Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pacquiao, Lebron, and ... Microsoft

Is Microsoft more like Pacquiao or Lebron – and why should we care?

As a longtime Cavaliers season ticketholder, I have spent more time than I should have trying to divine what could possibly have been going through Lebron’s mind when he decided to “take his talents to South Beach.” Popular wisdom tells us that he wanted a ring – he was simply pursuing his longstanding professional goal. Recently though, I have come to believe that Wade did not attract Lebron with the promise of achieving his professional ambition– he actually gave Lebron an excuse to run away from something bigger still – an opportunity to transcend his sport and become a true leader.

For those of you who don’t know Manny (Pacman) Pacquiao, he is arguably the best professional boxer of all time. He is an eight-division world champion and the first boxer in history to win ten world titles in eight different weight divisions. …And, most notably, he has emerged as a national hero inside his native Philippines. In fact, he has parlayed his singular athletic success into a burgeoning political career – and was recently elected to congress in a landslide victory. Police report that there is a measurable drop in crime when Pacquiao fights; everyone watches. He has embraced his larger role as a transformational leader – in fact, in the lead up to his latest title bout, he confounded his trainers by jumping on a plane to campaign for Harry Reid’s reelection campaign – he wants it all and he is willing to take on the multitude of pressures of maintaining his world champion boxing status and serving as a societal role model, a cultural icon, and a political leader.

Consider this – if Pacquiao were to leave his homeland, his influence in the Philippines would be erased and could never be replicated (even if he returned). If “the Pacman,” in his secret inner heart, was afraid or unwilling to take on the mantle of true leadership that comes with transcending his sport; he could find a safe way out by manufacturing an excuse to immigrate from the Philippines – perhaps to focus on his boxing or some other myopic rationale.

Let’s go back to the one time “Chosen One,” Lebron James. He was born and raised in Northeast Ohio, went right from high school into the NBA, and had played (until “The Decision”) his entire career in Cleveland. The pride, the energy, and admiration that Lebron garnered in this part of the country was off the charts – not to mention the hundreds of millions of $$ he brought to this hard hit economy.

Now consider this – if Lebron’s decision had been to stay in Cleveland and commit to building both the Cavs and the region, he would have committed himself to Parcquiao’s journey – the expectation that he be more than an athlete would have been unavoidable (and inescapable). I think this young man could not hack it – he did not want to walk away – he wanted to run as fast as he could from this burden – a burden that he never wanted in the first place.

What’s this have to do with Microsoft? (stick with me here)

Microsoft is the world champion of business and desktop software. Their unparalleled success has fostered a large, dependent community of partners, developers, and consumers (a community that is in some ways analogous to Northeast Ohio or the Philippines). This community looks to Microsoft as more than just a software supplier – their personal and professional skills are highly dependent on their MSFT-centric skills – that means both revenue and self-worth are also tied up (dependent upon) MSFT. MSFT has transcended the role of software supplier (somewhat awkwardly in many cases one has to admit) to become a social/societal leader.

Now, it’s no secret that MSFT took a shellacking in the mobile phone market – but rather than cede this brave new world, they have come back hard with Windows Phone 7 and a strategy that includes a laser focus on the developer experience. With a steep hill to climb and their reputation on the line, Microsoft is not abandoning the faithful or the strengths that made them what they are.

No excuses – and no Lebron. Microsoft is the Pacman of the Smartphone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

300: Survey results from Runtime Intelligence for Windows Phone first movers

I have been pouring over a just completed survey that targeted the first 300 developers who downloaded the new Runtime Intelligence for Windows Phone SKU (RI4WP) and I have to say that I am extremely jazzed by the results.

First, we had a 20% response rate which shows right away how engaged these developers already are with the software. I am not going to go into the entire survey here, but I do want to share a few nuggets.

Developers were 3 times more likely to want both analytics and protection versus wanting either one as a standalone function. This is great to see because it says 2 things; first that when you care about what you build – you will want to BOTH know how it’s doing in the wild AND protect your work; second, is shows that developers are getting how efficient it is when you can integrate and combine post-build functions into a single build step (even when those functions appear otherwise to be distinct).

9 out of 10 developers indicated that RI4WP materially improved their overall development experience – now, you might say that this is biased because we only surveyed developers who had downloaded our software – but every developer had been using our software for at least one week – most for the first time – and so there was no guarantee whatsoever that we would be getting such positive marks so soon after installation.

