Category Archives: Work

Lync3

Wake up! Why Microsoft could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime with Lync – Part 3 of 3

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So what is it that Microsoft should be doing? Well, before I go into that, let me start by saying that I’m perfectly aware that the team working on this are dealing with a ton of commercial, organisational, and technical constraints that I’m completely oblivious to. No input from my side should therefore be taken to imply any disrespect. I am simply stating what I, as representative of a somewhat largish customer and tasked with the responsibility of ensuring we invest our money wisely, would like to see them do.

They could just give away the LRS software, let people like me roll out our €200 meeting rooms, and stand back and watch the Lync licenses pour in while the competition goes up in smoke.

Firstly, I’d like to see them leverage the fact that video conferencing today is grossly overpriced. Sticking a Rasperry Pi in a TV-set with a camera on top doesn’t make it worth €8000. It’s the software that glue it together and their competition have based their business on bundling everything into packages. Microsoft doesn’t have to do that. They could just give away the LRS software as a stand-alone (or developer package), let people like me roll out our €200 meeting rooms, and stand back and watch the Lync licenses pour in while the competition goes up in smoke or lower their prices. It worked for Android now let it work for you.

Secondly, I’d like to see them step up their Lync Online game. Routing traffic over your own WAN or replacing your ISDN/PBX with a Lync Server is probably a hot item with many “traditionalist” customers, but why cater to them when you can change the game? Offer ISDN gateways, distributed local break-outs, and everything else needed to replace WAN traffic and PBX’s via a service instead, and they’ll have pulled the carpet under Ciscos incessant “we have the routers, only we can guarantee the quality” sales pitch.

My respectfully anonymized manager and me (with my back turned) playing around with the Kinect retail system. Everything we touch on the shelves is recognized by a Kinect in the ceiling and sent onto the monitor in the foreground. You can see the item I'm currently touching and a heatmap of where we've walked around.
My respectfully anonymized manager and me (with my back turned) playing around with the Kinect retail system. Everything we touch on the shelves is recognized by a Kinect in the ceiling and sent onto the monitor in the foreground. You can see the item I’m currently touching and a heatmap of where we’ve walked around.

Finally, I’d like to see them thinking outside the box. In the retail space Kinects have already proven that they can pinpoint exactly where you hold your hand when placed in the ceiling. Why not use this to pinpoint where I’m holding my finger on a whiteboard? Why not use this, with the projector that’s already in most meeting rooms, to create a two-way interactive whiteboard? Why not also show me where the guy in the remote room is pointing on the whiteboard or the presentation? Isnt’ this what you’re already showing in your future vision?

It may be that Anton Krantz and the other guys in the Lync team are way ahead of me on this. Maybe they’ve already developed it and are holding it back for a reason; maybe they’ve decided not to do it due to factors I’m unaware of; and maybe they’re just better at their job than I am, because let’s face it it: It’s their job and not mine.

The only thing I can say is that, as an enterprise customer with at least 500 meeting rooms spread across the world and in full swing with deploying Lync Online to every user, the LRS, as it stands today, is not something we are going to invest in anytime soon.

It’s too much like everything else  in a market, where changes require huge investments. So although Microsoft may very well win in the end, their strategy so far could make them miss the opportunity of a lifetime: To define new rules, carve out a greenfield market of their own, and set a new standard for enterprise video-conferencing.

Lync3

Wake up! Why Microsoft could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime with Lync – Part 2 of 3

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Now what is the problem with providing a Lync Room System? Obviously the benefits touted in the release blogpost are mostly true. You do save time on starting meetings, it will bring better utilization than the old conferencing systems, it does provide more screen real-estate and therefore better interaction, and meetings do get easier to manage.

Microsoft are taking micro-steps when they should be swinging both arms and throwing game-changers from the roof-tops.

The problem isn’t that this isn’t a step forward, but that it is a very small step forward, and they need much more than a small step.

Firstly because it takes more than a small step to disrupt this market. A video-conferencing room starts at around €8000 and goes steeply upwards to around €120.000, and even though the MS partners solutions on this come in at the low end of the scale, you’d have to be in a pretty lucrative business to just throw out all that investment and replace it with yet another two screens with a camera on top.

