5 Marketing Websites you shouldn’t miss

Today’s specials are …

  1. The agile designers website:a great place for Web designers, developers and anyone interested in finding design stuff for one’s website. The site boasts 1302 resources but I haven’t checked the number.

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  1. Ads of the World and this amazingly beautiful and arty “heaven and hell” Samsonite Ad

 

  1. Pure genius: this LinkedIn Resume builder which, obviously, picks up information from your LinkedIn profile and builds an automatic resume effortlessly!

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  1. Lifehacker which delivers plenty of tips and tricks for tech users like this great selection of the best iPad covers!

Five Best iPad Cases

  1. Lastly, Kissmetrics delivers great tips for you to use Twitter in order to spy on your competitors. Now you know why the company was valued at that level!

Ballmer “everywhere I go I see paper and pencils; there is still room for innovation” #ebg

BallmerI attended an EBG (Electronic Business Group, an influential French e-business Think-Tank) conference on Nov 8 in Paris, at which Steve Ballmer was speaking. It has taken a while to process my notes but here they are at last, sometimes answering my questions about the future of Microsoft, sometimes not. However, undoubtedly, Ballmer has managed to captivate the massive audience in the small theatre room of the Espace Pierre Cardin at the Heart of Paris, France. Ballmer was interviewed by EBG’s founder and Secretary General, Pierre Reboul. Steve Ballmer is also a member of the board of directors of EBG.

There has been a great deal of questions asked about the future of Microsoft lately, with regard to their apparent inability to cope with the mobile market (even by Gates’s own admission). However, it would be wrong to think that Microsoft has lost the War even though it may have lost a few battles. As a matter of fact, the software giant from Redmond, Wash. is still very strong in many areas, including Business Cloud, enterprise collaboration (more than 70% market share with SharePoint, not to mention yammer), home gaming with the very successful Xbox platform, and of course, Microsoft office which is, like it or not, still broadly used, despite a flurry of free more or less open source office suites which are available from the Internet. Yet, Microsoft’s business models are challenged, Office is slowly turning into a pay per use model with Office 365 and Windows 8 is just about coming back to life after a much awaited 8.1 facelift a couple of weeks ago. So where is Microsoft headed? That is the question. Let us see what Steve Ballmer, the current CEO who is soon to retire, has to say about this, even though he has managed to evade quite a few questions…

Right after the introduction , Steve Ballmer answered a question about the newly released surface 2 tablet. “Surface 2, is the evidence that Microsoft is moving from regular PCs to becoming a device company” Steve Ballmer explained, therefore confirming the impression is that many analysts had had, after the announcement of the purchase of Nokia, or rather as part of Nokia as Mr Ballmer explained a few moments later.

Does that mean that Microsoft is going to stop working with OEMs? “I would say something different” Ballmer said. “We continue to work with OEMs, but we will produce more devices”. Microsoft is definitely choosing a different path from Apple, its model seems to be far more akin to Google’s, even though its business model is a lot different.

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Ballmer with EBG’s Reboul on stage in Paris Continue reading “Ballmer “everywhere I go I see paper and pencils; there is still room for innovation” #ebg”

A Free Yet Legal Copy of Microsoft Office on Your Tablet With Cloudon

Let’s make the most of the summer with a bit of light reading and what I would call the application of the week: cloudon. I have selected a number of applications which I find particularly good or changed my way of working, or of entertaining myself, unless it’s both. This week, I will dwell on the cloud on iPad application, which I find really extraordinary, and I really wonder whether these guys are making money out of this and how. Is this the latest mystery of the new economy?

We will start with a visit to the application website in order to confirm that the application is available both for android and iOS. The application is available for both iPhones and iPads, and I will focus on the iPad version here in this blog post.

