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Is Desktop Software Dead?

When was the last time you were impressed by desktop software?

Really impressed?

After seeing (in chronological order) Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Tim Bray make use of Apple Keynote, I absolutely had to give it a try. And impressed I was – and to some extent, still am. For me, this revelation happened about a year ago. I cannot recall the previous instance – i.e., the time I was truly impressed by desktop software.

Although I may be premature, I can’t help but ask: Is desktop software dead?
A few data points:
  • Wikipedia states: “There is no page titled “desktop software”.” What?! I suppose you could argue I’m hedging my bets by choosing an obscure phrase (not!), but seriously, it is remarkable that there is no Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”!
  • Microsoft, easily the leading purveyor of desktop software, is apparently in trouble. Although Gartner’s recent observations target Microsoft Windows Vista, this indirectly spells trouble for all Windows applications as they rely heavily on the platform provided by Vista.
  • There’s an innovation’s hiatus. And that’s diplomatically generous! Who really cares about the feature/functionality improvements in, e.g., Microsoft Office? When was the last time a whole new desktop software category appeared? Even in the Apple Keynote example I shared above, I was impressed by Apple’s spin on presentation software. Although Keynote required me to unlearn habits developed through years of use Microsoft PowerPoint, I was under no delusions of having entered some new genre of desktop software.
  • Thin is in! The bloatware that is modern desktop software is crumbling under its own weight. It must be nothing short of embarrassing to see this proven on a daily basis by the likes of Google Docs. Hardware vendors must be crying in their beers as well, as for years consumers have been forced to upgrade their desktops to accommodate the latest revs of their favorite desktop OS and apps. And of course, this became a negatively reinforcing cycle, as the hardware upgrades masked the inefficiencies inherent in the bloated desktop software. Thin is in! And thin, these days, doesn’t necessarily translate to a penalty in performance.
  • Desktop software is reaching out to the network. Despite efforts like Microsoft Office Online, the lacklustre results speak for themselves. It’s 2008, and Microsoft is still playing catch up with upstarts like Google. Even desktop software behemoth Adobe has shown better signs of getting it (network-wise) with recent entres such as Adobe Air. (And of course, with the arrival of Google Gears, providers of networked software are reaching out to the desktop.)

The figure below attempts to graphically represent some of the data points I’ve ranted about above.

In addition to providing a summary, the figure suggests:

  • An opportunity for networked, Open Source software. AFAIK, that upper-right quadrant is completely open. I haven’t done an exhaustive search, so any input would be appreciated.
  • A new battle ground. Going forward, the battle will be less about commercial versus Open Source software. The battle will be more about desktop versus networked software.

So: Is desktop software dead?

Feel free to chime in!

To Do for Microsoft: Create a Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”.

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The MFA is the New MBA: Illustrations by Steve Jobs and Apple

In March 2005, Dan Pink asserted “… the MFA is the new MBA”.
Why?

… businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate their goods and services in today’s overstocked marketplace is to make their offerings physically beautiful and emotionally compelling. Thus the high-concept abilities of an artist are often more valuable than the easily replicated L-Directed skills of an entry-level business graduate.

I can’t think of a better illustration than Steve Jobs’ story of how the Mac became the first computer with beautiful typography.
And of course, true to form, Jobs illustrated Pink’s assertion more than two decades ago.
And since 1984, Jobs and Apple have made the illustration even more compelling with the current generation of Macs, the iPod, and most recently the iPhone.
Note-to-self: Look into MFA programs!

Aside: I’ve blogged previously about Pink’s book and its implications for displacing knowledge workers.

An Eight Pack of Leadership Traits

I recently came across an article by Hank Marquis on effective leadership traits for those in IT

Marquis distills the following eight pack of traits:
  1. Leadership means focusing on the needs of others, not yourself
  2. Leadership comes from your actions, not your title
  3. Leadership makes you accountable, even if it’s not your fault
  4. Leadership is not a 9-to-5 activity
  5. Leadership takes trust from your followers
  6. Leaders get their best ideas from their team
  7. Leadership thrives on diversity
  8. Leadership comes from continuous communication
Marquis elaborates on each of these traits in the article.
And as two final nuggets to further whet your appetite, consider the following two quotes:

Effective leaders build a trusted team and then follow the team’s advice.

… always give the credit to the team. The leader’s credit comes only by crediting the team he or she leads.

Jott Announces Local Numbers for Canada!

The following message just arrived in my inbox:

From: “Jott Networks”
Date: February 13, 2008 1:39:32 PM GMT-05:00
To: ian DOT lumb AT gmail DOT com
Subject: Canadian Local Numbers Announced
Reply-To: feedback AT jott DOT comHi everyone,

We are happy to announce that Canadian local numbers are finally here!

As most of you know, we have had a Toronto Jott number (647-724-5814) for some time and have been working on acquiring more local numbers across Canada.

