# Wednesday, 07 July 2010

Companies that had market dominance always had a golden era: a time when everything went right, market share did nothing but grow, its stock soared, and the company had nothing but awesome coverage in the media. The first half of the last decade belonged to Google and the second half obviously belonged to Apple. That said, Apple’s golden era is now over.

While Apple is still strong and selling well, it is no longer the darling of the media. In the past it was taboo to knock on Apple in the media. Now that line has been crossed and there is no going back.  Microsoft lost the media in the late 90s with the IE fight and anti-trust battle, Google lost its halo with its on again, off again do no evil in China policy over the past few years. This year Apple seems to have stumbled with the kicking down the doors of a journalist’s source demanding the lost iPhone back.  Someone should remind Steve Jobs that an attack on one journalist is an attack on them all and that some journalists went to jail to protect a source just a few years ago under a Bush administration crackdown. If journalists are willing to stand up to the full force of the US Federal Government, they will stand up to Steve Jobs.

This led to bad blood with the media and the media jumped on the iPhone 4.0 antenna problem with glee. Business week even mocked Steve Jobs’ claim that the iPhone 4 was the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. Remember Jon Stewart’s AppHoles? The rock star treatment of Apple in the media is over.   That will make Apple spend more time and energy on its image. (Something it is good at, BTW.)

The media is not the only reason why Apple’s golden era is over. The second reason is the government. Last summer’s blocking of Google Voice by the AppStore led to the first threat of FCC and DOJ investigations. Now there are grumblings in Washington DC about more investigations (which I don’t think are necessary, but obviously the government has less important things to do.) Once DC opens up a case, expect the EU to follow suit. Government investigations and suits distract companies and they never fully recover. Just ask IBM and Microsoft. Apple will not only be distracted by these potential governmental probes, but will also have to devote more resources to its legal and government affairs issues, resources that should be going to products.

The third reason why the golden ear is over is increased competition and the “second mover advantage”. Apple was the first mover in the uber cool app driven web integrated smart phone category: they created a new category and reaped the rewards for years in both market share and mindshare. As with all first movers, Apple spent a lot of time and money educating the consumer base, telling them that they want this new product category. As what always happens with a new category, second movers then come in and free ride on that education and offer similar and sometimes superior products. The second movers get the second mover advantage and start to eat away at the first mover’s margins and market share. This is what is happening with Google’s Android. Android is growing faster than the iPhone and overtook the iPhone’s market share in the United States for smart phones in the first quarter of this year. A year ago Android was a rounding error, now it is a dominate player and formidable competitor to Apple. Second mover advantage at work.

I also won’t count out Microsoft. While I am not confident that they can create a better offering than the iPhone or Android out of the gate, they are masters at the second mover advantage game. (Remember how the Mac created the PC revolution, Netscape created the Internet revolution, etc.) Microsoft is flush with cash coming off its 150 million Windows 7 sales this year and motivated. Apple will face massive competition in the form of two tech industry giants: Google and Microsoft. In addition you can’t expect Samsung’s Galaxy, RIM/Blackberry and Nokia to roll over and die either. So five giants on Apple’s heels, as well as any startups that emerge.

Don’t get me wrong, Apple will still be strong and successful. The golden age is just over. Welcome to the rest of us Apple.

posted on Wednesday, 07 July 2010 08:02:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3] Trackback
# Tuesday, 06 July 2010

I recently read Essential C# 4.0 by Mark Michaelis and highly recommend it.

This is a book about the fundamentals and advanced features of the C# language. Mark does a great job laying out the concepts in a clear and concise way, with great examples and engaging prose. If you are new to C# you should make this the first book you read and read it cover to cover. If you are an advanced programmer, or even an old timer like me who has been using C# for 10 years since the beta, reading it will make you a better programmer.

The book is not just a rehash of the user manuals and new features of C# 4.0, rather is it a well thought out guide to using the language. That said, I learned much more about the new features of C# 4.0 here than anywhere else. By reading this book I now understand the underlying structure of dynamic typing and parallel programming much better. I highly recommend it to both beginner and experienced developers.

posted on Tuesday, 06 July 2010 06:44:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, 02 July 2010

I am not the number one fan of patent law, I tend to think that most of the law is outdated and needs review for the 21st century, but I do think that patents play a key role in fostering innovation. Without patents, we will have less innovation.

It gave me great pleasure to see the US Supreme Court rule against expanding patent law to so called “business method claims.” In the case, Bilski v. Kappos, Bilski tried to patent a “business process.” He did not invent anything, just a creative way to hedge commodities. Luckily for us, the court’s finding this week was that Bilski’s patent was not valid.

Some will say that the court has to “get with the 21st century” and in some issues that criticism is correct, however, in Bilski v. Kappos, the court made the right decision. For example I could go and patent my implementation of Scrum since it is a business process and then turn around an sue all of you since I think you are using it. Clearly, we did not need this.

