# Monday, 02 June 2008

Back in September, two classmates convinced me to join them on a crazy quest. Merrill Lynch and our Business School, the City University of New York at Baruch College, sponsors an annual business plan entrepreneurship contest. For a small team, write a business plan and then show how you can execute. The contest started with an elevator pitch and an abstract way back in September and 140 teams entered. Over the months you have to write a business plan and then sell it to judges who act like investors. The judges cutoff more teams as the months progressed and eventually there were 10 left for a final pitch two weeks ago.

By some miracle, my team won! Our concept is all about on-line advertising using a behavioral approach on top of demographic slicing. It is easy to implement and we are going to do so (Watch out Google!) We won a $10,000 cash prize (wow!) as well as $20,000 start-up investment for our business. In today's day and age, with technology so cheap, the Internet so ubiquitous, and overseas resources readily available, we can get to a prototype phase with the $20,000. That is the power of Web 2.5.

The best part of winning was being given the "big check" like when you win the Lotto. We took the big check to the bar with us to celebrate, however, the bartender would not cash it.

 

bigcheck

posted on Monday, 02 June 2008 14:38:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, 30 May 2008

I have two breakout sessions on Wednesday. One on SQL and one on SCRUM. I also have a panel (more on that later.)

Wednesday 8:30am (sorry!)

T-SQL Querying: Tips and Techniques for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and 2008

Take your queries to the next level! This highly technical (no slides), yet entertaining session focuses solely on advanced querying techniques to get the most out of your SQL Server 2005 and SQL 2008 database. See a series of real-world examples to extract data from your databases in ways you've never seen before. Techniques demonstrated include an ultra-fast way to do crosstab queries in SQL Server, running totals,XQuery and ranking. Along the way, get some insight into how SQL Server works.

Wednesday 2:45:

Tech·Ed Daily Scrum!

One of the most popular Agile project management and development methods, Scrum is starting to be adopted at major corporations and on very large projects. After an introduction to the basics of Scrum like: the Scrum Master, team, product owner, and burn down, and of course the daily Scrum, Stephen shows many real-world applications of the methodology drawn from his own experience as a Scrum Master. Negotiating with the business, estimation, and team dynamics are all discussed as well as how to use Scrum in small organizations, large enterprise environments, and consulting environments. Stephen also discusses using Scrum with virtual teams and even an offshoring environment. The session finishes with a large Q&A on best practices.

posted on Friday, 30 May 2008 09:17:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, 28 May 2008

God bless the lawyers. (I never thought I would start a blog post that way.)

The way we buy cell phones in the United States is different than in almost all other major markets. The carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc) control the market. You can only buy a phone through them and with a service plan attached to it. Not only that but the phone manufactures (Nokia, Motorola, etc) have little control as to what features they can put on the carrier's "version" of their phone. For example let's say that Nokia releases the sexy new Nokia 123456 phone. This phone has integrated bluetooth and a cool wifi feature. AT&T will sell you the 123456 phone without the wifi and Sprint may sell it to you without the bluetooth feature. You can't buy the "normal" Nokia 123456 anywhere in the United States, you have to check eBay or travel to Asia or Europe and buy an "unlocked" version (more on that in a minute.)

Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world does it differently. You can buy the Nokia 123456 at a Nokia outlet, a retail shop like Radio Shack or Circuit City, or online. It is unlocked, meaning that you can put in any GSM chip from any service provider. (By contrast US phones are locked, my AT&T phone will only work with my AT&T chip. But I can buy an unlocked European phone and put in my AT&T chip, but AT&T won't support the phone, and they get mad at me when I do this.)

So the rest of the world is free and unlocked. This leads to major consumer choice. Consumers change phones all the time and also change carriers quite often. This forces the carriers to compete on coverage, price, service, network reliability, and features (exclusive MP3 downloads, cheap wall papers, etc.) In Europe there is major innovation both at the phone level (unlocked phones have to compete with other unlocked phones) and on the carrier level. This leads to innovation and more consumer choice.

