Friday, January 6, 2017

It's better to be boring than rich than cool and poor

Software entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch. It seems that we're always chasing after the next "big idea"; the idea that will bring our nascent companies the billion-dollar valuations of Snapchat, Instagram, and their ilk. We have a surplus of 'really cool, world-changing' ideas but can't seem to catch the money that should follow such a revolutionary company.  The truth is that your company is not going to ne the next Snapchat or Instagram. Facebook or Twitter aren't going to come calling with buckets of cash in the trunk and throw in a lucrative six-figure "aqui-hire" deal to buy your diamond among the rocks. But you want to know a secret?

That's totally OK!

Most of us didn't get into business because we wanted to be 'cool'. We got into business because we wanted to make money, pay the mortgage, send our kids to a good school, secure a retirement, travel and have freedom.  Many of us, especially in the software world, got seduced by the cool guys, the jocks of our industry, the people who design a web app in their basement and sell to Facebook in six-months and walk away with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. It's a tempting call, isn't it? Who wouldn't want to be invited to all the big parties, hob-knob with the stars, give talks at the major conferences, and be the envy of every small-time guy out there? But none of that matters if you spend 10 years trying to be cool and your business fails.

Entrepreneurs, not just software entrepreneurs, often overlook the non-sexy places that are begging to throw money their way. No, not the glitzy eyed million-install consumers constantly glued to their iPhones looking for an amazing app, but things like local and state governments, local stores, and small companies needing a one-off solution to solve an internal problem. None of that is Snapchat-sexy, but all of it will make you rich. You won't be cool and rich but, personally, I'd rather be boring and rich any day.

The question could be asked that, if you can be 'boring and rich', why aren't more people doing it? I believe the answer is simple: it takes real work. These are not hundred-billion-dollar markets where million dollar sales are the norm. These are small, slow, markets that require a lot of hand-holding and actual work. It's not a market where you're going to design an app in a few days, put it in an app store and ignore support requests while the money rolls in. These are markets where you'll make under $20,000 (sometimes way under) sales to individual locations and you'll get stupid questions from completely non-sexy users all day long. You'll have to work for the money you make but that money could be enormous. That kind of software isn't 'cool' by any means. But you know what it? Never having to worry about money. Being able to travel with your family to exotic destinations a few times a year. Sending your kids to good schools and focusing on the joys of life instead of constantly chasing something that you might never find.

So the next time you find yourself thinking 'man, I really need to come up with something sexy like Snapchat', swallow your pride and think smaller, less sexy. Think about how you can help your community, small businesses, and the like. The money is there. They are begging you to take it from them. Why would you want to walk away from that just for the thrill of the chase?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Has Microsoft finally built an iMac Killer?

Earlier today, Microsoft unveiled a new PC in the Surface line called the Surface Studio PC.  At $2,999 USD, you might think it's a bit pricey for a Windows 10 PC. But, considering the recent hardware wins for Microsoft, this PC promises to be sturdy, performant, and outright beautiful.

The machine, an all-in-one that is scheduled to be released during the holiday season comes backed with  the great hardware and specs that Microsoft has become known for with their Surface line of computers. Those specs include:
  • A sixth generation Intel i5 or i7 processor
  • 8, 16, or 32 GB memory
  • A 1TB or 2TB hard drive
  • A stunning 28-inch 4500x3500 PixelSense LCD monitor
  • 802.11ac wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
  • A 5MP front facing camera and a 1080p rear facing camera
  • Dolby 2.1 stereo audio
With this machine, Microsoft seems poised to take on Apple right where they live: in iMac Land. And, honestly, after seeing this machine in action, Apple should be very worried.

To see a full review of the Surface Studio PC from The Verge, check out the video above. I think that once you see what this machine can do and its beauty, you'll be as in love with it as I am.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

All Roads Lead to The Cloud: Why On-Prim Software Makes Less and Less Sense

With high-speed Internet becoming ubiquitous and web browsers getting better, we're seeing a major shift in the way we purchase and use software.  Only a few years ago, if you wanted a word processor, you'd go to a local computer store, buy a boxed copy of something like WordPerfect or Microsoft Word, go home, and install it. When you wanted the upgrade, you'd have to do the same thing. Not only did this take time, but it was expensive and sometimes required hardware upgrades so that your computer could accommodate the new software (hard drive size, processor requirements, etc).

Today, that process is much different. Now, if you want a word processor, you simply open your web browser and go to a website run by Google, Microsoft, or a few others and subscribe to the software. There's nothing to download and you're always on the newest version immediately when it's released. Best of all, it's cheap.  For example, subscribing to the Microsoft Office online suite, called Microsoft Office 365, costs only $6.99 per month. For that you get access to all of the Office applications through your web browser and the ability to install those applications on either your tablet or PC. You also get a terabyte of online storage so you don't need to worry about taxing your computer or tablets hard drive and your documents are always available to you wherever you happen to be.

Office productivity is only the beginning. As more and more software moves online, it seems there's no limit to what we'll be able to do while on the go. Gone are the days of lugging a heavy laptop around as you moved between locations. Most cloud based software runs perfectly fine in both laptop and mobile browsers and cloud storage means everything seamlessly moves with you. Software in the cloud also means that collaboration is dead simple. No more emailing files around or waiting to see what changes your colleague made to a file you sent them. The cloud often allows you, not only to share in an instant, but to watch the other party edit the file in real time.

With all of the benefits that cloud based software offers, one could logically ask the question 'is on-premises software going away?' and the answer is almost certainly 'yes, for most users'.  It makes little sense for a home or small-office user to use locally installed software with all of the headaches it brings. For most people, it just makes more sense to push as much of their workflow to the cloud as possible. As web browsers get better and Internet gets faster, we can even imagine high-end gaming moving to the cloud instead of sitting on a local machine.

For small businesses, on-prim software makes even less sense.  A small business owner basically has two options when it comes to IT solutions: maintain it themselves or hire someone to do it for them. Both of those solutions add costs to the business that small businesses owners shouldn't have to take. Why should you take time from selling or developing your product just to update your software? That's money lost. Why should you pay someone $2500 a month or more just to babysit your computers and software? That's insane. Why not offload that headache to experts who are there to worry about it for you for a lot less money than you'd spend otherwise?

For large businesses, the cloud makes even more sense. Enterprises IT has a lot of moving parts. Software is in constant flux, keeping things patched is often a toss-up between security and inconvenience, and making sure your data and network are protected is costly. Handing that responsibility to someone like Microsoft or Amazon, or Google can, not only lessen the financial burden, but can offer some important additions to tools that you wouldn't ordinarily have with an on-prim setup. Microsoft Azure, for example, does everything from simple virtual machine hosting to full on big-data integration with artificial intelligence and large scale data analysis. Doing this on-prim could be prohibitive to all but the largest companies but it's achievable to everyone using the cloud.

In short, the cloud is only an option right now. You can still choose to keep everything local if you want and tend to it all yourself. In the future, and I suspect it's going to be the near future, the cloud is going to be a requirement. Companies are positioning their cloud offerings now. I could see a time in the future where Microsoft doesn't even offer a local version of Office, for example. It makes no sense for them to do so. Everything will be in the cloud. Everything will be easily and constantly accessible to everyone who needs it.

There will be challenges. While we've come a long way, there are some very important questions around security and availability that need to be answered before we rid the world of the plague of on-prim software. But we're getting there and we're getting there fast. That might be good and that might bad but it certainly will simply be at some point in the near future.

Are you ready for our cloud based future? It'll be here much sooner than you know. Get ready or get left behind.