Tag Archives: CEO

Carrier IQ Bits and Pieces

Some background about Carrier IQ before the hullabaloo started.

  • People had found about this before
  • Some in the industry questioned why such an expensive solution for a relatively simple problem
  • Data was available to ‘market researchers’
  • Software was installed on modems too
  • A lot of carriers were involved

This is not new. Several people have pointed this out before. This from December 2010: xda-developers – View Single Post – **warning** you can get your phone to a unrecoverable state:

On whether or not it’s possible for Sprint to dig up data after a complete Odin wipe may be debatable, but I lean toward supporting the “yes, they can” side. Sprint has been, for – as far as I can tell – a while, since the Moment at least, been including Carrier IQ in Android ROMs. Carrier IQ – which you can get more info on here (browse around there) is highly invasive, to the level of being spyware. It tracks signal data, application usage, and much else – its services and libraries are tied deeply into the system, to the point that killing just the client (not the server) will destroy the battery meter.

And this, even earlier, from a potential rival: Carrier IQ: Mobile Service Intelligence ?’s – DeadZones.com. They point out that Carrier IQ is very expensive, and has raised a lot of money, for something that is supposedly very simple (finding dropout zones). Commenters point out the pitfalls (lower battery life, data in the hands of faceless corporations):

I did not give consent for this and see the use of such software unethical. I can see no positive effect this can have for the end user. I can see many scenarios in which these corporations could heinously profit from it, though.

Back in 2008, it could claim, according to Company 2008: FierceWireless, Fierce 15 – FierceWireless, that

Carrier IQ’s client list includes Sprint and Sierra Wireless. CEO Quinlivan says the firm works with at least seven of the top 10 major OEMs. Look for the firm to increase its scale in the coming year through more vendor and carrier deals.

Huawei is a customer, not only for handsets, but also for modems: Huawei to Embed Network Diagnostic Tools into 3G Modems in 2009 says:

Announcing the partnership, Carrier IQ CEO, Mark Quinlivan, said: “These new cards will make for smoother delivery of Mobile Data services, improvements in Customer Care services, identification of network coverage gaps and increased awareness of actual user behavior.”

This from Sept 2010 Carrier IQ Powers Android Platform with Mobile Service Intelligence makes clear a number of things.

Experience = behavior for Carrier IQ, so this is not just about logging dropouts:

On-device measurement of the mobile user experience is the key to better understanding user behavior and ultimately optimizing product offerings to match market demands.

This data was not just available to the telcos. The press release also includes an unlikely end-user:

Carrier IQ enables mobile operators, device manufacturers, application developers and market researchers to improve their offerings based on direct insight into the customer experience.

As of last year, 12 leading vendors were using Carrier IQ:

Deployed on over 90M devices from 12 leading vendors worldwide, Carrier IQ is the leading provider of Mobile Service Intelligence solutions that use mobile devices to provide detailed metrics in a highly secure environment.

PR Stands for Presumptious

This is the kind of email that drives me nuts. The subject field:

Can you teleconference w/ xxxxx Software April 7 or 8?

The first line:

Mark xxxxx, CEO of xxxxx Software, would like to teleconference with you Thursday, April 7th or Friday, April 8th. Can you suggest a couple of times and dates that work for you to speak with Mark?

I’ve never heard from this flak before, she has no idea of what I cover, she jumps right in pushing a teleconference on me (when was it just called a phone call?) and the whole thing smacks of foot-in-the-door salesmanship.

PR needs to be attuned to the journalist’s needs, not the CEO’s desperate craving to fill his schedule with interviews just because his flak is pushy.

I’m considering a sideline: cut a deal with PR flaks to do interviews to keep CEOs quiet and then charge them for it. Any takers?

Google’s Missteps

By Jeremy Wagstaff

This one needed some correcting, for which apologies, and also, unsurprisingly, attracted some opprobrium. It’s Google Notebook, not Notes, and Jaiku’s founders are Finnish, not Swedish.

I’m a big fan of Google. A big fan. But I’ve finally realized what its problem is. It doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing.

Take its recent decision to close something called Google Wave.

Google Wave was introduced to much fanfare back in May 2009. I can’t really describe what it is, but I can tell you what Google called it. Email killer, a new version of the web, etc etc. “Wave is what email would look like if it were invented today,” said one of its creators.

Then, a few weeks back, they killed it. CEO Eric Schmidt said: “We liked the (user interface) and we liked a lot of the new features in it,” he was quoted as saying,  “(but) didn’t get enough traction, so we are taking those technologies and applying them to new technologies that are not announced.”

Schmidt explained Google’s policy like this: “Our policy is we try things. We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new.”

