The title is a bit dramatic after going through one of their editors, but basically Microsoft is really kind of silently mounting a solid standing in the living room by battling on two fronts, one direct to consumers with Xbox, the other via the service providers and Mediaroom.
Getting around to some CES posts finally after 4 days of non stop Vegas action. My first CES post will be about the Palm Pre which is probably number 1 or 2 on the list of exiciting things introduced at the show. Lets get to it.
First, let me say that I have two friends at Palm, one on the hardware team, one on the software, and they have been uber jazzed on the device and OS for the past 6 months. They are not the type of people to get over exicited about technology or “drink the kool-aid”, so I knew what they have been working on has to have been something worthwhile to the marketplace. After visiting the Palm meeting room on thursday for some experience with the device the results actually exceed my expectations.
I have been working with wireless technology since 1999 on the application side. I wouldn’t go as far as Scoble dramatics saying the Pre made me cry, lets just say it gave me goose bumps and made me happy I have been holding out for purchasing a new device even though I am not the biggest Sprint fan.
You could tell the Apple influence from Rubenstein with the invite only meeting room that was decked out and designed very nicely to provide a complete experience down to the wood panels they used on the base of the overhead projectors.
They had four demo stations set up with overhead projectors outputing to TV’s. I took some video and pictures of various pieces that stuck out most and are posting them here.
First up is a demo of the contact management/usage experience. The way they are trying to include social type functionality and represent a single contact with data points from various inputs (demo shows phone, outlook, facebook) is a nice touch:
The next piece that stuck out was the calendar. Following suit with the contacts management you can manage and view calendar items from various inputs (demo shows phone, outlook, google). The user experience is very well thought out. They know they provide a somewhat smaller screen so they created an “accordian view” for calendar space that is not occupied with any items:
In the final video you see some general user experience shots including the fantastic ribbon feature from the gesture feature. The addition of touch/gesture from the bar below the display is a great new introduction of usabitlity for the handset market:
Again, some follow up posts on things Palm needs to do to step it up on for their WebOS but while I am still on cloud 9 with the first experience let me touch on the things that stand out and what makes it dificult for all the other players:
First off I am not going to include Symbian, Windows or Linux Mobile, or any homegrown OS’s here.
I don’t mean to be mean, but between the idiots online and two gentlemen I experienced in the Palm meeting room who said Palm should have chosen Perl for their app creation people are off their rockers if they think developers won’t flock to this. The MAIN thing they need to worry about is getting the devices and OS in front of people. They still haven’t mentioned other devices that might come out in the first year OR if they will provide the OS to other CE manufacturers. If any sort of traction is gained thousands of apps will be created is the shortest timeframe compared to Apple and Android. Again.., sorry for calling people idiots, but anyone who compares programming Java or Objective C to html/js/css should not comment about anything engineering related ever again.
The Apple fan boys can talk smack all they want but the iPhone, besides being fantastic, IS a large device. I long for the iPhone Nano.., anything that is about 20% smaller than the current device. Palm has solved this with the Pre by having a smaller device, full touch screen and the slide out key pad to satisfy the RIM fan boys.
Reasons why Apple should be worried:
1) Full touch screen and slide down keyboard. Apple wont go there. RIM, Android phones and Palm own this combo. You can say it doesnt matter but any device smaller than an iPhone makes all softkeys tough to work with, just look at the new LG devices.
2) Applications running in the background. Apple better get on this quick. Android and the rest do it. Becuase the WebOS is entirely browser based every app is esentially run as a tab or a page, thus allowing them to run a large number of apps concurrently while maintaining performance.
3) User Experience and design. For once Apple has been trumped by someone on these items. The the gesture feature and card experience, not to mention the Touchstone charger (it is awesome) are a step up. Even if Apple releases new updates to software and hardware before the Pre comes out that match this (and they wont), they will be branded as copiers.
4) SDK cannot compete except for 3D graphics and games. Some might argue, but I dont think this is too big a deal right now when it comes to “the masses”.
Reasons why Google should be worried:
1) Palm, like Apple currently owns the stack end to end making it impossible for others to fully compete. By owning the hardware and software the user experience can rise to a whole new level as evident with Microsoft announcing this week they are going to cut out a good amount Windows Mobile devices to limit the number of CE companies they have to work with.
2) The experience and smoothness is just plain better. I have used all three devices (Pre, iPhone, G1) and the G1 is by far the worst experience. The animations are pretty slow and the initial browser is shite. Android runs multiple apps at the same time but again a slight slowness/lagging in the experience blows.
3) Again, the SDK cannot compete given a solid deployment of WebOS units.
Ok.., enough Palm fan boy action for now. I have other posts to write before getting to the things I DONT like about the Pre and WebOS as well as stuff they better include in the SDK.
The blogosphere has been abuzz the past 24 hours with the much awaited luanch of MySpace music. This event is quite a momentus occasion for the industry as the majors go all in to embrace the free streaming, social network scene in hopes that ad supported free streams and purchasing of individual sons, ringtones, and other merchandising will help foot the bill.
EMI and most of the indies were late to the game in getting officially involved so they are still in the process of uploading their music for listening.., but its coming as I am typign this.
There are still a couple major business decisions to figure out and some kinks.., two most notables is support for outside the U.S. and allowing users to post their playlists on other sites.., or as the industry would view it, syndication.
It behooves MySpace to get the syndication topic solved right away and follow up with outside U.S. support.
They are also planning on adding ticket and merchandise sales down the road to add some more change in their pockets…, sounds like this will be coming sometime next year.., my guess is around the time the summer concert series is getting into full swing.
Supposedly because of all the majors being involved, and owning around an estimated 40% take in new venture, they have waved the typical 1 cent per stream fee. This is a HUGE competitive advantage over anyone else streaming music online.., and possibly will be investigated over time as anti-competitive. Pandora’s recent woes with streaming cost are a perfect example of how big a deal this is.
On the music purchasing side of things they will be selling ringtones through Jamster (sister company), and outsourcing the sales of full songs to Amazon.., watch out iTunes.., I look for Amazon to catch up to Apple in sales volumes pretty quickly over the next 18 months.
During Yahoo!’s Hack Day event one of the sessions covered their mobile tools for developers and specifically Blueprint.
Blueprint was born out of Yahoo!’s OneConnect efforts. For those unfamiliar with OneConnect it is a fantastic mobile app that runs on many evices and has an open framework that third parties can piggy back on and install themselves as widgets on a users OneConnect setup. Some apps of note are last.fm, ebay, wikipedia, etc.
OneConnect is pretty good, but falls short for those developers that really want to own the user experience and not just sit in as a widget…., this is where Blueprint comes into play.
BluePrint is a huge mobile play for Yahoo! This is really where they set themselves apart in the mobile space from the rest of the big players. Where Microsoft and Google are playing mostly on OS side of things to get developers involved, Yahoo! wants to own the dev relationship across all handsets and OS’s.
BluePrint has two main components to it.., one that is pretty ready for primetime.., another that needs some more time to bake going into the end of the year.
The first part that is ready for primetime is the mobile website BluePrint server. Yahoo! has created a proxy server for rendering content and apps into mobile friendly sites. When a user requests a mobile page from you, your site passes all of the content and, buttons, menus, etc in the BluePrint XML markup to the Yahoo! proxy. The proxy then determines which handset is requesting and renders the page accordingly.
This is a pretty handy service for those devers out there whom do not want to get too into mobile development while still providing their users with a nicely designed and functioning mobile view into their property.
The second part of BluePrint.., that I am really excited about, but still needs some baking.., is their BluePrint platform for this client applications. Yahoo! is throwing their hat in the ring with the rest of the mobile platform translation libraries to provide a one stop shop for developers to write an app once, and run anywhere. They plan to support Java, .net, android, Symbian, and iPhone, as well as provide location based interfaces.
This is going to be fantastic for developers if Yahoo! delivers this close to how they presented it. I have my doubts on the iPhone side of things as I have talked to several diferent vendors that provide platforms for universl app development and they have all had no luck when talking to Apple about opening up the iPhone to them. We need someone of Yahoo!’s size to help tip the balance in our favor and make Apple see the light.
Downside to BluePrint.., no planned media support yet, but that might come down the road as many devers would love to gain acess to the camera and any stored media on the device.
More on this in the coming months as Yahoo! opens things up more
Still on my road show trip for work, currently stationed in wonderful Sydney. Besides being a beautiful city it also holds the distinction of being right in Mr. Murdochs locale for wheelin and dealin.
I was reading through The Daily Telegraph at breakfast that is delivered free to me each day here at the hotel and came across a tiny little article that was pretty interesting.
MySpace Australia launched an online television channel with broadcasting a concert of Death Cab For Cutie.
MySpace has teamed up with BBC and others to bring original content to the Australian market. They are also including content from Channel V.., one of the big pay for cable networks down here.
This is a very nice move for them and will be interesting to see what moves they try to make back in North America. Media works a bit diferent down here so I dont forsee this happening right away but will eventually happen in some capacity.
Some interesting news from the last couple weeks on traffic reports in the social network sector.
Hitwise released their traffic report for April and overall traffic was down 16% from April 2007. Either April was a blip in internet habits or more and more users are seeing subdued interest in the social networks sites. Average time spent on sites was up however 73%.
With the combo of the traffic decreasing and time spent greatly increasing it appears that the split of users may be increasing that are either all for social network sites and spending TONS of time on them, or passively checking in every so often. There is also the possibility that the bottom portion of users are dropping off completely causing the skew the larg increase in avg time spent.
I know for myself I rarely use my MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc accounts. I mostly set them up to see what all the hype was about, checking in from time to time to see new features that are reported on, and maybe respond to some alert emails I receive. I probably visit each site once.., maybe twice a week.., spending a total of about 2-5 mins per session.
In the electronic communication arena I prefer to stick primarily with email and IM since it is so much easier to keep track of all your conversations instead of having to go to three or more sites to follow up on a thread. Table of top 5 below:
Who the hell is MyYearbook.com, and BlackPlanet?.., and how are they number three and five for social traffic in the U.S.? MyYearbook is up 475%!!
The only loser in the top five is bebo with a drop of 13%, you know AOL loves to see those kind of numbers after losening the purse strings a bit to add the site to their family.
No matter how you approach the data and what conclusions you want to draw two things are clear..,
1) MySpace is still pretty dominant with visitors and traffic time
2) Facebook is growing like mad in the U.S. and other regions