Thinking alternatives: From “Mobile” to “Mobility”

Shai Agassi is the CEO of The Better Place to get rid of oil dependency (especially for running vehicles). The idea: Give away electric cars for free (like mobile phones) and make the batteries part of the electric grid system (instead of a costly component of the car). You basically pay for miles, thus the service of mobility – not for the hardware.

Here is an interesting interview with him:

Hobnox – now open for everyone! New contest coming up!

So Hobnox (the startup I am working for as “Head of Concept & Design”) has reached the end of the private beta phase and is now running as public beta (which means: everyone can register and use it).

There are still many things that we have in the pipeline. As of now it appears to be a (a) video sharing site with a community plus (b) some WebTV plus (c) some Flash apps (which are still in demo mode)… and these things will become more and more interconnected as we move along, because the level of interconnectedness is key to success of the concept.

Meanwhile we get reviews like this:

Coming up:

We restart the Evolution Contest and creatives can win $30.000 in three categories (so the sum of the prizes is $90.000). People will be able to submit projects starting next week… the actual voting starts on 4th of August.

If you wonder what the Evolution Contest is you might still browse the participants of the first contest (Nov’07-Feb’08) in this archive.

‘If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.’

This (german) article talks about stopping to censor articles that could lead to legal issues for The problematic article contained some code from an Equadorian blogger that allows to crack HD-DVD content. Of course the film industry wanted to keep that information confidential. Kevin Rose – one of the founders of – replied on his weblog according to the outrage of the community – and they decided to risk fighting with BigCo’s that sue

James Allchin on Macintosh

According to this Computerworld article Microsoft long time Windows development chief James Allchin wrote an internal memo in January 2004 about the product quality policies within Microsoft:

“I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products.”

The e-mail was presented as evidence late last week in the Iowa antitrust trial, Comes v. Microsoft Corp. Later in that mail Allchin states that he would buy a Mac if he would not work for Microsoft. And in fact reports that Apple sales currently rise four times faster than the rest of the global PC market.

There are so many designers using Macintosh computers not only because the products itself, but also because Apple serves the argument, that substantial investment in design is not a “nice to have” for a company, it can likely become a life saver. I sense that marketing and design is working hand in hand within Apple. Any management concept that defines marketing as “legislative force” and design as “executive force” has a tendency for failure. Marketing alone rarely “translates visions into great products” as Allchin demands.

iPod killers? I don’t think so…

Here is a very detailed article about concurrent products for the Apple iPod called “iPod Killers for Christmas 2006” (and an older one for Summer 2006).

And I think to some extent the article exhibits, why all those vendors remain unsuccsessful to decrease the market share of the iPod. It is not a question of the style of the object. Even the feature set will not do it. The secret to the success of the iPod is a) it’s simplicity and b) iTunes (and to some degree the iTunes Store). There is practically no simpler way to manage the content of your MP3 Player than to let iTunes handle the files on your iPod for you.

Without iTunes no one would really much about the iPod. The other MP3 Players may look slick – but the more important question is what kind of tricks you need to do to get the desired music on that thingy. And Apple did understand this since the 1st generation iPod: Apple did not design only a product – they designed a whole product system, where everything related to digital music can be managed absolutley stress free.

And this is such an important selling argument that people even tend to ignore the fact, that Apple cages them in that system: no songs bought on iTunes play on these “iPod killers” because those do not support the DRM Apple is using to protect the copyrights (not to mention that you can’t change crippled batteries). If you can do anything you want within that system already you will rarely touch its border and find something you want to do but can’t.

YouTube aquired by Google

There were rumors around about Goolge bying YouTube for $1,65 billion. Now the YouTube founders themselves posted a small video announcing the deal:

Like this guy I think it will be a extremely interesting question how Google will deal with the copyright violations in the end.

Update: Something doesn’t just feel right about these guys and this deal. They don’t really have a message and bloviate something about community service. Do you think it is right that tehy just earned 1,65 billion for delivering content they didn’t produce over bandwidth they didn’t pay for? I think Goolge just wanted to make sure to get control over YouTube before it’s getting even more expensive.

Update 2: Here is a public debate between a law professor and an economics professor about the copyright issues related to the YouTube aquisition.

The missing tool for the long tail business

What was missing for the »long tail« economy was a simple way to offer your products and services online with a system that manages your billing and accounting. is such an application. Their slogan: »A shop in minutes, a business for life.«. application screenshot gets a 3%-2% share of your sales. If the seller doesn’t earn anything won’t either.

What I would like to know is how earnings at (and similar services that may appear soon) will appear in tax declarations — especially here in Germany.

New Webmontag events…

Tonight there are two Webmontag events in Berlin and Bielefeld. Next week there will be one in Cologne (which I will attend), Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. There is already a bunch of interesting presentations in the pipeline — as always. And interesting people too: Tim Bruysten, Tobias Jordans, Mario Sixtus, Oliver Lauer. A very good way to spent a monday evening with such bright people.

I don’t like at Webmontag events are the lurkers: people that go there just to listen to the presentations and do not tune in the socializing part of it. I don’t know how other people think about it.

Is the Internet about to be disintegrated?

Network neutrality is a principle of network design. It asserts that, in order to promote innovation, network service providers such as telephone and cable internet companies should not be permitted to dictate how those networks are used (i.e., not permitted to ban certain types of programs, to ban certain types of devices connecting to the network, or to favor traffic to certain web sites over others).

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on 7th February 2006 discussed to end the Network neutrality principle. There is a 2,5 hour webcast about this hearings. Vinton Cerf speaks (30:00- minutes in the stream) during this hearing about the design of the Internet (and the ISO/OSI-Model of course). He says:

»Nothing less than the future of the Internet is at stake. […] We must preserve neutrality in the system in order to allow new Googles, new Amazons and new Yahoos to form. […] We risk to loosing the Internet as catalyst, for consumer choice, for economic growth, for technological innovation and for global competitivness.«

Read this comment by Om Malik here:

The desire of AT&T, Verizon, et al to end network neutrality and assert fees for access to connected customers represents a death wish. Imagine the prospects of an info tech industry without “software neutrality” where Intel charged a fee to enhance software performance. Pay Intel and your applications run faster. The incentives driving Moore’s Law disappear in this pay-to-play model. Intel’s profit maximizing incentives become serving the interests of software companies willing to spend the most on “enhancing software performance” not the end users of computers. The meritocracy driving competition between software companies disappears as Intel picks winners and losers based on willingness to pay. Innovation becomes permission based at Intel’s discretion.

What does that mean practically?

AT&T (or any other ISP) could decide how much to charge you depending on how you actiually use your Internet connection. They could charge customers if they want to access concurrent services that compete with their offerings. The payment of the access to the net currently is independent (neutral) from type of content and its provider. Ending the Network neutrailty principle would allow access providers to create any kind of price model for what you actually do with your capacity. They could charge for Voice-over-IP differently than for Internet-TV. They could charge for access to and offer rebates for own bidding systems.

Think of the energy provider charging different prices for energy depending on the type of device you plug into the power sockets. Or British Petroleum building own highways because they can charge anyone that drives on them with gas not bought from them. Or think of Intel charging a monthly fee depending on how much CPU cycles you actually used of your hardware.

So of U.S. congress is dropping the neutrality principle it is a matter of trust in the promises of the service providers. A Verizon representative during the hearing:

»If a customer wants to call Sears we don’t connect them to Macy’s. […] Public policy must encourage and reward investment in networks«.

Read on at Democrats lose House vote on Net neutrality.

Half of corporate PCs can’t run Vista?

If something is really shifting the market share in favour of Apple, than I think it is the fact, that Microsoft does have a real problem with innovating their OS on an outdated base of hardware. According to InformationWeek Gartner estimates that half of the PCs in corporations won’t be able to even run Vista. If need to upgrade infrastructure that is actually running well on the current OS (and probably would do so for another two or three years), than this is really be a financial problem.

3rd webmonday/webmontag in Cologne went well

Yesterday the 3rd Webmonday in Cologne took place. Again we arranged the Hallmackenreuther for this get together, but this time they decided to put us in the cellar (which is a nice location for maybe 50 people, but not 70 or 80; see the images).

People start to get familiar with each other. I think I like that development very much. What I don’t like is when the presentations take more than one hour alltogether or a single presentation lasts any longer than 10 minutes (including Q&A!).

I took some time to ramp up the feedback section on the Webmontag Wiki. Feedbacks are now grouped by city (and not spread over all event pages). There is a feedback page for the Cologne events and a new page collecting general feedback about the Webmondays.

New Webmondays ahead! (Webmontag)

There are new webmondays ahead in different cities in Germany (with dates & attendees as of the time of this post):

  • Cologne (30th January; 13 attendees)
  • Frankfurt (6th February; 41 attendees)
  • Munich (06. oder 13. February; 1 attendee)
  • Berlin (20th February; 7 attendees)
  • Hamburg (no date yet; 6 attendees)
  • Leipzig (no date yet; 2 attendees)

If you live near those cities check out the webmonday wiki. Maybe you want to consider a visit or even a brief presentation. Anyway you may spread the word and blog the link so other people can join.

Flick off!

Since it’s start in 2002 Flickr has seen an enormous success. Flickr’s design is clean, lean and simple – giving room for the stars of the show: the photos and photographers.

Something fundamental about the Internet: stuff like Flickr is not hip because of their interface design. They are hip because of their independence, their spirit and their smartness.

Flickr was a playground not only for everyone taking pictures, but also for professional photographers. It didn’t play a role that hobbyists were populating the ground, because Flickr was pure and focussed on photos. No ads and no “other services you might buy in” nags were polluting the space.

In March 2005 Flickr was bought by Yahoo and now users are required to get a Yahoo account if they want to use the Flickr service in future. But users don’t want to be forced into the family of services Yahoo wants to sneak in.

Now Flickr users are protesting (see Wired article). It seems they feel like Yahoo stole their photos to enhance the other crap they want to offer (especially because most frequent users have paid for Flickr). People feel like being the ones that made Flickr: without their photos Flickr would be a waste of CPU time.

Yahoo once took over intellectual property of Geocities users (or at least intended to “secure” itself for new Geocities accounts). There are just not enough reasons to trust Yahoo.

Google Talk

A lot of rumors about Googles new instant messaging application last week: today Google Talk was released. It’s possible to log into Google Talk with any Jabber-compatible Instant Messenger (because it uses the XMPP protocol). But while they use Jabber as technology it does not connect to the existing Jabber servers around. That is really a bad decision.

Google Talk comes with a lean interface and doesn’t do anything but chat and voice-over-ip. I am stil sceptical about VOIP that doesn’t interoperate: Can I call a Google Talk user with a SIP phone? There is a section about »service choice« on the developer pages:

We plan to partner with other willing service providers to enable federation of our services. This means that a user on one service can communicate with users on another service without needing to sign up for, or sign in with, each service.
We do not have details at this time on when federation will be enabled. But we are working closely with Earthlink and Sipphone to federate EarthLink’s Vling service and Sipphone’s Gizmo Project with the Google Talk service as quickly as possible, while offering the best possible user experience.

There is a interoperability discussion group for Google Talk. There is already a review published by Ars Technica. So if Goolge is interested in interoperation, why don’t they just allow Google Talk users chat with existing Jabber users?