Windows 7 launch Toronto #CDNwin7

I was invited to the Windows 7 launch in Toronto today, where Steve Ballmer is here in person. Instead of being in the live presentation, I’m hanging in the press Tweet Lounge with my torcamp peeps @davidcrow and @AccordionGuy, watching it on a big screen; this gives a lot more flexibility in terms of walking around, chatting and getting coffee during the presentation. So far, I’ve had an offer from a Microsoftie to upgrade my HP Mini to Windows 7 on the spot, and I’ve heard that it will extend the battery life by another couple of hours, which is definitely of interest to me.

Ballmer is talking about the need for efficiency in the new economy; I’m thinking that this is a veiled reference to getting past the Vista bloat, especially when he quotes users who claim that it’s simpler and more responsive without actually stating the point of comparison for simplicity and response time. These issues are key for end user efficiency, along with the improvements in handling wireless, but there are also improvements in desktop security that make it more efficient for the IT people who have to manage large installed bases of PCs. There are new versions of the Windows Server (2008 R2) and Exchange Server (2010) products, too, particularly with respect to virtualization, although I try to make everything beyond my own keyboard as virtual as possible so don’t have a lot of interest in the server products: my mail, files and backup are in the cloud, not on a server in my office. That being said, Microsoft is launching a number of cloud-based tools, including the web-based Office suite (still very early and barely functional) and SharePoint Online to complement their Exchange Online offering; although they have some significant clients here, likely the biggest impact is that they are validating the cloud model for email and collaboration, which will benefit their competitors as much or more than themselves.

Windows 7 has had about 8 million beta testers since they released it for download several months ago, and have collected a huge amount of feedback from the early adopters: some are estimating a savings of $100-200 per person per year in reduced support and maintenance costs, although YMMV.

After a brief speech, Ballmer opened it up for questions, and the first one was about upgrading existing hardware to run Windows 7; he responded that any machine that runs Vista well will run Windows 7 (although I thought that the problem was the Vista didn’t run all that well on any platform, hence the crappy adoption rates), but those running XP may require upgrades or replacement. I think that it’s fair to say that a huge part of my customer base – the rather conservative financial services and insurance industries – haven’t even touched Vista, so that could mean some significant hardware investment to support Windows 7; Microsoft can expect to see widespread Windows 7 adoption rates in these industries only when XP support is cut off. Ballmer’s betting on people being excitedly motivated to move to Windows 7, not forced through XP end of life; I think that’s a bit delusional given that he admits that they’re still supporting Windows 2000 for some customers. In the last question, he stated that Windows 7 will not be the last 32-bit OS from Microsoft because of the recent popularity of the Atom processor.

They’ve moved on to the customer videos now, so I’ll wrap this up and wander around the demo stations (and the tea table). In the spirit of full disclosure, Microsoft fed me breakfast this morning but did not otherwise compensate me to be here. I’m still hoping for a free copy of Windows 7.

Update: Scored my free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate on the way out the door. Headed home to install on the netbook.

Size does matter: travelling light with netbook and iPhone

I love technology more as it gets smaller. I haven’t been travelling much this year, but the next two months will change that. For the first time in years, however, I’ll be carrying only my suitcase (a roll-aboard that fits in the overhead bin) and my handbag: no computer bag. That’s because I am the proud owner of an HP Mini netbook, which slides right into the back compartment of my smallish purse with room to spare. The screen is a bit small, but adequate – in fact for widescreen video viewing, it’s great – and the keyboard is large enough for comfortable touch typing. Battery life is 6 hours, which rocks. Disk is 160GB, leaving space for me to load it up with e-books and video to entertain me while away from home.

It runs XP, and I’ve loaded the following software:

  • Chrome as my primary browser – much cleaner and takes up less screen real estate, so good for the smaller screen.
  • Google mail/calendar with offline synchronization, since my email accounts are all Gmail or Google Apps; this means that my mail and calendar will stay synchronized between this computer, my office computer (which uses Outlook and Google Apps Sync), my iPhone and the web.
  • It has a trial version of MS-Office included, but I’ve also loaded Open Office and will see if that works for the relatively light editing needs that I’ll have on the road. If so, then I won’t bother to buy the license for Office when the trial expires.
  • Live Writer for blogging, since I do a lot of that while at conferences.
  • Dropbox for synchronizing working files to the web for backup, and back to my home machine (use this link to sign up for Dropbox if you’re interested, and we’ll both get an extra 250MB storage).
  • Tweetdeck for Twittering.
  • Flickr Uploader for uploading photos.
  • iTunes, since it’s required in order to use my iPhone for USB cable-based internet tethering.

