November 28, 2005

NAND in the news

I may be a bit biased, but it’s good to see Idaho making computer news again. The recent announcement by Intel from Santa Clara and Boise-based Micron Technology to form a new company, IM Flash Technologies, is also good news for the computing world. Subject to final agreement, which should be announced by the end of the year, the new company will be focusing on building and distributing NAND technology. IM Flash Technologies, 51% owned by Micron, 49% owned by Intel, has a management team balanced by people from both companies. Apple has already expressed interest in buying a significant percentage of the output, and subject to the agreement, will prepay $250 million each to Intel and Micron.

NAND technology is used in Flash memory and USB Flash cards as well as in MP3 players, cell phones, and other portable devices. The forecasts are that the demand for this new technology will grow, and Intel and Micron’s IM Flash Technologies company will most likely be the best-positioned to take advantage of this growth.

November 15, 2005

It's not in Webster's

They’re out there, and proliferating almost daily.  But doesn’t need dictate supply?  Joe Q. Public must have a need for dictionaries of internet terms, otherwise web sites such as onelook.com, webopedia.com, and netlingo.com wouldn’t exist.  A recent survey revealed that 70% - 90% of average web surfers don’t know what a podcast is, or what people are doing when they’re blogging.  Seems to me that if companies want to sell to the public, then they ought to expend a bit of effort to identify to that same public what the products are that are for sale.  Just a thought.

November 11, 2005

Universal Translator Wanted


It’s been compared to the world’s largest amateur library, but one in which all of the books laying about on the floor rather than neatly shelved.  However, say what you will about the lack of accuracy in Wikipedia concerning various topics, we should all applaud its efforts on behalf of endangered languages.  One brief search under “Languages” and I was able to pull up information and links on over 808 different languages, from Afrikaans to Zuni.  True, some of them were duplicates – Lakota was listed under “L” and also listed as a subset under “Sioux” – but I also found a listing for the currently-under-fire language of Neapolitano, including a brief description and 13 links for more information.  
     Anthropologists and linguists have been fighting a losing battle for years in their efforts to save endangered languages.  As the world moves closer to globalization, individual peoples for the most part have had to learn second or even third languages in order to increase trade opportunities and communication.  The internet itself is contributing to the extermination of languages because even though all of the major languages in the world are represented online, things are being conducted primarily in English.       
Even as different peoples of the world get cozier with each other, they should also be able to celebrate their own uniqueness’ and to that end, Wikipedia is performing an invaluable service.  Viva la Tower of Babel.

Cell Processor Gets SW Boost… and Now to Market

I’ve been following the activities of Power.org for awhile now.  Power.org is the group IBM launched to drive collaborative development around the Power architecture.  You probably know that a Power product, the P5 processor is the base of IBM’s current iSeries, pSeries, and high-end storage architectures.  But another product of the Power architecture is the Cell Processor (officially the Cell Broadband Engine or CBE), co-developed by IBM with Sony Group and Toshiba. That processor is best known for its upcoming role in the next-gen PlayStation from Sony, but it has other uses as well including:

  • future digital TVs from Toshiba,

  • future Cell-powered engineering workstations from IBM and Sony designed to produce digital content for movies, TV shows, and video game,

  • future medical and chip-testing equipment from Mercury Computer Systems in the near term, and in military radar and sonar systems later.

So there are plans for Cell in consumer devices, as well as embedded devices, but naturally for the architecture to really thrive, it needs to be adopted by a broad base of technology developers.  The problem of market adoption is rarely issues with the hardware however, but is usually with the software.  If critical mass of software development doesn’t happen, a perfectly good hardware can languish or slip into a niche.  Additionally, if the development tools are lacking or the OS is too specialized – it just becomes too expensive for ISVs and developers to adapt.  Hence this week’s announcement by IBM and Sony Group is significant.  

In summary, IBM has released new software components and documentation, including software infrastructure extensions to the Linux operating system, compilers, and utilities.  IBM also has an alphaWorks site, where they routinely offer access to new and emerging technologies to developers.  Within that site, they have now created a new section for the Cell processor.

Making this technology available to developers is a critical first step.  The new challenge becomes disseminating the knowledge and building developer excitement around the platform.  Broadly speaking, there are three groups who IBM and its partners need to interest in this technology.  The first group is the ├╝ber-geeks, hard-core programmers and technologists who will take this technology and run with it.  They are actually the easier group for IBM to reach, as this is IBM’s comfort zone.  The second group, is the leading edge of hipster-geeks, the multimedia, gaming, video, crowd that is frequently as much artist as technologist.  They are important because they will lead the coolness must-have end of the market. Many of these guys are also found at the university level too.  Finally there are the mainstream developers for embedded products and other ISVs that are more likely to consider Power as it grows in reputation and market familiarity.  

