Why Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are wrong about naming Web 3.0 "Web 3.0"

Can we just head this trend off at the pass? It seems that Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, at their “All Things D” conference announced the beginning of the Web 3.0 era.

That’s ridiculous.

And I’m not the only one to think so.

Short aside: It’s interesting that neither Kara nor Walt show up very often on friendfeed, which is the best example of the 2010 Web right now. Kara Swisher has made a total of five comments there. Walt is even worse, doesn’t bring any items in there, and only has six comments. How can you know what the 2010 Web is, if you don’t use it and don’t participate in it?

The Web does NOT have version numbers. Naming what was going on in the last eight years “Web 2.0″ did us all a large disservice (Tim O’Reilly did that, mostly to get people to see that there was something different about the Web that was being built in 2000-2003 than what had come before).

But by naming it a number, I believe it caused a lot of people and businesses to avoid what was going on and “poo poo” it as the rantings of the new MySpace generation (which was just getting hot back then).

See, the Web changes EVERY DAY and a version number just doesn’t do it justice. Think about today, we saw Microsoft announce a major new update to its search engine, named “Bing,” that turns on next week and is already getting TONS of kudos. Seriously, in the rental car shuttle today a guy I met said the demo he saw at Kara and Walt’s conference was “awesome.”

Also today was Google’s Wave, which caught everyone by surprise and which sucked the oxygen out of Microsoft’s search announcements. Check out all the reports that I liked from around the world this morning.

But, back to the theme of this post. There IS something going on here. I covered it a few weeks ago.

The things that are happening are NOT just Twitter and search. Here, let me recount again what is making up the 2010 Web:

1. Real Time. Google caught the Wave of that trend today BIG TIME.
2. Mobile. Google, again, caught that wave big time Wednesday when it handed Android phones to everyone at its IO conference.
3. Decentralized. Does Microsoft or Twitter demonstrate that trend? Not really well.
4. Pre-made blocks. I call this “copy-and-paste” programming. Google nailed it with its Web Elements (I’ll add a few of those next week).
5. Social. Oh, have you noticed how much more social the web is? The next two days I’m hanging out on an aircraft carrier with a few people who do social media for the Navy.
6. Smart. Wolfram Alpha opened a lot of people’s eyes to what is possible in new smart displays of information.
7. Hybrid infrastructure. At the Twitter Conference this week lots of people were talking about how they were using both traditional servers along with cloud-based approaches from Amazon and Rackspace to store, study, and process the sizeable datasets that are coming through Twitter, Facebook, and friendfeed.

So, why doesn’t a version number work for these changes? Because they don’t come at us all at once. A lot of these things have been cooking for years. The Internet makes iteration possible. Tomorrow will be better on the Internet than today. In the old world of software you’d have to wait for the compilers, then you’d need to distribute tons of CDs or disks. That no longer needs to be done.

The idea that we have a version for the Web is just plain ridiculous. It makes the innovations we’re implementing too easily dismissed. How many times have you heard that “Twitter is lame?” I lost count 897 days ago.

Now, is using a year number, like what I’m doing, better? Yes. It gets us out of the version lock. And it makes it clear to businesses that if you are still driving around a 1994 Web site that it’s starting to look as old and crusty as a 1994 car is about now. Executives understand this. It’s a rare executive who drives an old car around. Most like to have the latest expensive car to get to work in.

Same with the Web. Calling it the “2010 Web” puts an urgency into what’s happening. If your business isn’t considering the latest stuff it risks looking lame or, worse, leaving money on the table. Just like driving a 1994 car risks looking lame or, worse, breaking down a lot more often than a newer car.

Is the year metaphor perfect? No, I’m sure there are a few things wrong with it. For one, if you want to host a conference based on the “trend” you’ll have to change your conference name every year. That costs money, which is why conference companies like to have more stable trends that they can exploit for a few years, at least.

Also, there are some clear “eras” in the Web, so I could see wanting to suggest that we’re in the third era of the Web, but I’ve been studying this for the past eight years and calling the second era “Web 2″ actually held us back because mainstream users didn’t think anything was happening in the past few years and Web 2.0 became a useless phrase anyway.

Anyway, can we use year numbers to describe the Web now? It’ll make it easier to evangelize the modern world to businesses. We’re entering the 2010 Web, that’s what I’m exploring. Calling the Web a version number is for people who don’t really understand, or participate in, what’s going on here. Kara and Walt, you gotta do better here.

The worst thing for Twitter

Yes, Twitter is in talks to be bought by Google, but is that the worst thing that would happen to Twitter?

No, even though it’s funny to note that designer Douglas Bowman just left Google a week ago to go to work for Twitter (and did so with a public “I’m pissed and I’m leaving” letter — I guess he’ll be asked to clean toilets for a few weeks if he gets bought back into Google).

