Friday, March 2, 2012

Cloud Based Home Internet Filtering - yes, it's free

I have 3 kids at home and one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do is find a way to control internet usage. Trying to block the bad stuff 100% of the time and the time-wasters part of the time, without having to install a bunch of crap on the desktops (that someone would inevitably find a way around) was quite the quandary.

After digging around some, I found the godsend, and there is a fully functioning free version. Some premium features are available for a price of around 20 bucks a year.

OpenDNS lets you control what gets in and what gets blocked by making a simple change to the static DNS settings on your router. Once the change is in place, you can log into your free account on the OpenDNS site and select what categories you want to block.

As long as you keep good password protection on your home router and don't share your OpenDNS password with your kids, you have rock solid control over what they get access to, or should I say, who gets access to your kids.

There's a section that explains how it all works on the home page, so I'll spare you the technical details here. I'll only say that it works, and it works well.

So well, in fact, that the kids have increased their "cursing dad's name" by a factor of 10 over the past few weeks.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Press 1 for Cool - The Video IVR

I have worked in the contact center technology field for most of my IT career.  I've watched as the industry has moved from 30 year old ACD technology to skills-based routing, least-cost routing, business process routing, multimedia, and internet contact technologies.

I've attended trade shows and user group meetings, done consulting and worked as a full-time employee for fortune 50 companies.  It has been interesting to watch the unfolding of VoIP and SIP technologies and the decline of TDM technologies.  Contact center technology has changed rapidly since the turn of the century and, like all other tech, has had to evolve to accommodate an increasingly tech-wise population that would rather click hyperlinks than talk to a human when they need customer service.

In spite of all that progress, most organizations have struggled to really connect with their customers in a way that truly showcases the capabilities of the available technology.  The evolution of VXML and CCXML, as well as API exposure from the contact center technology providers, has opened doors that weren't even thought of 10 years ago.  We can do so much more than what we're doing right now in contact centers.

I'd have to say, the worst of the contact center experiences (other than language barriers) are poorly written IVR applications.

IVR applications are those things you talk to when you call an 800 number at your bank, or your electric company, or any other organization with which you do business, to self service your account.  Perhaps an example will show you what I mean.

You: beepbeepboopboopbeepboopbeepbeepboop (ok, this is really your phone)

IVR lady: Thank you for calling Big National Bank, where we love you.  No, really.  Please select from the following options.  For account management, press 1.  For loans, press 2.  For credit cards, press 3.  To repeat this menu, press 8 and don't ask us why we picked a non-sequential number for that option.

You: boop (you pressed 1)

IVR lady: You pressed 1, is that right?  If so, press 1 to accept.  To go back to the main menu, press 2.

You: boop

IVR lady: OK, account management.  For checking, press 1.  For savings, press 2.  For money laundering, press 3.

You: booeep (that's a 3, sounds ominous because it's the money laundering menu)

IVR lady: You pressed 3, is that right?  If so, press 1 to accept.  To go back to the previous menu, press 2.

You: boop (remember, that's a "1")

IVR lady: I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response.  Press 1 to accept, or press 2 to return to the previous menu.

You: beep (wait, was that 1 or 2?)

IVR lady: I'm still having trouble hearing you.  Press 1 to accept, or press 2 to return to the previous menu.

You: (wait, what am I accepting?  what was the previous menu?  Crap, I'm lost!  Desperate "boop" and inaudable swearing.)

IVR lady: You seem to be having trouble.  Should I give you a moment to familiarize yourself with your telephone keypad?  If yes, press 1.  If no, and to return to whatever menu we were talking about, press 2.

You: (more swearing, this time much more audible, and BOOP BOOP BOOP BOOP BOOP on the 0 key to talk to a human).

IVR lady: Oh, you want to talk to one of our expensive agents.  Fine.  Your call is very important.  We estimate your wait time to be <dramatic pause> 17 <pause> minutes.

