Personalisation in Android

I keep thinking about why Android is Free.

The Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft battle for the device OS is fascinating to watch. I am sure there are strengths each bring to the table. In the case of Google personalisation is probably one of those.

It seems with a mobile device there is a lot more personal information being share with Google – way more than thru the desktop. Google accounts seem to “network enable” an Android phones and link every search, every email and every app download with location information and other personal preferences.

Google is building a personal relationship with you … to make information available just the way you like it. For example Google Now is trying to proactively suggest restaurant reviews and directions based on the last search. Given there are many reasons to interact with Google – Search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Picassa (alas not Google+ yet) … there are more ways to figure out what you want.

Isn’t personalisation an exit barrier for holding onto Android users? Isn’t this personalisation at a scale never attempted before?

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Easy lies this head with a crown …

Shakespeare wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” … but Google wears it’s crown as the undisputed leader of online search quite easily. After dominating the space for years, it seemed as if new threats would shake their monarchy. Real time search, decision engine type search, Bing, mobile search etc. But they seem to blow them away !!

It’s fascinating to watch how Google added every such innovation as a simple product extensions (time based searches, indexing twitter feeds etc.) … then positioned themselves at the pole position in mobile search (both with the search portal optimised for mobile as well as extending adwords to WAP content … and buying AdMob).

Now they set the re-set button on the entire search experience with Google Instant and AJAX (?) powered search results that avoid full-page refresh for pagination. You just can’t do search anywhere else after using Instant … they feel like dial-up after using broadband.

I can only admire the innovation and boldness that drives Google (at least for the search part) that make them look so comfortable wearing the crown of the search space …

I won’t write about what Yahoo could have been (with mail, portal, groups, messenger etc.) … every one beats them up.

Instead I am hoping Nokia would take a leaf out of Google’s book and retain their market share with some bold moves.

(May be bear all access charges to synchronisation of contacts to Ovi free with leading telcos …. allowing non-Nokia mobiles to sync / use OVi etc. or give free downloads to a desktop client for top end models … I know they are allowing unlimited music downloads to X6 but who has the data plan and time to use that?)

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Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views of the organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here.

(Sridhar Turaga’s Blog: An Indian Entrepreneur)

Deny all and lie low

It was Yahoo, then facebook and now Google Buzz … every one wants to be twitter+facebook+mail+everything … they want to grab all our contacts and content … and force us to share with default settings, complex privacy controls, hard to follow “follows” etc.

The way Google Buzz automatically added friends and enabled public access to Picassa albums is shocking (facebook did the same when new privacy settings enabled public sharing by default)

Till dust settles down I have decided to Deny all access and lie low. Every one is now a social network.

Authentic Punjabi Khana

HSR Layout is very nice place to live, except for lack of good places to eat out. So when we saw a banner “Manasarovar – Authentic Punjabi Khana. Opening soon” … we got there too soon. We drove by peeping in possessively hoping for the best. I went there this weekend first week since launch to order out. It’s a house converted to a restaurant, so u go past the bed room converted to a kitchen and then to the living room that is now the place to eat.

As I peeped into the place … I saw bunch of sweaty guys running around like headless chicken. I walked in and saw a few people eating. But the manager was yelling in the kitchen about some mixed up order. Take away menus in cheap flyer paper were thrown around. I asked him if they deliver home and he said the boy was missing today. After a few embarrassing minutes of silence and indecision … I decided to bail out and go back to our regular joint Aranya.

This is not the first time I have experienced a new launch like this. Why are people in a hurry to go live? Innovative Film City launched half baked. Google launched the SMS search where the example published in the ad didn’t work ! Nokia Ovi creaked and crashed on day 1. Yahoo New just for You links on the home page don’t work for Yahoo Mail !! (I have done worse)

I know the traditional arguments of “when it’s good enough” or “it’s just a Beta” or “we are agile and will iterate quickly”. I believe it’s a bad idea to launch poorly without basics in place. Cut the scope. Set the terms. Define the service levels. State the expectations. BUT … deliver 200% of what you commit (explicitly or implicitly). Get WOW reactions from day 1. If u didn’t get A+ reactions and great WOM from day 1 … no point talking for a product road map.

