Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apple Silences Google Voice On the iPhone

There we have: more proof that the traditional carriers are very afraid of Google Voice. Now that Google Voice is starting to add new users rapidly, the traditional carriers are waking up. As a result the existing 3rd party Google Voice app for the iPhone has been removed from the iTunes store and Apple is not accepting Google's own voice app for the iPhone. Even though this same Google app already exists for the blackberry and the Android phones.

The official reason that Apple is giving is that this app duplicates functionality that already exists in the iPhone's native apps. This is true, Google voice allows you to make free long distance calls in the USA, send free SMS/text messages to anyone in the USA and make really cheap international calls. But then so do any of a dozen or so VOIP applications that are available on the iPhone already, the most popular one being Skype. Google has responded that they will look into making a browser based version of their application, and then there will be no way that Apple can block the usage of Google Voice short of legal action.

So why are carriers running scared? Well first of all there is the power of Google, nobody wants a giant like this to step into a market. Google seems to be undercutting prices for long distance and international calls as well as for sending SMS/text messages. Especially text messages are currently a gold mine for the carriers, every teenager has a need for texting if they want to keep up with their peers. Google Voice offering free texting means that fewer parents of teenagers will be forced to get an unlimited texting plan. And this explains why the carriers didn't bother blocking the Google Voice app on the blackberry and the Android phones: these phones unlike the iPhone are not very popular with the teenage crowd.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lessons from Twitter's security breach | Webware - CNET

Lessons from Twitter's security breach | Webware - CNET

This so-called Twitter security breach didn't have anything to do with the security of Twitter. Here is (supposedly) what happened. A hacker got the yahoo email address from one of Twitter's employees, managed to get the password, logged in and through reading some emails was able to get into the employee's Google account where he found a bunch of Twitter confidential information.

So why was it so easy to break into the yahoo email account? Well, Yahoo (like most other web portals) has a way to retrieve your password. You simply answer a few questions (like mother's maiden name) and you will again have access to your account. This is how the Twitter hacker got in and this is also how Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account was hacked. And why does Yahoo offer this service? Well a lot of people forget their password and this is the only way that most portals know how to solve this problem.

In order to make them easy to remember people will use simple, short passwords and they will make all their passwords the same. And if they make difficult to guess passwords then they will forget them and the portal will have to provide a password recovery service like Yahoo does. The end result, as we can see from the Twitter and Palin examples is a hacker's delight. So passwords are evil! But can we really do without?

A company called Fortknock which is still in stealth mode is promising a totally secure online experience without the need for passwords. When you login instead of being asked for username and password you are presented with four multiple choice questions about your likes and dislikes. For example "who is your most favourite singer", or "which type of food do you dislike the most". Answers to questions like these are not easy to guess by others and to make it even more difficult for the potential hacker the wrong choices are answers that other people who are very similar to you have given to the same question.

So if for example the hacker has figured out that you are from the Netherlands they might assume that your favourite singer is someone from the Netherlands. But because FortKnock will take the answers from other people who are also from the Netherlands and present them as the wrong choices, the hacker will be presented with 10 popular Dutch singers to choose from. There is a lot of statistical mathematics behind this seemingly simple authentication scheme, that shows that a system like this is just as secure as an 80 digit password that changes every time you login. (Imagine the trouble of trying to remember an 80 digit password ;-) On the user side this is as simple as it can get, you of course can remember your likes and dislikes unlike all those pesky passwords that must or must not start with a number, contain or not contain upper case letters etc. etc.

I found this company's technology so intriguing that I decided to accept their offer to make me a senior advisor, which means I will probably write some more about FortKnock in future blog entries.
Why has Yahoo allowed themselves to become the RC Cola of search?

Yahoo got started as a search engine, just like Alta Vista and just like Google. Out of these three (there are/were more) Alta Vista is the only one in this list that didn't go beyond Internet search and it is also the only one that doesn't exist anymore. The lesson here is that in order to stay in business you have to do more than just provide Internet search capabilities.

Early on Yahoo decided to become a portal with email, Instant Messaging, Flickr photos etc. etc. So Yahoo might be the RC cola of Internet search but it is number one in web based email and the truth of the matter is that people spend much more time looking at their emails then looking at their search results. In other words email web pages are a much better place to put ads in front of consumers then Internet search pages are.

Why else do you think Microsoft wanted to pay a hefty sum for Yahoo, it sure wasn't for their search technology. The real reason that Microsoft wanted Yahoo was so it could use Yahoo in its fight against Google. Without Yahoo, Microsoft decided to release their own Internet search technology called bing that now competes with Google search. And no, they will not be able to seriously damage Google's position as the world leader in Internet search, but it will keep Google on their toes, just like Google keeps Microsoft on it's toes with their Chrome Operating System.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Desktop PC Sales Decline For the First Time Since 2001 - desktop pc - Gizmodo

Desktop PC Sales Decline For the First Time Since 2001 - desktop pc - Gizmodo

PC desktop sales in Q1 2009 declined 8.1% compared to Q1 2008. And this is not due to the recession because sales of notebook PCs (laptops and netbooks) are up 11.7% for the same quarter. So what is going on?

