Yahoo COO Dismissed

 Further problems for Yahoo and CEO Marissa Mayer make its comeback less likely.
lesson_one_getting_fired

I saw recently on Linkedin where Marissa Mayer gave COO Henrique de Castro his walking papers. It’s unfortunate, as it indicates a couple of things:

1. The organization is still struggling a year  and a half or so after Mayer came on board

2. Her current strategy isn’t working

de Castro was Mayer’s first major hire as president and CEO of Yahoo. He was previously Google’s VP of Partner Business Solutions, and his role at Yahoo was to increase advertising revenue. From what I’ve been able to see on this, Yahoo’s display advertising revenue fell by 7% in the last quarter of 2013. They now sit third behind both Google and Facebook, respectively. de Castro was given a $64.6M severance package as well as an uncharacteristically cold exit.  From what has been reported by Bloomberg the separation as well as ReCode the announcement from Mayer were both very sudden and cold.  Even though Mayer brought him over from Google to help her turn Yahoo around, it’s clear the she and de Castro didn’t see eye-to-eye on the operation vision and direction taken over the last 18 months.

Yahoo is in bigger trouble than most people thought.  More than I thought…  This is the one good thing about Google, though.  They have a very diverse mission and product portfolio.  Yahoo was all about search.  Back in the mid to late 1990′s they were the “Google” of their day, if you will, leading the search industry with MSN (now Bing), Lycos and Excite falling, literally, far behind them.  Their biggest issues have been, at least in my opinion, timing (they went public in 1996), lack of an appropriate product diversity, and weak management.

Timing has been an issue for Yahoo simply due to events near the time of its birth. They were created in 1994, went online in 1995, and then shortly after that, Internet bubble burst.  Yahoo’s product portfolio was largely in Internet properties, apps, portals, as well as search, and its revenues tanked. Unfortunately, strategies implemented by CEO’s Jerry Yang (1996 – 2009) and Carl Bartz (2009-2011) didn’t do much for the organization, and it has continually floundered. Marissa Mayer has been on board now for about 18 or so months.

Frankly, I think she is running out of time. She needs to get something together quickly – I’m thinking she might have 6-12 months left to produce some results – or she may also be out of a job, and Yahoo’s board may have some tough decisions to make.  Mayer has to get it together, show clear vision and direction, along with a personnel strategy to get the job done. While she did have that in place with de Castro, his failure to execute isn’t helping her; and she may have to go back to the drawing board (or at least she better before the Board does…)

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Should Windows 9 be Free?

I’ve seen a couple opinions, and I’ve decided to weigh in…

Windows 9 new

Like its predecessor, Windows Blue, Windows Threshold is in the process of entering its full development cycle. As with Blue, many people are excited about Threshold and for a couple of key reasons.  Briefly, they are:

  1. Consumers don’t think much of Windows 8
    There are a lot of diehard Windows users that really are NOT happy with Windows 8.  Windows 8.1 is a step in the right direction with the ability to boot directly to the desktop and the return of the Start BUTTON.  However, many people will tell you that the improvements seen in Windows 8.1 are a start (no pun intended) and not a destination.  Microsoft still has a long way to go before they regain the public trust and earns their forgiveness.And they’ve earned this disdain, too. Microsoft mucked with, and moved everyone’s cheese and really brought productivity way low, and killed many IT upgrade plans. Windows 8.x really takes too long for office workers to figure out how to use. Its ModernUI (unofficially called MetroUI) confuses a lot of people, even on Microsoft’s own Surface line of ultrabooks. If Microsoft can’t sell the new interface on their OWN devices, relying on partner devices to do it, doesn’t look to be a winning strategy. This older business model is proving to be part of Microsoft’s downfall, and they seem to know it. Their July 2013 reorg definitely identifies the older management structure and mode of doing business as something that needs to change.In short, MS needs to get its revised vision on as many Windows 8.x devices as it can in order to help generate positive press so it can “turn that frown upside down,” and reverse what appears to be the start of a steep decline.
  2. Microsoft and Windows 8 have no place to go but up
    Windows 8.x adoption sucks.  Windows 7 adoption rates are on the rise. Microsoft desktop OS sales aren’t too horrible, but when it look at it in a Windows 7 vs. Windows 8.x perspective, it’s clear that the public doesn’t like the OS or the devices that it comes on.Prior to the Christmas Shopping Season, Microsoft was still feeling the effects of its $900M Surface RT write-off. Sales of Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro weren’t strong at all.  However, something happened over the 2013 Holidays that directed many users to not only look long and hard at Surface 2/Pro, but had the devices moving off the shelves as well.Microsoft needs to do whatever it needs to do to continue this positive trend.  If they don’t, the company is going to have some serious work to do regarding not only Windows, but the rest of its product offerings.

