Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When is the Internet not the Internet?

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) of the UK has this week decided to ban Apple from showing an advert “in its current form” which claims that “all parts of the Internet are on the iPhone”. This is an interesting conclusion. Apple should have expected controversy, but by the same token, the ASA ruling was by no means a given and Steve Jobs’ merry-band have the right to feel more than a little aggrieved with the ruling.

A lack of support for Flash and Java were cited by the ASA as reasons why the claim is not reasonable, but the truth is that the Internet is complimented by a myriad of plug in technologies and I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that all of them, or a major subset of them, must be available to a browser for it to be considered capable of accessing the Internet in its full glory. I won’t get really pedantic and highlight the difference between the web and the Internet, and therefore what I consider to be the even greater folly of the ASA’s actions.

The custodians of the Internet, the W3C, define standards for distributing hyperlinked webpages. The iPhone can handle those standards. Proprietary add-ons are considered beyond the remit of the Internet standards and are subject to natural market adoption patterns. Therefore, I would say that it is reasonable to claim that the Internet, as defined by the W3C, is available for browsing on the iPhone. Otherwise, where does it stop? RealPlayer? PDF readers? XML/XSL? Who is the authority who decides if it is not the W3C?

The ASA have set what I consider to be a dangerous precedent. In assuming that Flash and Java are de facto technologies of the Internet, rather than optional, they are undermining efforts to make the web more accessible through the promotion and adoption of standards by web browsers.

Apple has so far been silent on the ruling, but don’t expect it necessarily to lie down and accept this without clarification. Perhaps it will see the irony and make counterclaims based on any browser which doesn’t support its video player technology, QuickTime?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is Microsoft and Google's battle for Yahoo really about?

Some may wonder why the battle for Yahoo is rolling on and on... Yahoo's shareprice has rollercoasted from sub $20 in late January to about $30 on Valentine's day and then gradually withered as Mircosoft talks collapse and then risen again with rejuvinated talks. It just runs and runs. The reasoning behind the acquisition, we're told, is related to advertising synergies. However, is that the real game here? Sure, advertising technology synergies would justify the wholesome premium over the market capitalisation, but is there more going on?

I think so. I believe that this is about positioning for the next stage of the web. Web 2.0 has seen the enabling of user-generated content and the driving of our apps to the web. The next stage is shaping up as what is being called "The Cloud". Nothing less than a battle over where our bits are processed and stored is unfolding and Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are the major protagonists. This is an order of magnitude more valuable than an advertising play. This will be a bigger phenomenon than e-commerce.

All three companies are sat on immense infrastructure investments. According to Debra Chrapaty, Corporate Vice President of Global Foundation Services at Microsoft, their Live service is adding no less than 10,000 servers per month to its datacentre infrastructure. Microsoft is building datacentres hand over fist (6 at my last count) and if the Illinois one is any measure of the rest of them, then they are a $500m capital expenditure each. That is the kind of money it takes to carve out a significant portion of "The Cloud" market... and to do it without hesitation or shouting about it. Yahoo would at the least be a shortcut to a good chunk of that sort of infrastructure, not to mention a userbase of first movers already dabbling with data storage on The Cloud with the trusted consumer brand.

I think this is one huge game of poker to see who blinks first. Microsoft doesn't want to cite this huge latent value in Yahoo, otherwise they'll hardly get themselves a bargain. Yahoo directors are trying to force Microsoft's hand and bring this objective into the open to justify their steadfastness.

Google watches from the sidelines. Happy to push up the price Microsoft pays. Safe in the knowledge that it is less in need of such a consumer trusted brand- it has one already. Happy to pick over any remnants from the fall out.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dear Jet2

Rather off topic for this blog, but I wanted to try and get a message to Jet2. Apologies to the usual readers who won't get their fill of technology enlightenment this time! Jet2 have neither a non-premium phone line nor email address, so I thought they might pick this posting up.

Dear Jet2,

I recently flew Leeds to Nice return with your airline. My baggage did not appear on the baggage belt in Nice so I suffered much inconvenience during my trip. I was surprised to be advised that even if my baggage were found, I would have to return to the airport to collect it and no effort would be made to have it delivered to my hotel.

