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  • Google Music has Arrived.

    Google announced their music platform today. At first glance it's nothing special but then when was the last time Google launched something new? Nonetheless, it does offer their 200m worldwide Adroid user base a more seamless media experience which was previously void of music.

    The service, which is currently only available in the US, is a deal involving most of the major labels (EMI, Universal, Sony) but not Warner Bros. The new offering allows customers to buy songs through Android Market, and to store and stream up to 20,000 tracks in the cloud. For existing music, users are required to upload the tracks to the cloud which then becomes available from anywhere. Apple on the other hand does not require users to upload – they simply search for the music in their library and make it available if there is a match.

    Of course cross-platform applications like Spotify are already proving popular and while analysts claim Google's biggest concern should be Apple, it's difficult to ignore music applications which have a pretty decent grounding already.

    There is one interesting feature to take note of: Google will allow any artist to publish their music, "Any artist who has all the necessary rights can distribute his or her own music on our platform, and use the artist hub interface to build an artist page, upload original tracks, set prices and sell content directly to fans – essentially becoming the manager of their own far-reaching music store”.

    In an era where web phenomena like Birdy and Bieber have emerged without the might of a major label backing them, the ability to expose yourself seamlessly to (potentially) millions of music listeners may just be the next generation Myspace.

  • Don't speak to me unless you have Klout

    The 26th October 2011 will be a special day for some. For me it's five days after my birthday, pretty unremarkable. However, it may also be the day you lost Klout. Yes, Klout the online influencer tracker updated its algorithm and for most they saw their Klout score drop. Imagine the horror. Many people have worked nights to boost their Klout score and this may just push them over the edge. But should we be concerned? Probably not.

    Klout

    Klout is one of those social media tools that accurately captures the spirit of the web or at least the marketing industry: egotistical monkeys. I admit I'm guilty. But I'm not going to lose sleep over my 5 point drop. And I'll tell you why.

    Klout strives to link all your social networking tools and deduce an overall figure or Klout score from your influence amongst these networks. Of course we don't know the exact algorithm but alas, if the 1567 people that are your 'friends' on Facebook actually are, and your Twitter followers are actually interested in your inane updates and not just giving away free iPads then you're likely to have a responsive audience, and indeed a respectable Klout score. Of course there's much more to it, but that rests largely with your friends extended network and how far the content you release spreads. Also, if you interact with people with a low Klout score, you will pay the price in your own score: it reflects badly. So they're saying don't do it. Whatever.

    The problem for marketers is that this is by no means an exact science and relying on an arbitrary figure is not cool. Case in point: The Techcrunch product editor was not allowed to take part in the Windows Phone giveaway because her Klout score was [embarrassingly] low. Of course she is a well revered blogger and has irrefutable klout, but unfortunately for her she needs to spend a bit more time tweeting,

    Ok, so this is one example but I do think we should treat these tools with caution, at least until my score reaches 70.

  • Google and Motorola Mobility - What's the deal?

    Google Motorola

    Google purchasing Motorola Mobility for $12.5b, Microsoft partnering with Nokia. Not to mention Apple and Novell and Nortell. It's a battleground and for good reason. The question is, in light of S&P's downgrading of Google stock to 'Sell', was this latest acquisition part of a farsighted strategic plan, or was it simply panic buying?

    The acquisition has proved polemic so here's a round up of trending arguments from the web:

    It's all about patents.

    The mobile industry is fraught with patent battles (see post on mobile litigation) and this is Google's way of securing more patents to its arsenal, thus protecting itself from further lawsuits. With this acquisition Google picks up three times as many patents as AppleSoft got from Novell and Nortell. Some argue that they had been in talks for a while, therefore Google's attempts to pay through the roof for Nortel patents, was in fact a way of driving up the price for its rivals, eventually paid by Apple.

    That said, some claim whilst this is about patents, these are the wrong patents to be acquiring. Motorola's patents lie largely with radio engineering and design, and the most vital radio patents are already covered by existing patent pools.

    Getting a foothold in TV.

    At first glance this would look like a an acquisition centred around wireless devices, however, look deeper and glimmering in the distance is Motorola's set-top box business. According to ZDNet there are two players in this field, Cisco and Motorola Mobility, which is the leader. Therefore, Google will benefit from significant relationships with the cable providers, cementing Androids foothold in what is likely to be the next battleground.

    Hardware & Software.

    Apple's hard/software business model is an attractive one: better profit margins, steals market share and evidently delights customers. It also makes rolling up software updates much easier which is better for all. Currently Google's hardware vendors add their own mark to the Android software which makes their OS upgrades trickier, if not slower. Given Androids entry into the Tablet market too, this would certainly allow for a much smoother rollout.

    The risk here is a hardware strategy totally goes against the Android model, Google is to its core a cloud computing company. And therefore this is not an endorsement of the Steve Jobs doctrine 'the best way to make software is to control the hardware that runs it'. The impact of the manufacturing business could therefore prove an unwelcome distraction and AOL's Saul Hansell believes they'll spin off the manufacturing business within the decade.

