Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's like Facebook and Twitter got together and had a sexy baby

In Facebook you can group your contacts into lists such as your family list, friend list, or work list. The reason I never got into this was because it became available when I already had 400 friends. I definitely did not want to sit down at the computer for an hour organizing everybody.

The feature never really took off and even Facebook admitted defeat. Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that "people don't like making lists." I will agree that they don't like making lists but I do think that like things to be grouped and organized. Sink or swim Google+ has solved the problem to getting your connections into their groupings. To add someone to your network you simply move their name into the respective circle (group). 

One of the Achilles's heel of lists on Facebook was that there were too many steps. I had to friend someone and then I was able to go back in and put them in their correct list. Google circles takes care of that automatically not in the sense that it's picking the group for you, although I'm sure Google's working on that, but the action of adding a connection and grouping are one in the same.

Going against Facebook is no easy task though and Google has failed at social before. What puts Google in a good position however is number one they have multiple web properties to add customers from. Secondly it's helpful that there is differentiation between Google+ and Facebook. Rather than being just a direct competitor Google has done something different and it may pay of in the end.

The Diaspera project is proof that just being a Facebook alternative is not enough to hit "critical mass." Critical mass is the point in which enough users have adopted a social network to sustain it. Diaspera received millions of dollars in funding simply because it wasn't Facebook. Google+'s immediate popularity has been attributed to the fact that it's not Facebook but one of my favorite quotes is "It's like Facebook and Twitter got together and had a sexy baby."

God made men and women but Samuel Colt made them equal

In case you don't know this about me, I live on the internet. I have a whole network of friends that I feel close to yet have never met in real life or even have talked to over the phone. I've also made money on the net through web related projects albeit not as much as I would like to make.

Some of you may be saying "what's so special about that?" What's so special is how easy it is now! The internet is an exponentially growing force. Not only is it changing different aspects of how we live and communicate but it's accelerating in the rate of change.

I've started ventures that have made money without needing any startup capital, try doing that outside of the internet. The process produced by the net is called disintermediation, or getting rid of the middle-man. This inevitably reduces or in some cases removes the cost-for-entry.

The book industry perfectly displays how disintermediation has changed an industry. Before the internet if you wanted to write a book then you had to be noticed by a publisher. It was then the publisher who produced and marketed your book. They were the ones who had the relationships with the stores that then had the relationship with the end customer.

The internet has completely changed the publishing model allowing the writer to have an almost direct relationship with his or hers readers. Using Amazon John Loche was able to write his book and then immediately publish it on the Kindle eBook store. He then marketed it himself, I don't have the data but it is possible that he was able to market with little or no cost using social media. Now he is the first independent author to sell over 1,000,000 eBooks.

Yes Amazon is a third party but their role is limited to only providing tools. They were passive through the process of John Loche becoming a best selling author. Now he has a direct link to his readers using Kindle's Direct Publishing program.

The point I'm trying to make here is that circumstances become less relevant as a result of disintermediation. Most writers before came from writing backgrounds such as journalists with a few breakouts here and there. I am another example, I love to write but I didn't really discover that until after school. Instead of applying to hundreds of media outlets with almost certainly hundreds of rejection letters, I used Blogger to setup my own platform to write. I write about anything and almost everything, without the fear of an editor dictating what I write about.

Disintermediation isn't just effecting the publishing industry but it is the one industry where the affects are so clear. As disintermediation spreads it will shape more and more industries faster and faster. The cost-for-entry will be reduced to little or nothing at all and the limitations preventing entry will be lifted.

The record label's greatest concern right now is piracy of their music. Did you see what I said there? Is it the record label's music or is it the artist's music? It's not there yet but as disintermediation continues to work through the music industry, label's may need to someday figure out how to remain relevant. 

Who's music is it really? It's the musician's and the artist's of course. What if they had a way to record their own music and get it directly to their listeners? If I was a record label with foresight, the worry of pirated music would be diminished in view of what's to come.

What this all means is that there is less of a need for facilitators to provide the ability to people to write books, make music, or produce media content. All you need is the passion and the willingness to learn as you go. You don't need to move to Hollywood to strike it big. Get a webcam and put yourself before the world on youtube. 

The internet has made us all equals no longer relying on our dispositions in life to put us in shot of succeeding. We are all equally responsible for our own achievements. With the power of the internet the possibility of what we can achieve has no limitations.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You know you've been thinking about phones too much when....

