Category Archives: Tech

VMworld in Vegas

VMworldVMWORLD IN VEGAS

This year’s VMworld, at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas September 15-18 looks to be the place where all things virtual will occur. Last year’s event in San Francisco attracted 10,000 attendees, this year’s conference in Las Vegas expects 14,000. The VMworld.com website is using Jive Software’s Clearspace social networking platform — enabling attendees to participate in discussion threads, send and receive private messages, create their schedule online, and even blog from it.

I’ll be blogging from this website daily, as well as Twittering more frequently from the conference about what’s hot from the keynotes and sessions.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

iPhone 3G: 2 months on, post-hype

iPHONE 3.0: 2 MONTHS ON, POST-HYPE

I recently bought my son a new iPhone 3G, a month after they first went on sale, and buying it then was a bit less painful than buying it the first day. The first day was like attending the premier of Batman: The Dark Knight. And as the Dark Knight has made $500M as of this writing, Apple is still selling a lot of iPhones.

So, what is the experience of the iPhone 3G, now 8 weeks later, after the initial thrill of excitement, post-hype, after the reality distortion sphere has dissipated?

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good

This launch has been very good for Apple in terms of revenue and market share growth. “iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in a statement.

  • iPhone sales statistics:

1M first weekend

3M in the first month

8M iPhones? At this time, Apple had manufactured at least 5,649,000 iPhone 3Gs. Added to the 2.4 million first-generation iPhones the company reported it had sold in the first six months of 2008, that means that Apple has manufactured more than 8 million iPhones this year. In 2007, Apple sold 3.71 million iPhones.

Overall, the experience of buying an iPhone 3G, while in high demand initially, was pleasant and made easier by Apple’s convenient iPhone availability widget.

  • AppStore:

There were 60 million downloads in the first 30 days, admittedly mostly for free apps, but with about $30 million in revenue, and a runway of 3 million more new iPhones out there to run them on.

The iPhone is a small part of Apple’s business — only 5% of its overall sales in the latest quarter. Macintosh computers and iPods typically generate 75% of Apple’s revenue. But iPhones are hugely profitable. By some estimates, Apple stands to make between $100 and $400 on each new iPhone sold, depending on the model (8 or 16GB) and wireless carrier.

Although Apple has less than 1 percent of the overall cell phone market, it has 19.2 percent share in U.S. smart phones, which pack more functions. That put it ahead of Palm, which had 13.4 percent, but far behind RIM’s 44.5 percent, according to research firm IDC. And the less than successful launch of Apple’s MobileMe “cloud” offering has made predictions of the demise of RIM’s BlackBerry seem rather premature.

iPhone 3G imageThe Bad

  • iPhone 2.0 software

While there are many new features in the long awaited 2.0 firmware update, available on the first generation iPhone as well, there seem to be a number of steps backward as well. Some of the iPhone core applications are less stable, with the Mobile Safari crashing regularly when it didn’t do that with the 1.0 software. There are still some persistent and vexing features missing: copy and paste within and across applications or global search — it’s available only in Phone/Contacts.

Additionally, core applications have shown sluggish performance, slow typing, as well as clunky scrolling and Safari rotation. The 2.0.2 version update of software has addressed some problems, but not all.

  • 1.0 Apps

While there are many fine 3rd party applications available in the AppStore, they are by definition 1.0 versions. Because there is no Apple-supported universal beta or try-and-by program in the AppStore, these apps don’t have the testing that most usual applications enjoy. Some are quite immature. Many of them are unstable and crash regularly. And when they do, they can lock up the entire iPhone. Steve Jobs said he’s look into it.

  • Where are the AppStore “killer apps?”

Applications that one would expect, that are common on other platforms like Palm’s Treo or Windows Mobile phones are still missing in action on the iPhone. Here are the two most obvious:

Office documents: while you can view Microsoft Office and Mac iWork documents, you can neither edit nor create them on the iPhone.