The apology letter I was given in Nice was the most insincere and patronising piece of correspondance I've ever seen. It must have been at least a 3rd generation photocopy, the company logo was printed as "file not available", no phone or email address was provided for me to follow up with and, to give just one example of the tone, had the cheek to remind me my baggage should be "appropriately robust". You lost my bag. This was not the time or the place to be lecturing me on my obligations to you. Although my bag was in no way a 'designer' one, I was surprised to see that if it had been, I would not have been recompensed for it's loss in the event of it not being found.

On my return home to the UK, I was naturally keen to follow up with you at Jet2. Your website had no phone numbers charging less than a premium rate and there was no email address so I was forced to suffer the humiliation of paying 50p per minute to ask you where my bag was (during which time I was played a unnecessarily lengthy prerecorded message). The Baggage Claims Department took all my details (with the 50p per minute clock ticking) before arrogantly telling me that they don't look for bags until 3 days after the flight and that I would have to call back the next day where they would hear my case. This is terrible customer service.

Of course, I've now starting looking through the rest of your T&Cs to see what other indignities I might suffer later on in this process. My bag contains some valuable items so I wanted to see what compensation I might recieve if it were not found. I was extremely disappointed to see that "original purchase receipts (to evidence the age and value of the item)" would need to be provided in the event of a claim. This seems grossly misfair. I don't consider it reasonable to ask for these- who keeps receipts for clothes beyond a month or so?

I would very much like you to contact me to tell me what you are doing to find my bag; demonstrate some humbleness at the error of you and/or your agents and busines partners; and tell me either how you are going to reconnect my bag to me or recompense me for my loss. I shouldn't have to chase you, pay you for the pleasure or have to prove that the items in my bag were of any value as long as that is within a reasonable range above which you could rightly expect further evidence.

Yours faithfully,

Monday, April 07, 2008

There's Low Power GPS in the Air

Anyone who has owned a mobile phone with built in GPS (e.g. Blackberry Curve, Nokia N95) will welcome the work of Air Semiconductors who have created a GPS solution which drains as little as 1% of the power of previous solutions. The prodigious battery munching capabilities of the GPS on N95 led this particular user to be something of an electricity junky.

Air Semiconductor, who are backed by Pond Venture Partners (they know a thing or two about semiconductors- the team include some of the brains behind ARM), also explain how their Airwave-1 chip eliminates time-to-first-fix and hence provides an instantaneous location. The combination of these two innovations means that not only mobile phones, but digital cameras, will be able to geotag images seamlessly... and enable a whole raft of other applications.

As the owner of 3 Nokia N95 chargers (kept in multiple locations in my life "just in case"), I'm really looking forward to this technology arriving in the consumer marketplace.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Complex Event Processing in Healthcare

It is interesting how new ideas and technologies rise to meet the needs of one industry and then diffuse into other industries. Classic examples are the trickledown from aerospace into the motor industry, and the application of diagnostic imaging technology into airport security.

I've recently spotted the early stages of a technology which has risen in the investment banking sector now starting to find its feet in healthcare. The technology is known as complex event processing (CEP).

As recorded on Wikipedia, a complex event is "what one infers from simple events" and gives the example of a lady in a white dress, a man in a tuxedo and lots of rice flying through the air being a wedding. In banking, CEP is used to take on board very simple events (e.g. sell prices) and infer from them something richer (e.g. market trends) from which a decision can be made (e.g. go short on a specific portfolio stocks). A search on Google of "complex event processing healthcare" returns a relatively modest 193,000 results. I can see this exploding and look forward to checking in with Google Trends in due course to see the references rolling in.

One area of health care where I think this will hold great value is in post-operative recovery monitoring of vital signs. The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland recommends that during anaeasthesia and recovery a variety of monitors should supplement clinical observation. The challenge is that once outside of theatre the available clinical resources are limited and can only observe on a sampled basis. Also, the analysis of the monitor readings is trying to spot early onset of a complex range of problems such as hypoxemia, hypoventilation, hypotension, hypertension, hyperthermia, hypothermia and dysrhythmias.

In the event of deteriation, rapid response is a critical success factor in intervention. Different jurisdictions recommend different frequencies of monitoring (research for this article found a range from 5 mins to 30 mins for most vital signs) so you can't help but feel this is driven by the limiting factor of resources rather than clinical need. In fact, muscle relaxants (one possible intervention) are often chosen on the basis of an onset speed which is measured in minutes, not tens of minutes. CEP could be applied to spot problems on a real time basis, moving the limiting factor onto being the monitors' sample rates rather than the care pathway. I'd be very interested in talking to anyone who's working in applications in this area.

