Windows 7 Takes Back Mac Switchers and Other Reasons for Hope
Last month was fascinating for me. Not only was Windows 7 launched, but it appeared last week that because so many Mac users were installing Windows 7, some huge enterprise servers crashed. In addition, I got a chance to see Yahoo's new CEO Carol Bartz in action, and was both impressed with her and a little disappointed in the event. Finally, I got a chance to talk to the new managing director of the FCC and got a good sense for how the FCC is using social networking to actually create a more responsive government and move the needle on Net neutrality.
In all three cases, the common element is hope: hope that Windows 7 is actually great this time; hope that Yahoo is on the mend and coming back; and, most important, hope that we can actually trust our government, for once.
I'll share my thoughts about all off this and, as always, close with my product of the week -- in this case, the Savi Office Professional Headset, a wonderful new wireless headset that Plantronics just sent me, which works with your office phone and your PC.
Huge Numbers of Mac Users Moving to Windows 7?
I got an interesting call toward the end of the week. Apparently, a new VMware application called "VMware Fusion 3.0" was having huge problems. The product wasn't failing; it was having download problems. Evidently, so many people were trying to download and install the product, the demand was crashing VMware's servers.
Now, VMware is no small fly-by-night company. It's the pioneer of virtualized products, and it is led by a CEO who cut his teeth at Microsoft. That means its servers are clearly enterprise class, and they perform in areas that were once dominated by mainframes -- which means these servers are about as robust as you can get. Yet the load on these servers from people desperate to get this new product was such it was bringing them to their knees.
You'd likely conclude, as I did, that this product must be hugely popular and evidently it is -- but what, you ask, does this have to do with Mac users and Windows? Fusion from VMware is designed to allow people to run Windows on Macs.
This makes some sense, as a lot of people moved to the Mac over the last two years because they were frustrated with Windows, but it's likely they still have vastly more experience with the Windows platform. It was always believed -- at least, by me -- that some of them might come back. A lot of us struggled with the reality that folks don't buy hardware that often, and given how expensive a new Mac is, most would choose to tough it out rather than experience a quick swap.
Well, we forgot about products like Fusion, which allow you to run Windows on a Mac -- but these users apparently didn't. Boy, when a Windows product is hot enough to get Mac users -- even recent ones -- to install Windows on their Macs, that is a big deal. We don't yet know how this is working out, but you can sense their hope that Windows 7 is all that it has been said to be. We'll hope, for their sake, that it continues to be.
Yahoo: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Back in the Netscape days, I went to an analyst meeting and, based on what I heard, gave the company a year before it was going to fail. It turned out, and this was at least partially luck, I was right. What I saw was a firm whose command-and- control structure was damaged beyond reasonable repair and was largely dysfunctional. It took 12 months for the reality of that to soak through to the outside world.
So, when I watched Carol Bartz and her team present, I was looking for similar problems, and I'm happy to report I didn't see them. At Yahoo, command and control is solidly in place. The people appear loyal to their leader and have hope -- and this is important -- that she knows what she is doing.
However, Yahoo isn't at 100 percent yet; I was also looking for indications that it fully understood the technologies it was using, and here things were somewhat mixed.
Yahoo is an Internet company, and we currently are operating in what has been called "a Web 2.0 world." Yahoo presented as if it were a firm that existed before the Web. It made no apparent use of the Web technology it lives under during the event. The key part of Web 2.0 is a back-channel, and that wasn't evident -- except in traditional Q&A -- at the event either.
There was no apparent use of social networking, instant messaging, or any other Web technology that could have allowed the dynamic shift of topics in real-time, which is something we can do now.
So, I left with the shared hope -- and some evidence -- that Yahoo was getting better, but with little to demonstrate that it fully understood the tools it had or how to use them broadly. In one instance, which certainly works for this piece, there was talk of a sampling method for research that's a decade out of date, and where the FCC is actually more advanced. When the U.S. government is ahead of you in a technology that you should be expert in, that's a problem -- but it does drive us to the next section and why I once again have hope for the Obama administration.
Net Neutrality and the Hope of Something Better
I had a nice long chat with Steven VanRoekel, the FCC's managing director (like its COO) whom I originally met, and was impressed with, when he worked at Microsoft. The FCC is aggressively using Web and social networking technology to understand what people want in terms of Internet access, and it is actively seeking feedback at the Open Internet Web site. VanRoekel was kind enough to personally answer questions on my blog.
However, it's the intelligent use of the technology it is applying to this problem that gives me hope. You see, while the U.S. has a representative form of government, it has been clear for some time that representatives generally seem to care more for things other than representing their constituents. Citizens often get jaded as politician after politician gets caught doing what they shouldn't instead of watching out for their needs.
Part of the issue, though, is one of scale. There are simply too many people for any one politician to know or understand. However, with social networking, advanced sampling, and Web tools, advertisers are getting a vastly better sense of what consumers want, and given the attention products like the new Droid phone from Google and Motorola are attracting, it appears this stuff is working.
To see the government apply the same tools -- not to get us to buy something but to provide better services -- gives me hope for a better country, and it was somewhat ironic that, for once, the U.S. government seemed to be farther ahead of the tech curve than a tech company. That could be a bad thing, but I get hope out of it, and hope is something we can all use.
Product of the Week: Plantronics Savi Office Professional Wireless Headset System
I live on the phone: briefings, calls, podcasts, interviews and even an occasional personal call. Sometimes I use Skype, and often I use a regular low-tech analog line. I'm switching between wired headsets for the PC and my old wireless Plantronics headset.
Sometimes I forget which headset I have on, which means I can get a sudden reminder when the wired headset cord gets tight and either I do a really bad back flip or my stuff crashes dramatically to the floor.
With the Savi Office, which Plantronics kindly donated to me for review (and I don't plan to send it back), I'm hooked up to both my phone and my PC, so I can use the same headset for both types of calls.
I can even switch from my PC to my phone from the headset, which is kind of handy. The product has proven really easy to use, which is good because I have an allergy to manuals.
At US$260, this isn't cheap, but good wireless headsets typically aren't, and you do get a choice of headsets. Currently, I'm hiding it from my wife so she doesn't ask me to buy her one.
A wireless headset is critical to my work and this converged headset is the best I've had the pleasure to use so far. It's another product I suddenly can't seem to live without and a natural for my product of the week.
Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.