Turn-by-turn navigation: the GPS feature on the iPhone 3G is very nice — though a battery killer — and on the iPhone’s native Google Maps is wonderful to behold. But Google Maps directions are not known for their accuracy. And while it works in a pinch, it is not the same as turn-by-turn navigation. While a number of popular vendors have mentioned intentions or successful porting to the iPhone, there have been no release announcements or available products at this time.

  • Suggested Apps

Here are a couple of potential Apps that I know would be immensely popular:

Typing shortcuts: the iPhone keyboard does not allow one to type as fast as on a physical keyboard like the “thumb boards” on the Treo, BlackBerry, or other smartphones. And while it does have an auto-correction feature called “keyboard dictionary”, I’d like to see the availability of an app that does either predictive typing (T9) or “macro” shortcuts — think “.sig” for your signature.

Speed navigation: moving around the iPhones apps mean a trip through the “Home” button before moving to the next app. And drilling through menus even within an application can take a lot of time. Changing email accounts takes 4 “clicks”, toggling BlueTooth or 3G on/off also takes 4, email account modifications take more. Either a gesturing system or an imaginative use of the “hard buttons” would be greatly welcomed.

The Ugly

Here are a couple of things that detracted from the huge media event of 8 weeks ago, both of which persist.

  • MobileMe

This long awaited enhancement to the dusty .Mac service got off to a rocky start the first day, lifted off, crashed, was rumored to be fixed, but alas, no. Apple has as much as admitted it wasn’t ready, and no longer promotes it as it was originally stated “Exchange for the rest of us.”

Steve Jobs said in an Apple internal memo in August:

It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

This appeared to be a back-end infrastructure problem, at least on the first day during what has been called the iPocalypse. Why Apple did not take advantage of VMware Fusion technology to avoid the server meltdown earlier, is hard to understand. But MobileMe still isn’t performing as expected. iPhone updates “to the cloud” is occasionally near instantaneous, if you have “Push” turned on in Settings — another real battery killer — but synchronization with iCal/Address Book is at best 15 minutes out.

To that end, Apple has twice offered extensions to users’ annual contract, first one month, the second time two months.

  • Battery Life

My personal biggest complaint is the battery life. While Steve Job’s launch said the battery in the 3G is superior to the 1st generation, that has not been my experience, nor that of most of the people I know and correspond with. While it may be the case that the battery is better than the 1st Gen when both devices are in standby mode, the new iPhone 3G has capabilities that the 1st doesn’t, and one or more of those may be the culprit. Here are some examples:

GPS radio: I’ve seen this feature run a device dry, even when plugged into a car lighter charger. I now usually leave “Location Services” off.

3G radio: AT&T’s coverage maps is, shall we say, wildly optimistic. I live in the coverage area, but only get one 1 bar. Not all locations in the country get coverage, I usually leave this off.

“Push” email: Microsoft Exchange, and even MobileMe support pushing email to the iPhone, but this can run down the battery faster. I only push Exchange.

3rd party apps: some of these are location-aware — which turns on the GPS to find your location — others apps connect to Web servers. I suspect some buggy versions are a battery culprit.

Bottom line: is it a keeper? Sure. I trust that upcoming firmware upgrades address some of these issues, more stable apps are less sloppy in their use of memory and battery, and that some killer apps do come over the horizon.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

iPhone 3G: the Second Coming

iPhone 3G: the Second Coming

Last week, after an eagerly waited and much speculated upon announcement from Steve Jobs at the World Wide Developer Conference, we finally got the story on the 2.0 version of the iPhone, known as iPhone 3G. While it’s really iPhone 2.0, we get the appearance of a 3.0 product with the new name. The event was a combination of Woodstock love fest, fan boy rally, and reality distortion field generation par excellence. But Steve Jobs announced what most people were expecting, and then some.

