Archive for 'Uncategorized'

There have been some recent reports about Zynga considering leaving Facebook which most are assuming is due to Facebook Credits and the revenue money split. If true, this along with Facebook’s recent privacy changes can really become the perfect storm that turns Facebook into GhostBook. You see, it’s been reported that 66% of all traffic to Facebook is for it’s Games. If this happens, many of today’s daily visitors may drop their visits to the site which can create a rather dramatic ripple. Facebook really needs Zynga!

Could Facebook become the next Friendster or MySpace?
If Zynga leaves, it may. My gut tells me that many of my connected friends which keep me on Facebook may stop logging in frequently if the games disappeared. The other set of friends that are not social gamers are usually on other services such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Buzz anyway. I don’t like Farmville, Mafia Wars, CafeWorld in my social streams but ironically those games are the glue that keep many of my present and past “real life friends” engaged with Facebook. Could the things I dislike the most on Facebook may help me disappear if they disappear? Zynga may be the glue that may loosen to make it easier for those looking to leave due to privacy concerns but don’t due to friends.

Though I doubt that Zynga will fully leave the platform, suddenly Facebook’s Open Social API and attempt to be the center of the Internet looks much more irrelevant if Facebook shrinks down to 1/3 of it’s current size.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and even Apple have without a doubt done some innovative things throughout the years and have great products that a very large number of consumers love and use everyday. One would say that all three of these companies have shaped not only new technologies but all the ways that we do things within our lives both personally and in business. They truly have transformed the world in a way that never existed before.

However the past few months and weeks we have seen some pretty interesting turn of events in the technology space that quite frankly have been very disturbing to me. Some have been just disruptive but others have been much more deceptive. I’d like to give each of these companies the benefit of the doubt and say that deception was not the intent but it’s what has caused the controversy in each of them. The desire for more power can clearly cause the need for deceit and its a fine line that needs to be watched.

First was the release of Google Buzz and how it was released with some rather interesting methods to introduce mass adoption. Twitter made some moves in direction that caused some 3rd Party tools to be Then we saw the Apple announcement regarding limiting the developers choice of programming languages for iPod/iPad applications and this week we learned about Facebook’s new strategy and features.

The core issue I see in all these news events is that there are elements of deception in each one. I’ll start by looking at the two that affect developers the most. The first being Apple’s changes to the iPhone developer program license and the app approval process in general. Though I don’t agree with the stance; it’s not an issue that the iPhone requires apps to be written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript. If this was the stance from the beginning, I think the developers would never have questioned the move. The Apple approval process has always been scrutinized but I think the biggest issue is when existing “approved” apps suddenly get removed such as WiFi scanners or now the 100+ Flash CS5-based apps currently in the iTunes Store. Both of these issues are that Apple changed the rules in the middle of the game that has gotten everyone up in arms. To me these aren’t disruptive changes, it’s deceptive when you change something that affects and includes apps that preexisted the rule.

Twitter’s news of acquisition was not much different for developers at first though caught people by surprise. Twitter’s success without a doubt is largely due to it’s third party developers which have created 70,000 innovative apps. That ecosystem of developers helped Twitter become one of the most revolutionary communications platforms we’ve seen on the Web. In my view this is not deceptive, just disruptive to who the developers are competing with in their apps.

An Auto-Opt is not an Autobot, it’s a Decepticon

The other two situations of Google Buzz and Facebook are more concerning to me as these situations directly affect the consumers or users of the service. They both had the same major flaws that are unacceptable: auto opt-in services which lead to some fairly major privacy issues. Originally when a user first went into Google Buzz in it’s first few days which was enabled within GMail for all users, it automatically set you up with followers and people to follow. These people were chosen based on whom the user emailed and chat with most with other Google services. That in general was fine but the problem was that the people you follow and the people that follow you were made public to anyone who looked at your profile….BY DEFAULT! You may not want people to know that your chatting with a competitor, a potential business partner or someone from your past. Google did adjust most of the settings that affected the worse of the privacy flaws and the auto-follow flaws. Google Wave’s flaws were simply not well thought out but at least Google acknowledge the user’s concerns and addressed the issue, therefore I don’t really consider this to have been intentionally deceptive.

This finally brings me to Facebook and mostly it’s Graph API that concerns me. While I understand is trying to make things easier for consumers, this auto opt-in system that they have chosen is downright evil. I would forgive Facebook in this mistake but the Beacon fiasco should have been their lesson learned, this auto opt-in was clearly intentional. The majority of Facebook users by default have no idea how much data they are pouring out and handing over to Facebook. Personally I am a very transparent person on the web but I have a strong belief in personal privacy needs to be protected by default and the user chooses to be “open” to the things they are comfortable with to all friends, groups of friends and the public. Several people were surprised this week when I told them the latest music they were listening to on Pandora and that it was due to Facebook’s default new settings. Today’s it’s Pandora and Yelp, tomorrow it can be NetFlix which has had lawsuits on issues similar to this type of privacy issue. Pandora, Yelp and Netflix potentially could disclose sensitive things such as sexual orientation to people.

The scary thing is that we have no idea what other information may pop up one day to your Facebook friends. Hypothetically, Facebook could make a deal with one day and all your friends know you full financial information. Or one day you’ll wake up to find your health records shared. Granted these extremes are not likely but you should have the right to know and approve of when more about you is being shared to an audience especially when two sites have never been connected before. A single privacy setting is simply not enough control all connected partners nor is a single bucket of  “all friends”.

But most importantly, any auto opt-in that affects privacy should be considered illegal. This privacy issue is not just about targeted advertising, it’s about how varies pieces of information tied together can really affect someone in real life. I realize that Facebook is trying to help the web get connected and social but you need to respect people’s privacy first. But Facebook is clearly being deceptive in it’s approach and attitude on that subject and it scares the hell out of me when a company of that size doesn’t respect its user’s information first.

