YouTube is Huge and Sketchy

I wrote a few weeks ago a post about just how massive the site is.  I listened to a good interview with Jason Calcanis recently where he shared his experiences working with them as a potential partner.  

The short of it is that YouTube has not been at all interested in accommodating any partners because of their size and scale.  One thing that i found interesting in this talk was just how powerful the future of YouTube is. Some interesting points:

  1. Cash. They have an amazing amount of cash at $50 billion  (Forbes)
  2. Nobody’s in charge. Google is great at this in general.  It is very hard to identify who is setting the direction and strategy for each group and the company as a whole.  Because of this, they can’t be critiqued for lack of execution or for being evil. 
  3. Avoiding Anti-Trust. They can’t buy any large players due to the fear that the government would block it for anti-competition reasons.  
  4. They are copying competitor’s strategies.  These competitors are getting lots of video channels around a niche and selling ads around it.  YouTube is now doing just that and will probably do more. 

The cool part of this is that YouTube could have bought Netflix or something similar.  Thus, they are just going to buy lots and lots of content and put it out for free.  My prediction is that You’ll see NFL and other sports content available there along with full tv shows – and it’ll be SWEET for all of us.  

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: A Rant

I recently heard someone talk about what a bad move it was for Apple to release their own Maps app on the iPhone.  I’ve heard this maybe half a dozen times lately and I couldn’t disagree more.  We should all be happy this happened.  Here’s why…

About a year ago when there was no Apple Maps, the situation was this:

  • The default map app on the phone was Google maps
  • Apple had repeatedly been negotiating with Google to have them provide turn-by-turn directions and voice navigation in their app on the iPhone.  Google had turned them down time and time again so they could promote Android phones and claim some level of superiority.
  • Apple had no alternative but to accept that Google was sandbagging their iPhone app

Fast forward to today.  Apple releases Maps which has turn-by-turn directions that are way better than the old Google app.  Google was rendered to be an optional app on phone and because of this fact they stepped up their development efforts and made the Google maps app way better than their previous app.

Today iPhone users have two great options for maps and both options are way better than they had a year ago.  If Apple hadn’t done anything, we’d probably still be stuck with a second-tier version of Google maps.

So, Apple’s probably pretty happy with their decision.  The iPhone mapping capability is at the very least comparable to Android, something they couldn’t claim a year ago.

Ok, i can now go back to work.  Thanks for letting me rant.

May 2015 Update: 

Looking at this latest report you can see that 84% of cell phone users get turn-by-turn navigation while driving.  Looks like Apple made a good call to really shake up the platform to get that functionality in there.

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When Google Glass Wins

 
I don’t really like Google Glass as it is now.  There’s no way that the look of it will ever let it go mainstream. However, i do like:

  1. how you can just click a button and video record everything you’re looking at
  2. Take a picture of what you’re seeing quickly and easily
  3. Overlay a map on top of whatever you’re viewing

What i want to happen is for them to build just these three use cases into normal looking glasses.  Get a few versions of Warby Parker that have Glass integration into them.  Then it’ll be sweet. I want to wear regular-looking glasses and go about my day and if i want just touch something and have it start recording.  That’s when Google Glass wins. 

A Bet For Self-Driving Cars

I’m a huge fan of self-driving cars.  Google’s effort to make a car that drives itself is pretty awesome. If you have read about them, read the Wired article here.  Just think of all the time and productivity you would earn if you could have a car drive you everywhere.  For all the minutes you’re in a car, you could now be doing something else.  It’ll be found time.  It’s glorious.

Because of my enthusiasm, I made a bet a few weeks ago here at work.  I’m betting that a self-driving car will be available for me to purchase before 3/1/2023.

Some details:

  • The car has to be on the road and legal to drive somewhere in USA
  • It must cost under $150k

I’m taking the under for $200 against Keith.


Do you think self-driving cars will be able to be purchased in 10 years?

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Microsoft vs. Apple

There’s been lots of talk about how Apple’s market cap is about to equal Microsoft’s.  People love to discuss this because of the battle the two companies have fought over the past 3 decades.  Microsoft famously beat out Apple for PC dominance in the 80’s and 90’s by being open while Apple remained stubbornly closed.  Today, many people look at the Android/iPhone battle in the same light: one company with a superior product (Apple) and another that may be less polished but open to be used on other people’s hardware (Google’s Android)

I’ve heard quite often over the past year how Apple is crazy to go down the same path again.  However, i read a good summary today by Mark Sigal on O’Reilly’s blog about why this isn’t the case.  His five main points are:

  1. Retail Distribution: During the PC Wars, everything came down to distribution and presence on limited retail shelf space. To be successful, you had to be on the shelves of retailers like ComputerLand, CompUSA, Circuit City, Office Depot and MicroAge. Given the wide variety of hardware OEMs making Wintel-based PCs, both shelf-space for Macs and the technical know-how to sell them were severely limited, making a differentiation story like Apple’s a hard sell. Today, Apple Stores drive a superior environment for consumers to experience hardware hands-on and get educated about the full breadth of Apple products. An aside, this is a consumer touch point that Google absolutely lacks.
  2. Pricing overhang: A primary reason for Apple’s crushing defeat by Microsoft was Apple’s misguided notion that it could charge grossly higher dollars for Mac products than Windows-based PC offerings. Contrast this with the present, where Apple is consistent in their assertion and awareness that it cannot and will not leave pricing overhang (i.e. a sufficient pricing gap between its products and the competition). This avoids the past dynamic where consumers saw picking Apple products as an either/or decision, in terms of price vs premier experience. iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all have followed this course.
  3. Developer ecosystem: It is a truism that in platform plays he who wins the hearts and minds of developers, wins the war. In the PC era, Apple forgot this, bungling badly by launching and abandoning technology initiatives, co-opting and competing with their developers and routinely missed promised milestones. By contrast, Microsoft provided clear delineation points for developers, integrated core technologies across all products, and made sure developer tools readily supported these core initiatives. No less, Microsoft excelled at ensuring that the ecosystem made money. Lesson learned, Apple is moving on to the 4.0 stage of its mobile platform, has consistently hit promised milestones, has done yeomen’s work on evangelizing key technologies within the platform (and third-party developer creations – “There’s an app for that”), and developed multiple ways for developers to monetize their products. No less, they have offered 100 percent distribution to 85 million iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, and one-click monetization via same. Nested in every one of these devices is a giant vending machine that is bottomless and never closes. By contrast, Google has taught consumers to expect free, the Android Market is hobbled by poor discovery and clunky, inconsistent monetization workflows. Most damning, despite touted high-volume third-party applications, there are (seemingly) no breakout third-party developer successes, despite Android being around two-thirds as long as the iPhone platform.
  4. Consumer technology adoption: During the PC era, large enterprises essentially dictated the industry winners by virtue of standardizing on a given vendor or type of solution. This created a winner-takes-all dynamic, inasmuch as consumers would ultimately buy the same solutions that had been blessed by large enterprises. By virtue of its conservative nature (remember the motto, “No ever got fired for buying IBM”?), staid Microsoft always felt like a safer choice than crazy Apple. And besides, accounting could solicit bids from multiple hardware vendors, which they liked. By contrast, today’s breakthrough adoption begins in the consumer realm and filters back to enterprises, not the other way around.
  5. Microsoft-like resilience: I remember too well the Microsoft mantra “Embrace-Extend-Extinguish,” which basically meant that any segment worth owning Microsoft would ultimately dominate by the 3.0 version of its competing product.  They were ruthless in squeezing the lifeblood out of competitors through any means necessary. But, give Microsoft full props for manifesting an unyielding resilience to keep working its product offering and market assault until victory was at hand. Considering Apple’s rise from the ashes to re-create a very profitable Mac business — the dominance it has created with iPod and iTunes; the powerhouse iPhone and iPhone platform and the ambitious, and already well-regarded iPad — does anyone wonder about Apple’s resilience? By contrast, Google remains almost completely dependent upon search and advertising, despite launching so many new product offerings and seriously pursuing M&A over the past several years. Arguably, Google’s famously loosely coupled structure leads to a lot of seeds being planted, but so too, it seems to a less than laser-like focus on seeing those seeds to cultivation and full harvest. It begs the question, “Can a tiger change its stripes?”

I carry around both an iPhone and a Droid so I’m witness the battle every day when i pull both out and decide which to make a call or text on.   They are both good phones.  The Android phones get refreshed every month when a new manufacturer comes out with the latest, whereas i have to wait a year for each new iPhone.  That said, the iPhone is better and because of points 1-5 above, i suspect Apple will clean house for at least a few more years.

