The Apple Watch launch event was a spectacle. Thousands of journalists and industry luminaries lined up for entry into the auditorium, giving it almost a red carpet feel (though without the silly "who are you wearing?" questions). Once inside, the crowd hung on every word, with even journalists applauding each new announcement (something I don't believe they teach at J-school).
Two days in and I'm still baffled
There's lots of discussion of what Yahoo! should do with the proceeds of the Alibaba sale. Some are calling for a dividend (boring), while Josh suggests a bold move would be to buy a controlling stake in Twitter.
And while the core advertising business continues to drag, I don't see any simple deals that would really reverse that. So, while Yahoo should continue to make small, strategic technology deals, I'd look elsewhere for the big deals.
Yahoo still has a huge footprint in both Finance and Sports, so why not double-down on those? And two important, emerging opportunities for Yahoo come in Video and Mobile, so those need attention as well.
Assuming Yahoo has $10 Billion to go shopping with, who should they buy?
In the Finance space, there are a number of interesting content plays that could reenergize their Finance pages and give them some unique content. Stocktwits, the online community for active traders, provides the best insights into financial events as they happen. Just watch the StockTwits page for a tech company during their earning release and you’ll see what I mean. Estimize, who crowdsource earnings estimates, M&A rumors and now economic data, could provide an innovative reason to visit Yahoo pages. TheStreet.com has been rapidly building their video content and would be an attractive fit, provided they could convince Cramer to stay on board for a few years. Yahoo could probably acquire those three companies for around $350mm.
While ESPN has now surpassed Yahoo Sports in traffic (according to ComScore), Yahoo is a close second. It may not be ideal timing, but if I were Marissa, I’d give Jim Bankoff at Vox Media a call. While the new Ezra Klein-led Vox.com may not be a great fit, SB Nation would be a great addition, while Curbed could open up some new opportunities. If they couldn’t get SB Nation, I’d see if I could pry Deadspin from Gawker and would also take a look at Bill Simmons’ long form site Grantland. I might also look to pick up either Narrative Science or Automated Insights, both of which offer technology which automates short editorial articles from statistics. Yahoo already uses Automated Insights for personalized summaries of fantasy sports results, but could expand its use across multiple verticals.
Video is a big area of focus for Yahoo, and one where they’ve had success, though the numbers aren’t yet big enough to move the needle. If I were Yahoo, I’d look at Funny Or Die, or perhaps see if IAC might part with CollegeHumor.com in order to drive short-form video and bring more of an edginess to their offerings.
That leaves mobile and social. There’s a lot of interesting activity there. I think the valuations for SnapChat are too high, and I could see it going downhill after an acquisition, but maybe Yahoo could make a play for Whisper or Secret. And, of course, a content site like Buzzfeed or Distractify could drive a lot of social engagement on mobile and the desktop.
If you were Marissa, what would you do with that pile of cash?
From the Guardian comes word of a new app - the cleverly named LinkedUp, which they describe as "Tinder for your professional network".
The app uses the LinkedIn API to access a user's professional contacts, and has a Tinder-like interface to quickly browse pics and profiles.
Let's think for a minute about how bad an idea this truly is.
For most of us, our professional network consists of current and former coworkers, clients, your next potential boss and more. What could possibly go wrong?
I can only imagine the alerts from LinkedIn: you've just been endorsed for the following skills...
According to founder Max Fischer, "I think it helps people feel a little more comfortable about people. I was looking through some profiles earlier today and the tag line says "You must love sports and dogs" or "I really love this hockey team."
Wait - I thought that's what Facebook already does. It captures your social graph, your interests, your experiences and more. But it does that in your social circle, not your professional circle. In other words, people who are less likely to adversely impact your career if things don't go quite right.
There could be worse ideas for dating. Perhaps a "classmates.com" for prison parolees, or an app that sits on top of the national sex-offender registry. And, I'm sure there will be those who find LinkedUp to be a useful app. But, there's a reason we don't have a single social graph, covering our business and personal lives. And most of us prefer that those world's do not collide.
The long-awaited Office for iPad was launched today.
Office for iPad is clearly aimed at driving users to adopt Microsoft’s cloud-based tools. It’s fine as a document reader, but to edit or create documents requires a $99.99 per year Office 365 subscription.
To access cloud-based documents, which is the primary way you'll work with documents, they have to reside on Microsoft OneDrive (the relabeled SkyDrive service). There’s no option to access your docs on Dropbox, Google Drive or any other third party platforms. You can get a free OneDrive account with 7 GB of storage, but for those who actively use Dropbox or another service, the idea of adding another cloud host for documents doesn’t make much sense. That leaves an opening for tools like QuickOffice Pro, acquired by Google, which integrates with both gmail and Dropbox.
The applications themselves seem robust. They didn't just take the desktop apps and shrink them; clearly a lot of effort went into building device-appropriate apps. I'll leave full reviews on these to others, but my quick thoughts are that the apps themselves are solid.
If you're an active MS Office user who doesn't use Google Docs or Dropbox, Office 365 and OneDrive would make a lot of sense. But, for the gmail/dropbox/google docs crowd, I don't expect much takeup. For me, the biggest benefit might be to use the PowerPoint viewer as a way to more easily run PowerPoint decks from my iPad to a projector. I typically use Keynote for that, but they're not 100% compatible, so a solid PowerPoint viewer will be great for that occasional need.
