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As Twitter Takes Over IM, We Need Clients with Friendly Nicknames

twitter breakup It used to be Yahoo, MSN or AOL chat. Then Skype took over – it is my default IM system now, despite it’s obvious flaws. But nowadays the fastest way to reach most of my contacts is DM on Twitter.  That is if I can remember their Twitter account names. While @firstnamelastname has become a quasi standard, quite a few users have more cryptic names.

@bhc3, @treerao,  @scottfarkas, @tardate,  @ricmacnz, @nielr1, @philfree, @tardate, @sfishy – how am I supposed to remember all that?

Other communication systems have a “contacts” directory with customizable nicknames  – perhaps it’s time Twitter Clients look at this feature…

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The Volkspad… Ouch!

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Google Maps Experiment with Hotel Prices – Just Remember to Check In

How many times were you looking for the right hotel at the right price, close enough to your conference, customer or just a particular location? Finding the right one typically includes juggling multiple sites – hotel search, price comparisons, many with teaser prices that turn out to be unavailable, maps, reservation systems…etc.   Not for long, if the limited Google Maps experiment to show hotel prices is successful:

google-maps-hotel-prices

Google Maps is is quickly becoming Ground Zero for all location specific information.

google maps bartI can’t even keep track of the ever-growing services, but I know my search habits have changed: I no longer use Google “proper” for restaurant, retailer, repair.. etc destinations, Maps gives me better results.   And the other day I accidentally discovered Google Maps now offers BART (the local train system) schedules from the San Francisco stations.

Of course the list is endless – and that’s exactly the point.  Google Maps is no longer just a mapping facility, and we don’t even have to keep track of what we can do with it: just assume it is there. Or it will be. Information is either text-based, image or location-related: all comes from Google.

And yes, I know the hotel prices will come from ads, but why should I care?  Competition will force all hotels to be present with their best advertised price, and that’s all a traveler needs.

Just remember, you still have to check in.  No, not in Foursquare or Gowalla :-)

geo-fatigued

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Helpstream CEO Gone. Or is it the Company? Either Way, We Gain a Great Blogger.

You heard the good news here first, so it’s only appropriate to be the first to follow up: Bob Warfield is likely out as CEO of Helpstream, a Social CRM SaaS provider.  The company website still lists Bob as CEO, but his blog post this morning implies news not yet officially announced:

My Startup Track Record

Success.  Success.  Failure.  Success.  Failure.

That’s it, that’s my story.  It’s been my heartbeat.  I’m a Serial Entrepreneur with a 60% track record, which is comforting, except that I’m coming off my latest failure at Helpstream.  60% is way in excess of what most any VC ever gets.  It’s way better than anyone I know, in fact.  But nothing is ever really very comforting at a time like this.

There you have it – but let’s quickly add, my post is purely speculative, in fact I don’t even know if it’s management change, or the entire company… (will update when I hear details). Instead of further speculation, let me add a bit of personal touch – who I know Bob to be:  an immensely experienced software Executive with great vision, an amazing thinker, who shares a lot – as time permits.

He is a fellow member of the Enterprise Irregulars, an invitation-based small think-tank of software execs, analysts, consultants, bloggers.  The posts you see on the blog are just the tip of the iceberg: we have a lot more, often intense debates going on in a closed discussion group.  Participation is very time-consuming, but rewarding. Everyone learns in the process.  But while quite often we can only afford 2-3 liner quickies, every single contribution by Bob is a complete essay, full of learnings – I’ve often told him he should just convert his group emails into blog posts :-)

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining – well, here’s the “good news” for us:

Fortunately, the recharge doesn’t take me long.  I get bored easily.  I start talking to people, networking, and pretty soon the Startup Energy is flowing in my veins again.  In the meanwhile, I will have time to be an active blogger once again.  This is a happy synchronicity, because I will have a lot to say.  While it’s fresh, I want to go over my latest learnings from the Helpstream experience.  It’s good therapy for me, and perhaps just a little bit helpful for you, dear reader.  I wanted to pen this initial story for the series on my first work week day of unemployment.

I’m sure it will be a fascinating series, we all will learn a lot – and Bob will no doubt be back in business soon.

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Hacker Disables Cars via the Web – Our Remote Controlled Life

vw-remote This is what remote controlled toy cars looked like when I was a kid.  Yes, the control box was connected to the car with a 3-4feet cable… not exactly the level of freedom you get with today’s wireless models.

But it was fun, nevertheless.  I wonder if 20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez had a toy car when he was a kid.  He seems to have found one now.. let me correct that: he seems to have found over 100 remote controlled cars to play with.

The laid-off employee of Texas Auto Center sought revenge and he found it in the Webtech Plus system, which allows dealers to remotely switch off ignition, sound the honk …etc. in the cars of non-paying customers.  Our hacker immobilized over 100 cars and triggered their honks in the middle of the night… probably almost as much fun as a crazy SXSW party :-)

On second thought, it probably wasn’t fun for the drivers whose cars would not start going to work, or whose only remedy against a shrieking honk at midnight was to remove the car battery.  But at least they were aware of the presence of the remote device… unlike students and families of Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania (has Lower Merion just become the most famous school district in the US?).  The Spy Cam District’s victims had no idea their homes could be monitored using the school issued laptops.  (And the school district blew their chances of becoming a hit Reality TV show…)

pge-smart-meterTalk about remote sensors: I had no idea of the extended capabilities of the smart meter PG&E, the local utility has installed recently.  These smart meters were all about remote reporting of consumption, and somehow the utility company forgot to tell us they came equipped with a wireless switch to shut off electricity supply.

Shall I go on?   I’m not sure I even want to know how many aspects of our lives can be digitally controlled… all in the name of progress, but dangerous when falling in the wrong hands. :-(

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The Sleek and the Geek @ SAP

Need more proof that being co-CEOS is an awkward situation?  Watch this SiliconAngle video between 0:20 and 0:35 :-)

Of course you can watch the whole thing… and read these reports of the press event:

Meanwhile I’m just waiting for the promised mid-summer new release of Business ByDesign .. and what the company does about marketing / sales / partner ecosystem.

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Has SXSW Peaked?

How do I know, when I’m not even there?  By reading what others say.  For starters, here’s Jolie O’Dell who attends this year’s conference:

Too many people, not enough tech.

…non-technical people aren’t here to learn; they’re here for self-congratulation and mutual masturbation. People I’ve never heard of are referring to themselves as Twitter celebrities and generally making me ill.

This show isn’t fun, and I won’t be coming back.

For contrast, non-attendee Danny Brown says: Why I’m Not Missing SxSW.  Dennis Howlett chimes in: The not attending SXSW grump report Yes, Dennis is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, but he has a point, and he does not seem to be alone.

I dropped by at the Cloud Connect conference yesterday (yes, dear organizers, I sneaked in with my badge from the previous event hosted by SAP’s CEOs, as your registration closed early.)  From the full house (standing room only) at Geoffrey Moore’s session I tweeted:

So are all the workabees @ #ccevent while the party types went to #SXSW?

Chirag Mehta picked up on my teasing Geoffrey Moore:

Well, all iPhone folks are at #SXSW RT @ZoliErdos: Geoffrey Moore needs to update his speech- said look at your Blackberries LOL #ccevent

You probably get the drift by now… but here’s Jeremy Pepper spelling it out for you: I Don’t Do SXSWi

For the past few years, I keep hearing the same thing about SXSWi:

  • It’s spring break for social media
  • It’s a week long party
  • It’s one night after the other of bars and alcohol
  • It’s great networking
  • I go every year, and make my agency pay for it no matter what because it’s a great party (this said to me by a former boss when I asked what the value is there – notice nothing about actual work, though).

I rarely hear “it’s a great event for my company/agency to reach the right people for product A, B or C”. It’s always about the drinking.

… take a step back and think of this: can you justify missing Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday to your boss or client? And, well, the rest of the week is a wash also if you’re hungover.

And, as a sage executive said to me about CES: there’s going to be a bad day of reckoning for social media. Corporations are going to ask for ROI, and going to party is not ROI.

Sour grapes?  I don’t think so.  But back to the question on how I know SXSW has peaked?  Because declaring non-participant status is becoming trendy.  This would have been unthinkable last year.  So my prediction for next year: there will be even more : “why I am not going” declarations, and the year after SXSWI will be “uncool”.  The trendsetters move on to another party conference :-)

Image by Hugh MacLeod, who calls it the annual 5-day drunken orgy (which he is attending, btw….)

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Google Apps in a Box. Oh, and an iPad Killer.

What we missed in our Google Apps Marketplace coverage: the Best Poster Award … drumroll.. goes to box.net:

box google

And while at it, their video isn’t too shabby, either:

Wait… is that an iPad killer with a great virtual keyboard at 0:46?

ipad killer

Bias alert: I’ve been watching Box.net from the humble early days starting here:

through here:

box toilet

..to becoming a successful business.    Just sayin’ :-)

(Update: my secret retirement plan is collecting royalty from Box.net for using Google-in-a-Box )

P.S. On a more serious note, here’s our previous Google Apps Marketplace coverage:

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My New Favorite Old Blog…

Jonathan Schwartz, President and CEO of Sun Mi...

Image by TechShowNetwork via Flickr

My new favorite old blog is former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, blog.   It’s at the old URL, but has a new title:

What I Couldn’t Say… The “About” section says:

I think I’ve said pretty much everything I could say as CEO of Sun Microsystems. The more interesting stuff was what I couldn’t say.

And that’s what this blog (and maybe a book) is going to be about.

Mostly.

For a taste of his newly found freedom, read Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.

And that’s all have to say… :-)

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Google Launches Apps Marketplace

I’m at the Google Campfire One event where they’ve just announced the Google Apps Marketplace.  The site is live now, feel free to browse.  The speculation is now over, this is Google’s answer on whether they will enter the Business Applications market – they just did, with an entire ecosystem of Partners.

The new Marketplace fills an obvious need: Google Apps has 25 million users at over 2 million businesses who clearly need more than just the communication / collaboration / Office type applications Google can offer today.  Here’s a chart of some of the initial Marketplace participants:

Launch cos

As you can see, the list represents a wide range of partners – some are very obvious fit, others bring questions re. future business model. Just picking a few randomly, I can easily see how electronic signature management vendor Echosign, the obviously named eFax or meeting scheduler Timebridge expands Google Apps functionality, and they are all easy to use applications.  Spanning Backup is a brand new product just launched days ago, but they’ve established credibility with the previous product, Spanning Sync.

At the other end of the scale we have fairly complex offerings represented by NetSuite and Successfactors.  For SMB SaaS ERP and HRM (yup, lots of acronyms)  offerings integrating Web based office apps or email is a natural fit, but these companies have a very different sales and implementation model: far from the simple test-buy-click-to-install model they have a longer, more traditional sales cycle, a few weeks of implementation work, training..etc.  It will be interesting to see how their presence at the Marketplace plays out, and which side generates more deals for the otherl.

Then there’s Zoho (dislosure: Zoho is sponsoring CloudAve, my main blogging gig).  On one hand, clearly competing with Google, on the other hand, partnering where reasonable.  My personal opinion has been for a while that Google should have acquired Zoho long ago, offering a killer combo of Gmail+ GCal and the Zoho Business Apps to the SMB space.  Obviously neither Google nor Zoho thought it was their best interest (and not mine, either, why would I want to lose our Sponsor…), but they finally met at the Marketplace:-)  Kudos to Google for playing fair with co-opetitors in the interest of their Customers, unlike that other company that booted Zoho from their Appexchange when they did not agree to kill Zoho CRM…  CRM is now Zoho’s best selling product, and Google Apps users will now have easy access to it, as well as to Zoho Projects. Zoho Meeting will soon be integrated, too.

googzohoTalk about integration, Google published extensive API’s for integration of 3rd party programs to Apps, the Marketplace allows easy discovery of such apps and there’s also a commercial model, eventually offering billing on the software vendors’ behalf, for a 20% cut.   For now the actual purchase transaction takes place outside Google, but once it’s completed, Administrators of a Google Apps domain can simply enable the new apps which will be accessible via Google’s Universal Navigation.

Other then for the obvious reasons – users / customers having more choice, I am happy about this launch because I think if any company, Google has the clout to actually expand the market, and in a way influence user behavior, moving us all, consumers and business alike from the traditional sales-heavy model to a pull-model, where we try-click-to buy.  I wrote about this ‘shift’ in detail in the previous post .

Stay tuned for more analysis from Ben who will look at the details as well as competing Apps Markets, and from Krish who will look at some individual offerings.