Roundup of the Week (w/e 27/02/2011)

Without a doubt the key market development over the last week or so has been the major change in Google’s search algorithm. Taken together with Google’s commitment to take greater account of social media, this signals a profound change in the terrain of SEO and online marketing more generally. Organisations that already use social media in concert with websites other channels to pursue genuinely useful content-based marketing will have little to fear. Content farms and organisations who play the game more cynically will have to change tack pretty sharpish.

Search

  • Google Announces Massive Search Algorithm Change
    Google just changed its search algorithm and effectively declared war on Content Farms like Demand Media. The change has only taken effect so far in the US, but will be shortly rolled out across all of its search domains. Google aims to filter out sites that are simply there to capture traffic and sell premium ad-space whilst promoting sites with genuine original content.
    Given Google’s recent spat with Bing over the quality and reuse of search results, as well as Google’s overall dependence on primacy in the search market, they simply couldn’t afford to allow the quality of search results to continue to decline.
    Silicon Alley Insider
  • Google Social Search Integrates Twitter, Quora and Flickr
    Internet users are relying more and more on location based services and peer recommendations than general search results. Accordingly, Google has updated their social search to feature three new levels of integration, including Twitter, Quora and Flickr.
    The general search landscape is being transformed rapidly by the inclusion of social media. This will present a challenge for SEO-conscious enterprises, who will need to depend more on the genuine provision of useful content across social media as well as more traditional web-based content outlets, rather than simply producing content to feed the SEO-machine.
    CMSWire

CMS

  • Apache Chemistry Official
    The Apache Chemistry project, the open source implementation of the Content Management Interoperability Specification (CMIS) standard, left the incubator stage and was promoted to a full Apache Software Foundation project.
    Though many commercial vendors have offerings permitting the repurposing of CMS based content, this open source project heralds the mass adoption of more formal content reuse techniques. Technology only offers the fulfilment of cross-platform content – the bigger question is how to intelligently manage the different contexts of information use across desktop, smartphone, tablet and in-app content re-use.
    CMSWire

Mobile

  • 20% of Employees Use Smartphone at Work
    Almost 20 per cent of employees use a smartphone for work, up sharply from 13 per cent just a year ago, according to new research from Forrester.
    Corporates need to start acting in order to take advantage of their staff use of smartphone through a sensible knowledge and content management strategy, rather than simply reacting to the threat such expansion in use might present.
    Mobile Marketing News
  • 140 Million Android Portable Devices by End of 2011
    There will be an installed base of 140m Android portable devices, including smartphones and tablets, by the end of 2011, according to IMS Research forecasts. The market intelligence firm says the recent unveiling of Google’s Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system for tablets, along with enhancements to Android Market, will do much to enhance growth prospects for this segment.
    Apple may be in the driving seat at the moment in the tablet market, but Google are almost certain to dominate in the longer term – the main question is how well they can tie together that base with their undoubted flair for open exchange of content and information.
    Mobile Marketing News
  • Apple Subscriptions for Publishing Apps not SAAS
    Apple’s new subscription rules, which take a 30% cut of all subscriptions done through the app, apply to content publishing apps and not SaaS apps, Steve Jobs has said in a new email. Whilst this does, on the face of it, seem like good news, the lack of definition between publishing apps and SAAS still leaves a very significant room for commercial interpretation on the part of Apple
    Given Apple’s track record for frequently changing tack on Apple Store guidelines, one wonders whether this ‘clarification’ really makes anything very clear. Apple seem to operate very much in the moment when it comes to guidelines, so this conceptual ambiguity only serves to leave yet more guideline gerrymandering on the cards.
    Silicon Alley Insider
  • Windows Phone 7 Update a Disaster
    Microsoft just rolled out an update to Windows Phone 7, and what should be routine has turned into a fiasco. For some phones, the update just fails and you have to reboot the phone (without the update) — for other phones, the update “bricks” the phone, i.e. turns it into a paperweight.
    Following so close on the heels of the contraversial link up with Nokia, it would seem that a disastrous mobile OS update is about the last thing that Microsoft needs right now
    Silicon Alley Insider

