Author Archives: Michelle Lentz

For what seems like months, there have been rumors of the Facebook phone. But up until now, it’s proved as elusive as a jackalope or Bigfoot.

But thanks in part to Android Police and 9to5Google, we now have a lot more information about the device, which Facebook is set to announce at a press event on Thursday. (If you want a better technical understanding of just how Facebook is skinning Android, definitely head over to the Android Police post.)

From what I can gather, Facebook is not creating a new fork of Android, which is what Amazon has done with the Kindle Fire. Instead, like Motorola and others, they are skinning Android specifically for their device. The phone, by HTC, was code-named the Myst. It’s now being released as the “First”, which fits in with HTC’s “The One” product line. The phone will be heavily skinned by Facebook and when you turn it on, Facebook is the first screen you see. The new version of Facebook, for this phone in particular, will rely heavily on Facebook’s social graph.

This will be Facebook’s first real foray into the consumer marketplace. With that comes a need for advertising to the general public, which isn’t something Facebook has ever really done. To compete in the over-saturated mobile market (not to mention the Android market itself), Facebook will have to Buy Viagra really pony up some ad dollars to make an impact in the marketplace – or it will just be another phone.

Personally, I want Facebook to explain to me why I NEED a Facebook phone. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I want to be even more plugged into a social network. In fact, I’ve given serious thought to getting out. Facebook is no longer the go-to place for the younger generation. They’re on Twitter and Instagram, with Dad and Grandma hanging out on Facebook.

Aside from Facebook’s need to market this phone to consumers, there are some other interesting ??? to come out of this development. Facebook is currently a fantastic place to advertise your products (assuming your consumers are on the network) and it’s made a huge impact in how digital advertisers approach campaigns. What effect will a Facebook phone, with deeper integration of the social network, have on mobile marketing, which is still a fledgling effort?

Next, I have to wonder about Google. I love that Google’s Android system is so open, allowing developers to do a lot of what they can’t accomplish with iOS. But will that open-ness backfire on Google if Facebook’s phone can become a serious competitor?

Just some thoughts. We’ll keep you updated on the actual specs, retail info, and pricing of the phone after Thursday’s announcement.

Years ago, I got suckered by a Wine Spectator April Fool’s Joke, where they announced Paris Hilton as the new spokesperson for a high-end French wine. Oops. Ever since then, I’ve been especially wary of the web on April 1. Here are some of the April Fool’s web items I’ve come across today:

Procter & Gamble announced – on Friday – that they’re going to sell bacon-flavored Scope mouthwash. Ewww.

Google, as usual, has gone over the top with Google Nose (a new scentsation in search), Google Maps Treasure Maps, and Google SCHMICK (Simple Complete House Makeover Internet Conversion Kit), which allows you to give your house a lick of fresh paint for free on Street View. Then there is Gmail Blue, which is a blatant knock at Microsoft’s upcoming Blue update and Windows 8.

Microsoft isn’t just sitting back and taking Google’s jabs though. If you go to Bing.com and type Google into the search field, a Google-style Bing page appears. Small boxes on the page take further playful (sort of) pokes at Google and the I’m confused button Buy Levitra takes you to the Bing blog.

Bing April Fool's Prank

YouTube, owned by Google and therefore pranksters themselves, has announced that the last 7 years were just a big contest for “best video” and as of tomorrow, they’re shutting down any new video submissions to the site.

Richard Branson has announced, via the Virgin blog, that Virgin Atlantic is introducing a glass-bottomed plane. While I know it’s a joke, the concept scares me a little.

Sony has introduced Animalia products, which include Cans for Cats (headphones) and home entertainment systems for your hamster.

Toshiba is proud to announce the Toshiba TubeTop - an inflatable innertube + laptop that comes in an array of colors.

But perhaps my absolute favorite is from BMW, who announces the PRAM (Post Natal Royal Automobile). With the coming royal baby, BMW just thought they’d get into strollers.

BMW PRAM for April Fool's Day

If you come across any other April Fool’s jokes on the web, be sure to share them in the comments.

 

 

After the culture shock of Day 2,  I adapted fairly quickly and thrived on the following two days. Much like CES though, it’s easy to get information overload. I’m definitely suffering from Festival Fatigue, but in a good way.

I chose a couple key items on Saturday and managed to get into those sessions without a problem. I started with the Tim Berners-Lee talk. This is the guy who changed everything. For all practical purposes, he “invented” the Internet. Sometimes it’s great to hear a big thinker. When he says, “I haven’t yet accomplished world peace,” I believe he has that on his to-do list. He’s the kind of guy who can affect change. His key takeaways for us? Create a platform, device and OS independent. He advocates open web standards and open platforms. More importantly, he asked us to be part of the solution. Create things that will make a difference.

Admittedly, I sat through the Elon Musk keynote, but it was streamed into the conference room for my next session. Elon Musk is impressive, with PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX under his belt at the age of 41 …. at the same time, I sort of felt like I was watching a rich, white guy answer interview questions with not that much personality. Personal opinion only, of course.

My real goal was to sit through UX Designer and author Russ Unger’s session on the similarities between Jim Henson’s works and processes to modern day UX design. It was a creative session that I thoroughly enjoyed. Of penis enlargement without pills course, at different points, the entire audience was singing Fraggle Rock and Rainbow Connection, and I think everyone in the room was born in the 1970s. But the session inspired some creativity in me and that’s why I’m here.

Sunday, we took a different tact and avoided sessions altogether. We went outside the session to what was happening outside the convention center. Samsung painted an empty building and turned it into their own pseudo-bar and restaurant, showcasing their latest tech. Rackspace an Salesforce both co-opted existing bars. Mashable has a tent that even includes Grumpy Cat as a special guest.