In the United States, we have no such competition. We have an oligopoly. We have expensive plans, crippled phones, and we are tied to our carrier forever. (I have been with AT&T since 1995 and I hate them!) This also explains why at 16,000' on Mt. Kilimanjaro I had service but can't get coverage on 3rd Avenue and 86th Street in Manhattan, a "dead zone" for AT&T, which is funny since an AT&T store is one block away.

In November 2007, this was promised to change. You were suppose to  be allowed to unlock your phone (funny it was illegal up until then to unlock your phone since it violated an intellectual property law).

So what did the carriers do? Take it all to court.

Good news. People started to sue. (Thank God for lawyers! Wow, I said it again.) Under threat of the lawyers, Verizon and Sprint, have agreed to unlock hones after customers have completed their original contract. (Not perfect, but a start.) AT&T and T-Mobile decided to fight on. They took their case all the way to the California Supreme Court and lost. So they appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Good news. The US Supreme Court yesterday sided with consumers. (All those Reagan and Bush arch-conservatives are good for something!) The court declined to review an October decision by the California Supreme Court that  basically cleared the way for a class action lawsuit that will allow millions of California customers to sue the carriers. (The suits also prompted all the carriers to reduce the fees charged to costumers who terminate a contract before it expires. Thank God for lawyers a third time!)

This does not unlock the phones automatically and change the US market to behave just like the rest of the world. But it is a start. We are free from the control of the carriers. Let freedom ring. Bring on the innovation!

PS iPhone users, you can finally get an unlocked iPhone!

posted on Wednesday, 28 May 2008 11:24:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Tuesday, 27 May 2008

As Bill Gates heads to retirement, he is making one last hurrah as the keynote speaker at TechEd next week in Orlando. I am lucky enough to be invited with 12 of my closest friends to have lunch with Bill after the keynote.

I was told not to ask anything controversial or not to monopolize the conversation (those who know me well will appreciate that one) but since I will be also in attendance with Richard Campbell and Andrew Brust, I will be lucky to even ask Bill how his golf handicap is going. So I have to be strategic. In an hour and a half lunch with 12 people, I can possibly get one good question with a follow up.

What would you ask Bill Gates if you could? Here is what I am thinking, leave in the comments or via email what you think is a better/worse question.

You recently said in Davos that a new style of capitalism may be needed in order to solve the world's problems. You make the case for more corporate social responsibility (CSR), so what is one major problem in the world today that you think is severe (AIDS, global warming, etc) and how can the "creative capitalism" you outlined at Davos solve it. Also would a Microsoft of say, 1980 with revenues of just over $1 million and just hired the first MBA "manager" type (Steve Ballmer) react to this positively (what is in it for MSFT '80)? Isn't "the business of business is business" and wouldn't Steve and Bill in 1980 agree? How do you motivate 1980 Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer to "creative capitalism".

Let me know if you have something better. :)

posted on Tuesday, 27 May 2008 12:09:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Napster just launched a digital music store that is DRM free and has 6 million MP3s to download for $ 0.99. It will not have the proprietary DRM from Apple or Microsoft on it.

"Music fans have spoken and it's clear they need the convenience, ease of use and broad interoperability of the DRM-free MP3 format," said Napster CEO Chris Gorog, "and they want to be able to find both major label artists and independent music all in one place.  Napster is delighted to deliver all of this and more with the world’s largest MP3 catalog."

This is bad news for Apple.  Apple got strong in this business because the record labels wanted DRM on the songs and Steve Jobs gave them one, one that will only work on the iPod. Jobs argued to the labels that in order to make Apple's DRM software, FairPlay, effective, it had to be proprietary. The labels agreed and the iPod was released in October 2001 along with iTunes as the first legal digital music download store. Jobs won't license FairPlay, so all music sold on iTunes can be played only on iPods. This lack of interoperability, combined with the iPod's overwhelming dominance, gives Apple a stranglehold on the digital music marketplace. How big is this stranglehold? 22% of all music sold in 2007 was sold on iTunes.