Tablets

  • HP Touchpad on Sale in April?
    As with other tablet suppliers, the rumour mills are put into full operation to maximise marketing message in advance of launch, so any announcement should be accepted with caution. Current noises-off suggest an April launch for the HP Touchpad, with its Palm-derived WebOS.
    If there is one thing that Apple is good at, it is the creation of desire and its subsequent prompt fulfilment – when they have a product launch, they have stacks of product ready to buy. Other tablet suppliers who are yet to release their big product are suffering from prolonged pre-release rumour mongering – the boy who cried wolf syndrome. Nevertheless, HP’s release of the Touchpad and its subsequent progress are sure to be of significant interest – will they steal a march on Microsoft given the latter’s late entry into the tablet market.
    Engadget

Apps

  • Chrome Browser Becoming OS within an OS
    Little by little, iteration by iteration, the Chrome browser is quietly morphing into a full-fledged multitasking operating system in its own right. The release of functionality this week shows an aggressive policy aimed at eventually supplanting Microsoft’s Office suite and eventually Windows itself. The announcements included support for new file types in Google Docs, the ability to run background apps and, perhaps most significantly, Google Cloud Connect, which allows users to sync Office documents to Google Docs. Chrome browser is slowly becoming Chrome OS on another OS.
    Perhaps the biggest attraction of Google’s Chrome model is the sheer mobility it encourages. You could move between totally different machines in different locations, with a different OS and hardware and still be confident that provided you can install the browser, you can do whatever you need to without the headache of installing apps and ensuring versions match up. As very fast broadband becomes more widely adopted, its hard to see how this proposition won’t be attractive to many users. Others may talk about the cloud, but Google is still the only company who define what that means to everyday users.
    Tech Crunch
  • Google is Getting Strict About Android App Payments
    Google has suddenly pulled the popular Visual VoiceMail app from the Android Marketplace, seemingly because of a dispute over in-app payments, according to GigaOm. After two years with no problems, Google notified PhoneFusion on Tuesday that it was pulling the app for a violation of section 3.3 of the distribution agreement for the Android Marketplace, which requires developers to use Google’s payment system for in-app payments. Visual VoiceMail is free, but the company sells add-on services like transcription through its Web site.
    Although Google have made their own subscription platform a lot cheaper – only a 1/3 of the cost – of Apple’s. However, by beginning to act publicly on subscription rule enforcement, Google run the risk of validating Apple’s model and thereby strengthening its hand. This risk seems to be outweighed by Google’s desire to capitalise on the the runaway success of Visual VoiceMail.
    Silicon Alley Insider

Hardware

  • 2011: Year of the Solid State Device (SSD)
    Disk manufacturers are putting a new spin on an old product: Solid State Drives. New technology, increased power costs, space limitation, and new business requirements are driving advances in storage. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are part of that new technological push toward more efficiency, increased agility, and higher demand.
    Solid State Devices (SSD) based systems offer rapid startup and reduced mechanical complexity compared with hard drive based systems. With the continuing long-term downward trend in the cost of memory, it is hardly surprising that offerings like the MacBook Air appear attractive. Will this year be the year of the SSD?
    Dzone.com

This Week’s Excitement

  • More Evernote
    I got my API key through for Evernote this week, now I can start playing around with its Edam API, to create some more interesting ways to interact with the content.
    www.evernote.com/about/developer/
  • More MVC and Razor
    Microsoft’s new version of their MVC framework (MVC3), including a new way of including dynamic functionality, called “Razor”, hits all the right notes. They have basically been watching what their development  community has been doing and then adopting all the best practices – which is as it should be.
    www.asp.net/mvc/mvc3
  • Google Trends
    I’m sure most of you have tried out Google Trends – it had only grabbed my passing attention – but there is no doubt that it is a tool of major importance in trying to gauge interest in particular issues over time – it is also a brilliant way of assessing the likely effectiveness of your keyword alternatives in SEO.
    www.google.com/trends

Roundup of the week (w/e 13/02/2011)

Last week’s most significant news must surely have been that smart phone sales are now outstripping those of PCs . The explosion in tablets and mobile more generally is already proving to be a profound game-changer for the way we interact with both content and software. On the content side, people gather their intelligence in entirely new ways, and consume it in much smaller packages. On the software side, people expect to make choices about smaller aspects of functionality, installed and fulfilled with almost no effort – it can only be a matter of time before the app market model becomes the main model for consumer software on all platforms.

