Tablets : Windows 8 – Metro @ //BUILD/

14 09 2011

Microsoft have been unveiling Windows 8 at //BUILD/ and the keynote from Steve Sinofsky was, to say the least, inspiring. //BUILD/ was about revealing Windows 8 to the developer community, showing them what it is, where it’s going and what they can expect as it launches, in its various guises.

I’m interested (here) with what Windows 8 and the Metro UI, first seen on Windows Phone 7, means in the tablet space. Or as its more accurately known, the iPad space. What really interests me here is the idea that it might be a year until we see a Windows 8 tablet, assuming this is correct, it would appear to be a catastrophic case for Microsoft, surely the tablet wars will be over in a year?

Well, perhaps that might play to Microsoft.

Right now there isn’t much of a tablet war. We have Apple’s iPad dominant and nothing looking remotely likely to get close, much less topple it. It’s a great device and it has created the market from the previous failed attempts by Microsoft, among others. The there is Android, Googles smartphone OS hacked for tablets. The first generation of devices has been poor and they are approaching end of life, the first signs of the second generation are appearing and maybe Android will get a second chance. HP killed the Touchpad and, well everyone knows what happened with that. Blackberry launched an expensive toy and cant be considered a contender in my opinion, perhaps their second generation will make up for the first. And lastly we have Amazon, rumoured to be about to enter the game, but with a small, cheaper than iPad, based on old Android, low spec device. I don’t really think Amazon is entering the same game as everyone else, maybe with a competitive device but this 7″ shopping tablet isn’t it.

Then there is Microsoft. Metro, the UI, looks very good, it brings something new to the party, but as has already been pointed out Windows Phone 7 brought Metro to our attention and that hasn’t exactly changed Microsoft’s fortunes in the smartphone space, why would it do so in the tablet space? My thought is Microsoft isn’t looking for it to revolutionise anything. Imagine in 12 months, Windows 8 tablets launch, with a decent spread of apps, using the same basic OS that’s been around for some time on the desktop, laptop and server, slowly replacing the Windows 7 (Vista, XP, etc) systems in use by 100’s of millions. The tablet space, probably still lead by Apple, has settled down, its not a war of innovation anymore, its an established market, moving along the adoption curve. There may have been a few casualties, maybe even a new contender. But when Windows 8 tablets launch across a range of manufacturers the sheer choice of devices, all bearing a familiar badge, sporting a look and feel that has had months to become familiar, may be a very compelling idea in the mind of the Early and Late Majority.

There are clear signs that Apple is trying to converge its iOS and OSX operating systems, Microsoft is doing the same thing. Google is working with Intel, Microsoft is working with ARM. In 12 months there is going to be a lot less that divides tablets than there is today.

If you can’t get into and win the war, make sure you are around to win the peace.

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Google+ some more thoughts

23 07 2011

I just read  this ‘Why twitter is obsolete‘ and despite there being the usual mass of comment on Google+ and how it will or wont change the world, this one has a fact I hadn’t been aware of before.

“Twitter defines an “active user” as one who follows at least 30 people and has at least 10 people who follow him. A source with access to Twitter’s API who was quoted by Business Insider in April says that there were only 21 million people or accounts on Twitter that met the “active user” criteria.”

This is interesting and until I read it I had never considered the quality value of user metrics, just their quantative value. If this is true, and I have to say I suspect it might be, then Google+ can (and should) go for the jugular and change the game. In my opinion the Google+ UI and hence UX, while good, is lacking some simple but vital features. Right now the ‘stream’, the main feed of everyone you have circled in some way, is too noisy and circles currently don’t provide quite enough flexibility to tailor your default stream. But this is trivial to resolve for Google and many people have already commented on the 2 or 3 options to fix it, I’m sure Google will.

Another point raised in the previously mentioned article is that a lot of posts are nothing more than a teaser or snippet that then links to a fuller blog post. In fact Tweetdeck a very popular client for twitter and recently acquired by twitter, provides a tweet extender. But Google can beat this simply, it could allow you to post a full blog, direct into your stream. If Google allows for a simple two level posting mechanic, something like a summary, length restricted but including media and then a fuller extended post, hidden by default but with a clickable extend button on the post then it has in stream bloging taken care of.

twitters greatest asset in its early days, long before I wanted to use it, was its open and available API, this allowed them to build twitter and anyone to build add-ons and clients. But now twitter is much bigger, and not so open to others delivering the features it thinks (rightly or wrongly) it should be delivering. Once Google+ delivers its API we will see some of the current social media clients (Seesmic, Hootsuite, etc) including Google+, at this point its going to become apparent that twitter itself lacks in many areas compared to Google+ and it might just be a matter of time.

That time may also be a lot shorter than people think (myself included), this comparative graph of Google+ growth v’s twitter v’s Facebook, while not being a fair direct comparison, shows how rapidly Google+ has taken off (and its still invite based) and may give some indications to how volatile the social media user base is.





Google+ some thoughts

10 07 2011

I’ve been playing around with Google+ for a few days and I am impressed and disapointed in equal measure. So far Googles latest attempt at creating a social networking platform is, without doubt, their best effort yet. It includes some new features and adds some polish to some established ones.

Right now its STILL in invite only phase, it really needs to be out of this in the next few days. Already people I know using it all agree, the biggest missing feature is their friends. What use a social networkng site with no one to be social with? What else is missing? Well a lot of things but the two they need a solid answer to very quickly are Facebook and twitter.

Everyone uses Facebook, not everyone is going to be using Google+, not even if they give away £10 with every sign up. They need a mechanism to ease people over from Facebook to Google+ and the obvious way is to allow Google+ to post into Facebook. The same is true of twitter, but thats a different party.

