Facebook introduces Places location service – First Take

This afternoon, after much speculation, Facebook introduced their location based service called “places”. Launching tomorrow as part of the Facebook iPhone app (and also available on the touch.facebook.com site for mobile devices that can support HTML 5). Facebook now lets users check into locations and share that information with their friends. Extensive details for privacy control show that Facebook spent a lot of time doing their homework on this effort that will likely allow them to avoid the negative repurcusisons that affected Google with their launch of Buzz.

This is an important announcement as it establishes Facebook immediately as not only a credible player in this space but arguably the most important player. I’ve argued in the past the features such as “check in” are more of a feature than a standalone service and therefore the idea of integrating this directly into Facebook, already a key hub of social activity makes sense. The fact that Facebook is also offering an API for others to tap into means that there’s now a good foundation and framework in place that sets the stage for Facebook to bring both brands and local retailers in very quickly.

While the meme of “_____ is dead” has become popular in recent days on the internet, Facebook’s entry doesn’t mean the immediate death of other location based services. It will, however, put much more pressure on them to evolve, differentiate in meaningful ways to offer value to users. Even with that, it’s likely we’re going to see some consolidation in this space over the next 12 months.

The intersection of mobile and social networks is having a transformative effect in a year where almost everything is in the process of evolving in the mobile space. It’s therefore no surprise to see Facebook making the necessary investments needed to stay at the center of users social network experiences. With the ability to leverage their 500 million plus user base, Facebook has gained instant credibility in what was becoming a crowded market and reinforcing their leadership position as the core social network for users.

Ten technologies that shaped a decade

It’s hard to imagine that ten years ago there were no iPods, social networks or fast wireless networks. It’s been a pretty amazing decade for technology and that’s the subject of this week’s SlashGear column.

The last ten years have been a decade of innovation and change. Unlike in the past, so many of the products and technologies introduced have become a core part of the way we live, work and play. It’s almost hard to imagine that we lived without some of this stuff just a short time ago. What are the emerging technologies you see today that will become the next mass market, life changing ones of tomorrow?

Schadenfreude and Apple

I’ve hesitated to write something in depth on the so-called “antennagate”. My experience are pretty clear. Like many others, I have had no issues with my phone affecting normal use. The way some of Apple’s competitors have responded to Apple’s issue is something that I think is noteworthy and is the subject of this month’s Macworld column.

Rather than focus on Apple, antenna design, and attenuation, Apple’s competitors in the smartphone business should be telling more compelling stories about why their devices and platforms are best-of-breed. That’s the only argument that will ultimately win the hearts and minds of users, period. Bashing Apple’s devices simply won’t work. If Greek mythology has taught us anything, it’s just how dangerous hubris can be. I’d argue schadenfreude is right up on the list of traits to be avoided at all cost. The market is not a zero-sum game. Apple need not fail for others to succeed and compete effectively.

RIM needs to make the BlackBerry business-sexy

I’ve been spending some time with the new Blackberry Torch post RIM’s event a few weeks back. It’s been a mixed experience (more on that in the future) but it’s also been very revealing in how it relates to RIM’s business market. That’s the topic of this month’s Computerworld column.

When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, RIM refocused efforts on the business user while Apple targeted the mass market. The first iPhone clearly could not meet business needs. Over time, however, both Apple and Google, while wooing the mass market, have made huge strides in adding more business-required support, positioning themselves to capture the hearts and minds of both the business user and the consumer, who in many cases are one and the same. RIM’s challenge now is to keep delivering on the needs of the enterprise while at the same time packing the BlackBerry with the sexiest features that will truly drive end-user interest. If it doesn’t do this well, RIM is likely to lose share and ultimately become no more than a footnote in the mobile market that it helped create and define a decade ago.

Calling Oliver Stone

Sure, there are those who think the moon landing is a hoax. There are those who insist that the US was behind the 9/11 attacks. Let’s not forget the second shooter on the grassy knoll. The tech industry isn’t immune either. If there’s a crazy explanation for something, someone’s been sure to offer it as fact. This week’s Engadget column talks about some of my favorite tech conspiracy theories.

‘m not sure where the conspiracy theories come from but we know their subjects aren’t limited to technology companies and industry figures. Whether it’s an alleged secret iPhone recall or two competitors releasing new products at the same time to ruin the other’s plans, there are always people who seem to expect the worst in human behavior. Some of it is probably post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking — people often imagine if one thing follows another, one thing caused the other — and sometimes it’s just imagination run amok. Of course, it’s hard to prove a negative, so the stories keep churning. Perhaps one day Jamie and Adam will tackle tech industry myths and put some of these to bed on Mythbusters. In the meantime, what’s your favorite urban technology myth or conspiracy theory?

Blackberry 6 and Torch – Hands on and First Take

RIM announced the new Blackberry 6 platform and new Torch handheld today at a press conference in NY. My hands on and first take are the subject this week’s Slash Gear column. While I think RIM did a good job and will likely keep the Blackberry diehards, it’s not clear that there’s enough here that we haven’t seen before to be attractive to iPhone or Android users using the latest of those devices. Are you thinking of a new smartphone? Does the Torch move the dial for you as a possible contender?

According to RIM, this is the best BlackBerry ever and I don’t dispute that. Users who require a Blackberry for work standards will find the Torch the object of their desire. The question is, will the Torch be bright enough to lure users away from the latest and greatest Android devices, iPhone 4 and a newly re-invigorated Microsoft Windows Phone 7? At the moment, if you’re a diehard BlackBerry user, there’s a lot to love but in terms of the state of the art, RIM hasn’t quite caught up to the leaders of the pack in terms of either device or platform. Was this the right move for RIM? I think it was the move RIM needed to make to at least be on par with most of the features we’ve seen in modern mobile platforms, even if they weren’t the first ones there. With the foundations in place, what RIM needs to do now is move quickly to raise the bar even further with more compelling hardware and software features; not merely be satisfied following the leaders but once again taking the pole position.

Let digital be digital

This week’s Engadget column explores the trend in user interface design to make the digital more analog in nature. I’m personally not a fan and would rather seem more examples of digital experiences being true to themselves and not mimicking the analog world.

While the analog look is both welcoming and familiar, it’s a trend I hope doesn’t continue. If I want to use a moleskine notebook, a yellow legal pad or an ornate wooden compass, I will. Let’s let digital be digital and keep the analog stuff where it belongs — outside in the physical world.