The big winner here is Apple. Microsoft has resisted developing iPad-specific versions of Office applications because they still held out hope that those applications could ultimately sway users to buy Windows Mobile-based tablets. Clearly, Apple is winning the BYOD war by a large margin and this serves as Microsoft's endorsement of that. Where that leaves Microsoft's mobile strategy, in the long run, is an unanswered question.
I've just started to use Poncho, the weather un-app from Betaworks and, at first glance, I'm impressed.
I have used a bunch of weather apps and, until now, the two in "regular rotation" for me are Dark Sky and the Weather Channel.
Dark Sky is a one-trick pony that executes that trick better than anyone else - it gives you the hyperlocal forecast for the next hour. So, whether you're trying to figure out whether to start the softball game, or whether to bring an umbrella to lunch, no one does it better.
I use the Weather Channel app for the more mundane task of checking the daily weather report before I leave for work in the morning. All I want to know is the current temperature and the expected high and low, along with whether it's gong to rain or snow. And the Weather Channel app does that reasonably well, as do a number of others. But, there's a lot of clutter there that most of us don't need.
Poncho, founded by Kuan Huang, out of Betaworks, gives you the info you need, when you need it, without all that clutter. Poncho simply sends you a text message or email each morning, with a brief snippet telling you what you need to know.
There's no app required. Just go to the Poncho sign up page and answer a few critical questions (where do you live? what time do you wake? do you have pollen allergies?) and tell it whether you want your forecast via email, text or both. And, every morning you'll get a brief forecast with just the info you need to know, right when you need it.
What I love about Poncho is the simplicity. It's like the early days of mobile - when I got my first Blackberry in 2000, there were a number of simple auto-reply services. You'd email a question (e.g. stockprice for a given ticker) and a text response would come back. Sometimes, a brief text message is all that you need. We don't need a robust, full-featured app for every task.
So, we can all learn a lot about development from Poncho.
While many are envisioning Dick Tracy and video chat on the wrist, it doesn’t sound like that’s what the focus of these initial devices will be. And I’m not sure that very many people want the Dick Tracy watch today, anyway.
Fifty years ago, when people thought about mobile devices, they naturally assigned these capabilities to things we already had on our person - a watch, or, in the case of Maxwell Smart, a shoe. Today, we all have powerful communications devices in our pockets, so moving it to our wrist is not that exciting.
And that’s one of the challenges in terms of a smartwatch. What should it be? Is it simply a remote control to access data on your phone, tablet or computer? And will that be enough to become a mainstream “must-have” product?
The core functionality that everyone seems to be focusing on is health and fitness. And there’s definitely an audience for that. Despite the fact that I’ve stopped wearing a watch, I wear my Fitbit 24/7. One good thing about the Fitbit is its low profile. I can work out with it, shower and even leave it on while sleeping (it monitors my sleep). But a big, bulky smartwatch will be cumbersome and I’m not sure it will fit the Fitbit/Fuelband niche.
The other obvious function for a smartwatch is communications. And while Dick Tracy and the Jetsons envisioned videophones as the killer apps of the future, that’s not how people choose to communicate. My teen daughter and her friends use a lot less Facetime and Skype these days, spending most of their time texting. And while receiving texts on your wrist may be compelling for some, sending texts requires a decent typing platform and I’m not sure that a watch interface will lend itself to that.
That’s not to say that there’s not a place for smartwatches. It’s early days for Fitbit and Nike Fuelband and entries from Samsung, Apple, Google and others can certainly expand that market. And certain niche segments may want a texting watch or a wrist-based television remote. But none of these are true killer apps in my opinion.
Dick Tracy doesn’t do it for me. But if you want to get me excited, how about a built-in jetpack? Now that would be a killer smartwatch.
My Google Chromecast arrived today. I was excited to get my hands on it, since my daughter commandeered our Roku box to her room about a year ago, so Netflix for me has been limited to the 9.7" ipad screen since then.
I'm usually quick to bash Best Buy, but I want to give them kudos here. While the Google Play Store and Amazon were out of stock, BestBuy.com processed my order and delivered it right away.
The great thing about Chromecast is its simplicity. When you unbox it, you get a dongle, a USB power cord and a flexible HDMI adapter, without which I would not have been able to plug mine into the TV, which sits against the wall.
It took about 5 minutes to setup the Chromecast, and 3 of those were spent trying to locate the HDMI port by feel without removing the big screen TV from the wall. Once I had it plugged in, the website instructions had be connected in about a minute or two.
And the results...
It's great. So far, I've watched a 1982 Clash concert from Tokyo, on YouTube and am about to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Don't Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and the gang look much better on the big screen?
So, is it as good as a Roku or Apple TV?
Well, today both of those have more content than the Chromecast. But that gap will soon close. GigaOm is reporting that Chromecast has struck deals with Vimeo and Redbox Instant, with HBO Go and Plex to follow soon after. And you have to expect that every website doing video will add the Chromecast button soon (with the possible exception of direct competitors like iTunes and Amazon).
What's great about the Chromecast is its portability. I can definitely see buying a second one to use for travel. Since it takes only a minute to set up, why not use a Chromecast in your hotel room? It's a great chance to catch up on those episodes of Bob's Burgers you've been meaning to watch.