Thoughts on public relations (Part 2)

This post is the second in a series of thoughts on my recent experiences as a journalist “embedded” within a tech-centric public relations agency. You can find Part One here.

In that first installment, I talked a lot about how reporters and PR pros often find themselves at odds because they don’t really understand each other. This time around, I’d like to turn to how companies interact with external PR agencies and the media, and why they don’t always get the results they want.

Now … I don’t really expect companies to take my advice. There’s very little a PR agency can do to change corporate culture. A reporter might have a better chance, provided the barrage of negative press is big enough. But companies, especially large ones, tend to be set in their ways. Still, it’s worth pondering some of the things that, in theory, should be easy to change, but that I’ve encountered again and again. » More... »

Thoughts on public relations (Part 1)

So here we are again. Last time I tried to knock the dust off this blog, it was to announce that I’d parted ways with The Register and would be moving on to my next chapter, whatever that would be. And then … silence.

Mea culpa. What happened was things got busy again fairly quickly. I decided to accept a new position, one that was different from anything I’d done before. I took a job at a public relations firm.

It certainly was a change. I’ve never had a company issue a press release about hiring me before, and nobody has ever interviewed me about my new job – although I suppose neither should have surprised me, given the industry in question.

I ended up staying in the role for 12 months, almost to the day. Now I’m on my own again, and itching to get back into editorial writing. I do expect to continue to do some communications work, albeit in a consulting capacity. The most interesting part of the experience for me, though, was the inside look it gave me at the other side of the tech media circus, a side I’d never investigated before. » More... »

America’s next top programming languages?

Source code iconWelcome to 2012! Once again, I’ve been remiss in keeping this blog updated, but I’ll try to do better this year. Remember you can always follow the latest from my Fatal Exception blog for InfoWorld in the box to the right!

My first feature article of the year is another piece for InfoWorld. This time, I’m looking at up-and-coming programming languages. You’ve heard of C, Java, Python, Ruby, and maybe even Haskell, OCaml, and Scala … but have you ever heard of Zimbu, Fantom, Chapel, or haXe? Probably not — but you may, soon. Some people say we already have more than enough programming languages. Others say the computing field is changing so rapidly that the same old languages can’t move fast enough, and the only way for developers to gain the agility they need is to start over from scratch. In this feature, I look at ten experimental programming languages, why they were invented, where you can get them, and why they matter.

First look at Adobe Edge

Adobe Edge logoWith the rise of HTML5, a lot of folks wonder whether it might displace plug-ins such as Adobe Flash for rich Internet Application development. Adobe doesn’t see it quite that way. It sees the two technologies as complementary, and it’s putting its money where its mouth is. Adobe Edge is a new technology from Adobe Labs that aims to make it as easy to build complex animations in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript as it is to do the same in Flash. It’s still rough around the edges, but it does make it possible to do some pretty remarkable things, especially if your goal is to develop banner ads, infographics, or other short animated sequences to be embedded in Web pages. Read on for more of my first impressions of the Adobe Edge Preview.

Tough times ahead for Google?

Seven years after its IPO, Google is entering the next phase of its growth as a company. It’s impressively large by anyone’s standards, with $29.3 billion in revenue in 2010, nearly 30,000 full-time employees, and offices in 42 countries. And yet Larry Page, now Google’s CEO for the first time since 2001, still seems to view the company as a cross between a startup and his old Stanford University grad project. It’s neither, and it faces difficult challenges. The legal environment around Google is tightening even as it goes head-to-head with the industry’s largest companies, and the changes it must make to remain competitive may mean tomorrow’s Google little resembles the fun-loving Silicon Valley darling of yesteryear. Read on for the rest of my analysis of Google and the road it must travel, this week at

How Microsoft plans to beat Google

In 2007, venture capitalist Paul Graham declared “Microsoft is dead.” He later posted a clarification of his comment, but the gist remained the same: Microsoft, far from being a driving force for innovation in the technology industry, had become a lumbering dinosaur. It wouldn’t disappear — it was far too big for that — but it had become an irrelevant company.

Bold words, but I hear them echoed a lot lately. Microsoft, people argue, has made most of its money through underhanded business dealings and by driving its competitors out of the market. Its products aren’t competitive because it doesn’t need to compete. It’s the largest company in its industry today simply because it was the largest company in its industry yesterday; no other reason.

I’m not sure I agree. There’s a new challenger in town — Google — and there’s every sign that its presence in the market has given Microsoft a much-needed kick in the pants. Ray Ozzie, Bill Gates’ successor as Microsoft’s chief software architect, has put in motion an ambitious plan designed to beat Google on every front — and it just might work. Read my complete analysis in my latest article at This one’s a biggie (single-page version here) but I think it will be worth your while.

What is Chrome OS, anyway?

Chromium logoGoogle’s at it again. Surely no company is as adept at generating buzz for something it hasn’t actually done yet. It’s already well-known for keeping products in perpetual Beta until its marketing department decides the time is right to drop the label. This time, the “news” is all about Chrome OS — a product that isn’t in beta, isn’t ready for anybody to use, but will be changing the nature of computing itself real soon now. (And by “real soon now,” Google means no sooner than next year.)

InfoWorld was invited to participate in the press conference, so they sent me down to check it out. You can read my coverage at (and on various other sites, via IDG Syndication).

I can’t say I’m totally convinced. The idea of an instant-on Web browser appliance is interesting, but Google isn’t the first to propose it. After all, don’t a lot of people use iPhones for that? And while Apple has backed away from its stance that all iPhone apps should be based on the Safari browser, Google continues to insist that the future of all computing lies on the Web. Sorry, but I just don’t see the trend being as “very, very clear” as Google’s Sundar Pichai claims it is.

Nonetheless, I’ll be following this project with great interest, and you can expect more coverage from InfoWorld as details emerge.

ARM vs. Intel for the mobile device market

ARM processorMy latest feature article for InfoWorld is a look at how competition is heating up in the chip market for mobile devices. With sales of traditional PCs and servers slowing and customers increasingly turning to smartphones and other devices to access the Internet, Intel is off in search of new markets. But to win share, Intel will have to compete with an unlikely contender — one far removed from Intel’s Silicon Valley stomping grounds.

ARM Holdings of Cambridge, UK has been manufacturing power-efficient chips for the embedded systems and digital device markets since the mid-1980s. Intel hopes to win away ARM’s customers with its newest, low-voltage Atom CPUs. But to do that, it will have to contend with a company whose business model is substantially different from the Intel Way. Click on over to read how the contest is shaping up, and be sure to leave your comments.

Online office suite comparison

The idea that someday we’ll be doing all our computing in a Web browser is gaining traction, but have you ever wondered what it would be like to do all your daily office tasks online? I did, too, so I set out to see whether I could replace Microsoft Office with any of the current generation of Web-based office suites. I looked at Google Docs, Zoho, and thanks to an invitation to Microsoft’s Technical Preview program, the forthcoming Office 2010 Web Apps. The results are up at InfoWorld, but I should warn you: They weren’t all positive. Click the link to read about the good and the bad, and see if you want to try for yourself.

First look at Office 2010

As a writer, I spend most of my life in Microsoft Office. Love it or hate it, Office has become the gold standard for business productivity software. So when the good folks at InfoWorld gave me the opportunity to take the upcoming version for a test drive, I jumped at the chance. My first impressions are largely favorable. Microsoft keeps making steady improvements here and there, and the suite is more polished and consistent than ever. On the downside, each new release seems to tie Office ever closer to back-office products like SharePoint and Exchange, which means customers will be locked in to Microsoft software more than ever. Click on over to InfoWorld for the rest of my thoughts.