Secondly, because most other players in this market are also introducing nice tablet remotes to make them easier to use, start meetings faster, and make meetings easier to manage. The only new things MS is bringing to the table are the Lync client, which Cisco is already doing their best to copy, and the Lync user-base. A small step is therefore nothing more than what everybody else are also doing.

Thirdly, because the video-conferencing market is overripe for disruption. Nobody in their right minds is going to pay €8000 for two flatscreen panels and an HD camera with a bit of software thrown on top any longer. Just using off-the-shelf USB hardware I’m rolling out rooms at around €200 across Carlsberg right now, and before you get too excited that these are all for Lync conferences, consider the fact that this is standard USB hardware. I could switch them to Google Voice or FaceTime in a heartbeat, so it’s not going to protect MS if a more progressive player comes along.

The net result is that Microsoft are taking micro-steps when they should be swinging both arms and throwing game-changers from the roof-tops. They have momentum to start edging out established players, but they’re not changing the world and the world is about to change on them.

Final Post (3 of 3) ->

Lync3

Wake up! Why Microsoft could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime with Lync – Part 1 of 3

I may not be the worlds foremost expert on video-conferencing systems, but I do have a central role in purchasing them for a company of 40.000+ people, so when I see a new player in the market, I get interested. I expect them to step up and challenge status quo. I don’t expect them to just do what the others do with a new logo on top.

When I see a new player in the market, I don’t expect them to just do what the others do with a new logo on top.

In 2013 Microsoft decided to move Lync into the corporate conferencing space with their Lync Room System (LRS). Until then, Lync had been primarily a client for chat, video, and desktop sharing in a crowded market. They’d bought Skype, presumably to get some traction in the consumer space, but to companies, Lync was still mainly “that client we get for free when negotiating enterprise agreements”. For real video-conferencing it was all a “Cisco game” with big dusty rooms and expensive hardware.

So what do you do in a market like that? You disrupt. You throw a wrench in the wheel. You do something they never saw coming and you do it in a way that will take them years to get over. You claw out your own niche, take ownership of the Gartner challenger quadrant and encroach on the leaders from there.

Lync1

Well, with hyperbole like “the biggest transformations in the way we work since the advent of the PC”, you’d think Microsoft had understood this, but what did they do? They built LRS.

To be fair, LRS did bring a big improvement to Lync. Instead of executives having to fiddle around with USB hardware on their own, they now had an integrated conference room experience on par with the best in the market. The problem is that “on par” doesn’t cut it. What Microsoft brought wasn’t new, it was just Microsoft-based, and they could have done so much more.

In the next two posts I’ll dive into why this is a problem and what I think they could have done instead.

Next post (2 of 3) ->

 

Embed specific PowerPoint slide in SharePoint 2013 page

One of the main limitations in the new way of showing PowerPoint slides on SharePoint in 2013, is that you can’t show a specific slide.

In the following I’ll go through the two standard ways to show PowerPoints on SharePoint pages, and then my work-around to show a specific page.

Method 1 – Standard Embedding

This is the classic iframe/embed way to add content. You’re basically showing a webpage within a webpage using standard HTML. This is great in normal webpages, but SharePoint has a tendency to mess up the code.

1) Copy the “Embed Information”:

EmbedPowerPoint01

2) Paste it into your page using the “Embed Code” snippet:

EmbedPowerPoint02

Method 2 – PageViewer Web Part

This is a more stable way of doing the same thing as above, but it has less flexibility as you’re using the built-in web parts instead of your own code.

1) Copy the URL to your PowerPoint:

EmbedPowerPoint01b

2) Paste it into the PageViewer Web Part to show it on your page:

EmbedPowerPoint02b

 

Showing a specific slide

To do this, you’ll need to start with either of the two methods above. This will work for both of methods, but I’ll demonstrate using the PageViewer method.

