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Gmail Back to Earth – In Search of $, I Suppose…

Image credit: LifeHacker

Image credit: LifeHacker

I’ve been long-time Gmail fan, having used it from the very early days, for almost 5 years now.  The key reasons why I switched and have stuck with the service ever since were the productivity boosters, first of all:

  • Threaded conversations
  • Labels
  • Search

I also must say that for all other Web Office needs I prefer ( and always have) Zoho’s products.  Now, take that with a grain of salt, I do have a bias, since Zoho are is the exclusive Sponsor of CloudAve, my main blogging gig, and before launching CloudAve, I had been a long-time Zoho Advisor. Being an Advisor is a controversial role: sometimes your Clients listen, sometimes they don’t.

I must admit for a long time I was going nuts trying to convince Zoho to throw out most of their email product and radically revamp it to offer Gmail-like benefits, mostly threaded conversations.   Why didn’t they get it?  I was frustrated.  But the two things happened.  I looked at the email (both Zoho and Gmail ) accounts of several people and was surprised that even the Gmail version showed only 1-2-3 items in a thread.  My folders labels are full of threads with 30+ entries each.  I’m a productivity-maniac freelancer, part of a few hyper-active discussion group, but not everyone’s usage pattern is like mine…

In fact I also had to realize that I don’t really represent Zoho’s paying customer base.  Sure, freelancers, bloggers..etc can generate a lot of hype and get enthusiastic about change, but the real money is in those “boring” businesses that are willing to pay, but don’t really want to change.  Corporate employees live in Outlook, whether they like it or not is almost irrelevant, they (or their employers) resent change.  So Zoho decidedly resisted turning everything upside down, staying “boring” for a long while, because this is what customers told them to do.  (Zoho has this strange philosophy about business: they don’t want to be coolest company. Just a profitable one.)

Of course over time they added conversation threads and labels, albeit implemented less radically than Gmail – it’s a mix, you can have either traditional or conversation views, and both labels and folders.   But this story is not about Zoho – it’s about Gmail.  Funny changes are happening in Gmail-land.  They added folders, then improved them.  Not that it makes a lot of difference – while for some it is a religious war, I’ve always said:

All folders are labels, but not all labels are folders.

Really. Read the details here.   And now Henry Blodget reports: Google To Change Gmail, Add “Normal Email” Option Instead Of Just “Conversations”.

OMG!  Is that the End of the World, or what?  Not really… I suppose it’s all about financial realities and what the real world wants: you can be innovator, but if you want to sell, you better listen to your customers.  (For clarification: customers are those who pay.  That’s not me ).   Welcome back to Earth, Gmail!   I for one am happy the “new” old way is just an option and conversations remain, otherwise I’d have to switch again – and switching is a major pain.

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Universal, Actionable Search: Zoho’s Improved Answer to “Where’s My Stuff?”

zoho search Search, Don’t Organize

– is the Google mantra, meaning we should stop wasting time filing away information in folders, sorting, labeling it for later retrieval, when it’s so much easier to search / find it.

That is, if you know where to search. Did you discuss that project in email?  Or was it a Document?  A Presentation?  A Spreadsheet?  A Wiki?  Was there a meeting on it that’s in your Calendar?

We’ve finally resolved the issue of universal search on the desktop, but not on the Web.  Google’s productivity tools all have their own search facilities (I love Gmail search) but you have to execute search on an app by app basis.  Even my Android-phone fares better, where I can search within a particular app or all my data.

Surprisingly, Zoho came out with Universal Search before the King of Search (although it would be naive to believe Google won’t catch up…)   The Universal, Actionable Search solution announced today is just that:

  • Universal: working across several Zoho applications, e.g. Mail, Docs, Writer, Sheet, Show, Notebook, Discussions, Accounts
  • Actionable: depending on the context you can edit a document, respond to / forward an email, IM a contact..etc on a single click, right from the search results, without having to launch the individual application.

A nice step towards contextual integration we’ve just discussed recently.