My Moments of 2009

2009 was a fun year.  I traveled to 42 cities, 4 countries and logged over 100k miles.  I also found time to stay at home and do stuff.  Looking back on the year, some things really stand out.  For instance:

  • Up’s tear-jerking silent vignette. With each new film, Pixar finds some way to top itself. The marvelous innovation inUp was the wordless sequence near the beginning, set to Michael Giacchino’s wistful score, depicting Carl and Ellie’s entire life together — including the sad fact that they can’t have children. Who else would dare to try that? And who but Pixar could pull it off so gracefully?
  • I Like This Song.  I started a little experiment in May of placing a good song i like every day to the blog ilikethissong.com.  At first it was easy because there were so many songs i was bursting to share.  But as the year wore on, i got more selective and paid more attention to what i was putting up.  The real treat, however, has been the followers of ILTS who have sent me new music and tunes.
  • The Android OS. I went to the largest mobile phone conference in the world last February and saw thousands of phones that were running Windows Mobile OS that was vastly inferior to the iPhone. I came away from there thinking that the iPhone was going to crush everyone for the next 10 years.  Luckily Google’s OS has grown up and is the real deal.  This is the year when the race for the future of mobile actually started
  • Brett Favre.  Say what you want about him, but for me he has transformed the Vikings from a team that drove me crazy to watch to a team to be proud of every week.  He was inspiring and regardless of how early we go out in the playoffs (i’m thinking first round) i’ll always remember this season because of him.
  • Zach Galifinakis and The Hangover.  Zach G. had slipeed under my radar until The Hangover which was this summer’s must-see movie.  I thought he made the film and i was even more delighted to see that his webepisodes of Between Two Ferns prove him a true comedic talent
  • Death of Old Media.  Magazines crumbled.  Newspapers folded.  Online usage soared.  People who were in the print business ran scared.  Some tried to adjust their print properties.  Others just wove a white flag.  It become evident this year that online is where the users are and if you’re not moving your media business there, you’re either going to downsize or disappear.  This was of personal interest to me as i spent lots of 2009 looking at the advertising piece of this at Buzz and looking at the opportunities this new world creates with Tobes.
  • In-N-Out burger.  I ate so much In-N-Out in 2009 that this could very well be the year of the Double-Double.  Thanks to JT, Pedro and JStreet for coming with me time after time after time.
  • eReaders / Kindle.  The Kindle came on strong this year and The Nook is looking like a solid competitor.  While neither may be long solutions with their closed formats, they have gained serious attention and sales.  I also read my first books on electronically this year and i can easily picture a future when books are primarily sold without paper.
  • Obama.  He came out of nowhere.  We were about to elect someone into the Presidency (Hilary) which would have had two families (Clinton’s and Bush’s) control the office for over 24 years.  THis was not the America i was down with and i was just about to write off the political system for good when Obama came along.  Sure, you can complain about different things he’s done in office thus far but he’s engaged me and he’s made me pay attention. I respect his reasoning.  That word, “hope,” is a strange one and it was a big part of 2009 for me due to him.
  • Avatar, Star Trek and Sci-Fi. This year was an incredible year for sci-fi. I thought Star Trek was awesome, the little indie flick District 9 was refreshing and extremely well done, and of course James Cameron’s epic, Avatar – the film that needed new technology just to complete it – rocked the end of the year. These films showed that sci-fi is alive and kicking and isn’t some little repetitive genre reserved for geeks and nerds.
  • A Personal Stream of Information From Friends.  Before 2009, my RSS feed dominated my web browsing experience.  Twitter and Facebook worked their tail off in ’09 to change the web landscape.  Their impact has been incredible.  The personal stream of information is how many people are now receiving their news and media.  What this means is that the web (and possibly life) won’t ever be the same.  I can’t wait to see where it leads
  • D Wood.  Last and most importantly it’s D. Say what you will about LA but it brought me to Diane and more than anything it will be a year remembered as the year i met her.  That one little meeting has changed everything.

Happy 2009 everyone. It’s been a fantastic year and I wish you all the best in 2010.

Droid vs. iPhone Grudge Match

Rdroid-vs-iphoneaduchel recently did a post that inspired me to speak up as I’ve been carrying around both an iPhone and a Droid for the past few weeks (since Droid’s launch) and comparing the two.  I’ve set the Droid as my main phone so i’m forced to use it more and get used to it. My main findings are:

– In general the iPhone kicks its ass in usability.  Typing on the droid sucks so much that i find myself not wanting to send texts.  This is especially true in the car. I can text and drive fine with the iPhone but the Droid will cause a crash.

– Having your phone be an iPod is a huge benefit.  This is such a major differentiator for me as i listen to a ton of music and listen to podcast every day while driving.  The media players on the droid are a joke.

