Category Archives: Tech

I picked up a Microsoft Surface RT, as I’m trying to extract myself from the Apple ecosystem. I’m discovering it’s difficult to traverse the different OSs out there, but I’m trying very hard to use an iPhone with my Google Calendar and Contacts and a Surface RT.

In fact, I thought the Surface RT would be the perfect device for South by Southwest next week. I was excited about the Surface.

I was wrong.

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CC-BY-SA, Alexander Drachmann via Flickr

In the time that I’ve owned the RT, I’ve been nothing if not frustrated. First off, Google withdrew support for ActiveSync back on Jan 30. I didn’t realize that when setting up my accounts. The RT/Win 8 still asks if I want to sync my email, calendar and contacts. It turns out that trying to sync calendar and contacts just blows everything up. However, it can sync my many Gmail accounts – just without calendar and contacts.

In order to add the contacts, I had to add them to my Microsoft account via live.com. It was sort of a pain, but you know what? It worked. I don’t know if those contacts will sync or not.

Next I tried the calendar. That was a no-go. Since Google isn’t using Microsoft’s ActiveSync format anymore, I can’t add it. Of course, the RT still gives me the option to add a Google calendar – it just won’t work. Thanks Google.

But my real beef is with Microsoft. CalDAV is an open standard for calendars, as CardDAV is for contacts. Google does use these standards. More importantly, so does my company. I work Electronic Cigarettes for a Really Large Enterprise Company. Seriously large. We don’t use Exchange for our calendars, email, and contacts. We use open standards. For calendars, we use CalDAV.

Microsoft DOES NOT SUPPORT CalDAV (or CardDAV). This boggles my mind. A couple hours worth of researching the problem gets me nowhere other than “MS might start offering the support with no timeline”. Other suggestions include “Migrate everything to Outlook!” Well, people, it’s my Work stuff, not personal, and it’s not on Google. My office uses open standards. Migrating is not an option. There are also no third party apps to correct this. It’s simply a non-starter.

One of the great things about the Surface RT is its seeming ability to enable productivity. I don’t find my iPad productive. It is primarily an entertainment device, but never am I popping open work documents on it. But I can, at least, open my work calendar and contacts. With the Surface, I looked forward to making notations in PowerPoint or whipping out Word docs in locations where I didn’t want to lug a PC. But if I can’t even access my work calendar or contacts, that changes everything.

Microsoft, I think you’ve got a great product and your one-OS-across-devices is a great strategy. However issues like this – not supporting an open standard such as CalDAV – will hinder your ability to thrive in both consumer markets (almost everyone has a Google calendar) and the enterprise. Many of us are looking for one device that allows us entry into both worlds.

I hate to say it, but as soon as I return from SxSW, I’m returning the Surface. Sorry Microsoft!

Ah, Facebook. No other company so exemplifies the adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Back in May, Facebook rolled out an option to promote your own posts for around $7 or so, depending on geographic area and reach. I can see the point of this – if you’re raising money for a charity or have a lost puppy, you want more people to see that post. Of course, you can also use it to promote your more inane posts, such as “Decided to buy a different brand of toothpaste” or some such thing.

Now Facebook is upping the ante. According to TechCrunch, soon you’ll be able to pay to promote your friends’ posts, and you don’t even need their permission. Once again, this is great for the well meaning amongst us. If Joe is running in a marathon to raise money for cancer, I can promote his post to help support and publicize his cause to a larger number of people (his friends + possibly my friends). If Mary lost her puppy, I can promote that post so that possibly more people can be on the lookout for Rover.

TechCrunch cites stats that say only around 16% of people see any given status update or post on Facebook. Basically, if you’re not looking at Facebook when someone posts  a new tidbit, chances are you’ll probably miss it all together. Promoted posts push selected posts to the top, guaranteeing more people will see them.

Promoting a friend’s post will still Electronic Cigarette adhere to privacy standards. Sort of. For instance, if Joe posted his marathon information to just his friends, and I promote that post, it is still see by only Joe’s friends. Hopefully just more than 16% of them.

If Mary posted that Rover was missing and the post was public, I could promote that and the post is still public – my friends, her friends, and anyone else could look at that post.

This sounds great in theory, but I can see where it could go horribly wrong. Not too long ago I wrote a private blog post. However, my blog software automatically shared it out to Facebook and Twitter, where I had to scramble to delete it (and modify those blog settings). Someone with less than good intentions at heart could have grabbed that post and promoted it. Ouch. Don’t want that to happen. Aside from that, people are cross-posting from other sites to Facebook all the time. In a lot of cases, people might not even be aware their FourSquare status is on Facebook. Maybe they don’t want that information promoted.

As far as I can tell, there’s no label on the promoted post saying “promoted by friend”, also giving the post the possibility to look rather self aggrandizing.

I’m not sure about this new feature. Hopefully it will just fall by the wayside as one of Facebook’s more risky ideas. If not, I guess we’re about to welcome in the era of promoting posts for someone else.

The days of hanging up on those pesky debt collectors may be coming to an end. Some debt collection agencies are now harnessing the power of Big Data to take a scientific approach to profiling those who are more likely to pay up, and then working with them to get the debt paid. Using analytics and applying algorithms to filter through the “water hose” of deadbeats to get to the few that are willing to pay will bring a bigger return for companies trying to recover their cash. This will nipple pokies galleries allow collectors to focus on a more positive approach as well by enabling more “self-service debt repayment” through customized re-payment plans that are workable for those who really want to pay their debts. Big Data’s promise in this space requires a new set of skills though: it’s not about being a database administrator. It’s about being able to analyze data and hash algorithms. Expect debt collectors to start hiring scientists very soon. A scientific approach to getting you to pay your past-due Visa card is the wave of the near-future.

