Tweed is our new iPad app that gives you a great way to short-list and read articles posted to Twitter by people you follow or from Tweed’s list of Suggested Reads. It’s like an RSS Feed Reader, but with Twitter as the source of what to read. Using Twitter as the feed gives the user a richer reading experience by incorporating not just content published by people they follow, but also the links those people recommend or re-tweet. Even if the user doesn’t have a Twitter account, Tweed gives them access to curated feeds across a range of news and opinion topics.
With Tweed you can scroll through a list of links, tap or flick an article on to your short-list and the page begins loading as you continue to look for interesting things to read. When you’re ready, tap on the page in the short-list and it springs up to read in your choice of full-content or text-only viewing modes. You can read it now, or later through the built-in Saved for Later feature or using Instapaper. You’ll never forget an article again with Tweed’s history of all links that were short-listed, read or saved for later. And if you run out of things to read, there’s our list of Suggested Reads with the ability to follow new people you discover through Tweed.
Tweed is available now on the App Store and is currently on sale at just $2.99USD (normally $4.99USD).
We’re half way through March and so far:
- The new Lithium for iOS app has been launched.
- Lithium 5.0.12 has been released with bug fixes and iOS app compatibility
- Xsnmp is out of beta and has had it’s first production and bug-fix release
- We launched Instavie.ws, a location-based Instagram photo viewing site
- James has posted an essay on the Post Peripheral Control elements of the iPad Post-PC Era
TL;DR Version: IT requirements are rapidly changing, especially in the Mac IT space. I don’t think the IT Department is going away. IT professionals do need to embrace the shift from being the only people who can configure something to being the people who are the best at knowing what to use and how to integrate it. Mac IT people need to realized the next big thing in IT alone is not going to come from Apple.
I agree that the traditional role of the IT department is changing and some strongholds such as desktop support is becoming obsolete. The driving forces are cloud-based, Software-as-a-Service applications and the low cost ubiquity of notebooks and tablets. I doubt though that this amounts to the end of the “IT Department”, in house or contracted out. That doesn’t gel with the cyclical nature of technology use in business nor does it account for the growing need for organizations of all types to leverage technology as a differentiating factor.
Round and round we have gone with centralized and decentralization, outsource, insource and crowdsource. Hosted, data centres, ons-ite, shared and dedicated servers. All have seen ebs and flows in popularity and most have had resurgences and reinvention rather than terminal acquiescence. Computers are becoming easier to use, Mac or Windows, iOS or android, it is absolutely easier to use, integrate and collaborate using these off the shelf without the need for an opaque nerd quorum that you think of as the “IT department”. No doubt this will continue to a point where as DHH envisions there will be no need for a dedicated IT department to provide the same services you enjoy today: email, calendars, file servers, help desk system, collaboration tools, etc, etc.
That’s progress and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Today there is a dedicated IT department because out of the box your Windows machine aint that useful or safe, and the application you use to do your job is a product bought by your employer that is hosted locally and the setup and maintenance of it is understood by few. The prevalence of Macs and iOS devices in the work place, ready-to-go software as a service applications and incremental improvements in usability on all platforms means we can rely less on this IT Department and do it ourselves whether we are part of a small, medium or large company or starting out as a new business. What is difficult today should be easy tomorrow; otherwise we are doing it wrong.
Now imagine if we dismissed our IT Department or consultants completely on the heels of easy to use computers and ready to roll hosted apps. What becomes of technology as a competitive advantage when we are all using the same handful of readily available SaaS tools on our out of the box Mac or PC. I use a bunch of these today to give my business the edge, but that edge blunts to a liability when its what everyone else is doing. This is where the notion that there is an End to the IT Department comes unstuck.
All businesses and competitive organizations need to leverage technology to distinguish their offering and make it more appealing; better, cheaper, faster, stronger. Without an IT department, you hand this advantage over to service providers and hope for the best. That what is best for the outsource company is also best for you — and all the other customers of the same service. For some businesses this will be fine and the reduced overhead quite welcome. I wager though that enough businesses will want to differentiate their offerings using the latest technologies in creative and unorthodox ways that will keep the notion of an IT department or consultancy alive and well.
There is however some writing on the wall. Three years ago I took a full time job with a telco. I was the weird uber nerd because I brought with me my own MacBook Pro and iPhone to a Redmond-blooded Windows and Blackberry shop. I never had a company notebook or phone and subsequently only saw the IT department when my Windows domain password expired before I could change it. When I left this job a month ago, employee-owned iPhones were common and a handful had got themselves a Mac that they used at work. What was the height of geekiness was becoming more common. And the question shifted from “why do you bring your own computer?” to “what Mac should I get?” and “is now a good time to buy an iPhone/iPad?”
Back to that writing on the wall. It’s been there for a while. You’ve walked past it countless times. In fact, it’s done a better job of staring you down than you have at heeding it’s warning. The IT game is changing in many ways and some of the biggest changes are happening in the Apple business, enterprise and education space. Mac Admins now more than ever really need to stop, take note of the messages that Apple is sending you and make sure you adjust, stay relevant and stay employed. Likewise for companies that provide products and services to IT departments, as my company does, there has never been more of a need to adapt to changes in the needs of your customers. The GFC didn’t scare me nearly as much as the cancellation of the Xserve did.
But it’s not all doom and gloom: No one will miss desktop support, right?
Complex, dedicated server infrastructure is going to become less common. Desktop support will become a distant memory. Your employer or customers will rely on you less to assemble boxes that allow them to get their job done. All this is going to come ready to go, out of the box or available in a cloud using an app downloaded in one click from a store. So, IT Professionals, you must evolve and roll with this to retain your place as the awesome go-to guy. It’s becoming easier for your customers to do things for themselves, but you’ll always be able to help them do it better. Embrace the change from being the only guy who can setup a service and become the best at integrating the right apps and services into the customers workflow on the platforms that best suit their needs.
For Mac IT people this is particularly true and the changes are upon us now. I am one of you. My livelihood is currently wholly dependent on customers who use Apple products in an IT environment. But the next big thing, in the strict IT sense, won’t come from Apple. The cancellation of the Xserve redefined where Mac OS X Server fit into the market. Today Apple has announced that not only is Mac OS X Server going to be free, it’s part of the Mac OS X 10.7 operating system itself. What used to be an ordered ecosystem of users, you and the servers is now users, the server/services and you. That change in that order is significant, know your place.
Apple’s retreat or recapitulation in the IT and server space is, in the immediate term, more about getting out of an inconvenient area than meeting the market’s requirements. Undoubtedly they are, as always, skating to where the puck is going. But a world where Mac OS X Server alone is enough for business is a long, long skate away. The need for servers and network infrastructure will be around for a while yet but it will get increasingly simpler and consist of less physical devices. However, an organization’s need for something more, the next big thing and the competitive edge is infinite. That’s what will keep us IT professionals in a job for a long time to come — as long as we don’t put our heads in the sand.
It’s been a very busy start to 2011 with the new Lithium iOS app nearly ready for submission to the app store, updates to Lithium 5.0, preparing to distribute Lithium Core as a Linux-based VM Appliance and progressing Xsnmp from beta to production.
We have posted the Lithium Roadmap for 2011 online. It details what we have planned for this year for both Lithium 5.0 and introduces our most ambitious project yet: Lithium 6.
Xsnmp is progressing well with thorough beta testing and addition of RAID card monitoring via SNMP.
And finally, there’s a few bits and pieces on Scotch and Code.
At 6AM PST, Active Storage is set to make a big announcement that they’ve billed as “When One Door Closes, Another Opens“. Active Storage is known for their excellent RAID Enclosures that, in competition with the Promise VTrak units are the successors of another of Apple’s hardware cancellations — the Xserve RAID.
With the Apple Xserve cancellation announced on November 5th 2010, effective as of January 31st, the timing of this announcement let alone the form factor of the silouette on activestorage.com points to some sort of Xserve replacement.
Here’s what I think it is:
I think we’re looking at a linux based box running Quantum’s StorNext — a box that you can drop in as a replacement for your Xsan MDC with minimal change to your Xsan clients and underlying storage arrays and fibre channel switches.
Active Storage is a storage company who have found an excellent niche in the Apple space with a high-performance Xsan compatible RAID enclosure. They were, in essence born out of the need for a drop-in replacement for the Xserve RAID. With the Xserve gone, it makes sense that they would feel the need to fill that void too. Otherwise as customers look to StorNext as an Xsan alternative they may look at other storage vendors too.
Offering an off-the-shelf, ready-to-roll Xsan MDC replacement, running on Linux and StorNext would be a very sound strategic move to not only keep their existing customers but vertically extend their presence in the customers SAN without the need for major change in the customers existing SAN environment. It also neatly ensures that Active Storage is a storage vendor that’s not just tied to Xsan — a product that may or may not have a long future ahead of it.
On Xserve Replacements…
Will the box be a complete “Xserve replacement” complete with some sort of native or virtualized Mac OS X Server? I don’t think so. As per my previous posts on Mac OS X Server, I do not think we’re going to see a change in Apple’s licensing stance. They want Mac OS X Server clearly and neatly defined as being suitable for the scale of use that would suit a Mac Mini.
Perhaps though it will offer some like-for-like server functionality. After all, the majority of the services provided by Mac OS X Server leverage freely available, open source projects that are widely used in Linux and other UNIX operating systems.
Taking it further…
Here’s one intriguing possibility… It would be possible to reverse engineer the servermgrd protocol to allow a third-party server to be configured using Server Admin.app just like a Mac OS X Server host, even if that third party server wasn’t using Mac OS X Server. We’ve done extensive work in reverse engineering servermgrd, and I can see how this would be possible.
The third-party server, running Linux for example, would simply need to present a servermgrd-like interface that Server Admin.app could connect to. The host would need to accept the configuration commands from Server Admin.app and translate that into config for the services running on the Linux box such as Bind for DNS, Postfix for SMTP, Dovecot for IMAP, Apache for HTTP/Web, etc.
As long as the third-party server presented configuration and state information in the format that Server Admin.app expects, and accepted the commands that Server Admin.app executes then the third-party server would look and feel just like a Mac OS X host through Server Admin.app.
The longevity of this solution would be predicated on two things: firstly how well Apple took to the vendor reverse engineering their servermgrd protocol and interface, and secondly the life of Mac OS X Server itself. If Mac OS X Server is retired, then there’ll be no need for Server Admin.app and the effort that’s gone into making the third-party implementation of servermgrd would be wasted. However, Mac OS X Server seems here to stay at least for the moment with the Mac Mini server form-factor.
Live Call-In 6AM PST…
Active Storage will be holding a live announcement call at 6AM PST, 31st January to unveil this new box. Call-in details can be found on the Active Storage site.