How Twitter could Kill SMS (and save us all)

I have a blackberry. I pay $30 for a data plan that will let me send as many emails as I want. Full emails. Long emails. Emails with content, pictures, punctuation and correctly spelled words even. This data plan does not cover SMS though. For that I have to pay extra, or pay 15 cents per text or a $10, $15 or $20 a month plan on top of my unlimited data.

Here is a great article on SMS bandwidth charges.

The short version: we are getting ripped off.

Here is where Twitter comes in. Or could, I should say. The intranets were abuzz a few months ago because there was a rumor that Apple was going to buy Twitter. (and about eight other companies, but topic at hand) This got me thinking. What in the hell would Apple want with Twitter?


And no, Apple didn’t buy them, and no, I don’t think they are planning this, but this was the idea I had, the thing I reasoned out as to what value Twitter could have to Apple. Here is the idea: Twitter replaces SMS. Instead of sending a text message to someone, you send a direct message to someone.

Now, granted, this is a better idea for the data plan phones. Blackberries, iPhones and Androids all have a data plan and could add on a Twitter client to have this functionality (and should, damnit!). The normal phones would need some help.
The idea would be that a normal phone, one that would have to use SMS anyway, could SMS Twitter, something that can already be done, to bridge the gap between an older SMS phone and a newer Twitter phone. This isn’t as easy as it could be though.

The connection between the address book and Twitter still needs to be made on most of the platforms. I need to be able to find “mom” in my phone book, and hit message. Not what I’d need to do currently, which is find “twitter” and then type “d momstwitter message” If twitter clients could make this link, then sending a DM would be as easy as sending an SMS.

Then this provides all the advantages of SMS and all the advantages of Twitter at once. Need to contact someone? Just send a DM. It will act as a tweet and as an SMS at the same time. You can text someone (twext?) from your computer, and likewise they could answer from there. (something Google Voice is working on)

You’d have a telephone number independent way of mobile communication. Walk away from your carrier, your phone, hell, even dare to go out of the country without impunity. Your twitter account is still yours. 

Then as more and more phones have data plan options, more phone users can get off of SMS. With SMS plans as high as $20 a month and data as low as $30, the advantages that SMS brought once are slipping away. New phones will be more internet capable and features that were once only for expensive phones will be as common as cameras are today.

And maybe this won’t save us all, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Oh, and if you have a smart phone, email, IM, anything but SMS when you can.

Geocities is dead, Long Live Geocities

My first web page was a Geocities page. Freshman year of college, 1996. I still remember the address: I even went and dug it out of the personal archives. You can find it here.

The front page was created with their creator software along with our guestbook. Incidentally, do people still have guestbooks? Do these kids today even know what they are? Then I went out and purchased a brand new hot off the press HTML 3.2 book. That is where the rest of the pages came from, frames and all.

Don’t kick the baby.

Why I made it or what to do with it, I really had no idea. I liked anime, but that wasn’t what my site was about. It wasn’t about anything, really. Just a collection of pages, HTML experiments and sometimes hosted files. It was a hodgepodge of randomness that never got altered. Why change it to something else when I could simply add on more?

But more important than purpose. More important than continuity or even coherence. This sight, Nowhere as I called it, was me. This was me on the internet. No longer was the world wide web something that I merely observed. It was now something I participated in.

That was a sense of empowerment. Sure I got practically no visitors, what was there to see? I still showed it off.

I went on. I made a tripod page for poetry. That one I used their template at first, but it was too cumbersome to update. So I remade the whole page using Netscape Composer (TABLES BEWARE!). On that one I jumped into some more Javascript. I had a menu I wanted on all of the pages, but didn’t want to write it over and over. If I added a page, I would need to update all of the other pages. So instead I made a Javascript function that printed out the menu. SImple and sweet, it later got me a job.

You’ll notice a blog-like page where I comment on updates to the site.

Next I tried XOOM (Xoom? xoom? hm) There I put ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ which was a site based mostly on AeroSpace Java programs. I made Java applets to find properties behind a shock wave and to get the atmospheric conditions at a certain altitude, etc. While it was neat playing with Java, I found myself with something more pressing than writing aerospace applets: aerospace homework.

All the while the Geocities site sat there, mostly ignored. So one day in 1999 (ish) I decided it was time for a revamp. The Vault was a neat name, so went for Vault 1909 as a site title. Worked with the page URL and even gave me a theme to design to. Made this page. So now it is much cleaner.