Given that they have work to do, AND given that most Linux distributions have been free for years, and that Apple gave Mavericks away (and it runs on Macs that are at LEAST 5 years old); Microsoft needs to do the same thing with Windows Threshold.  They need to give it away, and it needs to run on any computer that can push Windows 7. This accomplishes a couple things:

  1. If it’s free, it’s for me – Low to no cost upgrade fees
    “If it’s free, it’s for me!” I knew a guy in college who had that printed on his checks; and it’s pretty much a way of life for many people.  If they can figure out an  easy way to get something for free, you can bet that they’ll bust their behinds to make that happen.Much of the computing public still sees a great deal of value in the Windows brand. If they can get that level of value on their existing PC, for free, with all future platform updates and upgrades also coming in at no cost, then the platform has a better chance of actually getting on legacy machines than not. I may be in the minority opinion, but I really think that if Microsoft wants to remain competitive, as well as make a successful transition to a devices and services organization, it’s going to need to give the platform that powers those devices and drives those services, away.
  2. Increase <Latest Version > Adoption Rates
    Recent Windows 7 adoption rates have surged past Windows 8.x adoption rates. This means that people who are actually buying Windows compatible PC’s aren’t buying them with Windows 8.x on them, they’re buying them with (or downgrading to) Windows 7.  Microsoft doesn’t want Windows 7 to turn into the 2010′s version of the 2000′s Windows XP.  The last thing that Microsoft wants to do with Windows 8.x is have it be the “next Vista” where everyone sticks with the older version.  They undid much of the damage to the Windows brand with the release of Windows 7, but shot themselves in the foot with Windows 8 (and have effectively gone backwards).The company has a new strategic direction. What better way to foster that, than to give the platform away to end users?
  3. Continues and fosters its new direction as a Devices and Services organization
    The old guard organization where both Office and Windows are cash cows that provide years, if not decades, of revenue is over. As I stated recently, the old Microsoft has died and most of the management team from that regime has been moved to other areas or has left the company.  Microsoft’s new organizational focus, its new product portfolio is the whole Windows experience and not Windows itself. That means that it has to sell the devices and it has to sell the services that make the Windows platform a value-add. That’s where MS will make its money going forward. The best way to insure that is to give the platform away, making adoption for many an autonomic option.

Microsoft is in full transition mode. They’ve reorged the company and most of the old management team is gone. They are getting a new CEO in early 2014. They are changing not only how the company does business, but they’re changing their product portfolio as well.  They need to embrace the change and “unlearn what they have learned” over the past 25+ years of computing success. If they don’t, Microsoft’s relevancy as well as profit margins will decline as PC adoption rates decline.  The best way Microsoft can move forward is to give away not only Windows, but Office as well.  They need to start doing that with Windows Threshold.  How they figure out the best way to do it with Office – if at all – is something they will have to figure out as the release date for the next version of Office starts to appear on the horizon.

What do you think? Do you think Microsoft should give the next version of Windows away?  Why don’t join us in the discussion area, below and tell us what YOU think?

 

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East-Tec Eraser 2014

Keep your private information private with this important Windows utility.

eraser2014-200x175Online privacy is becoming a huge issue. With legislators so willing to give it away or to sell it to the highest paying lobbyist, and with so much malware around trying to steal it, its surprising that consumer computing is as popular as it is. If you want to be online, then you need to do something to protect yourself – over and above using a malware scanner. This is why I really like security applications like East-Tech Eraser 2014. This Windows-based security application could just save your bacon, and your private data.

East-Tec Eraser 2014 is a privacy protection app for Windows that helps secure your personal data, and your offline or online privacy by erasing all files that store evidence of your Internet activities. Over and above that, it helps keep your PC clean by deleting unnecessary data stored on your computer with or without your knowledge.

