Open Thread: Top Web Worker Innovations

Danforth Coffee ShopTechnology propels society forward, and web workers are more keenly aware of that than anyone. In just the last five years we have made leaps and bounds in terms of how connected we can be, how quickly we can receive and disperse information and how we communicate with each other. It has been an exhilarating ride as we have embraced all of the new technology innovations.

I began thinking about what has had the biggest impact on my ability to be an effective web worker when I heard about a PBS “Nightly Business Report” feature: 30 Most Important Innovations from Last 30 Years. This list will be announced on the show tonight.

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Now That Rumors Have Subsided: Is a $99 iPhone Good or Bad?

Now that recent rumors of a $99 iPhone seem to have been settled — Wal-Mart will sell the 8GB model for $197 — we can get back to the broader discussion of just what an eventual $99 iPhone could mean to Apple.

I believe the answer to the question depends on just what a $99 iPhone is. Prior to the latest rumors, it was usually discussed as some sort of “iPhone nano.” Maybe a flip phone, and generally acknowledged to be much more limited than the current iPhone. I’m sure these rumors will creep up again soon. 
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Microsoft SideSight: Should Apple Really Worry?

Keen not to be left behind by Apple’s increasing repertoire of multi-touch interface control gestures, Microsoft recently previewed a new technology called “SideSight.” SideSight is not just Redmond’s version of Apple’s tech, though. In fact, Microsoft’s new offering is not touch tech at all. More like proximity tech.

Gearlog provides an overview of SideSight, based on a paper presented by Microsoft U.K. at the User Interface Software and Technology conference. The paper describes the new input tech in the context of touchscreen interaction, which it claims is unsuitable for small devices which, naturally, have smaller screens. It’s a good point. Even on the iPhone, my meaty digits occasionally obscure some important piece of information.
How does SideSight, ahem, sidestep the problem? By allowing users to interact not only with the device directly, but also with the surrounding space. Using outward facing optical sensors lining the device, movements made by a user on a surface beneath or in the air around it are detected and translated into control actions. Gearlog provided these examples of how this might work in practice:

Pages could be panned and scrolled by moving a hand up and down, and Microsoft also proved that text could be entered and edited on the main screen through a stylus while the other hand scrolled the page — a movement that would be akin to the motions a user’s hands would make if he or she were writing on a sheet of paper.

So should Apple be wary of Microsoft’s latest foray into hand-waving? A lot will depend on third-party support, and integration with Redmond’s own future products. While cell phones are clearly a target market for the tech, the report also cites PMPs and watches as candidates. While I can see the appeal of SideSight in things like eBook readers, I have a hard time picturing a lot of consumer interest in watches with gesture control. What do you need to do with your watch that would require you to flail your hands around like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat? And does Apple even care about those markets? Probably not, since Steve Jobs doesn’t even seem interested in the netbook market, which is much closer to their core business.
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Mozilla’s ex-CEO on ‘Innovating Differently’

I was with some Microsoft execs last night, at one of their Startup Accelerator events, where the conversation turned again to the many challenges of promoting innovation at companies large, and small. (You know how MSFT prefers to tackle this –cha ching!)

The innovation dilemma
will be your greatest challenge — once you get your business model to work. To wit, we highly recommend this Q&A that McKinsey did in January with Mitchell Baker, the Netscape and AOL veteran who served as CEO of Mozilla until January of this year.

Baker talks candidly about new models for managing innovation, especially “the power of the participatory, open-source model” that she used over the last decade at Mozilla to innovate cheaply, rapidly and effectively, namely by leveraging talent outside her company. Read More about Mozilla’s ex-CEO on ‘Innovating Differently’

What You Can Learn From Chess Master, Bobby Fischer.

Bobby Fischer, the child-prodigy chess master who, at 29, became world champion and a Cold War icon after he dethroned the Soviet Union’s grand master, Boris Spassky in 1972 — a feat never before, or since, achieved by an American player– has died. He was 64. (This picture is from 1971.)
Chess has long-been a metaphor for business, and there is plenty of strategy to borrow from Fischer — that’s from the chess board, not his life. Beginning in mid-1970’s, Fischer clashed with the U.S. government over politics (Israel; Yugoslavia), ultimately relinquished his U.S. citizenship, and lived out the rest of his years as a near-recluse in Reykjavík, Iceland, the same city where the chess match that had made him famous in the first place was played.
Controversial and erratic as he was personally, on the topics of competition, strategy and tactics he was concrete and productive. For starters, he wrote a book: Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess, which we recommend you read. The New York Times obituary also writes of Fischer’s hallmarks for winning… Read More about What You Can Learn From Chess Master, Bobby Fischer.