By this point I owned my first URL, (as well as my name) and had been programming in Perl for quiet some time for a company started with two of my friends. While the free sites never really let us use CGI, getting my own server opened up an new world for me. I had been working as a web programmer since 1998 for various clients, but never really had my own production box to show off. (I had apache configured on my computer for building and testing). So the CGI I had been writing had always had a point. “I need a box that updates here.” “I need a place to get client email addresses.” Etc. Now I was free to do whatever I wanted.

So onwards I went. Perl, PHP, more Javascript, even some ASP (eek!). But in the end, it really all started with a small picture of Calvin at the top of a black website.

Godspeed Geocities.

How I would Change Microsoft

The Microsoft / Yahoo! rumors seem to still pop up every so often on the Intrawebz bringing up new discussion on where the software giant is going. The conquering of Google and the internet is its next objective, hence all the talk in the first place of acquiring Yahoo!.

Here is where I believe Microsoft is making a mistake. Microsoft’s core business is, well, business, not the internet. Yes the internet plays a part in what Microsoft should be doing, but it should not be the focus.

Right now Microsoft rules the desktop. Like or not, this is how it is. Between Windows and MS Office, business is conduted through software written by Microsoft. What would people do without MS Exhange? or Outlook? or dare I say Word (cringe).

Focus should be shifted to these two core applications. The Outlook – Exhange pair is essential to Microsoft, as it is essential to Business. Already they are near the top of their game. Love MS, hate MS, Outlook – Exchange make a good pair. Add in a Blackberry or Windows Mobile phone and you have an email / contacts / calendar solution that has everyone else running to catch up.


So push it. Farther. Make Exchange the most secure and stable email solution out there. Make outlook more flexible, more adaptable, more ready to meet whatever problems some IT group throws at it. Make us want MS on our back ends. Sounds naughty, eh?

Then what?

Microsoft Office Lite. Or possibly a better name, but the idea is simple. You divide office into “Professional” and “Lite”. Professional is what it is now, everything in all its glory.

The “Lite” is a new beast. Here is what you do. Go dig out the Office 2000 code. For 70% of the home user, this has everything they will ever need. Patch it up so it runs on Vista, add in all the file formats of the new office (like docx) and sell it for $50.

You heard me right, $50. At that price people will buy it. And yes, I know you have works, but get rid of it. Give them Office at a reasonable price and you’ll sell it.

Make the “Professional” one have the new whistles and bells, make it have all the Exchange hotness, etc. You aren’t looking to cannibalize your business sales with this move. You are looking to cannibalize your piracy.

So then what?

Windows. Windows Vista didn’t do so hot out of the box. That is OK, it happens, really *cough OSX 10.0 cough*. But instead of being all Microsoft about it, you should instead, well, be Apple about it.

Here is my Windows proposal. (and yes, I am aware the next version is called Windows 7, but I think this is better). First, get rid of all the different versions of windows. There is one version, and that is Microsoft Windows V. Now V.0 is what we got with Vista (see? Vista, V) Now we go to V.1 (which is probably one of the current SP, I am an admitted Mac guy here), which is a free upgrade to Vista.

Now since we have reduced our foot print to a single version of Windows we are going to focus on it. The next version, V.2 will be a paid upgrade, but the difference is here we will blatantly rip off Apple’s pricing and release schedule. Instead of $ONE MILLION DOLLARZ for windows, it will be $150. No upgrade, no media server, no basic and advanced versions, just $150 for Windows V.2.

Then we get on a regular schedule. V.3 will be 12 – 18 months later, V.4, etc. Meanwhile we have a crack security team (you may need to hire these guys…) to start working on V.2.1. What is this? the .1 – .X releases are security patches. Fix it and fix it fast.

Are there other things, like online Office, and anything with Web 2.0 buzz words in it that should be done too? Maybe. Let’s look at one.

Hotmail. Seriously, what in the hell is going on with Hotmail? If I have a Hotmail account, I want it to work on my Outlook and my Windows Mobile phone just like an exchange server. Yes it is free. Yes it is Hotmail, but make it better. Use the leverage you have with your exchange – outlook synergy (OOH! big manager word!) to make people think about jumping from gmail to Hotmail. Think it can’t be done? Then you aren’t thinking hard enough.

And please just forget about search engines. Really. You are only wasting money by going into that market. Hell I could have built you from scratch a better product than what you have online for much much less than what you would have spent for Yahoo! (Here is my offer, if you respond to this post in 36 hours, I’ll give it to you for only 2 billion. How does that sound??)

The fact is that Microsoft, you don’t need to get into search engines. You NEED to make Windows. You NEED to make Microsoft Office. Focus! (and leave Yahoo! the hell alone)