Since I wrote my first take on Google Buzz, I’ve pretty much given up on it. My latest SlashGear column goes into detail.
Buzz is a strange product. From a company noted to testing, iterating, and keeping products in beta for years, Buzz felt like something rolled out quickly and with little thought as to how users outside the Google-plex might want to engage and interact with it. Using Gmail and attempting to tie my contacts to my social network might have seemed like a good way to jumpstart but, in reality, all it did was turn off a lot of users. While I know many find Buzz useful, my initial experience and Google’s overall model for use have turned me off on the service. Perhaps I’m just being Buzz-kill but for now, I’ll wait for a few more iterations before I try again.
On a related note, my colleague Charlene Li discusses the implications of privacy and why Google Buzz is a nightmare for parents. If you’ve got a kid using Gmail, Charlene’s piece is a must read.
One of the more interesting bits of news this week was the sale of VUDU to Walmart. VUDU has been around for a few years, first as set top box vendor offering movie rentals and purchases and more recently as a service that’s been enabled in some TV sets and Blue Ray players. I think it’s a good deal for the VUDU folks, assuming they got a nice exit. It was hard for me to see where they could take this long term. The dedicated box was expensive and was a essentially a one trick wonder, with other boxes doing the trick much better.
The latest offering gets rid of the box entirely and the VUDU service is a streamed only service for rental and purchase. The good news is there’s no subscription fee for the using it. The bad news, is there’s little on the rental side that isn’t available elsewhere and the purchase model makes little sense as there’s little to no discount against disk purchase for new titles. While VUDU has done a good job of closing the release windows so they closer match day/date of DVD/BluRay that applies only to purchases and not to rentals.
Unlike other services such as iTunes, purchased content is locked entirely on to one screen. In an age of digital ubiquity and three screens and a cloud, that feels way too much like 2004 for me.
The real question is what will WalMart do with VUDU? We’ve seen the plays before, most notably Best Buy’s acquisition of Napster, which hasn’t really led to much. Worse, VUDU isn’t as much of a service or a product anymore as much as it’s a feature that’s going be licensed into other products, something WalMart has shown no ability to do. It’s one thing for retailers to tie into digital distribution but this looks like the wrong service, sold to the wrong company at the wrong time. Walmart has already tried getting into the video download business and got out of it in 2007. I’m not sure I this faring much better long term.
I am pleased to announce I’ve accepted an offer to join Altimeter Group as a partner leading our coverage of personal technology and mobile devices. In my work at Altimeter Group, my goal is to work with clients and help them understand the implications of a multi-screen, always connected digital world and how best to leverage the opportunities this new world creates. The analyst world is a relatively small one and I have long admired and respected the work of my partners, Charlene Li, Ray Wang, Jeremiah Owyang, Deborah Schultz, Lora Cecere and Alan Weber. Each of them is a thought leader par excellence who in their own way, has changed the world in their areas of expertise. When I was first approached about joining Altimeter Group, I was both humbled and honored. As I’ve had the chance to speak with my new colleagues over time, my appreciation for their brilliance, insight, analysis and creativity has only grown.
We live in perhaps the most intense and disruptive time in technology history, where Moore’s Law of change that occurs every eighteen months seems to be eclipsed by change that occurs every eighteen minutes. I, therefore, am thrilled to be able to collaborate with such wicked smart peers and I look forward to offering my insight and analysis to organizations seeking to understand and prosper from “what’s next”.
A little over a year ago, I joined Interpret to create Interpret’s syndicated research products. In that time, I’m pleased that we were able to launch five research coverage areas, driven by data from Interpret’s New Media Measure data offering. I believe Interpret’s syndicated reports are best of breed within the industry and offer differentiation and insight that are unrivaled.
That said, with a great team of analysts in place to continue to drive new coverage areas my job at Interpret is largely complete and I have decided to pursue new opportunities going forward. I was truly fortunate to work with colleagues of such high caliber and I know Interpret will continue to grow and thrive in the future.
With little more than 24 hours notice, Google invited a group of journalists and analysts to Google HQ to announce a new product. That product called Google Buzz puts Google directly in the real-time and social spaces with a strong mobile component. At the same time it’s a shot across the bow at other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and with a strong mobile component, will put pressure on the likes of mobile social networks such as Four Square and Gowalla.
Google’s approach is tied directly into Gmail on the desktop with a mobile website, an app for Android and integration into various flavors of Google Maps. (notably missing was an iPhone app or iPhone maps integration). Buzz works by starting with your Gmail address book as your core set of followers and allows for both public and private sharing. The demo appeared to be very similar to what would happen if you integrated Gmail and FriendFeed together into shared experience. Enterprise and other API news to follow.
Despite mediocre past attempts at social networking products such as Okrut or Dodgeball, Buzz is likely to attract a strong following by virtue of it’s tight integration into Gmail and the ability for Google to expose the service to advanced as well as novice users immediately. While Twitter users won’t likely transplant their followers and followings to Buzz, new users who have not embraced Twitter or tried and abandoned it are likely to give Buzz a try.
While Buzz is a direct challenge to Facebook, it’s not likely to displace the millions of Facebook users who use Facebook for more than sharing status updates or other media. Farmville, Bejeweled Blitz and other games, apps and services will likely keep Facebook fans loyal for some time. The intersection of mobile and social networks is happening quickly and with Buzz, Google’s is going to capture some mindshare as well as market share quickly. Dedicated mobile social networks are going face new challenges from Google as Buzz gets quickly integrated into Google products and services.
Finally, the email, which is the “social network” embraced by most consumers now has a true social component to it, further integrating email into the real time conversation.
While prior Google efforts have been lackluster, look for Buzz to have short and long term impact.
Interpret is conducting an App Developer Study and we are attempting to recruit both professional and hobbyist App Developers to take a short survey we’ve designed. We believe the survey will quite be helpful in pushing the industry forward for both developers and app users so please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested.
You can find the survey here. http://tiny.cc/appstudy