Archives For Technology

84iMac - Balloons_27iMac-Balloons_PRINT.png?hash=d86b9da2ff82ad03169a82866155fe14

A bit late for birthday wishes – but anyway: HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY MACINTOSH! And it’s the best opportunity for at least the next 10 years to tell the story of how I met the Mac – the biggest technology love of my life.

It’s 1986, I’m nine years old and at my uncle’s home I see a computer for the first time in my life. And not just any computer – it’s a Macintosh 512k, also known as the “Fat Mac” because it had so much memory! I remember how I first had to switch on the electrical transformer and then the Mac, because my uncle had brought the machine back to Switzerland after having spent a year studying at UC Berkeley.

And then the Macintosh woke up, beeped, asked for the startup floppy disk and once found the smiling Macintosh icon appears and the computer started. While reading from the floppy disk, the machine made this weird but still familiar sound between bip bip and krrr krr – watching this video I feel thrown back to that very moment in my childhood.


No idea what I thought when I saw this machine running for the very first time. Above all I was very curious and wanted to try it out. During a short introduction my uncle showed me how to use a mouse – magic: you can lift it and the pointer stays where it is! And then he started SuperPaint and showed me some of its tools: the paint stroke, the pencil, the eraser and the paint bucket. During this intro I also learned my first English word (without knowing it…): “Undo”. A very important command indeed! Especially if you tried to fill an area with the paint bucket tool and the shape was not entirely closed – bam, and the entire drawing canvas would be filled with a brick pattern.

During that weekend at my uncle’s I spent hours and hours drawing lots and lots of stuff: houses, cars, planes, trains. And it’s not so easy, the mouse as a freehand drawing tool produces quite wacky lines and I hadn’t yet discovered the straight line and other tools. But the zoom functionality was great: you could go down to the tiniest details and see individual pixels!

And obviously I wanted to print my works of art and my uncle had just the right tool for that: the Apple ImageWriter dot matrix printer. Maybe the drawings are still somewhere in my parents attic.

Apple ImageWriter

Apple ImageWriter

Needless to say: I was in love with this piece of technology and what I could do with it. I figured the rest of the Mac out by myself by trying, clicking, opening, exploring programs on other floppy disks and later I played simple games like bricks, StuntCopter and some sort of space invaders type of thingy. Oh and another one of my favourites: writing stuff in MacWrite and changing the font to Zapf Dingbats? Amazing!

That same weekend I also met one of my uncle’s neighbours who was a computer scientist, I believe. And there I saw my first non-Mac computer: an IBM PC with a black screen and green blinking signs. I though: what is this? Really, is this a computer, too? No way!

In a brief burst of nostalgia after Microsoft announced they are going to buy Nokia, I thought of all the beloved Nokia phones I’ve owned. I searched them all on the web and put together this list.

  1. 1999 – Nokia 3210
  2. 2003 – Nokia 6210 black
  3. 2003 – Nokia 6310i silver
  4. 2005 – Nokia 6320 black
  5. 2005 – XDA II mini Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 SE PocketPC
  6. 2006 – Nokia 6280 black
  7. 2007 – Nokia N95

For each of the there is a little story. Let’s start with my first mobile phone.

My first mobile phone

nokia-3210Before getting my first mobile phone I belonged to the people who were offended by those who needed to be reachable wherever they go. I was convinced it was rude that they’d be talking on their phone in a bar, on the street, wherever that wasn’t a good old phone booth or their cosy home.

But then I moved to Stockholm for my exchange year and the mobile phone suddenly seemed like a great idea. Sweden was way ahead of Switzerland in mobile phone adoption (there was a cell phone network in the underground in 1999!) and Ericsson was one of the leading mobile phone manufacturers and network technology providers.

But phone-wise I preferred the Finns. I walked into one of those mobile phone shops and saw all these things with the ugly antennas peeking out from the top. All but one: the Nokia 3210 – no visible antenna, one of the first phones with a T9 dictionary for predictive texting and the software was really intuitive and easy to use.

I was sold, especially on the design. It seems I wasn’t the only one! This phone went on the become the number two most sold mobile phone in the world with 160 million phones sold. Wow! And boy was it sturdy: innumerable drops survived and thousands of texts written later I only abandoned it when my first employer gave me a business phone in 2003.

Entering business life

Entering business life brought about a real business phone. At first a temporary device, the Nokia 6210, that had been owned by a consultant before me. Since neither he nor the IT department had cleaned up the device, the phone was full of old texts to and from his girlfriend. Talk about privacy! I had this phone just for a couple of months, while I was waiting for my new communication companion for many years: the business brick, the never out-of-battery-power and indestructible Nokia 6310i.

Nokia 6310i

If flying to the moon with a mobile phone made sense, you’d be flying to the moon with the Nokia 6310i – the Omega Speedmaster of the mobile phones. In 2003 I already hooked up my laptop and my Palm to the internet with this phone. Over an infrared connection, mind you, because laptops didn’t do Bluetooth yet.

If flying to the moon with a mobile phone made sense, you’d be flying to the moon with the Nokia 6310i – the Omega Speedmaster of the mobile phones.

But the most incredible feature? Unf***ingbelievable 7 days of battery power! The comparison to an automatic watch still holds: never out of power. Who dares to go out of home without a phone charger for more than 12 hours nowadays? No problem in 2003.

Smaller, Color Screen and a Camera

Next up the Nokia 6230. Another nice phone, not as beloved as the 6310i and in my memory its battery already didn’t hold up as well. But, huge but (!): it had a camera. It was incredibly crappy, a VGA 640×480 pixel camera. But camera it was. And as consultants some of my colleagues had to leave their phones with camera outside of the offices, especially while working for clients like Porsche, with secret design work going on in the offices.

So for real pictures one still needed to carry a point and shoot camera, something that just started to be trendy in those days. By 2004 I was the proud owner of an Pentax Optio S4i camera. Thus the mobile travellers gadget park in my case included: a 20 GB 2nd generation iPod, my Nokia 6230, a Palm Zire 71 and my camera – alongside with my work laptop or iBook or both. Time for convergence!

Gadget Convergence

When I first read about the XDA II mini in 2005, I thought: this is it! This will merge my Palm and my phone and I’ll even be able to listen to some music. The big screen will be perfect and it even kinda looks cute.

XDA Mini

But boy, was the software a pain! I don’t know how I put up with this thing as long as I did. The stylus-type input was slow as hell – slower than on the palm – and you’d always have to close apps because otherwise the phone would crash because of a lack of memory. Oh yes, there were apps, but you had to find and download them on some shady websites and you had to install them by jumping through a loop twice and performing a pirouette after that.

I did get rid of my Palm, but with nowhere as smooth an experience. And this thing was definitely not made for calling – actually it wasn’t made for anything especially well. It just did everything – sort of. But still, I had bought it for a leg and an arm on eBay, because it was not available in Switzerland, and so I kept it for quite a while.

Back to Nokia

Back to Nokia it was after this painful experience and again my generous employer got me a fine phone: the Nokia 6280 (how did they think up all this numbers anyway, no logic whatsoever, me thinks…)! It certainly wasn’t top of the line and not a dedicated business phone. But a very nice product nonetheless. And here the internet on the phone for the first time started to make sense, at least a little bit. For example you could get the Gmail app for Nokia which was very well designed for the tiny screens of the time and still heavily leaned on Gmail’s conversation paradigm. For instance I remember constantly checking my Gmail on the road while waiting for news from the London Business School admissions team…

Mister N.

By this time, we’re now in 2007, the iPhone had been announced. And I remember the announcement like it was yesterday. The 2007 Macworld keynote was available as a live-stream and as any true Apple devotee I was watching it life. When Steve Jobs announced “a phone, an iPod, an internet communicator – a phone, an iPod, an internet communicator. Are you getting it? These are not three devices, this is one device […] and we are calling it the iPhone” I almost jumped up in front of my Mac and delivered my own private little standing ovation.2469062e48244271e421b74cc86bc15a

But alas, the iPhone was not going to be available in Switzerland and I was ready to give up all my savings to attend business school, e.g. my budget didn’t really allow for a device of that price. Luckily one day I filled out a little survey for getting a Nokia N95 test device with some fun things I would do, if I’d get one. Some weeks later I get an email telling me that I’d receive a Nokia N95, if I was willing to blog about my first steps with it – Social Media marketing in its early days! Sure! Getting the top of the line Nokia multimedia device for free and just having to write a bout it? Sign me up!

When Steve Jobs announced “a phone, an iPod, an internet communicator – a phone, an iPod, an internet communicator. Are you getting it? These are not three devices, this is one device […] and we are calling it the iPhone” I almost jumped up in front of my Mac and delivered my own private little standing ovation.

I have to say that the Nokia N95 was a nice device, but only in a technophile-nerdy way: A multiplication of navigation buttons compared to my Nokia 6280, a screen font that almost looked like the Chicago font from the first Mac and two different and inconsistent user interfaces, depending on whether you’d slide out the keyboard part of the phone to the right or to the left. My first days and some general thoughts about it (in German) are still up on the blog I had to write as part of the deal.

Although the camera was great and the multimedia capabilities were quite impressive for the time, I never really warmed up to my last finnish phone. It had the crappy battery life of today’s smartphones without the benefits, a clunky interface, no touch screen and generally felt worse than the decidedly lower profile Nokia 6280 I had grown to like before. So I sold it, went back to my old Nokia and in the end bought an US-iPhone by the end of 2007. And since that day I’ve never looked back.

For me Nokia has been history since the unsatisfactory N95 and my switch to the first iPhone. Now, sadly, it’ll soon be gone as a smartphone brand for everyone else, too.


Microsoft logo history (copyright

So today Microsoft announced a huge reorganization and you can find this gem in the memo about the move:

Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.

So lets take this apart with the trusted “who, what, how” of business strategy 101:

  • who: who is our target group? Microsoft says: “individuals and businesses” and “at home, at work and on the go”. If we translate that it’s: whoever, wherever and whatever they just try to do. Basically 7 billion people, nobody left behind. Is this making choices? Strategy is about saying no, about not trying to be everything to everybody. example: the one Windows 8 to rule PCs and tablets is failing exactly at that.
  • what: what are we helping our target customers to do? Microsoft: “the activities they value most” – again: whatever, no limitation, no trade-off, no choice.
  • how: how will we achieve this, what’s our added value? Microsoft: “creating a family of devices and services” – that means: building stuff. Whatever we are already doing and more. Just more of it and services – will it soon be Microservices and not Microsoft?

So this is the new “one Microsoft” – is it too big to be one? Was it really so bad, when every product or product line could define its own distinct strategy and target segment? What we have now is a fluffy sentence that isn’t defining a clear strategic positioning at all.

This is a beautiful and powerful statement what Apple is trying to do.

The new unified messaging app by Google: Hangouts (Copyright The Verge)

The new unified messaging app by Google: Hangouts (Copyright The Verge)

The Google I/O keynote has just ended and although the Verge’s verdict is “The moonshots, it seems, will have to wait“, I think they’ve presented some great new and updated products. Even though they left Gmail and Docs out, their product refresh feels pretty much like Apple redoing their entire hardware lineup (which they almost did last autumn):

  • Google Maps gets a major update with a completely new user interface for desktop and mobile apps
  • Google Search can be piloted with your voice in a conversational way and seems to become what Siri should be and it’s “don’t even ask me what you want to know because I already know your question”-sibling Google Now gets more functionality
  • Google+ has been totally redesigned and continues on the route of becoming what Flickr could have been, if Yahoo had done it right: the best social photography network. Now Google+ automatically enhances your photos and choses the best ones based on algorithms that even know regionally specific tastes of what makes a good photo
  • With Google Hangouts they launched a product unifying all their messaging apps into one seemingly very slick package including some very nice looking flat design
  • They’ve go even a Music subscription service up their sleeves that rivals Spotify and the similar service Apple is rumored to work on but seems to have difficulties closing a deal on

Not too bad, I’d say. And it shows one thing: Google is not slowing down with what they know best – building great web services. At the same time they’re flexing their muscles in hardware design and seem to have built a great looking and great feeling machine with the Google Pixel.

In the meantime Apple’s web services haven’t really shined. Some streets and bridges seem to be made of molasses in the Maps app (if they are at the right spot at all), iCloud document syncing is really limited – no sharing across apps, across people and (obviously) beyond the Apple ecosystem – and seems to be buggy and a nightmare to develop for. Siri is still a hit or miss for me and anyway I don’t use it much – although I’m sure it has a lot of potential. Pando Daily commented the Google I/O announcements with “Google is keeping iCloud’s promises”

In John Gruber’s words: “Google is getting better at what Apple does best faster than Apple is getting better at what Google does best.”

Please Apple, can we reverse this trend at WWDC? I want to see some updates to Apple’s web services that knock me out, some real magical and “just works” iCloud syncing (and why not finally buy Dropbox…?) and Siri features that are so bloody useful that I wouldn’t mind any more that I’m chatting with a robot in my phone.

But that’s a tough call: Google has shown today that while they’re getting better at Apple’s design game they’re not slowing down in the web services game. And running faster than the leader after having stumbled a few times is going to be hard for Apple.

Apple I Computer

The more I hear the expression the less appropriate the term “post-PC” seems to me. Post-PC only makes sense in a historical view in which the Personal Computer (PC – and here including Macs) is defined as the computer as we know it: our desktop computer or laptop of choice.

“Personal” in this context mostly only makes sense as the revolutionary step that made computers available to normal people, made them personal. The revolution was to make these machines affordable enough to be bought and usable enough to be understood by a regular person. And obviously both of these aspects have improved tremendously since the first build-it-yourself PC-kits were sold by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

But all of this doesn’t make the PC truly personal. The only actual personal computer you own is your smartphone.

How personal is a traditional PC in the actual sense of the word? How much does a PC belong to you as a person or reflect who you are? The longer you use it, the more of your personal data it stores: your photos, your emails, your thoughts expressed in whatever written word you create and even your DNA through your hair that falls between the cracks into its keyboard. It knows about your contacts and your calendar and about the work you do.

However all of this doesn’t make the PC truly personal. The only actual personal computer you own is your smartphone: it knows where you are, what caught your interest just now when you’re taking a photo, what you’re thinking right know when you send out a spontaneous tweet and even when you take a dump, since many of us (myself included) take it with us to the bathroom. The smartphone again may be replaced by some even more personal computer in the form of a wearable computing devices in the near or not so near future.

We are not moving beyond the Personal Computer as the term post-PC evokes. We are actually evolving towards ever more personal computers until one day they may literally be part of who and what we are.

Dienstag, 19. März – Teil 2

Der zweite Tag der HWZ Silicon Valley Study Tour – es bleibt spannend!

Storified by gottino· Tue, Mar 19 2013 23:18:07

Nach dem Besuch bei der Stanford School of Engineering ging’s weiter zu einem weiteren Inkubator: The Hive. Dieser “Geburtsort” oder “Geburtshelfer” für Startups hat einen ganz bestimmten Fokus: Daten. Die Überzeugung von T. M. Ravi (Gründer) ist, dass alle Industrien von der Macht der Daten verändert werden. Dabei bilden aus Sicht von Ravi die digitalen Datenquellen, die von Unternehmen wie Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon usw. angezapft werden nur die erste Welle einer viel tiefer greifenden Veränderung. Die nächste Welle wird von analogen Daten und dem Internet der Dinge geprägt werden.
Digital Data is just the beginning – next step is analog datagottino
Daten können dabei auf verschiedene Arten Mehrwert generieren. Als Beispiel nannte Ravi, dass Daten aus den sozialen Netzwerken einer Person einen massiven Mehrwert darstellen, wenn sie in einem Real Time Bidding Prozess dazu benutzt werden, für einen User passende Werbung zu platzieren. Oder indem die Daten benutzt werden, für einen Nutzer personalisierte Inhalte auszusteuern. 
Ravi meinte dazu, dass Online Advertising heute total von Daten gelenkt wird und dass die Premium Platzierungen für Branding, die immernoch zu einem fixen TKP verkauft werden, immer stärker unter Druck geraten und von datengetriebenen Produkten verdrängt werden.
VLab commercial drones event with THE Chris Anderson #vlabdronesgottino
Als nächstes ging es zurück an die Stanford University – diesmal an deren Business School. Das Forum für Unternehmer VLAB lud zu einem Event zum Thema “Kommerzielle Anwendungen von Drohnen” ein. Diese aus dem militärischen Anwendungsbereich bekannten unbemannten Flugkörper – bisher vor allem im Einsatz, um im Krieg auf Knopfdruck zu töten… – sollen ein riesiges kommerzielles Potenzial haben. Diese Meinung vertraten die Panel-Mitredner unter der Führung von niemand geringerem als Chris Anderson, dem langjährigen Chefredaktor des Wired Magazine und Autor der Bestseller “The Longtail“, “Free” und “Makers“. 
"The phone in your pocket can fly a 747" Chris Anderson #vlabdrones #hwzsv
Die durchwegs positive Einschätzung von Drohnen durch die Panelists war einerseits natürlich vom allgemeinen Technologie-Glauben im Silicon Valley geprägt. Andererseits muss man auch erkennen, dass viele der Technologien, die wir heute im Alltag nutzen, sich auf militärische Entwicklungen zurückführen lassen: das Internet, GPS und eigentlich ja sogar der Computer an sich.
"We have consistently demilitarized technology: Internet, GPS, etc. " Chris Anderson #vlabdrones #hwzsvgottino
Final word by our panel: "Drones have the capacity to make airspace safer" #VLABdronesVLAB

