NFC? NFW! (Near Field Communications is Total Hype) [Updated]

The buzz about near field communications (NFC) is totally missing the point.  NFC is just a contactless (or nearly contactless) replacement for swiping a credit card. But who cares?  The swipe really doesn’t need replacing.  It is no more trouble to swipe a credit card than it is to tap a smartphone on a pad.  20 credit cards stacked up in your pocket is still a tenth the size and weight of your smartphone.  Saving that weight or hassle when you are headed to the gym is hardly a compelling vision.  It is just not valuable to consumers or merchants, especially when you consider the hassles one has to go to in order to manage the security risks.

The excitement is misplaced.  The things to get excited about are systems which handle the payment for you by tapping into the smarts of a mobile device and your identity and your context to create a relationship between you and the vendor, to the potential benefit of both.  Currently an NFC tap is every bit as anonymous and devoid of context as the tried & true credit card swipe.  What you want is a system that knows it is you and allows the merchant to relate to you in the form of loyalty awards, discounts and relevant offers.

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Shooting Out The Lights: Google + Motorola Mobility

Great analysis by PEHubWire on the Google / Motorola Mobility announcement this morning.  Pretty much captures it.  Look for increased anti-trust scrutiny on this one:

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Brian S. Hall Hates Google

Brian S. Hall has posted a super-harsh smack-down of Google entitled “How Do I Hate Google? Let Me Count the Ways.”  (Link is to Business Insider repost because the original post includes offensive language that detracts from his points.)  As a big fan of a lot of what Google has done (noted here and here for example), I am not sure I agree with Brian’s rant on all fronts, but I do think it is a valuable perspective that is worth having out there in the mix.   There were a couple areas, however, where I think we are in total agreement, and I mentioned both of them in my post on Google+.  Here are those excerpts from my original post:

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Hard Not To Admire Chris Sacca

Foundation 07 // Chris Sacca from Kevin Rose on Vimeo.

Shout out to Ty Danco for turning me onto a great interview of uber-angel Chris Sacca by Digg Founder Kevin Rose.  In his always excellent blog, Ty rightly points out that there are some very interesting bits of wisdom around the importance of paying it forward in life, and I agree 100% with that, but I am also blown away by Sacca’s other keys to success: versatility, smarts, like-abilty, hustle, networking, courage, and, yes, good old-fashioned luck – the luck to have landed right in the center of a circle of amazing people, in an amazing town, doing amazing things.  He couldn’t have done what he did without his native abilities, but the backdrop of timing and the springboard of early experience at Google didn’t hurt a bit.  Really excellent interview – well worth the time it takes to watch it.  Thanks Ty!

 

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When Everybody Wins

Gotta love when everybody wins.  I finally got around to trying the optical character recognition (OCR) engine recently built into Google Docs, and I have to say, I am pretty impressed.  It’s not perfect, but its GOOD ENOUGH to turn the text in any scan or PDF or photo into editable text.  Some editing and clean-up is required, but it beats re-typing the whole document.

Little miracles like this always make me stand back and contemplate the forces that conspired to bring them to me.  In this case we can thank one of the more powerful forces in the universe: the beneficial alignment of interests.

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Open: Good, But Not Easy

In an NYT piece about GoogleTV this week, Ashley Vance illustrates one of the major difficulties of totally open systems – in their raw form, they are horribly unpredictable and therefore very difficult to build a business on.  As Google moves into the device space, they have caused quite a bit of heartburn with their partners: delays in ChromeOS caused laptop manufacturers to miss this holiday season; delays with Android have caused major headaches with phone launch delays, tablet launch delays and phone upgrade issues; and now Google has asked major TV manufacturers to cancel their plans for GoogleTV roll-outs at the Consumer Electronics show in a few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong – open software projects are awesome, but experienced software people are fond of the saying “real engineers ship” for a reason.  In the enterprise space you see hybrid models being adopted for working with open projects – manufacturers will certify, ship and offer support only for certain reference versions.

Google’s ready, fire, aim approach has worked very well and driven very rapid innovation for its cloud-based the software, and an incredibly fast ramp for Android, but as they begin to mate their software more closely with hardware, something’s gotta to give.

Rough Start for Google TV

Google TV is off to a really rough start.  David Pogue slammed it in his review.  He probably didn’t set out to slam it, but by the time he is done describing it there is no conclusion you can reach other than v. 1.0 is a bag of hurt.

Then Walt Mossberg of the WSJ has added to the chorus of jeers, pointing out how fragmented and difficult GoogleTV is to use at this point.

For the record, I am not saying that the platform is the next Google Wave and will never morph into something interesting – it might – but it really shows the importance of a seamless experience and in sweating the details to make things feel integrated and easy. But even if they get there on the UI, the jury is still out on the basic premise that underlies GoogleTV: that people want the full internet/web/browser experience in the “lean back” context of the big screen TV environment. Many have argued that the Internet is a lean forward medium (i.e. a close-up, fine-grained, interactive, text-heavy desk or lap experience) that won’t translate well into the lean-back big screen context. When I consider how easy it is to just browse YouTube videos on the $99 AppleTV box, you have to wonder if that isn’t 90% of the value for 0% of the hassle?

Simplicity counts.

Nicaragua Raids Costa Rica, Blames Google Maps

Oooops!

Widespread complaints about slow Gmail, accidental war in Central America, people being directed to the wrong places to vote… Somewhere along the way Google ceased to be a mere provider of cool web toys and found its wish had come true; it has become a critical piece of infrastructure. Is it up to the task?

MacBook Air: Still Lust-Worthy With Core 2 Duo?

Am I the only one stressing about the fact that the new MacBook Airs run the older Intel Core 2 Duo architecture instead of the newer Core i5 or i7 chips?  They arebenchmarking and performing very nicely to rave reviews (engadgettechcrunch,gizmodo) due in large part to the flash based storage, and the battery life is great, but will they become obsoleted that much faster?  Admittedly, they are less expensive and designed for portable productivity not desktop performance, but still, the older chip architecture has to give one pause.  (Never mind: after much soul-searching, I still lust for one, but I’ll hold off until they offer the Core i7.)

Apple & Sony? Get Real.

And Jobs is certainly not going to dividend out that cash. He worked very hard to earn it and he’s not going to return it to shareholders whom he doesn’t like and to whom he’s already given an amazing ride.

 

Apple + Sony? Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. I think Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of Silicon Alley Insider outlines the reasons better than I could. And the snip above is the frosting – perfectly captures indifference Steve Jobs has for his shareholders – for him it’s not about the trappings of being a public company CEO, it’s about making great products and having a bully pulpit from which to shout about them.