02 Apr 2013
Apple has repeatedly attempted to trademark its ever increasing staple of words and symbols. From the recently failed attempt to own the term "iPad Mini" to the persistent battle over the words "App Store", Apple has continuously tried to build out a brand that is distinctly its own.
It is one of the reasons the firm has been so successful. Apple doesn't just sell products, they also sell an image. The leaders of Apple have worked hard for years to build a brand that is cool. Apple puts a focus on aesthetics and style that was previously unheard of in the tech world.
Before Apple, the focus was solely based on usability and performance. However, Apple set out to build its products with image and ease of use in mind. From the various "I" devices to the aesthetics of its logo, Apple has always been interested in the image of its electronics.
That is why the firm puts so much emphasis on protecting its brand. Apple spends a lot of money and time in guarding its image through trademark.
It recently fought a battle in Brazil to protect its iPhone name against a smaller firm attempting to capitalise on the brand. Apple even fought Amazon to force the e-commerce firm to change its App Store name to something else.
The Amazon case is specifically interesting because it points out how much Apple lingo has permeated society. The words "App Store" seem ubiquitous. Many call Google's Play Store, "the App Store". Apps are the common applications we use on mobile devices, while a store is the place we get them from.
However, without Apple we wouldn't even use that terminology. Apple may not have invented the App but it did bring the term into the common lexicon. Without the iPhone, apps would just be mobile applications.
Perhaps that is the reason Apple fights so hard for trademarks. Apple understands that it is a key figure in the tech world and if it allows free use of its brand then it will dilute its significance in the world.
Many firms are now following Apple and putting a focus on building out a brand. Samsung, Apple's biggest competitor, has created the Galaxy line of handsets with a push towards building out a brand. Theirs even been rumblings that Google is worried the Galaxy brand will become more well known for Android than Google.
The technology industry is changing. Now the tech world has to stay focused on marketing, trademarks, and patents. Because of the smartphone markets parity, businesses need to spend just as much money on brand image as R&D.
Apple may make the biggest news for trademark cases, but soon everybody will be making waves in the battle for names.
Earlier this week, Canonical and MapR teamed for an announcement that could signal a change in the way we see big data platforms.
The pair said that the latest versions of Ubuntu would be bringing support for MapR's Hadoop database management and development platform. Now, Ubuntu users will be able to access data from Hadoop deployments.
The move also signals that interest in big data is on the rise. Once the privy of a select few search giants and academic institutions, developers and administrators can now enjoy access to their big data systems with little more than a Linux-equipped notebook.
This could prove to be a key point in the expansion of the big data market into the larger enterprise space. While hardware vendors want to push the systems in order to sell their latest and most powerful products, the basic tools for operating these huge clusters need to be accessible to those who will be controlling and analysing big data platforms.
The move will also be a great help to the education space, where qualified data analysts are in short supply. With many university programmes still in the early phases of developing any sort of big data analysis training programmes, having tools available on existing platforms and familiar systems such as Ubuntu could prove critical.
Just to be clear, no one knows what the future of Microsoft's latest OS is. Some may hate 8's features, or it's disregarded for the start button. However, nobody knows what tomorrow holds for the OS.
What we do know is that Windows 8 has had a slow start. Redmond's latest hasn't taken off like gangbusters. Whether that's because of a consumer dislike for its UI or a poor marketing campaign is anybodies guess. No matter how you feel about the OS, it's probably fair to say that it has yet to set the world on fire.
Again, that could change. A slow start doesn't mean a lost race. Microsoft could very well realize future iterations of the OS that take the world by storm. Nobody knows for sure at this point.
What we do know is that this current lull of Windows 8 could give OS competitors some time to shine. From Linux to Chrome (the other Linux), the Windows empire is prime for some competition.
Take for example, the recent Linux Foundation study which found that Linux use in the enterprise market is growing.
Linux has been around forever and has always had its fans. Over the last few years the open-sourced OS has even gotten support from groups like Canonical. The Ubuntu developer is bringing a version of its OS to mobile devices later this year.
If successful, the dev could eventually create the sort of desktop/mobile OS hybrid that Windows is currently working on. Ubuntu's success could also see it gain some ground in emerging markets. The Linux kit is open-sourced and free.
Another potential competitor who could take some Windows users is the Chrome OS. The Google made OS has already had some success with the launch of a variety of Chromebooks. Add the recently announced Chromebook Pixel to the equation and things could start to get even more interesting.