Step number 1: once the location has been installed, fire it up. First and foremost you will have to fine-tune the settings so they have access to your online cloud discs: four spaces are available with cloud on, which you can use concurrently. As far as I’m concerned, I have set up Google drive and Skydrive (by Microsoft’s, by far my preferred, because I was one of the first users, so that I have access to 25 GB free of charge). I left dropbox and box on the side for the moment by can you back to it later and at them to my final if I so wish. All that is needed to complete this setup is to let cloud on access your online disc by clicking the button “authorise”.

Step number 2: once your online disc has been selected (here I chose Skydrive), the folder structure of your disk is then displayed to you, and you can choose the list or icon formats from the top menu.

Step number 3: Once I’ve changed the display to icon mode which I find more convenient, I can then select the folder in which I have stored all the draft pieces for my blog. I call it “blog posts”.

Step number 4: I then select the relevant blog piece in word format. I can see on the screen but it was last changed on 24 June at 7:39 AM.

Step number 5: once you’ve clicked on the right file, it is then downloaded from the Internet. It is subsequently displayed, see the following screen grab, directly on my tablet into a Microsoft word window, more or less identical to the one I have on my PC (in fact it is a simplified version of Microsoft Word 2010, similar to the one you can find Skydrive itself). The greatest weaknesses that I spot in this application, is in my minde the relative slowness of download of the file (even more so if the file is really big like the entirety of our forthcoming book typescript for instance). My hunch is that we will see performance improving significantly within the next few months if this kind of applications remain in the future. As a matter of fact, what we are witnessing here is more than just another application but the implementation of something which I have described many times on this blog, which is called “ubiquitous computing” and was invented, I mean the concept, by the late Mark Weiser in the late 1980s. The missing link though is connectivity, as always, even though enormous headway has been made in the past few years. My guess is that it will take another 2 to 3 years, maybe 5, before we enjoy seamless connectivity coverage, with the kind of comfort that I experience while sitting behind my PC, connected via Ethernet on my 100 Mbs fibre access.

Step number 6: I can then write directly into the file which is editable in real time ; in order to prove this I have underlined a word by clicking at length on it, which triggered the contextual Microsoft menu which everybody knows. This the tablet equivalent to the right click of the mouse on a computer

Step number 7: then click the icon on the top bar which represents a compass on the top right-hand side of the screen, and this will open the menu which will make it possible for you to create a new file: either a spreadsheet (maybe not the most convenient type of file for tablets), a wordprocessing Word document, or a PowerPoint presentation. I decide to choose the latter…

Step number 8:  I then rename this new file which will be saved directly  in the original folder.

Step number 9:  an empty PowerPoint file will then be opened , which I will be able to populate exactly as if I were on my computer,  with a simplified version of PowerPoint 2010. This is a simplified version,  but yet, it is very usable, and it caters for basic Microsoft templates for instance. in order to create a presentation with a personalised template, I recommend that you use a presentation which you have created beforehand (with no content preferably ) in order to make the most of all the available screen layouts. This will save you a lot of time and will make it unnecessary for you to spend hours twiddling page templates on the tablet which is not very convenient.  You can then focus on adding text but also clipart, images, video etc. It is in fact very easy for you to modify an existing PowerPoint presentation and even create one directly from the tablet, and then synchronise the file directly on your computer , or vice versa.  I remind you that, with Skydrive, you do not need to own a local version of Microsoft PowerPoint, because it is available online too. Personally, being a teacher and benefiting from the special teacher/student price for Microsoft Office, I still think that owning a local Microsoft license is preferable.

Beyond the fact that this application is nice and convenient and mostly free of charge, one may ask oneself a few questions. On the one hand, what will be the business model of Microsoft in the next few years ? I could actually bet on the fact that access to software will be increasingly “cloudified”, namely from the moment that connectivity is really improved and made seamless and ubiquitous. from then on, I really wonder whether software which you either install or download is a model which will survive for very long .  This, however , is the model on which Microsoft thrived for so many years. Besides,  I really have a few questions about the business model of cloudon itself; I mean beyond its potential acquisition by Microsoft one day.