ETE-01

East-Tec Eraser 2014 can remove your online tracks or internet history. You can delete evidence of the web pages you visited, and pictures you’ve viewed on the Internet. You can remove unwanted cookies, chat room conversations, you can deleted e-mail messages and files, and temporary files. You can even delete the Windows swap file, and clean out the Recycle Bin. The app is a complete file security tool. The best thing about East-Tec Eraser 2014 is that it works with all modern, popular browsers, including Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Safari.

East-Tec Eraser 2014 works with over 250 other online apps like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, iTunes, WinAmp, Real Player, VLC Player, Skype, Dropbox, and Roxio. It works with Peer2Peer apps like BearShare, LimeWire, BitComet, and uTorrent. It also works with news readers and email apps like Windows Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Eudora.

East-Tec Eraser 2014 not only works with online enabled apps, but it works with your Windows operating system by wiping temporary and garbage files that get created by it and your other apps. Not only does this app protect your privacy, but it can speed up your PC as well.

The app is easy to use. The interface has GREATLY improved over the last version, and the price, while higher than I personally would like, is very reasonable, especially for what you’re getting. If you’re looking for a drive/OS utility as well as an online privacy protection app, East-Tec Eraser 2014 is a great choice.

download East-Tec Eraser 2014

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2013 Last Minute Holiday Buyer’s Guide – Part 3

These are some of the hottest gifts available now, and some really good advice on which to get and why.

Over the past few years, I’ve put together a Holiday Buyer’s Guide. I never got to do one last year due to commitments to the now defunct Byte. Thankfully, I’ve got a chance to do it this year; and while nearly everything you see here will have some kind of software available for it from Soft32, I’m going to cover the hot categories – tablets, computers, smartphones, and accessories.

What you’re going to see are recommendations only. I don’t have everything that I’m going to list, so these aren’t necessarily reviews and shouldn’t be considered as such. However, I will try to cover recommendations from as many major camps within a given category as I can. For example, I’ll likely recommend a computer from the Windows as well as the Mac camp, a tablet from the Windows, iOS and/or Android camp, etc.

This is going to take a few days to get through, so please come back often to Soft32 for updates to the series. I’m going to do my best to get the series completed as quickly as possible. The other day I covered one of the hottest holiday gift items around – tablets. Today, we’re going to look at computers or PC’s.

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Smartphones: The Key to the Whole Thing – Introduction


I said this a couple days ago – I cut my teeth on smartphones. Back in the day they were called PDA Phones but any way you cut it, they were less advanced versions of the same devices we have today – calendar, contacts, email, and yes…some apps.

Mobile development is very different than it used to be. Most everything used to be a lot more complicated and pretty disjointed. If you had an app on a device and you upgraded to a new device on the same operating system, you weren’t guaranteed that the app would run on the new device. If the screen size was different, it was a completely different game. Newer versions of the OS also more than likely meant that you either had to leave the app behind, upgrade for a fee, or rebuy a license.

Buying apps was also very disjointed. There were specific web-based stores, and they didn’t always allow you to redownload purchases. Hard resetting your device meant that you may also have to do without an app if you didn’t make a back up of its installation file and registration information when you initially bought it. It wasn’t fun.

Today, with the implementation of the software ecosystem, things are much easier. There are centralized stores for each mobile operating system. There are multiple OEM’s with multiple devices on at least two of the three major mobile platforms available today. There are tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of apps available for download and/or purchase. In short, we’ve come a LONG way in under 10 years.
When considering a smartphone for a loved one this Holiday season, you have a few different choices available to you. I’m not going to touch on some of the more “off the beaten track” options. This would include things like Symbian (sorry Nokia fans…), Firefox OS, or Tizen (formerly MeeGo OS, or the next version of Nokia’s mobile OS that didn’t quite make it off the ground).

 

Key Considerations

As expected, I’m going to cover Android, iOS and yes, Windows Phone. More than likely, you’re going to find something in one of these three ecosystems to meet your needs. However, just like the tablets I recommended the other day, you’re going to have to watch out for a couple of key items here.

