A week in New Orleans on the HTC EVO

HTC EVOAll this week I’ve been in New Orleans at TechEd 2010 using the Google HTC EVO phone that I got while at Google I/O in May. The phone is on free service through Sprint for 30 days and is an incredible piece of hardware with an huge screen, very fast processor that’s been an absolute joy to use even though there are a few UI features/apps from the Droid I prefer. It’s going to be really sad to return to the Droid once the service ends as it runs circles around it.

The Falafel team here with six people has two Motorola Droids, two HTC EVO’s, one iPhone 3GS and one HTC Tilt 2. We taken tons of photos, many of which ended up being immediately posted to Facebook or sent via email. I’ve posted live streaming video to qik.com, photos and status updates to Facebook and Google Buzz, listened to podcasts, found directions to restaurants, coffee shops and all sorts of other locations, posted to Twitter read the news, posted updates to the Falafel team on Yammer, sent tons of free SMS messages via Google Voice, identified landmarks using Google Goggles, instant messaged via Meebo, tracked my travel via TripIt, connected to the web via Sprint Hot Spot countless times, scanned barcodes, installed apps and oh yeah, even made a few phone calls!

In fact, this afternoon I was working at a Starbucks connected via the Sprint Hot Spot feature sharing my connection with Falafel’s President John Waters while he was dialed into a GotoMeeting call with other Falafel employees located both here in New Orleans as well as back home in California.

Last night, we were walking along the Mississippi and caught Anderson Cooper filming AC360 where we watched the show streamed over a Slingbox to an HTC Tilt 2 located in Amarillo TX! It’s really amazing what these pocket devices can do and how close you can get to replacing a PC with one.

With Android you can literally pick up a new phone, log in with your Google account and be off in running with your contacts, email and lots of other goodness in minutes. I can’t wait to take a look at the new iPhone though I can’t imagine a case where I’d switch from Verizon to AT&T because at the end of the day I want/need to make phone calls.

As fun as all this has been, I’m ready to go home and see my family again so now it’s time to go to bed because I have to be up in a little over three hours to catch a 5:25am flight home.

Apple’s license agreement is it really a surprise?

With Apple’s recently announced changes to it’s License Agreement I really don’t see any surprise in it at all. My computing career started on an Apple II in high school but that was the extent of my exposure to Apple hardware and software until I won an iPod back in my Borland days. I followed with some interest what seemed to be the near death of Apple back in the Gil Amelio days and the curious flirtation with 3rd party hardware manufacturers which was subsequently crushed.

If anything Apple has always fiercely protected what makes it Apple. They’re an incredibly innovative company and while I’ve heard and read people talking about these recent changes being reminiscent of Mac vs. Windows I’d disagree. There are some significant differences this time around particularly when you consider Apple’s control over and influence on content producers, something that didn’t exist “back in the day”. This time around Apple arguably has the best device, and I’m a big Android fan but it’s plainly missing tons of polish that the iPhone has in spades.

With the recent release of the iPad and all the magazines and newspapers scrambling to leverage it to salvage their fading print business once again Apple is in the drivers seat. If you look at the landscape Apple has lots of things going for it right now on the content side. Take for example the fact the Droid has a non-existent music experience and that their online Market is rather laughable when compared to the AppStore. No matter how lame iTunes is we’ve all had it for years and got sucked into it well before the iPhone came out with an iPod or two (or three). Also, if you’ve watched Apple’s iPhone announcements over the years they’ve always highlighted gaming. There’s been no shortage of games produced for the platform and I’d guess the vast majority of those wouldn’t really have issues when it comes to the recent license agreement changes (though that’s just a guess). Now with the advent of the iPad with all it’s hype we’re going to see an explosion of cool games that do all sorts of new things and the movie, magazine, book and newspaper reading experience will all now have to live up to Apple’s standard which is going to be very difficult to do. In other words I don’t think it’s going to slow the growth of the AppStore any time soon which gets right to my point…

Apple is going to, rightly, protect its business and the experience of using their devices is damn enjoyable and very fluid, far more so than on Android. It’s easy to understand they wouldn’t want a game, or any application, to play/function exactly the same on any other platform. It’s also easy to see after years of cultivating their “relationship” with the music industry there’s probably no company better positioned to negotiate rights to movies, magazines, newspapers or other multi-media content particularly now they have a larger screen device all those parties surely want to be on.

One way to look at this is that developers are getting screwed though I think that’s perhaps short sighted if your goal as a developer is for the platform that you’re targeting to succeed for years to come. Apple is working to protect their platform and with iAd, if anything, they’re looking to expand not only their revenue but their developer community’s as well. Makes sense.

When I step back and look at it, Apple’s been cultivating all kinds of relationships using their mobile devices with developer’s, non-Mac users, music enthusiasts, gamers and entire industries. They’ve created an experience, whether it’s in the Apple store or on the AppStore or on a mobile device that’s difficult to top and I’m hard pressed to think of another company in a similar position. At least Kliener Perkins seems to agree.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on the subject. What’s your take?

Thoughts on PDC 2009

image I’ve read a few articles that appeared on my Tweet stream regarding PDC this year and unfortunately they took a rather negative point-of-view. I’m always surprised when I read stuff like this:

Not since PDC 2003 has Microsoft talked so much and said so little. As I listened to the keynotes and have reviewed the sessions, words “series finale” repeatedly popped into my head — like a TV show coming to its end after a long run.