The question is how does a grassroots collaborative community like Power.org take advantage of marketing?  It can use word-of-mouth, but it’s not like there’s a marketing budget for Power.org as such.  IBM will drive some of the marketing, but there’s a risk in tying Power.org too closely to IBM.  Some of this involves seeding the university market and making Power interesting to future programmers.  It also involves major marketing to the Linux community, as it already markets to all three groups.  Just building and distributing good or great technology is not enough.  Building presence and awareness are the next big challenges to Power.org.


October 11, 2005

Imagine This...

Imagine This: Microsoft Longhorn Getting Power Hungry with iSeries…
As an occupation hazard of sorts, I tend to get on soap boxes and get excited about things in the industry.  Sometimes these are things that vendors are doing.  More often, they are things that vendors aren’t doing that I think should be done.  In this case, I think that two vendors are missing an opportunity that would benefit both companies as well as the mid-market in particular.  IBM and Microsoft are competitors on many fronts, from software to services.  But IBM does sell Microsoft’s Windows operating system on its xSeries and Blade servers and it integrates xSeries servers running the Windows OS on the iSeries to help consolidate workloads.  They do have precedent for working together.

Despite the rocky relationship between the two, I think it is time to practice that awful marketing word “coopetition” and take the relationship to the next level i.e. run 64-bit Windows native on iSeries, by porting Windows Longhorn technology to the Power5 architecture.

For IBM and the iSeries, this is a natural fit.  The iSeries has long been used as a management platform for Windows workloads as well as its indigenous OS, currently i5/OS, Linux, and AIX, IBM’s UNIX.  Power is the dominant 64-bit platform; it certainly sells in greater numbers than the Itanium platform, so it would provide the best 64- bit platform for growth.  The Power architecture is used by many companies – including Microsoft for its new Xbox.  In addition, most iSeries environments also have Microsoft Window servers, and it would make more sense to give customers a point of overlap between the two than to force them to constantly choose between the two.

For Microsoft there is also benefit.  Granted, it will not see the immediate volumes on IBM that it would see on 64-bit extensions.  But that is true of any 64-bit system at this point.  The reason for this is that most applications running on 32-bit Microsoft would have to be ported to the new 64-bit system, and some would have to be seriously rewritten to see benefits.  On the other hand, many iSeries ISVs now offer their applications for both iSeries and Windows, and have the resources in-house to handle the combination.  And other ISVs could be enticed through the joint resources that IBM and Microsoft spends on developers to give them a proposition difficult to resist.

Finally, Microsoft has just announced two products that would be perfect for this new partnership: Centro, its mid-market version of the Windows Longhorn Server and Microsoft Dynamics, a new integrated platform of business applications for mid-market users.  These products are slated to appear in 2007, which would be a good time to introduce 64-bit versions for Power on the iSeries.

So what I’d like to know is what the users think?  For those with iSeries and Windows -- would this help?  For those of you trying to choose between the two – how would this factor in to your decisions?  We’d like to know what you think and why.  And ISVs, what do you think?  If you develop for Windows, would you look at Power?  If you develop for iSeries, would this be a good bet for you?

September 29, 2005

Play Nice: Blu-Ray and HD DVD

OK, we once again see vendors jockeying to drive the de facto standard for the next generation of DVD technology. Now, that Intel and Microsoft have embraced the HD DVD standard, it would be so nice if at least the other computer vendors would agree, however Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung, and Sun, amongst others, are backing BlueRay. This is to say nothing of the movie studios format approval schism. Competition and innovation are wonderful things, but at times, overlooking one’s investment in innovation excellence in favor of the broader marketplace good is essential. Without this, the cost to the marketplace will be high, as it will unnecessarily stymie deployment. Even if others follow Samsung’s announcement that it would ship a dual format reader in case of a standards impasse, this would create a lot of unneeded confusion in the marketplace. Who wants to buy a DVD with the fear that the format could become unsupported in a couple of years? No thanks. Additionally, backwards compatibility must be preserved. DVD players read audio and video CDs, and the next generation must do the same with existing DVDs, and the now quaint CD. At the same time, the shift to digital television will only drive the need for ever higher disc capacity since storing an hour of NTSC, PAL, or SECAM video takes significantly less space than ATSC or other higher definition formats.