Market News

  • Smartphone Market now Bigger than PC Market
    Anyone in any doubt of the importance of mobile must surely have had their minds changed by the official announcement that smartphone sales are now outstripping those of PCs. Mobile is exploding, and the way we access information, the web and even software has changed for good. http://www.businessinsider.com/smartphone-bigger-than-pc-market-2011-2
  • Leading Industry Analyst Mary Meeker Predicts Future of Tech
    Anyone with slightest interest in the future shape of the mobile, PC and tablet markets simply must read the presentation delivered by Mary Meeker at a major Google event last week. http://www.businessinsider.com/mary-meeker-matt-murphy-2011-2
  • Microsoft Trades HP for Nokia
    Is it a case of one-in one-out for Microsoft – as Hewlett Packard departs its embrace for the enticements of webOS, Nokia recognised the increasing precariousness of its position post-Symbian and hooked up with Microsoft. Seems funny how yesterdays all-powerful-giants come to be portrayed as underdogs or has beens in relation to Google, despite their massive ongoing market share. Yet, this deal isn’t necessarily bad news for Google – Nokia’s shares have slumped and it may be that existing Microsoft phone partners (Dell, LG, Samsung, HTC) may be questioning their long-term allegiance now that Nokia is set to receive special treatment. On the other hand, the guarantee of a large market going forwards is bound to attract the more active interest of developers in Windows as a mobile platform. http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/02/11/microsoft-nokia-deal-might-be-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-android/
  • Sony may Abandon iTunes
    After accusations of Apple effectively holding it and other content producers to ransom, Sony may be one of the first to entirely abandon iTunes, in favour of alternatives. I sense that this is the first of many major battles ahead for Apple – whose past history is littered with examples of it attempting to keep very tight control over all activities related to its brand and platforms, and which nearly led to its demise in the 90s. http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/mp3s/war-looms-as-sony-hints-that-it-will-abandon-itunes-20110210-1aonn.html

CMS / Knowledge Management

  • SharePoint 2010 Deployment Reaches 44%
    The proportion of SharePoint installations on 2010 is now equal to that on 2007, which marks a turning point in how developers are likely to be focussing on making use of the extra features available in 2010. As with any such version turning point, it is difficult to wholeheartedly pursue development of brand new functionality for as long as backwards compatibility is a key driver. http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-cms/sharepoint-deployment-reaches-44-but-faces-challenges-010143.php
  • Pen.io allows ad-hoc micro-content-management
    Task.fm found Anthony Feint has created Pen.io as a platform for creating ad-hoc content management for individual pages or page sections, without having to set up hosting accounts – only a URL and a password is required. As an agency, we often get situations where a static site is too difficult to update, but a full CMS seems overkill – I think this may well catch fire! http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/10/techcrunch-pen-io

Web

  • IE9 Release Candidate Available
    The first official release candidate for IE9 is now available. This will apparently make Microsoft’s browser much more standards-compliant with almost full support for CSS3, as well as adding a considerable amount of HTML5 support, as well as geolocation, privayc controls, hardware acceleration improvements and a whole bunch of other goodies. From an agency point of view, if IE9 really is as compliant as promised, there will be a lot of happy faces from designers and developers alike. http://www.webmonkey.com/2011/02/new-ie-9-offers-geolocation-privacy-controls-and-more-speed/
  • Bing Growing, more Accurate than Google Search
    After last week’s tussle between Google and Microsoft over the ownership of search results, figures show that Bing is continuing to grow at Google’s expense, whilst apparently offering more accurate results. The increasing amount of spam afflicting Google’s results is opening up a space not just for Bing, but also for others such as Blekko who are focussing heavily on the quality of search. It is not inconceivable that Google may be outflanked soon by someone in the way that it outflanked Yahoo on its own rise to fame and glory. http://www.businessinsider.com/bing-more-accurate-than-google-and-gaining-share-2011-2

