Featured on Techcrunch today: one of my favorite companies

I love 955 Dreams. It’s great to see them get accolades and be featured in the press all over the place. Why did it take so long? Maybe the $10 price for their iPad app.

Today they are featured in Techcrunch and that makes me happy.

Of course you already know this company, I featured them back in January.

If you didn’t see my video back then, it’s worth watching this one. They share their design and development process. I hope they have many more successes in the future.

Yet another example of why I don’t get it when people I really like, like Om Malik, says there aren’t magical apps for the iPad. But, I guess he’s right when he says there aren’t enough iPad apps out there that really show us the way it’s done. This is one of those apps, though, and Om should have mentioned it.

Are we witnessing YouTube's big fumble? (UPDATE: Not tonight!)

UPDATE, my original post is below. I tuned in for the Charlie Sheen show, but only about 200,000 people were in the channel at peak and the show was very boring and viewers quickly went away. So, this won’t be the “event” that proves this post’s thesis right.

UPDATE2: Ustream now claims that more than 666,000 views were generated during the course of the hour last night. Wild.

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Fumble! Photo by Leann Arthur

Tonight Charlie Sheen will be on Ustream.tv in what could be a massive night for that video network. How massive? Sheen broke all records on Twitter, gaining 1.78 million followers in less than a week. No one else, not even Oprah or Obama or Beiber, has gotten so many so fast.

I talked with one of the guys involved, Barry Schuler, who told me his partner, Brad Wyman, is the one who convinced Sheen to tweet and convinced him to break all the rules, get rid of the press and PR, and go directly to his fans. Sheen’s show is part of “WyTV” on Ustream.

But that’s all fun and games compared to what YouTube is facing tonight.

See, YouTube looked like it was going to score the final touchdown in video. One where they were running down the field 50 yards ahead of the opponents, but 10 yards from the goal line it looks to me they are stumbling and fumbling the ultimate goal: where the entertainment comes over and starts making the real money.

See, as Apple’s Steve Jobs has shown the rest of the tech industry that we can live in a world without Microsoft (even Microsoft’s biggest partner, HP, shows off devices that don’t have any Microsoft code on them now) Charlie Sheen might be the guy who shows the entire entertainment industry that they can live in a world without YouTube.

Fumble!

See, we all know YouTube can stream live content. We’ve seen them do it with FarmAid, Haiti, and U2.

But they don’t let US live stream. Why? The entertainment industry lawyers hate that idea. They know that thousands of people will turn on live streams of the Oscars, of the SuperBowl, of their movies, and other things.

That is a box that they don’t want opened.

But Charlie Sheen might, tonight, open that box anyway and BLOW IT UP!

This is the day that YouTube could end up fumbling on its most important goal right before the REAL money starts coming to the Internet.

Winners?

Ustream, who should be counting their lucky stars (if their service stays up, already, with hours to go there are 650 people in the chat on Sheen’s channel).
*Amazon, who is ready with live video streaming service to jump in and compete with Netflix.
*Netflix, who already demonstrates to me every day they can stream live content and make money doing so.

* All these services need to do is let US stream and they win and knock YouTube’s ball right out of their hands.

It’s too bad that the Google of new isn’t as brash and fun to watch as the Google of old. The Google of old would have turned on video streaming long ago.

By the way, Google, this is one HUGE lever you have to get us all interested in owning a Google TV box and also getting us onto Android.

See, my iOS device isn’t very good at playing Ustream’s live streams.

But if you did live YouTube streams, I bet my Android devices and my Google TV would view those, right?

Now THAT is how to make my “apps are the only thing that matters” argument go away quickly!

But, instead, it looks like you’re fumbling the ball.

Go Charlie Go!

Photo credit: Leann Arthur (thank GOD for Creative Commons licensed images!)

Is your startup in stealth? You gotta know LaunchRock

Eric Ries told me something very interesting in a two-part interview I did with him (part I, part II), which is a core principle of his “lean startup” methodology: why waste your time coding if you don’t even know if anyone is interested?

How do you know if anyone is interested?

Put up a website for your stealth startup and see if anyone signs up!

How do you do that? Use LaunchRock. Here CEO Jameson Detweiler shows me how it builds you a site that can do just that. And a bit more.

So, what does it do?

Well, it builds a great looking site for you to put onto Techcrunch and it keeps track of who signs up for your product and where they came from. Simple, huh? Yeah, but why not do that yourself?

Well, why waste time on setting up a mailing list, building a website, etc etc when you are in a race to get your core product done?

Highly recommended for startups.

Developers: why you should build for Android tablets

Google Android 3.0 Apps

OK, maybe Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field is wearing off a bit and I might feel differently in a week when I get my iPad 2, but after playing with my Motorola Xoom a lot more tonight and seeing just what “no apps” looks like, I got something to say to developers:

You should build for Android. Before you build for iPad.

Here’s why.

1. The bar on Android for getting noticed is VERY VERY VERY LOW! I mean it’s so low that I feel that I could write an app and get noticed tonight. Even a crappy app. Even one that does nothing but make fart noises. While on iPad you better have an Angry Birds or Foursquare or Instagram killer just to have a prayer of getting Techcrunch to pay attention to you. Hint: your app isn’t yet as good as Angry Birds, Foursquare, or Instagram, so stay away from Apple.

2. Yobongo is learning tonight the hard way that crowds = death if you aren’t ready. Yobongo released today on iPhones to a decent helping of hype. Yet the reactions I’ve seen from people on Twitter aren’t very happy. Why not? Because it wasn’t perfect. It only released in three cities and the community hasn’t had a chance yet to figure it out. If it were released on Android first, there are far fewer users, but they could have slowly onboarded people (most of whom would be tech industry insiders, since that’s pretty much the only people who have Android tablets so far) and they could have worked out the kinks, then released a few months later on iOS.

3. It’s tougher to monetize on Android, which forces a scrappier corporate culture. There aren’t 200 million credit card accounts sitting there, so you gotta be smarter, scrapier, and more inventive to get revenues in. This helps you build a better company. Plus, when you REALLY need to show revenues, like right before you raise your series B, you turn on the iPad apps then. Investors are happy. You’re happy. You gassed up at the right time!

Fossil's concept watches

4. You can build stuff that you can’t on Apple. Like Fossil, who will ship new “connected watches,” pictured above (they work with Android phones), this year. Those aren’t possible on Apple’s system.

5. Android’s OS is tougher to build on. In my experience it’s buggier than iOS. Apps crash more, and have features that don’t work. Again, the bar is very low on Android. On iOS the bar is MUCH higher. Plus, if the Android Tablet world follows the phone one, there will be more fragmentation, so you’ve got to build testing and distribution systems that are gonna be more prepared for weird stuff than if you build for Apple. That’ll make you more agile eventually and you gotta bet that Apple will eventually be forced to change its app infrastructure quite a bit in the future to respond to competitive pressures.

6. You can help define Google’s marketing and maybe even win a spot on the Google jet. Google hasn’t yet figured out how it will sell its tablet OS. Apple has. So, if you create a killer app on Android, you’ll probably get invited in to work with the Google teams on future OS’s and you’ll probably get invited to demo on stage at Google IO. The chances of you creating the next Flipboard on iOS? Give me a break.

7. You have access to APIs and features Apple lacks, which will help you make an industry-defining app. Let’s say you want to compete with Flipboard or AngryBirds or one of those hot iPad apps? How would you do it? Well, PC World has a list of some of the things, like notifications and widgets, that Android has but iOS doesn’t. Use those and if you get on Oprah your app will look more finished than your Apple-only competition.

8. Building a “smooth” app on Android is harder. When I played with the iPad 2 yesterday I noticed something. Dragging and dropping felt smoother on the iPad than on my Motorola Xoom. That shouldn’t be if you just looked at the specs like Gizmodo did. More on that next weekend when I get my iPad 2 and am able to really compare it to my Xoom. But, there’s something here. If it’s harder to build a “smooth” app on the Android, that means you’ve gotta find some coding tricks that might help you make a freaking awesome iPad app later. After all, remember all those great Russian coders who came here after learning to code on crappier machines than existed in the West? Yeah, I do.

9. When you demo your app people will ask how you got an iPad 3. I’ve been showing around the Xoom and people notice it’s not an iPad, and are intrigued with it. That’s 70% of your marketing challenge right there. Getting them to pay attention to you so you can tell your story. Imagine you show up at SXSW in a week with an iPad. No one will pay attention. Show up with a Xoom and your app on it? Everyone will. Why? They want to believe that Scoble’s wrong and that there’s actually apps on that thing! ;-)

10. There’s a ready group of fandroids, as I learned yesterday. These people believe in the OS, Google, and the future of Android and will push you to every influencer or journalist out there. Yeah, with iOS you’ll get on Oprah if you build the next Flipboard, but, again, do you really have a shot at doing that? With 65,000 apps to compete with? No, not really. But you do have a real shot of getting every fandroid to wear your Tshirt and leave comments in every Techcrunch post or Scoble blog about tablets until they review you.

11. Fred Wilson and Fortune will think you are a genius!

12. You can iterate faster on Android. On iPad you need to wait four to ??? days for Apple to approve your app. On Android your apps get added to the marketplace much faster, usually in hours.

Since I’m gonna be an unabashed Apple fan for the forseeable future, I want Apple to have some real competition so that they feel like they will lose their empire at any moment. It’s GOOD for Apple fans to help ensure real competition exists. Otherwise we’ll never see any real advancements from Apple and we’ll never have any future choices about hardware or OS’s to try.

So, world’s developers, I’m calling on you to develop killer apps for Android and ignore all the idiots like me who are pointing out that there won’t be any users this year for your apps. That really won’t matter. Anyway, I expect Google has a strategy for getting apps and we’ll hear more about that soon.

So, smartass Scoble, why not build for Windows tablets? Or HP’s TouchPad? Or RIM’s Playbook?

