Highlights of D5: All Things Digital Conference: Ballmer and the Microsoft Surface at microsoft.com/surface, Jeff Hawkins with the Foleo smart phone companion mobileplanet.com, Steve Jobs announces YouTube on AppleTV apple.com/appletv, Mahalo for human powered search at mahalo.com, George Lucas on new animation technology for games, Steve Jobs & Bill Gates’ historic on-stage reunion, YouTube/Viacom/Google all about lawsuits, Rob Glaser demos RealPlayer 11 realnetworks.com. Web albums of my photos from D5 at or even better at picasaweb.google.com/nosillacast. See all the D5 coverage at allthingsd.com or subscribe to the D5 podcast.
[tags]D5, All Things Digital, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Chad Hurley[/tags]
Listen to the Podcast Once (36 min 10 sec)
A technology geek podcast with an ever so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday, June 3rd, 2007 and this is show number 99.
Before I get started on the show today, it’s time for the traditional “what did Allison mess up last week?” part of our show. Last week I reviewed a tool called Caffeine, which keeps your Mac screen from sleeping. I received an email from Leo who asked me whether once was not enough to review Caffeine, and sent me the link to my own show from only 6 episodes back when i reviewed it! Either that’s a pathetic commentary on my memory, or it shows you how cool I think Caffeine is! Well, thanks Leo for pointing out my error.
Let’s have a word from our sponsor, and then we’ll get into the big news for the week. If you drive a Honda or an Acura and you live in the Los Angeles area, your life happiness would be dramatically improved if you had HDA Bob do all your service on your cars. Imagine the peace and tranquility of sitting in your easy chair while Bob slaves away in your driveway working on your engine. No more visits to the dealer where you sit in badly designed 1960’s orange plastic chairs reading People magazine from August 2003, or watching Oprah with all the other pathetic people waiting for an eternity for their cars. You also get peace of mind, because you KNOW Bob will do a good job, will explain clearly what he did, and even show you if you like that sort of thing. Even if you don’t live in the Los Angeles area, you can still gain benefit from HDA Bob by reading his website at hdabob.com. there you’ll find great explanations of how different parts of a car work so you can be educated when you talk to the mechanic of your choice.
D5: All Things Digital
This was a very exciting week for me, I had the opportunity to attend D5: the 5th year of the All Things Digital Conference, hosted by Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal. Walt is probably the most influential tech journalist in the US – his columns have been known to cause 20% rises or drops in a company’s stock depending on how his review went. this is my third time attending this amazing conference, but it was as much a thrill this year as ever before. It’s a very small event, around 3-500 people at a hotel in San Diego, California. The size of the event allows unprecedented access to the titans of the tech industry – they just hang around chatting to attendees. I was able to get a front row seat for virtually ever event too.
In the lobby, HP set up a huge display, around 30 feet across that was a touch screen, and used what’s being called multi-touch technology. This means that you can use two fingers to do things like stretch and shrink photos, but also more than one person can interact with the screen at the same time. it was a lot of fun to play with the photos, we could sort of flick them and they’d fly across the display to the other person. then they set it up as a Pong game, which was fun, but I couldn’t help thinking how far the industry had come that we could now play a game from 1972!
At dinner I enjoyed the company of David, Stewart and Charlie, and we engaged in a surprising discussion. Stewart and Charlie are both experimenting within their companies with using Second Life as a way to hold conference calls. I was intrigued by this, and questioned how this is a good thing and why they would do it. They said that the ability to make gestures during a meeting can enhance the discussion in a conference call. (You have to make or buy gestures, by the way, like pounding on a table or handwaving.) Charlie said that the way that a true face to face discussion creates so much more bonding between people than a telephone call or an email can actually be partially developed through Second Life meetings. David asked them if they actually felt that this is a successful exercise, like are they actually conducting REAL meetings in Second Life, and they both said no, that it’s still a novelty but they’re trying to see if it can be a useful tool.
