Guide to Video Conferencing

Cisco Telepresence

Cisco Telepresence (Photo credit: Tom Raftery)

“Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American writer and activist

I recall many years ago how I used to setup video conferencing across ISDN lines and the fun of trying to make the video run smoothly. These days, video conferencing has become ubiquitous along with the availability of faster communication links, i.e. broadband etc.

With better connectivity, the downward spiral of costs associated with video conferencing (VC) and increased competition, even smaller businesses can afford much better VC systems. The cloud has assisted by many companies offering cloud based systems, including Telepresence that only a few years ago were available to large corporates only.

Here comes the technical bit (Skip this paragraph if not interested): H.323 & SIP seem to be battling it out on which will become the defacto standard/protocol for VC and I suspect that over time both will be absorbed by one another and eventually SIP may be the one that all VC systems use.

The next battle zone will be video on the move. i.e. across smart phones aka mobile phones. The technology is certainly there now and so is the connectivity. As data charges become cheaper, the need for multi national businesses and even families to view each other as they talk will drive the need for video calling on the move.

This is great for eco-friendly consumers, such as me and our planet as it will mean that people have to travel less to meet each other. Change established mindsets will however take time, as many people still think it pertinent to travel to meet!

I have done a series of articles on management styles of business leaders and would like one of my readers to recommend who I should select for the next article. So, without further ado, here is your chance to recommend your choice, just leave your recommendation as a comment to this article. Please send your recommendations by 30th April.

Steve Jobs (Chairman Apple) and Tim Cook’s (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

Image via Wikipedia

UPDATED: 08/10/11 – This post is dedicated to one of my heroes and role models, Steve Jobs, 1955-2011, Thanks for the inspiration. May God bless you.

In February 2010, I posted the blogpost – Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs that is currently my most successful blogpost. This post attracts so many people that the search, ‘apple management style’ will return this article as the number one post. That’s without any adwords!

With the arrival of Tim Cook as Apple’s new CEO, a lot has been written comparing the two. I actually debated about writing an article on Tim Cook’s management style as well and spent the last two week’s debating the direction to take. In the end, I decided that it would be best for me to re post the original blogpost in its entirety. That decision was made because so much has been written about Tim Cook (both in the past and currently) that it would be better to leave all my readers with some appropriate links to get an idea of Tim Cook’s management style.

The most interesting part from my point of view was that I found older articles, in many cases, better than the current articles as they were quite speculative and gave solid reasons for why Tim Cook should be chosen as Apple’s next CEO. In contrast, the current articles do not have to speculate anymore and as such just wrote about Apple’s new CEO supported by content mostly from a few years ago. Anyway, below is the full text of my previous blogpost (Just after the links), Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs:

Tim Cook: my first-person impression of Apple’s new CEO by TUAW
Described as “relentless”, the New York Times profiles Tim Cook
The genius behind Steve – Could operations whiz Tim Cook run the company someday? by CNN
Tim Cook’s Challenge: Sorting Out Apple’s Chinese Supply Chain by Forbes
‘Operations Guy’ Tim Cook Gets Chance to Shine At Apple by CIO.com

This article is an article in a series of articles where I will analyse current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders. I have broken down Steve Job’s style into two distinct pieces. The management style and the presentation style.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

In an interview with Fortune, Steve Job’s (SJ) opened up about his management Style (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. SWOT analysis: As soon as you join/start a company as a CIO, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.

2. Spotting opportunities: SJ – “We all had cellphones. We just hated them, they were so awful to use.”

The lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Improve productivity: – SJ – “We figure out what we want. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.”

As a CIO, we need to ask ourselves, what can we do that will improve our customers or our own productivity? That could entail listening to your customers, horizon scanning or simply taking action on something that you feel would help you, your team/and/or customers.

4. Business/IT Strategy: SJ – “We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants.”

Sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and to believe in yourself to do the right thing. Paralysis by analysis is often the cause that many organisations cannot do well. It’s as Nike says, Just do it!

5. Competitive advantage: SJ – “It is the intimate interaction between the operating system and the hardware that allows us to do that. That allows us to innovate at a much faster rate than if we had to wait for Microsoft, like Dell and HP and everybody else does.”

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage? I covered this a few weeks ago, in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?. Sometimes, it makes sense not to embrace open platforms, as Apple has created a significant competitive advantage, by keeping it’s hardware/software systems closed. CIOs need to make such decisions cautiously.

6. Succession planning and his reputation: SJ – “My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do. My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.”

CIOs need to be facilitators and to bring people together working towards a common goal. It is also important to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

7. Focus: SJ – “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

A CIO needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

8. Talent acquisition:They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple?”

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

9. Know your business and innovate: SJ – “I put out an agenda — 80% is the same as it was the last week, and we just walk down it every single week.”

The CIO and the entire IT department need to know how the business operates, preferably, as intricately as possible. It is that complete overview that will allow innovative opportunities to present themselves.

10. Handling barriers and roadblocks: SJ – “And we pushed the reset button. We went through all of the zillions of models we’d made and ideas we’d had. And we ended up creating what you see here as the iPhone, which is dramatically better.”

CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. There is no shame in that as the project has to deliver the project’s core objective.

11. Customer conversion: SJ – “But if we put our store in a mall or on a street that they’re walking by, and we reduce that risk from a 20-minute drive to 20 footsteps, then they’re more likely to go in because there’s really no risk.”

CIOs need to help the businesses by utilising IT to create opportunities in attracting additional customers. They need to ask themselves, “How can we assist in taking the business to the consumer”?

12. When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays: SJ- “What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.”

I covered this, under mobility of management when I covered; can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II. CIOs need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as one of the business’s most important assets is yet again confirmed by another business leader. This means that they need to stand by that conviction and avoid losing people in economic downturns.

13. Successful innovation and success in general may be built on failure: SJ -. “Will this resonate and be something that you just can’t live without and love? We’ll see. I think it’s got a shot.”

Apple has proved that failure can lead to success and continues to innovate by investing in many technologies. Some will inevitably fail while others such as the iPod and iPhone will be huge successes. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

14. Earn respect: Steve Jobs can be a hard boss to work with but Jobs’ employees remain devoted. That’s because his autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma — he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God. CIOs need to command respect from their employees and that is something that has to be earned!

I want to conclude this part by finishing off with a quote that shows us that even with his god like innovative powers, Steve Jobs remains human. “Steve proves that it’s OK to be an asshole,” says Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former chief evangelist. “I can’t relate to the way he does things, but it’s not his problem. It’s mine. He just has a different OS.”

As Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm said. “He’s at the absolute epicentre digitisation of life. He’s totally in the zone.”

The Presentation Style

For the second part, I am reproducing an article written by Carmine Gallo in BusinessWeek for his new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. For this book he watched hours of Jobs’ keynotes. Here he identifies the five elements of every presentation by the Apple CEO. CIOs can improve their presentations by using these five elements.

