Thursday, 29 September 2011

Daily Review #11: Kindling the Fire

The Daily Review - 29th September 2011
Photo © Shawn Hempel |

Kindling the Fire

What a fickle lot you are!

Last week it was all "Windows 8 Tablets. The iPad is dead. Pah!".

Yesterday, it was every Microsoft employee and MVP boasting on Twitter that they'd pre-ordered the shiny new Amazon Kindle Fire, with the obligatory phrase "for the wife" added as a late retweet just in case Mr Ballmer should be listening in.

No doubt next week (with Apple's announcements due) it'll all be "I'm getting an iPhone 5" (while the 3 people who actually bought a Windows Phone 7 jump in and tell us all how disappointing the new iPhone is now that Mango's just been released)!

It was impossible to miss the big Amazon launch - it even made the main 6 o'clock news and the mainstream newspapers this morning (see how early I get up and how much research I do to put together this Daily Review for y'all?!). And if you thought the Windows 8 reveal at Build excited the stock market for Microsoft shares - well let's just say that what the Kindle Fire did for Amazon's shares yesterday put that pitiful little spurt to shame.

Not that Microsoft will be worried. They've got about USD 5 a handset coming in from every Blackberry - and as of yesterday, if some reports can be believed, every Samsung - handset running their rival Google's Android operating system, thanks to their playing the whole patent game in what Google have referred to as sheer 'extortion'. Like anybody was surprised. I mean, really?!

This is where the lawyers really get excited, because with a competing device that sells for less than half the price of the cheapest tablet in the range that has over a 75% share of the market AND THE CONTENT TO BEAT IT (Pah! Take that Microsoft!) you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple's lawyers will be all over Amazon saying anything that resembles anything is theirs and they have a patent on it.

And here's the real rub about the Kindle Fire. It has a shiny new browser - called Amazon Silk - AND IT SUPPORTS PLUG-INS!

Oh the beautiful irony of it all!

Silverlight is gasping its last dying breaths, but along comes Amazon to give it a few more breaths. You couldn't make this stuff up in a Silverlight MVP's wet dream!

In all seriousness, yesterday's announcement of a new sub-USD200 device that's multi-touch, full colour, smaller than the iPad, has eight hours battery life, supports Flash and uses Amazon's cloud-based services (oh the data mining opportunities!) really puts Microsoft in a bad position, no matter what spin the echo chamber may try and put on it. As I've been saying like a broken record for the last 18 months Microsoft continually ignore the market and then wake up to deliver "Way too little, way too late".

Admittedly I haven't checked recently (life's too short to keep spending unpaid hours/months/years helping Microsoft sell their never-ending stream of 'new shit') but this time last year their Azure cloud offering was an embarrassingly immature offering that guaranteed never-ending pain for anybody stupid enough to take the evangelists and the marketeers at their word. It would have been less painful to just stick forks in your eyes than try and get around all the flakey, partial release crap that constituted developing and deploying applications for Microsoft's offering in the cloud!

Amazon have always done a better job on the cloud front. Look at all the video/photo social network sites and check where they actually store everything!

As for the tablet..., Well that Samsung tablet device given to Build developers may be able to run "real code" - but what is that real code again? Oh yeah, in the new shiny Metro world it's "HTML5" that's the first class citizen of coding. That'll be the HTML5 technologies which are also supported by devices like the Kindle and the iPad will it? Ooops!

Suddenly that heavy, 'barely 3 hours battery life', seriously over-priced Samsung tablet isn't looking QUITE so sexy, is it?

And that's before we get into discussing THE CONTENT. Because make no mistake - it's all about the content baby, and Amazon have so much of it they can afford to sell Kindles as loss leaders until the cows come home (about a month or so before Windows 8 actually ships!)

Amazon aren't stupid - they're not revealing any figures, but their recent announcement that sales of electronic books now outsold the paper variety clearly put the writing on the wall about where the future is, and why they're being so aggressive in this tablet space.

In the meantime we're all waiting for Microsoft's answer - the one that Build session after Build session told us they'd been working on for two years. TWO YEARS!

Wasn't that the same period of time they told us they'd been working on mobile Silverlight before showing us incredibly immature prototypes of Windows Phone 7? The phone that in its second release (yesterday) some sad sacks are saying is going to trash the competition and take over the world (How I laughed! No really, I struggled to get home what with the queues around the block and all after yesterday's release of Mango!)

Funny that 'two years' figure though because in the same breath as they're telling us all this stuff has been worked on for two years Microsoft will talk about the problems they had with for example, putting the Portable Library together, the problem being that when they started they had to support limitations and differences of things like Windows Phone that had already shipped. That'll be the Windows Phone that shipped about a year ago, right? Oh, wait. One year? Two years? What's the real story here?