It was not all love and rainbows – we asked developers to share both what they were most excited about and what their greatest concerns were – and the developers certainly did not hold back.

We saw a lot of enthusiasm for analytics but also some genuine frustration that can only be attributed to a legitimate need for better training and/or support and/or product maturity. For those of you that gave us feedback, rest assured: we are working hard to further simplify, harden, and expand this exciting technology – and be sure to register for our upcoming Master Classes on 12/8 and 12/9.

I will end with a small sampling of the survey write-in comments (unedited).

I (respondent) am most excited because:
“The detailed feature reporting (and the ease at which it can be implemented) is extremely useful for gaining insight into how an application is used in the wild. Early results for my current marketplace application have been surprising - enough so that I will be added more detailed telemetry reporting to my next application.”
“I will have more insight into application usage trends”
“I can actually see how people are using the app”
“It gives me insight into what is happening with my apps and which ones are more popular so I can focus my efforts there”
“I am figuring out how my users use my app in the real world. Incredibly valuable.”
“Dotfuscator's obfuscation is better than any other product on the market today.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Biting the hand in the gift horse's mouth

I have been watching the growing “outrage” around the WP7 app reverse engineering controversy; outrage wrapped with an unmistakable implication that Microsoft has somehow dropped a ball and is trying to cover-up by recommending obfuscation to mitigate any risks.

I know that I have written that good developers should act like babies, but let’s take a reality check here.

First, let me say that reverse engineering managed code (and the risks that can stem from that) is not unique to .NET – it is common to all managed code platforms including Java (and Mono). For a solid overview on this topic, please see my 2009 article from the ISSA Journal: Assessing and Managing Security Risks Unique to Java and .NET (pdf).

The question is really how a WP7 developer’s experience compares to (for example) an Android developer’s (Google’s Android is Java and subject to all of the same issues and risks).

How many years has Android been out? Let’s compare Android's policy and recommendation to Microsoft's shall we? (click on image to enlarge)

Sources: Android policy and Windows Phone policy

This gets us to the real question that developers should be asking – how does Google’s ProGuard recommendation serve its developers as compared to Dotfuscator for Windows Phone? (again, click to enlarge)

Now call me crazy – but as far as I can tell, Microsoft has, in a few short weeks, served up a premier mobile development platform that is not only far more productive than any other, but includes dramatically superior monitoring, measurement, and protection technologies and services – this is not some defensive move to overcome some flaw or hole – it’s designed to further extend the unfair advantage Microsoft offers developers who target Windows Phone 7 first.

What am I missing here?

A phone by any other ‘nym is just as slick

(…or, are smartphones also people too?)

One of my favorite words is retronym. A retronym is a new name for an existing (old) thing that becomes necessary because of progress. (what!?) Examples help – the term “acoustic guitar” was only necessary when electric guitars hit the scene. The term black and white TV was not born with the invention of TV – it was born with the invention of color TV.

But we don’t have color phones, we have SMARTphones!

And here is the twist – a smartphone is more than a new class of phone, its also an anthropomorphism (ascribing human attributes to a thing that is not human). Phones can't really be smart – people are smart (at least in theory).

As I've already written in some of my more verbose entries below, smartphones are important because they combine the best of computing, communication, content, and social forces – to become something entirely new.

And as one more piece of supporting evidence that the smartphone hype is real – not only do smartphones promise to disrupt markets, business operations, and social norms ... they have given us our very first anthropomorphic retronym – the dumbphone.

I didn't make this up – see Dumbphone. Its the first of its kind - and i think that's worth noting.

Can you hear me now?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

old school social networking

The intimate connection between form and function is nothing new. Lately, I have been reading my father’s stories out loud to my daughter (as they were always intended) and I am struck by how a form of writing unique to him seems purpose built for the Twitter/facebook world of tweets and status updates. I am referring to his – “Beginnings" or “Pleasures of the Imagination.”

Beginnings are first lines of works left unwritten. Long before the Internet emerged as a household appliance spawning today’s socially networked ADD community, my father actually used the term “virtual stories" to describe these tiny works.

But do not fall into to a revisionist trap. His work always strove for a higher standard – not just to be read – but to be read aloud – and that’s what we call old school social networking!

To see what I mean – follow me on Twitter…