It's exciting time to be in the web community or just to be a web consumer. Three years ago when the Web 2.0 era started to pick up, we got a glimpse to the potential of the web in how it can change our lives.
But in the last months, we really start to see how all the different pieces and technologies are coming together to finally create a connected user experience. Products like Hulu Desktop, Twitter, Google Wave, Facebook Connect and the iPhone combined with now more mature technologies such as HTML 5 and Ajax adre finally bringing us the consumers the ultimate user experience.
The foundations of such experience are: Desktop like UI, seamless integration between services and real time communication.
This year we finally saw the mobile promise gets realized with great web experience on the iPhone and now Android.
We finally saw the borders between TV and web video completely blend.
We finally start to see the concepts of federated identity and data portability come into place.
All these things together won't solve the world hunger or bring world wide peace, but they will change the way we live our daily lives and communicate with other people.
It is a very exciting time to live in.
The big question now is whether this is enough to compete with Google?
I think Microsoft was very smart in the way they developed Bing. They realised that they can't and should not try to fight Google over index size or even ranking of search results. Google are just too good there. But with the combination of their aquasition of Power set, and integration with some of their owned content sites like Farecast what they achived is something else - a more relevent way to display search results.
Search for example for "Lakers Results" in Bing and in Google and you will see the difference. WHile both point to the Lakers site as the first result, Bing also shows you the latest game results and the next games schedule, right in the search results.
Add to that some really useful new UI elements such as playing videos right in the search results, auto preview for sites and relates searches tab and you get a quite impressive search experience.
That said, this is still not enough to beat Google. The problem is that in order to beat Google, you actually need to break users' habit. And this is the hardest possible task. In order to do so, Microsoft needs one of the following:
Another very interesting scenario could be if Microsoft buys Twitter and integrate it into Bing... Twitter "real time" search is getting better and better and could potentially be this killer feature. Make the twitter search box to actually do Bing search, and you suddenly get millions of new users...
A chat I had yesterday about Microsoft VS Apple, really made me think about the new Microsoft video campaigns.
So many people are bashing Microsoft for how lame the campaigns are, and how they are not really showing why Windows is better than Mac, but I actually think that these campaigns might get exactly what Microsoft needs:
I was reading a Techcrunch article today through Google RSS Reader when I noticed the following ads at the bottom of the post:
By the links it seems that the upper ad (Ironscale) is coming through Techcrunch direct sales efforts, while the bottom ad (Indochino) is coming through Google AdSense for RSS.
Now, the post I was reading talked about My Space problems. Can someone please explain to me what's the connection between this and Men's suits??
Is this the best AdSense algorithm could come up with?
This also highlites another big problem of using large and non targeted ad networks - the possibilty of hurting your brand. Don't get me worng. It could be that Indochino is a great company and their suits are amazing, but when I read Techcrunch I expect to see advertisers such as Dell and Intel. Seeing such an ad doesn't really reflect the brand I'm sure Techcrunch want to build.
NBC released a new beta version of their NBC Direct service.
While all network went for a more traditional (amazing how we already treat this as "traditional") model of giving a streaming access to their TV shows, NBC direct takes a more experimental approach.
By downloading their software, you can directly download HD version of all their shows and watch it anytime you want, even when you are on a plane with no Internet access.
The service uses two interesting technologies in order to make this a true money making business for NBC.
First it uses P2P architecture to download the episodes. By using P2P, NBC eliminates one of the biggest hurdles of delivering HD content - it pushes the costs directly to ISP. We need to note that all this is fine today, but if more ISP, like comcast, will start to put cap limits on the user monthly use this model can break down.
Second, NBC Direct uses Extend Media OpenCase agent to download in the background new ads that will appear in the videos. This allows NBC to make sure that no matter when you watch the video, they can monetize them.
it will be very interesting to see how this new model plays out? Is this the new TV 2.0 model? Free HD TV any time and anywhere, supported by everchanging ads? We will have to wait and see...
Unfortunately the service really seems to be in beta state as I couldn't get the player to install on my machine...
I was always a fan of subscription music services. I never really understood why people insist on paying so much money for each individual song or album.
I mean, it's enough for you buy only one album a month to already pay the monthly subscription fee, and with a subscription you can basically download and listen to any album you want (yes. Including the new ones).
So why people still prefer the pay per song model of Apple?
The most repeated answer I get is "Because I want to own my music. I want to make sure that if I want to listen to this album in 10 years, I'll be able to do so".
Now, to be honest, I think this is nonsense. We all know that in 10 years, the albums of today will probably be free on the web anyway. But I can understand the psychology behind it and respect that.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft changed their Zune Pass subscription service and added an innovative hybrid model.
For $14 a month, you get their full subscription service like before, but now you can also completely own forever 10 songs (the average length of an album) each month. Basically, it's like buying an album and get the subscription almost for free.
I truly hope this move will finally get Apple to change their mind and offer a comparable subscription music service on iTunes...
If you really want to keep people pay for music, you need to adopt and offer them a cheap enough legal option. Pay per song is just not that option.
In the last few weeks I had some meetings with people from the print industry. There were a very depressing meetings. We that lives the Internet every day can easily forget how fast the Internet is changing complete industries and people lives. Reflecting back, I can still remember that just 10 years ago I was probably subscribed to 5 different magazines, and names like PC Mag and Mac World were creating the standards in our industry.
The Internet is not the first technology to kill and shift complete industries, but it is unique in the rapid fast pace it did it. Print was probably the first big victim, but music, TV and movies are just examples for other industries we already know will never be the same.
In fact, the pace of change today is so fast that we even see businesses who were born in the internet that have to already adopt to a new reality. Take Netflix as an example. The direct mail company changed the dvd industry, displacing giants like Blockbuster. But now Netflix themselves need to adopt to the new reality of video on demand, Tivo and online video streaming.
The big challenge of a dying business is not to figure out what you need to do next, but it is how to do the change soon enough. Most print magazines knew that the Internet requires them to change, and still they didn't move fast enough. What killed them was their inability to deliberately forgo their current money making machines in order to save their long term future. Instead of doing experiments with the web, while still maintaining focus on their print business that was still making tons of money, they should have moved all their focus into digital and kill the print business themselves, instead of waiting for all of us to do it for them.
By waiting and trying to milk their current business model to the end, they let new businesses born into the digital world to take their place as the leaders of the new medium.
Today we are on the verge of another big change that potentially will displace many businesses. The evolution of mobile computing is changing how people consume and use information. This time, the threat is not just for the old traditional businesses, but even to digital businesses which were born jut a couple of years ago.
Every big change has a tipping point. A point of no return. A point in which the pace of change becomes so rapid, that there is no way to stop it anymore. It took the Internet a lot of years to become what it is. There were many factors that got us to the tipping point, but probably one of the bigger ones was when broadband became a commodity.
It seems that the tipping point for mobile computing was around the introduction of the iPhone and also here, the large availability of 3G networks.
It's still too early to know how exactly the mobile revolution will change the way we do things on a day to day basis. It's still hard to guess who will be the new kings of this era. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft have their full attention and resources, trying to make sure that no one will take their place in this new world. And still, it seems that the mobile landscape is still open enough for a new king to come and rule.
Like before, it's easy to say that we have been talking about mobile for years but it never really happened. It's easy to think that you still have time and you don't have to change things today. And this is the fetal mistake that most of us do. The best businesses knows to take the hard decision and displace themselves, instead of waiting for the market to do so.
I've been saying for a long time that Apple is a marketing firm first and technology company second.
Yes, Apple does release amazing technology products like the iPhone, but what gives them their dominant role in the market is first of all their marketing.
It seems that even the big Google can't compete with Apple.
I still remember the first days when the iPhone just came out. Every single day we saw all the blogs and news papers cover every single feature, every new application or hack that came out. Even now, we still see quite a large coverage of iPhone rumors and opinions on future releases.
It's been a few weeks since Android came out and I can't really remember reading anything about it. Actually, if you'll check Google trends you will see that even now when Android is completely new and exciting it doesn't even scratch the iPhone dominance of the news.
You can say that this is because the iPhone is just a better product. Maybe... but even so I would still expect to see Android in the news, even if with bad news and reviews.
You can say a lot of bad things about the Microsoft-Seinfeld campaign, but in the end we need to appreciate the fact that for a few weeks, it put Microsoft in the news again and again, even without a new shining product like Android.