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30 posts from June 2006

Is It Really “News” When Microsoft Delays Office Again?

Seriously, isn’t this something we all come to expect? I guess this one hurts a bit more than usual, mostly because it means the “Microsoft Law” I noted earlier needs to be recalibrated a bit.

I know they’ve got to deal with analysts and others who insist on being told when the next release of Windows or Office is going to hit, but is Microsoft ever going to learn not to commit to a release month until they’re 100% sure it’s really going to happen?  After all, they always hedge their bets by saying things like “well, we’re on track for an October release, but we’ll delay it for quality purposes if necessary.” Just be honest and say “we hope to release it in October, but things could easily move to December or later, depending on how this next beta release goes.”

Some folks used to accuse Microsoft of pre-announcing and/or leaking release date information as a way to stunt the growth of a competitive product on the horizon. What? WordPerfect is coming out with a new version? Let’s hurry up and tell the world ours is coming soon too, only ours has these 17 extra features… Even if that was the reason behind some of these early announcements, what products are Microsoft feeling threatened by for Office 2007 and Vista? It used to be that “nobody got fired for choosing IBM.” That’s pretty much the case for Office and Windows today; in fact, making a switch to an Office/Windows alternative is often considered highly risky.

Dear Microsoft: Please stop letting the world kick you around for one delay after another. I respect the fact that each of these products has zillions of lines of source code, loads of interdependencies and has to run on every hardware combination known to man. Be more like Apple and others and don’t speculate so far in advance of the likely release date. Please?

A Couple of Beefs: Bookblaster and Performancing Metrics

Beef #1: Bookblaster. What a goofy idea, not even worthy of a link to them. I didn’t even know about these guys and their publisher/agent spamming service until I saw Matt Wagner’s post about them. Matt’s right. More importantly, is this really how lazy we’ve all become?! Rather than do a bit of research and handpick an agent or publisher to connect with, it’s better to use a spamming service (for $95!) to do it for you? Ugh.

Use the tools that are right at your fingertips! Google phrases like “book publishing agent”, “book publisher”, etc. Visit the websites in the search results. Decide which might be the best to represent or publish your work, then contact them yourself!

Beef #2: Performancing Metrics. I saw a note about their BlogRank service indirectly on Scoble’s blog (it's one of the widgets on Widgetoko). I figured hey, he’s a bright guy, how can I go wrong? I’ll tell you how… I installed their code and then tried to activate their metrics system…once, twice, I don’t know, maybe seven or eight times before I finally gave up. Doesn’t it seem ironic that a service designed to show you website metrics doesn’t have the bandwidth on their own site to handle new customer registrations?…

It’s a LibraryThing

I guess I just violated my own rule…sort of. I came across this very cool service called LibraryThing thanks to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. The headline called it “social networking for bookworms.” I wouldn’t call myself a bookworm, but it’s still a fun (and useful) site to visit.

I just spent the last 15 minutes loading up all the various books I’ve read since I launched my blog. You can see this list at this link. LibraryThing allowed me to add links back to my blog so that I don’t have to repeat all the reviews I’ve already posted. Create an account for yourself and see if you’re not hooked in 5 minutes!

My question: Why in the world doesn’t Amazon offer a service like this?! Yeah, I know…one of the things they tell you on the virtual tour of LibraryThing is that “LibraryThing cares about books, not about SELLING books.” OK, but the LibraryThing concept would still be a nice addition to the Amazon model.

Btw, it's ironic that one of my posts yesterday had to do with Alan Meckler's notion that social networks are dead.  Ha!  This is exactly the type of new and interesting, albeit vertical, social networking application I was talking about.

Behind the Scenes of the Blogosphere

Nora Ganim Barnes of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently published this report on the blogosphere. I was fortunate enough to be one of the 74 bloggers included in her study. I see is already critical of one aspect of her report: the amount of time required to maintain a blog. While I agree that an hour (or less) per day doesn’t sound like much, it does tend to add up over the course of a week. I was one of those who answered “less than an hour” in the survey, although I’ll admit I spend more than that over the weekends.

Regardless, blogging was new to me 18 months ago. How many things can I say I dedicate an hour a day to that I only started doing in the last year? One: blogging. The truth is “an hour a day” is actually a lot of time to give when you’ve got all the other demands in life. I do agree with the note that “if you are spending less than an hour a day on your blog then expect someone else to eventually out-blog you.” I guess my problem is I’m not trying to be #1 – I’m just trying to create an interesting blog

Should Microsoft Buy Yahoo?

Yes! According to this report from Merrill Lynch, Microsoft should bite the bullet and buy Yahoo. I tend to agree. Why?…

Microsoft is outstanding at creating and selling boxed software and site licenses. Why do both of those distribution methods seem so old fashioned all of a sudden? Because they are!

Ray Ozzie has a vision to turn Microsoft into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) organization. He’d probably have better luck playing SuperLotto. The innovator’s dilemma is at work again. There are too many people who are overly focused on protecting Microsoft’s existing licensing and boxed software revenue base to think about risking everything for an SaaS solution.

Buying Yahoo, a company with a solid brand name that really understands the online revenue model, would be a smart move for Microsoft. It almost makes me wish I didn’t unload most of my Microsoft shares a couple of weeks ago…

Alan Meckler Says Social Networking Is Over

Yes, according to this post on Alan’s blog, the social networking phenomenon is over. Huh?! Are you kidding me?! Just because too many entrepreneurs are trying to create a new business plan for this area doesn’t mean the end is near.

