Is Google Docs the weakest link in Chromebook?

Interesting thoughts on what Google should do to take over Windows with its Chromebook. I don’t agree with all of it, especially I don’t think that Google Docs should necessarily get all the features of MS Word (including the unnecessary ones) in order to succeed, but definitely worth reading.

So when Google brags about the advantages of Chromebooks, I’m completely unimpressed because they are more than wiped out by the enormous sacrifices in basic compatibility and productivity that most people would have to make in order to move off Windows. The most fundamental problem is Google Docs.

There’s no way to put this politely: As a replacement for Microsoft Office, Google Docs stinks. Its word processor is adequate but limited, its spreadsheet is rudimentary, and its presentation program is so awkward and inflexible that it makes me want to throw something.

via Mobile Opportunity: Can Google’s Chromebook Break Windows?.

How is Google damaging consumers?

I kept this post as draft since I read Wired’s article about Google and their supposed dominant position. Today I read again about the new investigation of US Antitrust targeting bigG because it holds too much market share in online advertising and advertisers are getting upset.  I can’t understand why an antitrust agency is taking care of this. How is Google harming consumers? This seems to me a totally different case than the Microsoft antitrust judgement. With Microsoft, consumers were being harmed directly left with little to no choice to use their products in order to have ‘compatibility’. At that time, I think that antitrust bodies had a clear case: Microsoft dominance and abusive business practices were removing options to consumers.

With Google the case seems very different: advertisers are free to stop advertising on Google any time they want. Contrary to Microsoft, Google cannot leverage any network effect to keep Internet users (the ‘consumers’) to stop using Google for search. I can go and use Bing any time I want: Google search uses an open standard, it’s a freakin web site. The simplest thing Microsoft has to do in order to take 40% of Internet users’ search is to pay a sufficient amount of money to Mozilla, and voilà: all Firefox users will have Bing as default search engine.

Same thing with many other Googl services. If you don’t like Gmail anymore you can take all of its archive, contacts, and everything else and move it somewhere else: open standards (IMAP) at work again.

And, should Microsoft not want to pay Mozilla, Google’s search engine can start to suck  any time or more privacy issues may arise, and users will move to the next best one (didn’t we all move to Google from Altavista already?)

What am I failing to see in these new wave of antitrust complaints against Google?

The carriers are ruining Android

Techcrunch author MG Siegler picked the wrong fight accusing Android of ‘not being open’. His rant rant is all about how the fact that Android is open source allows the carriers like Verizon and T-mobile to fill it up with crapware and basically crippling the user experience. The nuts of his argument though are in this paragraph:

The thought of a truly open mobile operating system is very appealing. The problem is that in practice, that’s just simply not the reality of the situation. Maybe if Google had their way, the system would be truly open. But they don’t. Sadly, they have to deal with a very big roadblock: the carriers.

Carriers have been crippling phones everywhere and independently from the OS. I think of my Nokia E71, for example. It came branded (not locked) by TIM (Italian operator), installed with a custom firmware containing software that wouldn’t even start. So bad was the situation that I had to change its serial number and lead Nokia to believe that it was an unbranded phone so that I could install the normal firmware and get regular updates.

I learned my lesson then: never ever buy branded/locked phones. But aren’t they more expensive that way? Yes! Unlocked phones cost a ton of money, and you know what? They should! When you go buy a laptop do you expect to pay less than $300? So why do you expect a Droid  phone to cost only $199? Don’t you expect that such low means strings attached? And the strings are crippleware, like the idiotic Navigator-thing that AT&T tried to make me pay for on the Palm Pre.

Come on, American friends, you should know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Android is (almost) free software but that doesn’t have anything to do with the stupid manoeuvres of the carriers. These are lame attempts to squeeze some pennies out of you while they wait for their friends in Washington to destroy net neutrality (with Google’s help).

Screw them, buy unlocked phones and refuse data+voice plans that tie to them for two years. Freedom comes at a very small price, all things considered.

There is nothing wrong in being a pipe

The more I think about the net neutrality debate the less I like what I learn. What is really puzzling for me is that carriers are complaining about having a privileged position and that is just unacceptable. It seems to me that network operators like AT&T, Comcast and Telecom Italia operate in an oligopolistic market, with extremely high barriers to new entrants, and with customers with strong disincentives to switch. The more I look at it the more I convince myself that network operators are telling politicians a fairy tale. Big telecoms want us to believe that they need to have some special power, because Google is taking away their margins. I am more inclined to believe that they should thank the governments that gave them a good and well defensible position, while focusing on delivering a good service.

There should be nothing wrong in being a dumb pipe: just focus on delivering a high quality service, voice and data, instead of venturing in idiotic ‘value added’ crap. Hell, even offer the option to the customer to shape internet traffic, couple it with real good customer service and enjoy the recurring revenue, maybe small but almost 100% sure. There is really nothing wrong in being a pipe.

I wish antitrust bodies didn’t exist

My good friend Carlo Piana, the lawyer that helped Samba and FSFE in the antitrust trial Microsoft against the European Commission, says today:

priority #1 is to keep a close eye on the only overdominant company in the IT market

But given the outcome of the trial, with Microsoft getting a ‘get out of jail free’ card, I think it’s time to ask DG Competition to declare its failure as a body and never start any antitrust investigation anymore. I have seen them only do damages, no real positive effect. And they keep damaging users and freedom of business now with the Phase II investigation for the Oracle + Sun M&A.

Go home, Commissioner Kroes and take your toys with you.

via Let’s keep eye on the ball | Carlo Piana :: Law is Freedom ::.

Bruce Schneier on Wired: ‘Security’ Is Code for ‘Control’

I couldn’t agree less with Schneier’s post on Wired: lock-in is bad for users.’  I liked this sentence that explains well how I’m feeling now after having used a Mac for 2 weeks (I promise, I’ll write a long post about this experience in the next days):

With enough lock-in, a company can protect its market share even as it reduces customer service, raises prices, refuses to innovate and otherwise abuses its customer base. It should be no surprise that this sounds like pretty much every experience you’ve had with IT companies

Read the rest of it on With iPhone, ‘Security’ Is Code for ‘Control’

Open Source? Microsoft’s split personality

I’m not sure that Bill Hilf’s declarations about Microsoft’s Open Source strategy give a complete picture of the corporate strategy in the near future to compete in a sector that radically changed since Windows came to light in the ’90s. I think that Microsoft is being disrupted and will have to split and go on two different paths. One will continue developing its flagship products (Windows and Office) the usual way. This path is the one that Ballmer and Mundie follow, I’d call it ‘Classic Microsoft’. We all know Classic Microsoft and I agree with Shaun Connoly’s (JBoss/RedHat employee) and Savio Rodrigues regarding its Open Source Strategy:

Microsoft has no plans on flipping any of its flagship products to open source. Period. […]
Microsoft will aggressively fight/compete with products (open source or closed source) that pose a threat to its core products.

It makes perfect business sense. The main problem with this path is that it can’t last forever as it’s being disrupted. A symptom is that Microsoft’s revenues grow slower than competing products: Microsoft growth is stable around 7%-8%, while Google sports two-digits growth and Apple almost goes off scale. Plus there are many signals of decreasing licensing costs under pressure from FLOSS (see Gartner’s report, for example).

Microsoft’s other path is far more exciting and it revolves around a main transition set to happen on July 2008. Microsoft Chief Software Architect (Bill Gates) has quit and has already appointed the successor, the visionary Ray Ozzie. Where is he and what is he doing down there? I couldn’t find many public sign of his activities after his last post on his blog. I heard rumors from Seattle that he is working silently with his group, waiting for gates to open and run free (bad pun 🙂 ). Fortune reports that “Ozzie’s assignment is to Webify everything” at Microsoft.

My guess is that Ozzie will lead Microsoft on the second path, the Disrupting Microsoft. On this path only speculations apply, but I bet that Disrupting Microsoft will be different: with a different strategy and a different approach to open source and the web revolutions than the one we are used to from Classic Microsoft. The Disrupting Microsoft will have to slowly take over Windows and Office, when they will be too tired (or expired) to sustain Microsoft’s hunger for revenues.

Realizing that Microsoft is being disrupted, Microsoft itself is creating its own subsidiary that will follow the disruption to eventually cannibalize Classic Microsoft (something Adobe should consider doing too). Bets are accepted, Ozzie will emerge from the salt mines next summer and we’ll see.

Politecnico di Torino launches copyright consulting services

Politecnico di Torino and Regione Piemonte have launced SeLiLi, Servizio Licenze Libere, a service to offer information and consulting services on legal, technological and economical matters regarding copyright licenses. Given the credibility of the Politecnico and in particular to the group that maintains the Creative Commons licenses I think they can do a good job spreading news in Italy.

SeLiLi’s mission includes giving advice on copyright for all kind of creative arts, from graphic arts to software, making its scope wider than that of FSFE’s Freedom Task Force. This, BTW, proves that everybody, for-profits and non-profits, have to face competition. I wish the best to these friends in Torino.