1. A headline. Steve Jobs positions every product with a headline that fits well within a 140-character Twitter post. For example, Jobs described the MacBook Air as “the world’s thinnest notebook.” That phrase appeared on his presentation slides, the Apple Web site, and Apple’s press releases at the same time. What is the one thing you want people to know about your product? This headline must be consistent in all of your marketing and presentation material.

2. A villain. In every classic story, the hero fights the villain. In 1984, the villain, according to Apple, was IBM (IBM). Before Jobs introduced the famous 1984 television ad to the Apple sales team for the first time, he told a story of how IBM was bent on dominating the computer industry. “IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple.” Today, the “villain” in Apple’s narrative is played by Microsoft (MSFT). One can argue that the popular “I’m a Mac” television ads are hero/villain vignettes. This idea of conquering a shared enemy is a powerful motivator and turns customers into evangelists.

3. A simple slide. Apple products are easy to use because of the elimination of clutter. The same approach applies to the slides in a Steve Jobs presentation. They are strikingly simple, visual, and yes, devoid of bullet points. Pictures are dominant. When Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, no words could replace a photo of a hand pulling the notebook computer out of an interoffice manila envelope. Think about it this way—the average PowerPoint slide has 40 words. In some presentations, Steve Jobs has a total of seven words in 10 slides. And why are you cluttering up your slides with too many words?

4. A demo. Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain gets bored easily. Steve Jobs doesn’t give you time to lose interest. Ten minutes into a presentation he’s often demonstrating a new product or feature and having fun doing it. When he introduced the iPhone at Macworld 2007, Jobs demonstrated how Google Maps (GOOG) worked on the device. He pulled up a list of Starbucks (SBUX) stores in the local area and said, “Let’s call one.” When someone answered, Jobs said: “I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please. No, just kidding.”

5. A holy smokes moment. Every Steve Jobs presentation has one moment that neuroscientists call an “emotionally charged event.” The emotionally charged event is the equivalent of a mental post-it note that tells the brain, Remember this! For example, at Macworld 2007, Jobs could have opened the presentation by telling the audience that Apple was unveiling a new mobile phone that also played music, games, and video. Instead he built up the drama. “Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device…an iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator…an iPod, a phone, are you getting it? These are not three devices. This is one device!” The audience erupted in cheers because it was so unexpected, and very entertaining. By the way, the holy smokes moment on Sept. 9 had nothing to do with a product. It was Steve Jobs himself appearing onstage for the first time after undergoing a liver transplant.

One more thing…sell dreams. Charismatic speakers like Steve Jobs are driven by a nearly messianic zeal to create new experiences. When he launched the iPod in 2001, Jobs said, “In our own small way we’re going to make the world a better place.” Where most people saw the iPod as a music player, Jobs recognized its potential as a tool to enrich people’s lives. Cultivate a sense of mission. Passion, emotion, and enthusiasm are grossly underestimated ingredients in professional business communications, and yet, passion and emotion will motivate others. Steve Jobs once said that his goal was not to die the richest man in the cemetery. It was to go to bed at night thinking that he and his team had done something wonderful. Do something wonderful. Make your brand stand for something meaningful.

For more of Job’s techniques, flip through this slide show. Then catch a video interview with Carmine Gallo about how he researched his book.

‘You’ The Brand and ‘Social Media.’

Social Media Iceberg

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

James D. Miles (1830 – 1914) Steamboat Captain in the Northwest

Some of you may remember, the television shows of the 80’s where TV series/serials, used to start with, ‘Previously on xyx.’I felt a bit nostalgic today, so I will start the same way. Previously on my blog, I have written about Social Media (SM) in various contexts. I wrote about the effect of SM on a friend’s daughter – The ugly side of social media, the conundrum facing CIOs – The Social Networking dilemma and the CIO, a quick primer on SM – Social Media Primer – Succeed by using LinkedIn and blogs, Toyota and its failure to use SM – How Toyota became the werewolf and the three step process to embrace SM: Organisations “Don’t get” social media (UPDATED, RECOMMENDED READING FOR THIS POST, with ALL NEW SM monitoring tools for both personal and business use). It is becoming evident though that some organisations have become adept at SM, as witnessed by Ford’s recent Ford Explorer, campaign. “We couldn’t think of launching a vehicle today without launching it early using social media,”Jim Farley, Ford’s Vice President for Global Marketing – Courtesy of Social Media Explorer.

Senior management need to understand the business and how IT can be utilised to provide competitive advantage – Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? The problem these days is that many CEOs start working at new employer’s without taking the time and effort to understand and appreciate the business and its culture. Without understanding fully, their business, there is no way for them to realise the potential within their existing or future procured IT systems. In addition, many businesses still have their IT chief’s reporting to CFOs. Without board level representation, IT cannot deliver any benefits to the bottom line. Within that context, Terry Leahy fully understood the impact of IT and allowed his CIO, Philip Clarke to analyse and innovate. In effect, Philip Clarke, successfully created, ‘Philip Clarke, the brand.’ Can anyone create a successful brand, using the Internet and Social Media? The answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes’. I will now outline the steps. The secret to leveraging the success of SM is to integrate, disseminate and monitor SM (automate as much of this as possible, especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints).

Integration: If you are thinking of setting up a new business or personal brand, Google Apps could be the ideal platform for you. I covered this previously, Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality. Google Apps Premiere edition was recently named as  Google Apps for Business and now incorporates all the FREE apps that used to be available to personal Google/GMAIL account holders, such as my favourites, Google URL shortener and Alerts. Regardless, of whether you are a small business or corporate, the website needs to provide analytics to ascertain demographic analysis, page views, referrals (Which sites are referring your site) and statistics and words used for searches conducted, using tools such as Google Analytics. The website also needs a blog feature (Or if you are building your personal brand, enable a personal blog using WordPress/Blogger (Free)). The blog needs to auto connect with SM to deliver posts (Such as, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and YouTube) automatically.

Dissemination: A decision has to be made on which SM will be most effective in disseminating information (News/blogposts/articles) to your target audience. For example, with the launch of the Ford Explorer, Ford decided to use Facebook.  Appropriate profiles for various SM (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc) need to be created. There is plenty of information available on the Internet, to help in creating these profiles but the rule of thumb is that all of your SM profiles, need to be as similar to each other as possible, across all SM. Again, automate as much of this as possible, (especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints)

Monitor: Once SM has been integrated and dissemination profiles/channels are completed start monitor ing‘key people and blogs and setup appropriate RSS feeds’ for content/people that your business needs ‘to follow’ in order to keep abreast of trends in your field. Monitoring also needs to be setup for adverse comments, as the case with Toyota (See above) highlights. As SmartPhones are prevalent now, appropriate phone apps need to be setup to provide the ability to monitor, regardless of location.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with some Twitter cheat sheets that also include other SM tools etc as well (Courtesy of the following):

