Monthly Archives: April 2011

First look: Airplay-enabled Squrl: Internet video curation tool for iPad

There is a lot happening on the iPad. One of the coolest new things is called “AirPlay.” What does it do? It lets you push video to your Apple TV with the click of a button.

Today Squrl brings Hulu, YouTube and Netflix (amongst others) to the AirPlay table. This is very significant. My video watching behavior has changed more in the past month since getting Squrl and another iPad app that’s coming tomorrow than it has since I first got a Tivo years ago.

More on this tomorrow, but there’s something very significant going on here, don’t miss it. Here’s a video first look at Squrl, reprinted from Rackspace’s Building43 site:

Video, it seems, is everywhere. From Hulu to Netflix to YouTube to Vimeo, keeping track of it all can be a daunting task. Squrl is solving that problem with innovative ways to capture and curate video from the Internet.

“There are a lot of different video choices and a lot of different video apps,” explains Mark Gray, CEO and Co-Founder of Squrl. “We believe that users want to centralize that and want to manage that better. So with the plethora of video that’s now available…and more and more content starting to go a la carte, people need a better way to manage that and manage across all those different video experiences.”

Squrl allows you to aggregate and organize videos in one location. You can bookmark videos you find while browsing the web on your iPad, Mac or PC. You can capture any video that you tweet or retweet. And you can forward video links via email to your email address that Squrl provides, and the system will add the videos to your collection.

Discovery is also a big part of the service, as you can find new videos in several different ways. First, you can search the curated content that’s already within Squrl. “We believe that this next evolution of video is about people that are watching videos starting to curate that content into meaningful collections,” says Gray. “We allow you to search that.” The second way is to search any given web site, such as Netflix. Finally, you can subscribe to someone else’s content and receive push notifications when videos have been added to their collections.

“What we’re hoping to do with Squrl,” explains Gray, “is make [managing video] fun and easy as opposed to what it is today.”

More info:

Squrl web site: http://www.squrl.com/
Squrl on Twitter: http://twitter.com/squrl

Exclusive first look: MapOmatic shows you where your friends are “wasting time” (mobile map replacement)

A good adjunct to this morning’s post, which is now on Techmeme, is this product launch by Michael Rubin. Tonight MapOmatic became available in Apple’s iOS store. What is it? It’s a new kind of mobile app that shows you where folks have checked in around you.

Really this is a map replacement for your mobile phone. Why use that? Because it can show you where your friends and others have checked in. Why does that matter? Well, for the same reason you look into restaurant windows to see if there’s anyone else in the place. Crowds matter. Popularity matters. Friends matter.

Watch the video to see what it does and why it’s important. Then follow them on Twitter.

Now that more of us are doing things like checking in on Foursquare or taking pictures of places or Foodspotting mobile apps like this one are going to increasingly be needed.

Dear Vic: here’s your Google bonus (you gotta waste time to get it)

Vic Gundotra was the guy who hired me at Microsoft and today is in charge of Google’s social strategy. He’s one of the “post reorg” guys who were hand picked by Larry Page.

Also announced last week is that Larry Page is tying Google’s bonus structure to how well they do in social. Turns out that Google has a lot of Facebook envy.

In yesterday’s Gillmor Gang I argue that Google and Facebook have completely different cultures. Google is very much about finding information while Facebook is all about helping people “waste time.” Think about why Zynga, a company that helps us “waste time” playing games built on top of Facebook’s culture instead of Google’s. These cultures are like oil and vinegar and if you force one to be another it could turn bad.

I say that Google should play to its strength when it comes to social. But today I want to give Googler’s some more specific advice about what that means.

Let’s talk first about what it means to “waste time.”

Baby goats!

Yesterday I visited Harley Farms. They raise goats and make the best goat cheese in the area. The baby goats are SSSOOO cute! But, let’s stay on track here. While I was picking up some cheese for today’s lunch with my parents (my dad is recovering from a kidney transplant, quite well, thank you very much) I watched two girls pull out their iPhones. One used Red Laser to scan a book in the store. Another checked in with Foursquare.

I realized just what they were doing: wasting time more efficiently!

Google doesn’t get this new behavior. Google’s engineering culture doesn’t quite grok why people would waste time. Why they would update their Facebook profiles for hours every week. Or, even, set “relationship status.” Yeah, they might copy Mark Zuckerberg and put some of those features into whatever social system they will reveal at Google IO, but I don’t think the culture really gets why those things work.

They help us waste time more effectively.

See, wasting time is big business. When I want to REALLY waste time I watch TV. But along came IntoNow, an iPhone app for telling other people what you’re watching (among other things). Yesterday, while using it I saw that Techcrunch writer MG Siegler was watching the Masters. Along with a bunch of other geeks. Hey, time wasters! But, they were wasting time more effectively than I was (I was attempting to be more “Googley” and was attempting to be more productive by being on the Gillmor Gang). I quickly felt that social network FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that the New York Times wrote about this morning.

How else is the new tech world helping me waste time?

Foodspotting helps me get hungry and helps me find better restaurants in which to waste my time. You can follow my time-wasting meals there (latest photo is from Friday afternoon when former Zagat mobile guru Ryan Charles and I wasted time together eating cheese and talking about 3D cameras and his new company — more on that soon).

Foursquare suggests places where my friends are wasting their time (you can see some of the places I’ve wasted time at here). I might join them at, say, the Ritz’ bar if I see one of them check in there.

When I go shopping (the ultimate time waster because it costs money too!) I use ShopKick to get deals whenever I walk into a store.

Shall I go on?

See, what Google needs to do is make the ultimate time waster guide. Of course I want to search. Here’s what I want to search for:

* Show me sushi restaurants around me where my friends are wasting time.
* Show me TV shows that my friends are wasting time watching.
* Bring me games that my friends are wasting time playing.
* Take me on trips where my friends are wasting time.
* Show me products my friends are wasting time buying and using.
* Reveal to me activities my friends are wasting time doing (I live on a golf course, start there!)
* Tell me the best coffee that my friends are wasting time with.
* Take me to the blog that my friends are wasting their time reading right now.
* Say whether my friends are mostly using iOS or Android devices to waste time.
* For those of my friends who are wasting time watching movies right now, which ones are they watching?
* For those of my friends who like Cricket, which teams are they wasting time cheering on?

Can I do any of this on Google now? No.

Should I?

Yes.

Why? Because wasting time is big business. We spend billions, if not trillions, wasting time. Just ask the travel industry. Or the gaming industry. Or the movie industry. Or the music industry. Or the skiing industry.

And we want to waste time more productively.

This is where Google should play to its strength. They have the infrastructure to connect us to friends who want to help us waste time better. They still have a few people who will code it up. They still understand the web and mobile than most any other company. They still have those funny cars going around making cool maps (except in Germany).

Google’s bonus should be based on how well its services have helped me waste my time more productively.

So far Google plays a very small role in helping me waste time, when compared to these newer “social” services (and more are coming over the next month).

Why doesn’t Google start grabbing up services that help us waste time? Why, Vic, don’t you start building partnerships with anyone who has information about how we are wasting time? Why not become the ultimate place for us to look for new ways to waste time?

I want to try some new wine next weekend, for instance. I would never go to Google for finding a bottle of wine. My time wasting endeavors are too important to leave to some cold algorithm, after all. So, I think I’ll go ask Gary Vaynerchuk. Why don’t you buy his wine store AND him? Make him the ultimate authority on wasting time more productively?

Speaking of which, did you just see what I did there? I linked to Twitter. That’s a great place to waste time. Why don’t you buy Twitter and save them from their monetization misery? Make Twitter the hub of time wasters everywhere! Add onto that purchase Quora, which is turning into a pretty good place to find places/events/experiences to waste time with. Here’s its answer on how to waste time most productively while visiting Napa, for instance.

Why don’t you hire David Schmidt, who just built a cool map for Foursquare, and have him create all sorts of maps like this using various services that will help us share how we’re wasting time? Which will help us all become more productive at wasting time (better yet, why can’t you show us where all the BBQ-loving people are checking in near us? Oh, yeah, I forgot, Google is all about NOT wasting time, which is why you haven’t yet gotten social).

Anyway, we’ll see you after Google IO and I’ll judge whether you should get your bonus based on whether your social services better help me waste time. So far you aren’t doing very well. I’ve even wasted my time adding hundreds of +1′s into Google, but does that help anyone waste their time more productively? Not with such an unattractive list, that’s for sure! David Schmidt has done more for my time wasting than you have so far and that’s VERY sad.

So, Vic, here’s your bonus. Help us waste time more productively and maybe this bonus will turn into some very real cash from your boss.

UPDATE: Oh, check out what Mike Melanson, writer for ReadWriteWeb blogged on this topic. Culture differences for sure! Finally, one Google team is very good at helping us waste time. Which one? YouTube! Check out my YouTube channel, I help you waste time too! But YouTube’s culture is quite different than that at the rest of Google. Maybe that’s where Google should start its social “time wasting.”

UPDATE2: Boris Mann has a great post about what Google should do “get a story.”

Exclusive first look: Jive’s new app store (social enterprise wars heating up)

Last night Jive gave me an exclusive first look at its new app store. Here it is. What is Jive? It competes with Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, SocialCast, SocialText, among others.

Why does this matter? Well, big companies right now are deciding on which social service they will choose. Rackspace, for instance, has 3,000 employees and is deciding on those in the next few weeks. What’s at stake? Well, some of these charge about $5 per seat per month, so for the Rackspace account alone there’s $15,000 per month in play. Big bucks, if you take that through the Fortune 500.

Already Jive has won more than its fair share of big accounts. Intel, Cisco, Nike are using it, amongst others.

So here we get a good look at what Jive and its partners are doing in five videos and an audio recording.

First, the audio recording. Here I talk to two execs about how a company, like Rackspace, should evaluate these services.

Next I talk with Robin Bordoli who runs the app store for Jive. He gives me a video demo and gives some more details.