Score one for the legal system protecting innovation.

posted on Friday, 02 July 2010 11:58:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, 01 July 2010

With the Q1 release of Telerik OpenAccess ORM, Telerik released a brand new LINQ Implementation and supporting Visual Entity Designer. I have shown in this blog how to connect to SQL Server, MySQL, and how to use the new LINQ with RIA Services. Today I will show you how to connect to SQL Azrue.

To get started, we have to create a new Telerik Domain Model in the server (ASP.NET) project. We’ll create a new Domain Model by right clicking on the server project and selecting “Add” and choosing the Telerik Domain Model from the menu.

In the dialog presented by OpenAccess select the database you want to connect to, for this project choose Microsoft SQL Azure. You also have to manually put in the connection string to SQL Azure in the format of:

Server=tcp:yourSQLAzureDatabaseServer;Database=YourDatabaseName;USER=YourUserID, Password=YourPassword;

clip_image001

Next you have to map your tables to entities. The easiest thing to do is just map all of your tables by selecting the checkbox next to “Tables” in the Choose Database Items dialog and pressing the Finish button.

clip_image002

Visual Studio adds a new Telerik Domain Model to your project.

clip_image003

Now you are free to use the LINQ implementation to build your application. For simplicity, I will drag a gridView control onto the form and then use LINQ to bind all the customers in Germany. The code is here:

 

   1:  protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
   2:  {
   3:      if (IsPostBack==false)
   4:      {
   5:       //data context
   6:       NorthwindEntityDiagrams dat = new NorthwindEntityDiagrams();
   7:       //LINQ Statement
   8:       var result = from c in dat.Customers
   9:                           where c.Country == "Germany"
  10:                           orderby c.CustomerID
  11:                           select c;
  12:      //Databind to the ASP.NET GridView
  13:      GridView1.DataSource = result;
  14:      GridView1.DataBind();
  15:      }
  16:  }
  17:   

The results are show here.

clip_image005

Enjoy!

posted on Thursday, 01 July 2010 02:50:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, 30 June 2010

With all the hoopla over the popular iPad, don’t count out the Kindle. Amazon started by selling us a dedicated reader and the eBooks at a lower price than their physical version. Then they introduced an application for the iPhone where you did not have to buy the dedicated reader, increasing the availability of their platform. (And protecting their core asset, book sales.) Then came a PC Version and this week (finally!) an Android version.

Of course there has been pushback from the publishers over price. Publishers don’t like that new releases they charge in physical form for $30 sell for $9.99 in electronic format. Some publishers have fought back by delaying their release dates in Kindle format.

Amazon has come up with something that will potentially change the publishing industry forever. Effective today there is a new program where you can get 70% of the revenues, less delivery costs (which are $0.15 per MB.) In order to qualify, you have to list your book under $10 and it has to be 20% less than the physical price.

By sharing more of the profits, Amazon, will win over more and more publishers and thus have even more titles in Kindle format. What people may not realize is that in a few years, after iPads and Google Pads take over the world and at the same time the Kindle format has critical mass, many authors will skip publishing altogether and publish only eBooks with the Kindle format the preferred format.  Just like some rock bands today skip the record labels and go straight to iTunes. The publishing industry will be changed forever, starting today.

posted on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 15:47:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Tuesday, 29 June 2010

I am proud to report that Telerik won the Microsoft Partner of the Year award for Central and Eastern Europe in the ISV/Solutions Partner category.

POY_Hungary_Color

It is a great honor to win this award; it reflects everyone at the company’s hard work and dedication to the customer. Thanks to our customers, this is really their award.

posted on Tuesday, 29 June 2010 01:33:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 28 June 2010

A few months ago I wrote to you about why teams succeed. I talked about the “high bandwidth” team that stressed communication and collaboration. While I believe that communication and collaboration are the keys to success of any team, I always felt that there was another important component to the equation.

I visited a large retail global customer here in Hong Kong today. They are working on a large application for their product development group using Silverlight 4.0 and have teams in the United States, India, and Hong Kong. We were talking first about their use of Telerik tools and then the conversation moved on to teams and process. They are having success and are using the agile methodology Kanban. When I left, they were proud to show me their Kanban board with all of their user stories, tasks, features, and burn down.

clip_image001

That is when it hit me; the other component of highly successful teams is transparency. I started looking back throughout my career and looked at the high performing teams that had successful projects and the very successful ones were the ones that had the magic combination of high bandwidth and transparency.

I remember ten years ago building the original Zagat.com at the height of the .COM boom. We held “open staff meetings” where our weekly staff meetings were attended by other managers from around the company. Our own version of a Kanban board was posted outside the door of our main room. We were still using Microsoft Project and Gantt charts, each chart for each project was hanging outside of the room as well and updated daily. That level of transparency built trust with the organization and enabled us to work with the business closer.

