Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Fair Disclosure -- Prior relationship to Salesforce.com

I have received some questions regarding my relationships to either Salesforce or Siebel and in the interest of pursuing a blogger code of ethics, let me be clear -- I have known Marc Benioff for some time, while at Borland I was the principal contact between Borland and Salesforce.com, and I did attend a 49ers game in the Salesforce.com corporate box. I have never received any such invitations from Siebel.

I personally do not believe that this clouds my reporting here on this blog, but now you can decide for yourself given my disclosure.

By the way, I did finally get a password and logon to Siebel CRM OnDemand -- after sending an email reminder to them yesterday. However I am not able to logon due to a Javascript error that I get when accessing their system. I have contacted their customer support organization and am awaiting their reply.

And when I signed up for the Salesforce.com trial (which worked flawlessly and immediately) it was through their website - not through my relationships to executives at their company.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Are We Losing the Robot Race?

Pik which, when launched in October 1957 by the Soviet Union, excited our nation to respond with a technology crash program of its own, we have no equivalent Space Race response to the frequent announcements from Japan of its growing prowess in robot manufacturing.

The latest news, that Sony has built a full-size humanoid jogging robot is just the latest in a series of firsts from Japanese mega-conglomerates. For some time now Honda's Asimo and Sony's Qrios have been entertaining conference attendees with dance routines.

Many have argued that humanoid shaped robots are not particularly useful by comparison to industrial robots where most US researchers have focused. Solving the complicated problems of making a machine move like a human being doesn't help with any of the heavy industrial problems for which most robots are utilized.

This narrow view of robots ignores the basic premise that Honda and Sony are successfully focused on -- that everything in our world is designed to accomodate a human frame and human hands. If robots are going to play a useful role in an everyday human world, they will have to move and look something like human beings.

Robot manufacturing will be one of the 21st centuries biggest industries. As the world's largest economy we ignore this market at our own peril.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Siebel CRM OnDemand update

Its nice to have a blog that people read. Thank you to whomever let IBM/Siebel know that I was frustrated -- suddenly a "CRM OnDemand Solution Specialist" contacted me from IBM. She was very friendly and she has set me up with a trial account that begins on Monday. It appears to be a manual process...

Suggestions to those of you at Siebel and IBM who may be reading this:

1) Automate your process for issuing a trial account -- when I register to try your software, your service should be "on demand"

2) Have your salesperson contact me to offer to help after I have a trial account not as a barrier to my getting a trial account. Use that contact as an opportunity to find out something about how I intend to use the product.

3) I got the impression that you hope that people who sign up for the "trial" will begin actually using the service and entering real data. Why would I do that? If, like Salesforce, you had a lightweight version for free I might, and then you might hook me and I'd want to upgrade to a pay version. But as it is I know that my trial will end in 30 days so I will play with your product so that I can learn about how it compares to your competitor but I will not be so foolish as to really use the product and then have my data go away in 30 days.

I look forward to receiving my userid and password on Monday...

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Salesforce.com has nothing to worry about

CRM Daily ran an interesting article recently, predicting that Salesforce.com is going to feel increasing pressure from SAP and Siebel, who recently acquired Salesforce competitor Upshot. In Will the Siebel-IBM OnDemand Initiative Crush Salesforce.com CRMDaily writer Kimberly Hill pulls together a tired group of analyst quotes in the old Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) method, suggesting that having such big companies in the race will spell doom for little upstart Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com needn't worry

As a potential customer of an online SFA system I recently visited both Salesforce.com and Siebel to find out more about their products.

At Salesforce.com I was able to immediately sign up for and start using a free version of their product. A Salesforce.com salesperson called me that day to ask if I had any questions or problems and what the size of my ultimate implementation would be (should he spend any more time trying to sell me... which I respect).

At Siebel the experience was VERY different. After being promised a free trial with registration (not free use as at Salesforce, just a free trial for 30 days) I filled out the form and then was greeted with a message -- "thanks, a Siebel salesperson will call you to set up your free trial." It has been two days and I have received no call.

Big Software and small business don't mix

Sure, Siebel and SAP and IBM would all like to sell to the small and medium sized business market. After all, SMBs employ over 50% of all workers in the US. But their techniques simply don't work. A big company will dedicate a team to evaluating SFA offerings, spend months coming up with a recommendation, and spend millions implementing a product. I on the other hand want to make a decision tomorrow and start using the product the minute after I make that decision. Salesforce.com has the right stuff for small business. Siebel isn't even in the game.

Will I ever trust analysts again?

Before I believe anything more that the Aberdeen Group has to say I want them to fully disclose their sources of financing. How much are Siebel and IBM paying for this hit piece on Salesforce.com? Why is it that journalists still believe such people?

Monday, December 08, 2003

Kapustka is back!

After a short sabbatical away from journalism, fans of tech journalist Paul Kapustka will be happy to learn that he is behind a new "newslog" at CMP Media. networkingpipeline is part of CMP's effort to create focused content in narrow vertical tech niches and Paul's efforts should lend some street cred to this effort. One does have to wonder where they got the picture however... But it is great to have you back Paul!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Spoke as Napster of Social Networking

A friendly VC suggested this meme -- will Spoke be the Napster of Social Networking? And that isn't Napster as in good -- viral, inventive, breakthrough, industry changing... that would be Napster as in bad -- accused of breaking laws, shut down, investors sued...

If you haven't investigated social networking yet you should take a look at the two services that are making waves -- LinkedIn and Spoke

Did you know that you are probably already in Spoke? Only 50,000 users and already 7 million people are linked to each other. They do this by taking their member's email mailboxes and indexing everyone that the member has ever sent or received mail from. Then they cross-index with anyone else already in their system and add a variety of other Internet sourced information about each person to build a profile of the member's contacts.

Imagine the ultimate result -- an automatically generated profile of you which includes your photo, your home address, phone numbers, email addresses, jobs you've worked at, your blog, other people's opinions of you... in short any piece of information out there about you. A people Google on steroids.

Feel that your privacy has been encroached on yet?

So with spoke gathering information and building dossiers on millions of people that have no connection to the service, isn't it just a matter of time before someone sues?

Monday, November 10, 2003

Desktop Linux

In a recent news.com article, C Net reports the "news" -- IBM warms to desktop Linux Amazingly the article is actually about how one IBM exec is giving a speech at the Desktop Linux Conference. This is news? What is particularly sad about the article is that IBM seems to be still locked into the mind set of using Linux as a replacement for 3270 terminals. Someone needs to show IBM Mac OS X -- ok its not Linux, but it IS a complete Unix environment with fantastic (better than Microsoft) look and feel. It will take some effort to make Linux as easy to use as the Mac, but it is clearly possible.

If IBM really wanted to create a competitor to Microsoft it would cost less money than they are currently spending to give Java development tools away for free (eclipse). So the real question is -- why don't they want to compete with Microsoft?

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Moving on

For a variety of personal and professional reasons, the time has come (after 3 1/2 years) for me to move on from Borland. I am working on some start up ideas which I will share via this blog as they develop. In the meantime, my Borland email address no longer works, but you can still reach me at the afterink email listed here (over to the left...).

One of the greatest beneficiaries (second to my daughter anyway) of my departure from Borland may be this blog. Both because I expect that I'll have a little more time for blogging but more importantly because I am no longer an officer of a public company. I had always worried about posting too much about what I was doing or what I was thinking about -- I wanted to be careful to avoid violating (or being perceived as having violated) the SEC's "Regulation FD" -- that's FD as in Fair Disclosure.

For the same reason, I won't be posting anything about Borland even now that I have departed. You may see some views on the industries that I worked in, but I'll avoid commenting on anything too direct in order to avoid the appearance that I have disclosed something confidential about the business.

We all make hard decisions in our careers and leaving Borland was definitely a hard one for me. I have had the pleasure of working with some terrific people over the past few years, and of being a part of one of the few really important software companies. Thanks to all of you reading this who have been a part of that time, hopefully we will meet again under new circumstances.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Another day, another blog...

Hardly a day goes by anymore when I don't hear that another friend has started a blog. Today it was Ed Sim with his Beyond VC self described as "A venture capitalist's viewpoint on technology, the markets, and life in a connected world..." Ed's a smart guy and I expect this to be interesting reading on a regular basis... Maybe he'll figure out how to be more regular than me! :-)

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Who believes in the growth number?

I am taking an informal survey (email me) on the GDP number -- do you believe it? If so, do you believe that the tax cut is the reason or do you have a different theory? If not, what do you think it really was? 7.2% !? Here is what I want to know -- how do home refinancings figure into this number? Could it be that the real reason that GDP seems so high is low interest rates?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Funny dad moment...

You know you're a dad when you find yourself in line at the supermarket buying diapers, beer, and dog food. I imagined the store staff calling the department of health and human services to follow me home... I wonder how often those three items are purchased together. I bet it is not uncommon for dads to run out of those three items at the same time in the first few weeks... speaking of which -- Paloma Elena Shelton is now 16 days old. Sorry I didn't write sooner to let you know out there in Blog land!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Email up and running

Now that I am home, expecting the birth of my daughter, I am really going to try and get going again on this blog (so many previous promises though!). I now have email up and running for the blog -- tshelton@afterink.com if you want to write to me.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Internet Innovation continues...

I have just been playing around with a new service called Linkedin which allows you to build an online network of friends and colleagues for job hunting, sharing ideas, investigating investments... It is similar to a service (now defunct) called sixdegrees -- but much more useful. I am certainly happy to see people continuing to try out new ideas -- the Internet revolution isn't over. It has just slowed down a bit.

During the bubble we just got too far away from innovation and too interested in get-rich-quick. Hopefully the innovation is coming back.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Will Software be free?

I had the opportunity to participate in an industry roundtable at JavaOne. An interesting article has recently been published, summarizing the conversation. You can read the entire article here. In this article, I was quoted as having said:

"But Shelton countered that the reality is that "people are downloading free things from developers' sites, not from open-source vendors." In fact, he predicted that "software will be free" in five to 10 years."

It is a problem to summarize a conversation -- you always end up simplifying the points that people have made.

The funny thing is -- my prediction as stated has already come true -- there is software that is free today. But my real point was that the software that costs money today will be free in five to ten years. Free can happen in lots of different ways -- open source, bundling, or through making the software so trivial to develop that anyone can build their own.

The challenge for software companies to remain relevant is to constantly innovate on top of the layer that is becoming free.

Keeping up with the blog

OK, I am going to make another attempt -- after having been gently criticized by a close friend for letting this blog grow stale. I have a different idea about what a blog can be though than some of the really prolific posters. It doesn't make sense to me to be posting every personal thing that happens to me -- the new place for spicy noodles that I discovered, the links to every other person's interesting comment... unless it is apropos to a comment I am making. I will attempt to keep this blog information rich. Critics welcome -- email to tshelton@borland.com

Yahoo News Group

I am asked by "thejunglejaguar" -- a frequent Yahoo newsgroup poster -- to "blog it out" in answer to his question "...whether I should really be invested in Borland."

No Borland exec will ever give you investment advice.

Why not try asking questions I can answer?

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The left-out coast

Unfortunately the Economist has gone to a pay-per-view web model. But if you are an online subscriber or receive the paper version (yes I still do receive paper magazines), The left-out coast published in the Apr 10th 2003 Economist print edition is really worth reading.

Subhead A state that used to be a trendsetter is stuck in a time-warp -- The differences in attitude, fashion, and politics have always been great between the East and West coast of the United States. But the events of September 11th have created an enormous new divide in the way the East and West think about the world. As this article accurately points out, Californians have simply not been confronted with the same sense of imminent danger that residents of New York and Washington face every day. As a result, responses to events on each coast are completely different.

Take for example the warning by the government that citizens should stock up on duct tape to seal their houses from potential chemical or biological weapons attacks. On the East coast, duct tape sold out in hours. On the West coast, people laughed.

At best the citizens of California believe that if there were another terrorist attack in the US that it would happen in NY or Washington DC -- far away. At worst they simply don't think about this new dangerous world we live in. The primary concern for the majority of Californians is the economy, not the new world disorder. An interesting divergence which is likely to lead to disparities in voting, government spending, and business activities. The most interesting question is whether these two world views will continue to diverge or whether they will begin to come together again. Hopefully it won't take a terror attack in San Francisco to get the West coast in sync with the rest of the nation.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Mobile Blogging

Someone recently complained that my blog has "...ground to a halt completely..." and I admit I have been very busy. If only I could blog from my mobile device as this article in Wired News describes...

I have just received a Nokia 3650 which I am very excited about -- built in camera, takes videos, ships with the real audio player... But so far my carrier here in the US (Cingular) won't let me use GPRS... so even though I have a phone capable of sending data to a website like Blogger, my phone company's network won't let me...

On a recent trip to Europe someone asked me how far behind Europe the U.S. mobile networks are. I said "at least two years behind," and then I felt bad... wanting to be more patriotic I said "maybe only one year behind..." but two years was more honest.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Picture phones will change the world

I have had so many conversations with people who say that they don't get why it is interesting to have a digital camera built into a mobile phone. To this question I offer the typical example of parents on vacation taking pictures of the kid and sending them to the grandparents. But I have also offered the suggestion that putting power into the hands of the people always causes social change and ask people to think about what happens when thousands or millions of people can take a snapshot of injustice and instantly broadcast to the world.

Now comes the BBC with an example of this social implication of picture phones.

People thought that the Internet was going to be a new publishing medium -- like television, a way for large media brands to package and distribute content for the consumption of the masses. While it has become an interesting publishing medium, the interesting things that have created the most volume in usage on the Internet have not been when a few central nodes publish to all of the leaf node consumers but rather when all of the leaves become self publishers and start talking to each other without the need to have a central node mediating the conversation. Personal home pages were an early example and blogging has taken this to another level.

The bias of phone companies was to believe that these new mobile devices would become another broadcast medium, allowing central nodes to present information to all of the end consumer leaves. I believe the real transformation will come, however, as it did with the Internet when the end nodes become the publishers.