Archive for the ‘trends’ Category

Google Officially Launches PowerPoint Killer

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Google Docs logoGoogle officially launched its Microsoft PowerPoint killer. The cleverly named Presently is a very simple, slick presentation builder. The project appears to be the culmination of Google’s acquisition of Zenter earlier this year. Now, users of Google Docs can quickly and easily create a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or folder, essentially completing the office suite.

What do I think of the offering so far? Friggen sweet. I highly suggest everyone check it out. It’s a must for anyone looking to put together a stellar presentation. Here are some of the features that sold me:

  • Group-editing - numerous users can edit a given document, not just the creator.
  • Revision-viewing - the ability to view revisions allows you to revert back to previous editions.
  • One-click functionality - most features and functions are a single click away.
  • Slick, intuitive interface - all elements are well presented; this minimizes the learning curve. 
  • Web-based - presentations are saved on Google servers and can easily be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. 
  • Free - no money out of my pocket. 

If Google Docs really wants to make a solid impact in the ‘office’ space, it is going to have to crack the enterprise market. The company has made steps toward doing, most notably with a partnership with CapGemini last week. Nevertheless, I still think there are many doubts, hesitations, and concerns from the institutional side. Large corporations, organizations, and goverments will be difficult to penetrate, as they have historically used Microsoft. Such a dramatic change would not only present huge infrastructure changes, but it would also incur huge costs. Furthermore, education around the new system would be critical. In other words, I still think Microsoft can breathe safely for a *bit*. However, complacency will ultimately lead to failure, as we have witnessed over the years with this giant. Constant innovation is key.

[Google Presently screenshot via TechCrunch]

For more info, be sure to check out posts from Mashable and Read/WriteWeb.

Two Reasons Why I Like Local

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Road SignLocal is becoming a huge hit on the web. Companies such as Craigslist (most notably), Yelp, Google Maps, and others have pioneered this regional approach to the Internet. Even traditional, offline players are taking notice. Just look at YellowPages. The company realized that failing to acknowledge this trend could be fatal, especially for a business based completely around local information.

So why do I like local so much?

  1. Anyone can use the service. A constant criticism of web 2.0 start-ups is that they only cater to cutting edge, tech-savvy users. In other words, they preach the echo-chamber. These technologies take a long time to reach the mainstream. With local, the average person can immediately see or fail to see the benefits of a given service.
  2. There is a revenue model. Many local businesses lust to have the ability to place ads or post listings on a regional site that drives qualified, location-sensitive traffic. Such opportunities are quite rare on the net. High CPMs and sizable listing prices are great incentives for a start-up to enter local markets.

Summarizing the previous two points, we find that a localized start-up can market to a larger target group and incorporate a revenue model that fits with the business. These are two of the biggest problems that new web start-ups fail to overcome. From an investor perspective, these two factors provide a significant opportunity.

Local is definitely here to stay. Though it may not seem as exciting or sexy as some of the other web 2.0 ventures, the value proposition for the target market is usually quite compelling. Providing a service to regular folk not only simplifies the pitch, but also increases your chances for success.

Be sure to add your favourite ‘local’ start-ups to the comment section below.

Why Social Media Works

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Any website or service that is dependent upon its users for survival can be categorized as a ’social media’ player. User-generated content (UGC) has formed the basis for numerous successful for start-ups. Without users who submit content, these sites are essentially worthless. What’s Flickr without photos? What’s YouTube without videos?

Two of the best examples are Wikipedia and Craigslist - undoubtedly the web’s two most famous .org’s. Who submits the content? Who does all the work? The users. Sure, the company created the system that facilitates the processes, but this is only a tiny portion of the overall effort. Such a scenario is the reason why small operations can scale on a low budget. Once again though, if users stop contributing, the service is useless. Put in a different context, the company isn’t the content provider, but rather the distribution mechanism. This is the basis for social media.

What if everyone stopped submitting news headlines and interesting articles? We’d have no more Digg. What if everyone stopped uploading videos? We’d have no more YouTube. Worse yet, what if everyone stopped blogging? We’d be stuck with whatever content that traditional media subjects to us. What a pity that would be.

In a future post, we will explore how social media can backfire and work in a counter-productive fashion, potentially destroying the company altogether.

Web 2.0 Overload

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Is it just me or is web 2.0 suffering from a stagnant lapse? Don’t get me wrong - I love the concept of web 2.0 and social media. That definitely isn’t the problem. The lack of innovation and inferior business models are what bother me most. Add to that the fact that ideas are being ripped off and clones are abundant. Honestly, do we need another social bookmarking site or a generic video portal?

This lack of creativity and thought around business models is quite discouraging. A business plan full of buzz words and a flashy PowerPoint just don’t cut it anymore. What users really want is value; they want a service they can use. This seems obvious, but I can’t believe how many ridiculous ideas continue to be funded.

What about revenue models? We all know that a majority of start-ups are dependent upon Google ads as their key income generator. Truly, this is not a sustainable model. Unless a given property is able to generate millions of page views a month, then such a model is impractical. Creating a paid service isn’t difficult. Creating a truly compelling service and convincing the customer that it’s worth the price is the hard part. If there is a stunning value proposition for the end user, they will pay. One thing to keep in mind is the general trend that (almost) all Internet services eventually progress to free.

Having said all that, I am optimistic that the tables will turn. Despite all the clutter in the web 2.0 space, we have witnessed the growth of some remarkable start-ups over the past year, most notably Twitter. I refuse to use the term ‘bubble’ in this context, but I do believe that changes are in the pipeline. Funding will become more scarce and investors will become more selective. Hopefully this will weed out the crap and pave the way for innovative new ideas. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Is Facebook the New LinkedIn?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

LinkedIn logoThe advent of the Internet and the proliferation of cell phones essentially wiped out the need for a Rolodex. Business contact information could now be managed via some sort of electronic device. All of a sudden, connections and relationships seemed much more manageable without the need for a tangible organizational system. Microsoft Outlook served as a main hub for many. Plaxo was the next step. Then along came web 2.0…

LinkedIn was born and quickly became the business contact tool of choice for the tech-savvy. As opposed to many of the other social networks, LinkedIn focused on an older, more established business crowd. The ability to meet contacts through established connections was a main driver for the site. Subsequently, LinkedIn quickly became known as the place to network with business contacts online.

Nowadays, the leader is starting to see competition from an unexpected source. More and more business professionals are starting to use Facebook as their main means of networking and relationship-tracking.

This may seem odd to some, as LinkedIn is focused specifically on business professionals, thereas Facebook provides a more general offering. The reason I see many making the switch is this: Facebook simply has a much larger user base than LinkedIn. In other words, there is a higher likelihood that a given contact will be using Facebook. Keep in mind that Facebook is tailored for an older demographic as well, as opposed to say MySpace or hi5. Having said that, even though Facebook is a generic social utility, great value can still be derived from the depth of connections and the internal communication mechanisms. Personally, I also find LinkedIn a bit confusing at times. The more simplified Facebook experience may also be a factor.

The transition is still in its early stages. Many still live by LinkedIn and may be unlikely to switch due to their strong ties with the service already. Nevertheless, Facebook may provide an added networking tool, if not the networking tool, for business professionals in the future.

Do you think Facebook will thwart LinkedIn in the networking space? Or is the more tailored offering going to win out in the end?