Well for one the current laptops and netbooks (small laptops) are so powerful that for most consumers they have enough horse power to do anything a consumer wants to do with a computer. Only gamers and video editing enthusiasts need more power than a laptop can provide. Also the price of a netbook (about $350) is much less than that of a full desktop and need I mention laptops are portable?

Gone are the days where you had one PC desktop per family. Nowadays every member of the family has his or her own computer so a laptop makes much more sense. My son always takes his whenever he goes to visit a friend, something he couldn't do with the old family desktop PC.

So what does the future look like for laptops: well, they will either get even smaller or turn into some hybrid netbook/smart phone device that will replace the laptop as we know it. With your new Internet netbook/smart phone you will want Internet connection wherever you go, so a huge market is opening up for netbooks with integrated 3G data plans. You can now get them subsidized from Verizon or AT&T even more blurring the line between smart phones and laptops.

Monday, July 13, 2009

U.S. and Europe Jointly Establish Cyber-Crime Force - WSJ.com

From the headline in this article it sounds like the US and Europe are joining in a anti cyber crime task force. However if you read the details then it become clear that this is not really a giant project that will "prevent identity theft, computer hacking and other computer-based crime".

What is happening is that the Italian post office (PTT), who like all other European PTTs has a banking arm, has build some interesting software to track all the money flowing over the Internet between their 14,000 branches. Other PTTs in Europe are now joining this effort and will use the Italian software to monitor all European money transactions on the Internet. Since a lot of this money flows between Europe and the US, the US secret service has decided to participate, so they can potentially track money transactions that are either illegal or money to be used for terrorist type of activities.

Now don't get me wrong, all of this is very good news, but this is not a pan-European/US joint task force on Internet Security as the headline seems to suggest. Although one could hope that this cooperation will eventually lead to a real task force that will battle "identity theft, computer hacking and other computer-based crime". Because the cyber villains themselves are organized globally across the world the only way to fight cyber crime is by having everyone across country boundaries participate.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Sharedband Solution

What if your business depends on your Internet connection being available 24/7 without any downtime? What if you are using all of your available Internet bandwidth (capacity) and you want more but your provider can not offer you any more or their prices quadruple if you double your bandwidth?

Until now there wasn't much you can do but now SharedBand a UK start-up that just entered the US market has a solution for both of these problems. When you order their service they will ship you two (or more) standard routers (or you can download their software yourself into your Linksys, D-link or Netgear router). You then subscribe with two (or more) Internet Service Providers (ISP) and attach one router to the first ISP modem and the second router to the other ISP modem and then thanks to the SharedBand software the two routers will work as one; giving you twice the capacity (bandwidth) of using only one ISP and automatically redirecting all your Internet traffic to the working ISP modem in case one of them goes down.

You can even couple together different types of ISPs, for example: one of them can be a cable modem and the other one a DSL line, or combine a cable modem with a 3G data network router, the combinations are endless. $25 per month for two routers and $50 for four routers. (plus one time the price of the routers if you do not install your own software and of course your normal ISP fees).

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Official Google Blog: Introducing the Google Chrome OS

We have seen before that everything that Google does with Gmail, Google apps, Google Voice, Google Wave etc. is aimed at getting people to spend as much time as possible on the Google web pages. All of this so they can spend more time watching the ads that Google puts on there.

The Google app strategy for example, is aimed at getting people to put their word, excel and powerpoint documents on the Google website (so they will spend more time there), but by doing so they started to compete head-on with Microsoft Office.

Microsoft is retaliating by integrating their new Win7 operating system tightly with their Azure cloud offering. With Win7 and the new release of Office your documents will automagically flow between your desktop and your Azure cloud account. So the only way that Google can counter this attack is by providing people with their own Chrome browser and Chrome operating system. Just like Microsoft they are partnering with the hardware vendors who are very willing to ditch Microsoft after so many years of being controlled by them.

The Google Chrome operating system along with the Google Chrome browser is another major step towards the empty PC: a PC/laptop/netbook that only has enough software to get you online and that doesn't store any data itself, all the data and application are in the cloud.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Cisco Won't Take on Amazon in Cloud - Business Center - PC World

Cisco Won't Take on Amazon in Cloud - Business Center - PC World

Even though we are still in the hype phase of cloud computing and cloud services, smart companies like Cisco are already busy redefining their long term strategy. They realize that once customers do move away from traditional data center based services to cloud based services that the size of the IT data center market will shrink.

A lot of companies in the enterprise IT space like IBM, Microsoft, and even Symantec are changing their strategy by becoming a full cloud based service provider, meaning they are providing SaaS offerings as well as capacity (online storage or server capacity). Cisco, however is concentrating on extending their SaaS offerings by improving and extending their WebEx collaboration and IronPort services and it is using it's Unified Computing System (UCS) markitecture to sell their hardware products to whoever wants to build and efficiently manage either traditional data center or cloud capacity. In other words they are not building cloud capacity.

This seems like a smart move to me, after all in the end the cloud capacity will be a commodity and the real differentiator will be the quality, ease-of-use and longevity of the service being offered. Cisco's USC will help the cloud capacity providers to inexpensively manage their servers and storage while at the same time helping the traditional data center customers to easily move towards cloud based services.

