I, for one, welcome the Google Self Driving Car

The operating percent of a car will go from 4% to that 96%. But back to my leading statement: there are unintended consequences. Parked cars will be a relic from the past. What happens to car insurance prices if a driver is no longer part of the equation? And if cars are receiving 20 times more actual use, that would imply that there would be 20 times less cars sold.[1] This is the kind of disruptive change that can reshape the automotive industry. The recent GM/Chrysler bailout may have been for naught.[3]

I can’t wait to get one of these.

The Apple iPad – Turn Ons and Turn Offs

I’d be a bad parent to throw the iPad into the same category as one of my kids, but I do love it.Yes, it has only been a week and I’m sure that I’ll find some of the flaws that the anti-iPadders are talking about, but thus far, they have yet to materialize.So, in the spirit of a Playboy centerfold… Turn On’s:

  • Yes. It turns on instantly.  Just like my phone and my MacBook when I don’t shut it down.  I simply push the button and I’m online.  It is the way that computers should be.  The fact that people have to wait 5-minutes for Windows to boot up in 2010 is an embarrassment to the human race.
  • The Kindle – The Kindle on the iPad just rocks.  Some people complain about the glare, but I spent most of this past weekend on the beach reading off of it and it was fine.  I didn’t have to reposition my chair, didn’t have to move around or tilt it in an uncomfortable way.  Yes, there was a glare, but not nearly as bad as I get on a laptop.
  • The Kindle II – Best practice – if the white background hurts your eyes (it does mine) switch to black background with white text.  Eyes all better.
  • Family time – Because of the form factor, it is a great family game machine.  I kill zombies with my son and serve diners with my daughter.  We curl up on the couch together and play.  I busted out Pictionary on it the other night and all four of us spent about 45 minutes drawing and guessing and had a blast.  There is a version of Sorry I’m aching to try.
  • Video – Because it is true HD, I find that I’m watching more video (not Hulu yet, though) on it than on my laptop.  We are a one TV family and I like that while my wife watches television, I can watch quality video on the iPad in another room. Check out ‘The Raven‘ for a perfect example.
  • iPhone apps work – this is really nice.
  • Bedtime stories – There are some amazing kids books out there and it is cool, especially Alice in Wonderland, how they work.  I hope more come out.
  • Google Maps – It is generally a cool application, but having the iPad on the counter and looking at a map makes me feel like a modern day Magellan.
  • Netflix – Hell yes. Watch instantly kills on the iPad.
  • BoingBoing – They’ve built a really nice interface specifically for the iPad.

Turn Off’s

  • Video – Apple needs to get over this petty squabble with Adobe and support Flash. Apple is asking all web developers to support a different video standard and that is kind of dumb.  Hulu is coming out with a premium version soon that will support the iPad.  That will be nice to see.
  • Weight – Despite the form factor, it is a bit heavier than I was expecting.  Not that it weighs a ton, but compared to a Kindle, it is different.
  • No Social Books – My big vision for Kindle / iPad / etc. is that they build a social service that allows me to see how other people mark up their books.  Brad Feld has a great book shelf and actually does a good job sharing what he reads.  Other people I follow, not so much.  I’d love to not only see what they are reading, but also see their mark ups and notes.  I’d pay a bunch for that service. Shelfari gets kind of there, but I’d like to see what people I follow jot down in the notes.
  • Publishers aren’t quite there yet – I saw the video for Mygazines and that is what pushed me over the edge to buy an iPad.  Their content isn’t for me, but I love their vision and I hope that other publishers get on board with similar types of services.  I’d really like to see Golf Digest put out an iPad edition that has tight integration and video.
  • Fragility – Mabye it is because I’ve had my iPhone for a long time and I’m used to it. Maybe it is because my iPhone has a little condom it sits in. For whatever reason, I don’t think of my iPhone as that fragile.  The iPad on the other hand, I feel like I’m carrying around a precious plate of glass. I’m worried that if it drops, if it lays wrong in my bag, if I stare at it the wrong way, It will break. Hopefully that will go away.
  • iTunes – I’ve always felt that for managing music, iTunes was okay.  Add Podcasts, books and videos and it starts to suck.  Add another profile or another device and it becomes totally worthless.  I have things on my phone that I don’t want on my iPad and vice versa.  It should be easier to manage these profiles independently of one another.  Right now the experience fails huge.
  • App Splurge – One thing I didn’t account for was the limited number of free iPad apps.  As soon as I got it home, I had to spend $50 on books and apps.  Not the end of the world, but at ~10% the purchase price, it was a surprise.
  • Fingerprints…

