Thursday, September 29, 2011

Open Source and the Kindle Fire

When I started this blog what seems a gazillion years ago, I had a feeling that open source would become a dominant force in mobile. I was absolutely convinced that it would do better in mobile than in the PC world. That it would be the winning model.

Most of the people out there disagreed with me (not a big deal, I am used to it ;-)

They said mobile and open source together would not work. That this market was too closed. That the carriers would not allow any openness. That the wall gardens were too high...

It turned out to be false, and the walls came down tumbling faster than anyone expected.

Then it came Apple and they said it is going to be the winning model. It is closed, no open source allowed. They said open source was not going to make it. Again.

It turned out to be false, because Google made Android open source and it became the fastest growing OS of all time, passing Apple at a speed nobody expected.

Now look at where we are today. I have been bullish on the Kindle Fire even before it was born. Actually, compared to that post, now that we know the price is $199 (instead of $249), I am even more bullish. I am more convinced than I was before that Amazon is going to be the biggest competitor for Apple in the space (and no, I do not believe the Fire will kill the iPad, they will live happily together for a while).

How did Amazon managed to challenge Apple in such a short time?

Open Source.

Think about it. Amazon took an open source mobile operating system (Android), forked it, changed the UI a little and added a few apps. With that, it is going to build the most successful tablet of our times (my prediction, we'll see how it goes).

There was no chance for Amazon to do the same without open source. It gave them speed and time-to-market. It gave them a stable and high-quality platform. The ability to compete and innovate. And maybe the biggest advantage of all: an enormous development community. All things we always said open source would bring to the table, making a huge difference.

The Kindle Fire is yet-another demonstration of the power of open source. The innovation is not going to stop here. Expect even greater things in the future. With the market moving towards HTML5 and the open web, we'll be talking about the dominance of open source and openness again and again.

And yes, open source in mobile is doing way better than in the PC world. And yes, it is clearly showing to be the winning model. I should close this blog now that I am peaking :-))

Monday, September 26, 2011

When Facebook split from Twitter

I am sure you know about Facebook Timeline and the idea behind it: the history of your entire life in Facebook will be exposed. A great way to see what you did last year, a very risky proposition for people that change girlfriend or boyfriend: your new girlfriend will be able to go back in time and see what you wrote about your old girlfriend. It should be a lot of fun...

The change seems small, since it is just your profile who got larger (and you probably could get that information anyway, clicking on Older Posts). However, I believe the change in paradigm is massive.

Twitter has always been about NOW. Instant flow of messages. Anything older than a few seconds is history.

Despite actually having a memory (I am sure Twitter has every tweet you ever did), the way it is built and presented makes history irrelevant for a user (not for Twitter, that is gold). You can write pretty much what you want, and you know it will soon be forgotten.

Knowing a site has no memory - or shows no memory - makes the interaction completely different. More casual. You write things right in the moment. You do not think what you are doing is written in stone and will be there forever to haunt you one day.

Facebook had nothing like Twitter at the beginning. When Twitter became hot, they added status updates. It became like Twitter, but just for "friends". Then they added a public option (not the Obamacare one), mostly to follow Google+ (yep, they are smart, copying smart ideas is being smart) so it matched Twitter perfectly.

Then they added Timeline.

No actual changes anywhere in the site, just in your profile. You can post a public story, and it is like Twitter.

However, it is Twitter with a memory. A visible one. A searchable one. Not just by you, by anyone who knows you. Or will eventually know you in the future.

The change is dramatic. When you post in Facebook, you are now conscious of it. I am not talking about you geeks, I know you knew it. I know you were aware anything you did was permanent. You know what a database is and how to retrieve anything with a SQL statement. I am talking about the rest of us, the other 99.9999%, the real people.

They thought Facebook was like Twitter. They thought Facebook had no memory. They now have a visible confirmation it is not like that. Facebook has memory. You should not post anything assuming it will disappear with time. It is so clear, so obvious. Every single Facebook user will know it. And they will think one or two seconds more about what they are about to post.

Facebook and Twitter are now miles apart.

I am not sure this is going to be that good for Facebook. Having users worrying about posting might not be such a great idea. We'll see. I sure am glad that I always treated Facebook exactly like Twitter ;-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook wants your entire life

I have played with Timeline for a few hours and I have to admit: it is great. You can see all the posts you made (they call them "stories" now ;-), the picture you posted (storied?), what others have posted tagging you and so on. It is great looking, and you can choose what you want to hide, because it is your public profile (although people will see just the things you want them to see).

It goes back to the day you signed up on Facebook. Surprised? You thought they would throw away all that gold, didn't you? Nope ;-)

Actually, it goes back one step more. To your birthdate.