1) Go into “View in Browser”:

EmbedPowerPoint03

 

2) Go to the slide you want to show and click “Slide Show”:

EmbedPowerPoint04

 

3) Search through the URL until you find where it says “&wdSlideID=###” and copy it:

EmbedPowerPoint05

 

4) Paste this into your PageViewer webpart (or embed URL):

EmbedPowerPoint06

 

Notes

This work-around utilizes that the PowerPoint viewer/editor apparently uses a few URL queries to mimic the behavior of the Desktop PowerPoint app.

Why Microsoft didn’t make these options available to users as clickable settings when you copy the code, I don’t know. I can only assume they were too busy.

Also, I haven’t been able to find the wdSlideID in PowerPoint, so I assume it is generated by SharePoint when the file is uploaded. This means you can probably not expect to re-use the ID if you move your presentation to a different library.

 

Three lessons from rolling out Office 365 at Carlsberg

As a ten year IT Enterprise Architecture veteran in a world leading FMCG/CPG like Carlsberg, you’d think the roll-out of an out-of-the-box service like Office 365 would be smooth sailing.

This was not the case.

But before you start thinking this is a blame-game complainer-post about all the things wrong with Carlsberg, Microsoft, IT, or the world in general, let me tell you up front that this is not the case either.

Carlsberg is an FMCG like many others, Microsoft is a software vendor moving into cloud as many others, and the world in general is changing as it always has. In other words, we’re not unique.

Given that we’re not, hopefully you’ll find my lessons learned useful.

12 years of IT at Carlsberg

Before I get into all that though, you’ll have to understand a bit about Carlsberg as an IT company.

Fifteen years ago Carlsberg was a big brand in a tiny company. We had a number of very strong global brands, but only four actual breweries. The rest were licensees, and in the late nineties they were being gobbled up by our competitors at an alarming rate.

Carlsberg therefore started a huge turn-around. First step was the deal with Orkla that gave Orkla a 40% share and gave Carlsberg the leverage it needed to start buying breweries. Next was a ten year brewery buying spree that continues to this day, allowing us to buy back the shares from Orkla, and get a controlling interest in our Eastern European golden goose, Baltika.

From an IT perspective this meant that the tiny IT organization, which used to spend their days cuddling local business managers, and who, when I was first hired still didn’t know a DMZ from a Firewall, all of a sudden had to make things work under a steady stream of incoming affiliates with local IT management and incompliant infrastructures.

Now, we would probably have done better if first step in this process had been to bring in an IT management team with international experience and representation at our executive board. After all, the times when you could couple an aggressive growth strategy with a hands-off approach to IT went out the window last century.

We didnt’ do that though. Instead we started with IT management picked out of our local Danish businesses, representation only to our CFO, and a steady stream of organization changes as one CIO/management-team after the other tried to navigate the troubled waters of increasing demand, inexperienced resources, and a very complex infrastructure.

In many ways, it was a perfect storm.

Increasing demand forced the most skilled IT resources to focus on business projects instead of stabilizing infrastructure. When forced to work against their better judgement the best resources left one after another, creating even more instability, decreasing trust in IT decision-power, and slowing down delivery even more. A downwards spiral of bad IT and business impatience.

However, at the end of this ten year period we were slowly getting this under control. More internationally experienced IT managers had come in, our 7 year pan-European outsourcing deal had provided leverage for some standardization, and- although we were still a long ways from being a mature IT organization or even close to meeting the demand of our strategy - we had slowed the decline and were seeing the first signs of improvement.

This was the situation when Office 365 came into the picture.

12 years of Microsoft at Carlsberg

In spite of the general role of IT in Carlsberg, we had actually managed to get quite a bit of success with Microsoft technology. I had build a good relationship with Group Legal and Group Communication, and together we managed to standardise Microsoft across companies way beyond of the scope of other IT services.

In 2001 we released the first cross-company platform, containing a group intranet, extranets, and document management for three companies,. In 2003 we narrowed the scope to intranets, but upped the geographic scope ending up with an intranet platform covering 25 markets, which seven years later won second prize as Denmarks best intranet without having been upgraded significantly since first release.

In 2010 we sought to build on this success with CPoint and CWEB. One for intranets, the other for corporate websites. Two very ambitious projects based on MOSS2007, and for the first time we hit problems.