Unknowns

  • Video – I’ve heard that there is a pretty nice VGA / HDMI cable that you can hook to your television, but I’ve got no experience with it. It would be cool to see. It would be cool to see this used as a presentation device too and I’m sure that at Web 2.0 next month, it will be.
  • Business apps – I like having access to the information for work, but I haven’t had the opportunity to check it too frequently yet.  Right now, I’m still rocking 3-screens so anything too important, I use my laptop.
  • 3G – I opted not to get 3G.  For one, I’d rather eat broken glass than give more money to AT&T.  Second, I’m rarely in a spot where 3G works and wi-fi isn’t available. As more restaurants and cities make it available, the need for 3G will dwindle.

I’m still very much in the honeymoon phase with my iPad, but thus far, I really love it. I ended up with the 64GB one because it was all they had. I’m not sure how I’ll fill that up yet as I don’t even have music or movies installed yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a way. I maxed my phone out pretty quickly.Got questions? Got suggestions on how I can better use my iPad?  Please leave comments or drop me an email.

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I’m The Mayor of Your House – #crime

At the end of the year, I read Michael Fertik’s great post, 2010: The Year of Atomic Branding on my friend Jennifer Leggio’s blog. I file this under ‘scary – interesting’ and I thought that was the end of it.

A couple of weeks later, I’m in the city for the weekend with my family. We had just trudged through the rain and were sitting in the bar of the St. Francis. The kids having hot chocolate, me having a martini and I checked in on Foursquare. The act of checking in on Foursquare when I’m with my family delights my kids because they like to know the Mayor of places. The act of checking in on Foursquare pisses my wife off to no end and has been the cause of many a shopping spree.

This time, she simply said “So now everyone that follows you knows that we aren’t at home and we are over an hour away. How many people follow you and how much do you trust them not to rob us?’ I wish she would have stopped there, but of course, she follows that up with “How often do you check in, telling the world that you aren’t home, but maybe me and the kids are?”

Flashback to Michael Fertik’s article, the potential threat of oversharing on social networks.

Of course this got me thinking about how safe location based social networks are. How vulnerable are we?

I’ve heard interesting stories about people & stalkers and being dumped or being fired because of FourSquare. I haven’t heard about people being robbed. Yet.

A week or so later, I did a simple check to see how vulnerable we really are. I did a quick search for people in San Francisco sharing their status on Twitter and checked in on FourSquare or Gowalla. It’s a simple query using Twitter’s advanced search capability.

What I found amazed me. People checked in all over the place. FourSquare was living up to it’s reputation. However, an easy cross check from Twitter – where people tend to put their full name and where they live, with WhitePages.com let me easily figure out where people lived. I don’t mean just the city, but also their exact address and even a nice little Google Map with directions to get there.

Of course, not everyone is easy to find on WhitePages.com, but my quick little informal experiment yielded about a 25% hit rate. I got freaked out. No more FourSquare for me. In the old days, burglars would prowl around neighborhoods looking for empty houses.  Today, they simply need to search for affluent neighborhoods and look for people who have checked in at places more than a few hours away.  The movie theater for example.

I took it one step further.  Here is a feed for people who have checked in or are posting “I’m at” the key phrase for both Gowalla and FourSquare.  When people say where they are, they also say where they aren’t (home, for example).

Glad I have an alarm system. How long until someone really malicious does a nice little Twitter / WhitePages mash-up?

Photo by Johnny Grim.

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What’s With All The Chatter?

