There are three separate vectors relating to Apple’s mobile platforms buzzing in my cranium. They’re the SD Times iPhone application, the technical program for iPhone/iPad DevCon and my barely used iPad.

I’m very proud of our new SD Times Newsreader iPhone app. It was written by our in-house IT team — here’s a big shout-out to Usman S. — and is available in the iTunes App Store.

Use the app on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to read the latest stories from the sdtimes.com website any time you’ve got a live WiFi or cellular data connection. It’s a version 1.0 product, and we’ve got some great ideas for version 2.0 – and it was wonderful to get our feet wet with mobile development.

Download it (totally free) and let me know what you think!

I’m equally proud of how our plans are coming together for our first iPhone/iPad DevCon. I’m focusing right now on the workshops and technical classes, and right now the program is about 98% complete.

A lot of work goes into putting on a technical conference, especially for the inaugural event – there’s a great deal of research into what real developers are doing and what they need to learn. We feel confident that we’ve assembled a top-notch faculty and have selected the appropriate topics for enterprise developers, ISVs and even “indie” developers seeking their fortunes in the mobile apps gold rush.

Hope you can join us – San Diego, Sept. 27-29, 2010.

And then there’s the iPad. I pre-ordered a WiFi model in March, and it arrived in early April. I’ve maintained that my only reason for being an early adopter is to see what the iPad means to the future of publishing, while contemplating what an SD Times newsreader app for that platform would look like. And you know… that reason has turned out to be the truth.

I’ve got the iPad, it works fine and it’s impressive. I can’t find a single significant design flaw – quibbles, yes, but no major complaints. But even after loading it with apps and taking it on two trips, I can’t figure out what to do with it. For the past week, the iPad has sat unused on my desk.

Maybe I’m just the wrong customer demographic.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

VMforce is a good idea. Java is perfect for cloud computing: As the original “run once, run anywhere” platform, what VMware and Salesforce have announced has the potential to revolutionize the Cloud, and offer arguably the most compelling platform for many enterprises.

I see VMforce – the fusion of VMware’s virtualization technology and Spring framework with Saleforce’s Cloud infrastructure – as breathing new life into enterprise Java. Let’s face it: With Sun absorbed into Oracle, it’s clear that the Java universe has entered a whole new era where some are wondering about its continued relevance.

Given strong competition from Microsoft, with the new Visual Studio 2010, .NET Framework 4.0 and the Windows Azure cloud platform, Java has certainly looked vulnerable, and I wouldn’t blame Java-centric enterprises for questioning their long-term commitment to the platform.

I’ve heard it said that the Java community is going to look outside of the Java Community Process (now controlled by Oracle) for innovation and leadership. SpringSource (now owned by VMware) is frequently cited as the future of enterprise Java – not the JCP. There’s a lot of truth to that.

And while I never envisioned any particular synergy between Java and Salesforce, the VMforce announcement shows that the “no software” company is much more creative, quite frankly, that I’d given them credit for. Certainly it’s encouraging that Saleforce is looking beyond its Apex programming language.

Let’s review what VMforce is supposed to be. VMware is putting a version of its vSphere virtualization management platform into Salesforce.com’s data centers. Developers create Spring-based Java applications using an Eclipse-based IDE. Those apps can use many Java features, like POJOs, JavaServer Pages and servlets, but can’t use some key Java EE features like Enterprise JavaBeans. The apps also can access Saleforce’s distributed database system.

Of course, it’s too early to truly evaluate VMforce – it’s not going to be available for many months. The developer preview doesn’t appear until this fall, according to the companies. So, please don’t interpret these comments as an endorsement of this specific offering, but rather of the notion of bringing Java into the Cloud.

That said, VMforce is the best news that I’ve heard in many months for the Java community. Kudos to VMware and Salesforce for excellent out-of-the-box, into-the-Cloud thinking.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you follow the business-to-business publishing market, you know that last week Reed Business Information announced the closure of 23 publications. The company claimed that it couldn’t sell them… but it’s not clear if it really tried.

Not familiar with the story? Don’t know what it means for the publishing industry? Here are three links:

1. A news report on Apr. 16 by Folio’s Jason Fell

2. More reporting by Jason a few days later

3. And today’s barbed commentary by my business partner, Ted Bahr

Enjoy the stories!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Free mobile applications are great. If those free apps are supported by advertising, that’s a trade-off that I’m willing to make – and I suspect many users that would agree with me.

Our feelings about advertising in software have changed. While we don’t expect our desktop software to contain ads – sorry, no pop-ups when using Excel or Photoshop, please – everyone accepts that Web sites are supported by ads. That’s true of everything from blogs and reference sites to NYTimes.com and SDTimes.com.

Mobile apps — pioneered on Apple’s iPhone, but spreading like wildfire to other platforms like Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 — are more akin to websites than desktop software.

Consider: You might not install a Yelp or OpenTable application on your Linux, Mac or Windows notebook to help you find a restaurant or reserve a table. Instead you expect to use their websites for that purpose – getting a free service in exchange for seeing some possibly relevant advertising. On your smartphone, instead of browsing to yelp.com or opentable.com, the natural tendency is to install a Yelp or OpenTable app – and both of those exist. If they showed ads, would you mind? Probably not.

This is a huge change of mindset. Ten years ago, in the very first issue of SD Times (Feb. 23, 2000), we published a story about an ad-supported software business model. We weren’t very happy about this: An editorial in that issue, entitled, “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World,” said,

It’s bad enough seeing advertisements on Web pages. But ads in your applications software? The latest trend is to embed advertising links into client applications using tools from up-and-coming companies like Aureate Media Corp. or Conducent Technologies Inc.

On one hand, that’s good news: Vendors are developing alternative revenue streams, which might allow them to offer full-featured applications for free or for reduced cost.

But the bad news is: Your employees are trying to do a job. To protect them, your company doubtlessly stops salespeople at the door and won’t allow them to canvass your busy employees while they’re working. Should embedded advertisers be afforded special privileges and 24×7 access to your staff? Of course not.

If you’re developing consumer applications, embedded advertising for your freely distributed software is a good idea, and can provide a valuable source of additional revenue for hot products. But please don’t inflict ads on your enterprise customers because, frankly, they won’t stand for it. Would you?

Yes, the world has changed. Ads embedded into mobile apps aren’t only tolerated, but are embraced as a legitimate business model. In fact, Google is buying an AdMob, a company that helps developers embed and sell ads in their mobile apps, and Apple has announced its own ad delivery system, called iAd.