Geneabloggers.com-Twitter-Cheat-Sheet

@gminks of Adventures in Corporate Education’s Cheat sheet

The Social Media guide.com’s Cheat sheet

The public you.com and Rich Sauser’s Cheat sheet

Eric Schmidt (Ex CEO and current Chairman – Google) management style and CIO

Image representing Eric Schmidt as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”

John Wooden (1910 – 2010) Hall of Fame basketball coach of UCLA

Eric Schmidt (1955 – ) Google CEO and Chairman from 4th April 2011 onwards

Today’s article is the sixth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

This article also follows my previous articles on Google, Microsoft Googles Apple in 2011, Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality, Weather bulletin – Google Cloud and icy Microsoft downpour and Used iphone under a palm tree where I met android and formed a symbian relationship with a blackberry

Eric Schmidt arrived at Google to help Google’s inexperienced founders; Sergey Brin and Larry Page. He has led Google to become a globally recognised company with approx 24000 employees. Recently, he has stepped down to become the chairman and to pass the leadership to Larry Page (on 4th April 2011). Over the years, he has mentored the young founders and believes that the time is now right for them to take the helm. For his efforts, he leaves with a golden shake of $100 million in equity and shares worth 9.1% of Google stock.

“As a CEO, Schmidt is more inclined to provoke than proclaim. “Google is run by its culture and not by me”, said Schmidt in 2009. In Google, when a key executive decision is reached, all interested parties are invited to the decision making process and are encouraged to share their opinions. Schmidt’s job is to oversee the whole procedure and make timely decisions. This bottoms-up way of decision making usually leads to a better buy in and a better decision.  Google allows employees to spend 20% of time on self-directed projects. To closely connect to Google’s frontline innovators, each week Schmidt and his senior associates spend up to six hours in dialogue with team members from across Google, who believe their projects have great potential. This unique management style has hatched a series of great products like Gmail and Google News.” Courtesy Vivian’s Tech Blog

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

What can CIOs learn from Eric Schmidt’s management style? Let’s investigate while allowing you to decide.  (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. How do you run this company? – ES “It’s run in a strange way. We have a normal hierarchical structure. The company is organized ‘bottoms up’ from the standpoint of product creativity and ‘tops down’ from running the quarter and the financials and so forth. We encourage dissent, we encourage large group conversation, we encourage there to be somebody who’s opposed to the decision, and we work very, very hard to be not hierarchical in the way that decisions are made. Often if we can get a decision, we get the best decision if we have two decision makers, not once. We never make decisions in private; we always do them right in front of everybody.” Courtesy Marketplace

2. When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays: ES – “Getting the most out of knowledge workers will be the key to business success for the next quarter century. Here’s how we do it at Google.

At Google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of “knowledge workers.” After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will “strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers’ way.” Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing “the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years.

At Google, we seek that advantage. The ongoing debate about whether big corporations are mismanaging knowledge workers is one we take very seriously, because those who don’t get it right will be gone. We’ve drawn on good ideas we’ve seen elsewhere and come up with a few of our own. What follows are ten key principles we use to make knowledge workers most effective. As in most technology companies, many of our employees are engineers, so we will focus on that particular group, but many of the policies apply to all sorts of knowledge workers.” – Courtesy 1000 Ventures

For more, read – Google’s ten golden rules for getting the most out of knowledge workers.

When Eric joined Novell, the company’s future was very much in doubt. He correctly recognized a culture of fear that pervaded the organization. Bright engineers with revolutionary ideas were reluctant to voice them for fear of being fired. The engineers however, complained vociferously amongst themselves leading to a culture of corporate cynicism. Recognizing this pervasive bellyaching, Eric asked two engineers he met on the company shuttle, to give him the names of the smartest
people they knew in the company. Eric met with each of them, and asked them in turn to identify the 10 smartest people they knew. In a few weeks, Eric had a list of 100 engineers he considered critical to Novell’s future. He met with each of them personally, encouraging them to take chances and follow their instincts. He removed the possibility of reprisals by their managers for voicing their opinions. This inspired the engineers and focused their efforts, resulting in innovative and improved products. These changes helped Novell transform itself from a loss of $78
million to a gain of $102 million”. – Courtesy Scribd.com

One person alone cannot handle everything. The secret is to surround yourself with employees that are smarter than yourself. These smart people will challenge organisations and force them to think differently. I covered this, under mobility of management when I covered; can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II. CIOs need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as one of the business’s most important assets is yet again confirmed by another business leader.

3. Business/IT Strategy: “At Google, Eric has stated the company’s goal as “…Organizing the world’s information making it universally accessible and useful”. An engineer working to index billions of web pages can easily identify with this laudable goal. As a practical matter the goal of making information universally accessible is a more
meaningful goal for the engineer, interested in making his mark on society, rather than a mundane goal of increasing Google’s revenues by $300 million dollars. Eric considers this transfer of ownership to be so important that while at Novell he created a quarterly in-house radio show modeled after NPR’s “Car Talk”. He even made tapes available for in-car listening.” – Courtesy Scribd.com

Sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and to believe in yourself to do the right thing. Paralysis by analysis is often the cause that many organisations cannot do well. It’s as Nike says, Just do it!

4. Rating of employees’ performance: – In the past, I have reviewed many CEO’s management style but Eric Schmidt’s style is the closest fit to Deming’s ‘Annual rate of performance’ that I have yet come across.

“Eric management style is to let the team’s progress be reviewed by individuals the team respects. In most companies there exist a few individuals that are universally respected or at least more respected than everyone else.
These individuals have a way of articulating principles and have very good memories. Since they are considered impartial, teams are more open to receive feedback or decisions even if the decision goes against them. – Courtesy Scribd.com

5. Earn respect by ‘listening’: – ES “Listening to each other is core to our culture, and we don’t listen to each other just because we’re all so smart. We listen because everyone has good ideas, and because it’s a great way to show respect. And any company, at any point in its history, can start listening more.” Courtesy Andrew McAfee

6. Competitive advantage: This is an area of great interest, as currently, Google is the undisputed king of search but Microsoft’sa Bing is knocking on its doors. So, for the moment Google is able to keep its competitive advantage. The worry for Google has been the defection of key employees (who view Facebook as ‘cool and the place to be’) to companies such as Facebook. Social Media is an area where Google doesn’t really have a strong foothold and that is worrying for them while in the mobile arena, Android is not a huge money earner (albeit, earnings are approx $6 per user per year) when compared to Apple IOS. Google is in a battle with Apple, Microsoft and Facebook and it is ambiguous which markets Google ultimately wants to compete within.