This list comes in courtesy of Phone Arena, enjoy! check out every person with a cell phone to see what model they have, overhear two strangers taking about smartphones and you interject your opinion, ask your wife or SO to rewind the DVR so you can watch the commercial for the latest handset again,

...your girlfriend gets jealous because you subscribed to tweets from the LG Girl, have a smile on your face all day because your carrier is getting the Samsung Galaxy S II, know who Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are,

...whenever you see someone sporting a Motorola Razr, you pull them aside for a 30 minute lecture on updating to a new phone, walk into Best Buy just to play with all of the dummy models, walk into a Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile store and know more about upcoming models than the reps do, walk into a Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile store and know more about current models than the reps do,

...your wife asks you to bring home some blackberries and you ask her which model she wants, mark a big "X" on your calendar to remind you when your two year contract with a carrier expires,

...NFC no longer stands for the National Football Conference, can rattle off specs on lesser known handsets, but can't remember your kids names, would rather shop at the Android Market than at the Supermarket.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Xobni is more than just inbox spelled backwards

Head over to and you'll immediately be greeted with the company's tagline. Your Inbox is full of messages People!

In today's world on the net we are communicating with each other in more and more channels. I have friends that I talk to only on Facebook, only on Twitter, only on LinkedIn and through email. What Xobni looks to do is not only reinvigorate your email but also make it more the center of your communication channels.

Xobni combines all of the information from all of your social networks and integrates it into your email so you have more information on those you're communicating with through email.

Xobni has been out for both outlook and Blackberry but now it's on it's way to AndroidiPhone, and Gmail. Click on the respective keyword to signup for the beta.

It took me about two weeks to get my invite and I have had the chance to play around with it.

After signing in and installing the plug-in I was asked to link my other social networks. Authorizing each one was simple since I was signed in to all of them and it only required that I click "accept."

When connecting it gave me a message saying that it was indexing all of my contacts. I have 800 on Facebook, 500 on Twitter, and 600 on Linked In. With all these contacts it still took only a minute to complete the process. Normally I'm hesitant about linking up all of my networks but the more you connect with Xobni the more powerful it becomes.

When I click on an email I now get a ton of information about the user who sent it on the right-hand side of gmail. I get their profile picture, their company and title. Below are four tabs, social network updates, relationship history, recent emails, and frequently emailed with. While self-explanatory and seemingly simple, these are wanted features. When communicating through email it is very helpful having this information at your fingertips without having to enter a search query.

Additional features, labeled as gadgets, are available for download on their site and most are free. Evernote, DropBox, WebEx, and Chatter are just a few of the gadgets.

Before I mention any complaint I do want to point out that I am reviewing the Gmail Beta version.

The one very small complaint that I have is that it tries to pick profile information for email lists. Maybe it's that I've been ruined by Google's ability to know what is and isn't relevant but I do find it annoying when a profile pic is listed beside a list address.

Other than that it's an amazing tool! I highly recommend that you try it out.

Have you been using Xobni? Let us know what your thoughts are on it!

Verizon and the pain of capped data

As of July 7 of this year Verizon Wireless will no longer offer unlimited data plans for smartphone users. Instead users will receive 2GB of data for the same price they were previously able to get unlimited. The change doesn't come as a surprise since AT&T made the same move 1 year and 1 month ago to the day.

AT&T customers have learned to cope with the plans but Verizon customers won't have the same offerings to help ease the pain. AT&T's offering gave 2GB at $25 and for those that truly used less data could go as low as $15 a month. Verizon starts at $30 and goes up from there.

Data plans:
2GB - $30/month
5GB - $50/month
10GB - $80/month
Tethering can be added to any plan, you can purchase 2GB of data at an additional cost of $20 per month.

Data plans w/ tethering:
4GB - $50/month
7GB - $70/month
12GB - $100/month
If you go over your purchased amount of data, it will cost you $10 per 1GB.

The one saving grace which has yet to be revealed (also yet to be confirmed) is the ability to share data. In my own personal situation this would help out greatly since I am the data hog and my wife does very little billable with hers coming in over the home wifi. I would come out ahead since currently I'm paying $60 in data, together we may total 5GB a month, in sharing I would only pay $50.

Verizon's approach to new family share plans is interesting. Rather than putting each line on a plan such as a $60 Primary Share and $9.99 Secondary Share, the new process will be separating the two. It's called Account Level billing and just as the name suggests the price plan will be associated with the account and not each line. If the data package is also on the account level then two lines would have the ability to share one 2GB plan.

Regardless of whether it's better or not, the transition will be confusing and annoying to the customer. Trying to talk about amounts of data on a broad band access card to a customer is already challenging since it's so objective. AT&T however has proved in a year that boxing in customers into restrictive plans won't be enough to make them leave.

