Adobe’s new subscription-based pricing structure for the Creative Suite (CS6) and Creative Cloud scare me a bit – not because it’s not a great deal, because of what it signals about the way that software might be priced and purchased in the future across the market. At face value, the Creative Cloud sounds great – $50/month for immediate access to the latest version of just about everything Adobe makes, and then some. That’s if you sign up for a full year, which comes to $600 annually, per person. Month to month plans are $75/mth. Photoshop alone retails for $699, so for a lot of creative professionals this seems like a no brainer. Even if you commit to a year as an individual, and cancel after 6 months, you’ll only owe 50% of what’s left on your contract to get out (6 months would cost you $300 + $150 = $450 ).
Adobe is smart. By making the entire suite affordable, they’re counting on you locking yourself into a product that they can license and maintain in real time. So what’s the big deal?
I must have seen the original TV commercial for the Motorola Xoom tablet over 100 times now and I still don’t have a clue what the darn thing does well. If you’ve watched any mainstream TV in the last few months, you’ve seen the commercial I’m talking about. The one where the guy grabs the device and the next thing you know it’s like you’re watching Iron Man battle a transformer. Why Motorola decided to double-down on a copycat version of the same strategy they used to launch the Droid is beyond me, and I’m certain they’re paying for it in sales. That’s not to say that the Droid strategy didn’t make sense. It did for a phone. I think Motorola just incorrectly assumed that a phone that costs a couple hundred bucks is the same as a completely different device that costs 4 times as much.
Even more confusing is why Motorola chose not to go toe to toe directly with Apple in their first commercial. So many people were waiting for a competitor to show up and just say “we’re better than the iPad, and here’s why”. Motorola is really the only company that could have done that. The Xoom beats the pants of the iPad in several really important categories. It’s got a faster processor, it runs on Verizon’s brand of 4G, it has a bigger screen with better resolution, it’s cameras are better and it does just about every (basic) thing an iPad does….and none of that was in any of their 30 second spots. Why? You just can’t expect to compete effectively with an ad strategy that relies so much on special effects and so little on demos when such a dominant player like Apple is doing so much to define the category with their advertising. Forget the razzle dazzle and the fireworks. You have to show people what the thing does better than your competitors.
In the last month, Motorola seems to be taking corrective action and revamping their marketing. Their latest set of commercials are a much-toned down homage to their target market – a young guy in a business suit folds a laptop until it becomes the Xoom and then he uses it a bit. He flicks through a Google map, does some basic gestures on the screen and you see a momentary flash of a video chat, although it’s unclear what app or service he’s using to do it. A B+ idea with a B minus execution. Then there’s the one where the young guy falls in love with a girl wearing all white, who is listening to white headphones – heavy handed anti-Apple symbolism. Before our eyes, Romeo creates a nifty animation on the Xoom that makes her smile and snap out of her (assumed) “Apple-induced” coma. Again, a pretty-good idea with “meh” execution. You’re still left wondering “how is it better than an iPad?
The most notable change Motorola has made with the Xoom marketing plan, within the last few days actually, was with a complete redesign of the Xoom website. Instead of featuring the commercials at the load screen, they’ve buried the two most recent commercials on inner pages, eliminated the original commercial completely and focused on slideshows with big product visuals that directly compare the Xoom’s features to those of the iPad. Better. They’re even highlighting apps for reading books….finally!
In the next round, I’d like to see Motorola use its marketing department to start highlighting the emotional and situational aspects of what having a tablet is all about. They need to show people the joy that comes from video conferencing with family and friends in high def on a bigger screen, and how they’ve innovated around the reading experience, educational applications and with short spurts of on-demand entertainment. This is what having a tablet is about. They’ve got to recognize that even though the screen is capable of many of the same things a regular PC is, the situations and ways in which we use tablets are different. Tablets make their way to the kitchen counter top, on to the couch in front of the fire…they’re in waiting rooms, in our hands on our commute and in coffee shops. We use those moments to play, to learn, to create and connect. Historically speaking, these are all places and contexts no one has ever had a 10 inch touch screen in their hands, and they are all places where having a tablet at the right moment is a joy. How about showing us some of that Motorola?
