Archive for January, 2011

In search of the perfect project management system (continues)

Ok here is my position of project management software.
Maybe this does not apply to your business but it certainly does to mine so take it with a grain of salt.

GANTT is the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen. No offence to the creator supporters and users alike but you must be insane to use GANTT for small to medium projects. It has not concept of ease of use and minimalistic maintenance. Sorry, but my time costs money and it’s much better spent managing tasks and people than maintaining an insane system of resources, cost for those resources, time lines etc. etc. etc. Yes you need to know how much a certain projects costs and you do that in the feasibility study. Which by the way should never take you more than 1 days for mid size project. You should know how much the whole projects costs you and you should be able to analyse costs and efficiency after the project or a set of actions is completed but doing so should take you very little time. Also tasks have 5 states; planned, in progress, completed, delayed, and cancelled. I couldn’t care less what percentage has been completed and if you’d like to argue I dare you to tell me the difference between a 40% completed task and a 50% completed one.

Anyway so I hate GANTT with a passion. For my daily activities I need a system that is simple to maintain. Is based around talks and not milestones. Allows for changes in the plan, i.e. is flexible. Does not concern me with crap like resource distribution and most of all, does not waste my time. Well I have looked high and low and there is no such system. Yes there are semi academic management techniques that do all that and a bit more but I need a usable software. Well I found one that just might fit the bill. See I don’t need file storage/sharing because that is done on an internal Sharepoint because of security concerns. So all I need to be able to do it to share links. If you don’t have access to the network then the link means nothing to you even if it does get leaked.

Cohuman seems to do everything that I need in a very polished web interface. It’s not perfect and it is not exactly like my idea but it is pretty close. It look intriguing enough so that I would like to give it a shot and that is exactly what I am doing. So stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes. The first thing however, is that unlike Basecamp this thing has unlimited projects and only has a limit on storage for the accounts. It is still a new product by this start up that just got some more VC funding.

Oh and if you want to know more about my project management pet peeves, take a look at my older post.

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Android’s Approach to NFC (part 2)

So a couple of days ago I wrote this post about Android and the crippled NFC support that it has. I just saw this

link to article

So apparently it is just the current iteration of Android that has limited support for NFC and the long term plan is to enable full access to the NFC controller. That is all great news but still I think that Google should have first finished their development and then released the support rather than releasing what I consider an Alpha version. I mean come one this is not even a feature complete implementation and while NFC is still a bit of vaporware Google should know better than this. Beta’s are acceptable for user space applications but you DO NOT release a work in progress SDK. Makes you wonder if this is not even feature complete release how much testing actually went into things like stability and security …

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Apple and the NFC race

There have been rumours about Apple including NFC capability in both iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Just to be clear about this, Apple has no choice in the matter if they are to sell a high end device. This is not at all the same as LTE. LTE is a network with is currently under consideration by most mobile operators and some have started running trials. Coverage is bad, the chips are still in their first generation meaning that if you want backwards compatibility you have to include a 2nd chip, and at the end of the day all you get with LTE currently is faster data speeds. That might be great for iPad but is hardly anything for the iPhone. Considering that the coverage is currently horrible and Apple revises hardware annually it is no wonder that LTE is not being considered for the upcoming iteration. Actually it probably won’t be considered for the next one either.

NFC however, has been around for many years. The problem was that noone seemed to care about NFC and various IC manufacturers had their own implementation. Well the smart card manufacturers (mostly of Europe) have come to an agreement and there is an NFC standard and an organization that does nothing but promotes the technology. Various pilots were completed and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Telcos and financial institutions are all onboard and have mostly come to an agreement as to the revenue split and all is about to explode. Apple has no choice other than to include NFC. The 2nd half of 2011 will be marked by multiple operators around the globe releasing NFC enabled SIM cards and devices simply have to be ready for them. The way NFC will go forward is with a SIM embedded NFC application that uses the antenna provided with your phone. Now that most likely does not mean the same antenna as the one you use to connect to the telco but the phone has to be NFC enable too. Apple sells premium devices and the NFC cards will first go to premium users so there is nothing to think about and Apple simply follows the needs of the market.