So why is there no tickbox in Google+ to ‘Post to Facebook’? Either Google couldnt or wouldnt, I dont buy the idea that they didnt. Its an intersting issue. Facebook are unlikely to allow any kind of posting that potentially takes away their traffic or their users. This is going to set Google+ and Facebook against each other. Facebook is established, feature rich (relatively), has an open API for developers and 750 million users. Google+ has… Circles?

So thats a knockout and a win for Facebook then, not quite in my opinion. Facebook has been on the wrong end of privacy issues time and time again and its always won because there was no alternative. Google+ is shiny and new, though I have yet to figure out why this could ever translate into a meaningful selling point, we are not talking about cars!

Ok, so what about twitter. Neither Facebook nor Google+ allow direct native posting to twitter, though there are plenty of Social Media applications that get around this, though now yet for Google+ (damn, not having that API is already a problem, isnt it!). twitter is not a competitor to Facebook or to Google+ in my opinion, they are overlapping and complimnetary. twitter is more public, its the open room big conversation. Facebook is the closed party of friends and like minded individuals. What is Google+? Well it has potential to be both, I’m minded to consider that Google and twitter could really forge a strong realtionship here.

Google+ needs to create Circles, its feature to group friends, that can be your twitter friends and your Facebook friends. I think the winning play is to play every game, social media is people, not systems. When there are no options 3rd parties fill the gaps. But if Google relies on 3rd parties, when they can eventually get hold of an API, to build features needed for Google+ survival they may find them writing for the platform that suported them first.

I think this landscape feel over crowded but I think it has room for the life and soul of the party to make an appearance. Mobile is going to be the decisive factor. So thats game set and match to Google then, after all they have Android for phones and tablets (yes, the tables are a joke, but that will change) and they launched a truly killer Google+ Android app. Game over? No.

Not by a long way. Apple has got the Google+ app to approve, I’m sure it will approve it in the next few days and I’m sure it will be great. The Facebook app sucks, on all platforms. The twitter app is fine everywhere, though nothing special. But Apple has a possible game changer about to appear.

Its widely rumoured that when Apple launches the iPhone5 later this year, with the public release of iOS5, it will alos launch a new, lower price, iPhone. Imagine an iPhone that can eat into the phone market on price, who will want to buy anything else? An iPhone that is as cool as an iPhone5, can do every thing an iPhone5 can do, but is cut down in some ways. Apple may just be about to blow up the smartpjhone market again in the same way, with the same tactic, it used on the tablet market. Make an Apple product everyone will want and make it a aprice no one can compete with.

So who wants to put money on which platform is going to have the best Faecbook and twitter apps in a few months?

Interesting, isnt it?





Windows, linux or Google?

25 11 2009

It doesn’t take a tech genius to realise how much of a player Google’s ChromeOS could become in the netbook arena. Ignore all the talk for now, its just an open source preview and their desperation to show something is coming. It doesn’t make sense until they get closer to launch and (or) the first leaked hardware is shown.

But here is the pitch; you’re in PC World, well you’re not because you never would be, but Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny are in PC World. They walk admiringly past rows of shiny Macs and start poking at the Acer’s and the Asus’, the Samsung’s and the HP’s, the netbooks.

As we have no known hardware differentiators at this point lets skip that part and come back to it in 6 months time.

They look at the Windows netbook. Its going to be either still running XP or maybe by now its got Windows 7. Its recognisable, somewhat familiar and they don’t take too long to find the web browsers, see the Google search page and their gmail account, they can even find Flickr and this new fangled twitter thing that littlejohnny keeps raving about. Yep, Windows netbook seems to have it all and all is good with the world.

Next they see the linux based netbook. Now the eye is caught by the price tag, its cheaper than the windows netbook, possibly by some margin. Then they start to prod it and look at each other, “what is this?”, “where is the start thingy?”, the conversation doesn’t really go very much further. Its not familiar, in fact it can seem downright alien. They look lovingly back to the windows netbook and start to look for a salesman to do the deal.

Now then, this we all know. Netbooks arrived with linux, various distros, mostly horrid, all perfectly useful and workable. Then XP arrived and linux disappeared like the dinosaurs.

Enter stage left, Google.

Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny switch it on and oh, its on, that was fast!

Oh there is the Google search page and gmail, that all looks familiar. Pretty quickly they are at home with it. The price tag is good and the sales sheet talks about; no messy software updates, all safely backed up online, easy to use, all your web applications. Sold!

linux is trying to build a UI that can work and provide an experience that allows users to ‘use’ the netbook and not have to fight the OS. Moblin, Ubuntu UNR, these are valiant efforts. But they are not there yet, not for a mass market. I use UNR on my netbook every day, everything works perfectly, I love it. I use linux on one of my desktops, windows on another, windows 7 on a laptop. I am not a typical user, Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny are!

Google will steal this market from linux by being linux but calling it Google. Canonical know it thats why they are working with Google.

The choice could be a Windows 7 netbook or a Google netbook, the decision will be made based on price and Google is banking on delivering a hardware device that can be cheaper than the one needed for Windows.





Google Wave

22 11 2009

I’ve been playing about with Google Wave for a week or so now. The concept seems to me to be capable of being a game changer for on-line collaborative communication, but the current Google Client and project status (preview) means its going no where slowly.

An open Beta will be the time to make a real judgment, right now the biggest problem is finding enough people to ‘Wave’ with, this picture seems particularly appropriate for now (from http://i.imgur.com/zVn91.jpg)