Thursday, January 31, 2008

I love TED

Two years ago I saw video that gave me first goose pimples about technology I've had in years (and that's includes a period where I've been exposed to some pretty amazing innovation from IBM and Dell).
It was Jeff Han demonstrating the high-resolution multi-touch computer interface that's since become known as Microsoft Surface at an event called TED (Technology Entertainment Design). Bill Gates later did virtually the same demo (at TechEd I think).
(It caught my interest because the keyboard is my least preferred way to interact with technology. I appreciate it was probably the best early computer engineers could come up with at the time but live for the day when we can consign it to history.)
I knew nothing of TED at the time (which in itself was surprising to me since I read a lot about technology) but I've been going back to this amazing Web-site regularly ever since.
TED's tagline is 'inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers' and for once on the Internet it's actually true. Just take a look at these past presentations on the theme What's New in Tech.
More recently the TED blog featured a short presentation from Hollywood 'it' producer JJ Abrams on the use of mystery in film making (as it turns out we both have the same favourite scene in Jaws) and tonight I this great demo on Microsoft's Seadragon technology and the 'zoom interface'.
It's actually surprising how little media coverage TED attracts, particularly when you consider the quality of presenters and the clever ideas being showcased, and especially in comparison to the attention given to the relatively trivial news coming out of CES and Macworld etc.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Video: Blogs in Plain English

Found this today and I think it's great!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scoble doorstop with Lenovo CEO at Davos

Just when you thought you were getting used to Web 2.0... here's Bill Amelio, CEO of Lenovo (and former President of Dell APJ, so for a time the boss of my boss) doorstopped by blogger Robert Scoble at the Davos forum using live streaming video from a mobile phone!
I know Robert Scoble's been doing these videos for a month or two but this is the first time I've really grasped the impact.
Granted the circumstances are unusual -- he filmed Bono earlier and Scoble's not exactly your average run-of-the-mill blogger (he's at the World Economic Forum for a start) -- but wow!
Even a senior journalist at the Wall Street Journal would be unlikely to get an interview with the head of a large multinational like Bill on the spur of the moment (clearly Bill had some warning).
Not saying chance meetings didn't take place before this -- almost everyone has brush with fame story -- but if blogging turned people into amateur journalists, this puts a TV station in their hands!
Interesting times...
Update: Here's a comment along the same lines from TheFlack.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saab not that green: watchdog

It will be interesting to see if the ACCC is successful with this action (I don't know the facts of the matter of course) but at the very least it is a reminder to organisations of the need be able to substantiate green claims -- and for consumers to not to take them at face-value.
It's tempting and comparatively easy to claim 'green-ness' -- you only have to look at the avalanche of people committing to become carbon neutral in the last 18 months to see that -- but you if haven't done your homework too you're exposing your company's reputation to a disproportionate risk (not to mention misleading people).
My former company, Dell, became the first IT hardware vendor to commit to becoming carbon neutral last year but did so only after having thoroughly understood its carbon footprint and committing to lowering its overall carbon intensity 15 percent by 2012.
(Carbon intensity in this case means the ratio of carbon emissions to company revenue and is, I believe, a more useful measure environmental impact than the volume of emissions alone, since large a company will logically produce more carbon than a small one.)

read more digg story

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Goldilocks and the MacBook Air

Interesting post today on ITWire from Stephen Withers -- I wrote something along the same lines in a post back in December but think Stephen really nailed it with his Goldilocks analogy.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the news interest Apple's new MacBook Air attracted today translates into sales -- comments on the gadget sites like
Gizmodo and blogs like TechCrunch have been mixed.

My first impression is the product is not sufficiently different to what's already available from other vendors (including Dell) to make much of a mark -- it's no EeePC in that respect.

I'm also surprised Apple elected to leave out mobile broadband as an option in an ultraportable -- particularly given Steve Jobs' claim during the keynote the ".. the MacBook Air was built to be a wireless machine". Personally, if I was going to use 'the world's thinnest notebook' I'd prefer not to have to drag along a soap-on-a-rope USB 3G modem in order to stay connected (since free WiFi may be common in the US but that's far from the case elsewhere).

