An evangelism opportunity…

When I worked at Microsoft I remembered lots of people in the evangelism group worried that Linux was taking over the startup world in Silicon Valley. Heck, I was one of those people who noted that almost every startup was using LAMP instead of Windows.

There are very few opportunities to change the decisions of a startup in terms of the infrastructure that has been chosen.

What are they?

1) When a startup first germinates. Why? Cause that’s when an entrepreneur decides between Linux, Sun, or Microsoft backends. And on databases. MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, etc.
2) When a startup hits a major resource snag. IE, a major server dies and needs to be replaced.

I can’t think of another time when a startup could be switched from one ecosystem to another. Do you?

So, why am I telling you this? Because Zooomr is in the second group. I just got off the phone with Kristopher Tate and they are really in dire need of new database machines to get their servers back up.

If I were working at Microsoft or at Sun I’d be flying a team to Zooomr to help them get back up and running. I’d also videotape everything, and make a big deal about how a startup survived due to these efforts.

It’s interesting. Lots of companies claim to care about startups. Here’s a chance to help one. And, even, get one to switch from LAMP to Windows or something else. Anyone in?

Ahh, the PlayTable, er Surface Computing, how it works…

Andy Wilson. Remember the guy I introduced you to at Microsoft Research?

Funny, he was at the Maker Faire last weekend talking to everyone and showing off his latest thing. He builds demos for Bill Gates and he was the one who first showed me the PlayTable. Now called “Surface Computing.”

He handed me a stack of glass chips. I put one down. It revealed a video playing on the surface. You can see the same demo now two years later. My demo was of a prototype at Microsoft’s TechFest conference which was for employees only.

Anyway, surface computing is real and is wild. I want one of these in my house, but it is too expensive. Anyway, here’s how it works:

1) It has a piece of holographic glass that can display images that a projector shoots at it.
2) It has a projector underneath.
3) It has two cameras, aimed at the glass which can triangulate on objects on it.
4) It has software, written in Windows Presentation Foundation, that take advantage of the new hardware.

So, how does it recognize the glass chips placed on top of it? Easy, each chip has an invisible bar code in infrared-reflecting ink. Your eye can’t see it. The cameras can.

The problem is the expense. It costs a few grand for the glass, another grand or two for the projector, $50 for each camera, and then you need a computer underneath.

Which is why they didn’t announce you can buy one of these for your house.

Other cons? This thing does a killer demo. But can it do much more than the demo videos show? I’m not yet sure. It’s the kind of thing that’s killer for the first couple of hours but that gets old fast if there aren’t a bunch of real-world applications that you can do on the thing.

I’m watching the videos and seeing a lot of those same kind of killer demos but not much that would make me spend $5,000 on one of these.

How about you?

One thing, though. I love Andy Wilson. He’s an amazing developer. To me it’s totally amazing that he was helping kids out at Maker Faire. I wanted to grab each one of them and say “do you have any idea who you are talking with?”

UPDATE: I just discovered that surface computing was being worked on for more than five years now and that it highlights one of several directions that were pursued within the Surface Computing team, under Eric Horvitz, at Microsoft.

Say hi to the Googlers with the gardening tools

So, I was just playing around with Google’s new street side photos. Hmmm, sounds like something that Microsoft did more than a year ago back when I worked there. But, go to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View and you’ll see a bunch of people standing outside. I wonder who they are? Why are they holding shovels and rakes and other gardening tools? Why are they all wearing green shirts? What do those shirts say? What team do they belong to? So many questions.

Microsoft’s PlayTable to come soon?

I’ve been waiting for the PlayTable for quite a while. Mary Jo Foley (our favorite Microsoft Watcher) says it’s coming soon. The demos I saw at Microsoft’s TechFest a couple of years back were stunning. If the product is even 1/2 as good as the demo this one will catch everyone by surprise.

Oh, funny aside? Our favorite name for our new kid? It’s Milan. And I didn’t know until today that the code-name for the PlayTable is Milan.

Either way, a Milan is coming to you soon. Not sure if it’ll be a Scoble or a Microsoft. Heheh.