Many of us know that the cost of Cable TV is without a doubt is very high especially in the day of the Internet. This past week at SXSW, I had the chance to watch the debate between Mark Cuban and Avner Rowen of Boxee around the future of Television and where the video content will be. This was the debate we’ve read about for quite some time, how the Internet is causing early adopters to drop cable/satellite and instead watching all their video content over the Internet. Mark Cuban of course has expressed quite a few times on why a pure TV over IP platform will not be the mainstream in the next 10 years.

The debate had many moments that allowed each of debaters to take little humorous jabs at each other’s past, present and future business models and views over the issue. There was even an unexpected break fairly early on due to a fire alarm that was a false alarm. I’m not going to go into the exact details of what was said in that event nor what each have posted on their respective blogs since (you can read about it here & here), but I am going to discuss what was not really said though.

Mark Cuban’s main arguments of why today’s TV Networks will not move all of their video content out to the web has some validity. There are certainly some bandwidth and codec/video format concerns that make this method of video distribution a bit more difficult to manage than using the Coax of your Digital Cable provider for a “application specific network”.  But then Mark goes on to say that this bandwidth should be reserved for “transformative applications” such as “Medical, Transportation, Defense, Gaming, Simulations and who knows what”. Gaming is “transformative” while Internet TV is not? And Porn is OK to dominate on the Internet but not TV? And shouldn’t much of the Medical or Defense be created in an “application specific network”?   A very confusing view….from an outsider.

On the flip-side, Avner points out in his blog that “Content owners follow the audience” and the ends his blog post with 4 bullet points on why now is the time. Now I’m a big fan of Boxee and Internet TV in general, I was even at the Boxee Beta launch in Brooklyn but I believe sadly that Avner is wrong and it has nothing to do with technology. And all of those comments Avner points out are exactly why they will stall as much as possible on transitioning (back to that a bit later).

In the picture we are talking about here, Boxee is closer to the consumer in this picture than being in the Video Industry’s circle. That’s no disrespect to Boxee or Avner but simply to state that they have little influence over the Traditional TV Industry unless they get influence enough consumers to drop their monthly TV bill. Boxee has created a great platform to consume audio/video content streams through the internet but is trying to convince the Content Publishers that moving to the Internet is a good move for them. But is it?

Keeping the Cat in the bag rather than over Cat5

The Cable, Satellite and Broadcasting Channels have very little to win by moving all of its content over to the Internet today.  Why? Because they have created a very successful and lucrative business model within the platforms they provide today and would like to secure that revenue as long as possible. Mark Cubin’s HDNet along with all other Cable Network owners have little incentive to move the content at this time. But Mark Cuban also has a slightly hidden secret about his interest in keeping today’s cable pricing models which you’ll find this particularly upsetting if you don’t watch sports because sports channels account for about 40% of all cable fees. So right up front, a non-sports viewer could see half their bill disappear if network fees stayed in portion to what they look like today. However the top five program producers (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and Warner Bros and their networks) draw in close to 80% of all viewers. This means, HDNet is in a sweet spot of being a Sport’s Network and Independent in today’s model which would struggle as an independent a la cart network.

So HDNet receives $0.55 per subscriber per month regardless if they ever turn on that station. Granted that’s a price for HDNet if you’re a sports fan (which would be higher in an a la cart model) but what about less popular stations such as The Military Channel? Well over 90% of all channels are never watched by an individual consumer. Could The Military Channel survive in a cut throat a la cart world? Today’s model allows it to rake in profit whereas a different revenue model may kill the product. Every media company would love to have this model, drawing revenue from both advertisers and a pool of subscribers regardless if they watch your content. It keeps your revenue risks low while serving a niche audience. Sure there is Hulu but most of that content is free Over The Air already or dated.

Avner argued that they can have this video content online and charge an individual which is true but by doing so, it still threatens their lucrative traditional business model. You see if enough channels did this, the more people may unsubscribe to the Cable Company. Remember, those subscriber subscriptions pay them regardless if they view their channel so nobody within the Circle wants to people to move away from the Cable Company’s structure.

Is it corporate greed? Yes and No, it’s business model that makes them a lot of money and they’d like to protect it as long as possible, I don’t consider that greed but rather a method of control. They realize that there’s an untapped market that refuses to subscribe to traditional cable but they’d much rather protect the market they have. There’s just no major threat in online only model (like Revision 3) for mainstream content yet. And remember: Not everyone spends as much time on the Web as you do– 40% of the US have no broadband, while 30% of households still have no Internet access at all.

This goes back to my last blog post around decisions are not usually made with the consumer being the primary focus. When they see massive drops in customers, then they know they squeezed too much and will probably drop price to get back some customers. Corporations are here to maximize profits for their shareholders, not to serve the community. Also don’t expect government to fight too hard for consumers on this. The lobbyists on the cable company’s payroll (ie. The NAB) will continue to fight the existing business model and stifle any competition of their monopoly. Until consumers fight back in masses, they will keep jacking up prices.

The Triple Play Effect really created the 3 Pointer Shot (and the Foul)

Beginning in 2004 in the United States, the traditional cable television providers and traditional telecommunication companies increasingly compete in providing voice, video and data services to residences. The combination of TV, telephone and Internet access is commonly called Triple Play regardless of whether CATV or Telco offered it. Some have added wireless and/or cell phone service.

Bundling services was a very strategic move on the Carriers. Not only did they lock you into “deals” for all of your communication services (TV, Phone and Cable) but they also created an opportunity to protect each of those services from nibbling away at each other. Sure the bundled package “saves you” $10-$20 a month than in the past but eliminating services could have saved you more. For example, I use Ooma for my home phone which could cost me nothing if I didn’t want the premium services (still $100/year is a good deal).