Just don’t make the mistake of changing for an app… and then embedding ads anyway. Cable News Network has committed this faux pas with its US$1.99 CNN Mobile app, and the feedback is scathing. Here are the titles of the three more recent customer comments:

DO NOT BUY THIS APP! It’s full of advertisements!
Ads (!) – In a paid app – a ripoff!
Slow, littered with ads!

From websites to mobile apps, it’s an ad, ad, ad, ad world. But I guess we’re used to it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Yesterday was a great day — I got out of the office and spent the day down at 360iDev in San Jose. This is a grass-roots conference dedicated to iPhone developers; most of the couple-hundred folks in attendance seemed to be “indie” entrepreneurs. I suppose we fit into that category, with our SD Times Newsreader app still in beta. It was fun showing it to people, though, it made me feel like a real part of the crowd, not merely a journalist covering an event.

This was also my first experience using my new iPad to take notes on. Not bad! But because I didn’t have an appropriate “app,” my notes consisted of a series of emails sent to myself. Hey, it worked.

Instead of being at a hotel or convention center, 360iDev is being held at the eBay Town Hall, a small but nice facility. There’s no good central meeting spot there and parking is tight, but it was the perfect place for a small developer gathering.

Unfortunately, although this is a four-day conference (Sunday-Wednesday), I could only justify one day out of the office.

Monday’s keynote by David Whatley (Critical Thought Games) was hysterical, as he explained the connection between being a mobile software entrepreneur and a pickup artist. He described a training course in L.A. for pickup artists — and how it taught him to overcome the fear of rejection and commit himself 100% to a goal. As I said, hysterical. But also good.

My favorite technical talk was by Owen Goss, who demonstrated how to prototype an iPhone game in “real time.” What a great presentation, it gave me an excellent understanding how to design games. (I wish I could buy the game that the class designed.) The room was packed to overflowing.

The closing keynote on Monday was by Jay Freeman aka Saurik (pictured), the guy behind Cydia. What an incredible mind. Is there anything he hasn’t done?

Facing a long drive back to S.F. in traffic, I only stayed for a few minutes of the Monday evening reception. However, the day was fulfilling and the conference an apparent success. Certainly the attendees seemed happy. It’s too bad that I had to miss the sessions today and tomorrow. The 360iDev guys do a good conference.

Oh, I also scored a show-special toy from an exhibitor, Fastmac. It’s an iPhone 3GS skin with extended battery and flashlight. Check it out!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Web developers like using Adobe’s Flash technology to deliver video, animations and interactive content over the Web. Apple doesn’t like Flash because it’s a proprietary system and because the runtime environment can be a resource hog.

Apple, like Microsoft, only likes proprietary specifications when it can control the spec itself. Otherwise, the company prefers open standards, such as the still-evolving HTML5.

That’s one reason Apple refused to allow Flash onto the iPhone and iPad touch devices – and won’t allow Flash onto the new iPad tablet computer. Given that the iPad can deliver an otherwise-excellent browser experience on its large screen, its lack of Flash hurts everyone.

In the short term, Apple is making life difficult for its customers, who can’t enjoy some Web content using the iPad’s Safari browser. Some consumers may refuse to buy the iPad because of the lack of Flash support. Web developers with Flash-based sites are faced with the choice of implementing a parallel content-delivery system (using a very immature HTML5) or risk alienating some potential end users. After all, most users will blame them – not Apple – if videos don’t play on their shiny new iPads.

The debate about Flash was been nasty, complete with public airings of nasty comments by Apple executives about Adobe’s products, and by Adobe staffers about Apple’s executives. This distracts from more interesting questions about the iPad. Like, what’s it for? Is the inexpensive single-purpose app paradigm replacing the familiar world of search engines and expensive broad-purpose applications? Is a vendor-controlled software approval and delivery platform better or worse for developers and consumers than a wide-open platform, like we have for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X?

In the long run, Apple is backing the right horse. Flash, like Apple’s own Quicktime or Microsoft’s Silverlight, is a transitional technology when it comes to the straightforward delivery of streaming content, like video, over the Web. The future of video belongs to wrapperless implementations like HTML5.

Apple has demonstrated, over and over again, that it’s willing to play the long game. The company is fearless in making discontinuous jumps, such as from Mac OS to Mac OS X, or from PowerPC to Intel, that hurt consumers and developers in the short term but offer huge benefits in the long term.

Often, Apple has sought to reduce the pain of those jumps. Early versions of Mac OS X (through 10.4) could run many Mac OS apps in its Classic abstraction layer. Until Snow Leopard, Intel-based Macs could run PowerPC applications in Rosetta.

The iPad is marketed as “the best way to experience the web, email, photos, and videos.” Flash is the most common way Web developers stream video. It’s a shame that the executives at Apple apparently didn’t want to work with Adobe to make Flash work – at least as a transition until HTML5 is more mature.

The public bickering and posturing around Flash and HTML5 has made Apple look like a bully. It’s also made Adobe look like a wimp. Nobody — nobody — is the winner here.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” Gerald Ford spoke those words on Aug. 9, 1974, when taking the oath of office as President of the United States, after the resignation of Richard Nixon.

The phrase, “Our long nightmare is over,” came to mind when reading yesterday that the jury in the District Court of Utah trial between the SCO Group and Novell issued a verdict determining that Novell – not SCO – owns the Unix copyrights.

SCO’s seemly never-ending lawsuits against IBM, Novell and other parties have indeed been a nightmare for the Linux community and the open-source movement. The SCO Group, formerly known as Caldera Systems, was a Linux company that purchased UnixWare and OpenServer from a separate company, called the Santa Cruz Operation, believing that it was purchasing the copyrights to Unix itself.

Caldera dropped its Linux software, renamed itself the SCO Group, and then began a 24×7 legal assault on the Linux community, claiming that Linux contained copyrighted intellectual property that now belonged to SCO.

With the financial support of Microsoft, SCO’s management team (under CEO Darl McBride) tried multiple simultaneous tactics:

• SCO sued IBM claiming that IBM’s Linux software contained Unix System V intellectual property

• SCO sued AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler claiming that those companies’ use of Linux infringed to SCO’s copyrights.

• SCO sued Novell claiming that Novell’s assertion of ownership of Unix’s copyrights slandered SCO’s title to that intellectual property.

• Forming a subsidiary called SCOSource, SCO tried to shake down Linux users by selling them “licenses” to use any SCO intellectual property that might be buried inside Linux. In other words, if Linux users wrote a check to SCO, SCO would promise not to sue them like it did AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler. (SCO never revealed what IP, if any, was hidden inside Linux.)

All of these actions hinged on a key assertion by SCO – that it actually did own the Unix copyrights. If the SCO Group doesn’t own Unix, then none of the other actions had any grounding whatsoever. Novell, which had sold UnixWare to the Santa Cruz Operation several years earlier, asserted that while it had sold some software, it had kept the copyrights. Thus, the lawsuits.

These lawsuits have been hanging on and dragging down the Linux community for nearly a decade. Legal setback after legal setback haven’t deterred SCO’s pit-bull lawyers. A major court decision in August 2007 in Novell’s favor didn’t stop the lawsuits, but it did drive SCO into bankruptcy. Firing Darl McBride in October 2009 didn’t stop the lawsuits; the company and its attorneys simply keep going.

At long last, courts seems to have spoken definitely. With last week’s jury verdict, it’s clear that Novell – not the SCO Group – owns the Unix copyrights, and there’s no basis whatsoever for SCO’s lawsuits to continue.

It would be nice to believe that Linux’s long nightmare is over. However, the mysterious financial backers behind the SCO Group – nobody knows who they are – are tenacious. Appeals will undoubtedly be filed, and this will continue to drag on. Sadly, even this important jury verdict probably won’t end the never-ending soap opera.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

It’s April 1st, and you know what that means! It means that SD Times annual contributor I.B. Phoolen has made his, well, editorially questionable annual contributions.

RAG unveils Mystic Sextant

Mac developers embrace .NET with Visual Objective-C

You can read more of I.B.’s writing on his blog.

See also Larry O’Brien’s Windows & .NET Watch column, Programming for Profit

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

What can you do with an old dead computer? A family member asked me how to dispose of his ancient no-longer-functioning Dell desktop PC. The good news is that it’s easy, and usually free, to recycle unwanted electronics, whether it’s a computer or cell phone, television or batteries. Here’s an generalized version of what I told him:

• Contact your city office. My own town has a free program for recycling electronics; you can drop equipment off at their transfer station on Saturday mornings. Your town may offer a similar program.

• Watch for fliers or notices for recycling programs. Local organizations are always running “drop your recycling off for free” programs, sometimes as fundraisers. (I guess they sell the junk equipment as scrap metal.)

• Electronics and computer stores can help. Many will take old electronics, whether they’ve sold them or not. Best Buy, for example, has a program described here.

• Some general retailers have recycling programs. Walmart, for example, will take some items for free, and will charge to recycle other items, as described here.

• Check with the product’s manufacturer. Dell, for example, will pay the postage for you to ship the old Dell-branded equipment back to them for recycling, as described here.

Sure, it’s easy to toss the electronics into the trash, but please don’t. It’s irresponsible to put that type of equipment (with its valuable metals and toxic waste) into our landfills. For just a little bit of effort, you can dispose of unwanted electronics safely.

If you have other ideas, please leave a comment on this blog.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you’re building applications for mobile devices, are you an indie, a corporate or an enterprise IT developer? The mobile world is trifurcating into those specific communities.

I spent most of this week at Microsoft MIX, the company’s annual technical conference for Web developers. This year, the event had a huge concentration on both Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. There’s a connection between the two, of course: Windows Phone 7 appears to be mainly a delivery platform for Silverlight applications.

Looking forward, I see three hot mobile apps platforms: Apple’s iPhone and iPad (which share the same SDK and programming model), Google’s Android and Windows Phone.

iPhone has a huge first-mover advantage because of its incredible head start. Even so, developers chafe under Apple’s tight control over the distribution channel (the iTunes Store). Android is still ramping up, but version 2.1 of the SDK has captured a lot of attention from open-source developers. Windows Phone 7 won’t ship for many months and breaks the app model used with Windows Mobile 6.5. Still, because it uses familiar tools like Visual Studio, I predict that it’ll become popular with Microsoft developers.

That brings us to the indie, corporate and enterprise IT question.

The iPhone/iPad business model is focused on supporting two main groups of developers, which I’ll call corporate and indie, but not enterprise IT developers.

Corporate: large companies are writing apps that tie into their mainline businesses, such as the news reader from the New York Times, the Facebook mobile app, Amazon’s Kindle reader, and so-on. Those corporate developers see the apps as a way to serve their customer base – as an adjunct, perhaps, to their website.

Indie: To independent developers, the mobile app is the primary product used to make money. Often, there’s a “lite” free version which is meant to entice the customer to buy a paid version. Sometimes, the app is free and the developer tries to make money selling ads. Either way, the app is the product.

Enterprise IT: Apple’s iTunes distribution model is designed for selling or giving away software to consumers. It’s not appropriate for a company to build applications to be used by its employees only. If enterprise developers want to support employees with iPhone or iPad, they should use a tuned website, not a native app. That makes the iPhone/iPad less than ideal as an IT platform.

The Android platform is compelling to indies and enterprise IT developers because there’s no Apple-style restriction on app distribution. It’s great for building custom software for employees and partners. It’s also very appealing to indie developers who want to build apps that Apple doesn’t want to stock in its store for either quality or content reasons. Plus, it’s fine for corporate developers to create Android apps that support their other business interests. The biggest weakness is the lack of a central marketing machine (like the Apple iTunes Store) to drive revenue for indies. So, while we’ll see lots of Android apps, we’re unlikely to see as much developer revenue.

Windows 7 will be more like Android than iPhone. It should prove especially popular with enterprise IT departments because they will find it easiest to build, deploy and manage apps on Windows Phone devices. Plus, Microsoft is unparalleled in supporting enterprise IT developers with tools, training and third-party ecosystem partners. If the phone sells well, it will also be attractive to corporate developers. For indies, much depends on how strong Microsoft’s marketing programs are – beyond the Xbox, Microsoft has little track record there, and its attempts to build a business around the Zune have been disappointing.

So tell me: Are you an indie, a corporate or an enterprise IT developer? What’s your take on iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you buy lots of stuff from Amazon.com — as I do — you might be fooled by receiving a message like the one below. It certainly looks real, as it came from a legitimate-looking email address. However, a real Amazon order confirmation lists exactly what you ordered. This scam message does not.

Also, a real Amazon.com order confirmation would not have been sent as a bcc to one of our info@ email addresses. Or have entered the mail stream via an unsecured SMTP relay server belonging to a law firm in Minneapolis.

In the email, the line labeled “ORDER DETAILS” is a link that goes to an online store selling “adult supplements,” if you know what I mean. I’ve seen other messages like this that bring you to a fake Amazon.com login screen, where you might be tricked into entering your username and password. That’s bad, bad, bad.

That is the only bogus link in the message. All the other links actually go to Amazon.com

Be very careful about clicking links in email messages, even if they appear to be from a legitimate sender.

From: “email hidden; JavaScript is required
Date: March 16, 2010 2:38:37 PM PDT
To: Subject: Amazon.com – Your Confirmation (464-18147-30235)

Dear Customer,

Your order has been successfully confirmed. For your reference, here`s a summary of your order:

You just confirmed order #592-60631-10566

Status: CONFIRMED
_____________________________________________________________________

ORDER DETAILS
Sold by: Amazon.com, LLC
_____________________________________________________________________

Because you only pay for items when we ship them to you, you won`t be charged for any items that you cancel.

Thank you for visiting Amazon.com!

———————————————————————
Amazon.com
Earth`s Biggest Selection
http://www.amazon.com
———————————————————————

@bzmedia.com>@amazon.com>

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Our next SharePoint Technology Conference will be Oct. 20-22, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge.

We are conservatively projecting 750-800 registrants for SPTechCon Boston, but given the incredible growth of SPTechCon San Francisco from 2009 to 2010, and the fact that SPTechCon Boston will be the first event after the official release of Microsoft SharePoint 2010, attendance could be substantially higher. 🙂

More than 85% of the show floor has already been reserved by sponsors and exhibitors. Yes, we’re trying to get more space!!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

SPTechCon San Francisco (Feb. 10-12) had more than 1,000 registrants. That made the conference nearly twice the size of our previous SPTechCon San Francisco, held in January 2009.

Attendees were drawn to SPTechCon’s outstanding faculty. While many attendees focused on SPTechCon’s classes and workshops about SharePoint 2010, many others went to classes on older versions of Microsoft’s collaboration platform.

Not only did we have huge attendance, but the show floor sold out twice. All our booths and sponsorships were reserved by November 2009 – but we able to secure additional expo space from the Hyatt Burlingame. That extra space sold out fast. The final count was a record 52 exhibitors!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Let’s say that you can type 15 words per minute using a two-fingered method. You want to get faster, perhaps up to 40 wpm, using all ten fingers. During the learning process, as you suffer through unfamiliar motions, your typing speed and productivity speed will suffer for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Maybe your speed will drop to only two or three wpm. Slowly, you’ll build back up to your previous rate of 15 wpm… and then you’ll keep going faster and faster.

Ken Pugh, in his keynote address at the Enterprise Software Development Conf., referred to that period during the learning curve, when your productivity drops while you master new skills, as “chaos.” His metaphor for the learning curve, though, wasn’t typing. Ken used snowboarding metaphors to discuss how development teams can suffer when you’re trying to get them to adopt new practices and methodologies, such as agile development.

Ken is one of the most creative, most thoughtful Big Thinkers in the software development field. While I don’t snowboard, his point was completely clear. Looking at a curve that he drew – with the lower initial skill level on the left, then the dip into chaos while new skills are mastered, and then a higher attained skill level on the right – I immediately decide to refer to that dip as the “dreaded chasm of chaos.”

(Hey, I like alliterations, who do you expect?)

It’s hard to bring teams through the dreaded chasm of chaos. When it comes to typing, of course, most people accept that the ten-fingered method is faster than two-finger typing, and thus it’s a pretty safe bet. But when you’re adopting new platforms, new tools or new development methodologies, it’s not obvious or guaranteed that the new approach is better than the old. It’s not clear to managers or development teams that it’s worth the pain and chaos of leaving a comfort zone, or that the change will ever pay for the lost productivity required to navigate the learning curve.

In other words, there’s no proven ROI, no sure return on investment for enduring that chaos.

How do you cross the dreaded chasm of chaos you’re not sure that the outcome will be positive? Three words: “leap of faith.” When it comes to ten-fingered typing, not much faith is required. When it comes to spending the time, money and political capital to convince management and development teams to make that painful transition, the required leap of faith is a lot bigger.

Your arguments will probably be accompanied by lots of graphs and analysis documents, since everyone will need to know how big the chasm is, how much time and money it will take to cross it, and understand the benefits of getting to the other side. But there’s more than a cold-blooded business analysis in making this type of change: there’s an emotional component involved. You don’t want grudging acceptance; what you want is excitement for the future, and an enthusiastic willingness to endure the dreaded chasm of chaos because the grass will be greener on the other side (if I may mix my metaphors).

While only a few minutes of Ken’s riveting talk about “snowboarding, windsurfing, backpacking, and the art of software development” focused on this notion of chaos, it truly fired my imagination. Thanks, Ken!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Kent Beck and Ken Pugh are smart, smart fellows. Listening to them discuss the art and science of software development is guaranteed to excite the neurons… and leave you feeling supercharged with energy and ideas.

Both Kent (pictured) and Ken were keynote speakers at this week’s Enterprise Software Development Conference. As the conference chair, I had the honor of introducing their talks, of course – and then also got to hang around and chat with them afterwards.

Kent’s talk focused on what he calls responsive design. That’s a way of characterizing software changes, such as requests for implementing new features or functions. Kent has found a way of classifying software changes (which might be at a detailed level, like a class or a method, or at a higher level, like a module or complete application) into four groups:

• If you know where your changes are going and how to get there, easy changes can be implemented in direct “leaps,” while more complex changes might require a more resource-intensive “parallel” approach.

• If you don’t know how to visualize how to implement the changes directly, you may need to use “stepping stones” to inch your way to where you can gain greater visibility, or you may need to use “simplification” to eliminate requirements until the path becomes clear.

Sound simple? When you hear Kent speak, of course, everything seems completely obvious, because his work is so thorough and grounded in the real world. In reality, of course, his classification scheme is more complex and nuanced.