Either someone has a really bad memory and can't work out how many months there are in a year, or all this 'two years' nonsense continually promoted at Build is a big fat, white lie.

Microsoft lying to its developers? Surely not? It must just be a "re-imagining" of the calendar!

Oh well. We only have to wait another year for the fruits of all that hard work, however long it is that it's really taken! That'll be Microsoft being 'fast and fluid' while their competitors are presumably 'slow and lethargic'!

In the meantime while everyone else cleans up in the mobile space, Microsoft can always live off all that 'exortion' money from Android handset sales!

Like I said, you really couldn't make all this stuff up!

You can now buy the entire Kindle range for less than the cost of a 32GB iPad

Fast and fluid Update

Despite all the snarkiness above, I like Windows 8 a lot. I've updated the company home page with a teaser video that gives a clue as to something that's in the pipeline. Because I know you lot are too lazy to go and click on a link I've also included a smaller version of that video below.

Unfortunately, there is one nasty side effect of all this recent activity: The Fundamentals of MEF product review I promised for Friday is now going to slip to next week. Nothing to do with the fantastic Summer weather we suddenly started experiencing in London yesterday honest (whistles nonchallently) - just the result of higher priority projects taking precedence!

WinRT would make a better phone OS than the current wp7 - native code, JavaScript, better design

Today's "News" Links

Must Read! Amazon Kindle Fire to Enter Tablet Computer Market (BBC)
News and quotes about yesterday's big Amazon announcement.
Watch It! Introducing Amazon Silk (Amazon)
Amazon engineers/marketeers hype up their proxy in the cloud. Suddenly the launch date for Microsoft's Windows 8/Windows Live/cloud offerings look even more like 'too little too late'
Must Read! Microsoft and Samsung sitting in a tree, patent s-h-a-r-i-n-g (Engadget)
Microsoft just grabbed itself a hefty wedge of money. Google can't be happy!
Good Read! Google on Microsoft's Android Tactics: It's Extortion (M G Siegler, TechCrunch)
Google actually used the word 'extortion'! Wow!

Today's "Opinion" Links

Good Read! Top 10 Over-Engineering Mistakes in Silverlight (Jeremy Likness, Wintellect)
Silverlight? I thought this was a Windows 8 Daily Review?! Thing is we don't want to go repeating the mistakes of the past do we, and this is all good stuff which as Jeremy pointed out in a tweet is probably applicable to other technologies too!
Good Read! How Will Windows 8 Tablets Fare Against Amazon's Kindle Fire? (Mary Jo Foley, Ziff-Davies)
Too many of the reviewers are pitching the new super-cheap, super-content driven Kindle against the iPad, but they're foolishly ignoring Windows 8 tablets, says Mary Jo.
Good Read! Windows 8 Raises The Bar for Security (Neil MacDonald, Gartner)
Bullet point list of security improvements in Windows 8 from The Gartner Group
Good Read! Amazon Silk: Fast Cloud-Powered Browser, Or a New Way to Mine Your Data? (Tim Anderson, IT Writing)
All the excitement for the Windows 8 slates seems to have dissipated with Amazon's new tablet announcements yesterday. But Tim thinks there's some over-hyping of basic caching going on.
Good Read! Is a 10 inch Kindle Fire coming? Amazon says 'Stay tuned'. (Engadget)
If the Kindle Fire seems too small at 7 inches, Amazon Kindle's VP has hinted that a 10 inch version is on its way.
Good Read! Behind the Windows 8 User Interface. (Channel 9)
Channel 9 are publishing more of their live broadcasts from the Build Conference. This 30 minute interview features Sam Moreau, giving a bit more background filler material to the big overview '8 Traits' presentation. Easy watch but nothing new here. 'Should we migrate all apps to Metro?' 'We don't know. That's for developers to figure out.'

Today's "Technical" Links

Must Read! Extending Windows 8 Apps to the Cloud with Skydrive (Stephen Sinofsky, MSDN)
Good overview with instructions for how to set things up to use the Developer Preview of the Live SDK. This stuff is important.
OK! Viewing the Windows Developer Preview Documentation Offline (Gus Class, MSDN)
Windows 8 documentation has moved into an 'encapsulated experience' meaning some folks are struggling. Gus tries to walk you through the thinking and how best to use the documentation!
Meh! Installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview on a Dell Inspiron Duo (Ian Walker)
Short walk-through of how a Dell Tablet PC running Windows 7 to Windows 8. Brave man! Mainly just some screenshots of Windows Update screen and Dell Drivers web page!

Today's "HTML5" Links

Must Read! How to Choose Between Canvas and SVG (Patrick Dengler, Sitepoint)
Excellent article highlighting the differences between the two vector graphics formats, with illustrated examples.

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