Tag Archives: mobile

Watch the Google anthill move toward social and real time

This week is a key moment in Google’s life. It is being challenged by a change in the ecosystem. We’ve seen this happen with other companies before. Remember Microsoft in 1994-1996? It responded to the changes in how we exchange information by turning the company hard toward the Internet. Too hard, actually. Bill Gates steered his battleship right into the DOJ’s iceberg. The water it took on from the gash in its side slowed it down for eight years already.

This week Google is having its I/O conference. Executives there told me to be there to witness the shift. They’ve also given me a small look at some of what’s coming. One even told me that it’ll be like the first Microsoft NT developer’s conference in its importance of what gets shown.

I remember that conference, back in 1994. Jim Fawcette and I were sitting there in one of the first rows and he elbowed me and said “Gates just announced Chicago and Cairo.” That was Windows 95 and what was supposed to be the next version of NT, which never really shipped, although what was important about that was Microsoft was about to see the most significant switch in Operating System usage the world has seen up to that point, or since. We were moving from command lines to GUIs. It’s one of those times when you can see tech industry history shifting all around you. In the back rooms at that conference, though, the real shifts were happening. The geeks were restless about this thing called the Internet. Within a year of that conference Gates had to admit that something was happening and told the geeks to shift direction and focus more energy on the Internet. When Windows 95 shipped in late 1995 it had an Internet stack and a Web browser.

But now back to Google. I thought about using a metaphor of a battle ship, like what worked with Gates, but, see, Google is more like an ant farm. Which is why I put this video (hosted on Google’s YouTube, of course) up front and center.

Google is much more decentralized than Microsoft was, and is (and Microsoft was much more decentralized than IBM or other companies that came before it, which is what made it so dangerous when Gates said “turn, turn, turn toward the Internet” to his troops).

Google is more like an ant hill. One powered by 20% time which is how the ants find out where the food is. Heck, enough of Google’s ants have left to join Facebook, Twitter, and friendfeed, that it should be clear by now there’s some new tasty food bits that they aren’t yet munching on. Heck, friendfeed should be a major embarrassment to Google since that 14-person team has at least five Google superstars on it (the guy who came up with the idea for Google not to be evil started the company. That’s Paul Buchheit and he also ran the Gmail team. Also on the friendfeed team is the guy who ran the Google Talk team, the guy who ran Google Maps team, the designer for a whole bunch of Googley products, and the guy who ran the backend team on Gmail). Over at Facebook and Twitter I keep running into people who used to work at Google too.

And now Google’s own founders are admitting that they need to get into real time.

The ants are moving!

They have already made some significant moves recently you might have missed. First, they are now putting profiles onto the search pages. Here, search Google for “Robert Scoble” and look at the bottom of the page. See my picture and my profile? That’s Google making moves toward the real time and social webs. Big time moves.

Notice what else you see on that search for me: a Twitter profile is there. A friendfeed profile is there. What isn’t there? My Facebook profile. Even though I made it public, it isn’t there. Why is that? Is that Google heading toward troubles with the DOJ like Microsoft got in trouble when they competed unfairly with Netscape? Be careful there Larry and Sergey!

What other moves have Google been making? Friend Connect. This lets bloggers and businesses add a social network. Look for Google to expand this week on Friend Connect. You’ll see that this is a major source of food for Google’s ants to carry back to the mother ship. I’ve already added it to my blog and in about a week 511 people have added their faces to that component, despite the fact that it really doesn’t do much yet. Wait until there’s some real value there, you’ll see these numbers move up big time.

Other places Google will make big moves? In support of the open web. Open Social for applications. Already used on millions of profiles, Open Social is how Google will ship a new set of applications that are better integrated into mobile platforms (Google is on Apple’s iPhone’s front page, Facebook and Twitter are not and Google controls its own mobile platform in Android, too).

Add all this together, along with other fun demos you’ll see this week, and you’ll see that Google is making some pretty damn impressive moves. Is Google perfect? No. If it were it would have been earlier. It wouldn’t have killed Dodgeball and effectively scorned Jaiku, which enabled Twitter and friendfeed to happen. But now that enough of the ants are seeing that they need to move toward the source of new food, it’s a scary sight and one that will become obvious this week.

Let’s compare notes later in the week and see if I’m right about the Google anthill moves.

Glympse vs. Google Latitude in location sharing battle

If you look over to the right side of my blog you’ll see a Google Latitude component.

What does that do? It shares my location with you.

Why is that cool? Because now you’ll be able to watch as I head to Adobe’s offices to meet with the Flash team there this morning. You’ll also be able to see when I leave for New York later today and, hopefully, you’ll be able to see when I arrive in New York later tonight.

So?

I’ve found this to be a useful tool for my business. People can see when I’ll arrive places. I’ve used it a lot of times to meet up with people who are near me. Often those meetings happen on the fly. I see someone’s icon near where I am and I email or Twitter or call them and see if they wanna get together for coffee. It’s amazing how often they say yes.

Imagine if you were a business and had a fleet of trucks. You could see where they were located using this technology.