Unlike earlier Microsoft technologies MOSS2007 was marketed by Microsoft as an “application platform”. This caused a few design mistakes, a few oversold features, and before long I was fighting impatient business stakeholders – and even some of our own Microsoft developers – left and right trying to modify, customize, and build whatever the rest of IT had failed to deliver on top of what was supposed to be a commodity service.

In spite of this CPoint was rolled out to 25 markets and CWEB to about 30 markets in 12 months, and became the first truly global IT platforms in Carlsberg.

But they were never the success we intended. Their customizations left them unstable for several years and so complex that nobody could use them without a PhD in Carlsbergese. Instead of a new global collaboration platform to bind Carlsberg together, we got a customized leviathan governed by disagreeing stakeholders.

When Office 365 moved from a Microsoft BPOS curiosity to a more fully fledged commodity, I therefore saw it as an opportunity to leap-frog these issues.

Unlike on-premise, Office 365 features was controlled by Microsoft allowing me a fighting chance to keep VIPs at bay long enough to teach them to leverage what they have instead of always building new. Unlike on-premise, Office 365 had a clear line between operational stability and custom development, allowing me to be overruled by management without jeopardizing stability. And unlike on-premise it was globally available from the moment we signed the contract, instead of me having to fight for years in getting a global AD and a European-based IT organization to think globally.

This is not to say I didn’t expect problems – in fact the problems we overcame are the entire basis of these posts – but it solved the overwhelming issues I couldn’t have fixed in any other way. It replaced a loosing battle with changing management, impatient business VIPs, and a neglected infrastructure, with a stable global platform that Carlsberg could leverage to become a truly global FMCG/CPG.

So going into the things we faced, keep this in mind. I’m not complaining about Office 365. In fact, I’m truly grateful for it, and for all the other out-of-the-box services that are becoming available with the advent of cloud. They are driving a standardization and benefit that would otherwise have been almost impossible to achieve in the complexity that is a rapidly growing multinational organization.

For that I am grateful, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have preferred living without the mistakes we did. So without further ado, allow me to teach you from my experience.

Lesson 1 – Licensing headache

From a licensing perspective it seems to me that Office 365 was shoved into Microsofts licensing team a bit quickly.

When talking to them about prices, the nomenclature switches from “plans” to “licenses” for the same thing, and for the agreements they’ve obviously tried to cobble something together from the old “Enterprise Agreements” and the cloud pay-as-you-go models through a “Hybrid agreement”.

In essence though, there is no getting around the fact that unlike licensing CapEx models, cloud-based services are essentially consumption-based services. You can make an up-front purchase of x-number of plans, for y-number of years, and get a discount, but there is no depreciation. You just pay-as-you-go.

For the Online agreement this is usually not an issue, but for the Hybrid agreements it creates some strange restrictions that are not common for cloud-services like:

  1. You can’t choose freely between plans when adding users to the contract, but have to choose from what was in your original contract
  2. Your local affiliates can’t buy at local rates, but have to use whatever you negotiated centrally
  3. You can’t mix-and-match based on what you need, but have to buy the same for everybody because “an enterprise agreement is a standardization agreement”.

When we did our contract I spend six months boiling the restrictions down to this. I’ll not take you through all the iterations that got us that far, but suffice to say the confusion was on both sides and today I’m an involuntary expert on the wording in MS contracts. Whatever it takes to make theory fit reality right?

Getting that far is just the first step though. Managing resources on the level of detail required for a service where you pay a monthly fee for every mailbox, where adding or removing them requires a contract change, and where every un-used mailbox is money wasted until the next contract renewal takes some getting used to. And that is just mailboxes.

We’re getting there, but don’t underestimate the effort.

Lesson 2 – Upside down IT

There’s no question that being able to reduce operations effort through Office 365 frees up a lot of IT resources. The thing that many, and particularly old-school IT people, find completely counter-intuitive though, is to what degree you have to embrace this.

The fact is that  Office 365 is part-and-parcel of all the hyped mega-trends of BYOD, Cloud, and consumerization that Cognizant, Gartner, and the rest are babbling about, and to get the most benefit you have to think in completely new ways of delivering value.