For now Search is either accessible via search.zoho.com or by using the search box in Zoho Business – eventually all Zoho Apps will get the Universal Search box.  (I have no information on how it will be implemented, but once again, context comes first: I’d expect the default to be within the specific app, other apps or “all” selectable, whereas in Business, which is Zoho’s  business portal the “all” setting is more logical)

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(Disclosure:  Zoho is CloudAve’s exclusive Sponsor)

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Micro-chunking Software: Tibco and Zoho CEOs Sing the Same Song (Just from Different Notes)

puzzle This should probably be a Tweet, but I am not smart enough to squeeze it into 140 characters – perhaps Tumblr or Posterous notes?  Anyway, I am in a rambling mood – but I’ll keep it short, just pointing to stuff I read.  After all, there’s a reason why my personal blog has the tagline Connecting the dots. :-)

The death knell is ringing for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) packages, according to Vivek Ranadivé, Tibco’s chairman and CEO.

“The enterprise 2.0 world we live in today is transaction based, but we are now entering an era where events will replace transactions. We will move from this world where we continually have to ask questions and seek information into one where the information will seek you.”

The technical enabler is the reduction of costs for solid-state memory and the arrival of larger multi-core processors – the result is software that reacts  to what we’re doing at any moment in time, instead of us pulling up big monolithic applications.

The other “dot” I’m connecting this to is a blog post by Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu:

One of the architectural themes that is driving our evolution is the focus on the user’s context and workflow and avoiding the context switch as much as possible. Context switching is expensive. It destroys the flow and rhythm of a users, and is a real productivity killer,  as I discussed with Larry Dignan of ZDNet last week…

…the boundary between apps tends to dissolve, as data flows contextually across apps. Apps move to the background, data and context start to dominate. In the cloud world, data is not the slave of any particular application, but flows to whichever context that needs it.

My take: CRM?  I don’t even know what it means anymore… just ask Paul Greenberg about the ever expanding definition of Social CRM. It’s certainly not just one application.  Same for ERP.  Or Office, for that matter.

Applications will go away.  Instead, we’ll have functions.  Functions that sense what we are doing and offer up the right options – based on both data and perhaps our own activity profile (example: looking at a table – some might process it with a spreadsheet, others prefer a database or word processor).  Or just self-acting agents.  Micro-chunked functions served up software. I first discussed the concept two years ago.

Now, isn’t this in sharp contrast to what I said about Application Suites?  No: first of all, that was a market-reality based view vs. visioning here. Second, it’s Suites are not necessarily monolithic giants, it’s about the integration of apps, bringing the right micro-functions available to the user at the right time in the right context, no matter what the “App” is called, and doing it all in a unified UI environment.  Read more on the componentization of software here.

Wow.  This is definitely not Twitter-sized. :-)

(Disclosure: Zoho is CloudAve’s exclusive Sponsor)

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NetSuite vs SAP … Round #n. A Game Changer?

elephant-flea In my recent Suites post I said there were exactly 1.5 (one and a half) integrated full business solutions (SaaS Suite, SaaS All-In-One, SaaS ERP, SaaS SMB ERP – take your pick or  create a new one) offered as a service.   The one in that equation was NetSuite, and the half is SAP’s Business ByDesign.

The half is getting close to becoming full, bringing the total number of solutions to two.   SAP’s ByD, originally launched in 2007 was a functionally rich solution already at launch – in fact I called it the most complete SaaS Suite not available customers. And therein lies the rub.  Functionally rich, but a phantom product that only a few selected early customers could get their hands on.  And it wasn’t simply a marketing / segmentation blunder as some analyst thought, it was all about architecture: SAP missed out on the economics of multi-tenancy, and realized they could not profitably operate and scale what they referred to as “mega-tenancy” – so they went back re-architecting ByDesign.

The lost 2 1/2 years were a gift to competitor NetSuite, and they milked it every possible way.  SAP announced entry to the SaaS SMB space validated their market, and their own delay was an open invitation to NetSuite. As CEO Zach Nelson said at their recent earnings conference:

I’d like to thank SAP for being our IBM.