One thing, though, Google Latitude is almost unusable for me. It crashes all the time on my phone. See, they made some bad assumptions up front. Here’s why: their user testing showed that people really aren’t ready to share their location in public the way I am. Privacy is a HUGE concern to them.

This feedback was so consistent that they assumed no one would ever try to share with the world, the way I do. So they designed it to be used only with very small groups of people. For instance with your close family. I hear from the team that they didn’t test it with more than 100 friends (I already have more than three times that many, which causes it to crash).

That brings me to Glympse, which is launching this morning at the Where 2.0 Conference. Glympse goes the other way to solve that privacy problem: they put a time limit on it. So, now, you can send your boss, or even the public, a glimpse into your life and let people track you.

There’s a few things that are better about that approach. First, you don’t need to have Glympse on your PC to watch me drive toward your house (to really use Google Latitude we both need Latitude running). Second, since you know the Glympse will end in, say, two hours, you don’t get paranoid about privacy issues.

I wish I could do this for the public. There are times when I don’t want to share where I am with all of you. Sorry. Glympse does that better.

On the other hand, Google Latitude lets me see where a larger group of my friends is hanging out, which leads to those impromptu coffees which are very cool.

I wish both service would meld, because I like pieces of both approaches. Anyway, last night I uploaded a video demo I did with Glympse’s CEO, Bryan Trussel. Cool demo of Glympse.

Downsides to both services? The don’t work with all phones. I can run Latitude on my Nokia phone, but not my iPhone. Glympse is same, but is coming to iPhone soon.

So far I think Glympse’s approach is going to be better for most people. What do you think?

SXSW 2009 will be known as the “SMS & location explosion SXSW”

This week tons of people were asking me “what’s the ‘Twitter’ of this year’s SXSW conference. See, two years ago at SXSW Twitter exploded onto the scene.

Looking back at this year’s conference (pretty tough cause I partied a little too hard with my new friends at Rackspace) it’s clear that this year is going to be remembered for when location exploded onto the scene.

First, everyone’s iPhones didn’t work very well for the first two days of the conference. Turned out that AT&T’s network was overloaded. I met the guy who fixed much of that problem on Sunday (they doubled the network capacity and turned on some new wireless bandwidth). That reminded me of the “Twitter SXSW” when Twitter itself was slow and went down a few times during the show.

But, that’s not the reason why this will be remembered as the “SMS & location explosion SXSW.”

First, it’ll be all the talk about a new app that got its first hype here at SXSW: Foursquare. Techcrunch wrote that up today. What is it? It’s a social app that you report via SMS where you are and it uses that info to build a little game with your friends. Lots of people were talking about it.

When I visited Governor Rick Perry along with a couple of other bloggers Chris Brogan was watching me use Ourdoings to email photos in from my iPhone, which posts them to my friendfeed stream along with a map of where that photo was shot, and he said “why aren’t you using Pixelpipe?” That’s an iPhone app that lets you upload groups of photos when you find available bandwidth. He said it was very valuable to him at SXSW when the iPhone often had very little or no available bandwidth (inside the capital building while we were visiting the governor we had the same problem).

Another app that got some attention at SXSW was CONTXTS, which are mobile SMS business cards. Daniel Graf showed me this. He asked for my phone number, SMS’d that to a number that CONTXTS uses and instantly a note came to my phone with his contact info. Very cool and useful for networking at conferences.

Here, you can try it with my phone. It asked me to “TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO TXT SCOBLEIZER TO 50500.” Now you’ll see how it works and you’ll get my contact information sent back to you.

So, how about you? Did you see any cool location-based services used at SXSW for the first time? There were a ton, like Google Latitude, or Radar, from Tiny Pictures.

Why don’t we list the coolest ones here, or on my friendfeed link, which I’ll post shortly?

Did Adobe snub Apple with FlashPlayer 10, Palm Pre, and Development Fund announcements?

Just now Adobe announced lots of mobile phone news. More on that in a second. But what wasn’t announced?

No iPhone support for Flash yet.

What else was announced? FlashPlayer 10 will ship on the Palm Pre. I was briefed on the rest of this stuff last week and they were holding out on this news.

Now THAT is the way to poke Steve Jobs and crew in the eye. Apple has famously not put Flash on the iPhone, which keeps a lot of Web experiences from working.

There’s a TON of news, though, including a $10 million development fund. Here’s what the PR folks sent me from Adobe — I will be updating this post all night long with more news, so come back frequently and often.

UPDATE: Tons of other blogs are writing about this:
Venture Beat: Mobile Flash apps get better distribution, more money.

Press Release from Adobe: Adobe Announces New eBook and PDF Support for Mobile Devices.

Press Release from Adobe: Palm Latest Mobile Industry Leader to Join Open Screen Project.

Press Release from Adobe: Adobe Announces New Flash Lite Distributable Player.

More news on TechMeme (funny how other blogs totally missed the Palm Pre news).

