OutsideIntel Acquired by Bit Discovery

I’m happy to announce that OutsideIntel, my business intelligence platform, has been acquired by Bit Discovery (bitdiscovery.com). I will continue my work on the platform as the CTO of Bit Discovery; staying involved was always part of my plan for OutsideIntel even if it was acquired, so, for me this is perfect. OutsideIntel will be the back-end tech behind Bit Discovery, which is a much more sophisticated front-end on top of the high-performance data lake that I’ve been amassing for years. This acquisition was made possible through a venture financing round which allowed Bit Discovery to acquire my tech as well as the staff necessary to build out and improve upon the technology.

In case there are any entrepreneurs out there who want to learn a bit about what it took to get here, I would like to share some of the lessons learned along the way:

  • It took about 20 years of wanting to build this idea. It wasn’t an idea I could easily explain though, nor could I afford it. So it sat in the back of my head eating at me for two decades. People thought I was nuts when I first explained what I wanted to do. Even my wife, who is normally extremely supportive said confidently and with amusement, “You can’t do that.” Sure, collecting years of meta data on the entire Internet in your basement sounds nuts…. Building a data lake by yourself is crazy. Doing corporate intelligence in your basement is crazy. I probably am crazy, but it worked. It wasn’t that the nay-sayers were wrong necessarily. Had they been talking to anyone else they would have been right, but in my case, they underestimated my willpower, my stubbornness and my vision. Lesson learned: Your dreams may not be as crazy as they sound.
  • When I first started showing early prototypes of the tech I got a lot of comments like, “this UI needs a lot of work” and “no one should ever see this” and even “it is ugly.” Ouch. My expertise is not in UI, sadly. I had a number of long conversations with friends here in the US and overseas and one idea began to take hold after talking to my friends Simon and Pascal: I needed to completely stop talking about the UI. So, I shifted away from the front-end entirely and treated the front-end as merely a demonstration of what the back-end was capable of doing. By shifting that conversation away from the UI and to the APIs, it wildly changed how people perceived my work. Suddenly they could see dozens of use cases and it spawned partnerships and eventually helped OutsideIntel to get acquired. Lesson learned: Focus on what you’re good at and use that as your selling point rather than just the vision. Confidently flaunt the merits of your accomplishment.
  • When I first started building the back-end for OutsideIntel (it was called Siftint back then, as in “sift through intelligence” – a short-lived name that still resides deep within the code and in my memory) I thought it would become a business intelligence platform for stock prediction. Gradually I realized there simply wasn’t a market for that, despite what everyone will tell you. It turns out people are afraid of this tech, and want more ordinary data sets that they can more readily comprehend. So, I had to make a very fundamental shift in how I talked about the data. Sure, it was good at finding correlation between market movements and IT infrastructure, but it was also good for security, and M&A, and sales enablement, and compliance, etc. Decisions, decisions. I had to find each and every use case and explore them individually. I eventually decided sales enablement was probably the best fit, and then, of course after making that decision Bit Discovery comes along and loves it for asset management. Cue me, flipping a table. So, you never know how other people are going to see your product/service. Lesson learned: You have to be flexible. Adapt to the market need.
  • It took money – lots of money. You can’t properly estimate how much a startup will cost you until you do it.  It’s always expensive. In my case, excluding opportunity costs, it cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of that was in legal expenses, some of it was in hardware, some of it was in hosting, some of it was in software, some of it was in data, some of it was random equipment to perform tests. It adds up. My wife said that if we didn’t have my company we could afford a ski condo somewhere, and she was right. There’s no way I could have done this without a big nest-egg or a family income to support me. Even still, I literally ran the company out of my basement for a year to save money.  I had to have the power company come out and install 2×20 amp circuits to power my basement because it was becoming a fire hazard. As the infrastructure grew the noise got to be too much for me. I measured the decibels near the end and it was as loud as a gasoline engine running. All to save money. Lesson learned: Success often speaks to privilege. If you’re privileged enough you can try something that on the surface seems virtually impossible. But be frugal and careful with how you spend.
My janky “sound-proofing” system in my basement before the equipment went to the datacenter. This “feature” of my basement did cut down about 5db-10db of noise so it was worth doing. Not seen here is the baffling and ducting that was added later. It bugged me more than my wife, surprisingly. It was especially bad when the bulk processes would start and the small fans would kick on. Try relaxing when it sounds like someone’s got an engine running in your basement.
85 decibels in my basement at about 6 meters while no bulk processes were running . This is after my “sound-proofing” was built. It was closer to 90-95db at the rack while processing. Notice the needle is in the red: the “safe” amount of time to be in my basement was 8 hours, after which hearing damage may have occurred. I wore earplugs every time I went down there.
  • One of the reasons this deal went through is because I know all of the players involved. I know the people who produce the data, I know the people collecting the data sets for sale, I know the customers, I know the devs working on the projects I needed, I knew the people who needed the data, and ultimately I knew the acquirers who happened to be long-time friends. I became friends with all of these people by being a trusted expert in the space, sure, but I kept them as friends because I never looked at them as a client or someone who could do me a favor. I treated everyone the same – as people with hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy in their home-lives and businesses alike. I try to help people when I can in whatever way I can. Sometimes that means I help them get jobs, sometimes I mentor them, sometimes I just let them talk about issues. Lesson learned: Never stop meeting people, and find ways to help them if you can. It ultimately works itself out.
  • I built and re-built the software back-end of OutsideIntel four times. I spent hours talking to my wife who had to listen to my rants about the right and wrong way to build my infrastructure, or how pagination was broken even on sites like Google and Bing, and how was I supposed to get it right if they cannot? Or how modern hardware runs into IO blocking issues. Or how relational databases were too slow so I’d have to build my own data lake from scratch. Or how Perl wasn’t going to work at all and how I’d have to switch to Python after already having written tens of thousands of lines in Perl. Or the perils of Python’s strict typing and poor support on FreeBSD. It wasn’t just the software either. I had to re-build the hardware infrastructure three separate times to support the four different software builds. It took me years and countless bugs/revisions and hours of pacing around trying to design something that was fast, cheap, and would fit on the hardware I could afford before I settled on a design that appeared to finally work. I have no doubt it will take another re-build at some point. But that never stopped me. I wasn’t afraid of the hard work, and in fact, each new puzzle felt like a challenge, not a burden. Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to fail fast. Just make sure you keep going.
Here I am hauling the first server as part of version 2 back to the house. It turns out a 2U chassis does not fit in the trunk of a Z4 so it had to ride shotgun. Thankfully it was a convertible, or I wouldn’t have been able to get it in the car at all. I sold the Z4 shortly afterwards to cut insurance costs and also… what trunk?
Setting things up for version 2. This ultimately became a costly failed version that lasted only a few months. My dining room was the de-facto staging area. My wife is very understanding.
First computer being constructed as part of version 3. This was a complete re-think of the hardware. Once again, my wife let me “borrow” the dining room for a few days. Each drive bay costs around a grand once populated with an SSD and there are two drive bays hidden on the back as well – you can do the math. After fully constructed, this single computer and the subsequent drives cost more than what I sold my Z4 for. Seems like a fair trade.
  • A few years ago I really started eating my own dog food. Whenever I’d have a meeting with someone I’d use OutsideIntel to understand their company ahead of time, not just from a demo perspective, but to talk eloquently about what they were up to. I used it against corporations and even individual people with whom I was about to meet. That meant it had to be fast, and it had to be accessible from my phone, which lead me to do a backend redesign to support even faster lookups, pagination so that the browser wouldn’t crash and a frontend redesign to support mobile devices. That was messy, time consuming to do, and didn’t improve the look and feel very much, but it came in very handy, when, at a meeting I could look down at my phone and say, “Oh, I see you have an exposed QA server over here named XYZ.” People would say things in shock like, “Oh, I thought you were just texting someone. I didn’t realize you were hacking us.” I’d explain that it wasn’t hacking anyone and it led to a great conversation every time. That made a huge difference, to be able to show them the platform in real-time and use it as it was intended. It had to work on my cell phone too, because during travel I never carried a laptop (after all, I am the Smartphone exec). Lesson learned: Eat your own dog food and make sure it works anywhere and anytime you need to do a demo.
Mobile design for one of the search types, with pagination, responsive design with sub-second lookup times. It may be a little ugly, but it works great.
  • It took doing something no one had done before… sort of. At a very minimum the people who have tried this before were different people with different experiences and different ways of thinking about things. Not to diminish their work or their expertise, but my way of building OutsideIntel was different, interesting and it made the company valuable. That means that someone’s experiences and perspectives are worth something even in the case where others have “claimed” the domain of expertise. I didn’t let the presence of others dictate that I couldn’t touch their areas of interest – I just pushed through and built what I thought should be built in the way I thought it should work. Lesson learned: Any expert or leader in any category can be dethroned. You don’t have to be first mover necessarily, you just have to be the best and/or sufficiently different.
  • A thousand things could have gone wrong. I had everything fighting against me on this project. It just seemed to be something that no one believed could be built until it was built and even when it was built they questioned how it could have possibly been built. Even when I was showing people demos they assumed it must be pre-canned because it couldn’t possibly be that fast if it weren’t. Virtually no one had faith in me. Subsequently, I was inundated with hair-brained sales ideas, or poorly thought out plans for monetization. Even my partners for the most part seemed to get excited for a few weeks or months ultimately only to lose interest and discontinue help. I couldn’t blame them, actually – nothing about OutsideIntel is easy. In the end I think this was largely luck. I was lucky to build something that was hard enough and useful enough that very few others would attempt it – especially on their own with zero outside funding. I was lucky that I found my acquirer when I did. I was lucky that despite the fact my wife didn’t believe it could be done, she supported me anyway, even as our bank account dwindled. I was lucky to have enough income to make it work. I was lucky to have the know-how and support of my friend James who helped me keep the hardware purring. I was lucky to catch issues and be able to afford them when multiple times bills unexpectedly spiked to 200% above the datacenter’s estimated costs. I was lucky to have an awesome partner/customer who became the acquirer. I was lucky that I stuck it out long enough when I had every reason to fold the company as the stress mounted –  thankfully my cat does advocate for a low stress work environment, which helps. I was lucky – any one of those things could have been missing and it could have cost me a lot more… or even sunk the company entirely. Lesson learned: It’s not just expertise and willpower. It also takes luck. Without luck you have nothing.
Rasmus and I doing pair programming. Seen here reviewing my code. By his expression, he’s unimpressed by my UI.
  • Even though I mostly built the company from nothing, I did have help along the way, from friends and family who helped me write content, think through how to position myself and even try to help with sales. Even though much of that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, it meant a lot to my mental well-being as a founder of a company with an uncertain future. Don’t underestimate how lonely life can be when you’re the only cheerleader for your company. Lesson learned: Make sure you have a close network of friendly people to talk to. You’ll need a support system.
Sitting on the ground at the datacenter in the middle of the night debugging a process that is crashing access to the data lake. This night triggered a huge software re-build. It’s a lonely business when you’re the only one. You need non-cat friends. For the eagle eyed: this was one of the last days I used a laptop outside of the house – switching entirely to smartphones for work while away from the house shortly thereafter.

Bit Discovery is the new home of OutsideIntel’s tech, and I’m proud to be working with one of my oldest friends, Jeremiah Grossman, who saw the vision and decided to make the leap. I can’t be more thankful for how things turned out and I’m ecstatic to be able to work on my favorite project for the foreseeable future. I’m happy to have found a team who understands how to turn my vision into something actionable and relateable – translating my brain and tech into enterprise discovery and asset management. Check out the website and if you want a demo of the Bit Discovery platform, please let me know!

Internet Outages in the Age of a Smartphone Executive

I’ve had two recent power and Internet outages. Call it the punishment for living in Austin which is in the heart of Texas. Austin is an adult version of Disneyland by all other measures, but it does have infrastructure issues and the rains and electrical storms we have are sometimes very impressive. So at some point we need to deal with that, and that’s where the modern mobile phone is a life saver.

In the first outage, I had to inform the power company that the power was out. Good luck trying to use computers, unless you have everything hooked up to UPS blocks, and even then you have a very limited amount of available power in most cases. Meanwhile a smartphone can be available for a day or more depending on usage. So informing them was not an issue and it was solved quickly.

The second outage was related to the Internet. We often forget how much of our lives are connected to the Internet until it’s gone. The house phone was off, the TV was off, so much for watching Netflix or listening to Spotify through Sonos, etc… etc… It was pretty bad. However, I was able to use my smart phone and a little Bluetooth speaker to keep me busy with a Kindle book and listening to Spotify. It was a tad annoying, but the hilarity came when I needed to debug the network connection on my side for AT&T.

They attempted to call me on my home phone, which worked, but then as they had me reboot the U-Verse router, they disconnected. Well, color me shocked, but of course, I still had a cell phone, so we were back on the phone very shortly thereafter. Having a back-up link to the world was a life-saver during that prolonged outage. In fact, tethering the entire house through my phone was an option I was seriously contemplating after 12 hours or so.

All of this points to what life might be like in an age where our primary devices are the very ones in our pockets that we take for granted today.

Secure Messaging

One of the most common questions I get is what secure messaging system to use on Mobile devices. That’s a rather complicated question so it’s worth digging into.

First, you have to ask, who is your adversary? If it’s the government, you’ll have to take wildly different preventative measures than, say, a random eavesdropper. But that said, some of the tactics are simple enough.

For instance, the first thing I always tell people to look for is end to end encryption. If you are only encrypted to a server and that server then can read everything you write, it’s not a good solution. For instance, email is does not have end to end encryption built in, which is why Gmail is a poor choice for secure messaging.

Next, you want to look for something that automatically deletes your messages after a certain amount of time. Lots of systems allow you to have end to end encryption but then keep the data around forever. You can’t guarantee that the messages will be safe from an adversary forever. So make sure the data is deleted after a certain amount of time.

Next, make sure that the systems are resilient against forgot password/account changes, or account takeover. Just because you are talking to a person one day doesn’t mean you are talking to the same person the second day. So lots of platforms are automatically out since they don’t warn you when that occurs.

Generally speaking my favorites are Signal (with ephemeral messaging enabled), Wickr, and Facebook messaging (when you’re in secure mode with ephemeral messaging enabled). Wickr is the only one of the three that turns it on automatically, but it’s also the least used. Facebook is great, but it is Facebook and doesn’t default to secure mode opportunistically because it doesn’t work with mobile to desktop chat. Signal is great because it is a stand alone app but it also doesn’t enable ephemeral messaging by default. Wickr doesn’t tie to a phone number in the same way that Signal does so that is a nice added feature if you want to keep that detail private. Neither Signal, nor Wickr require you to have an identity, like Facebook does, but Facebook is by far the biggest platform.

Some people will bring up Whatsapp, but they are very similar to Facebook since they are owned by Facebook. And it’s worth mentioning iMessage in passing because they do have end to end encryption, but as soon as you sync with iCloud, your information is imperiled once more.

So there are some tradeoffs and you need to research what is right for you. I think ephemeral messages are a very important feature that most people don’t think about. It’s certainly something you should be aware of before you pick one. Or use all three. But whatever you do, don’t use default built-in chat clients.

Rise of the Mobile Influencer

Since you’re reading this site, you are aware of (or are at least curious about) running an entire business off of a smartphone. You have probably set some rules for yourself on how to make your own experiment work. Considering it is currently possible to code on a phone if you’re a self-identified creator, chances are this is all old hat to you as you take photographs of your lunch with a barfing rainbow filter. Today’s guest post comes from Joe Sinkwitz, CEO of Intellifluence, on how the worlds of influence and smartphone usage as primary devices have already collided, with the result being the mobile influencer reigning supreme.

The Intersect

Perhaps the easiest way to describe how the mobile influencer came to be the most powerful advertising force is to look at the intersection of growth among the demographics of smartphone users and specific social network uses.

Leading social networks
Leading social networks

Keep in mind that Snapchat, WhatsApp, Vine, and Instagram are effectively “mobile only”, not mobile first, which is what Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter have become. Not only is mobile set as a default to being more important, in some networks it is the only way to play, a chiefly important distinction considering that largest and fastest growing networks have moved in that direction.

Evolution of Influence

Discussed in significantly more detail here, the concept of influence is a very old one; effectively all advertising is influence. It is designed to play on different psychological triggers with the purpose of getting you take a certain action (purchasing a product being the primary use). Starting out as word of mouth, and moving through all forms of mediums, from print to radio to television to online forms of adverting to where we are now, which is an interesting crossroads since word of mouth has essentially begat digital word of typing fingers and snapped videos/photos.

Why Influence

The question becomes: why is influencer marketing now such a hot topic? There are a multitude reasons, but the simplified explanation is as follows:

      Ad blocking wars continue to heat up, of which influencers are currently immune to, providing a destination for ad dollars.
      The quality of customers acquired from influencer marketing is skewing better than traditional acquisition channels.

Quality of influencer graph
Quality of influencer graph

Smart brands recognize not only that authentic advertising can exist, but it can convert better, which helps to explain this trend:

Social media spending graph
Social media spending graph

Social media spend is poised to double over the next few years, which helps to explain why brands are flocking to it, and thus giving more power to influencers.

How much power? Check out this 60 minutes segment on influencer marketing – a lot of power.

So…Mobile Influencers, huh?

