April 25th & 26th
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What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
RIM has rebranded itself as BlackBerry buff.ly/Wyx3tw Which means 7 more letters on the tombstone— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) January 30, 2013
Marc Gingras announced that the Tungle.me calendaring service is shutting down.
As of Monday, December 3rd, 2012 we will shut down the standalone Tungle service. You will continue to be able to use your Tungle.me page until then to schedule meetings and share calendars.
Tungle.me was acquired by Blackberry last year, and now it looks that it was an acq-hire-sition after all, since the team is working on all sorts of RIM projects.
[I think this also speaks volumes about a failure of the ‘poll the group’ model of meeting scheduling, which has never caught on. People continue to use email or direct communication to schedule meetings, even though it entails back-and-forth communications, primarily because they are already communicating that was when the issue of meeting scheduling arises. While I’d like to believe that a better mousetrap could be devised for meeting scheduling, it will have to be tied to something grander than polling to see what is a good time for a group of people to meet. More to follow.]
A lot of buzz on the interwebs today about Facebook’s apparent third effort to build their own smart phone, and people trying to dissect the reasoning behind it.
For Facebook, the motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.
“Mark is worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms,” a Facebook employee said.
Facebook is going to great lengths to keep the phone project a secret, specifically not posting job listings on the company’s job Web site, but instead going door-to-door to find the right talent for the project.
But can a company that is wired as a social network learn how to build hardware? Mixing the cultures of hardware and software designers is akin to mixing oil and water. With the rare exception of Apple, other phone makers aren’t very good at this.
The biggest names in consumer electronics have struggled with phone hardware. Hewlett-Packard tried and failed. So did Dell. Sony has never done very well making phones.
“Building isn’t something you can just jump into,” explained Hugo Fiennes, a former Apple hardware manager for the first four iPhones who has since left Apple and is starting a new hardware company, Electric Imp. “You change the smallest thing on a smartphone and you can completely change how all the antennas work. You don’t learn this unless you’ve been doing it for a while.”
He added, “Going into the phone business is incredibly complex.”
Bilton suggests that Facebook could simply buy RIM or HTC as a shortcut on the hardware side.
Connor Simpson, Do We Really Need A Facebook Phone?
do we really need a Facebook phone? From Facebook’s perspective, the parts are there, and so is the demand. You’d be hard pressed to find a young person who doesn’t have the native Facebook app, Instragram, and Facebook Messenger already on their phones. It makes sense that they’d want to put something in the market that comes preloaded with all of those apps anyway, along with further Facebook integration. Plus, a Facebook phone probably may not help solve their current mobile problem. Facebook isn’t making any money from their mobile efforts. All of the Facebook apps are free, and they’re still trying to figure out ways to generate any significant income from their mobile efforts. They wrote in their S-1 filing that if users increasingly started to use Facebook on their mobile devices, they have no way to generate any meaningful revenue from those users. Charging upfront for a Facebook phone would generate revenue, but the real question is whether the cost to get a Facebook phone out would be too expensive to make it worth it.
There is a saying, generals spend a lot of time planning how to fight the last war and are therefore surprised by the new one when it occurs. In this case, Bilton and Simpson are focused on the current smartphone marketplace, the one dominated by Apple and Google, where social has largely been an afterthought, and where social capabilities have been provided by apps, like Facebook in a browser. (Leaving aside Apple’s partial integration of Twitter into iOS.)
The next war will be won by the players that build the best social experience into the guts of next generation smartphones. Social capabilities will be wired into the device at a foundational level, not at the application level. And this is why Facebook must develop its own operating system and mobile devices that run it. It must square off with Apple, Google, and, yes, Microsoft still has a chance, here.
What is amazing to me is that this goes largely unconsidered in these articles: the authors don’t really focus on what a social operating system means.
Smart mobile devices have unique handles for their owners — the phone number, email, and social signifiers (like @stoweboyd) — so, in the not too distant social future I could opt to follow a friend, like @gregarious, independently of applications. By doing so, my social smart phone would receive all sorts of updates from @gregarious — status updates, calendar posts, geolocal information, blog links — and my social O/S would attempt to handle this stream using whatever apps I might have associated with the various flavors of updates. But the fundamental follow would be managed in the O/S, natively.
Note that this could also work across different operating systems: @gregarious might be following me from a Google Android device, a Windows phone, or a Facebook phone. Each O/S might have different sorts of capabilities — Google might have Circles and Huddles, Facebook might have Pages, iOS might be based on Twitter esthetics — but the core functionality of receiving status updates and direct messaging would likely become universals.
At any rate, this battle is just over the horizon, and Facebook needs to build its offering as fast as it can, because Google, Apple, and even Microsoft have a huge head start.
(PS I still don’t understand why Apple doesn’t acquire Twitter, and really bake it into iOS.)
Update 1:03pm — Mathew Ingram weighs in, but never discusses the operating system battlefield.