I think you will all agree that I'm only exaggerating a little with this example. You may have chuckled a bit reading the example (come on, humor me) but you probably don't chuckle, in fact, you probably cringe, when you really have to interact with one of these things.

This hasn't really progressed much past old mainframe green screen, menu-driven software. The sad thing is, there really are IVR applications like this being used in customer service organizations everywhere today.  Even sadder, the limitations are more around creativity than the technical capabilities of the available technology.

Remember this?

And you thought Kramer was just a funny guy. He invented the first speech driven IVR, more out of necessity than anything. Figured we all needed a laugh after that annoying IVR lady.

IVR development tools have gotten much more robust over the past few years, allowing developers to give the IVR quasi-intelligence, speech recognition, and the ability to interact with a myriad of backend systems. In the hands of a skilled developer, all kinds of possibilities open up.  Companies are slowly but surely embracing the tech and spending the money to catch up to it.

Let's talk about a seemingly unrelated topic for a second.  I promise to tie this together.

Personal assistant technology is beginning to show up on Apple and Android devices everywhere.  The two big players right now are Apple's Siri, and Speaktoit for Android.  These are both really in their infancy, and I refuse to make comparisons, as that always seems to stir up fights.  They both get the job done, but "the job" is fairly limited right now.  Basically, anything you can do on your smartphone the assistant can help with; send messages, respond to messages, open apps, check weather, time of day, etc., etc.  Pretty cool tech, but still a bit limited and the bots sometimes struggle to get it right.

Now, what does this have to do with the contact center industry?

The industry is beginning to take notice of these personal technology assistants and recognizes the potential for integration.  As the technology advances and the providers of personal assistants begin to open their API's and SDK's, contact center technology developers will begin using these to integrate personal assistants with customer service organizations' backend systems and provide self-service options to their customers via smartphone apps.

Instead of dialing a toll-free number and talking to a voice deeply rooted in tedious and cumbersome menu driven self-service using your keypad, you will talk to a personal assistant avatar on your smartphone screen in much more natural speech patterns in the next generation of intelligent Customer Front Door technology.  Some initial studies have shown that visual IVR technology can reduce the amount of time required to get through a self-service conversation.  Avatar-based visual IVR's could reduce that even further.

Now, let's try that bank call again, but this time, you're talking to Hal, your personal assistant on your smartphone screen.

You: Hello, Hal.  I need to check a balance in my primary checking account and transfer some money to my offshore account.
Hal: I'd be delighted to help you with that Dave.  Can you give me your password?
You: Yes, the password is **********.
Hal: Ten asterisks is an odd password, Dave, but whatever.  Your primary checking account balance is ninety-seven dollars and thirty-four cents.  How much would you like to transfer to your offshore account?
You: Three thousand dollars.
Hal: I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that for you right now, that exceeds your balance.  It can only be attributable to human error.
You: Thanks, Hal.  Just seeing if you were paying attention.
Hal: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore.  Goodbye.

In spite of Hal's condescending demeanor, you walk away happy because that took much less time than that annoying IVR lady that could probably drive even Hal crazy.

Over the next few years, we will see big changes in the contact center experience.  While nobody will ever be able to come up with anything as cool as Kramer's Moviefone, visual platforms will become increasingly popular and, as the technology improves, will remove some of the pain from customer service.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Apple Will Fail

Before we get started here, let's get a few things straight.

I am not an Apple Hater.

I started using Macs back in the 90's when I worked for a newspaper doing advertising layout.  We used the Macs for layout and electronic pre-press instead of sending the huge printing plates to the printer. Nothing could do the job like the Macs.

A few years later, I wrote a FileMaker Pro application for a small finance company and converted all their offices to Macs.  This was back in the PowerPC and G3/G4 days.

Efficiency in the offices increased due to the simplicity and intuitive interface of the MacOS, and, of course, my brilliant code.  Well, mostly because of the intuitive interface of the MacOS.