Yes, they added a little space to fill up the info you did not yet put on Facebook. The picture of your birth, your graduation, your wedding...

Your life.

Facebook wants your entire life on their site.

It is not surprising to me. We are in the same space. We call it Personal Cloud. It is where you store your life. Where you record what you did. It is the modern version of your photo book, just a lot more interactive (and with comments of other people embedded).

What Facebook wants you to do is to start uploading personal stuff. Things that are private. That you are not going to share with anyone. Have you noticed you now can post a story visible to "Only me"?

Actually, they want you to upload everything. Better if you share (it increases engagement on the site), but it is ok if you do not. As long as you upload everything.

A site that has your entire life is the stickiest thing you will ever touch. It will own you. You will not be able to leave it. Right now, people are leaving Facebook. If it is just "social", it might pass. If it is your life, it is going to stay. Facebook is you. You are Facebook.

My problem with this idea is trust.

I read an article this morning. It went like this:
“You can really put a lot more of your life into Facebook,” says Dave Morin. And all of that is information that Facebook will store and potentially make use of. “Our primary business model and it always will be, is advertising,”
Clever move by the writer to put together in a paragraph "your life" and "advertising" :-)

It highlights my problem with Facebook. I am all in favor of a place where to store my entire life. I need it, my digital life is out of control, I need to take charge of it. However, I want to put my life in the hands of someone I trust.

That someone is not Facebook. It can't be Facebook. Nothing to do with their ethics. It has to do with their business model. They make money on my data. My life. I cannot trust them. Period.

Still, I am going to use Timeline. For my public stuff. My private life will go somewhere else.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Amazon is the real Apple competitor

I have always perceived Amazon as a threat for Apple. After all, they have a mobile device which is kind of a tablet (Kindle) and a bunch of cloud services. Still, they never felt close, mostly because they have always focused on a niche (books).

Everything is about to change: Amazon is about to release a 7-inch touchscreen Android tablet, a direct challenge to the iPad.

Why do I think this will be huge?

Here you have the first eight things that come to mind:

1. Amazon is the most valuable and trusted brand online. The cloud, which goes hand-to-hand with mobile devices, is a place where trust is everything. In particular, if you are storing your most important data. Amazon has gained the trust of about everyone. Nobody comes close.

2. Amazon has your credit card, and everyone's else (at least in the US). Having a billing relationship is something Google is dreaming of, and the big advantage Apple has on the App Store vs. the Android Marketplace. I would bet Amazon has more credit cards than Apple does in this country.

3. Amazon has a phenomenal sales machine to push a new retail device, as they have done with the Kindle. Guess what? They will call this one Kindle as well, a new kind of Kindle, the natural upgrade to all Kindles they have sold so far. It will be on Amazon home page every single day, as the most important gift for your Christmas list.

4. Amazon is setting the perfect price for a tablet: $250. Anything closer to the iPad is a no show. Forget the Android tablets in the market today: if I want to buy a tablet and the price is close to the iPad, I will buy an iPad. Period. There is no game. If you say "half the price", you have my attention. And you are about to end in my Christmas list (and not only for me, it is a perfect gift).

5. Amazon has everything in the cloud. I mean everything you need: they have books (duh), music (Amazon MP3 is awesome) and movies (Instant Video). They match Apple (nobody else does). Actually, Amazon is better at books... There is a chance they will throw in free Instant Video, as they are doing today with Amazon Prime. It would be Netflix on a mobile device, for free... Huge.

6. Amazon is planning to ship a tablet with the right size. A 7 inches tablet does not really compete with the iPad. It is a different thing. It is something you can bring to bed with you. It is an upgrade to the Kindle. But it does everything else the iPad does. It is like an iPad Mini, at half the price.

7. Amazon has an App Store with apps. This tablet is built on Android, and Amazon has its own marketplace. You can be sure that 99% of developers will make sure to upload their app on the Amazon Appstore right away, as soon as the new Kindle ships. Right now, there is no incentive or very little (I downloaded the Amazon Appstore on my Android smartphone, used once and already deleted it) but users drive developers. Trust me, it will take days not weeks.

8. Amazon is choosing the right time to launch it: October, just in time for the holiday season.

Is this enough to challenge Apple and the iPad this Christmas? You bet. We are about to hit the second wave of tablet purchases, the massive one of the Early Majority, now that most of the Early Adopters have one (and some have already lost their first one, ehm...). Right price, right timing, right features, some cool perks (like Istant Video) and Amazon immediately becomes the #1 competitor for Apple. Cool.