Archive for April, 2008

The Week That Was

April 19, 2008

MICROSOFT 2.0

OK, so we all had a chuckle at Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s quip that the software giant’s $42.3-billion US bid for Yahoo Inc. seemed like it was worth 31 bucks a share. That was after a small show of hands, at a recent tech conference, went up from Yahoo search engine users. There were more hands for Microsoft’s Live search but it was clear that the majority of folks, even die-hard Windows fans, prefer Google. Meanwhile, Google’s shares were still on the rise. You might think that even combined, Yahoo and Live can slow Google down. I think not. Playing catch-up today with hot ideas like the Google and YouTube concept is tough, even if you have deep pockets like Microsoft. The company was slow to take the Internet seriously at first, and is still paying the price. Microsoft shareholders may wonder why their hard-earned money still goes into so many wanabe catch-up efforts. There are some exceptions. A Microsoft product manager at the recent CES show in Vegas characterized his employer as a “dot 2.0” company. For example, take Microsoft’s second generation Zune player, available in Canada soon. Like the successful Xbox, it’s not a “me-too” device , but smartly designed and in tune with the social networking crowd. If Microsoft concentrated earlier, on offering its traditional money-making software business online, instead of trying to re-invent every wheel, and cut its huge marketing budget in half (you don’t need to flog smart product…it sells itself) it would be better off today.

 

IS THAT MORE MUSCLE IN YOUR POCKET?

Intel’s record first-quarter revenue of $9.7 billion and 25 cent share earning last week re-iterates the point that if you innovate and stick to your “CORE” product, you will do well. Much of the chip-maker’s success is in the efficient and powerful Core chip architecture (you knew that was going somewhere when Apple adopted it for its computers). They can thank their Israeli propeller research heads for that run. But Intel is learning fast. Unlike its pre-Core “build them big at any cost” mentality, the chip-maker is also focusing on making affordable computer chips and adding more processing power for the mobile crowd.  At its recent IDF conference in Shanghai China, Intel unveiled Second-Generation Intel-Powered Classmate PC — ‘Netbook’ for Worldwide Education Markets and the new mobile Intel Centrino Atom Processor Technology. Check it out at www.intel.com/pressroom/kits/events/idfspr_2008/index.htm

Battle of the Brains

April 12, 2008

The American University of Cairo finnished in the top half, 47th at the 32nd Annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest in Banff Alberta. They may have not won the top prize, but Khaled Hafez, left, and Soha Hassan can look top many years of happiness. The couple is engaged and plan to follow a career in IT acadamia. I get their kids will also be next-gen ACM-ICPC finalists too. Maybe team member Remoun Hafez, right will be the best man!

IT ROMANCE – The American University of Cairo finnished in the top half, 47th, at the 32nd Annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest in Banff, Alberta this week. They may have not won the top prize, but Khaled Hafez, left, and Soha Hassan can look to many years of happiness. The couple is engaged and plan to follow a career in IT acadamia. I bet their kids will also be next-gen ACM-ICPC finalists too. Maybe team member Remoun Hafez, right, will be the best man!

 

IT SHORTAGES

The male-dominated contest at the ACM ICPC contest in Banff, Alberta, Canada underscored the shrinking female attendance in IT.

“Where have all the women gone?” asked executive contest director, Bill Poucher, professor of Computing Science, Baylor University.

They were there, all five of them, amid 295 guys.

“I’ve always been around computers and math,” said University of Cape Town team member Tamara von Glehn, whose parents have a math and physics background. “My sister competes in computing events too.”

She can’t figure out why more women don’t pursue math and science. “But it’s cool to be here, around other people who are so good at what they do,” she said.

Soha Hassan from the American University of Cairo didn’t take being here for granted. “I am a hard worker, many of the other women did not want to put the effort in  for this competition,” she said.

But a round table discussion with event organizers noted the overall shrinking IT school attendance posed a serious shortage of qualified workers, including Canada.

“People don’t understand why we hire so many IT workers from countries like India,” said Jonathan Schaeffer, chairman of computing science at the U of A.

He expressed concern over a 60 per cent attendance drop at the U of A Computing Science program since the .Com era in 2001.

“We are willing to create heroes from people with physical attributes and pay them millions to entertain us,” he said. . “But we don’t celebrate or appreciate mental muscles.”

He thinks that unless computing science enrollments jump up soon, there will be a shortage of IT workers in Canada for the next five years. 

“IT will play an increasingly important role in every aspect of what we do, with no geographic boundaries,” said Poucher. “It’s important to not only value how smart IT students are today but to also arm them with social skills.” 

See my main story on the event which saw a DOS attack launched by one of the teams during the event practice session. www.canada.com/topics/technology/columnists/makris.html 

Check out my stevoidstickcam walkthrough during the Battle of the Brains ACM-ICPC showdown:

http://www.youtube.com/v/59-CM0Y_5H8

CTIA 2008…cellphone heaven!

April 2, 2008

I saw some great cellphones at CTIA 2008 in Las Vegas, but many of them won’t make it to Canadian cellphone providers. Samsung quietly showed more than half a dozen European models at the private Showstoppers event Monday night with sophisticated features like your own widget-dragging onscreen featured on the gorgeous SGH-480 and a cool morphing screen feature on the “Soul” slider that changes onscreen button functionality depending on what you are doing.

The Moto Rokr E8 which should be a no-brainer for Candian Cellcos, hides buttons that are not needed for specific functions. Like when pressing the music shortut, the numeric keypads go dark and the player control buttoms light up. The circular Omega wheel, ala iPod, allows you to quickly scroll through any lists in many apps. I bet you it will be out by this summer.

Sony Ericsson showed improved features on its Canadian “shake” phone. The W760 handset has all the smart moves and is a world phone to boot. You can control volumes, change to next or previous song strack or scramble the song play order, all by shaking the phone in certain directions. I have to hand it to Sony Ericsson. Just minutes before the CTIA Wireless 2008 show closed I ran into Sony Ericsson’s channel and product marketing analyst Farhad Esmail check out the competition at the LG booth. It pays to know your enemies! 

 Nokia announced a non-cellphone device, the N810 Internet Tablet WiMax Edition, a 4.13 inch horizontal ultra-sharp screen and ready for Internet connectivity and easy typing on a well layed-out slide-out keyboard. Nokia hoisted a bunch of us tech scribes strapped on a large platform 180 feet high. They called it the Nokia Internet Cafe in the Sky and I tell you, I had a tough time trying out the bolted  N810 with my feet dangling and little people far below. Nice idea for a product launch but this cafe only served up fast Internet, no coffee or dessert.  Check my self-shot stevoidstickcam video link on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/v/aSkKa2jNqBY

I tried out Nokia’s soon to be released Maps 2.0 on a Nokia’s N95 8 GB 5 megapixel GPS slider phone. Its pedestrian mode kept track of my walks down the strip to meter-accuracy. I followed my virtual “bread crumbs” the program leaves onscreen to find out where I started from and it was bang on.

Pepcoms put son great technology showcases at major tech events, including the recent CTIA Wireless 2008 in Las Vegas. Not only did their mobile focules show serve up great technology but also an awsome martini ice bar…cheers! http://www.youtube.com/v/pjhLS2-oZU4 On the way back home from CTIA 2008 I was impressed with the frankness of a US Airways flight attendant who left me speechless. While she was explaining the ins and outs to me and fellow passengers about our required duties sitting on the emergency exit row, I jokingly asked her if there was a test to follow. Her reply: “No test, just a final exam and it will count.” Touche’

Check out my Edmonton Journal Story on CTIA 2008 cool gizmos I saw at  www.canada.com/technology