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage. I covered this in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

7. Talent acquisition – Hire ‘Action’ oriented employees: “I might have been mistaken, actually. Having your name and picture up on that big screen at End of Quarter may not be the biggest incentive. The thing that drives the right behavior at Google, more than anything else, more than all the other things combined, is gratitude. You can’t help but want to do your absolute best for Google; you feel like you owe it to them for taking such incredibly good care of you.” Source unknown, courtesy Oliver Thylmann

Google actively recruits recent Ph.D.’s and Ph.D. candidates. All 1,900 Google employees are researchers and developers in addition to their regular duties. Where other companies will keep their research departments and core businesses separate, Google places all their Ph.D.’s in the rank and file of the company. Workers at Google enjoy a company devoted to benefits (Stross, 2004). They also enjoy an informal company culture where employees have access to gyms, massages, pool and ping-pong tables, well stocked snack rooms and other recreational amenities (Google Culture, 2009). Courtesy Marty Andrade

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

Eric Schmidt has hired the smartest people who can ‘get the job done.’ Hire your friends and past colleagues, as they will have loyalty to you and as you know them personally, an informed decision can be made on whether they have what it takes to realise your ‘vision.’

8. Spotting opportunities and innovation: LE –  “innovation is the key to Google’s success, everything Schmidt does revolves around creating more innovation. Without it, Schmidt believes there is nothing to prevent another company from overtaking Google as the king of digital information.  Innovation is systematically encouraged at Google at all levels throughout the organization, including management. At Google, management follows the “70/20/10″ rule where seventy percent of their time is spent on core business projects, twenty percent is spent on projects related to the core business and ten percent is spent on projects unrelated to the core business (Battelle, 2005). Schmidt, in order to remain true to the 70/20/10 rule, actually divides these projects into different rooms and tracks his time spent in each of the rooms.” Courtesy Marty Andrade

For More Info:

The Daily Telegraph’s articles on Eric Schmidt

Google’s greatest innovation may be its management practice

Android OS is profitable, might generate $10 billion per year

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt: “We don’t have a 5 year plan.”

The New York Times: Eric E Schmidt

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, will not talk about “Private conversations” with Apple about becoming CEO

e-reader and printed books

various e-book readers. From right to left iPa...

Image via Wikipedia

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972) – 33rd US President

Harry Truman, did not know that in time, one could carry his or her entire library on a 6 inch device. We find ourselves surrounded by information. The Information explosion leads most of us to suffer from information overload. There is so much information that it has impacted the world of books as well. In our daily lives, we not only have to keep abreast of the news, blogs, RSS feeds etc but also have to decide on the books to read.  Now, if you are like me that means scouring the resources, I just mentioned and creating lists. I always managed to lose my paper list until I found the Amazon, ‘Wish list’ feature and the LinkedIn ‘Reading List’ (powered by Amazon). Now, all I have to do is purchase the book from Amazon or visit my town’s ‘online’ local library database, to check if it is stocked.

That is all well and good but I do have a problem with all the books that I end up purchasing. I am not a library builder and believe that books should not be kept on shelves. If books are kept in cupboards/shelves then they are not benefiting anyone. I strongly believe that books should be read and given to book charities or to someone who could benefit from the book. That is an age old practice and as far as I know, no one has ever been sued by any publisher for reading a borrowed, presented or purchased book at the local jumble sale.

I have been debating and following the progress of the e-reader and recently on a trip abroad thought that I ought to take the plunge and invest in an ‘e-reader.’ That would shave some weight off my luggage (especially my hand luggage – weighed down by my books) and give me the opportunity to carry my own library around with me. Herein lies my problem:

Cost:

The average price of an e-reader is approx £100. Now, I could buy an awful lot of books for that amount. Once I finish reading those books, I could ‘pass’ them around to many benefiting others. I am not so sure, I could do that with all the security that is embedded in e-books, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Portability

Portability of e-books is a lesser problem as for example, Amazon’s Kindle Apps allow e-books to be read across multiple hardware devices. Not so sure though that if I purchase a book in 2011 that it will be readable by my e-reader in 2030 though. I do know though that in 2030, I will have no similar problem with my printed books!

According to an article in The IET;

“Many books are now published as e-books at the same time as the hardback version is released. But some authors, including big names such as JK Rowling, have so far not published electronically. According to Neil Blair, a partner at literary agent Christopher Little: “We have been looking into the options for digital publication of our client JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books for some time now – evaluating the market and determining the right time and method. This evaluation is on-going. The truth is that we wanted to take the time to make the right decision. The market is developing very quickly and this vindicates our strategy of ‘wait and see’.”

Publishing and buying an e-book can be a bewildering process depending on the different software and digital rights management (DRM) restrictions involved.

Firstly, there are a variety of file formats for e-books, with EPUB being the most wide-spread. This can be used on a variety of devices, but interestingly, not the Amazon Kindle, which is one of the most successful e-readers on the market but uses a different file format. Secondly, there are a variety of DRM restrictions which are used to limit copying, printing, and sharing of e-books, with the level of restriction specified by the publisher or distribution agency. So lending a friend one of your books is now often not possible. Because buying e-books is an anonymous and instant process, publishers have found an increase in demand for erotica and other unusual books.

Despite the unprecedented growth in e-book sales, many people do not believe that e-books will mean the end of books in dead-tree format. Jon Howells, a spokesman from book seller Waterstones predicts the company will have sold one million e-books by the end of the year, but that this does not signal the death of the paper book. He said: “There will always be a place for the physical book. The format has been unchanged for 500 years.”

Where do I stand at the moment then? Well, undecided as I remain unconvinced that I need to purchase an e-reader at that cost. Besides, inspite of all the tax cuts, we still have libraries and I haven’t reached a stage where I have exhausted all the reading material that I have access to…

For More:
The IET article – Will e-readers dominate this year’s Christmas market?
Comparison of e-book readers

ebook readers review

ebook reader review

E-Book Reader Matrix

A publisher’s point of view on e-readers – Accolade Publishing

Microsoft Googles Apple in 2011

Diagram showing overview of cloud computing in...

Image via Wikipedia

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Babe Ruth (1895 – 1948)

The quote above is apt when you are up against a person but what happens when you encounter organisations that are trying to outdo each other? 2010 was certainly interesting in that respect. Hunter Richard’s blog post on Microsoft (MS) is “All In” for the Cloud, but What About Dynamics? outlined Microsoft’s dilemma that is not limited to just MS Dynamics.

Microsoft is still trying its best to innovate as its key visionaries, such as Ray Ozzie (View Ray Ozzies’s – Dawn of a new day OR BBC’s summary) were falling by the wayside. At face value, it could be argued that MS is reinventing itself, as it has done so quite successfully in the past (WordPerfect vs. MS Word, Netscape vs. Explorer,……list continues),  but this time around, there is a caveat. Is MS actually listening to its own visionaries and customers?

MS knows that history is repeating itself once again as it has done so many times before and MS is trying its best to change and adapt, as it knows very well that if it doesn’t, it could wither away and die, just as it had slain Netscape and WordPerfect in the past. The secret to Apple’s and Google’s success is that they listen to us, the customer. They are finely attuned to what, we, the consumer want and need, just as my previous blog post Leveraging IT for competitive advantage, has alluded to. Secondly, this battle is not just about the hardware and software anymore, as all three companies go after our hard earned cash. Even Apple overtook MS, in terms of revenue this year.