I also found it very strange that cloudon has had little coverage on the Web since 2012 , even though a great number of downloads have already been  performed  by users . I would be surprised if the Palo Alto company decided to remain silent , and maybe one day , what Geoffrey Moore calls the early majority will catch up with the “visionaries , dreamers and doers”. Wired pointed out  rightfully  that  the application’s limits came from the fact that the data was stored on the cloud, which rendered the display a little blurry but usable anyhow. this is a valid remark, but I couldn’t find that problem with PowerPoint, which I found to be the most useful application of the three.

There are a few limits with regard to the use of this application in presentation mode, but in our case I would recommend a more specialised application which I will describe in a forthcoming blog post.  As Wired pointed out, it is still very difficult to use such applications in order to create a presentation from scratch and the use of cloud on is , probably for today, limited to minor edits.

My hunch is that the self-proclaimed “visionaries” of Palo Alto shall not be deterred.

Time will tell…

Engine Yard’s Dillon: “a private cloud is an oxymoron”

As I was in San Francisco today, I managed to squeeze into a meeting with some of my former partners of the IT press tour organised by my friend Philippe Nicolas. Today we visited Engine Yard, a new player at the forefront of the implementation of platforms as a service (PaaS, i.e. the infrastructure side of cloud computing) for start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. Engine Yard’s CEO, John Dillon (our photo), shared his thoughts with us on the future of cloud computing with a panel of international journalists.

“The most important change in IT since the invention of the PC!”

John Dillon started his visionary presentation with a very straightforward statement: “Cloud’s the most important change to the way we do computing since the invention of the PC” which address the points made by many of the detractors of cloud technology in the past few years. “All revolutions in IT start with listening to the user and what works is what starts small, in a trial and error sort of way, and then deciding what really works” he went on. “The cloud is scary is disruptive” he said but “it has the possibility to change the landscape for ever, and we are part of that change”

Describing himself lucky, Dillon said they had built a marketplace for the cloud and that they have two kinds of customers:

  • on the one hand, 2.0 start-ups who are looking to be the next Facebook. Dillon went on saying Engine Yard has 2,500 customers in 58 countries although they barely leave San Francisco. They can help our clients with the technology, but not with their business models.
  • Engine Yard’s other clients are Fortune 500 customers but it’s not about core IT, it’s about experimentation and innovation: and it’s working.

“We are very early with the cloud” John Dillon added, but “Corp IT are still trying to figure out what it means but most of the innovation is happening at the fringe, with systems that couldn’t be done 5-10 years ago” and “if it doesn’t work you can throw it away because it doesn’t cost much money” he commented. Most business executives who want to innovate turn to IT and that’s because of  the cloud. the impact will be profound and substantial. The pattern that the cloud is following is similar to past successful innovations I have witnessed in the past. “Big IT shops are nervous about the future” he said provocatively and with passion, “but the change will come and we’ll have to be smart and not tear up the current systems that work”. CIOs beware, “the tsunami is coming” he even added. Not surprising they are reluctant to jump on the bandwagon …

evolution or revolution

It is often asked whether cloud computing is an evolution or a revolution. Dillon’s answer is loud and clear: “If it’s evolution and it’s very fast, sometimes it means that things get broken. The consumerisation of the cloud is happening everywhere and some will see it as revolution, others as evolution. Some IT executives are very positive and embrace the change rather than fight it. A whole bunch of customers 1 mile from here are doing very crazy things [by that he meant Silicon Valley start-ups] but “most of the business done with cloud will eventually come from big businesses”.

IT departments are not liked

But there is one think anyone who has worked more than one week for a large company knows, and that’s the fact that “everybody hates the IT department” and Engine Yard’s CEO thinks that this is also the reason behind this (r)evolution: “users are fed up of asking for new things and IT departments answering either that you can’t have it or that you will have it next year” he added.

To him, a good IT department should say: “we should do something about it and use the new tools”. “A powerful IT department is one that is at the service of their users and shift more investment into innovation from 20% to 30% or even more” he concluded.

