Sun's Scott McNealy doesn't get .NET

According to, the CEO of Sun Microsystems recently told the Singapore press:

> Sun ONE runs on every system and processor. .NET runs only on Windows. It’s mankind versus Microsoft. .NET is a joke.

Wow, you can practically smell the desperation, can’t you?

First, Sun ONE hardly runs on “every system and processor”. For example, the Sun ONE Application Server runs only on Solaris, Windows, and Red Hat Linux. Sun supports Windows because they have to, but conspicuously **doesn’t** support Mac OS X Server because they’re (justifiably) afraid of Apple’s Xserve eating into their Cobalt server business.

Second, although Microsoft’s first commercial implementations of .NET (not surprisingly) run on Windows on Windows CE, their shared source version of the .NET core also runs on FreeBSD and Mac OS 10.2. As you heard here first, a future version of Virtual PC will inevitably include native support for .NET on Mac OS X. Last but not least, .NET also works on Linux (x86 and PowerPC), StrongARM and SPARC thanks to the work of the fine folks on the open source Mono and DotGNU projects.

Third, the “it’s mankind vs. Microsoft” thing. Well, that part is true.

Fourth, if Scott really thinks .NET is a joke, then he just doesn’t understand it.

> It’s difficult for me to defeat Microsoft. Microsoft has a lot of cash in hand.

Or maybe he does.

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Verizon to introduce next-gen wireless data network

Verzon has announced that they’re introducing a CDMA 2000 1xEV-DO (Evolution Data Only) wireless data network in the San Diego and Washington, D.C. areas later this summer. 1xEV-DO is considered a 3G technology.

During preliminary tests that Verizon Wireless conducted in an area from Falls Church [Virginia] to Rockville [Maryland], people could download files while on the go at speeds from 300 to 600 kilobits per second, or about five to 10 times as fast as a dial-up modem. While stationary, users could access the Internet at speeds up to 2.4 megabits per second, about 60 percent faster than a cable modem.

Although 1xEV-DO has a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 2.4 Mbps, typical datarates will be closer to 100 Kbps. In contrast, CDMA 2000 1xRTT (currently supported by Verizon and Sprint) has a theoretical maxiumum bandwidth of 144 Kbps, with typical datarates around 50 Kbps. [via Slashdot]

First ARM-based, Palm-powered smartphone

Late in January I posted an entry about Kyocera’s new Palm-powered smartphone, the 7135. I was hoping to upgrade to it from my 6035, but it’s still not carried by any major carrier, and now Samsung has a phone that looks a lot more interesting than the 7135.

The SGH-i500 is a smart-looking smartphone with flip-phone form factor, and is first to use Palm OS 5. Palm OS 5 requires an ARM processor, and the SGH-i500’s runs at 300 MHz. The phone has a built-in 640×480 camera (with flash, even), and two color displays — a large true-color TFT display on the inside, and a small OLED (!) display on the outside for time, caller ID, etc. The phone has 32 MB of RAM built-in, and an SD slot for storage and I/O. Nice!

The SGH-i500 is expected to be available this fall, which really means that it probalby won’t be available through your favorite wireless carrier until 2004. If the goal was to make potential 7135 customers defer their Kyocera purchase, they’ve succeeded in my case.

"But mom, everybody does it!"

The Ipsos Group is a marketing research firm. According to a recent survey, 18% of Americans 12 and over — about 40 million people — have downloaded music within the last 30 days. Most of them are males age 24 or younger (downloading activity falls by half in the 24-34 group, and by nearly half again in the 35-54 group). Few believe that downloading hurts artists, and almost nobody believes that downloading is wrong.

The most popular reasons given for downloading were:

  • To sample music online before making a purchase
  • To download songs they want without having to purchase an entire album
  • To get access to songs not easily available in stores

The RIAA probably interprets this data as “our customers are criminals”. But what it really says that the RIAA doesn’t understand their customers’ customers, and is therefore fumbling what’s supposed to be a leadership role during the transition to digital distribution.

Why isn’t there a legitimate way for me to get music not available in my local music stores, or even on CD at all because of the costs involved in duplicating and distributing them? Why isn’t there a way for me to sample music and then easily purchase (say, for 50¢) individual songs?

An MPEG-4 iPod? No, but…

One of the more interesting smart storage devices introduced at CeBIT was the Archos AV340, a 40 GB video player and recorder with a 640×368 screen. It stores up to 80 hours of content — that’s a minimum datarate of around 1 Mbit/sec — for viewing on the device’s 3.8″ screen or a television. It can also be used as a 3 megapixel digital camera with an optional attachment, and will apparently sell for just north of $500.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I believe that Archos either lying or confused about their MPEG-4 support. The press release specifically talks about the device’s MPEG-4 codec, and says that it supports MP3 audio rather than MP4 audio — that suggests that this device might just be a DivX AVI player/recorder rather than an MPEG-4 player/recorder, which makes it a short-term solution that I couldn’t recommend to anyone.

