Is the mobile tech press wrong in positioning Apple vs. Google?

When I got back from CES I’ve been seeing an increasing number of stories, like this one on Techmeme, that are comparing Apple’s mobile strategy and products to Google’s mobile strategy and products.

Oh, we do love a good fight, don’t we, where two great competitors bloody each other to a pulp before one comes out victorious.

The thing is, I don’t see Google and Apple as beating themselves up. At least not yet and probably not until 2011 or maybe even 2012.

“OK, Scoble smarty pants, what’s going on then?”

There are two competitors, don’t get me wrong, but instead of Apple vs. Google it’s Web-and-app-friendly devices vs. non-web-and-app-friendly devices.

Apple and Google’s devices are all web friendly. They are easy to use to pull up information from the web. But most of the world’s phones aren’t that way. Go to any cell phone store and try pulling up a web browser on them. Google and Apple’s products make it simple. Most of the others make it very hard, and even if you succeed you probably have trouble navigating the web, or are faced with a dinky small screen.

It’s worse than that if you compare app platforms. At CES last week I met an exec at Research In Motion, the folks that make the Blackberry. He bragged to me that they were building their own Twitter and Facebook clients. I didn’t get the bragging and asked him “so I guess you aren’t trying to build a platform, then?” I explained to him that if you build your own apps that signals to your third-party developers that you want them to go away and work on something else because you’re demonstrating that you’re very willing to take the best opportunities away from them.

Ever since then I’ve been asking developers what they think and on Saturday the guy (Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie) who built the Golden Globes’ iPhone app (and the LeWeb iPhone app) was over my house and I asked him. He told me that he’s working on building for the Blackberry platform too, because there’s so many users there but he said that the Blackberry is very difficult to build for. You really should listen to this interview, because in it you encapsulated what is happening to the entire mobile market.

Schneider didn’t hold anything back against Nokia or Microsoft, either. He just sees confusion and instability on those platforms.

Let’s break down the marketplace:

Apple: best of breed web-and-app-friendly mobile device.
Google: very close to Apple. Because my iPhone didn’t work very well at CES I gave the Google Nexus One and the Droid a good amount of usage last week. While the Droid isn’t as easy in a number of areas (search expert Danny Sullivan outlined most of the ones that bug me too) its apps, like Google Maps, are dramatically better than those that exist on other platforms and the web was mostly enjoyable to use too.
Nokia: confused. Multiple app stores. Just introduced a new platform with the N900 that’s different from their phones that have most of the market share.
Palm: is with Google and Apple in that they have a web-and-app-friendly phone, but they put it on a device with a small screen that ruins the experience for me.
Microsoft: struggling to get a strategy that works. Paul Thurrott, Microsoft expert, just this morning wrote up the troubles that Microsoft has right now and how it might dig out this year.
RIM: Difficult to develop for, most of its devices have very small screens that are hard to use on the web. Great keyboards, though, and great email integration.

Anyway, we can see a clear demarcation now in the industry between those who make web-and-app-friendly devices and those that do not.

It is my thesis that this year those who do will steal market share from those that do not and a confused strategy, like Nokia has, is going to look mixed because consumers will go with a company like Apple or Google who has said “we’re all in.”

So, is it right for the tech press to keep pitching Apple vs. Google like a couple of boxers who are going at it?

Or, do we need a new metaphor? I keep thinking that Apple and Google are like tigers and lions and all the old phones are like zebras or antelope and we all know what happens there.

The Google Reef

Today I’ll be at Google to attend the press release of the Nexus One, the latest in a line of Android-powered phones and the first that will have Google’s brand name on it.

I don’t expect that the phone will be the real news (if you do, you can already read Engadget’s review and other news about it on Techmeme).

What is?

That Google is expanding its reef.

To understand what I mean by that, you should go back and read Dave Winer’s post about how some things in the tech industry are like coral reefs: that is that they are powerful for the ecosystem that they enable.

Most of us can see that Google’s reef is increasing right underneath our feet. They even, just a few months ago, turned on a new dashboard page so you can see just how much stuff you are using of Google’s. My page already has 20 entries on it. Scary how much of Google’s stuff we use.

So, how is Google’s reef expanding?

