Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another test post

An attempt at managing/posting to a blog using Adobe Contribute running on an HP Mini 5101.  If nothing else, I do enjoy the toys (software and hardware) that I get to play with for work.  I'm not sure how I feel about the whole netbook fad, but right now I'm sitting on the couch with my three year old, watching Toy Story 2 while posting this and checking email and college football scores.  I've never attempted to do that with any of my 14-15" notebooks.  This systems also runs cool enough that I can have it sitting in my lap while I work.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Why Android isn’t a big deal; and why it is.

DISCLAIMER:  I’ve made no secret that I work at HP.  I even work in the notebook group.  However, I heard about this at the same time everyone else did – through Engadget.  What follows is my personal speculation and opinion and is not based on any insider information.  Here is HP’s official response on Yahoo.

A lot of blogs and press (WSJ, NYT included) have been making a big deal about HP investigating Google’s Android OS on netbooks.  This should have come as no surprise as several enthusiasts had already accomplished the same thing.  In fact there are communities all over putting Mac OS, Android, various Linux distros, etc. on netbooks.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch to guess that OEMs are performing the same experiments on their own. 

Here’s why it doesn’t matter.  I posted earlier about Linux as a threat to Microsoft.  Android poses the same threat.  My assertion was (and still is) that the phone-like, task-based Linux experience is the key to success.  Android, starting from a phone and scaling up, is designed for this.  So it has the potential to be more successful out of the gate than several desktop Linux distros that have been shoe-horned onto netbooks.  However, Android in this context won’t matter because it suffers the same pitfall as other task-based Linux implementations:  Users see a netbook as a small notebook (rightfully so) and because of this expect a traditional notebook experience.   They expect to be able to use Microsoft Office, run applications locally, store and manage data locally, etc.   The tasked-based paradigm, while still able to do all of that, abstracts and makes it feel different even though the underlying functionality may be exactly the same.  So Android on netbooks may be successful to the portion of the market that likes/wants the task-based experience; but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.

One article I read, and I’d link it if I could find it, went as far as stating that HP was going to ditch Microsoft and favor Android on netbooks.  That’s absolute foolishness.  Other articles seems to take this as a signal that Google was going to head-to-head with Microsoft for desktop operating systems.  Also foolishness.  Google may be taking on Microsoft.  This may have been a shot across the bow.  But they are not going head-to-head.  Google seems more than happy to cede the offline, local experience to Microsoft.  Every move by Google of the last few years – even the release of Chrome – has been about getting applications and data off of the local system and onto the web.  In this sense, Google doesn’t want to compete with Microsoft and win, they want to completely disintermediate them.   Why Android matters?  Because Google doesn’t need PCs (or netbooks) to do this.  As more an more devices become connected; then become intelligently connected (web browser capability); the less important PCs become.  I can browse the web with my Wii.  I can read and edit Google Docs from my phone.  The prospect of my DVR or game console replacing my PC is very real, in a very near timeframe.  This is going to be the coup.  Completely changing the paradigm by running an end-around using intelligently connected devices.  Not another OS war.

- T

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Traffic control (r)ants

My wife is tired of hearing it, but I think we are entirely too focused on creating a better, cleaner, more fuel efficient automobile and not focused enough on mass transit and most importantly traffic control systems.  I'm amazed how inefficient our traffic control systems are, and not because I hate sitting at red lights.  How often have to been stopped along with 20-30 other cars to allow 3 or 4 cars to pass through an intersection?  Then sit there for 1-2 more minutes with no opposing traffic.  In my opinion, states should be accountable for the carbon footprint of each traffic light in the city.

I have long held that Google would be the perfect company to solve this - after all, their business is network traffic.  This morning I found this blog over at Wired about ants and their traffic control systems.  Very interesting read, especially the part about ants never getting stuck in traffic.  Give it a look...



Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Why Linux won't challenge Windows on the Desktop (yet)

Every year begins with a renewed optimism (on the part of the Linux community) that this will be the year Linux takes a bite out of Windows on the desktop.  While distros like Ubuntu and Mint, and the latest KDE and gnome UI's have significantly improved, they all suffer from the same flaw - they are all (directly or indirectly) designed to look like windows.  What's worse, they are all stuck in Win9x/NT4.0 days.  Sure, in the last few years the community has added visual effects that in some cases outshine (and definitely outperform) Vista Aero.  However, at the end of the user experience is Windows-like.  In fact, in some instances it is worse than Windows.  The number of places you have to set proxy settings, the agony that is wireless networking, and the sheer number of operations that can only be accomplished by dropping into a terminal make Linux less user-friendly than Windows.

The key issue is that Linux is an operating system written by very technical people, and for the most part, for very technical people.  I can appreciate that (and actually run several distro's on spare systems and VMs).  However, I really don't want to have to modify an interfaces file in order to connect to a wireless network using WEP with a default key other than 1.  I would love to get through a day without using sudo.  And I don't want to have to use a cryptic command line to find out if my USB key is mounted as sda or sdb.

Given the paradigm similarities, it's going to be hard for a fragmented Linux community to compete.  Especially when Windows is continually refined.  I've posted before about how Microsoft is stuck in incrementalism.  This was partially a criticism, but partly it is just the nature of Microsoft being the victims of their own success.  When over 90% of the world uses your software you can't just pull the rug out from under them and change the paradigm.  But even Microsoft has recognized the need for change. 

Widespread use of cell phones and smart phones has driven adoption of task-based operating systems.  Other small form factor devices such as MIDs and netbooks have provided a logical beachhead for task-based user experiences on PCs.  Microsoft has dabbled in these waters with Origami, and do-it-yourselfers have done it by putting Android on the HP 2133 Mini.  A task-based UX on PC's represent an opportunity for Linux like never before.  However, the community needs to let the engineers step away and give the designers some time to play.  HP's Ubuntu-based Mi experience on the Mini 1000 is one example of this direction.  Jolicloud - a much less publicized distro aimed at netbooks - is another possibility.  The key to a task-based UX is that the fundamentals - wireless networking, peripheral devices, etc. - have to JUST WORK.  No terminals, no complicated command lines, no administrator or root privileges required.

Time will tell if task-based will take hold with netbooks.  However, at the very least it should be a hint that the Linux community should stop trying to out-Windows Windows.  If anything, Linux should take a hint from Apple and position away from Windows instead of positioning better than Windows.  More and more people are valuing computers based on how they use them, not speeds and feeds and the granularity of control they have to configure them.  Phones have further encourage task-based interaction with devices.  Finally, the pervasiveness of the Internet and the rise in cloud computing have blurred the lines of defining a computing device.  Linux needs to embrace these trends  and change the game.