Google+ for iPhone

Mobile websites can be great, but this captures the current disparity between mobile webapps and “installed” mobile apps:

The Google+ mobile webapp is a great. The Google+ iPhone app is not so great. The Google+ iPhone app is significantly better than the Google+ webapp.

This is notwithstanding any complaint about the way the iPhone app runs on the pre-release beta of iOS 5.
This is one of the rare times we can appropriately call an iOS app and iPhone app, since Google oddly neglected the iPod touch and iPad.

view post

Cisco: The Internet of Things

The future we’ve all been waiting for: your computer talking to your alarm clock, car, train and coffee-maker. For this to happen, someone needs to standardize the technology in all these devices. AirPlay is Apple’s first step toward building a standard language for things to talk to each other, and they’ve begun licensing that technology to other manufacturers so their devices can communicate directly with Apple devices. AirPlay is big for Apple – expect them to invest heavily in developing and licensing more device communication standards.

view post

Radiation From Our Phones

Nathaniel Rich for Harper’s Magazine:

Not all radiation is created equal. High-frequency electromagnetic radiation—nuclear radiation, X-rays, even the ultraviolet rays of a tanning booth—is powerful enough to break chemical bonds, creating highly unstable atoms called ions. Ionizing radiation harms the cells of living tissue: it damages DNA and increases the risk of cancer. These facts are no longer disputed, though it took six years of poorly regulated X-ray use, and corresponding spikes in cancer-incidence rates, before scientists fully understood the dangers involved.

Today’s controversy focuses on the lower part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves—frequencies below 300 GHz—are considered too weak to damage human tissue. If they indeed cause biological damage, then they must do so in ways unexplained by conventional science.

Cellular phones emit radiation at a frequency between 450 and 2700 MHz. This is significantly higher than the extremely low-frequency EMFs (50–60 Hz) that concerned Paul Brodeur, but still two orders of magnitude below the level at which radiation can heat human tissue (300 GHz).

Whole piece is worth a read. The low frequency story scares me – makes it seem like any significant detriment would take decades of exposure to show up, and cell phones haven’t been in widespread use for decades yet. We’re still in the dark about how cell phones affect our bodies.

view post

Why Product Brands Should “Ladder-Up”


Despite Microsoft giving away free XBOXs with PCs, research in an investment note from GER showed that 80 percent of incoming students were buying Macs, not Windows systems.

The college market has always been a boon for Apple. Buying a computer for school is a rare case when the consumer’s purchase decision is based almost completely on the desirability of the products (since the consumers aren’t paying, their parents are). The desirability of all Apple products seems to be at an all-time high, thanks to their smart product-branding decisions.  The oft-cited “halo” effect of the iPod, iPhone and iPad is more accurately thought of as a “laddering-up” effect.  Apple creates strong brands for their individual products, but more important than any of these individual product brands is their naming choices that make it easy for us to credit the larger Apple brand for the quality of each individual product.  This way, each product and its promotion serves as a campaign that contributes users and support to the overarching Apple brand, the company’s greatest asset.  When Apple decided to forgo the “free iPod with a Mac for school” promotion this year, my initial thought was they decided it’s time to push their “post-PC” strategy, which would be contradicted by making iOS devices an add-on to Mac purchases.  I still think this is the case, but the the “laddering-up” effect of Apple’s individual product brands has clearly strengthened the Apple brand enough that they no longer need to offer iOS devices to drive Mac sales anyway.

As noted by electronista, Microsoft is currently employing a similar “offer our most popular product for free to help move our core product line” strategy this year with the XBOX and Windows. The strategy makes sense for them this year (given the lack of a “post-PC” strategy), but without product-branding that drives support to a larger brand, it’s hard to imagine the XBOX strengthening the overall Microsoft brand to help drive long-term Windows PC sales the way iOS devices do for the Apple brand and Macs.

view post

Social for the Sake of Social

It dawned on me last weekend that the point of Google+ isn’t to build a social platform or network, but rather to extend Google’s core mission to “organize information”. As hard as it may be to believe Google resisted the pressure to just launch a basic, reasonably successful social platform (actually they didn’t resist, see: Buzz – but it appears they learned from that experience), the core design of Google+ suggests it’s built to help people manage all the content they’re creating and discovering around the web, rather than share things and discover what other people are sharing (the way Facebook, Twitter and many other social platforms do).* Helping people organize information and content is much more important to Google than helping people be social for the sake of being social, and that probably leads to a stronger long-term strategy for a consumer product anyway. From a user’s perspective, there are two important elements to managing the personal content we create and discover around the web (photos, links, videos, ideas, etc.):

(1) Ensuring the content won’t be lost and that it’s accessible to us from anywhere
(2) Organizing the content

The first, preserving content and making it accessible from anywhere, is simple: this is what the so called “cloud” is all about. The beautiful insight Google uncovered is that the latter, organizing content, is an inherently social task. There are very few pieces of content we capture and protect, but don’t want to share with at least one other person. We certainly want to save photos, ideas, videos, links, etc., for ourselves so they’re easy to find again and revisit, but we usually want to show someone else too.

Google already helps us share content with online photo album-sharing, the gold standard of web-based email, and a solid instant messaging product. But these offerings don’t help us organize our content very well at all, they simply help us send it to our friends and family.** And Facebook doesn’t help us organize our content either – everything we share there lives in only one place: on a certain friend’s Wall, shared with a certain friend list or posted in a certain “group”. We want to manage our content simply. We want it to live in one place, so we can focus on what we want to do with it instead of worrying about moving, posting or duplicating the content itself. Google+ is that one place content can live, so we can simply decide what labels to apply to it so it’s easy to find and so the right people have access to it. This is very much the way Google already helps us manage content in Gmail and Docs – just add a label to the piece of content, and it will continue to live in the same place, one place, but be accessible from several different “folders”. Circles in Google+ is the same concept as these labels, managing where and when a piece of content is available, but not where it lives.