CeBIT bites

I just returned from a week at CeBIT. I’d hoped to be able to post regularly while I was there, but internet access where I was staying was too expensive to justify anything but critical communications, and my schedule was too packed during show hours to allow for browse-time via the open Wi-Fi base stations I was able to find in the messe (“fair”) halls.

CeBIT may be the largest computer trade show in the world, but the show was, on the whole, incredibly boring. (It’s not over yet, but I glad to be able to bow out early considering the threat of war and of SARS.) There were 10% fewer exhibitors this year than last year, which was in turn had 10% fewer exhibitors than the year before. (I haven’t seen estimates of how much they expected attendance to drop, but last year it dropped a shocking 21% compared to the year before.)

There were some interesting themes at the show…

  • Small, solid-state storage devices (like Sony’s USB 2.0 MicroVaults) and smart storage devices (hard drives with CPUs, like the iPod but with support for video and photos as well as music) were common.
  • Flat panel displays were everywhere, and I saw at least one effective 3D display that didn’t require special glasses. In my opinion, 3D video is inevitable, and I think that 2D displays and video/still cameras will be considered as quaint as mono audio within 10 years.
  • Wireless was a domiant theme, but the difference is that it’s being viewed as integral rather than optional. Intel introduced Centrino, which is chipset that includes a Pentium M (a new Pentium that doesn’t suck nearly as much as a normal Pentium for mobile applications) and wireless support. There were lots of consumer products with wireless support as well.
  • The show reinforced that DVD burners are becoming a commodity. There are still “dash” and “plus” camps, but although “plus” is the way to go if you have to pick one (given the format’s minor technical advantages and Microsoft’s support), “risk-free” multi-format drives will be available inexpensively from many vendors soon.
  • Finally, the more I consider it, the more I think that Tablet PCs are going to rule the earth. If Apple doesn’t have one of these in the pipeline now, they’re in trouble.

Other than that, gimmicks. PowerBook G4 clones (running Windows, of course), Windows CE for Automotive, the occasional booth featuring hot chicks dancing suggestively in the name of boring technology, etc. It’s a big show and I couldn’t have seen it all, though, so please comment if you were there and saw something interesting.

Interesting milestone for consumer voice-over-IP

I recently read The Innovator’s Dilemma, which is a great book by Clayton M. Christensen about why dominant incumbents rarely continue as anything more than crumb-catchers (if they aren’t forced out of business altogether) once a disruptive technology takes hold.

Voice-over-IP is a disruptive technology. VoIP used to be something that only large businesses could consider, but now it’s trickling down to consumers. VoIP probably means the eventual end of the current leaders in wired telephony, although history suggests that they won’t understand this until it’s too late.

Vonage is the first company that I know of to offer VoIP to consumers — for $40, you get unlimited calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Recently, they announced that they’d completed 10 million calls for over 15,000 customers over their network.

Now, Earthink is getting into the fray with Vonage as their partner. They’ll be reselling Vonage’s services to their 5 million customers, presumably using VoIP as a carrot for converting their 4+ million (and falling) dialup customers to broadband customers (which currently number just under 800,000).

I’m sure the wired telephony leaders are completely discounting Earthlink’s entry onto their turf, but in ten years they’ll see that this is when it all started to go wrong for them.

AOL's newest plan to get their chat on

Sun and Java. Apple and QuickTime. AOL and instant messaging. It’s a mixed blessing when a company’s most-interesting assets don’t come with a ready-made windfall.

AOL claims that about 40% of Americans from age 14 to 24 use AOL Instant Messenger (a.k.a. “AIM”). They say that 2.3 billion messages a day are sent through their systems — 1.6 billion through AIM and 760 million through ICQ.

Wow. That’s over 25,000 messages a second, folks.

(Speaking of ICQ, AOL acquired them in 1998. You’d think that an ailing company would be careful about redundancy, but nearly five years later ICQ effectively operates as a separate entity with a separate web site, separate servers, and separate client software for several operating systems in several languages. The way that ICQ’s integration into AOL’s business remains half-finished is probably helpful for understanding how well AOL has a handle on costs.)

So, AOL has an amazingly popular service that they can’t possibly be breaking even on with ad revenue. The question investors are asking is, “now what?” AOL’s new senior management (unlike that pesky old senior management?) says that they have an answer.

…it is no surprise that America Online’s new senior management, led by chief executive Jonathan F. Miller, has focused on IM, as it is known, as a powerful tool with the potential to provide the company with the fresh revenue needed to restore growth.

First, AOL will “attack” (the article’s word) the corporate marketplace. As one example of of the attack, AOL will be allowing Hewlett-Packard to devise new IM features to meet the specific needs of individual businesses.

Personally, I’m not sure how long The World will allow AOL to tell them what they can and can’t do with chat. Once technologies become commodities, standards always win. If AOL continues to play chicken with standards rather than drive them (although it’s probably too late for that), they’re going to turn around one day to discover that everyone’s happily chatting without them.