The market won’t go away anywhere. First mover advantage may very well be a mythical fact. A customer’s repeat visits and referrals a 10 times their first time transaction. It’s better to be small and great at the start … than be passable and big. (Don’t say “Microsoft” please … u are not a monopoly cash overflowing multi-billion $ giant … yet.)

May b u need to write down the basics that are non-negotiable from day 1. Time to pick marketingdilbertup a call. Time to deliver the product. 1st time load time on your home page. Minimum clicks on your site to end-goal (order-signup-subscribe … what ever). So in all the planning and roadmaps … basics are never missed out.

Do it the right the first time. Do less. But do it right.

Features NOT-EQUAL-TO Product

A cool feature or a collection of features that existing players don’t have aren’t enough to declare yourself a product and feel that is defensible. Most start ups that just have an interesting play on an existing products / services, fall into a trap thinking that alone can help them displace existing players and incumbent leader. I chose the word “feature” intentionally, so this does not include fundamental innovation or IP that goes deeper than just features.

When eGain started email support solution in 90s, most CRM applications only focused on the voice call centers. They believed it was enough to create a new sub-space. Over time it became apparent that email is just another channel for any CRM application and can be easily added by existing CRM providers.

Recently, there has been a lot of chatter about killing Google Search … because they don’t “real time” results or automatically “cluster” for narrowing search results or auto suggest keywords or wikisearch. The problem again is that in many ways they are just features that easily extend the Google Search as additional options. Granted the engineering associated with each of these features is more significant than cosmetic features. Now what will these Google killers do, as Google has now elegantly added views for real time results, multi-level filtering, auto-suggest, wikisearch etc.

Dilbert on killer apps
Dilbert on killer apps

The same story is now repeating itself with twitter … how hard is it for Facebook or Linked In to add public profiles and What’sUp updates … and take away the whole differentiation? No wonder Walmart.com is one of the top ecommerce sites in retail. I wrote in my predictions for 2009 that Social Networking will increasingly become a feature for every online site … increasing popularity of Facebook Connect, Google Friend Feed, MyBlogLog etc. all prove me right already !

Most start ups over estimate their products and under estimate incumbents because of poor appreciation of a few factors in the real world

– Market share and existing loyal user base … takes long time to build and once u have it makes it easier to launch extensions

– Brand value … consumers develop attachment and liking towards certain brands …  certain positioning … so unless you create a completely new positioning (smart of bing to keep harping they are a decision engine and not a search engine … it’s a better bet than trying to become a better search engine) it’s hard to beat brand loyalty

– Not every one wants to learn new things … most people get comfortable having learnt somethings … openoffice could never beat office because a lot of people don’t want to learn office processing again … less than 15% migrated to the new Yahoo mail because who wants to learn the new mail … the next accounting killer app in India needs to reconcile the fact that most accountants grew up on Tally

– Experience and execution … there is a whole ecosystem of execution that takes time to build … and if some one is a leader, presumably they have already put that in place

– Cash … incumbents (hopefully) have more cash

(Yahoo – a company I admire – has in recent years worked contrary to this logic. Inspite of immense strength in terms of existing users, groups (social networking?) and content … they seemed to think every start up out there with cool features must be imitated !! That appears to be changing under the new leadership.)

So next time you think your AJAX-Enabled-UI or SOCIAL-ENABLED features will kill the incumbent … think openoffice … think eGain … think Google-Search-Killers (think Twitter?)

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Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views of the organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here.

(Sridhar Turaga’s Blog: An Indian Entrepreneur)

Being Beta is no excuse …

I guess being Beta is no excuse. Hence I migrate from Blogspot to WordPress.

I have shifted from an over enthusiastic Beta user of Google’s new services … Sites, Partnerpages, Docs, Calendar, SMS Channels included … to now being the frustrated Guinea-Pig-In-Residence. They “got me at Hello” when all these services were available under a single sign-on.

But, how much can one compromise – when each of these services are in many ways just stuff being thrown at the wall and being left incomplete. Compare these to the constant improvement in Adwords, Adsense, Analytics and WebMaster Tools … it’s quite apparent that these services are step children in the Google world. None of these products display even glimses of the now legendary Google bold product vision and continuous innovation.

Now I am afraid to use Chrome and Android … which probably matters to Google more that Sites.

In all humility … my advice to Google is Being Beta is no excuse.


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Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here.

(Sridhar Turaga’s Blog: An Indian Entrepreneur)