  1. Do you or your loved one(s) already have a smartphone and/or tablet and you’re just looking to upgrade your device? If you’re looking to upgrade your device from an older model to a newer model, or if you already have an Android or iOS device, there’s a good chance you may want to stay within that particular ecosystem. This really makes like a lot easier for you or your loved one receiving a smartphone as a gift this Holiday season. They likely won’t have to learn anything new or have to change the way they work and can simply start using the device out of the box, after its activated. Most mobile OS revisions are evolutionary instead of revolutionary, meaning that there isn’t drastic change from major release to major release. Moving from iOS 5 to iOS 6 was pretty easy. So was the move from Android Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean. Even the move from iOS 6 to iOS 7 wasn’t too horrible, once you got past the UI element changes.
  2. Are you planning on switching ecosystems or is this the first device in an ecosystem? If this is your gift recipient’s first smartphone, or if they’re planning or wanting to change ecosystems then you have two very different considerations to take into account.
    - If you’re switching ecosystems: How many apps do you actively use? If you use a LOT of apps, determine the cost of rebuying all of those, and factor that into the cost of the new device. If you can’t use the device the way you want, then it may not be a good idea to switch ecosystems. If the cost of repurchasing all those apps pushes you over your budget, then you may have to rethink your purchase, or choose a lower cost model within that ecosystem.
    If you’re new to the smartphone game and this is your first device: Think long and hard about the choice you’re going to make. Its likely going to dictate what kind of upgrade device you’re going to purchase in the next 18 to 24 months. Its also going to dictate where you purchase your apps, songs and videos. You’re going to need to be comfortable with that choice, as it may limit your purchasing options, or they could be a bit more open than you thought. Being informed is being empowered and should make your life a bit easier, as you’ll know what to expect, and about how much you may initially spend.
  3. What kind of accessories have you purchased? Can they be used with the new device? If you or your gift recipient already has a device, how much stuff do you have? If you have a boat load of accessories, will you be able to use them with the new device? If the answer is, “no,” then you have to determine what you can live without and what you can’t, as you may need to repurchase a LOT of stuff. Some times adapters exist, but aren’t always very practical or very usable. Device accessories are a huge cottage business for many; and a very lucrative one at that. If you have to leave a lot of accessories behind, you may need to factor the cost of replacing them into the purchase price of the device or plan on when you’re going to buy replacements. The key point to take away here, is to know what you can use and what you can’t and then figure out the associated costs and plan for the expense.
  4. What kind of budget do you have for this purchase?

This is going to dictate what device you get and depending on what kind of apps and accessories you have already purchased, you may need to adjust your choice to account for budget.

Accessories and ecosystem aside, many of the best smartphones are very high priced, and many users may think its not practical to buy unsubsidized devices, as the down stroke to get into the device may be too deep.

At the end of the day, you need to realize that buying a smartphone is a bigger decision than just picking one and taking it home. You have upgrade considerations, content considerations and accessory considerations to account for. All of these will effect your device or near term costs. Being informed is being empowered and will allow you to make the best gift decision for you or your loved one(s).

In light of that – and I’ll likely have a column or article on this at a later date – you need to get ready for US cellular carriers to drop phone subsidies. T-Mobile was the first to do that. Subsidies cost carriers money. They try to pass that cost on to consumers, but they would rather finance the cost of the device, pushing the full cost to the consumer, than subsidizing it, where they share the cost of the device.

Before we get into what devices to consider, please note that I am going to make these recommendations devoid of carrier considerations. Based on your geographic location and the carrier choices available to you, you may need to adjust these recommendations to suite your needs.

Android

Of the three major mobile operating systems to choose from, picking the right Android phone represents the biggest challenge out there. When it comes to iOS devices, only one manufacturer is making that kind of device – Apple. When it comes to Windows Phone, while more than one OEM makes a Windows Phone, its really Nokia’s Lumia line that calls attention to itself. However, when it comes to Android devices the field of viable players is much wider.

And quite honestly, so are many of the phones. I think one of the biggest issues that I have with Android phones is that they are, in many cases, freakishly wide. I know that wide screens are really in right now, but I really have an issue with many of the Android phones available today. They’re too wide in my opinion.

However, screen size aside, as of this writing, if I had to or wanted to choose and Android phone for myself I’d likely choose either a HTC One or a Nexus 5. Both devices are high end smartphones and will provide you with, possibly, years of reliable use.

The HTC One comes in either 32GB or 64GB flavors and has a quad-core 1.7Ghz Snapdragon processor. It has 2GB of RAM and has decent battery life, despite the power it possesses. The device is probably one of the best that HTC has ever engineered and that’s saying a lot for a company that defined what smartphones really should be between 2003 and 2006 when they supplied i-mate with some of the best devices ever made.

If the HTC one isn’t for you, then you might want to try the Nexus 5. While its camera doesn’t even come close to competing with the 41MP camera in the Lumia 1020, at 8MP it is on par with other offerings available today.

The Nexus 5 is Google’s latest phone, and is guaranteed to provide the most Google-like experience available today. All other Android experiences may be tainted by the customized software layer that most OEM’s place on top of Android, like HTC’s latest version of HTC Sense.

The Nexus 5 will always run the latest version of Android (as long as its supported) and costs an affordable $349, unlocked. Many other devices, including the Apple iPhone 5S, cost over $600 unlocked.

iOS

While all three major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offer a subsidized version of the iPhone 5S, the only thing you have to worry about is which one do you want a 2 year contract with. At $199, the 16GB iPhone 5S is probably the best way to go. Its affordable and gets you the latest version of the device without breaking the bank. If $199 is too much for you to spend on a device that will require a 2 year contractual commitment, then considering the iPhone 4S is a good decision, as it will require no money down. The only thing you need to understand is that it only comes in an 8GB flavor, which may not offer enough room to store apps and other content.

Apple’s cell phone is a decent buy and a good decision for those computing users who use Macs as their PC of choice or for those that really like iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. A decision to purchase an iDevice is really driven more by content than by any other factor, in my opinion.
Windows Phone
The biggest reason to get a Windows Phone is NOT because of the ecosystem or because of the software store or accessories. Windows Phone is a hot mess right now, when it comes to ecosystem and software stores. There are two reasons to get a Windows Phone right now – ease of use and digital camera; and honestly, the second reason out-weighs the first.

If pushed, many mobile pundits – myself included – will tell you that despite its many disjointed, ecosystem challenges, Windows Phones have some of the best built in cameras on the market today. At 41MP, they have some of the best point and shoot digital cameras on the market. In fact, the camera on a Windows Phone likely has a higher megapixel rating than your DSLR or dedicated, point and shoot digital camera.

To this end, if you’re interested in a Windows Phone, the one to get would be the Lumia 1020. It has a 4.5″ AMOLED display, a 41MP PureView camera and a 1.5Ghz Snapdragon processor. It supports LTE network bands 2, 4, 5 and 17. It also has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage for documents, apps and content. Despite whatever issues or short comings the ecosystem has, the device is getting good press from all over the industry. If you’re looking for a Windows Phone, the Lumia 1020 is the one to get.

Conclusion

Buying a smartphone is not an easy task, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. In many cases, its likely going to become your defacto internet device. You’ll likely do more web surfing over your phone than you will with your PC.

Regardless of what decision you ultimately make regarding which device to buy, you’ll need to answer a few questions for yourself before moving forward -

  1.  Do you or your loved one(s) already have a smartphone and/or tablet and you’re just looking to upgrade your device?
  2. Are you planning on switching ecosystems or is this the first device in an ecosystem?
  3. What kind of accessories have you purchased? Can they be used with the new device?
  4. What kind of budget do you have for this purchase?

Like PC’s and tablet’s budget limitations may drive your smartphone purchase. If that’s the case with you, then do yourself a favor and still go through the exercise I’ve outlined here. It will at the very least get to take a long hard look at the larger picture of choosing the best smartphone for you.

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On the Threshold of What..?

There are Windows Changes coming and some of them, my friends, are truly encouraging.

Change ahead isolated signWhen I write a column, I usually try to come up with some cool play on words or other “hook” to sorta grab a reader’s attention. With this particular column its really hard because the news I found is really very exciting; and there really isn’t a decent, cute way to put this without reducing the excitement.  So, I’m just gonna come out and say it:

It looks like the Start Menu – the real Windows 7 styled Start Menu – is intended to make a come back in Windows Threshold.  At least that’s what I see when I read the latest article by Paul Thurrott.

Paul and I go back a ways. We both worked for WUGNET for a while. Paul started WinInfo there, and I wrote most of their computing tips over a 15 year period.  So, honestly, when Paul says something, I tend to listen and listen VERY carefully. If there’s one thing I know, its that Paul knows Windows. So when I hear Paul say that the Start Menu is coming back, I tend to listen.

According to Paul and his cohort in Windows Weekly crime, Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft Threshold is all about bringing Windows to the threshold of unification between Phone, desktop and Xbox One.  This unification will include a series of updates that will go a LONG way to satisfying many of Microsoft’s very, very unhappy enterprise and consumer users.

