Daily Archives: November 3, 2010

Great interview: candid, disruptive Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg interviewed by Financial Times, Scobleizer, and Techcrunch

While at Facebook a group of us got called aside for a private interview with Mark Zuckerberg. In the interview was MG Siegler and Jason Kincaid of Techcrunch and David Gelles of the Financial Times. From Facebook was Erick Tseng, head of mobile.

You can listen to this interview on my Cinchcast, thanks to the other journalists for letting me record that.

We covered a wide variety of topics and Zuckerberg answered them in a candid and open way that you rarely see him do.

More later tonight as I digest what he said, just wanted to get this up since it’s a very interesting look into the mind of the guy who is disrupting industries and major tech companies.

Google is lost in location-based battle with Facebook, will it checkin?

Mark Zuckerberg introduces new mobile platform

Today Mark Zuckerberg announced a bunch of stuff. Go read Techmeme to hear about Single Signon, and its new deal platforms. Those are interesting because they increase the lockin that Facebook will have over its users. Why? Well now you’ll always keep your phone signed into Facebook and you’ll be able to instantly sign into new services that use Facebook’s single signin. That alone is pretty big, but I’m a user and focused on location-based services.

But don’t miss the huge shift going on.

In the past, to find a business, we’d go to Google and type something like “Palo Alto Sushi.”

We’re heading toward a world where you’ll use location-based services to do the same thing. That is a HUGE disruptive threat to Google.

Here’s why.

In Google’s world they controlled everything and were able to decide which ads get displayed next to searches for businesses.

The world has now shifted to where people like my wife stay signed into Facebook 18 hours a day. Now she can see which businesses her friends are using.

Soon, we’ll have the ability to even get deals. For instance, the North Face is giving us $1 to check in at a National Park or at one of its stores.

Look at how folks find their way into my brother’s bar in Virginia, too. What will get people into a bar? A Google style ad, or an ad that says “five of your friends are at the bar right now?” Hint: Google-style ads don’t work for lots of businesses and social and location-based ads are far more effective.

Today Facebook laid down an entire platform for doing this, which will enable new mobile apps to have these features built in. Google is lost in such a world.

That should scare the hell out of them. What’s Google’s answer?

Why Mark Zuckerberg would be an idiot to announce a hardware device today

You’ve seen other people’s predictions about what’s coming from Facebook today. At 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time Facebook will be announcing something mobile. You can watch along live.

In an interview with HighFiveLabs’ team, a new popular mobile app developer, CEO Kiran Bellubbi told me he thinks Facebook is coming out with a new “Facebook phone.” I told him that would be idiotic. With one caveat, that I’ll cover later.

Some things to cover before we get to the heart of the matter:

1. Facebook hates Google (and Google hates Facebook — I’ve heard that at Google you are not allowed to build any Facebook features into Google products and over at Facebook Zuckerberg snuffed Google and made an exclusive deal with Microsoft’s Bing to add social features to that search engine).
2. Facebook is so powerful that mobile companies are forced to build their own Facebook apps, after all, who would buy a phone that doesn’t have Facebook today? Not many people. RIM’s Facebook apps? Built by RIM, not by Facebook. Microsoft’s? Built by Microsoft, not by Facebook. Nokia’s? Built by Nokia, not by Facebook.
3. Facebook’s development team is still pretty small. Only a few hundred engineers. They need to focus on ways to get them to a billion users.

Let’s say Facebook did its own phone. What would that cause? Well, for one, it might piss off some of the mobile phone companies that aren’t already pissed at Facebook. That would push more of them to make deals with Google to help reduce Facebook’s influence in this industry. That’s one hit.

But what OS would such a device have? Android? No way. Zuckerberg isn’t going to get in bed with Google. So, what else is left to choose from? Nothing. Nada. There’s no other good web-centric platform to build a really great device on. Well, there’s Apple, but is Apple willing to give up control? Hell no. How about Microsoft? No units out there, no apps. Zuckerberg isn’t about to randomize his development team on such a project. Hit two.