Still confused as to why we are not releasing a toll free number? Jott requires caller ID to know who is sending a Jott to what contact information. In an effort to protect your privacy, most Canadian mobile providers have blocked caller ID information from being passed to toll free numbers. This leaves the alternative of using local access numbers across the country, so that everyone can send Jott messages without having to pay long distance fees.

Below is the list of available Jott numbers in Canada. Find the number in your area code and program it to your speed dial today!

AURORA : +12898020110
CALGARY : +14037751288
EDMONTON : +17806287799
HALIFAX : +19024828120
HAMILTON : +19054819060
KITCHENER : +15199572711
LONDON : +15194898968
MARKHAM : +12898000110
MONTREAL : +15146670329
OTTAWA : +16136861502
QUEBEC CITY : +14189072209
SAINT JOHNS : +17097570047
SHERBROOKE : +18193401636
TORONTO : +16477245365
TORONTO : +14168001067
VANCOUVER : +17787868229
VANCOUVER : +16044841347
VICTORIA : +12509847093
WINDSOR : +15198000031
WINNIPEG : +12042728154

Brought to you by Jott.com – 1-866-JOTT-123
300 East Pike Street, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98122
Click here to stop receiving emails like this.

This is excellent news!

And just in case this is your first visit to my blog, you can read other Jott-related posts here.

Cyberinfrastructure: Worth the Slog?

If what I’ve been reading over the past few days has any validity to it at all, there will continue to be increasing interest in cyberinfrastructure (CI). Moreover, this interest will come from an increasingly broader demographic.

At this point, you might be asking yourself what, exactly, is cyberinfrastructure. The Atkins Report defines CI this way:

The term infrastructure has been used since the 1920s to refer collectively to the roads, power grids, telephone systems, bridges, rail lines, and similar public works that are required for an industrial economy to function. … The newer term cyberinfrastructure refers to infrastructure based upon distributed computer, information, and communication technology. If infrastructure is required for an industrial economy, then we could say that cyberinfrastructure is required for a knowledge economy. [p. 5]

[Cyberinfrastructure] can serve individuals, teams and organizations in ways that revolutionize what they can do, how they do it, and who participates. [p. 17]

If this definition leaves you wanting, don’t feel too bad, as anyone whom I’ve ever spoken to on the topic feels the same way. What doesn’t help is that the Atkins Report, and others I’ve referred to below, also bandy about terms like e-Science, Grid Computing, Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs), etc. Add to these newer terms such as Cooperative Computing, Network-Enabled Platforms plus Cell Computing and it’s clear that the opportunity for obfuscation is about all that’s being guaranteed.

Consensus on the inadequacy of the terminology aside, there is also consensus that this is a very exciting time with very interesting possibilities.

So where, pragmatically, does this leave us?

Until we collectively sort out the terminology, my suggestion is that the time is ripe for immediate immersion in what cyberinfrastructure and the like might feel like or are. In other words, I highly recommend reviewing the sources cited below in order:

  1. The Wikipedia entry for cyberinfrastructure – A great starting point with a number of references that is, of course, constantly updated.
  2. The Atkins Report – The NSF’s original CI document.
  3. Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery – A slightly more concrete update from the NSF as of March 2007.
  4. Community-specific content – There is content emerging on the intersection between CI and specific communities, disciplines, etc. These frontiers are helping to better define the transformative aspects and possibilities for CI in a much-more concrete way.

Frankly, it’s a bit of a slog to wade through all of this content for a variety of reasons …

Ultimately, however, I believe it’s worth the undertaking at the present time as the possibilities are very exciting.

Jott: Now Available in Canada!

Early this year I blogged about Jott.

There was, however, one very significant caveat:

Unfortunately, I cannot attest to how well this actually works.

I live in Canada, and the public beta only supports US-based cell phones -(

I am delighted to report that the US-only restriction no longer applies, as Jott is now available to Canadian-based cell phones!

All you have to do is call 647 724 5814.

(For those that don’t know, 647 is a Toronto-based exchange that handles the overflow from the original 416 exchange. This may also mean that long-distance charges are applicable.)

I’m running through some basic tests and am impressed by what I’ve experienced so far.

Since Canadian-based DICtabrain is apparently dead, this makes Jott’s arrival on the Canadian scene even more compelling.

[Thanks to Shree from Jott for letting all of us know!]

VISTA vs. Google

“10 Reasons for the Windows Web Worker to Upgrade to Vista…Or Not” recently appeared on Web Worker Daily (WWD).

The post itself, and the comments received, are rife with VISTA vs. Mac OS X comparisons.

VISTA vs. Mac OS X is a non-starter.

A much more interesting discussion is VISTA vs. Google.

Even a cursory consideration of WWD’s 10 reasons suggests that Google stacks up well. Already.