Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Will Open Social Beat (or even match) the User Appeal of Facebook

To many folks open equals good and closed equals evil. So the news that Google will promote an open API for social media across the web, is quickly short-handed to "Google unleashes Facebook killer."

Not so fast, say I.

Don't lose sight of the strong user appeal of Facebook--a large part of which is predicated on the fact that it's a walled garden--simple, neat, cozy, consistent. And Facebook is where my friends are. Not just my geeky friends who fly mothlike to any new shiny thing that launches on the web, but my tech-laggard friends, too.

The open question on Open Social is what user experiences will developers create? Will they appeal to and resonate with a broad public?

Open Social may have more potential than Facebook. But whether that potential is realized will depend not on what developers and advertisers see in it, but what users see.

When social is everywhere, will social be special? Or just the price of admission.

Mickeleh's Take: Remember when Zune was touted as an iPod killer? Remember that iPhone, (closed, locked iPhone) is a runaway hit.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Three Reasons I'm Not Reviewing Leopard. Yet.

[note to Techmemers: this post isn't about installing Leopard on a PC.]

1. I don't have it.
If I had ordered it from the Apple Store online—or headed out to the Bellevue Square store to buy it, I would have it now. Instead, I ordered it from Amazon. Where Apple shipped in advance for arrival on Friday, Amazon shipped on Friday for arrival next week. This was a tactical blunder on my part, but I'll blame it on Harry Potter. Amazon managed to get me a copy of Deathly Hallows on release day. I assumed they'd do the same for Leopard. Silly me.

So while everyone else is Twittering and blogging about unboxing, installing, waiting, and hating the reflective Dock, I got bubkis.

I tried to escape into the real world so as not to feel like such a laggard. But at a restaurant last night, our waiter, Hector, spotted my iPhone and asked me if I had Leopard yet. I had to admit that I didn't. He said, "How come, it came out yesterday, you know." I didn't deduct his geekly oneupmanship from his tip. But I thought about it. (Hector didn't have a review for me. He had sent his girlfriend to the Apple store to pick up the disks, but he had to leave for his shift, before the installation completed. He was dying to get back to it.)

2. You don't need me.
Come on, you've already read at least five reviews of Leopard. If not, Techmeme has a handy list. So does Google. (Hmmm. Maybe I should blog a review of the reviews, complete with a feature checklist. Memo to self: deprioritize that task.)

3. I'll write about it after Thanksgiving.
What I'm planning to report on is whether Leopard in any way changes my work, world, play, and social graph in any significant way. And that's going to take some time to develop. (Unless like R. Crumb's meatball, Leopard confers instant enlightenment. Based on the reviews
read so far, it doesn't).

Mickeleh's Take: Hector, if we meet again, you'll have to tell me what you think of Leopard.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

iPhone Tip: Looking up Businesses? Use Maps.

Quick tip for iPhone users: If you're looking for the phone number of a local business, use Google Maps for a fast, filtered search—even if you're not trying to map the location. You'll get a short list of candidates, and when you tap the the arrow in the label attached to the map pin, you'll get name, address, phone number, and URL (if they have a website). It's one tap to dial, go to the website, or save the listing in your Maps bookmarks, or add a new listing to your phone contact list.

Mickeleh's Take: I use map searches most frequently for phoning in reservations to restaurants. I'd love a mash-up of Zagats with Google maps.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Social Media Tracking SoCal Wildfires

Thanks to Robert Scoble for pointing to this Google Mashup from the L.A. Times that tracks the fires currently burning in Southern California.

Allen Stern, commenting on Scoble's site also links to his own page tracking the fires.

There is some dramatic coverage posted to Flickr. And YouTube.

My prayers and good thoughts for the saftety of all.

Apple Earnings Blow Past "Whisper Number"; Just Warming Up

Congratulations to Apple on a reporting spectacular quarter and fiscal year. From the official release:
The Company posted revenue of $6.22 billion and net quarterly profit of $904 million, or $1.01 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $4.84 billion and net quarterly profit of $542 million, or $.62 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 33.6 percent, up from 29.2 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 40 percent of the quarter’s revenue.
They did over $24 billion in revenues for the year.

The current quarter should be even more spectacular. It's traditionally Apple's best. Leopard will ship. People who have deferred hardware purchases to wait for Leopard will buy Macs. The new iPods continue to be a popular gift. And the iPhone is charging ahead at $399. But, of course, with everyone expecting great results, the pressure gets even higher to beat those expectations.

