Tag Archives: iPhone

Glass: the Most Important Product since the iPhone

Okay, so we’re some number of months away from the Google’s introduction of Glass to the world, and much has already been written, but I wanted to add my thoughts to the conversation. Why? Because so much of what I’ve read so far either leans toward skepticism or, while positive, takes a fairly narrow view of what I think will be a real game-changer. Let me outline why I believe that Google Glass will prove to be the most important product since the iPhone…

A New Primary UI

The iPhone put an always-connected computer in our pockets, giving us a new way to access and interact with the digital world. But as much as I love smartphones, there is something sad about our addictive fixation with their tiny, smudgy, bacteria-covered screens. Glass promises to be a great liberator, offering a new primary UI to so many things:

  • Your smartphone: While some see Glass as competition with smartphones, I am confident that being able to access my iPhone without taking it out of my pocket will make me use it and love it even more. Instead of fumbling for the device in my pocket, unlocking it, and swiping, clicking, or typing to get to what I need, I’ll have the power of the iPhone always available to me, right before my eyes, and controllable by voice command. I also suspect that Glass will make me even more curious about how switching to an Android smartphone might enrich my life. Google has a huge ecosystem-type opportunity to make the combo of Glass + Android smartphone as awesome as the interplay between my iPhone and my Apple TV.
  • Google: The coolest moment for me in the recently released promo video for Glass¬†(embedded above) was how they used the company name not just as a verb, but as a command. Yes, you will soon be able to “Google” anything, anytime, anywhere, simply by saying, “Google” and what you’re looking for. Imagine what impact that will have at scale for Google’s core business. Glass will solidify Google’s dominance of search as the web enters its third chapter with a UI that is omnipresent and natural.
  • Your cloud:¬†Glass will also serve as a UI to your own Google-hosted cloud services, not only giving you super-convenient access to your stuff, but more importantly giving you a dramatic shift in the most important constraints around sharing: convenience and privacy. Expect Google to make it easy, fun, and rewarding to stream ever more of your life to their cloud (whether or not you choose to share it to others).
  • Your “people layer”: Of course, the ambitions of Glass intersect with the strategic imperatives of Google+, and give Google a not-to-miss second chance to define how we share our life moments with the people we care about. Hangouts are clearly a big part of the plan, though the forward-facing POV camera seems better suited for new kinds of virtual presence sharing scenarios. It will also be very interesting to see how Glass acts as an interface to social platforms not owned by Google. Pay close attention to what comes of Mark Zuckerberg’s fascination with this game-changing UI to social. Might Google and Facebook finally find a common ground?

Together, I expect this new, way-more-accessible UI to drive an order-of-magnitude increase in my picture taking, video shooting, searching, map usage, and so on. Google will end up knowing way more about me — and, in return, deliver to me ever-more personalized and proactive services. And I am totally cool with that.

A New Compute Platform

A new primary UI to your digital/online world is, of course, a pretty rare and extraordinary thing, but Glass is some much more than just an elegant UI layer. It is nothing less than a new generation of compute platform as transformative as the four generations that came before it: mainframe, mini, personal computer, and smartphone. Glass ushers in the era of wearable computing.

If Glass emerged from any of the other tech titans, there would be a question about whether or how much it would be “open.” But this is Google, so we can expect open-ness to be a central and defining feature of the platform. Expect a robust app economy to emerge — one that takes full advantage a new three-tier model: Glass + smartphone + cloud.

Actually, it’s even richer and more complicated than that. For Glass is but one type of wearable computer. Apple’s rumored to be working on an iWatch, and there are already several fitness tracking devices on the market. Over time, expect Glass apps to interconnect with an ever more diverse network of sensors on (or in) our bodies.

A New Google

Just as the iPhone re-invented Apple, the introduction of Glass is re-defining moment for Google. What has been almost exclusively a software company will now become a consumer electronics company. I wish them much success in this big transition.

Update, 3.7.13:

I got to test drive Glass this evening, out and about in downtown Palo Alto, and I stand by the title and substance of this blogpost more firmly than before. Three takeaways from the experience:

1) Huge convenience factor. While waiting to be seated at a crowded restaurant, I needed to know if there was a risk I’d be late to pick up my daughter. Instead of pulling out my iPhone, I just tilted my head up slightly and saw the time. Awesome! More importantly, my beloved iPhone, so central to my life, requires me to pull out my reading glasses. Glass? Not at all. I found the display remarkably crisp and easy to read without my reading glasses. And that was true, whether looking at a photo I had taken, a map, or the menu items. (Also, the speech interface works amazingly well in a noisy environment.)