Well, a startup in Bangalore India that was born just this morning (I’m the first blog to link to them) is usually not the kind of thing you’d pay attention to, but I’ve been playing with MailBrowser, which is a Gmail plugin for Firefox. It promises to be like Xobni or Gist, but for Gmail and Google contacts.

In their intro blog post MailBrowser says they created it because they wanted all the cool features of Outlook but they didn’t want to “go back” to Microsoft. Here’s a video demo of their plugin.

Now MailBrowser (Twitter account here) is just one tiny example of how Google’s reef is attracting developers from around the world. MailBrowser’s founder, Rohit Nadhani, told me he’s bootstrapping the company but will focus 2010 on a few areas: 1. he’s waiting for Google’s Chrome to get more APIs so that he can build his product on Chrome too. Right now it only works in Firefox and IE. 2. He’s betting on Google’s contacts API and he’s shoving metadata about each person into Google’s contacts. Oh, that sounds like a Facebook competitor! And soon he’ll add info from Twitter and Facebook and attach them to each contact inside Gmail, er, Google Contacts. Yes fans we have an identity war underway but that’s only one small piece of the reef that Google’s building.

Now, back to the phone. See, if you add data about your friends and business contacts to Google’s contacts, won’t that help make your mobile phone more useful? More useful than, say, a mobile phone from Apple? Or Nokia? Or Microsoft?

Damn straight it will be.

Let’s swim over to another part of the Google Reef. The part everyone knows about: search. Have you tried searching for your name lately? I have some tricks to finding more info about people. Let’s try it when searching for Steve Rubel, shall we? Here, add the words “google profile” to a search for Steve Rubel. What do you find? His Google Profile, of course. In it you’ll see where he posts stuff, and what services he uses. Now, what if Google added a news feed to this? Wouldn’t that be very similar to Facebook or Twitter or FriendFeed? Click on his contact info tab. Notice what’s there? His gmail address. Oh, Steve is on the reef! By the way, did you know you can add the word “Twitter” onto a search for someone and you’ll find their Tweets? Try it with Steve Rubel. It doesn’t work with everyone, but soon it will.

OK, let’s swim over to another part of the reef. Welcome to the part known as Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Just two days ago I listened into my wife telling a friend of hers how to create a resume. Her friend wasn’t yet on Gmail, and didn’t know about online office systems. But instead of trying to get her friend to use Microsoft Office, Maryam said to go to Google Docs and look at the templates there, many of which have resume builders. Quite nice. It is this ubiquity which is winning Google converts. Notice that not once in this conversation did an objection to not having as many features as Office come up. I didn’t even know that Google’s docs had templates that users can share with each other. Google’s reef is so big now no one person can have seen it all.

Finally, let’s head back to the phone part of the reef and get ready for today’s announcements, which happen at about 10 a.m. Pacific Time at Google’s headquarters. I’ll be tweeting from there, and so will the rest of the tech journalists and blogger types. You can watch all that on my Twitter list of tech journalists.

What do I like best about my Android phone when compared with iPhone? Google Maps are dramatically better — when driving around it shows turn-by-turn navigation and speaks to you, plus has photos of what your destination looks like and a much nicer UI than exists on the Apple device.

It will be interesting to see if Google can expand on its lead here in other places in the phone (and if it can get developers to build the best versions of their apps for its platform instead of Apple’s). If it can, I’m not so sure that Apple needs to worry because Apple is a far sexier company than Google is, but who does need to worry is everyone else. Why? Because Google is building a reef and it’s a far more interesting reef than any that RIM, Nokia, or Microsoft have.

Today’s announcements at Google will be very disappointing if you compare to the way Apple announced the iPhone. The BBC even told me that pro video cameras aren’t being allowed in, which tells me even Google knows that today’s announcements really aren’t that sexy and don’t warrant being on the evening news.

But if you look for evidence of reef expansion Google’s announcements today will be quite interesting indeed. See you at 10 a.m.

Part II — Hot Startups to Watch in 2010

I love startups. Why? Because they represent the future of the tech industry and usually you can pick trends that will drive the tech blogs like Techcrunch out of them.

In Part I of this post I introduced the first 10 startups out of 25 that I’ll highlight (the second 15 are discussed in this post).

Here’s the 25 I picked on a Twitter list so you can follow them all on Twitter.

Just to make sure I didn’t forget anyone I shouldn’t, I asked my Twitter followers for their favorite startups and that led me to start a new list of about 100 startups that you should pay attention to in 2010. The final 25 were culled from this list. Are some good ones missing even from this list? Absolutely. I expect we’ll have to update this list every quarter or so as new companies come out and there are many, many good companies that didn’t make this list because of biases of mine. If your company didn’t make it in, please let me know and I’ll take a look and maybe do a future post.

Biases and selection process

Every list like this has bias. Here’s mine. I picked the best of the crop as I know it. I looked at Wakoopa, which is a service that shows what’s hot with early adopters. I have seen many of these companies up close and personal, so there’s a familiarity bias that I’m sure is present (hint: if you want hype, you gotta show your product to all tech bloggers). I tried to stay away from already popular startups like Zynga and Ning. Why? Because I’m trying to focus on what is to come, not what has already happened. I also specifically tried to pick best-of-breed to demonstrate a trend but keep it mostly to companies that haven’t gone mainstream yet.

Thanks to Crunchbase for being the definitive database of startups out there (you can edit entries and add info about companies, it really is a great resource on companies).

The rest of the list:

PointAbout logo
11. Appmakr/PointAbout.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video demos of how this works are on their site. Why is it important? Because the iPhone is getting more and more important and having an app is a way for companies to keep relationships with customers up to date. Appmakr lets you make your own iPhone app from a number of different feeds like RSS, Twitter, or YouTube, among others for $99 without writing any code and it looks comparable to apps that other companies have spent tens of millions creating.

Payvment logo
12. Payvment.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because this brings ecommerce to social networks in an easy-to-implement way which opens up all sorts of new retail-style opportunities on sites like Facebook. It also shows off PayPal’s new APIs, which make in-app purchasing possible.

CloudKick Logo

13. Cloudkick.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because it helps you monitor your cloud computing servers on Amazon and Rackspace (#1 and #2 in cloud hosting). It helps you visualize your bandwidth allowances and other important metrics and a lot more.

Blippy Logo

14. Blippy.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? This is the weirdest choice that I made and seems very stupid on first look, but this system that lets you share your credit card (and other) purchases with the world makes sense in what it potentially enables: crowd buying and predictive buying. “Hey, we notice you visit Safeway every five days, did you know that you can save x amount if you switch to our buying club?” Now it doesn’t do that. Yet. But this is definitely a concept you should watch, especially after Quicken bought Mint which did similar stuff with credit cards, but not in a public way. But I’m not so sure I want you to see what I’m buying. I signed up anyway.

Expensify Logo
15. Expensify.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. No videos available. Why is it important? I hate expenses. In fact, this whole post really started as a way to procrastinate on doing my expenses. This system makes expenses easier and more automatic. Big win for me. Trend? That we’re going to share even more info with public in future than we can ever imagine. What are the benefits and costs of doing that? We’ll find out together in 2010.

RedBeacon Logo
16. RedBeacon.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? This TC50 winner helps you get price quotes and book appointments with local businesses. Is this what will take Web 2.0 into bedroom communities around the world? Good chance it is.

CitySourced Logo
17. Citysourced.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because government is being forced to do more with less. How can city managers know where to spend their meager resources to better improve their communities? You can tell them with the mobile app Citysourced has created.

Spotify Logo

18. Spotify.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Instant music. No downloads. Who needs to steal music anymore? Just type in your favorite band’s song into Spotify and it starts playing nearly instantly. When I first saw it I was floored. Not out in USA yet, but VERY popular in Europe and will be released within months here.

Plancast Logo
19. Plancast.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. No video available. Why is it important? This service, which lets you tell your friends what your plans are for the future, has instantly become San Francisco’s tech geek social calendar.

Evri Logo

20. Evri.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? This system helps content producers present a better UI to navigating other articles on the web. This helps profitability through more pageviews and more time spent on site and also increases search hits. The newspaper industry needs more ways to help their business, this is one, along with Apture, another company that is proving new UI to content navigation.

Square Logo

21. Square.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? When you go to an Apple store you’ll notice they don’t have cash registers. Instead the salesperson comes to you and lets you complete the transaction with a hand-held computer. Square does that for the rest of us using an iPhone and a little add on for the top/headphone jack.