In the past, when people have asked me what I have thought about the first generation iPhone, I told them “Excellent as a media device: music, movies, YouTube, email/web browsing are all seamless.” But the flip side was this: as a data device is was sorely lacking. Specifically:

  • No 3rd party applications could be (safely) installed
  • No data, including Office files, could be transferred to the iPhone for editing
  • The PIM (Personal Information Management) tools were immature: Address Book had no searching, Calendar had no colors for sub-calendars, Mail was weak

These will change with the iPhone 3G and the updated iPhone 2.0 software expected on July 11. Here are the highlights:

  • Apple’s App Store will permit and distribute 3rd party applications for the phone, in some cases over-the-air
  • Integration of Microsoft Office and Apple iWorks documents. (Though we don’t know yet about “editability”)
  • PIM upgrades: Address Book will allow searching (though not any “cut & paste” yet?), Calendar will support different  sub-calendars with different colors, Mail will allow push technology from Exchange via ActiveSync.

Game Changers

There are several things both explicit and implicit in the announcement that could change the way people use mobile devices like smart phones. While 3G and GPS are not a new item in cell phones, the combination of a number of elements in the iPhone ecosystem could change the game.

  • Location Based Services: while there are other phones with both 3G and GPS, the iPhone holds out the promise of an easy-to-use, high resolution mobile device that can support services that rely on knowing where you are. One was demoed at the announcement, Loopt is a social networking tool that would tell you where your friends are and vice-versa. Adaptive GPS (A-GPS) will take advantage of the closest satellite as well as WiFi and cellphone tower triangulation to identify a users location. Will this serve as the communicator locator from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or introduce a privacy concern?
  • 3rd party applications: The Macintosh has some of the most innovative developers, several apps previewed at the announcement could have a profound impact on productivity, enterprise connectivity and gaming. 250,000 iPhone software development kits have been downloaded and an analysts at Piper Jaffray believes it could be the start of a billion dollar ecosystem. The previously existing Web-based-only applications are trivially easy to “install” (use), but can be slow to start up and don’t work without a connection to the Web.
  • Enterprise connectivity: Access to the corporate Exchange server, previously only available for  the BlackBerry with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, could have an impact on how corporate users access their email, calendar and contacts. Could they turn their BlackBerry back in?
  • Wide availability: Presently, the iPhone is only (legitimately) available in 6 countries. Of course, unlocked versions have appeared everywhere, not tied to the official carrier of the country. When I was in Hong Kong last December, I saw iPhones available many places for sale, despite the fact there is no carrier there. By July 11 this year, it will be available in 22 countries, and 70 are expected by some time next year. Notably missing on the map are China and Russia, but confirmed contracts with carriers there seem to have simply missed the announcement date, work continues apace.
  • Cloud computing: Apple plans their own over-the-air updating system, “Exchange for the rest of us” as it were. The rebranded .Mac, aka MobileMe will allow near real time synchronization of email, calendar and contacts between the iPhone, Macintosh, and web-based PCs. More on this in a subsequent article.

TCO vs. ROI?

Although the new iPhone 3G will have a lower initial purchase price of $199 vs. the previous $399 for the 8GB device, the Total Cost of Ownership is measured by the initial cost plus the ongoing monthly service fees over the 2 year commitment to the carrier. Announced by AT&T on the same day as the iPhone 3G, but not as part of the Apple announcement, was the new pricing service for the device. The monthly data plan and SMS plans will cost more, making the device more expensive to own over 2 years by as much as $160. But perhaps the more valuable analysis would be the Return On Investment. The incremental value of being able to pull data down faster over a 3G connection, or the added value of GPS functionality… all add up over a 2 year period and may be compelling enough for a new purchase, or upgrade.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

EMC World: Day 3 Recap

EMC WORLD: DAY 3 RECAP

Q: How can you tell a conference is a technical conference?

A: When the ratio of PDAs to attendee approaches 2 to 1.

The amount of IM, Twitter, SMS, email, and phone calls was amazing. All kinds of devices: iPhones, Qs, Nokias, and of course Blackberries. Lots of people doing the “Blackberry Prayer” with heads bowed and hands folded over the keyboard.