Flash Player 10 for Smartphones
• Browser plug-in for smartphone-class devices with full desktop web compatibility and access to rich applications, interactive content and web videos.
• First operating systems expected to be supported: Android, Windows Mobile, and Nokia S60/Symbian.
• Flash Player 10 for Smartphones expected to be avail to OEMs: End of 2009; Devices expected in market: 2010

Flash Lite Momentum
• According to Strategy Analytics (Jan ‘09 Report), more than 1 billion devices shipped with Flash Lite by the end of Q1 ’09 – one year ahead of schedule. Additional 1.5 billion expected to ship within next 2 years.
• According to Strategy Analytics (Jan ‘09 Report), close to 40% of all new mobile phones and devices worldwide shipped with Flash Lite in ‘08. Also, Flash Lite shipments experienced a 100% year-over-year growth.

New Flash Lite Distributable Player
• Adobe Flash Lite Distributable Player is a new, over-the-air mobile runtime based on Flash Lite 3.1. Enables developers and content providers to create and directly distribute mobile apps.
• Player is automatically installed and updated as apps are downloaded. (WiMo and Nokia S60 first OSs to be supported)
• First step for direct distribution of mobile player; similar to the distribution of Flash Player on the desktop. Distributable Player launches as a beta in the U.S., Spain, Italy and India, and is supported by dozens of content aggregators and developers. (see separate quote sheet)
• Player is part of a larger solution for developers that includes Flash CS4, Device Central CS4 and a mobile packager.

Open Screen Project Fund
• Nokia and Adobe launch $10 million Open Screen Project Fund designed to help developers create apps and services for mobile phones, desktop and CE devices using Flash and AIR. The fund is an open fund with additional OSP partners expected to join.
• Funds are available immediately. (direct grant funding, no VC involvement) Developers are invited to submit concepts for apps that will be reviewed for how innovative the user experience and how robust the app is, and how well it exploits Flash and AIR capabilities. Developers retain all rights to their apps.

New Reader Mobile SDK
• New software development kit to enable OEMs to deliver mobile devices that can download, manage and display PDF content and eBooks. Supports reflowable PDF technology, Adobe content protection technology, and EPUB file format. Replaces Reader LE 2.5.
• Available today. Companies that announced plans to ship devices and apps in 2009 that integrate the technology include Bookeen, iRex Technologies, Lexcycle, Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision, Springs Designs and others. Sony already integrates the engine in the Sony Reader today.

Recommendations for the Twitter crowd: GoodRec

Quick, you’re at an awesome restaurant, want to tell everyone about it, but only have a mobile phone and don’t want to bang out a long review. How do you a quick review? GoodRec has the answer. They designed its service for the people who are used to telling the world everything in 140 characters on Twitter.

Here Goodrec’s CEO, Mihir Shah, gives me a demo of its just-released iPhone app and demonstrates why his recommendation service is better for lots of things than competitors like Yelp or Amazon’s reviews.

Google Making Powerful Moves

Google has been doing a lot of stuff for us lately. Last week Google shipped “Latitude” which lets you track your friends and lets them track you (at least if you have a phone that works with the service — my Nokia N95 worked, but my iPhone is not yet supported). I used it with Microsoft’s Jeff Sandquist last Thursday as I was meeting him for breakfast and he said he could see my icon moving closer to him and knew exactly when I would walk through the door for breakfast. I find that kind of technology pretty fun and useful. I know lots of other people are thinking “privacy problem” too, but Google lets you decide who gets to stalk you. In fact they designed it so that it would only work with your closest friends. I, of course, opened it up to the world, and quickly added more than 200 people. That promptly caused it to crash on starting up, which made it totally useless for me. The team wrote me and said they’ll fix that bug in next release.

Then, also last week those smart people at Google released eBooks onto iPhone. More than a million public domain books are now readable on your iPhone. That’s pretty cool, although I still can’t see reading long books on my iPhone. That’s why I ordered the Amazon Kindle 2.0. It’ll be interesting to compare the two, that’s for sure.

Yesterday Google announced that it is bringing power to the people and is making a bunch of services to track and manage electricity usage, both in your home and your business. That’s an effort that’s a little further out than the other stuff I’m talking about here, but will probably have a huge impact on our power bills as we get devices (and solar panels) that can use energy at more efficient and cost-effective times.

But the one thing that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of hype yet is already the most useful for me. Google now is syncing my calendar and my contacts onto my iPhone thanks to Google Sync. It would also work with Windows Mobile and a few other phones.

I loaded this up last night and it’s magical. No longer do I have to hook up my iPhone to sync up my calendars. I set it up, which was just a touch geeky, required going into my iPhone’s email settings and following some directions. It’s a bit scary, because they say your contacts will go away. They do, so make sure you have them backed up. But I trusted in the Google and within a few seconds I had all my contacts from Gmail and all my calendars from Google Calendar all synced up. I already had other ways of syncing up my Outlook with Gmail and Google Calendar. So, now my life is all synced up and I’m happy. You can see how it is going for other users over on friendfeed in this discussion about Google’s new sync.

Thank you Google for all the fun stuff. What are you going to release in the next week? :-)