A statement no IT user would disagree with.

a private cloud is an oxymoron

But the other problem with cloud computing is the “old sheep in new clothes” syndrome, which we described lately in an interview with a Sugar CRM executive.

“If you a re building a private cloud, you are just shifting the budget from one department to another and it’s only a way for the IT department to survive”. he bluntly described.

However, Dillon is no IT department hater, he is merely trying to wake them up to innovation. “We are planning to become a very strong partner of IT departments in large enterprises” he said, “but they won’t buy anything now, it’s too soon; within 5 years from now, they will!”

The cloud is a paradigm shift

“When there’s a paradigm shift, legacy start denying it, then they try to highjack the idea (stating things like ‘the cloud is just like it used to look’) and eventually, changes will come”. “Some big IT vendors will make the transition, but the sales model familiar to big IT vendors in which you sell very expensive proprietary products, very complex and with add-on prices so high that the sales person can buy a new BMW will go!

This is the same thing that Dillon experienced whilst he was working with Salesforce. “10 years ago he said, CIOs wouldn’t want to talk to us, now they all do!” Having said that, cloud computing will not solve integration issues, and this is where IT departments will have an important role to play.

[photos, cc, 2012 by Yann Gourvennec http://bit.ly/picasayann]

a look into Isilon’s “plug and play” approach to storage

Our second presentation at Isilon’s headquarters was dedicated to a closer look into Isilon’s solution and the visit of its lab.Brett Hestsel, VP of engineering gave us a more detailed presentation of Isilon’s distributed storage architecture. Brett has been with Isilon for 3 years, after working 10 years at DEC and various other high tech companies and has been in the industry for 30 years. Brett said that this is the first time in his carreer that clients come to him and tell him: ”I love your product, you made me save a lot of money!”

The real secret at Isilon is in the software, Brett explained, and the Isilon operation software is named OneFS (click here for a detailed explanation of how OneFS works). With Isilon, the whole storage is managed by software and the data is distributed across different discs within a node (aka storage server). The end result is that each node only has part of the files so that if a disc fails, all the other discs (typically 120 of them per cluster) will rebuild the data or part of the data from all the other information available from the other discs. Because there are no spare discs and all is managed via software, availability rates are much higher than more traditional storage technologies, Brett said in his presentation.

a visit to the Isilon Seattle Lab

We were also able to visit the Isilon lab (see Web photo album per below) with Xavier Guérin, regional manager for Southern Europe & Benelux.

In this lab, Isilon engineers are carrying tests on OneFS, benchmarking their solutions vs. those of competitors, testing Quality of Service (Q.O.S) and system functionality and reliability. Customers can also come to the lab and test how their applications are running in order to figure out how they run on Isilon’s storage servers.

a plug and play approach

Xavier explained that Isilon’s differentiator is that the company started from a blank sheet and didn’t have to be burdened with the existing technology and its limitations. This is has made it possible for Isilon to reinvent data storage and the way it’s managed with its distributed architecture. “Isilon applied the principles of grid computing to storage” Xavier said and this is how it works.

Each of the nodes (that is to say each rack that Xavier is pointing to in the above picture) incorporates a number of discs (typically from 12 to 36 discs) and are built in a “plug and play” fashion. This means that a rack can be added or pulled off seamlessly. “kill a node and the data will reconstruct itself across the different other nodes and disks” Xavier said. This is what makes this solution different.

a great variety of clients and industries using Isilon

The media and especially the 3D cartoon movie industry – Walt Disney namely – is relying heavily on this technology to improve performance and cost-effectiveness. Other clients include the Broad institute (life science research institute), Stratscale hosting services, Facebook , Dailymotion.com (a French contender to YouTube), Peugeot (using Isilon for crash tests), CNG (part of French nuclear research body ‘CEA’) and STMicro electronics as well as the Orange group itself (on servers operated by Orange multimedia business services, a department of Orange Business Services, on their premises)

the album of our visit to the Seattle Isilon lab