Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amazon's new Silk browser: stateless architecture comes to market using EC2

Image from
With all the coverage of the new Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, here is a fascinating bit of tech innovation: "split browser architecture."

It is a fairly pure expression of the stateless concept I've been discussing at length. Move the heavy lifting to the cloud, and use the device where you consume apps or content primarily as the user interface. One especially elegant adaptation to the current state of connectivity is the dynamic "division of labor" between the cloud and the mobile device.

Take a look at this explanation from Amazon.

Kindle Fire - Full Color Kindle with 7" Multi-Touch Display, Wi-Fi:

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The era of YOU: personal choice, knowledge, and power drive the future

--the Big Ideas series continues

I've believed for a couple of years now that there are three intersecting trends in technology, business, and society that form a framework to make sense of the emerging future. Big Ideas.

The first two are relatively simple to express: that we are decoupling the devices we use from specific uses, applications, and data--that they are becoming stateless; and that the vertical, hierarchical elements of business and IT are being deconstructed into component services that can be deployed more flexibly and repurposed in new ways.

I have to confess, although I’ve had a sense of the third idea, expressing it in a way that has the power of the first two has been a challenge.  It’s partly about the way the internet and social networks are changing our sense of what a community means. It’s about the increasing ability of end users in enterprises to choose and deploy their own technology solutions.  It’s about the flattening of power structures in business and the increasing power of consumers to interact with businesses.   But none of these by itself expresses the big idea; each of these trends is a part of the bigger concept:

Technology is enabling individuals to know more, in more places and situations, and have increasingly powerful choices about the way they live and work.

We are entering the era of you.

This article is the first in a series about that idea.  Parsing that big introductory statement into an “ecosystem of the future,” in which the implications become more understandable and more actionable, where specific ideas become visible as part of a larger trend, will guide the articles to come.

Since this site is largely about the intersection of business with technology and society, I’m planning a major emphasis on what this means for business.  Based on my research history and analysis of what I’ve observed, I’m coming into this part of the big ideas series with some specific ideas to explore:

--Business primarily operates in “communities of place,” working in largely common places face-to-face. and mostly highly capitalized.   I believe this will be changed by communities of interest--enabled by social technologies.  It’s not just remote work, that’s simply a segment of the idea; it deals with the emergence of business communities, collaborative efforts at many levels of planning, managing, and executing business goals.  Typical of new business communities will be the ability to form, scale, and disband quickly, operate at low inertia and high speed, and succeed with much lower levels of capitalization.  This creates low entry barriers for competitors of established businesses, and is likely to mean major disruptions.

--Business also operates largely in “communities of hierarchy,” in which the predominant metaphor is “command and control.” I think this will, and ought to, be challenged by flatter organizations--with fewer layer of management--to enable agility, that take advantage of the new social models, and respond to demands of a workforce rapidly evolving in its expectations of speed, personal choice, and flexibility.  

--In an ironic twist, corporate IT departments, long yearning for acceptance as a valued business partner, will achieve that end by largely disappearing.  Services-enablement and flexible sourcing of most infrastructure and technologies result in business/technology roles that are neither all line-of-business nor all IT, but both at once.  The overall effect, and the most important implication, is the movement of power to choose and implement technology ever closer to those who use it.

--The nature of work is changing, and along with it the nature of what a career looks like.  More generalist/business analyst roles, more service definition and management. More distributed teams, flexible work assignments.  Less lifetime-with-one-employer.  If you’re a specialist, your career continues, but you are far more likely to work for a specialized services provider, who delivers your talent as part of its own economy-of-scale-powered enterprise.  In the age of you, expect powerful changes in expectations from employees regarding personal and technological satisfaction.  Employees will find lower barriers to move freely among different employers.

--As always, we’ll consider what business could rise as a result of this trend, and which businesses and business models might be endangered.

As we build out the stories of the biggest ideas shaping the future, then comes the chance to hold them up side by side to think about where things are going. I think this is exciting work, and I hope you'll follow and contribute to the discussion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Web is Back - Ross Mayfield's Weblog

This is an excellent look at the ongoing web-or-app-store question, one Mayfield answers with the statement, "the web is the world's biggest app store."

Of course it's easy to praise someone who agrees with your own ideas: I wrote about the web-is-the-future concept here:

The Web is Back - Ross Mayfield's Weblog:

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Financial Times Proves HTML5 Can Beat Native Mobile Apps

Stateless computing moves forward any time an application is web-sourced instead of via a locally-installed application. ...from ReadWriteWeb

Financial Times Proves HTML5 Can Beat Native Mobile Apps:

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

C-Suite talk: agility starts with 2 questions

C-Suite Talk: an series about ideas that matter to executives

Individuals--consumers of technology--move through rapid change like dancers. New ideas, new products, short implementation times and perpetual beta? Not only do they make it look easy, as former Texas governor Ann Richards joked about Ginger Rogers, they do it “backwards and in high heels.”

Corporations--enterprises--move like hikers with a 90-pound packpack. Burdened by legacy technology, the sheer size of their businesses, and business practices laden with feature creep, the best answer they can give to technology is often “not now,” and sometimes, it’s just plain “no.”

Without seeking to make light of the very real challenges of running a business, don’t you sometimes sit alone in your office contemplating your own business, and wish you were more of a dancer and less of a plodder?  If there is one single element that stands between you and agility as far as business is concerned, it’s complexity.  

Complexity sneaks in like a thief, but because it’s stealthy, it works its way through your processes and technologies until it begins to seem more like the norm than an unwelcome intruder.  Reducing complexity is strategic, but it takes a solid tactical mindset to achieve. As you tackle complexity in your organization, try looking at it by asking these 2 questions:  
Is there a simpler way to do this?

If not, how can we manage the complexity so that it appears simple to those who use it?

Images from

These are hardly revolutionary ideas. But the thought of seeing complexity through two different lenses is a powerful one that can be used in a lot of situations.  One can build on the other.  Can you simplify underlying processes as a means of abstracting a more complex one?  Can an abstracted complex process enable a simpler approach in another area? 

When you either reduce or abstract the complex, you service-enable it; the components of your technology and your business become building blocks. It is not realistic to think you can eliminate the complex, but it is a critical business success factor that you manage it.  

Complexity management is the business equivalent of laying aside the backpack, and walking on level ground instead of uphill all the time.  It is a core concept of the service oriented enterprise, and is a core tool for the C-Suite to manage enterprises well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Enterprise Social Landscape Enters Teen Years | Forrester Blogs

Blog post from Forrester's Rob Koplowitz, available w/o a Forrester account.

Rob summarizes their first Wave (product comparison tool, similar in function to Gartner's Magic Quadrant), and does a good concise update on progress in social tools for enterprises.

The Enterprise Social Landscape Enters Teen Years | Forrester Blogs:

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Who owns your music, video, and books? The stateless revolution comes to the world of content and media

Cassette, it's all your fault.
 Image from

Think of the word "media." We toss it around to refer to the music we hear, the movies and TV we watch, the words we read in books and newspapers.  But "media" is actually that which that carries the thing we consume--the content.  Historically, that was never an issue; you paid for the "paper," which represented both the physical newsprint you carried away from the newsstand and the content printed on the paper.  You bought the CD, a physical piece of plastic, tightly bound to the music it contained.  The delivery mechanism and the content were unbreakably linked. You knew you owned the content, because you owned the thing that carried it.  Life was simpler.

Although in some ways it seems that the “who owns the rights to content” question is becoming more strident, it reflects changes in society and technology over the last 50 years.  Audio and video cassettes gave us portability and time-shifting.  CDs and DVDs introduced digitization of media, and broadband networks gave us ever-increasing ways to purchase, access, and share that digital content.

This is what happened to the purchase of music between the cassette era and now:

The CD was so seductive: 3 times the price of a cassette or an LP,
in its heyday it was a license to print money.
But it was doomed by broadband and online distribution
--when content became stateless.

Technology can now break the ties between ownership, delivery, and consumption of content.  Content has become stateless. It is a service, not a thing.

The idea of stateless computing--that the content and applications we use every day should be decoupled from the devices we use to consume them--is one of the “Big Ideas.”   A book is no longer a physical thing you purchase and own as a "thing," it's a service you buy, and the physical "book" is just a manifestation of what you purchased.  Stated that way, it's simply a reflection of the entire stateless/services concept.  When you combine stateless content with the web and browser-centric operating systems like Google’s Chrome OS or virtualization of conventional desktops, applications themselves become part of the question. They do not reside in, nor depend on, a specific piece of equipment in order to provide their value.

An online friend posted a link to an insightful article from Technology Review, MIT's magazine of technology innovation: A Cloud Over Ownership.  The article opens with this statement:

"Online services set content free from the physical world's constraints—including those that have defined the very idea of possession."

I believe this is a major trend;  not only does it express societal and technological versions of the stateless and services-oriented future,  I further believe that it is inevitable.  There are business models fighting to preserve the old ties between content and consumption, but the writing is on the wall for their future. Businesses that seek to delay the inevitable will pay a high price; those who understand this future and take advantage of it will profit very handsomely.

Since ownership, delivery, and consumption of content have been rent asunder, let’s consider the implications for each:

Sales of content rights and management of those rights across differing consumption mechanisms has a big future.

RIghts aggregators and managers represent a new market opportunity.

With granular rights management, any online music service would be freed of license costs when it streams me a song already in my personal library of purchased content. Same for any granular management of rights for already-purchased content--video, software, books, periodicals.
Any (read most) media or software company whose business model depends on you paying a premium for content based on their control of that content’s delivery and consumption mechanism

A la carte content, managed at a granular level, changes the whole idea of "broadcasting." The “mass media” idea central to broadcasting does not go away, but the need for a specific delivery vehicle--like a TV station or a cable company--does.

Supplying broadband IP connections, and management of those connections across many different access points and technologies, is big and will get much bigger.
Once content is separated from the means of delivery, the business model for cable and satellite TV companies is meaningless, although they could survive as IP network providers.

For all practical purposes, so are the business models of local TV and radio beyond their role in creating purely local shows.  
Things get very interesting when you talk about decoupling content from the devices traditionally used to license purchase and limit ownership rights.

Content/consumption-linked business models (books, CDs and DVDs) will be increasingly challenged by stateless content ownership (digital purchase such as iTunes and Amazon)
Digital delivery storefronts: iTunes,, hulu

Sirius/XM for their content & web delivery, and as an IP-via-satellite content delivery network
RIAA and MPAA, who have invested heavily in trying to preserve outdated license models.  If they can position themselves as the way to make stateless content licensing work for artists AND users, they could have a bright future; otherwise they are likely to be disintermediated out of existence.

ASCAP/BMI, who will have to restructure their licensing models to include management of individual ownership rights in addition to broadcast-linked agreements

Sirius/XM for their one-license-per-tuner model

Action Items:

  1. If you’re a business, your future software license models should reflect this trend: licensing of users, not devices.  Be prepared to negotiate the difference between differential pricing for one-time or limited-time use and for ownership.
  2. For content purchasers, be mindful where the technology you use is heavily biased toward maintaining old profit models: proprietary formats for content (iTunes, Amazon Kindle for books, for example) are built to lock content, delivery, and devices together.
  3. Emerging purchase models are struggling to break free of legal restrictions and old business models.  The future favors hulu, Amazon Video, Pandora, Spotify over traditional networks.  
  4. Watch for prices to drop and flexibility to increase from traditional video content bundlers like Comcast and DirecTV; if they adopt a la carte channel purchases, they may survive. However, their “pay a lot for 350 channels, of which you watch 10” model is in serious trouble.  They built their business on being the only way for you to access content; that isn’t true today.
  5. Conversely, network providers like Bravo and CBS will soon learn they are losing audience to people who no longer consume content the way they have been licensing it; you should soon have the ability to buy and receive any network directly over the internet.  
  6. Your rights as a consumer are not fully realized yet, but they have been expressed, as the Digital Consumer’s Bill of Rights.  Although the site has gone inactive, its founder, Graham Specer, blogs here.
When I began writing this article, I was full of righteous indignation about my rights as a consumer of content, and the ways the market has tried to withhold them; but in fact, that's beside the point and unnecessary.  

Business will act to preserve its profits, but it will also have to deal with its own failures to pay attention to the future. The rights of users to buy content separately from its delivery and consumption will happen because ultimately, that's the business model we will purchase from. Whether the new model is delivered by an existing entity that evolves or by a new company that puts them out of business is still up for grabs.

I will say that as the people who will be paying for all that music, video, words, and applications, it's incumbent on us to understand how these new rules change the game, and demand whenever possible that our vendors acknowledge that. The more people who use Hulu Plus and say no to their cable company, the faster the inevitable will be here, and the better for both business and consumers alike. What do you think?