Update 1:05pm Henry Blodget thinks a Facebook phone is a horrible idea, and after a long list of reasons — mostly saying hardware is harder than software — he closes:
Perhaps Facebook doesn’t really have any intention of building a full-fledged phone—perhaps it just wants to partner with someone like HTC or Samsung. But even then, all the same challenges apply.
Facebook already has an “operating system” for mobile—it’s called the social graph.
So instead of building a phone, which seems like a desperate move, Facebook should partner with every operating system and carrier and hardware maker it can to try to embed this social platform within every mobile platform. And it should build great apps to float on top of these systems. (And if Apple keeps giving it the brush-off, it should probably start by cozying up to Samsung, which is the only company giving Apple a run for its money).
Yes, everyone wants to be Apple.
But there’s only one Apple right now.
And Facebook’s chance of becoming the next Apple seems even smaller than Apple’s chance to become Apple was.
The fact that Facebook is even thinking of going into the hardware business is a bad sign. If Facebook actually does go into the hardware business, it will be a really bad sign.
Nokia’s declining fortunes lead to it’s bonds being rated as junk, after falling to No 2 mobile phone maker, behind Samsung:
S.&P. Downgrades Nokia’s Bonds to Junk - Brian X Chen via NYTimes.com
S.& P.’s announcement came as Samsung dethroned Nokia as the world’s No. 1 maker of mobile phones, which includes traditional cellphones and smartphones. Samsung sold 92 million phones over the last quarter, and Nokia sold 83 million, according to estimates by IHS iSuppli, the research firm. It is the first time since 1998 that Nokia is not the No. 1 phone maker in the world.
In the smartphone category, Nokia slips to third place behind Apple, the leader with 35 million phones shipped, and Samsung, with 32 million devices, according to iSuppli. In that category, Nokia is slipping faster than Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry. The smartphone segment is the only part of the handset market that is showing any growth.
Nokia’s long-term rating was dropped to a noninvestment rating, BB+, from the investment-grade rating BBB–, with a negative outlook, S.& P. said. Its short-term rating dropped to B from A-3, S.& P. said.
Nokia has been struggling to reverse its declining fortunes with its Lumia smartphones, which include Microsoft’s newer operating system, Windows Phone 7. In the United States, AT&T and Nokia have been aggressively promoting the Lumia 900, a $100 smartphone that has been a strong seller on Amazon.com.
Trying to be the world’s leading maker of Windows mobile phones is like being the world’s tallest midget.
Looks like RIM’s board is (finally) pushing out the co-founder co-CEOs, a move that is so overdue it is laughable. But the new chair is a Royal Bank of Canada exec, which makes it sound like a sale is planned, not a turnaround:
John Paczkowski via AllThingsD
Research In Motion’s 2011 was about as ugly as they come. And with few indications that 2012 will be much better, the company is preparing to make some significant management changes.
Sources close to the company say that co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie will soon relinquish their titles as co-chairmen of the board, officially ceding that position to board member and Royal Bank of Canada exec Barbara Stymiest.
“Stymiest is a lock for chairwoman,” one source told AllThingsD. “The only thing that’s unclear right now is the timeline for her appointment.”
But RIM’s gruesome downward spiral was caused by a string of foolish missteps and disappointments that will not be easily reversed, particularly not with a simple board chair swap. While Stymiest’s background is impressive — executive positions at the Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Stock Exchange parent TMX — it is largely financial. She seems to have little background in consumer electronics. Presumably, some experience in that area would be helpful.
I predict that some major IT player will a/ buy RIM for peanuts, b/ throw away (‘transition’) the hardware side, and c/ reposition the Blackberry Messenger service as a software service on several platforms, especially iOS and Android. It would be an obvious purchase for Apple, Microsoft, or Google.
Brian Barrett via Gizmodo
[…] for those worried about the company’s future, the fact that this was a systemic failure and not third-party havoc should be positively chilling. They don’t know what happened. They don’t know how to fix it. They just know that it’s their own fault.
Meanwhile: Apple. There’s been plenty written here and elsewhere about iOS 5, which is clean and user-friendly and functional. The iPhone 4S will be here in two days. And when you’re abandoned in a data-less desert, there’s no more tempting oasis than Apple’s. Your shit’s broken, iTunes calls out. Ours is shiny and new. Yes, iCloud could well unravel into another MobileMe. But that doesn’t mean the grass on its side is any less green today.
Oh, man. Sell RIM, buy Apple.
RIM is dead
[Update: I pulled a section of this out, as I was corrected about iMessage being the next version of Messages:
Project via comments
Actually, iMessage and the SMS app in iOS5 are one and the same thing. If the person you are sending a message to doesn’t have an iOS device, it sends it as an SMS. If the person does, it recognises it in the To field and sends it as an iMessage. In effect, Apple are embracing and extending the SMS protocol with this service. It is a huge move.
I stand corrected.]