NetSuite never shied away from aggressive marketing (I guess that’s the Oracle blood in their veins), starting from pranks like the SAP for the Rest of Us Party during SAPPHIRE 2006 to staging a shootout at the anti-SAP Conference or releasing edgy videos a’la Mac vs Windows.  But the biggest coup, one with definite gains was the Business ByNetsuite program which we covered here:

The aptly named Business ByNetsuite program guarantees at least 50% savings to current SAP R/3 customers relative to  – watch this! – the annual maintenance fees they are now paying to SAP.  Yes, it’s not a price-to-price comparison.  With the perpetual licence model customers pay upfront, but are still forced to pay annual maintenance fees – with SaaS there is only a subscription fee, and now NetSuite proves it can be half of only the maintenance component of traditional software’s TCO.

Yes, NetSuite took deals from SAP and of course amidst all the chest-thumping they did not particularly emphasize the fact that that these were often divisional deals:  smaller divisions of large companies, often replacing legacy systems as a result of an acquisition with the parent company running SAP.  NetSuite even developed  NetSuite-to-SAP connectors for enterprise reporting, fully recognizing they won’t be replacing SAP on the corporate level.

Now of course these were relatively easy wins when NetSuite was the only game in town – and that’s about to change, as SAP is getting ready for General Availability of a new Business ByDesign in July.  And SAP CEO Bill McDermott fired a few salvos over to NetSuite in his announcement, as quoted by Reuters:

McDermott said he believes Business by Design’s sales will be able to quickly surpass those of NetSuite, which last year posted $167 million in revenue.

“When Business by Design is coming at them like a 99-mile-an-hour fastball, let’s see how tough they are,” McDermott said of NetSuite.

Winning against SAP when they had no relevant SaaS offering was one thing, going up against a functionally strong product will be another.  NetSuite is changing tone, comparing the two offerings, as show by this slide I received from NetSuite:

NetSuite SAP

This must be the first time SAP finds themselves on the wrong side of the David vs. Goliath equation (or is it the elephant vs flea?  – but who is the elephant and who is the flea in the long run?).   I have an issue specifically re. the functional shootout, which was rigged at best.

As for the rest of the comparisons, a fair summary is that neither side is a newcomer.   SAP is the granddaddy of business processes with 30 years of experience, but they are new to operating / scaling a cloud environment – something NetSuite has a head start on them.

I have reasons to believe (more on that in another post) ByD will not be a failure this time around, and NetSuite will have to adopt to competing with a real product vs. a phantom.  It will be a healthy change, with customers now having a choice of (at least) two well integrated SaaS offerings.  In the end, customers win.

(Keep an eye open for the next post on ByD and beyond…)

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FUD in the House of SaaS – More on Suites

saas myths

Recently I wrote about the evergreen Best-of-breed vs. Integrated All-in-One Suite debate again, arguing:

Call me “old school”, but I also believe in the value of having one tightly integrated system for most business needs, and I believe it’s true not only for large corporations but much smaller businesses.  I don’t have CIO’s to back it up, but that’s exactly the point: I am talking about small businesses that don’t have CIO’s at all – in fact they  likely don’t even have full time IT stuff ( a good reason for SaaS in the first place), so they clearly lack the bandwidth to deal with integration issues and multiple system providers.

It wasn’t just hypothetical speculation, what really prompted my post ( and hence the reference to CIOs) was a study conducted by Brian Sommer who contacted several large corporate CIOs about SaaS implementations, and found that despite improvements in technology, and easy integration by firms like Boomi, Pervasive ..etc, CIOs still prefer to buy an integrated suite of applications and deal with one vendor for most of their needs.   It’s not what we think, it’s what they do – and they are the customers.  Says Brian:

But, customers will do what customers want to do.

Amen. But my post attracted a detailed comment from a PR professional (a fact that took a little digging to discover):

… the Suite approach requires the business to make compromises in areas of the business, and only works if you can run your whole business on that one suite – as soon as you need some other specialist system, or acquire another operation that you need to integrate, you’re in trouble because Suites, by definition, are not designed to make integration easy…

…Force.com essentially brings cloud apps together as a Suite by offering exactly the combination of tight integration, common interface and flexibility. Many businesses can already find everything they need on the platform, even the last critical element required for a serious business system: enterprise-class finance ;-) Many companies, especially smaller ones, don’t need a full ERP suite. They need a handful of critical applications that can grow with them.