Dell puts customers on fast to storage efficiency - Nationmultimedia.com

Dell puts customers on fast to storage efficiency - Nationmultimedia.com

Dell together with CommVault is trying to boost sales of their PowerVault DL2000 backup product by providing free consultancy. This game is all about the SMB backup market. The larger enterprises all have made their choice for a backup (and archiving) solution a long time ago and unless something drastic happens with the supplier they will stick with their choice.

The reason that a backup or archiving product is so sticky is that once you switch you basically loose all of your old backups and archives unless you also spend a ton of money converting them. And even then sometimes the conversion can not be done at all!

So DELL and CommVault together (along with a lot of other players) are targeting the SMB market that is finally starting to see the need for a proper backup and archiving solution. There are two major items when dealing with IT solutions for the SMB space: one they are very price sensitive and two they do not have their own IT department that they can rely on to make a choice this important.

So this is why DELL is providing free consultancy which is focusing on how data de-depulication can save the customer lots of money. I am sure the consultancy will be full of DELL "sponsored ads" but I would urge any SMB IT manager to go and find out where to save money, because once you start archiving and backing-up there is no going back.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

AdMob Report: Apple Gains in Mobile Usage

AdMob Report: Apple Gains in Mobile Usage

It looks like the iPhone is not just another smart phone. iPhones (and the non phone version the iTouch) are responsible for 70% of the 3.8 billion ad views done in the USA by smart phones. Worldwide the iPhone does 31.4% of a total of 8 billion ad views. So isn't it about time to target ads to the iPhone specifically?

As the numbers seem to indicate the market is ripe for targeting web ads specifically to iPhones owners. Originally the average iPhone user was the early adopter type, but now that the iPhone is affordable with even a $99 version it will be hard to correctly target the ads to the individual. So what is needed is a new type of iPhone application that will collect users browser history, what kinds of apps are installed and which ones are used most frequently etc so that a better user profile can be established and the ads can be targeted more specifically. Privacy concerns aside it might even be an ap that once installed will give you a discount on your mobile phone plan. So who will build this?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Is Google going to use their dark fiber to create a competing voice network?

Google voice has a lot of interesting features, it has very cheap international rates and even PC magazine's reviewer calls it very good. The only thing missing they said is consistent call quality. Google voice uses the Internet to connect your calls. And of course naturally people are assuming that because Google doesn't control the Internet that they can not control the call quality. But is that really true?

Google has been buying up a lot of dark fiber in the past years (Dark fiber is fiber that is not in use, since it doesn't carry light when not in use it is called dark). So maybe this is what Google plans to do with all this Internet capacity: built a so-called overlay network run Google voice over it and then they can control the voice quality and thus create a very serious competitor for the classic carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Nokia and Intel Look to the Future of Mobile Devices

Nokia and Intel Look to the Future of Mobile Devices

Current smart phones, like the Apple iPhone, are much more than just a cell phone with an address book, a calendar and an email reader built-in. Smart phones are simple to use, they can run multiple applications that allow access to corporate data, they are easy to carry, have a long battery life and can store a significant amount of data. But they can not be used as fulltime laptop replacements, so for most of your work while on the road you still need to bring a laptop.

Laptops on the other hand are also not perfect: their battery life is much too short, meaning you can not really use it for too long without having to find a power socket to charge it; laptops are bulky unless you have the smallest of netbooks, and laptops, because they run Windows, are cumbersome with regards to device management, software updates, anti-virus protection, application installation etc.

So Intel and Nokia are now trying to create the perfect combination: an always connected Internet device with great battery life, that can run all the business applications, that is easy to carry and doesn't require endpoint management (or at least very little). These two giants seem to have everything it takes to built such a device but the one missing thing is the software or operating system. If this new product simply runs Windows 7 then it will still suffer from the typical complexities of any other device running Windows. So in other words Nokia and Intel better come up with a great software partner.

But what about Symbian, the mobile phone operating system acquired by Nokia you may ask? Well, even though by definition Symbian is a smart phone operating system that could easily work on the Intel hardware, it is still lacking way behind the others such as Android, Linux, Win-Mobile and IPhone. If I were to pick a partner for the operating system then it would be either Microsoft (for Win-mobile) or Google for Android. However both of these giants might be hard for Intel and Nokia to work with. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vodafone promises indoor mobile signal boost - V3.co.uk - formerly vnunet.com

Vodafone promises indoor mobile signal boost - V3.co.uk - formerly vnunet.com

More and more people are starting to realize that mobile phones are much more practical than the old fashioned "land line phone". With a mobile phone you are always reachable and a mobile phone has a built-in address book unlike the land line where you have to look up the number (on your mobile phone!) before you can dial it. Given the almost limitless number of minutes that cell phone plans provide these days, it seems to make sense to abandon the land line. However one problem remains: the cell phone reception inside homes is not always perfect.

Vodafone and AT&T now both have announced plans to provide a solution that will boost the cell signal in your home. Both are selling a small box that plugs into your broadband connection and effectively turns it into a small cell tower such that your cell phone connects to the new "tower" and all your calls will be routed over the Internet. Vodafone's solution will be sold stand alone whereas the AT&T version will be bundled with their Uverse product. These products are great solutions for homes with poor or no cell reception. You could even carry the box with you and get cell phone reception wherever there is a broadband connection.