There seems to be a trend happening in software / technology these days. We’ve gotten way out of control announcing products way before they are baked in an attempt to generate press and build FUD in a way that didn’t happen just a few years ago.Microsoft is guilty, announcing planned features in SharePoint 2010 almost a year before it is scheduled to ship.  Google announced Wave 2 months before developers could get their hands on it and who knows when it will be publicly available.  Today, Salesforce.com announced Chatter, a social integration tool that will turn water to wine and cram 10 pounds of productivity into a 5 pound bag. At least according to Marc Benioff during his keynote today. The downside of this miracle cure is that, like SP10 and Wave, it won’t be available until some undefined date way in the future.I’ve been hearing rumors about SFDC doing something cool around enterprise collaboration for a few weeks. I have to admit, my speculation was that they were going to announce a partnership to integrate with Google Wave.  The first announcements made Chatter sound like it was simple integration / Twitter-esque clone built on top of SFDC.After reading Charlene Li’s post, though, I’m intrigued about where this will go.  Some of her key points were:

Enterprise apps get social–and smart. This is more than merely integrating Twitter-like functionality into CRM and creating “social CRM”. This is a rethink and elevation of how information flows around an organization, and where it lives. The elevation of deals to be on the same level as people is significant — in every other social platform, people reign supreme and the world pivots around them. Look for social CRM providers like Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and many others to open up their platforms as well.

And:

This means your enterprise app will be “adopting” social technologies, moving away from sending notifications via email (and cluttering up your inbox) and instead, sending updates just like everyone else on your team into the news stream.  Essentially, your enterprise app will be “tweeting”, with it’s own “profile” and Chatter updates aggregated into one place.

This is pretty interesting and something that we’ve been working on for sometime at Socialtext.  On the one hand, SFDC will be a formidable competitor in the market place.  On the other, they are still 5 – 8 months from delivering anything in the best of circumstances.Also, there is still a level of acceptance that will need to be overcome.  Many of the CIO’s that I speak with are still skeptical of having tons of data in the cloud.  Salesforce brags that in 2011, 25% of apps will be in the cloud.  Simple math, but that means that 3/4 will still be on premise.  And let’s face it, most sales reps don’t use SFDC the way they should so paying $50 a month for a glorified contact management system beats hell out of a seven figure Siebel implementation.  It will be interesting to see what kind of acceptance having deal status and team interactions in the cloud will get. From what I’ve seen, it is cool if a small group is doing it, but when a big enough contingent of employees has conversations in the cloud, it makes everyone nervous.The second question that I have is around the level of integration.  They are currently promising a pie in the sky picture of this integration where everything is updating everything, but they haven’t explained anything at all about which apps this will work with (outside Salesforce) and what it won’t (assuming Oracle) nor have they gone into the security of having certain things shared and others not.  Don’t get me started on how this will map to a company’s archiving policy.Selling social software is hard.  I’ve often said that this is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had.  I’m excited about SFDC getting into the market.  I love the competition and it will raise the level of customer acceptance to another level. It’s another endorsement. And we could all use that.Other posts about Chatter:

What do you think? Will Chatter change the way you work, will it be a blip on your radar or will it just be mindless chatter? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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Come On People, The NewsCorp Announcement Isn’t the End of Google