Aloqa Logo

22. Aloqa.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because Aloqa is building a platform for mobile phones around your location and it shows you favorite hotspots, friends, vents, and recommended bargains nearby. But it’s the platform part of this that has me interested so companies can add their own apps in easily which makes this different than, say, Yelp.

Nimsoft Logo

23. Nimsoft.
(Crunchbase entry). They aren’t yet on Twitter (bad!). Videos: Part I, Part II, Part III. Why is it important? Because more and more of our applications are built using cloud-computing blocks. A piece on Amazon. Another on Rackspace’s Cloud. Yet another on Google or Salesforce. Yet you are in control of none of it, so you need to know the state of each. Nimsoft shows you that status. By the way, this company isn’t really a startup, founded in 2004, but this product entry is totally a new direction for the company and I wanted to call it out.

Oneriot logo
24. OneRiot.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because more and more of our life happens on the real-time web ala Twitter and Facebook and other services and we need search to make sense of it. I expect that they’ll face sizable competition this year from Twitter or Facebook or both and it’ll be interesting to see if they can stay ahead and do something spectacular. I picked them because they are the strongest of the independent real time search companies, but there are a few others out there too and we’ll be watching the pack in 2010 to see what happens.

Wildfire Interactive logo
25. Wildfire.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because Facebook got dramatically more important in 2009 to tons of businesses thanks to its wild growth and Wildfire helps businesses build promotions for those companies. Plus it was a Facebook Fund winning company, so is interesting to watch.

The most under-hyped, but most important, technology since seat belts

I’ve read dozens of retrospectives on the 2000s and 2009, in particular, in the past few days and quite a few predictions for what technology will be important to pay attention to in 2010 but none of those that I’ve seen have talked about this technology and this one could save your life.

Stats: “Car Crash Stats: There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States — one death every 13 minutes.”

Think about that. If we could cut down on car crashes by even 5% we could save more than 2,000 lives!

For the last 11,000 miles I’ve been using a technology that could do just that: radar is built into my car. I think it’s criminal that it’s not in every new car. Just like it was criminal for car makers to drag their feet pushing out seat belts, air bags, and anti-lock brakes in previous safety fights.

After 11,000 miles I’ve seen up close what this technology can do.

Twice it has sensed I was about to get into a crash and pre-fired the brakes, tightened up my seat belts, and warned me with both visual and audio alerts that I was about to get into a crash (both times someone had cut me off forcing me to apply emergency braking).

But it’s not just about accident avoidance, either. Recently I had a conversation with Ford’s Chief Safety Engineer, Steve Kozak. You should watch this interview to learn about this technology (it’s in two parts, Part I, Part II).

What does my 2010 Prius do with its radar? It has the best cruise control I’ve ever used and I’ve been in some very expensive and nice cars. Here’s how it works:

I pull onto a road, say freeway 280, and I set the cruise control. I set the top speed the car should ever go. Say 80 mph. But it doesn’t go 80 unless there’s no cars in front of me. Usually in Silicon Valley there’s traffic. So, the car in that case follows the car in front of me.

But they just slammed on their brakes to avoid something. What does my car do? It slams on its brakes too. It is so reliable I no longer impulsively reach for my brakes. Let’s say the car in front of me speeds up after slamming on its brakes. My car speeds up too. It’s like there is a rope between my car and theirs. It is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

Why haven’t they just made my car totally drive itself? Because customers just aren’t ready for it, says Ford’s Kozak in the video. He explains how the 2010 Ford Taurus uses this technology in a much different way from my Prius due to customer research that showed Ford most people just aren’t ready for assisted driving technologies like exist in my Prius (my Prius also has a video camera that works with my steering system to keep me in lane and warns me if I am drifting out of my lane — great to warn you that you’re falling asleep at the wheel. Toyota has demos of these technologies on its 2010 Prius site).

Ford also uses radar to help when backing its car out of a parking spot. In part II of my video you can see him show how that works.

But the real deal here is the accident avoidance and preparation for getting in a wreck if you are headed that way. Kozak told me that very few people fully depress the brakes before a crash. If they had, he told me, lives would have been saved. Ford’s version of radar prepares the brakes so that all you need to do is touch them to get full braking pressure if the car thinks it’s headed for a collision.

Another place the radar is invaluable? In fog. I drive over the Santa Cruz mountains every day to get home and there often is fog. One day there was a car in front of me that had no back taillights. This would be a very dangerous situation in a normal car in deep fog (there are often crashes in the central valley that involve dozens of cars due to fog). My radar saw this car before I did and slowed down and kept its distance.

If you only watch one part of the videos I shot, watch the second part which gives a demo of how the tech works.

Why doesn’t this technology get hyped on Techcrunch or Mashable or other blogs?

A few reasons:

1. Most tech journalists haven’t bought a new car in the past year. So, they don’t get to see the latest 2010 technology.
2. The market doesn’t change over to new cars very quickly like we do with other gadgets or services. Look how long it took for Americans to get used to wearing seat belts (in many states it took legislation to get car owners to take them seriously).
3. Safety systems just aren’t as “sexy” as other toys on cars like Microsoft’s Sync system.
4. There aren’t big companies who are pushing the radar systems to bloggers. At CES next week, for instance, I’ve already gotten tons of PR invites to see Microsoft’s new Sync system that lets you control music and other systems in the car with your voice, but no company has invited me to see their radar system.
5. It’s hard to demo. I didn’t get how important this new technology is until I had driven several hundred miles in my car and had a near miss and gotten used to the assisted driving features.
6. It’s expensive. My system came with an electronics package that cost many thousands of dollars. Now, yes, I got LED headlights, navigation system, and a few other toys (better stereo) but I know only a small percentage of Toyota Prius buyers go for the expensive package.

So, this technology faces some major challenges. What are they?

1. Engineers still are figuring out what’s the right way to use this technology. You can see that in the video with Ford’s engineer.
2. This technology is still expensive, so will remain for cars that are $30,000 or more for at least the next year.
3. There isn’t much consumer demand for these systems yet (there will be as accident data comes in, because I’m convinced it will save lives and the data in a year will show that) but that’s partly because very little marketing is being done around these systems. How many Prius commercials have you seen that show off this system? I haven’t seen one, even though Toyota has shown off automatic parking.
4. Even when consumers pay for these systems I bet that most don’t even know to use the cruise control. My wife, for instance, hates cruise control so she never turns on the system that can help her drive better, even though it is more accurate than her own eye is and safer too.

Anyway, this is one technology that is way underhyped and not talked about nearly enough. If you have a chance to buy a new car in the next year you should consider buying a car with a radar system. It just might save your life.

Oh, Joe, the world doesn't need a Tablet? Really?

Oh, Joe Wilcox sure knows how to get bloggers going when he wrote about how the hype over Tablet PCs is just way overdone. His headline? The world doesn’t need an Apple tablet, or any other.

I’ll focus on the “or any other” part of the discussion first.

For some fun, I took pictures of devices that didn’t exist 10 years ago but are part of our everyday life, just to prove that Joe’s wrong about the “or any other” part of his post.

First, a device that looks like a tablet computer ran the restaurant we were in tonight. Here’s a picture:
Restaurant Tablet computer

In my car (the 2010 Prius) is a device that looks and acts like a tablet. Here’s a picture:

A tablet-like computer in my car

In my favorite gas station are devices on top of each pump that look like tablet computers. Here’s a picture:
Gas pump computer

When I was in China taxis have screens in them that look like tablet computers. I have a video of that over here.

I could keep going all night long on this. Tablets and devices that look like tablets are all around. If that’s a “niche market” it’s fine with me. Niche markets can be quite profitable.

But someone has already made quite a few of the other arguments I’d make about Joe’s post. That someone is MG Siegler who wrote at Techcrunch tonight “the World Doesn’t Need Someone Telling Us What We Don’t Need In Tech.” MG Siegler ripped Joe a good one, and I agree with MG that Apple is a great company because they are willing to take risks, even some that don’t seem to work out very well. Apple TV anyone?

But I think even MG missed that something else is going on here: devices, even really cool ones, are coming down in cost and coming down quickly. Five years ago a $400 netbook looked pretty lame. Today? They are VERY usable devices with great screens, processors, and quite a bit of memory.

