Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

hot or not?

hot or not?Facebook is going to be irrelevant in 10 years time. Google has lost the search war. Microsoft has lost the desktop war.

We live in exciting times. Change is in many ways the only constant we have. I started the post with what many would consider heresy- if you don’t believe me, or disagree, you have forgotten the rise and fall of all tech companies.

Altavista. Yahoo! – these were the kings of the search engine mountains before a little company called Google arrived. Google was the king of search on the web, and I would argue they still are. But they’ve already lost the mobile search war… Foursquare is far and away my favorite mobile search tool – I need to find a place to eat nearby, figure out if it’s good, and then move on to my next stop. Google fails miserably at this task, and fourquare shines…

Facebook connects you with lots of people you lost contact with 10 years ago. You’re so excited to reconnect. And then you remember why you forgot about them: “Just gave kitty some more milk!”. Yay. Please kill me now… I posted ages ago that the future of the web was all about privacy and intimacy… group chats are still trying to figure themselves out, but current examples are beluga or groupme. They’re amazing and very useful for communicating with small groups of people that matter. I’d be willing to bet you spend more time in this class of apps in 5 years time than on Facebook (or rather that anyone under twenty will. That may or may not be you in 5 years time.)

Finally, in my mind, there are two reasons we use any given app or service 1) raw utility. it works, you use it. Wikipedia is a great example. 2) peacocking. Part of what makes apps gain great popularity is an ability to make a user appear cooler than his/her peers. Using facebook 4 years ago was very cool, very cutting edge. Today, you’re one in 500 million. Using beluga? Congratulations! you and many thousands of other people are using it too (oh wait, facebook acquired beluga. smart move. maybe it will take a little longer to become irrelevant)…. Using google 10 years ago gave you a search edge, today, you’d better be using Quora, etc.

The list of companies is endless, but one of my final favorites is Myspace –> which has been replaced by Soundcloud…. a large part of my job is to try to figure out what’s hot next… the problem is no one can actually see beyond the event horizon. The mobile is a huge disruptor right now – and is driving the up and coming companies I’ve mentioned in this post. It’s a fun game to play, trend spotting and finding cool, useful apps… if you’ve got favorites as well, post them in the comments, or send them via twitter @jasonball. I’d love to know what’s hot. or not. but please don’t send me a note about geocities.

Filed under: Internet, Technology, Venture Capital

Amazon goes Green

I spotted a neat “sun jar” in one of Amazon’s always relevant marketing emails promoting Energy Saving week this morning. To my surprise when I clicked through, not only was there an Energy Saving week, but a full-blown Amazon Green initative:

Amazon is now offering green products, green guides, eco-packaging products (Apple features prominitely).

This is twice in one week that I look at Amazon and think “Wow, that’s a great company.”

Good job Amazon. (And thanks for sending C.K. a new Kindle, no questions asked as well. I’m switching to Kindle reader over iBooks because of that gesture alone)

Filed under: Clean Technology, Internet

Migrating to WordPress.com

Hi, I’ve migrated TechBytes to WordPress.com. If you subscribed a while back, hopefully the RSS feed made the transition, if not, you might want to visit http://feeds.feedburner.com/jasonball to grab the freshest RSS feed.

Thanks for your patience if you find any site glitches- I’m working through those that I find…

Also, finally, after 2 years of waiting on TypePad to introduce a mobile design, you can now read my site on your mobile (that’s one of the many reasons I’ve moved over to WordPress). Flexibility is good. And the WordPress app for iPhone and iPad rocks. Here’s looking forward to the next 10 years of TechBytes on WordPress.

Filed under: Internet

Opera reinvents the web?

"Opera today (well, last week. I've been a little slow getting this post out) unveiled Opera Unite, a new technology that shakes up the old client-server computing model of the Web. Opera Unite turns any computer into both a client and a server, allowing it to interact with and serve content to other computers directly across the Web, without the need for third-party servers.

Opera Unite makes serving data as simple and easy as browsing the Web. For consumers, Opera Unite services give greater control of private data and make it easy to share data with any device equipped with a modern Web browser.


For Web developers, Opera Unite services are based on the same open Web standards as Web sites today. This dramatically simplifies the complexity of authoring cutting-edge Web services. With Opera Unite, creating a full Web service is now as easy as coding a Web page."
Full press release here.

Very interesting concept which I imagine Google will copy quickly, roll into Google Wave and Chrome…and leave in beta for 5 years. But they wouldn't be alone….

Nokia also has been working on making your phone into a server. I spent a lot of time last year looking into this space. It has some interesting implications on network usage and ease of use for photo sharing, etc… another problem that gets solved by having a local server is separation of data and application.

One of the problems with web apps is that the data and the application are intertwined. Separability of data and application was very clear in the desktop world- you could tote your word files with you anywhere… but with cloud apps, this is becoming much more difficult. (For example, have you tried to export your gmail messages?) As they say, if you can't take data with you, it's not yours… One of the benefits of having a "server" on your phone or laptop is that any pictures you take can still be accessed on Facebook, but you can host those on your own "server".  (And we all know Facebook is trying to build their own private version of the internet. If you believe things like that.)

The current problem with having a local server on your machine (any machine) is that you need to be a geek to make it work. Opera is moving this towards the masses, but it's still a Yahoo Pipes mass appeal. Google needs to make this dead easy to use – maybe that's part of what their doing with Wave…

Filed under: Internet, Software

Spotify- The Next Great Music App

Logo
Congratulations to the Spotify team- they’ve launched their public beta today allowing anyone to listen to music over the web, in what I think could be the next great music app.

I’ve been lucky enough (thanks Daniel!) to be one of the beta testers over the past several months- today’s the first time I’ve seen (and heard) ads on Spotify- and they’ve come up with a great advertising supported music model that’s legal. Yes, it’s all legit…

Two things you’ve got to do: 1) Download the app 2) SHARE a playlist. Sharing music via Spotify has to be the most fun I’ve had in years. (Yes, VCs are kind of sad that way.)

And if you can’t wait to get your hands on a beta invite- you can get the premium version of Spotify immediately which has no ads…

This is gonna be a great.

Filed under: Internet, Music

Dropbox- how file sync should be

dropbox
My beta invite for Dropbox (funded by Y Combinator) arrived this weekend - and my initial impression is very positive. I’ve migrated my home mac use to a client/server (MacBook Pro/iMac) set up- with my iMac doing most of the heavy lifting.

I’ve tried multiple back up services and even tried to use iDisk as a “dropbox”, but it never worked like it should. I’m now sharing my “Current” folder between the two macs seamlessly- and can even get access via the web if needed. Essentially, Dropbox is what iDisk should be – seamless cross-platform file sharing, complemented by web access:

Dropbox features

Apple should acquire these guys ASAP and switch out iDisk for Dropbox…and getting access to these files via my iPhone would make a nice addition to MobileMe too.

Filed under: Apple, Internet, Venture Capital

The Music Revolution

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Wow, talk about music news this week. Muxtape got its wrist slapped by the RIAA…

…but there are new music start ups to pick up where Muxtape left off (if it’s in fact dead, and not a publicity stunt).

Some new arrivals on the scene are 8Tracks, Grooveshark Lite and Simplify Media. I’ve covered other cool music sites in the past here as well.

Music startups are not for the faint of heart or the shallow-pocketed. Spiral Frog has spent $12 Million and hasn’t even launched. They were reported to be looking for a further $25 Million. And that’s pre-launch.

8Tracks has spent about $80k to get the service to where it is today, but has a special license that they’re using currently.

I’ve been watching several guys here in Europe, but see real business model challenges to ad based music services given the royalty rates that the majors are looking for. Silicon Alley Insider has a good overview of why the current licensing model is broken. They calculate 1 ad per song to break even, we’ve run some numbers and they look higher than that to us- which means if it doesn’t work at 1 ad per song, then things just go downhill from there,

Add in the fact that WalMart is pulling/reducing its music inventory, which can’t be a good thing for the Labels either… all of which leaves me scratching my head as to where these guys plan on making money (Not online and not in store- that doesn’t leave many options.)

So what’s next, who’s going to start the Music Revolution (or has it already quietly begun)?

(thnx to datsuncog for the tape pic)

Filed under: Internet, Music

Yahoo OnePlace- An Intelligent Mobile Agent?

1p_overview_2_1

Continuing with the theme of The Next Web, Yahoo has announced Yahoo OnePlace today:

Yahoo! onePlace brings together all your interests, passions and important information into a single location, creating a rich, highly personalized experience around it for you. Everything is instantly organized, dynamically kept up to date, and served up to you the way you want [to your mobile]…

…News feeds, websites, videos, images, emails, search queries, etc.—all can be linked into Yahoo! onePlace from anywhere across the Internet with a single click [and delivered to your mobile]….

and

…Yahoo! onePlace will list each of these for you as well provide a preview of the underlying content, which is continually refreshed throughout the day.

If they pull this off, this is going to be an exceptional service to bring the internet to the mobile. Before you dismiss Yahoo out of hand, pick up your iPhone and search for anything inside safari. Look at the google results. Then go to prefs and change to Yahoo as your search engine, and run the same search. Then, sit back and admire Yahoo’s implementation of mobile search…

Filed under: Internet, Mobile

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