Friday, June 24, 2011

RadioShack gives Verizon another go

RadioShack is changing things up as it struggles to see positive growth. Today it was announced that "The Shack" will once again carry Verizon Wireless at it's 1,100 independent Radio Shacks.

2005 was the year that RadioShack stopped selling Verizon Wireless but now wireless has become more of what makes up RadioShack's revenue forcing the electronics store to focus more mobile. RadioShack already carries AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. However when RadioShack reported a 30 percent drop in net profit on their first quarter earnings report the fingers pointed at T-Mobile because of sluggish sales.

In 2008 RadioShack reported that 29 percent of sales came from mobile, but last year that number quickly went to 47 percent. With mobile counting for almost half of RadioShack's profits it's no wonder why they would want to add the nation's largest wireless carrier to their line. Verizon Wireless added 1.8 million customers in it's first quarter while T-Mobile lost 99,000.

RadioShack is being dropped from the S&P500 index.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The New York Post commits Internet discrimination

The publication is now blocking mobile users using Safari for iPad. Trying to access the site, users will be redirected and forced to download the New York Post application.

Industry leaders in the dead tree business have been scrambling to find ways to become profitable separate from the traditional publication distribution model. They have finally come to terms that they are stricken with a terminal illness but is it too late for them to find a cure?

In their pursuit of new revenue streams however the Post has committed discrimination on the net. If you are an iPad user you have lost the right to access a part of the internet that any other average computer or mobile phone user would. A part of the web has just been blocked off for a very unlucky subset of users.

I understand what they're trying to do, their app that makes them money is available on the iPad where it's not on other platforms. Why would they block other users from their site without an alternative to get there? This is part of the side-effects from waiting so long to adopt innovation. They have a long hard road ahead of them of trial and mostly error.

The reason this is such a hot topic for me is that the internet is under threat of inequality. Those that control the pipelines of the net, the cable companies, are exploring their own business models of increasing revenues.

Netflix which is eating into cable's profits by winning over their cable tv subscribers may have to deal with internet discrimination. One model the cable companies have talked about is charging their internet subscribers a premium to have the ability to access Netflix. One more example how these old dying companies don't know how to deal with up and coming technology.

So while blocking access to a website from a certain device may seem small it is the foreshadowing of things to come. Fight internet discrimination today!

Familiarize yourself with Net Neutrality which is the principle that ISP's and governments put no restrictions on those participating on the internet.

Also call your representatives and tell them not to support the disingenuously named Protect IP law going through congress. This is one of the worst attacks on freedom of speech. Don't be silent!

Independent Author Sells Over 1 Million eBooks on Kindle

I found this story on Mashable and it's one that I just love. This is disintermediation at work and proof that the internet will consistently lower the price for entry.
Crime novelist John Locke has become the first independent author to sell more than 1 million ebooks through Kindle’s Direct Publishing program, Amazon announced Monday.
The author, a self-described “niche marketer” who attributes much of his success to his $0.99 pricing model, has self-published nine novels through the Kindle Store, including New York Times bestselling ebookSaving Rachel, as well as his first non-fiction title, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.
Locke pockets 35 cents for every ebook he sells through Kindle. He has never had a traditional agent or publisher. He joins seven other authors, including Stieg Larsson and Nora Roberts, in the “Kindle Million Club.”

Purchase John Locke's book for only .99 cents! Please use the link on the left hand side to also support the site at no extra cost to you!

If you want to know how John Locke sold 1 million eBooks in 5 months then check out his book of the same name.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scammers go back to their roots

Kevin Mitnick, once the most-wanted computer criminal, often turned to a tactic called social engineering. Rather than spend tedious hours trying to crack a password he would often find ways of making people give up information willingly.

Now scammers using the same strategy to talk people into letting them scan their PC for potential threats. However when the victim agrees they are opening the door for the criminal to take what they please which includes passwords, credit card numbers and social security numbers.

According to a recent CNET article Microsoft polled 7,000 PC users in the US, Canada, and in the UK. The result was 15% have received a call like this and 22% actually fell for the scam. 79% reported that money had been stolen from them in amounts ranging from $82 - $1560 and the cost of fixing their computer ranged anywhere from $1730 - $4800.

The ploy of offering security scans is unfortunately giving these guys results but social engineering can dupe even the most careful. Pacific Bell gave Kevin Mitnick very sensitive information because he took the time to study how an employee of PB talked and who in what department would request the type of data he wanted.

Malicious software is still a threat to protect yourself against but greed will always drive innovation in the computer criminal camp.

