Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yahoo/Microsoft and Net Neutrality Dominate the News

So I know I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks, but I've been busy. After honors weekend was over I had to bust my ass to work on my parser and then spent the rest of the recovering in my other classes. Since my last post, the limelight has fallen clearly on two issues from what I've been reading: Microsoft's fight to acquire Yahoo and a surge of articles related to net neutrality. Speaking of which, my video "The Truth About Net Neutrality" is ready and will be made public after it is shown in class. So expect a post about this on Tuesday or on Thursday (more likely Thursday). I think that everyone will enjoy it and learn a lot from it. I have a couple of real quick personal things though. I'm performing in a dance tomorrow night, so you should come see it if you're in Austin (Union Ballroom, 8:30 PM). I caved and decided to join Twitter, we'll see how that goes (it's also somewhere on the right side here). Lastly, I got a shiny new laptop and a new mouse. I hate to say it: but HP's mantra of "the computer is personal again" really does apply here for me. It's exactly what I wanted: it's super fast, I can multi-task to an extreme without slowdowns, it's precisely the media powerhouse I want for high-definition video and my music and pictures, it has a built in webcam and bluetooth, and it even has S-video output. Very impressive, HP. Plus, this screen clobbers my old 19" CRT even though it's only 15.4" (it's just a little shorter than the 19"). The mouse is just really precise and the buttons on it are great. Wanna see?

Let's start off with Yahoo's response to Microsoft's ultimatum: give us more money. They claim that they'd be more amicable to the takeover if the offer was larger, which at this point may actually be true because they have to be starting to become afraid of Microsoft taking action by way of a proxy fight. I love the open letter they sent because it was like a verbal bitchslap aimed at Steve Ballmer. Were they being jerks in their diction? I don't think so, because I can see Ballmer being a jerk himself in trying to push this whole thing forward. The last I heard since that letter was sent is that they met earlier this week to open up negotiations again. We have no idea what's happening here behind closed doors (maybe in a year it'll be a made-for-TV movie), but I think we're all hoping that it won't end in a proxy fight. Oh, and a proxy fight does not guarantee anything for Microsoft since stockholders have to be willing to sell their shares so that's a big reason why Ballmer is going to want to negotiate more here. What we do know is that Microsoft hired a lobbyist group to start greasing the wheels in terms of making sure that an acquisition of Microsoft would not be questioned by the suits in the other Washington.

As if that wasn't already enough drama for Redmond (which could be the title of yet another reality show for MTV, I'm sure), analysts are painting a bleak picture for Microsoft unless they rethink how they deal with Windows. I have to say that I agree with them, and it sounds like Microsoft may already be on that path. Last time I blogged, I believe I cited an article saying that Windows looks like it'll become more modular, and so I think the Windows 7 team wants it to be easier to upgrade. Of course, if someone with the hardware to run Vista can't run Windows 7, then they're really hosed because that's unacceptable. Increasing virtualization seems interesting, but I don't personally have much experience in how virtualization works. I wonder if it's at all feasible to remedy their problem of a huge legacy codebase with a virtual machine to run programs that require Vista/XP to run? That way they could start fresh. They're probably not going to do this, it's just something I'm pondering here. Fortunately, Microsoft is actually getting some praise in its improvements to Live Maps, which seem pretty sweet. Even though I regularly use Google Maps, I can appreciate how nice the Bird's Eye viewing angle can be, and these 3-D rendered builds right in your browser are pretty neat. You can see my old place in Seattle here (I lived in the triangular building) and this is where I worked.

Facebook has launched its in-browser chat for select networks and it seems to be pretty neat and an excellent idea. I think that enough people stay logged into Facebook for an extended period time to make this actually useful. It looks to be pretty well integrated with your news feed and easy to deal with as an addition to your normal Facebook browsing experience. What does this mean for traditional IM clients? Are they to go the way of the dodo with the rise of Google Chat and Meebo and now this Facebook chat? Probably not. I think that enterprise users will still value their functionality in helping teams communicate, but we'll see what happens.

I mentioned last time that it's ridiculous that Google would take on Amazon Web Services (AWS), but I guess that their Google Apps Engine heads toward that goal. I have to admit that this is really cool, but it's kind of different from anything AWS does, which is good. It's an entire platform rooted in Python and hosted by Google for launching your own web applications. So it's less flexible but more tightly integrated than the kind of stuff you'd be buying from AWS. I think it's interesting for a niche market, but appeals to a slightly different market than AWS, one that I believe is probably smaller but not negligible. If you want Google Apps Engine, then you're probably a student or a smal player, whereas companies that want to use AWS have a clearer direction and a better understanding of what they need and how they plan to use it. It's definitely interesting and I think it's a great concept. It has its limitations and I don't know if it'll ever grow to be really big (most platforms take a while to catch on anyhow), but it's definitely not a bad idea. I stand by saying that Google can't directly compete with AWS in its segment of the market, which is further confirmed by Jeff Bezos's remarks at Startup School as intimated by my friend, Juan, that include something like this.

Ok, now for the slew of net neutrality articles. Virgin Media's CEO has blasted net neutrality as being bullshit and has already started establishing contracts to deliver the content of certain providers faster than others. The audacity of people like this truly amaze me. I don't understand how people can desire more money at the expense of society and the very definition of what the Internet has always been. Of course, they then turn around and say that we don't really need faster Internet access. Why is an enraged American public not putting he pieces together? They want to charge more money to certain providers to make more money without actually giving you a better Internet experience. They're too lazy to rebuild their networks and wire this country with fiber so they instead go for cheap solutions that don't really make anything better.

Comcast re-did their hearing at Stanford last week for throttling people using BitTorrent since last time they paid people to fill seats so that real people couldn't sit in and be a part of it, and they really want to de-prioritize heavy Internet users. This is not a violation of net neutrality, this is a violation of what most of their clients signed in their terms of service and is ridiculous. Net neutrality specifically deals with neutrality on the content provider side, it's a totally different issue for the consumer side. Providers like Comcast have long forgotten what it means to care about their customers and have turned to self-serving "bills of rights" and slinging mud at any threat to keeping the Internet a communications medium that is driven by and freely available to the people at large. I hope all of you will write to your congressmen and help be a part of the solution.

I'm running late here so let me cover just a few things real quick. Joel Spolsky wrote another article for about the strategy of "Fire and Motion" where you stun your opponents with something big (the "fire") and then move forward so that you're always one step ahead of them. It's a fun read and a great strategy for all you budding entrepreneurs. PS3 users may soon see television and movie content come straight to their PS3s via the Playstation Network. I'm not sure if they'd have ad-supported TV like Hulu or pay-per-view like iTunes/Unbox, but hopefully it'll help the PS3 stand up against its loses to the Xbox 360 and Wii in this generation's console war. Clearly, Sony wants the PS3 to be your one-stop entertainment center. Lastly, if you're a Mac user who doesn't even consider security, you need to read this. I'm currently playing with vulnerabilities in my research that affect Macs, so believe me when I tell you to be careful out there. The Internet is a dangerous place.

Like I said, by Thursday I'll be making another post with my net neutrality documentary, so I hope you'll come visit again very soon!

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