Of course T-mobile has had this solution all along. (Probably because T-mobile's network coverage has always been lacking behind the other carriers). The big difference with the T-mobile@Home product is that all national calls made via the box are free of charge. It remains to be seen if AT&T and Vodafone will match these prices.

I still think it is strange that subscribers have to pay for these boxes since essentially they are providing the carrier with a free cell phone tower.

AT&T to Unfurl 3G Access in 850MHz to Enhance Coverage (Phone Scoop)

AT&T to Unfurl 3G Access in 850MHz to Enhance Coverage (Phone Scoop)

AT&T provides the so called 3G data services for mobile phones currently only on the 1900mhz frequency. The older 850mhz frequency until now did not support 3G. The advantage of 850 over 1900mhz is that the 850 frequency penetrates buildings better so by adding 3G data to this frequency AT&T is adding a lot of new data capacity to its network.

Especially in big cities with lots of buildings and lots of people the 3G over the 850mhz frequency will be a great addition that will delight especially the iPhone subscribers who are all big users of the data network, especially once they will use the new tethering feature of the iPhone where you can use your iPhone to connect your laptop to the Internet.

But AT&T is not doing this only to please their (new) iPhone customers. They are also gearing up for a data network battle with VERIZON. Now that everyone it seems has a mobile phone the next revenue growth will have to come from the mobile data network. All carriers already sell so called wireless data programs for laptops and netbooks but now that netbooks are really starting to take off the demand for mobile data access will sky rocket. Carriers are even starting to sell subsidized netbooks (basically scaled down laptops with much better battery life) with a 2 year commitment for a data plan.

VERIZON has always been the leader in quality and availability of the network, their mobile voice network was and some places still is the best in the US and the same can be said for their 3G data network. AT&T has a lot of catching up to do, but 3G over 850mhz makes a good start.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Replify an interesting start up that can boost your cloud applications running over the corporate WAN

I bumped into Replify a few months ago when they were presenting for only 5 minutes in one of those marathon sessions where you listen to quick pitches from too many companies. Replify caught my attention because they claimed to drastically speed up WAN traffic. After talking with them for a bit longer than five minutes I started to understand what it is they are doing.

Let's say a sales person is accessing the company email and file server via a VPN connection. Depending on where the sales person is the connection might be slow or it might be fast. As a side note: I have noticed in my travels that a lot of hotels proudly claim to have a T1 connection to the hotel, but what they don't realize is that T1 means 1 megabit per second, which is already much slower than most home DSL connections, and that things get even slower if you have 100 guests in your hotel all sharing this 1 megabit per second. 100 guests sharing 1 megabit, you do the math and you will get something resembling dial-up speeds.

Replify to the rescue; their product has two parts, one part is installed centrally inside the company and the other part is installed on the laptop. Both parts once installed will make a copy of all the Internet traffic sent and received. Then when you are about to send a bunch of data over the link that you have sent earlier, then instead of sending the data it will just send an instruction to the other side as to which part of the previous data stream it should reuse.

So if for example you download a large file from your central file server, make some small edits, and upload the document back to the office, then it will in effect only send the changes you made to the other side, since most of the document is already on the server. Same goes for when you receive an email with a large attachment: you will have to wait a while before the attachment is downloaded but when you click on forward, the new email message with attachment is send almost instantaneously because the other side already has the document.

All of this is done without changing any of the infrastructure. The Replify client on the laptop talks to the Replify server in the office and together they figure out what the minimum amount of data is that needs to be send and after the data stream leaves the Replify client or server it looks just like the original data stream. Depending on your situation you can save quite a lot of bandwidth and time. Replify as such of course also makes a great performance enhancer for any type of cloud based services.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Google Voice’s Secret Weapon: Number Portability

There are lots of rumors on TechCrunch about Google Voice (previously known as Grand Central). One rumor is that they will support number portability (so you can take your current mobile phone number and make it your Google Voice number). Another rumor is that Google Voice is about to be launched to the public. Right now only a few beta testers and people who had signed up with Grand Central before Google bought them are the lucky ones who can use all the great features of Google Voice. I am one of the lucky ones ...

Google Voice, once rolled out to the general public will become a major telecom player. Google voice has some great features and really cheap, no commitment needed, international calling rates.

Just have a look at all the great features that it has: whenever someone dials your Google Voice number you decide which phone(s) it will ring on depending on time of day and who is calling. Some callers can be send straight to voice mail, while the pesky ones can be send directly to number unobtainable (meaning they hear a sound that indicates the number they called no longer exists). Once your real phone(s) are ringing you can pick up the call at any one of them and with a single push can transfer a call from let's say your mobile to your land line in case the call runs long and you do not want to waste your battery or minutes left in your plan. Or transfer it from your land line to your cell phone in case you have to get on the road.

We all know how hard it is to take notes while driving and talking on your cell phone, so Google Voice allows you to record (part of) the conversation which is then stored online in your Google Voice account. That way you can go back to your online account and make proper notes on what was said.