In the next version of Windows, be it Threshold, Windows 8.2 or whatever they decide to call it, ModernUI apps will run in a window, if your PC supports Windows’ Desktop Mode. This is going work a lot like Stardock’s ModernMix, though its likely be somewhat different…at least one would hope.

The Start Menu is also going to return. The Start Button clearly wasn’t enough for everyone, and the “next logical step”  is to bring the Start Menu back as an available option.  According to Paul, its possible that this option will only going to appear in product versions that support Desktop mode.  There’s more that will likely be in this update, but at this time, this is all that’s confirmable.

Paul calls this a good step. I have to agree with him. Part of me is wondering if I’m not the only one wondering if this isn’t in response to Surface RT/Surface 2′s poor sales numbers and if Microsoft is clearly starting to get it – after more than 30 years, Windows is a productivity tool more than an entertainment tool.

If this is the case, I’d call that a good thing too.  I like Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro.  They’re both good ultrabooks. However, with full blown Windows on them, its hard for me to use something like that as an entertainment device. Its not impossible, but YOU have to change gears with it. I don’t know about you, but I am not always very successful with that. I often find that I gravitate towards other devices other than my work PC for entertainment. Its easier for me to mentally keep them separate than to use one device for both purposes.

Over the years, I’ve found that my IT departments feel the same way. When you use a work PC for personal use, at least at my current job, you can be terminated.  The two do NOT mix at all, and BYOD is not something they encourage or support.  While other IT shops may not have the same policy, filling up a hard drive with MP3′s or videos is often discouraged.  Unless you work for a company that fully supports BYOD or are self employed and have to supply your own PC equipment, I’m not certain that kind of concern applies to you.  My guess is that most people don’t bump into the problem. Its likely not an issue for most.

What do you think about the Windows developments? Why not join us in the discussion below and tell us what you think.

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Step on it, Already

Microsoft’s Board moves its CEO search towards the end

Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft’s CEO search is nearing an end.   The company’s board of directors will narrow its previous list of candidates (set at 8) to 3 to 5, according to the news outlet. That meeting, scheduled for  2013-11-18  takes place one day before Microsoft hosts its annual shareholders meeting not far from its headquarters, in Redmond, WA.

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In a bid to keep or improve the momentum its stock saw since Steve Ballmer announced his departure within 12 months,   Microsoft will quickly advance its search forward.   Microsoft’s stock has jumped 17% since that announcement in August 2013. The company’s board would be negligent to allow it to fall off or stagnate.

There’s also been a great deal of criticism that many of the recent changes that Ballmer has enacted over the recent months, including the company’s focus change from boxed software to devices and services, its recent reorg – which was extensive – as well as its acquisition of Nokia’s handset business and the abandonment of its “stack ranking” employee evaluation system, would box the new CEO in and narrow their choices.   The fear is that this would effectively make them a replacement and not a successor.

The intent is to get a replacement in place by the end of the year.   If the selection process moves into 2014, then ValueAct’s president, G. Mason Morfit, a newly appointed board member, will have a more active voice in the choice of CEO as part of the recent agreement ValueAct and Microsoft entered into in August 2013. ValueAct Capital instituted a potential proxy fight and as part of the agreement to avoid that, Microsoft and ValueAct entered into an agreement that included a board seat for Morfit. The “more active voice” clause is also part of the deal, according to a filing with the SEC.

My friend Preston Gralla   had some  interesting ideas  on who that person might be. His take, and I agree with much of it, is that Microsoft needs a complete remake. That would kill nearly every internal candidate (Satya Nadella, Kevin Turner, and my speculation on a third internal candidate – Julie Larson-Green) as well as Stephen Elop.   Elop may be coming directly from Nokia, but he’s a former Softie, and was once part of the culture that needs to so drastically change. If I were a member of the MS Board, while Elop may institute change, I would be afraid that it wouldn’t be a big enough change.

That leaves just two real candidates – former Skype CEO Tony Bates and Ford’s Alan Mulally.   I honestly like both. While Bates may have the tech experience and the entrepreneurial drive that might be needed, I think Mulally is the better choice.   He has the corporate experience with a larger organization in Ford and has brought about the kind of rapid change that the MS Board wants. Mulally can always tap Tony Bates for COO, too; which would give the organization the best of both worlds.   It just may be the winning combination that Microsoft needs at this time.

