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Archive for November 17th, 2008

Mobile is Today’s Lean Forward/Sit Back Debate

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 17, 2008

Remember Lean Forward versus Sit Back?  A friend of mine was active in two different home entertainment startups and taught me the concept.  When you’re at a PC, you’re “leaning forward”.  When you’re watching the TV, you’re “sitting back”.  So the Interactive TV world of the day (don’t hear much from them lately) wanted everyone to “sit back”. 

Nothing wrong with either one, but you have to be careful predicting one is the universal truth and not the other, because they represent completely different modes of interaction rather than competing modes.  Yes, there is overlap, but it’s not that large.

This morning I was reading Tim O’Reilly on Mobile devices and was struck by the same feeling.  He tells a fine anecdote about what mobile can do, but then concludes with the following:

I think about the web as experienced on a PC, and then about mobile as an add on. The tipping point has come; that notion has to flip: if we’re trying to get ahead of the curve, we need to think first about the phone, and then think about the PC browser experience as the add-on.

There’s that unfortunate and very Western desire that all things must compete with only one winner.  Why does this thinking constantly rear its ugly head?  Why must there be a tipping point that favors only one?  Tim doesn’t really say.  At best I can speculate it is a tipping point in terms of where we must turn for hype and buzz value, but I don’t see any tipping point from a user experience standpoint.

I love my iPhone for the web experience it can provide, but I also love the 30″ monitor and dual CPU four core PC that I’m composing this blog post on.  Would I rather write the post on the iPhone?  No, certainly not.  But that’s not really my point.  The real issue is I would never even stop to think about which one to choose.  For most activities, the choice is obvious. 

Getting back to the anecdote that prompted Tim’s remark, it involved dinner table conversation and the inability to answer a question.  No PC was available, but the fellow who had to say, “I don’t know”, had forgotten was his 4 year old daughter reminded him: he could get the answer from his phone.

Being able to answer a question at dinner is hardly a reason to think it is the time to flip.  Embrace both platforms.  It is definitely a reason to ask yourself how your users can benefit from your application while they are away from their PC’s.

At Helpstream, we face this issue in a couple of ways.  As a customer service application, someone could have one of those questions while away from the PC, and they’d want to be able to answer it.   Even more importantly, some of our customers are selling mobile device software and want their users to be able to get answers from their phones.  We’ve taken the approach of making sure both the web browser client and email can be used for these interactions.  Some phones are better at one versus another.

Posted in saas | 2 Comments »

Why Do Platforms Bludgeon Their Partners?

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 17, 2008

I’m reading another story about Facebook building in functionality to their platform that used to be in the hands of partners, and killing the partner’s opportunity on the Facebook platform in the process.

There is definitely revenue to be had doing this, Bebo started out exactly this way and at one time had 100 million users.  Even today, at least until now, they were making some $4 million a year off birthday cards and gifts.  Now Facebook wants that all for themselves.

Is it really worth $4M a year, or even $10-20M a year to destroy partner’s trust in you?  Why build for the Facebook platform if you know full well they plan to take the business away from you as soon as you prove it’s capable of growing to an interesting size?  And is this really the only way Facebook can grow their revenue?  Have they exhausted all the ideas to do something their partners aren’t?  It sure looks like it.

Here is another one I shake my head at.  Amid the flurry of very compromising emails (such as James Allchin saying the machines they were certifying wouldn’t work, it’s misleading, and retiring the day it shipped rather than deal with the fallout), we find HP deeply unhappy with Microsoft.  They had invested in creating a generation of PC’s that stepped up to the performance Vista requires and were shocked to see Microsoft’s decision to certify machines that basically would not run Vista.  Once again, a partner got bludgeoned, pehaps in the interest of placating other partners such as Intel.

With partnerships like these, who needs competitors?

Posted in platforms, strategy, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

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