On the 16th of August, Twitter's Director of Consumer Products Michael Sippey wrote a blog post that:
- Outraged the tech cognoscenti and kicked off a massive firestorm - see well-respected bloggers such as John Gruber, MG Siegler, TechCrunch (with a handcuff allegory, no less), etc. weigh in on this.
- In one fell stroke, came to be the new Darth Vader of the tech world, dragging Twitter back from the "open", nice, darling of the tech crowd, to a company populated by suits, with "Social CRM", "Social Analytics", and "Social Influence Ranking" as some of its core objectives.
The moment someone starts talking about Social Engagement, Social Analytics, etc as part of their core objectives, the reasoning goes, we have started on a slippery slope down to irrelevance. Its a good point, and I agree completely. However, I get the nagging feeling that we are missing a part of the picture here and latching on to the most sensationalist part of the post and the new API: viz
My favorite clients - Tweetbot and Echofon, etc. are going to be dead and in its place Twitter is promising me this Social Analytics crap!!!
It is not often that I would summon up the courage to disagree with Gruber or MG Siegler, but I am going to present a contrarian view here.
If we step back for a moment and try to understand Twitter's play here, IMHO it is trying to make itself more relevant to analytics rather than to different ways of representing timelines (which it believes is its crown jewel). Put another way, Twitter is trying to say that they want to control how the tweet stream looks. This is because therein lies their monetization strategy. All the things that can remotely be called Twitter monetization approaches are reliant on how the timeline (and individual posts) look and display when the millions of Twitter users access it. Promoted Tweets, Expanded Content, Cards - all of this stuff relies on them being able to customize the Tweet river, fire hose, etc. in ways that enable these strategies to be effectively used. To be able to do that, Twitter needs to control this aspect of the service's experience. This is what will give them money, sustainability and hopefully continued relevance.
Now let's take a quick look at what they are giving up (and asking the community to give up). Third party clients have driven innovation in the way the river of tweets is displayed, and in the way that users interact with this river. This includes ways to filter, customize and redefine the main window into the Twitter display interface. Maybe Twitter does not want this interface to be straying too much from what they deem to be the best way to capitalize on their money-making approaches (expanded tweets, cards, et al). Admittedly, Twitter itself has been a laggard in developing mobile interfaces (as someone pointed out, Twitter's official IOS app, which is the flagship Twitter mobile app) is actually an acquired product from Atebits - Tweetie.
When you see the main interface, that experience should be Twitter's own - not Tweetbot's or Echofon's. Or even worse, a composite view such as the one provided by TweetDeck. (Twitter quickly bought up TweetDeck as well - anyone else see the patter here?) Twitter has been sending out strong signals about this for the last couple of years. I seem to remember a similar firestorm from Twitter client developers - essentially Twitter was feeding on their own. Devs of clients that were not acquired would be forced to play second fiddle to the "official" Twitter clients, etc.
Controlling the main interface is the best bet for Twitter to make money in the new Post-PC world. By controlling the window into the main interface, by mandating the way most of the community consumes tweets, or the news river, Twitter is seeking to avoid challenges being faced by bigger networks such as Facebook. Facebook, reportedly has no idea how to make money off mobile. Twitter, in sharp contrast, does and is pushing the community forward in that direction.
What Twitter is doing very well and will continue to do (I think) is to be very open to ways of getting content into the stream. Look no further than the IOS and Mountain Lion integration, the massive array of "Tweet this" buttons on the web and within smartphone apps such as Reeder, Zite or any of the mainstream news apps (such as Reuters, Bloomberg, etc.). Twitter is currently the leader in providing facilities to get content into the stream, and does it in the widest range of sources as compared to other social networks.
Twitter's offering to businesses
Now, all these tweets, the river, the keywords, the hashtags, etc. is also of value to businesses. Many times, the conversation is about specific businesses, their products, their service (or lack thereof). The conversations going on within Twitter are certainly of value to any right-minded business. This is a huge economy - dominated by the likes of Gallup, etc. that are able to give their clients a feel of what their customers, partners, employees ("stakeholders" in suit-speak) are saying, thinking, and responding to the business' products or services. Surely it makes sense for Twitter to build out capabilities that provide additional data points in this regard. Data points that are relevant, more measurable, with the ability for businesses to reach out back to the people who are making and relaying opinions about them. This is an incredibly powerful ability.