However, there may another issue at play that is causing Microsoft and Intel to break from the other PC vendors — home media servers. These two would love people to base their home entertainment systems on a platform that is heavily dependent upon software, processor power, and hard drives. This is in contrast to consumer electronics companies, server centric computer vendors, and many movie production houses that are focused on selling hardware or software (movies and music) in the form of hardware, with scant concern for end user software or manipulation of content. These folks would like to restrict moving or copying content from a DVD whereas Microsoft insists on the portability of movies on to a hard drive, preferably one in a media center. Microsoft and Intel would also like to sell software and hardware upgrades that allow people to edit and produce their own digital content, whereas movie distributors may see this simply as a smokescreen for copyright infringement and piracy. While both sides have valid arguments as to their claimed superiority and flexibility, they simply must agree to come together and present a unified front to the marketplace. If they do not, the cost and opportunities lost to the industry will be substantial, and set back this advancement by moths or even years, not unlike the unnecessarily slow deployment of HDTV.

September 28, 2005

Google: Noun or Verb?

One of the goals of any business is to have their company or product become a household name. It is invaluable when people start associating a particular brand name with a product or activity. However, a potentially damaging line sometimes is crossed when a brand name transforms into a generic noun, or even worse, a verb.

Jell-O, Q-Tip, Kleenex, Scotch Tape, Ziploc, and Jeep, amongst others, all know about being victims of their own success. When was the last time someone said, “Please pass the facial tissues?” When the generic usage supersedes the branded experience, the company can easily become lost in the competitive shuffle. Xerox and Hoover have fought battles over their brands becoming generic terms for activities. Likewise, in the condiments aisle, there are quite a few bottles of “catsup” but there is only one Heinz Ketchup. Now Google is facing the same danger of becoming a generic term for Internet searching. Who among us hasn’t used the phrase, “I’ll google that and see what I can find,” even though we might be using MSN search? “Googling” has become a verb in Internet’s lexicon. While catsup is sitting on the shelf next to Ketchup, and therefore benefits from its proximity, Google’s searches are not available at MSN, so it doesn’t benefit from someone “googling” their new professor at MSN.

So what can be done? Sanctioning everyone that misuses a brand name as a verb is an impossible task, so perhaps brand reinforcement is the only logical course. Xerox once launched an ad campaign reminding people that only Xerox copiers can “Xerox” something; all other copiers only copy; yet the name of Xerox is still a household word and firmly entrenched in people’s minds. This sort of campaign may be advisable for Google, provided it can make that campaign positive, even funny.

The Case for yet another Blog?

Technology is a wonderful thing! Where else can one relish the thought of acquiring the latest and greatest new toy, research its features and price (using other technology), purchase it, and then watch with horror as the price drops 30% a week later and a new leapfrogging replacement hit the streets shortly thereafter? In the years that we have been following, and -- I would argue shamelessly -- often leading the technology curve, the market has continued to shift, with one upstart outsmarting another (at least temporarily) following by a competitive rebound, and the endless mostly virtuous cycle of innovation and competition. Remember the good old days without video camera mobile radio phones with GPS, laptop computers, the Internet (no annoying email from the office!), and telephones that were so expensive to use no one would dare call? Well, those days are gone forever, and actually, that is OK.

Today we are more 24/7 than ever, the half-life of information continues to shrink, and there is a strange, yet oddly beautiful movement at foot, namely Open Source. Rather quickly, this mindset has taken hold in many places IT whereby community contribution, multi-faceted participation, and a new attitude about what is and what is not proprietary, value-add, or trade secret has emerged. As a group of folks who comment about this and other matters IT, it is high time that eat some of our own dog food. Thus, we are announcing the Sageza Blog. Oh no, you may be thinking, the last thing the world needs is another blog from some group of people who think they know it all. We would like to counter that thought.

In this blog, we plan to capture the great ah-ha's, brain farts, or simple counterintuitive silliness that we find so often plaguing our beloved IT industry. Here you will read off-the-cuff, of-the-moment ramblings from us about important issues and trends. We are not going to pretend that we will present fully thought through diatribes, but rather expose some of that leading-edge thought that is seeping under our skin, just waiting to leap out on the unsuspecting. But this alone won't be enough: we view this blog as our Open Source contribution to the community. Read our thoughts, challenge our thoughts, comment on our thoughts, agree/disagree with us, and call us the craziest bunch of idiots you have ever met, but please be sure to spell our name correctly. We will pull some tidbits from our syndicated works and at other times share some things exclusively here.

Regardless of where the ideas and impending discussion originate, we hope that our efforts will stimulate your thinking, make you smile/laugh, or at least annoy you enough that you will keep commenting and coming back for more. At a minimum, we will guarantee that if you print out our blog, it will be as suitable for wrapping dead fish as any pristine condition Alfred E Neuman "What me worry?" poster.

So then, get this thing rolling and have some fun. We look forward to your comments, and oh, please be sure to tell your friends, link to our pages, and send us a nice box of cookies at Christmastime. Cheers!