Best Of D1-D4 Video
On the 2nd day, they showed a video “best of” from D1-D4, and imagine my surprise and delight when they showed me asking Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon about bluetooth. You may remember this from 2 years ago, but I’ll tell the story anyway. Seidenberg was blathering on and on about how Verizon had just surpassed 10Million customers. After his interview, they opened up the microphone to questions. Verizon was still disabling bluetooth on their phones, so I went to the open mic and asked him when they were going to start offering BlueTooth on their cellphones. At first he didn’t know what I was even talking about, so Walt had to stop him from answering the wrong question and explain to him what Bluetooth actually WAS. That was funny enough, but then once he understood the question, he said “we’re not going to do that.” Can you believe that? So I said, “then should I just leave?” he said, “yes, you should leave.” Walt looked over at him in shock and said, “but Ivan, then you’ll be down to 9,999,999 customers!” Walt told me later that it was his single favorite part of the conference that year, and I guess he meant it because they put it in the “best of” video this year! I loved it.
Steve Ballmer was interviewed, but you know what? He didn’t say anything at all. I’m serious! I asked several people afterwards what they thought of him, and at first they said it was fascinating, and then I’d ask them “ok, what did he say?” and they’d get this blank look on their faces and couldn’t come up with anything! Everyone remembered him saying repeatedly that Microsoft is enthusiastic and committed, but no one could remember to what!
At one point Walt started teasing him about the brown Zune, which is possibly the ugliest piece of electronics ever made – it’s actually the color of poop (if you’ll excuse my French) but to make it even worse, they put a lime green border around it to make it over the top hideous. So Walt’s teasing Ballmer, and Ballmer says “HEY, we have CORNERED the brown MP3 market! We’re going for the dirt bike crowd!” I thought it was good that at least he could make fun of it!
The time with Ballmer was not COMPLETELY wasted, because he brought out a guy to demonstrate the Microsoft Surface. this was actually really cool. In it’s current form, it’s like a big coffee table, where the surface is a really thick piece of plexiglass, maybe an inch or two thick. The entire surface is a touch screen,which uses 5 infrared cameras from below to sense objects that are on it’s surface, including your fingers, but also other devices with chips in them. He started the demo by authenticating with a credit card by throwing it on the table, and his library of photos became available for pinching, spinning, and playing videos that could be manipulated as well.
He did mention that other people have this multi-touch technology (like the HP wall) but that no one else is actually shipping a real product with real applications. Microsoft plans to sell this initially to hotels and casinos, with some specific applications they’ve developed. for example, he showed how you could throw down an ID card and it would allow you to gamble right on the table, taking credits from your account to apply to the games. He pointed out that you can stand on the surface, pour drinks on it, really indestructible. In the hotel example he showed a juke box application, where he showed a series of album covers, you touch it and it zooms up, then you can flip the image over and drag a song out of the list on it’s back and drag it over to the juke box icon and it starts playing. T-Mobile has created an application that helps you pick out a phone in the store. He laid a phone on the table and it showed how much it costs and a few of the specs, then added a 2nd phone and it instantly compared features. If you choose one phone, then you can add services by dragging them to the phone and it created an invoice. Very nice interactive method.
That’s pretty cool, but the two things he did next were really spectacular. the guy doing the demo took out a wi-fi enabled digital camera (I think Kodak makes thes) and took a picture of Walt Mossberg and Ballmer together. Then he SET the camera down on the surface, a ring formed around it, and instantly the photos from the camera flew out onto the surface, including the one he had just taken. he put some special effects on it, then flipped it over and addressed it in an email to a friend and sent it off. This was truly remarkable.
Next he took 16 square pieces of clear glass, and threw them out on the table. Instantly a video puzzle formed on them. Each one was a piece of the puzzle, but of course it was very challenging because the picture keeps changing! When i played with this during a break the guy told me that there’s actually a chip imbedded in the plates, but it’s just so small you can’t see it. Very cool, and very hard to solve! If you put it on the hardest level, the pieces have to be flipped over sometimes to be right! Surprisingly they don’t have immediate plans to market this to the public, but most of us believed there’d be high interest. Word was that it was on the order of $15,000, but if that’s right, it’s certainly not out of the public reach – heck people have paid that for a TELEVISION these days! I’ll be watching the development of the Microsoft Surface, that’s for sure.