I have since that time owned Mac devices from the original iPod to the latest iPad model.  I don’t care what theory you subscribe to, they make some awesome tech.

I will also admit, I am primarily a user of other devices and other mobile operating systems.  I try to avoid comparisons and realize that all of them fill a need in the market and appeal to different people.

I think the "this is better than that" mindset is juvenile and narrow minded.  Why can't we just all get along?

Anyway, now that we're on the same page, let me tell you why I think Apple will fail.

I should point out, of course, that this is a theory.  I realized my crystal ball was flawed many years ago when Truman defeated Dewey.  OK, I’m not quite that old.  My theory is based on the “past behavior is the best predictor of future performance” idea.  Apple’s history is fraught with evidence that the company’s success is very closely tied, maybe even inextricably tied, to the actions, ideas, and presence of Steve Jobs.

When Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, you know, when John Sculley didn’t fire him, Apple launched into a singularly unimpressive 12 year period of net flat stock prices and uninspired leadership.  John Sculley, former CEO of Pepsi and Gil Amelio, previously the CEO of National Semiconductor proved to the world that CEOs with proven track records of leadership could do nothing but steer the Apple ship into the seas of mediocrity.

It was during this period that Apple proved it could be just like all the other boring, dull tech companies.  They did the “licensing thing” with Motorola and released several laptops, desktops, and servers.  It was a very unexciting time in Apple history, and the stock price was slowly dwindling away along with market share.  By 1997, it seemed the end was inevitable.

Then, Jobs returned.

Apple went on the offensive and, just over a year later, released the iMac.  The excitement was back.  The stock soared out of the twenty-dollars-a-share bargain basement to an unprecedented $141.31 a share on March 22, 2000.  Jobs had almost single-handedly resurrected the rotting Apple with his first directive from the captain’s chair since his return.

The Dot Com Bomb of 2000, housing market collapse, and The Great Recession weren’t enough to keep Apple down.  If you look at the graph below, Apple’s stock prices began a steady climb after the Dot Com Bomb and soared to an insane $400 a share with the iPhone and iPad releases.

Did you notice the drop in the stock when Jobs’ health issues became apparent and he took medical leave from the company in 2009?  Is it just me, or is it significant that, while Apple was riding the wave from the iPhone success, it took such a downturn on the bad news surrounding Jobs health?  Sure, Apple recovered, but why?  Because of the iPad, another brilliant idea from Steve Jobs.

Apple’s success has always been tied to the truly brilliant ideas of Steve Jobs.  As a matter of fact, the other companies started by Jobs, NeXT and Pixar, reveal some other interesting precedents that speak volumes about what happens to companies that were started by Jobs when he leaves.

The technology developed at NeXT was brought back to Apple with Jobs and became the basis for OS X.  NeXT has been reduced to nothing more than a user group consisting of the remnants of a small, zealous user base and former employees.

Pixar, well, that’s a little different.  When Disney bought Pixar and made Steve Jobs a board member (and its largest shareholder), their intent was to get their hands on the Pixar platform which was their implementation of the industry standard RenderMan. 

Disney has writers, but they needed something to take their in-house, mediocre animation to the next level.  Who had the answer?  Steve Jobs.  The technology is now part of Disney, and Pixar, while not forgotten, is nothing more than a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney.  Pixar, another of Jobs creations, will always be remembered for revolutionizing animation.

Apple enthusiasts, it’s time to face facts.  Apple, the company, was the fortunate recipient of the genius of Steve Jobs.  Put simply, Apple was Steve Jobs.  It doesn’t matter that he hand-picked his replacement because his replacement isn’t Steve Jobs.  No amount of teaching and indoctrination can duplicate what Steve brought to the table.  I challenge anyone to show me one thing with any staying power that came out of Apple that isn’t tied to Steve Jobs.