Mickeleh's Take: For anyone holding Apple shares, it's time to sell just a few and tip the croupier by buying some Apple goodies.

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Oops! New iPhone Ad Refers to a Site That Requires Flash

Oops. Watching TV last night, I saw an embarrassing new spot in the iPhone testimonial campaign. It features Ken Davenport, producer of the off-Broadway play, My First Time.

He talks about how he uses iPhone to access the fan site for his play and gauge audience reaction.

I happened to have my iPhone in my pocket. I Googled "My First Time" and found the play's website. Oops! It's a Flash site. And iPhone doesn't run Flash.

You can watch the Apple spot here.

Mickeleh's Take: Maybe I should do a testimonial about how watching TV with the iPhone in hand lets me be a goofy nerd and bust commercials.

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Markoff Didn't Do the Math on Leopard vs Vista Pricing

John Markoff in this morning's NYT gives Steve Jobs a platform to tout Friday's release of Mac OS X Leopard. While Jobs graciously declined to comment on Vista's slow sales and lackluster reviews, he did slip in a zinger about pricing. He said that with Leopard, "“everybody gets the Ultimate edition and it sells for 129 bucks, and if you go on Amazon and look at the Ultimate edition of Vista, it sells for 250 bucks.”

Right. And Steve's other point: Apple has been tossing out a big cat every year and expects to keep it up for another decade.

On the other hand, it took Microsoft seven years to get Vista out the door, with Windows 7 slated for 2010.

So, Microsoft collects their $250 upgrade tax twice in the decade ($500) and Apple collects their $129 tax eight times ($1032). It's the ol' "eight easy payments" game

(OK, there's a big fallacy in this analysis: nobody keeps a computer for ten years. At some point(s) you get a new computer with the OS bundled. And surely the 2010 versions of either Mac OS or Windows won't even run on a 2000 vintage computer. On the other hand, in a multi-computer household, there are always a few computers that will need the upgrade. The screen-sharing features in Leopard will create viral pressure to promulgate this upgrade. Except among the paranoid.)

Mickeleh's Take: I never doubted that Apple could sustain another decade of innovation. The only question is have they run out of cat names? After Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, and Leopard where do we go now? Tabby?

And, yes. I've already ordered the family pack.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Can Leopard's Super-Smart Client Make Us Love Email Again?

Apple is on the verge of releasing an email-on-steroids client as part of Leopard (next major release of Mac OS X, slated for Oct. 26). The release hits at a time when alternatives to email are in ascendance. (see, for example this Business Week debate in which Robert Scoble steps forward as the champion for the "moving past email" camp.)

So it's worth asking, is Apple on to something or out of step with the zeitgeist? How will Leopard's mail fare in a Web 2.0, social net world?

Prince McLean at Macinsider has the history of mail on Macintosh, including third-party software and the major tributary branch that began at NeXT. McLean covers two massive, visionary, but unsuccessful and largely forgotten projects from the 90's, PowerTalk (AOCE) and Cyberdog. Both of these projects could be poster-children for how Apple went off the rails during the Steve Jobs interregnum; they overwhelmed available hardware, underwhelmed the market, and screwed the developers.

They also were terribly timed and irrelevant before they shipped. They completely misread the impact of the dominance of Windows, the rise of Internet-based mail standards and the explosion of the Web as a mass-market phenomenon. (Cyberdog had a Web browser, but in those days, Netscape had the world's attention, setting the pace for innovation and enhancements to HTML. Cyberdog could only chase after the evolving Web like a greyhound after a mechanical rabbit.)

In McLean's article, this past is prologue to a rundown of what's in the Leopard version of Apple's email client. If you want to skip the history, you can start right in with his description of what's ahead on page 3. It's almost as breathless as Apple's marketing page for Mail.

The new Mail will bid to be a center of our personal workflow, incorporating to do lists, notes, RSS reader and smart integration with Calendar and Address Book and more—thanks to the return of Apple Data Detectors. (This bit of technology from pre OS X days can parse your email for events, addresses, contact info and intelligently offer to file it or act on it.)

Mickeleh's Take: Email isn't going away any time soon. Apple's approach has the potential to transform the way we deal with it. But exploiting the full potential of the features baked into Leopard's email client will require lots of behavioral change on the part of the user. I'm skeptical, yet hopeful. But the acid test is whether Apple's new mail client will seduce Scoble.

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