Cisco Bets Big On Mobile Data Networks With $2.9 Billion Purchase Of Starent Networks

Cisco is on a buying spree this month. This morning it announced a $2.9 billion acquisition of mobile networking infrastructure provider Starent Networks, which follows on the heels of another $3 billion acquisition announcement two weeks go for Two weeks ago it announced the $3 billion acquisition of video video-conferencing company Tandberg.

You add $3 billion here and $3 billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.

Cisco has always been a large acquirer, and the fact that it is opening its purse strings again is a good sign for tech M&A overall. But these are relatively large bets for Cisco, which needs to keep at the forefront of networking technologies. The Starent acquisition gives it a strong play in mobile data networks as carriers migrate to 3G and 4G platforms. Broadband is moving to mobile, and Cisco needs to be there.

Jitterbit Releases Version 3.0 Of Its Open Source Data Integration Platform

Jitterbit, a open source data and application integration company, has launched the 3.0 release of its product. The new release includes the debut of the ‘MX’ Enterprise version of Jitterbit, which the company says is designed for especially large enterprise customers. MX joins the normal Enterprise version (which should be suitable for most businesses), as well as the Jitterbit Community product, which is available for free but doesn’t come with support.

In layman’s terms, Jitterbit helps applications and systems that wouldn’t normally be able to ‘talk’ to each other do just that, and it also helps automate some of the more tedious processes involved in data management, like transferring data between applications. Users map out which fields in various applications are linked, and then Jitterbit automatically handles the synchronization regardless of which protocol is being used.

The new version adds support for use by multiple users and across multiple servers simultaneously. It also includes a plug-in manager, which allows users to leverage the library of plugins that have been built by the community (examples include plugins that add encryption schemes or can scrape data from webpages). Finally, the company says that the application has significant performance boosts, as well as added support for JDBC-based systems and HTTP Endpoints.

Jitterbit launched its 2.0 release back in August 2008, introducing a drag-and-drop interface and a new business model that charges customers for a “rock-solid” version of the product that includes support (anyone is free to try out the ‘bleeding edge’ version on their own for free, but Jitterbit won’t provide support for it). Since then things have been going quite well for the company: Director of Online Marketing Daniel Oxenburgh says Jitterbit is currently on track to double the new customers it will acquire this year versus last year. Notable clients include NASA and Continental Airlines.

Competitors to Jitterbit include SnapLogic and Talend, which raised $12 million earlier this year.

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Dell and Team Up to Offer a Cloud Solution For SMB’s

dell logoIf you disagreed with the views Larry Ellison expressed a few weeks ago regarding cloud computing and its future, you weren’t alone. Today, banking on the future success of cloud computing, Dell and announced a new line of cloud based solutions for small and medium sized businesses to enhance the effectiveness of customer relationship management applications.

This new solution will integrate’s CRM applications with Dell’s Integration Services in order to help solve critical integration issues between applications; thus reducing IT costs for small and medium sized businesses. These new solutions were built and tested in house by the IBM small and medium sized business unit and will include a cloud-based contact management application to store and manage contacts, track customers, and run activity reports, among other processes.

Furthermore, these new solutions offer data cleansing and migration tools, and a “Virtual Integration Appliance,” which is used “to deploy integration appliance functionality on any hardware in their virtualized environment.”

The move to the cloud is done through their Cloud Integration Service, which helps to integrate tools with other cloud applications.

More information regarding these solutions can be found here.

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Threadsy Now Talks Back To Facebook

TechCrunch50 startup Threadsy debuted its all-in-one, web-based communications client a few weeks ago and received positive reviews from the judges and audience, making it as a finalist at the conference. Three weeks later, the startup is already innovating and improving upon its product by launching additional support for Facebook.

Threadsy takes all of your online communication and aggregates it into a single service. All of the messages directed at you (email and Twitter @replies) are put into a single stream of messages, called the “inbound” column. And all of the activity streams that you follow (Twitter, Facebook, etc), is put into a single activity stream, the “unbound” stream. The result is a universal communications platform. Threadsy, which is backed by August Capital, is still in private beta and we have 100 invites for TechCrunch readers here.

Wufoo Launches Integrated Payments Feature For Online Form Builder

Wufoo, an online HTML form builder that helps anyone create contact forms, online surveys and event registrations without writing a single line of code, has launched a new feature that now lets users collect money. When you design a form with Wufoo, it basically does all the heavy-lifting for you and builds the database, backend and all of the scripts needed to collect and understand data, which is hosted by Wufoo. One you build a form, you can either embed the code on your website or blog or provider access to the form via a Wufoo link. We previously wrote about Wufoo, which was funded by startup incubator Y Combinator, here.