The point is not that Wave was rubbish. Or great. It’s that we never really got to try it out. When Schmidt says that “we tend to sort of release them and then see what happens” he’s telling the truth. Only it’s not really something he should be too proud about.

Quite a few of us worked quite hard to make Wave part of our lives. Not many of us, admittedly, but enough. Enough to be somewhat peeved to find it’s not going to be around much longer.

This isn’t the first time Google has done this. Google Notes Notebook was a way to collect snippets from the web and save them in the browser. Great, but Google killed that one off. They bought and killed off something called Jaiku, a better-than-Twitter service developed by some guys in Sweden Finland (thanks, Gabe,Adewale Oshineye and others). Of course, like Wave, they don’t actually shoot these things dead, they just go to some weird twilight zone where new people can’t sign up and existing users look kinda passé.

Like people who overstay a party that never really took off.

Who’s going to continue using a product that could disappear at any minute?

This, arguably, is fine when you’re not actually paying for the product. Well, not directly. But what happens when you shell out $500 for it?

That’s what happened when fools bought into Google’s foray into the cellphone world with their fancy Nexus One phone. What it called the Superphone, with plans to make lots more. “Imagine a thousand gphones!” said Schmidt

So people went out and bought it and yay! less than a year later Google closes down the online store where you can buy the thing and then, a few weeks after that, said that it’s not making any more phones.

Of course, Mr. Schmidt put a positive spin on it all.

But it’s not good enough.

I was one of those people who bought the phone because I love Google’s email service, its photo service, its online documents service, its RSS reader, its chat program, its maps. Its search engine. Pretty much everything it puts out. And I thought to myself: all this in a phone, made by the same guys, it’ll be heaven!

Only it wasn’t. The phone is good, but not great. I still use it, but my hope was that Google would be serious about all its products and pulling them together into one seamless service.

Never happened. And now, clearly, never will. Yes, Google make the operating system—the Android OS—so they still have a dog in the fight, but clearly they’ve decided that spending more time on the cellphone thing isn’t worth it for them.

Now these are the gripes of someone who feels a bit like a mug. But they’re also the ramblings of someone who feels there’s a fundamental problem with Google’s approach to the post-search world.

They don’t seem to get it. Buzz, their version of Twitter, is awful. It ignores the fundamentals of the service: it’s personal while also being impersonal, it’s chatty while at the same time having to be succinct. It’s not the same as email, and the people we share tweets with are not, necessarily, the people we email. So putting it together with Gmail was dumb.

Google has got to tread carefully. It’s not really had a hit for a while—since Gmail, probably, back in 2004. Yes, its Google Docs are good, but they’re not taking over the world. And the things they thought might take over the world—such as Wave—are poorly thought out, poorly promoted, poorly supported, and killed off with an insouciance that doesn’t only upset those people like me who took time and effort to build them into our workflow. It’ll also upset two other key groups: business users and investors.

No business user is going to start playing around with a Google product thinking it might be good for their company, because who knows when Mr.. Schmidt is going to pull out his hunting knife? And investors? Well, we’ve seen plenty of tech behemoths who were one- or two-hit wonders.

It’s not time up yet for Google. They’ve just launched a sort of phone service that could be a Skype killer, but who’s going to ditch Skype in their office for something that might not be around in a year’s time? They not only need to come up with good new products. They need to find ways to convince their users they’re not just playthings, given and taken back on a whim.

We’re All Kevin Smiths Now

(This is a copy of my Loose Wire Sevice column, produced for newspapers and other print publications. Hence the lack of links.)

A few weeks ago a gentleman of, by his own account, more than average girth was thrown off a Southwest Air flight between Oakland and Burbank.

Unfortunately for the airline this was no ordinary gentleman but Kevin Smith, director of such classics as Clerks and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and, perhaps more importantly, a man conversant with social media.

As he was unceremoniously removed from the flight because he was a “customer of size” and therefore a safety risk, he turned to twitter to vent his spleen.

The resulting fracas was what we in the nerdy world call a twitter storm. That is, one person is able to leverage the power of social networks to make a much bigger noise than would otherwise be the case.

Some commentators have suggested this is a new kind of customer: “a new kind of uglry customer who isn’t always right but insists on his right to share his feelings with us and his right to be heard”, as one Singaporean travel industry insider put it.

Of course, this isn’t the case. There have always been Kevin Smiths, it’s just they have not been able to convey their disquiet so effectively. Now they have, at their fingertips, the ability to express and disseminate their feelings.