To protect yourself from such scams, Microsoft recommends the usual pieces of advice that we've all heard before but are worth repeating.
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem.
  • Never provide credit card details or other information to an unsolicited caller.
  • Don't go to a Web site, install software, or follow other instructions from someone who calls unsolicited.
  • Take down the caller's information and pass it along to the authorities.
  • Keep Windows and your other software up to date, especially antivirus software.
  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is AT&T buying T-mobile making it a monopoly?

AT&T is currently pursuing approval of the acquisition of T-Mobile, the smallest of the 4 nationwide cellular carriers. It's becoming a heated topic in the telecom world gaining more opponents and supporters. In defending the deal AT&T is trying more and more tactics as Consumer Reports reported that AT&T thinks that less competition means lower prices.

AT&T's newest argument is that T-Mobile is quickly becoming irrelevant so the purchase of the fledgling company will hardly change the competitive landscape. When it comes to the nationwide carriers there are two types of technology that is used, GSM and CDMA. With a successful purchase of T-Mobile there will be only one GSM option, AT&T

Becoming the only GSM provider will this be enough to consider AT&T a monopoly?

There is the current debate in Washington on whether or not the purchase will at the very least create a duopoly. This of course considers Sprint as irrelevant making Verizon and AT&T the only two viable options. The question is though how much choice do customers need and what level of competition will keep prices at reasonable levels.

AT&T says that consolidation will create efficiencies thus keeping costs of operations at bay. The problem I have with that logic is Sprint/ Nextel, Cingular/ Suncom, Cingular/ AT&T, and Verizon/ Alltel. Any merger has it's own set of problems and at the very best has only a moderate amount of issues.

In a Fierce Wireless story AT&T rebutted it's most vocal oppent, Sprint by saying "To hear the opponents tell it, T-Mobile USA--with approximately 11 percent of subscribers nationwide, steadily declining market share, and no clear path to LTE--is all that stands between today's 'era of competition and growth' and 'an entrenched, anti-competitive duopoly.' (Quoting Sprint's filing) is implausible, to say the least,"

I agree that the writing is on the wall for T-Mobile, losing 99,000 subscribers in their first quarter this year is a very bad omen.

But buying T-Mobile is not the caveat to an anti-competitive climate but the continuation of one. Wireless subscribers face very little choice when looking at a nationwide provider. Most of the time the pricing structure is the same and varies little in the amount of minutes received.

Another frustrating aspect of the wireless industry is the "Lemming Effect." When one carrier increases the price or takes away what a customer gets then the others follow suit. Recently Verizon Wireless eliminated their 1 year contracts because their biggest competitor, AT&T, hasn't offered 1 years for quite some time.

T-Mobile hasn't been a true competitor but it has been a representation of what this industry needs which is an economy carrier. The hurdle for a discount provider is coverage, what every mobile subscriber wants. If a carrier can't be profitable then it can't reinvest in it's network which was a deathblow to T-Mobile since they have no hope of upgrading to LTE or 4G if you prefer.

Sprint is in a weird gray zone, they're not really a discount carrier but then again they're not a premium one either. Dan Hesse has done an amazing turn around job with Sprint but now it's gotten trapped in a vortex of multiple strategies. If Sprint decides to take hold of the discount position then they could own that space as T-Mobile leaves a void. Sprint doesn't have the greatest network but they do have one that with the right pricing structure could continue to nip at Verizon and AT&T's subscriber base.

But that's it! We're now talking about just three providers, 2 of which are almost identical except one has lousy service. So what's left?

For the carrier that got booed off stage at E3 when they were announced as the exclusive wireless provider for the newest portable playstation device, they will probably be able to buy their way into the largest carrier spot. Verizon and Sprint will acquire the ticked off T-Mobile customers who will refuse AT&T.

And the one big loser in this anti-competitive climate will be the wireless customer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Apple's patent, annoying, Facebook's new technology, scary!

Recently there was a lot of conversation around Apple's newest patent that will allow theaters and concert venues to turn of your phone's record function via infrared technology. Of course people were upset since Apple is wanting to be big brother for the movie and music industries but what Facebook is getting ready to release is downright scary!

Facebook will now look at the pictures you upload and use facial recognition software to automatically associate other Facebook users with that picture.

Many Facebook users are already concern since the technology has been rolled out the past few days without any notice. You can opt out but that only prevents your photos from being scanned while you are still susceptible to being scanned in other user's photos. Photos that are currently on Facebook cannot be scanned but as new ones are uploaded they will have the scan feature.

The Los Angeles Times reports that "The Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that it plans to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission raising concerns over Facebook's new "tag suggestions" feature which allow users to identify people across multiple photos at once using facial-recognition software."

Users continue to entrust Facebook with their personal data and Facebook continues to disrespect the relationship of it's users. It was only a short while ago that Mark Zuckerburg was getting in trouble for automatically changing Facebook's user's privacy settings without their permission.