– Joe Wilcox
10 things about Microsoft’s PDC 2009: The good, the bad and the ugly

Unfortunately, to me that article reads very negatively and while I’m not quite sure what’s wrong in Joe Wilcox’s world to write such a piece I hope whatever it is it improves as things aren’t nearly as dreadful as he leads on.

I was in Orlando in 2000 when Microsoft announced the .NET framework which was clearly an inflection point though, rather somewhat messaged, they eventually delivered on Steve Ballmer’s Developers! Developers! Developers! message. I think we may reflect on this year’s PDC as an equally important inflection point as Microsoft delivers on a far more effective and cohesive cloud computing strategy than last years “services” effort. I didn’t attend PDC last year though I tried to grok their cloud strategy and left me wanting particularly when compared to what Amazon offered roughly a year ago which was Windows truly running in a cloud.

moves it does deliver on a number of fronts while at the same time it seems there were some obviously missing pieces though Microsoft stands on much firmer ground than they have in past years with Windows 7 being very solid with lots of new and interesting features and Internet Explorer 8 is a solid browser now that there’s lot’s of competition (Chrome, Safari, Firefox). Btw, I’ve more or less switched to using Chrome as my browser of choice from Firefox v3.5.

Some of the highlights I took away from this year’s PDC…

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Windows Azure ContainerWindows Azure was the major announcement at this event and compared to last years nebulous and confusing messaging which I never understood this year was very clear. To drive home the message Microsoft parked a Azure container right in the convention hall for people to browse in an around. Now, of course, these kinds of containers are not new nor unique to Microsoft but I think it delivered a clear message that their cloude (that’s the spelling they used this year) is real and happening right now. They plan to start billing Feb 1 for their cloud services. In contrast to last year, MS will host user customized VM’s in the cloude similar to what Amazon has offered for awhile now albeit on the latest MS OS rather than Win2003.

Windows Azure ContainerWhile support for custom VM’s running in the cloud is cool, perhaps the most immediately useful part of the Azure story may well be SQL Azure with it’s support for TSQL using existing tooling which is particularly interesting as it offers a “near” immediate use for Microsoft’s cloud services. I think this offering may also put pressure on ISP’s hosting MSSQL to offer more competitive pricing because Microsoft’s offering looks very compelling:

Web Edition Relational Database for $9.99/month includes:

  • Up to 1 GB of T-SQL based relational database
  • Self-managed DB, auto high availability
  • Best suited for Web application, Departmental custom apps.

My blog is hosted at discountASP.NET which costs $10/month for half the disk space. That’s not to say there aren’t other distinguishing factors between the two offerings but clearly our choices have expanded.

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Next was the Silverlight Beta 4 announcement which, in my mind, has clearly become Microsoft’s preferred UI platform trumping both WinForms (no surprise) and WPF. At ScottGu’s keynote he mentioned Microsoft has quickly pushed out three Silverlight releases in 22 months and that the quick pace was going to continue with his announcement of the availability of beta 4. The latest release nearly places Silverlight on the same level as WPF for developing native Windows applications just checkout the “Move beyond the browser” section on the above SL Beta 4 link. The other really important piece was ScottGu’s mention that many of the new features of SL 4 are in direct response to user feedback. That’s key and illustrates that Microsoft is listening and tuned into the developer community which is what’s going to drive the adoption of technologies like SL and more importantly, at least for Microsoft, Windows 7.

That gets to the laptop announcement where Microsoft enabled every attendee of PDC to start developing Windows 7 applications immediately. A great move IMO, one that further underscores Steve Ballmer’s developers message. If you don’t buy just look at the GUI builder Lino demonstrates here that Apple provides for iPhone development as used by Mono Touch. You can’t tell me that that’s a good tools story, it’s at least a decade behind Microsoft if not more.

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Speaking of tools, PDC 2009 was all VS.NET 2010 and there are many exciting new features both in .NET 4 and on the tooling side for developing WPF and Silverlight applications and services. Rather than rehash a lot of what’s been covered I’d point you to this blog post which does a nice job of covering a lot of “what’s new”. In many ways I see Microsoft weaving a more integrated development experience as many of the technologies they’ve introduced over the several years are maturing and with 2010 we’re getting much more tightly integrated tooling and as a result a far better developer experience.

Be sure to checkout the new features in WCF 4 and check out Mark Miller’s coding guitar and for those of you Delphi guys, yes that’s the same Mark.

What’s Missing

The biggest hole was Mobile, a problem I believe might have been inadvertently highlighted during ScottGu’s keynote when he attempted to demonstrate what will be a very cool streaming feature on an iPhone that failed to work though they tried four different phones. In fact, the iPhone made an appearance in both Keynotes something I really never thought possible when on day one, Vivek Kundra, the US Chief Information Officer demo’ed an Azure based jobs application on the iPhone. I saw a lot of people with Apple devices like iPhones and Macbooks myself included but this was still very surprising.

The End

Falafel Software Booth PDC 2009 Wrapping up, I really enjoyed the week at PDC especially being there with John Waters and Lino Tadros from the Falafel team. We laughed a lot (BTW, not safe for work) and generally had a good time meeting lots of people at the Falafel booth.