Why is this important? Each of these four approaches (leap, parallel, stepping stone, simplification) requires a different process to handle — and each of those processes can be surprising consistent, and therefore can be practiced and refined. If you can classify the requirements for a software change or feature implementation into one of those four categories, that can help you do a better job of estimating the project, marshalling the right resources and get the project off to a good start.

The talk was eye-opening. It’s a rare treat to learn from genuine Big Thinkers like Kent Beck. Shortly, I’ll share some comments about Ken Pugh’s discussion about the Dreaded Chasm of Chaos.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

How long should Dummies Month last? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

The correct answer, according to the For Dummies folks, is “two months.” It’s like an all-day Happy Hour!

Celebrate For Dummies in March and April

From fashion to Facebook, For Dummies is making everything easier!

From March 1, 2010 through April 30, 2010, For Dummies invites customers to join its annual “Dummies Month” celebration, offering a $5 mail-in rebate with a purchase of any For Dummies book or Audio Set (with the price of $6.99 or more).

Since its re-launch in January 2009, Dummies.com has quickly become a bookmarked favorite for fans of the brand. In addition to sample chapters from the book series, the site offers free how-to videos, photo step-by-steps, and expanded instructional articles. In coordination with Dummies Month, Dummies.com is hosting a special sweepstakes; from March 1 through April 30, visitors can enter up to once daily at www.dummies.com/go/win for a chance to win an Apple iPad loaded with For Dummies Apps. There’s no easier way to get helpful information anytime, anywhere than with apps from Dummies and the new iPad.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

United Business Media is relaunching COMDEX as a virtual trade show.

This is hysterically funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. Roll-on-the-floor funny. The benefits of attending COMDEX were talking to people, seeing and touching new products, talking to people, making deals with both exhibitors and other attendees, talking to people, discovering new companies, and talking to people.

While much of the business at COMDEX was “formal” on the show floor, just as much (or more) was casual and informal, in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cab lines, black-jack tables, hotel lobbies, hallways, hospitality suites and so-on.

COMDEX is where business got done, because everyone you wanted to do business with was at COMDEX.

Sorry, but a virtual trade show, where you get to view simulated booths from the isolation of your cubicle, isn’t what huge industry get-togethers like COMDEX are all about.

(PS: Grand Hall of Masters??????)

Here’s the news — see the press release here.

Leading virtual event provider takes COMDEX back to its roots

UBM, the leading global provider of business media and marketing services, is relaunching COMDEX as a virtual event which will take place November 16-17, 2010.

At its peak COMDEX was the world’s most famous tradeshow, attracting more than 200,000 visitors and 2,300 IT industry exhibitors from around the world to Las Vegas before the show closed its doors in 2003. UBM acquired the COMDEX brand as part of its acquisition of MediaLive International Inc in 2006.

The virtual COMDEX event is being launched by UBM’s Everything Channel business, a leader in technology sales channel media and services. Everything Channel is going back to the original 1979 concept of an event designed exclusively for the technology sales channel called “Computer Dealer Exhibition”. Everything Channel’s virtual COMDEX will include:

* Grand Hall of Masters will showcase the event’s keynote speakers
* The Conference Hall will offer technical, product, channel and business conference tracks
* The Exhibit Hall will feature booths and pavilions from technology vendors
* Hospitality Suites for private meetings, briefings and cocktail parties
* The Media Room will host registered journalists and industry analysts
* CRN Test Center will offer live reviews and demos of leading-edge technology solutions

For more information on and to register for Everything Channel’s COMDEX event, go here: www.COMDEXvirtual.com.

Virtual events are specially created online digital environments in which participants interact with online content or with other online participants as they would at live, face to face events. In 2009 UBM ran a total of 38 virtual events of different types, including careers fairs, technical seminars, tradeshows, conferences and sales meetings. For more information on UBM’s virtual events in 2010 go here: http://www.ubmstudios.com/featured-events/upcoming-events/.

Everything Channel’s virtual COMDEX event will be built by UBM Studios, UBM’s creative and strategic marketing business which specialises in building next-generation virtual media business solutions which connect global audiences through a robust virtual event environment with an intuitive user interface and appealing visuals. To find out more about the capabilities of UBM Studios virtual events go here: http://www.ubmstudios.com/virtual-product-suite/.

Separately, UBM Studios has signed a strategic alliance agreement with InXpo, the largest virtual event technology provider, to deliver next generation virtual business solutions using the InXpo Virtual Events Platform. As its first global media licensee, UBM Studios will use the InXpo platform to support the delivery of UBM virtual events at scale and on a worldwide basis.

David Levin, CEO of UBM said:

“The original COMDEX died because it stopped serving its core customers. We are giving COMDEX a future by going back to its past. Our virtual COMDEX is focused on serving the IT channel, Value Added Resellers, ISVs and all those people and businesses who make up the IT distribution system. Virtual COMDEX works right alongside and complements the other products and services we provide for the Channel and for the wider technology industry.”

“We are a leader in the virtual event market – we ran 38 virtual events in 2009. Through our UBM Studios business this year we’ll run many more virtual tradeshows, recruitment events and in-house training sessions for industries as diverse as construction, shipping and healthcare.”

“We run virtual events in tandem with live, in person events like tradeshows: we think we have a great opportunity to take advantage of the complementarity between online and offline events. Virtual events are emerging as a great, cost effective way of bringing customers together to engage and interact with branded business content and as well as a means of building professional business community interaction. These capabilities are key to delivering the measurable ROI that our customers are looking for.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you’re reading this on Monday, Mar. 1, today is the first day of the Enterprise Software Development Conference. As conference chair, I’m running around like the proverbial chicken with my head cut off.

As I write this, however, we’re in the calm before the storm. Hundreds of enterprise software developers and development managers are about to descend upon San Mateo, Calif., for an exciting three days of workshops, technical classes, conversation and networking.

It’s going to be a great week. I love conferences, studying with experts like our outstanding faculty – and learning even more from experts like you, our readers, who are attending the conference.

Day in and day out, too much of my time is spent starting at a couple of huge, glowing monitors. Sure, that’s where most of the work gets done. True, much of my output is measured by the fruit of the keyboard. Yet, despite all the technology, the computer isn’t where learning takes place, or where innovative ideas come from.

Every time I attend a conference – every time – my brain goes into sensory overdrive. Conversations and questions energize the neurons. Complacency vanishes, and pages of notes bloom. Don’t know about you, but the best thinking truly occurs outside the box.

If you’re attending ESDC, please flag me down and say “Hello.” (I’m the crazy-looking guy who looks like he either lost something, forgot something or is late to something. That’s okay. Stop me anyway.) I’m looking forward to learning from you.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’m not sure I believe everything the scammer says in this three-part interview with Scam Detectives, but this is interesting nonetheless.

Read all three parts:

Part 1: January 22, 2010

Part 2: January 26, 2010

Part 3: February 2, 2010

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

We don’t aspire to be the next Industry Standard, Release 2.0, Fast Company or Wired. We simply want to be your favorite newspaper. The only paper that reports on what is happening in our growing, fast-moving industry—the software development industry. We’re Luddites of a sort, hoping to bring you the best in handcrafted journalism and reporting on the business of software development and what it means to you.

Those are a few words written by Ted Bahr, the other co-founder of BZ Media, in the premier issue of SD Times. We’re celebrating its 10th anniversary this week.

That debut issue of Software Development Times came out on Feb. 23, 2000, and was succeeded by the Mar. 15 issue. We’ve published on the 1st and 15th of each month thereafter – and have just come out with the 240th issue.

What a wild time it was! When we were setting up BZ Media (the publishing company behind SD Times) in late 1999, the dot-com market was roaring. When the first issue of the newspaper appeared, stocks were at or near their all-time highs – led by the red-hot technology sector.

A few weeks later, the dot-com bubble popped. I’ll tell you, that was a scary time to have poured your life’s savings into a startup media company covering the high-tech industry. Yet here we are ten years later, still publishing a print newspaper that’s more popular than ever. (Naturally, you can also read SD Times in a digital edition or on the Web.)

Help us celebrate SD Times’ 10th anniversary. Checking out the current issue (Feb. 15, 2010), which contains a special photo spread on pages 16-17 with some priceless old memories. Download it as a PDF here or as a zipped PDF here.

Then, join us down a walk through the past. Read the Feb. 23, 2000, debut issue of the newspaper. In some ways SD Times has changed a lot – but in other ways, it’s the same newspaper we publish today, Download it as a PDF here or as a zipped PDF here.

Thank you for your support of SD Times. We look forward to serving you in our second decade.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Wow, did Facebook blow it with its latest redesign. The new, simpler navigation system, unveiled on Feb. 4, was intended to make it easier for people to stay updated, discover content and interact with applications. Instead, the new nav structure is a “bag of hurt,” to borrow the phrase that Apple’s Steve Jobs uses to describe Blu-ray media.

Yes, as a heavy user of the system, I’m quite annoyed at Facebook. With the new nav system, it is apparently impossible to get a comprehensive and consistent listing of your friends’ status updates. The recommend method, to use Friends -> Status Updates, yields a list that mysteriously skips many friends, even from one moment to the next. And what’s with the new default view of “Top News,” a seemingly random collection of old updates that aren’t even in chronological order?

You blew it, Facebook. And not for the first time; the company regularly changes privacy settings and terms-of-use policies, settings off storms of customer protests.

Within their failure, however, demonstrates the weakness of SaaS. Any change to a Software-as-a-Service platform will make some users unhappy. It may also make some users happy, but that’s cold comfort for those who don’t like the changes but are helpless to do anything about it.

That’s true not only of social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, but also of business-style SaaS applications. Every time the oh-so-clever programmers add a nifty feature, redesign a menu, change a default or delete a function, they’re forcing all their customers to change as well. SaaS platform changes can disrupt productivity and really annoy end users and administrators, especially if takes away key functions or breaks third-party add-ins.

Contrast that with standard shrink-wrapped software. If you don’t like Microsoft Office 2007, you can stay on (or roll back to) Office 2004 forever. If you don’t like Apple’s Aperture 3, you can remain on Aperture 2. If you find that there are plug-in problems with the latest version of Firefox 3.6, you can downgrade to Firefox 3.5 or even 2.x. Heck, I’m running Photoshop 8.0 and QuarkXPress 6.52, and see no reason to upgrade.

Users of SaaS applications generally must upgrade whenever the platform owner dictates. Some SaaS vendors, of course, are more customer-centric than Facebook, and allow users to try out a beta of a new application version prior to roll-out and send feedback. Some also allow users to choose when they migrate; often there’s a deadline, but they give customers some control over their software environment. I’ve seen some SaaS vendors allow their customers to say on the “old” platform for a year or longer before forcing a migration.

There’s a cautionary tale in the latest Facebook fiasco. SaaS vendors, especially those with a very large user base, should be very careful when making platform changes that are imposed on unwilling customers. Whenever a company says, as Facebook does, that the changes make thing “easier,” beware. Easier for whom? In this case, not for many frustrated and confused Facebook users, going by the overwhelmingly negative feedback. Let’s learn from their mistakes, and not turn our SaaS customers into helpless victims.

>> Update 2/11/2010: Andrew Mager from ZDNet has posted a workaround that helps you fix your Facebook news feed to be chronological. It appears to help somewhat. Thanks, Andrew!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

We’re racing toward the finish line for SPTechCon San Francisco, BZ Media’s SharePoint Technology Conference. It’s next week, Feb. 10-12, at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame. And it’s going to be huge… here’s why.

• So many people! This year’s attendance is much higher than the 2009 SPTechCon SF — at least 33% higher. Registrations are still pouring in, even though the conference is less than a week away.

• So many great speakers. We’ve got an incredible conference faculty, from the keynote speakers to the teachers at our workshops and technical classes. This is the biggest and best collection of SharePoint experts ever.

• We sold out the exhibit hall. Twice. The first time it sold out, back in October, we started a waiting list while I went back to the hotel and said, “We need more space!” The Hyatt found us another ballroom to use for expo space, and we filled that one too. I believe the final tally is 52 exhibitors.

• Sponsors, sponsors everywhere. Check them out. Not only do we have many corporate sponsors, but also tons of participating media sponsors — print and PDF publications, newsletters, portals, associations and user groups. We’ve never had as many sponsors for a BZ Media event.

• We’ve got so many fun things going on. Our first-ever show daily. We had so many signups for our “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know (About SharePoint)” event that we had to split it into two rooms. I’ll host one room while Dave Rubinstein, the conference chair, hosts the other.

• More fun things. There’s our “Ask the Experts” program, a “Pizza & Answers” session and a tweetup to benefit the Children’s Defense Fund. We even have “The Big Honkin’ Silicon Valley/Bay Area SharePoint User Group Meeting,” and yes, that’s really what it’s called.