Yes. Mobile influencers. From the 60 Minutes piece and the trends referenced above, we can see that the majority of ad spend over social is skewing towards those that are created primarily using their phones. Ad hoc videos for Vine and YouTube at $200,000 a piece; Kim Kardashian’s Instagram of her life worth millions… The money is beginning to flow more towards these platforms than sponsored review blog posts, as the latter were more dominate 5 short years ago (though sponsored reviews are certainly not dying, and can also be created entirely using a smartphone). Should the trends continue we will likely see a future by 2019 where 80%+ of all influencer ad activity is created via smartphones, which will become and easier decision as phone choices continue to improve.

Learn Python On A Smartphone

You can learn to code Python on an iPhone or Android relatively easily. There are lots of classes and tutorials on where to start, but all you really need is a Smartphone and a good search engine to get started. I like to tell people that there is no singular more important/useful thing that you can learn other than to speak and read/write. You’ll never look back on your life and say, “Boy, I wish I hadn’t learned this incredibly useful skill.” It may seem crazy that you can learn Python on an iPhone, but it’s actually really simple, and anyone can do it.

  • Start with the right peripherals. Specifically invest in an Apple TV or Chromecast and a Bluetooth keyboard. You’re going to thank me later when your thumbs aren’t falling off.
  • Next, download something like Python 2.7 for iOS ($1.99). It’s not quite as full featured as the full blown thing, but it’s a great place to get your feet wet as you’re learning, and doesn’t require Internet access, which is great when you’re on an airplane our out in nature and still want to be learning/practicing.
  • If you want an eBook that you can read on the road without lugging a heavy book along with you you can try Introduction to Python Programming ($9.99 on Kindle). There is a free Kindle app for the iPhone too, which is even better.
  • Once you feel a little more comfortable programming you can shift to getting yourself a FREE Amazon EC2 instance. Yes, Amazon has a free tier to get you started. They want you to like and use their products and what better way to entice you than to give it to you for free, right? You’ll want an Ubuntu install for this, because it works really well with Python.
  • Next you’ll download and install the Coda App ($24.99) or an equivalent SSH client. This will allow you to connect to your EC2 computer in the cloud. Just copy the private key and use that with the username provided, which will be “ubuntu” and you should be off to the races. I recommend you also run the command “screen” upon login so that if you get disconnected you can just type “screen -r” and recover the session without losing anything. This is a key bullet because it will allow you to build a website too if you want.
  • Then you can use your favorite terminal editor. I prefer vi, which has a steep learning curve but is very lightweight and powerful. Here’s a great tutorial on vi. If that’s too complicated pico is a nice option.

If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a new skill, this is a very inexpensive way to do it. I always recommend starting with something simple that you need to be done repetitively. A simple program that alerts you when something happens, or something that allows you to write something down in a format that’s easy to retrieve are both good examples of things you might need to be done on a regular basis. Start simple and start with something you need and it’ll be a lot more practical.

This is one of the many ways in which smartphones are helping to democratize business. Even someone with just a smartphone can start a business, learn to program, or generally produce great content. I hope this has been helpful! Good luck!

Writing Code on a Phone

Learning to program on a phone is actually easier than you might think. You just need the correct peripherals and the right software to help you accomplish the goal. One such software apps is the Coda by Panic, Inc.. It has all of the benefits of a normal SSH client but also helps create SSH keys, and gives you easy access to multiple sites. Combined with screen on the remote host and you can easily pump out code on a phone.

You can learn Python, or Java or Ruby or whatever you fancy. Coda also has a nice feature where you can preview your code before you bother uploading it. Combined with the Transmit application you can easily sync between your phone and the remote server. You can use the remote machine as a file store, or a backup, or as a test server, etc. All you need is a couple of apps and the determination to learn how to develop on a command line and you’ve got everything you need!

I’m always amazed when people don’t take advantage of things like free EC2 accounts (as an example). But if you are just learning how to program, and want to get started, you don’t need anything more than a free EC2 account and an app like Coda to get started. A quick note on EC2 though – EC2 is free to use as long as you don’t use it a lot (lots of CPU usage, or disc usage, or bandwidth, etc), so if you’re going to start doing something significant, you’ll want to think about your options a bit more.

Like always, I think that trying to program or do any meaningful tasks without a full keyboard is slow and tedious, so make sure you have a Bluetooth keyboard. But just today, I wrote several small programs, compiled Java, set up some aliases, copied code around and many other administrative tasks all from my phone. It’s always going to be easier to do it on your desktop, but we’re getting closer and closer to a world where you won’t miss your laptop one bit!

Identify Radio Signals On The Road

When you’re traveling it can often be difficult to know exactly whether it’s your fault you have no signal or if there is simply no cell towers or Wifis within range. There’s a very cool little app called Architecture of Radio that can help.