Wow… where do I even start?   Perhaps by the only statement I can agree with:

Many companies, especially smaller ones, don’t need a full ERP suite. They need a handful of critical applications that can grow with them.

Yes, of course I agree.  In fact I am a small business myself, and guess what, not only I don’t need ERP, I don’t even need or use a CRM system, or one for business accounting.  The only lightweight business system I use is invoicing (happens to be Zoho Invoice), but frankly, I could get away without it.  Yes, some small businesses will want Accounting, and Accounting only, others will need CRM and nothing else – there are many good choices for them. And yes, FinancialForce.com (which the commenter represents) is great, and we’ve given it ample coverage @ CloudAve.

But that’s where reality ends, and plain old FUD begins. There’s nothing inherent in the “Suite approach” that would prevent customization, integration with additional systems, extension by third party apps.  In fact the key difference between an integrated Suite or discrete  point applications is just how much of the core business they cover natively before  add-ons are required.

And here’s the ultimate irony: I was reading these “ex-cathedra” statements (that’s nicer words for BS) while sitting at NetSuite’s SuiteCloud conference, that was all about working with development partners, releasing a new version of SuiteCloud, the app development and integration platform along with SuiteFlow, a graphical modeling and customization tool, and a bunch of other  announcements all geared to making and maintaining a thriving partner ecosystem, that builds on the core NetSuite functionality and delivers additional value to customers.

In fact the evening before the conference, CEO Zach Nelson spent an hour busting industry myths.  Now look at the slide above: he did not talk about NetSuite specifically, he was advocating Cloud Computing / SaaS in general.  That’s the somewhat usual formula:  myth spread by defenders of the “old model” busted by the innovators – who would have expected the old-time FUD served up by a PR flak for another SaaS provider… :-(

At the conference itself I saw several customers presentations, like that of Campus Villages which replaced 38 instances of MYOB + Intuit MRI with NetSuite OneWorld, including extensions like Nolan Fixed Assets and Electronic Payments, Celigo Smartclient, and are currently evaluating Adaptive Planning.   Those are functions not provided by NetSuite, so guess what – they add third party apps, just like they would to Coda or any other system.

The key criteria for any software company trying to penetrate the SMB market will be vertical industry epxerience, and NetSuite has clearly stated their industry experience is Software and Services – everything else is open to the ecosystem.  Case in point is manufacturing:

NetSuite RootStock MRP

Suites are not customizable?  Just look at  Rootstock, a third-party developer house that created an entire MRP system on the  SuiteCloud platform.  If that’s not living proof of the system’s expandability, then I don’t know what is…

A key difference between the Force.com / Appexchange and NetSuite / SuiteCloud approach is that the former facilitates the creation of any product / utility that you can pick up from a marketplace, while programs developed on SuiteCloude all tie into the NetSuite system very closely – not only on the data but also on the UI level – i.e. the additional business functionality becomes available within the NetSuite UI. In other words they run so smoothly, the fact that parts of the system were written by a 3rd party is hardly transparent to the end user – which is just the way it should be.

So in the end, there is no hard rule that says Suites are inflexible, non-expandable: there only well-written and poorly written Suites, just like well-written and poorly-written point applications.  There will be businesses who only need a few point apps, and should not think of a Suite, and others who will benefit from the All-in-One approach.  It’s their choice.  What they need is honest information, not FUD.

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Podcast: Chat With NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson

zach nelson I attended NetSuite’s SuiteCloud Partner Conference last week (see NetSuite coverage @ CloudAve) and had a chance to meet CEO Zach Nelson several times: on-stage, at dinner, and a cozy small-group chat that included several Enterprise Irregulars.  Michael Krigsman of the IT Project Failures fame  recorded the entire conversation, and although it’s an hour long, I recommend listening to it.  It’s a no-nonsense, to-the-point conversation, not a PR message.

This may just be a good time for a little backgrounder on the Enterprise Irregulars, a group I often refer to.  From Michael’s post @ ZDNet:

The Enterprise Irregulars is an invitation only group comprised of top-tier enterprise analysts, observers, industry veterans, and executives. The group consists of a loose affiliation of members who make decisions entirely on a consensus basis, without formal leadership or management.