"beam" your drink and food choices to the kitchen at Samsung

And then there was the trade show. While not as large as CES, it was definitely reminiscent. iPhone cases and apps and web sites. Hosting companies, marketing tools, and tools for effective design. It’s all there. Can I say anything really blew me away? Not really. Over the next few days, I’ll blog about a couple of the apps and companies that seemed  a little more special.  But will you hear from those companies in a year? Not sure.

Not Quite Larger Than Life Trade Show

Tomorrow is Monday and I head back to San Francisco from the wonderfully weird Austin. SXSW has been a blast and I’m pretty sure, now knowing how to navigate it, I’ll be back again next year. Coming later this week – the best and worst marketing ploys of SXSWi 2013.

Every year, thousands descend upon Austin, Texas: music geeks, film geeks, and then the rest of us – tech and marketing geeks. After hearing stories of this event for years, I decided to embark upon my first SXSW Interactive.

My first day was a bit of a culture shock. I’ve attended in many conferences, usually focused on a particular niche, and I expected the same sort of dynamic.

Lesson #1: SXSWi is a beast unto itself.

I got lucky. Being an early riser, I made it to the first sessions, on digital marketing and mobile, quite early. Those sessions are held way across town. SXSW is huge – and therefore, it is quite spread out.

Lesson #2: Get there early.

Long Lines in the Rain

I hung out in the mobile marketing sessions from 9:30 until about 11. When I walked back outside, I was shocked. There was a line down the stairs and out the door to get into these sessions!

Lesson #3: Dress for wind and rain.

It was also pouring the rain. I waited in the rain and crowded onto a shuttle back to the convention center. For the rest of the afternoon,  I failed at attending sessions. There were lines wrapped around buildings – lines that continued long after the electronic cigarette benefits sessions had begun.

Lesson #4: Think outside of the session box.

So with 20,000+ people attending SXSWi, it’s a basic fact that I won’t get into all the sessions I’d like to see. My new strategy is to pick two, maybe three sessions, and strategically plan around those, understanding that I’m losing a part of my day to standing in line and making friends with those around me. But, it’s not all about the sessions at SXSWi. Companies and groups have set up tents everywhere, and there are exhibits and food crawls and start-up events. It’s time to think outside of the session box and explore everything else SXSW has to offer.

What I’m noticing is that everyone fits in and everyone is friendly and excited. The attendees are very international and everyone is willing  to discuss the latest tech and the craziest marketing ploys.

Today I’m better planned out and, and an hour early, I’m sitting here typing outside a  venue. I’m ready for all weather and have backup plans for everything.

SXSWi is an experience. It reminds me of CES, in that it is overwhelming and a bit of a behemoth. A lot of information, a lot of smart people, and a lot of crazy marketers trying to launch the next big thing.

I picked up a Microsoft Surface RT, as I’m trying to extract myself from the Apple ecosystem. I’m discovering it’s difficult to traverse the different OSs out there, but I’m trying very hard to use an iPhone with my Google Calendar and Contacts and a Surface RT.

In fact, I thought the Surface RT would be the perfect device for South by Southwest next week. I was excited about the Surface.

I was wrong.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drachmann/327122302/, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic , Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic ,undefined,undefinedalexanderdrachmann

CC-BY-SA, Alexander Drachmann via Flickr

In the time that I’ve owned the RT, I’ve been nothing if not frustrated. First off, Google withdrew support for ActiveSync back on Jan 30. I didn’t realize that when setting up my accounts. The RT/Win 8 still asks if I want to sync my email, calendar and contacts. It turns out that trying to sync calendar and contacts just blows everything up. However, it can sync my many Gmail accounts – just without calendar and contacts.

In order to add the contacts, I had to add them to my Microsoft account via live.com. It was sort of a pain, but you know what? It worked. I don’t know if those contacts will sync or not.

Next I tried the calendar. That was a no-go. Since Google isn’t using Microsoft’s ActiveSync format anymore, I can’t add it. Of course, the RT still gives me the option to add a Google calendar – it just won’t work. Thanks Google.

But my real beef is with Microsoft. CalDAV is an open standard for calendars, as CardDAV is for contacts. Google does use these standards. More importantly, so does my company. I work Electronic Cigarettes for a Really Large Enterprise Company. Seriously large. We don’t use Exchange for our calendars, email, and contacts. We use open standards. For calendars, we use CalDAV.

Microsoft DOES NOT SUPPORT CalDAV (or CardDAV). This boggles my mind. A couple hours worth of researching the problem gets me nowhere other than “MS might start offering the support with no timeline”. Other suggestions include “Migrate everything to Outlook!” Well, people, it’s my Work stuff, not personal, and it’s not on Google. My office uses open standards. Migrating is not an option. There are also no third party apps to correct this. It’s simply a non-starter.

One of the great things about the Surface RT is its seeming ability to enable productivity. I don’t find my iPad productive. It is primarily an entertainment device, but never am I popping open work documents on it. But I can, at least, open my work calendar and contacts. With the Surface, I looked forward to making notations in PowerPoint or whipping out Word docs in locations where I didn’t want to lug a PC. But if I can’t even access my work calendar or contacts, that changes everything.

Microsoft, I think you’ve got a great product and your one-OS-across-devices is a great strategy. However issues like this – not supporting an open standard such as CalDAV – will hinder your ability to thrive in both consumer markets (almost everyone has a Google calendar) and the enterprise. Many of us are looking for one device that allows us entry into both worlds.

I hate to say it, but as soon as I return from SxSW, I’m returning the Surface. Sorry Microsoft!

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