The Next Developer Land Grab: The Kindle?

Amazon Kindle

Amongst rumors of the impending arrival of the Apple Tablet, Amazon announced this week that they’re opening the Kindle, their famous e-reader, to external application developers. Techcrunch is not impressed and says “If you are going to try to steal Apple’s thunder just before its big Tablet announcement, you are going to have to do a little bit better than E-Ink Sudoku” but a lot of people are drinking the Apple kool-aid before even seeing a product…

As for the size of the installed base, Mitch Ratcliffe at ZDNet thinks Amazon has sold approximately 1.5 million Kindles so far.

What it means: I think it’s important news. When new “platforms” open up to developers, it’s the first ones in that get the biggest bang for their development efforts. I would suggest to everyone currently involved in mobile applications to sign up for the Kindle dev kit. There are probably interesting hybrid print/online applications that can be deployed on the Kindle (I’m looking at you directory publishers…). You can sign up for the development kit here.

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A Look Back At 2008’s Most Important News and Trends in Local Search and Social Media

As the year ends, here are, in my humble opinion, the most important news and trends of the year in local search and social media (in no specific order):

  • The major challenges of the newspaper industry. Declining print readership, challenges with monetizing the Web, user fragmentation, lay-offs, stock value decline, etc. 2008 was a very difficult year for the newspaper industry and I don’t think 2009 will be easier with the slowdown in ad spending.
  • Mobile, iPhone & the app store. The launch of the iPhone 3G and the arrival of new “iPhone-killers” devices signaled the beginning of a real tipping point in mobile local search and social media usage. The launch of the iPhone app store also created a new ecosystem leveraging the iPhone’s installed base. At the end of 2008, building an iPhone application is as “hot” as building a Facebook app was a year ago.
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn). Continued usage/buzz growth in social media especially around these four Web properties. Social and user-centric functionalities are a must-have today. Some difficulties around monetization of social media inventory though.
  • Identity (Facebook Connect, OpenID, Google Friend Connect). With the rise of social media come major challenges around personal identity on the Web. Large social properties want to become that official provider of identity. Will explode in 2009.
  • Local video. This was the hottest new ad product at directory publishers everywhere. I’m convinced that the technology is now a commodity but I’m wondering if the product itself will also become a commodity in the near future (i.e. you need videos in your local search site like you need maps, URLs and click-to-talk buttons)
  • Sobering presentations from directory publisher executives at each Kelsey conference in 2008. More realistic, a clearer view of opportunities and challenges in the industry (great assets, local search industry is booming but erosion in major metro areas, etc.). What used to be said behind closed doors is now mentioned openly.
  • Drastic drop in directory publishers stock prices. Deadly combo of credit crunch, slowdown of the economy, too much debt and market perception. Idearc is delisted after losing 99% of its value. RHD also loses 99% of its value. Similar (although less drastic) situations in Europe and Canada.
  • Microsoft’s failed Yahoo takeover (a proposed buy-out at $31 a share) occupied a good portion of tech news early in the year. This would have a created a very interesting company to compete against Google (desktop technology + social media + search). Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s co-founder, made sure the deal wouldn’t go through. Yahoo!’s share is now hovering around $12.00.
  • AOL buys into the social-networking game with Bebo. A cool $850 million…
  • Geolocation in browser (geode, loki, Google Gears). We’ve seen the first elements of this in 2008 but this is a potential game changer, transforming every web site into a local destionation
  • Facebook replaces their own classifieds with the Oodle platform. In a move I found very surprising, Facebook outsourced local classifieds clearly showing that they don’t realize they’re in the local search space.

A Look Back At 2008's Most Important News and Trends in Local Search and Social Media

As the year ends, here are, in my humble opinion, the most important news and trends of the year in local search and social media (in no specific order):