Maybe we’ve all gone iPhone and iPad crazy. That’s what all the buzz is about right now and it’s one of the only good reasons I can think of for why more people aren’t talking about the wave of innovation that going on right now around the TV.
Wait, the TV? Did he really just say that? You bet I did. TV 2.0 is coming, and it’s going to change everything. Here’s why:
Twitter’s given us the best approximation of a true, measurable “pulse of the globe” that we’ve ever had and in the last few years we’ve have seen some fantastic Twitter visualizations of world events using all sorts of approaches.
We’re 4 days away from being able to pre-order the new iPhone and my gadget lust is at code orange. Jules and I are still rocking 3Gs so spending on this upgrade is easily rationalized :). There are a lot of groundbreaking innovations on the device, but what I’m most excited about is the camera. To date, believe it or not, I’ve taken 1275 photos with the 2 megapixel camera on my trusty 3G. An unexpected side effect of having a “good enough” camera as part of a device that’s with me wherever I go is that I use all the time – mostly as a memory and inspiration tool. If I want to remember something, or I see something that inspires me, I snap a photo. Over time it just became a habit and I’ve found it so useful that I’d never buy a phone without a camera again.
The volume of pictures I’ve taken on my 3G shows that Apple definitely crossed the usefulness threshold (for users like me at least) with their first stab at putting a camera in a phone. The image quality is lacking, though, and there’s no real manual control and it performs horribly in low light. Apple did a heck of a lot to correct those issues with the 3GS, and even caught the attention of photographers with the improved sensor, an increase in resolution, low light performance and tap-to-focus. (side note: If you haven’t heard about Chase Jarvis‘s new book “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You” check it out…awesome iPhone photography)
And with this release, Apple’s shown that they’re still listening and has put even more useful features into the camera:
Video recording in HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio and in-camera video editing with iMovie – I’m skeptical about what using this will be like, but how can you say this isn’t cool?
5-megapixel still camera – instead of uselessly increasing megapixels they’ve focused on putting in a kick-ass low light sensor, which will make much more difference to image quality.
The new front-facingcamera - finally I can take a picture of Jules and I when we’re out and about that I don’t have to re-take 3 times because all I got was the sky or “just” my stomach.
Tap to focus video or still images – awesome for isolating your subject and blurring the background – this is the feature that made photographers go banana sandwich when the 3G came out.
LED flash - huge – this sucker even stays on to light your subjects when you’re shooting video.
Photo and video geotagging -neat if you care about this sort of thing, which I do because iPhoto’s sorting by place is awesome.
The New Camera + App
OK, so I’ve told you all that so that I can now tell you about this. Now that the iPhone camera is 17 new kinds of awesome, you’re going to start looking for apps, right? Only natural. Along with the “Best Camera” app, I’d recommend this one – Camera+. What’s different about this app is that it gives you lots of control and a much closer experience to an actual DSLR that the pros use. Plus the lightbox, zoom and custom filters are sweet and you can do some really cool “post-production” type of work directly on your phone. For $2.99, it makes the whole experience of using the camera way more than $2.99 cooler…check the video, you’ll see what I mean. If you end up buying it and loving it, you can thank Lisa and TapTapTap for their hard work.
For the past few weeks I’ve been tooling around the web doing research on DSLR cameras, many of which now shoot shockingly crisp, professional-grade HD video. I know that I just can’t ignore the trend towards video content anymore, and I’ve decided to start investing some time building that skill-set (with a long-term view). Don’t get me wrong, I love to write and still think blogging as a great way to reach audiences. It’s just becoming clear that staying relevant and succeeding on the social web requires injecting video production creatively and cheaply into the mix – and that goes for companies as well as individuals. When you strip it down to its core, the social web is fundamentally about people and story-telling, and in just about any side-by-side comparison, when it comes to story telling, video done well beats text almost every single time, and the barriers to entry (cost, learning curve etc) for amateur filmmakers has never been lower. That’s why you’re only going to see more pro-grade video on the web in the coming years. Huge numbers of amateurs are suddenly getting access to a new world.
[tweetmeme] Restaurant owners are quickly discovering how to use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Yelp to their advantage and drive customers to their tables, but there’s a guy in Wisconsin doing it better than almost anyone else.
Joe Sorge, who runs a burger joint in Milwaukee called AJ Bombers, shot me a tweet yesterday to tell me about a Foursquare party they had this week that brought a flash mob of 161 Foursquare users to his restaurant. My eyebrows shot up when I read that number. 161 check ins in one day?! How could that be? There are only about three or four hundred Foursquare users total in Milwaukee?! Over 150 of them were in the same place, on the same afternoon?
When I called him up, Joe explained. They came to earn the highly coveted and elusive Foursquare “Swarm Badge” – something you can only get when 50 or more Foursquare users check in at the same place at the same time. I hadn’t heard of it, but apparently the promise of this coveted Foursquare badge can really draw a crowd.
You know when the technology itself makes the most difference to how much engagement you get on the social web? In the very beginning, when it’s brand new to everyone. That’s when the alpha geeks, the 1% of the people that produce the most content online, temporarily ignore their other social networks to focus all their attention on the shiny new object. For just a few weeks following any major launch, you can build lasting relationships with the true online influencers by being a part of the action as they congregate on the new service in an excited feeding frenzy. If you’re there, and you’re as enthusiastic, helpful and engaging as they are, you’re seen as part of the tribe.
The engagement cycle is almost always the same on new social networks with a lot of hype (Google Buzz is a perfect example). The alpha geeks “follow”, listen and interact a lot early on when the community is still a small, tight-knit group of early adopters. They amass large followings quickly, and while they develop dense networks of influence, they are also less discriminating about who they interact with and “friend” because the frenzy is highly social.
Eventually they all hit a saturation point, though. The numbers get too big, their sense of true community dissipates and the initial excitement wears off. The second the enthusiasm for the shiny object disappears, they start spreading their attention out evenly again on the tried-and-true social spaces where they get a real sense of intimacy and personal connection. That’s why, in the long run at least, the technology doesn’t matter much and why focusing relationships to achieve long-term social goals is so important.
I’ve made these observations from interacting online and joining and leaving social networks for years, but I don’t have any hard data to back this up. It’s just a hunch, so I’m really interested to hear other people’s opinions and ideas on this or get pointers to any good examples. It’s sound long-term strategy to focus on relationships over technology, but if it’s the early adopter crowd you want to notice to you, there doesn’t seem to be a better time to get their attention than on someone else’s launch day. What are your thoughts?
The ability to translate text directly from a photograph is a perfect example of some of the possibilities that emerge when you have sensor-rich mobile devices connected to cloud computing. Google’s shown that it’s possible, and that practical applications for mobile users might be just around the corner. How cool is that?
What’s happening in the background in this demo, on the simplest level, is that the prototype connects the phone’s camera to an optical character recognition (OCR) engine, recognizes the image as text and then translates that text using Google Translate. Even in small chunks, you can see what a difference having a tool like this could make in a pinch, especially if you’re traveling in a foreign country.
According to Google, right now this technology only works for German-to-English translations and it’s not yet ready for release into the wild. I’m sure you’ll agree, though, that this demo shows a lot of promise for what the future might hold. It’s exciting to know that soon your phone might be able to translate signs, posters and other foreign text instantly into your language.
“All of our devices – our mobile phones, cameras, toys and media players – will become increasingly aware of where we are. Soon, geographical location, rather than broadcast schedules, will trigger entertainment experiences. Content will be tagged to places, and these will alert you to the proximity of your friends and people of similar interests” – Mike Walsh, Author of Futuretainment
The way we experience the web is moving quickly towards a standard where content is not linear, but relative. When content is linear, one piece of content leads us to another. But when the model is relative, any piece of content can be accessed via contextual triggers anywhere, any time and on any device.
Location is going to be a primary trigger that changes how we experience web content. In fact, it wont be long before a lot of the content that exists on the web will also exist as overlays to our senses as we move through the real world. Sound crazy? It’s not. It’s what the augmented reality movement is all about, and it’s coming fast.
A few days ago at TED, Bing engineers demonstrated that they are going way beyond Google’s Street View technology, using backpack cameras to capture pedestrian spaces, Flickr integration to provide a more diverse picture of a place over time, telescope data to allow people to get information on celestial bodies, and live video to show what’s happening in a place in real time. It’s pretty incredible. If you’re not impressed by this 6 minute demo, I’d take a moment to chew on what you’re seeing for a second, and consider for a second how evolved this still-young this technology is…
What Does This Mean For Us and The Web?