Microsoft is a giant in the software world and one of the penalties it is paying for its enormous success is that:

1.        Its products are now so diverse that only IT experts can make any sense of them. Need convincing. Ask any non IT personnel to visit any Microsoft site and ask them to explain a particular Microsoft site’s products and what they can actually do for them.

2.        Sheer confusion. As a business owner, for my Microsoft IT system, where do I start? Microsoft Licensing and its payment model – Again, this is an open challenge to Microsoft. How many Microsoft employees can explain Microsoft licensing without referring to a price model manual? The correct answer should be at least half its workforce. Why? You cannot sell what you don’t understand (Microsoft have actually done remarkably well then!). Ah, would an employee be able to explain it all in a pub, though?

3. Microsoft’s entire business model is built on desktop/laptop client installation and as long as it has enough businesses that utilise that legacy because they have no other option, for the short term, it faces no financial problem. Office365 is a step in the right direction but unlike Google, MS products were never designed to ‘run in the cloud’ whereas as Rajen Sheth, Google’s senior product manager for Google Apps said, “It will be tough to build up the cloud expertise that’s been built into Google’s DNA since day one.”

So, where does that leave Google, Microsoft and Apple? They should all acknowledge their key strengths, concentrate and focus on those and licence each other’s products. That can be hard to acknowledge by ‘massive’ organisations such as these three but the reality is that sometimes other organisations just do it better than you can.

Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane. Novell was the King of network software, had the opportunity to licence its NDS to MS for its Active Directory, failed to strike an agreement and MS ended up killing its business because they could do it better. So, in hindsight, an effective licensing agreement by Novell would have been better. Then, we have Apple. MS Office is one of the best sold software for its desktop/laptop equivalent and Apple decided years ago that it would not concentrate its efforts on a ‘war’ to decide who could create a better office type software suite. Google became the king of search and MS decided to ‘take it on.’

I would argue that all of these companies need to innovate more. Apple and Google innovate, quite successfully. I would argue though that as innovation is stifled at MS, MS have not released a single innovative product in 201o. MS did finally catch up with Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) with a WM7 marketplace though! We even saw new releases of old software, such as Windows Mobile 7 and for those who want to argue and labour the point, did anyone release anything groundbreaking as Apple’s iPhone equivalent in 2007 or the iPad this year?

Oh and let’s not forget, Office365 still has no marketplace equivalent!

For more:

What is Cloud Computing? Its Pros/Cons and making it work

Microsoft announces Office 365 beta: test new cloud-based Office one year before its launch

Office 365 Beta: a first look

Steve Ballmer speech at UW: “We’re all in” for cloud computing

Microsoft Straightens Out Cloud Strategy — Finally

The 7 sins of Windows Phone 7

Apple iOS vs. Google Android

Top Tech Company of 2010: Apple

Will Google Apps survive Office 365?

The road to Office 365: The future

Office365 vs Google Apps

A guide to Office 365 versions and pricing

Windows Marketplace

Larry Ellison’s (CEO Oracle) management style and CIOs

Used iphone under a palm tree where I met android and formed a symbian relationship with a blackberry

Bill Gates (Chairman Microsoft) management style and CIOs

Choosing technology over customers

Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality.

Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction?

Weather bulletin – Google Cloud and icy Microsoft downpour

Steve Job’s (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

Back to basics Enterprise Resource Planning

Search wars – Past, Present and future – Bing, Google or new entrant?

Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

Microsoft and Apple Tablets, pens and swords

The wonderful world of FREE Windows 7 applications

Houston, Windows is counting down 10,9,8,7…

The future is bright but is it mobile?

Larry Ellison’s (CEO Oracle) management style and CIOs

Oracle logo at the Oracle headquarters.

Image via Wikipedia

Updated 12.12.11

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.”

Jonathan Kozol (1936 – ) Writer, Educator and Activist

Larry Ellison (1944 – ) Oracle Corporation’s Founder and CEO

Today’s article is the fifth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet and fourth was Bill Gates), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

This article also follows my previous articles on ERP, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – Past, Present, Future and successful implementation, Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction?, Back to basics Enterprise Resource Planning – Blog version and Back to basics Enterprise Resource Planning – CIO.co.uk version.

Larry Ellison has led Oracle from start-up to ‘software giant’ with a style that many view as narcissist. “According to psychoanalyst Michael Maccoby, author of Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, The Inevitable Cons, “What makes Ellison so successful, even though he’s a narcissist visionary and really not very good at working with people, is that he understands himself, and he understands who he needs to work with – Courtesy of Canadian Business.” Larry Ellison is both an innovator and visionary, I believe these traits will be his legacy, “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” – Larry Ellison

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

What can CIOs learn from Larry Ellison’s management style? Let’s investigate while allowing you to decide.  (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Follow your instinct and develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It: – Courtesy of Canadian Business magazine (with a few changes), ‘While Larry Ellison was employed at Ampex, a firm that did contracts for the U.S. government (mid–1970s), he got his first taste of database software while working on a project for the CIA with the code name “Oracle.” Around the same time, he read a paper published by IBM, which outlined a way to make it easier to store and retrieve data — a prototype for the first relational database. “I saw the paper, and thought that, on the basis of this research, we could build a commercial system,” Ellison, who solicited the assistance of fellow programmers Bob Miner and Ed Oates, recalled in a 1995 interview. “If we were clever, we could take IBM’s research … and beat IBM to the marketplace with this technology. Because we thought we could move faster than they could.” He was right. By 1984, the company he founded with Miner and Oates, originally called Software Development Laboratories, was logging nearly $13 million in annual sales. (Miner died in 1994; Oates retired in 1996.)’

Right from the outset, he dreamed of developing Oracle into a viable successful business. For CIOs this is one of the most important traits that MUST be part of the toolbox.

CIOs need to clearly identify to themselves and communicate to the environment that they work in ‘the vision’ that they have set out to achieve. They then need to have the confidence to deliver that vision.

2. ‘Image’ is everything. – According to People Soft Planet,Ellison has Oracle in his own image. Now in his late 50s, tall and trim, he has kept himself in excellent shape. His hair is still dark, running to reddish; he has brown eyes and a short beard that helps to camouflage his long jaw. Ellison radiates enthusiasm and charm. He’s animated and engaging on stage, at his best in informal Q&A sessions where he can rap with the crowd.”

According to Canadian Business, “A fan of, and expert on, Japanese culture, he sees himself as a samurai warrior. He also likes to quote a saying attributed to Genghis Khan: “It is not sufficient that I succeed. Everyone else must fail.” The incredible success that he has enjoyed is a marvel to anyone familiar with the accepted literature on what it takes to make a great leader, qualities like empathy, mediation skills and humility. By all accounts, he is a bad listener and a big talker, whose brash, take–no–prisoners approach tends to alienate employees and customers alike. Yet, in the past 35 years, the jet–flying, sailboat–racing renegade has built Oracle into one of the most important tech firms on the planet, with annual revenues of $27 billion — about a billion dollars shy of his personal fortune. (All figures are in U.S. dollars.) While many of his contemporaries have moved to arms–length positions or other projects, Ellison remains the driving force behind the computing juggernaut, continuing to fashion it according to his own design. After acquiring more than 65 tech firms in the past five years, the mercurial CEO announced in September that he would be “buying chip companies,” suggesting that Oracle is positioning itself for what Bill Tatham, head of Toronto–based enterprise software firm NexJ Systems, describes as “another level of world domination.”

