March, 2006

  • Steve Clayton

    IT Capabilities Assessment: free download


    I got chatting with a Microsoft partner on Friday about the People Ready Business Campaign and how we can help organisations understand the implications of investing in software. I remembered the IT Capabilities Assessment tool we launched a while back in conjunction with the Keystone research. This tool is freely downloadable and allows a company to profile their IT capability against 600 other organisations based on a series of questions about IT, Finance, Operations, Marketing etc. I guess people are going to be intentionally sceptical of this stuff but given it was developed by Microsoft and the independent research firm Keystone Strategy, under the direction of Professor Marco Iansiti of the Harvard Business School that should give it some more credibility. You end up with something like this - which is my fictitious company that has invested in IT. The green arrows show the company and the white show the 600 company average. Naturally my company has lots of software :)


  • Steve Clayton

    Security: how do you help your neighbours?


    Security is a hot topic in the IT world these days - both with the spate of viruses such as nimda and Blaster that have affected Microsoft systems and in a post 9/11 era it's no surprise. Still it surprises me how many organisations pay it lip service. "war driving" got a lot of publicity a few years back - basically the practice of driving around looking for open access wireless networks and riding on the back of them to get free Internet access. Not such a bad practice you may think but as businesses allow their employees more freedom to work from home what may look like simple neighbourly freeloading may be something much more sinister. It didn't really hit me until a few weeks ago but here's how:

    My neighbour has recently bought a PSP and is quite pleased with it. He bumped in to me a few weeks ago and said "yep it's great - I've been happily surfing the net on it and think I may have been using your WiFi". Either my neighbour has a supercomputer in his basement to crack my WPA protection or he's riding on someone else network. Sure enough a week later he said "I assume your network is the one call X....the one that has proper security on it". I was pleased to confirm to him it was. However, even from my property and his there are at least 2 other open wireless access points that he could use any time night or day. Quite who owns those networks or what is being transmitted on them is anyone's guess but even for a basic IT sleuth it wouldn't take too much work to find out. Nor to find out what other devices are connected to them I imagine. I for one would be devastated if someone could get on to my home network and do any damage my precious backup of family photos etc. Makes you wonder eh? I suppose I should burn all the really vital stuff off to DVD or other media but who does?

    Anyway, the PC World supplement I mentioned last week that came with The Sunday Times (sadly not on their supplements site) got me thinking about this. They had some pretty good advice about not broadcasting your SSID, using WPA2, using professionals to help you secure your network etc. All good advice that if you're investing in IT to help drive your business it's worthwhile thinking about. My only advice - your business IT no longer stops at the bricks and mortar that make up your office.

    Here is what I'd really like though - a polite, non intrusive way to tell my local residents that their network is open and for the price of a good cup of coffee I'd be happy to help them secure it. Anyone seen some software that does something like that? The hardware approach (i.e. going door knocking just doesn't appeal!)

  • Steve Clayton

    Blogging: publishing on it's head?


    Blogging is old news now - well, to those who blog and those who download podcasts and anyone trying to keep up with the explosion of information on the web. Over the last 6 months, blogging (and RSS) is one of the most common topics I've discussed with Microsoft partners, press and just about anyone that will listen. The thing that amazes me about blogging is how quickly it has changed the way I source my "news. For about 4 years was my homepage as I followed the tech industry. Over the last 2 years, has been my homepage as I can quickly keep up with UK, world, weather and most importantly sports news. That's changed again though and is now my homepage - not because I want to push Live but simply because I can bring so much of what I want to read on to one page - and much of what I read and where I source my news is no longer from big publishers. I get my news fix from blogs almost entirely. Why?

    • They're often faster
    • My perception (not always reality) is they offer a less biased view
    • They have humour and characters behind them - e.g. Matthew Stibbe's blog and Office Rocker Darren
    • They allow me to aggregate my news easily
    • For areas I am interested in, they're often more authoritative

    That's not to say the big media companies haven't recognised the trend - in fact the BBC has one of the best guides to blogging/RSS  I have seen. What I think it really interesting though is the way that over a very short space of time, blogs are changing the dynamic of publishing and where people go for their information. Engadget is a great example - pre Engadget, I used to go to a whole host of sites to get my gadget fix. Now, I just go to that one place as they do an amazing job of scouring stories, gathering submissions and providing a brilliant commentary on technology. Even Bill goes there now - good enough for him.... :) There is also a very good article (and ironically now a blog) on this from Trevor Butterworth at

    I guess what I'm saying is that the publishing world is changing amazingly quickly. If you're reading this you probably knew that already though...Bad Language has a good piece of Blogging for Business with some great ground rules.

    My concern...of the 50 blogs I now have in my reader, how do I prioritise? Hmmm

  • Steve Clayton

    Exec Question time


    Just leaving the office this evening and I got a great question from one of our execs to round out the day:

    "what you think the disruptive tech trends will be over the next 3 years in the market?"

    I like these kind of questions, particularly when the answer is needed quickly. Imagine being asked that in the infamous eleveator pitch (have you ever had one of those...). Here is what I came back with - feel free to add, edit, shoot down. Not all are necessairly disruptive but I think they'll all have an intersting impact

    • RFID - not new but definitely getting more airtime as chip prices come down. I await the inevitable privacy backlash. My girlfriend is already asking why London Tube Oyster cards have a chip in them and what it'll be used for. According to the Metro newspaper last week, the 6 week records it can generate were used by the police. It's even on Engadget today so it must be here and now! The RFID Centre is now open in Bracknell just down the road from our office too.


    • WiMAX - I thought we were going to see more of WiMax this year but things seemed to have slowed down a little. WiMAX can provide broadband wireless access up to 30 miles for fixed stations, and 3 - 10 miles for mobile stations. Compare this to traditional WiFi (802.11) which really operates no further than 100m max. Combine this with VOIP and things become interesting for the mobile phone companies and device makers. I already have a Smartphone with WiFi built in that I can use for VOIP calls so 3G networks may start to be challenged.


    • VOIP - Voice Over IP isn't new and services such as Skype continue to grow in popularity. I haven't made the leap to use VOIP at home myself yet but it's not far away as hybrid phones become more widely available and a few of my friends are using it to call friends in New Zealand and elsewhere with even great video quality. Once I fall behind my friends, I know it's time to invest in some kit :)


    • Shift to 64 bit - the Exchange product team recently announced that the next version of Exchange will be 64 bit only. More and more server kit is already 64 bit and laptops are starting to appear as 64 bit. Interesting challenges will exist though as smaller companies move towards 64 bit and the industry has to show the benefits without going techno mad. Intel has a pretty good paper on The 64 Bit Tipping Point. What are the benefits? Well performance for one, more typically in server scenarios.

     There are a number of other things I added but I'm keen to see if you can guess what they were or have others you should add...or even disagree with these?

  • Steve Clayton

    When did the web become ubiquitous?


    I had a day of wandering around London today and started trying to notice companies who don’t have a web address – it’s pretty hard to do! I first used the web at university where I wrote a dissertation on how the web would impact education. Things have come a long way – I even tracked down my new favourite coffee shop by simply searching for it on my smartphone. This also gave me another opportunity to test Windows Live (mobile) search - first result got me what I needed.


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