September, 2010

  • Steve Clayton

    Are thumbdrives going floppy?


    Much as I like the design of the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go Clip-it USB Drive, I’m not going to buy one. In the past I would have snapped one of these up. I almost did a post last month when I saw the device had won the Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ 2010 award saying we should all rush out and buy one. But I didn’t. I sat back and realised that I used a thumbdrive about once per month these days (at best). In fact the only thing I have really used one for at all of late is installing Windows 7 on one of my laptops as I have a 4GB Kingston thumbdrive setup as bootable for the install which takes <30 mins. Apart from that, I just don’t use ‘em.

    Why? You know answer I suspect….the cloud. With services like our own Live Mesh or DropBox I just can’t be bothered fishing out a drive. I’m more likely to post to my 5gb of cloud storage with Mesh to move my files around my own machine. If I’m sharing with others, I use SkyDrive’s 25gb of free storage.

    Beyond that, I have a 1TB backup device on my desk and the combination of these meets all of my needs.

    So as much as I love the design of the Store ‘n’ Go, I fear this and other thumbdrives are going the way of the floppy disk…in to extinction.

  • Steve Clayton

    Pin Windows blog and Bing in IE9



    You’d expect the Windows blog to be tight with their comrades in IE9 and sure enough they are. Brandon did some work to make the Windows blog pinnable to your taskbar and the results can be seen above. Tres bien…you can do the same for your blog with the developer resources for IE9.

    Hot on their heels are the Bing team who have made pinnable


  • Steve Clayton

    Where do good ideas come from?


    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about innovation lately – what is it, what isn’t it, who does it. Steven Johnson’s video debunks one of the most common myths around innovation. People like the idea of the epiphany or the eureka moment when it comes to innovation – the idea that someone comes up with a miraculous idea overnight.

    It just doesn’t happen that way. Or if it does, it’s extremely rare. As Steven points out, the invention of the World Wide Web took over 10 years. Often, great ideas take a long time to come to fruition. There are a number of reasons. Maybe the idea just needs some gestation, maybe the stars were not aligned to make the idea successful because they were too expensive, met a niche market or went after the wrong market. Bill Buxton gives some great examples in a recent Globe and Mail interview of technology that has been around for over 20 years that is really only starting to become popular today. He reminds us that Casio had a touch screen watch in 1984 (same year as the original Mac) where you would draw numbers on the screen using your finger to write a 1 or 3 or plus or minus. Amazing. He also talks about the IBM Simon, a touch screen mobile phone with only two buttons as UI that came out in 1983.

    [Casio T500 touch screen watch. circa 1984 & IBM Simon. circa 1983]

    Johnson in the video goes on to note the explosion of ideas is fuelled by our connectivity (the web, Twitter, Facebook, email, search etc). It makes serendipity something that can happen every day, not once a year when you’re at the library and happen to bump in to a book or person that changes your perception or shifts your understanding. 

    The final part of this trilogy of stories I have been noodling on is Scott Berkun’s new book, The Myths of Innovation where he goes in to a lot more detail around the myth of the epiphany. I’d highly recommend the book and his blog has some great content and I particularly liked Essay #58 – How to innovate right now where Scott points out that one man’s innovation is another man’s idea (i.e. there are very few truly unique ideas in the world).

    All of this, and some discussions with a few folks much smarter than me have led me to think about this murky world of innovation and ideas in a new way. It seems to me there are 3 types of innovation (I’m not sure yet of these words are the right ones so any feedback is welcome)

    1. Invention – truly new ideas that nobody has seen before or were not possible before. Try to think of some…there really aren’t that many truly new ideas.
    2. Reinvention – taking an existing idea and improving upon it. Most of what is coined as innovation today falls in to this bucket. The Dyson “hoover”, the MP3 player, the mobile phone. etc etc.
    3. Evolution – taking an existing product (that was once an invention) and evolving it, honing it. The Porsche 911 is a fine example of this. Evolved over 40+ years.


    So what’s my point? It’s really just an observation that innovation must be one of the most overused words in the tech industry (I’ll be the first to admit Microsoft overuses it) so perhaps it’s time for a reassessment of what innovation really is…or at least an honest acknowledgement that what we sometimes call innovation, is actually more like reinvention or evolution. Neither of these are bad things in my opinion…as Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

    Food for thought I hope.

  • Steve Clayton

    Windows Phone 7 is pulling in to the platform


    [updated to resolve errors in my original post, thanks for comments]

    I’ve read a few interesting blogs today that got me thinking about the platform nature of Microsoft’s business and in particular Windows Phone 7.

    First up was Paul Thurrot’s post titled Windows Phone's Real Secret Weapon: Developers, Developers, Developers which left me feeling pretty positive about Windows Phone 7 and the potential for it to be a great new platform for the millions of .NET developers. At the same time I was tooling around on the iPod Touch I won a few years back and marvelling at the range of applications available. It’s a very big hill for WP7 to climb though the announcements around the collection of Xbox Live games that will ship on WP7 bodes well. We need that flywheel of applications to kick in and it you get the network effects of a platform. Like previous platform battles I expect it to be a more drawn out game than many would have you believe right now.

    The second post I read is somewhat related – it’s titled What Apple Can Learn from Xbox Live and really talks about the benefits of building a platform to drive the flywheel of applications. The App Store/iPod/iPhone/iPad combo is clearly a very powerful platform for delivery but this post talks more to creating a platform within your platform – scaffolding if you like. Right now, when you build an “iApp” there are some areas where you need to build your own platform as there is no scaffolding. Scott Lowe points to the lack of a social networking or online gaming capability within the Apple developer environment as an example and points out that Xbox Live and PlayStation Network have this. The uniformity it creates is extremely compelling for a developer, especially if the company is invested in building the network within that platform as both Sony and Microsoft are. Back to the scaffolding analogy, it’s like having each different contractor on a building have to build their own scaffolding to access the building.  As you use each application, you need a different key or login which is akin to needing a different key depending on which door you enter a building by. It makes it very hard to build things like a rewards system too as there is no common currency or ID that can be re-used across applications.

    I don’t know a tonne about developers but it seems that platforms make a lot of sense – they save you having to build stuff from the ground up and literally give you a “leg up”. It leaves me feeling optimistic about Windows Phone 7 and as I wrote this, I thought maybe a real winner here could be Zune. The social capability with Zune is a close cousin of Xbox Live and has some impressive features around recommendations and community. There is a common points system that can be used to buy music or games or new bling for your Avatar. Zune and Xbox Live on WP7 could be a killer combo and for Zune, it may get the broader reach it deserves given the wider reach of phones.

    [update – WP7 doesn’t use points system as noted above, currently uses hard cash]

    Interesting times ahead but will a platform approach be enough to regain ground on Apple? Time will tell.

  • Steve Clayton

    Awaiting the Anna Wintour backlash



    I installed my new Arc Touch Mouse on Friday evening and noticed I still had my Wireless Mouse 5000 connected via a USB hub so decided to check out my device center to see what was showing. I really just wanted to see if the high res image of the Arc Touch Mouse was there – I’m pleased to say it was, sat alongside by other black Microsoft kit.

    In a field of white and aluminium competition, I’m sticking with black. I expect Anna Wintour will be in touch soon to tell me how unfashionable I am.

    [update] I’m impressed by the backlash on my apparent reading of the Daily Mail (aka Daily Doom). Trust me when I tell you it’s close to the last paper I would ready. Just happened that when searching for Anna Wintour and black on Bing, that’s the first link that made sense to use. Honest guv!

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