Like many other technologies in healthcare, no doubt we will see the rise of this technology met by the acronym being misinterpreted as clinical event processing. Look out for that!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unanswered Nokia N96 Questions

So, after Nokia's announcement about their new N96 being available soon, and the release of some spec information, the questions are starting to be asked that really matter. Most of these are from users of the Nokia N95, for which the N96 is the logical successor.

The official specs don't show whether the fantastic features which the N95 has will have a more punchy processor to chew through them on the N96; whether this processor and battery combo will extend the life of the phone between charges; or whether the slow initial connection to GPS will be resolved.

There's some speculation about the processor. Survivor82 seems to think (from a 'reliable source') that the TI processor of the N95 will be replaced by another ARM designed processor from STmicroelectronics. Aside from the clock speed between the ARM1136 at 330MHz (TI) and the ARM926EJ at 393MHz (ST), we need to wait and see on whether this is an improvement in real terms.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Today's Award for Stating the Bleedin' Obvious....

...goes to Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, who said:

"Five billion pounds represents a substantial sum."

I can see why he holds down that job, with such a tight grasp of quantitative analysis :) Actually, to be fair to Mr Shaw, I'm sure the quote was plucked from a longer answer to a hardcore question around the turmoil in today's financial markets (this sentence is the one to protect me from a defamation suit- can you tell?).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CreativeCraving brings Cafepress-like service to UK

Way back in July 2006 I suggested that someone should set up a business like Cafepress but with a UK based operation- rather than from west coast US. This was partly out of guilt from buying a $5 mug from Cafepress and then paying nearly the same to post it back to the UK from San Fran. I still felt the price was reasonable, but just imagine the carbon footprint!

Anyway, someone from Creative Craving has contacted me... it's been done. And done well. I would normally feel envious that I'd spotted an opportunity and someone else has exploited it before me, but I sincerely don't begrudge the great job they've done. I hope to be a customer soon and see if the experience lives up to the anticipation.

Apple Join New-Year dieting fad with MacBook Air

OK, so who saw the MacBook Air coming? Any mention at Consumer Electronics Show? No. The next expected step from Apple to be announced in the Steve Jobs keynote at Macworld 2008 was variously touted, but was broadly along the lines of exploiting the market position gained by the iPod Nano, iPhone and Apple TV. BUT NO. How's this for breaking the rule book... an ultrathin laptop! Or THE ultrathin laptop? Given the number of suppliers needing to cooperate around the launch of a innovative laptop, it is amazing that it was kept so well under wraps. The closest whiff we all had was the speculation around the FlashMac- technology which we see here in the solid state drive.

Actually, perhaps all that just shows how far my finger has strayed away from the pulse?

It is not yet known when true devotees will be able to dig deep into their pockets in the UK, but there are surely many waiting for the excuse. The common theme to all of Apple's product launches recently has surely been their ability to exceed expectations... and with each launch those expectations get higher.

Actually, despite this post following the attention grabbing headline announcement, I think the most impactful thing mentioned by St.Steve of Jobs is the hi-def Apple TV. The MacBook Air clearly has the wow factor and will be snapped up by niche buyers, but hi-def has far wider appeal and relevance. Surely Apple have to open up to having products like this being resold through high street consumer retailers? That's where people realise that hi-def is what they always wanted. Will Apple do it? This stuff is too good to sit in minimalist 'computer shops'.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Post for Technorati to register my claim for

Sorry folks, just publishing this post so I can claim the blog under my new URL

Technorati Profile

ClickRich is Back

No, it's not the title of a song.

After a break of 6 months or so I've decided to dip the old quill in the ink and post on my blog again.

The reasons I stopped are complex, and probably the subject of another post, but as aLUKEonLIFE noted, many of us had scampered off to Facebook.

After some playing with FB and dabbling with my old feeds again, I can see how the two Web2.0 phenomenon each fulfil different roles in my world. Also, reading of my blog's demise on someone else's blog gave me the sort of social connection that Facebook otherwise satiates. Blogging is not just sitting in hotel rooms writing posts. There are real people (and the odd webcrawler) reading this stuff- and that's deeply satisfying (even the crawlers- well, someone programmed them you know).

So, I hope some of you out there have not retuned your RSS feeds to more worthy authors and we can get back to the business of blogging hapless posts about my antics and hopefully the odd bit of healthcare IT insight!