Welcome to NosillaCast for May 23rd, 2005
I’m podcasting again from the Wall Street Journal sponsored
D3: All things Digital conference. Today was a full day
with Bill Gates, Scott McNeally, Ed Zander, Nicholas Negreponte, and
Mitch Kapor. I’ll try to keep this under 20 minutes and
give just the highlights.
If you listened to last night’s podcast, you know that poor Bill
had to sit through Steve Jobs’ keynote, and have the cameras
watching him while Steve made snyde remarks. Today Bill was in
good form. He was interviewed by Walter Mossberg.
Walt had to start off asking about security. Oddly Bill sees that
the spam filters from MS are doing a good job at reducing spam –
wasn’t clear to me what filters he was referring to – maybe
in Exchange? He said viruses are down in the last year (has he
been counting?) and then put in a caveat on viruses in terms of the
damage it has done to people. He must not count the damage to
industry (and home life for that matter) of the money and time wasted
doing patch management and virus updates and cleaning. He said
that if you have kept your OS up to date with the automatic updates,
you shouldn’t have gotten any viruses.
He said that malware (his term for spyware and adware) is up, but their
acquisition of Giant and subsequently giving away the malware scanner
software for free has helped to keep these problems off of computers.
He talked about a new way to protect customers from malicious code,
which he called reputation-based downloads. The idea is that when you
download a piece of software, you’ll be asked later how it went
for you, and you give a rating to say whether it was good software or
bad. He says that a surprising number of people respond to these
mini surveys, and that it will be a way of knowing right before you
download whether this s/w causes problems. They think this will
be more effective than putting the “are you sure” button
there that we all instinctively push, AND more effective than
Apple’s requirement to enter the administrator password. I
think he missed the point there though – with the requirement for
a password you eliminate the installation of software without your
knowledge. The reputation based model still might be interesting
Walter said that so many people have to get their hard drives
reformatted – even if they have firewalls, antivirus programs and
your malware program – and now we have all these warnings jumping
up alerting us - when can we just sit down and work at the
computer and not worry about it? Bill says that if you opt in to
the malware program and automatically install windows updates it IS
silent. Hmmmm. He said that they will be getting into the
Anti-Virus business, and since industry has set a precendent for
charging for AV, they will too. This triggered an angry question
from the audience later on – asking why after causing billions of
dollars in damage to customers, they can stand to profit from security
software! He defended his position by pointing out that they
don’t charge for malware protection or search.
Walt asked if there’s a divergence between when corporations and
individuals want upgrades to the OS (such as closer together than 5
years.) Bill said that everyone wants the small updates, but any
changes to the user interface must come with dramatic changes to the
scope of the tools, graphics, or power to understand documents if large
corporations are going to change.
Bill talked about the tablet quite a bit – he believes that
it’s the great new thing – that there are rabid users in
healthcare and places like that. He says the use of One Note has
dramatically increased his productivity.
Bill demo’d desktop search, and it looked surprisingly like
spotlight in Mac OSX Tiger, except maybe even better. The panes
of information were the same, but where Tiger only does previews of
jpegs, MS’s product shows previews of powerpoint slides –
you could even click thru the slides as tho you were in PP.
He also demonstrated their web search service, called
“Start”. It looked pretty good – the attraction
is that you start with a blank page (instead of ready made content like
Yahoo) and the you add the content which interests you, he showed
adding weather, stock quotes, podcasts. The funny thing was that
he kept referring to it as the dashboard – which is the name for
OSX Tiger’s widgets.
Finally he showed off their mapping site, which wasn’t that good,
looked a little worse than Yahoo and nowhere near as good as Google,
but then he showed something cool. He brought up an address
(Walter Mossberg’s HOME address, by the way, including his home
phone number) and then he showed the satellite view as many services
show, but then he showed a hybrid view, which shows street names and
lines on top of the satellite view – it was pretty nice.
Then he explained that they bought a company called Pictometry who has
been flying around with cameras at 45 degrees photographing the
country, so soon you’ll be able to see Walter’s house not
from the rooftop view but from the side as well.
Scott McNeally – CEO of Sun Microsystems
As soon as Scott sat down, Kara Swisher showed videos of the other CEOs
from last year talking about Sun – like Larry Ellison of Oracle,
and most notably Carly Fiorina of HP talking about how Scott just
doesn’t get it – of course ironic as Carly was fired from
HP and Scott is still hanging on.
Scott says that he looks at Dell as an Auto-Zone, where HP is more of a
car dealer. Neither one of them make their own components or
middleware. He used a lot of car analogies throughout his pitch.
Scott talked extensively about the fact that Sun has $7.5B in cash in
the bank (partly thanks to the $2B from MS.) He talked about the
fact that Friday the 13th of May, Sun and MS announced several
collaboration efforts. The ones I could follow were single sign
on – a way to bring together both ldap and active directory
environments together with Java. They also certified all of their
X86 machines on Windows. He talked a lot about their acquisition
of Tarantella, which will make it easier for their Sunray thin clients
to serve up Windows applications using licensed RDP (Remote Desktop
Protocol). Clearly we need to learn more about this.