Yesterday’s announcements from Apple included the new iMessage: an iOS-only messaging system, which is apparently intended to remove the last rationale that BlackBerry users might have to not adopt iPhones:
Darrell Etherington, iMessage: Biting RIM’s style and sticking it to network operators
BBM is one of the few remaining advantages RIM’s aging platform has over its younger competition in the smartphone market. (Check out this tweet representative of reaction toiMessage’s announcement if you don’t believe me.) People appreciated the way it integrates tightly to your device, and its delivery and read receipts let you know your messages aren’t getting lost in the ether. It’s been a life raft for RIM in the violent sea of the ongoing mobile battle BlackBerry faces with iOS and Android.
However, iMessage brings a lot of what’s good about BBM not only to the iPhone, which just passed RIM in terms of U.S. smartphone ownership trentds, but also to all iOS devices. With iPad and iPod touch users factored in, the potential audience for iMessage is huge, and it should cause at least some BBM-faithful to flee RIM’s platform for greener pastures.
Apple’s move also pushes the mobile carriers down in the stack, allowing iOS users to bypass SMS or proprietary messaging solutions. This is a painful but inevitable evolution.
iMessage is just a tactical play targeting BBM: a old-school pre-social, buddylist-style proprietary messaging system. It’s not strategic, really.
In the long run, it looks like Apple is planning to use Twitter as the platform for social communication, building Twitter into iOS instead of building protocols on which Twitter and other networks could run.
As reported by Marshall Kirkpatrick, Twitter on iOS 5 will be a platform for social apps:
My summary, in a sentence: iOS apps will look like, feel like, read from and publish to Twitter like never before. And they’ll do that in many cases instead of using Facebook.
[Jason] Costa [the newly hired Twitter Developer Relations leader] summarizes thusly."There is single sign-on, which allows you to retrieve a user’s identity, avatar, and other profile data." That sounds like Facebook Connect, but I’m going to guess that Twitter will not prohibit developers from caching that data for time-shifted, aggregate, offline or other interesting types of analysis. Letting users skip having to create an account with every new app they download and instead click to log-in with their Twitter accounts is going to make many users very happy and encourage every iOS owner to get a Twitter account if they don’t have one already. App developers will get more and better populated user accounts, faster.
"There’s also a frictionless core signing service, allowing you to make and sign any call to the Twitter API." To be honest, I’m not really sure what this means. Perhaps it means that parts of the Twitter API that require user authentication will be accessible via the same single sign-on feature discussed above.
"There is follow graph synchronization, which enables you to bootstrap a user’s social graph for your app." In other words, apps will be able to offer users to find their Twitter friends who are also using a new app they’ve installed, and connect with them there too. That’s the kind of solution to the user-level "cold start problem" that Facebook Connect has been so helpful with for web apps.
"Furthermore, there is the tweet sheet feature, giving your app distribution and reach across Twitter." Again, like Facebook Connect, this is a feature that appears to make it easy for apps to publish user activity and promotional messages out into the Twitter streams of a user’s friends. Facebook has a complicated algorithm that determines how often an app is allowed to publish messages out into the Newsfeed of a user’s friends, based on how much interactions messages from that app have received in the past. That’s a spam control mechanism that I’m going to guess Twitter will not replicate, at least at first.
It looks like Apple is going to give Twitter this deep and central role in its social OS plans, and allow the smaller more agile company to manage the building of an ecology of social apps on top of the paired architecture.
If even remotely successful, Apple will want to acquire Twitter, and Twitter will want to be acquired. These two will become as inseparable as NeXT was to Apple, when they regrooved Mac OS to be built upon the Mach Unix kernel. Here though, Apple will be making Twitter — and the open follower model Twitter resides on — the social kernel for iOS going forward.
This is a grand land grab by Apple and Twitter, an effort to block a Google/Facebook coalition on Android, or a Microsoft/Facebook partnership on Windows 8.
What about the competition? I predict Facebook will be too reluctant to partner with anyone, and may be at work on plans to launch its own hardware. Google is too slow on the social network side (the most expensive error of all time?), so they are stuck in the water. Microsoft is making credible efforts with Windows 7 and 8, but have no social network story. Microsoft is far enough behind the curve to possibly cede the social sphere to Facebook, too. RIM is falling like a stone, and would probably like to be bought, and either Google or Microsoft might bite, but that’s just tactics. None of these players has a strategic answer to the Apple move with Twitter.
What I don’t understand, though, is why iMessage isn’t written as a social app on top of Twitter. That would be the right path, and would simplify the Venn diagram tremendously. But Apple is opting to run both worlds — the pre-social and the social — in parallel, at least for a time, instead of doubling down on its social push with Twitter.
A rumor, but one that makes sense. I suggested at the time that Nokia announced it was dropping Symbian that it should be acquired by Microsoft if it was going that way. Actually could increase the value of the Skype deal, and vice versa.
Note that Microsoft is retrenching into a (enterprise) mobile communications business, since it lost its way in so many other places. Why doesn’t it buy RIM, too?