Social Media

  • Cultural Dimensions of Social Media – The Facebooks of China
    The so-called Great Firewall of China has ensured that much of the social media so dominant elsewhere, such as Facebook, is simply not available, which has led to the creation of sites that first cloned, and then altered these key social media experiences. Whilst it may be marked in the case of China, there is a more general point to be absorbed about the crucial nature of social. cultural and demographic context in the use of social media. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/152/the-socialist-networks.html

Tablets

  • HP webOS preview
    Clearly HP want to be taken seriously as a software company as well as a hardware provider. What do they expect to bring to the tablet market that isn’t already there, other than a strong association with B2B. This roundup from the Cocoia Blog summarises some of the interface elements we can expect – webOS looks quite promising on this view. According to Silicon Valley Insider, the US launch may be as soon as June, at a price of $699 – $100 cheaper than the Xoom. From a developer’s point of view, webOS sounds like a dream, based as it is on javascript and HTML5 – one enterprising 14 year old has already built a successful company developing for webOS. http://blog.cocoia.com/2011/hp-webos-event-roundup

Mobile

  • BBC iPlayer Released for iPad and Android but not iPhone
    The decision of the BBC to release the iPlayer only for iPad and Android 2.2, and only allowing streaming over wifi, kicked off a predictable storm of protest – which would have been expected for anything much short of universal access. The combination of a commitment to Flash on the part of the BBC, and Apple’s rejection of Flash has certainly left the corporation in a difficult position. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/pda/2011/feb/09/bbc-iplayer-app-ipad-android
  • Haptics Platform Released for Mobiles – Engagement of more than just the Visual
    One of the great boons of mobile devices, I have long thought, is the possibility for different kinds of physical engagement, above and beyond the visual domain that we habitually use – most notably in the haptic (touch) sensory modality. Thus the announcement by Immersion of their MOTIVE platform for Android caught my attention. This platform will allow companies to use an amazing range of haptic effects on nearly any Android phone. My bet is that over time muti-modal sensory interfaces will help us navigate not just games, but also tasks, with greater speed and efficiency – once a suitable shared haptics vocubulary has evolved. http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/10/buzz-editor-immersion-releases-motiv-haptics

This Week I got Excited About:

  • Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 Intranet Portal
    The new version of Kentico comes with an out-the-box Intranet portal template – which we have started using to implement our new company intranet – first impressions are very positive, though the real proof will come when we start using it in anger. http://www.kentico.com
  • Rapid-I Rapid Miner
    Very easy to get this data mining framework up and running in terms of getting it to function – but obviously you need to know exactly what you are doing – working on a hobby project with this to do textual analysis of RSS and Twitter feeds – bit of a learning curve. http://rapid-i.com/content/view/181/190/
  • CrunchBase
    Free database on technology companies, people and investors – a kind of corporate & financial wikipedia. Good for doing research on Social Media and technology start-ups, as well as the Silicon Valley big-boys. http://www.crunchbase.com/

Roundup of the Week (w/e 06/02/2011)

Web

  • Microsoft and Google trade blows over the ownership of search results after Google leave a “honey trap” for Microsoft
    but was this a smokescreen to draw attention from Google’s legal proceedings in Europe over the alleged manipulation of search results? http://www.techmeme.com/110201/p22#a110201p22
  • Hotmail Add Alternative Emails – up to five aliases
    A relief for those who use hotmail addresses for testing, or junkmail, or just for specific sign-up purposes
  • RSS central to easy-access Cloud Data?
    Cloud hosting and data is a hot topic, but does it concern the everyman? Dave Winer – creator of RSS introduces thinks it does. He introduces his vision of a more accessible paradigm for backend storage and functionality on the web, glued together using RSS – enticingly named EC2 for Poets project – http://www.webmonkey.com/2011/02/take-back-the-tubes/
  • IPv4 addresses running out
    For all you geeks out there (and me too) – a significant milestone is the allotment of the last available IPv4 blocks – with IPv6 to receive a publicised promotional day of its own in June.

