Brad's Books and Organizations





Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Outlook 2010 Inbox Zero Bug

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I’ve always had a knack for quickly finding bugs.  It’s not hard with most software / web services as the bugs are everywhere, but they like to emerge from the shadows when I tickle my computer.

I’ve been running Outlook 2010 for a few weeks since it shipped.  Now that I’m used to the new ribbon UI, I find it much improved over Outlook 2007.  I particularly like the Conversations view which was long overdue (and works really well) and am amused that most of the memory leaks / shut down issues are gone.  Given the amount of email I jam through on a daily basis, my Outlook workflow is particularly well tuned and while I’ve tried to switch to Gmail, it hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe I’ll try again when Gmail gives me an option to not have a conversation view.

I ran into a surprisingly lame Outlook 2010 bug the other day.  I run an inbox zero drill although I fought to get there for about ten days after my week off the grid in May.  When I got there the other day, I was stunned to see that apparently no one tested for a classic off-by-one error – namely what happens when you have no messages in your inbox after you delete the last one.

They got half of it right.


Note the “There are no items to show in this view” in the left mail items list view.  However, not the remnant message – the last email that I was reading that I recently hit delete on – in the right reading pane.  Since there are no items in the mail item list view and nothing selected (since there is nothing to select), the right reading pane should be blank.  It’s obviously not.

Through the magic of email I was able to test this several times.  Specifically, inbox zero is a condition that doesn’t remain for long in my world.  As a few new messages came in, I read, responded, and deleted.  The error persisted.

It’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft fixes this in a quick patch or, if like the Snipping Tool close error, it persists – well – forever.

Open Android vs. Closed iPhone

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I just finished up spending the past two days at Google I/O. On one of the panels I participated in yesterday (VCs Who Code), the endless discussion about open (e.g. Google) vs. closed (e.g. Apple) came up with Dave McClure stating “Open is for losers.”  We had a short but spirited debate about a topic that could easily consume an entire panel before Dick Costolo (our moderator) quickly moved us on.  Of course, we got bogged down again later in “native apps vs. web apps” question (which I think is irrelevant in the long run, and said so.)

When I woke up this morning I was still thinking about the open vs. closed thing.  I’ve been using a Droid for a week (Google gave one to everyone that came to I/O) and I’ve been loving it.  I’ve been an iPhone user for several years and while there are a bunch of things about it I love, there are several that I hate, including the pathetic AT&T service, major limitations in some of the applications such as email, the restriction of Flash, lack of tethering, lack of statefulness, lack of multi-processing, and the unbearable shittiness of iTunes for Windows.  But, I never really considered an alternative until I started playing with Android 2.1 on a Droid on Verizon.

I’d basically decided to switch to the Droid.  The keynote on Day 2 was split between Android 2.2 and Google TV.  I was completely blown away by Android 2.2.  It doesn’t merely address each of the issues I have with my iPhone, it demolishes them. Google wasn’t bashful during the keynote about taking shots at Apple, which was fun to see.  And as I sat there, I kept thinking about how far Android has come taking an entirely open approach.

While Google “had me at Android 2.2”, they sealed the deal by giving every attendee a brand new HTC EVO 4G (running on Sprint).  There have been plenty of complaints about Android handsets; the Droid was good although I have had a Droid Incredible on order.  But, now that I have my HTC EVO, I’m completely hooked.  The physical device is magnificent, the Android implementation is awesome, and it is still only running Android 2.1 so it get even better when the over the air update is released and automatically upgrades.

I’m now in a position where I can dump my Verizon MiFi since can use my HTC phone as a hotspot.  One less $60 / month bill, one less thing to schlep around.  And I never have to use iTunes for Windows again.  Apple just lost me – again.

The most amazing thing to me when I reflect on this is how much of a complete non-event Microsoft in this discussion.  Before the iPhone, there was a different discussion and Windows Mobile (or whatever it was called) was regularly in the middle of it.  Not only is it no longer in the middle, it’s no longer in the discussion.  Google focused their sights directly on Apple and – with an open approach – is now in a position where it can legitimately threaten the iPhone’s long term position.