  • The major challenges of the newspaper industry. Declining print readership, challenges with monetizing the Web, user fragmentation, lay-offs, stock value decline, etc. 2008 was a very difficult year for the newspaper industry and I don’t think 2009 will be easier with the slowdown in ad spending.
  • Mobile, iPhone & the app store. The launch of the iPhone 3G and the arrival of new “iPhone-killers” devices signaled the beginning of a real tipping point in mobile local search and social media usage. The launch of the iPhone app store also created a new ecosystem leveraging the iPhone’s installed base. At the end of 2008, building an iPhone application is as “hot” as building a Facebook app was a year ago.
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn). Continued usage/buzz growth in social media especially around these four Web properties. Social and user-centric functionalities are a must-have today. Some difficulties around monetization of social media inventory though.
  • Identity (Facebook Connect, OpenID, Google Friend Connect). With the rise of social media come major challenges around personal identity on the Web. Large social properties want to become that official provider of identity. Will explode in 2009.
  • Local video. This was the hottest new ad product at directory publishers everywhere. I’m convinced that the technology is now a commodity but I’m wondering if the product itself will also become a commodity in the near future (i.e. you need videos in your local search site like you need maps, URLs and click-to-talk buttons)
  • Sobering presentations from directory publisher executives at each Kelsey conference in 2008. More realistic, a clearer view of opportunities and challenges in the industry (great assets, local search industry is booming but erosion in major metro areas, etc.). What used to be said behind closed doors is now mentioned openly.
  • Drastic drop in directory publishers stock prices. Deadly combo of credit crunch, slowdown of the economy, too much debt and market perception. Idearc is delisted after losing 99% of its value. RHD also loses 99% of its value. Similar (although less drastic) situations in Europe and Canada.
  • Microsoft’s failed Yahoo takeover (a proposed buy-out at $31 a share) occupied a good portion of tech news early in the year. This would have a created a very interesting company to compete against Google (desktop technology + social media + search). Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s co-founder, made sure the deal wouldn’t go through. Yahoo!’s share is now hovering around $12.00.
  • AOL buys into the social-networking game with Bebo. A cool $850 million…
  • Geolocation in browser (geode, loki, Google Gears). We’ve seen the first elements of this in 2008 but this is a potential game changer, transforming every web site into a local destionation
  • Facebook replaces their own classifieds with the Oodle platform. In a move I found very surprising, Facebook outsourced local classifieds clearly showing that they don’t realize they’re in the local search space.

A Look Back At 2008's Most Important News and Trends in Local Search and Social Media

As the year ends, here are, in my humble opinion, the most important news and trends of the year in local search and social media (in no specific order):

  • The major challenges of the newspaper industry. Declining print readership, challenges with monetizing the Web, user fragmentation, lay-offs, stock value decline, etc. 2008 was a very difficult year for the newspaper industry and I don’t think 2009 will be easier with the slowdown in ad spending.
  • Mobile, iPhone & the app store. The launch of the iPhone 3G and the arrival of new “iPhone-killers” devices signaled the beginning of a real tipping point in mobile local search and social media usage. The launch of the iPhone app store also created a new ecosystem leveraging the iPhone’s installed base. At the end of 2008, building an iPhone application is as “hot” as building a Facebook app was a year ago.
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn). Continued usage/buzz growth in social media especially around these four Web properties. Social and user-centric functionalities are a must-have today. Some difficulties around monetization of social media inventory though.
  • Identity (Facebook Connect, OpenID, Google Friend Connect). With the rise of social media come major challenges around personal identity on the Web. Large social properties want to become that official provider of identity. Will explode in 2009.
  • Local video. This was the hottest new ad product at directory publishers everywhere. I’m convinced that the technology is now a commodity but I’m wondering if the product itself will also become a commodity in the near future (i.e. you need videos in your local search site like you need maps, URLs and click-to-talk buttons)
  • Sobering presentations from directory publisher executives at each Kelsey conference in 2008. More realistic, a clearer view of opportunities and challenges in the industry (great assets, local search industry is booming but erosion in major metro areas, etc.). What used to be said behind closed doors is now mentioned openly.
  • Drastic drop in directory publishers stock prices. Deadly combo of credit crunch, slowdown of the economy, too much debt and market perception. Idearc is delisted after losing 99% of its value. RHD also loses 99% of its value. Similar (although less drastic) situations in Europe and Canada.
  • Microsoft’s failed Yahoo takeover (a proposed buy-out at $31 a share) occupied a good portion of tech news early in the year. This would have a created a very interesting company to compete against Google (desktop technology + social media + search). Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s co-founder, made sure the deal wouldn’t go through. Yahoo!’s share is now hovering around $12.00.
  • AOL buys into the social-networking game with Bebo. A cool $850 million…
  • Geolocation in browser (geode, loki, Google Gears). We’ve seen the first elements of this in 2008 but this is a potential game changer, transforming every web site into a local destionation
  • Facebook replaces their own classifieds with the Oodle platform. In a move I found very surprising, Facebook outsourced local classifieds clearly showing that they don’t realize they’re in the local search space.