Well, first of all, putting content into context this way gives an unprecedented level of depth of information and understanding about place and our relationship to it. As Blaise Aguera y Arcas told Fast Company in a recent interview…
“If you want to explore, if you want to really understand more about a place, you really need to be able to get right down in there, and see if from the point of view that people actually experience it. As great as it is to use cameras on top of cars for building that visual trellis, that’s not the actual human perspective.”
With a layer of user generated content on top of maps we can look around and explore where we are with a completely new set of lenses.
It’ll be social – other people’s photos and videos will give us a unique perspective of the history and social context of where we are,
It’ll be personal – Our own location-tagged photos, videos and content can allow us to relive moments when we visit places that are meaningful to us.
It’ll be educational – instead of having to read and learn in a linear way, you’ll be able to put yourself at the center of the action, in context of place (and eventually time).
Most importantly, the rise of the Geoweb will open up completely new categories for business and innovation. It’s not hard to imagine a variety of commercial applications for virtual augmented reality tours or rich entertainment, educational and social experiences. With consumers rushing to buy location-aware smart phones, expect to see a lot of movement in the mobile market for these types of experiences in the next few years. Exciting stuff.
I can think of so many reasons why this is a good idea. If this startup can get the security and authentication right with this (and they seem to have) they’re going to make a killing. Check out Squareup for launch details.
It wast much of a surprise that in the hours leading up to and following Apple’s official unveiling of the iPad, “Kindle” was also a trending topic on Twitter. Whether the iPad will kill the Kindle is on a lot of people’s minds and while I’m not going to speculate on the future of the Kindle, I think you can be pretty damn sure that Jeff Bezos didn’t sleep well this week. For what it’s worth, I think Apple’s about to float comfortably into an almost uncontested blue ocean where competing with the Kindle won’t be much of a concern. But most importantly, this launch is going to shift publishing practices and change consumer behavior and expectations significantly this year. Here’s why…
First, The Bad
Before I say anything, I do share some concerns with the iPad’s design. No multitasking, no camera, and no Flash makes me scratch my head a little. Including a camera seems like a no-brainer. The only reason I can think to leave it out would be to reduce the cost to hit a price point. I have a feeling people will complain about their inability to use iChat or use Skype video etc.
Not being able to view Flash content when you browse the web on a screen that big is also a downer – you’re going to have holes in some websites, and you can forget about streaming video. Also, no multitasking completely eliminates the iPad’s ability to compete with even the simplest netbooks. Not having multitasking on the iPhone isn’t that big a deal in my eyes, but I have a feeling that with the larger screen people will expect more of a laptop like experience. That said…
The Market Is Primed For An In-Between Product That Improves The Reading Experience
You might say that the iPad is just a jumbo oreo, and that Apple’s R&D team has lost it’s magic touch. I’m not convinced that that argument has legs, though. True, what’s missing in the iPad’s design gives some of us pause, and the device doesn’t seem to be well-positioned to compete with netbooks, but I don’t think that’s the point.
Even with what it’s missing in this first-generation design, it’s clear that Apple is going to clear the “reading experience” hurdle that plagues the iPhone, and bring users a rich multimedia experience that other ereaders can’t match.
Creating a better reading experience on a screen is what this movement towards ereaders is all about. And that’s all they really had to do with this release – take everything we love about the iPhone, create a significantly better default reading experience and give it lots of screen real-estate for app developers to go wild. That’s it. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Here are a couple of videos from Popular Science’s vault that show what the reading experience is actually like on the iPad. It’s obvious that this is where the Apple R&D team put a lot of their effort:
The iPad Is The Best Positioned Device To Become The Next Major Platform For Innovation
If you ignore the device’s shortcomings and focus instead on what the device has going for it, it’s hard to argue that Apple isn’t well positioned to shake up the market:
Familiarity Is An Important Intangible Asset: Millions of people already use iPhones and are familiar with the interface, the apps, the app store and iTunes. The Jumbo Oreo can be a good thing when it comes to adoption because it eliminates the perception of learning curves for consumers – don’t forget that just holding a tablet creates a completely new computing experience. Going “too innovative, too fast” could actually put Apple at risk for releasing something too different that turns mainstream consumers off. By sticking with the familiar UI, look and feel, consumers know what they’re going to get – and make no mistake, initial perceived value can make or break a product. This thing hasn’t even been released and consumers that are usually at the center of the adoption curve are probably already confident that they’ll be expert users on day one, even though the device represents a paradigm shift in computing. Chew on that for a second.