But while it may be tempting to single out Ellison as the ruthless villain of high technology, “none of these guys are nice,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at Stanford University and author of Power: Why Some People Have It — And Others Don’t. Before his ousting from Apple, Steve Jobs is said to have become increasingly difficult to work with, refusing to acknowledge that sales were tumbling; since his return, he has often been criticized for his obsessive secrecy, and ruling the company with an iron fist. Meanwhile, it was Bill Gates’s attempt to snuff out the competition that led to antitrust allegations — and sent Ellison rooting through Microsoft’s trash. “It’s very unpopular to say in today’s world, where we have these Kumbaya theories of leadership,” says Pfeffer, “but it actually doesn’t work well.” If anything, Ellison is merely the poster boy for what it takes to thrive in an increasingly ruthless environment. His rare combination of hubris and self–awareness enables him to skid recklessly to the edge, stopping just short of the cliff. And his stunning trajectory offers a valuable lesson: in the cutthroat arena of big business, sometimes it pays to be a jerk.”

3. Be ‘shrewd’ and keep the team on its ‘toes.’ – LE “Years ago, I gave a speech that earned me the eternal enmity of the Netscape board. I said that the biggest problem with Netscape was that Microsoft could copy what they had very quickly. It was a clever product, but there was no technical barrier to entry. It’s much harder to copy a database like Oracle. There are millions of lines of code. It’s an incredibly difficult program to duplicate.

But a browser is not a difficult program to duplicate and I said, at the time, that my cat could write the browser. The board members were very offended by all this, but in fact Microsoft later did do exactly what I had predicted.”

4. Succession: LE – Courtesy of CNET magazine (with a few changes)”If Larry was incapacitated, the cult would dissolve,” former executive Marc Benioff says. “It’s unclear if Oracle is a sustainable enterprise without Larry, because his personality is so firmly entrenched.”

This is an area of weakness for the Oracle leader, as he has not planned effectively for a successor. As Larry Ellison approaches retirement, we will all have to witness whether he appoints a successor or leaves succession to the almighty.

5. Competitive advantage: LE – Courtesy of PeopleSoft Planet (with a few changes)Just because you’re good at R&D doesn’t mean you’ve commercialized R&D. The tragedy of Xerox PARC was that they had brilliant R&D but terrible execution in terms of turning that R&D into really wonderful products. Contrast that to IBM. During its glory days, IBM was fabulous at translating their innovation into products, into market domination.”

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage. I covered this in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

6. Follow your instinct: LE – Courtesy of People Soft Planet magazine “We are the leader in bio-informatics, and a lot of things there are exciting. Sure, Wi-Fi, even 3G, is fairly cool, albeit expensive. But the thing I’m most interested in is software as a service. That idea that every customer who wants to do accounting on computers, or every customer who wants to do inventory, or manufacturing, has to figure out what computer to buy, what operating system to buy, what Cisco router and switch to buy, what database to buy, is just nonsense.

Companies should be experts in their business, and computing should be available on the Net as a service. So more and more, our business is changing from selling our applications to our customers to: We buy the computers, we run the applications, and you use it. We’ll be the experts. And you just pay us a monthly fee. That really is utility computing.”

7. Talent acquisition – Hire ‘Action’ oriented employees: Courtesy of People Soft Planet magazine, “

Geoff Squire, who ran various divisions of Oracle’s world operations from 1984 to 1993, described the manner in which Ellison selected new programmers and salespeople as “clinical,” Squire attributes Oracle’s success largely to the premium he has always placed on choosing the right candidates. “He really did hire very, very good people,” says Squire. Though Squire acknowledges that Ellison could quickly turn on his charges — as he puts it, “He backs people until he doesn’t” — he sees Ellison’s willingness to constantly refresh the talent pool as a strength. “People who do a great job don’t just get to stick around in companies forever,” says Squire, who is currently the non–executive chairman of Kognito, a U.K.–based data management firm. Despite the fact that he was cut loose shortly before the last of his stock options would have vested, Squire harbours no ill will, insisting that the fortune and experience he amassed at Oracle “set me up for life.” Squire’s trajectory is not unique: Oracle is often credited with creating the most millionaires in Silicon Valley; many of those ousted by Ellison went on to head tech firms that competed in the same high–profile realm. (Incidentally, in the midst of the Hurd debacle, Lane was named non–executive chairman of HP.) ”

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

Larry Ellison has always hired the smartest people who can ‘get the job done.’ Hire your friends and past colleagues, as they will have loyalty to you and as you know them personally, an informed decision can be made on whether they have what it takes to realise your ‘vision.’

8. Spotting opportunities and innovation: LE – Courtesy of PeopleSoft Planet (with a few changes)When you’re the first person whose beliefs are different from what everyone else believes, you’re basically saying, “I’m right, and everyone else is wrong.” That’s a very unpleasant position to be in. It’s at once exhilarating and at the same time an invitation to be attacked.

There are really four phases. In phase one, everyone tells you you’re crazy and it’s the stupidest thing they ever heard. In phase two, they say, “There is some merit to the argument. It’s still crazy, but there’s some merit to it.” Phase three is, “Well, we’ve done it better than they have.” And phase four is, “What are you talking about? It was our idea in the first place.”

It’s fascinating as we continue to innovate and lead the way in both the application space and the database space. In the very beginning, people said you couldn’t make relational databases fast enough to be commercially viable. I thought we could, and we were the first to do it. But we took tremendous abuse until IBM said, “Oh yeah, this stuff is good.”

We were the first company that said all the applications had to be on the internet and not client/server. Everyone said that was a bad idea. That was 1995. Now everyone has moved all their applications to the internet.

And now we’re saying you have to have a suite—that this best-of-breed approach is crazy. You can’t sell parts that were never designed to fit together. They’re still saying we’re crazy about that. But it’s interesting, SAP and PeopleSoft are now advertising they have suites. Everyone has started using the “suite” word.

And so the four phases repeat over and over again. As long as we continue to innovate, I don’t think that’s going to change. When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.”

The lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

For More Info:

Oracle – Larry Ellison Interviews by PeopleSoft Planet

Can Oracle survive Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison – The Source of Oracle’s Wisdom

Larry Ellison’s one man show

What Larry Ellison said about Cisco and Corporate Culture<

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: Lawrence J. Ellison of Oracle Corp.

