done and those who play a positive role in corporations. Good project managers will do whatever it takes to get the project delivered on time and on budget – including managing scope and user expectations.  Good corporate managers understand the corporate objectives and develop teams of people in this context.  Typically the two types are different.  Project managers have little interest in anything except closing out the project – leaving someone else to pick up the pieces in terms of people who have been sidelined, over stressed, temporarily over praised.  Corporate managers work to a different timetable – seeking to develop the people and move the company toward tis objectives.

Jobs had a vision for Apple and Pixar – and this vision drove him.  And he embodied this vision in many of his products – e.g. Toy Story, iTunes, iPhone.  But the impression I form from Isaacson’s account of Jobs is of someone who was so project focused, delivery focused,  that a lot of what is associated with building corporate culture, developing people was dumped.   And the interesting summary of all of this is that it worked.  Jobs created a company of ‘A players’ and demanded A performance.  He got A performance and refused to accept anything less.   The result – outstanding products and outstanding commercial success.

So what was the genius of Steve Jobs?  A number of thoughts strike me after reading the book and experiencing a number of his products (Pixar and Apple):

  • Hard work and sustained application comes in near the top.  How many times do we read about getting close to product release and deciding to rework something because it was not quite right?  Yes this points to the high standards he set for himself and the team – but also the commitment and willingness to take on the rework to get something right.
  • Jobs was comfortable being surrounded by experts – be that brilliant engineers, designers or marketers.  He never lost sight of the fact that regardless of their individual ability they were all cogs in the wheel – all with a role to play.  He may have had a natural bias towards to design side, but he understood that he needed the best in all areas.  His management style may have been questionable – at the very  least on a human level – by the did not struggle in an environment of brilliant people
  • Tough commercial negotiator – whether dealing with Microsoft, music industry or Disney – and executed a number of his deals from positions of weakness.
  • His own consistent advice to others appears to have been to focus – and he appears to have followed this advice himself.  He was not short on ideas but focused on specific opportunities.
  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  We can all see now that smartphone, digitised music, etc all make sense.  But Jobs saw the opportunity looking forward – he saw the opportunity with the Xerox GUI development at Palo Alto.  Jobs saw the opportunity for innovation through technology.

The Jobs/ Gates rivalry is a recurring theme through the book.  They both built hugely successful companies in the same period.  Isaacson emphasises the basic difference in philosophy being Jobs’ obsession with total control (hardware and software) as against Gates’ willingness to release his software for different platforms.  I think this analysis is an over simplification – Gates was very keen to own the desktop by ensuring it was running his operating system (and today Balmer would like to see mobile phones running a Microsoft operating system).  Jobs is dismissive of Android – in fact seems to see Android as a poor quality rip off of Apple.  I think this case is unproven.

Having read so much comment about the book in the press was wondering whether I would learn anything from the book itself.  Not sure that I fully understood the man himself after reading the book.  Isaacson was determined to paint the picture ‘wars and all’.  He probably did this.  But I think somewhere in this he missed a trick in summarising the man.  I enjoyed reading the biography.  It was a rip roaring life when you look at the ups and downs, the product releases, the deal making, the family life.  And because we have all been touched by his technology it feels relevant.

2011 reflections on IT

Another year has whizzed bye.  Maybe it’s something to do with running your own consulting business, having a very active family and having a curious mind.

So what sticks in my mind in terms of technology – looking back on 2011?

What have I really liked?

I have been very happy with my Android phone – Samsung II.  Great phone, easy to use, great camera, easy integration with lots of social networks etc.  Would be lost without a smartphone.

Have found myself leaning much more towards Twitter than Facebook.  Have really found Twitter useful in terms of work related research, staying in contact with other professionals, developing my own profile.  Notwithstanding this Facebook is a daily platform for me – and has lured me into chess.com.  Typically have one or two chess games on the go (48 hours to move).

I have stuck with FourSquare.  Most of my acquaintances run a mile from FourSquare – why would you want to share your location?  I think this type of location based software has a long way to run.

Have enjoyed listening in to TWIT.TV (Leo Laporte’s This Week in Technology).  I tend to download the podcast and listen to it on one of my walks.  He has had some great guests during the year and some great debates – even last week with regard to restrictions on software copying.

Leo Laporte has got me to sign up to tow of his sponsors: www.Audible.Co.UK and Carbonite.  Audible I sue to download books which I listen to when walking, taking public transport, even at home rather than reading the physical book (nice break for the eyes).  I am using Carbonite to back up my data.

I have implemented encryption using TrueCrypt – seems to work very well.  And seems to be gaining in popularity wherever I go.

And EverNote – what a great application.  Increasingly I find myself using Evernote to capture meeting notes.  And it’s available on my Android phone when I need to access a note.

