chrome a windows killer? i doubt it

Read an article in eWeek that left me scratching my head a bit. The nub below:

Then later:

And that would spell doom for Microsoft. It’s one thing to squeeze Microsoft out of the Internet game by dominating search and Web services. It’s another entirely to come after the software giant’s core operating system business, wielding the Web as your platform.

Must admit I have a lot of trouble seeing that, as I would have thought in order to supplant Windows, it would need to be gone, and to go from a browser that sits on an o/s to replacing the o/s seems to be a rather large leap. A huge leap, actually.

What they’re suggesting might happen is already a possibility today. There is definitely something that can supplant Windows altogether, and provide access to all the web-oriented apps, etc. that Google offers. Its cheap (sometimes free), stable and has pretty good UIs – in fact, a selection of UIs and different flavours. Its called Linux. However, for a variety reasons, it hasn’t kicked Microsoft’s ass yet (at least on the desktop – there are a few areas where it definitely does, such as web and other server functions).

To suggest, then, that, because Google has come out with a browser, that that will lead to the supplanting of Windows seems, IMHO, to be a bit far-fetched. I’m not suggesting that Google wouldn’t have the wherewithal to try to go after the desktop. They may do so. Though I’m not sure if they’d want to – they have a pretty good business model already…

Anyway, if and when they do something like that it will be so much larger an undertaking than Chrome that the links between that and Chrome would be tenuous at best, other than possibly bundling Chrome within whatever o/s they create.

Even possibly on the application front, I can see Google putting some pressure on MS, and how this might tie with Chrome. But not the o/s on which the whole thing runs.

So I think for the time being, Bill and Steve probably don’t have much to worry about with Chrome’s introduction, at least when it comes to the o/s business (IE on the other hand, is another matter altogether…).

hybrid computing – bigger than i thought (possibly)

I recently mentioned Prism in a prior entry and how it was an intriguing business model. What I didn’t realize is how widespread a movement it seems to be, as suggested in this Knowledge@Wharton article. A brief blurb:

It’s been a busy few weeks for the big technology companies. On October 1, Adobe Systems announced an agreement to buy Virtual Ubiquity, a company that has created a web-based word processor built on Adobe’s next generation software development platform. One day earlier, Microsoft outlined its plans for Microsoft Office Live Workspace, a service that will combine Microsoft Office and web capabilitiesso that documents can be shared online. Recently,Google introduced a technology called “Gears” that allows developers to create web applications that can also work offline. The common thread between the recent moves of these technology titans: Each company is placing a bet on a new vision of software’s future, one which combines the features of web-based applications with desktop software to create a hybrid model that may offer the best of both worlds.

Such a model seems to make a lot of sense, both from the perspective of users as well as developers. From a developer perspective, I can see how simply gaining information on how their products are used (albeit possibly involving some privacy complications) could be invaluable. In addition, tying software to a service will likely curb piracy – its one thing to bypass protection mechanisms on standalone software but something quite different to try to fake an account setup to take advantage of an online service (at least given what little I know about it).

Then again, as the article points out, this movement may simply be the latest iteration of a trend that has never quite caught on (e.g. MS Hailstorm, “thin” computing, network as the computer, etc. etc.).

ITAC – First Canadian Municipal Wireless Conference and Exhibition

Wow – lots happening the last week of May. Also forgot to mention previously the First Canadian Municipal Wireless Conference and Exhibition being organized by ITAC at the Direct Energy Conference Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, May 28-30, 2007:

Whether you live or work in a large urban municipality, a small rural town or village, the impact of wireless applications has already or will soon impact the quality of your life and the services you offer your community. If your organization engages in digital electronic services to customers, e.g., taxpayers, suppliers, emergency service providers, other levels of government, non-profit organizations and associations, you need to learn about the latest proven strategies to ensure the success of your wireless programs.

ITAC’s 1st Canadian Municipal Wireless Applications Conference and Exhibition will not only update you on the latest initiatives of Canadian Municipalities, but will provide you with real case study insights, proven strategies, commentary from leading wireless experts and techniques for deploying wireless applications in your communities. If you are currently engaged, or plan to be engaged, in a municipal wireless project, your attendance at this event is essential.

Thoughts on Quantum Computing

Interesting article in Wired News where they interview David Deutsch who they refer to as the Father of Quantum Computing. He has a kind of low key but interesting take on the recent demonstration of a real, live 16 qubit quantum computer by D-Wave, a Canadian company based out of Vancouver.

Low key insofar as he doesn’t seem particularly enthused about the potential of quantum computers, other than perhaps their ability to be used to simulate quantum systems and of course encryption:

Deutsch: It’s not anywhere near as big a revolution as, say, the internet, or the introduction of computers in the first place. The practical application, from a ordinary consumer’s point of view, are just quantitative.

One field that will be revolutionized is cryptography. All, or nearly all, existing cryptographic systems will be rendered insecure, and even retrospectively insecure, in that messages sent today, if somebody keeps them, will be possible to decipher … with a quantum computer as soon as one is built.

Most fields won’t be revolutionized in that way.

Fortunately, the already existing technology of quantum cryptography is not only more secure than any existing classical system, but it’s invulnerable to attack by a quantum computer. Anyone who cares sufficiently much about security ought to be instituting quantum cryptography wherever it’s technically feasible.

Apart from that, as I said, mathematical operations will become easier. Algorithmic search is the most important one, I think. Computers will become a little bit faster, especially in certain applications. Simulating quantum systems will become important because quantum technology will become important generally, in the form of nanotechnology.

(my emphasis). Interesting thought about being retrospectively insecure. Particularly given spy agencies have, in the past, been sufficiently bold to transmit encoded messages on easily accessible shortwave frequencies.