– Google Voice is awesome and i really wish it was on the iPhone.  Being able to sync calls and text messages with the web is really useful.  There are other GV competitors but they don’t compare for me

– The voice reception and quality on the Droid is heads and shoulders above ATT.  I can actually get calls at work and inside my home.   I’ve never been an ATT hater but the Droid is making me a Verizon lover.

In general, i think the Droid is pretty great and definitely a competitor to the iPhone but the slickness/enjoyment of the interface and iTunes will keep me on it – at least for the near future.

Google Crushes Its Complements

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Just was reading about Google Maps, specifically their turn-by-turn, and its impact on the maps market.

As many people know, there are 2 main players in the map market: Tele Atlas and NavTeq.  Google licensed both of them for Google Maps for years.  While they licensed, they also sent cars all around the nation gathering their own data.  These two guys, Tele Atlas and NavTeq, were the only game in town.  TomTom, the leading portable GPS device maker, wanted to control their own destiny and agreed to buy Tele Atlas for US$2.7 billion. And Nokia, worried that they would lose access to the coveted map agreed to buy NavTeq for a cool $8.1 billion.

All was good until Google dropped a bomb.  About six weeks ago, they went independent and didn’t rely on either for their map data.  And then about a month ago they announced their own turn-by-turn navigation would be available in the Android OS.  Now anybody from BMW to GM to Samsung can provide turn-by-turn by simply using Google’s OS.

The big losers here are RIM and iPhone.  They either have to not allow that access or pay a large royalty.  And Windows Mobile and Symbian are in an even more difficult situation as paying to embed this data could be more than the license fee they get from handset manufacturers.  This all assumes, of course, that users really demand this feature. If they do, Google’s really in the catbird seat. lessthanfree

People will complain that this is incredibly anti-competitive.  That Google is using it’s money making machine to unfairly compete in the map market.  Well, the story is even worse than that.  To get carriers to use Android, Google offers a cut on the search revenue that the phones produce.  So not only is Android free but it’s actually paying providers to use it.  Some people are calling it “less than free.”  Google will go beyond cell phones with this strategy.  Any netbook manufacturer (Dell, Sony, etc.) will get a cut of search revenue by building on Android or Chrome instead of Windows or Linux.  It’s tough to compete with “less than free.”

It makes you think of the world of complements.  Chris Dixon discusses Google and how its complement are the web browser and the OS.  The best thing you can do as a company is drive your complements to become commodities.  Well there’s no better way than driving their prices to be below zero.  Kudos Google,  I’m impressed.

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Tools of the Trade

A startup really consumes your life. Luckily i have a suite of sweet tools to keep my efficient and productive.  My favorites: icons

Balsalmiq.  This is sick wireframing software.  It’s so easy and intuitive, it can allow anyone to make fairly decent wires.  It’s also a great way to get ideas across to other people.   Doing a full-screen demo of wires always seems to impress people.

YuuGuu.  If you want to share your screen to another person to either do a demo or just display a problem, this is the best way to do it. We’ve tried a bunch of different types (such as Vyew) and this is by far the best.

Dropbox.  We’re not the only one who loves this.   In fact, on the Balsalmiq blog they wrote, “If you don’t use DropBox, I will shake my head at you in disapproval.”  Dropbox is a network file times 1000.  It’s incredible.  We put lots of files into Dropbox as a way to share.   In fact, i’m about to start using it as a way to share all my files across my computers and my girlfriend’s.  A great way to just do backup to another machine.

Skype.  This remains the best way to do voice-to-voice communication.  It’s also a damn good IM client.  Haven’t experimented with the screen sharing yet.

Jing.  For debugging, there is nothing better than Jing.  If you don’t know Jing, here’s the use case it solves: (1) click a button, select an area of your screen, capture a video of that area for as long as you want, click to stop and here’s a URL of that video hosted on the Jing site.  Easy as pie and incredibly useful.

TripIt.  If you travel at all, this is a must have. When you make an airline or travel reservation, all you do is forward your email confirmation to tripit and they keep track of all the details.  Once you’re at the airport all you need is their iPhone app (or mobile site) to easily grab confirmation codes

Google Apps / Docs / Tasks.   Using corporate email through Google Apps is very easy to do and eliminates lots of effort of setting up Exchange or anything else – it’s both simpler and better.  Through that we get Google Docs which has always been a tremendous way to collaborate on documents with others.  For instance, i have a doc that i use that Nader (in San Francisco) can edit each day in real-time as i work on it.  I also use tasks as a great way to keep track of what i need to do.  I love that i can add tasks from the iPhone (great tasks interface) and then see them back on machine so i can knock ’em out.

Any other items that you use that you’d recommend?  What are your favorite work tools?

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