As an example, Office 365 works a lot better on my Mac at home than it does on my PC at work. Not because Office 365 runs better on OSX than on Windows 7, but because it pre-supposes that you have a relatively open network, can install things yourself, and generally fiddle around as much as you like.

This is rarely the case in an enterprise. We have a responsibility to security and to consistency of service that makes the level of freedom needed to fully benefit from these services, very complex to deliver.

Our networks are secured, our PC’s locked, and to enable a service like this we therefore have to re-configure everything, and keep doing it to keep abreast of the constant patches and updates that Microsoft delivers, while still keeping an eye on security to avoid taking it that one step too far.

And that is just the beginning. Getting IT people to wrap their heads a beast that updates itself regularly, takes for granted trust in a data-center we can’t touch, is best supported through end-user training by non-IT people, and basically puts on it’s head all the tried and true litanies of the last 30 years of IT professionalism, is just as challenging

For most Enterprise Architects this is upside down to what we usually do.  Instead of fighting business units unwilling to align, you’re almost guaranteed to have business behind you as long as you make sure things work as smoothly at work as they do at home. And instead of having IT colleagues support your every move, you’ll be constantly challenged and forced to go on the barricades for “out-of-control” IT.

But in many ways, this is not as much an Office 365 issue as it is the reality of IT today. Carlsberg is progressing nicely, but it’s not a change that comes overnight.

Lesson 3 – Governance litmus test

One of the reasons that “out-of-control” IT is a complete misunderstanding when it comes to Office 365, is that it in fact forces you to take much more direct control over IT and resources than you’ve had before.

When you have your IT on-premise there is a tendency to say that everything on the inside of your firewalls is “safe” and everything outside is “unsafe”. Nothing could be more wrong.

You can put as many locks as you want on your server-room, but that doesn’t prevent somebody from forgetting to lock their laptop at the wrong moment halfway around the globe.  You can smother your laptops in encryption and DRM, and it still doesn’t prevent somebody from snapping a picture of a vital document with their phone.

When you think you’re safe, you forget the vitals of IT. You don’t monitor what AD accounts are used for what, because it’s easier to let them be than to clean-up, and what could go wrong? You don’t audit your mailbox utilization because you pay for storage, so worst case is unnecessary cost right? And you don’t care how people use your information, because it’s on an encrypted laptop with a password a kilometer long, so what could they do?

When you roll out Office 365 all these things surface.

I’m not going to go into the details of meeting rooms created as user-mailboxes, so people could use them for file-shares; public folders growing at 1GB a month because it was easier to drop documents there than into the document-management system they were supposed to use; or the multiple copies of AD users and mailboxes that one person can have simply because it’s easier to add more accounts than to set up one account correctly.

Suffice to say, that when you roll out Office 365 you better be ready for a lot of additional projects cleaning up messes that your operations never bothered with because they never made any difference before.

If you’re lucky, there will be an understanding that this is not Office 365 related. This is IT governance 101 gone awry, and Office 365 or not, it is in everybody’s interest to fix it.

If you’re not, you’ll spend most of your time explaining why a simple migration-project spews add-on activities left and right while the budget explodes.

Conclusions… so far

Nobody says things should be easy. In many ways Office 365 is a sign of things to come. SAP is going full-tilt at cloud services, consumers are getting more demanding every day, and IT is transforming into something not yet clearly defined.

I’m therefore certain that even these few observations about it, are just the tip of the iceberg. Things we’ll all have to learn and get used to in the coming years.

As I said initially, the reasons why Carlsberg invested in Office 365, had much less to do with following overhyped mega-trends, than with day-to-day issues and impossible challenges that couldn’t be overcome in any other way.

That being said, I have to say I’m very happy that we started this journey. It is obvious that Microsoft is investing all it’s effort in their cloud-services. We’re seeing features improving daily instead of having to wait 1-2 years for someone in IT to get around to implementing them. We’re seeing upgrade schedules being planned years in advance instead of years after at the last breath of extended support. And we’re seeing business getting excited and involved in IT again.

In spite of all our challenges – both the ones mentioned here and the ones I couldn’t fit in or am still to learn - I think the decision of moving to Office 365 was the right one for Carlsberg. It leap-frogged us ahead of the curve for collaboration, it brought us up-to-par on supporting our growth strategy, and it is kick-starting the IT transformation needed to keep us there.

