Archives for category: chitchat

Although I have been owning an iPad for only four weeks now, I already experience a couple of changes in my reading behavior I find really interesting and worth sharing.

More means more
I usually carry all of my ebooks on my iPad and I find it very comforting knowing that carrying an additional book in my bag costs me exactly nothing in terms of size and weight. I don’t have to choose anymore before going on a trip or realizing that I was probably going to get through that book before hitting home again to select another on my shelf to bring along.

More resolute
If I start to read a book now I don’t really enjoy, I have become more resolute closing it and probably never looking at it again. In the past, whenever I found myself reading a chapter I did not enjoy, I was either working through that chapter or just skipping it. Either way, due to the fact that I was usually carrying only one book in my bags on business trips, I felt more inclined to work through that book. Not anymore. The iPad made it simple to carry all sorts of books with me at the same time, making it easy to match my mood.

On-screen reading
I remember vividly how people were despising having to read on a screen with 1024 x 768 pixels. I never quite got that argument since I was probably reading more on screen than in books ever since going through a computer science program at my university. And that volume hasn’t decreased with emails and PDFs at work. I just got so used to it that I don’t feel any disturbing side effects. And, by the way, the resolution is really sufficient for my taste.

And PDFs…
Being able to browse through presentations, legal documents or company filings on a larger screen than my iPhone is a relief. No more zooming (or pinching). And, again, I can carry as much as I want, receiving even more on the way due to the 3G capabilities of my iPad.

iBooks is currently my killer app as I am eagerly awaiting an app that enables me to comment in PDFs. The iPad has been such a smooth and welcoming experience, I don’t want to miss it anymore. And having tested a few of the new devices back at IFA, I must admit that I don’t see anyone being up to this user experience, yet.

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Diaspora, the project started by a few NYU comp-science undergrads, has been able to raise more than $200,000 through Kickstarter. What has been so amazing by this, is the fact that neither the pitch, nor the product description made a lot of sense to a lot of people (as is evident when you go through the comments).

What fascinates me are two things:
The way in which they were getting that money.
The amount of money these guys were able to get by coming to a relatively unknown platform (kickstarter).

The Message
As Simon Sinke pointed out so very eloquently in his TED talk, these guys were providing a message which was resonating with a lot of people: privacy and facebook’s ongoing issues with it. Most people still probably have no clue what it is these guys want to do or what benefits Diaspora is going to provide–aside from the fact that privacy is getting major attention. So, I guess this proves the point that these guys did not only address a growing pain but were also able to stimulate emotions in the people watching the talk from Eben Moglen that inspired them, reading about it in the news or just reading the headline on Kickstarter: Decentralize the web. To quote Simon here: it is far easier to ask people for something when they are emotionally hooked.

Kickstarter
The platform, through which they were able to collect their seed funding, was already gaining some traction (as is evident by the Google Trends graph) before Diaspora was showing up. However, through all this media attention and the great buzz the four NYUs created, Kickstarter has the potential to become more than what it was before. Let’s face it: the call for a smaller amount of early stage VC funds and the ability to start your company with minimal investment provides a perfect ground for what startups need: some little cash that would be way too unattractive to professional capital investors but maybe just a bit too much one average John Doe. I hope Kickstarter fills this void and excels to provide us all with what we need: more startups left and right.

I was recently reading this post on why web apps are supposed to be better than native desktop apps. To be quite frank, I was a bit startled by the argumentation. From my perspective, there are a couple of advantages, web apps have over native apps and will ultimately succeed.

Feedback Loop
Native applications are suffering from their obvious lack in insights into user behavior. Tracking every click in an app is vital to understand what users are doing or to see what really makes your app so popular or successful. It prevents you from dealing with feature creep. With web apps you can do fantastic things like A/B tests to run different versions for a certain time to see how people’s behavior changes. Sure, you can’t do all the things with Google Docs, but then again what features of Word are 95% of the users really using–and does it really make sense to keep developing and maintaining all those features?

Mobility
Only web apps can provide the convenience and the opportunity to truly provide mobility of your data. No matter if you are on your netbook somewhere on the road or like me right now, starting this blog post on your mobile phone, you might end up with different operating systems and hence different applications. Lucky you, if you have the same program on all your devices at hand. Switching, transferring, and sharing files between computers is such a tedious task that it seems natural that the next step is just to have the app itself in the cloud to modify them.

Maintainability: Programmers Rule
Like it or not, but programmers will drive this eco-system and provide the apps that are solving our most specific needs. The rise and speed of so many new languages and tools to provide new methods to create new web apps far outpaces those of traditional languages. And with very low learning curves, more and more people will be able to develop applications thus driving more and more innovation in this space and ultimately finding solutions to our daily problems.

Internet Everywhere
The internet with its sheer size and growth will continue to be the ultimate, most liberal market place in the world and continue to drive more people to it. Browsers have become the one platform you will always be able to count on. Sure, there are differences between those available, but they present a much larger market to address and thus provide more and easier access to potentially new users and revenue.

Admittedly, there will still be areas web apps will take longer to penetrate. Graphics programs come to mind but who thought that after 10 years of the first Quake 3 we might see an implementation of a this game running in the browser?

With the latest news from AdMob about the rise of web traffic generated by Android phones, people are starting to talk about the shift so many are eagerly expecting, dwarfing Apple’s dominance.

However, I still believe there is third dimension that is highly disregarded in all of this clutter of metrics and stats: the money.

It’s About Monetization
As Jeff Smith of Smule puts it in most simple words: “Show me the money.” Admittedly, he was referring to the even less competitive Ovi Store from Nokia. However, he was touching probably the most important piece of the puzzle: none of the other stores have generated as much revenue from all of these apps as Apple did.

Make It Easy For Users
For all that Apple does wrong, it has undoubtedly brought the mobile internet to the masses with its iPhone. It is easy to use, has a built-in system that makes it easy to use your credit card to make purchases on iTunes and the App Store. Google is regarded as liberating this market but favors its Checkout. As I wrote earlier, Google’s interest is to bring people to the internet. I think it would be great to see them enabling people to use alternatives people are already used to (e.g. PayPal, etc.).

Create A Competitive Space
Apple’s App Store uses metrics of the last 4 days to calculate its top downloaded, top purchased lists. Talking to startups, I learned that once your app is appearing on any of these lists, your downloads increase dramatically due to the increased visibility.
Google on the other hand is ranking apps by their total downloads to date. This is a pretty static approach which makes it very hard for newcomers to gain traction and use this tool to gain visibility. Hence, what Google is missing is a space that stirs downloads of newly created apps and makes it hard for old apps to remain in top spots for too long.

Ease The Pain For Developers
The beauty of Apple’s simplistic iPhone platform is its equality. There is only one screen resolution for both the iPhone and the iPod Touch. With the emergence of the iPad we have finally seen a higher resolution and rumor has it that with the upcoming fourth generation iPhone we will see another higher resolution device.
But this is nothing to the woes developers have to go through when they want to get their app running on most of the Android phones available out there. I have been hearing about rendering problems on different devices from many startups developing for this platform. And with Motorola and HTC customizing Android more and more, I am doubting that this will ameliorate in the forseeable future.
To some extent this seems all too familiar to me with what Windows did with its mobile platform over the last couple of years.

I admit that I can be wrong about my predictions here. And I wish that competition would arise as this usually creates a better outcome for all of us users and developers. But as network effects may start to kick in and apps enjoying some great popularity, any stats about web usage are second to where the real money remains and hence apps on Apple’s platform will remain the only way to go for developers with ambitions to cash in on their apps.

This morning, this news struck me:

Google Confirms Free Turn-by-Turn Directions  Coming to iPhone

Great, so Google releases one of the most unique and valuable application features to the iPhone. But why would it do that if this would have been a perfect selling point for Android devices? This proves my fears that Google could abandon Android at any time since they don’t really care about it.

Google Is An Advertising Machine
Unlike Apple, Google still makes the vast majority of its revenue with ads (something around 95% of the total $24 billion in revenue in 2009). It’s what Google does better than any of its competitors. But since advertising makes up such a large amount of their revenue, it is natural that anything else is just considered minor and less important.

Google Wants To Expand The Market For Ads
The reason Google gives away so many things for free (including the Android OS) is because with every additional person using the internet, the total addressable market for Google grows. As it is focusing on ads, any additional person using search is a potential click and in return driving new advertisers to their site.

Google Uses Android To Shake Up Competition
For this reason I suspect Google’s primary interest is showing competition how to design a phone and operating system that would enable people to use the mobile internet. For Google location search has become of primary interest. That’s why it launched a satellite, expanded maps and finally brings it to all devices. But although this all costs several millions, it is minor to what Google can expect to generate in the long run from this data. And again, because every additional user is a potential click and drives more advertisers to its site, it can give away such applications for free.

For Apple, The iPhone Is Strategic – For Google, Android Is NOT
Since Google does care more about opening up the market than about the success of it’s own operating system, it does not regard Android as a strategic asset. Sure, it was positioned well, being available on several devices. However, as long as Google is available on most of the market leader’s phones, it couldn’t care less about Android. As I pointed out before: Android itself doesn’t generate one dollar of revenue for Google. However, every iPhone Apple sells is direct revenue that goes to its income statement. Therefore Apple needs to pay way more attention to what is happening to and around its phone. But that also reassures me that they will keep on making decisions that will drive sales. And if people don’t like it anymore, Apple is in deep trouble. In case you had any doubts how big the iPhone really is for Apple, see this graph.