The Pixel's touch interface has opened the door to a future Android/Chrome mash up. If the convergence succeeds, Google could easily tempt some consumers to the Chromebook (ChromDroid Book?) by offering them their favorite mobile apps on their desktop.
No matter what happens, it is clear that personal computing is changing. Mobile and desktop must now meet up. Consumers want to be able to have the same experience on multiple devices.
Microsoft understood that. However, they may have realized it too late. The great and powerful Windows now has competition from unlikely foes.
With the tablet/smartphone disruption everybody now has a chance to make a dent in the world of personal computing. Whether Microsoft is able to fend off its new competitors is anybody's guess. But one thing is for sure, the OS playing field has gotten a little bit more crowded.
US and China's cyber-espionage back-and-forth is putting trade relations on thin ice. President Obama has been slamming the People's Republic of China for cyber attacks on both private and public US entities. While China is claiming foul over increased use of cyber attacks by the US.
Both countries have co-existed on shaky ground for years. However, recent claims and attacks could be pushing the two nations to regulatory extremes. Take for instance the recent passing of H.R. 933. The spending bill requires any purchase of government tech to be cleared by federal authorities before going through.
The bill puts US fears of cyber spying front and centre. For years, government sanctioned cyber attacks were talked about in only whispers. However, with the recent headlines and threats it's quickly becoming a well-known issue.
No longer just an idea, the attacks are quickly becoming a high priority threat. From the effects it has on private business to the issues it causes for government secrets, cyber-espionage is a scary prospect.
So the question becomes how do nations move going forward? Sanctions won't work long term. The US and China are too big to just avoid each other. Both countries' infrastructures (really the whole world's infrastructure) are too intertwined to develop some sort of pseudo-isolationist agenda.
If not sanctions then perhaps United Nations (UN) instated counter measures would work. One available option could be the creation of a UN sponsored cyber attack treaty.
World governments could begin to work out plans to stop the use of cyber attacks that indelibly harm global relations. It's becoming very clear that the UN has failed to adapt to the internet age. So at the very least discussing the issue could mark correct steps in curbing cyber threats from global governments.
Like any sort of treaty, you run the issue of some not following the rules. However, the time to do something has been long overdue. The current status quo is severely outdated and something needs to be done at a global level.
The world can not stand to let cyber attacks from any country to continue like it has. A global discussion needs to start to happen and it needs to happen quickly. Sure, the US and China have spoken about cyber-espionage tactics. But all details of the talks seemed to sounds more like chest-thumping than anything else.
To really face the issue, countries of the world need to start talking about laying down some sort of rules. Cyber warfare and its repercussions are too risky to let continue. It may well be early days for the types of cyber attacks making headlines, so perhaps the world should get ahead of the issue before it becomes a crisis.
Java has come under the security spotlight in recent months, with numerous high profile attacks discovered targeting vulnerabilities in the platform and some researchers suggesting users would be better off disabling the platform entirely.
That is an option that doesn't always appeal to enterprises, many of whom have made Java a core part of their systems. In such cases, the ability to get timely access to Java updates is becoming a critical component of remaining secure.
Given that, by some measures, Java is the most frequently targeted platform for vulnerabilities, it would seem only sensible for Oracle – which acquired the rights to Java as part of its Sun purchase – to make the updates readily accessible. Which, indeed Oracle does – unless you happen to be in Iran.
Image courtesy of Cryptome.org
According to freedom of speech site Cryptome, Iranian users are being blocked from accessing Java updates, and are instead presented with a page informing them the updates would contravene US export controls.
Oracle was approached for comment on the issue, but had not replied at the time of writing.
Nonetheless, it seems an odd situation to be in. Sure, the US authorities are notoriously touchy about the export of technology, having long sought to prevent encryption technology being used by countries it regards as hostile.
But security updates? It's almost as if the US authorities wanted Iranian firms to be more open to cyber attack.
27 Mar 2013
Oracle continues to struggle to sell servers. Earlier this month the firm reported that third quarter revenue for its servers were down 23 percent year-over-year. Overall the company failed to compete with competitors, struggling to amass a meagre four percent market share.
The Larry Ellison-led company has failed to find the secret sauce necessary to interest firms in its line of hardware. Oracle inability to compete with rivals has really hurt the company's bottom line over the past few years.
While the company recently launched a new line of Sparc T5 and M5 servers, it is yet to be seen if that will be enough. Even if the servers turn out to be amazing, Oracle's real problem is its strategy of designing entire systems for only Oracle gear.
The firm runs on the idea that by doing it all themselves they can create the best systems. Not to mention, build out platforms that require all-Oracle software and hardware.
Unfortunately, for Oracle the hardware industry no longer works without some form of co-operation.
Take HP for example, its Pathfinder programme sees the firm working with other tech firms to create ARM servers for its Project Moonshot programme.
The programme sees HP co-developing servers with hardware and software vendors. HP's approach is different from Oracle's in that it aims to build servers that are not so closed and proprietary.
Oracle still exists on an old way of thinking. The firm believes that a business can get away with offering a proprietary system. But in today's infrastructure that is not true. Users want choice and the ability to not be bogged down by a single option.
HP will need to focus on open platforms if it wants to turn things around. And under Meg Whitman it looks like its going that way. Project Moonshot is a good example of a new paradigm that HP is creating. Overtime that shift could mean big things for the firm's ability to take some of Oracle's business.
Things at HP and Oracle are both quite bumpy at the moment. But one firm is making the smart move - at least when it comes to servers. HP sees a future more in line with what smaller firms like Salesforce are doing. Oracle, however, is struggling to adapt.
The idea that Oracle doesn't "get it" isn't necessarily anything new. Salesforce chief executive and Larry Elision's mortal enemy Marc Benioff said something similar back in 2011. But Ellison and Oracle still don't get it.
HP is adapting, even IBM is adapting, but Oracle just doesn't get it.
27 Mar 2013
Whenever Oracle boss Larry Ellison takes the stage for a product unveiling, you can usually count on more than a bit of trash talk.
The sharp-tongued chief executive seems to make a point out of talking up his own products, and talking down those of rival vendors, whenever he gets the chance. Ellison's wars of words are legendary and can at times get downright nasty.
Which makes his rare show of restraint at Tuesday's Sparc server unveiling all the more puzzling.
Now, there was still plenty of boasting to go around. Ellison made sure to mention early and often that his Sparc servers, by a handful of metrics, could be considered to the 'fastest' on the market for customers.
Usually, these claims came with comparisons to servers offered by rival IBM. Ellison at one point dared to say that his $620,000 Sparc server could offer performance equal to or better than that of IBM clusters costing nearly 10 times as much.
The shots at Big Blue were hardly surprising; Ellison's decision to ignore HP seemed interesting, given the company is still technically a rival for Sparc.
There is no love lost between Oracle and HP. The two have fought over everything from the death of Itanium to the firing of Mark Hurd, and Ellison has never before pulled punches when saying what he thinks about his Silicon Valley rivals.
Was this a rare show of discretion by Ellison, choosing not to risk bad publicity or legal headaches by laying into HP? On the other hand, Oracle could be sending a message to IBM that the company has one goal, and that is to win back control of the mission-critical server space.
Or, perhaps, Larry is just channeling his inner Don Draper and hitting HP with the infamous Don Draper "I don't think about you at all" jab.
There are many in the IT industry deeply concerned about the rotten state of education in this country, especially when it comes to producing people with the IT skills that will be essential in tomorrow's economy.
But even while the government labours to produce an IT curriculum capable of inspiring – rather than boring – our schoolchildren, it's reassuring to see that we're still capable of creating role models.
For schoolchildren across the UK, the news that teenager Nick D'Aloisio sold his fledgling start-up Summly to Silicon Valley luminary Yahoo for something in the region of $30m, could be the kind of shot in the arm the industry needs.
We urgently need more talented Brits to embrace IT, and other than D'Alosisio, role models have been pretty thin on the ground.
D'Alosisio is obviously a precocious talent: he taught himself to programme at the age of 12, had launched his first app by the age of 15, and looks to be a multi-millionaire even before he can legally buy a pint.
But while he is a shining example for would-be programmers, D'Alosisio's own experiences should sound a warning that we cannot be complacent: his success does not guarantee others will follow in his footsteps.
Lest we forget, D'Alosisio had not learned programming skills at school. According to the Summly blog, D'Alosisio got the idea of creating Summly when studying for exams – but he had to undertake the necessary research into natural language processing and machine translation that underpin the app off his own back.
Without better support for people interested in technology, we risk seeing the ambitions of other would tech entrepreneurs withering on the stalk of our out-dated education system. We need to open schoolchildren eyes to what they can create themselves through programming, not get them intimately acquainted with Word or Excel.
It may be that D'Alosiso provides a beacon of hope for other would-be UK tech stars. But it's chastening to note that should he opt to attend university at some point in the future, his preference is to read humanities not computer science, according to the Wall St Journal.