I imagine the spook shops already have their purchase orders in for quantum crypto stuff (or have developed it already internally). Was a bit surprised by the statement above regarding existing technology for quantum computing. I had heard of some demos a while back, but didn’t realize that there are actually several companies offering quantum cryptography products.

Microsoft v. Apple, Round ??

Another recent story/editoril in The Inquirer egging on Apple to divorce the way cool OSX and license it separately from the somewhat maybe less cool hardware (at least in the eyes of the Inq). And who else to better promote OSX than Dell. Anyway, a snippet:

Apple could position the move as “Dell is so cool, we had to do a deal with them.” Underlying that is “Let’s face facts, with the exception of a pretty case, and a couple of hardware features, we’re an Intel box all the same.” (I know I’m going to get foaming rabid Mac owners that say the bits under the hood of their machines are especially selected by Zen Master Craftsmen and assembled by virgins in a far off land with blessed incense burning on a 24×7 basis, but it just ain’t so).

What has Apple got to lose? Zero.

I certainly would be interested in seeing Apple do this. On the other hand, I don’t know if it would come at “zero” cost. As their user base increases, so do the variations of hardware that people will want to use, and the drivers, and the third party software and, before you know it, you’re starting to make compromises here and there to let everything work. Then as more users come on board it starts becoming more of a target for hackers, who then start working feverishly to craft attacks, trojans and viruses, then leading your users to suggest that your platform is inherently security-deficient, requiring further investment in updates, patches, etc. Then of course you get on MS’ radar, who also produces a rather important office productivity app for OSX and may not take too kindly to Apple trying once again to eat its lunch.

I don’t know. I just don’t see it happening. OSX is nice and all, but to my simple mind, there is, and has been, a viable alternative to Microsoft operating systems for quite some time – replete with easy installation, cool features, nice interfaces, good security, and even relatively broad hardware compability – its called Linux and its free. And unlike the old Slackware days, Ubuntu (along with several other variations), is pretty easy to install and configure. But even with all this, where’s Linux on the desktop? Yes, its certainly being used, but has it made more than a few percentage points dent on MS market share? No. Why? Inertia. Windows has the biggest installed base, therefore the biggest possible customer base, so developer develop for Windows and put less effort into others (with of course some exceptions). Therefore more apps for Windows. And users don’t pick an OS because they like it – they pick it because of the apps they can run on it. So they continue to buy Windows. Not because its that much better than Linux, or OSX, but because they have MS Office, Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, Premiere, SAS, Mathematica, Cubase, AutoCAD, etc. etc. etc. all at their disposal. Sure, there are some nice apps for Linux and of course OSX – but certainly nowhere near the depth or breadth of Windows apps.

Given this, why the heck would Apple bother trying where Linux (which has a nicer price point) hasn’t (yet) succeeded? I guess we’ll see. It would be neat to see how far they get. But I ain’t holding my breath.

Microsoft Patents RSS. Or Tries To. Maybe.

Interesting post on someone else’s blog about Microsoft apparently trying to patent RSS:

The applications, filed last June but just made public yesterday, cover subscribing and discovering what Microsoft calls “Web feeds.” That comes as a bit of a shock to anyone who’s been working on RSS, which has its origins in a format developed seven years ago at Netscape Communications.

Microsoft executive Don Dodge, while not involved in the patent applications, says he suspects the filings were made to defend the company against “patent trolls”. (The filings were made shortly before Microsoft announced plans to build RSS technology into its upcoming Vista operating system.) Still, if granted, the patents would give Microsoft a legal cudgel to wield against other companies using RSS.

Well. They do have a point. Generally speaking, I don’t think patent trolls (those that basically file overly broad patents and then sit on them in a dark cave until someone who actually does something useful, and therefore has deep pockets, unwittingly infringes, at which point the troll comes out and clubs them over the head with a lawsuit or settlement) are a good thing. That being said, its ironic that Microsoft feels the need to abuse the system in the same way as patent trolls in order to proactively defend itself. It will be interesting to see how things turn out.

Unfortunately, I’m not necesarily sure that prior art would necessarily invalidate these patents – after all, most of NTP’s patents were more or less considered invalid, but that didn’t stop them from collecting several hundred million from RIM. And its not like there haven’t been other, um, rather broad patents asserted in the past. You know, like back in 2002, when British Telecom asserted ownership of hyperlinks (which they lost) though of course BT doesn’t quite fit the description of a patent troll.

Then again, it begs the question as to who or what should or shouldn’t be considered a patent troll – for example, its well known that IBM has a huge, gigantic, enormous arsenal of patents at its disposal. IBM also actively licenses these patents (and of course threatens litigation where it believes its rights are being violated), but it isn’t necessarily the case that IBM would otherwise have exploited these patents in what I’ll call “active” business – i.e. making and selling something based on the patent as opposed to primarily seeking royalties and licenses from those do – even though IBM does do so in some cases. So does that make IBM a patent troll? What about Philo T. Farnsworth who, arguably, never started producing televisions but instead sought legal claims against others?

My perhaps overly simplistic take on this is that patent trolls are not inherently the problem, but rather the ability, primarily in the US, to register patents that should have never issued in the first place. If someone comes up with a smart, cool, inventive, and truly novel way of doing something, then they should certainly be free to either produce something with it, or sue the living daylights out of someone else who comes along and infringes the IP even if they don’t (or can’t) make productive use of it themselves. Not actively exploiting a patent is not necessarily tantamount to being a bad guy, IMHO.

It will be interesting to see what happens on this front, if anything. If nothing does, then I may well turn to drafting patents, the first being “Method of Utilizing a Rhythmic Cadence in the Expansion and Contraction of Multiple Muscular Groupings to Faciliate Indefinite Continuation of Metabolism of Cell Structures.” I like the sound of that. Yes indeed.