Excel Geekness

Every once in a while I go geek. I don’t apologize for it. It’s been a fixpoint in my life since I was old enough to crawl under the coffee table and push the big buttons on our bulbous and bright red 70s TV set.

The TV finally broke (NOT my fault), but the habit didn’t.

This time around it happened with Excel. I’m not the biggest Excel fan out there, but I needed to make a TCO calculation and basically wanted Excel to do two things for me:

  1. Distribute project costs over multiple years based on project-timeline.
  2. Distribute operational costs over multiple years based on how many years were between each payment.

Geeked out yet?

No?

Lo and behold, all I could find online was that this was impossible. You could do nifty macros, you could color every other row, you could sum every Nth row, but if you had an invoice coming in every 3 years and wanted a generic way to get yearly budgets N years in the future, you were basically s… out of luck.

So I did this:

For distributing project costs over n years:

I break the project cost down to a cost-per-day , and then distribute it over the years based on how many project days there are in each year.

The first IF is to determine if the start and end-date is within the same year, and the next three are to differentiate the first year from a “middle” year and the last year as each of these calculations are slightly different. Pretty straightforward.

For projecting operational costs with n years between them

This one is a little more complex and was the one I couldn’t find anywhere. The first half figures out if the time from the startyear to currentyear divided by the recurrence is a whole number (i.e. that it’s time to pay). If it is, it creates a 1, and then I just multiply that with the cost.

Now I don’t pretend to be an Excel wizard in any sense of the word, so don’t ask me technicalities about why I used one function instead of another. All I had was some very helpful colleagues who were excellent guides into Excel-syntax and once I understood most of how it worked, the rest sort of came on its own .

So if you can use it, feel free to share and use it as much as you like. I’ve attached an example of the whole thing working. Just play around with the input and try adding as many years as you like to see how it works.

Good luck :)

More info:

Is your Smartphone killing your Dads job in IT?

It has been obvious for some time that the revolution of IT is fundamentally changing businesses.

At one end normal people, like you and me, are buying increasing numbers of personal gadgets, bringing them to work, and using them as a central part of our working life. Along with our Gmail, Facebook, and other social services, they are an interface to an online presence that is no longer just a fun time-waster, but an essential part of our social- and knowledge- nervous system.

With our online gadgets we are legion, without them we are merely individuals, and the IT department that used to run your PC for you are finding themselves with an increasing challenge of figuring out, whether to just let loose and allow everybody to bring their own devices, or to implement some heavy-handed Device Management and not allow any data outside their control.

At the other end of the spectrum, the huge mainframes and IT infrastructure that used to power companies are slowly but surely being challenged too. Running IT is fundamentally ruled by the same volume dynamics that we’ve known since the industrial revolution: The bigger the data-center and the more people you service, the better the price-performance.

It used to be that every company, no matter how small, had an IT guy responsible for running servers. Whether it was just one server under a desk or a few in a closet, you needed something people could log into, share files, and work from.

Not so today. Today, smaller companies are increasingly doing what we as individuals have been doing for years: buying all of these services online. Dropbox, Amazon S3, Office 365, etc. are all services where you can get a better service for much lesser cost simply because it is much cheaper to run things like that if you’re doing it for millions of people instead for 5-6 people in a small office.

And as this phenomenon, normally called Cloud computing, is maturing and becoming more and more pervasive, it is moving up in the world. It started with the simpler services, like e-mail and online collaboration, causing even Fortune100 companies and governments to start moving these services into the cloud to get savings, but now even old complex mainframe vendors are starting to offer their systems through the Cloud too because they can do it at lesser cost than even major companies can do on their own.

So where does that leave your Dad’s IT department?

The main job of an IT department used to be running the infrastructure, the servers, and the PCs that everybody uses, but the infrastructure is in the cloud, the servers are soon to follow, and you’ve brought your own device.

In other words, it is foreseeable that IT departments will become merely procurement-experts, buying the services that the company needs without running anything, and that the task of ensuring security will be managed through corporate policies like: “make sure your device is backed up in the corporate cloud, can be remotely wiped, and is encrypted” etc.