Remember, Google is the company that bought Jaiku and then did nothing with it. It’s the company that bought Dodgeball (a company that had a service very similar to Twitter that was out before Twitter). And did nothing with it (the founders of that company also wrote a “we’re leaving” letter to Google.)

Are you noticing a trend here yet? Google sucks at microblogging/social networking and I don’t believe that Google has actually changed at all. The best predictor of future results is past behavior.

So, if Twitter goes to Google there’s a great chance that it’ll be screwed up.

But, there’s something even worse awaiting it: if Twitter gets purchased by Microsoft. Or worse, Adobe or Oracle or IBM.

Why? These companies understand even less of what’s going on in the social networking space than Google does. At least Google is trying and failing. But Google makes great mobile apps and Google understands how to scale things that need scale. I can also see how Google would integrate Twitter search into its search pages.

Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t deserve to get Twitter. Microsoft has totally screwed up its online branding and search. It’s pretty incompetent in those areas and has been for years. Yeah, I know that Microsoft has thousands of employees who’ll call me names on their blogs and yeah I know that Microsoft has thousands of fans, er, MVPs, who’ll tell you at length why I’m wrong.

But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares. Microsoft has lost the Internet generation because they simply have not done anything interesting. Spending another $100 million on advertising is not going to change that.

Heck, they should stop the advertising, use the $100 million to get Twitter’s attention and buy it. But that’s what Microsoft would do if it had real Internet leadership that understood just how important Twitter’s search feature will be to getting Microsoft noticed in the search game.

Here: what will work better to get more people to feel good about Microsoft? Spending $100 million on TV ads? Or using that money to buy Twitter?

No brainer for me.

But here’s the problem: I don’t believe Microsoft wants to get the Internet. So, if Microsoft DID wake up and buy Twitter it would be a horrid place for Twitter to be. It would stagnate even worse there than it would at Google.

Which is why, even though I don’t like Twitter’s management team that much, I’m hoping that they sell to Google instead of Microsoft. At least then it has a chance of success, Google’s poor track record in this area notwithstanding.

Smartphone competition: It's too late for Nokia and Microsoft, but not too late for Palm in USA

Everyone is still talking cell phones. Just visit TechMeme today and you’ll see lots of news from HTC, I’ve already seen some claims that it has a “Palm killer.” Hint: it’s not about the device, it’s about the software you put onto it. Haven’t we learned that yet? Remember when I told you two years ago that the iPhone is a better device than what Nokia had? Remember how many people argued with me? They were wrong. Just like they are wrong to say that Palm doesn’t have a shot here. Heck, when I saw Walt Mossberg last week, the Wall Street Journal’s top tech writer, he said Palm has a shot.

But, sorry, Nokia, Palm caught the last train out of town. They made it to the station 30 seconds before the doors closed.

You didn’t make it and there are no more trains for the USA market.

Why do I say that?

Because in the USA there are only these major carriers:

AT&T.
Verizon.
Sprint.
T-Mobile.

AT&T? Gone. Apple has them sewn up. Verizon? RIM has them sewn up. I met with RIM’s director of marketing at CES and he was smiling. That should give you a hint. Sprint? Palm has them in the Palm of their hands now. T-Mobile? Google’s Android is their key smart phone.

So, what does this mean? All the US carriers now have their SmartPhone choices. All the trains have left the station.

Who is out in this game? Microsoft and Nokia.

So, what do Microsoft and Nokia have to do to get back in the game?

Do something so unbelieveable that it causes everyone in the world to want one.

Hint: I have friends who’ve seen the new Microsoft OS. I’ve seen the new Nokia OS, just a month ago. They don’t have it. The game is afoot and Nokia and Microsoft are left at the station.

Am I wrong? Argue with me.

Please note that I’m only talking about the US market. Nokia and Microsoft will do just fine in other markets because their offerings are better for those markets (lower cost, or have stylus’s which are demanded in China, for instance, or have all-you-can-eat music subscription services which are demanded by Europeans). But in USA? Sorry Nokia and Microsoft, it’s going to be a tough year.

Oh, and Laptop Magazine has some good videos of the Palm Pre in action. I can’t wait to get one of these devices and compare it to my Nokias and my iPhone.

Microsoft gets you singing with Songsmith (first video demo)

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Microsoft released a very cool app tonight called Songsmith. You sing to it. It builds music. I could write a lot more in text and you’d never get it, so instead, let’s discover it together in this first video demo, done in a hotel room at CES with the Songsmith team just a few minutes ago.

The video is two parts:

1. Introduction and discussion of what Songsmith does.
2. Demonstration of Songsmith. (Embedded here)

Ballmer's big moment

Steve Jobs won’t be center stage this week. Chuq von Rospach, who used to work at Apple, wraps up what that means from an inside-the-Apple sphere.

But there’s another first coming up next week: it’ll be the first CES without Bill Gates on stage.

It is Steve Ballmer’s big moment. The lights will be all on him thanks to Steve Jobs’ decision to not show up on stage.

Now, look at the enterprise videos I’ve been doing this week (I just did another one with Jive Software’s CMO this morning). Do you sense it? This is Steve Ballmer’s big moment. Everyone in the industry is gunning for Microsoft. It’s Ballmer’s big moment to tell them all to “stay off our lawn.”

What must he do?

1. Introduce Windows 7 to us and make it seem a LOT cooler than Vista. Not a hard job, for sure, but he needs to nail it. This is job #1 for him this year.
2. Assure its partners that people will buy computers and its mobile phones in 2009. Next week I’ll be walking around with executives from Best Buy to find out if what Steve said resonated. BestBuy and other retailers are feeling tons of pain right now due to the economic downturn. Can Ballmer offer them any hope?
3. Demonstrate how Microsoft is pushing into new markets. It’s rumored to be bringing out a new version of Sync for automobiles at CES, for instance.
4. Explain why Microsoft Office is still the tool for workers to use, even going into 2010. In a year where entire ecosystems and Google and Salesforce and other companies are gunning for Microsoft (Adobe and Cisco are expected to make announcements for office workers in the next few years). Microsoft is being pressured for both price and functionality. Will Office 14 resonate? A lot will have to do with Ballmer’s big moment.
5. Explain how Microsoft will remain relevant to the living room. At the IFA show (Europe’s Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin) last year I was at the Panasonic press conference where they showed off Google’s YouTube running on one of their 50-inch screens. That is not a good trend for Microsoft who hopes to be able to bring its services into the living room.
6. Show how Microsoft will stay on the mobile leader’s table. Right now they are threatened with being kicked off by Apple, RIM, and Nokia to make room for upstart Google. What Ballmer says and shows next week will determine whether Microsoft has a decent position in 2010 or is seen as a has been.
7. Excite developers. Not just the ones who were using Visual Basic back in 1993, either. They need to get developers to switch their attention from Facebook and iPhone and the web and back to its stuff. Can Ballmer do it? It’ll take a lot more than dancing around on the stage screaming “developers, developers, developers.”

Can Ballmer do it? I won’t bet against the guy.

The story of 2009? Enterprise disruption?

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In addition to the interview I did yesterday with socialtext, which explores some of the disruption coming to enterprises, there’s another trend I’m tracking: the coming fight between the collaborative web and Microsoft.

Now some pundits in the industry think that the fight will be head on. Not me. I think it’ll be more parasitic. Like how mold takes over a strawberry. Slow, but in the end the strawberry dies.

Is that what we’re seeing now? Well, here’s something that is a small piece of the bigger trend. You could call it a few cells of mold on the strawberry, if you’d like.

What is it? Panorama Software for Google Apps. I shot two videos with Oudi Antebi, VP of marketing and strategy of Panorama Software. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but what they are doing is very disruptive to bigger companies:

Part I. Where we discover what is happening in the Business Intelligence space and learn what Panorama Software is doing. (This video is embedded above).
Part II. Demo of how the Panorama gadget is used to display real-time data.

So, why did this catch my eye? First, they are taking something very expensive, Business Intelligence charting and dashboarding, and making it free. That alone is pretty disruptive. When Microsoft is charging $a few hundred a seat (and Microsoft is disrupting lots of other players in the market who charge a lot more than that) you know there’s disruption when some new player comes along and under prices everyone.

But don’t focus on that disruption.

Instead, look at the bigger picture. Here they are using Google spreadsheets to bring you live, collaborative, business intelligence. Watch the second video to see how different this is from most of the “old-school” approaches that haven’t yet built on a platform designed for the web from the start.

See that’s the real disruption: there’s a new platform being built. Right now it’s ugly and incomplete. But every year it gets better and better. Will 2009 be the year when lots of you try out a web-based collaboration suite like the ones from Zoho or Google?

I am sensing “yes” is the answer. Why? The economy is forcing big companies to cut every cost they can and this stuff is not only lower cost (often free, or a few bucks a month) but it also is much more productive. Now anyone in a group can update a spreadsheet and everyone in the company can see that activity in real time.

This is very powerful and useful. I remember visiting Printing for Less a few years back. They had graphs like this on their intranet for all their employees. But now anyone can build them for very little money.

And keep watching, this stuff isn’t only for Google. It is for Salesforce.com and other enterprise data.

After the cameras were off he showed me something else they are working on for 2009. He swore me to secrecy, but I can say this, if what he showed me comes out a lot of things will be flipped and a lot of people will finally get some use out of the collaborative world.

The other question for 2009 is will Microsoft’s slow efforts to “webize” its Office Suite be enough to keep these trends at bay for another year? My gut feeling? Microsoft is so strong and so well capitalized and living off of the continued strong momentum that it won’t be hurt in 2009 but by the end of the year most pundits will start noticing the fuzz on the strawberry and will start asking deep questions of Microsoft’s leadership.

Who said that enterprise software was boring?