Back at El Rancho de IoT

This week I’ve been up at QNX HQ in planning meetings.  This was a great experience for a number of reasons, but, primarily just seeing the QNX leadership team in action.  I’m a guy who bears the scars of product review meetings with Bill Gates over the years, so, when people say technology isn’t a contact sport I beg to differ.  I have to say what I saw this week was very close to sessions I remember from Microsoft at it’s peak in the 1990’s.  The good news, seeing the emphasis on architecture.

Having been @MSFT for the genesis of the Windows NT operating system in ’89/’90, and the long run it’s had for the industry I can testify first hand about the importance of getting your architecture right, the pay off is obvious.  I worked closely with Dave Cutler’s team (now Chief Technical Fellow @ MSFT) and took their designs and reviewed them with the leaders in technology of the day, ecosystem friends and competitors.  There are subsystems in Windows that still manifest the impact of this review loop today.
I’m pleased to report we’re doing the same thing for my new products, talking to customers early, working hard to get things right.  We’re both building a cloud based system, but also getting it right on the device.  If your on device agents processing markedly changes device state, you’re really not measuring the true device state, are you?   Architecture matters, it’s not easy to do, but will show it’s value over time.
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iPhone most vulnerable platform, for now

BGR reports that iPhone is more vulnerable than Android and Windows Phone and BlackBerry, snippet follows:

A new report suggests that Apple’s (AAPLiPhone is more “vulnerable” to attacks than Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry (BBRY) smartphones. According to a study from SourceFire, the vast majority of all mobile phone vulnerabilities that have been discovered so far have been found in Apple’s smartphones. The firm found 210 vulnerabilities in the iPhone, giving iOS an 81% share of known mobile phone vulnerabilities, while Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices combined to have a 19% market share.

Yves Younan, a senior research engineer at SourceFire’s Vulnerabilities Research Team and author of the report, revealed to ZDNet that the results were “surprising.” He added that it was also “interesting” because Apple has continued to implement additional security features in new versions of iOS.

I’m not sure why this should be surprising to anyone, any platform that hits a sufficiently large number of users will fall prey to attack.  The many lessons that we learned on the PC platform are happening, albeit at an accelerated pace, on the smartphone platforms.  This is something that we all have a stake in and every business and consumer smartphone customer will need to be responsible for “securing their end point device”, i.e. your phone,  just like you have secured your PC.  No platform is truly immune, active measures are called for.

At BlackBerry we’ve built in several features to help, BlackBerry 10 has built in support for our Fusion MDM product to remotely manage and more importantly to remotely wipe sensitive corporate data.  We’ve got Balance, essentially separate “personal” and “business” partitions built into the platform keeping work and personal data and apps separate and secured.  Our BlackBerry World store has “Enterprise Store” capability, allowing businesses to select, manage and distribute only the applications they’ve approved on the business partition.  Finally, we’ve also announced our relationship with Trend Micro to keep our BlackBerry World stores malware free.

I wish that it were the case that all the features and services we’ve built for BlackBerry 10 were enough, however, you’ll need to take additional steps to insure your apps, services and phones are secure for your customers and employees to the best of your abilities.  This includes preparation, education and implementing sound policies and procedures.   This is our shared responsibility in the smartphone ecosystem.

Don’t stop believing

Not to worry, I’m not going to launch into Journey’s power ballad….

It appears that the negative coverage is now increasing on my old friends in Windows Phone.  I joined the BlackBerry team just over a year ago, and in that time one skill I’ve “exercised” is to read the recent coverage of BlackBerry, process that information and to simply continue executing on the path we’d already charted.  This is something that a good Evangelist needs to do, believe in your own technology.  In the face of such constant, negative and well, sometimes actually quite amusing coverage, how do you keep the team moving forward?

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t control.

It’s easy to get caught up and react to negativity.   So, early last year we learned that we had to carry our message out to developers ourselves.  This lead us to launch our now infamous 44 city BlackBerry Jam World Tour.  We could control our own messaging only if we could deliver it directly to developers without someone else’s spin or agenda.  We counted on this core of developers to carry our unfiltered message out to their community.  It seemed like a good idea and really was the best option available.  So we did, simple as that.

Another example was fighting the “vaporware” problem.  Being a former Microsoft Technical Evangelist, having to manage an Ecosystem to a new set of target dates was something I, er, was used to doing?  Anyways, we couldn’t control the speculation about “if BlackBerry 10 would ever ship” but what we decided to do is let developers experience it first hand.  We launched the biggest seeding program of it’s type in the industry.  Developers could monitor our progress build to build, SDK release to SDK release and see that BlackBerry 10 was real.

When you’re facing a situation like we’ve faced at BlackBerry, set realistic expectations with your team and management &  know it always takes longer than you think for your message to carry.   But the most important thing is to actively go out into the Ecosystem, tell your story and watch something great happen.

Old School Rules!

Hal Berenson, former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer, writes an amazing  blog about his insights into past and present goings on at our former employer, but in this post he drills into what’s gone wrong with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 evangelism.  I have to say, I totally agree with Hal, the WP8 evangelism approach of Apple-like secrecy was plain wrong, and ignored all the hard won lessons of the MS Evangelism Playbook.

As one of Microsoft’s original Evangelists and co-originators of the PDC and founder of WinHEC, the former Windows software and hardware ecosystem conferences now defunct, sharing as much technical information as early as we could was instrumental to building support for each release of Windows I worked on. I talked about this in an earlier post, how evangelizing products early paid off for Microsoft and now BlackBerry.  Hal focuses on the feedback angle, realize at Microsoft we had smaller and NDA only feedback sessions sometimes years in advance of the PDC to fully brief and gather feedback from the ISV community.  These were the little known Microsoft Systems Design Review series and more granular feature level design reviews we convened with key technical leaders in the industry.

At BlackBerry being open and working with the app development community early as possible has already paid dividends for BlackBerry 10 with record early support.  We see no reason to change our approach, if the rest of the industry continues down the secrecy path, so be it.  I’m happy to run this key tool from the old evangelism playbook, time tested with proven efficacy.

Evangelize early? Worked for BB10

Another former ‘Softie Evangelist, Alex St. John is blogging about the DirectX days.  Lot’s of interesting ideas and history in his blog, but one topic caught my eye: Evangelize early.   I couldn’t agree more.  Alex talks about the DX team working with the game industry before anything in DX was really working, making it participatory and getting the game developers to invest long term by working along side the team on the same timeline release to release.  Great tactic if you can pull it off, and was in the Microsoft Evangelism Playbook for years.

This sounds pretty early doesn’t it?  Well, I’ve got an example that is even more extreme.  Believe it or not, I evangelized Windows NT for Microsoft when it was just a stack of papers.  I flew around the world with some of the leaders of the original Windows NT development team conducting design reviews of Windows NT *paper specs* with our key ISVs before any code was running, not even a demo.   Why? Remember at the time Windows was moving from 16 bit to 32 bit, adding real multitasking and virtual memory as well as the ability to implement protected subsystems running things like POSIX  compatible API shells.  We were interested in whether ISVs wanted Win32 to track the semantics of Win16, or could we “do the right thing”.  Pretty universally the answer was, do the right thing and don’t saddle us with a legacy design from Win16.  Whew, that’s exactly what we wanted to hear.

Doing things this early is quite risky, you tip your hand to the competition.  You may be in fact wasting your partners time if the product either doesn’t ship or is radically different in the end.  But in this case, it was warranted and we were rewarded with both early support and an architecture and an API pattern that served the industry for 20 years.

Our BlackBerry 10 evangelism effort implemented some of these best practices.  A full nine months before launch we provided more early seed units to the worldwide developer community than BlackBerry or anyone else in the mobile industry has before, to the best of my knowledge.  While we didn’t review paper specs, (that would have been at least a year before I joined the company), app developers did incrementally familiarize themselves with our early builds of BlackBerry 10, provided feedback along the way and ultimately rewarded us with an industry record level of early support for a new platform at launch.

When is the right time for you to begin evangelizing your product?