In this case, we are talking about eliminating Cable TV. This is usually the biggest piece of your bundled service bill today and they do not want to lose this revenue. But let’s just assume that the consumer does eliminate Cable TV and watches all Video Content over the Internet. The Cable Companies have the strategic advantage to stifle this by adjusting your terms of service and pricing structure due to the consolidation effects they did back around 2004. The will simply adjust your Internet Broadband structure to be paid by the Megabyte rather than by Access Speed. And honestly, I’d rather head towards that pricing structure as today’s created tiers of committed speed seems to never meet what is advertised to the consumer and really doesn’t make sense. But if we went with this Internet Metered Model, couldn’t we only pay for TV when we want to watch it? The Cable Companies would think that’s crazy talk…

A Huge Misunderstanding Of The Issue At Hand

I think for most consumers, the issue really is not about whether or not all video content should be on the Internet but rather the incredibly high price consumer’s pay for Cable TV. And let’s not forget the 18 minutes out of every hour that we are expected to spend watching ads. An advertiser pays about $230,000 for a 30-second spot on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” which is suppose to keep cost to the consumer under control? How is paying for every channel, for every minute they broadcast no matter if I watch it while diluting almost 1/3 of an hour’s time, worth $90/month of my paycheck?

And I think that’s the problem we all have, we are paying for the noise without rewarding the signal which just allows a system to produce more channels and content that I’ll never watch. It has nothing to do with which cable or box it is coming from, it that there is no accountability in improving the content the way it is structured. We don’t care if it’s on a TiVo or Boxee, just give us the good content we want for a reasonable price.

Cable TV does offer some good content and most people don’t want to completely cut the cord from that content, it’s simply a price issue over what you get for your money. I just don’t see many companies that are bold enough to be the Revision 3 for mainstream shows (at least yet). Consumers simply want “some” of the content on TV today they value without the price that subsidizes other people’s watching habits or simply poor filler content.

But if a la cart model was in place with decent pricing, would we be debating this issue? But more importantly, if a la cart system was in place over Cable TV, would you think that the Networks would be resistant to also distributing that content over the Internet for the same price? But there really is no incentive for Cable Carriers to do this; it’s really more of an incentive for high volume content producers if anything. I think you know where I’m going with this; Avner was trying to debate the wrong issue with Mark Cubin. He should have been debating on the subscription and business models of today, why they aren’t adjusting which would allow an easy transition to Internet Models in which Boxee could become the aggregator to the consumer. But the Ball is in the Circlee that simply doesn’t want to pass it to a Boxee, they’ll move the ball when they are ready…

(Note: These are wholesale prices and programming costs would adjust to the market in an a la cart model)

I had to opportunity today to listen to an open forum discussion led by Louis Gray and Chris Wetherell on Products versus Users: Who is winning while being at SXSW. The overall theme was generally discussing why companies and their products don’t listen to their user feedbacks very well. We all know the story, the users want feature X but the product never produces feature X while instead create feature Y that creates an uproar and the Mob affect.

Being the natural introvert that I am, I listened to both the speakers and the audience discuss this issue with great interest. Just why does a product not listen to it’s audience? Do the users have the appropriate vehicles to talk to the product teams? Is the community right? Is it wrong? Does the community have rights especially if the product is free? People complain about change anyway and you can never satisfy everyone…

There really was no true answers that came from this discussion, which is tough in a forum like this, but it is an interesting topic worth addressing on TechYell seeings as the domain name implies this very subject, to add value by suggesting ways in which we can improve things even though the application improvements are generally out of my hands (except for those I advise).

Consumer Rights – Is Freemium and Paid That Much Different?

As a consumer of many free products on the web, I do not expect that all of my ideas be addressed within a product. I will give my feedback on a product, try to clearly point out things that I do not like about the product and offer ways to improve upon that product. Yes a rant comes out time to time but we all know that this don’t solve much. Now of course, I would love for my feedback to be noted and then applied within that product but that is up to the internal team of that application to capture my feedback and determine whether it is worth including (which I’m assuming many others have requested). I also understand that the information that I have provided within the free online app may be used in ways that can benefit that applications ability to ultimately make revenue (within reason).

If of course that application does not evolve in the direction that I would like, I could simply stop using that product and perhaps look for alternatives. The web is after all vast and has many alternatives, right? Well, as Louis pointed out in the discussion, the web is quickly consolidating into a few core companies with large portfolios of web applications. In the case of social media apps, the success of the app does in many ways come down to the size of the community. So a consumer does not have a lot of choice outside of the Twitters and Facebooks of the world where that community has already set ground. Yes, there are many alternative/clones of these systems but the audience is the “special sauce” so the individual is in many ways “stuck” with what that application does and it’s limits.

This is in many ways not much different than any other period of time with technology, even with paid apps or hardware. Many people and companies use Microsoft Office because the rest of their audience does in which you may need to share a document. Yes there are other products that someone can use and even translate to the MS Office format, but usually some format issues occur. You also had very limited ways to improve Microsoft Office through feedback. So just like today in the online world, we flocked to those products in which became mainstream regardless if they had every feature you desired and the outlets to provide feedback are even tougher. Do you have more rights as a paying customer, it doesn’t seem that way on large products.

So Does Your Voice Matter?

We all like to think that it does and even those companies would like you to believe that too but I’m not so sure. Not to get political on TechYell but we have the same exact issues within our governmental system. Yes we have voting rights on who represents us but how many of those representatives have successfully brought the changes that you, as an individual, have wanted? We’ve all heard the mantra of “your vote counts” but does it really count enough to make an impact? We’ve seen in Washington that even a majority doesn’t mean much.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here but I don’t believe that your individual voice matters unless your a specific voice higher in the food chain both in politics and also in the future application design choices, even then it can be challenging to create change. The outside voice matters very little once a product becomes a certain size and mainstream.

However we are in an age of technology and openness to allow your voice to be heard louder than ever before. Even in cases such as the Motrin Moms PR disaster, there were no major impacts to revenue despite the angry mob-effect that wanted to engage with Motrin but couldn’t. Not much different than the “everyone skip pumping gas for a day MEME”, our behavior isn’t impact-full enough to make major change unless it’s truly a full community shift.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t express your ideas, just don’t get too disappointed when they don’t materialize. You can still impact change when something was released incorrectly such as a privacy feature or a controversial Motrin commercial, just don’t expect their big picture road-map to magically come into your control.

So Does Competition Matter?

Yes and No. Competition matters only when it becomes a potential mainstream competitor. Doing this is no easy task, you need to not only build a great product but also create something that makes people feel that it is time for a change in behavior. This certainly has been done before but it’s not easy and I’d imagine will get harder over time. It takes a strong product with very strong marketing and, in many cases, it takes the leader in that space to screw up. By messing up, I mean either not keeping up or staying relevant. Some will add that missing feature on their own. However when you get to a specific size, one of the easiest ways of staying in the lead is through acquisition of threats or complimentary products. As end users, we often find that these acquisitions have little to do with making the acquired or original product better for us consumers but more about containing the market.

So has “the Product” Won?

Not exactly but clearly the producers of the application have more control over the audience. And in some ways, they deserve that control as they’ve given you just enough to keep you as a customer. If you don’t like Apple’s culture and yet you still buy their product over others, clearly you have shown Apple that they are providing you with a “just enough” product. The same example could be said for Microsoft Office or even Twitter. They all give just enough at it’s core and allows “some” 3rd party API development options in which they can change the rules at any time. I’m not downplaying what Apple or Microsoft have developed but they are the easiest example to illustrate who has control due to the Mass Adoption Effect.

Independent developers have the best advantage because they can create something that fits their needs whether that’s through the existing system’s API or making something on their own. End users also have a better chance of getting their voices heard on smaller projects, especially in the early phases when the new startup is hungry for an audience and ultimately profits.

However, I don’t want the Twitters and Microsofts of the World to believe that they will always be safe. When enough people have caught on to “the next big thing” (and I don’t mean the early adopters), a sea change can occur and it can happen very quickly. Before this past November, Android was not a major threat to the iPhone. The debate is still out if it will truly overtake the iPhone but in my view it will happen due to Apple’s mess ups. The way things have been moving with the various removal of iPhone Apps (Sexy Apps, WiFi Detectors, Competing Products, etc), they are creating more friction with it’s community (developers and users) than I think they realize. If you believe that traditional desktop OSes are on the verge of Death, these two factors create a huge opportunity for Google to win the hearts of the Smartphone Flock. Unfortunately it’s another big company that won’t create that killer-feature for you but at least they will be more open for the little guy’s app that you might have some voice of influence.

Before I begin talking about Palm’s future, I need to talk about it’s past and my personal history with Palm. As someone who used to have a blog about the Treo, Palm holds a very special piece of my technical life and in many ways was my first gadgets that substitutes computer-like activities. But like Scobleizer, I too have been doing a lot of thinking about why Palm didn’t get my money.

I was a huge fan of the original Palm OS, I admit that today the operating system seems rather dated but for the most part it was the operating system that started the mobile SmartPhone devices that we use today. Back in the early days, Palm could do no wrong and was an unstoppable force, it dominated the PDA space against some pretty impressive alternatives such as the Apple Newton.  They were also the first to open up there portable platform for third party development which lead to an incredible amount of apps for Palm OS.

Now I liked my original Palm III but it wasn’t until Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan (the original founders) left Palm due to 3Com politics to for Handspring. When the Visor was originally released, it truly was the best invention that I had ever seen mostly due to the concept of the SpringBoard module. I owned several flavors of the Visor family almost every SpringBoard module that was released (a GPS, OminiRemote, TotalRecall – Voice Recorder, MP3 Player, Bar Code Scanner, 802.11b, etc) including the one that changed it all: The VisorPhone! Looking back at it now, I must have looked like the biggest geek on the Street holding my Visor Prism to my ear plus a dozen other modules but I knew all of this on a portable device was the future. Handspring of course enhanced this concept into the Treo line (which built in most of the SpringBoard modules) as I moved onto the 270 and then the 600.

The Merger Occurs and Things Begin To Blur as a Third element enters “The Treo”

When HandSpring merged back with Palm to form PalmOne in 2003 while the OS division separated to form PalmSource, I had some concerns as Palm never really grew in those years but I still continued to use their products. I moved onto the Treo 650 and then the unthinkable happened, PalmOne gave me the option to buy a Treo with Windows Mobile on it when it released the 700w. This was an interesting point in time that was either going to transform Palm into more of a hardware company as it wasn’t only focused on it’s own Operating System.

I bought the Treo 700W, it took a while to get use to the new OS but I started to like it over time. In the meantime,  PalmSource was sold to a company named ACCESS Systems and never really did anything with PalmOS. PalmOne in fact bought full rights to the Palm name and eventually the Palm OS source code again. In that span of two years, the damage was already done as Palm already gave me and many others “the Bridge” to Windows Mobile. When the Centro was released, there was only a Palm OS option with rumors of a Windows Mobile flavor that never materialized and no other hardware roadmap in sight. This allowed many of us to explore other Hardware Providers of Windows Mobile such as HTC and Motorola. I moved onto a UT Starcom XV6700 and never bought another Palm device again BECAUSE THEY LET ME! (NOTE: I use Android today, I’ll get to that later).

Palm Tries To Reinvent Themselves (Again) but forgets it’s “Pre”quel

When the Palm Pre was released, it obviously caught my attention as I was very loyal to Handspring/Palm once but times had changed and so did Palm. Although Palm allowed me to shift to Windows Mobile and eventually to other hardware providers, there was a part of me that wanted Palm to win me back but they didn’t. Why? Mostly because this wasn’t Palm anymore, this might as well had been called a different company. There was no trace of the company’s past, no familiar form-factor and no backward capability to it’s old OS. Leaving all these great PalmOS Apps behind with no replacements nor a great Development Program at release is just STUPID!

On top of that, as a former (HAND/PALM) shareholder, I knew very well that their financial situation already was betting the House on this device (and the Pixi). Did I want to give my trust to a company that wasn’t the company I knew, pretended the past didn’t exist and was in financial trouble? Not really. On top of that, it was released on Sprint which admittedly I’ve never used but it wasn’t my (or work’s) preferred carrier. They had nothing that really gave me a reason to come back.

Also, everyone is making awesome mobile operating systems these days, so what makes Palm devices special compared to iPhones, Androids, and Windows Mobile? The only major revolutionary thing I saw with the Palm Pre was the Touchstone but that wasn’t a make or break feature decision for me, in fact I believe they spent too much R&D focus on this aspect of the product. The Hardward design for the Pre is indeed somewhat different, Robert Scoble believes that the small screen size was it’s major flaw, some others say it’s the slide-out keyboard. As someone who has used a mixture of form-factors, I never felt the small screen size was a major issue personally and would have no issue going back to one (before I went to my Motorola Droid, I owned a Samsung Saga which has a Treo-like design and enjoyed it very much). I did own a Samsung SCH-i730 for a soft time that had a Slide-Down keyboard absolutely hated that design though which also most likely weighed heavily in my decision to not with the Palm Pre as well.  Why I think Palm alienated it’s original customers, allowed us to move and didn’t give us enough reason to come back.

Does the Pre have a Post?

I hope so. I think it would be in Palm’s best interest to port it’s WebOS to a Treo and even Centro form factor immediately while considering a large screen format as well. My personal observation has been that the Pre is used more by Females that I know which certainly was Centro’s demographic. Removing the slide down hassle is a huge win. The Palm Pixi is somewhat similar to the Treo but I believe the 5-way rocker was a strength missing in the current design. A full screen format fills that last void whether it’s designed with (like the Droid) or without a keyboard.

It’s lack of 3rd party software and core secondary platforms is really a huge deal for Palm. This has been the Strategic difference for Android, Microsoft and Apple as they all are much more than a mobile company while having rather strong 3rd development support. I have always felt that both Palm and RIM would eventually be in trouble if they were not bought by a company that can tightly integrate these to other platforms. Android has quickly found it’s niche I believe due to all of the Google products, Microsoft’s Enterprise Apps (Exchange, Office, IM, Sharepoint, etc) have been a key to Windows Mobile and Apple used it’s iPod/iTunes as it’s roots.

I believe Palm’s future will be in someone else’s hands as in it will be acquired. Many will question who the buyer would be but I’m going to go out on a limb that Cisco will buy either Palm or RIM. Why? Cisco has a unique opportunity, they are both in the home with Linksys and in the Office with routers, vpns and desk phones. Buying one of these two companies could really bring Cisco Unity and telepresence to a whole new level for both home and professional consumers.

Can Microsoft Learn from this “Pre”quel?

I see so much of the same story between Palm’s time-line and what is going on with Windows Mobile it’s almost deja vu, the only major difference is that it has staying within Redmond’s walls the whole time. The reason’s why I chose to move to Android is not much different than those of why I left Palm. Microsoft has stalled with it’s mobile platform and it’s internal reorgs have been very much like the Handspring/Palm issues. In the meantime, I had the option of staying with my WinMo 6.0 Samsung Saga, upgrade to something Windows 6.5 or look at alternatives. When I saw the Motorola Droid and it’s push, I knew it was time to experiment. Windows Mobile 6.5 was not much of a jump so I decided to give Android a chance and maybe move back to Windows Mobile when 7.0 was released. Basically, Microsoft gave me a chance to move.

In the meantime, I see that Windows Phone 7 is not going to support it’s past apps and move to be more Zune-like. I have nothing against the Zune, I own one but it’s not Windows Mobile and it’s navigation UI is not very flexible. On top of that, they choose to not support past apps, which once again I believe was a huge mistake for Palm. So like Palm, they have chosen to start over and play catchup on 3rd Party apps when they didn’t really have to. You’ve alienated your past developers while hurting their customer-base which is your customer-base. In the meantime, you’ve positioned your new OS to “wow” the home consumer and downplay your Enterprise strengths. Microsoft, it’s not too late to correct some of your decisions, just look at Palm and see how it has worked for them…

Web 1.0 was the Web in its infancy, its first developmental stage. “Web 2.0” was coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004. You can think of it as the Web in its adolescence, full of energy and ambition with real meaning and purpose to its life but this month we have seen the formation when adolescence reaches puberty. A lot of changes happen as you grow up, especially as you reach puberty, the name for the time when your body begins to develop and change. I believe we are witnessing that time in Web 2.0. This is certainly not quite the stage, maturation, or evolution of the Web to be called 3.0 yet.

But it’s important to make a (somewhat artificial) distinction between Puberty and Adolescence. Most of us think of puberty as the development of adult sexual characteristics. These are certainly the most visible signs of impending adulthood, but kids who are showing physical changes (between the ages of 8 and 14 or so) can also be going through a bunch of changes that aren’t readily seen from the outside.  Web 2.0 is a slightly early bloomer compared to humans but these are the changes of adolescence.

Joking aside of the names in the title, the birth of the Apple iPad and Google Buzz are both very significant changes to the Internet. These tools both are built on the early foundation of where Web 2.0 began, social networks and the iPhone, but are intended to transform these concepts into new disruptive change. They are Strategic Moves for both companies even if they both have a rocky starts as we are seeing with the initial backlash. But I have faith that they will both grow up to be major new players in a year’s time.

The iPad may very well change the way we do things from a Hardware perspective. We may soon be using these on the Couch, in the Classroom and in Meetings. Many people struggle with their need today but I’m sure we won’t question the use of a Tablet 5 years from now.

Google Buzz may have seemed a bit underwhelming today as well but it too is extremely significant, it could be the first major Social Media Platform from an established company that does much more than Social Networking. Google Wave was an attempt to experiment with a Proof of Concept but putting Buzz inside of GMail means that Google is serious now. Yes, Yahoo has attempted to do this inside of Yahoo Mail but I believe that Google’s design has a better chance of being used. I admit that I am primarily a Yahoo Email user based on the fact that I have owned the account for so long but, in general, GMail users tend to be early adopters. Then there is the Android users, this is a utility that allows Google to excel where Yahoo couldn’t: Native Mobile Apps.

Unlocking the “Douchbag” Badge

Yes, just as in adolescence, there is still room to mature. The Foursquare “Douchbag” Badge says it all, Google and Apple would never have used those words as a reward and that’s a good thing! These companies will help add maturity and be sensitive to those who don’t get the joke that many may find offensive. The problem here is a fundamental one: Web 2.0 companies need to grow up if they want to play in the lucrative marketplace of business and corporate America. Insulting people isn’t the way to grow your business or fan base, whether it’s supposed to be light-hearted or not. Apple and Google understand this and won’t risk being too edgy! I usually am against Apple’s iPhone App Approval Process but it’s an example of maturity. Up until now, there wasn’t enough grown-ups with the kids.

What’s A Parent To Do? When HR & IT are your Mom & Dad

Keeping with the theme, I’m going to switch gears to focus on the view between Company and Employer as it’s equally important for these tools to grow. Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They’re starting to separate from Mom and Dad and to become more independent. Kids often start “trying on” different looks and identities which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents. I think many companies try to treat their employees like their children.

No surprise, there will be resistance to disruptive technology inside large companies. They still are struggling with change, they know they want to monetize from these tools but they are also afraid of letting their employees from using them. As we have seen this week with Forrester’s stance on controlling blogs and the news around the need to remove a LinkedIn Profile, companies just are afraid of insiders using these tools both for information leaks but also the threat of strong Personal Brands.

What Companies don’t realize is that grounding your children for no reason will not solve a problem. Employees will likely act unhappy with the tight boundaries that their parents place on them, especially when it something that they do after-hours such as Blogging or building a Personal Brand. Unnecessary strict parenting may cause them to run away from home. However, give them some room and they usually understand and need to know that their Employees care enough about them to expect certain things such as acceptable behavior and adherence to the rules of the house. If parents have appropriate expectations, teens will likely try to meet them.

Companies really need to look closely at how much room you give your employees to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: “Am I a controlling parent?”  or “Do I allow my child’s opinions and tastes to differ from my own?”.

Respecting your Kid’s Privacy and Embracing Their Tools of Choice

Companies, understandably, have a very hard time with this one. They may feel that anything their kids do or use is their business. Using tools that weren’t issued within the walls of the corporation is a tough thing for HR and IT units to embrace. As a Chief Architect, I see and understand this struggle but I also see how long it takes organizations to get their internal tools up to date sometimes due to budget constraints and many other factors. Many companies will resist the use of iPads and other Tablets because every PC and SmartPhone is issued through them. Many companies still resist the use of Personal Email Accounts within their firewalls, let alone Facebook or Twitter. But if you allowed them to track your employees every move through access logs and GPS tracking devices, they’d be all for it.

My personal view, treat your employees like Adults. Let them use these tools to get their job done. Let them Blog with the understanding of what they can\can’t represent or talk about by creating reasonable Social Media Policies. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your employee’s privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it’s a good idea to back off and just treat them like adults.

We’ve heard the story many times now that FriendFeed is DEAD by our friend Robert Scoble and others. No surprise, the Scobleizer is saying it again today after Google’s announcement of their new product called Google Buzz. This new social tool marries the Gmail Web interface with status updates, geo check-ins and content-sharing technology in an attempt to convince the social media addicts to spend more time on Google’s sites than on competitors. They attempted to do this twice already with Wave and adding the Social Features in Google Reader but Google is attempting force this one to succeed by embedding this into the Gmail interface, one of its more popular products.

The Buzz Users, will be able to see all the content of other friends they follow while also seeing other content that their friends have “liked” or commented on. You can choose messages to be public or private including to separate groups that one defines manually. If this sounds very FriendFeedish, it is up to this point…

If you would like to hide certain types of Content, you can click on the “Not interested” button and it will attempt to hide similar content based on an algorithm (very different from FriendFeed). No surprise, Google is also a location-aware service into the mix as Google Latitude hasn’t took off as a stand-alone product. This allows users to “check in” by updating their Buzz status with a Google Maps link to their location, many say that this will kill the independent services and younger startups such as Foursquare and Gowalla. And soon inside of Google Maps for Mobile, you’ll soon see what’s Buzzing nearby from other people that have posted public content recently about that area. This is intended to provide relevant information such as restaurant reviews, traffic conditions, local events, etc. Like Google Latitude, sharing your location is an opt-in service and not on by default.

Here’s the problem:

Google has this too closely tied to Gmail

Unlike Google Wave, Google has chosen to embed this deeply into the fabric of it’s email service. Granted there are millions of Gmail users but not everyone uses Gmail nor do they want to. This immediately fragments the user base as it is doubtful that all your friends on Twitter/Facebook use Gmail today. There are many people use do not trust Google or simply have email accounts that they have had for years and have no desire for another account. This is almost a mirror-reflected project that Facebook will have trying to add with a full email service but a similar issue. This is proof that email is far from Dead as both battle for that Inbox, some will move or add another account but many consumers hate the fragmentation issues associated multiple email addresses.

No native integration of pre-existing services

Though Google has released an API set for Buzz already, they have decided for whatever reason not to import you feeds from Twitter, Facebook and other Social Sites nor have an easy way to locate your friends from those services. In other words, Google wants you to start fresh with only your Gmail Address Book and pretend the Google World is the only World in Buzzland.  That’s a very tough sell for many who has established solid bases in other sites. I’m sure that Google or an outside developer will create ways to blend these services into Buzz but it will cause Google Buzz to have a slightly slower adoption rate.

The Anti-Friendfeed

Google Buzz is quite the opposite of Friendfeed where I can link virtually ever site I’d like to my profile and feed. Google Buzz is officially a Walled Garden today. Yes it has the APIs but the average user just wants everything to be linked in a very easy manner on their profile, like FriendFeed. You can’t kill something that you are not, therefore Long Live Friendfeed and it’s Mob.

Where’s the Public Groups?

A Killer Feature for both FriendFeed and Facebook is the ability to locate Groups of People that have a similar interest in a topic to collaborate together without needing to be Friends. It may come later but I saw nothing that indicated that a Google Groups service was added to Wave. Creating both public and private Google Groups could have been a killer feature. For example, why couldn’t I create a Private Group for my Family that we could have a closed but mutual forum to simply keep family-related material private but have everyone in the loop? The same could be said for workgroups. On the flip side, I should be able to join a public group for fans of Android.

Lists and Suggestions

Twitter Lists have helped many not only organize people but help discover new people. Facebook also has a Suggestion Engine that helps discover Friends by who they already connect with. I didn’t see any of this within the Google Buzz demo.

What about Games and Apps?

I’m personally not a big user of these but I know many are inside of Facebook. To many, Farmville and Mafia Wars keeps them hooked into going to Facebook every day and is equally if not more important as sharing Messages, Pictures and Links. With 11 million daily players and counting, Farmville alone is a virtual force to be reckoned with. These ‘very addicted’ users will not migrate to Google Buzz any time soon and I think everyone has at least one family member or friend in this situation. Fragmented Friending is a major issue today, adding another social network just makes that issue worse.

Bees vs. Honey

I think Google Buzz has a lot of potential but for now it’s just added Noise to a Fragmented Social Internet. Personally,  I can’t stand Bees but I do like honey. The Content is the Honey! If Google Buzz can truly cut through the Noise and give me the best quality shared content then I’m there. If this become just another Social Network filled with more Buzzing Noise that I already can get elsewhere, I’ll just stand-by on my screened-in porch for now waiting for Google to improve the service.

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Now that the dust has cleared, I wanted to address something that I’m surprised nobody is blogging (that I’ve seen) around the iPad because I think it’s rather obvious. I’ve seen many of people disappointed with that fact that a Camera on the iPad is not mentioned as a feature and yet that there is rather strong evidence that one almost made it into the device. Why would Apple do this? I’m betting that this was 100% strategic!

Is this an iPad Killer?

No, the lack of a Camera was disappointing to many consumers but I believe that the iPad will sell very well regardless of whether a Camera was present or not. Yes, this limits the potential applications and uses for the iPad but hardly is this a make or break of the success of the device’s core purpose.

So what is this Core Purpose?

That’s been a question that many have been debating in their articles but I believe that the ultimate answer is that the iPad needs to cover many types of needs. It needs to be a possible eBook Reader, a Casual Web Browser/Social Media Tool, a Casual Gaming System, a Video Player AND also be a productivity tool that can be used for Work and School-related activities. It essentially needs to be something that fills the need of a Work/Life Balance not much different than many view their Cell Phones.

OK, So Why is There No Camera?

I believe that the lack of a camera is so the iPad has a solid chance of becoming a universal productivity tool. Believe it or not, there are still many places that do not allow or highly discourage Cameras on Cell Phones. The ability to violate security — whether it is of individual, company, or classroom — is likely to have impact on where cellular phones and camera phones are allowed.

Many jobs within Government Services do not allow cameras due to breach of security clearance concerns, especially if you’re doing work for the Department of Defense. If you get caught with a Camera in these locations it is treated as a Federal Offense, not only do you lose your job, you lose your clearance and a lot of bad things can happen. The Government can impound all of your Computer Hardware at home because there is no way of telling if you took photos and then brought them home, then collect external hard drives, just about everything, not to mention you could go to prison.

Cameras aren’t allowed in courtrooms in many locations. So, in an age of heightened security and terrorism alerts, when officers are busy screening courthouse visitors for guns, knives and other potential weapons, they’re adding camera phones to their list of items to watch out for. Procedures for dealing with camera phones vary from courthouse to courthouse.

Many Schools have strong issues and policy concerns with Camera Phones. Cameras could be used to take photos of exams, take pictures of students changing clothes in gym locker areas, and so on.

I believe that Apple really would like to see the iPad be used in all of the above scenarios because the iPad certainly can be a valuable tool for all of them. The iWork demo solidifies that Apple really would like to have this viewed as a productivity tool and not just a cool gadget. Apple is willing to disappoint the Fanboys for the chance of selling millions of these devices to the Government or to businesses that have these security concerns. This is an untapped market that Apple may have a legitimate shot at capturing.

Newsflash: There is no such thing as the perfect device and it’s not all about the consumer

The nirvana of a perfect device is impossible. It’s not that Apple doesn’t care about its consumers, it’s that a device like this is not designed for one specific niche need. Note that I said consumers, not customers because there is a big difference there. A customer could be the US Government while a consumer is one single person (or sale). Because of that, sometimes you need to “dumb it down” to reach the wider audience. Has Apple served an open invitation to competition to fill the gap with their own product? Well yes but those devices will still be compared to the iPad now. Call it arrogance, call it Apple’s magic, but Apple once again set a bar that everyone else will be trying to reach. Will someone reach that bar? Most likely yes but Apple will simply move it again. You see, the iPad is not magical but the power of influence that Apple always seems to create is.

From this point on, Technology can only move forward and the iPad is a step in the right direction. You can’t have everything at once being a consumer even though we believe we deserve it. They held back on copy and paste in the iPhone for two years but it didn’t seem to stop sales. When the iPhone 3G released, they released it with a 2MP camera so the 3GS would look better when it came out a year later (the technology for a 3.2MP was definitely there at the time of the 3G release).

So what about the Future?

Well by not selling a version with a camera upfront, they obviously have left a place to grow the product line. BUT what it also does is cause potential double sales. The disappointed Fanboys are still most likely going to buy the first release of the iPad. Let’s be honest, they didn’t get what they exactly wanted but it’s still shows enough good stuff to make them drool. So next year Apple can easily release a new version with a camera and create a new sale with that same exact customer.

Steve Jobs is not a fool, he knew what he was doing by omitting a camera from the initial product line. The lack of camera doesn’t seem to be hurting the iPod touch sales by much. Based on that, I believe that there is so more upside to selling “cameraless iPad” units than by satisfying the consumer on day one.

It’s all marketing strategy that someone such as Apple has the luxury to do versus a startup. Plus, for the time being, it keeps the cost of the iPad down a little. Is it disappointing the individual Fanboys, of course but I believe the overhype was going to do that regardless of what feature was missing. If Apple ever decides to include one, that’s up to Apple and the camera rumors will continue to fly until that day.

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So the rumors are over and now the chatter begins.  Apple officially announced their next major hardware release today and it’s called the iPad. What Is It? People are calling it a hybrid between an iPhone and a full laptop but in reality it’s much closer to the iPod Touch.

The new Apple iPad is an ultra-thin device that is a half an inch wide and weighs 1.5 pounds. It has crisp resolution, battery life of about 10 hours and lets users see Web pages in full screen mode and use virtually any app you would expect an iPod Touch to do (as it has no camera) plus GPS functions (in 3G version). There is a few 3G plans that appear to be exclusive to AT&T despite speculation that Verizon could have been a carrier.  It costs $15 for 250MB of data per month and $30 for unlimited datawith no contracts,  something Steve Jobs called a “real breakthrough” in pricing. The Wi-Fi-only iPads will start shipping worldwide in 60 days, with the 3G models coming in April.

Is there an App for That Device?

Every app that is currently on the App Store that works on an iPod Touch should work on the iPad. Apps designed for use on the iPod Touch and do not upgrade the code for the larger screen will only take up a small portion of the screen, or they can be blown up to full size with some visual degradation. There will also be iPad-exclusive apps, many were demoed and several will be preinstalled. I’m guessing that apps that work on the iPhone but not on the iPod Touch will not work due to the omitted hardware.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

So the good news is that the rumors can finally go away. Apple released a solid “new product” that I’m sure will sell very well. I doubt it blew many people’s minds but anything with that amount rumored hyped will ever satisfy the imagination. Whether this is a “killer” of any technology is yet to be scene but I’m pretty sure that you will see the iPad in many locations as a replacement for other devices people carry.

The problem is that this device is still rather limiting. Yes it can replace an eReader but eInk is nicer on the eyes. Yes it can replace an iPod Touch but which is easier to carry everywhere. Yes it can replace a SmartPhone’s Data Services, but it can’t replace a phone. Yes it can replace a GPS if it has 3G Service but is that realistic to mount in a car? Yes it can replace a laptop, assuming you can do all your work without full powered applications and don’t expect to multitask on it. Is the non-removable storage enough? Are you comfortable with App Store Lock -In and repurchasing apps?  So that leads to, what can I compromise from another device in order to justify needing another device. Or do I simply just carry another device?

But I’m afraid it gets worse! AT&T and Apple, the exclusive relationship that everyone expected to go away, DIDN’T! What’s this mean for the iPhone’s potential expansion is not clear but one thing is for sure, this wasn’t a good sign of that relationship changing. The move makes sense in some ways as AT&T’s GSM technology is in use world-wide but boy did we want to hear something different.

I give Apple credit, this device looks very nice and I can’t wait to play with one. But playing with one is a lot different that buying one and changing your habits to work around it’s limitations over devices you use today. So the question becomes, will you and millions of other people stand in line and say “iPaid”

Welcome to the beginning of TechYell. I am your host Mark Nielsen aka manielse on the Internets. It wasn’t planned to have a generic look at launch but I’ve spent way too much time trying to decided Logos, WordPress Design, etc that it was simply delaying the import stuff of a blog: the Content. You see, sometimes we are told that we need to do things in a specific order and that a launch should have an amazing splash but doing things in a serial order can lead to bottlenecks. Which leads me to my first topic:

What forces slow things down?

Upthrust - When you are trying to create something special, many of us have grand ideas and shoot for the moon or even farther. We see a big picture but the details are blurry as there are many choices that one could make. This is where many ideas are created because the project is pretty much just a thought, maybe a few wireframes and everything seems so easy like the idea weighs less than water. The problem with upthrust is that it can keep you moving in a direction that doesn’t move your project forward, it can create too many choices that causes information overload. You’re motivated to move things in the right direction but a force keeps you from grounding new ideas. I think many people have this issue, they have great concepts but never can put them to reality due to the desire to make something absolutely perfect on day one.

Friction - Another obstacle that happens often is friction which keeps you from moving fluidly. Friction wastes energy. Uptrust can cause Friction but this obstacle can come in many other forms. Everything in your environment can potentially slow down your productivity, the trick is to figure out how you can smooth your environment out or do whatever it takes to push harder. Friction starts with how you wake up each morning, how you plan your day and how you you handle tasks needing to be done. Poor planning and procrastination, wasted time and energy are given off instead. This is not say that you shouldn’t give yourself some rest and personal time, burnout is a pretty intense symptom of friction.

The most common other form of friction in projects is when two or more people disagree. I’ve seen this situation all too often where nothing moves forward because of disagreement. There comes a time where you need to draw a line in the sand and make a decision. The most difficult things sometimes is knowing that a consensus is not going to happen but a decision needs to be made. Don’t worry too much on this, most decisions are more insignificant than we make them out to be versus not moving at all.

Gravity - The fact is something will always be trying to holding you down. This could be a person, money, fear, ambition, other work, life and of course you can hold yourself back. The fatal law of gravity; when you are down, everything falls down on you. Whatever the cause is, you need to identify and determine ways to work against things pulling you or the project down. Man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders but he is not bolted to the earth. If you want a successful project, one must at all costs overcome the Earth’s gravity.

So I’m jumping some of the bottlenecks for now, I’ll revisit them later and simply move forward. Despite the name, this blog is not just another outlet for me to rant and simply give my perspective of what is right, wrong and irrelevant. Surely I will give a fair share of my perspectives of the current and future state of technology but more importantly the goal is foster thought provoking improvements and great discussions. We all want to be Signal and not Noise, this isn’t my first blog but it is the first I’ve done in a while so bear with me. To be honest, I feel a bit rusty but the cobwebs needed to come off at some point, I decided to do that today even though I didn’t even have a clue what my fingers were going to type for a first post. But I knew I wanted to get this site started before the rumored Apple Tablet officially surfaces, so “Hello World!” for now.

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