Circumvent that Patent Tar Pit

Ok, so if you’re not worried about fundraising, chances are you’re worried about your IP. We’ve written a lot about the question of whether a startup’s precious cash should be spent on the laborious and expensive process of acquiring patents on intellectual property. See, Patents, why Bother? and Question of the Day: Self-patenting.
Well, last week I had dinner with founder Mary Hodder, of Dabble, who reminded me that there is another option: peer patenting. Read More about Circumvent that Patent Tar Pit

‘Coach’ Bill Campbell on Cultivating Innovation

More great stuff from the McKinsey Quarterly today. This time it’s a Q&A with Bill Cambell, a tech titan who, McKinsey writes:

“has experienced firsthand the spectrum of Silicon Valley scenarios, ranging from technological breakthroughs to the rocket trajectories of new start-ups to failed spin-offs—and the mountains of cash that go up in smoke when products don’t catch on.”

Campbell founded Claris in 1987 (acquired by Apple in 1990) then ran GO, the pen-based software shop, and eventually became CEO of Intuit (1994-2002). He remains on the boards of Apple and Intuit.
More important, Campbell is a “low-profile, high-level counselor” to many tech companies, including Google. CEO Eric Schmidt has called Campbell “priceless beyond belief” adding, “our basic strategy is to invite him to everything.” John Doerrsimply calls him “The Coach.”
This Q&A discusses how to cultivate an innovative culture at your startup . It is behind the pay wall, so we’ll offer a few highlights. Read More about ‘Coach’ Bill Campbell on Cultivating Innovation

Rogue Amoeba’s Live Disc

Rogue Amoeba – makers of some stellar audio software – are gearing up for another Macworld Expo in San Francisco, and have added a new twist to the goodies they’ll be offering. In years past they (like many attending developers) have handed out CDs loaded with their many ‘wares for Expo-goers to try out. The big problem has always been that by the time software is printed to disc and delivered to the Expo, it’s likely that updates have already been made to the software. It’s not the end of the world by any means, but presents a speed bump for those ready to try out the fun new applications.

Live Disc

Enter ‘Live Disc’, Rogue Amoeba’s cool new innovation that [sort of] eliminates the possibility of delivering discs with out-of-date code. They give you the full story on their blog, but here’s the gist of it:

Live Disc presents a window much like a customized Finder window, with application icons that you can drag for copying or double-click for launching. The magic is, if a newer copy exists on our web server, it will copy or launch that version instead, seamlessly.

This a very cool idea – one I’d love to hear your take on if you pick one up at The Big Show in a couple weeks. The really neat part is that this solution was one that was conceived just to show off their real products! It’s not far-fetched that they could package this into an application of it’s own, and all as a byproduct of their main focus. Great work guys! It’s stuff like this that makes me excited to play on a Mac everyday.

Introducing, Found|LINKS

Once a week we’ll begin publishing a quick index of useful posts from startup CEOs and founders –– stuff they’re writing and reading. Where introductions are needed, we’ll offer them, but you’ll recognize many authors as your current role models, or pre-existing Found|READ contributors. (Eventually we’ll add to this resource mid-week as well.) Here is the 1st edition of Found|LINKS, for the week of Dec.  17 through the 24th:

  1.  Marc Andreessen, debunking The Economist’s take on web traffic gridlock, the economics (!) of network upgrades, and Google’s handle on the upcoming 700-megahertz wireless spectrum auction: When non-technologists write about technology, posted Dec 23, 2007. Marc thinks: “They’re so CUTE!” 
  2. Ev Williams might not. Here is the Twitter founder’s Dec 21 post correcting a recent, albeit “very flattering,” profile of him in The Economist called The Accidental Innovator. Read both pieces for a nice dish on Ev’s lessons from his tenure at Google — about balancing the left and right brain to maximize your creative potential. It’s a discipline worth modeling. (We’ve written about Ev’s experimentation with this previously here.)
  3. Mark Cuban, is reviving one of his classics on Success & Motivation. Originally published in 2004, Mark posted it again on Dec 24.
  4. Also on Dec. 24Jason Calacanis, co-founder of Weblogs and Mahalo CEO posted a clip of his talk at Le Web 3, (Dec 11).  Jason’s hints at business ideas he likes for 2008. The future, he says, is in “building products that won’t contribute to Internet polution.  (Will yours??)
  5. Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, links to a terrific piece from Strategy + Business called The Google Enigma. Is the search giant “a model or an enigma?” (This pub, from consulting shop Booz Allen Hamilton is one we reference from time to time. It’s worth reading.)
  6. And from Dave Winer, the man who pioneered weblogs and RSS, we share this Dec. 20 post form ScritptingNews, entitled: Could s3 be an end-user product? If gives terrific insight into how the experts float their ideas–sharing not coveting them–to refine them and give them better odds at success. Model this.