Archive for the 'smartphones' Category

Dell and Back: Loren Steffy’s Writings and Ramblings

Texas Monthly published an article about the current Dell take-private proposal. I think as an employee I’m not supposed to comment, so I did try to avoid that, however, I did feel this old whore insinuation that Dell doesn’t innovate, needed to be addressed.

In the form of a comment to a blog, which in and of itself is a copy of a print article, there wasn’t really time, space or would it have been appropriate to give many examples of innovation I thought I’d stick to an obvious example from my perspective.

As always, my comments are mine alone, they do not represented either Dell the company, or Dell the man. I am however, a senior employee and a shareholder.

Dell and Back:’ My Texas Monthly debut | Loren Steffy’s Writings and Ramblings.

Dell Software – Accelerating Results

John Swainson, Dell Software GroupToday was a major day for Dell Software group. Out in San Francisco many of our team and some great customers, were talking about real Dell Software products. Why was this major?

Dell Software BYOD RealityBecause it wasn’t about strategy, it wasn’t about an acquisition, it was about real problems and Dell Software products that customers are using to address those problems. There were some great customer speakers, as well as keynotes and breakout panels. The whole thing was streamed live via livestream, recordings are already up and available.

InfographicBig up also to the marketing team, I must admit Dell puts together some great infographics and this one was one of the best.

[Update: A couple of emails came in. Here is a useful written summary page with links in a Press Release.]

QR Codes and PowerEdge 12g servers

One of the things that is great about the new 12g hardware is the innovative use of QR Codes for service and support. It’s one of those “aha” moments where something that seems so obvious just works. Congratulations to Kevin and the ID team that pulled this together. The youtube video explains it all. 

Anyone home?

I got an email today that indirectly reminded me I hadn’t posted for a while and they wondered what I was upto. mea culpa.

Actually I’ve changed direction for a while and am busy working on a few “mobile” related projects. We’ve got an MRD that includes a mobile UI for our embedded management, but is lacking a few key features to make a compelling “use case“. So I’ve been digging around both trying to come up with some new IP, as well as getting all the ducks lined up to make this happen. Add to that a couple of pretty interesting corporate business development projects and the BAU stuff and thats where I’ve been.

I’ve had a few web pages bookmarked to share via a blog post when the time was right, that time appears to be now.

Dell AIM Integration Pack for Microsoft Opalis

The Integration Pack for Dell Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) is an add-on for System Center Opalis that enables you to automate procedures and processes in the Dell AIM environment. This version of Dell AIM IP (v1.0) supports only Microsoft System Center Opalis 6.3 and works with AIM version 3.4.1 [Download here]

In The Press

Next up is an online interview with Sally Stephens, a colleague and VP, PG Enterprise Platform Marketing and some of our top guys in India. In the interview the discuss both cloud and virtualization and makes some important and interesting points. [Read here]

Amongst the coverage of our[Dell] FORCE10 acquisition, this is a useful summary of what I’ve not discussed over the past few months. Notably and most interesting is the inclusion, post acquisition, of FORCE10 into the vStart program. [Read here and here]

Of NFC, QR Code, Payments, PayPal and Reuters and vendor influence

I thought this one worth a quick blog entry for, especially as it’s one of the industries dirty little, but well known secrets. I’ve been a unwilling shill a few times. After a while it gets much easier to spot them.

As part of the app store/walled garden debate that kicked off after my Q&A with George Conoly, co-counder and CEO of Forrester Research, I’ve been staying late working on some HTML5 related topics and technologies. Especially as they relate to mobile devices. One topic that has been really interesting is QR codes and how perhaps we might use them in servers. There was, much to my surprise already a project running to use them. I’ve been looking at dynamically generating them, possibly for use in error codes, and maintenance, service calls, etc.

One of the follow-ons from this was the use of Near Field Communication (NFC). Ostentatiously, NFC is being punted by the industry for mobile payments. It’s much more interesting to me though to use for the initiation of mobile, wireless connectivity, via say, Bluetooth. Anyway, just as I was scanning my tweetstream for today before I left, I spotted an @techmeme tweet “PayPal is top brand for mobile payments: survey (@georginius / Reuters)http://reut.rs/iFJ36T http://techme.me/BXW= ”

This immediately struck me as nonsense. Linking PayPal to NFC, how so? Surely, the whole point of NFC is that you have a device, the device or an app on the device(possibly HTML5 based) is used to charge for something, a micro-purchase, coffee, sandwhich, MP3, or similar bypassing the typical website switch and charge service provided by PayPal.

Thus, rather than PayPal benefiting from NFC, they actually have the most to lose and need to be as proactive as they can to ensure they are infact not dis-intermediated in the upcoming NFC payments boom. What happens is that the NFC device micro-/payment is charged to the account associated to the device, or a credit card registered to the device owner. There are some obvious and some legal issues with this. Some countries are bound to have laws that restrict telco’s and wireless carriers business, ie. not allowing them to become banks. So rather than the carrier consuming the charge from the NFC device aka smart/cellphone, the charge is passed on to a credit card registered to the device owner. And, this is where, from reading after seeing the tweet, PayPal want in on the act.

Now, theres the obvious issue of the device falling into the hands of an unauthorized 3rd party, but thats a whole different post. The point of this post was there was nowhere in this process where we needed PayPal, unless I’ve misunderstood. PayPal need to be an early wave adopter, or they risk being cut-out completely.

I went and chased down the survey qouted by Reuters. Low and behold, survey by market research firm GfK suggests that PayPal, the eBay-owned online payment system, “could be set for a major boost as mobile payment systems start to take off over the next year”. The GfK survey was of course funded by, err, PayPal. The Reuters piece then goes on to discuss NFC.

