sonos-play-1-both

Sonos Play:1s reduced by $50/£30/€30 in Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale

Excellent saving on the baby Sonos, the play:1.

sonos-bannerA fantastic place to get started with the Sonos experience, to equip a teenager’s bedroom, or to add to a home cinema experience in a main room.

Savings are as follows:

  • US – $199 $149 – Saving $50
  • UK – £169 £139 – Saving £30
  • EU – €229 €199 – Saving €30

Sale ends on Monday 28th November 2016.

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Gil Scott Heron

‘Mandate my ass!’

Not much has changed in 35 years…

Full lyrics (via azlyrics):

Well, the first thing I want to say is: Mandate my ass!

Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan, I meant it. Acted like an actor. Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a Republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose.

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune, the consumer has got to dance. That’s the way it is. We used to be a producer – very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals will change your world. The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources we’ll control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now. They don’t know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don’t know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy – of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. John Foster Dulles ain’t nothing but the name of an airport now.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse – or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at -like a “B” movie.

Come with us back to those inglorious days when heroes weren’t zeros. Before fair was square. When the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway to the days of the wondrous “B” movie. The producer underwritten by all the millionaires necessary will be Casper “The Defensive” Weinberger – no more animated choice is available. The director will be Attila the Haig, running around frantically declaring himself in control and in charge. The ultimate realization of the inmates taking over at the asylum. The screenplay will be adapted from the book called “Voodoo Economics” by George “Papa Doc” Bush. Music by the “Village People” the very military “Macho Man.”

“Company!!!”
“Macho, macho man!”
“Two-three-four.”
“He likes to be .. well, you get the point.”
“Huuut! Your left! Your left! Your left, right, left, right, left, right…!”

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door. Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap steak tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the dupes – cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia – remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget. All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley “God-damn” Do-Right?

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate to the new Captain Bligh on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past: as a Liberal Democrat. As the head of the Studio Actor’s Guild, when other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy, Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From Liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol, born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: …it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that’s what we want…: the good ol’ days, when we gave’em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white, and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before six-gun Ron shot off his face and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press, and were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was…Crow.

Lon Chaney, our man of a thousand faces: no match for Ron. Doug Henning does the make-up; special effects from Grecian Formula 16 and Crazy Glue; transportation furnished by the David Rockefeller of Remote Control Company. Their slogan is, “Why wait for 1984? You can panic now…and avoid the rush.”

So much for the good news….

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here’s a look at the closing numbers: racism’s up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot. The House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce, and common sense is at an all-time low on heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever, and now no one is looking, because we’re starring in a “B” movie. And we would rather had…John Wayne. We would rather had…John Wayne.

“You don’t need to be in no hurry.
You ain’t never really got to worry.
And you don’t need to check on how you feel.
Just keep repeating that none of this is real.
And if you’re sensing, that something’s wrong,
Well just remember, that it won’t be too long
Before the director cuts the scene. yea.”

“This ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really ain’t nothing but a movie.”

[Refrain repeated approximately 20 times]

“This ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really ain’t nothing but a movie.”

Social Communications

My musings on Microsoft Teams

Pramit NairiPramit Nairi writes a great post entitled ‘Only Microsoft could make Teams’, comparing the new Microsoft Teams solution to Slack.

First, Slack:

The thing with Slack is that using it doesn’t feel like work. The UI and the experience is designed to be as effortless as possible with everything feeling natural and human. From subtle things to the more overt, the service feels likable and encourages interaction and participation. Sure, it has its shortcomings — what software doesn’t? — but at the heart of it, it is truly reimagining how things get done. It keeps the computer-y aspect behind the curtain and, consciously I’m sure, delivers an experience that feels almost magical.

Yes, there’s serious stuff happening behind the scenes and serious stuff can happen when you use it right, but it does away with outdated paradigms to let you operate like you would expect to operate in 2016.

And Microsoft:

Microsoft TeamsTo the Teams team, this was your opportunity to really rethink the meaning of how work gets done and if this is your first effort — one that I’m sure will evolve — it is so horribly off that you might want to consider going back to the drawing board for the final release.

The app has everything computer software should have: folders, tabs, rich text formatting controls, notifications delivered by email to pull you back into the app, inline viewing and seamless editing of Office files, one-click access to Outlook calendar, and more. Unfortunately that’s the problem. It leans too heavily into the past and brings along all those models into something that should instead be a fresh start.

Having tested the newly announced Microsoft Teams myself over the past few days with a small workgroup, I have to say that I couldn’t agree more. It looks as though Microsoft made a checklist of the features from Slack that they felt they most needed to match, and then made a relatively rudimentary attempt to deliver these with cobbled together technology and frameworks that already existed within their portfolio.

There are good elements within Teams, for sure. The onboarding process for existing Office 365 users is straightforward, the management of contacts and open chats is as easy as in any of these tools, a wide variety of security and encryption standards are supported, and the threaded nature of discussions can be easier to follow. However, the platform itself is completely absent of the friendliness and responsiveness of competitive solutions, and yells out for the whimsy that pervades the Slack product.

Nairi concludes:

I’m sure Microsoft will sign up businesses and consequentially users by the truckload and they’ll meet the requisite KPIs to show that this is a success — defaults are powerful and CTOs/CIOs still control a lot of how work gets done — but I don’t believe this is the solution that propels work and working into the future.

It’s certainly not user-centric and definitely not user-friendly. It has no heart and will not elicit love back in return. It truly is the PC and Windows in response to the Mac and MacOS. It is 100% Microsoft and is something only they can create. While there are many things Microsoft has done right and arguably functionally superior, creating software that makes people feel good when used is certainly not one of them.

So what do I think?

I can’t help but compare the initial release of Microsoft Teams with IBM’s preview of the upcoming Watson Workspace platform, and also with Jive’s Chime solution (which was recently withdrawn from marketing as a standalone solution).

Whilst there are clear differences in terms of vision and intent, perhaps 90% of the features and functions across the three solutions are common – they’re all attempting to create a modern take on IM and team communications as key component of a the digital workspace. However, what is even more obvious is the target all three vendors have in their sights – Slack.

Whilst predecessors like Atlassian‘s Hipchat had already shown that a cloud-based solution in this area could both support new use cases and generate sustained commercial success, it was the arrival of Slack 2-3 years ago that really ignited the concept of an IRC-style multi-channel communications network as the primary means of communication within teams. The wildfire-like viral adoption of Slack has left all the major collaboration vendors attempting to defend their territory whilst searching for a means of delivering similar functionality in a complementary fashion to their current solutions – whether that’s email, traditional IM, intranets or ESN/community platforms.

What about Jive?

In Jive‘s case this challenge lead to the development of Jive Chime, which was launched approximately 18 months ago, first as a freemium mobile-focused communications solution available to anyone with paid options for those that needed directory integration or other advanced features, then as a complementary solution alongside the Jive-n ‘interactive intranet’, before finally being withdrawn as an option when Jive restructured and refocused back in the summer.

Whilst the Chime solution was very capable and gained positive feedback from customers, what eventually caused its demise (in my view) was the feeling that the model for using Chime alongside Jive-n was never clearly explained or architected in the product. The benefit of the immediacy of a rapid IM conversation conflicted with the resulting reduction of attention on discussions within the community, plus the painful loss of permanent records of decisions and outcomes from the corporate knowledge base that resides there. Whilst many integrations were discussed, white-boarded and prototyped, nothing stuck as far as an obvious means to make sense of using Chime alongside Jive-n for the wider organisation. The sum of these two parts alongside one anther was considerably less than Jive-n alone or when integrated with other services for specific use cases.

And Microsoft?

Looking at Teams through this lens, I wonder if the same issue will apply within the Microsoft user base.

Office 365 continues to deliver a massive portfolio of both complementary and conflicting services that enable collaboration across teams, departments and organisations. Just the small subset of Outlook/Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Yammer and Teams very clearly demonstrate multiple means of contacting colleagues. Some synchronous, others asynchronous. Some providing long-term record-keeping, others more ephemeral. Some well-suited for mobile use, others requiring the traditional client-server PC-based model. It seems that Office 365 is always in a state of flux, but Microsoft have more than enough customers for whom the traditional Office suite itself is a non-negotiable to ensure that revenues cover the uncertainty.

Lastly, what about IBM?

IBM logoThat said, IBM’s position puts any concern over Microsoft’s place in this market into perspective. There we have possibly the most significant period of solution uncertainty in living memory.

IBM Cisco partnershipThe traditional Sametime UC product suite is now well and truly sat in the ‘legacy’ category of solutions, with complex Domino and WebSphere underpinnings too expensive to deploy and even more costly to maintain, with heavy-weight Eclipse-based native apps a burden to distribute and upgrade, whilst support for modern browser standards and frameworks is lagging a long Way being modern alternatives. To fill the gap, IBM are partnering with Cisco and starting to use WebEx and Spark solutions as their go-to option for web conferences and integrations.

IBM Watson WorkspaceWhilst that partnership is still taking shape, and customers are making plans for how to manage their Sametime and WebEx subscriptions moving forward, IBM announced Watson Workspace and Watson Work offerings at the recent World of Watson event. Representing the first release of the technology code named Project Toscana, Watson Workplace is currently a preview release of a Slack-style team communication service, which IBM sees as just the starting point for a new breed of cognitive/AI-boosted collaboration platform. Whilst there is clearly potential there, the preview release is missing a number of very key features that qualify as basic requirements to enter this space, let alone compete leapfrog those that have been growing their user base for years.

(Darren, Jesse and I discussed Watson Workplace in more detail on the first episode of our new podcast, WTF Tech.)

So where does this leave Slack?

Slack logoAll this leaves Slack untroubled at the top of the market. Still VC-funded and loss-marking, and yet winning ever greater numbers of organisations over to the concept of shifting from email to instant communications as the primary way to collaborate. Meanwhile, the incumbent collaboration vendors have it all to do. It appears that at least Microsoft has tried to purchase Slack in the past, but Stewart Butterfield and his team were not ready to sell. So, if the social communications market continues to grow, I’m sure we’ll see Microsoft and IBM continuing to invest in the space, as well as other startups racing to have a go at stealing Slack’s thunder.

What we are seeing is that as well as competitors trying to usurp Slack, they are also starting to have to integrate with it – customers are demanding this to be the case. This would appear to strengthen Slack’s position even further.

What do you think?

Where do you see this going? Do you think Microsoft Teams is enough for them to compete? Does the adage that no one got sacked for buying IBM (or Microsoft) still apply? Will Slack eventually sell out to one of the larger tech vendors, or is an IPO on the cards? Let me know where you think this market is headed.

CDO

‘Transformer in chief’: The new chief digital officer

McKinsey review the status of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), and attempt to document the essential skills that are required for the role in 2016:

In the alphabet soup that is today’s crowded C-suite, few roles attract as much attention as that of the chief digital officer, or CDO. While the position isn’t exactly new, what’s required of the average CDO is. Gone are the days of being responsible for introducing basic digital capabilities and perhaps piloting a handful of initiatives. The CDO is now a “transformer in chief,” charged with coordinating and managing comprehensive changes that address everything from updating how a company works to building out entirely new businesses. And he or she must make progress quickly.

The CDO role is changing dramatically. Here are the skills today’s world demands…

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PANO|LA

PANO | LA

Absolutely stunning. (Make sure you go full screen and in full HD…)

Shooting Pano LA has been the most ambitious, challenging, demanding, and rewarding project I have worked on to date. It was shot over a period of two years entirely in true panoramic form using two synced DSLR cameras side by side. The resulting panoramic timelapse footage comes in at a whopping 10K x 4K resolution when stitched. I did not shoot this film to achieve the extreme resolution. I shot it for the panoramic look, especially the compressed look you get when using long lenses.

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Apple Timelapse

Apple.com 1996-2016

It is striking how those 20 years are a constant evolution of what Apple means as a brand – there are remarkably few missteps or failed products along the way.

On a more personal level, I’m left reflecting how important Apple and it’s products have been to my own and my family’s lives over this timespan. It made me consider what a ‘sliding doors’ moment it was when Steve Jobs was invited back as interim CEO in July 1997 – how different our industry and our lifestyles could have been?

IBM SoftLayer logos

IBM drops SoftLayer brand, moves cloud offerings to Bluemix

Today, we’re excited to share the next big step in SoftLayer’s evolution as part of the IBM Cloud portfolio: IBM Bluemix is integrating SoftLayer products and services into its vast catalog of infrastructure, platform, and application services!

The SoftLayer products, services, tools, systems, and support you know and love will become a cornerstone of a unified Bluemix cloud experience that delivers the performance, flexibility, and consistency of SoftLayer infrastructure alongside the extensive catalog of cloud resources that include IBM Watson services, development runtimes, containers, database services, and more.

More: SoftLayer Blog – The future of SoftLayer is bright. And it’s Bluemix.

Not a huge surprise, almost all IBM acquisitions get blue-rinsed eventually, and usually within the first 24 months.  SoftLayer has actually lasted longer than most, with the $2bn purchase being announced in June 2013.  There are definitely important synergies and opportunities for the legacy SoftLayer PaaS offerings to be merged with legacy Bluemix offerings, and for them to all to be available from a single unified cloud platform. In theory this will allow BlueMix to compete on a more level playing field with competitive platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure portfolio.

However, I would argue that the SoftLayer brand is very much stronger than that of BlueMix. Whilst the latter is starting to become better known amongst enterprise DevOps over the past year or so, in my experience, the BlueMix name and brand does not have anywhere near the wider market acceptance that SoftLayer had prior to acquisition, and (to IBM’s credit) has retained or even improved since.

As IBM drops such a well-known and well-respected brand, it will need to significantly ramp up on marketing and awareness campaigns around the benefits of the wider BlueMix portfolio to existing hosting/PaaS customers, else the danger will be that previously loyal customers see the death of SoftLayer as a reason to at least look elsewhere before committing to a potentially more complex IBM cloud services relationship going forward.

One thing that IBM definitely has done right this time is to align this branding announcement with a significant technology change. This week sees the launch of the new Unified Cloud Platform, allowing SoftLayer customers to manage all their servers alongside BlueMix resources in the same administration panels using a single IBM ID:

To start, go to www.ibm.com/bluemix, where you will discover that Bluemix is more than a PaaS solution. Bluemix is a complete cloud platform that includes app runtimes, services, and infrastructure. In other words, the Bluemix moniker now encompasses Bluemix services and SoftLayer offerings like bare metal servers. Here you will find details and be able to order bare metal servers, virtual servers, object storage, and other infrastructure offerings you previously ordered from SoftLayer’s website.

As always with changes like these, we’ll need to allow things to settle down before knowing the impact on customers and prospects. I look forward to reporting back in 6 months or so!

RIP SoftLayer. Long live IBM BlueMix.