Archive for June, 2007

Is Anyone Else Sick Of Hearing About The iPhone?

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

iPhoneI’m not getting an iPhone and probably never will. Having said that, it looks cool and I can understand the hype and buzz surrounding the launch. But the hysteria and sheer madness have reached levels beyond my wildest imagination. Everyone is talking about the iPhone regardless of whether it’s on topic or not. Case in point: this blog. Even TechCrunch has been swept up in the iPhone fever. I counted 5 stories in a row dedicated to the iPhone. Remember, TechCrunch is a blog that supposedly discusses start-ups. They should leave these stories up to CrunchGear.

It seems that almost every blog, news site, and discussion group is buzzing about the iPhone. I feel like my head is going to explode. iPhone stories have run amok at Digg and Techmeme. Traffic at tech gadget blogs, such as Engadget, Gizmodo, and CrunchGear has spiked in the past few days. Almost every single blog on my feed reader has an iPhone story – some even have multiple.

When is the madness going to end? I hope it’s soon…

With all due respect, I give credit where credit is due. This has obviously been a phenomenal launch for Apple. I can’t think of an event that has garnered such PR attention and exposure in recent memory. But it makes you wonder whether a backlash or recoil is imminent. Sometimes the most successful campaigns spur counteraction and negative sentiment. Only time will tell.

… and I thought Dairy Queen had an incredible launch with their waffle sundae campaign. What do I know?

PS. Is everyone else embracing this iPhone frenzy? Am I the only one who is sick of hearing about this gadget?

Tumblr: Riding the Micro-Blogging Wave?

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Tumblr logoOnly in the past couple weeks has Tumblr come to my attention. Web 2.0 naming jokes aside, this new start-up has already made a phenomenal run since launching a mere 4 months ago . Banking off the hype of the “Twitter” space, Tumblr has propelled itself from an unknown to an Alexa rank of less than 5,000. I should have had Tumblr on my list of the the hottest web 2.0 start-ups of 2007, but they eluded me. In any case, they’ve accomplished a remarkable feat in such a short period of time.

Can the growth of the company be attributed to the actual service itself or the recent hype of the space? In other words, does Tumblr have a sustainable business model or is it just a fad?

The onslaught of micro-blogging start-ups and platforms has my mind spinning. Tumblr brought together the interface of WordPress and the concept of Twitter to create new-ish service. Having said that however, the concept of micro-blogging is so dead simple that unless players in the space can differentiate with killer features, the market is going to get over-staturated and crowded very, very quickly. Furthermore, monetization has been an issue that has not been addressed. These start-ups are going to have to find a way to incorporate ads, charge for a premium service, or face certain death.

Don’t get me wrong – I love simple designs, simple concepts, and simple apps. But if everyone is making the same thing, I don’t feel very inspired. So I dare Tumblr and the rest of the micro-blogging start-ups out there to inspire me and show me something I haven’t seen. Trust me, I know what all my friends are doing RIGHT NOW.

Pownce Is The Next Big Thing

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Pownce logoIt’s amazing when such a simple application comes along and re-invents the wheel. This was the case earlier this year with Twitter. Now the same can be said for Pownce. Though still in private BETA and inaccessible to most, the features and functionality have amazed thus far. Actually, what is most amazing is the simple concept and implementation. Kevin Rose has struck gold again. His most heralded start-up to date, Digg, was developed from a simple idea. Pownce is no different – and it is poised to take the Internet by storm.

I know I am hyping this pre-launch service without even trying it or giving it any adoption time (although I have seen a demo and some screenshots). But from my point-of-view, I see this as a service people need and will use. The basis is very simple. Pownce operates using the tagline:

“Send stuff to your friends.”

They list four possible items that you can share: messages, links, files, and events. In addition, you have the flexibility to share these items with one person, a group, or your whole list. There is a web-based version, as well as a small, downloadable app.

Primary competitors include IM clients (i.e. AIM, GTalk, Skype), as well as e-mail clients, both desktop- and web-based. These include Outlook, Hotmail, GMail, and Yahoo Mail among others. Secondary competition comes from P2P and private file-sharing programs, include KaZaa, Limewire, Pando, and AllPeers to name a few.

There are many problems when sharing using IM, e-mail, or P2P. Some of the problems that Pownce attempts to solve include:

  • Control – Pownce gives you the flexibility to decide who you want to share with.
  • Documentation – Pownce provides visual documentation of your sharing history in chronological order.
  • Disorder – Pownce provides a centralized area where all discussions, links, file transfers, and events can be managed.

In other words, this product is tailored for sharing things. Unlike IMs, e-mail, and file-sharing programs, Pownce enables an individual to share numerous items using only one service, saving time and hassle. Add to that the fact that Pownce leverages a clean, simple interface with AJAX functionality, creating an intuitive service that is quick and easy to navigate.