I don’t want to push Kevin Turner out of a job, but in the end, it may be the right choice for Microsoft. If there isn’t another good spot for Turner within the organization, I’m certain he and his family won’t starve to death. Microsoft would likely take care of him if that scenario came about.

I’ll have more on the CEO developments at Microsoft as they become known. Please watch Soft32 for more on this developing issue.

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Chromebooks – What are they and Why do I Care?

What’s a Chromebook with enhanced offline capabilities..?

A notebook with a stripped-down desktop OS (or, “three Chromebooks walk into a bar…”)

 

Introduction

See… I blame the whole netbook era for this.

A few years ago, just before tablets hit the market and the iPad took the computing world by storm, netbooks were all the rage. They were really a full blown notebook computer with either a “starter” version of Windows or Linux or a hacked version of the full OS; but had budget processing power and RAM. In many ways, they were a hackers dream, as with the right tools, talent or instructions, getting unusual Linux or Unix builds or even OS X on one was fairly easy, requiring only the right OS build and a USB flash drive or CD drive. Back in the day, I had a number of articles published on Gear Diary on how to create a Hackintosh with an MSI Wind.

Netbooks were replaced by tablets; and then the whole rooting your Android device-thing started. In many ways, rooting your Android device has also seen its day come and go, as more people are interested in a pure Android experience. Jail breaking or rooting your device has become very passé and honestly, I’m glad to see it go, too. I used to be very much into putting custom ROM’s on my phone(s), and that goes all the way back to the PocketPC and Windows Mobile days. While it was fun (at times), it’s a great deal of work and the results you get aren’t always worth the effort, especially when you can now cycle devices in and out every 12 or so months.

What does this have to do with Chromebooks? That’s a great question… The way things have been going, I see the implementation of Chromebooks in a similar light – a relic of the pre-tablet age where an open-source undercurrent was trying to redirect the interests of the industry and mainstream computing. Cloud computing has its place, but I don’t see it as the savior that Google and others would want YOU to think it is.

Chromebooks are completely dependent upon a few key items in order to function correctly. Over the next few days, we’ll discuss them all and see if we can figure it all out.

Chromebooks

 

Google Services and Little Else

Let’s get this out there right now – unless you’re already in bed with Google, you’d better plan to be if you purchase a Chromebook. The device may not work properly with other cloud-based storage or office suite services, and then you’d be stuck. Buying a Chromebook means buying into Google. Period.

 

A Chromebook is (little more than) a Dumb Terminal

The current computing model is completely based on the Intel x86/x64 architecture and the client/server model of computing. Over the past 20 or so years, you’ve seen Moore’s Law prove itself and then be recast as the number of transistors that we can currently put on a silicon wafer sort of went from 2300 back in the day to more than 2.3M. The point I’m making is that the current computing paradigm has all of the processing power for your computer actually ON your computer.

It’s got a beefy processor with (increasingly sophisticated) power management capabilities. It has a boat load of RAM and as much spinning or flash storage as you can cram into it without blowing the price out of proportion. It (usually now-a-days) has an HD display as both HD capable desktop monitors and notebook screens are coming down in price.

Software ecosystems, even for traditional desktop/laptop computing, provide easy access to all of the tools you need to get your computing tasks done. Everything you need is on the computing device…except on a Chromebook.

Chromes doesn’t have a lot of local processing power built into it. It’s really a desktop version of the Chrome Browser for PC/Mac/Linux shoved inside a plastic and metal case. Most of the apps and computing that you do on it must be run within that browser wrapper. Things like Google Docs, Gmail, Google Photos, work well, and are really all you get. If it runs inside a browser window on your PC and if most of the heavy lifting the app needs are done by the web site/service, then you’re likely going to have a good chance of it running well on a Chromebook… especially if it’s a Google service. The local device can do some crunching and processing, but the device and service are designed to push most of the processing needs on the web server and service. “Regular” applications won’t run, however; so don’t look for that kind of experience from a Chromebook.

While this hardware and software configuration insures that the device itself can be relatively inexpensive (many Chromebooks are priced between $199 and $299), it doesn’t explain devices like the Chromebook Pixel, which sells for $1299. Most Chromebooks have budget processors – Intel Celerons, Samsung Exynos, etc. They’re not very powerful and really only provide basic computing services. The Pixel, however, is configured like a standard laptop, which doesn’t make much sense. It also has a touch screen, which either says they’re going to start doing some touch-centric related stuff with it and will also produce a tablet, or it could mean nothing at all. With Google… you never really know.