My prediction: Social networking sites will continue to evolve and offer far greater services in a year or two than they do now. Just like most industries, 2 or 3 will firmly establish themselves as the leaders and another dozen (or more) will exist on the scraps left behind, with more of a vertical focus. Ultimately though, I see social networking sites as the place to store all your personal information. The key to achieving and maintaining a leadership role in this space won’t be marketing and brand building, but rather creating a rich layer of rights/permissions so that only certain aspects of my personal data store are accessible to other users.

Longer term, this category morphs from a quick way to meet a new business colleague or potential date for Saturday night to one where all your medical information, tax information, etc., is stored. (Yes, the data privacy freaks will have a cow, but they don’t have to participate in this one.) Then, when I need a refill on my allergy medicine, the prescription information is exposed to my preferred online pharmacy for processing. Or, my accountant is easily able to retrieve my tax return from 2003, even though she didn’t create it. The pharmacy can’t get to the tax return and the accountant can’t see the prescription information, but it’s all in one convenient location, easily accessed by web browser, cell phone, etc.

No, social networking isn’t dead. Far from it. Alan just isn’t considering all the opportunities social networking has to become something much more special than it is today. (Unfortunately Alan still hasn’t enabled comments or trackbacks to his blog, so there’s no effective way to tie my comments back to his original post.)

“Content In a Context”

Here’s a very good article which talks generically about content but is very much applicable to book publishing content as well. I’ve pulled some of the more interesting excerpts and added my comments below:

Vignette calls this revolution putting ‘content in a context’, emphasizing the fact that web-based content can be presented in many instances and in many forms, but that it must always be relevant to the person accessing it.

Absolutely. This is very much related to the type of layering approach I’ve been envisioning for a successful e-book platform. In addition to content layering, however, this article points out the need to not only be device independent, but device knowledgeable, so that content is properly delivered most effectively.

We are heading for a situation where successful delivery of multimedia content will become a key business differentiator. The companies that do it well, those that target these new channels effectively, will be the companies that prosper in the future. And it will be those companies that implement content management systems reflecting their unique business model that will benefit most.

Without trying to sound overly pessimistic, I would take this a step further and say that the companies that don’t figure this out are likely to be crushed by those that do. They might own a huge stockpile of content today, but if they don’t catch this next wave that content will become less and less valuable, especially as creators of new content start to view them as “yesterday’s media company.”

However, the way in which this information is presented cannot be the same. Anyone that has had to view content on a mobile device ‘dumped’ from an HTML website will recognize the importance of this.

Amen! Have you ever tried to monitor a baseball game in real time with a cell phone or Blackberry? Mobile ESPN probably does just fine, but I’m not paying a premium for that one!

This is the stage where we can begin to appreciate why some enterprises are not ready to exploit multi-channel content distribution. Whilst they will have undoubtedly considered the need for multi-channel capabilities, they will not have taken away focus from their principle money-making channels, where less-technical customers can use the telephone or even shop at branches. The multi-channel vision may not offer rewards straight away, and some of these channels are still largely unproven.

Hmmmm… Sounds like points I made earlier from Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Whatever happens in the digital evolution there is one constant: we are heading for an explosion in multimedia, multi-channel content on a scale not yet fully realized.

Although it sounds like another one of those overblown predictions from the late 1990’s, I totally agree with this observation.

Clemente, by David Maraniss

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and have been a Pirates fan all my life. The championship seasons of 1971 and 1979 seem like a hundred years ago, but I still have vivid memories of watching Roberto Clemente patrol right field. He was my favorite player and I still have a scrapbook of his highlights somewhere down in my basement.

Clemente David Maraniss did a fantastic job with this book. Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, I read all the accounts of Clemente during some outstanding and less than outstanding seasons. I also read many accounts of the day he died while on a mercy mission to Nicaragua, New Years Eve, 1972. Maraniss left no stone unturned in this one. He covers the entire life of Clemente with great details and quotes from countless teammates. He also offers extensive details of those last few days, including a background on the pilot, flight crew, the plane’s spotty history, etc.

This is a long overdue account of the life of one of the true great men of baseball. In an era when you can’t pick up the paper without reading about the latest player arrest or steroid incident, this is a book that will help you remember why you love the game.

Wildstrom’s Advice for College Freshmen: Go Mac

In this BusinessWeek article by Stephen Wildstrom, he recommends incoming college freshmen buy a Mac rather than a Windows system. He talks about how the Mac OS is a superior platform and that by the time Vista catches up, Apple will have released a new version. Then he talks about hardware options and pricing…

Ah, now he’s stumbled upon one of the key reasons why Apple has always been doomed to a sliver of market share. The cheapest MacBook you can buy retails for $1,099?! Yikes! My daughter is heading off to Purdue this fall (my alma mater, btw) and I just bought her a laptop. I paid all of $699 for a loaded Acer system, including a full Gig of RAM a 100-Gig drive, etc. (Wildstrom mentions how you definitely don’t want to settle for 512Meg of RAM in the Mac systems either, but that’s apparently an upgrade to the already high-priced systems.)

Apple has a cool interface and there are certainly plenty of great applications for their platform. Now that they’ve switched to Intel chips and offer the Boot Camp software to run Windows applications it’s tempting to consider a switch…but anytime I see those high prices I remember why I keep buying new Windows systems every couple of years.