Thursday, November 30, 2006
At the same time, I do not think there has ever been a moment in my life when I disliked Microsoft as now. Today, I would never buy anything Microsoft, not a game console, not an MP3 player, not software. I would avoid them with all my forces, from using Firefox to push the entire Funambol people to use OpenOffice. It was not like this in the past, although I never cheered for Microsoft in my life.
I asked myself why. Maybe because Apple looks so cool, maybe because the Zune sucks, maybe because of the Novell-Microsoft pact, maybe because of ActiveSync. I think I found the answer: Bill Gates is not there anymore. He is doing other stuff. Microsoft looks stale without him, including today the depressing launch of Vista (an Italian name BTW ;-)
What is Bill Gates doing these days? My younger brother works for the World Bank. His life, including his work at Unicef and WHO in Africa, has been dedicated to helping people in need. He told me once that what Bill Gates is doing for Africa with his foundation is incredible. He has a real admiration for Bill Gates, which is hard to believe since I would not consider my brother a capitalist. So, Bill Gates is using his money (a lot) to help people (a lot). He even got a load more cash from Warren Buffett recently... I trust my brother: Bill Gates is clearly doing a great job there.
A few weeks ago, reading the Scott Adams blog (I know, I am a geek, but I met him once when I was at the HP Labs and I got hooked), he proposed Bill Gates for President. Today, he did it again. I always find it hard to disagree with Dilbert.
What benefit would open source get from President Bill Gates? I have no idea, but he will definitely be forced to balance between his evil past and his current job. Somehow, I feel Open Source will benefit since it is good for the people. Because of it, he will have to push it. Cut him loose from Microsoft and he will come to the light side.
I know it sounds bizarre, but it is an interesting idea. Too bad I can't vote in this country yet...
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
If you have been following Mobile Linux and the various initiatives, you know the bulk of the discussion is still on how to make the power management work... Trolltech moves the discussion a bit up the stack, integrating solutions from multiple vendors and providing what they call a "menu of technologies". In their words:
The Qtopia Greensuite initiative gives customers the ability to select from a menu of technology choices enabling them to build a device specific to their requirements and target market they wish to address. The Initiative brings the leading Linux-based application platform, Qtopia Phone Edition; a hardware development device, Qtopia Greenphone; and a set of partner technologies together giving customers a pre-integrated software solution.The idea is smart. You take a Linux OS and you build a GUI around it, but you still missing some components that are key for operators (such as push email from Funambol, which the world is really in needs of ;-). The variety of demands from consumers in this market is unbelievable. You cannot cover all the bases. Therefore, you partner with software vendors and have them build something on top of your "client middleware".
The Greenphone and this initiative are not that far away from OpenMoko and our agreement with FIC. The difference is that Trolltech is not a device manufacturer, so they cannot build unlocked devices and flood the market. However, they have relationships with carriers and device manufacturer, which helps a lot.
In any way you look at it, it is another great step for open source in mobile. Mobile Linux is enjoying a lot of momentum lately. If you read the recent Vodafone announcement about standardizing on three operating systems (Linux, Symbian, Windows Mobile), which one will cover the extreme vast majority of their devices, which are consumer oriented?
I guessed so. Long life to Mobile Linux.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Instead, it is such a depressing place... The front window displays only PDAs, not even one Treo. Who in the world is still buying PDAs??? You walk in, the colors are bleak. Few Treos on two tables. Nobody inside but a guy talking to his phone (at least, that was a Treo). Since there was no 680 around, I asked him about it and he said "we do not have it, but I can put you on the waiting list". On the waiting list?? You announced it on October 12th and today you announced it is available on Cingular!! You do not even have ONE phone on display??
I walked out and I thought "man, this sucks, how in the world can they attract consumers?". So I walked few steps and I entered the Apple store. No windows. Full of people playing with devices. I looked around a bit lost for three seconds and a friendly guy asked me if I needed help. Actually, I was looking for the new iPod shuffle. It was on the table. I could not see it because it was so small. But he had one attached to his t-shirt and he gave it to me... I played with it for a minute. I loved it. I will definitely buy one (or maybe way more, we'll see). I walked out smiling.
That's a consumer experience. Apple announces a product, the same morning you walk in any Apple store and you play with it. My daughter wants to go to the Apple store because she wants to play with the videogames they have there. I am forced there. I ended up buying an iPod and an iBook for my wife, although I have never been a Mac person. I might become one, though...
