By now you know that Flipboard is one of my favorite new companies of 2010 and, while they’ve pretty much caught up to the initial demands on their servers, spent two weeks just getting slammed with new adopters. Mike McCue, the CEO there who has seen great Silicon Valley success (he sold TellMe to Microsoft for $800 million) told me he has never seen anything like it.
Why didn’t Wowd get a huge amount of adoption? It’s counter intuitive. Flipboard is only usable on the iPad, which has sold a small fraction of the numbers of Macintosh and Windows computers are out there. Wowd was aiming at a far bigger potential market, but fell flat. Why?
Now part of the reason could be it got a poor review from ReadWriteWeb’s Sarah Perez. But as I read Sarah I noticed a bias, here, let me see if you can see it too: “But dealing with the first desktop app I’ve installed since TweetDeck reminds me of why I love the cloud – the processing power required is dealt with on their servers, not mine.”
I feel the same way! I +hate+ installing software. So much so that I almost didn’t install Wowd.
But, wait, I have 300+ apps on my iPhone and iPad. So, there’s a disconnect there.
I noticed this a few weeks ago when I was flying. I sat next to two guys. One had an iPad. It was loaded with apps that didn’t exist a year ago. The other was using a Windows XP machine. It didn’t have a single app that didn’t exist a year ago.
So, yesterday, I dug into my feelings about installing software.
Windows and Macintosh machines bring a lot of baggage to the table that make it mentally exhausting to install software. Here’s some of the things that were going through my mind when I installed Wowd yesterday:
1. Can I uninstall this easily? I’ve recently tried to clean up apps on my Mac. It took quite a while to find all the places apps hide crap.
2. Will it screw up my machine? I lived through many years of installing stuff on my Windows machines to watch them get slower, or start having crashes, or worse.
3. Will I fall in love with this app and want it on all my machines? (Installing software on all my machines is a pain in the behind).
4. Will I need to maintain this app in the future and find updates for it, or will it get updated itself?
5. Did the developers do something nasty to my machine and are they ethical about privacy and all that stuff (seriously, how many people install apps that report data back to some server that they aren’t aware of, etc)?
Then I thought back to Flipboard. I didn’t have any of these fears with that app. Why not?
1. Uninstalling an app on an iPad just requires you to hold your finger down on the app and clicking an “x.” It’s gone and there’s no little pieces left around.
2. I’ve loaded hundreds of apps on my iPad and it hasn’t gotten slower.
3. Loading an iPad app on all three of our iPads is much easier than installing it on three separate laptops.
4. Apps update easily on the iPad via the iTunes store.
5. Apps are approved by Apple so if an app does something nasty I can make a huge deal about how Apple is evil, etc.
This leads to promiscuous adoption. Some weekends I’ve loaded 50 or more apps on my iPhone or iPad to try them out. Heck, the only retardant to adoption is paying the app fee and I’ve often said “it’s only a latte” while trying out an app and more than not I come away with something much more valuable than a latte at the local coffee shop.
I’ve been asking around and both startups and big companies are telling me they are noticing the same thing. iPhone and iPad users are installing a lot more apps and are installing new things at a far greater rate than people who have Windows or Macintosh machines.
This has deep implications for where VC’s will invest in the future. I’m actually shocked that Wowd got funded with its approach of installing software on machines. It’s one of the few exceptions I’ve seen get funded this year that has taken that approach.
Anyway, do I have an opinion on Wowd? Yes. It isn’t ready for me yet. After installing I hit a bug (they are fixing it) that keeps their system from working well with large-friend accounts. Now that I have it installed I’ll try it again when they get an update out.
What does Wowd do? Help you filter your Facebook stream (Twitter coming soon) so that you can see more of the things you find valuable in your stream. Interesting idea, that’s somewhat what Flipboard does too (which is why I took the interview, because I’m looking for companies that will help us filter the noise out of our social streams).
But if I ran Wowd, I’d go server side so that people don’t need to install any software. That’s a LOT of baggage to overcome. It also makes Flipboard appear brilliant for going iPad only.
What do you think?