Friday, June 25, 2010

Is Twitter really *that* important?

Yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the San Fransisco offices of social medial darling Twitter. You could probably rightfully ask what he went there for considering that, you know, he's the President of a whole country and stuff and Twitter is just a social networking site. That would be a really good question too and we could only assume that he visited Twitter because of some pressing issue that affects our two nations relationship or some other big, important event. You'd be wrong.

He went there to send his first Tweet.
No, I'm not kidding.
Seriously, I'm not.

That's right, the President of the Russian Federation visited Twitter to send a Tweet.

Now, before anyone starts accusing me of not understanding the value of Twitter, rest assured that I do. What I don't understand is how that value, as a business tool, translates into a visit by a world leader.

I agree that there is some real value to Twitter. I personally follow people whom I consider some of the brightest and most well thought people on the planet. But if I leave that carefully constructed circle of friends, I start to see the ugly, stupid, useless, underbelly of Twitter:

"My dad is actually totally gonna by me tampons! Yikes LMAO"
"Get off me and put the money on the table #thingsisayaftersex"
"Ima do me in da club 2nite. Might mix it up wid da playaz"

Those are the type of messages that most frequently seem to hit the service. Useless, stupid, and without any value at all. It's the nonsensical rambling of people who truly believe they are so important that the entire world wants to know when they had their last cheese sandwich or, worse still, intimate details of their last bowel movement.

Sure, there are other world leaders on Twitter. Queens Noor and Rania are both there as is President Barack Obama, and countless national politicians and leaders from all over the place. But, overall, what value is Medvedev going to get from Twitter?

This was nothing more than a PR stunt.

Does anyone really believe Medvedev is going to get addicted to Tweeting to the point of laying in bed with his Blackberry hitting 'refresh' on UberTwitter and anxiously waiting the next post from Robert Scoble or lol'ing when Chris Pirillo says he just farted? Of course not. Medvedev will probably never visit or interact with the site again. Yes, his staffers might take to the site like crazy and the entire Russian government might just be on Twitter within a year. But Medvedev won't and it's a but of a disingenuous PR stunt to pretend like he really cares about it at all.

More importantly though is the fact that a world leader who's still fighting a war against terrorist, is facing terrorism in his own country, and has countless national problems at home would even waste his time with such silliness. Sure, it's cool he sent a tweet, but it's not world changing or earth shaking the way some bloggers would have you believe.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

iPhone Web Apps vs iPhone Native App

The iPhone is perhaps the most compelling mobile platform ever created and, if you're a mobile developer, you have to be there. But Apple has created a hostile atmosphere with the App Store that make developers wait weeks and sometimes months for their applications to be listed.

With Mobile Safari offering full support for HTML5, there is good reason for small developers to develop Web Applications instead of native ones. This video discusses those options

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Microsoft Office Online vs Google Docs

Last week, Microsoft announced the general availability of Office Online - a web based version of several popular Microsoft Office programs. Included in the suite, which has been integrated into the SkyDrive service, are the popular Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and One Note applications, all bundled with 25 gigabytes of storage space.

I've been a Google Docs user for a few years now and I've always wished that Microsoft would release an online version of Office. While Google Docs did a great job at most things, it didn't always cut it when dealing with documents created in Microsoft Office programs like Word or Excel. Formatting was a bit off, fonts didn't quite transfer over, and a bunch of other little 'gotcha's' seemed to plague Google Docs that just didn't sit quite right with allowing me to use it for everyday use.

Overall, I'm very impressed with Office Online. I love the way documents transfer seamlessly from desktop Office programs to their online counterparts and then from online to desktop. The online software functions and looks nearly exactly like the desktop version so that, if you're familiar with any of the desktop Office programs, you'll have no problem getting started with Office Online. It's definitely going to give Google Docs a strong run for the money and I believe we're going to see a LARGE amount of Google Docs corporate users move over to Office Online.

That said, there are things I miss about Google Docs that are important enough to keep me using the software for at least a little while more. One of the strongest features is the ability to download documents in multiple formats. This is vital for anyone who wants to make sure they can share their documents with everyone, no matter what editing software they use.

Another 'must have' feature for me is Google Docs ability to create simple web forms to collect information that's then inserted into a spreadsheet for later processing. This might not seem like a deal breaker to you but, I assure you that, when you're needing to grab information from users, colleagues, or the public at large, it's pretty sweet.

Sure, it would be trivial for Microsoft to add these features to Office Online and I'm sure they will show up in some form or fashion. But will they be 'too little, too late' to lure a significant amount of the market away from other sites like Google Docs or, even, ZoHo Office? I'm not sure it will. If one of the competing services were to create a simple plugin for Microsoft Office desktop that would allow you to save documents directly to the cloud, it could be game over for Microsoft in their fight for online market share.

If I were a market analyzer, I'd bet my money that there's going to be a bloodbath in the office market very soon. Google, who hasn't changed their offering significantly in about a year, is going to have to step up their game in order to retain market share. Microsoft, who owns the desktop market, is going to leverage that power hard and push interoperability between the desktop and the cloud. They're going to leverage their desktop power and push tighter integration between the desktop and the cloud and we're going to see a just about seamless experience between the two pretty soon.

Ultimately, the battle will rage and the consumer will win. If anyone has the capability to compete directly with Microsoft, it's Google and they're going to compete very hard. Keep any eye for fast and massive movement on both sides and keep your options over.