So the empire strikes back. In July 2007, Universal said it would selectively choose which songs (or albums or artists) were sold on iTunes, rather than granting iTune blanket access to the entire catalog. (This was a major blow to Apple.) In August 2007, Universal announced the plan to offer DRM-free tracks through non-Apple retailers. Amazon and Napster are now selling DRM free music in an attempt to break the stranglehold Apple has with its proprietary system.

Is this the beginning of the end of the iPod? Time for Apple to respond. It would be nice if they licensed FairPlay. Something has to change. it will be fun to see what does.

posted on Tuesday, 20 May 2008 11:19:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Sunday, 18 May 2008

On Monday I will be speaking before representatives of the US House of Representatives about legacy systems. The question is to invest in brand new systems and technology or just to kind of glue together things on top of old systems. The question boils down to one of public policy, should the Congress pass laws mandating this, or should they give some autonomy (and budget to attract some talent) to their in-house IT staffs.

I am working with the Association for Competitive Technology on this issue. We feel that scraping the old and leapfrogging over a generation of technology or two is the best bet. Get some creative destruction on Capital Hill from new IT systems.  Treat the IT departments like a business, not a governmental agency. Give them budgets and goals and have them develop the applications and processes required. A little autonomy can go a long way.

posted on Sunday, 18 May 2008 22:01:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, 15 May 2008

Cable company Comcast acquired Plaxo yesterday for about $150 million. Comcast did for the same reason Microsoft wanted to buy Yahoo, eyeballs. Plaxo has a lot of members, and a popular new feature called Pulse, gives Comcast a toehold in Silicon Valley.

Was this a wise move? Probably not. Plaxo was on the block for a long time and nobody would touch them. Google was rumored for a while, then Facebook. The problem is that Plaxo is not relevant anymore. With the movement this year behind both OpenID and Data Portability, your social grid should be your to manage and in a new environment where profiles, contacts and your data is portable across platforms (Facebook, Yahoo, MySpace, etc), it is the API and applications that matter, not how many contacts you have.

Plaxo will most likely die a quiet death inside of Comcast within a few years. The good news, no more Plaxo spam.

posted on Thursday, 15 May 2008 10:57:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008
WPF Beyond the Basics: Playing Tricks with the Visual Tree

Subject: 
You must register at https://www.clicktoattend.com/invitation.aspx?code=126267 in order to be admitted to the building and attend.
The Visual tree is one of the core concepts of the WPF framework. All things visible in a WPF application are objects from the Visual tree. In this talk I'll give a quick overview of the Visual Tree and then get into interesting ways of manipulating it. We will also look into the styling and templating aspects of visuals. The ideas presented here should be immediately useful to custom-control developers and application developers in general. The session will be very hands-on with cool demos and live coding! The techniques discussed here were used in my blog posts on ElementFlow, GlassWindow, Drag 'n' Drop with attached properties, Genie Effect, etc.

Speaker: 
Pavan Podila
Pavan Podila has worked on a wide variety of UI technologies with current focus on WPF/Silverlight, Flash/Flex and DHTML. He has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Computer Science with specialization in Graphics and Image Processing. He has been working with .Net since 2004 and WPF since 2005. In the past he has worked with Java Swing, Eclipse plugins, AJAX UI frameworks and Trolltech Qt. His primary interests are in 2D/3D Graphics, Data Visualization, UI architecture and computational art. He blogs actively on http://blog.pixelingene.com.

Date: 
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Time: 
Reception 6:00 PM , Program 6:15 PM

Location:  
Microsoft , 1290 Avenue of the Americas (the AXA building - bet. 51st/52nd Sts.) , 6th floor

Directions:
B/D/F/V to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Ctr
1 to 50th St./Bway
N/R/W to 49th St./7th Ave.

posted on Tuesday, 13 May 2008 07:38:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback