One bad company buying another: AT&T buys TMobile (Verizon forced this marriage!)

AT&T Wifi Box in Starbucks store in San Mateo

You all know I really despise AT&T, even though I continue paying them thousands of dollars per year for three cell phones. Since getting my Verizon iPhone I haven’t dropped a call and I can actually hear the other party. Steve Gillmor got one on Friday and, wow, what a difference. Not to mention that the world’s toughest dead zone: Devil’s Slide is non-existent for AT&T and TMobile, but works the entire way on Verizon for me.

TMobile is even worse. It doesn’t have enough coverage. My entire neighborhood, which includes some of the houses of the richest VCs, not to mention VPs from Apple, HP, and other places, has NO TMobile Coverage. This isn’t back waters of some flyover state. It’s 13 miles from the tech center of the world (at least until Beijing takes over later this decade).

CNBC just announced AT&T is buying TMobile’s US business for $39 billion. More details flowing in on Google News and even more over on Techmeme. That’s one way to get more bandwidth to try to serve iPhone users better before they all realize Verizon has a better network.

I think this COULD be a good thing, if they fill in some of the numerous dead zones and get us better service. I’m stuck with AT&T because I need to head to Europe every few months and AT&T’s iPhone is better there. Also because in other places AT&T does have better coverage, and its data is faster and also I can use data while talking, which really isn’t that big a deal for ME anymore (since I have two phones, I solved that problem).

Anyway, does one bad company buying another make a good one? I guess we’ll see.

Yes, I know I might get crap for calling these companies bad companies, but I’ve paid AT&T thousands of dollars over the last few years. I’ve earned that right.

Speaking of which, why didn’t they just spend that $39 billion making a better network? Oh, do I love capitalism sometimes.

This is a forced marriage due to Verizon finally getting the iPhone. If that hadn’t happened AT&T would have continued not to worry and continued not to invest in its network. Now that they know lots of people will switch when their contracts are up they needed to do something huge to try to improve the network before everyone wises up.

The best operationally-run web startup: ImageShack/YFrog (plus, first look at new YFrog)

The YFrog Man

Right before heading to SXSW I had a remarkable visit to ImageShack, the folks who make YFrog. Don’t know who they are? Well, they are serving millions of images and video to tons of people on Twitter and other social networks. They are turning on a major new version that turns YFrog into a full-blown social network. See a preview of that below.

But very quickly I learned this startup was different and, no, it wasn’t because of the pile of plastic frogs in the middle of the room.

What was different? The CEO, Jack Levin. I could tell instantly that he was operationally minded. But then he dropped the bombshell: he was Google’s first ops hire. Oh, I really do need to do more homework on startups before I show up.

So, I quickly turned on my camera and we did three videos:

1. Where we talked about operations and web startup infrastructure. Lots of stories about early days at Google (he was hired by Google when they only had 30 employees and about 300 servers).
2. One where he shows me the new YFrog.
3. His “fun” project where he’s building a datacenter that uses NVidia graphic cards to do the processing instead of the Intel processors in the machines. He’s able to get a 30x improvement in some processing by doing this.

Sorry for the bad audio, my camera’s audio input was dead and I didn’t realize it until I got home. It’s not often that a CEO is so operationally-focused and it’s even rarer that they open up their infrastructure and show me how it works. Hope you enjoy this interesting look inside how YFrog works.

Thanks Jack for sharing what you’re doing.

What's the best SXSW app? So far, for me, it's LocalMind

I’ve seen a TON of different location-based apps in the past two weeks. But today I was introduced to one that actually is useful AT SXSW: LocalMind. What does it do? It lets you ask questions of people who are around town. “Are they still serving free beer?” you might ask, for instance. Back comes an answer.

Here founder Lenny Rachitsky showing it to me in the hallway.

What caught my eye about this? It’s like Quora and Foursquare got together and had a baby.

It shows you people who have checked in with Foursquare and have LocalMind open near you, in the past few minutes, and then you can ask them questions. Right now I’m using it and there’s dozens of different venues with people checked in right now at them. I can ask them questions, like, “how long is the line for the Mashable party?” and get an answer back right away.

After SXSW I can see asking things like “who is playing at the Ritz bar tonight?” or “how crowded is it at the Metreon?”

They have a web version, although the iPhone version is nicer.

Do you have a hot app at SXSW? Text me at +1-425-205-1921

Rackspace releases new open source iPad/iPhone app for sys admins to run their Web empire, first look

For sys admins who want to have a life, here’s your life saver. Rackspace, today, released a new version of its Rackspace Cloud iPhone and iPad app, which lets you run your web empire on the Rackspace Cloud. Here I interview the developer who built it, Mike Mayo.

You can do a whole bunch of things, like start up 10 servers all from one server. Or use Chef to build entire systems all from recipes, or templates. There’s a new passcode lock to keep your kids from messing with your web servers if they find your iPad. Plus it adds AirPlay support, so you can show your mom photos or videos you’ve stored on your Rackspace Cloud servers on her Apple TV. It’s OpenSource too.

Oh, and we’re looking for more kickass mobile developers like Mike Mayo. If you’re one, let us know!

Disclaimer: I’m a full-time employee of Rackspace.

Developers: a new kind of IDE arrives in Cloud9 (First look!)

Programmers, you should check this out. Cloud9 IDE has the biggest innovation in IDEs since Microsoft brought us Visual Basic: everything runs on the cloud.

It’s “development as a service.”

What does that mean? Well, instead of coding in text files sitting on your computer, you code directly in the browser window. Here Rik Arends, CTO, and Ruben DaniĆ«ls, CEO, show me how it works and explains what it’s good for.

“It’s aimed at developers who want to use the new stuff,” they say.

What do you think? Will you build with it?

First look: Bizzy, lets you "check out" of restaurants and review them

One of the things I loaded on my iPhone this week in preparation for SXSW is Bizzy, which is a new location-based app that will help you find businesses near you. Sort of like a cross between Foursquare and Yelp. But they have an interesting idea, called “check out” where you review the restaurant or business as you “check out” of a place. Foursquare lets you “check in,” which tells people and the service itself that you’re there.

Anyway, here the founders of Bizzy Ryan Kuder, VP of Marketing, and Gadi Shamia, CEO, show it to us.

Ready for iPad2: Flipboard's CEO, Mike McCue, exclusive video interview


Flipboard CEO, Mike McCue

Mike McCue has had quite a year. Since launching last year he’s:

1. Won Apple’s best iPad app of the year award.
2. Been on Oprah.
3. Racked up more than a million downloads.
4. Been named to Twitter’s board of directors.

Tonight Flipboard released a new version that adds a few new features:

1. Instagram photo support.
2. Much faster performance (and that’s before the iPad 2 comes along, which will double speed).
3. Make it easier to discover new content via searches.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what will come this year from Flipboard as they start rolling in new filtering and discovery technology that they purchased with the Ellerdale Project acquisition they made.

In the 30-minute interview Mike talks about the new competition that Flipboard is seeing and also explains how they will do advertising and where they are heading.

Toward the end of the interview Mike takes us around the office and introduces us to what everyone is doing.