Monetization will come in the form of advertising with the web-based version or downloadable app. A premium subscription ($20/year) will eliminate all ads and provide added functionality, including larger file transfer sizes.

I am REALLY looking forward to the launch. I am even more excited to see the response. Sign up for an invitation on the Pownce homepage. I have no doubt in my mind that this ‘little’ app will change the way we share things on the net.

NOTE: Here is a good video review of Pownce by Allen Stern of Center Networks. Here is another favourable Pownce review from Mashable.

Evidence of the iPhone Euphoria

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Apple logoDays before the official launch, iPhone euphoria has reached a feverish pitch. It seems that any daily news summary or wrap-up is riddled with numerous iPhone articles. Everything ranging from pricing information, to detailed features, to early reviews have surfaced. The online world is currently being overrun by an iPhone frenzy. You really gotta hand it to Steve Jobs and his ability to create such a stir around a launch. The majority of companies beg for PR folk to show up. Jobs is forced to beat them back with a stick. This is definitely rare in our day and age, but it is a true testament to the culture and loyalty that Apple has created.

Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the online craziness that the iPhone has caused:

Digg: While perusing Digg yesterday, I noticed that nearly half the front page stories were iPhone-related. Talk about hype. Obviously, Apple has a huge presence on Digg due to its loyal following, but this is ridiculous. Today, the frenzy must have died down a bit as I only counted two iPhone-related articles on the front page. In any case, it seems that everyone and their dog is interested in the iPhone in some form or another.

Online searches: Today, Hitwise launched a report containing some striking information with respect to recent iPhone searches. The report claims:

  • iPhone searches rose 583% for the four-week period ended June 23; it was also the 131st most frequently searched term for this period as well.
  • Queries focused mostly on price, reviews, news, and released date; price queries accounted for almost 5% of total queries.
  • The official iPhone website grabbed 54.44% of all “iPhone” related search traffic.

My feed reader: Every time I open my feed reader, I am staring a crop of new iPhone-related articles and posts. Every single time. The relentless onslaught of news and reviews has hit strastospheric levels. My hope is that the launch will dampen some of the euphoria and allow the online media world to move onto other topics.

The iPhone launch certainly ranks among the top in recent memory. I can’t think of an event that has caused such madness and rapture. One thing is for certain: as sweet as the phone may be, people are buying into a culture rather than a feature set.

Facebook’s Greatest Threat

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Facebook new logoFacebook continues to grow at a staggering rate. Though it can already be considered a mammoth, it still has much upside left. The recent introduction of the Facebook Platform will simply promote further growth. The value proposition for any company looking to integrate is quite obvious – a massive, loyal user base. Just ask iLike. The ability to piggy-back off such a large network is a huge advantage for any early-stage companies.

With all this growth, positive outlook, and momentum, one must ask, “What is going to stop this Facebook train?”

An IPO: Going public isn’t as glorified as it’s hyped up to be. Priority quickly shifts from satisfying users (or consumers) to satisfying shareholders. In other words, less attention is focused on the user. Innovation and feature sets are set aside so that business development and revenue generation can manifest.

Going public isn’t a dream. It’s more of a nightmare – especially for a user-centric, consumer-based web company. This is the scenario faced by Facebook. Rumours and gossip continue to circulate about a pending IPO in late summer or fall. Simply put, the possibility is quite real. Though raising capital does provide the ability to bring on added resources, the dilution of equity and ownership is a strong argument against such a proposition. Anyone whose ever had to deal with numerous stakeholders knows that ensuring the happiness and satisfaction of everyone is near impossible. Financial obligations move to the forefront. This usually means that the user is left to the demise of a fiscally-conscious executive posse and a board of directors, rather than a team focused on the user experience.

Another extremely plausible case is…

Social media collapse: Think back to what happened to Digg. Should Facebook choose to betray users, hide or lie about an issue, or provide non-disclosure around a given policy, and users find out about the blunder, watch out. The very mechanism that spurred viral growth and adoption may work in a counter-productive fashion.

Here are a few other, less likely cases…

A sale: As is the case with many takeovers and acquisitions, the user base of the little guy gets disgruntled. All of a sudden, the policies and corporate culture of the start-up are subject to the red tape and bureaucracy of the over-arching big guy. Many users feel uncomfortable and betrayed in a situation such as this, and defect to a similar product/service where they feel more at ease.

Complacency: Though we have not witnessed this as of yet, a failure to innovate may signal troubles for the company. Having said that, this is probably the least plausible and least likely threat to the company. Time and time again, Facebook has displayed a strong willingness to provide innovative features . For this reason, I have my doubts about the complacency of the company – unless of course, Mark Zuckerberg finds more value in yachting and spending time in the Bahamas rather than company strategy.

What do you think will slow down Facebook’s exceptional growth?