Funny enough, I came to the office and I saw an article on the Mercury News about Palm and Apple where the CEO of Palm says "What, me worry" about Apple? Naaahhh.
Well, I do not think Palm should be worried about Apple. They should simply learn from what they do. They do it simply great. I am on THAT waiting list, the one of the people waiting for the iPod phone. It will be an awesome device and it will change the way we look at mobile. I am ready to bet on it. They will not do a deal with a carrier. They will go around them, with an unlocked device or an Apple MVNO. It will have messaging, beyond SMS (something between IM and email). They will open this market up and shake it.
I am looking forward to it, so should be Palm, if they are really thinking about consumers.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Two things pop up, in my opinion:
1. It was announced on a Friday
2. It was announced with an undisclosed amount
Every PR agent on the planet will tell you that you do NOT announce anything on Friday. You are not going to get press or move the stock price. When you spend 500 millions on a company (as later reported), you are supposed to be proud of your acquisition and make a big deal out of it. Why would you not disclose the amount? Because you feel it was too expensive and you signed a bad deal?
I am not sure if we'll ever know, but it sounds to me like someone in Motorola was not really convinced about this acquisition. How would you? Good was getting crashed by Microsoft on the server side (zero dollars is hard to fight), with Palm OS disappearing (it was the only thing they had left to make money). They were about to disappear... And they got bought for 500 millions. Looks like a good deal for the investors in Good, which poured 200+ millions in it. They must be so relieved ;-)
The acquisition has been clearly a reaction to Nokia Enterprise buying Intellisync. Moto had to show something in the enterprise as well, they went with Symbol first and Good second. They were kinda forced to.
Motorola is not an enterprise company. The are a consumer company. Symbol and Good will not help them selling more RAZR. They will help them to have an enterprise story (a "story", not a business, since I will be surprised if they will get 10% of the revenues from enterprises compared to what they are getting from consumers...). Same for Nokia, where the acquisition of Intellisync has not really been a great success... The goal (for both)? Make sure Microsoft does not eat the entire smartphone market.
Here lies the only good reason for Motorola I could come up with: avoid Microsoft to control their destiny in the enterprise (Motorola is shipping the Q, with Windows Smartphone on it), to then protect their consumer business. Which is the only one they really care about.
Now, would you spend 500M for something you really do not care about? Yes, if you have a lot of cash ;-) But you will not make a big deal out of it. You keep it quiet as much as you can.
Next step, if they are smart: you make sure to avoid the mistake to move Symbol and Good into the consumer space. They do not get it. They will never get it. They are close protocol, closed source, close everything... All the people in those companies just get enterprises only. You better keep them separated from your core consumer business.
If Moto is thinking about using Good for a consumer push email and multimedia sync play, they are setting themselves up for a big failure. If they plan to migrate the Good client on Mobile Linux, I just hope they target it to enterprises only. The consumer market is going to be open. It must be open as in SMS open, as in Voice open. Carriers need it to make money... Interoperability is the only way to move data on mass market mobile devices to the next level. You do not do it with a proprietary approach. You do not do it with the Good protocol.
In any way you look at this market, you see four big silos appearing: RIM, Microsoft, Nokia/Intellisync, Motorola/Good. All proprietary. All closed. All enterprise focused. Anybody trying to go horizontally on the mass market (supporting a billion devices) with a proprietary approach will be crushed (and acquired). Honestly, I will be surprised if Seven and Visto will be around at the end of 2007. The only possible approach for the mass market is going with open standards and a leveled play field. And open source, if I might add ;-)
Now, what about Palm? They are not a silo. They do not have a server, no push-email, no multimedia over-the-air synching. They could have been RIM but they missed it, because they never developed a server component. Their entire story around push email was Good, now gone to a competitor... It must be tough to be on Palm's board these days...
However, this actually might be a great opportunity for Palm.
If I can suggest a strategy (I am a Palm fan, after all): go open source. From the device (with Mobile Linux: throw away the Treo 700w that is a piece of #!#@) to the server. Forget the enterprise market and focus on consumers, moving smartphones to the rest of us. When I look at the Treo 680, it points to the right direction. Cut a niche for yourself, move out from Palm OS to Mobile Linux. Embrace open source on the server side (no suggestions here ;-) and remember why you made it initially.