Get_Proven.JPGImportant to engineers is their professional certification. Not only is this important in peer review, but for career purposes as well. The industry leading, award winning EMC Proven Professional program was on hand at EMC World. As I mentioned in my Twitter stream on EMC World, certification tests were being offered for half price during the show, and within the first two days 122 tests had been taken. They were expecting 250 total by the end of the week, with many new specialty certifications conferred for the first time.

Tom_Clancy.JPGWednesday afternoon, on the main stage, the Proven Professional Awards were given. VP of EMC Education Services, Tom Clancy was on hand to launch and EMCee (pun intended) the ceremonies. Tom set the audience at ease by introducing himself humorously and presciently by saying “Hello, I’m Billy Crystal and welcome to the Academy Awards.”

Frank_Hauk.JPGTom introduced Frank Hauk, EMC Executive VP and executive sponsor of the program spoke of the importance of this program in the industry and academia. He mentioned that the program has grown from 20K to 30K certified professionals in just one year. He also mentioned that EMC would continue to invest in the program. Last year’s awards at EMC World in Orlando were presented in a rather small room… that was overflowing. This year and into the future, the awards would be presented as a main event.

Alok.JPGAlok Shrivastava, Senior Director responsible for the Proven Professional program awarded the Knowledge Sharing Awards — white papers on Best Practices in storage. He and Tom Clancy also awarded raffle prizes to the assembled Proven Professionals. They each had on their Proven Professional shirts, a light blue, not unlike the Science Division in the original Star Trek.

Web 2.0

One thing new this year is the amount of Web 2.0-style coverage of EMC World. The conference website itself uses a Flash-based “information growth ticker”, social networking opportunities, AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML) based agenda builder… and links to EMC bloggers, some of whom are blogging about the show itself.

I’ve mentioned Twitter a few times. For the first time this year, Twitter has been used by attendees to “micro-blog” about EMC World in real-time. These posts, hash-tagged with “#emcworld” could be aggregated and sorted by a variety of tools, creating a virtual news stream. See my link at the bottom as an example.

On Wednesday, a special lunch gathering for those Twittering about EMC World was convened impromptu. And in a rather solipsistic manner, it was set up using Twitter. Half a dozen of us collected and spent an hour and a half discussing social media as a way to connect, enhance and improve communication with Partners and Customers.

Customers

One of the reasons customers attend is to save money, lots of money, on how they manage their information infrastructure. I spoke with one presenter who said he had spoken to a customer after his talk, and was able to show them how to consolidate in a way that would save them half a million dollars a month in energy costs.

Keynotes

Mark_Lewis.gifLewis1.jpgOn Wednesday, Mark Lewis, President of EMC’s CMA Division did a presentation on what’s coming from the Documentum division of EMC. He showed Knowledge Worker, using the Firefox browser, a powerful web-based tool for code and content development teams to create and manage custom enterprise applications The Web 2.0 integration was impressive. Also demoed were a variety of mashup, social networking and folksonomy tools. He discussed “Project Magellan”, which will be released in Q3 for free.

StephenHerrod1.jpgThursday, Dr. Stephen Herrod, Chief Technology Officer of VMware offered a fascinating tour through VMware’s product stack, and a demo of the newly announced “Site Recovery Manager” which virtualizes an entire site for the purpose of automating the work flow of a “run book” in restarting a business in a remote site.

In conclusion

Q: How can you tell a conference is a technical conference?

A: Wednesday night, the show’s entertainment was Billy Crystal, Emmy winner, Tony winner, and past host of the Academy Awards ceremonies. He began the evening by greeting the room with:

Billy_Crystal.jpg

“Good evening and hellooo nerds!

There are attendees here from 79 countries. It’s like being at Angelina Jolie’s house.

Nothing says Las Vegas like 7,000 engineers.”

A great conclusion to a great show.