2) Super comfortable. A lot of folks are worried that a computer on your face would be heavy and awkward. In my testing, Glass was as comfortable as my reading glasses or a pair of sunglasses. Very well designed, even though first generation. Imagine what Moore’s Law will do for this new product category.

3) Glasshole” or rockstar? Many try to put Glass down for being awkward from the perspective of fashion and social comfort. I’ve thought for months that wouldn’t be a problem, and that, instead, the high-end price tag and great design would give the product a “luxury halo”. After experiencing the reaction in a pub and a restaurant, I’d have to say the skeptics will be eating crow. Wearing Glass in 2013 is awesome. Strangers come up and engage with you. People notice you enter the room. Friends ask lots of questions. It’s a bit like being a rockstar (at least in Palo Alto).

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Silicon Valley: Top 10 of the 2000s

Kaliya's computer

It’s all too easy to view the first decade of the 21st Century as just an unmitigated series of disasters: September 11th, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the meltdown of the global financial system, to name just a few.

But the 2000s also saw continued acceleration in the advance of technology and its impact on society, as we continued to ride the exponential curve of Moore’s Law. So, let me offer my “Silicon Valley: Top 10 of the 2000s”…

The Dot Com Bubble Collapse. (Yes, even this list starts with a disaster.) We entered the new decade and the new century drunk with optimism that recessions were a thing of the past, with a firm belief that the Internet’s transformational power had created an unprecedented “long boom“. And then, in March of 2000, the Bubble burst, sending Silicon Valley into a multi-year “nuclear winter.” Internet companies of all sizes imploded, unemployment rose, buildings went vacant, vendors started requiring cash (rather than asking for equity), and the venture capital fire hose turned into a trickle.

Broadband and Wi-Fi. While many of us licked our wounds and wondered whether Silicon Valley would ever recover, the underlying fabric of the Internet just kept getter better. Broadband access crossed over from early adopter to mainstream, and Wi-Fi hotspots spread like wildfire, fueling a rapidly growing addiction to the Internet. Ten years ago, most of us sipped the Web through dial-up straws; now we expect high-speed access everywhere, all-the-time.

Google IPO. In the first half of the 2000s, one company defied the pessimism and came to symbolize the hope of a return of the good old days. Google reminded us that the Bubble was less about the true Silicon Valley and more about the madness of irrational investment behavior on Wall Street. And their profitability and growth were so strong that they could do what no one else could since the collapse — pull off a tech IPO. Heck, they not only IPO’d, they dictated their own terms to the Street, with a Dutch auction in the summer of 2004. Indeed, for most of the 2000s, Google was the undisputed hottest company of Silicon Valley. [Correction: Dave McClure points out that another high-flier, PayPal, was the first tech IPO, post 9/11. He’s got a lot of other great additions, too, so be sure to read his comments. Thanks, Dave!]

Blogging. Though blogging started in the ’90’s, it would take until the middle of the 2000s for it to become a powerful mainstream force. But by decade’s end, sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, Techmeme, CNET, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat, and ZDnet, among many others, had completely transformed how we discover, consume, and create tech news. And it wasn’t just tech. The power of blogging was transforming every facet of the news business, from politics to sports — and even to the paranormal, like when a Bigfoot hunter held a press conference in Palo Alto.

YouTube. In the ’60’s, it was said that “the revolution will be televised”. In the 2000s, it became clear that it would be uploaded to YouTube. The video sharing site blasted off from the emerging “Web 2.0” scene in early 2005, rocketed to mainstream impact, and got acquired for $1.6 billion by Google — all in less than two years! Suddenly, Silicon Valley was once again a place where a few people could get together, build something innovative, have big impact on the world, and get ridiculously rich in the process. The Web 2.0 revolution was in full force, with hundreds of new companies with funny names popping up all over, embracing user-generated content and social virality.

Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and team did not invent social networking, but they apparently internalized all of the right lessons from those that had come before, including Plaxo (the first socially viral “people layer” network, founded by Sean Parker, Cameron Ring, and Todd Masonis), Friendster, and MySpace. Facebook exploded out of Mark’s dorm room, riding a potent exponential growth curve that continues to this day, propelling Facebook to the center stage of the Internet industry — and finally giving Google a run for the money in the “hottest company in Silicon Valley” category.

