For the big “global market” apps at least, it really is all about the APIs. Listening to the latest “Critical Path” podcast with Horace Dedieu, there are some great and compelling speculations. Episode 76 Google vs. Android is really worth listening all the way through for observations about the current state of Android and Google.
I don’t normally care about Apple’s iAd.
Last night however, I was musing about how I intensely dislike the advertising industry and by extrapolation all businesses that are primarily ad-revenue based (Google, Facebook etc).
Witness what Twitter is doing to its user base and partners for just the most recent exposition of the direct conflict with user interests that advertising presents. Or Google’s recent addition of advertising images to the top of image search results.
As for iAd, I thought it was a pretty good idea when they introduced it. As good as advertising can get. Big budget, high quality ads for premium brands. Perfect Apple bedfellows.
I found out today about Google’s new Latitude service. This is basically a “where are my friends” application that uses position information from your phone to update their central servers, and people who you grant access to your location info can see where you were (not are – depends on when you report in!).
Now this is particularly interesting to me as I have a fairly well developed idea for such a service, and had begun implementing this using the iPhone with a custom iPhone application (and of course a Grails application for the back end).
My immediate thought was “phew! Glad I didn’t spend any more time on that. Note to self: check own ideas for ‘behemoth trouncing risk’ in future”. Not to mention some relief that I wouldn’t have to implement the service myself now Google has “done it”.
However, then I started to think a little more and looked at their offering a bit closer – as much as I can with nobody using it and no iPhone support yet.
This made me realise a few things:
- The behemoth does not always get it right, or rather tends to cater for the very high volume use-case which is not necessarily where the financial gain is to be mad
- I have not seen their phone app yet, but I am wondering if it will have the right “drop dead simple” UI it requires
- The behemoth when trying to handle the generic mass-market use cases, can not always create the seamless and simple UI required for users to love (and continue to use) a service
- Most importantly – this kind of usage is not, in my view, what this technology is best for. I think the money to be made here is on smaller groups of users, and users in specific organisations.
Sure Google will have some plans further down the pipe – I’m sure an API will come (“Show where you are on your blog”, “Get location of friend X” etc). Its also surprising they don’t have an iPhone app (rather than an iphone customized web site) for this already.
However I think there’s a fair bit of money to be made with such a service that focusses on making sure parents know where their kids were when they said they’d check in, and for small-scale logistics for companies. The application UI -has- to be top-notch, and the functions it provides have to relate to the market place. There’s possibly a couple of different client apps that could be made to front the same back end.
So if you’ve got a some spare cash and want to fill what I believe remains a gap in the market, drop me a line and I can flesh out the ideas for you