Guys like Steve Jobs don’t come along every day.  Sure, there are smart people out there, but Steve Jobs was more than just smart.  Steve Jobs possessed something unique and special.  He was an inventor, artist, gearhead, and businessman all rolled into a single package and he excelled at all of those things.  He was just wired differently than most people and it is truly a gift.  I can’t go to school to learn that.

Steve Jobs has been compared to Thomas Edison and I believe the analogy is appropriate.  Just like we all have light bulbs in our homes 130 years after the first successful test that vaguely resemble the original invention, people 130 years from now will most likely have something similar to an iPod with all their favorite tunes on it connected to the sound system in their flying car.

We may have had those sooner if Steve had gotten into the car business.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cloudo, A Cloud-based Computer

As I was poking around this week, looking for the coolest cloud apps, I came across one that has the potential to really change things.  That app is Cloudo.

This is truly where cloud-based computing is going.  Take a look at this screenshot;

Looks like a computer desktop, right?  Believe it or not, it's running in my browser window.

Now, before you go gettin' all excited, Cloudo has some pretty limited functionality right now.  There are only a couple of beta apps for word processing, calendar, and a couple of widgets for weather and slideshows.  It has been opened to developers and I'm sure there are nerds everywhere banging away at code right now.

I write about this, not because services like Cloudo are ready for mainstream, but because it truly represents the power of cloud-based computing.  This has huge applications in remote/virtual workforce and would save companies millions of dollars in expensive hardware once apps like Cloudo (and there will be others) are ready for prime-time. 

This is similar to what Google is doing with its Chromebooks, the main difference being, of course, you could run Cloudo from any computer. 

Heck, you could probably run it from your Chromebook. :-)

Road Warrior App

I don't have to travel that often, but it just so happens that I had to this week so I get to include this in my experiment.

In my road warrior days, I became addicted to a cloud based itinerary management tool called TripIt.  Here's how it works.

Once you set up your free account, send an email containing your itinerary (typically contains confirmation numbers or record locators and is generated by the travel provider) from your registered email address to "".  An itinerary is generated and syncs to your smartphone.  There are Android and iOS versions available.

If you give TripIt's automated service access to your email account, you don't have to send anything to TripIt as long as the travel provider notifications come to that email address.  TripIt will automagically recognize the travel information and generate the itinerary and sync to your smartphone.  There's no need to carry all that paper through the airport.

I wasn't able to find any alternatives to TripIt.  If you're a road warrior, give TripIt a shot.  You really can't appreciate how useful this is until you try it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cloud Music

This one was painful.

I'm an audiophile and spent many years as a sound engineer.  I'm very picky about how my music sounds.  If I could use a spectrum analyzer for every room I set up shop in, I would.

Not very practical.

Neither are the cloud storage/player combinations I tried.  The players are lacking in features (especially equalizer options) and playback quality is poor at best.  There are equalizers you can run that control all of the sound coming from your device (one called "Equalizer" and another called "Equalizer" on the Android market and, no, that's not a typo) but they're lukewarm at best and it's clumsy trying to run a second app just to get close to the EQ you're looking for. 

Some of the players had constant jitter and skipping even when I wasn't streaming from the cloud.  I'm trying not to name names here (cough, cough, amazon, cough, google, cough) but it was pretty sad.  I was all but sitting on top of my router when streaming and I have plenty of bandwidth so that wasn't the issue.  The issue persisted even when I wasn't streaming on the Amazon player.

I'm a PowerAmp user and have been since I started using Android devices.  The features are robust and it comes with a 10 band EQ built in.  I have to download from my Amazon cloud drive and set PowerAmp up to scan those folders, so while it's not the most elegant solution, it works.  That's the best I could come up with, a hybrid cloud and locally run app.

I think music in the cloud for serious audiophiles is not quite there yet, but as soon as Amazon (or others) expose their API to allow third party development, I think we will see big leaps forward in this area.  I really wanted this to be successful, but I'm sorry to say, it was less than savory.

If anyone has heard of a serious solution for this (no, it's not iCloud) please let me know.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Word Processing

This one is pretty easy. 

