October 03, 2007

Apple is the evil empire, stupid

The iPhone will be the nail in the coffin for Apple's credibility.

I have hated Apple ever since I tried to get AAC files to work on a new MP3 player, then a new pc.

I hated Apple even more when I tried to play iTunes tracks in an opensource media player.

Lock-in! Proprietary formats! No flexibility! The bastards.

Yet I was a voice in the wilderness. Whenever I asked either developers or other consumers they loved Apple.  The iPod was a piece of achingly beautiful design. Steve Jobs was cool.  Macs kicked Microsoft's proprietary ass.

The iPhone is changing everything. Developers are beginning to hate Apple and I think consumers will be next.

What's the problem with iPhone?

Mike Arrington at FOWA was half way there today when he said Apple is pissing people off by limiting them to one network.

I think there's a much bigger problem. The genius of the iPhone is that it provides an interface for people like my dad to access and use mobile apps. The problem is how hard it is to do this.

Great technologists like Sutha  are livid that developers can't even officially write to the OS X layer.  They're officially limited to a not-so-rich web-browser in which they can build very simple apps, but that can't take advantage of any of the power of the iPhone. These apps can't run offline, can't take a
peek at your address book, or anything else. They certainly can't do any of the slick graphical things that are making people generally salivate over the iPhone.  You CAN create native OS X apps that do much more but this means hacking the iPhone.

So my dad can have some widgets but they're not really useful.

In essence Apple is going against all the principals of openness and interoperability that so dismays developers and eventually consumers.

And now hallelujah! People are starting to dislike Apple. I am pleased for two reasons:
1)Wonderful opportunities for entrepreneurs.
2) Finally I feel vindicated ;)

October 27, 2006

Islandoos and don'ts for sucessful social software


This Tuesday's FT devoted half of page three to Mint Digital's Bloombox product implemented as Islandoo (disclaimer: I have a personal interest in Mint). 

They were right to: BloomBox is more than an off-the-shelf YouTube.  Let me tell you more.

Bloombox is essentially a white label social network and rich media tagging system that enables enterprises, media companies and brands to recruit and retain customers or serve employees.  It achieves this by creating an interface to information that is both intuitive and social. 

Mint Digital have got it right on a number of levels.  Their implementation for RDF is called Islandoo which is a social network set up specifically to recruit contestants and viewers of a reality tv show called Shipwrecked.

The numbers are remarkable: "since its launch (6 weeks ago) it has garnered almost 18,00 profiles, 1.5m comments from users and almost 10m page views" (some other wonderful quotes here and here)

Yet many groups have failed with similar attempts. The worst forays into company sponsored social  networks have been dismal. The biggest failure was Pepsi who made a Youtube-esque site during the world cup.  A worldwide multi-million on-can promotion encouraged customers to upload their own versions of the Pepsi TV ad was a dismal failure: a worldwide campaign yielded only 23 videos. The majority of which were from the same family in Romania!

So what is the secret to Mint Digital and islandoo's success? The secret is in the incentivization and execution of the software.

1) Incentivization . Mint Digital have spent time and money to work out the formula of how to make web2.0 successful for an enterprise.  It conducted research on how people use myspace by studying a range of 12 - 25 year olds online. The results were fascinating (also here).  They found female users spent most of their time messaging other buddies and making their sites look pretty.  Male users spent most of their time checking out photos of pretty girls.

Mint has designed the user journey and incentives of islandoo so that within the first day of signing up, and male will get about 10 pings from attractive females asking for their votes: a win win scenario.


2) Execution. Bloombox is more user friendly, prettier and has more user focussed functionality than anything else out there.  The platform has been coded by the team who made the origional Real Player. Cameron Price, the CTO, was part of the original team behind the original Microsoft Media Player.

I think one of the most exciting aspects for Bloombox is the transferability of this technology to any industry that needs to recruit or retain customers. Or educate a work force.  The challenge here is not only making a site that people like using, but also a site that incentivizes people to use it.  For customers and employees this is more tricky than offering an audition for a tv show, but can be done.

I believe that this could be the next generation of enterprise software.  A lot more on that in forthcoming posts. 

PS. I have been taking a lot of stick recently on my poor post rate. (No match to the prolific rates of Fred, Nic or Max). The good news is that I have been incredibly busy working on two deals.  Delighted to say we did announce the sale of Smart421 to Kingston Communications.  Smart421 are leaders in managed services of applications to enterprises, which many argue is the first manifestation of a larger movement in enterprise 2.0 (arrrgghh: another buzzwood...).

PPS.  Delighted to see that VCs don't need to ask entrepreneurs "who else are you talking to?", nowadays they just need to check Flickr.