After talking to a bunch of developers and others the past few days, including some Sand Hill Road VCs, it’s clear that Android is going to take the #2 spot pretty firmly. Why? Because Android phones already have plenty of apps, and that will position Android tablets in most people’s minds as the best alternative to the iPad. HP has distribution, yes, thanks to its position as #1 computer maker, so it’ll take #3 slot. I just don’t think it’s the strongest app platform to compete with iPad. RIM seems like it’s really struggling to figure out how to take the #4 slot and, anyway, it seems like it’s going with some sort of Android app compatibility strategy anyway.

So, since I want Apple to have strong competition, I’ll urge you to build Android apps.

Who’s in?

First look: "check into the future" Ditto

The location-based services are evolving today. Foursquare lets you tell friends and businesses where you are. But today Ditto (an iPhone app) lets you tell those same people and businesses where you’ll be.

Think about what that lets you do that Foursquare doesn’t. I’ll be at USVP later today. You can meet me there. But if I only check in where I’ll am, it’s too late for you to change your plans and come and meet me.

Or, think about a business. Is the best time to try to send me an offer the one after I’ve sat down for lunch at a business? Or, when I tell you at 9 a.m. that I’ll be in downtown Palo Alto for lunch? Wouldn’t a business be far more likely to want to talk to me if it new it could win my business? Sure!

Here, get a look at it with founder Jyri Engestrom.

Definitely one of the apps that will be on my list of things to try at SXSW.

More about this on Techcrunch.

No apps, no sale: iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom vs RIM Playbook vs HP TouchPad

UPDATE: Over on Quora we’ve been discussing the iPad vs. Motorola Xoom in far more detail than here. You might want to read that post there, to get a more nuanced view of what the competition is really like.

So, now that I’ve seen the iPad 2, see my short video above, or go and watch all the videos over on Apple’s website or view the pages of content poured into blogs over on Techmeme.

iPad 2 Launch Photos

We now know what the choice is:

1. Apple iPad 2. Has apps. 65,000 of them.
2. Motorola Xoom. Has no apps. Oh, sorry. 16. At least no apps designed for the large format. Designing an app that works on a smart phone isn’t the same as designing one that works on a large screen. Most of the apps I’ve “stretched” really suck compared to their iPad equivalents.
3. HP TouchPad. Has no apps. Heck, it isn’t even shipping yet.
4. RIM PlayBook. Has no apps. Heck, it isn’t even shipping yet.

No apps, no sale.

iPad 2 Launch Photos

It really is that simple.

OK, OK, I know some of you think hardware matters. It doesn’t, but if it did, Apple’s hardware is nicer designed. Just look at the back of the new iPad. All one piece. The Xoom is two separate pieces. Think that doesn’t matter? Look at the back of my Motorola. It looks like crap already and it’s only two weeks old. Plus, the on/off button is in a weird place. I keep hitting it when trying to read on it in bed.

iPad 1 vs iPad 2

The screen resolution? It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any apps. Yeah, Motorola has 20% more resolution. Pull up a web browser. Does it matter? Not really. I can’t see the difference other than the screen is a little wider form factor than the iPad’s. That’s nice, but will it sell units? No. Apps matter more.

The sound capabilities? Those don’t matter if you don’t have any apps.

The battery life? Well Apple is better here than the Xoom or other devices. Battery life matters more to me and many others than a slight screen resolution increase.

What about HP’s TouchPad? I like it a lot. It’s nicer designed than the Motorola Xoom. It should be, it was designed by a few people who used to work for Steve Jobs at Apple. If the HP were out nine months ago it would have been a great device to buy and compare to the iPad. Their OS and multitasking metaphor really is awesome, albeit might be a bit slower here and there (we’ll see when we actually get one). A few major problems: 1. It isn’t shipping. Probably won’t be until June. 2. It has no apps. No apps no sale.

Move on to the RIM PlayBook. It didn’t score with users as well as the Motorola Xoom and it doesn’t have Google and its Android ecosystem behind it. So, I can’t see anyway that it will come in higher than #3. This means that developers won’t develop apps for it. No apps, no sale.

Anyone else out there? No.

So, how is this next year going to play out? Google needs to hit it out of the park at its iO event this spring and needs to convince developers that Android’s Tablet strategy matters. Google can easily consolidate the #2 space and next year they can eat away at Apple’s app lead.

It’s sad, too. I really like the hardware that HP, RIM, and Motorola, amongst others, have done. I just can’t recommend you buy any of those others.

No apps, no sale.

iPad wins big time.

iPad 1 (left) vs iPad 2

Oh, and if you disagree with me and think specs and speeds matter more than apps, go check out Engadget’s comparison chart.

UPDATE: the keynote of Steve Jobs showing off the iPad from this morning is now live.

First look: Hurricane Party gets us ready for SXSW (look for parties with friends)

In two weeks SXSW is coming. You know, “spring break for geeks.” All through town will be tons of parties.

But how do you find good parties nearby?

Even better, can you find good events and parties for your friends to attend back at home after SXSW is over?

Hurricane Party has the answer. It is an iPhone app that helps you do everything from getting your friends together after work to making a bigger event happen.

Here Rene Pinnell talks us through it.

UPDATE: Hurricane Party hasn’t been released by Apple yet. That’s expected to happen by this weekend.

Rackspace's Startup Liason Officer