I’m a Kevin Smith. We’re all Kevin Smiths. We’re all capable of knowing when we’ve been discriminated against—not, in this case, because of his girth but because he was not told before he got on the plane, or when he bought his ticket, that he wouldn’t be able to fly.

We’re all Kevin Smiths, and we’ve all got the tools of Kevin Smith. Perhaps not the colorful turns of phrase, but the means.

Now I’m not blaming Southwest here, at least at the corporate level. Actually they did all the standard things to try to put out this blaze. They tried to reach him by email, by phone, and then publicly by twitter, to apologize.

They blogged about it, about their policy and the lessons learned.

But their failure was to understand that information travels much faster now. So in the crucial hours—no, minutes—after Kevin Smith was dumped off the flight there was a chance to turn all this around.

It didn’t happen. Either those overseeing the Twitter feed didn’t see it coming, or they were at dinner, or they had to escalate the matter. Whatever happened, there was a chance to stop the storm before it had left the building.

In this new world, minutes count.

People in the leisure industry would do well to draw different conclusions than perhaps they are.

The temptation is to label Kevin Smith a noisesome celebrity and thereby both give him star treatment and to treat him as an unusual case.

He’s not. He’s a star, true, and he’s got a strong following, both online and offline. But his diatribe is just as likely to be echoed by others—indeed, the anger his supporters felt is as much to do with a sense of injustice as of having their hero treated shoddily.

In the old days we could write a letter to the CEO, or complain to the cabin crew, or write a letter to the local paper. Most of us wouldn’t bother.

But now we can. We can tweet about it, Facebook it, blog about it. It may not always snowball but it’s there, out there for millions of other people to find, indefinitely.

In other words: Not only do we have the means to vent our spleen, but we have access to everyone else’s vented spleen. No longer are we the lone eccentric to be tolerated or ignored, bought off with a $100 voucher or a free pass to the poolside barbeque.

We are validated.

So no, Kevin Smith is not the new kind of ugly customer. He’s everyman: He’s a customer who not only knows what he wants but knows that he’s not alone in wanting it. And that he can find a way of getting satisfaction in the most public way possible if he feels his rights are violated.

Not exactly good news for those companies that would rather we kept quiet or were bought off. But good news for those of us who have bitten our tongue and kept mum one too many times.

Technorati’s Decline, Death of Blogging?

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Technorati Japan home page, Nov 2009

Technorati used to be one of the sites to see and be seen at. Your ranking there was highly prized; you’d add technorati tags to your blog posts and their State of the Blogosphere was a highly valued insight into blogging.

But now it’s a pale shadow of its former self, having recently closed its Tokyo office, and with dramatically lower traffic, from more than 400K visitors per day to today’s 40K:

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technorati.com traffic, Google Trends, Nov 2009

Indeed, in early 2009 Technorati was overtaken by a blogging search engine I must confess I’ve never heard of, blogcatalog.com in traffic:

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technorati.com vs blogcatalog.com traffic, Google Trends, Nov 2009

This despite calling itself the #1 blog search engine:

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Richard Jalichandra, Technorati Media CEO, says that while the company is now an ad network, Technorati.com is still a major component of the business, with 1.3 million registered users. Well, those 1.3 million registered users aren’t visiting or pinging the site very much, and the other two websites he mentions, blogcritics.org and twittorati.com, don’t seem to be making much of an impression either:

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blogcritics.org and twittorati.com traffic, Google Trends, Nov 2009

Richard, who has just raised another $2 million in funding, describes the business model thus:

Our model is often misunderstood or viewed as one part vs. the actual whole, but it’s relatively simple: an ad network focused on social media, the world’s largest blog search engine [sic] and directory, a large and passionate author community, and our newest site which tracks the tweets of the most influential bloggers.

Users, however, aren’t impressed. Some have noticed what they think is spam in the technorati search results. Others have noticed that despite their claims to index 100 million blogs, in 2007, they now seem to index less than 1 million. (The current number seems to be 853,799.)  Maybe this would explain why their State of the Blogosphere this year, despite claiming to be a “deeper dive into the entire blogosphere,” was all comment, survey and no data (presentation to Blog World Expo here.)

Now is this just Technorati, or is something bigger afoot? Is Technorati’s decline a reflection of its own failings or the broader decline of blogging?

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The Lost World of Yahoo

This piece was written for a commentary on the BBC World Service Business Daily about Jerry Yang’s decision to resign as CEO.

Back in the early days of the World Wide Web there was really only one name. Yahoo. You could tell it was big because it was what you’d type in your browser to see if your computer was connected to the Internet.

Without fail: Yahoo.com. It’s been around since 1994, since Jerry Yang and David Filo, two grad students at Stanford, built a list of interesting websites, a sort of yellow pages for the Internet. They called it, first, Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web, and then Yahoo. By the end of 1994 it had a million hits. By 1996 it had gone public.

And, I reckon, it’s been slightly lost ever since.

Not that you’d know that from the figures. It’s the most popular website in the world. Nearly half that traffic is actually email, according to Alexa, a website that tracks this kind of thing. Nearly everyone on the planet, it seems, has a Yahoo email address.

But there’s also other stuff: search, news, auctions, finance, groups, chat, games, movies, sports. And Yahoo has been pretty consistent for the 14 years of its life: If you look at its homepage, the place where you’d land if you typed in yahoo.com, it wouldn’t look that different in 1995 to what it looked like in 2005. The familiar red Yahoo logo at the top of the page, a little search box, and then some links to directories.

But since then things have got more complicated. The guys at Google made a better search engine, so much so that their name has become a verb, a shorthand way of saying “look up something or someone on the Internet.”

That kind of left Yahoo behind. So far, I’ve not heard Yahoo used as a verb, or a noun, at least in a positive way. And Google also figured out how to make money from it, which stole another bit of Yahoo’s thunder.

But it hasn’t stopped there. Internet speeds have got faster. We’re now connected most of the time, via computer or cellphone. Upstart bloggers have toppled big media conglomerates. So now all the big players—Microsoft, Google, Yahoo—are not quite sure what they are: Media companies? Advertising companies? Software services company? A mix of all three?

So it’s no surprise that Jerry Yang has been unable to articulate what, exactly Yahoo itself is. If you’re not sure what your company is, never mind that you founded it, you shouldn’t be sitting in the CEO’s chair.

The truth is that there are two Yahoos. Ask an ordinary user and they’ll know about Yahoo. The email program. The instant messenger. The news portal. To millions of people Yahoo is comfortable and familiar.

Ask a geek and they’ll talk about another Yahoo: all the cool stuff the company engineers are doing. Pipes, which lets you mash data together in interesting ways. Fireeagle, that blends together information about where you are. And there’s the stuff they’ve bought that most people don’t even realise belongs to Yahoo: delicious bookmarks, for example, or Flickr photos.

People may be down on Yahoo right now, and the share price isn’t pretty. But it’s still a big brand, known around the world. And, despite their frustrations, beloved by many geeks.

One day someone will come along and find a way to package all this stuff together, or sell bits of it off. Then Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web will find its way again. It just doesn’t look like that person is going to be Jerry himself.

Whaling in Singapore?

Singapore appears to be the source of a virus cleverly designed to hoodwink U.S. executives by appearing to be an emailed subpoena which mentions them by name, as well as their title.

The SANS Storm Center said three days ago that

We’ve gotten a few reports that some CEOs have received what purports to be a federal subpoena via e-mail ordering their testimony in a case. It then asks them to click a link and download the case history and associated information.

One problem, it’s total bogus. It’s a “click-the-link-for-malware” typical spammer stunt. So, first and foremost, don’t click on such links. An interesting component of this scam was that it did properly identify the CEO and send it to his e-mail directly. It’s very highly targeted that way.

The report says that the server that the trojan reports back to is “hard-coded to an ISP in Singapore at this time,” from where, according to Ars Technica, it “steals copies of any security certificates installed on the system.”

(This, by the way, is calling whaling, since it is like phishing but is more targeted, and going for bigger phish, so to speak.)

The Inquirer says that the web servers delivering the emails are based in China, and, in language too loose to take seriously, “the cyber ruffians who later nefariously take control of the victims’ computers, based in Singapore.”

There’s no evidence the “cyber ruffians” are based in Singapore, as far as I can work out. The only possible connection could be the English and errors in the emails, which, John Markoff of the NYT reports, “led several researchers to believe that the attackers were not familiar with the United States court system and that the group might be based in a place that used a British variant of English, such as Hong Kong.”

That said, just because an ISP may have been compromised doesn’t mean that those involved are physically located in Singapore. Indeed, it would seem very unlikely they are; if they’re smart enough to launch an attack like this, you’d have to bet against them being anywhere near the ‘command and control’ center itself.

Still, it’s unsettling that an ISP may have been compromised. So far we don’t know much more, though I’ve put in requests for more information. (The source of the information about Singapore appears to have come from someone at Verisign, whose Asian PR address bounces. So don’t expect something anytime soon.)

Bye Bye, Laptop?

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The day seems to be getting closer when we can do something that would seem to be pretty obvious: access our pocket-sized smartphone via a bigger screen, keyboard and a mouse. Celio Corp says it’s close.

Celio Corp have two products: their Mobile Companion (pictured above), a laptop like thing that includes an 8″ display, a full function keyboard, and a touchpad mouse. At 1 x 6 x 9 inches and weighing 2 lbs, the Mobile Companion promises over 8 hours of battery life and boots instantly. After loading a driver on your smartphone you can then access it via a USB cable or Bluetooth. (You can also charge the smartphone via the same USB connection.)

Uses? Well, you can say goodbye to coach cramp, where you’re unable to use a normal laptop. You can input data more easily than you might if you just had your smartphone with you. And, of course, you don’t need to bring your laptop.

The second product might be even better. The Smartphone Interface System is, from what I can work out, a small Bluetooth device that connects your smartphone, not to the Mobile Companion, but to a desktop computer, public display or a conference room projector  — these devices connect via a cable to the Interface, like this:

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The important bit about both products is that the Redfly software renders the smartphone data so it fits on the new display (this will be quite tricky, and, because it will carried via Bluetooth, would need quite a bit of compression. The maximum size of the output display is VGA, i.e. 800 x 480, so don’t expect stunning visuals, but it’ll be better than having all your colleagues crowding around your smartphone.)

The bad news? Redfly isn’t launched yet, and will for the time being be available only for Windows Mobile Devices. Oh, and according to UberGizmo, it will cost $500. The other thing is that you shouldn’t confuse “full function keyboard” with “full size keyboard”: this vidcap from PodTech.net gives you an idea of the actual size of the thing:

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this is the keyboard size relative to Celio CEO Kirt Bailey’s digits:

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Until I try the thing out and feel sure that the keyboard doesn’t make the same compromises as the Eee PC, I’d rather use my Stowaway keyboard.

For those of you looking for software to view your mobile device on your desktop computer, you might want to check out My Mobiler. It’s free software that purports to do exactly that for Windows Mobile users.

The Ugly Backside of Online Backup

I was just showing off my new Gmail/Remember the Milk marriage, which is truly a cool tool and worth checking out, to my slightly less new wife. Her response was: but it’s online. How can I use it if I’m offline?

I slapped her about verbally, of course, because you can’t be doing with that kind of defeatist talk at Loose Wire HQ, but she’s actually right: The great Achilles Heel of online is that it’s, well, online.

A shining, and sobering example of this problem is online backup. Of all the online backup tools that looked the most serious, Omnidrive was ahead of a big pack. Until recently. This from Webware: 

We got an e-mail earlier today from a Webware reader and Omnidrive user who told us the online storage service has been out since early this morning. We sleuthed around a little and tried to get in touch with Omnidrive CEO Nik Cubrilovic, whose personal blog is also down, although we’ve heard nothing back yet. As of publishing this, the service is still down.

That’s still true. I don’t have stuff stored there, but I feel for the guys who do. The problem with asking consumers to entrust their stuff to you is that it’s about trust: Lose it and you’re lost forever.

My blog has become a minor Mecca (can you have minor Meccas?) for those disenchanged with Xdrive since it was bought by AOL, so much so that somone claiming to be Robert Blatt of AOL posted a comment yesterday trying to repair some of the damage and get people back to the service.

His comments reflect a rare honesty from AOL about the size of the problem (whenever someone corporate uses the word “challenges” you need to replace it with something very much stronger. It’s the corporate equivalent of self-flagellation and an acknowledgement of having screwed up big time):

First of all, a disclaimer, not only do I work for AOL but I am responsible for both the Xdrive and BlueString products.

With that said, over the last year we have made tremendous efforts to improve the reliability and performance of the underlying infrastructure that drives both Xdrive and BlueString. We use Keynote monitoring 24X7 to measure consumers’ ability to login, upload, and access their online assets. Over the last six months these numbers have consistently been above 99% availability. If consumers who use this blog are continuing to have problems please post so that we can understand and rectify.

With respect to customer support, we both understand and agree with the challenges that people have been having. We have recently increased our focus and our resources to address this issue. Changes like this always take a bit of time but I am confident that we will have the same kind of success that we have had in improving the product.

Finally, look for a new, easier to use interface for Xdrive during the first quarter of 2008. We are working hard to erase the boundary that currently exists for consumers between their desktop and the internet.

I’m sure Robert doesn’t need to be told that in the world of online storage it’s a case of once bitten, twice you’re far, far away and would only be lured back by the promise of vestal virgins and free Porsches. Would you ever entrust something as valuable as your backups to someone who lost them the first time around?

The rule of thumb of online backup is, sadly: Think of it as a sort of luxury. Not as something you can rely on. Because of that, I can’t imagine why someone would pay for it.