Why removing “Drive Extender” from the next Windows Home Server is bad product management

29 11 2010

Yeah, I should have posted at least once more this year.  But I guess it takes something of epic frustration to prod me into re-prioritizing my schedule right now.  Removing a technology called “Drive Extender” from Windows Home Server is just the right move to get my fingers on the keyboard again.

Let me explain why…

Through a series of weird coincidences, I happened upon the necessity to consider purchasing a “real” Windows Home Server box from an OEM.  My current “Frankenstein’s Monster” box I assembled many years ago (after all, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster) is probably a liability.  I keep feeding it drives, and it keeps running.

For all of you out there who have businesses of some sort, the end of 2010 means the last opportunity to spend some money on capital assets (i.e. shiny toys) and write them off.  Because everyone is soooo scared that taxes might change in 2011, CPA’s are telling people to spend money this year as though a great plague is upon us and the only way to slake its blood lust is to feed it cash.

It’s like written permission

So when you get this letter from your CPA and you look for toys to buy, you start thinking about all the non-sexy stuff that you worry about at 2AM when you can’t sleep.  My Windows Home Server is one of those items.

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An SXGA+ article to get me back into the game

25 05 2010

Yup… I should have been posting for the past few months.  Hopefully I can get back into the habit!

I don’t need a new laptop yet.  Yet… however, the screen size trend in industry really bothers me.  Wider is not better if we’re sacrificing vertical pixels!  Yet, every manufacturer is basically training us to accept low vertical pixel density by hiding behind the “HD” moniker.

Today, you will be hard pressed to find anything functional with a vertical pixel count of 800 or more.  I’m not talking about netbooks (although I have one).  I mean most new laptops in general.

We’re just taking a step backward to the 90’s… 1024×768 (VGA) is really close to 800 pixels tall!

Now, I’ve been a user of Tablet PC’s for the past 5 or 6 years now and I find them incredibly useful.  I do mainly 3 things with my tablet:

  1. Draw User Experience Prototype Sketches
  2. Take down whiteboard sketches of architectures and the usual “ideation” work therein
  3. Retouch, enhance, and correct photos I take (portraits especially)

I find the tablet’s interface to be as natural as we can get for work in photography.  For example, there’s a big difference (in my mind) in the look of a brush stroke made with a pen vs. made with a mouse.  This guys seems to agree with me about screen size and art.

I can draw something in OneNote quickly, and then go into SketchFlow and redraw the same thing and make it function.

I can retouch a photo using an airbrush that actually almost works like an airbrush.

Yes, I could use an external tablet like a Wacom Bamboo, but it’s so much nicer to see exactly what you’re doing on the screen.  Moreover, you don’t have to carry one more thing around.  I’m sure that anyone who’s seen Microsoft Research’s Project Gustav will agree that more pixels will be better!

As a backup plan, I have one of these Hantech Stylo pens that will work with any PC.  But, it’s probably not quite the same (I have yet to really try it out in earnest).

Size is everything, actually

My criteria for picking a Tablet PC has been pretty simple:

Get the one with the highest screen resolution possible!

 

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Long term digital lifestyle vision

26 02 2010

I love it when a plan comes together… or at least, I like to watch someone put a long term plan together and execute it – especially when I am along for the ride. 

I’ve been told that I’m too impatient when it comes to proposing and executing strategic organizational and product movement.  Perhaps that’s true.  Sometimes the wait is internal inertia, sometimes it is for technology to catch up with the science fiction, and sometimes it’s waiting for the market to emerge.

Seeing the market before it emerges is what differentiates revolutionary plans from incremental plans.  While revolutionary plans come together on the backs of incremental gains, those gains are shaped and directed by a vision.

Your digital lifestyle

OK, this is going to sound like an advertisement, but I’m looking at it from a strategic roadmap and product management perspective.  Also, I already have a lot of this stuff lying around, so I’d like to see it work!  Now, onward…

Whether you knew it or not, the first thing to make progress toward the “paperless” (or perhaps “virtual”) anything was your house.  The office has too much inertia and weighty processes holding it back to really embrace the digital vision wholeheartedly.  It will move that direction, but nowhere near as quickly as your own household. 

That’s largely because you choose your own digital destiny.  New sexy products become available rapidly and the adoption curve for certain new technology items is based both on peer pressure and the desire for shiny objects.  Because of this, your house is very likely more advanced than your office.

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An argument against license enforcement

7 12 2009

This may seem weird as I’ve been talking about pricing and license metric development.  However, we have not yet talked about enforcement. 

To software companies, license enforcement protects the bottom line.  It prevents rampant, “entrepreneurial” software distribution throughout their customer base.  Keep in mind that this discussion isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario.  A major enterprise software provider may choose to enforce a license differently than a single-user shrink-wrapped software provider.

To customers, software licensing is a way of steering clear of the legal issues surrounding "viral license expansion” that can happen as co-workers share their productivity practices. 

It’s simply risk avoidance – policy triumphing over value to the organization.  IT departments go through elaborate means to “control the desktop environment” of their employees both for ease of management and for license enforcement.

Viral license expansion for fun and profit

If we take away the legal and negative revenue implications of letting a software package roam free-range style throughout an organization, the result of getting more eyeballs on your product can be compelling to both parties.  This is especially true if your software has an entrenched user base in one specialized area of a company, but could bring significant value to other areas of your customer base.

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Moving to Windows 7 while keeping one foot in the past

17 11 2009

I finally made the commitment to Windows 7 as my main OS on my tablet PC.  I’d been running it in a dual boot configuration for a while, but a few weeks ago, it was time to move on.  My Vista installation was over 2 years old and was starting to act unpredictably.

As with every fresh operating system installation, the pain of starting from scratch makes you swear to never let your machine get to its inevitable ugly state again.

Keeping that promise might be a little easier this time around though.  By using some cool virtualization technology, you can have the best of both worlds.

Easy transfer wizard

There are many discussions about how to make life a little bit easier when moving to Windows 7 by using the Microsoft Windows Easy Transfer wizard.  I discovered a few things that I didn’t know while using it and thought I should pass it along.

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When Licensing Metrics Must Change

5 11 2009

Everyone knows that technology changes quickly.  So it’s surprising (at least to me) that licensing metrics for software are so difficult to change.  Purchasing contracts, license agreements, and license enforcement tend to lag technical milestones.  Sometimes this is a good thing – for instance, everyone waited out the predicted move to 64-bit servers during the development of the Itanium processor.  At other times, licensing metrics are not compatible with IT practices that develop due to technology – you license per-Ethernet port and they buy per-device.

Consumer packaged goods don’t usually have to keep pace with technical changes.  Cars are licensed per unit, not per cylinder, seat, or window.  In many ways software is licensed “per cylinder” which makes it susceptible to fundamental changes.  Think of the impact hybrid technology or turbo chargers would have on a per-cylinder vehicle licensing model during the current green movement.

What to disrupt when you’re disrupted

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Usability and people skills are the key to catching the Wave

8 10 2009

When you open the top of a soft drink and look under the cap, chances are you’ll see a code that you can text in or type into a web site for the privilege of entering a loyalty club or contest.  Years ago, that same cap used to tell you if you were an instant winner.

Soft drink companies made a choice about usability and culture – do you have far fewer entrants, but collect more information, or do you make more people instant winners and hope it builds anonymous brand loyalty?

How many of you have texted in one of those codes on a cap using T9 entry?

That’s what I thought…

So, usability and culture are intertwined (e.g. “do I want to go through the effort of texting” and “what are they going to do with my phone number?”).  The reward has to be tremendous to get over the “activation energy” of user inertia and suspicion.

Enter Google Wave.  Technically speaking, it has got some pretty incredible components underneath it.  No, I was not one of the 100,000 preview invitations to Wave, but I do think it shares the same soft drink cap adoption conundrum.

Google is looking for passionate digital natives right now (they build a tribe, the tribe can structure a community etc.), so a long explanation (an 80 minute intro video) makes sense.  But, if Wave requires a culture change or a large shift in user habits, there is a long road ahead for it.  Ray Ozzie has some great insight into this conundrum.  He should know a thing or two about collaboration as the founding father of Lotus Notes and Groove.  I like that guy.

In New York City, there are 2,375 mentions of “Facebook” every minute

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Windows Home Server and the 12 hour undelete

6 10 2009

A thoroughly scary and disappointing thing happened to me this weekend that made me reevaluate my cavalier way of doing IT work at home (you know, where the data is actually important).

I admit I was over-confident about certain things.  Heck, the thing we were doing worked before, so why shouldn’t it work again?

Here are some of the lessons and quirks that I uncovered:

You’ve got 720 minutes

Windows Home Server (WHS) does some really great things.  It mirrors your files so that in case of most hardware failures, your content is safe.  It backs up your other computers so that you’ve got peace of mind when your computers start making funny noises… but what’s backing up your WHS box (I would link in JungleDisk here, but they just pulled their WHS backup beta until further notice)? 

What if you make a mistake (or something else does), and you lose some files?

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Web sites vs. beer – guess who wins?

24 09 2009

It’s time for an update.  Vacations and a flurry of event activity has gobbled up most of my time recently.  And that’s a good thing!  Further pricing discussion will wait another few days while I write about the launch of a new idea that’s been hatching over the past few months.

SAP for Utilities 2009

This is a top-notch event.  This year I was lucky enough to be involved in the mechanics of a new extension of the event itself – a new, utility-centric collaboration and social networking community.  The event’s theme was “Collaboration Fuels Innovation”.  More specifically – cross-company collaboration. Nobody has to reinvent the wheel or solve the same problem twice if they work on common problems.

The event itself draws a very high level audience.  At the event itself, CxO’s, chief architects, and anyone involved in creating the next generation (pun intended) utility company all rub shoulders and share stories.

Utility companies (generation, transmission and distribution, retailers, and operators of all types) show up to talk about their plans for working with new demands in the marketplace as well as any new governmental mandates.

Our objective was to keep those conversations going beyond the event.  So, we created the UtilityCollaboration community.  The idea was first envisioned by the event organizer, Eventure Events.  I just helped figure out how to do it with them.

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Pricing topics round up

26 08 2009

It’s time to look back at the ground we’ve covered in order to establish the road ahead.  In a series of strategy posts, I talked about the fact that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.  I also said it was important to have a sense of purpose and continue to review the goals that you started with in order to see if they’ve changed.

Let’s review what has been covered so that readers can easily catch up with anything they’ve missed and also to plot the next post.

Human behavior

It’s only natural to look for the best deal.  That’s exactly what happens when you get down to brass tacks with any business negotiation.  Humans treat everything with lots of variables as a game.  We like to play with graphic equalizers because we think we can make our music sound better when we have a greater degree of control over the gain of each frequency band.

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