You don't need (insert bloated word processor name here), period.  I know, seems too good to be true, but save yourself the $$.  I can do anything in cloud based word processors that I can do with the bloatware.  I have been a user of Google Docs for a while and occasionally have tried a few other things (Think Free Office and a couple others) and I think this is one place where you won't miss your locally running application and storage. 

I will say using a tablet with these apps still feels a bit clumsy, but only marginally so. That may be due to the fact that I'm trying to use a tablet with these apps for the first time. More on that topic as the week progresses.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mostly Cloudy

I have decided to completely move my life to the cloud.  This week I will be doing all my computing tasks through cloud applications.  Maybe this is no big deal for anyone except me, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people probably still have a few favorite locally run applications that they just can't quite bring themselves to give up.

I will be doing this using my Android tablet with a bluetooth keyboard and dragging it around with me everywhere.  I will post frequent updates to the blog here as the week progresses and celebrate my victories as well as bemoan my epic failures.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Articles Published, one of the local media outlets published the 2 articles below.  Comment sections are interesting;

Androids, Apples, and the Open Source Community
Cotton Candy Sweeter than Apples?

Cotton Candy Sweeter than Apples?

Do you remember going to the county fair when you were a kid and getting this long stick with a big, puffy cloud of melted wisps of sugar on the end of it?

If Norwegian-based FXI Technologies gets its way, its "cloud on a stick" Android device, appropriately named "Cotton Candy," will be in everybody's hands by the end of this year. The best part? This cotton candy doesn't cause tooth decay.

According to the company's press release on Nov. 17, 2011, "The vision for Cotton Candy is to allow users a single, secure point of access to all personal Cloud services and apps through their favorite operating system, while delivering a consistent experience on any screen. The device will serve as a companion to smartphones, tablets, notebook PC and Macs, as well as add smart capabilities to existing displays, TVs, set top boxes and game consoles."

So what exactly is Cotton Candy? Let's talk about the stick part first.

At first glance, the device looks like a USB thumb drive that was handed out as X-Men merchandise at a movie premier. At a mere 2.5 cm by 8 cm, you would probably be surprised to learn that it's not just a thumb drive. You'd be even more surprised to learn that it contains a Dual Cortex A9, 1.2 GHz processor, 1080p capable HDMI output with a quad core GPU, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth v2.1, USB 2.0, and a Micro SD slot giving you 64 GB of onboard storage. So, where's the screen?

"Today’s device functionality is often limited by the size of the screen it inhabits," said Borgar Ljosland, founder and CEO of FXI Technologies. "We’ve turned things upside down, eliminating the screen and delivering the power of a PC and the Web to any screen."

FXI's "Any Screen Connected Computing" concept means just that. Connect your Cotton Candy device to any screen using the HDMI output. If your screen doesn't support HDMI, buy an adapter — wait, maybe you need to buy a new screen.

Next, grab your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, find the nearest wireless router and you're now connected to any screen and you're computing! You can now play Angry Birds on your 102-inch high-def plasma screen home theater with the Bose sound system and you will undoubtedly be the coolest dad in the neighborhood. You're welcome.

To say that is what Cotton Candy is all about would be to grossly understate its capabilities. Admit it though, 102-inch high-definition Angry Birds is a pretty darn cool start.

"With the broad acceptance of cloud computing and the advancement in processor technologies, the concept of a "screenless PC" is a natural evolution in the form factor of computing devices," said Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie and Associates. "The connectivity, flexibility and multi-screen compatibility of FXI’s Cotton Candy makes it like a computer built specifically for the cloud."

This seems like a good time to talk about the cloud part.

Why do you care about cloud computing? Chances are, you don't, at least right now. You've heard the term kicked around, probably had some weird visuals of fluffy, cloud-shaped computers floating freely through the air, who knows what else. You have probably used cloud computing already and maybe you didn't even know it.

If you have used a webmail service, you have used cloud computing in one of its simplest forms. If you have used Google Calendar, Google Docs, Amazon cloud storage for your music files, Apple's iCloud, the list goes on, you already know something of the oncoming avalanche that is cloud computing. Simply put, cloud computing means all the powerful computing resources are somewhere out there in this nebulous "cloud" and you are accessing them through what is known as a "thin client," in most cases, a web browser.

Believe me when I tell you, 10 years from now, cloud computing is what we will all be doing when we take to the keyboard or whatever input device we happen to be using at the time. Funny thing, seems like that old mainframe concept has come full circle, but that's another story.

Is the "cloud on a stick" phrase starting to make sense now?

To add to all of this cool functionality, plug Cotton Candy into the USB port and your computer takes on a whole new personality. The device gains access to all of the resources on your computer — disk, cpu, screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. — and basically becomes your computer if you run it in full screen mode.

Run it in windowed mode, and your computer gets to keep its identity while you run your Android device in a separate window. You can also run Ubuntu if you like. It's only a matter of time before someone, perhaps FXI, designs a portable screen so you can turn your Cotton Candy into a tablet.

Let's take a quick break and do some free word association. I say "cloud," you say "open." I say "Android," you say "open." I say "cotton candy," you say "yum." I say "Apple," you say "closely held, proprietary, exclusive, won't run Flash, but makes some really cool tech. Also goes well with peanut butter." OK, that's cheating.

Is Cotton Candy the dreaded iPad slayer? Let me say this about that.

Steve Jobs was one of the most brilliant minds our planet has ever known. So brilliant, in fact, that Apple was able to overcome the challenges that are inherent to proprietary, exclusive products. Proprietary and exclusive only work if they are so cool that nobody wants to use anything else.

The problem is that Jobs is gone, and in spite of the reassurances we hear from Apple, that type of genius only comes along every few hundred years. It doesn't matter that Jobs hand-picked his replacement because his replacement isn't Steve Jobs (even Jobs couldn't pull that off). History has shown that Steve Jobs was Apple and when he wasn't there, things turned sour.

My point is, the cloud computing revolution is coming. Will Cotton Candy be the next big thing? It's hard to say, but cloud computing is the next big thing, and whoever devises the coolest way to interact with it will ride that wave.

As for me, Cotton Candy looks pretty sweet.


Apples, Androids, and the Open Source Movement

Androids, Apples and the open source community

Created By: Eric Sisler
The year is 1876. George B. Selden sees George Brayton’s “Ready Motor” at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The light bulb goes on (which technically wasn’t invented until 3 years later) and by 1878, Selden successfully tests a one cylinder, 400-pound internal combustion engine containing an enclosed crankshaft.

With all the buzz about a “horseless carriage,” the application is obvious. Selden applies for a patent in 1879, which is granted in 1895 after several amendments that included the use of the engine in an automobile.

Some guy named Henry Ford comes along and, in 1911, wins a 10-year legal battle against Selden that essentially renders his patent invalid. The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association is born and begins the open sharing of patents among members. The Detroit auto industry goes gangbusters and thus begins the era of U.S. auto manufacturing. Selden decides to go with a much improved idea, the Selden Truck Sales Corp. Oh yeah, everyone remembers that one (eyes rolling).

Now let’s move forward a few years, past Edison’s light bulb, to 1997. Eric Raymond, a hacker, releases his now legendary paper “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” at the Linux Kongress (OK, legendary among hackers and nerds), which is credited with prompting Netscape to do something that was unheard of among the increasingly proprietary, profit-driven software companies at the time: release its source code to the open source community, essentially, the public. The open source movement, founded in 1983 by Richard Stallman, comes out of the fringes and the Open Source Initiative is born.

Open source has contributed to almost every major operating system used in corporate America (and hacker basements), with the exception of Microsoft Windows, since 1983. Even the Mac OS is based on open source components.

Open source also produced two very popular mobile device platforms, iOS and Android, while one of the pioneers in the mobile device world, Research In Motion, failed to adopt the open source mindset and has dropped from a 15.4 percent market share in the third quarter of 2010 to 11 percent in the same quarter in 2011, according to a study by the Gartner Group. Shoulda read your history, guys. That little outage in October didn’t help.

Anyway, why the history spiel?

If I have done my job, you have probably drawn some parallels between the early days of the automobile manufacturers and our two favorite mobile operating systems. It seems to be crystal clear that an open community of contributors just comes up with better stuff than someone trying to hold all the cards like Selden or RIM. Even Steve Jobs saw the benefits of having the open source community on his side.

Part of the open source agreement says that you have to “give back” by sharing any improvements you make to an open source project with the community. That had to be a hard one for Steve, but Apple and the open source community are better for it.

Apple, the road less traveled

Smartphones have been around since 1993. I’m sure you all remember the IBM Simon, right? Well, as cool as that was, Apple completely redefined what a smartphone was on June 29, 2007, when it released the iPhone.

I remember that day, it was like Neal Armstrong had uttered that timeless phrase, “one giant step for mankind” all over again. “Oneness” had been achieved, not only with the single button — I could now have my phone, iPod, apps both useless and valuable, GPS, you name it, on a single device.

Apple stock soared to an unprecedented $200 a share and there was rejoicing among Apple enthusiasts. A whole new wave of Apple enthusiasts was created. What many people didn’t realize was that this was a huge success for the open source movement. One could argue that an open source project had never gotten this much attention in mainstream consumer electronics.

So, going back to the Gartner study referenced earlier in this article, why the 15 percent market share? Shouldn’t Apple have taken over the world?

Apple wants to sell you its hardware too. Remember the early days of the Mac versus Microsoft battle? The short version is that Apple wanted to sell you the OS and the hardware (how very “un” open source). Microsoft wanted to sell you the OS and let the hardware vendors sell the hardware. The result was Microsoft Windows having a huge chunk of the market and Apple having a small market share with an extremely zealous user base. Sound familiar?

So, is Apple nuts? Only if you consider market share to be everything. I think the stock prices and cash reserves speak for themselves. It’s just its way, and Apple has been hugely successful with it. It’s just one way open source enables success. Only time will tell if Apple can keep it going in the post Steve Jobs era.

Android, resistance is futile

Yes, I know it’s a mixed metaphor and has nothing to do with Robert Frost. Technically, the Borg weren’t androids, they were cybernetic drones, or some would call them a consciousness. Now that’s more in line with Android.

Three years after Google purchased the company responsible for the Android OS, the first smartphone to run Android, the HTC Dream, hit the shelves. Obviously, Apple had already stolen the smartphone thunder so all the hoopla was much reduced. That’s not to say the impact wasn’t huge.

Since 2008, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, Nokia and plenty of others have released several pieces of pretty sweet hardware running the Android OS, which Google gives away. If you bothered to read that Gartner study I referenced, the little green Android has doubled its market share from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011 and dominates the mobile device market. And yes, I said Google gives it away.

How does Google make any money from something it gives away for free? Another thing about open source projects is that you can let someone else write the cool software (as long as you observe that little “give back” rule) and you can focus on your business strategy. The $5 billion Google made last year in advertising revenue as a result of releasing the Android OS is nothing to sneeze at. Not only that, the hardware manufacturers aren’t doing too bad either. Everybody is making money, and that’s good for all involved.

So there you have it — another win for open source. The common thread is that the tech companies can focus less on the tech and more on the business approach. The tech becomes a means to an end, rather than the end. Both approaches are successful, one is probably a little more selfish than the other.

Yeah, I’m talking to you, Apple.

As we go through the next several years and development standards become even more open, tech companies everywhere will need to reassess their business models. If open source is not part of their strategy, they may run the risk of becoming the next Selden Truck Sales Corp.

Hey, that plaid jacket looks good on you.