    And so the jury is really out on this one. What we can be sure is that Job's affirmation that their acquisition will increase Google's patent portfolio, is not the reason alone. I suspect he has a much more in sight, and 'supercharging the Android ecosystem' with Motorola Mobility will most likely have greater ruling in our living rooms than the courtrooms.

  • Our honorouble friends: Social Media.

    It's true, when there are moments of national crisis governments react impulsively and often without level headed thinking (doesn't take a crisis to be honest). And the crisis not only leaves victims in its immediate wake, but the policies engendered affect entire nations for years to come. Look at Septmeber 11th, and the surge in Terrorist Acts passed by 'democratic' governments across the world, supplying authorities with unprecented power to arrest and detain suspects for extended periods of time. Or more pertinently look at the Arab uprisings and the decision of Middle Eastern leaders to ban mobile communication and social media to help take control of peaceful riots.

    When David Cameron announced last week that the government is looking at 'whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality', there were echoes of Egypt's late Mubarak and indeed other authoritarian regimes: stop people communicating. Did he really say that? I thought we condemend China's banning of Twitter and I thought we objected to Saudi Arabia's restriction of BBM networks on innocent protestors. So what would make us any different to these countries?

    A blanket ban on these tools places individuals with intent to crime and the innocent in one cell, which lets be honest, cells are never what law abiding citizens want to be thrown into. It also demonstrates a grave lack of foresight and understanding of social media by our government, as well as the predictability of blaming social media as opposed to the cultural and political failures. But this post is not so much a political statement, I want to draw attention to the value of social media in its unabridged form.

    Social media has become one of the strongest pillars in a democracy because it assists the progress of freedom of speech. It allows people to freely exchange their opinions about anything and everything (within reason) and has widely become a force for good. Nonetheless, the UK riots has shown that social media can also accelerate evil and rightly this needs to be addressed. Some tough decisions need to be made, but to enter the discussion with intent to ban social media tools is alarming and typical reactionary thinking.

    Instead, the government really need to understand that the virtual world is becoming a replication of our physical world, with people establishing their communities online with equal importance to their phyisical ones. And the tools which mobilised hundreds of criminals were simultaneaously used to bring communities together and as the riots showed, unify millions of people to back the authorities and perform cleanup operations. And critically people were using Twitter to help people in the effected areas to stay clear. I even read a Tweet calling for those physically impaired in need of assistance to drop a recognised hahstag. Is a blanket ban really sensible governance?

    The key difference Mr Cameron should note is the digital world is faster to the physical world, indeed technology speeds everything. So the police will do well to understand how they can use this speed to their advantage: if rioters can mobilise faster with social media then surely there is something to be learnt here. We also know from the real world that to ban something, does not mean to stop something per se. In most cases it develops underground where it becomes even harder to monitor.

    BlackBerry Messenger emerged as the main tool being used on the streets. Whilst this meant rioters could communicate quickly it has also left the police with a wealth of data, helping identify the perpetrators. There's questions whether this data should be available to the police but when such prominent evidence exists we have to weigh carefully the infringement of personal data vs. catching and prosecuting criminals at large. I think most people would be happy for the govenment to act on this.

    However, to assume banning BBM and social media would conclusively help the authorities tackle widespread unrest is amongst other things, wishful. The point is there's a duty to police public areas, and online is no different. Policing public areas is not about banning communication, its about having a presence and its about upholding and guarding the public's freedom against those wishing to abuse it.

    Therefore, what the government needs to do now is look at how social media mobilised and tracked these criminals. Understand that the very tools they used can be used to identify, trace and uncover disaffected youths, as long as the data is handled responsibly. It could even be used to start a dialogue with them. Also draw attention to the community spirit which transcended online through these tools, to help those affected. Ultimately, realise that things happen quicker in the virtual world and the police will need to adapt to this if they are to remain in control. The physical world needs to play catch-up, but cutting the legs off its virtual friend, is frankly foul play.

  • What's the REAL cost of Social Media?

    Look no further.

  • Infographic: Mobile Gaming Numbers

    These are the most impressice figures I've seen in a long time.

    Gaming Stats

  • OMG, we like totally just got Spotify.

    Yesterday Spotify finally launched in the US. It was dependent on Warner Music Group giving them access to 15million songs and after 2 long years they finally agreed to partner. A decision they will not regret.

    The music industry has struggled with declining record sales since the internet exploded and arguably piracy and P2P sharing took off in a big way. Yet in my opinion the music industry has been incredibly slow to respond, almost in denial that the traditional business model will need to evolve as the world emerges as a digital entity. Or if not that, they had absolutely no clue which business model would work, instead diverting money towards anti-piracy campaigns and high profile law suits to act as a deterrent to the music pirates out there - which in fact was most people. It still amazes me that a Swedish startup has developed a probable solution and yet not any of the music giants came close. Anyway, lets move on.

    It comes as a huge a relief then, that Spotify which allows safe, legal and social music sharing has arrived in the US, after some 10 million Europeans signed up to its services - an indicator that people are not out to get the music industry, there just wasn't a suitable solution until recent years. And according to stats released 24hrs after the launch, Spotify has successfully blitzed the web, racking up 85,198 blog mentions, 28,266 news mentions, and 531,000 Tweets. A notable launch.