Kara asked how friendly MS and Sun are now. Scott said that the
agreements are all around interoperability. He said they’re
not friends, but they’re not biting each other’s ears off
Kara mentioned how the stock price is languishing, and Scott pointed
out that they have 16 years straight of cash flow positive years (and
mentioned again that they have $7.5B in cash in the bank.
He then talked about how every CIO who didn’t get a job at a
computer company has built themselves a data center, and they’re
all home made jalopies. (see the car reference again?) He
said he’s never seen 2 data centers alike. He said buying a
Dell Server is to providing web services as buying a piston ring is to
transportation. He asked “if I brought you 262 parts
to build an SUV and dropped them on the floor for only $250, would that
be a good idea?”
He said that one of their businesses is “multi-tenant processing
grid”. This is where they sell cpu cycles for running Monte
Carlo analysis or oil exploration software – running on opterons
and Sparcs running Red Hat and Solaris. They’re selling
these cycles for a buck per cpu hour. He said that IBM’s
pension costs alone are more than a dollar an hour so they can’t
compete with Sun. He looks at it like unused airplane seats
– if he doesn’t sell them, they go away, can’t store
them. He says he treats their grid as WIP, or work in process,
because “we have the shelf life of a banana here!”
Scott then talked about their new Niagra chip – it’s the
next generation past the risc architecture, which has chip
multi-threading. It has 8 cores, and 4 hardware cores per
thread. It has the bandwidth of an E15K, with networking built
in, full symmetric multiprocessing on a chip. He’s really
interested in bringing down the total cost of ownership – he
pointed out that it’s a 32 way, 64 bit core, at less than 56
watts. He pointed out that Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google has his
single biggest expense is energy costs, second is floor space so this
should be attractive.
He brought up another grid – this one he calls the Display Grid,
which is his term for the Sunray thin clients. He asked
“wouldn’t it be great to have a buck a display per day for
all desktop services?” He said that over half of his
employees are homeless – they can walk into any office and work,
so he saves $3M a year by not having a Wintel space heater for each one
of them.. They used two system administrators and $65K in
software to move 30,000 people to a new software upgrade over the
weekend, and no one needed to know.
Nicholas is the chairman of the Media Lab and Professor of Media
Technology. He is dedicating his efforts to finding a way to get
laptops into the hands of children in developing companies. His
strategy is that if he could build a laptop for $100 each, he could get
them into the hands of millions of children by 2007.
He has worked with school children in Cost Rica, where there
isn’t even electricity. He said the teachers try to do
well, but they only have 6 or 7 years of education themselves. He
brought in satellite dishes and generators, and laptops he bought off
of eBay, gave one to every single child and let them take them
home. The families loved them because they were the brightest
light in the house! The kids took wonderful care of them,
polishing them like bicycles, making little bags for them. They
found on their own a website that would speak English words to them so
they could learn to speak the language. This was much better than
when the teacher tried to do it – Nicholas said that it was
unintelligible, bore no resemblance to English.
The technology path for this has 3 generations. Generation 3 is
going to use media ink. This is a method of actually printing on
the screen, which has extremely high contrast so it’s very clear,
and can be done on a flexible non-breakable screen – maybe even
one you could roll up in your pocket. They can make these screens
around $0.50/square inch, when LCDs cost $10/diagonal inch.
2nd generation will be a laptop that when opened reveals a small LED
projector – and then the screen could even be made of white
cardboard. The LEDs have low energy requirements, and you could
even make the laptop go all the way open flat so the projector pointed
at a wall.
The 1st generation is actually harder, they’re looking at using
something like the 7.2” DVD players you can buy now for around
$110, gutting them taking out the optical drive, put in a processor and
a keyboard. They’ll put in wifi, 4 usb ports, a 500MHz
processor, 1GB of flash memory (no disk) 128MB of RAM and run
linux. He said the developing world doesn’t want to talk
about any OS other than linux. The kids want Logo, Google and
Skype, no kind of office application at all.
Ed Zander – CEO of Motorola
I didn’t take a lot of notes on Ed, but he did
“accidentally” show us the Motorola iTunes phone. It
was white, and he said it had an iTunes interface, and killer
sound. He even treated us to a Neal Diamond song by holding it up
to his microphone. He emphasized sound in all of their phones,
showing off the Razr as well as an even thinner phone (not a flip
phone) called the Sliver which is 12mm thick with a speaker and a
camera. He also showed off full motion video of CNN on a cell
phone available now through Verizon.
That’s it for today’s NosillaCast – thanks for tuning
in. Not sure if I’ll podcast tomorrow, the content looks a
little light, but you never know!