I’ve been using the netbook instead of my usual computer off and on for the past two weeks, and I’m quite convinced that I’ll be fine for days at a time with this on the road. I’m missing my financial software and a whole raft of utilities, but nothing that I can’t do without for a while.

I also finally broke down and bought an iPhone 3GS, so if you saw me earlier in the year with my iPod Touch and a Nokia flip phone, those two gadgets have now been replaced by one: more room in my purse. There will probably be some short trips where I can make do with just the iPhone, and leave the netbook at home, since it has everything on there, including Dropbox to access documents. It’s not a great blogging platform, however; as a former Blackberry addict, I can authoritatively state that the iPhone keyboard sucks for any large amount of typing.

With my new technology in tow, I leave on Friday for Germany to attend BPM2009 in Ulm next week – watch for the live blogging from there – then spend another week having a bit of a vacation in locations yet to be determined, but likely a couple of days in Zurich and a trip through western Germany back up to Dusseldorf for my flight home. [For those of you who think giving this sort of information provides an opportunity for someone to break into my home and steal all my worldly belongings, rest assured that I leave behind my black belt hubby – and I don’t mean a Six Sigma black belt – and a pretty mean cat.]

Gartner’s 2009 Hype Cycle

Gartner’s hype cycle for 2009 was released this week, and there was a webinar today with Jackie Fenn to walk through it. The actual diagrams are not working on their press release right now, but ReadWriteWeb is hosting their own copy of the emerging technologies hype cycle (which was in the press release originally) if you want to take a look.

Gartner has 79 different hype cycles focused on individual technologies, rolled up in this special report that is free but doesn’t contain the meat: for that, you need to click through to the hype cycle for the technology in which you’re interested and purchase that report.

Fenn explained the concept of the hype cycle: technologies move from an innovation trigger up a steep slope of positive hype to the peak of inflated expectations, then down an equally steep slope of negative hype to the trough of disillusionment before increasing gradually along the slope of enlightenment to the plateau of productivity. She explained some of the specific indicators for each part of the cycle – which is what Gartner is analyzing to tell where on the hype cycle that a particular technology lies, along with the analysts’ subjective opinions – such as when certain rounds of venture funding kick in, and when best practices emerge. Different types of companies adopt technologies at different points in the hype cycle, depending on how conservative that they are, and how critical the particular technology is to their competitive differentiation.

Gartner Hype Cycle Indicators

By bisecting the curve at the local minimum in the trough of disillusionment, companies can ask themselves “what’s here that we could be using” for technologies to the left (considered new/cutting edge), and “what’s here that we’re not using” for those to the right (considered mainstream). There are some anomalies, such as corporate blogging and wikis already climbing the slope of enlightenment, whereas social software suites – which would likely include both of those – are just past the peak of inflated expectations.

She did a quick poll to see what technologies (from a very select subset of emerging technologies) that the attendees think will generate the most value for their organizations during the next two years, then linked the responses to where those technologies lie on the curve: not surprisingly, cloud computing topped the poll at 42%, and it’s at the peak of inflated expectations right now, where there is a proliferation of suppliers and activity beyond early adopters. Social software suites, just past the peak with negative press beginning and supplier consolidation approaching, was second at 29%.

There are several new hype cycles this year, including cloud computing, data center power and cooling, and virtualization; there are also several new technologies listed in the emerging technologies hype cycle that Fenn focused on in the webinar, such as wireless power.

Every technology on the emerging technologies hype cycle is also on a priority matrix that serves as a rough risk-benefit measure, showing the expected years to mainstream adoption (based on Gartner’s analysis of how fast that each is moving through the hype cycle) mapped against the level of expected benefits (low-moderate-high-transformational).

Gartner produced their first hype cycle in 1995, and Fenn showed the original one from back then with a few of the technologies mapped on it; some of those are still poking along, such as speech recognition that hasn’t moved much in 10 years; others, such as Bluetooth, moved through the cycle at a brisk pace and reached mainstream adoption quickly.

Gartner has published a book on Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time (Gartner), which provides a framework for understanding the hype cycle and adoption patterns that new technologies will move through, and understanding the danger zones.