Finally – Google+.  I definitely like it.  And it looks like it has traction.  But then Google has some influence!  And I should say I have had a great year with Google Apps – has not let me down.  The world needs Google and Microsoft competing – at least you can now shop and compare between the two cloud offerings.

What have been my other observations?

Lots of disillusioned IT teams in corporate world.  Lots of them working with reduced budgets, smaller teams but many of the same challenges.  Many of their users have lots more technology available to them at home or on their phones – real challenges in providing stimulating corporate IT environments to end users.

Understanding the economics of the cloud is challenging.  If I have 100 Offce/ Exchange users does it make sense to sign up to Office 365 (or Google Apps)? Do the price points make sense?  Green field site v. established business.  Many people unconvinced about the economics.  Many people committed to cloud approach.  Debate is vigorous.

Regardless, operating from Ireland, with its current economic challenges, web based technologies are being embraced and lots of entrepreneurs emerging with ideas which exploit these technologies.

 

 

 

 

What’s happening with google+?

I tried out Google plus at launch time (more accurately when I got an account).  However I have continued to treat is as an experiment pending proper integration with google apps.  Where is that?

Google owns most recent results make for impressive reading.  But what of google+?  Seems to me that Facebook has been doing a good job of making their platform more useful – in terms of using it to communicate with different groups/lists of users.

This report suggests that google plus may be struggling to maintain initial momentum.  Obviously there have been some unfortunate PR incidents  – suggesting that not all senior Google execs are equally committed.

It;s a difficult space – when you want to break into a market dominated by Facebook.  For now I think Google plus has sharpened up people at Facebook.  But that cannot be the end game for Google.

No sign of a slow down in use of social networks

I come across anecdotal evidence of people becoming bored with social networks – suggesting they may shut down their Facebook account, don’t see the point of twitter, etc.  Latest report from Nielsen on the US market firmly gives the lie to this.

The reality appears to be that people are spending more of their online time in social networks.  And that’s not really very surprising – particularly if they are managing their participation in a way which provides them with value e.g. using Twitter to follow particular interests, using Facebook or Google+ to interact with specific groups of people.

I posted the other day on the subject of ‘Friends or Not‘. Social networks are not without their negatives e.g. irrelevant data, self  censorship, etc.  But the plain reality is that they do offer all sorts of ways to present information in context.

Would be interesting to see similar analysis for the local marketplace in Ireland.  I suspect it is not very different.  I think the other day I heard back from a younger family member ‘No I did not get your email, I use facebook’.  Things continue to move on in social networking and instant messaging.

Using location based services – have I missed the point?

I have been making some use of foursquare for a number of months.  Previously also tried the google latitude solution. Not convinced that either has been of any real benefit to me.

Examples of my use of foursquare: checking in when attending a football match, a concert, a restaurant, a conference.  Apart from telling people that I am there what has been the benefit.  And has that in itself been a personal positive or personal negative?

Google Latitude I tried with a small number of colleages for a period of time.  However we generally found it intrusive and impacted far too negatively on our privacy – such as it is.

There was talk about using location based services to target me with offers in my location e.g. you are now in Dublin 4 and here is a coffee shop offering a free scone with every cup of coffee.  The value proposition is not standing up – am wasting too much time checking in, sharing too much information about my whereabouts – all for no real value.

According to the survey just released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

28% of American adults use mobile and social locationbased services

This survey includes using solutions to get directions within ‘location based’.  I certainly make good use of ‘Navigation’ on my Android phone when trying to find various sportsgrounds all over the city for the first time at the weekend as we act as chauffeurs to various football and hurling teams.  And this is a location base service – in the sense that it is aware of where I am when I am trying to find a route to somewhere else.

So, overall, am disappointed with the benefits to date of location based services (other than navigation type services).  Perhaps it is also a generational thing e.g. perhaps other age-groups are using these services as an integral pert of their social lives.

Consolidation of stacks

Interesting discussion between Bradley Horowitz and Tim O’Reilly re Google+.  Tim O’Reilly makes interesting point about an apparent consolidation in the industry along certain stacks e.g. Apple, Google and Microsoft.  He quotes his own preference for using an Android phone because it integrates more effectively with the google calendar.  This has been my own experience also – though as an external consultant do find myself needing to work across more than one stack – depending on client preferences.

 

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Why is google+ important to google?

Interesting analysis on use of social network id’s to log into other sites.

So perhaps, in spite of much of the inane rubbish posted on social networking sites, these same sites are going to win out because they have become the holders of profiles we use for identifying ourselves across the web.  The analysis is interesting in that it shows that Facebook leads the way – another reason that google needs to win with google+.

 

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