Top CEO: Larry Ellison / Convinced that the future in high tech depends on consolidation, Oracle’s founder refused to give up on a PeopleSoft takeover, no matter what the obstacles

About.com –Larry Ellison

Hackers take up Larry Ellison’s challenge

Larry Ellison Slams HP Board: “Worst Personnel Decision Since The Idiots On The Apple Board Fired Steve Jobs Many Years Ago”

Used iphone under a palm tree where I met android and formed a symbian relationship with a blackberry

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

Image via Wikipedia

“Wisdom knows what to do next, skill knows how to do it, and virtue is doing it.”

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) Eugenicist, Ichthyologist and peace activist

Forgive me for the long winded and confusing title. Well, it was deliberate, as I wanted to create a title that reflected the confusion that most people face when they purchase a phone. Well, we don’t purchase phones anymore, do we really? We are sold features that most of us never use by the clever marketing departments of both the phone manufacturers’ and the mobile operators.

Additionally, most of you out there by now must be totally confused by all the different mobile phones (Hardware) and their operating systems (OS) (Software). Now, before I go into my short story of selecting an appropriate mobile (or is it a Smartphone now?).  I would like to explain, in layman’s terms, for the uninitiated, what the hell, I am on about.

Well, in a galaxy, many lights year away from our humble abode and before Star Trek hit our screens, we, as earthlings, were managing quite well, with, err, telephones. Yes, that’s right, that piece of plastic that is still sat in the corner of some homes and occasionally goes, tring, tring or is it bing, bing (maybe Microsoft have bought the rights for the old plastic phones now aswell).

Anyway, these evolved into phones that we could carry around and then started to be called ‘mobile telephones’ or ‘mobiles’ (Americans had to be awkward and called them ‘cellular phones’ or ‘cells’). Currently, though, we don’t use them for phones anymore. They have become ubiquitous with carrying a ‘pocket computer.’ Now, there are five OS’s these ‘Smartphones’ use.

Symbian – Used by various manufacturers,  based on ‘open source’ software and founded by Nokia, Sony Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Vodafone, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics and AT&T

Android – Used by many manufaturers’ and is Google’s attempt at creating a mobile phone OS, based on ‘open source’ software.

Iphone OS Used by Apple Iphones, based on Apple’s proprietary OS.

Palm WebOS – Palm, based on Palm’s proprietary OS, was recently acquired by HP and they have been busy creating the Palm WebOS.

Windows Phone 7 – Microsoft’s proprietary OS and the re-incarnation of Windows Mobile, used by various manufacturers’

Blackberry OS6 – Used by Research In Motion (RIM) on all their proprietary Blackberry phones with their latest OS6 platform and new        Blackberry Torch models and others.

So, you can already see the direction that my blogpost is heading towards now. You can select many smartphones (hardware) but they can arrive with many different mobile OS’s (Software).

Selecting the phone, was quite an easy decision for me, as all I had to do was find the phone that could, ‘beam me up, scotty.’ Naturally, I was disappointed when I found out that in this technological era and with all that competition between hardware/software providers, my key criteria of being teleportated across galaxies couldn’t be met.

As I still needed a Smartphone and my provider could supply all of the above, a decision had to be made. I was already a customer approaching the end of my 18 month contract. I didn’t really want Symbian, as in the past whenever I have tried ‘syncronising‘ my Outlook, contacts etc, using Symbian, it has always, quite successfully deleted or amended my most important information and subsequent ‘syncs’ were painful.

Okay, I will admit that I did want to buy the IPhone but I just couldn’t see the logic of contributing a sum of money towards it and paying approx £20 more per month, just for the privilege of owning a proprietary phone. Especially, as other phones can do the same now and more. Yes, I know, there are 300, 000 applications out there for the Iphone. However, I don’t think, I need that many and I will probably be dead by the time I went through the entire list, anyway.

That leaves the Palm WebOS, Windows Phone 7 and RIM phones. No one in my circle of friends, so far has mentioned HP’s re-incarnation of Palm, however, I will admit that many years ago, I was absolutely fascinated by the Palm devices and my past fascination in today’s fast paced technological world, just wasn’t enough to even justify it. As you can see, my selection criterion wasn’t very logical, but, hey, it’s my life and my choice, so I can select according to whatever criteria, I see fit.

Now, then, finally, we have Windows Phone 7 and RIM’s blackberry. Windows 7 wasn’t launched when I bought my handset in early October as the release date for Windows Mobile 7 was 21st October 2010. That said, Microsoft is renown for ‘bugs’ in its early days, so probably best to buy Windows 7 phones, after at least a year, anyway.

Even though, I still think, Blackberry are the best phones for email, I wanted more than just email, so Blackberry was also eliminated.

Yep, as you can guess by now, I settled on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 phone powered by Google’s Android OS. An additional reason for my selection was that Google now powers my personal (Via igoogle, web browsing history etc) and business life (IT system), so it made sense.   I won’t launch a review of the X10, suffice to say that I am happy with it, so far and it takes nice photos.

For more information, please read:
Android Beats Apple–In One Small Corner of the Mobile Ad Market
Apple Has $51 Billion and a Shopping List. Is Facebook on It?
Jobs on Android: The Fight Isn’t Closed Vs. Open, but Integrated Vs. Fragmented
Get smart: What makes a clever phone?
Comparison of Android vs iPhone vs Nokia vs BlackBerry vs Windows Mobile 7
iPhone vs Android vs webOs vs Blackberry vs Windows Mobile vs Symbian
Ultimate Mobile OS Showdown: iPhone vs Android vs webOs vs Blackberry vs Windows Mobile vs Symbian
Palm WebOS 2.0: Now This Is Multitasking
Enterprise Java: Oracle’s real reason for suing Google?

Mobile Payments – Coming to a phone near you

At the end of August 2009, I wrote a post – The future is bright but is it mobile? In that post, I mentioned the fact that in the developing countries mobile phones were increasingly used for a wide variety of tasks, including banking. Meanwhile in the developed world affluent consumers were purchasing increasingly powerful mobile phones, including smarut phones and were looking for more ways in which to use them. Mobile commerce hadn’t taken off in the developed world due to the availability of other payment methods available to the relatively affluent customers such as credit cards and contactless cards. The move to using mobile phones for commerce is akin to where we find ourselves in terms of laptops morphing to smart phones, as this is where traditional wallets will be replaced with electronic digital wallets operated by mobile phones.

Let’s first take a look at the history behind the scenes to understand where we are today and the importance of the latest report released on 14/1/10 on this new technology, Near Field Communications (NFC). NFC happened as a result of the NFC Forum and its members, founded in 2004, recognising that evolution meant a new, short-range wireless connectivity technology had to be created. This article on the Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation’s website (ITSO) provides a good introduction and will bring the reader to where we are currently and the new NFC adoption by the mobile industry for mobile payments in the future. In the UK, the movement towards contactless cards was initiated by ITSO in 1998, a non profit sharing organisation owned by its members. This led to the first contactless RFID Oyster cards being issued to the public in 2003 for the London Underground by TFL. As we moved closer to mobile phone NFC, other initiatives such as prepaid cards and prepaid contactless cards used by retailers such as Pret a Manger and coffee republic were developed.