Twitter. As the 2000s come to a close, a new contender is rising, not from Silicon Valley, proper, but from the Ground Zero of the Dot Com Bubble of 10 years ago: San Francisco. Twitter, a darling of the early adopter set, launched at the cool geek confab, SXSW, in 2006, and remained decidedly niche for so long, that many thought it might be remembered primarily for its “fail whale”. But Twitter eventually connected with celebrities and mainstream media outlets, like CNN, and the chirpy little bird soared into the stratosphere.

Ereaders (Kindle, nook, and more to come). Books are one of the most important inventions in human history. Major breakthroughs (like the Internet) are often compared with the impact of Gutenberg‘s movable type press from the 1400s. As the 2000s are coming to a close, “ereaders” are revolutionizing the concept of a book, turning it from a physical object to a digital item pulled from the clouds. In the coming decade, the impact will be enormous.

Apple, iPod, and iPhone. For a company that almost died in the ’90s, the 2000s have been a truly remarkable decade for Apple, featuring a return to profitability, a string of hot new products, the launch of two new billion-dollar-plus product lines (iPod/iTune and iPhone), and the reinvention of the music and mobile phone industries. Silicon Valley sees “Big Waves” only once every 15 years on average, but we’re ending the 2000s, riding two distinct and reinforcing Mavericks, and one of them is embodied by the iPhone. The iPhone has given birth to a new ecosystem, much the same way the personal computer did in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and is inspiring vigorous competition in what had been a technological backwater. Of course, the other really Big Wave is the emergence of…

The Social Web. When Sean Parker and team pitched Mike Moritz at Sequoia, seeking venture funding for Plaxo in the dark days of 2002, it was not just to solve the real and vexing problem of stale address books. The billion dollar opportunity they pitched was that the Internet, for all its great impact, would not reach its full potential unless and until someone brought to it the missing “people layer”. If real identity and real relationships could be combined with network effect and Internet-style interoperability, they said, something really big would happen. Of course, like so many big, bold visions, getting there has taken multiple attempts, and now involves a really dynamic collaboration between big Internet companies, “Open Stack” grass-roots communities (like OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams, the Open Web Foundation, and OpenSocial), and lots of startups, but we exit the 2000s seeing proof-points all around of the emergence of an open and interoperable Social Web. It’s becoming increasingly common to visit a new website and be able to use an online identity you’ve established at Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a growing list of other identity providers, and get a new account (without having to repeat the dreadful process of choosing a new password, filling out a bunch of forms, importing your address book, and re-friending the same long list of familiars you’ve friended so many times before). Look to the coming decade to bring us an amazing array of new startups native to this new Social Web.

What do you think? Are these the right 10? Nominate others via comments.

And, now all that’s left is to wish you all a Happy New Decade!

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Harnessing the “People Power” of Social Media

On this week’s show, Joseph Smarr and I discuss the significance of how Obama’s team harnessed the “people power” of social media. The stuff we’re all working on to open up the Social Web is not just about socializing, but is also about fundamental changes in society that social media can facilitate.

The episode is also up over at The Social Web TV.

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My Platform Switch: Hello, iPhone, MacBook Air, Sony Cybershot, Comcast Triple Play!

It’s a season of platform change in my personal life, an exciting time of new devices and services. I’ve just ditched my old-fashioned Treo device + crappy Palm software (and no-complaints Sprint service) in favor of the the 3G iPhone (which happens to come with AT&T). I’ve junked my heavy, clunky Windows laptop from Lenovo that took forever to boot up or shut down, in favor of the slim, no-hard-drive MacBook Air from Apple. I’ve abandoned the sluggish, blurry, Canon Powershot pocket digital camera in favor of a snappy new Sony Cybershot with a 28mm (wide-angle) lens and some great image stabilization technology.

And on the “digital home” front, I’ve transitioned from getting my television via satellite (DirectTV), and my broadband vis DSL (SBC), and my phone from the phone company to getting it all together from my new employer, Comcast. [No, I am not shilling here. The main driver for this transition was that I get the triple play as an employee benefit. That said, to borrow a slogan from McDonald’s, “I’m lovin’ it!”]

Why is all this important? I think we are living in some very exciting times (again), now having fully recovered from the post-dot-com-bubble slump in the first half of the decade. I think we are in the early phase of a *major* wave of change. This will be a golden era for developers and consumers, driven by Moore’s Law, open standards, great design, and Darwinian competition. And I plan to photograph, video, and blog it with all these great devices and services!

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