I don't believe Zuckerburg is trying to tick off every user but his disregard to how policy effects peeople will continue to tarnish the Facebook brand.

Please connect with me on Twitter or Facebook!

Is the Cloud here to stay?

Have you ever been talking to someone about cloud computing and they take hold of the conversation by saying it won't last?

It has happened to me quite a few times, once was even by a very intelligent friend of mine whose opinion I highly respect. The conversation always seems to be transitioned by the statement "I don't know about the cloud," followed by a litany of obstacles that will keep it from gaining the momentum needed to sustain it as a viable business solution. There are security issues, connectivity issues, trust issues, and the list goes on. It is very easy to get sucked into defending every aspect of the cloud and before you know it you're no longer talking about the importance of the cloud.

The fact of the matter is that the cloud continues to build momentum and already has a strong foundation. It is a self-fueling fire that as it facilitates growth will in return be required for new technologies.

The need of the cloud is becoming more apparent and the need is also fueling the innovation that comes with a well established cloud.

Most people in IT understand what the cloud is about. At it's core is the internet but it gets deeper than that and I'm not talking about network virtualization or anything else that references to the complexity of the cloud.

At the true heart of the cloud is disintermediation. Disintermediation is essentially removing the middle man and as you remove the middle man things become more efficient and faster. So in the world of information at the speed of the thought, disintermediation is the natural process that the cloud produces therefore it is only inevitable that one produces the other.

For those that have doubts on the cloud I ask to look at where we were 20 years ago with the internet then at  10 years and look at it now.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Apple's newest patent

Apple's newest patent application gets a little crazy on the control side. In short the new technology allows your iPhone to interpret infrared light and changes user's permission to use the camera. The proposed applications of this technology is to prevent picture capture or video recording at movies and concerts.

Infrared data is detected by the phone. This infrared signal would be sent by the use of infrared transmitters. The LED transmitter could act as a spotlight thus disabling the record feature on the phone or it could act as a strobe light to cover a general area that the phone would pick up regardless of which way it's facing.

The technology does have some beneficial features. One example is to send information to the phone, you could point your phone at an animal exhibit at a zoo and it could allow you to watch a video on the animal you're looking at.

This technology is another indicator that Apple has no intentions of letting up on controlling every aspect of your mobile experience. I am a fan of both Android and iPhone with Android taking the win but this technology would absolutely keep me from ever considering an iPhone again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chrome Books, So Close Yet So Far

When I received my Google Chrome CR-48 I was instantly hooked. I'm normally in and out of coffee shops sporadically so I don't want to spend most of my time booting up a computer. That's where the CR-48 really shined in my eye. Google is all about speed, they display how long it takes to find your results and they're always looking to find ways of shaving off milliseconds in the search process. The Chrome book was a success in this area.

Around this time my I was helping my sister-in-law with some computer issues. She had this nasty little virus on her computer that was extremely difficult to get rid of. It was frustrating for her since it took a couple of tries to get everything. With her busy schedule with work and school it was challenging to get together at the same time to work on it. Since she does a lot with Google docs I couldn't help but think that a Chrome book would be perfect for her. She wouldn't have to worry about viruses since everything is cloud based, this would require zero maintenance.

I was looking forward to promoting these to friends and family. I believe in the OS and I think it does everything that anyone needs when living life on the web. I got a real shock when I heard that the first commercially released Chrome books will go for between $349 and $449. This sticker shock has killed the enthusiasm of the most die hard Chrome fans including yours truly.

What I loved about my CR-48 is that it took an opposite approach to affordable computing. Rather than adding as much muscle as possible in the tiniest amount of space, Google made an OS that is so lightweight that it doesn't require hardly anything to run smooth. This being the case a manufacturer could easily produce a product with Chrome OS at a very low cost. So why the price hike?

Early adopters are those that, well, adopt technology early and they're also the ones that can drive a new technology's acceptance by the average consumer. In the tech world there are many who are split on the Chrome book's ability to be a hit without throwing price into the mix. Chrome will likely bounce back if a manufacturer properly prices their device but one thing is for sure, I would hate to be the Samsung or Acer executive who came up with the prices.

Business and education still have the ability to drive sales of Chrome. Google is offering subscription based plans of Chrome which includes the hardware and support. The prices for the subscriptions are $28/ month and $20/ month respectively. This will only drive sales so far however, pricing needs to come much more before the concept grabs hold. The other nail in the coffin is that most early adopters already got their Chrome books for free from Google so there will likely not be a rush of people trying to buy them.

As much as I love Google I just don't see this taking off until the pricing is corrected.

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