What if a map was actually an advert?

We are all getting used to using Google maps, the GPS map on our phones and in our cars, to find places.  We follow that very patient lady to our destination (it’s so good that she stays calm when we miss a turn).  But imagine if the brands we ‘liked’ were allowed to sponsor these turn by turn directions, so that instead of taking us by the fastest route they took us by the route that had their billboards or better still their stores?  Given the GPS system would know where we were, it could choose to show us an advert on the screen saying that we were about to pass a certain store that was having a sale, or give us a coupon etc.  In other words the map would cease to be a map but would instead become a form of advertising.  Imagine then that the map also gave you social content, such as the Trip Advisor reviews of hotels, the Open Table reviews of restaurants and the Yelp reviews of stores.  Right now my car GPS will show me there is a gas station coming up, which can be a help.  Would it be a help to know that if I went a mile further I could buy cheaper gas?  I suspect many would say yes to that kind of feature…


There’s an app for that – great marketing?

Apple has applied to trademark that expression.  Even if they hadn’t it always reminds you of them.  They made having thousands of apps available for you to buy and install on your phone something we all thought was very important.  They made it so important that all their competitors had to copy them.  Google, Microsoft and RIM (BlackBerry) now tout the thousands of apps you can choose from.  Of course the reality is that for most of us, having thousands of apps to choose from is nice but we are never going to actually buy thousands of apps.  I have about 40 apps on my iPhone.  I used to have a few more that my kids had downloaded but most went unused and I managed to purge them from my phone.  When I do buy a new app, I tend to buy from the top 25 list.  Only rarely will I seek out an app not amongst that list.  Now I’m sure the apps I need differ from the apps most students want.  Indeed my daughter has games that leave me cold.  Even then she has no more than 100 apps.  So, by my calculations, less than 1% of the apps for sale actually get a big market.  Put another way, the vast majority of apps get no audience whatsoever.  Today’s app developers are like the Victorian prospectors in search of gold.  They’ll invest in a piece of land in the hope that they’ll strike it rich.  Most of course don’t.  So when you think about it, all the app choice message that Apple started is effectively just marketing.  They want us to believe that we should buy their phone because somewhere out there is an app we don’t know about that we might need.  Truth is the universe of apps we really need is really small, maybe a 1000 at the most.  I don’t blame Apple for taking this path.  They are, after all, protecting the market they created.  But sooner or later, two things will happen:

1.  All the phones will be able to offer all the apps you want

2.  Consumers will realize that they don’t really need hundreds of thousands of crappy apps.  Instead a few hundred good ones will do very nicely.

Until that happens, the app war will continue and we’ll all wonder if there is an app out there that would make our day that bit better.


Who will buy Twitter?

Sooner or later Twitter will get serious about an IPO and or someone will try and buy them.  My guess is that various firms have already made offers but that they are shrewdly holding out.  After all, YouTube sold early to Google for what seemed like a lot at that time but now seems a bargain.  Let’s assume that at some point suitors are able to offer enough money to entice the founders and investors to sell.  Who is likely to get the prize?  Well here are my candidates:

  1. Facebook – could decide that ‘Places’ is OK but not great and that a second property makes sense.  If they did they may be able to offer an interesting alternative for investors, whereby they get to take part in what is likely to be biggest IPO in a decade or more when they themselves go public.
  2. Google – Google has a search engine, a content library, email, IP comms and great mapping technology.  But Bing is catching them up,their email isn’t the best, there’s a lot of competition in their IP comms areas AND it doesn’t have a social platform that rocks people’s world.  Twitter would fit into the Google empire much like YouTube has and they have the cash to make an outrageous bid.
  3. Microsoft – they have the cash and REALLY want to be a player in the Internet world.  They’ve stumbled but Bing is proof that they are turning things around.  They may well be smart enough to leave Twitter alone and have enough server farms (as do Google) to make sure Twitter outages are a thing of the past.
  4. Apple – they are a left field option.  We’ve already seen that Apple wants to play in the social network space with Ping.  I don’t think they get it though and would likely screw up.  That said, they effectively invented the small app world and could make Twitter the center of a massive app world.
  5. Skype -If Skype does an IPO they could have the platform to do a deal.  Imagine a Skype version of Twitter with thousands of short videos on your desktop, iPhone etc each day?  I can’t see Twitter going this route but it could happen.
  6. Amazon or eBay – these are also outsiders but both could use this technology very effectively within their businesses and could therefore justify a big price tag.  That said eBay bought Skype and later sold it at a loss, so they will likely pass on this one.
  7. IBM, Oracle, HP etc – any one of the big IT vendors could make a play as they have the cash.  They’re not likely to though.  Twitter is not a good fit culturally and they would probably rather spend their money on more obvious Internet targets such as Salesforce.com.

What’s clear is that WHEN Twitter looks to realize the value they’ve created, there are plenty of deep pocketed options for them.  Don’t you wish you’d got founder stock?  I certainly do.