All voice mails are accessible from the Google Voice website and they are transcribed to regular text, so you can use Google search to find a voice mail. TXT/SMS messages send to your Google Voice number will be send to all designated mobile phones and copies of all messages are stored in your online account so again you can use Google search to find a particular TXT/SMS message. you can even send TXT/SMS messages from inside your browser, which makes it a lot easier to send information from a PC to a cell phone (just cut and paste).

The Google Voice online address book is integrated with your Gmail account and if you set it up to sync with your iPhone or Blackberry then all your contacts on your phone will be your Google Voice contacts.

With Google Voice you can make free calls inside the US and Canada and really cheap calls elsewhere in the world. The calling rates are competitive to Skype and all the other VOIP providers.

In other words the telecom industry will never be the same.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Can Windows 7 save PCs? - Jun. 12, 2009

PCs do not really need to be saved ;-), but as the article shows, PC sales are dropping and Microsoft bringing out a new Operating System (OS) is not going to be enough to significantly boost sales during this recession.

On the plus side: everyone who has seen or worked with Windows 7 (Win7) says it is everything that Vista promised to be, but without the bloat and the slow performance. Win7 even runs fine on the smaller netbooks and other "places" where Vista was a no-go. Making sure that Win7 worked on the new netbooks was, I am sure, the number one priority for Microsoft.

Why are netbooks important for Microsoft? Consumers and business users alike are switching to the smaller form factor netbooks because they are easier to carry, have longer battery lives and are much cheaper then their bigger brothers. And because of the newer faster Intel Atom chip sets you do not really have to give up any performance compared to your current system. The first netbooks that came out were all running some flavour of Linux, something that definitely got the attention of Microsoft!

So why isn't Win7 going to be a reason for consumers to upgrade to a newer PC, laptop or even netbook? Well, for one, the average consumer PC is not really old enough to need upgrading plus most of what a consumer uses a PC for just requires a browser. (it is called cloud computing!) So, although Win7 has a list of new features as long as my arm, there isn't really anything in this list that is a must have for the average consumer.

Consumers are also starting to become aware of a trend I predicted a while ago which is that pretty soon, if not already, a smart phone like the iPhone is really all the computer they are going to need. Nice advantage of a smart phone over a "real" PC or laptop is that it is build from the ground up to be user friendly, portable and with an excellent battery life. So no matter how many nice features Win7 has it might not be enough to compete with the smart phone, at least not for the consumer.

The enterprise desktop and laptop on the other hand is a different story; a lot of business users spend several hours a day behind a computer screen and for them doing this on a tiny smart phone screen is just not feasible. Business users (read their IT departments) almost all decided to skip the upgrade to Vista, thus forcing Microsoft to extend the life of Windows XP. Once Win7 is out officially it will take the average enterprise close to a year to evaluate and check for compatibility and maybe then we will see an uptick in PC sales. But by then the trend towards cloud computing (or as some call it: "do everything from inside your browser") will be even further along, making it harder for Microsoft to have their release of Win7 be a reason for upgrading your PC.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What are the most dangerous search terms on the Internet? - CNN.com

Interesting article about a study that McAfee has done about which search results point to the most virus ridden web sites. Their (free) Site Advisor browser plug-in should protect you from this but only in as far as you are carefully watching which sites it rates as dangerous and only if you do not click on the dangerous links. Once you click you might be infected!

What most people are not aware of is the fact that no longer do viruses creep into your computer only if you download the wrong application or program but you can now also get infected with a computer virus by just visiting a web site. These web sites will insert cookies or some even applications into your browser that can monitor everything you do with the browser. Like for example visiting your online bank, entering your user name and password. Once they have collected this information, it is send to the central hacker website where they can use your password to get access to your bank account.

Protecting from all of this is very hard: even the best anti-virus (or anti-malware as they are called now) solutions are always running behind the facts. Nobody has a complete list of all the malware web sites and trying to keep up is almost impossible. All the anti virus companies will eventually find the virus on your system but they might only find it after it has done its nasty work.

All the (professional) anti-virus vendors use so called honey pots to detect and trap viruses. Honey pots are PCs that are connected to the Internet in several locations around the world and they have no protection whatsoever. This means that any time a virus contacts a honey pot the PC will become infected. Once the infection is detected, the virus is isolated (so it can't spread) and analysed by humans to see how it can be detected. Unfortunately some viruses have become so smart that they will only reveal themselves as malware when they are inside the corporate LAN of a specific (large) company. What this means is that the virus is completely undetectable anywhere else, so it will not be noticed by any of these so called honey pots.

BlueGem Security a company for which I am an advisor, has a bullet proof solution for the problem of malware stealing your private information. After you install the software from BlueGem all of your key strokes will be completely encrypted while you are visiting your online bank or any other site that requires you to type sensitive information like passwords. So even if you do have malware on your system or in your browser all the malware can see is the encrypted stuff which is useless to them. Trend Micro Internet Security Pro is the only total anti-malware solution that bundles BlueGem security, so it is the only one that can protect the PC (and thus its users) from all of the tricks that the malware plays these days. It even protects against the large company specific viruses that are undetectable, since it does not have to know what is good or bad, it simply keeps the key strokes encrypted and thus safe from any malware/virus/Trojan horse or phishing attack.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

HP to sell Symantec backup service on consumer PCs by Reuters: Yahoo! Tech

Why is Symantec partnering with HP for their online backup service?