Jeff Hawkins from Palm with the Foleo
Jeff Hawkins of Palm demonstrated the Foleo (spell) which is a companion device to a smart phone. It’s not clear this will be useful to people, but the problem it’s supposed to solve is to provide you with a full sized keyboard and a reasonable display without carrying a full laptop around. It syncs with your smart phone over bluetooth, so emails you send and receive are shared identically between the two devices. Probably the most impressive aspect of the Foleo is that it is instant on and off, and I mean instant. I was able to toggle very very quickly between applications – it not only does email but also opens MS office attachments, and you can even edit and create them using DataViz. The Foleo runs under Linux, and uses Opera as it’s browser – which is limited in speed by the speed of your wireless connection on the smart phone.
the Foleo has a 10 inch screen, is less than an inch thick, but the darn thing weighs 2.5 pounds which felt VERY dense when I picked it up. It syncs today with the Palm Treo (shocked, aren’t you?) under Palm OS and Windows Mobile and they think it will work with anyone’s Mobile 5 phone, but they said the tools are open so anyone can create the interface to other phones – specifically they said they make make an interface to RIM’s Blackberry, but also that RIM could do it or even a third party. The Foleo will be $499 and out this summer. I think it’s an interesting idea, but it’s too heavy, a little too thick, way too expensive and today too limited in the phones it supports. If it were $200, weighed 1 pound and worked with a Blackberry, I think I’d get one!
Next up, Walt interviewed Steve Jobs. They danced around the iPhone, but since obviously Steve wasn’t going to spill any details, there was no news there. he says they have a saying around Apple that it’s an odd ship that leaks from the top. Walt asked for verification on the statement that the iPhone will run OSX, saying that of course they don’t mean REAL, full OSX or even real Safari. Steve said it IS real OSX. He said that if you strip out all the data from OSX, it’s not really that big, eliminating things like languages and desktops. That was good information, and he did let it out that they probably would open it up to application developers later after they’re sure they’ve got it stable and secure.
Steve then announced that the AppleTV is now supporting YouTube. He was so excited about this, it was like a kid in a candy shop. He showed how it’s completely integrated into the interface, so you’re actually searching the web and looking at favorites and top downloaded, but all within the nice pretty Apple interface. He showed a funny video of a girl in a slingshot (I put a link in the shownotes if you want to see what Steve thinks is funny). then he showed another one, then another one! Finally Walt puts his hand on Steve’s arm and says, “uh, we really gotta start moving this along!” to which Steve says, “man, since we got this integrated into the AppleTV, we can’t stop watching this stuff!” tow which Walt replied, “is that why Leopard is late?” Great line.
There was another humorous moment when Steve admitted that he is NOT the author of the fake Steve blog – don’t know if you’ve seen it but it’s a very clever blog that is supposedly written by Steve Jobs. Steve DID admit that he reads it and thinks it’s pretty funny! You can check it out yourself at fakesteve.blogspot.com.
In another demo of something that I think isn’t going to take off, Jason Calacanis showed off a human-powered search engine called Mahalo. The problem they’re trying to solve is how often you really can’t find what you’re looking for on Google. They claim that a relatively small number of searches account for a huge percentage of the total search. They want to capitalize on that by humans creating the answers to the most common search terms, and providing the answers back in more relevant categories. The problem with this idea, of course, is that it still means that 20% or more of your searches will not find anything at all on Mahalo. they mitigate this by giving you the Google search results below their own, so you haven’t really lost anything by going to Mahalo. i tried seven search terms and got no hits on anything I asked for. I even searched on Podcast and the only thing it returned was their own podcast! They guy did explain to me that they only have about 4000 search terms generated so far, and they hope to get up to 40,000. I don’t know how they could keep this relevant, even with an army of people behind it.
George Lucas was at the conference, and demonstrated some of the technology they used to create the latest Pirates movie, specifically the maelstrom, which is a whirlpool out in the middle of the ocean. Two ships get into a battle as they swirl around this maelstrom – it’s a very exciting scene and while watching the movie I didn’t ONCE think about the fact that this was an animation!
He also talked about how in traditional gaming, they’re limited by the processing power of the game box, so certain things will be animated in only a few specific ways. For example, he showed a piece of wood being hit by a flying R2-D2, and no matter how it was thrown at the board it would always break in the same way. he explained that with their new technology, they’re able to adapt on the fly how the materials will react depending on how they’re impacted and the materials properties of the two elements. he showed JarJar Binks encased in carbonite, and threw R2-D2s at it, and depending on how it was hit, the breaks would happen differently.
This was a live demo, by the way, so he was able to change the material to glass, and it would shatter completely differently as it was hit in different ways. Likewise he changed it to rubber, and it would bend and sway in different directions from different impacts. He also talked about the changes to the characters themselves – he said they’re adding artificial intelligence to the characters so their reaction to things is not entirely predictable. Sure sounds like science fiction to me!
Steve Jobs & Bill Gates
The biggest event of the conference was when Steve Jobs & Bill Gates were interviewed together on stage. This is the first time they’ve been interviewed together since the 1980s, so it was truly an historic moment. They started out by playing a video from 1983, which was a spoof of the old Dating Game. in this game, Steve Jobs was the bachelorette (you know what I mean) and the three contestants were Bill Gates, Fred Gibbons from Software Publishing Company and Mitch Kapor of Lotus, the makers of the 1-2-3 product if you remember that great software. Mitch Kapor was right behind me when it played, which was fun. Anyway, it was a really funny video, just to see these two guys so young, and being so silly. At one point Steve asked a question of Gates about how he saw the relationship and Gates said that Microsoft expected to get half of its revenue from Apple in 1984. I put a link in the shownotes to the Macintosh Dating Game if you want to see it yourself.
The interview was oddly touching, it was a feel good moment believe it or not. I asked Walt about that afterwards, and he said that both guys had asked what kind of tenor he wanted for the interview, and he suggested that since it’s the 30th anniversary of the first mass-produced computer, the Apple II, that they talk through the history and where they see the future going.
Walt at one point mentioned that a lot of people don’t realize there was MS software in the Apple II, and Gates started to tell the story about how they put floating point BASIC in the Apple II, but Steve grabbed his arm and said, “no, let ME tell this story”. he said, “this guy Woz writes this amazing basic, it figures out your problems, but it’s fixed point, but I’m begging him to make it floating point, and he never does it! He designed it on paper. No idea why he never did it. but MS had this great floating point basic.” Gates laughed and said that they got paid $32,000 for the software.
Steve talked previously about Gil Amelio, former CEO of Apple, and said that Gil had a saying “Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom, my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction”.
Walt asked Steve to talk about bringing the relationship back with MS, and he said something interesting. He said that a lot of people thought that one had to lose for the other to win, but Apple didn’t have to beat MS, they had to remember who Apple was. Then Bill and I have patched things up. Bill said that having the MacBU be allowed to have a special relationship with Apple was important and that it’s a great business for them. That’s sure good to hear!
Walt asked Steve if there something he regretted that he could have had a much bigger market share. Steve said, “I made mistakes, but you have to look forward. I gave the museum to Stanford, have to look at what’s going to happen going forward. Doesn’t help to wish things had been different.” That’s a pretty mature attitude.
Kara Swisher asked “what’s most misunderstood about your relationship?” to which Steve quickly replied, “We’ve kept our marriage secret for all these years….”
Later Kara asked what one thing did they wish they’d had early on in building their companies that they saw in the other person. I liked Bill’s answer to this, he said “his sense of taste”. he said that he’d work on projects with Steve, and he’d be suggesting some engineering minded solution, when Steve would just know what people wanted. He said “it’s magical”. that was an amazing admission.
Bill said he missed some of the people in the tech industry who didn’t stick around, that it’s nice to work with people who have seen the waves up and down and are willing to ride it. He really implied that he enjoys the continuity of the relationship with Steve. To that Steve said, “when Bill and I first met each other, generally we were the youngest guys in the room (I’m 6 months older than Bill) – now I’m the oldest guy in the room. That’s why I like being here!” He said he was reminded of the Beatles song that says ““you and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” A hush came over the room as that sunk in, and then suddenly the audience rose and gave a 2 minute standing ovation to these two great men.
YouTube, Viacom, Google
The next three interviews were really intertwined. First was Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, founders of YouTube, then Philippe Dauman CEO of Viacom, and finally Eric Schmidt CEO of Google. they were intertwined because virtually all of the discussion was surrounding Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube and Google. I grew bored of it after a while, but the bottom line was that Google and YouTube say that they’re putting in technology to allow copyright holders to identify their own content and gain revenue from the postings, and Viacom says that Google and YouTube are not doing nearly enough to protect content creators.
The only really good part of all this was the introduction of the Viacom president, Phillipe Dauman – it was done by Stephen Colbert! I simply cannot do it justice, you have to go see it for yourself, so I put a link in the shownotes. He did a great bit on the iPhone, i think you’ll enjoy it! Ironically, Kara Swisher came out later and announced that Comedy Central had called and demanded it be taken down. On the next break she came out and announced that it was all a misunderstanding, and it was put back up. Pretty funny that that happened specifically when the whole interview was about Viacom demanding that Google and YouTube take down videos!
Rob Glaser of Real Networks
Rob Glaser of Real Networks got on stage and demonstrated Real Player 11, due out at the end of June. I know a lot of people hate the Real Player for some reason, not really sure why, but I had lunch with Rob at last year’s conference, and he was a really nice guy. He asked a lot of great questions about podcasting and was very down to earth. anway, the big deal about Real Player 11 is that it integrates into your browswer to allow you to download flash video.
So picture this, you’re watching a video on YouTube, like the one of the three year old doing a Rubik’s Cube in 114 seconds (link in the shownotes of course) and you wish you could easily download it. We’ve talked through a ton of different ways to do this, but let’s face it, they’re all kludgy at best! If you have Real Player 11 installed, you start a video playing in YouTube, and hover above the video and a button shows that says “download to Real Player”. Easy as that! you don’t even have to wait for the video to completely cache, and you can even start more than one simultaneously downloading.
They said that Real Player will work on all kinds of video download sites, and that if the provider includes any kind of copy protection, it won’t circumvent that, so you won’t be able to download copy protected content. Rob clearly believes that will keep them out of the courts, but I’m betting that they will end up sued by somebody some time somewhere!
I had a great time at the conference, it’s a tremendous experience to actually get to talk to the titans of the tech industry. I learned a lot from them, but I also learned a great deal talking to people like
David Roth, Stewart Sutton and Charlie Brenner, who I would put in the “normal mortal” category. We had lively discussions, and David was a great source of information when I didn’t know who people were, or why a particular inside joke was funny. Plus, he saved me a seat in the front row every day! thanks David, sure hope to see you again soon.
The conference also allowed me to really enjoy my new camera, the Nikon D40 with the 70-300mm zoom lens. This digital SLR is really amazing – it’s one of the lightest SLRs out there, with fantastic performance. I took all of the pictures from the show by killing the flash setting it to ISO 1600 which compensates for the lack of light. I was amazed at the clarity and quality of the photos, even though I was pretty far away and the lighting was low. This is a good segue into some tools discussions which I promise will end in photos of the show!
Creating Web Albums
Bart has been helping me learn how to use an interesting tool to create Web Albums of photos. I can’t put my finger on the problem this tool solves, but it’s been an interesting experiment. The tool is called PhpWebGallery from phpwebgallery.net. Unlike a simple install with drag and drop capability, this tool is actually something you install on your web server and create a MySQL database. The advantage of this method is that you can throw pictures up and they automatically are entered into the database. You can create virtual categories and then the photos can exist in more than one category. For example, you could have vacation pictures that included a pic of a deer, but the same deer photo could be in a category called Animals. the viewer of the web album can look at your photo galleries in many different ways, even sorting them themselves by date or by name or example.
the disadvantage is that this is REALLY REALLY hard to use! I know Bart finds it a snap and I suppose listeners like Tim would see it as an obvious way to think too (their brains are wired very much the same) but for me it’s not intuitive at all. As if creating a MySQL database weren’t hard enough, the interface is tough to follow.
For example, you upload a batch of photos, and then the next thing you have to do is tell it to create thumbnails. Ok, not what I think of first, but I can work with it. It defaults to only creating 5 thumbnails, so you have to remember to change it to “all”. Next up you synchronize. Ok…I guess I follow, but again the defaults are odd. You have to switch it to do do all files and folders, and tell it NOT to perform a simulation. what? I guess this software is recently going non-beta, so this is a remnant of when you might want to simulate an effect before going ahead with the effect. Once you’ve done these obscure effects, you can actually see your photos. Oh wait, no you can’t, because you named them like a normal person, with spaces between the words. PhpWebGallery won’t tolerate that, all file names have to be named with underscores or dashes instead of spaces. go back and rename all your photos, redo the thumbnails, and synchronize again.
wow, that worked! Oh wait, the thumbnails look good, but the photos to which they link are HUGE on screen! Oh man, it doesn’t do any resizing. Sigh. I happen to have Photoshop Elements, which will resize a batch of photos for me, so I set it to make them no bigger than 700pixels wide, and let her rip. It did it really quickly, but I have to rename my photos on my disk before up loading, because I renamed them inside the web gallery the first time! argh. The good news is when i upload these photos again on top of the old ones, the PhpWebGallery adjusts perfectly to the new photos with no work on my part.
I realized then that the photos will not sort properly because what I want is them to be ordered by creation date…but of course I just lost the creation date because I created new versions of the photos when I made the 700pixel ones! triple argh! Ok, fine. I went back to the photos and numbered them in PhpWebGallery so that they could at least be sorted by file name, but for some reason, it didn’t work! I only did a handful of photos before I tested it, but it put the photo that starts with 310 ahead of the one that starts with 156, then 154 and 152. Oh man, it’s doing REVERSE order! This is when I gave up. You can’t say I didn’t give this a good college try, can you? I learned a LOT doing this, so I don’t regret all that Bart taught me, but this tool is definitely not for me. I put a link in the shownotes to my PhpWebGallery for D5 so you can see how it looks.
Picasa Web Albums
This is when I remembered Picasa Web Albums from picasaweb.google.com. Create a free Google account (if you don’t have one already), and you’re ready to create a beautiful web album. Choose a name and date, add a description and click on upload pictures. They even have software to allow uploading of a lot of pictures at once – I’m sure there’s Windows software if you go in that way, and for the Mac they have a plug-in for iPhoto and a standalone application which is what I like. I uploaded the pictures, then it asked me to give descriptions (which saved automatically, unlike PhpWebGallery for which I had to remember to hit “submit” or all my changes would be lost when I changed pages). I didn’t have to resize my photos, didn’t have to create thumbnails, even the vertical photos resized to fit on screen nicely. In the thumbnail view, you can even hover over each photo and it shows you the description on screen. And, this doesn’t use MY disk space on my server, it uses Google’s disk space because they give me a free gigabyte of storage. icing on the cake is that they give you a nice thing to imbed in your blog to direct people to your album, which of course I’ve put in the shownotes.
|D5: All Things Digital Conference 5/29/07
I hope you enjoy my photos – I only uploaded 35 of them, but I took a couple hundred so I hope you appreciate my restraint too.
Now that you’ve listened to my excitement about the All Things Digital Conference, you can go watch all the videos online at allthingsd.com or you can even subscribe to them as a podcast over at iTunes by clicking the link I put in the shownotes.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s special episode of the NosillaCast, remember next week is show number 100 – I’ll be hitting that great landmark the exact same week as TWIT! I love to get your emails, please send them on to [email protected], or send audio recordings to [email protected]. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed!