Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: Amazon, android, Apple, artificial intelligence, Companies, Google, iPhone, Lifestyle | Tags: amazon, Electeonics, Google, Retail, Shopping, Stores | 1 Comment »
Montgomery ward closed down
Looking at Google’s new maps inside view, it brings to mind a general problem with physical shopping vs online shopping. With online shopping, I know exactly who has the item that I wish to buy, and I know what the price of that item is. I can instantly perform comparison shopping without leaving the comfort of my home. This convenience has a down side as well, when I do not know exactly what I want to buy and am just shopping for entertainment the online experience lacks substance. It is much more fun to peruse best buy than it is to scroll down a page of picture of gadgets. This is where Google can help.
One of the things that Google has done that has no clear immediate value to the company is to map the world in extreme detail, this has come to include the inside of stores. Amazon does not have this capability. In addition, Google has its hangout technology which, when leveraged with this inside indexing gives Google both a search index of the real world, and the ability to have a high-fidelity experience with an actual salesperson.
Imagine, Google indexes all of the shops in the world, coffee shops, hot dog stands, I mean everything along with real-time inventory of the items in search results. Then they index those images using OpenCV or some other image recognition technology. Alongside that, every retailer in the world assigns one or more salespeople inside of the shop to carry a tablet capable of performing a hangout. Again this represents a giant biz-dev nightmare, but keep bearing with me.
Now comes the beautiful part, I, at home am surfing the web on my tablet when I get the itch to go shopping. Instead of hopping into my car, I allow Google to suggest stuff that I might be interested in ( Amazon has a huge lead here, but Google will likely catch up due to their having more signals ). While I’m looking through the suggestions, I see a watch that I am very interested in, so I click into it and it shows me a map of all of the places around me that have that watch. I click again and ask for a horizontally swipable, inside view of the top 5 locations that have the watch.
I can actually browse the inside of the store, see the display with the watch in high resolution. There will be a little place that I can click inside the store if I need help as in the watch is not on display, or the shop keeper will be notified that I am browsing. At this point, the shop keeper can signal that they want to have a hangout with me in g+, or I can swipe to the next place at any time and browse that place. If I do want to discuss the item in a hangout, I can either initiate or respond to an invitation from the shop keeper. While on the hangout, the salesperson can express their craft, showing me alternate items, asking me to send data over, such as measurements, we could exchange documents, etc…
This future would be tremendous, and it is something that only Google can do. But wait, there’s more! Imagine that at this point with my Google Glasses, now I can have a full AR view with the details of each item coming up in my heads up display along with other shops’ more aggressive deals ( read ads ). It would be ridiculously awesome!
Ultimately this will level the playing field with online as well as brick-and-mortar retailers, with the brick-and-mortar guys having a slight advantage until the online retailers start hiring sales reps for g+ hangouts or an equivalent technology. I believe that this will bring a pretty large increase in the number of sales people employed and reverse the current employment drain that retail is experiencing. It makes perfect sense as to why Amazon is trying to build out its mapping technology as quickly as possible. It will be interesting to see who wins.
Posted: June 15th, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: Apple, Companies, Google, Microsoft | Tags: android, Apple, Google, iOS, Microsoft, windows phone | 1 Comment »
The surprises everyone was waiting for from the Apple’s WWDC keynote never arrived. Instead, we got a handful of evolutionary features added to generally excellent software, and an amazing piece of hardware. I was actually yawning while following the liveblog. That fact should have the entire tech industry shaking and quaking. That boring keynote just put everyone on notice, but they may not realize it yet.
Apple has done this before. A few years before the launch of the iPhone, the iPod, iMac, and Mac OS X went through a period of minor updates, feature and spec bumps. All of these products never became any less incredible, but Apple wasn’t doing anything exciting.
We know now that Apple had a light guard working on continuing to bump aspects of their main product lines, while the majority of the engineers were toiling deep into the night to build iOS and all of the apps that we all know and love that launched on that device, namely mobile Safari.
It took them several years, while they were consolidating their dominance of the PMP market to completely disrupt everything we consider true about mobile computing. That is not to say that the products they launched in the interregnum weren’t great. The iPod nano launched among other things, but I remember thinking along similar lines as others, is this all you’ve got Apple?
The answer today was obviously, No. They had much more, and knew it.
We are seeing the same general stagnation today. It makes you wonder, what the hell are they doing in there? There is really no way to know, but when it is ready I would expect no less disruption than we saw when the iPhone came out. Apple has maybe 14,000 engineers, do you really think that all of them are working on iOS 6, Mountain Lion, or trying to make the MacBook Pro thinner?
Apple takes their time, so it could be six months, or it could be three years. If I were a competitor of Apples, I’d be getting ready to be disrupted.
I’d think bigger than a television set Apple has already made personal content consumption more prevalent than group consumption.
Sitting around the TV and watching a movie rarely happens anymore. Everyone in the family, each watches whatever they want on their phone, iPad, or laptop. Apple’s next great breakthrough doesn’t even have to be strictly media or tech. Perhaps it will be the iCar, some sort of iAutomation for your house, the iHome, who knows. Perhaps their plan is to start building luxury apartment buildings in San Francisco. Making spartan, but delightfully, designed homes built out of glass and aluminium.
Posted: May 30th, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Apple, Companies, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon | Tags: android, Apple, Google, iOS, Microsoft, mobile, windows phone | No Comments »
This weekend I switched back, once again, to Windows Phone from my ICS packing Galaxy Nexus. Previously, I had switched to Windows Phone from my Froyo ( can you believe this phone was launched in the US with Froyo? ) Infuse 4G. I seem to always switch away from Android eventually, and I haven’t been sure why, until now. This is not meant to be an Android hate fest, I don’t want to say I hate iOS, and I don’t hate any OS. I am a huge fan of iOS and Android, nor am I a fanboy of any camp ( any more ).
I think that Android is an excellent implementation of the vision for which it was designed. iOS was the first and is still the leader in its category. Both of which are largely cut from the same cloth. Who copied whom, I’ll leave for history to decide. For the my purposes, however I am happier with Windows Phone, and I have finally figured out why.
Windows Phone is Designed Around Use Cases
As I was transitioning between my various Android handsets, my iPad, and my new Lumia 900, I kept thinking about what it was in Windows Phone that kept causing me to want to use it. The browser is merely sufficient, the hardware is technically behind the curve ( while the phone hardware as a package is superlative, hats off Nokia ), and the OS is, well… different. One of the core things, which was immediately apparent, was that it didn’t take long for me to get to what I wanted to do with the Lumia from the live tile home screen.
I don’t subscribe to the “Smoked by Windows Phone” campaign, I think that was stupid and wrong. Android is typically faster in specific areas, like time to app launch, etc… iOS smokes both of them in scrolling and touch screen responsiveness as well as time to app readiness on the newer iPad2/3 and iPhone 4S. Windows Phone’s speech to text is great, but not comprehensive; Android’s speech to text is better than Windows Phones, Siri’s voice recognition is marginally better than Androids, if only because of her witty retorts.
Despite all of the shortcomings I have just described, I still prefer Windows Phone. For a few months, after I started with Windows Phone 7 on my Focus S, I started to think something was wrong with me for liking it. Maybe I was a “feature phone” kind of guy after all. The tech media kept telling me that Android and iOS are better because of their broader app selection, more sophisticated chips, hardware, etc… I could readily agree with this assessment, after all, Windows Phone doesn’t have NBA Jam, or Angry Birds Space. The more I thought about it however, as far as I am concerned, I prefer to use my phone for communication first, and apps second. Being presented with a grid of apps, or strange widgets, or the wrong panel of the launcher were all in the way of simple communication.
When I use Windows Phone, it is clear, I press people for communication, me for updating my social networks, phone for calls. This simplicity, and clarity; that is what keeps drawing me back. It isn’t that Windows Phone is faster in any way than Android and iOS, not that it is slow. It is that each specific task that I want to do with the phone has a well defined path, is clearly encapsulated, and is a complete end-to-end experience with no cruft. It isn’t chaotic like the Android intent system, leading me all over the place from app-to-app, it isn’t ridiculously siloed like iOS. Things that should be combined, like Facebook and twitter are grouped together. Games are all in the same place, and share a coherent experience that is clearly differentiated from the other flows for when I want to play games. Music, podcasts, and audio are all together, unified in their Zune experience, which also is differentiated from the game flow, and the social flow.
Android and iOS are Designed Like Desktop/Tablet OS’s
Once I began to think about use-cases, I started to see how ill fitted Android and iOS were for the phone. I started to put devices into categories based on these use cases, to try to figure out where they go wrong.
When using my desktop / laptop, I am consciously sitting down to perform some fairly complicated task, I expect to have to make lots of decisions to perform that task, and I do not mind the complexity of the windowing system.
When using my tablet, I am typically settling down to enjoy some content, a game, a book, a fun diversionary app, or I am attempting to use a productivity app, for which I could perhaps perform the task on my desktop / laptop. I don’t mind actions taking a little extra time on my Tablet, I am expecting to explore and engage in an experience.
My phone is different. I am not typically trying to explore. I am trying to find a restaurant to eat at right now, or I am looking for my friends house and I am wandering around trying to read street numbers. I am buying something and need to compare prices. I am trying to call someone to have a conversation. In short, most of what I am doing with my phone is immediate I don’t want to browse.
The grid of apps, is really nice for presenting an experience, it is an invitation to browse, to wade into an entire universe of possibilities. A bunch of apps is great for when I want to spend time looking around, like window shopping. I don’t necessarily know what I want to do, I just want to be entertained.
I don’t really need apps on my phone, I need the workflows that are in those apps. I need the restaurant information inside of the Zagat application, I need the directions and augmented reality that is inside of google/bing maps. I need the social graph that is inside of Facebook to find out if my friends are busy this weekend. I need the content of the twitter app to find out what is going on right now. As far as exposing that, some apps for Windows Phone can do this with their live tile, for other, well designed Windows Phone apps, there is a clear use case for the application, and it brings as much content to me as it can to assist me with doing something right now.
Windows phone isn’t perfect, there are still quite a few missing use cases that I would like to see fleshed out, like the augmented reality directions, or a better workflow around photo sharing.
When you think about things in use cases, you actually start to see that the multitasking system that Windows Phone employes is correct. It is only broken if you are looking at it as you would look at Android or iOS, or if you are comparing your mobile computing environment to one that is less mobile. Windows Phone is better thought out than its competitors. Once you let go of the fact that you believe you want your smart phone to be just like your desktop/laptop/tablet, then everything will be fine.
So what if Windows Phone doesn’t have many quality apps, for most of the things I want to do, I am covered. As they add apps, so much the better, I only hope that the developers think about how their users will accomplish tasks in real-time with the applications they provide, and don’t fall back on the Android and iOS way of sticking a bunch of data into a silo and expecting the user to poke around to find it.
Windows 8, in its current incarnation is half-mistake, in my opinion. For the designers to take UI and a set of interactions that are successful for phone use cases, and apply them to a desktop OS is to turn something useful into a chaotic chimera. I believe that Microsoft is not allowing for as much richness and complexity as the interaction patterns of a stationary computing experience should provide by implementing the Metro interface on the desktop.
In the legacy interface, they are just screwing up what was working. It makes sense for them to take the same approach as they allowed the Windows Mobile team to take. Think about the use cases that people are likely to encounter when they are attempting to accomplish something with their desktop/tablets. You may not be able to unify the interfaces, it is OK. Apple is falling into the same trap, it is leaving a massive opening for someone to do something awesome with the desktop computer…. Canonical are you listening?
Let it go, the desktop paradigm is dead. Stop worrying about how things used to be and learn to experience Windows Phone for what it is. A beautiful breath of fresh-air, a new way of thinking about mobile interaction. Hopefully Microsoft doesn’t screw it up. If their marketing is any indication, I am worried about the future. If they leave the Windows Phone team alone, and allow them to keep doing what they are doing, things will be great.
Posted: January 21st, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: AT&T, Companies, Facebook, Google, Management, Microsoft, Twitter | Tags: anti-trust, doj, facebook, Google, ibm, Media, Microsoft, social, twitter | No Comments »
When Google added world plus social, at first I didn’t think there was much of a problem. I understood that since Twitter and Facebook limit the ways in which Google interacted with them, it wasn’t really possible for Google to offer truly social search. This cabal between Facebook and Twitter is quite obviously hugely damaging to Google’s future interests as a company. So I also supported the need for Google Plus.
However, as I have been thinking about it, most companies in the past have gotten into trouble, become anti-competitive, or foes of the free market under the banner of simply looking out for their business interests in responding to a threat. Inside most potential monopolies, the issue that crops up after smashing a formidable challenge is when to stop.
Google is promoting G+ as the bulk of its social search, G+ is completely unavoidable as you are using the search engine. This puts Facebook and Twitter at something of a disadvantage. They also promote YouTube in a similar in-your-face manner, putting Vimeo and other web video companies at a disadvantage.
It isn’t hard to imagine a world in which startups don’t even look at web video because YouTube is un-assailable. Similarly one could imagine, though it is more of a stretch, that eventually Facebook and Twitter would whither and die at the hands of Google Plus since there is really only one search engine, and the entire world uses it. That world would be ridiculously anti-competitive, and no one, including Google really wants to see that.
I believe that if Google had had its just desserts, Facebook and twitter would have given it unfettered access to their data, and Google Plus would have been unnecessary. But since they didn’t G+ is more than beneficial for Google’s survival, it is essential. The same thing could be said about YouTube and Google Music in the face of iTunes.
One could argue as well that Google hasn’t been very effective of late at controlling what is going on within the company. Clearly there is a massive amount of resource contention, and a general challenge in keeping everyone on the same page, and playing for the same team. In addition, there is the kind of limited thinking that prevents the company from disrupting its own business units. Microsoft had(has) this problem, so did IBM, and so did AT&T.
AT&T, however operated like a well oiled machine, they had no problem crushing all competition and effectively responding to all challengers. Google is just as innovative as AT&T used to be, they will similarly get through their management issues, in fact I think they are very near this point. Google getting through their effectiveness issues however, is exactly what bothers me; Once they become as effective as AT&T used to be, isn’t that where the government steps in?
So what I propose instead is that Google break itself into separate businesses voluntarily. One of the main rules of business today is never to let a competitor, or government, disrupt you. It is better, and more profitable to disrupt yourself. I would suggest to Google, for this reason, that now is a good time to do it.
I would imagine that Google would become 5 corporations, split along the lines of social, media, search, mobile, and advertising. This would see Google Plus, Reader, Gmail, Google Talk and Google Docs become the Google Social business. Google docs may initially seem like a strange product to call social, but the purpose of Google Docs is to collaborate on work. That is pretty social as far as I’m concerned, in fact, it is probably the most social that people are in general.
The media business would consist of YouTube, Google Music, Google TV, and the nascent Google Games. The search business is self explanatory. Mobile would be Android, but also Motorola with the new purchase. And Google advertising would be their display, print, and television advertising business. Each company could retain a small portion of ownership of the other company that it was dependent upon. For example, Google media might maintain a 5% to 10% stake in Google social such that they can be sure that their requests are heard and honored. All of the business would have a small share of the advertising business, but the total should not add up to more than 40% so that the advertising business could remain autonomous.
The resulting companies would end up becoming far more competitive and profitable than their corresponding business units, due primarily to the need for providing open APIs to the other businesses that need their services. In the process, these businesses would make these APIs available to other startups who could build off of Google’s services as a platform, driving further profitability and end user lock in.
This would in turn surround their competitors, who are still just a simple silo, and who would begin to run into anti-trust concerns themselves. The now ridiculously nimble Google, which could be known as the Googles, would have them surrounded.
As a single entity Google is vulnerable to the same diseases which have, in the past, felled their erstwhile competitors. As multiple independent profitable companies, the Googles could remain dominant for decades. This would be better for the industry as a whole because each Google business with public APIs would provide a platform for numerous job creating profitable startups. C’mon Google, do what is right for the market, and for your business. Don’t wait for the DOJ to hold a gun to your head like AT&T. Even with the government forcing the issue with AT&T, being broken into the baby bells seems to have worked out pretty well for them.
Posted: January 8th, 2011 | Author: irv | Filed under: Companies, Google, Lifestyle | Tags: Apple, cloud, Cr-48, future, Google, greedy, kids, personal, Web | No Comments »
On a drive from Colorado to Las Vegas this past week my daughter and my son were in the back seat of our car using my daughter’s netbook, she has recently turned 7 years old so I bought her a netbook and I am starting to teach her how to code. My son wanted my daughter to change the video that they were watching and she began to explain how the internet works to him.
She told him that all of her stuff was on the internet ( emphasis mine ) and that the movie that they were watching was the only one that was on her netbook, she explained how her computer was barely useful without the internet, that the internet came from the sky and her computer needed to have a clear view of the sky to receive the internet. In addition she said that since we were in the car and the roof was obscuring said view that they couldn’t get the internet, and couldn’t change the movie.
Listening to this conversation gave me a bit of pause as I realized that to my children, the internet is an etherial cloud that is always around them. To me it is a mess of wires, switches and routers with an endpoint that has limited wireless capabilities. When I thought through it, however, I realized that my kids had never seen a time when someone had to plug in their computer to get to the web. Plugging in an ethernet cable is as old school as dial-up.
Once that sunk in, I understood that the Cr-48, Google’s Chrome OS netbook is a step in the right direction, and while I am very enthusiastic about several aspects of Google, and in all fairness others’ vision of a web based future, I do not feel that the current approach will work.
A centralized system where all of users’ data lives, and all communications go through is not an architecturally sound approach. As the number of devices that each user has goes up, the amount, size and types of connections is going to stress the servers exponentially.
It is already incredibly difficult to keep servers running at internet scale, we need entire redundant data centers to keep even small and simple web scale endeavors running. When you take a step back you realize that a system like Facebook is barely working, it takes constant vigilance and touching to keep it running. It isn’t like a body where each additional bit adds structural soundness to the overall system, instead each additional bit makes the system more unwieldy and pushes it closer to breaking.
Google is another example of a system that is near the breaking point, obviously they are struggling to keep their physical plant serving their users, and like Facebook they are so clever that they have always been able to meet each challenge and keep it running to date, but looking at the economics of it, the only reason this approach has been endorsed is because of how wildly lucrative mining usage patterns and the data generated by users has been.
I don’t think this will continue to be the case as the web reaches ever larger and larger groups of people. I don’t think any particular centralized infrastructure can scale to every person on the globe, with each individual generating and sharing petabytes of data each year, which is where we are going.
From a security and annoyance perspective, spam, malware, and spyware is going to be an ever increasing, and more dangerous threat. With so much data centralized in so few companies with such targeted reach, it is pretty easy to send viruses to specific people, or to gain access to specific individuals’ data. If an advertising company can use a platform to show an ad to you, why can’t a hacker or virus writer?
The other problem that is currently affecting Google severely, with Facebook next is content spam. It is those parking pages that you come across when you mistype something in Google. Google should have removed these pages ages ago, but their policy allows for them to exist. Look at all of the stack overflow clones out there, they add no real value for themselves except for delivering Google adsense off of creative commons content. What is annoying is that because of the ads, they take forever to load. Using a search engine like Duck Duck Go things are better, but this is likely only because it is still small. DDG also says that it will not track its users, that is awesome, but how long will that last?
It is possible for a singly altruistic person to algorithmically remove the crap from the web in their search engine, but eventually it seems that everyone bows to commercial pressure and lets it in in one fashion or another.
Concentrating all of the advertising, content aggregation, and the content in a couple of places seems nearsighted as well. The best way to make data robust is to distribute it, making Facebook the only place where you keep your pictures, or Google, or Apple for that matter is probably a bad idea, maybe it makes sense to use all three, but that is a nuisance, and these companies are not likely to ever really cooperate.
It seems to me that something more akin to diaspora, with a little bit of Google wave, XMPP, the iTunes App Store, and BitTorrent is a better approach. Simply, content needs to be pushed out to the edges with small private clouds that are federated.
This destroys most of the value concentrated by the incumbents based on advertising, but creates the opportunity for the free market to bring its forces to bear on the web. If a particular user has content that is valuable, they can make it available for a fee, as long as a directory service can be created that allows people to find that content, and the ACLs for that content exist on, and are under the control of the creator, that individual’s creation can not be stolen.
Once the web is truly pervasive then this sort of system can be built, it will, however, require new runtimes, new languages, protocols, and operating systems. This approach is so disruptive that none of the existing large internet companies are likely to pursue it. I intend to work on it, but I’m so busy that it is difficult. Fortunately, however my current endeavor is has aspects that are helping me build skills that will be useful for this later, such as the Beam/Erlang/OTP VM.
The benefit is to individuals more than it is to companies, it is similar to the concept of a decentralized power grid. Each node is a generator and self sufficient and the system is nearly impossible to destroy as long as there is more than one node.
Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Apple, Companies, Google, iPhone, Microsoft, Programming | Tags: Apple, appliances, geeks, Google, non-geeks, regular users | No Comments »
This weekend, on a bike ride, I was thinking through the Apple vs Google situation, as well as the paid vs non-paid, and this whole concept of open systems vs closed and I came to the conclusion that it is really just about geeks vs non-geeks.
For about the past 20 years or so, computer stuff, anything digital really, has been produced primarily by the geeks at Microsoft, and later by various open source geeks around the world. It was reflecting their world view, that everyone ought to be able to tinker, and that they might want to. This caused the severe amounts of confusion that people have had for years.
It would appear that now that consumers have a clear and viable choice in Apple and the iPhone that they are choosing, in droves, really, the closed app store based system. It would appear that consumers would prefer an app store to the open web, an individual coherent vision to multiple pieces of different developer’s visions of the optimal way to do x. As Apple likes to put it, they want an appliance, in which applications are just another type of content, and all methods of doing anything are consistent.
I would say that consumers have chosen that, but not because Apple always provides a superior method, or that they like being closed an limited, I would say that it is because Us, as geeks, have not done a good job of providing clear and usable alternatives. For developers and geeks, configuration and making tons of choices are just table stakes for getting our devices and software working exactly the way we want them to work. We have a difficult time creating things that violate the ability to choose a different way. Part of that is that most of us never have the hubris to think that we can decide for others how to do a given thing, or which thing to choose. But that is exactly what makes Apple more powerful than Google to the consumer. Google is catching on, but in a way, at the same time they just don’t get it.
I, personally, understand and prefer many choices. I like Mac OS X and Linux, particularly because there are so many different ways to set things up, the 3rd party developer community, around the Mac especially, have done an amazing job of filling in the usability gaps that Apple has left. Should users choose these productivity enhancers, Apple has wisely seen fit to let the 3rd party devs keep doing their thing. The problem with Android, and the internet in general is that most people are not like us. They don’t want to seek out and try 5 different text editors and window managers, and text expanding solutions before finding the right one. They want to just use it most of the time, and they would prefer if the base implementation didn’t suck.
Geeks, and Google, we would prefer to just let the base interfaces and systems suck, since our partners are either going to replace them, or augment them. That is exactly what shouldn’t happen. Technical solutions should be like European Socialism… The government provides a generally acceptable set of services that everyone pays for, but it is possible to get better solutions. This provides something of a floor for service providers. Likewise, if you are developing a music solution for example, provide a playback solution that works with it first, then give the ability to plug into other services if the user prefers. That way, they aren’t left hanging initially.
Where I get frustrated with Apple, and where I continue to choose Google’s services, even they are less usable, are that they do not give me the latter solution. They provide a kick-ass initial implementation, but when I want to go and replace or augment it, particularly around the iPhone ecosystem, there are no options, in fact, they go out of the way to defeat any other option. If I wanted to use Apple’s music purchasing service, but I didn’t want to use the iTunes application, I am SOL. Apple feels that they make the best music playback solution as well as the best service. For some they may, but for me, I would much rather use AMAROK or something else to manage my music, inferior or no. If I chose the other way, I might want to use Amazon’s MP3 service for buying, but iTunes for managing. Apple should make that easy for me.
At some point, geeky companies like Google, and to their credit, they are starting to, need to create good baseline solutions that run up to, but stop short of competing with other products and services that are auxiliary to their primary product. Apple needs to accept that people may occasionally choose to do their own thing and allow them to.
I do not buy the assertion that in order to provide a cohesive solution you have to block all others. I feel that a system can be aesthetically pleasing and useful, as well as permissive. Karmic Koala I think gets really close to being there, but there are still too many places that I can get into with the OS where regular users would go WTF?!!?
This is why I am continually working on a new OS that as an ambition would combine the completeness and ease of use of the Mac OS, but honor the internet, as well as user choice. They are not mutually exclusive, and the only way to prove it is to build something that shows it. It is a huge amount of work, which is why the only way to do it is open source, but since you have to make clear choices for the user, at least in the initial state, some stuff just couldn’t be committed.
Basically, end-users won’t realize the cost of the choices they are making until they are gone. In a balkanized, app-store-ized internet, choices will be limited, prices will be high, and satisfaction will be generally low. That is where we are going, that is the choice that users are making because they can’t wrap their heads around the internet. It is our fault as geeks, and we are the only ones who can fix it. The average user is going to pick the shiniest and easiest widget. There is no reason we can’t make that.
Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Apple, Companies, Google, iPhone, Palm | Tags: acquisition, Apple, Google, html5, Palm | No Comments »
I hear a lot of prognostication about who will buy Palm now that they are officially up for grabs. People are suggesting that HTC, Lenovo, or even Apple would be the most likely to buy them, however I don’t think any of them will get Palm. I think that Google will get Palm for around 1 billion dollars, and here is why.
Primarily, the main reason is that Palm’s WebOS falls directly in line with Google’s philosophy of web first, native second. That with the Google Native Client could make for a compelling addition to Android. One could argue that Android is lacking only in UI, and WebOS has a UI second only to the iPhone. Secondarily, buying Palm would give Google patent ammunition to use in assisting HTC in their legal battle with Apple, especially since it is Google’s Android OS that is causing the issue.
It doesn’t make sense for Apple to get Palm, even if they are in the bidding, because Google has shown in the past that it is willing to go way above a company’s valuation to snag them. This makes just too much sense so it has to happen, that is my prediction, it is sort of hopeful because I like WebOS and Palm, and would like to see it continue, albeit in a more pure HTML 5 sense.
Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: irv | Filed under: Companies, Google, Microsoft | Tags: email, facebook, Google, Microsoft, social networking, twitter, wave, yahoo | No Comments »
I have had a wave account for some time, but I never really got it. I understood it as a communication platform and all of that, but I didn’t really understand what was in it for google. Then I thought a bit more about it and I remember something that Yahoo! said a long time ago, “email is the social network.” That didn’t make sense to me at all, until now.
Most people use email for a large chunk of their interaction with other people. By Yahoo! saying that email is the social network, they were indicating that most of what Facebook does is overglorified email. People typically, pre – facebook would share photos, music, and videos over email. The biggest complaint was that email didn’t allow them to have large enough attachments. Enter youtube and flickr. They allowed people to embed links to larger content and then email them.
Enter Facebook. Facebook allowed people to be able to control who could see what. It allowed for semi-private posting, plus all of the features of youtube and flicker with email. It became the ultimate communication platform. Once apps was created, it was over, runaway success.
Google initially tried to build a social network with Orcut, but that really wasn’t going to have the traction that Facebook had obtained. Google wisely stopped pushing that. When wave was announced, I thought that it was aimed specifically at outlook in the enterprise, and maybe some minor aspects of personal communication, but nothing significant. However, with their plugin system, and its federated nature, it starts to pretty much become a better facebook than facebook.
The first aspect of Google’s attack on Facebook with Wave is that it is private by default. Waves are only available to specific people or groups that you explicitly choose. You have a wave status that you can update, you can attach pretty large files or URIs, or even embed some content into the wave… There is commenting. It really feels like a social network, and the plugins are just genius. This will eventually challenge facebook since anyone can run a wave server. It also tackles Ning, and pretty much any other social network out there. All it takes is for Google to flip a switch to give users the option to produce a public wave, or a wave that all your contacts can see, and it starts seriously eyeing content management systems.
It attacks Twitter in that it is immediate, and it is optional. I can follow or unfollow waves as I wish, so I can jump in and out of conversations. Something that I have desperately wanted for some time, this is what makes Twitter and Yammer awesome. That I don’t always have to pay attention to them, email is too immediate, and there is always important stuff mixed up with unimportant stuff. Wave lets me discriminate. Wave will always scale better, and have more history, therefore more data mining value than Twitter. It is federated, and peered from what I understand of the spec, and therefore should be more resilient than anything a single company, save Google could build. Also since it is an open standard, more people should get behind it. If I were Twitter, I would be looking at how I could merge my service with the standard.
Wave destroys Yahoo mail, period. I would imagine that Yahoo has something up their sleeve since they killed 360, but they are hurting so badly for cash right now that I’m not sure. I think that a federated wave could hurt a lot of web email providers.
Finally, Microsoft. Exchange has hammered everyone for a decade with its expensive licensing and limited feature set. Wave easily destroys it on features and usability. Hopefully Google will unleash Wave into Google Docs, and the enterprise Google Docs. I think that savvy IT managers and most of the engineers will jump nearly immediately. This will be mostly the end of Yammer if it happens. Although I think Twitter and Yammer have features that wave is missing, the standards body could just add them, everyone could implement their UI for the features and be done with it. Microsoft exchange and outlook never really understood why anyone would need additional features and media types, so I don’t expect for it to live long past the wave proper launch with enterprise wave server and client providers. The costs would be so cheap that it would be difficult for them not to look at it. Especially since most enterprises are still running very old version of Exchange.
Microsoft has such a tarnished reputation in enterprise now that most people have to seriously look at whether to upgrade to the latest Microsoft thing or not. Mostly they trial it for extremely long periods before committing the updates to the masses. Since waves can persist, this can even replace sharepoint, and it does it with a metaphor that people are very comfortable with… email.
Posted: September 16th, 2009 | Author: irv | Filed under: Companies, Google, Media | Tags: Apple, economy, free, futurist, Google, Microsoft, post | No Comments »
For the past few months I have actively quested against using anything that is free, asking difficult questions of the product, and often choosing a paid alternative when the answers were not forthright enough, and I have been noticing similar tension on twitter, and the other social media places that I haunt, as well as casual encounters with friends and family. Why have I have been trying to move off of the free ecosystem? What reason could there possible be? I mean who doesn’t want stuff for free? Well, that answer is complicated, to fully understand it, I think we have to look at some of the things that the “free” ecosystem has brought us.
The first, and most significant negative thing that the expectation of free software and services has brought to us is a huge proliferation of spyware and malware. There are a few reasons that the amount of spyware and malware increased dramatically around the time that software became available for free. It is largely a consequence of the law of unintended consequences. First, fast internet became widely available at costs that are reasonable. In fact, for a while ISPs played around with having a free price point, but that faded away quickly as capital intensive enterprises are incompatible with the gift economy.
The next is a series of unsustainable business models driven by advertising with ever declining value delivered to the sponsoring companies due to consumers being advertised out. This in turn has driven to many choosing not to consume content at all, or destroying once vibrant businesses such as newspapers, music, and movies. What is the answer to the decline, to increase the ads of course, to make up for a clear down trend with increasing the volume and driving down margins while lowering the quality of the product to keep the same profitability. Does this sound familiar, it should, its the same thing that happened in the housing market to continue an unsustainable business model. Instead of innovating out of the crises, the advertising companies are clinging stupidly to the old systems.
Once fast internet became widely available, the GNU / GPL driven software model with distributed version control systems became possible. Now people were able to collaborate on software, in countries where labor costs were cheaper, driving the price of development down in general for large projects. The GPL began with a powerful intent, to make software, and its source code available to facilitate learning and improve the quality of all software. It has largely achieved this end, however it got end users used to being able to download high quality software for free. At first, this was all gravy, but eventually these same people started to get tired of giving away their hard work, some of them graduated college and needed to make money, others just wanted to improve their standard of living, the reasons are too numerous to go into, but the result is that these “alternative” business models started to spring up around software that at its core was free. The service / support model was the first to appear, along with making closed source software available for free but with embedded malicious software. The idea behind this was simple but powerful, by installing covert software on millions of remote PCs you could send spam email advertising whatever you wanted, and no technology ( at the time ) could stop you.
This was the beginning of the advertising ecosystem. Yes it basically came from malware.
TANSTAAFL : There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Truthfully, nothing is free. Businesses saw what was happening in the malware / spam / zombie / email space and wanted to find ways that they could do this in a legitimate way, since millions of dollars were being made off of the spam networks. What the malware / spam networks were getting from users, in addition to their IP addresses, were profiles of their behavior online, the networks could generate information about what sites were trending etc, where people went when they were looking for a product, where they went after the first click. Crack cocaine for marketing executives. It is always surprising to me how many people do not understand what is happening when they use google, bing, yahoo, etc, and why they are free. These are hugely expensive enterprises, with huge costs that could almost never be made up by charging people to use them. I don’t know what Google would cost if they didn’t advertise, but I would imagine that it would cost thousands a year to use it in order for Google to be profitable in the same way.
Webmasters often don’t think about why Google would give away analytics when Omniture has built such a profitable business selling web analytics for years. The reason is simple, Google makes more money from adwords when they can trend users from the Google search page, through their path from site to site. By including Google’s tracking code, an authenticated user logged into Google’s services can be followed.
This has benefits to the user in Google’s case, since Google has so far shown that they can be trusted with the vast amounts of user behavior data that they have amassed, and they do frequently show ads that are highly relevant. So Google’s business is in gathering data points about your behavior, and using that data to present you with the ads that are most appropriate to you. Every application and service that Google builds is to this end.
Yahoo and Microsoft are desperately trying to copy this business model, as are many smaller vendors, and that is the problem. While Google can be trusted, I do not believe that the others can be, and frequently I am not 100% certain about Google. The problem is that Google is behaving as though it were the only company out there doing this, and they seem to be oblivious to the fact that people don’t want to see ads, even good ads. I keep hearing that poor targeting is the culprit, but I am not so sure that is true any more. There is a class of people that is rapidly growing who just don’t care what type of ad it is they are just tired of the cognitive noise. I would be included in that class.
With so many different ad networks trying to copy Google, the result is end-users inundated with ads, everywhere they go there are these behavioral ad networks trying to determine what ads to show you, with varying success and quality. They are all clamoring for data, trying to convince site owners to put their little tracking code into their stream. Unfortunately this hasn’t stopped at the web, iPhone apps, Blackberry and other mobile apps, even desktop apps are showing little ads in order to compensate the developer, whose time is extremely valuable, for their hard work.
The problem for a company like Google that is interested in doing the right thing, or at least trying to, is that the lesser companies are producing ad-fatigue in users, which has lead to adblock pro and other advertising blocking solutions as end-users try to reduce the noise around them. These companies, realizing that their ad driven dreams are beginning to fade have moved to making ads look like content in the old 30′s radio business model. The funny thing is that those old tactics led to the FCC getting involved and setting guidelines as to how advertising should be embedded into programs. It is a vicious cycle that is reproducing itself in all mediums.
The embedding tactics range from “independent” product blogs, to product shils on twitter, to television programs designed to specifically and only show you a car gratuitously. Again, not all of these are bad, I follow several businesses on twitter that do not annoy me, and actually behave more like a partner than someone trying to cheat me out of my money with a product that I don’t want, and can’t use. Some of these ad sponsored “apps” on the iPhone for example are so thin as to be a press the monkey with a batman logo. What is the point of that? It is just noise.
So what’s the problem? Everyone is getting paid.
The overriding problem is this… its too much sponsored content in general. Everyone seems oblivious to this and I’m not sure why. It could be the same thing that lead to the housing crash, everyone was making way too much money to look at the obvious. People are tired of being advertised to. Everyone is touting some kind of free future where everything is free and companies are always making money in “other” ways. Typically these “other” ways are not specified, but I can fill in what “other” is. They are increasingly nefarious and opaque ways of capturing your behavior and data, then using that information to influence your behavior, usually resulting in you buying stuff with you not being able to remember why. This is bad, and is not really a proper way to run a business. It can only end with massive data leaks and a public so unhappy that government legislation is required.
I don’t think this will happen. I believe that the public is smarter than this and that they will start to back away from free software due to being saturated with ads, and begin to embrace paid software from companies with clear agendas and business models. I think that the VC money will begin to follow suit, heading instead to companies with models that a 5 year old could understand, as opposed to models that only a PhD in macroeconomics can comprehend. We make a product ( content ) and then we charge more for it than what we paid to make it.
Another of the problems with the ad model is that where once it liberated artists to develop art without needing to think about how they were going to get paid for it, it is now doing the opposite. Companies are hiring artists to make movies, television, plays, books, video games, you name it just to push some product. Artists are now the slaves to the master that they were once masters over. I would argue that the newspapers have it right, that they just need to start charging for content. It is critical, however that they get their pricing right. I think that PayPal and micro-payments will be the Visa of the future, if Visa gets their act together and drops their rates, perhaps they could be the one. Perhaps newspapers’ circulation will drop, but they would be more profitable and healthy. One company has demonstrated that this is a sound business model, and they are standing astride the world right now as a colossus.
Apple is poised to do very well in this system. Not only have they always chosen to provide high quality products and charge top dollar for them, we see that the public is more than willing to pay for quality software and hardware. MobileMe may have had its issues, but Apple’s motive in making it is simple, they want to sell more iPhones and Macs, they make 50% profit or more on each one, there is no ulterior motive, they are not selling my data, there are no ads, period. They make money in a way that I can explain to my daughter in one sentence. They could put some ads in the iLife suite and give it away for free, but why? They have proven that people will pay not only for the Mac to run the software, but they will pay a reasonable amount for software on top of that.
Microsoft and Adobe are as guilty for creating the free / illicit software market as anyone, by charging ridiculous amounts for their software for what it does, people had to figure out alternative means to get their work done. This feature of software engineering is furthering the dependence on these opaque difficult to understand business models. If you make a solid product and charge a reasonable sum, even a high-reasonable sum, people will pay. Otherwise, they will pirate or find ways to cannibalize the standard method of doing business.
To sum up, the free era is over, Google’s business model is in danger, and Apple and content companies that create quality product and are willing to charge for it stand poised to make a comeback. Microsoft and others following Google are lemmings headed off the cliff. I think the advertising bubble is about to be popped.
Posted: June 9th, 2009 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Companies, Google | Tags: android, developing, Google, groups | No Comments »
A few months ago, I got banned from the Android dev google group. You might think it was because I was being a troll, or because I got into an inflamed argument with a moderator, but actually it was for none of the above. I got booted because, the best I can tell, because I broke protocol and commented on a post that the moderator said was closed.
Later in the day when I went back, it was like bam, the moderator has banned you from the group. My first thought was to get mad, turn off my G1, go back to the iPhone and be done with it, but then I remembered thinking that the moderator’s responses were pretty terse and that maybe they were overworked and angry and banned me for posting to a closed / moved post. I honestly didn’t know where I was in the maze of Google’s group, I couldn’t tell if I had been redirected to the discussion section or not. It is frustrating to have a company like Google, who I normally associate with free speech and open discourse, censoring me in that way. By contrast, I have never been banned from an Apple discussion group, or from any other anything for that matter. Most of us associate Apple with secrecy and killing off free speech and discourse, but actually I have found that their position on what can be said, and should not be said to be clear and reasonable, and that they are always pretty good about that on their posts. If the post moves into an area that shouldn’t be there, the moderator deletes the posts, says why they deleted the posts and moves on. I doubt that they permanently ban their board members.
I have been wanting to port Mides to Android, and to build several applications for it, I have been a huge supporter and advocate of Android in my workplace, where I have some ( very small ) influence over what platforms we support, and to have Google shut me down in this way, makes it difficult for me to continue to convince other developers to build for Android. I would think that the battle for developers would be where platforms succeed or fail, and to have a company who is steeped in the battle carelessly piss off developers makes no sense to me. I like Android, and I want to see it succeed, but sometimes I just don’t know.