So yes, unless your Dad works in a company that is running IT for others, it is in fact likely that your Smartphone is killing off his job, his department, and the entire role that IT departments used to have in companies.

But as with all changes driven by cultural and social progress, it is not something to feel guilty or sad about. It just is, and that is as it should be.

Read More

Should you be scared of our evil cloud overlords?

I must admit that until Matt Jacobson of Facebook stopped by my workplace for a marketing session yesterday and spent significant time debunking peoples concerns about storing their stuff online, I’d mostly focused on the corporate, legal, and commercial issues and not concerned myself too much with the fact that the majority of my personal data is living a good and active life online.

Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the Microsoft hegemony, and used to the fact that in order for all of us to benefit from a technology, somebody has to define the ground that the rest of us builds upon. Sure, that kind of power almost begs for them to overstep, misuse it at times, and reap as many commercial benefits as they can in the process, but ultimately they’re accountable to all of us and – as happened with Linux and ten years of MS court-cases – the world will find away around it when they overplay their hand.

For Facebook, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn, Apple, Amazon, and all the others vying for a piece of our personal and social data pie, and no matter what Matt says, it’s therefore necessary to balance value against exploitation. If companies want to stay in the game, they have to provide you value higher than the downside of allowing them to give commercial stakeholders access to, not only your personal data and family pictures, but also to behavioural and social data that will ultimately give them more awareness of who you are, and what you are likely to do, than you probably know yourself.

What most of the more agressively expansionist players online – sorry for not calling them benign idealists – have realized is of course that, unlike traditional business models, in online business the consumer is the product, companies are the consumers, and volume the currency. So when you see them actively trying to minimize their commercial benefits, it’s not because they believe in a rosy future of technology-driven freedom for all. It’s simply to drive more users, more data, and more volume.

When Google therefore provides services for free, open up their software for developers, sets advertising costs at market standard even though they provide much more value per dollar, and says they’ll “do no evil”; When Facebook launches the Open Compute project, gives developers free access to their APIs, and provides a world-class service free of charge or in-your-face advertising; and when any company that wants to be something online is providing services, software, and even content for free, it’s not because their blind idealists, but because the race is on to take over where Microsoft left off and become a part of the next big OS in the cloud where power is not in the code you maintain but in the data you hold.

More traditionalist companies like Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, are stuck struggling to make old-fashioned business models – that require content-control all the way down to the device in your pocket and charging a percentage all the way – work in the cloud, while cloud companies like Google lean back and simply utilize their user and data volume to build the same services virtually for free once a standard has been fleshed out.

This is why Apple for all intends and purposes invented the modern Smartphone, Amazon invented one-click buying, and both of them spent years grinding out the details of how to legally distribute content online, while Google just leaned back, waited until they were done, and then threw Android, Google Wallet, Google Music, and free books into the mix. It’s not because Google is a slow copycat that don’t want to make money, they’re just in a data-volume business where they can make money with a fraction of the risk and effort, and Facebook is positioning itself to be able to do exactly the same.

So you shouldn’t be too concerned about sharing your life with the Facebooks, LinkedIns, and Googles of the world. Trust me, they are very aware that having your trust, getting you to use their services and giving them access to your personal data-stream is the cornerstone of their business, so they’ll do anything in their power not to jeopardize that relationship.

This isn’t to say that there wont be cases of misuse, oversteps of privacy, commercial exploitation, and all the other nasty words that the last century has made us grown-ups allergic to. But as the young people of today – who are gladly moving their entire lives to the cloud without a concern in the world – are showing us, it’s really not a question of exploitation, but of a new type of business in which the consumers may not pay or have direct control over their data, but where the market mechanisms are already in place to ensure that any company overstepping your boundaries will see the impact on their bottom line.

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Update

With the release of Facebook timeline and the privacy controversy, here’s a few more links you might be interested in:

My Last Year in Gadgets

Now, those who know me, know that I’m one of those no-financial-commitments-whatsoever bastards that go through gadgets like most people go through change of underwear. I’ll buy something – seemingly on the spur of the moment – play around with it for about two weeks of geek-bliss, and then suddenly it’ll be off to that mysterious graveyard of single socks, pens, lighters, and decade-long tea-parties of the soul.