I’d like to congratulate the crew that worked so hard to make SPTechCon a success: Dave, Stacy, Kathy, Jill, Mara, Viena, Erin, Craig, Carl, the sales team, the editorial/production team, the IT team, the marketing team, everyone. Oh, and Ted, of course.

It’s going to be a great week! I hope to see you there.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

An article in Media Business quotes my partner Ted Bahr in an overview of business-to-business publishing in the technology sector. It says,

… an upstart brand, BZ Media’s SD Times, has become a print leader in the sector. “That kind of left the market open for us,” Bahr said of Dr. Dobb’s withdrawal. He added that SD Times’ booked print advertising for this year is running about 33% ahead of 2009.

“Smaller companies are nimbler,” Bahr said as partial explanation for SD Times’ success. “They are able to act on opportunities faster than bigger companies. They don’t have to write a business plan, and it doesn’t have to be approved by a board.” (BZ Media has a staff of about 20 people.)

There’s a lot more to the story than that, of course. Read the entire piece, “The State of B-to-B Media,” which appeared today in Media Business.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Old browsers are a pain in the butt – not just for users, but for Web application developers that must keep supporting them. Sometimes that means dumbing down Web apps by avoiding new standards and capabilities. Sometimes that means spaghetti code workarounds, including browser sniffing and branching, to avoid a browser crash.

Supporting old browsers means lots of regression testing when rolling out new Web features. It also means tech-support headaches and customer complaints, even with that regression testing.

The challenge isn’t the tech-savvy consumer. It’s a combination of low-tech consumers, who use old hardware, old operating systems and old browsers, along with corporations that choose not to upgrade their employees. Those companies have good reasons not to move: Browser upgrades take IT staff time, might require system upgrades, and might break in-house Web apps built to use old versions of, say, ActiveX components. Still, we can’t remain on an IE6-compatible Internet forever.

The situation is intolerable. Something must be done. Thus, my hat’s off to Google for publicly ending support for old browsers in applications like Docs, Sites, Mail and Calendar. Yes, this will inconvenience some consumers, business users and others who can’t or won’t upgrade – but it must be done.

Here’s what Google said yesterday:

In order to continue to improve our products and deliver more sophisticated features and performance, we are harnessing some of the latest improvements in web browser technology. This includes faster JavaScript processing and new standards like HTML5. As a result, over the course of 2010, we will be phasing out support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as other older browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers.

We plan to begin phasing out support of these older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor on March 1, 2010. After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency and may not work correctly in these older browsers. Later in 2010, we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar.

Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above.

Starting this week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser. We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change.

Google is going to take some heat for this, but on behalf of Web developers everywhere, I applaud this bold action. The sooner we get rid of IE 6 and other non-standards-compliant browsers, the sooner we can all move forward with better Web apps, and also begin unraveling years of gnarly spaghetti workarounds. Thank you, Google!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’m pleased to pass along this message from my friend Michael Swindell, a long-time Borlander who now works at Embarcadero Technologies. There’s lots of cool stuff on their eBay auction site, and of course, this is for an important cause. I’ve got my eye on a few things…

Borland Memorabilia Auction for Haiti Relief by ex-Borlanders has started. Bid early and often. The first 60 items are listed now. All net proceeds go to Haiti Relief (Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund). We’ll be listing more items over the course of February.

Please pass this on. The more people who know about the auction the more we can raise for Haiti relief. Thanks!

And if you’re an ex-Borlander like we are, we’ve placed a donation bin in the main lobby at 100 Enterprise Way (formerly Borland Way) where you can drop off any cool or unique Borland historical items or memorabilia you’d like for us to include in the auction. If it’s an expensive item and you’d like to hand it off directly just drop me a note. We’ve received some great stuff and really appreciate all the donations so far.

Click here on on the picture for the auction site.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Give us your leaders, your innovators, your visionaries who have improved the art and science of software development. Send those, the best and brightest in the land, to SD Times!

Yes, it’s time again to begin the process of determining the SD Times 100 – our listing of the leading companies, organizations and individuals who truly make a difference in our industry. The SD Times 100 are those who get everyone talking, who set the agenda, who have the ‘buzz’ and the winds at their backs.

Some SD Times 100 winners are giant corporations who, though sheer clout and market presence, can impose a direction on the entire software development community. Others are scrappy startups, non-profit organizations or individual thought leaders whose technologies advance the state of the art – or whose ideas change the world.

The 2010 SD Times 100 will be published in the May 15, 2010, issue of SD Times, and simultaneously on www.sdtimes.com. The judges are the editors of the newspaper.

Where do you come in? By sending us reader nominations, which are open through Monday, March 5. You can enter your reader nomination here.

The SD Times 100 is not a product award – it’s our recognition of companies, organizations and individuals for their outstanding innovation and leadership during calendar year 2009. So, in your reader nomination, please cite specifically what the nominee did last year that demonstrated innovation and leadership. We’re not looking for a long dissertation; just a few paragraphs will do. The judges will consider that info during our deliberations.

There is no fee of any kind for making a reader nomination for the SD Times 100. By the way, this isn’t a popularity award: We don’t take into account the number of times a nominee has been entered, and multiple nominations will not improve a nominee’s chances of being named to the final list.

Here are some resources for you to consider as you prepare your reader nomination:

The 2008 SD Times 100
The 2009 SD Times 100
SD Times 100 backgrounder

And again, the link to the reader nomination form is here. Thank you!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

This week, Apple is expected to announce its new tablet computer. Will it be the iSlate? The iPad? With it include built-in 3G or WiFi? Beats me, Jack. As I write this, it’s a week before the announcement. So, let’s talk about something else.

While everyone is guessing about the newest gizmo, let’s talk about some old ones. Specifically, that’s four old laptops that I prepared for staff use at the forthcoming SharePoint Technology Conference (Feb. 10-12).

These four laptops – from Apple, Dell, Fujitsu and IBM – have been kicking around BZ Media for ages, and long since taken out of everyday service. They haven’t been even turned on, I think, since spring 2009. What impressed me is that all four were brought up to speed with just a little cleaning and a bunch of downloaded software updates and security patches.

The Apple laptop is a 12-inch iBook G3, with a 900MHz PowerPC G3 processor. It was upgraded to run Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” with its maximum of 640MB RAM. The machine, which we bought in early 2003, runs like a champ, even with the latest Safari and Firefox updates. Sure, it’s a little pokey, and its battery doesn’t last more than an hour, but that’s okay. It’s also slightly frustrating that the iBook’s built-in wireless only works with 802.11b — an obsolescent standard — and that it only works with USB 1.1 devices. But for Web surfing or editing Microsoft Word documents, it’s a never-fail champ.

At least the iBook has built-in WiFi; the IBM ThinkPad R31 doesn’t. Instead, the notebook, which we bought in early 2002, uses an PC-card WiFi card from Linksys. The ThinkPad came through with Windows 98 or Windows 2000, I think, but now has Windows XP. It’s definitely underpowered – with a 1.13GHz Mobile Pentium III processor, browsing is annoyingly slow. On the plus side, the ThinkPad’s 14-inch 1024×768 screen is by far the easiest to read, and it also has the absolute best keyboard. Given that it’s eight years old – and still runs off its original batteries – we truly got our money’s worth.

The fastest machine is a Dell Latitude D610, which we acquired in early 2005. It’s the biggest and heaviest laptop of the four, but also the most powerful, with a 2.0GHz Pentium M, and a big, bright, 14-inch display with 1400×1050 resolution. That’s really a machine that takes a licking and keeps on ticking; the Latitude is the laptop everyone prefers to use.

The final is a tiny Fujitsu LifeBook T4010 tablet computer running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. We never used it much as a tablet – no killer apps, to be honest. Now it’s turned into just one of our conference laptops and occasional loaner. The tablet, dating from late 2004, has a 1.8GHz processor and a 12-inch screen that somehow seems smaller than the one on the old Apple iBook. It also has a funky keyboard that nobody seems to like, but it gets the job done.

Having spent a few days leisurely setting up and using these old machines, I was impressed to find that, old or not, they are still workhorses. Sure, they don’t have WiFi-N, or built-in Webcams, or solid-state disks or 3G cellular data modems. But while the whole world goes ga-ga for the latest toys, it’s great to know that computers running obsolescent software and hardware — Windows XP or Mac OS X “Tiger,” with old Pentium or PowerPC G3 processors — are perfectly fine, and get the job done in style.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Are you planning to attend the Enterprise Software Development Conference? I hope you’ll join us at ESDC as we continue the fine tradition of excellent in technical education and community-building that we enjoyed at the old SD West conference for more than two decades.

SD West, originally known as the Software Development Conference, was more than the industry’s finest annual gathering of professional software developers. In the 24 years since it was founded by Miller Freeman (which published Computer Language Magazine, later known as Software Development Magazine), SD West became a venerable institution.

I should know: First as a Miller Freeman employee for most of the 1990s, and then since 2000 after BZ Media launched SD Times, I was at SD West nearly about every spring, learning from the best and brightest. There were great keynotes, excellent classes and workshops. Even more, there was lots of camaraderie.

Indeed, SD West became a reunion. You went not only to learn about the latest in software development practices, but also to reconnect with old friends and hang out with a lot of really, really smart people.

Unfortunately, after the most recent SD West, in March 2009, the conference’s organizers announced that moving forward, the event would be discontinued due to the economic downturn. Thus, there’s no SD West 2010.

SD West was, in our opinion, too good an idea – and too important an industry event – to just let it slip away. That’s why the SD Times team rallied to launch the Enterprise Software Development Conference, bringing together many of the best SD West speakers, like Dan Saks and Allen Holub, Terry Quatrani and Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin, Jim Hobart and Neal Ford… hey, check out the full roster here.

SD West is gone, but ESDC is here.

We hope you’ll join us Mar. 1-3 in San Mateo, Calif. By the way, if you’re an SD West alum, we have a special offer for you – use the code SDWEST, and that knocks a hundred dollars off the full conference pass.

See you there.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Earlier this week, my friend David Coursey asked a question on Facebook, “What must Apple do with the next iPhone to make/keep you happy? Features? Software? And what would make you change to a different handset?”

Well, at the risk of perhaps messing up an article David’s writing, I’ll answer the first part of that question here, based on a lot of experience. I’m a satisfied iPhone customer. I bought my first in 2008, when the iPhone 3G came out. When the 3GS was released, I gave the older handset to my son, and purchased the new one.

What would I like see changed? One thing I won’t say is, “A different carrier.” I moved from T-Mobile with a BlackBerry to the AT&T with the iPhone 3G, and have been delighted with the coverage, reliability and bandwidth. It’s much better than I experienced with T-Mobile. So, while I acknowledge that there are a lot of unhappy AT&T customers, I am not one of them (with one exception, noted below).

With that said, here’s what I’d like to see improved on the iPhone. Note that only three are hardware issues. The others could be addressed through software changes to the iPhone operating system or by the carrier.

1. Tethering, tethering, tethering. Okay, AT&T, we’ve waited long enough. Just do it.

2. Sync to a standard Bluetooth keyboard. An external keyboard would allow me to use the iPhone to take notes in meetings, which often would save me from bringing a laptop.

3. Interchangeable batteries. Although I have one of those external battery things, there are times when I’m in a poor signal area or use the device heavily, and this kills the battery in half a day.

4. The option to hide built-in apps. I never use Notes, Stocks and Weather. I have better third-party apps for those tasks. So, let’s make them go away.

5. Support for linking to multiple Exchange accounts. Sometimes that’s what one needs to do.

6. Support for websites that require Flash. Such sites are totally unusable on the phone as currently provisioned.

7. Support for video chat compatible with iChat and Skype. That would require a front-facing video camera, of course.

8. Syncing of the phone’s autocorrect spelling list. I’d like it to match my Mac’s autocorrect list.

9. Be able to turn off data services. Just as there are switches to turn Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G on/off, I sometimes want to turn off all data services, so that the phone is just a phone. Why? To conserve battery life.

10. Selective caller rejection. I want the phone to squelch incoming calls from specified phone numbers. Don’t let them ring. Don’t let them go to voicemail. Just make them go away. I don’t care if that’s done in collaboration with the carrier, but I want it.

11. Week-at-a-glance view in the Calendar. Maybe it could be triggered by turning the phone into landscape position.

12. Charging with a standard mini-USB or micro-USB connector. That would be nice when I’m low on juice but don’t have a special iPhone cable handy.

What features would you like to see changed on the iPhone hardware or built-in software?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick