One of the coolest things I saw at last December’s LeWeb was Do@. They showed it to me behind closed doors and asked me to keep it secret, but it really is a great new way to do searches on your mobile phone.
Why is it more useful than Google?
Because it takes you to the services themselves instead of just a list of lame lists. You gotta see this in action. It should now be available in the iTunes app store. Only for iOS right now.
It’s not every week that I get an inside look into two companies that are absolutely nailing it, both with real results and with PR and awards.
But these two companies are why I travel so much and like visiting the companies themselves (I think I’m the only tech blogger who actually VISITS most of the tech companies they cover). Why? Because you can see a lot more about how people work together and what the culture is like better if you actually visit than if you just do interviews over Skype or something like that.
These two companies impress from all angles and are evidence of some new trends in startups:
1. Companies are springing up that sell access to APIs. Twilio, SimpleGeo, and others (Twitter makes a good chunk of its revenue by selling access to its firehose feed, too).
2. A new raft of enterprise-focused companies are finding major revenue sources around how social media is changing business. Spigit joins a bunch, from Jive, Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, Box.net, etc.
What I like about both of these companies is that they have a business model from the start!
I’ve owned a 2010 Toyota Prius since the day it shipped in June 2009 and have put 36,000 miles on it so far, so I’m uniquely able to tell you what’s cool about a new Prius. Last week Toyota invited me to the press’ first look at the new Prius V. Here you see it next to my older Prius.
From the outside you’ll see the biggest difference: it’s bigger, which will especially appeal to the American market. The rest of the auto press will focus on this size difference. It’s 300 lbs heavier as well, which gives it a nicer road ride and a slightly quieter one as well. But hearing all about how a new car drives is not why you read me, right?
We’re here to talk about the geeky features! The Prius V does not disappoint on that end.
1. Toyota’s engineers (here’s a photo of me with chief engineer, Hiroshi Kayukawa) are using computers to smooth out the ride.
2. JBL’s engineers found a way to make a car audio system that uses about half the power of the one in my car, while keeping the audio loudness and quality the same.
3. It offers radar-assisted features to make cruise control and automatic parking possible (those are the same as in my 2010 model).
4. Most exciting for Silicon Valley types like me is the new Entune system that lets you use your smartphone and a few modern services like Bing, OpenTable, and Pandora with it. That’s what I focused most of my video effort on.
Here’s a look at Entune, which matches your SmartPhone with the car and brings several new apps into the navigation system’s screen:
Why is this significant?
1. It brings several San Francisco-area startups into cars. OpenTable, Pandora, IHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, and more to come. Shows there is a bigger market out there beyond just apps on smartphones.
2. It shows Toyota is going with Bing instead of Google.
3. It demonstrates how car makers are going to start mating smartphones into the driving experience.
Watch the video demo with Toyota’s Jason Schulz (sorry for taking him off track a bit, I forgot my favorite Mexican restaurant’s name, but that makes it more real world). We use it to find a new restaurant, make a reservation on OpenTable, and we talk about what the future for these kinds of new “car apps” could be (they are only shipping four apps right now, but they will ship more in the future).
As for how the Prius works, I love my car and would buy another one without hesitation. This new model makes me jealous because it could use my iPhone in a new way that I can’t with my current car. Look for many more of these kinds of features coming soon from automakers because this is the real differentiating features beyond the basics like milage, how it looks, how many people it holds, and how it drives.
Really, though, I was there to see what Path is announcing this morning: “stacks.” What does this new feature do? It lets you see stacks of photos around specific people, places, or things in your photos. It’s quite nicely done and shows the historical power that is hidden in the metadata associated with our social media.
To make it really useful, though, Path has to become the camera we use EVERYTIME we decide to take a photo. So far it isn’t. Here’s some of the cameras I use, and why I use them:
1. If I want to share a photo with you on Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, I use Instagram. Why? Because I have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram ALONE! What does this mean? The minute I post a photo I get tons of comments and questions. Some things are meant to be bragged about. Instagram also checks into Foursquare, which lets me view my historical data in a different way than any other system lets me view it.
2. If I’m in a restaurant, I use Foodspotting. Why? Because that system rocks for capturing food you’ve eaten, as well as letting you see food photos around you. I find this is more valuable to me than Yelp is for finding my next meal. I also use Foodspotting to check into Foursquare.
3. If I need to take a rapid number of shots, or I want to edit them before uploading, I’ll use Camera +. Then I usually save those photos out to my camera roll before using one of the above apps to upload.
4. If I use my Android phones, I’ll use PicPlz since that service is pretty capable, but ships on both Android and iPhone (Path says its Android app is coming soon).
5. If I have an “intimate moment” that I want to share with only my closest friends or family, I’ll use Path (for instance, a photo of my kids in the bathtub — I really don’t want that to get wide distribution).
Anyway, the point is there still isn’t “one camera” we use all the time. We’re still in play and Path won’t get me all the time until it figures out how to let me use it to distribute photos to other systems.
But Path’s stacks shows me why I’ll use Path more now.
You’ve seen the videos from Google, Mint, and tons of other startups that Transvideo Studios does. Recently Rocky and I visited them to find out the secrets behind how some of these videos were produced.
Want to see how modern marketing is done and get some ideas for your startup? Then watch this video. In it you’ll see several examples of their work.
More and more companies are using short videos (typically under 90 seconds) that they can post on their web sites to introduce their products or services. Transvideo Studios, along with its in house creative team called Picturelab, has been making videos for 30 years and is behind the videos for many of the most well known tech companies in Silicon Valley.
“We’ve been doing videos for tech companies in Silicon Valley for a really long time, and we’ve had a studio and sound stage since 1981,” explains Rico Andrade, Executive Producer for Transvideo Studios. “One of the things that’s been a part of the business has been doing videos that talk about what the company does, and especially with the increase in the number of videos that you see online and the cost of making the videos and hosting them, more and more tech companies started seeing the return in creating a simple video that explains what they do.”
When Transvideo takes on a new client, it tries to learn everything possible about the company and its product, from value proposition to competitors to target customers. This information helps set the tone for the video and guide the story being told.
“We’re a full production house,” explains David Sabin, Producer and Post Production Supervisor for Transvideo, “so we take it from concept (we do all the writing) to design all the way through to distribution. A project generally starts with a client coming to us, and we learn as much as we can about that particular product—we do our homework and find out what the client needs and come at it from a perspective of what a customer might want out of this as well.”
From there, Transvideo will submit concepts and style frames, which, after approval from the client, will be used to create story boards for the clients to review in conjunction with the script Transvideo is drafting. Finally, they complete the animation work and start submitting first cuts of the video.
Going through the process of settling on a story and creating the video can have benefits for the client apart from the video itself. “Frequently the questions that we ask of our clients help them focus their own marketing,” says Sabin, “and I have to say that art directors at these different companies love us, because we bring to them ideas and perspectives that they perhaps haven’t thought of before.”
You might use Flipboard, Zite, Feedly, or one of the other news apps on an iPad or your mobile device. This space just keeps getting hotter and hotter, probably due in no small part to Flipboard’s $50 million in funding they collected in the last month.
I keep playing with all of them, Flipboard is my favorite for reading news that my friends bring me on Twitter or Facebook, Feedly is my favorite for following RSS feeds, but Skygrid has earned a favorite spot on my iPad for finding me news about things I’m interested in, but less knowledgeable or connected on. Today that got even better as Skygrid rolls out a new iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app that is easier to use, more powerful, but does an even better job at helping you find the latest news.
Why is Skygrid so good? Because for years now CEO Kevin Pomplun and his team have been building algorithms to outrun Google News and Yahoo on finding the latest news. He’s been on my show three times now, which he’s earned by having the best news back-end in the business. I’ve found that I use it in conjunction with Flipboard, what do you think? Has it earned a spot on your iPad?
You might know PARC. This is the lab that Steve Jobs walked into and was inspired to make the Mac what it is today. Inside this lab lots of things in the industry were developed:
1. Laser printers and page description language.
2. Tablet PCs (the first prototype is sitting in a display there).
3. Ethernet (first piece of ethernet is still in the wall here, and is seen in one of the interviews below).
4. Object oriented programming.
5. The modern personal computer with graphical user interface.
6. Very-large-scale-integration for semiconductors.
So, when PARC says “come on over for a tour” you drop everything and go.
While there I met with several people to get a taste of what they are working on now. Visiting here is like visiting Jerusalem (home of the first church). It’s where everything seemed to start and is still filled with brilliant people. For instance, in part IV of my tour you’ll meet Richard Chow. Some of his achievements include architecting Yahoo!’s click-fraud protection system and delivering the Security and DRM components for Motorola’s first Java-based phone platform.
PART ONE: Future of Networking. See the first Ethernet cable in the wall, and learn about Content Centric Networking. Here, Teresa Lunt, Vice President and Director of the Computing Science Laboratory research organization, and Nacho Solis, researcher, tell me how networks are changing.
Anyway, let’s get started.
PART TWO: How Ethnographic research leads to new business ideas. Here we meet Victoria Bellotti who manages PARC’s Socio-Technical and Interaction Research team at PARC where she also developed PARC’s Opportunity Discovery research targeting methods and program. Victoria studies people to understand their practices, problems, and requirements for future technology, and also designs and analyzes human-centered systems — focusing on user experience.
PART THREE: Ubiquitous Computing research (and some historic networking equipment). Kurt Partridge is a researcher in PARC’s ubiquitous computing area. His research interests include context awareness, activity modeling, location modeling, wearable computing, and using users’ natural behaviors to simplify human-computer interaction. He received a Ph. D. in Computer Science from the University of Washington in 2005. Here we talk about what happens when computers are everywhere, which enables the Internet of Things.
PART FOUR: Keeping our Cloud Computing Safe. Richard Chow is interested in systems security, fraud detection, and privacy. Some of his achievements include architecting Yahoo!’s click-fraud protection system and delivering the Security and DRM components for Motorola’s first Java-based phone platform.
Here Richard talks to me about what he’s working on and how he’s developing new techniques to keep our data private and secure. Interesting conversation!
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little tour around PARC.
By the way, recently Malcolm Gladwell wrote about PARC’s role in computing’s development. He got several things wrong, PARC’s managers say, and they wrote a rebuttal on their blog about how the lab innovates and why it plays a key role in Silicon Valley even today.