There is however one issue about NFC that is important. See you don’t have to use NFC only for payments. Yes it is a painfully slow connection and you will not be transferring files over it any time soon. However, cleverly designed applications can use NFC for some quite innovative and cool things. And if Apple wants to have the competitive advantage over Android, they simply have to allow developers full access to NFC. Unlike what Google would like you to believe, there is no issue with security. Payment applications are stored on the SIM itself. What that means is that the only way you can access that data is with the SDK that was used to program the SIM. Well I don’t know much but I know this, you can write SIM programs in a way that noone has access to their data and not only that but most of them are exactly like that. Also data out of the SIM for the payment applications would be encrypted and you cannot decrypt AES on the fly on any mobile that will be released in the next 10-15 years.

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Android’s Bizarre NFC Support

Android has been the mobile OS to embrace new standards and for the past year it seems like they were on the bleeding edge and were offering features that Apple and other were either choosing to ignore or simply haven’t gotten around to just yet. Unfortunately, Google seems to be dropping the ball this time around.
Regardless of what you have heard, NFC will be the biggest thin in telecoms in 2011 and especially during the 2nd half of the year. Yes LTE is important and makes the news every day but it is still years away. Operators are massively gearing up towards NFC adoption and so are banks and handset manufacturers. Bottom line is NFC will finally make it and deliver on it’s promise. Unfortunately for Android, Google has chosen to only implement a crippled version of the new protocol. I was watching a video of one of the developers talking about Nexus S last night, yeah I know old news, and he said that you can ONLY read NFC tags with Nexus S. You cannot send information from the phone and other devices cannot read information sent from your phone. I thought that is a bit of an oversight considering that NFC can indeed be used for so much more than a glorified bar code scanner so I looked up the developer documentations. Sure enough, the Android SDK actually only allows you to read NFC messages and you cannot send them.
I don’t know what Google’s reasoning for this is, but this effectively leaves the NFC field open for Apple, RIM, and Nokia and believe me, at least one of them will use NFC for a lot more than just reading tags.

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iPad rumours – a critical overview

Apple is staying true to it’s business plan and will release a revision of the iPad this year. Just like with other hardware lines, it will most likely come in the first half of the year and just like the iPhone, it will be a much needed upgrade that will make a few of the opponents by the device.
There have been a lot of rumours floating around the Iterweb but most are absolutely mental. So here is my logical and a bit pessimistic overview of what has been said. However, if all you care about is if you should splurge for an iPad now or wait for the revision here is the skinny on the subject. If you get gadget envy (and most of us do) them wait. iPad 2 will bring some much needed updates that make the device a much better personal computing device. If however, you are thinking of buying an iPad as a business tool then there is no reason for you to wait. Yes there will be an updated hardware and yes the next version will be faster but you don’t need the camera or any of the other incremental upgrades.
So here are the top rumours:

4x faster multicore GPU:
Yes, there will be a faster GPU and it will probably have 2 cores. Will it be 4x faster in real life, probably not. Will it have more that 2 cores? Absolutely not. 2 cores are already pushing the power envelope quite a bit and considering that adding 2 more will double the power requirements don’t hold your breath for it. But the good news here is that while 2 cores might not seem impressive the new GPU to be used in iPad 2 is a considerable upgrade to the current one. If my life depended on it, I would actually guess that Apple will include the lowest option for the GPU which probably means a single core with the new architecture. This will reduce the power drain and make your device have an over 10 hour battery life.

A retina display – this one is a bit tricky. I wish Apple would bring a 2048 x 1536 display, however that is wishful thinking. In order for Apple to get the iPad to run at the same level of performance as the current generation they will have to increase the price by about 50%. Retina displays, which a bit different than standard high definition display still require that the developer uses a high resolution graphics in order to achieve the promised clarity. Now what this means for your graphics is that they quadruple in size (well almost due to compression). So essentially the GPU will have to load 4 times the textures and you will need a 4x faster GPU to achieve the same perceivable performance. Apple will need at least a dual core GPU of the new generation in order to provide a better performance than the original iPad. Now while this is achievable, it is also expensive. To make matters worst, Apple will need to up the storage of the device because larger graphics need more storage. Think about it this way, is Apple were to include a 2048 x 1536 display this will essentially require game developers to create games that run at that resolution on a GPU that while very powerful for a mobile device, is nothing compared to a desktop one. Now computer and console games both have very powerful CPUs and yet never play games in 2048 x 1536 resolution. Why? Because it takes a considerable processing power to push that many pixels. Even if the hardware required would be put in an iPad, the battery life would be 3 hours max under gaming conditions. That’s simply not an Apple device!

Camera Not there will definitely be a camera and we all have known that since the release of the first gen. iPad. For crying out loud, there even is a space for one in the case! There have been some rumours about a 1mp camera on iPad 2. 1mp really? I don’t think so. Apple will probably include something like a 1 mp camera on the front of the device, so that you can use video calls (facetime/skype). If I were a betting man (and I am) I would say that there would be a 2nd camera on the back and that would probably be a 3mp one. Why not 5? Because the 5mp camera that Apple uses is too thick and too hard to fit in. But that’s alright because you are never going to really use the camera for photography. Actually the only reason why Apple would include a camera on the back side, is so that they can let you share what you see without flipping the device over.

New body Yes there will be a new body. Will it be plastic, probably not. Apple invested millions in aluminium machining technology and they would be mad to take it out of the iPad.

SD card reader In what world does that make sense? Apple will probably never include an SD card reader. A removable storage solution will require a rethink of the iPad as a business idea. iOS let’s you buy media from a strictly controlled store, etc. etc. etc. The point is, that you do not have a standalone device. You can do quite a few things on it, but essentially you need a computer and while moving data to an iOS device is a strange process, it is an established one. Including a removable storage would require a rethink of that model. So sorry but no SD card or any other removable storage for that matter.

Improved speaker Probably yes. I think you might see a dual speaker solution this time around. iPad case is large enough and 2 speakers will make a difference especially when watching videos.

2nd dock connector would be nice but would mess up the device aesthetics so no way.

The rest would stay about the same. You will get better specs for the CPU, GPU, speaker. Improved design for the case, will get an adapter for micro USB chargers (required in the EU). What Apple will say is that you get an improved screen with better multi touch display. And it will be improved but not by much. The new gestures will make the device quite unique and would make Android tablets look a bit silly and very crude.

[edit] NFC – it is not essential technology for the iPad since it will be useful only if you pick the 3G version up but it is very likely to show up on the next iteration of the tablet. There are quite a few cool things that you could do with the new technology although certain types of applications already exist albeit using inferior methods of product recognition (photo of a barcode).

If you have head of any other *significant* upgrade leave a comment.

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What would you like to read about next?

Sure there are topics that are near and dear to my heart but I thought I’d try something a bit different.
Here is a poll for upcoming topics. Vote for the article that you would like to read here and I’ll write about the one that gets the most votes. Depending on how popular the other ones are, or how I feel about them, I might write a bit about them too.

so go on, cast your vote


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Pricing and Licensing

[republished due to wrong location]


For everyone creating a product, pricing is a a very important issue. You don’t want to scare customers away but at the same time you want to get as much profit as you can. There are books and certain academics devote their whole lives to the creation of right pricing theories. I am not going to pretend like I know much about the subject. Basically, these are just my thoughts on the subject and that’s all.

Recently it’s becoming quite an issue for content publishers too. Publishing materials in a digital format brings it’s own set of issues. You see paper publications never last forever and often last for roughly 5-10 years. Electronic ones on the other hand could last forever! Also you can easily copy them and have multiple people using the same initial document at the same time. Now that is something new and causes quite a big problem for publishers. There is no longer the need to buy several copies of the same book. Also the perceived value of a publication decreases with digital publications.

There is no doubt about it, it would take a generation change for the problems to get resolved. Sociological aspects aside, what should you do today? I think you should be very careful when you decide on pricing of digital editions. You pricing HAS to be perceived as fair. You are not competing only with your regular competitors. You are actually competing your yourself too! If you are still publishing on paper then the digital edition competes with the paper one. Otherwise you are competing with yourself from yesterday. It is the perception that your prices have gone up that you want to avoid. And the perception that your prices have gone up brings governments down and most definitely destroys companies.

Consider this, you are saving some money by not paying for paper and printing. You are also able to publish a bit faster, hence you should be bring in a bit more revenues. You HAVE to pass on the savings, i.e. sell for a lower perceived price!

A word of warning to companies that charge based on different licences; why are you asking people for more money for the same product? Did it cost you more? If the answer is no you should know that there is something wrong with your pricing strategy! What you can however, do if you are a consultancy that produces syndicated reports, you can include a presentation of the results and charge more because of the included extra seats at the presentation. Now I am not saying that is really the way to go. The point is that if you charge more you have to offer perceptionally more! The last thing that any business wants to do it make the customer feel cheated. If you do, you will pay the price sooner or later.

Anyway, pricing goes much further than this, but the thing to remember is that you are in a market place and a market place is where you and your customer come together in agreement! A quote from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures comes to mind. I went something like “Be excellent to each other” and on that note I leave you …


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