Consumer Lock In: iTunes users and iPhone owners already have tons of purchased content and apps that they can start using the second they open the box. There isn’t a single other competing device that that’s true for in this market. Access to 140,000 apps at your fingertips. From day one.
Apple’s (probably) Not Excluding Other Book Publishers: Users will likely be able to read their Kindle and B&N e-book purchases on the iPad. It doesn’t make sense that they’ll stop Amazon, B&N and any of the independent e-book publishers from creating their own applications. There’s always the possibility that Apple could decide that these apps now “duplicate” a core feature of its own apps and ban all other e-reader apps from the devices, but that this seems like a highly unlikely scenario.
It’s all about the apps and the developer gold rush: It was a smart move by Apple to announce the device AND the iPad developer platform together, a full 60 days before the device is going to be available for purchase. You can bet your ass there are hundreds of developers busting their hump to make release day. We all saw what happened with the iPhone app store, and the developers know how important it is to be first to market. This’ll just be a rinse and repeat exercise – and this time, Apple’s given developers a ton more screen real estate to work with and opened the doors for new companies to focus on creating rich reading experiences. This’ll increase the size of Apple’s army of developers and companies that are going out of their way to push their apps and do the marketing for Apple. The structure of the marketing effort is completely different than any other eReader launch. After seeing what’s happened with the iPhone over the last 2 years, people are expecting the iPad to be able to do things it can’t even do yet on day one – and they’re also expecting the device’s utility and versatility to increaseover time – more apps will come
The Reading Experience Itself Is Going To Change
I’ll say it one more time for emphasis (sorry) – it’s all about the apps – that’s where the real innovation is going to happen, and that’s where consumers are expecting it to happen. They don’t want a crazy new device they have to learn how to use – they want something they know how to use that does new and useful things. The extra screen real estate is exactly what developers have been waiting for, and it’s all they need to change the way we think about reading.
One of the innovations I’m most excited about is multimedia enriched books. Those of us who are used to reading and learning on the web have been waiting eagerly for this. There’s a company who’s already in pole position to deliver – Vook.com. The cleverly named “Vooks” (part video part book) are going to be some of the first instances of mutlimedia rich story telling on platforms like the iPad – and they’re not a part of the hardware – they’re apps. Seth Godin‘s already announced that he’s getting on the bandwagon, and Gary Vaynerchuck‘s got his latest book Crush It! on Vook already (and why the hell wouldn’t you want to experience Gary’s energy and exuberance on video along with his writing).
The point is that the “book” as a product is about to change. Long form content is going to start looking a lot more like web content – learning text will be accompanied by video tutorials, cook books will have recipes with matching technique segments and fiction texts will start looking a lot more like Myst. If players who are making these new multimedia apps can get the pricing right the floodgates will open and there’ll be no looking back. I’m not saying that books will disappear, I’m just saying that the iPad as a platform opens the market up to many more options and lots of innovation that extend the long tail of the marketplace for reading experiences.
And all of this together is why Apple’s iPad is going to be significant to publishing.
This short video was posted by Chris Brogan a few days ago. I love finding real-life stories about how small business owners are successfully using social media to increase their business. Joe Sorge, who runs AJ Bombers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin shares how he uses a tool to humanize his business and keep in touch with customers.
Did you know that as of 2005, only 15 percent of the world was mapped? Google’s Lalitesh Katragadda thinks we can do better. Not having detailed maps in the developing world slows the delivery of aid after a disaster and hides the economic potential of unused lands and unknown roads. Said another way, access to better information yields better results and vice versa, especially when the timeliness of that information is critical. In the short talk below, Lalitesh demos Map Maker, a group map-making tool that people around the globe are using to map their world. Inspiring stuff that highlights just one more instance where individuals can use technology to better the world and make a difference.