We’re constantly creating and discovering content all over the web, and Google has begun building a system where we can save all of it and easily do whatever it is we want to do with it (there are really just 5 options):

(1) Discard/Forget (lame stuff you don’t agree with, don’t care about or don’t like)
(2) Save (interesting stuff you’d like to store and keep thinking about)
(3) Send (interesting stuff that warrants private discussion, like personal plans, business discussions, etc.)
(4) Share (interesting stuff that relates to specific people who care about that content or type of content; inside jokes, personal memories, etc.)
(5) Broadcast (interesting stuff you want to share with the world to build your reputation, including photos, articles, videos and ideas you agree with and/or are proud of)

There are specific online platforms dedicated to helping us easily accomplish whichever of these actions we select:

#2: Save: Instapaper, Delicious, Evernote, Picasa, bookmarks
#3: Communicate: Gmail, email, IM, video-chat, MobileMe/Picasa/other of photo album-sharing services
#4: Share: Facebook, Twitter, niche social platforms
#5: Broadcast: Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger

But Google realized this is a fluid gradient rather than clear, distinct actions we choose between. They overlap each other, and Google launched a service that smoothly integrates all of these options. The result is an simple, clear way to manage all the content we generate and find online.

This well-designed content management system turns out to include most of the features we find in the social platforms we use, like Facebook and Twitter. But as Google continues building out Google+, I suspect features will continue to enable saving, communication, sharing and broadcasting. Most importantly, Google+ blurs the lines between all of these actions so we know longer think “should I email this to my friend, post it on her Facebook Wall or tweet it at her?” but instead default to posting everything to Google+ and simply selecting the appropriate people/circles to share with upon posting. After all, a Google+ post with only one person selected to “share” with is really just an email and a post shared with only your Instapaper email address is just a bookmark.***

This is the beauty of asymmetric sharing – it means we, the users, dictate exactly what we want to do with all of our content. Facebook’s symmetric connection and asymmetric follow for pages and Twitter’s asymmetric follow establish great social connections but put the content management power entirely in the hands of the consumer of the content rather than the sharer. We’ve long been waiting for a antidote to this power imbalance, and Google has implemented asymmetric sharing in a way that does exactly that. Asymmetric sharing puts the power squarely in the hands of the sharer, which allows all of us to organize and manage our content freely and effectively, all with one simple interface.

Though their current products look similar in many ways, the distinction between the Facebook’s social-first strategy and Google’s content management-first strategy is important: Facebook is focused on making social products – products that are “social by design. Google is focused on making content management products – products that help you “organize information. Only time will tell which which strategy will prove more successful over the long haul, but my intuition is people will always want to manage their content online but will not always (and may never again) want to be “social for the sake of being social” online.

UPDATE: This week during the Skype/Facebook announcement, Mark Zuckerberg declared that “userbase” is no longer the appropriate metric to measure the strength of a social network. Instead, he suggested the level of overall sharing and sharing per user should be used, and indicated strong growth for Facebook in both. This again shows Facebook’s commitment to focusing on making everything inherently social with their “social by design” strategy, which was also behind Facebook’s core features like photo-tagging and their advertising units. It’s a smart strategy, but my prediction is that it’s not a sustainable core mission for a company; online, people don’t want to just act “social for the sake of being social,” so our platforms should focus on doing more than that for them.


*Despite being visually similar to Facebook. Also, apologies for the terribly long sentence.

**The vocabulary here is important as we’ll see soon, because “send” often denotes private communication while “share” denotes more public sharing.

***See what happens when you put thought into the user experience first and then worry about the technology? You get all the technical innovation and functionality of Google Wave, Google Buzz (and tons of other platforms that have actually been successful) in an experience people actually want to use.

view post

Free Reign

Josh Ong:

Google gave original Mac designer [Andy Hertzfeld] free rein on new Google+ UI.

“Free reign” means experience design came first. Yours truly:

User experience first? To inform the technology? Then taking time to mold it to their own strategic model? Seems almost…Apple-like.

Yes, Apple-like.

Since designing the Mac, Hertzfeld of course founded the great Apple history site Which is another confusing case where a talented designer forgets to design their own site.

view post

Well, This is Weird. Google Actually Has the Right Idea.

For all the heat Google takes (especially from yours truly), it seems like we should be tentatively impressed this time. They’ve identified some white space in social (full network, selective sharing), that Facebook has tried to capture a bunch of different ways but has never done well. Ultimately, it’s something Facebook doesn’t want to do well, since their model relies on Newsfeed stories broadcasting to all of a user’s friends. With Google+, Google seems to have thought about users first and what they’d want in a social platform and then figured out the right strategic move within their business. It even seems like they’ve taken time to do both of these steps right. User experience first? To inform the technology? Then taking time to mold it to their own strategic model? Seems almost…Apple-like.

Google’s basic value proposition to users: “let us store everything in the world and we’ll help you find what you need within it.” The updated value proposition: “let us store everything in the world and we’ll help you find what you need within it, discover more of it, and do whatever you want with any of it”. Still sounds very “Google” and keeps users using Google. Google stock is up more than 10% on the announcement.

Even with the classic Google beta-launch and calling it a “project”, Google seems more confident in the widespread success of this than many of the other earth-shaking product introductions in the past. They’ve provided a nice overview of features and a bunch of different URLs forwarding to the Google+ page.

view post