This Isn’t About The New iPhone

It seems like everyone is excited about the new iPhone that was introduced by Apple on Monday (many people are actually calling it the Jesusphone) but I think everyone’s missing the big picture.

pile of mobile phones

Flickr photo by nedrichards

What triggered those thoughts was today’s blog post from Mashable, discussing what was really revolutionary about the new iPhone:

And, The Really Big Thing About The New iPhone Is… GPS. Global Positioning System . Geo-anything. Location based services. (…) Why hasn’t all this happened before? Three words: ease of use. While you could have done all these things for the Symbian or Blackberry or Windows ME platforms (provided the device had GPS capabilities), it just took too many clicks and required too much fidgeting for any of it to get mass appeal.

I actually agree with that statement. The iPhone is well designed, it’s very easy to use, it’s now location-aware and the touchscreen navigation is amazing…

BUT…

  • RIM (Blackberry) is working on a similar device
  • Nokia is working on a similar device
  • Samsung is working on a similar device
  • HTC is probably working on a similar device
  • Google might be working on a GooglePhone

I give kudos to Apple for innovating, creating a user-focused device and forcing change in a market that badly needed the kick in the pants but, the same way the social Web is not about Facebook, Friendfeed or Twitter, the mobile Web is not about Apple and the iPhone. It’s about permanent change in the way we access the mobile Web and that’s good. But, it’s certainly not about the iPhone…

Update1: David Pogue from the New York Times reviews the Samsung Instinct.

Skyhook: Helping Apple’s Devices Know Where You Are Without GPS

Skyhook‘s technology uses signals from WiFi hot spots to triangulate and find a person’s location, instead of using a chip that lets a mobile device communicate with the satellite-based Global Positioning System.Skyhook, founded in 2003 by Ted Morgan and Michael Shean, has gathered and catalogued the WiFi fingerprint of streets in thousands of US cities and towns by driving along roads and collecting the unique signatures of 23 million WiFi signals that flow out of houses, businesses, and public access points. The company uses that data to let WiFi-enabled devices know where they are. (…)The software upgrade that includes the new location feature – it’s available free on an iPhone and for $19.99 on an iPod Touch – allows people to simply press a button to see where they are.

A map displays a bull’s-eye that’s centered on the user’s location; Morgan said Skyhook’s technology typically is accurate up to about 165 feet. The technology builds in the likely margin of error and draws a circle on the map, taking into account the likely error of the location technology, so that the user will be within the radius 95 percent of the time.

(via Boston.com)

ipod touch

(flickr photo by tibopoix)

What it means: I believe Apple is betting that location-based services represent the future growth for their iPod line of product. During Apple’s Q1 2008 conference call, their execs called it potentially the “first mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform, running all kinds of mobile applications”. With the upcoming release of the iPhone SDK, we should be monitoring the growing installed base of these devices.

Apple to Announce iPhone SDK in January?

Still a rumor at this point, Business Week says Apple will start offering software development kits for the iPhone beginning of 2008. According to the article, the delay was caused by Apple wanting to release his new OS Leopard before opening the iPhone to developers instead of the official statement related to “bugs from third-party software posing a threat to cellular networks”. But “concerns like that will probably lead Apple to be careful in selecting which programmers are given the tools to build iPhone software. It isn’t clear yet how Apple plans to go about vetting programmers or to what extent it will open the platform to them.”

iPhone Fido unlocked

Flickr photo by dylanparker.

Update: Sylvain Carle (in the comments) and the The Unofficial Apple Weblog report that the SDK will be available in February.

What it means: Apple has created a mini-revolution around the iPhone when it launched in the US last summer (it’s still not available officially in Canada). More than 1M units have been sold and this has created a very interesting installed base for third party applications (hundreds are already available and can be installed on a hacked, unlocked iPhone). If you operate in the local space, mobile is key and you should be looking at the iPhone as a potential platform for your local app.