Despite the highly informal organization structure, the Enterprise Irregulars maintains an active private discussion community and members meet periodically for briefings with vendors.

I’m a proud member of the EI, in fact I am the Editor of the Enterprise Irregulars Blog, an aggregation of (selected) member posts.  Publication of the EI Blog and my other gig,  CloudAve are sponsored by Zoho.

Now, back to the conversation – participants were  Zach Nelson, Jeff Nolan, Michael Krigsman, Ben Kepes and yours truly.  I suggest you head over to ZDNet and listen to it – well worth the time.

(Disclosure: analyst / press / blogger travel and hotel expenses were covered by NetSuite)

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Are Suites Really Sour? The Best of Breed vs. Integrated Suite Debate.

The evergreen Best-of-breed vs. Integrated All-in-One Suite debate is back again. This will be a somewhat long post, so let’s sit back and start with some entertainment first.

Episode 2, “Suites Are Sour”  is from the mini-series SuiteMates, which I admit I find hilariously entertaining, albeit rather pointless.  Why?  It’s run by supply chain solution provider Kinaxis, but I don’t see much direct benefit to them. I’m reminded the Bill Gates – Seinfeld commercials: what’s the point?  But hey, we’re being entertained:-)

Now, back to those Suites.. are all Suites really Sour?  Fellow Enterprise Irregular Brian Summer clearly does not think so, his money is on the Suites, here’s why:

One of the biggest value drivers behind a customer’s move to SaaS is the reduced internal IT support cost a company has when using SaaS products. In the SaaS world, the vendor maintains the application not the customer. But, in a best of breed SaaS world, the customer is back to maintaining interfaces and integration aspects across a number of (SaaS) applications.

If the argument sounds familiar, it is – it was the same in the good old on-premise world, but much of it holds true in the Cloud, too.  Besides, this isn’t simply Brian’s own opinion, he has conducted a poll of large corporate CIO’s and most expressed strong preference for integrated business solutions, a.k.a.  “one throat to choke” (well, not exactly with those words…).

Call me “old school”, but I also believe in the value of having one tightly integrated system for most business needs, and I believe it’s true not only for large corporations but much smaller businesses.  I don’t have CIO’s to back it up, but that’s exactly the point: I am talking about small businesses that don’t have CIO’s at all – in fact they  likely don’t even have full time IT stuff ( a good reason for SaaS in the first place), so they clearly lack the bandwidth to deal with integration issues and multiple system providers.

This is not a popular view, after all the Millenial World View is all about open standards and APIs where best-of-breed cloud services that can seamlessly integrate and work together well.  I’m all for innovation, and hope we will get there one day – but for now the existing examples are all one-off, individual integrations between specific systems, or at best, ecosystem “satellites” centered around force.com, the Google Apps Marketplace and the like.  These are great solutions, but not enough to run a complete business on them.  In the meantime businesses are looking for available (Cloud-based) solutions NOW.  So yes,  I admit, my view is less visionary, more constrained by market realities today.

Brian cites WorkDay as a potential SaaS Suite provider: they have the right DNA, coming from the Founder who built once-successful PeopleSoft, and they are building truly Millenial Software from the grounds up as Phil Wainwright eloquently points out – but for now they still have a Human Resources / Finance focus only.  Far from a complete solution, just like the other successful SaaS players in the Enterprise arena, like SuccessFactors, RightNow, ServiceNow, and the like.

Yes, I hear you… I missed a big name: Salesforce.com, the GrandDaddy of SaaS or the Cloud or whatever the next fashionable name will be.  An amazingly successful company, and true innovators – having started as CRM company, moving on to as Platform provider, and who knows, tomorrow it may be a Media company? :-)  As long as the keep on moving to hot new areas, always picking the low-hanging fruit, the company and it’s stock price will remain hot.  Again, a great company from an Investor’s point of view.  Just not a Complete Business Solution.