I use to get pushback from the team about our transparency; the team did not like transparency when they were behind schedule. My argument was that we had to show the good, the bad, and the ugly. Besides, it is a well-known fact that we are motivated to work hard not by money, but by our creativity and the chance to produce something truly awesome. I figured that if we make that process more public and transparent, the employees would be even more motivated. By making our product development cycle public, the team took more pride in what they did since everyone was watching.

In addition, this process solved minor disputes between team members. Once when the VP of Marketing was at our open staff meeting, two developers were arguing over something petty. They forgot that the VP of marketing was there and later told me that they “looked bad” in front of the marketing VP. The next time I made sure that the founder of the company was at our staff meeting. Everyone on the team got the message and the transparency worked.

I was also very transparent with the business information coming into IT. I use to disseminate our monthly sales numbers (which were a closely guarded secret) to the whole department. The CEO asked me to stop since IT were the only people in the company besides the senior management to know this information. I responded with even more transparency and shared with the team our profit and loss information as well. (The CEO was not happy, but to her credit, she did not stop me.)

The Agile movement really helped push the importance of transparency forward. The very intention of the Scrum or Kanban board is to be public; same with the daily scrum meeting. If the business is engaged and attending your meetings, there is going to be more productivity and much less friction. Luminary Kent Beck wrote a white paper on agile tooling and teams where he stressed transparency. Beck says:

“When I started programming the weekly status report was sufficient. Here’s what I did this week, here’s what I’m planning to do next week. Press fast forward twice, though, and the weekly status report becomes as quaint as a debate about the relative merits of assembly language and higher level languages. … transparency is a choice you make to offer trustworthiness to you teammates. A transparent team can more cheaply and effectively coordinate their efforts towards shared goals. Acting transparently sends a signal to others that they can trust you. Trust, when realized, reduces the friction of development as people focus more on what they are accomplishing together and less on avoiding blame.”

Ten years after my experiences at Zagat, it is even easier to be transparent. There are many tools that help with transparency. Kent Beck also states in the white paper:

“One way out of the Reporting Dilemma is to stop explicitly telling people what you are doing. Instead, rely on your tools to infer your intentions from your activities and report that for you.”

Agile teams usually publish burn down charts and team velocity charts to report progress between iterations. In an effort to be both more transparent and more automated, the industry has moved to Agile Dashboards, dashboards that read from your repository and automatically publish your burn down and velocity charts as well as other vital information related to the iteration and build process (including my personal favorite, who broke the build.)

Several vendors offer an agile dashboard, such as i.e. Rally’s Team Status Dashboard, VersionOne, and of course Telerik. Our Agile Dashboard, a free tool, posts all the important details of a project on a dashboard for the whole world to see. This tool is meant to be on a large TV, hanging over the receptionist’s desk when you walk into a company complete the status of the current iteration, burn down charts, and even a photo of who last broke the build.

clip_image002

This decade will be remembered as the era when technology teams fully embraced transparency. As teams start to automate their transparency and look for ways to be more open, the quality of the software they produce will only improve. I look forward to this brave new (open) world.

posted on Monday, 28 June 2010 01:44:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, 25 June 2010

The battle for mobile supremacy has really heated up. Apple and Goolge had round 1 back in January with the release of the Google Nexus One. With the release of the iPhone 4 and the Droid X we are well into round 2.  I am not going to debate which device is better or worse, that is for the market to shake out. Rather I want to comment on how the popularity of each device is strengthening its underlying platform. The iPhone 4.0 and iPad 1.0 run on iOS 4. Google’s mainline devices run Android 2.1 or will be upgraded to Android 2.2. “Froyo'”.  It has been reported that Google will release an iPad style “Google Pad” based on Android 2.x as well. Developers are lining up to write applications for these two platforms, each expanding from the phone to a slate/tablet device. It is possible you may see netbook style devices running iOS and Android soon. That said, looking ahead 5 years from now, which one will “win” the most mindshare?

Apple’s iOS is quite popular since the iPhone and iPad are selling so well. Developers are turned off by the AppStore’s approval process and Objective-C in general. Apple also maintains complete control over iOS and you can’t license it and put it on your own consumer electronics device. Android is more open and easier to program for since it uses the more mainstream Java language. It is also possible that you can use Android on other devices (I know a company here in Hong Kong building a consumer electronics device based on Android.) Also, Google’s marketplace is not restricted (hence you can download porn apps if you like.)

In the long term my money is behind Google for two reasons: it is easier to code for and it more open. Eventually what you will see is applications appearing first on the Android then on the iPhone, with some never making it over for AppStore reasons or for Objective-C reasons. (This already happened with several World Cup focused applications.) Applications are what make a platform, you can have a more “cool” platform with less apps and the less “cool” platform with more apps will still win. Think Mac v PC 15+ years ago.

Speaking of PCs, where is Microsoft in all of this? The Zune based Windows Phone 7 is not slated to come out any time soon. By the time WP7 ships we will be talking about iPhone 5.0 rumors, Android 3.0 rumors, and the next generation iPad. Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do.

posted on Friday, 25 June 2010 05:40:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback