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Friday, June 18, 2010

iPhone sold out before it goes on sale?

The iPhone 4 goes on sale in France next week and they are already predicting that it will be sold out. In fact, SFR, the number two moblile network operator in France, stopped taking advance orders for fear of not being able to fulfill all of the customer requests. Qu'est ce que c'est? Last week, I blogged about a study showing the widespread adoption of smartphones in France. Given the latest prediction of the iPhone 4 rush, it might be time for another survey. The question I have is if the iPhone 4 sells out will that be a blessing for Android phones? HTC, Motorola, Samsung, SonyEriccson all have multiple Android models on the market. Additionally, most of the iPhone 4 reviews that I've read mention Android as already having the functionality to have more that one application running at a time -- something new to the iPhone and a subtle plug for Android. The other question I have is is Microsoft too late to the smarthphone game? Steve Ballmer says to expect phones with Windows Phone 7 in time for Christmas but will there be in anybody left in France that doesn't already have a smartphone? Yes, there is the upgrade market but are users going to change OS unless they've had a bad experience with their current smartphone? Should be an interesting finish to the year.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Social and Collaborative Applications are Working Their Way into Enterprise 2.0

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference is taking place through Thursday of this week at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel in the scenic Seaport District of the city.  As you probably guessed from the conference name, the focus of this tidy expo is collaborative technologies, Web 2.0 solutions, designed specifically to enable enterprises to become more efficient, productive and innovative.

Steve Wylie, the conference GM (you'll find tweets from the show at #e2conf), points out that while businesses are taking advantage of game changers like cloud computing and data center virtualization, applications that exploit these infrastructure technologies have lagged the application advances being made in the consumer market.

That's what e2conf is all about: examining and showcasing the latest developments in enterprise-class social and collaborative applications. And there's no shortage of talent at the expo.  Today I had the opportunity to spend a few hours listening to the keynotes, kicking tires on the show floor and asking a few questions of the software developers who were there.

As you might suspect, most of the exhibitors on hand are smallish, privately held software companies.  The big guys were there too, including Novell, IBM and Cisco.  But the vast majority are innovative, emerging companies developing very exciting social and collaborative solutions for business.

In one day it's impossible to get a close look at all the companies there, but I was able to take a look at quite a few.  From what I saw and heard, these three are my picks for the coolest companies at this year's e2conf:
  • Doodle, in their own words, "makes scheduling virtually effortless."  Using Doodle, scheduling a meeting with busy coworkers is as easy as creating a poll, casting a vote for the preferred date and time, and informing participants of the outcome.  Doodle was founded in 2008 in Zurich, Switzerland and has about 10 employees.  And I love the name.  Do you Doodle?
  • At the other end of the emerging company spectrum is Jive Software, a well-funded, well-established company with more than 2,500 customers (they claim).    Jive Software, now based in Palo Alto, Calif., (the firm was started in Portland, Ore.), is eyeing an IPO in 2011 and is led by industry veteran Tony Zingale, who led the sale of Mercury Interactive to HP four years ago.  I saw Zingale's keynote earlier today and he still turns it on.  Jive Software is partnering with heavyweights like Google and Twitter and looks to be well on its way to building an enterprise 2.0 company with staying power.
  • I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Baydin, a San Francisco-based company and winner of today's "Launch Pad People's Choice," a fun text message-based audience-participation contest pitting four newish companies against each other.  Baydin has an "Unsearch" product that's built into Outlook and hunts down or "automatically discovers" in your email, documents and colleagues who could help you with any given project.  I love this:  at Baydin, they talk about "the future of not having to search."
I apologize for leaving out so many other cool companies and I'm already looking forward to the next edition.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Controlling Cancer for Pennies in the Cloud

You might know how bullish we are here about the potential of the cloud. You might even go so far as to think we believe the cloud could help cure cancer!  You might be right.

We came across an interesting story this week about an assistant professor of computer science at the University of New Mexico named Shuang Luan.  Professor Luan specializes in finding ways to apply computers to improve treatment for cancer patients. Last year, Luan's team decided to tackle an interesting treatment issue facing the medical community. Researchers realized the best way to treat cancerous tumors with radiation was to attack one damaged cell at a time. By doing this, they avoided collateral damage to adjacent healthy cells during treatment. 

They could reduce a week of calculations to less than 15 minutes at a cost of about .10 cents an hour for computer time.

But the math is a problem, specifically the complex Monte Carlo simulations required to figure out where each proton and electron from the treatment beam will travel during therapy. These calculations help medical physicists determine how much radiation should be used and at what precise angle it should hit the tumor. Of course the path of the radiation is indirect and different for every tumor.  The beam has to travel through muscle and fat and bone, all of which needs to be taken into consideration to map the target area to achieve the kind of pinpoint treatment envisioned by the researchers. Calculating this takes hundreds of hours, so the only viable solution was to use a super computer -- base cost about $150,000 before you pay for those pesky add-ons like peripherals and software. The time and cost required to apply this to every tumor clearly exceeds the scope of most physicians and insurance coverage, so the only alternative is to use far less precise short cuts in calculations. At least, that's what most physicians have thought. Professor Luan and his team realized you just need a credit card.

Physics graduate student Roy Keyes, a member of Luan's team, set out to tackle the problem in the cloud.  He created new treatment calculations while Christian Romano, an undergraduate computer science major on the team, determined how to run the calculations on 200 different computer nodes rather than one super computer.  They went to Amazon's web services with Luan's credit card and found they could reduce a week of calculations to less than 15 minutes at a cost of about .10 cents an hour for computer time.

The process won't be ready for every day use for a couple more years because the grad students need to get a medical license for their technique. But the promise is enormous. Keyes told KRQE TV in New Mexico that he thinks this is just the beginning of what medical research can do with affordable access to the cloud. In fact, he recently finished a presentation in Amsterdam on how the research and technology works and is scheduled to make other presentations. 

In a university press release, Professor Luan explained it like this: “In the Computer Sciences lab upstairs they probably have fifty or sixty machines, and a lot of students using them. You cannot just say I’m going to use them all today. But in cloud computing, we just basically type in a credit card number and say give us 200 nodes. And they give it to you in maybe five minutes.” 

So maybe the cloud actually can help cure cancer -- or at least dramatically improve the quality of treatment and reduce the risk of collateral damage.  If only it could clean up an oil spill.