Finally, the 'green' design credentials of the product have also received some attention but personally these improvements, while laudable, will seem a little hollow until Apple moves to offer recycling options for consumers and small businesses (beyond the occasional recycling event and participation in the Byteback trial) in Australia. Jobs correctly said the aluminium of the MBA's case is "a highly desirable material by recyclers -– they love aluminium" but it'll be an unrequitted love if these devices end up in landfill at end of life.

Update: Looks like Gizmodo agrees re the Dell XPS M1330.

Update 2: And so does Greenpeace on the MacBook Air.

Update 3: So does ZDNet (on the M1330) -- to me what's most interesting is, a couple of years ago, who'd have thought a Dell would have even been on this comparison.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

PC recycling: where to in Australia in 2008?

One of the last things I was able to achieve before leaving Dell at the end of 2007 was to take a small number of journalists to visit the facilities of Dell's recycling supplier, MRI. Some early takes:

Personally, the lasting impression I had from my I visits to MRI is just how much manual work in involved -- you begin to understand why the process of recycling costs more than the value of what is recovered.
Where to in 2008? I'd be both surprised and disappointed if by the end of this year Dell is still the only vendor to offer free recycling options to consumers and small businesses nationally.
There are signs they wont be:
- there's the Victorian Government's Byteback trial, in which 10 major vendors are now participating, lead by the AIIA, including HP (who've been involved since 2006) and Dell.
Unfortunately, at least one major brand does not participate or offer a recycling service of its own (starts with an 'A' and is not headquartered in the US, oh hell, no need to be coy now, it's Acer).
- late last year Toshiba quietly introduced a recycling service for consumers -- not sure why they've not yet done more to tell people about it, after-all a recycling service no-one uses is of little value.
- in 2006 HP produced a glossy document with the NSW Government committing to offer free recycling on HP products sold in the State. Presumably they'll be ready to implement this in 2008.
- IBM launched Project Green mid-year with a research paper that said recycling was the number one green concern among Australian businesses -- presumably they're listening and working on that now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Gadgets turn green -- people hopefully follow

If December is the time for year-in-review features then January is predictions month and Conrad Walters, the Herald's innovation writer, looked into the crystal ball in ICON today and made one prediction that I sincerely hope will come true in 2008:
"Gadgets turn green
Consumers will become not only conscious of the environmental effects of technology but more demanding in what they buy. They will open their wallets most willingly to products that can quantify their green credentials and gain endorsement from independent sources. Dell, which has aggressively promoted its goal of becoming the world's greenest tech company, will have a head start because of its recycling policy, but other companies will try to match them."
I particularly liked Conrad's tongue-in-cheek ending:
"Stainless-steel guarantee: If none of the above come true, the predictions for 2009 will be written by someone else."
In my opinion, green was the issue of 2007, a fact made all the more surprising by the fact it barely registered with most until late 2006 (co-inciding with the perfect storm of Al Gore's visit to Australia, the local release of An Inconvenient Truth and record low dam levels in most of the countries major cities).
Elsewhere, at ZDNet, Alex Serpo looked at the green year that was (and what a year) but missed what is in my view an importance point. I know I'm biased but I think many in the industry would agree Dell's singular leadership on sustainability generally was a major influence during 2007.
I'm no longer privy to Dell's plans of course but was pleased to see the company take the concept it pioneered at Oracle Open World and ramp it up at CES in Las Vegas last week, including guest bloggers on the Dell blog and the launch of Later this month Dell will also officially open the green technology design competition it announced last year -- another step in its goal of become the greenest IT vendor.
Update: The green design competition is now live.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dell 'Crystal' display

Pleased to see my former colleagues at Dell unveil the new Crystal display on the eve of CES -- have to say I've been looking forward to this one since it was first shown off behind the scenes at the event in 2007. It's another sign of the transformation at Dell.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Smart ideas from a smart guy

In any large organisation you'll meet lots of people -- some of whom you think are smart and others less so. And working in public relations you'll quite often listen to one of those smart people make a speech, give a presentation or do an interview based on ideas from an even smarter person.
Very occasionally you'll get to meet that person -- the guy (or gal) with the original idea.
Over the course of my four years at IBM I saw a number of smart ideas filter through the business -- and I found that almost every time I could trace them back to Irving Wladawsky-Berger. Though he's now semi-retired his blog is required reading for me still.