Osama Bin Laden's death is a clear victory in the war on terror for the U.S., but as someone who was working in New York City on September 11, 2001, this event also highlights just how much has changed in the world of technology, communication and news dissemination in the last 10 years.
Nearly a decade ago, I marveled at how technology allowed us to not only learn about the attack on the World Trade Center, but experience it as it unfolded. Back then, I relied heavily on AOL's Instant Messenger to communicate with my team in the office and those scattered around the country. As a result, AIM was a constant presence on my desktop and it's through that platform that I learned of the first jet hitting one of the towers. With that distressing information in hand, our staff gathered in a conference room to watch TV news on a larger projection TV. As a result, we all witnessed the second plane hit the other tower and knew we were under attack.
I used AIM throughout the day to stay in touch with family, friends, and co-workers. Most of my news updates, however, were delivered via TV and radio. There was no Google News, no Facebook, no Twitter, or YouTube for anyone to post eyewitness accounts.
Last night, much of the world learned of Osama bin Laden's death hours before President Barack Obama announced it in a televised news conference at roughly 11:35pm Eastern. Back in 2001, those sharing news about the airplane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers were simply repeating what they had seen on local television networks. Real news was rarely traded on the point-to-point instant messaging service. In fact, there was no concept of a viral network or participants simply sharing what they were experiencing to a wider group without thought of import or impact.
Sony's devastating security breach is not only a public relations nightmare and now, an identity-theft worry for its customers, but it's also a reminder (yet again) of the vulnerability of computer networks.
Sony's PlayStation Network is comprised of networked servers housing massive amounts of data including valued customer data. The parts making up Sony's network are not much different than the parts making up any other business' network, except most business networks are on a smaller scale.
While Sony is not releasing a lot of detail as to how the breach was carried out or what security mechanisms it had in place that failed, there are some good lessons learned for any business no matter what the size about protecting network infrastructure and the data residing on those networks.
One of the key ways any company owner can protect themselves is to forget the notion of, "Why would anyone want to hack into my network?" Why? Because they can. Whether you run a business making chocolate candies or handle financials for thousands of clients, taking an offensive approach against hackers, network intruders, or script kiddies looking to make a name for themselves, is fundamental to protecting your business network.
It's important to know that in the technology world, there is no such thing as 100 percent secure. You can lessen the chances of network or data compromise though, with a few tips:
Buried in Apple's statement on how the iPhone tracks a user's location data, the company admitted it was collecting anonymous location information to create a "crowd-sourced traffic database" that will be part of a future "improved traffic service."
The thing is, there's already a traffic service on the iPhone, provided by Google. If a user launches the Maps app and selects "Show Traffic," the map overlays colors on roads that show traffic congestion. Google gets the traffic data by—surprise!—crowd-sourcing it, aggregating information from Google Maps users who have approved the app for location services on their mobile devices.
Apple's statement reveals that the company is working on its own version of such a service. Whether that service will be something that Apple will use to improve traffic in Google Maps, or if Apple will launch a competing maps app, or something else entirely isn't known. Apple didn't respond to multiple requests for comment on the topic.
If you're just planning to turn on the telly and tune in the Royal Wedding, you'll be missing out. It's 2011, folks! There are a host of online destinations, social media tools and mobile apps that can truly help you experience the full scope of this 21st century event.
All of the major broadcasters will be airing the Royal Wedding on live TV Friday morning, but so will several online venues. YouTube will be streaming the entire event live at The Royal Channel, built specifically for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding. Livestream is also streaming the AP Live feed of the day's events, plus more coverage from CBS News, ET and the UK Press Association. And you can watch full streaming BBC coverage at BBC News' dedicated wedding site.
You can also watch the event live on a smartphone or other Internet device on the Sprint TV ABC News Channel, which is part of the carrier's basic Sprint TV channel package. T-Mobile TV will only carry pre- and post-wedding coverage but start-to-finish coverage is available through Xfinity.tv, which has apps available on the Android Market and on iTunes.
In most cases, live-anchored coverage begins at 5 a.m. Eastern Time(2 a.m. Pacific) and live coverage of the ceremony starts at around 6 a.m. ET (3 a.m. PT). That's pretty early for most people, so what to do if you don't want to wake up hours before dawn?
Is Amazon preparing to launch an Android tablet? Peter Rojas of gdgt thinks so, and the time does seem right for a refresh to the company's Kindle e-reader; the last time the product got a major upgrade was two years ago. And, as Rojas points out, there's a wealth of circumstantial evidence that points toward Amazon readying a tablet.
Apple has thoroughly dominated the tablet market since the iPad first went on sale about a year ago. The company sold more than 14 million iPads last year, and analysts project that Apple will move as many as 60 million iPad 2s in 2011 (though first-quarter sales were down). Although there was buzz that the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or the BlackBerry PlayBook might present some competition for Apple's wildly popular tablet, no company has yet been able to produce a tablet worthy of taking on the mighty iPad. Amazon might be the most likely candidate.
Coverage of the iPhone tracking "feature" has ranged from concern to outrage. "I don't know about you, but the fact that this feature exists on an iPhone is a deal-killer," wrote PCMag Columnist John Dvorak, shortly after news broke. Editor Dan Costa drew a softer line, writing, "Apple may not be actively tracking you, but it did turn your phone into a tracking device without telling you."
I'm not about to give Apple a pass on disclosure or execution. Who combs through an Apple privacy statement when the latest iOS software awaits? And, to "collect" and "share" user data is one thing; to retain it in an unprotected file is quite another.
However, I think it's important that, with a few days' hindsight, we move beyond the bombast, pin down the facts, and see what's actually there. To do this, I've taken a close look at what's at risk and, in empirical spirit, borrowed fellow PCMag software analyst Jeff Wilson's iPhone 3GS to see what I could learn of the man and the travels using Pete Warden's iPhoneTracker app.
When the iPhone was launched in 2007, I met with Phil Schiller, SVP of World Wide marketing for Apple, and Greg Joswiak, the Apple VP in charge of marketing the iPods and iPhones. During the meeting they showed me the iPhone's many features and shared their goals for the device, which has now become a major business for Apple.
During that meeting, they made a comment that I believe is really the heart of Apple's secret sauce and the cornerstone of how it continues to outsmart its competitors. They laid the iPhone on the table, with it turned off, and asked me what I saw. I told them I saw a 3.5 inch blank screen. They said that from Apples point of view, the "magic" of the iPhone is strictly in the software. And, they de-emphasized the hardware.
Yes, the iPhone was a slick smartphone with a great screen and, at the time, it broke new ground in smartphone design, and Apple was very proud of that. However, with the iPhone turned off, it had very little value. But once it was turned on, the iPhone's OS and apps turned it into a completely different device. While it was a phone, the software made it much more—it became a vehicle for applications. It also had another component that really made it sing and dance; it was also an iPod and was tied directly to iTunes. Now it morphed into a much broader multi-purpose device. It was a phone, a vehicle for apps, and an iPod, which made it a great personal mobile entertainment system.
The Flip was never my favorite pocket camcorder. That's partly because it was the darling of everyone else and also because I found more powerful options elsewhere, like the Kodak Zi6 (and then Zi8). Both offer HD video capture, a microphone-in jack and removable media. Flip didn't offer any of that; the Flip team always told me that those features would likely confuse consumers who just wanted to capture video.
Now I realize they were right. In fact more right than any of us had imagined.
A day after Cisco unceremoniously dumped its $590 million purchase in favor of a pure business strategy, Flip owners and even the Flip CEO are busy licking their wounds and wondering exactly what happened. I'll tell you what happened: A device came along that made video capture and sharing even easier than the Flip—end of story.
Flip's demise has to be one of the most spectacular flameouts in recent tech history. When I met with Flip last year (just prior to the launch of the ill-fated Flip SlideHD), Flip had marketshare numbers that looked not only unbeatable, but unstoppable. According to Cisco executives:
- Flip sales grew by 300 percent between 2008 and 2009.
- Flip led the category throughout the 2009 holiday buying season.
- Flip sold more units than Sony, Canon, Kodak, and JVC combined.
- Flip cameras were number nine out of Amazon's top 10 selling products.
- The "Shoot and Share market" grew over 35 percent in 2009 and and Flip's share of that? A whopping 93 percent.
- On CNN's popular iReport user-generated news section, 70 percent of the user-gen video was shot with a Flip.
This was the success story to beat all success stories. And while I complained even then that Cisco wasn't innovating enough with the Flip brand—I wanted a microphone jack and was begging for them to be the first to offer optical zoom—I could not argue with its success.
I have been watching Amazon's recent moves involving Android with great fascination. Two weeks ago, it launched the Amazon Appstore that focuses on Android apps, and last week it announced a cloud-based music service with a special version just for Android. Although Google has its own Android Marketplace, Amazon is bringing a more structured store to Android with room for users comments and reviews—a key step to vetting the apps it carries.
This is a very strategic move by Amazon, and it could actually bring some sanity and consistency to the Android development community and all Android users. At the moment, Google's approach to creating Android is scattered. There are so many versions of this OS floating around that the OEMs who license Android are increasingly frustrated with Google's lack of discipline in laying out a consistent roadmap for Android that they can follow.
At first, Google said it would have one version of Android for smartphones and another for tablets. Now it says that it will merge both versions into a product codenamed Ice Cream and that it most likely will be the same OS used on Google TVs in the future as well. Initially, vendors could only use one version for devices with up to 7 inch screens and another one for screens larger then 7 inches but less then 11 inches.
Two and a half years ago, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and T-Mobile introduced the world to the very first phone, the G1. It was a good phone with a workmanlike design, decent keyboard, an average screen and lots of Google goodness built right into it. No one, least of all me, thought it stood much of a chance against the surging Apple iPhone.
For a solid year, the platform looked like a dud. But a funny thing happened on the way to the morgue.
Seven months later, T-Mobile unveiled the keyboard-less MyTouch 3G. As before, it was a nice looking, though slightly curvier, Android phone. It wasn't until the fall of 2009, more than a year after the G1 and Android's launch, that the platform got interesting. That was when Motorola started talking openly about the Droid. By casting aside just two letters and joining with the leading mobile carrier that didn't get the iPhone, Motorola and Google signaled their intention to make Android bolder, sexier and far more desirable.
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