    Of course there are several other legal music sharing platforms out there, including Pandora - an online music radio- but Spotify is ahead of the game because its aligned itself beautifully with the web's most important change: cloud computing. For those who traditionally bought CDs, you'll be surprised how quickly Spotify erodes a desire for a tangible product and redefines your sense of material. All of a sudden you own nothing. Yet you have everything.

    Aside from an exhaustive back cat of music - you rarely search unsuccessfully- it has a pretty impressive software experience. Connectivity is FAST, faster than iTunes, and its simple to share to your social profiles on Facebook and Twitter. Well they must be doing something right because Facebook will be announcing further intergration with the music platform later this year. Still, there are several areas which need attention. The radio functionality which is Spotify's recommendation engine, will disappoint many, it compares badly to Pandora. They are also yet to release an iPad app, instead you have to make do with the iPhone's - its a terrible experience, believe me.

    In the end though, these small dents shouldn't tarnish Spotify's remarkable gift to the music industry. People may not think it yet, but Spotify has secured and strengthened the music industry's future. It will only be matter of time, and rights, before the film industry follow suit. So well done Spotify, if I could I would Knight you.

  • Creating your own Infograpahics with VISUAL.LY

    As a keen infogrpahic user (and now creator) I just threw in my username to the recently launched VISUAL.LY. Not had a chance to try out all its features but looks like it could be a really useful piece of kit and save hundreds of clients from attempting magic-eye with your bullet-point scattered slides.

  • Google + or Google - ?

    Here's my round up of Google +. There's a lot of posts out there already so this is straight to the point. And when you read each point, ask yourself, why would I do it on Google+ if I'm doing it elsewhere? Just saying.

    Stream: A means of seeing what your connections/circles are posting right now on Google+.Share photos, videos, links and your location.
    - The best thing is that when you publish something you can choose which people or circles see it.
    - The worst thing is you can only share it to Google+, none of your other social networks.

    Photos: So you can see photos uploaded from your circles. You can flick through them as a single stream or you can select an album or person from your circle.
    - The best thing is when you publish photos you can choose which people or circles see them.
    - The worst thing is the inability to simulcast with your other photo publishing tools.

    Profile: Platform to access and edit your activity across Google+ as well as your visible profile.
    - The best thing is the +1s feature which allows you to see all the posts you've ever +1'd on the web.
    - The worst thing is you can't see your circles by groups, just a list of the people across them all.

    Circles: The framework in which you structure your connections on Google+. You decided which people go in which circle, allowing you to publish selectively.
    - The best thing about circles is the ability to control and design what content your connections see. This has been talked about for ages and FB attempted to tackle it with Groups/Lists. Since Google+ is built on circles you benefit from its advantages right from the word go. People posting too often? Put them in their own 'nosy circle'. It is a brilliant piece of architecture and we've been waiting for something like this.
    - The worst thing is it would simply be quicker if I could access the circle feeds in one click (as opposed to two).

    Hangouts : Allows you to connect with (multiple) people in your circles.
    - The best thing is its ease of use and the ability to connect with up to 10 people at any given time. What you then all do together is uncertain.
    - The worst thing is you can only hangout with people on Google+.

    Sparks: A feed of things which interest you.
    - The best thing - I really don't know. It feels like beta.
    - The worst thing is the search results surprisingly, which makes you feel Google has limited the output. Unusual for a search giant.

    Ok, lets get down to business. Currently people are happily utilising a plethroa of social networking tools.These tools do not work in isolation, in fact, quite the opposite. They have blossomed because their framework allows its most important asset (the user) the choice of sharing and simulcasting seemlessly. In other words, I am the architect of my social tower, and I'm happier when my rooms have doors through to the other. Now if somebody else wants to design my social tower for me, with rooms they've chosen, and doors they've positioned and wallpaper they prefer, I'm only left with the option of which furniture I put in it. And so Google +, you may have lined the walls with some very attractive wallpaper, but fundamentally, I'm being told which rooms to have, and critically, my old rooms appear to be out of bounds. At least for now.

    This is an incredibly bold move (especially after Buzz) because unlike every other successful social platform, this is instructive, restrictive and serves to sabotage the web's biggest treasure: CHOICE. If Google + is to become mainstream, which it may very well do, it will need to let its users incorporate their preferred tools. The question I suppose is then, if Google+ lets you incorporate other social tools, like Twitter and Skype, what purpose does it serve? And I'm afraid I don't have an answer for that. It does suggest that while Google+ offers improved functionality for social networkers, it has yet to create something new.

    To conclude, Google+ has currently positioned itself as an alternative to all your other social networks and tools. But they forgot, again, that we prefer to chose the information we share, how we share it, and where we share it. And until they concede to this I really cannot see Google+ going much further than marketing industry folk, which is not a great proposition for advertisers.

  • So what is Microsoft Office 365?

    Sorry, I'm having a bit of an infographic affair right now. The latest clearly explains exactly what Microsoft Office 365 does.

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