I love this stuff.  Plus I now have two cool new phones.

Amazon Web Services Start-Up Challenge

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The "start-up challenge" is emerging as the new platform marketing initiative.  Amazon has just launched the AWS Start-Up Challenge.  If you are into Amazon Web Services, think you might be, or just want to be part of a contest, go check it out and sign up.  $50k of cash and $50k of AWS credits are on the line.

Will Android Be Google’s Vietnam?

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One of my favorite quotes of all times was Ted Leonsis’s statement in the mid-1990′s that "MSN will be Microsoft’s Vietnam."  Ted said this around the time that MSN launched (on a proprietary platform – pre-Internet) to compete directly with AOL.  15 years later this seems like such a prescient statement.

I have no idea if Android will be Google’s Vietnam.  We’ll have to look back 15 years from now to really know.  But as I watched the T-Mobile G1 Video and read through some of the Android early criticism (and praise), I kept asking myself "why?"  I have my own guesses as to the answer, and I know the public answers, but when I sit on the outside looking in, I have way more questions than answers.

If Google is really serious, they’ll do what Apple did – license Microsoft ActiveSync and immediately create transparent integration with Exchange (hey – don’t forget to write the 74 lines of code that will sync tasks.)  I’m a month into using my iPhone and it’s here to stay – it is so superior to Windows Mobile 6 on a Dash that I can’t even begin to describe my pleasure with it as an integrated mobile device.  I’ve gotten used to the keyboard and can now type on it about as fast as I could on my Dash and my old Sidekick.  I continue to hear this as the major complaint from semi-converts, but I just don’t see it.  You definitely have to change a few things about how you type on a small keyboard, but I had to do that with the Sidekick (thumb clicks anyone?) and the Dash (keep your fingernails really short.)  Yeah, there are still plenty of things that could be improved, but with each incremental release I see them get fixed.

As I ponder Foundry Group’s digital life theme, including the hour long conversation I had with a new Microsoft friend at dinner last night, I realize that I believe forced migration of an individual’s legacy data simply won’t work.  I have so much legacy data associated with all my different devices, on so many different platforms, in so many different places, across so many different people / relationships that the new devices and software I use, whether by Apple, Google, Microsoft, StartupCo, or FooCo, are going to have to "respect" all that stuff.  When I dig into Android a little, I see the potential for that, but I also see resistance to that concept.  iPhone 1.0 had this problem; iPhone 2.0 is doing a much better job of not having this problem.

I’m spending the day at Microsoft’s Annual Venture Capital Summit and expect to hear a lot about Cloud Computing and Mesh.  I have my Microsoft Venture Capital Advisory board meeting tomorrow where the topic is all around where Windows Mobile is going.  Against the background of Google, Android, the iPhone, and all the various "cloud computing initiatives", it’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft has really reconciled – at least conceptually – issues that led to the MSN / Vietnam problem that still hinder it today.  Simultaneously, it’s interesting to watch and see if Google is wandering into their own Vietnam(s), or if they will deftly sidestep them.

I love working with / on this stuff and – after watching Fred Wilson’s video on the last 15 years in the New York Internet scene (and how prosaic things look like from 1995) – I’m so amused when I think about what things will be like in 2023.

Huge Google Gmail Enterprise Win

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I’ve been keeping my eyes out for one of these.  I hope my friends at Microsoft have been also.  Apparently the New South Wales Department of Education and Training (that would be Australia) just dumped Microsoft Outlook/Exchange in favor of Gmail.

Before you say "ho hum – it’s only Australia" or "it’s not enterprise – it’s only academia", let’s look at the numbers.

  • 1.3m seats
  • Previous cost to implement Outlook/Exchange: $33m ($AU) over three years
  • New cost to implement Gmail: $9m ($AU) over three years
  • Outlook/Exchange storage/mailbox: 35MB
  • Gmail storage/mailbox: 6GB
  • Weekly emails sent: over 300k

That’s a non-trivial install.  (via TechCrunch)

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