Android

  • Google displaces Nokia as number 1 seller of smartphones (by OS on phones sold)
    For anyone, particularly in the corporate sector, who has been trying to ignore it – Android is now officially impossible to ignore – as number one OS on new smartphones. This very success, however, is the main challenge to Google – the sheer diversity of suppliers and device formats involved means that Google will have to work very hard to avoid the obvious danger of fragmentation of its market – a problem that Apple clearly does not face.
  • Android 2.1 and above now on 90% of Android devices
    Which means that developers are unlikely to be losing too much sleep over older versions, focussing on the capabilities of the newer OS versions.

iPhone / iPad

  • Apple Enforcing Rules on e-Book Publishers
    Hard to avoid the big Apple story of the week – namely its enforcement of its policy that if you sell items used in an app outside of the app, they must allow them to purchase through app as well. This seemed focussed at eBook providers like Sony, and could well be a key mechanism for ensuring Apple’s dominance over the iOS platform as a commercial money maker. However, I wonder how long it is likely to be before we see a case brought in the European Court on the basis of anti-trust legislation – as Microsoft faced a while ago over its packaging of Internet Explorer with windows.

Tablets

  • Android takes 22% of Tablet Market
    So far, with the exception of the Galaxy Tab, there has yet been a compelling Android based rival to the iPad – despite this, Android already has a 22% share of the tablet market – which is sure to rocket when the next generation of Android pads, like the Motorola Zoom, become widely available – see http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/content/android-takes-22-cent-tablet-market
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab – disputes over reliability and sales
    Over the last week there have been stories claiming that the return rate on the Galaxy Tab has been 13% (according to ITG Investment Research), whilst Samsung have claimed only 2% – comparable to the return rate of the iPad. At the same time, Samsung claimed a massive rise in sales of the Galaxy Tab whilst then later ‘clarifying’ that the sales quoted were to distributors rather than end-users. A case of lies, damned lies and statistics?

Blackberry

  • RIM release BlackBerry AppWorld 2.1
    Which features in-app payments, allowing developers to create ‘lite’  versions with in-App upgrades. Could this provide a significant stimulus to the BlackBerry app market?
  • RIM India Ban Unlikely
    India still wants access to messages through Blackberry platform but now look unlikely to introduce a ban. Interesting to see how the issue of privacy is shaping up not just in developing economies, but around the world more generally.

Mobile Market

  • Mobile Web Traffic doubled in 2010
    According to Mobile Marketing Magazine, although a Cisco’s study suggested a massive 150% increase over the same period. There is no doubt about it, mobile is likely to be the preferred option for accessing the web outside of work, where the choice of platform is likely to be out of the users’ hands. Over the same period, the consumer expenditure on online entertainment was up 23% – which only goes to show that early adopters must be disproportionately high consumers compared to later adopters.  See http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/content/mobile-web-traffic-doubles-2010
  • Nokia and Microsoft Up a Tree?
    Now deposed as top seller of smartphones, and with Symbian effectively being declared dead, though on temporary life support, Nokia is realigning strategy apparently, with an announcement due regarding a tie up with Microsoft next week, possibly involving Windows 7. Could be a good tie-up for Microsoft who have had quite poor initial market share – Q4 2010 only 2%.
  • Marie Curie and Salvation Army with firsts for Charities in mobile
    Whilst Marie Curie were the first to release a virtual collection tin,  allowing their volunteers to encourage donations via SMS to contacts. The Salvation Army enjoyed 190,000 downloads of its Virtual Cup app, highlighting issues of health and social inequality. Interestingly, for the iPhone, the Virtual Cup has been implemented as an advanced web app to get around Apple’s ban on in-app donations – although it is available as a native app on other platforms.