Now, Wufoo is integrating payments into its forms, letting users create forms with payment collection options, including PayPal Payments Pro and USA ePay. After a Wufoo form is submitted, the user will not be taken to another page on the merchant or gateway’s web site. Instead, there is a seamless transition from data submission to payment collection.

15 Common Mistakes in E-Commerce Design


15 Common Mistakes in E-Commerce Design and How to Avoid Them (via @smashingmag) –

Selling online can open up huge new markets for many businesses. When your store can be open 24/7 and you can reach a global market without the costs of mailings and call centers, it can be a huge boon to your business. But there are plenty of things to consider when designing an ecommerce site. It’s not as simple as throwing up some shopping cart software and plopping products into a database.

There are tons of mistakes that online retailers make every day, all of them avoidable with a little careful planning. And even if you’re already committing some of these mistakes, most of them are easy enough to fix. Avoiding them will greatly improve the experience of your customers.

Below are 15 of the most common mistakes that e-commerce sites make, as well as advice on how to avoid or fix them. Take the advice under consideration before embarking on a new e-commerce project or when thinking over your current ecommerce site, and make efforts to follow the recommendations outlined here.

1. A lack of detailed product information

When you’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, you have the advantage of being able to pick up an item, feel it, look at it from every angle, and read any information on the packaging or labels. Shopping online removes that interaction. Ecommerce sites need to do the best they can to improve upon the in-store shopping experience.

How often have we gone to an online store and found their descriptions to be completely lacking? And if a customer is left wondering about the specifics of a product, they’re more likely to go look for the information elsewhere. And unless your site’s price is significantly lower than your competitors’, they’ll likely just buy from the other site.

What To Do About It

Provide as much product information as you can. Sizes, materials, weight, dimensions, and any other pertinent information depending on what the product is. For example, in an online clothing store, you might include the fabric type, sizes and colors available, a size chart (usually linked from multiple products), the weight or thickness of the item, the cut and fit of the item, care instructions, and comments about the brand or designer. Using descriptive words rather than simply technical terms can have a greater impact on the consumer.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

2. Hiding Contact Information

Consumers want to know that they’re dealing with a real company when they hand over their credit card information. They want to know that if they have a problem they’ll be able to talk to a real person and get the help they need. If your site doesn’t provide any contact information, or hides it so the consumer can’t find it easily, they’re less likely to trust your site, and therefore less likely to do business with you.

What To Do About It

Put your contact information in an easy-to-find place on every page of your website. The most obvious places to put your contact information are either in your header, the top of your sidebar, or in your footer. Provide multiple means of contact if possible. A contact form, email address, phone number, and mailing address all add to the level of customer trust. Remember, too, that the more expensive or technical the product you’re selling, the more likely a consumer is going to want more contact information.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

3. A Long or Confusing Checkout Process

This is one of the most damaging mistakes an ecommerce site can make. You have to make it as easy as possible for your customers to hand over their credit card information and complete their order. The more steps you put between them placing an item in their cart and actually paying for it, the more opportunities you give them to leave your site without completing their purchase.

The ideal checkout process includes a single page for consumers to check their order and enter their billing and shipping information, and a confirmation page before they submit their order. Anything more than that is only an obstacle to completing the checkout process.

What To Do About It

Follow the ideal model as closely as you can. If you have to include other pages, try to make them as quick and easy to fill out as possible. Combine pages if you can, and use two-column layouts for certain sections (like putting billing and shipping information next to each other) to make pages appear shorter.


ecommerce screenshot

4. Requiring an Account to Order

This ties in directly to the previous item. If you require a customer to sign up for an account before they can place an order, it’s another obstacle you’ve placed in their path. Which is more important to you: getting the order or capturing customer information? Remember that the second option may mean losing some customers.

What To Do About It

There’s an easy fix for this. Instead of requiring a customer to sign up for an account before they order, offer them the option at the end of their ordering process. Give them the option to save their account information to make placing future orders easier or to track the status of their current order. Many customers will opt to save their information, and you won’t be driving away customers before they’ve completed their order.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

5. An Inadequate Site Search Engine

If a customer knows exactly what they’re looking for, many will opt to use a search engine instead of sifting through categories and filters. You need to make sure that the search feature on your site works well, and preferably has filters for letting customers refine their results.