Let’s look at the users. My wife is about as addicted to Facebook as anyone on the planet. Would she move from iPhone to something else just to get a cooler Facebook experience? No. Why not? Her other addiction is Angry Birds. Plus, she’s locked in by AT&T anyway. Most users are like this (look at how popular RIM and Nokia remain around the world, even while there are much better mobile systems out there, for instance). Facebook can’t take on the risk that a new mobile device would represent. If they fail at it (and even Google’s Nexus One experiment failed) then they’d kill any chances of going public soon.

So, what will Facebook do instead?

Long odds? A major deal with Apple.
Better odds? A new cross-device platform that will let new mobile developers ship Facebook apps to mobile phone users without going through the Apple and Google stores.
Best odds? New iPhone and iPad apps with new mobile/social/location APIs so that developers can build new mobile apps with social features included in them.

Me? I’m hoping that Mark Zuckerberg, in about an hour, will introduce Steve Jobs and show off a major new development effort that will keep Facebook and Apple strongly aligned for a decade.

What are you hoping for?

Inside the heads of the developers the mobile companies (Apple, Amazon, HP, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, RIM) are fighting over

Today Facebook will announce something new for mobile phones. Business Insider gives its guesses as to what’s coming.

At 10:30 a.m. today, Pacific Time, you can watch the Facebook press event live streaming on the Web. I’ll be there as well and will get a chance to interview Mark Zuckerberg after the event.

To prepare for the event I wanted to get inside the heads of a successful mobile app development team. HighFiveLabs is it. They’ve published more than 10 mobile apps on the iPhone platform and just shipped a new app that got the coveted “featured” position on Apple’s iTunes store. What does that mean? Their new “Mario Batali Cooks” app sold about 15,000 copies at $4.99 each. Not too bad for a startup with five employees.

But there’s something bigger going on. They are a representative of a whole new industry that’s popped up in the past few years — mobile publishing houses. These folks are being courted heavily by the big phone companies. Microsoft, in particular, with its Windows Phone 7 is pushing companies like these to port its apps over. Next week I’ll have a sneak preview of Zagat’s new app, for instance, that is quite nice.

Almost every developer I’ve visited lately says they’ve had a visit from either Nokia or Microsoft or RIM or all three. Why are apps so important to these companies? Well, lets say you are a fan of chef Mario Batali (he has lots) will you buy a new cell phone that doesn’t have his app on it? No way. Repeat that question over the thousands of apps that exist on Google’s Android or Apple’s iPhone and you can see why their sales are growing while those of RIM or Nokia or Microsoft’s platforms are stagnant at best.

But that’s only one way to look at this interesting team. In this 48 minute interview with HighFiveLabs’ team, CEO Kiran Bellubbi, along with its head geek and designer we cover a bunch of other topics.

1. What makes for a great mobile app. Their apps have a rich aesthetic that get them onto Apple’s featured list. How do they do it?
2. How they see themselves as a publisher, similar to a book publisher, but how their world is different. Multimedia and interaction design being the biggest ones.
3. Their predictions for what’s coming from Facebook today (He thinks they will come out with a hardware device). What they are hoping for, and how their team might be randomized by those announcements (they are looking for ways to add more social interactions into their apps, for instance).
4. How they built their team for productivity and some of the programming hacks they built to get updates out in minutes, rather than days.
5. Why iteration is so important for mobile app developers.
6. Angst about how they’ll make money on non-Apple platforms (they are porting to Android, but other developers that they listen to tell them that Android users don’t buy apps at the same rate that Apple’s do).
7. Talk about the slate market. They’ve been courted by Amazon, for instance, who want them to build apps for a slate that Amazon is working on.

Anyway, this conversation is long, but there’s lots of interesting insights into how mobile developers think and how they make their development decisions.