Look five years out and the device that is $1,000 today will probably be $200 or less.

And, what if AT&T got a clue and gave those of us who already pay huge fees for our iPhone connectivity (I pay more for my family’s connectivity than many people pay for a car payment) a huge break?

If these devices got cheap enough I might buy one or two for our cars. Why? You forget I have two young children, don’t you? And that I drive about 30,000 miles a year so need access to the best maps and traffic info (which is why I play with things like Waze, which just aren’t ready for widespread usage yet).

I want more screens in my life, not fewer, and laptops just are NOT appropriate for use in cars (whether in the back seat, while showing Thomas the Tank Engine to the kids) or in the front seat showing data from maps.

Laptops are NOT appropriate for using on the couch while watching TV, either. They force a bad posture and a tablet would be a lot better as a controller for an audio-video system. What would Joe think if Apple came out with an audio video system at the end of the year that the tablet would control? I would buy the whole system. I +hate+ our remote controls and lame ass DirectTV UI. I +wish+ Steve Jobs would take that on.

Laptops are NOT a great way to read magazines. I have the entire National Geographic on one hard drive, here’s a video. It looks pretty cool on an iMac, but how often do you read a magazine like that? I usually like magazines when I’m in places that bringing a laptop into would just not be practical. On the deck of the Ritz. In a bathroom. On a bus. You know, places that people read paper magazines.

Steve Jobs imagines a world where slates get even more popular than they are today.

And then that’s assuming that the world tomorrow won’t be different from the world yesterday. I know Apple is talking with Level 26, for instance. What’s that? It’s a new kind of entertainment property that just was NOT possible 10 years ago. Who developed it? Anthony Zuiker. Don’t know him? Well he was the guy behind the CSI series of TV shows.

Oh, Hollywood.

Yeah, Hollywood.

Now, what else is Steve Jobs up to? Oh, yeah, that little movie house called Pixar that got him a nice share of Disney.

Oh, Disney. Yeah, Disney.

Think about how your experience around Walt Disney World will change if they hand you an Apple Tablet the moment you arrive at Disney.

Yeah, Walt Disney World.

Now, remember Lou Mongello? He does a podcast for Walt Disney World. Here’s an interview with him.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Lou could give you a video and audio tour around Walt Disney World? Damn straight it would.

We all are gonna live in Steve Jobs’s tablet world soon.

Give it up Joe. You need to see a bigger world.

The gadget that makes Steve Jobs jealous

Steve Jobs is a god. All you have to do is look at all the hype and anti-hype over an Apple product that hasn’t even been released yet.

He is one of the only guys I’ve waited in line to fork over my money to. And I will gladly do it again.

But I’m almost 45 and have been looking for a gadget that I think Steve Jobs would be proud to put his name on, but that he didn’t have anything to do with. That search has gone fruitless until now.

Oh, sure, I’ve bought BMWs. Sat in the best, and most expensive Mercedes and other cars. They don’t come close to Apple’s design standards. Heck, you ever played with the navigation system in one of those cars? I have and Steve Jobs would have fired the designer who built the BMW’s. It’s so bad Maryam actually returned the BMW I bought her with it in there to get a car without the nav system (I was grateful, that saved me thousands of dollars).

I’ve been to the Consumer Electronics Show a half dozen times. I’ll be there again next week.

I’ve tried some pretty cool devices like the Pogo Plug, the Drobo, Sony TVs, Tivos, Playstations, Xboxes, Fitbits, and many other devices.

None made me think that Steve Jobs would be jealous. Until now.

So, what is it? This coffee maker. from Nespresso.

Nespresso espresso/latte Maker

“Huh?” I can hear you muttering to yourself. “Scoble is an idiot and this proves it.”

Yeah, keep thinking that. But this coffee maker measures up to Steve Jobs’ high bar.

Why? What makes it so freaking cool?

Is it the little capsules that make it so easy to make different kinds of espresso or lattes?
Is it the two button design? (my other coffee maker has three buttons and three switchable knobs, for comparison’s sake).
Is it the milk warmer/foamer that just makes perfect foam and is easy to use (one button) and easy to clean?
Is it the look of the device that makes my kitchen look better than Starbucks?

Nah, it’s that it’s the first device that makes my iPhone seem flawed. After all, my iPhone can’t make a great latte.

Anyway, I recorded a little audio using my iPhone to further explain what’s cool about this device.

Disclaimer: Loic Le Meur gave me this for speaking at Le Web, but I would gladly pay the $350 retail price and I bought the coffee that goes into it, which, while expensive (about $1 a shot) is about 1/3rd the price of the same quality latte you can get at Starbucks.

Part I — Hot Startups to Watch in 2010

UPDATE: Part II of this post, which includes the rest of my favorite 25 startups to watch this year, is now up.

I’m watching hundreds of startups, have at least one list of them over on Twitter (500 startups are on that one) and will be starting other lists in 2010 but I’ve been watching the trends on Twitter of what people are talking about and here are 25 startups to watch.

Why?

Because they are the best of breed examples of trends that are bigger than them. Is this list complete? No way, but it gives you a good starting point on some companies who you should be trying out and watching.

I have 15 other companies that I’ll be posting over the weekend, please let me know if you have any companies you are watching and we can watch them together.

Boxee Logo
1. Boxee. (Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. There are a ton of videos linked off of CrunchBase. Why is it important? Because better than any other company this one is pushing TV in a new Internet-connected direction.

Aardvark Logo2. Vark. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. My video with founders. Why is it important? Because it uses humans to get answers to questions that search can’t answer and it does it via an interesting distribution system via IM, mobile apps, and email.

Foursquare Logo

3. Foursquare. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Why is it important? Because it brought us a new kind of game: a location-based one, but forget the game, when you check in with it you’ll see who is close to you and what tips about cool things to do near you have been left by your friends. Video of company founder on Gillmor Gang talking about Foursquare. UPDATE: a few people say I should put Gowalla (Foursquare competitor) on the list. But so far I went for Best-of-Breed and in my view Foursquare is kicking Gowalla’s behind. But, indeed, I’m watching Gowalla too.

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4. Nextstop. Crunchbase Entry. Twitter account. Video of company founders demoing nextstop’s mobile. Watch a more general video overview with the founders. Why is this important? Because discovering interesting places to visit, whether in the places near where you live, or on a trip across an ocean, is something we still can’t do well. Nextstop brings us a way to share, curate, and collect interesting places.

Rippol Logo

5. Rippol. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Video of Rippol’s founders showing off several new features coming next week. Why is it important? Because it shows off something I expect a range of new companies to do in 2010: display a different view of our social networks, in this case it will show you just videos that your Twitter and Facebook users are sharing. I find it invaluable for watching large numbers of users and the videos that they care about.

Waze Logo

6. Waze. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Video demo of Waze as we drive around Palo Alto. Why is it important? Because it shows off how crowds can be used to compete with much bigger companies, but also how mobile devices can be used to share information with each other to build a new kind of service that isn’t possible other ways.

Gist logo
7. Gist. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Video of Gist’s founder on my studio show about future of work and a separate video of my visit to their headquarters in Seattle. Why is it important? Because when you are working with people the more you know about those people the more productive you’ll be able to be. This is particularly true for salespeople and other networkers. Before you make a big call, have you checked all their social networking sites to see what they’ve written? With Gist it’s easy and hooked into your email system.

Kynetx logo
8. Kynetx. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Video with founders explaining why Kynetx is an interesting real-time development system. Why is it important? Because it lets developers augment websites and search engines for their customers. AAA can add new data to Google.com for its members, for instance.

Tapulous Logo
9. Tapulous. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Video with Tapulous’ founder talking about having the top grossing iPhone game. Why is it important? Because mobile devices are changing how we play games and the company that best took advantage of that trend in 2009 was Tapulous who had the #1 iPhone game and was first to introduce in-app buying of virtual goods, another trend I expect will be huge in 2010.

Posterous Logo
10. Posterous. Crunchbase entry. Twitter account. Video of company founders talking about how Posterous makes publishing simple. Why is it important? Because, while Twitter has made publishing short messages super simple sometimes a short message isn’t enough and you want to write a blog, or post a video, or put up a photo. Posterous is one of a handful of companies that have pushed publishing along in 2009 (Tumblr is another one) and that makes them a company to watch in 2010.

More to come later this weekend.