It was with much brouhaha today Rupert Murdoch explained that he was going to pull NewsCorp from the Google search spiders.  This of course is interesting, but I hardly think that it spells the end of Google and I believe that the impact on NewsCorp will be significantly more negative.The general sense is easy to comprehend, NewsCorp owns the content.  Google is spidering it and sending people there for free.  Obviously, NewsCorp is in business to make money, but wants to make more.  Journalists at the Wall Street Journal aren’t free.So I get it, but I also get that Google drives more traffic than anyone on the planet right now and I’d suspect that it would be better to get that traffic than not, but what do I know.  Since they didn’t ask me, I’ll offer my suggestion – offer 1/2 the article as a teaser and a micropayment for the remainder.  This leads to the micropayment issue not being resolved, but hey, we are a race of short term thinkers.I don’t think that, in Jason Calacanis‘ view point, that this is the most important story of the year. Nor do I believe that this is going to impact Google in the least.  I’m just guessing right now, but looking Compete, I only see 14M monthly unique visitors to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the Times.  14 million uniques.  Google gets 145M uniques per month, which is where Jason probably got the 10%.But I’d suggest that people that go to sites that are owned by News Corp, go there directly more often than not, and not through search.  If I want to find out what is going on in San Jose, I don’t go to Google and search for it, I’ve been trained over the past 15 years to go to MercuryNews.  Likewise, if I’m looking for financial information (and want to get really good writing), I don’t search for it, I go to Wall Street Journal.  I’d guess I’m not alone in this.Jason does paint a great picture of this playing out though, with Microsoft’s Bing coming in to serve NewsCorp content as a premium:

So, for a moment, imagine a world where Bing could say in their TV commercials:“Want to search the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and 3,894 other newspapers and magazine?”“Well, then don’t go to Google because they don’t have them!”“Go to Bing, home of quality content you can trust!”

He also asks 3 pretty good questions about this rejection of Google and a potential partnership with Bing.  Here they are with my answers:a) If 1,000 major publications pursued this strategy, would it work? The vast majority of the 1,000 major publications have completely missed the bus when it comes to online strategy.  I have a really hard time believing that they could pull themselves out of their scotches and build a vision for this type of collusion and then execute on this.  By the time that they are able to even see this happening, 50% of them will either be acquired or will have gone out of business.b) If you would only search the top 1,000 newspapers and magazines on Bing, would you use it? How often? No.  I get my local news from 1 news source (Mercury News) mentioned above and I get my national news from CNN or WSJ, or NYTimes or something with a bit more credibility.  Everything else comes from blogs and citizen journalism.  At some point, the line between blogs and major news outlets will change, but that is a different story.c) What is the percentage chance this will happen (I need a #), and why? Less than 10%.  First off, Rupert Murdoch views this as a competitive advantage.  Other news outlets will see this as a similar strategy, but won’t go the way of NewsCorp and may look for other outlets for their online distribution.  Second, there is no way that the logistics of this could be managed.  Getting 1,000 (or some other large number) organizations to work together is damn near impossible.  Finally, I think that organizations would rather figure out a way to monetize their content more effectively based on Google sending traffic, rather than cut off their noses to spite their face.What do you think? Leave me a comment and tell me if I’m nuts or inline with this thinking.Here is the video to learn more:


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5 Reasons That Google ChromeOS Should Focus on SMB, not the Enterprise (at first)

As always, Sameer Patel has a great post on Enterprise 2.0 and the impact that Google’s announced, but still vaporous, operating system.  He even paints a fantastic picture of what having Google Chrome OS would / could look like in the enterprise:

Google packages up a Netbook  with ChromeOS, Google Apps, Umbrella Analytics, Google Gears and and Wave-enabled Enterprise 2.0 capabilities. The full enchilada along with a developer platform to enable customization for specific use cases in the enterprise. Now that’s a software distribution model that in theory can give SharePoint bundled with Exchange, a serious run for its money. And that also speeds up commoditization of Enterprise 2.0 solutions.

Which would be awesome! But again, Google is talking about 2010.  We know that Google apps stay in beta for about a millennium, so assume that Chrome OS is actually ready for prime-time in mid-2011. Sprinkle some Google Wave on that, which also won’t be ready until 2010ish, and all of a sudden we are talking about stuff that is 2 years out.  Cool stuff, but so are flying cars.  No enterprise is investing in Google Chrome OS or Wave until late 2011.Flip the equation on it’s head though and rather than focus on enterprises, focus on absolutely owning SMB.  If you have less than 50 employees, Chrome OS, with the apps package that Sameer laid out, is a no-brainer.