I am willing to bet good money that part of this "Social CRM" will be the ability to form specific "views" of the news stream that Twitter will charge for. Maybe they will charge the "Social CRM" or "Social Analytics" clients an API usage cost, or they may enter into commercial relationships with businesses directly. Whichever way, there is a definite value proposition here, and I believe many businesses would not mind paying for some deep analytics in this regard. Hence I can understand Social CRM - engage with customers, partners, stakeholders, etc. and Social Analytics - measure feedback, behaviour, etc. However, there is one quadrant that I haven't understood yet - that's the social influence ranking. This is squarely within the offerings targeted to consumers, so I wonder what's in it for Twitter - and why does it justify having its own quadrant?
Could it be that Twitter still hasn't figured this one out yet? Or is it just me? I have tried Klout, and - I call it BS. The kindest thing I can say about it is that its a glorified version of Google's vanity search. Sure, its nice to know how much of a "social influencer" you are, but why should Twitter care? Surely no consumer is going to pay for this? Or am I underestimating the vanity quotient here? Or is it something deeper that will surface eventually? Either way, this quadrant is an unknown to me at the moment.
However, the rest of the strategy makes sense.
This is of course a raw deal for developers who make Twitter clients. That's the risk when you build a business around someone's (proprietary) API. Things will change, motivations will change, API's will change, restrictions will change. It's not easy to swallow, but there it is.
But I am all for improved analytics, better ways to engage the customers and the community. Twitter has something going here. Its going to be interesting.
Even today, a Hotmail address still says “unsophisticated loser” in some circles.
Something I have believed for quite some time now.
Ed Bott doesn't get it - in a polemic post on ZDNet, he rips into the iBooks Author license:
Let’s say you write a best-selling book, of which you sell 100,000 copies from your own website for $10 each. A million bucks in revenue.
Under Apple’s license, all of those copies are in violation of the license agreement. You owe them $300,000 in commissions plus whatever damages they can extract from you.
If you wrote that book using Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition, you owe Microsoft the difference between the $129 you paid for the “private, noncommercial” software and the $299 commercial version. That’s $170.
Huh - how do you compare these two scenarios? Aren't they completely different? iBooks Author is a free software meant for creating enhanced ebooks, to be sold through the iTunes Store. Microsoft Office is a general purpose suite (I am assuming here that the reference here is to the word-processing application - MS Word). I fail to see how the two compare. If you create a book using Pages, for example, you can create it by spending only 20 bucks, as opposed to 129 bucks (greedy, anyone?) and NO, Apple will not come at you for any cut of any revenue you make using this tool.
Here's the thing - you can even create a book in Pages, send it to a publisher and sell your million copies, and then drop it into iBooks Author, create a version for the iTunes Store and sell another 10 million. Of course on the revenue you make through iTunes, you give a 30% cut to Apple. Apple does not want any cut from the revenue you made (or continue to make) for content created outside of iBooks Author.
iBooks Author is a special tool built and given away by Apple so publishers and content creators can create the next generation of textbooks, or books in general. This in no way precludes anyone from creating and selling their content elsewhere, if created outside this one tool. By the way, neither is Apple saying that you need to create only in iBooks Author if you want to sell in the iTunes Store - you can very well generate a standard ePub using a free tool like Calibre. And you can then sell it on the Amazon store, your own personal site, wherever you want. I really think that Ed Bott is upset that Apple has put out the best tool for this kind of stuff and the results (check out the free textbook examples on the iTunes Store) are nothing short of amazing.
As someone said in one of the comments to Ed Bott's post:
Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?
Get it, Mr. Bott?
...of course the tech press is agog at the latest evolutionary product from Apple that looks identical to its predecessor, and I'm sure in some sad neighborhood somewhere, the usual group of lemmings is queuing up at a store to be the first to own a device that will be obsolete in 12 months.
Hah! Refer the title of this post. And I am sure that he did not see this slide from the iPad launch...
Byte Magazine on something that most people missed in the hoopla surrounding "the new iPad"
Apple's biggest announcement last Wednesday wasn't the new iPad or Apple TV, GarageBand or iPhoto. For business professionals, the big announcement was the price drop of the iPad 2. Apple dropped the price of the iPad 2 $100, to start at $399. That's cheap.
The price cut also puts downward pressure on the original iPad. Again, this is just anecdotal, but an early Apple adopter in the office who already bought the new iPad offered me his original (also purchased on day one) iPad for $200. That's the cost of a Nook.
And short of the dedicated literary consumer, I think the original iPad (which still has a year or so of life and updates left in it) is a worthy contender to the Nook. For one, it is tied to the vastly expanding iTunes content ecosystem, which now includes textbooks. Whatever its shortcomings, it is a darn sight lighter and more portable than a bag full of text books. And it also does web browsing, and email, and plays your iTunes music.
Was reminiscing about our stay in Black Forest, Germany. Can't beat the beauty of the woods, mountain roads, small trails that lead off into the forest, the cuckoo clocks everywhere and the absolutely fantastic, bracing summer weather. We spent a glorious two days there, and would dearly love to do it again. One of the best parts of the stay was our B&B - you will not believe the quality of the place. At one of our next stops, we stayed at the Novotel in Colmar and this B&B just blew the Novotel away. Lesson learnt - when traveling in Western Europe, just go with the traditional accommodation. The location was also perfect, right next to a babbling brook (a small stream actually), right next to a large house-sized cuckoo clock (operated by 1 Euro). Brilliant, refreshing and absolutely high on repeat value.
Some images of the trip: the full album is here.
Fraser Speirs on his blog:
You're either buying into a platform or you're buying gadgets. The fundamental disconnect between the apprently solid Android engineering that's happening at Google and the actual packaging and deployment that's happening to end-users is turning into a real problem. To my mind, it's a dealbreaker for schools or anyone thinking beyond their next carrier subsidy.
Entirely agree. Android junkies still drool over the quad-core processor, the amount of RAM, etc.
Its the experience, folks.
Charles Fitzgerald, in his blog post on Windows on ARM (WARM or WOA):
Evidently WARM tablets can’t join a Windows domain, which has major implications for a Microsoft proposition that its tablets are better suited for the enterprise than the iPad. This is probably just a schedule casualty in the enormous effort required to port to a new processor architecture (ARM support is almost certainly the long pole for Windows 8), but it could also be a convoluted attempt to advantage notebook PCs or, even more implausibly, represent a bold endorsement of Intel’s power consumption roadmap.
It means Windows 8 ARM tablets are going to be consumer devices that don’t integrate with the Microsoft enterprise infrastructure any better than the iPad, so Microsoft loses what should have been a major selling point. You will have to sacrifice battery life and go with x86 to get enterprise features and manageability. This is a big blow to Microsoft’s tablet proposition for the enterprise and WOA may be DOA as a result. It will be fascinating to understand the decision-making behind this result.
The reasoning seems to be simple to me: It takes much more than bluff and bluster to make a really compelling tablet. Windows on ARM looked to the industry a compelling indictment of Intel's achievements in the low-power CPU market. And the big beef was supposed to be the manageability advantage of Windows tablets. Good luck with that!
The reality: almost 3 years after Apple snookered the tech world and created a new product category from scratch (again!), some credible alternatives are just emerging. And no, none of them are Windoze tablets.
The Economist in its leader on Jobs:
The gap between Apple and other tech firms is now likely to narrow. This week’s announcement of a new iPhone by a management team led by Tim Cook, who replaced Mr Jobs as chief executive in August, was generally regarded as competent but uninspiring. Without Mr Jobs to sprinkle his star dust on the event, it felt like just another product launch from just another technology firm.
Mike Isaac, at wired.com
The iPhone, iPod and iPad are so intuitive, children as young as one or two use them easily, swiping to unlock, tapping open their favorite app, and playing a game or their favorite song. The user interface and experience is just straightforward.