It’s tough to bank on Google

It’s Google I/O time and it’s another conference, like WWDC, that I wish I was attending. Despite that I am not going, I still need to pay attention since Google will inevitably announce something that I will have to consider building on or for. Android is still the biggest thing to come from Google, and startups, like Spuul, have to build on android. There is still some schools of thought that say stick with iOS or start with iOS and deal with android later. However, if you are doing anything at all in Asia or the emerging markets you have to be on android. Period. But I insist that the money for paid services is still in iOS. Android users just don’t pay the way iOS users do – not even close.

Like with WWDC, Google will spend the week announcing a ton of things – I won’t even bother trying to play soothsayer since I don’t think it makes sense to. But I am more sensitive than I have been in the past at taking Google products seriously.

I think the biggest problem with whatever Google will announce is deciding which products or platforms to bank on. I see android TV is already getting some pre announcement love and folks are blessing it as the new thing for Google and it’s love affair with TV. Let me be first the first to say I hope it works cause god knows the current TV ecosystem is fucked. My money is still on Apple TV cause it works, it’s dead simple to build on and we know Apple values ecosystem lock in which means Apple TV is here to stay.

Android TV? Who the hells knows. Google TV was also heralded as the savior for the TV ecosystem and the next best thing to sliced bread for developers working around the TV. What happened to it? It was promising but in typical Google fashion it was essentially a beta that never made it out of beta. I understand why Google does this but it makes it hard to know which beta projects to depend on or bet your company’s development dollars on. Once bitten, twice shy.

I am sure some big companies can jump on every new Google dream in hopes of being the front runner and to ensure that big companies stay big but as a startup I don’t have that luxury. We actually semi invested in Google TV cause it was easy to stick to HTML 5 and HLS for a host of Smart (which we all know means hella dumb) TV platforms. Google TV was almost a reference platform of sorts and mostly just worked – wish I could say the same for the supposed Dumb TV platforms which are some of the worst shipping ecosystems of the modern day web.

But Google TV was a dud and once it looks like a dud the normal Google response is to not really kill it, that’s far too easy for them, but to let it just limp along pretending to be alive but we all know it’s actually the walking dead. Then Google got Apple envy and decided to make chromecast which on paper, plus based on sales, seems to be rocking. But some studies are showing that it’s not being used much. This doesn’t surprise me cause unlike an Apple TV, chromecast is not super user friendly. Yes it works, but it is a pain to setup and is buggy as hell. I am actually hoping that Google will re affirm their commitment to it during I/O, fix all the bugs and double down on it since I think it has legs.

As a techie though it is shocking how much Google forgot to ship with chromecast. Security for streams was not something they focused on but has improved some with updates. At Spuul we still find that HD content with encryption creates brain freezes faster than swallowing a Magnum in one go. The real shocker with chromecast though is there is no easy way to serve video ads with it. Yes – a video product from Google that doesn’t even have a premium content focus has no hooks to any of the standard video ad platforms – not even Google’s own video ad platform. I find this quite comical since if they aren’t going to focus on premium content, something folks pay for, one would think they would make it easy to stream free content with ads.

I hear Google is going to announce something new on the TV front, which I guess means Google TV is dead, but this action will call in to question what the plan is with chromecast. My guess is Android TV has different goals than chromecast so one would hope both platforms are a go and will see proper investment by Google. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Android TV getting all the attention while chromecast starts to whither on the vine.

I will be watching the announcements and doing my best to read the tea leaves as to what Google makes that actually will still be going strong in a few years.

Time to update my Google minus account via my Vizio Google TV chrome browser.

How to become a product manager

Just got the chance to check this out ::

I had the distinct pleasure of working with Isaac some at Yahoo as well as just chatting with him a bunch when he lived in Singapore. And yes – I have missed him a ton since he left.

It’s a great deck and one that I think about a lot since at Spuul I don’t have any PM’s but someday we might. I always wonder how a startup grows into acquiring or growing PM’s and how I would transition over to letting them manage things instead of the way we do it now.

I think a longer post needs to be written about the PM in a startup versus the PM in an established company. I am sure Isaac has lots to share there given his time at Yahoo and his new tenure at Frank and Oak.

Thanks for sharing Isaac!

Glimpses of a new, more open Apple

One of these days I will make it to the WWDC conference but so far the gods of always conspired against me. I got a ticket last year and gave it up so our iOS dev could go but this year I did not win the lottery and apple refused my request to go as media guy with a huge blog. 😉

Since I didn’t make it I have been watching the videos, reading and talking to our iOS dev who did go. The haters can hate but let’s face it – whether you like Apple or not, one cannot ignore them. For the moment the future of everything mobile is a two horse race with Apple and Google and MSFT doing their best to stay in a distant third position. I for one hope MSFT can even things up a bit which would be good for all of us.

I have written before that there are areas that Google is making Apple look silly and fortunately some of my issues, but not all, were addressed at WWDC.

– App Store to have more data and information about how people go to the apps and better selling details. Awesome news and looking forward to seeing how this beats the info we get from the Google Play.

– Apple is finally opening up in app purchases to a broader set of items. Specifically one can now use consumable purchases for rentals or PPV type media models. This was a glaring omission for years and was frankly just a move to protect iTunes but Apple has changed. Literally post WWDC one can use IAP for creating PPV movie rental apps where prior to WWDC one could not. This has been okay on both the MSFT and Google stores for some time. Apple is playing catchup and I wonder if this point to something new around Apple TV or an entertainment device since now the economics for building PPV like experiences are possible.

– I think the new Swift language is showing that Apple is still a thought leading company that knows the future is in make sure they have good tools to build apps. This is a forward thinking move that I think will pay off for years to come in the iOS development community.

– extensions, continuity and metal – just show that apple is opening up the broad base to developers that can use these frameworks to build things that previously would be impossible on iOS/OS X. This is just killer news and I think no one even knows what new types of apps can be built yet. The future is hard to define now.

I still have some niggles and one of the main ones is payments. Apple is far too draconian in limiting their payments to Apple only in light of the fact that they are doing nothing, absolutely nothing around carrier payments. This is a huge problem for folks like us doing development for apps in emerging markets where we want to charge for things in the app but users don’t have credit cards. Apple could easily fix this by partnering with some on carrier payments or by working with telcos that they are already married that could provide telco payments. Google is slowly doing this but at the same time Google is mostly allowing developers to add their own in the app anyway. Maybe Apple just doesn’t care about the emerging markets yet but I sure wish they did.

Google is up next – and I am sure they are going to answer back on a few of things and push some new stuff of their own.

At the moment – when it comes to mobile ecosystems – these are the only two worth watching when it comes to production apps that want to make money.

have fun