If in fact NFC is used as I posit above, this is typical bait and switch type press release, where you create confusion by associating yourself in a positive light with something that is in fact a weakness. It’s done all the time, you make sure you ask the questions that get the answers you want, especially when you are paying the people asking the questions.

Now, it could be I’m completely wrong on this. Maybe someone from PayPal or GfK would like to send me a copy of the survey? It looks though like Reuters fell for the press release, hook, line and sub-editor. Their carrying the release has meant it’s gone “viral” and as George Bush might have said, “job done!”.

What’s on your glass?

James Governor, @monkchips, makes some great points about UI design in his latest blog post. James discusses how Adobe is changing it’s toolchain to better support, endorse HTML5 and how open is a growth accelerator, not just a philosophical perspective. He get’s a useful plug in for the Dell Streak, and it as a piece of glass too 😉

I’ve alluded to it here before, we are heading in the same direction for both our PowerEdge 12g Lifecycle Controller and iDrac UI for one to one management of our servers; also for the simplified UI for the Virtual Integrated System, aka VIS. Flash/Flex/Silverlight had their time, they solved problems that at the time couldn’t be solved any other way. However, it was clear to me and I suspect to all those involved in the HTML5 standards efforts, that we were headed down a dead end of walled gardens“. What put this in perspective for me wasn’t James’ post, but one from fellow Redmonk, Cote, last year in which he discussed the web UI landscape.

Web UI Landscape by Cote of Redmonk

The details actually were not important, Cote ostentatiously discussing Apache Pivot, summarizes by saying “Closed source GUI frameworks have a tough time at it now-a-days, where-as open source ones by virtue of being free and open, potentially have an easier time to dig into the minds of Java developers.”

 

But really, it was the diagram that accompanied the article for me. It laid it the options as a flower, and as we know, flowers are grown in gardens, in this case, each was being cultivated in its’ own walled garden.

I cancelled the FLASH/WSMAN[1] proof of concept we’d built for the gen-next UI, and decided the right move was to adopt a more traditional MVC-like approach using open standards for our UI strategy.

We don’t have a commitment yet to deliver or exploit HTML5, but we’ve already adopted a REST style using HTTP for browser and HTML clients to interact with a number of our products, using Javascript and JSON and building towards having a foundation of re-useable UI artifacts. Off the back of this we’ve already seen some useful Android pilots.

Which takes us back to James post. He summarizes with “If the world of the API-driven web has taught us anything its that you can’t second guess User Interfaces. Someone else will always build one better. If you’re only allowing for deployment on one platform that cuts you off from innovation.” – Right on the money.

DISCLOSURE:
Redmonk are providing technology analysis for Dells Virtual Integrated System; James and I have professional contacts since 1996.

NOTES:
[1]WSMAN remains our key technology implementation for external partners and consoles to use to get information from the servers, and to send updates etc.

Flash, Flex, the real web experience and eating your own dog food

I watched with interest a few weeks back when Apple Steve Jobs launched into positioning Apple products, namely the iPad against other soon-to-be tablet PC’s. Now this isn’t a robust defense of the Dell Streak (5-inch) Internet phone/wifi device/tablet, it is commentary on what happened next.

A few days later, RIM CEO Jim Balsillie fired back at Jobs with a great media qoute about Apples “Distortion Field”. Saying amongst other things that the RIM 7-inch tablet aka Playbook, will get a good market share and that “we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience”.

Blackberry Torch 6 Home screen

Blackberry Torch 6 Home screen

Which brings up an interesting point. I just got a brand new Blackberry Torch, which has Blackerrys latest 6.0 OS, a touch screen and some really nice software and service integration that combines RSS, Facebook and Twitter feeds together. The phone has also been pretty reliable in my first 3-weeks of use, I’ve only had to remove the battery once to force a reboot.

Every time I visit a web page that has flash, the webkit enabled browser reports “This graphic requires version 9 or higher of Adobe Flash Player.” and provides a helpful link to “Get the latest Flash Player”. Sadly, clicking on that link just gets the screen that has welcomed a million* iPhone users…

“Sorry Adobe Flasy Player is not available from adobe.com for your device’s operating system or browser”

And thats that. So, Mr Balsillie, where’s my real web experience on your flagship phone product?

Of course, this disappointment was made all the more ironic in that last week I got an email from Brian Gladden, Chief Financial Officer, Ron Garriques, President, Communication Solutions, and Robin Johnson, Chief Information Officer here at Dell announcing that they will be moving all Dell-issued Blackberry phone users over to Dell based devices like the Dell Streak Tablet and Dell Aero Smartphone over the next 2-years as Blackberry contracts expire.

Now thats great news as I’m a big believer in eating your own dogfood, something we didn’t do often enough at IBM. Getting IT Suppliers and manufacturers to use their own new products is a key move in my opinion. It’s one of the things that drove some great innovation into the early virtual machine operating systems at IBM. However, our internal IT team are under just as much pressure to modernize and adapt new technology, possibly more so than our customers. Adopting these Dell devices will give us some valuable experience in what our customers will have to go through.

For my part, Dell IT already have deployments of our Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) and getting good results. In the design and architecture for VIS, we’ve so far managed to avoid and eliminate any use of flex/flash technology in our User Interface design and requirements, and that is great at it means we have a greater freedom of action by being able to develop for a much wider range of devices, and still deliver a quality interface and user experience.

*OK, ok, millions and millions…


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society (bsc.org) I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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