Starting yesterday, if you have an Amex card, you can now tweet to buy products. Amex has teamed with Twitter to launch the first “pay by tweet” service. Amex cardholders simply send a short message with a hashtag to make a purchase. Out of the gate, Amex offered a $25 American Express gift card for only $15 if cardholders would register their card and then send a tweet with the #BuyAmexGiftCard25 hashtag. It took me just two minutes to register my card, and then seconds after sending the tweet, @AmexSync tweeted me to confirm with a follow-up tweet, and then no fax no direct deposit payday loans my gift card was purchased.

Coming next, synced cardholders will be able to accept offers from merchants by tweeting the hashtag in the offer. If I get an offer from Target that digital cameras are on sale, I could simply tweet the hashtag #BuyDigitalCameraTarget, for example.

The big question is — will consumers feel comfortable making purchases this way? Will they be more inclined to make “smaller” purchases using “pay by tweet”? What are the security issues? It’s good for Twitter to team with Amex first, since their trustworthiness is high with consumers, but are their cardholders early adopter types?

The tech community has been mostly unified in semi-harsh criticism of Microsoft’s Surface hardware. It’s like schoolyard bullies going after the geeky kid that stands by himself on the playground, thick glasses, and button-down shirt, twiddling his thumbs as everyone else plays sports (I know what it’s like — I was a geeky kid like that). Bloggers have been commenting about the seemingly deficient battery life, the weight, the size, and the cognitive dissonance of going back and forth from the Modern UI to the classic desktop. On top of that, many have been bloviating about how the “Surface is no iPad killer.”

Let me stand apart from the fray and discuss why I think the Surface devices are forging a completely new paradigm shift for computing.

When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, they ushered in the “tablet era” and revolutionized mobile computing. Although people have been moving to laptops and away from desktop computers for quite some time, in one fell swoop the iPad sped up the move away from being tethered to a desktop. Combined with the App Store, Apple made mobile computing and the cloud real for the masses. In my opinion, the iPad represented the first real example of how mobile computing and cloud technology combine to provide an experience of how people really want to connect with devices and each other. I knew something big was afoot when I was in a mall watching an older gentleman swiping through screens on his iPad. In one device, Apple captured how most people want to interact with technology.

Humans are funny creatures, however. They will naturally try to evolve their own perceptions of what a device means to them and try to make it adapt to their environment, needs and desires. People love the “lean-back” experience of consuming content on the iPad. But many wanted it to do more — they want productivity apps. They want to work with it. They want to always BE with it and make it an integral part of their lives. Many already do this with their smartphones. Inevitably, developers starting building apps to unleash the power of productivity on the iPad.

The app world has moved fast. Developers are innovating at lightning speed. Much faster than Apple’s UI and OS developers can keep up. Supporting two devices that are selling faster than  Chinese kids can screw them together, combined with updating the OS and the built-in apps to keep up with how people are using them, has kept Apple on the edge of its capabilities. Compromises are made. The fragmentation of its operating systems are starting to show. The rough edges are exposed. The “old-school” textured backgrounds in iOS, the debacle of Maps, the bandwidth leaks, and so on show a company splitting at the seams with its strategy as it tries to stay the dominant player in the market.

Along comes Microsoft with a different perspective of how Buy Viagra an operating system should support its users. Instead of two OS’s and a fragmentation between devices, Microsoft builds a new OS to blend the lean-back experience with the desktop experience and give the user control over how to interact with their device. They decide to build their own hardware to control the experience. They fundamentally provide a different perspective on what a “tablet” computing experience represents. Enabling the lean-back (what I call the “entertainment mode”) with the “productivity mode” in a form factor that supports both touch and input devices tells the world they’re not going to dictate how their users should interact with the device. In one operating system, Microsoft is saying, “you can traverse between your tablet, your laptop and the Xbox and determine how you want to interact with the device in a seamless fashion, picking up where you left off.” A completely different approach than Apple, which has a disturbingly complex and confusing cloud strategy, a stretched-to-the-max hardware strategy. It seems like Apple’s current strategy is to tack on a few “blingies” to the existing line and host a new launch party. (See the convoluted iPad product family as an example.)

The Surface Pro sold out at Microsoft's Palo Alto retail store today.

Then there is the contrast between the user interfaces. Microsoft’s Modern UI is nimble, flexible, and approachable. iOS is still trying to shake off the legacy of the Jobsian look-and-feel, which is to try and be cute and clever with “real-world” textures and metaphors to physical objects. Firing Forstall was necessary, but Apple is years away from where Microsoft is already. Windows 8 begs you to touch. It wants you to interact with it. I’m tired of fumbling around iOS, falling into holes where the way I use my device is just not well thought out.

Having said all this: The Surface devices, in my opinion, represent how I will interact with my mobile device. When I want to consume content, it provides me a quick, snappy way to engage. It supports an app store experience like any other device. When I need to be productive and “get things done” I have the perfect interface in which to focus on work. I don’t have to try and make the OS work for me and accept compromises (I mean, just try to get Pages to really WORK on iOS — and many features on iPad’s version of Pages are different than OS X’s version).

Bloggers are beating Microsoft up, but history will show it has the right strategy. The Surface devices are representative of how humans want to interact. Sure, battery life will get better, the devices will get thinner. This is version 1, folks. Right now, Apple is the schoolyard bully, throwing it’s punches — but I’d rather be Microsoft right now: the geeky kid with the pocket protector, holding the key to “getting the girl”.