One and a half SaaS Suite players

I can count the number of SaaS Business Suites that actually reached significant traction on one hand.  In fact the exact number is 1.5.  Yes, one and a half – and for now they mostly cater for the SMB segment, with undeniable ambitions to “grow up”.

netsuite The “One” in  that 1.5 is NetSuite.  Having started as NetLedger, the company has developed an integrated All-in-One solution, encompassing ERP, CRM, e-Commerce .. you name it.  Those acronyms are becoming quite useless – in that respect I agree with Dennis Howlett who says we should “dump the  disciplines formerly known as CRM/SCRM/SCM/ERP/3PL/HR/HCM/E2.0….etc” – hence I stick to the term All-in-One. Or Business Suite:-)  It’s been a long (and winding?) road for NetSuite: developing a full suite of apps you can run a business on is by far more complex than throwing out point applications.

The company also learned the hard way that with business complexity (please note, I am not talking about Software, but Business complexity) comes a more difficult, stretched out sales process.  The fact is, as much as I am a fan of the click-to-try-click-to-buy pull model, the more business areas (and stakeholders) are involved, the less feasible the fully pull model becomes.  A Business Suite is not something you simply pick up from an App Store:-)
So NetSuite experimented with more direct sales model first, gradually building towards a more channel-based model, to the recently announced SP100 program in which partner VARs get the entire first year subscription revenue.  Along the way they grew functional richness as well as market penetration, to the point that they often compete with Enterprise giant SAP directly.  Now, let’s quickly qualify that: NetSuite is not comparable to the SAP Business Suite, but it is often an ideal satellite solution for smaller divisions of large companies, many of which just got acquired and are facing the choice of a long SAP implementation vs. a SaaS solution from NetSuite (see Ray Wang’s post on two-tier ERP strategy)

I should probably mention that way back, before their IPO and the fame that came with it (from the times of NetWho?) I was an early NetSuite customer, picking it over the market leading CRM (and I mean that as a stock symbol), simply because it had a better process flow, even for Sales, which I was heading at the time. (Yes, we got p***ed learning we’d have to create Sales Orders outside the other system, even though we had quotes in the system, only to come back and re-enter the data manually).  NetSuite was simply a better CRM system, even before considering other business areas.

Parallel to our NetSuite implementation we introduced a Wiki, JotSpot, which just launched in those days (since acquired by Google) and soon we realized a lot of the support information for Sales could either reside in NetSuite or in the Wiki.  This has been bugging me ever since:

Why do structured, process-oriented systems and unstructured  collaboration tools live in different worlds?

Like I’ve said, I’m all for Suites, but the true Suite in my definition includes integrated collaboration and communication tools – I’m still waiting for that … perhaps not for long :-)

Now, if NetSuite was the “one”, who is the “half”?   It’s SAP’s very capable, but dormant Business ByDesign – which may just come to life later this year.  But I’ve been torturing you long enough, so let’s leave that to another discussion.

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Now Tell the Difference Between Folders and Labels

If you really think about it, there’s not much of a difference.  They are more or less the same.

Folders are a very old metaphor, as old as email and documents are.  Early email systems physically kept folders in separate files, and even when they were no longer separate files, basic functions like sort, search were limited within individual folders.  We got boxed in to physical folders.

The big break away from this, introduced by Gmail’s label concept was flat storage of email with only logical labels – but because labels were no longer physical containers, you could assign any item (email) to multiple folders.

The more traditional “folder-camp” was missing some of the good old attributes: drag-and-drop, nested folders (aka hierarchies)..etc – and lo and behold, little by little they all go it, the final step being the release of nested Gmail folders today.  Now tell me the difference between Folders and Labels.   They are one and the same, Labels are just more flexible Folders.

Actually, and to take this a few steps further, I’ve said before:

All folders are labels, but not all labels are folders.

But of course it’s all semantics … and I don’t want to quote my posts from a year ago … I suggest you read it (yes, shameless self-promo) because in the original post I laid out quite a few concepts for the improvement of folders / labels / tags .. whatever we call them.

I’m glad to see some of those concepts have become reality….

(P.S. Zoho – exclusive sponsors of CloudAve-  have been offering both folders and labels for a while in their Mail service, albeit kept separately.)

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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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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