Chromebooks, though, are really designed to turn the lights on and just get you access to the internet. They don’t do any local bit crunching. What processing they do, is limited to local storage, file retrieval and internet service navigation and running of the “operating system.” As such, they’re really nothing more than a dumb terminal on wheels.

 

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Lessons Learned by a Would be Cord Cutter

Ya know… Getting rid of your cable or satellite subscriptions ain’t as easy as you might think. This is what I’ve learned so far…

 

Introduction

I recently got a new job in a different state. While we wait for the housing market to improve a bit before we sell the house, I’ve got long term, temporary housing set up. In an attempt to manage costs, I’ve decided to forgo with a local cable TV subscription and have decided to become a cord cutter. Internet TV or even getting TV on your computer isn’t as easy as you thought it might be; and I’ve learned some interesting lessons over the past few weeks. I’m going to do my best to cover as many of them as I can.

apple-itv

 

You Still Need a TV

I’ve got a 27″ Thunderbolt Display; and as a computer monitor it’s totally awesome. As a TV, however, it leaves something to be desired. It would be great if the right services were in place to be able to use it as a TV.

iTunes can be controlled with an Apple Remote on every Mac. I’ve also found that my Thunderbolt Display works well from across a small room; and an Apple Remote can perform basic VCR functions as well as control volume levels on my MacBook Pro. This however, is only part of the equation.

However, you can’t “change a channel,” and Apple TV functionality isn’t present on a Mac. Channel surfing really doesn’t exist in this situation. Things like Netflix or Hulu Plus are run in a browser and you need a full blown mouse or some kind of motion control device (like Microsoft Connect) to control your Mac from your couch.

If you have a TV and other accessories (see below) you can still cut the cable, but get the best of both worlds. If the Apple iTV was really a Thunderbolt Display with a built in Apple TV, or if there was a real world way to marry the two together, this would eliminate the need for a TV from the cord cutting equation. Unfortunately, I’m finding that a TV is still a required component.

 

Get a Set Top Box

As I mentioned above, if you REALLY want to have the best “cord free” experience, you’re not only going to need a TV, but you’re going to need a set top box. I’m really talking about an Apple TV, Roku Box, Chromecast dongle or other device that helps you find some traditional network (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) content, cable network (HBO, ShowTime, Cinemax, etc.) content, some specialty content (NFL Network, ESPN, etc.) as well as some streaming services like Netflix and/or Hulu Plus.

While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus are available via a browser, as I pointed out above, getting a full blown TV experience is difficult without a set top box. It is possible to find traditional network, cable network or specialty content on the web with a web browser; but that often involves a separate fee. The set top box is often licensed by the content owner to play or stream the content without paying an additional licensing fee. It also makes using your streaming service subscription a lot easier, as it consolidates all of your options – including those available on your PC – into a single interface and place. Again, if I could use my Apple TV with my Thunderbolt display, this would solve a big problem for me.

 

Invest in a Really Good Digital Antenna

Services like Aero are really kinda cool. However, Aero isn’t available in all markets, and there really isn’t anything else like it that would allow streaming of local channels over the internet or other network connection. This is a huge problem if you’re a cord cutter and are trying to obtain digital TV services without any kind of cable or satellite TV package.

The obvious thing to do here is to purchase a really strong, really good digital antenna for your TV. While this will insure that you can get local TV programming, the most important thing you have to remember is that even though this is the Digital Age, you’re going to take yourself back to the Golden Age of Television when you do this. In other words, it’s going to be a challenge.

Local TV stations are required by Federal mandate to broadcast their programming over the air so that you can pick them up with a digital antenna. You don’t HAVE to have a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to get these channels, though in many ways, this is the easiest way to insure that

  1. You get the local programming
  2. You’re able to view it all clearly, without reception issues

I’ve used digital antennas before with other digital TV products and I’ve noticed that, like the SD TV’s from the ’50′s to the ’80′s (i.e.: before cable really took hold), a lot of antenna adjusting may be required based on your geographical and topographical location (where you are and the shape of the geography around you). The best thing you can do is to insure that the antenna you have is the best you can afford. The stronger that receiver is, the better the quality of the picture you will receive. (You’ll also cut down on the amount of tin foil and forks you’ll need to use to insure that the picture comes in clearly.)

 

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