It was HotSync who made Palm. Synching your data with your PC via a cable was the reason for using a Palm. The next level is over-the-air synching. Your PC becomes a server in the cloud, powered by Palm (who once was a MVNO, if you remember...). You sync your email, PIM, pictures and music over-the-air, with multiple devices. It is your consumer mobile hub. Powered by Palm. Do it open, with SyncML, and you'll be a player. Stay the course, support Microsoft and proprietary approaches and you'll be another Symbol, bought by a silo.
I know I am biased, but this looks like a good opportunity to me...
Most people that went public with a proprietary company will tell you "it was a marathon". Open source companies are in the Ironman category. That is "SWIM 2.4 MILES! BIKE 112 MILES! RUN 26.2 MILES". The race ends with a marathon, but you have to swim a lot and bike a ton before you even start the marathon. Aggregating a large community takes years, there is nothing money can do to accelerate the process. It is a natural long process with phenomenal fruits at the end. But you have to be patient.Clearly, I was thinking about Daniele, when I wrote this ;-) You might have met him at LinuxWorld, OSCON, 3GSM and other conferences (or online). He just represented Italy (and Funambol, and the open source movement in general) at the Ironman World Championship in Florida. He made it to the end. Strong and patient as an open source guy. You need stamina in this world...
Friday, November 17, 2006
I believe I have spent few posts writing about the value of a community-driven development and, in particular, QA effort. The former being the best way to innovate and keep up with the unbelievable speed of the mobile market (linked to the Code Sniper program). The latter being the crucial element for a successful company in mobile, because it is simply impossible to test every phone on the market, if you are a proprietary company (this one linked to the Phone Sniper program).
Speed of development and innovation, combined with the widest device compatibility, high quality and support are not the only positive of open source. The other one is marketing and visibility.
Open Source is viral. If you build an open protocol open platform product with open source code (a GOOD one) and you are honest with your community, you will have a large audience. The audience will be a mix of developers and users. They will enhance it, create derivative products or simply use it. In all cases, they will simply talk about it. Blog about it. Whisper about it.
Below you see the graph taken from Alexa (which measures web sites traffic rankings) about the Funambol site, compared to the one of our competitors (although some of them are not really competitors, since they are focused on enterprises). We are the blue line...
We are a small company of 40+ people, which raised 5M in Venture Capital. Some of those in the graph are public, some raised 250M+, all have been around for ages. How can we be that much more popular than them?
It is called viral marketing. It is a phenomenal added benefit of open source. It will never stop, as long as you remain true to your open source roots and do not screw up your community. You can be public and spend millions in marketing, but you will never get that. You get it if you create a successful open source project. And it will cost you zero dollars.
Believe me, it is not easy. But once you get there, it feels good to look at that graph every morning and at our balance sheet at night ;-)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
But Funambol's efforts so far are impressive, and the availability of its free PIM synchronization server is a big win, particularly given how locked-down and vendor-controlled the mobile device market is today.We are upgrading the Funambol Portal this weekend to v3 and we have great ideas for the next version in January. We are trying to make the Portal another good example on how a commercial open source company can return some of its revenues to the community. For us, it will be a free PIM and push email portal, for starters. A great service for the community, another QA, development and innovation tool for Funambol. I like win-win...
Monday, November 13, 2006
It is all about mobile (open source).
Let me go back in time. At OSBC, in April 2005, I heard Jonathan Schwartz say that GPL was really bad and CDDL was the way to go. At Java One 2006, he said that they were ready to open source Java but set no timeframe. On October 23rd, Rich Green said that "All of Java SE and all of Java ME should be completed, in terms of open source availability, by the end of the first quarter of calendar ’07". Two days later (two!), his boss Jonathan Schwartz said "by the end of the year". Three weeks later, it is all done, all open source and GPL. What prompted Sun to move that fast? And why GPL and not CDDL?
An interesting news hit two weeks ago. Few talked about it but it was really big. On November 1st, Motorola announced plans to build an open-source version of Java Mobile adopting the Apache License. They simply dropped a bomb inside Sun...
The amount of revenues Sun gets from Java ME is absolutely significant. I would bet it is the #1 software revenue stream at Sun. Motorola moving to its own open source Java ME means taking out 23% of those revenues (that's Moto market share on device shipments). If Nokia follows suit, there it goes another 34% of those revenues... That's almost 60% of a significant revenue stream down the drain, thanks to someone else doing what Sun was supposed to do months (years?) ago.
Sun moved fast. It might be too late but they really stepped up to the plate. I fully appreciate it. They had to send a shock and they went with GPL, not CDDL. Great choice, in my opinion. Where does GPL matters? In mobile, of course.
Java ME GPL means dual licensing. It triggers when embedded (who embeds Java SE?). It is the same model of Funambol, MySQL, Sleepycat and others (in alphabetical order, of course). The only possible commercial open source model, in my opinion, after the devastation of the services-only model by Oracle. With CDDL, they would have lost the virality of GPL. They would have lost the chance to still make money licensing their VM, while attracting the largest possible community. It is a smart move, and another testament of dual licensing. It is the model that works, in particular in mobile.
In summary, Sun opensourcing Java is all driven by mobile. The timing came from mobile. The license is due to mobile. Motorola, in my opinion, was the target, not IBM. I am a Java fan and I always will be. They were clearly late but maybe not too late. Let's see what happens next. This market is moving so fast, it will be interesting to watch... Once again, though, one thing is clear to me: mobile open source is king and it is gaining momentum every day.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I know Mike did not do it on purpose (see his comment after the conference to believe me), but the result was just perfect. Read all the blogs that it generated. Check Brian's comment in particular. Something is boiling here.
As Steve Bratt noticed in the keynote, this looks like 1994. That was the year I founded Internet Graffiti. Connection to the web was slow and difficult (via modem, paying per minutes). It was all proprietary with some few good standards emerging (HTML and HTTP). Web clients were crappy and you had to develop the same page for each of them (remember Mozilla 2 and IE 2?). There were walled gardens everywhere. I launched Internet Graffiti because I noticed one simple thing: the world needed the web badly. Therefore, I thought, it will happen. Nothing could stop it. Walled gardens collapses, technology improves, standards emerge, speed goes up and cost goes down.
Now, it is just the same in mobile. Everybody is talking about Web 2.0, but they are missing the real revolution. Mobile is the next big thing. The web is just evolving and maturing. The Web was 1.0 in 1994. It is probably at version 7.0 now, following the versions of IE... Mobile is really moving into 2.0 now. And it will represent the biggest paradigm shift of this decade, as the web in the nineties.
Now, I have seen just one attempt to define what Mobile 2.0 means, from Dan (the other organizer of the conference). Although my friend Peter had the best comment during the conference: "It is Mobile 2.0 because we say so", let me try to give a concise summary of what I expect Mobile 2.0 to be.
My Mobile 2.0 Manifesto
1. Mobile 2.0 is NOT a mobile version of Web 2.0. We made that mistake before, please let's avoid it this time. WAP was a failure because the hypertext paradigm (with links and clicks) requires a mouse. No mouse in mobile. Forget the web. Let's look at mobile apps on devices, that are available when you turn the device on, that store local data, that react to push messages. Call them mobile widgets and have them use HTTP to communicate, or AJAX. But let's forget the browser paradigm or we'll be targeting a WAP 2.0 failure.
2. Mobile 2.0 is all about open standards and open platforms. Same as Web 1.0. It all happens when standards get into the mainstream. Let's forget ActiveSync, BlackBerry, Good and the like. Standards are here and will make this big. It is SyncML and others. They are on 800,000,000 phones today.
3. Mobile 2.0 is driven by open source. Open source is the center element of Mobile 2.0. Developers drive it. It is an unstoppable force. Look at what we are doing with OpenMoko and Mobile Linux. Look at Java ME going open source today or the announcement of Motorola a couple of weeks ago. We are pushing big companies to change and move towards open source. It is an unstoppable process.
4. Mobile 2.0 happens with flat fee billing. It is the same as Web 1.0, which exploded with flat fees after starting with modems. Same here. People using Mobile 2.0 will come from enterprises first (as in Web 1.0), then will move mainstream when flat fee billing will be available and cheap enough for everybody. Let's all push the carriers to understand this. They might risk to become a dumb pipe, but they will make money with it. And it is inevitable, with Wi-Max and the like coming into the picture. Better to move now than when it is too late.
5. Mobile 2.0 is centered on content and messaging. This one is easy. The phone is a device you react to, when content is pushed to you (your email, RSS feeds, soccer results, music, ...) or you push it to someone else (when you take a picture or a video, and you send it around). It is not about standalone games.