In my defence I have to say that I’m not a tech-blog freak and usually don’t drool over GhZ, passive touchscreens, SSDs, or the newest fourth-dimension graphic chip. I pride myself at being slightly more practical than that. So unlike other epi-centres of homeless hardware, I actually start by figuring out what I need and only then start searching for it to see if somebody have had the same idea and gone through the trouble of creating it.

Whatever the excuse though, it allows me first-row view to both some pretty awesome inventions – along with some gaping holes in the worldwide gadget portfolio – so without further ado, here are my two favorite buys this year:

Jambox Jawbone

I don’t know how Jambox did this, but they managed to cram awesome sound, dead-simple set-up, AND 9 hrs of battery into one small and very portable package. It’s simply awesome. Only feature I haven’t gotten to work so well so far is the conference phone and the online updates and apps for it, but to be fair I haven’t tried that hard yet since I’m so satisfied with the basic functionality.

Nook Touch

Most of the reviews says it all. It doesn’t do a lot, but what it does it does exceedingly well and without me having to browse through a gazillion manuals to figure it out. I’ve only had it for two months and gone through 11 books, but the very responsive touch-display, the 6″ screen that actually fits a paperback (unlike my old Bokeen Opus), and the four different ways to flip pages (actually a problem on most ebook readers because you get sore arms) has made it a joy to use.

Now I wouldn’t be a gadget freak if I didn’t also have a slight Apple-fetish. And to be totally honest I do.

But maybe I’m “just not getting” the Steve-and-Ives awesomeness, because to me Lion is still a W7-with-less-features and iOS a locked-down version of something useful, so besides having been through almost all Apple products at one time or another (I never tried the TimeCapsule), I still find myself bootcamping all my Macs and unlocking all my iOS devices to give them the features that should have been there in the first place.

I acknowledge that maybe my brain is wired wrong or something. I did force-feed myself AppleOS on my iMac for six months to see if I could “get it”, and still found myself bootcamping back – doing the obligatory two-week iTunes-migration-dance that never works – and you therefore wont find me doing major investments in an AirPlay stereo speakers until MS, Google, Creative, and the others have made a go at it too.

Now speaking of speakers (hah!), let me finish by sharing the current top two on my why-on-Earth-haven’t-they-invented-this-yet list:

Functioning USBkey/Presenter

What I need is a presenter that will allow me to bring my presentations along so I only have to bring one gadget. Sounds simple right? Wrong!! After two years of perusing dark alleys of gadget R&D – and actually buying this horrific arm-waving-monster at one point – I’m still no closer to finding a solution that actually works. And I know that you can get a promotional presenter that does this, but after my embarassing arm-waving failure I no longer trust gadgets obviously made to be thrown away.

So please MS,  Logitech, Creative, and whoever, stop adding lasers, mouses, and friggin’hand-coolers to your presenters, and give me something useful.

Decor-friendly wireless sound-system

Maybe this is like the holy grail of modern technology and I just missed the memo, but why on Earth do I have to choose between wireless music with no surround, wireless surround with no option of playing music in more than one room, or a monster of a receiver with carport-sized bass-pumpers and two-inch cables snaking across the floor throughout my apartment?

AirPlay would be a step in the right direction if Apple would just stop hogging my wifi-bandwidth, add surround, and figure out how to get sound from my actual TV and not just the AppleTV plastic box they want me to stick under my TV. So for now, I guess I’ll have to try out Sonos and convince myself that the charge in Two Towers will be JUST as impressive with two Play:5′s in front and me jingling house-keys at the back of my head trying to emulate the sound of ten thousand advancing Orcs.

I’ll let you know how THAT goes.

But I guess that’s it for me on the gadget front. I did buy a lot of other gadgets: Four different pens (and one brush) for my iPad, two RC helicopters, a totally hacked AppleTV, and a Ziiiro Mercury watch that unfortunately scratches pretty easily, but you’ll have to ask me about those if you’re interested.

Pictures via: