5 Signs You’ve Lost Control of Your Cloud App

Those of us who have been in the business for a while have seen this pendulum swing back and forth through the years.  What’s never been true in previous cycles is the business’s ability to engage truly enterprise level IT services with a credit card.  It’s a powerful, liberating circumstance for business executives who are looking to drive their business with pace.  It’s a buyer’s market and IT executives need to embrace the reality.  Fixing the problems resulting from these independent decisions is too late – get in front of these business decisions and avoid the problem.

Google Productivity Suite

Google,s Gmail and Contacts are now top notch tools. Too bad their Task tool didn’t get a similar buffing. My money is on that being there next frontier.

Google has tipped it’s hand regarding it’s Office competitor.  This post on the Gmail Blog announces that:

Contacts now works more like the rest of Gmail, so if you know how to use Gmail, now you should automatically feel comfortable in Contacts too

It’s all good stuff, but improving the look and feel of Contacts (as well as Gmail itself) has brought even more light to the disparity that exists between mail, contacts and the Task functionality Google provides.  Keyboard shortcuts, configurable with tags on a full screen  – both GMail and Contacts look really good.  Tasks are still a little pop up with a beyond skinny interface and feature set.  It looks really bad in comparison.

In fact it looks so bad, I don’t believe for a moment that anyone at Google is happy with the red headed step child that pops up in the lower right corner.  When you consider the promise available with a tight integration with the other Google tools, the Task implementation is the biggest untapped opportunity they have.

I’ve said it before, I would love to have a tight GTD oriented task management tool built in to Google that would compare favorably with OmniFocus.  They have everything in hand to produce a killer application.  I’m guessing it already sits on a desktop somewhere waiting for the blessing to be rolled out to the public.

First Impressions of Gist

Gist goes beyond aggregation to add value to contact information.

Earlier this year I started casually using an online product called Gist.  My first impressions led me to put it in to the same category as Plaxo – but my recent experience has broadened my perspective:

Yesterday, I added a friend to my contacts.  My friend, “Chris”, works as a building inspector for a nearby city.  The GMail account I was using is set up in Gist to receive updates – so a contact record for Chris was created.  One of the nagging problems with the Gist import is that it assumes that the domain name of the contact is the employer of the contact.  That’s not commonly the case for my friends – I’m using their personal mail account rather than their business account.  I went in to Gist and removed Time Warner (Road Runner) as the employer and entered the name of the local city.  Today, I realized that Gist had automatically created a company and had figured out the contact information for the city – automagically.

You can see where they are trying to go with the product.  The application aggregates mail and calendar events with content from a variety of social media sources.  Theoretically, you could use it to plan your day so that you are up to date on a contact’s correspondence across the broad spectrum of outlets available to people today.  It’s definitely a beta product – and one which will someday cost money to use – but I can see it carving a a unique position for itself in the marketplace.

Broader Audience Less Satisfied with Kindle DX

Seth Godin points out flaws in a New York Times blog post about the Kindle – but the underlying message of the original article is interesting.

Amazon's Corporate Headquarters

Having spent some time recently praising Seth Godin’s writing, I’ll take a moment to jump on the other side of the fence.  Today, he takes a moment to hold accountable Nick Bilton for a New York Times blog post about the Kindle.  Seth rightly points out several issues with the author’s charts and underlying assumptions.

Bilton’s point is that through time, the number of customers who express dissatisfaction with the newer Kindles sold by Amazon is growing larger.  Seth’s perspective is that the market served by each Kindle has changed through time, progressing from technology early adopters to a more general market consumer.

I would argue that Bilton’s point is valid.  As Amazon attempts to grow the market served by the Kindle, they are struggling to maintain the customer satisfaction ratings they received with the early models (and original market).  Put another way, there is a mismatch between the Kindle DX and the market it is serving.

I’m speculating, but I would guess that Apple’s products do not receive a similarly large number of negative customer satisfaction responses.  Their products are well designed for the target market and the disconnect between what is delivered and what is expected is smaller than what we see with the Kindle DX.  Apple is the common exception to many rules, but it is possible to design a mass market product that appeals to both the technologists and the mass market.


gReader Care and Feeding

I am a big fan of the Google Feed Reader.  I continue to fine tune how I use the tool as I learn more about it.

For example, The Trends page lists how I consume feeds – and how I do not.  The smart feed reader should include this page in their weekly review.  You can keep yourself productive by following these simple steps:

1.  Unsubscribe from feeds that have not been updated in x months.  I am settling on nine months.  After that point, it’s safe to say the author has moved on.

2.  Unsubscribe from feeds I can’t keep up with.  The New York Times is a fire hose that I can not keep up with.  There are many news outlets that can filter that to the news items I value and I should focus my attention there.

3.  Investigate the obscure.  This is the real long tail.  If I want to present a unique perspective on the world then I should find the niche no one else serves (or subscribes to).

Is Satellite Radio Dying?

The economic downturn is lowering the economic tide for all companies, but some industries and companies are impacted more than others. Highly leveraged companies like Sirius XM are in great peril as their debt obligations come due and banks struggle to contain risk.

Howard Stern Displayed on a Sirius XM RadioA story entitled Satellite Radio Still Reaches for the Payday published on December 26th, 2008 describes the challenges facing Sirius XM.  There are several interesting insights shared in the article.  If you’ve read some of my other material here, you know this is a subject I care about.

Before the merger, I did not pay that much attention to Sirius.  I enjoyed the service XM provided and wasn’t really concerned with the business decisions being made by its competitor.  Not that it would have mattered – but I should have paid more attention.  Some of the significant numbers:

  1. In 2005, Sirius secured the exclusive services of Howard Stern for 500 million dollars.
  2. It costs between 250 and 300 million dollars to put a satellite in space.
  3. The company earned 613 million dollars in the third quarter of 2008
  4. The company has 1 billion dollars in debt due in 2009

That’s alot of large numbers.  But to balance the equation, the stock price of the company currently sits at 16 cents per share.  InfoWorld believes satellite radio will not survive the recession.  Add on that the combined company has let go approximately 25% of the company’s associates and you are left with few options.  The company’s chief assets appear to be its satellites and Howard Stern (based on the value they placed on his contract).

I like the service – but it looks like some banks are going to hold some more useless paper here pretty soon.

Cloud Services Fail, but Infrequently

Infrequent outages of cloud based web services cause less issue then traditional hosted solutions – you just hear about them more.

Don't panic about cloud based application failures

“Gmail isn’t working – OMG.  Call out the National Guard”

The recent discussion around the failure of some notable cloud based web services has reminded me of a comparable discussion in the transportation industry.  The number of fatalities associated with automobiles greatly exceeds those associated with air travel.  Why is that people assume otherwise?  Because when a plane crashes to the ground the loss of life is sudden and dramatic.  When an individual dies in an auto accident we are conditioned to view it as less significant.

What’s the point?  Gmail failed last week.  Amazon S3 failed the week before.  Twitter fails weekly (or so it seems).  These are large public outages which drive a lot of media coverage.  On the other hand, the daily (or more likely hourly) outages individuals encounter with their own tool set receive little or no media coverage. There is no way to measure them.  There is no way to report on the collective impact on productivitity associated with thousands of individual mail servers being crushed under the weight of spam.

Large scale service delivery firms that focus on service excellence will eventually drive down these failures.  You and I will continue to build things that break.  Oh well.