In the consumer security market it is all about getting your product onto the PC before the consumer buys it. So it is essential for a consumer security company like Symantec to partner with the laptop and desktop manufacturers like HP. It also explains why McAfee is hoping to woo the contract away from Symantec.

The typical consumer does not read any of the product comparisons that are filling the pages of for example PC magazine and their web sites, instead they only buy a product at the same time they buy their PC or laptop. The added benefit is that they don't have to worry about installing the product. Also, consumers more and more are used to getting software and services for free via the Internet and now with the recession it is even less likely that they would pay for a product.

The consumer security companies like Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro,and Kasperky labs, have known this for a long time, so all of them are eager to make sure their product or service is on the PC or laptop at the time the consumer buys it. It is at that time that a consumer is most "vunerable"; they just spend close to a thousand dollar on a brand new PC so what is $50 more to protect your files?

So typically each of these companies will make deals with all the desktop/laptop manufactures such as HP, IBM, and Lenovo to get them to pre-install their product in such a way that when the consumer turns on their PC for the first time, the product is activated and runs for a few months free of charge.

The conversion rate (percentage of consumers who will switch to a paid version after the free trial ends) is dropping for several reasons: first of all consumers feel safer these days from Internet threats and secondly they are trying to save money (we are in a recession).

And this brings us to the real reason why Symantec is partnering with HP on their online backup offer; once the free trial runs out, Symantec will inform their users that all of their files are safely backed up on the Symantec cloud, but if they do not switch to the paid version then all of their backups will be removed and their files will no longer be protected. That makes for a tough choice for the consumer: pay $50 or loose all your backups. In other words online backup is very sticky!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The annual French Tech Tour brings some interesting companies to Silicon Valley

Yesterday I went to see the annual French Tech Tour visiting Sand Hill road in Menlo Park. Like last year they brought with them some interesting startups from France. For a full list see their website where there is also some more information on the rest of their tour of Silicon Valley during the rest of this week. For example tomorrow they will be at Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale.

The French Tech Tour is organised by UbiFrance which is France's public agency for international business development. They are represented in 44 countries by the French Trade Offices. Every year they select a few of the more than a hundred applicants who they bring to Silicon Valley to show them how business is done here and enable them to start networking in the valley in case they decide to open an office in Silicon Valley. As part of their tour they are also invited to visit with a few of the larger companies in the valley such as HP, Microsoft, Sony, Symantec, Intel Capital, Cisco and of course Google.

In the next few paragraphs I will describe some of the companies I met at the French Tech Tour that I thought were especially interesting. Keep in mind though that most of these are startups, and that they have just began their journey to the United States. (I mean some of their websites really require some knowledge of the French language).

Their slogan is SaaS: Security as a Service. A little bit confusing at first, since SaaS usually stands for Software as a Service but once I figured out what they do, I agree that their software does indeed provide a service.

So what do they do? Their customers typically run a publicly accessible web service and BinarySec will filter all their incoming traffic. As soon as something malicious is found in the incoming traffic BinarySec will block the culprit thus protecting the web service from external harm. They use an adaptive technology that learns over time what kind of traffic is normal and which traffic is malicious. Instead of running this filtering software on the clients premise BinarySec will run the filtering on one of the machines in their own data center. As such they are a real Software as a Service provider. Customers pay a monthly fee depending on the amount of traffic that is filtered.

Coda System puts a lawyer in your cell phone camera. Their "Shoot & Proof" product is a mobile software application that captures non modifiable, localized and legally valid digital pictures with a simple mobile phone. (IPhone version coming shortly). Let's say for example you get into an accident and your car is damaged, of course you can take pictures of all the damage but with a normal cell phone or digital camera picture you have no proof as to when and where you took it and you have no way of proofing that the pictures weren't modified. If you use "Shoot & Proof" then the when and where along with the original photo are encrypted in such a way that the end result is considered legal proof. After you take the picture it is automatically uploaded to the Coda System web site where you can access it from your account any time.

Calinda Software turns your emails into something easier to manage. Calinda solves a very familiar problem in the work space: let' say you send an email to a number of people with a few questions in it. Some people will reply to all questions and send their reply to all people on the original list, some will reply to only a few questions, some will send their reply only to the originator and some will not reply at all. To make things even more complicated: people will reply to replies, and some will reply to replies to replies to .....

Sorting out all these email discussions will become so time consuming that most people will not even try. Of course you can use a Wiki or SharePoint to facilitate the discussion but the problem is that some people do not want to use anything besides email. Calinda Software to the rescue: they provide a simple web service that allows you to create the original email and it inserts some clickable links that people can use to participate in the discussion. Also every email sent as a reply to the original email is captured along with all attachments by the Calinda web server and the end result is a fully formatted web page that shows the exact chain of emails, when they were sent, who sent them and all the attachments nicely sorted. Instead of a web page the complete email chain can also be converted into a SharePoint object.

Will the new IPhone make all my other gadgets unnecessary?

The new IPhone 3G S (S for speed) has some interesting new features that might make you stop using all your other gadgets. First of all it has a new 3.2 mega pixel auto focus camera for taking pretty good still photos and with the same camera you can now record VGA sized videos. You then use the video editing software on the iPhone to make the movie perfect and after you are done you can upload the video with one click to YouTube. There already are some interesting applications for the iPhone that will automatically upload your photo's into your online album and I am sure they will all be upgraded to do the same with the videos you make with the iPhone. Or you can use Mobile Me to do all of this for you. In other words no need to bring your digital camera or your digital video camera anywhere, your iPhone will do all of this and with the additional software applications on the iPhone it is much easier to use then a "normal" digital camera, where you always had to struggle with taking the SD card out of the camera, putting it in your PC, copying the photos, and then uploading them. (and remembering to put the SD card back in your camera; too many times I left home with a fully charged digital camera that had no SD card in it ...) With the iPhone it is all one click or even fully automatic.

The new iPhone has a digital magnetic compass and GPS, so as soon as TomTom (and maybe others like Garmin, who already has a PC version of their map software) comes out with the windows suction cup for the iPhone and their map software you will be able to stick the iPhone in your car window and use it as a real talking GPS. Assuming it has all the same software features that TomTom usually puts into their products, the iPhone will make an awesome GPS unit. So there is another gadget (your GPS unit) you can leave at home.

The new iPhone also now has a built-in sound recording application for taking quick voice notes or for recording lectures at class. It comes with audio editing software and just like the videos one-click uploads or sync with your PC. In other words no more need for a voice recorder.

Of course you already stopped carrying your mp3 player when you got your iPhone. The new iPhone has up to 32 gigs of space so plenty of room to carry all your tunes and with the new voice control and the ability to stream music over a bluetooth connection you are all set to enjoy the music.

Even though the new iPhone is the same size as the previous version, it has much better battery life, which works well when you are using your iPhone to view movies on a boring plane ride. I used to get 7 hours of video watching out of my by now classic iPhone, the extra 3 hours that the new battery gives will come in quite handy: I hated getting to my destination with an empty battery in case I had to call home telling them I arrived safely. So yes you can also stop carrying your DVD player on flights. There are plenty of software packages that will shrink a DVD down to a 450 megabyte file that plays on the iPhone with no noticeable loss of quality. Or you can just buy the movies in the iTunes store.

After I set up the auto sync with my Google email, contacts and calendar, the iPhone became the best PDA I ever had. With the over the air synchronisation I never have to worry about whether I enter my contacts or appointments on my PC or on my iPhone or when I will get around to syncing it all. So yes I also stopped using my PDA.

Oh, did I forget to mention it is also a quad band phone?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Does being aware of the dangers on the Internet make you safe?

From a study done by PayPal one may conclude that the Dutch are the most naive about internet security, only 23% of the Dutch worry about loosing their digital identity versus 90% of Americans. But does being aware really make you safe enough on the Internet?

The quoted article seems to indicate that Americans are much smarter than the Dutch on the topic of being safe on the Internet. But from what I have seen and heard about the kind of threats that are out there no one not even Americans are aware enough to really be safe on the Internet.

There are countless ways in which your identity can be stolen or your computer can be infected even if you run the best anti virus software out there.

So maybe Americans are more aware than the Dutch which will help a little in not falling for "phishing" attacks, but your awareness is not going to help you if you naively click on a link you see in a comment section of your favorite (and thus trusted) online news or sports web site.

You click on the link and are taken to a web site that might or might not be interesting to you and before you can close the web page, a piece of malware will creep into your browser and from now on every time you visit a web site your user name and password are transmitted to the hackers web site. In other words your identity was stolen and all you did was click on a link on a trusted web site.

It is true that some anti virus solutions have a list of malware sites that are out there and will keep you from clicking on them, but there is no way they can keep up with the hackers who can create these links automatically in large numbers. So neither awareness nor anti virus solutions can totally protect you.

So what can we do? There are two ways: one is the kind of technology solution that BlueGem Security is providing (full disclosure I am one of their technical advisors), where they encrypt every keystroke such that even if a hacker could see the keystrokes they will not be able to decrypt them.

Another way is to change the way authentication is done on important web sites such as your bank, your online trading account and even PayPal. However changing the way you do authentication has to be done carefully; yes you can design some draconian method that will be very safe, but make it too draconian and you will scare away customers. It is time something is changed in the online authentication space.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Google wave shows the future of the Corporate Desktop

Last weeks presentation of Google Wave got me thinking again about the corporate desktop. I honestly believe that something like Google Wave will be the future of the corporate desktop. I say "something like it" because I also believe that Microsoft is realizing what Google Wave means to their business and that they must be scheming on some sort of reply. Before I explain why Google Wave is the "Wave of the future" (oh, that is why they are calling it that), I want to have a quick look at the history of the corporate desktop.

The PC (personal computer) started as a toy for what we now call geeks, people really interested in computers. It wasn't until Lotus123 came out that things changed. With Lotus123 anyone with a PC could do "spread sheets", something that until then was done either on paper by people with a lot of time on their hands (mostly accountants) or on large main frame computers. At about the same time WordPerfect became available, allowing people to use their PC for word processing, something that until then was done only by secretaries or typists. These two applications running on a PC let to the introduction of the corporate desktop.

Microsoft, who until then was only selling the Windows/DOS operating system and some games, got into action and launched Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint, later to be referred to as Microsoft Office. As usual with Microsoft it took a few releases of Office to be good enough to take away market share but eventually they did and became a virtual monopoly on the desktop.

One of the smarter moves of Microsoft was to include free of charge an email program called Outlook into the Office bundle. Once all corporate desktops where running Microsoft Office, the Microsoft sales people only had to inform their customer that if they wanted to take full advantage of Outlook that they should install a new email server called Exchange. Exchange quickly took a huge market share away from Lotus Notes (by IBM), and SendMail (an open source based company) and not just because of their integration with Microsoft Office but also because of their integrated calendaring tool which was built into the corporate version of Outlook.

So now with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Calendar, SharePoint and instant messaging, the corporate desktop was transformed into a collaboration tool which allows people in the corporate world to work together: they create documents with Microsoft Office, store them in SharePoint, email the documents using Outlook, and they use the Calendar feature of Exchange to set up meetings to discuss these documents. In other words a full set of nicely integrated office collaboration tools.

The only black horse in the race for the corporate desktop was the enterprise Wiki. Companies like SocialText and JotSpot (acquired by Google) filled an interesting void in the intra-office collaboration space. They allow you to create a Wiki which is basically a web page that can be edited and viewed by anyone who has access to it. Wikis are a great tool for sharing information and for collaborating on creating this information. What Wikis also introduced was the notion that you can use the Internet to collaborate without having to use email and maybe most importantly that you only need a browser (any browser) to be able to do all of this.

So at this point in time you can make documents and spreadsheets online in a browser, you can read and write email in a browser, you can send instant messages via a browser, and you can collaborate via Wikis or message boards (or via Google Wave) in a browser. Microsoft of course is aware of all these things, because in the end the biggest threat to them is that all you really need is some simple PC or laptop running Linux and Firefox and you can do all of the above without the need for ANY Microsoft products on the desktop.

So what about Google Wave? Well if this 1 hour and 20 minute demo is anything to go by then if executed properly a Google Wave (like) technology could replace: email, instant messaging, Wikis, blogs and even Microsoft SharePoint and all you need is a browser running on some operating system. So yes Wave is a real threat to Microsoft's corporate desktop monopoly. It does everything the Microsoft tools do and then some.

There are of course other things that will happen once the corporate desktop turns into an "empty PC" ( a PC running only a browser and storing all its data on the cloud). If there are no applications and no data on the "empty" corporate desktop then there will be no need for traditional Anti Virus solutions, no need for data backup, and no need to manage the desktops, because if you desktop fails then you just use another "empty" PC: your data and applications are all in the cloud anyway. I will write more about the "empty PC" and the consequences in a future blog.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Yes Google will become Big Brother, because users don't care

In this article the author is asking the question whether or not Google will become Big Brother (if it hasn't already). Google, Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo, AOL and MSN (the Microsoft online presence) are all competing for the so called internet "eye balls". Since Google's main source of income is paid advertising they need to do two things in other to be competitive: first make sure that the internet users spend as much time as possible on a Google web page so they will spend a lot of time in front of the the ads and secondly Google needs to make the ads relevant to the viewer. If the ads are not relevant then the user will get annoyed and leave the web page and maybe more importantly the advertiser will not get value for money. For example putting viagra ads in front of teenagers will both annoy the teenager and waste the advertisers money. So how does Google solve these two problems? They do this simply by collecting as much information as possible about the people visiting their web sites so that they can target the ads as efficiently as possible.

Unfortunately for Google collecting this information about their users is limited by such things as privacy laws. (which in some countries are stricter than in others). Google's approach seems to be to get people to agree to having their (personal) data collected in return for which they will provide "cool" features like being able to ask a question like "what shall I do tomorrow?" or "what job shall I take". So will Google turn into big brother? The answer is yes because first of all users tend to click on "I agree" without reading the details and secondly because the new generation of internet users do not seem to be too concerned about privacy, which is evident from some of the stuff they publish on their facebooks, myspaces etc.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Below is my BIO for more details please visit my linked-in profile.

My expertise areas are in Cloud Computing, Cloud Services, Cloud Storage, Virtualization for both the Enterprise data center and the desktop, Enterprise and Consumer Security, Enterprise and Consumer Backup and Enterprise and Consumer Storage technologies. I also have identified and continue to monitor the top ten technology trends that will have a serious impact on the software industry. I currently am or was on the technical advisory boards of SonaSoft, BlueGem, Qlayer, SocialText, Panta Systems, and Transitive.

For the last 10 years I worked at Symantec (before that VERITAS) where I was the senior director of the Technology Scouting Group in the office of the CTO . In this role I scouted out thousands of technology companies that were or should have been of interest to Symantec/VERITAS. Also in this role I identified and monitored those technology trends that will have an impact on the software industry. Before that, I spend more than 10 years working at AT&T Bell Labs in the Netherlands. I have over 20 software patents in my name in the areas of virtualization, system and network management, and storage technologies. I have both an MS in mathematics and an MBA in telecommunication.

I am also a "leader" consultant at the Gerson and Lehrman Group (GLG) where you can contact me in case you want to hire my consulting services on any of the topics discussed in my blog.