Finally, I interview four partners, who talk about what this means to them:

RoundPegg (HR uses them to better hire):

SlideRocket (better presentation tool for collaboration than PowerPoint):

Rypple (HR uses them to better measure employees):

Gliffy, which lets employees build flowcharts and diagrams with each other:

First video look: awesome new 3D GoPro camera system

The company closest to my house is GoPro (the headquarters are literally 200 yards from my house) and so when I heard they are shipping a new 3D video camera system, mostly aimed at sports types, tomorrow I had to go over and get the details.

These are the cameras that the Discovery Channel used to stick you inside a shark’s mouth, amongst other things.

But don’t miss the entrepreneurial story behind this company: it was started in Nicholas Woodman’s parent’s house and his VW bus with his mom’s sewing machine and a few thousand dollars.

Anyway, this just ran on Rackspace’s Building43. Here’s the article and video first look:

+++++++

Whether through footage from the miners’ rescue in Chili, a heli-skier blazing through virgin snow or a surfer gliding through a barrel of water, chances are you’ve seen images captured by a GoPro camera. Today, we’re going to learn more about the company and get a sneak peak at their new, 3D camera scheduled for release April 4th.

“I started GoPro back in 2002 originally to make it easier for surfers to shoot photos while they’re surfing [via GoPro’s] wrist camera,” explains Nicholas Woodman, Founder and CEO of GoPro. “Now, almost 9 years later, GoPro is the world leader in wearable cameras for sports.”

GoPro’s original, waterproof camera was designed to be strapped to the user’s wrist. The thinking behind it was to have a camera readily available to capture those perfect shots in a way that didn’t impede on the user’s enjoyment of his/her sport. That philosophy continues to drive innovation today as GoPro is set to release its 3D Hero System, which uses innovative housing and synchronization cables to combine two HD Hero cameras in a way that produces 3D video and photos. The housing will be available this week for $99, which includes the synchronization cables and associated software.

“One of our goals is the build the world’s most versatile camera,” says Woodman. “There are so many sports, activities and passions that people have that we wanted to make a camera that you can use for anything but that works really, really well for anything.”

More info:

GoPro web site: http://gopro.com/
GoPro on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/goprocamera
GoPro on Twitter: http://twitter.com/GoPro_News
GoPro on CrunchBase: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/gopro

The funding and failures of Color, Silicon Valley’s $41 million startup (wrapup of the week of hype and hate)

As you know I didn’t like Color’s launch a week ago. I thought the app just wasn’t very good. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. It still has a two-star review on iTunes. It got an incredible amount of coverage in the press for a new startup, including multiple plays on CNN and lots of other places.

The funding of $41 million also caused a LOT of people in Silicon Valley to ask “huh?”

These two things made me incredibly interested in Color. I kept using their app during the past week. My experiences on that in a second.

But yesterday I visited the company at 215 Hamilton Ave., in downtown Palo Alto. Interesting, I used to work in that building upstairs back in the 1990s.

I did a 49-minute audio interview with Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham, co-founders . It’s long, but incredibly revealing.

What did I learn from these two?

1. They got funded without doing a slide deck.
2. Their reputations got them a personal invite to Sequoia to pitch them. But the story of what they were working on is what closed the deal.
3. They needed the money to “compress” the time they need to ship a very advanced technology and vision.
4. They screwed up the launch, according to Peter. How? Bad UI, bad timing, noise from funding level. He talks about what they are doing to fix the problem.
5. Churn levels are very high. Churn means the number of people who hear about the app, install it, try it out, and then leave and delete it.
6. There are real drivers behind the new valuation numbers that the startup industry is seeing.
7. The technology behind the app actually is interesting. For instance, when you take a photo it measures the audio profile of the room, captures the compass reading and other sensor readings, and pretty accurately knows other users in the room at the same time. I could go into that more here, but really you should listen to the interview because this technology lets them build a new kind of “social camera.”
8. They “tried too much.” Peter worked at Apple and tried to do a very simple UI. That was a mistake because the app was too weird and nearly impossible to figure out and use.
9. This is an app designed for the “post PC world.” We talk a lot about what that marketing term means for apps in the future.
10. The new approach they are taking lets them build a new kind of social graph — one that’s based on who you actually were at the same location or concert or event with. It’s a bit mind-blowing after you finally get it to work and use it around town for a while.

So, now that I’ve used it for a week and have had training on what the app does and how to use it I’m more interested in the future but it still is an unusable app. Even after seeing what it does from the founders I find it infuriating to use. That’s why it has two stars. They know it’s a huge problem.

But, if you look beyond the horrible UI and the bad launch, there really is something here. If they can fix the UI I think there’s actually some magic here. But right now? It’s for people who are willing to put up with major early-adopter pain.

Despite all its trouble, it sure has caused a lot of conversations. This morning I was with executives from Procter and Gamble. The folks who do Pampers diapers. Color caused a major discussion and most of the people in the room already had it on their phones. How many apps out of the 500,000+ in the iTunes store can say that they caused this amount of hype and hate? I can’t think of one except for maybe Twitter and Foursquare.

Anyway, this is one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had in 2011. I’ll let you know when Color becomes usable.