Cloud Variations

There have been a number of interesting posts on-line about the recent Apple announcement and how it relates to what Microsoft and Google and others are doing.  Here is one that talks about how Jobs kept making the statement that It Just Works and what that means and there is this one on the same site called Game, Set, iMatch.  These documents talk about documents in the cloud, notifications and how the various mobile platform vendors are getting better and stitching different eco-systems together.  I wrote about some of this earlier on the Windows 7 phones and then Mango was announced a few days later which goes further down that path.  The integration of twitter tighter into the IOS experience is the Apple step in that direction and of course Android has tied the notification system together nicely for a long time.

There is a great quote in that first article about iCloud that bears thinking about:

With iCloud, Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic.

Reminds me of the Clarke quote:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Apple has a great way of making things happen in a transparent, magical fashion. Much like Disney experiences when you visit their parks and everything just works and is cleaned up overnight.  Lots of ‘IT’ happening behind the scene.

The third article, Apple and a web-free cloud, talks about strategy between Amazon, Google and Apple and it too highlights the key differences in how these players are moving forward.

It is interesting to watch all four of these companies move forward with their strategies and it will be interesting to look back in 5 years and see what has happened.

Another Way To Do It

When I have the opportunity to visit with key suppliers or with another IT leader, I love to hear how others are doing the same things that we do. I don’t ever want to think that we’ve got the perfect solution and that our way is THE way to do it. I feel this so strongly that I tell some IT vendors that if they think we are doing it wrong, or they’ve seen a better way or if we just don’t get it, that I expect them to speak up and tell us. I want and need to hear all the good ideas I can find and then we need to put them into the mix to address our problems.

Usually, it is not a big deal when companies choose different email systems. However, it is a completely different matter to see a company use an entirely different process from yours that still gets them to a similar end point. When another group tackles the same problem you have and they solve it in a completely different manner, then likely you can learn from that difference.

IT leaders have got to seek out these learning opportunities.

IT runs the risk of pouring concrete everywhere including in their own minds. Decisions made years ago, based on conditions then, may no longer be relevant or correct, but the decision was made and IT has made up its mind. Instead, we’ve got to be plugged into ideas from conferences, from colleagues and from on-line resources. We’ve got to challenge our own IT thought leaders to challenge each other and keep plugged into what is going on out there.

I frequently see articles about how to have an innovative culture, but perhaps a key first step and what might get you far down that path is just listening to what others are doing.  You can learn a lot by just listening.

Tie Everything Together

In the last few months, I’ve encountered several different situations where a different and better paradigm is needed for pulling all ones information together into one place on a mobile platform (or a desktop).   Today, the iPhone model is one of separate applications on the screen with the user of the iPhone navigating from one application to another.  A person might check their email in one application, then launch another application (with a different UI) to check Facebook, then repeat for Twitter, etc.

Instead, a different paradigm would be to bring the related content together into one place.   There was a post on line a few months ago that caught my eye about an Android application called Aro that pulled together different sources into a single pane or view.  I’ve also noticed on the current Windows 7 phones steps in this direction where the people view ties together information from the phone address book with information from Facebook in a very well done and slick fashion.

The need is there to bring everything together into one place instead of having separate islands. In the corporate world, this one place is usually (always?) email because that is the one common place that all applications can work with in a consistent manner.  Online approvals in corporate applications can almost always send an email with a URL  to approve something. As a result, email is the common place in the workplace. But putting things in a person’s inbox is not the same as integrating the data together.

In the mobile world where the integration can be much tighter and where applications are being built now instead of perhaps 10 years ago for corporate IT systems there is a real opportunity to pull these connections or conversations or information nuggets together into a common place. I’d love to see all pieces of information related to a person brought together into a single view.

I look forward to where Windows 7, Android and the Iphone go in the coming year.  There is much opportunity.

Elegant Solutions

Just finished reading a wonderful book that people in IT should read.   It is called In Pursuit of Elegance:  Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing. The book is about elegance and what characterizes an elegant solution. Examples range from the unexpected iPhone followed by almost no advertising before the launch to the completely different thought process behind the Not So Big House where we discovery that perhaps we don’t really need a bigger house. Speaking of the iPhone, RIM thought that Apple was lying with the announcement because it was so different from what had been seen before and from what they thought was possible.

There are many different examples of elegance and what characterizes elegant solutions. The book is not an IT or even a technology book, but it so applies to all of us in the business world and in IT because it is too easy for us to deliver non-elegant solutions.  It is too easy to just start coding something up with this new, fun tool that will be in the cloud that will run on a smart phone when perhaps a better solution would involve rethinking the whole problem and transforming it into something completely different.

The ideas of symmetry, subtraction and sustainability are discussed as key attributes of elegant solutions.

Read this book.