The Turning Point of WWII in the Pacific

I’m reading a really interesting book right now on the naval battle off Samar that made possible MacAurthur’s landing on Leyte in the Phillipines near the end of the Pacific campaign of WWII.

The book is a fascinating account of a massive naval engagement featuring the 3rd and 7th American fleets and 3 Japanese fleets featuring the largest battleships ever put to sea, with commentary from both Japanese and, of course, American sources.

“The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour” (James D. Hornfischer)

On this day in history another important battle in WWII was fought, which not only proved to be the turning point of the Pacific campaign but also firmly established a new chapter in naval history that was to be written not around bigger battleships but the importance of air supremacy, the Battle of Midway.

Yet a US Navy battle this same week, just 6 months after Pearl Harbor and a full 2 years before D-Day, goes largely unnoticed, lost down the memory hole; yet it certainly represents “the greatest naval victory in history” and perhaps the pivotal event in world military history since the Battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg in July 1863.

It is the Battle of Midway, which, like Gettysburg, occurred over a three-day period, June 4-6, 1942.

Conversation with Danny Kolke of Etelos

A company I have been watching for a few months now is Etelos. Despite having been in business for 7 years, the company has maintained a low profile while bootstrapping their business, all the while eschewing traditional venture capital.

They came on my radar when I found their CRM for Google application. In a nutshell, they take off the shelf Google apps components and combine them with some of their own stuff in a preconfigured Google start page. My first reaction upon reviewing this was "crikey, that’s what mashups should be" (I don’t recall saying "crikey" to myself but it works well now for effect).

This year they have added Netvibes, Windows Live, and most recently, Pageflakes client support but Google remains their most heavily deployed version.

I talked with Danny Kolke, the CEO of Etelos, today and found a kindred spirit… we were finishing each other’s sentences by the end of our conversation.

Danny’s belief system for Etelos is built on the following tenets, which if you have been reading this blog for any period of time you will see that they map to my own beliefs:

  1. The disruption that Etelos is targeting is distribution and consumption. This is not unlike what Salesforce is doing with Appexchange in that it provides a retail experience for software applications that have traditionally been sold through reseller and direct channels.
  2. The SMB market is fractious in that it’s really thousands of micro markets that are being served by small developers with specific domain expertise and no ability to scale their sales operations.
  3. Integration is a big problem that can be served by a service bus approach to application delivery… more on that later.
  4. The consumer experience is fundamentally and irreversibly changing the business software industry.

Etelos is an infrastructure play at the end of the day. Over 850 developers are delivering 200+ applications today and that number is expected to swell north of 300 in the months ahead. Developers can take pre-existing applications written in Java, PHP, or .Net and integrate them with the Etelos backend to take advantage of any service that Etelos is providing, such as mobile device support.

Etelos also has it’s own scripting language called EASE that developers can use to extend their apps, although from what I saw this looks like something that script developers would grok to extend prebuilt applications reliably and with little effort.

The Etelos approach reminded me of what Opsource is doing on top of Mulesource, but beyond the obvious similarities it’s not entirely clear what the distinctions are. Nonetheless, it’s apparent we will see more initiatives like this emerge given that it’s a fairly logical manner to approach a market and represents that plausible "platform play" for those vendors that don’t have the resources to invest massive $$ in pure platform technology to compete with the big vendors.

In reviewing the application catalog on their site there are a handful of vertical markets being targeted, which incidentally map to what Salesforce is doing on Appexchange: retail, insurance, real estate, medical, and independent consultants.

I don’t think this is deliberate but rather a logical conclusion that the addressable market for on demand hosted apps are services markets and digital products. To that end I would add media and advertising, and non-profit and local government to the list, the last two are often ignored by software vendors but represent great opportunities.

The company is based up in Washington state with 31 employees, 10 of which are offshore. I was impressed while talking with Danny, this company is at an inflection point and I expect they will benefit from a strong tailwind as companies begin to realize that start pages, like Google and Netvibes, are a new client interface and for something much more extensible than reading RSS feeds.


Operation Call Home

AT&T and Bill O’Reilly are running a promotion named Operation Call Home. You take an online quiz and AT&T sends a 20 minute calling card to a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine through Operation Shoebox.

That’s it, you don’t have to give them any information or click on any ads… 20 seconds to take the quiz and some military service member in Iraq or Afghanistan gets to call home and not pay for it. Whatever you think of Bill O’Reilly, or AT&T for that matter, this is nothing but goodness so click on the link right now.

Movable Type 4.0

"MT4 boasts over 50 new features and "a completely redesigned user interface", which includes a more advanced WYSIWYG editor and a system dashboard with dynamic graphic display. MT4 is also pushing itself as "a social media platform", which allows users to turn their audiences into communities. In effect this means that readers can become members of a website, with rights to post alongside authors – including sharing photos, videos, and audio. There is also a new ratings framework and later in the beta period more community features are promised." – Read/WriteWeb

I implemented MT for SAP’s internal blogging network, am running WordPress for this blog, my last company’s site/blog was Drupal, and Enterprise Irregulars is on Blogtronix. You really can’t appreciate the any given platform by reading someone’s account of them, or the company’s promotional material; each of these platforms has strengths and weaknesses which map to what you need and how you deploy them.

At the time I did SAP’s blogging network the multi-user version of WordPress was not yet available, and being able to manage multiple blogs and multiple authors through a single console was an absolute requirement. I wanted something clean and unobtrusive, and Jeff at Plan Resonate worked with us to deliver a very cool internal blogging service. The one challenge we had was getting the more advanced plugins to work reliably.

Movable Type worked well, and reliably which isn’t surprising, but developing for it was not easy, the number of plugins was limited, and I disliked having to rebuild the blog after even the smallest config changes (I do understand that there is a way around this today).

WordPress, on the other hand, is really clean and fast, has a huge community of developers around it and organizationally they remain focused. I don’t mean to imply that Six Apart isn’t focused, but the fact remains that between Typepad, Vox, LiveJournal, their media business, and MT… well they have a lot going on. It’s my anecdotal observation that MT has been getting a little long in the tooth (where the hell does that saying come from?) and this 4.0 major upgrade is much needed.

From what I’ve seen in the screenshots, they have certainly devoted some cycles to delivering a clean and compelling admin console, if that’s indicative of the other features they are delivering I am sure that this will be a strong upgrade.

I’ll reserve comment on the open source announcement they also made because quite frankly that is now the ante for the blogging platform game. From a strategic standpoint, I don’t think you can get platform momentum with a closed source product in this sector.

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