So I arrived to San Francisco on Sunday after a seemingly never ending flight. After the welcome dinner we now get into the real deal. Here you find the schedule for the week.

Monday, March 18th 2013
First Day of the Silicon Valley Study Tour already full with highlights:

Tuesday, March 19th 2013
On the second day we’re heading further south for the first time: Palo Alto including a walking tour at Stanford University is on the plan

Wednesday, March 20th 2013

Thursday, March 21th 2013

Friday, March 22th 2013


Software is the new hardware: companies we would have never thought they’d be into software are releasing smartphone and tablet apps or even APIs so that developers can program against their platform:

  • It looks like Nike is not releasing one piece of kit that is not in some way connected and full of software and web services. And obviously they have an API
  • Philips releases smart light bulbs with an API so developers can program the next great disco light turning your house into an app
  • In Switzerland the national railways recently released sbb.connect – a local services and game app similar to Foursquare for public transports
  • Print publishers are releasing mobile app after tablet app and struggle to figure out what the world will look like in the post-newspaper era

So everyone and their dog is doing software, web services and mobile apps. What follows? Some of these apps are crap. Especially mobile and tablet apps from media companies are often buggy, slow, either totally under- or insanely over-featured and too complicated for the average user. The complexity-part is worsened by the fact that every app seems to have a different paradigm of navigating with swipes up, down, left, right and with buttons that bring you somewhere or nowhere.

How comes than that these products often are mediocre? One or all of the following reasons may apply – and probably many more:

  • The app in question is created by an external agency on a fixed budget – sweating the details of a great user experience can often not be achieved in such a setup
  • The product manager in charge is not technical enough or doesn’t have the user experience chops to deliver a great product
  • The software engineers are not top notch. Ask yourself the following question: if you’re an engineer, what company would you join: Google, Facebook or any other cool kid on the startup block or a media company where technology is an afterthought?

So if in your business technology is still an afterthought, you need to change that or you will fall behind. You’ll probably need to build internal know how – either in technology or perhaps more importantly in how to manage tech. Your main challenge will probably be to attract top talent – they’ll have better places to go to.

Mobile phones in an Orange shop

copyright Bloomberg

Everybody knows these mobile phone shops: rows and rows of shiny new gadgets attached to some security device that beeps horribly, if you pull a bit to harshly on the string attached to the phone you want to try out. How on earth have these shops and their terrible user experience changed so little? Some observations about what is wrong with the customer experience. Some time ago I was waiting for my turn at our local Orange shop. As anybody reading this piece probably knows, I’ll most likely be one of the very last people to switch away from my beloved iPhone. But hey, I had a couple of minutes and there was a row of smartphones from all the companies and mobile phone platforms known to man in front of me, why not give them a spin? Does Windows Phone really look and feel that cool? How is it that Samsung seems to produce some worthy competition to the iPhone? Questions that needed to be answered some day!

Have tech retailers really learnt nothing in the twelve years since the first Apple Store?

But, alas, it was not this day or any other day in a regular mobile phone shop for that matter. Why? These things, though very nice feeling phones, were totally useless for checking out some of the most common features:

  • No SIM-Card in the demo-phones
  • No connection to the internet
  • No preconfigured email-address or email inbox
  • No preloaded photos to experience the photo gallery app
  • No interesting apps or games preloaded on the device to explore

How the hell am I supposed to find out if this phone is any good? How shall I experience it’s web browser, email app and great screen if there is no connection to the web, no configured email account and no gorgeous pictures in the photo gallery app? Have tech retailers really learned nothing in the twelve years since the first Apple Store? The only thing that is better than it used to be: you usually won’t find any of those ugly fake phones with a sticker as their screen any more – they’ve learned that. A next post will be about why this might be the case. But until then let’s look at somebody who seems to have nailed it.