You can’t see in the picture, but as you turn you can see the various radio towers, their relative signal strength, approximate distance, who owns them and various other facts. You can even see the geo-stationary satellites in orbit.

There are some places I go that have very poor signals, and it was easy to see which carriers were close by and which ones would have a better signal strength, simply by turning around. It’s a fun party trick, but also very useful for knowing where you need to head to get a stronger signal.

Fastest Path Through Airport Security

Last week I traveled to Munich on an annual pilgrimage to Oktoberfest. It’s for work, I promise, though I do manage to have a good time, don’t worry. But being that it’s international travel, I’m always wary of going through security with stuff of any kind. I try to limit what I bring to only what I can carry in my backpack for ease of navigating airports and increase physical security since there is less to be lost or stolen. But this time in particular was the fastest I’ve ever gone through security by leaps and bounds.

On the outbound flight from Austin, I had both Clear and Precheck. When I went up to the Clear agent, he walked me to the front of the line and I was able to bypass both the regular line which looked to be about 45 minutes long, and also the Precheck line too which was probably 5 minutes of time savings. I had a boarding pass in the United app on my phone so I cruised through with a single swipe of my phone. The other nice things about the United app are that it carries your Mileage Plus and United Club cards, your boarding card(s), flight status, you can book a flight and it gives you access to inflight entertainment – that’s a lot less you’ll have to carry. When I reached for things to remove from my bag, I realized I didn’t have to. Precheck allows you to keep your shoes on, your electronics in your bag etc. All you need to do is remove metal from your pockets. So I put my phone and my wallet in a tiny cup, walked through the metal detector and was through security from start to finish in under a minute, including my interaction with Clear. I hadn’t gone through security that fast since prior to 9/11. Being mobile only with this setup saved me around 45 minutes at least.

On the way back I went through the process of signing up for the Mobile Passport which is an app that the TSA uses to speed up passport control. It asks you the normal questions you have to ask when entering the country but in many ways it’s actually easier to read and enter since you only have to enter your passport information once – the very first time you use it. I was a bit wary of using it, given that it didn’t seem like it would actually speed anything up. Wow, was I wrong. Going through Newark I was able to bypass a line that was easily an hour long and walk up to a far shorter line. Once there, I simply had to swipe the phone, and zero questions were asked. I was through in less than 5 minutes in the passport control section. Then there was a secondary line where you drop the forms off. There was no going through that line quickly, but once there, I swiped the same app again on my phone and cruised right through. Then the last part is going through security once more. Once again I was able to quickly go through security because of the mobile boarding pass and carrying next to nothing. All in all, using my phone saved me at least an hour.

As far as I can tell this is probably the fastest you can get through airport security, with the possible exception of global entry, which I haven’t yet broken down to do, yet. If you’re a weary business traveler, this may be something you want to look into. Of course they’re not exactly privacy friendly options, but security never really is.

Windows Surface Phone

Microsoft is now coming out with a Windows Surface Phone. I personally have mixed feelings about this. Microsoft has certainly got the money and interest in doing this and with Continuum, Microsoft is far and away the furthest in combining the power of the desktop into the form factor of a phone. But there are problems:

  • First, the Microsoft Surface Phone operating system is still Windows. Some people might balk at that just by itself, but I think the Windows Mobile OS is very easy to use. However, from a privacy perspective and with the latest backdoors that have been identified and opened up for anyone who wants access, this is definitely not a good investment if you worry about your security. Maybe Microsoft will come around on this issue, but for now I can’t in good conscious recommend any Windows OS in any form factor until they remove the backdoors.
  • Secondly, the app ecosystem is definitely not as good for the Windows Surface Phone if things stay as they are today. Not even close. I talked with one ex-Microsoft employee who said the strategy will be to integrate as closely as possible with the Android market place so that they can leverage Android apps. That’s smart, and by having Ubuntu under the hood and built into the OS that makes Android integration a lot easier, I’d imagine. But without a strong app ecosystem, I can’t see Microsoft doing well. This will have to be announced along side the Windows Surface Phone or I doubt their sales will be much better than any previous attempts at Windows Mobile devices.

It’s cool, it’s got a lot of promise, but with the backdoors and lack of apps, it’s not something I’d recommend for other Smartphone Execs out there. I bet a lot of this will change for the better, but there’s work to be done. It’s a shame though, because Microsoft does have so many advantages with it’s seamless environment switching due to Continuum. But they won’t be the last to pull that thread, I have no doubt!