Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Thursday, July 01, 2004

Brad Feld: why I invested in NewsGator.

This is an amazing look into a venture capitalist's thought process.

I can't wait to see what else Greg has up his sleeve. NewsGator remains my favorite RSS tool.

10:27:02 PM    comment 

Just got into Silicon Valley. One thing that I notice everytime I come down here: the traffic goes faster. In Seattle it's not rare to see all three lanes traveling at the speed limit or below (60 mph).

Here on the 101 coming from SFO to Silicon Valley the entire freeway was doing more than 70, including a Highway Patrol officer.

10:02:27 PM    comment 

Awesome pictures of Space Ship One.

2:32:23 AM    comment 

ComputerWorld reports: "When it comes to treating online customers with respect, Microsoft Corp. tops the list of the country's top 100 companies, according to The Customer Respect Group Inc. in Bellevue, Wash."

2:30:48 AM    comment 

Oh, Netflix paid some attention to the Hacking Netflix weblog. Nice to hear!

2:20:09 AM    comment 

MSN Search just got a lot better. Faster, and on my first few tests, much better results. What about for you?

2:17:41 AM    comment 

By the way, I do not currently own stock or financial interest in any company other than Microsoft. If I ever do take a position in another company, I'll let you know. Particularly if I write about such a company.

1:57:39 AM    comment 

Well, if lunch wasn't enough, this afternoon Kevin Schofield gave the Channel9 camera a tour through Microsoft Research.

I found some interesting things. For one, the inventor of the laser printer, Gary Starkweather, works at research (I got a tour of the lab where he works). For two, in that lab he has a really cool laser printer. Well, it looks like a printer to Visio. But it doesn't print on paper. It actually cuts items out of plastic. So, you draw a shape in Visio (say a gear) and when you hit print it goes and cuts that gear out of a block of plastic). Wow, I want one of those.

While tooling around in the lab, I learned that we're working on micro hardware too (Kevin introduced me to Mike Sinclair, who is working on MEMS, MicroElectroMechanicalSystems). I saw a machine which was about the same width as a human hair. It had a little tiny mirror. The mirror was built into a silicon chip. It could be moved up to 20,000 times per second. Enough to reflect light from a laser onto a wall and spell out words. This is a whole world I had never considered. I never thought Microsoft would be doing research into these micromachines. Read more about the MEMS research here.

"Why do research into hardware?" I asked Kevin. He answered that they needed to know about the kinds of software problems that would be coming at us, so they needed to get into the bleeding edge of hardware as well.

I think it's all hogwash. Kevin also gave me a look at Rick Rashid's office (he's the guy who runs Microsoft Research). In his office is a treasure trove of Star Trek memorabilia.

That was just cool trivia, until I talked with Mike about what he wants to do with MEMS. Mike is thinking that he could make extremely inexpensive monitor components that would snap together like Legos. So, his micro machines might cover an entire wall for the same price that a 31-inch monitor costs today.

Oh, wait a second. Mike and Rick want to build the Holodeck! Oh, I hope they succeed.

I got a lot more too. But you'll have to wait for the video.

1:32:09 AM    comment 

It's not every day that you get to see a killer application for the first time. Today was such a day.

Chas Fritz, chairman of Neomedia Technologies and Diane Heiser, account manager, bought me lunch. No, that wasn't the killer application. But it was pretty nice!

While munching on my hamburger (hey, I'm a cheap date) he pulled out his cell phone. Then he pulled out a deodorant product. He said something like "imagine you're in a supermarket and you want to see if you're getting the best price on something, like, say, this deodorant product." Then he aimed his camera phone (it was a standard old Nokia 3650, albeit with a plastic macro lens attached to it so it could do closeup shots) at the barcode on the back. He snapped a picture. Said "look at this, it's connecting to our Web service." After a few seconds a Web page came back with a variety of information on the product and competitive pricing.

Now, this was obviously a bit of a mocked up demo, but it floored me. I hadn't seen anyone actually demo such a thing. He did something similar with his business card (it has a barcode on it). Up came his personal web page (where's your weblog Chas?)

He told me to imagine that every household item with barcode on it now is interactive. Imagine you're a manufacturer. You can give interactive coupons to people to try to get them to switch to your product.

I started getting into it. Imagine you're at a bus stop in Seattle. Did you know there's a Web service that shows you where the next bus is located and how far away it is? At every bus stop there could be a bar code. You aim your camera at the bar code. Get back the Web service that'll tell you how long you need to wait for your next bus.

Back to his demo. Then he pulled out "Smart Mobs," the famous book by Howard Rheingold. He pointed his cell phone at the bar code on the back. The retail price was $29.95. His Web service went and found a better price on Amazon (and he would be able to order the book easily without keying in any information).

So, why was Chas pitching me on this? Because his company, he says, owns patents for putting barcodes to use in searching the Web for information. Putting cell phone users in touch with companies directly. Imagine playing a Coca Cola game online. Point your phone at a can of Coke and the Web service would tell you whether or not you won. And, of course, would happily email you some coupons for your next Coke purchase.

By the way, thanks to Scott Shafer for setting up the lunch and being persistent in getting me to see this demo. Interesting stuff!

1:08:38 AM    comment 

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately, things have been going quite busy. Today was Maryam's birthday, so took her and Patrick out to dinner and to see Spiderman 2.

While there saw Don Box while waiting in line. He had his kids out to see the movie too. He told me all about Amsterdam. Gave me the skinny on the latest Weblog meme: Business Oriented Agents. See Clemens Vaster's blog for more on those. In the meantime, sit back and listen to Pat Helland, Don Box, and David Chappel singing "Bye Bye Mr. CIO Guy." Who said we don't have a sense of humor in Redmond?

By the way, Spiderman 2 was better than the first one. Still won't win any awards in my view (although the effects are pretty darn good and better than the first one's). It's OK to spend $9 on this one.

Oh, sitting behind me was an artist on the Halo 2 team. Sorry, didn't catch his name. He told my son that he should be getting the beta soon. My son's answer? "Sick."

In 10-year-old-lingo, that means "I am so excited to try it out I'm about to wet my pants so will you please hurry up and finish the darn thing?"

Yeah, you had to be there.

12:41:59 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:55:24 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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