That's it, five rules I will follow working with our Funambol community. I know we'll represent a big element of Mobile 2.0 and I am excited about it. If we are at 1994 now, the next five years will be a lot of fun.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
"This is the first phone in a long time to get us really interested in what it is, what it isn't, and the philosophy behind it. The philosophy is the thing that makes Linux great... it is really open."
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I love communities and this one looked interesting. I just need La Fonera router in my house, I offer Wi-Fi to people passing by (I got plenty of bandwidth I do not use, and you can limit the public one) and I get free access to any other Fonera on the planet (here you have the map, check your town, there are even five in Pavia, Italy). I have been preaching to my daughter about the value of sharing. THIS is sharing. And I have the feeling I am getting back way more than I give, which is my favorite sharing :-)
FON is the largest WiFi community in the world. Our members share their wireless Internet access at home and, in return, enjoy free WiFi wherever they find another Fonero’s Access Point.
It all started as a simple idea. Why should you pay for Internet access on the go when you have already paid for it at home? Exactly, you shouldn’t. So we decided to help create a community of people who get more out of their connection through sharing.
How do they make money? If you are just passing by and you do not own and share a Fonero router, you pay. Just 3 dollars per day. FON takes it, or shares with you as a Fonero owner. Yep, you can make money with this... There are three kind of Foneros: Alien (do not own a router, just suck your network paying), Linus (sharing the router and accessing every other router for free) and Bill (making money from sharing their router).
What do you guess did I choose between Linus and Bill?
Correct answer ;-) I bought the router online (for five dollars five), plugged in and I am good to go. I have two networks, one private and one public. I can even give free access to five friends (even if they are not Foneros). Move fast, because the price will raise to 29.95 on Wednesday.
This is a nice community, backed by good money (sorry, I live in Silicon Valley, communities are cool but when Index Ventures and Sequoia are involved, they grow faster. See Skype, Google, YouTube and so on). It is a big play and very challenging, but if it takes off, it might be huge.
One issue for them to solve: how do you get access to the FON Maps when you are traveling and you do not have access to your computer (since you first need to find another Fonero...)? You need it on your mobile, possibly with GPS and directions on where the closest active one is. I am sure our community can help here... FONambol anyone?
Friday, November 03, 2006
Schwartz panned thin clients as an end-all, be-all solution: "I just don't believe in thin clients. Right there, I said it." Even iPods are thick clients, he said.It looks like a simple comment, but it is simply going against the entire world of Web 2.0 ;-) That is like saying "a web browser is only meant to browse the web". Unheard of. Blasphemy.
Well, I agree with Jonathan. I do not buy the idea of Web 2.0 around doing Word Processing, Email and stuff inside a browser. Maybe because, when I started Internet Graffiti in 1994, I was forced to develop sites thinking about the concept of the hypertext, the links and the Back and Forward buttons. The last three items are the basis for web browsing. If you run an app inside a browser and you screw everything up clicking on Back or Forward, why are you running it inside the browser?? Why don't you have a downloaded app on your PC, that updates automatically? Just because Google say so??
Ok, enough with the PC Web 2.0. When it comes to mobile (not just the iPod hardware as a thick client, but also the software inside the iPod) I just do not see the thin client paradigm work at all. I thought about Mobile Ajax, but I do not seem to get convinced about it. I want a mobile widget pre-installed (the music player). I want the data there when I turn it on (my music stored locally). I want an iPod (actually, I like the new shuffle, in case you do not know which present to buy me for Christmas).
T-shirt idea of the month:
BTW, if you happen to be at Mobile2.0 in San Francisco on Monday, I'll be there giving a demo of our Phone Sniper tool during the Launch Pad session ("showcasing cutting edge start-ups in the mobile space"). If you are around, give me a buzz.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
On a different note, we won another award today. It is raining awards, lately, but these are not disappointing. In particular, I like this one a lot. It is the Editor's Choice 2006, by the Linux Journal. The category is "Mobile Device".
Funambol isn't actually a mobile device, but we chose to give it the Editors' Choice if for no other reason than to avoid plugging the Nokia 770 yet again. Funambol is an open-source SyncML server that acts as a middleware between groupware servers and mobile devices. It supports the most popular PDAs and commodity mobile phones. It's great, and the community is finally coming up with a solution that rivals the best commercial competition.What amazes me is the list of the other products there: Firefox, OpenOffice, Asterisk, Apache, Eclipse, Ubuntu, Postgres, Ruby, Quake (that's my favorite)... Not bad. I am starting to believe we are onto something here... Let the rain continue!