Over the last few years, banks and payment vendors have tried different technologies with a varied success rate, including the latest contactless cards. The reason that mobile phones can be used with NFC now is because finally different standards have come together to support one another and make these payments secure. So, what we now see is that ITSO supports NFC as even the UK government is prepared to fund the switch to NFC compatible transport ticketing and the various card issuers have agreed the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Trials of NFC technology in London revealed that Londoners wanted to use their mobiles to travel and shop. Mobiles will start replacing cash as the technology is rolled out within the UK from 2011. “Decisions made in 2010 will be critical in determining which mobile network operators, which banks, which industry suppliers and which service providers become the leaders in the field,” says Sarah Clark. “Ultimately, only two or three companies in each country will succeed in building a major new business providing NFC services to businesses and consumers. The winners could be banks or mobile operators, or even a new entrant to the market.” As the technology becomes widely adopted, NFC based payments could reach $30 billion by 2012.

The following excerpt courtesy of Sourcewire. “NFC technology will be used to replace everything from credit cards and loyalty cards to bus and train tickets, library cards, door keys and even cash,” says Sarah Clark, author of ‘NFC: The Road to Commercial Deployment‘. “What hasn’t yet been decided, however, is who will win the battle to provide consumers with their new hi-tech mobile wallets.”

Consumers with NFC-enabled phones will be able to simply touch their phone to a ‘smart’ poster or product label containing a RFID chip to sign up for a loyalty programme, collect a money-off coupon, download a trailer for a new movie, access the latest travel information or go straight to a product’s website to read customer ratings and reviews and compare prices.

Social networks will also get a major boost as with a NFC phone, you can exchange details of someone befriended online by simply touching your phones together when you meet them in the real world. Or touch your phone to a smart poster as you go into a restaurant to automatically update your Facebook status and get an offer coupon from the venue as a thank you for telling your friends you’re there.

Commuters will be able to store their travel pass on their phone and mobile versions of airline boarding cards, hotel room keys and even passports will make it quicker and easier to get from place to place. Paying bills will become much simpler, too. Simply touch two NFC phones together to transfer money to a friend, buy a drink or pay for a service.

“No more rummaging around for the right change, card, keys or paperwork and no more texting your location to your friends — with NFC everything can be handled by your mobile device,” says Clark. “And, of course, NFC is a highly secure technology. Consumers will be able to instantly lock all the mobile wallet services on their phone if it is lost or stolen and then get them automatically transferred onto a new phone as soon as it arrives. They will also be able to use their phone to make payments even when the battery is flat.”

David vs Goliath clash on web communication technologies

The Internet continues to expand, evolve and develop. Born as a technology out of a military requirement, Arpanet, the ubiquitous nature of the Internet has meant that mankind has developed all kinds of uses for this communication medium. I sometimes think what would happen, if one day we woke up and found that the Internet was gone. The Internet has managed to permeate and touch our lives unlike no other technology. We are increasingly becoming more and more reliant on it to satisfy our insatiable urge for knowledge and entertainment. We can now, even watch our favourite television programmes across the Internet and stream our favourite programmes across continents ourselves using technologies, such as the Slingbox.

For this blog, as with most of my articles, I won’t reinvent the wheel, and as always will use existing web related resources, wherever, possible. In today’s blog, I am aiming to:

  1. De-mystify web conferencing, webinars, teleconferencing and video conferencing.
  2. Provide a list of web conferencing/webinar solutions/teleconferencing/video conferencing for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and larger businesses.
  3. Provide further resources/reviews for informed decision making.
  4. Explain the difference between web conferencing/webinars and teleconferencing.
  5. Explain the benefits and features of online meeting software.

One of the problems that bloggers like me and indeed the general public/businesses are facing these days is the old adage, big fish, eat small fish. The IT solution arena, faced with global competition and diminishing returns, a desire by the big players to have monopolies etc has led to the IT market undergoing significant reshuffle and consolidation. This has led to a great deal of confusion on who owns who, especially if you are not actively following the IT industry. For the uninitiated and for the benefit of everyone, the Internet infrastructure is already largely managed by Cisco routers. To provide Cisco with competition in this arena and to strengthen its other networking products, last week HP purchased 3Com.

Let’s stick with the theme in the previous paragraph. Within the web conferencing, webinar, teleconferencing and video conferencing solutions, the demarcation of what now signifies a particular solution is becoming blurred as they all seem to be morphing together, so in the not too distant future, what this morphed technology will become and be called, is open to speculation. This thought is further strengthened by the acquisition of WebEx by Cisco in 2007 and the recent offer in October, this year, of video conferencing solution provider, Tandberg ( UPDATE – This offer, incidentally, has been upped again in November). Within the video conferencing arena, telepresence, has been touted as the next killer application, although while gaining some ground within larger corporates, it hasn’t really taken off. That may change with Polycom’s new telepresence solution. Polycom has created a clever alliance with Microsoft by licensing its technology, thereby protecting its position. As Tandberg bites the dust, in this David vs Goliath battle, so far the Goliath’s seem to have the upper hand as these solutions move into the lucrative world of Smartphones.

Best solutions for SMEs

Dimdim (Recently acquired by Salesforce – 2011) is free for up to twenty users as a hosted solution and free for upto 50 users if a business hosts it on its own servers. I was quite impressed with their clever use of YouTube for their tutorial videos. One site that I visited levied some criticism of its features and I was quite pleasantly surprised to view the first comment submitted was by one of their employees informing the reviewer that his criticism had been submitted to the developers for further investigation. I predict that Dimdim is the web conferencing platform to watch for and should very soon be giving the big players a run for their money.

Yugma is my next free solution and is free for up to 20 people as well. Again, Dimdim and Yugma are the rising stars of the web conferencing world and both offer Pro versions for businesses.

For teleconferencing, I haven’t been able to find many solutions (I admit, I was researching web conference solutions in more detail) but having used BT MeetMe in the past, I believe it is available cost effectively for SMEs. Skype, does allow for upto 25 users to have a teleconferencing call across the Internet FREE but be wary of the possible loss of quality on calls. Skype Video conferencing (requires a web camera) and is currently limited to a one to one session.

Best solutions for larger businesses

It is worth reading Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for web conferencing 2009 2011, prior to making any decisions as it is a great in depth report and to view a comparison of the top ten (In their view). For other reviews, please click on the following: Review 1, Review 2.

For larger businesses the names that are most recognised are (in no particular order), WebEx MeetMeNow, Microsoft’s Office Live Meeting, Citrix GoToMeeting, Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, Fuze Meeting, Intercall, iLinc, MegaMeeting, Glance, WiredRed e/pop, Zoho Meeting, Elluminate Live, IBM Lotus Sametime, Unyte Meeting, PGi Netspoke webconferencing, and others.