  1. With self-service, SMB is a much easier market to penetrate. Small businesses don’t have large IT departments if they have any IT department at all. Really small businesses are just a few folks trying to deliver a service that they are good at and don’t want to have to deal with hiring some guy at $100 an hour to ensure that the drivers on their XP system work with the new color printer that they just got.  Small businesses don’t care if a service is in the endless Google beta cycle.  They want to know if it works? Is it always available? Is it relatively secure? Can I afford it?
  2. Google Checkout and Payment Systems are already there. Google has the payment system figured out. Buying this stuff will be insanely easy.  While at the same time being able to provide Checkout to a wide number of small businesses to help modify their payment system out of the box. This could be a huge thorn in the side of PayPal.
  3. Open Source will create an abundance of apps. While it will take forever for the enterprise to bring ChromeOS on board, because it is open source, there will be a ton of applications for SMB right out the gate. Think about Google Forms, Google SFM, Google Finance, Google Tax, the list goes on and on.  Companies like DreamFactory will make a bunch of easily ported applications and development tools.  Think of iPhone apps, but with more power.  Go into the Chrome Store (like Force.com), find your apps, order them and pay via Google Checkout and they are already running.  Again, keep it simple for the small business owner.
  4. SMB doesn’t care about beta – I mentioned it above, but most people recognize that Google beta and other beta aren’t the same thing.  SMB owners want their machines to boot up, they want to be able to access their apps, they want their data to be there.  If GMail’s beta period is any indication to the performance of ChromeOS in beta, there won’t be any issues at all.
  5. Google can connect SMB’s together via Wave or Orkut. It’s been amazing that MSFT hasn’t figured it out yet.  If you own the OS, you should own the social network.  Xobni recognizes that the best social network is in your inbox, but imagine being able to easily connect to other like businesses.  How powerful would it be if auto body repair shops were able to connect to other auto body repair shops to share ideas, trade parts, develop joint marketing plans or make referrals?

It’s a long way out, but it was a big announcement this morning.  I don’t know if it was a nuclear bomb, as TechCrunch called it, is quite right, but it certainly was big and will be a thorn in Redmond’s side for the next 18 months.

YHOO + MSFT: Did You Hear?

I’ve been thinking about MSFT & YHOO ever since Steve Souders went to Google about a month ago. Not so much in regards to an acquisition, but for what MSFT did to Borland during my first year there back in 1996 (I’m old).If you aren’t familiar with the history, during the battles between Visual Basic (MSFT) and Delphi (Borland), MSFT recruited away 30 members of the Delphi development team, including Paul Gross and Anders Hejlsberg, essentially killing Delphi and with it, Borland. MSFT threw obscene amounts of money at the Borland Delphi team. Literally, tens of millions of dollars.Why wouldn’t MSFT & GOOG do the same thing? Why not just identify a few dozen of the key people within the company, throw a ton of money at them and kill YHOO from the inside? Facebook did it to the west coast sales team a few years ago. Why not keep that going?  It would be cheaper than doing an acquisition.Then I started thinking about the old Bill Gates spam that came out in the early days. Remember that?  If you forwarded an email, Bill Gates would give you a few dollars for each person you sent it to because he was tracking some new email service?For $45 billion, MSFT just paid about $55 per user for YHOO’s 800 million users. MSFT may have been able to extend an offer to pay key users $100 to migrate their usage to MSN and generate some pre-defined number of page views. They would have still paid out a bunch of money, but it would have been far less than the $45B that they are paying for YHOO and they would have killed YHOO, possibly making them more intimidating to GOOG (maybe). It also would have gotten users on MSN faster than the integration will happen.Alas, Ballmer didn’t call me for guidance and selfishly announced the acquisition before I could offer my two cents. Two of the more perfect metaphors that I’ve heard are ‘two elephants mating’ (Paul Kedrosky) and ‘Tying the Titanic to the iceberg’ (Andy Baio).The problem that YHOO has faced, with few exceptions (Flickr, MyBlogLog, Upcoming), for at least a couple of years is that YHOO needs to pander to the lowest common denominator. YHOO needs to make 800 million people come back to their pages on a regular basis.  Not an easy task, but it is hard to release services that are unique and innovative that 800 million people will adopt (Twitter is awesome, but only has 800K users).  In other words, YHOO has become the Wal-Mart of the internet.There is nothing wrong with being Wal-Mart mind you.  Wal-Mart is a big, consistently profitable company, but don’t expect the next big thing to come out of it. The company will be too conservative or too slow.In the end, the MSFT acquisition of YHOO will go through.  The integration of 3 different ad plaforms (YHOO, RightMedia & MSN) will take a really long time.  This will frustrate advertisers who will migrate to GOOG (for contextual) and Facebook (for display).   The really good people within YHOO (the people they should have targeted in the first place), will get frustrated with the stock price, the direction of the integration and the idea of working for ‘the man’.If there is a negative impact for my friends, I’ll be bummed.  They are smart, they will land on their feet.  I’ll be more disappointed if the YHOO services that are really interesting, like Flickr, like MyBlogLog, like the stuff coming out of Brickhouse, gets mitigated to the back burner in favor of less exciting services that pander to the masses.

YHOO + MSFT: Did You Hear?

I’ve been thinking about MSFT & YHOO ever since Steve Souders went to Google about a month ago. Not so much in regards to an acquisition, but for what MSFT did to Borland during my first year there back in 1996 (I’m old).

If you aren’t familiar with the history, during the battles between Visual Basic (MSFT) and Delphi (Borland), MSFT recruited away 30 members of the Delphi development team, including Paul Gross and Anders Hejlsberg, essentially killing Delphi and with it, Borland. MSFT threw obscene amounts of money at the Borland Delphi team. Literally, tens of millions of dollars.

Why wouldn’t MSFT & GOOG do the same thing? Why not just identify a few dozen of the key people within the company, throw a ton of money at them and kill YHOO from the inside? Facebook did it to the west coast sales team a few years ago. Why not keep that going?  It would be cheaper than doing an acquisition.

Then I started thinking about the old Bill Gates spam that came out in the early days. Remember that?  If you forwarded an email, Bill Gates would give you a few dollars for each person you sent it to because he was tracking some new email service?

For $45 billion, MSFT just paid about $55 per user for YHOO’s 800 million users. MSFT may have been able to extend an offer to pay key users $100 to migrate their usage to MSN and generate some pre-defined number of page views. They would have still paid out a bunch of money, but it would have been far less than the $45B that they are paying for YHOO and they would have killed YHOO, possibly making them more intimidating to GOOG (maybe). It also would have gotten users on MSN faster than the integration will happen.

Alas, Ballmer didn’t call me for guidance and selfishly announced the acquisition before I could offer my two cents. Two of the more perfect metaphors that I’ve heard are ‘two elephants mating’ (Paul Kedrosky) and ‘Tying the Titanic to the iceberg’ (Andy Baio).

The problem that YHOO has faced, with few exceptions (Flickr, MyBlogLog, Upcoming), for at least a couple of years is that YHOO needs to pander to the lowest common denominator. YHOO needs to make 800 million people come back to their pages on a regular basis.  Not an easy task, but it is hard to release services that are unique and innovative that 800 million people will adopt (Twitter is awesome, but only has 800K users).  In other words, YHOO has become the Wal-Mart of the internet.

There is nothing wrong with being Wal-Mart mind you.  Wal-Mart is a big, consistently profitable company, but don’t expect the next big thing to come out of it. The company will be too conservative or too slow.

In the end, the MSFT acquisition of YHOO will go through.  The integration of 3 different ad plaforms (YHOO, RightMedia & MSN) will take a really long time.  This will frustrate advertisers who will migrate to GOOG (for contextual) and Facebook (for display).   The really good people within YHOO (the people they should have targeted in the first place), will get frustrated with the stock price, the direction of the integration and the idea of working for ‘the man’.

If there is a negative impact for my friends, I’ll be bummed.  They are smart, they will land on their feet.  I’ll be more disappointed if the YHOO services that are really interesting, like Flickr, like MyBlogLog, like the stuff coming out of Brickhouse, gets mitigated to the back burner in favor of less exciting services that pander to the masses.