News 2.0

The Washington Post writes:

The Net radically shifts principles of news distribution as all sites become equidistant from the reader.

What’s the most amazing thing about the new media world? Its low barriers to entry. Thanks to the Internet, it is cheap and simple to launch a site that, theoretically, the whole world could be watching.

Yesterday there were a few dozen providers; today news, views and attitudes stream through millions of gates. And the Web accepts all kinds of gatekeepers, each with unique rules for what matters, rather than the rules adopted by a class of professionals with set journalistic principles. For the old gatekeepers that’s a big disruption.

Pandora and Music Recommendations

Jason Fry writes in WSJ about a music-streaming service:

Pandora’s team of music analysts take songs apart, assigning values to as many as 400 musical nuances per song; the service then uses that information to compare songs and make recommendations. This effort — Pandora calls it the Music Genome Project — has won the company lots of ink and plaudits from music geeks like me, who love asking Pandora why it played that Franz Ferdinand song and reading “because it features electric rock instrumentation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, a vocal-centric aesthetic, major key tonality and electric rhythm guitars.”

But another strength of Pandora’s is more straightforward: Tuning its recommendation engine is fun, so it gets lots of feedback from users. After all, music geeks love enumerating their likes and dislikes with pinpoint accuracy and passing judgment on bands.

Avatar-Based Marketing

HBR writes:

Second Life is just one of a growing number of three-dimensional virtual worlds, accessible via the Internet, in which users, through an avatar, are able to play games or simply interact socially with thousands of people simultaneously. By some estimates, more than 10 million people spend $10 to $15 a month to subscribe to online role-playing environments, with the number of subscribers doubling every year. Millions more enter free sites, some of them sponsored by companies as brand-building initiatives. Many users spend upward of 40 hours a week in these worlds. And as the technology improves over the next decade, virtual worlds may well eclipse film, TV, and nonrole-playing computer games as a form of entertainment. Thats because, instead of watching someone elses story unfold in front of them on a screen, users in these worlds create and live out their own stories.

When marketing online, you want sustained engagement with the brand rather than just a click-through to a purchase or product information, says Bonita Stewart, responsible for interactive marketing for DaimlerChryslers Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge brands. Avatars create an opportunity for just this type of engagement.

Really Simple Data

John Robb writes: “Dave hits on what could be exciting about Google spreadsheets. The ability to tie in data via XML-RPC. Here’s another idea. Another simple format, like RSS is for new post summaries, could also be built for data. That would allow me to pick the data I want from a buffet of data and plug it into a spreadsheet. IT would have to be plug dumb simple. Dave, how about it??? Really simple data??? RSD???”

Mobile Wishlist

Gord Hotchkiss writes:

I want a smarter mobile navigational and search experience. I want to be able to indicate my starting point on my GPS-enabled mobile computer, feed in my interests, get a real search online function to help me find locations (Pocket Map’s 2006 is an improvement over 2004, but leaves a lot to be desired), have the best routes indicated, give me one-click access to information, menus, entertainment, prices and reservations for restaurants, integrate reviews and best- of lists like CitySearch and TripAdvisor, and switch to a satellite view if I wish.

Better yet, I’d like to indicate times I’d like to take a sight-seeing tour, a time I want to stop for supper, and have my PDA work as a smart assistant for me to take my likes and dislikes and provide me with a list of suggestions for my approval. Upon approval, it would lay out the best route and point out landmarks I should look for on the way. As always, search will be the functional layer that ties it all together.

TECH TALK: Computing for the Next Billion: The Mobile Alternative

The installed base of mobiles is nearly thrice that of computers. So, with the emergence of high-speed data networks, it is only natural that mobiles are being positioned as an alternative to computers, especially for the next billion users.

One of the proponents of using the mobile as computer is, surprisingly, Microsoft. Engadget wrote about it in January 2006:

Both Gates and Microsoft CTO Craig J. Mundie talked up the idea of a specially designed smartphone that could be connected to a TV and keyboard, turning it into a full-fledged computer. “Everyone is going to have a cellphone,” Mundie said.

The New York Times had more:

Craig J. Mundie, Microsoft’s vice president and chief technology officer, said in an interview here that the company was still developing the idea, but that both he and Mr. Gates believed that cellphones were a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations. “Everyone is going to have a cellphone,” Mr. Mundie said, noting that in places where TV’s are already common, turning a phone into a computer could simply require adding a cheap adaptor and keyboard. Microsoft has not said how much those products would cost.

Mike Evans wrote about Nokias view of the world: [Nokia] sees the mobile phone as the single gadget you’ll need for every form of communication, information and entertainment. They want the mobile phone (and more importantly, their mobile phones) to be your one and only access to the Internet, relegating the computer to a behind the scenes role that may only exist in servers in years to come…Just as digital cameras completely demolished the traditional film-based camera market, so Dell may see its own market start to evaporate at an ever-increasing rate. And if Nokia has anything to do with it, this is exactly the future Dell and the other computer manufacturers can expect.

Russell Buckley wrote about how it would work:

My vision is that our mobiles are going to morph into something like our digital, thin client, key to our digital data, as well as a communication device. Sometimes well access that data directly, as its stored on our phones – much as we might keep games on there today. And some will be stored on the web, so well use our phones as a way of accessing and unlocking this data.

And yes, sometimes, well need to see that data on a larger screen and use more sophisticated tools to manipulate it – a keyboard and mouse and whatever comes next in that line. But rather than go to a computer, well slot our mobiles into a docking port in a keyboard/screen combo.

Philip Greenspun detailed out a plan in September 2005 to make the mobile phone into a home computer:

What would you call a device that has a screen, a keyboard, storage for personal information such as contacts, email, documents, the ability to play audio and video files, some games, a spreadsheet program, and a communications capability? Sound like a personal computer? How about “mobile phone”?

A mobile phone has substantially all of the computing capabilities desired by a large fraction of the public. Why then would someone want to go to the trouble of installing and maintaining a personal computer (PC)? The PC has a larger keyboard and screen, a larger storage capacity, can play more sophisticated games, and has a faster communications capability.

This is a plan for building an appliance into which a mobile phone plugs and that extends the phone’s capabilities without requiring the consumer to become a system administrator or be aware that he or she owns more than a phone.

Tomorrow: Network Computers

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