By the way, I’ve reported more details via Twitter. These can be found in the news stream when you click here

Thanks for coming along,

BillPetro.com

EMC World: Day 2 Recap

lasvegas_sign.jpgEMC WORLD: DAY 2 RECAP

EMC World, in its 2nd day in Las Vegas, is by and for engineers. While there are more suits present than in previous years, nevertheless most of the presenters are usually not polished marketing presenters but often the software developer who wrote the code for the product. This provides a level of unparalleled access for attendees.

I had lunch with a SAN Administrator for a state government office and we discussed data replication at a pretty deep level. This gentleman was a heavy user of the technology and was particularly impressed with EMC’s RecoverPoint technology. I asked if he found the price-point to be prohibitive. He assured me that it was quite attractive: the price had dropped since the product was initially released, and it offered so many features and such great capabilities that it eliminated the need for spending money on lots of other technologies. He found it to be ideal in a VMware environment and was excellent in the event he needed disaster recovery.

I’m typing this article in the Cyber Cafe, a number of stands with numerous laptops set up for attendees to use between talks and strolls through the Solutions Pavilion (Exhibit Hall). The EMC sysadmins have done a great job setting them up, with easy access to web browsers. They told me, however, that some will unplug them so that they can plug in their own laptops to charge them. Bad idea. The batteries have been removed from these laptops — I’m told they tend to grow legs and walk away — and as soon as they are unplugged, they shut down.

Speaking of the Pavilion, I spent some time speaking to a variety of exhibitors today. Not only are there “the usual suspects” but as in years past, some competitors on the floor as well, showing the openness of the show. Here’s what caught my eye and ear:

  • ss4200e.jpgIntel SS4200-E

With a name that rolls off the tongue, this is the Intel version of the product I mentioned in my previous post yesterday that Dave Donatelli referenced as the perfect graduation present — a sub-$500 external Network Attached Storage (NAS) device for consumers, that leverages EMC’s LifeLine software. The demo is a device that takes 1-4 internal drives (sold separately) that can provide RAID protection as well as a variety of media services. For example the device can speak to an Xbox as a bridge, display movies to a widescreen TV… display photos to a digital picture frame… provide web-accessible photos to a remote device like an iPhone… play MP3s through an iTunes server… etc.

  • iomegacenterlogo_ec65.pngIomega

While slightly later to market, and with the intention of addressing a slightly different market than Intel, Iomega — currently being acquired by EMC — also previewed their LifeLine-based offering. It will be available in different configurations than the Intel offering, but with all the same capabilities. This is one to keep an eye out for.

  • retrospect.gifRetrospect

Acquired years ago by EMC as part of the Dantz acquisition, this well respected consumer and small business backup solution was, 20 years ago, the only 3rd party backup product for the Macintosh. This is features as part of LifeLine, and new features and capabilities are coming that will make this a compelling offering for both local and cloud-based backup

  • mozy_logo.pngMozy

Speaking of cloud-based backup, this popular technology, acquired last year by EMC, allows consumers and small businesses to have SAAS (Software As A Service) backup for pennies a day. An application on a Mac or PC backups files over the Internet in encrypted form, initially as a full backup, then block-level incrementals thereafter. Offsite backup without having to move backup media offsite.

  • 3D or Data De-Duplication

Mark Twomey, also known as Storagezilla, was in the EMC booth explaining the new data de-duplication capabilities of the EMC Disk Libraries. Mark knows everyone.

I’ve reported more details via Twitter. These can be found either at:

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

EMC World

EMC WORLD

This year’s EMC World, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas May 19-22 promises to be the event to showcase EMC’s products around hardware, software and solutions. Having attended last year, it’s the best place to get access from EMC’s engineering, marketing and executive staff. Expecting about 10,000 attendees, the exhibit floor will showcase solutions from EMC and Partners.

I’ll be in attendance this year, blogging about what’s hot from the keynotes, sessions, and entertainment.

An added bonus will be the Sunday evening concert with the Goo Goo Dolls, and Wednesday evening’s event with comedian Billy Crystal.

Will there be a test? If you want, EMC Education Services will offer discounted EMC Proven Professional exams right onsite.

Come along with me.

BillPetro.com