Social Media

Social networks for corporates seems to be flavour of the week, if not the entire year. A lot of action to be seen in this area over the coming year, both as add-ons for Enterprise platforms, and for third-party SAAS providers:

  • Salesforce release Chatter.com
    a free social network that can be used by anyone with a business address
  • Microsoft Dyamics CRM acquires Vibe as Option in Market Place
    Enterprises implementing Dynamics now have social networking option
  • BranchOut Grew 2500% In January
    The LinkedIn style corporate networking Facebook app is experiencing a meteoric rise in traffic,  going From 10K To 250K Monthly Users

Web Standards

  • Microsoft offers H.264 plug-in for Chrome
    interesting Microsoft play which undermines Google’s own choice to not adopt H.264. Could plugins and add-ons provide a useful mechanism for platform providers to wrong-foot each other’s strategic plays on standards adoption?
  • W3C addresses touch screens and semantic web
    The consortium release a rough draft of specs targeting touch screens and tables, and announce the formation of a working group to update the foundations of the semantic web

What I got Excited About this Week

In no particular order:

  • Yahoo Pipes (Feed Aggregation and Filtering on Steroids)
    if you like to use the web as an active research tool, then you’ve got to see this to believe this – an easy online interface for clever aggregating, filtering, translation and coding of feeds and web content, which you can then publish as another feed!http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
  • Yojimbo – Personal Knowledge Manager
    I’m trying out this personal knowledge management app for the Mac – I’ve tried PersonalBrain, but I wanted something quick and easier – which it seems to be http://www.barebones.com/products/yojimbo/
  • Ubuntu – OS OS (Open Source Operating System)
    having been mainly PC and Mac based, I thought it high time that I tried out Ubuntu properly – given one of my colleagues is a bit of an evangelist. Now I have Ubuntu, Windows 7 and Mac Snow Leopard on one box – the world is my oyster! Ubuntu is great – once past the apprehension about geeky command lines, it is actually a breeze to use and fantastically easy to set up new software! www.ubuntu.com

China, Google and that Thorny IE6 Problem

IE6 Get Rid of itIt seems that Chinese Hackers used IE6 as a backdoor to attack Google apps, and now Google have responded by saying they will drop support for IE6 in many of their web applications, highlighting the ever-present challenges of supporting this 10 year old browser. The persistence of IE6 is in no small part due to the inertia of corporate IT and compliance departments, who are familiar and comfortable with the browser, which Microsoft says it will support until 2014. Pressure in the other direction comes from web design and software development agencies, who see IE6 not only as holding back the web, but as complicating the creation of rich cross-browser applications.

As a technical director, I am frequently faced with the problems thrown up by IE6 – although cross-browser frameworks, such as the excellent JQuery javascript library, have greatly lightened the load when it comes to addressing the old browser’s foibles. Whilst annoying in design projects, it becomes a development bottleneck when implementing rich client interactivity – particularly as IE6 has some nasty habits when it comes to requesting information in-between page loads. On the other hand, having an older browser gives designers and developers pause for thought when proposing complex interfaces – not always a bad thing when the relentless drive to add the latest bells and whistles may draw one away from keeping it simple for the end user.

Perhaps the best approach to IE6 is so called progressive development. The idea here is that you build in a base level of acceptable functionality that can be supported by all browsers, but then add progressively richer interactivity that will work as a value-added-extra on newer browsers. For example, when one has a form, in older browsers one might have the form submit data by posting off the entire page, requiring a round trip and a ‘stop-start’ user experience.  Through the use of appropriate client-side scripting, newer browsers can then be made to validate data and send information without reloading the page – thus giving a much smoother user experience.

Implemented properly, progressive development can provide an incentive for individual users to move to newer browsers, without penalising those who, for whatever reason, are either unable or unwilling to move. Given the issues of security and compliance, however, IT departments in large corporates will understandably need rather more of a carrot in order to invest the large amount of time, and thus money, involved in adopting a new web standard. Perhaps this will come in the form of agencies adopting a more transparent pricing model that explicitly charges for compatibility with old browers.

As ever, the appropriate response to such issues needs to be sensitive to the specific context of use– an ideological knee-jerk reaction against IE6 or any other technology is simply not good enough.

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