How often have you searched for a product on a large ecommerce site and been returned with hundreds of applicable results? While the variety of options can be nice, if half of those results are nothing like what you’re looking for, it’s more an inconvenience than anything else. Including a way for customers to filter their search results by category or feature eliminates this problem.

What To Do About It

Make sure the ecommerce software you’re using has a good built-in search engine, or look for plugins to extend its functionality. Ideally, an ecommerce search engine should let users search by keyword and then refine results based on the categories your site includes. Let users sort their search results based on standard criteria (most popular, highest or lowest price, newest item, etc.) as well as eliminating items that don’t fit within a certain category.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

6. Poor Customer Service Options

This is similar to the hiding contact information bit above. You need to make it easy for customers to get in touch with you if they have a problem or question. Make it clear what the best way to contact you is if they have a technical question, a sales question, or they want to return an item. Offering a help request form for customers to fill out can instill more confidence than just an email address.

What To Do About It

Use a ticketing system for customer service inquiries, especially if you don’t have a phone number available. Make sure that you post a FAQ that covers common questions customers might have, like what your return policy is or what to do if they need to order parts or replacement items.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

7. Tiny Product Images

Since consumers can’t physically handle the products you’re selling before placing an order on your website, you need to do as much as you can to recreate and improve upon that experience. Tiny product images don’t effectively do this.

What To Do About It

Either provide large images right on the product page or allow users to click on an image to zoom in. You want users to be able to view the image as large as is practical on an average monitor. This means an image that enlarges to 1024×768 pixels is a good size to aim for.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

8. Only One Product Image

Unless your product is delivered digitally (and even sometimes if it is), you’ll want to provide multiple images from different angles. An image in each color, of the front, back, and sides, and even detailed shots of specific features can all go a long way toward making a consumer more likely to buy from you.

What To Do About It

This one’s simple: include more images. Four or five images of each product are ideal, offering enough views to allow a consumer to feel comfortable that they know exactly what they’re getting.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

9. A Poor Shopping Cart Design

Your shopping cart is an incredibly important part of your ecommerce website. It needs to allow users to add multiple products, to revise the quantities or other options about those products, and it needs to remain transparent at the same time. Not exactly the easiest thing to do, right?

What To Do About It

Make sure your cart lets a user add an item and then return to the last page they were on. Even better: allow them to add an item to their cart without ever leaving the page they’re on (by using a mini cart). Let your customers edit the quantities of items in their cart or remove an item from their cart. And let them preview what shipping charges will be before they start the checkout process.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

10. Lack of Payment Options

There are plenty of sites out there that only allow users to pay with Visa or MasterCard, or to only pay with a PayPal account. There’s no reason for this anymore. What about the person who has an AmEx and doesn’t have or want a PayPal account? What about the person who doesn’t have a credit card and wants to pay straight from their bank account? You need to provide as many payment solutions as is practical to optimize the number of orders you get.

What To Do About It

Use a payment service that lets customers pay with each major credit card, and preferably also with an electronic check. Adding a PayPal checkout option increases the choices your customers have, making them more likely to purchase from you. Considering different consumers have different preferences when it comes to making online payments, catering to as many as you can means you’ve expanded your customer base.


ecommerce screenshot

11. Not Including Related Products

You’ve probably noticed when you go to a brick and mortar store that they group similar products together, or otherwise make it easy for you to find products that are related to you. They’ll put a battery display in the electronics section, or include cell phone cases near the cell phones. The same can be done on your website, and can increase add-on sales for you business.

What To Do About It

Use an ecommerce platform that lets you include related products on product description pages. A platform that will let you manually choose related products can also give you a big advantage, since you may see relations that a software program doesn’t (such as coordinating clothing pieces to create an outfit).


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

12. Confusing Navigation

There’s nothing worse than trying to find a product on a site with confusing navigation. Or even worse, an online store that doesn’t use categories or otherwise separate their merchandise to make it easier to find a specific type of product. The same goes for sites that have categories with no products in them or with only one or two items. Why even bother with a category?

What To Do About It

Think through your categories and navigation elements carefully before you start putting products in your catalog. Make sure that every category has at least a few products in it, or else group smaller categories together (or include them in larger, similar categories). Make it easy for customers to look through different categories, get to their shopping cart, and otherwise move around your site.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

13. Not Including Shipping Rates

There’s no good reason not to include accurate shipping rates on your site. I’ve abandoned purchases on numerous occasions because it said something like “We’ll email you with an accurate shipping quote for approval before processing your order.” When shopping online, I want to be able to complete my order all at one time, without having to wait around for an email to decide whether the shipping charges are too high. Include your rates on your site, no matter what.

What To Do About It

Most major shipping companies and the USPS offer shipping calculators on their website, and there are plugins or widgets available for most major shopping cart systems to figure shipping charges on your site. Use one. If you can’t use one for some reason, then use a flat shipping rate that’s high enough to cover whatever it is you need to ship. For particularly heavy or large items, you can always include a freight surcharge in the price (just be sure to indicate that’s where the additional cost is going).


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

14. Not Including Store Policies

Before a customer buys from you, they’ll likely want to know what your shipping policies, return policies, and other store rules are. And there’s no reason not to post this information in a FAQ or somewhere else on your site. Making your store policies clear upfront can save a lot of headaches later on from customers who are unhappy with an order they’ve placed.

What To Do About It

Use an FAQ or store policies section on your site to spell out exactly what your rules are for different kinds of customer interaction. It’s something that can save you tons of problems down the road.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

15. Not Putting Focus on the Products

The goal of an ecommerce site is to sell products (or, at least, that’s what the goal should be). If your site puts more focus on bells and whistles or the design itself, it’s not achieving that primary goal. Make sure your site displays your products first, and everything else second.

What To Do About It

Think about how products are displayed in brick and mortar stores. While an in-store or window display may show a lot more than just the products for sale, they all contribute to showcasing the products in their most flattering light. Do the same with your website. Make sure that every design element present is doing something to showcase your products in their best possible light.


ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

ecommerce screenshot

Further Resources

About the author

Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience. She also writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing . She’s also the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

© Cameron Chapman for Smashing Magazine, 2009. |
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Ozzie FUSEs social media teams in Microsoft reorg

Lili cheng

For months now we’ve been wondering when Microsoft was going to start making moves in the social media space. Rumors of talks with Twitter have been swirling at all levels of the company, but now a subtle re-org may shed light on what Microsoft might do internally to shore up its presence in the RealTime Wave. Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie has announced the formation of Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, a new group led by general manager Lili Cheng. FUSE Labs is being seeded with a range of related talent and software by combining much of Lili’s Creative Systems Group with Rich Media Labs and Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA. In the past, she’s been able to move social technologies from the labs into product.

In an internal memo, Ozzie talks about the growing vortex of social media and realtime:

For many years, technology-based ‘social’ innovations have been most commonly viewed through the lenses of communications and collaboration: messaging, chat, calls, meetings, conferences, co-editing, document sharing, collaboration, multiplayer gaming and the like.

More recently, many factors have begun to transform all that which is ‘social’: the ever-present, high-bandwidth internet both wired and wireless; the ease of connecting people; the dramatic rise in digital cameras, camera phones and ‘app-capable’ phones; net-connected game consoles & TVs; and so on.

Myriad scenarios involving the notion of ‘social’ have now gone far beyond communications and collaboration and are transforming experiences that are key to our customers and key to our business, in leisure & entertainment; productivity & teamwork; experiences extending how we use the OS itself.

The three groups being combined have concrete skills and code in areas where ‘social’ meets sharing; where ‘social’ meets real-time; where ‘social’ meets media; where ‘social’ meets search; where ‘social’ meets the cloud plus three screens and a world of devices.

FUSE Labs will bring more coherence and capability to those advanced development projects where they’re already actively collaborating with product groups to help them succeed with ‘leapfrog’ efforts. Working closely with MSR and across our divisions, the lab will prioritize efforts where its capabilities can be applied to areas where the company’s extant missions, structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or opportunity.

Cheng, who will report directly to Ozzie, moves from Microsoft Research (MSR) and her Creative Systems team, which most recently produced Kodu, which teaches kids how to create games and stories on the Xbox. Previously, Cheng was in the Windows division where she managed the User Experience teams for Windows Vista. Before that, she ran the Social Computing Group within MSR, which developed projects such as Wallop and VChat. Cheng first joined Microsoft in 1995 as part of the Virtual Worlds Group within MSR.

Reading between the lines, Cheng’s ability to surface technology from the labs has now been focused on more immediate concerns. This mirrors Microsoft’s success with Bing, which has emerged with many MSR features as part of its well-received search engine. Most recently, some of the Visual Search features debuted at TechCrunch 50 take advantage of Silverlight deep zoom technologies. It’s not a stretch to assume that these features will be laced throughout whatever social media constructs might as Office Web Apps hit the beta streets later this year.
Cheng will retain most of her original team from Redmond while traveling to Cambridge to consolidate the other teams. Kostas Mallios, general manager of the Rich Media Lab, will continue to report to Ozzie and take on business development responsibilities assisting the incubations within Ozzie’s org. Reed Sturtevant, managing director of the Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA, has decided to pursue interests outside Microsoft.

Photo credit: Flickr/Joi Ito

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Ozzie on the realtime wave

rayozzieIn June, I spent several days on the Microsoft campus talking with Microsoft executives about the impact of realtime and the emerging era of cloud computing. My conversation with Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie began with a discussion of the recently unveiled Google Wave, now being rolled out for testing by some 100,000 users. Ozzie followed up on his Churchill Club chat, where he described Google as taking on such a hard problem that it might limit adoption:

RAY OZZIE: But what I really meant was that, if they haven’t said that they’re taking on the goal to replace e-mail and IM, then what I said was irrelevant. Like the notion of taking on e-mail and IM means that you have to have a simple protocol, because there’s going to be lots of implementations of them. If that’s not your goal, you can build as complicated system as you want. But if you’re going to do something that is going to be that ubiquitous and that timeless, it’s just got to be a lot more nuggets (of that size ?) —

STEVE GILLMOR: There’s a conflict between them opening it at some point and their stated use case from the beginning.

RAY OZZIE: I mean, when you work through all where they’ve got Google IDs federated, when you look at the UI and how the actual scenarios would actually pan out, the level of complexity on the back-end to get all of that to actually work so it’s easy of the UI, it’s just hard. We barely can get people to use sender ID on e-mail to validate things.

STEVE GILLMOR: Trying to figure out how to be able to go up higher in a conversation and inject yourself, and then see what swarms around that is interesting, but it sort of devalues everything that’s below it. So, there are social cues that you’re sending by doing that kind of thing. I don’t think they have any idea where that’s going to go, and that’s going to take a lot.

RAY OZZIE: Whenever you innovate like that, you don’t know what you don’t know in a lot of dimensions. And like I said, I applaud innovation. I really like that in terms of experimentation. But when you do that, I just know from the Groove experience most recently, from the Notes experience before that, when you create something that people don’t know what it is, when they can’t describe it exactly, and you have to teach them, it’s hard.

STEVE GILLMOR: Collaboration isn’t really an intuitive act for people, is it?

RAY OZZIE: Not really. They teach us — or we teach our kids very, very young to share and to play nice, but the reality is the most effective collaboration systems let people facilitate collaboration even though it’s a human characteristic to want to communicate with people, as long as it’s serving your own purpose.

We did this at Groove We would poll people asking, “what’s the most effective collaboration tool that you actually use?” We expected to get the answer e-mail, because e-mail is the 99th percentile tool that we use for collaboration, but people don’t view it that way. They view e-mail as personal: I’m sending stuff that I want to be sent, I receive stuff that I should see or that people —

STEVE GILLMOR: Right. It’s a pathetic attempt at controlling the universe.

RAY OZZIE: But basically as long as you can couch something — people don’t like to work on things that are joint objectives; they like to work on things that are their key — that satisfy their KPIs, their objectives, not necessarily the joint ones. So, it’s playing into that dynamic.

And all of the systems, as long as I’ve been working in this area, the picture that I’ve always had in my mind is kind of three overlapping circles of technology, social dynamics, and organizational dynamics, or people, organizations and technology. And any two of those is relatively straightforward and understandable. When you mix technology and people, you have something like Facebook or IM. You’re dealing with the dynamics around what is it like to build a tool for people to talk to people. Then you mix in organizational dynamics, and people communicate way differently. Like they don’t post things like they would online because they might get fired. There are dynamics in an org where you say something and somebody will use it politically against you. You might disclose some confidential information. There are different dynamics when you mix in that organization components.

So, even if you build a great tool and it works on the outside, it doesn’t mean that it’s even going to work on the inside of an org.

STEVE GILLMOR: So, what do you think about this real time thing? Do you see it as a thing, as something that has its own –

RAY OZZIE: Is it important, is that what you’re asking, or is there something different —

STEVE GILLMOR: Is it a fundamental thing that’s different, that’s been instantiated by the ubiquity of broadband coupled with the ability of XML based technologies to orchestrate processes that look a lot like social interaction?

RAY OZZIE: I think the answer is yes, it’s important and there are a lot of very interesting things. I think we don’t really know yet which ones are going to be sustainable killer app type usages versus not. It’s really hard to scale things that are at that real time level, and I frankly don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what real time means.

When you’re Tweeting only once every, I don’t know, how often do you think the speediest people who Twitter are doing it over the course of their waking hours, if you averaged it out, once every —

STEVE GILLMOR: Well, noisy — Scoble is 100 a day.

RAY OZZIE: Is it 100? Okay. But that’s still not much in the grand scheme of things if you think of how many seconds he’s awake per day. It’s still only once every N seconds.

What if your devices were Tweeting on your behalf to serve you? What if your phone, your car, your — I don’t know your glasses, but different things in your life were posting informational updates that went to services that were acting on your behalf? It’s a perfectly reasonable, realistic thing that could happen if you had an infrastructure that was a message switching infrastructure in real time. It’s a logical direction that things would go.

But my gosh, the infrastructure implications of switching that many input messages through a fabric with arbitrary subscribers, programmatic subscribers and human subscribers to all of those messages, it’s a big computer science problem, really big. And the people who know the most about that right now are the people who write systems for complex event processing for NASDAQ, and people like that. It’s also got similarities to Twitter in that they have to not only have standing queries on streams but they also have to do persistent stored queries to see what’s happened in the past to match that same query. So, they’re just hard systems.

And I’m very optimistic, I think it’s great, I think there are going to be lots of different applications, some in the social realm and other things.

But that’s why I said you have to look at the specific application and what impact it’s going to have. It’s going to impact search, because the nature of search ranking at least classically is based on looking at what’s relevant by what it’s linked to, and if a lot of the links are moving from more static media into more dynamic media —

STEVE GILLMOR: Oh, so you agree with my thesis.



RAY OZZIE: I don’t know to what degree the ranking will be impacted in that realm, but I think that’s a fairly important thing. And the Tweet itself is more or less the anchor text of the link and so on.

You know, will it subsume IM? Maybe, because IM is a pattern of communications, a small subset of a pattern of communications that’s kind of like an application of such messaging infrastructure. One person talking to one person could live in that same kind of infrastructure. It’s a subset of many to many or one to many and so on.

I think we’ll ultimately use it, as I said, in the device realm. I think we’ll use it as a notification channel where something happens and we just need to get something out to a subscriber. So, I think decomposing some of the things that we do in our clients where Outlook might pop up a little alert, but it’s also an app, instant messaging might pop up a little alert and it’s also an app, maybe we’ll have alert apps or the OS itself will alert or maybe your devices will have something like that.

STEVE GILLMOR: That sounds a little bit like a widget framework, [where] the apps don’t retain control over these features.

RAY OZZIE: On our current path the apps do retain control, but the real question is, if you have lots of apps that each has some kind of notification, what I learned in the Groove experience is that if you have lots of things that notify things, the user wants to suddenly aggregate them and tune which ones they want high bandwidth instant notification and which ones they only want to occur every once in a while. So, having messages go through something where they can say, okay, I’m going to have all of these different classes of messages, move these classes into this bucket, these into this bucket, notify these on my phone, these somewhere else, it’s useful for the user. So, I think we’ll ultimately go in that direction. We’re not on that path right now.

STEVE GILLMOR: So, your concern about the overwhelming fire hose aspect of this that is just difficult to scale up to that kind of —

RAY OZZIE: Well, there’s a technological aspect and a human aspect. From a technological aspect it’s just a hard computer science problem like some of the Azure things that we’re doing or some of the things that Google has had to cope with in high scale systems. Anybody who has built a really high scale system — Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger — whenever you’re dealing with half a billion users, there are some interesting scale issues. And that’s simple point to point. If you take it end to end, it’s just even more.

But beyond the technological scale issues, the reason I was getting at the unified notifier concept is because I think as humans we have these issues. And certain of the events, certain classes of the events we want to treat, as Dave says, like a river where you don’t really care if you miss something, you know. It’s where you’re not trying to keep up every little thing. It’s maybe it’s an amusement, maybe it’s just a background activity.

Some types of events you just want to see them. You just don’t want to miss even a single one in this big flood of notifications. And so we just need better tools.

STEVE GILLMOR: I always thought it was interesting, at least in the initial design, that Mesh had the contacts feed. The implication of that was that you would be able to apply social ranking to messages or to the messages that those people are interested in, and develop a way of being more efficient about finding stuff that you particular in your affinity group are interested in rather than this sort of broad Digg-like stream of incomprehensible.

RAY OZZIE: Well, in the Mesh case, in the Groove case they’re both tuned for smaller group interactions, and those tend to be ones where you are interested in the types of alerts, the types of things that people do.

STEVE GILLMOR: But isn’t the use case for each individual person more around figuring out what the people that you communicate with and are interested in, what they think is important rather than trying to analyze a volume of information which guaranteed is going to be irrelevant?

RAY OZZIE: I think they’re both important to different people in different mixes. How I’m interested in things that happen in my family or my close knit family is going to be a certain priority. My colleagues will be a certain priority. The larger Microsoft will still be a higher priority than what’s going on in some of the feeds that I might subscribe to or individuals that I might follow in Twitter, and it’s not an absolute of one being more important than the others for every individual.

J Allard describes it as mosaic identity; we each have different facets, and it’s hard to make generalizations about what’s important to one person or another. My son is really into gaming, and so he follows a certain community very, very well. Even though it’s a public thing, he doesn’t want to miss anything. Whereas my public stuff, I’ve just got such overload, I can’t pay attention to what’s going on out there as much as in the circles that I just have to do.

STEVE GILLMOR: What Microsoft is doing and this real time moment that’s occurring with Twitter and Facebook — Do they intersect, and if so, how? This private/public hybrid stream of messages, a mashup of email blogging.

RAY OZZIE: There are certain aspects where I think it’s really adding to the palette of technologies upon which we build things, but that’s kind of orthogonal to the public versus private stuff, that the nature of the tools you build where something is default public or default private. Blogging was at its birth default public, and so that had a certain impact on the vast majority of how people used it. E-mail was born as a default private mechanism. We don’t have many mailboxes inside of Microsoft at least where you can go to somebody’s mailbox and look at everything that people are sending to them, and getting from them, seeing who their followers are and who their friends are. It’s not necessarily directly related to real time; it’s that they built an interesting tool and happened to make those default choices. And it’s really interesting what has happened.

STEVE GILLMOR: FriendFeed, have you looked at that at all?

RAY OZZIE: I’ve only played with it a little bit.

STEVE GILLMOR: It’s kind of like swarming in Groove basically. You see people and instead of there being a little green light, they say something and somebody else responds and you see it, it comes in, into the conversation, and things sort of expand.

RAY OZZIE: Watch it expand, yeah.

STEVE GILLMOR: It’s of a quality that is different than IRC or e-mail or IM.

RAY OZZIE: The swarming characteristic absolutely, you’re right on in the notion that real time does permit a level — peripheral awareness and real time bring swarming, are enablers of swarming. You can’t have swarming without peripheral awareness. But once you’ve got that, then it does —

STEVE GILLMOR: And the implications of that for business and entertainment and a number of different areas seem to intersect with what Microsoft has as resources. And doesn’t there need to be some sort of attention paid to how that can be integrated and not subsumed but rather expressed in what Microsoft is doing?

RAY OZZIE: Yeah, real time infrastructure is an important component of the systems that we build or will build in the realm of communications, collaboration, information, discovery, trend discovery and so on. The work that’s going on in Bing is informing the work that goes on in SharePoint. The work that has happened in one instant messaging system related to awareness informs some of the things that go on elsewhere in the enterprise.

STEVE GILLMOR: Where are we going to see it first?

RAY OZZIE: Within Microsoft? You’ll probably see it in the consumer properties first.

STEVE GILLMOR: You mean in gaming?

RAY OZZIE: It will start in the realm of gaming because gaming tends to be very twitch-level interactive. But consumer communication properties — I mean, the nature of communications nowadays — I’ll give Facebook probably the most credit here. We used to think of communications as relatively partitioned from other modes of things that we do, meaning it’s a message and it’s addressed and a message that you would send to someone. But Facebook, because of their investment in photos, because of the nature of how they implemented the Wall and the little previews of things, and then ultimately apps, they’ve blended social media and communications in a way that kind of informed everyone that communications are richer when you bring other media into it, and I think that’s tremendous.

As an industry all of our communication tools are now getting much more blended in terms of what is media sharing versus what is pure communications. You’re just giving more context to people as you’re communicating with them.

So, you’re going to see more and more innovation probably first in our consumer properties, and then that always bleeds over into our enterprise properties.

How will video and use of video impact how people do things within an enterprise? Yes, from a training perspective, but I’ve, for example, seen lots of use of screencasts as an internal tool. Instead of having a meeting with someone, you just do a quick screencast of some things that are points that are important to you on your screen, narrate it a little, send it over, it’s only three minutes, and you can save a lot of time and get a lot of information communicated to someone. Embedding that in an internal blog, you can communicate lots of things in a very short period of time to many people.

I think one of the fascinating things that’s happened over the last few years is that the tendency toward short messages, not long blog posts or long documents, the snacking on little bits of information is really helping people in the enterprise. Once we’ve cognitively gotten over it, it’s just letting us be aware of more things that are going on in fairly complex situations.

I’m going to really bore you here, but there’s a theory — you know, there are theories that go back to the ’30s with Ron Coase about transaction cost economics, and how the nature of an organization or any organization of companies, whatever, to do a common work product is simply based on you can distill it down to the number of interactions to get a piece of work done, the complexity of the number of communications, interactions that because each one — each delay and each hop represents an opportunity for distortion, like playing telephone —

STEVE GILLMOR: Yeah, it’s the old sermon on the mount joke.

RAY OZZIE: Exactly. So, if you have a communication mechanism or an interaction mechanism, a collaboration mechanism that reduces the distortion or delay in getting common context between the people who have a common work product, it’s of value to the whole group, the whole set of people who want to do that.

Every few years there are certain trends, certain things that get buzz at any given moment in time. I think there is a tendency to look at what’s going on with real time technologies, real time streams of events, and say, is this a flash in the pan, is this a technology that will come and go?

By way of analogy, the excitement around peer-to-peer, people would say, was that going to transform the industry, how is this going to impact consumers, how is this going to impact —

STEVE GILLMOR: Well, you kind of launched Groove on that, on the back of that, even though that wasn’t the point.

RAY OZZIE: We did. We started it several years earlier, but certainly we took advantage of that when that was a spiking trend.

I would say that I have a higher degree of confidence that real time technologies are going to broadly impact systems. It may not be in the form of a Twitter or something like that, because that blends real time and a communication tool, and it is the pioneer and we’re all kind of looking at it trying to understand what’s going to be sustainable and what’s not. But I do believe real time notifications, real time infrastructure for delivering events as an adjunct mechanism to help improve the experiences within our communication tools, it’s going to be very important. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to pan out within the context of each of these tools, but I think in the enterprise and for consumers it’s going to be pretty important.

STEVE GILLMOR: Do you think it intersects with Azure in any interesting way?

RAY OZZIE: I think Azure provides a great technology, a great computing and communications fabric upon which those kinds of system can be built, because what you want for scale are systems, back-end systems that can start out relatively small but as traffic gets higher and higher can dynamically expand to serve that kind of traffic, and I think the elasticity of that infrastructure is pretty handy.

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Zyrion’s Traverse 5.0 Available Today With Network Flow Analysis Capabilities

zyrion_logoZyrion, a Sunnyvale based provider of Business Service Management (BSM) products, announced today the integration of Network Flow Analysis capabilities into their latest product, Traverse 5.0. Traverse allows its users to drill down into the performance of their IT services in real-time; thus enabling IT and business personnel to not only identify which devices are down or impacted, but also see which business services are compromised.

This new iteration of Traverse includes what Zyrion calls a RealView Dashboard. This feature allows users to see any IT metric in real-time through the use of graphs, tables and charts. These IT metrics can then be compared, using a customized dashboard, to a slew of business services metrics. This feature makes Traverse useful to IT admins and managers alike. For instance, while an IT admin may only be interested in the performance of services on the infrastructure like the up-time of a specific server, a manager can use this information in conjunction with the features in the RealView Dashboard, and look at the dollar impact of the server’s downtime.

Zyrion _Dashboard

When speaking with current customers, Vikas Aggarwal, CEO of Zyrion, learned that clients wanted a BSM service which integrated network flow and packet level data collection products in order to troubleshoot and analyze flow and packet data. Traverse 5.0 intends to do just this. Their integration of Network Flow Analysis allows users to expand upon their flow and data analysis products while providing instant drill-down capabilities from a container or packet analysis view via their dashboard. This provides IT admins with information regarding IT services which are impacted as well as specific problem sources.

Traverse sees itself as a middle ground product between offerings of the Big 4: HP, CA, IBM, and BMC and smaller tools such as those offered by SolarWinds and WhatsUp. Their pricing and BSM tools fall in between these groups and thus offer a competitive alternative to these solutions.

Previously available to only four beta testers, Traverse 5.0 is now available to the entire public beginning today.

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