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Palm Pre at CES

Palm PreThis week, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Palm unveiled it’s Phoenix: the Pre. A new OS available on new, very beautiful hardware, and is intended to compete in the marketplace against the industry champion: iPhone and the deeply entrenched RIM BlackBerry. Although this is the story of an underdog, Palm ruled the handheld market for almost 10 years. The Palm Pro, the Palm III, Palm V-these handhelds created the PDA market. MicroSoft challenged them, but they had stayed competitive for a very long run. Even after faltering during a few years ago, Palm released the Treo — their bullet-proof smart phone platform that was THE device for 2 years.

Recently, Palm had lost it’s luster. The Treo was not updated for far too long, and faded. The iPhone was the nail in the coffin for Palm. Even with a tremendous investment in R&D and a very strong product (the Palm Foleo which was pre-cursor to the NetBook thin-client model) Palm was swinging and missing in the portable market.

When rumors of Palm’s new products leaked, there were few pundits left to wait expectantly. The market had changed and is heavily favoring the media-savvy iPhone and new, BlackBerry based smartphones. What adds more to the complex formula of wireless devices is the bell-curve of adoption. Young people and students are quickly adapting to mobile devices and using them as “thin-clients” to run their lives, communicate with one another, play media, surf the web and, of course, make calls. Parents are using their phones to co-ordinate schedules, plan events and as photo-albums. Business people are using these mobile do-it-alls as remote offices, sales platforms and road-warrior grade entertainment devices.

The announcement of Pre is a rally cry to all of Palm’s fans who may have wandered. The CES demonstration shows a product, if it is delivering on the promise made, that can bring Palm back into the marketplace. With Apple-style aesthetics and the capabilities of the new “Web OS”, I think Palm has a home-run product. From my experience with the treo, MicroSoft Exchange support would have to be greatly improved over previous implementations for inclusion in corporate tech fleets. The included GPS and ability to have multiple applications running in conjunction with one another make it a hands-down winner over the iPhone (pricing estimates have the Palm Pre at $200 with a Sprint Wireless Plan).

At this price-point, Palm will also be competing with the newly announced Android OS based G1. The G1 has the advantage of being open-source and has the advantage of a head-start. If Palm can capitalize on it’s now-dormant development community, they have a shot at robbing the G1 of their place behind the iPhone in the mobile computing market. The Palm development community was previously very strong and responsible for Palm’s longevity (and success of the Treo). It will be interesting to see if Palm can attract the same commitment to their new OS and provide the same support to the new development community that will be required to make the Pre the come-back story of 2009.

As a Palm fan, I’m excited to see them back in the mix.

The Evolution of Twitter

As mentioned in my Predictions post, I think Twitter is going to break into the mainstream this year. I also think that Twitter’s appeal will grow with a boon in popularity. This growth is going to require a change in Twitter itself. To me, the attraction to Twitter is the community that you create by who you choose to follow. Although you may follow many, you can control the stream and it’s contents with a variety of choices. Unfortunately, methods to control and organize your stream require using third-party solutions. All of this aside, I think that Twitter represents an embrace of a new communication paradigm.

The biggest challenge Twitter has to face (and it’s faced scaling and adaptation difficulties since it’s launch) a lack of a business model. This effects users in two ways: An insurance that the community that the users are investing their time into will last and that those posters who generate traffic and users have some method to convert their effort into compensation. The second point is not a large issue as most users post for their own pleasure. The first point is an issue, one that I think will be answered this year.

Twitter reinvented as a commercial entity will come in one of 2 forms:

  1. A subscription based model:
    Whether this is based on frequency of usage or the number of users you follow, a subscription model will arise. I think this is a possible option despite Twitter being rooted in a “free” model of subscription. I believe that a pro-level account option will arise, similar to the Flickr model. This will result in two-tiers of user with the pro-level user being able to have unlimited posts, followers and perhaps the metrics on click-throughs directly through the Twitter API.
  2. An advertising based model:
    Much more likely, Twitter will offer their stream, or a portion of their stream to advertising to subsidize growth. This can be positioned as a non-intrusive targeted advertising campaign with messages inserted into the stream based on context or user profile. I am not sure how Twitter users will respond to this, currently the user group is very media savvy and sensitive to intrusions, no matter how well handled, into their community.

As a Twitter user who consumes much more than contributes, I find Twitter’s most useful features is in immediate, from-the-gut responses to news and current events. Whether those events are changes in browser compatibility, sports scores or breaking world news. It’s a consumable for me and I think that many people will use it in the same way. I don’t think that it’s limited to a Read-Write model.

If Twitter is to really flourish, it will require the ability to both thread conversations and also create a time-line for categories and events. Threading conversations will allow a real dialogue between users (regardless of timing). Time lines (for subjects) will have users easily communicating concepts and themes relative to one another. The combination of the two will equal the power of a good e-mail client. You will be able to parse the trivial from the important, the old and the. Combine this with sorting tweets by user and you have a multi-media sorting tool that is unrivaled.

Until Twitter adds new features, man ambitious developers have created or contributed to some of the great Twitter API projects below:

TWITTER CLIENTS

TwitterDeck Twitter Client
Twirl Twitter Client

Twitterific
Twitter Client
(OS X Only)
WittyTwitter
Twitter Client
(Windows Only)

7 Technology Predictions for 2009

In general I am an observer, but this year, I am going to focus my energy on compiling my thoughts and communicating my ideas. In this spirit, I am beginning with my Technology Predictions for 2009. This list represents what ideas and trends that I think will shape new technologies and trends on the internet in this coming year.

Looking back on 2008, there have been many advancements in technology, the way that people interact with one another and how, as a culture we are adapting the internet into our lives. This year we had seen FaceBook branch into demographics that were thought to be flat for new technologies. Social Networking is maturing into a very defined epicenter of our lives. Whether we are interacting socially using FaceBook or MySpace, for Business with LinkedIn or for Entertainment using NetFlix and Joost. The ability to share with and effect one another’s opinions is a powerful and compelling pull for users.

I think 2009 will see the continuation of many trends: continued growth of social networking, wider adoption of web-based tools and “cloud” based storage and distribution. I think the following list will show the most prominent areas for growth this year:

  1. Social Media Consolidation-Interoperability
    FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn…there are so many networks used by so many groups. 2009 will see the emergence of some type of global identity management. Although a few have emerged this year, a single, widely adopted standard will emerge. My bet is for OpenSocial (Google’s social media identity key)
  2. Medical Record and HealthCare Applications
    People becoming increasingly comfortable with managing their lives online will lead to those same users trusting more in online data management. Google will likely emerge as the standard here since they represent the most stable name in technology (with the exception of MicroSoft). This year will see an online personal medical record standard become adapted by a notable share of the general public (at the very least, the early adopter set)
  3. Twitter will become popular via adoption by celebrity set/marketing
    2009 will see a surge to Twitter. This wider adoption will result from a celebrity of note using Twitter as a marketing tool. This same surge will also result in marketers using Twitter for “deal” based traffic drives. Small-scale examples are already proving successful for Dell and Adagio
  4. AIR/Silverlight will become mature solutions for “cloud-based” computing
    A dependence of “cloud-based” apps will spur an evolution of Rich Internet Application (RIA), Desktop convergence. Currently, Adobe’s AIR and MicroSoft’s Silverlight are the clear candidates that will battle for developer’s attentions in 2009.
  5. New online advertising model based on “individual” social media status and/or popularity
    Social Netowrking wesbites and Video sites will force advertisers to embrace new ad-models. These models will be very targeted and account for the content on a given page, the popularity of the content and expected longevity. This will be a boon for those who learn to master the metrics of these complicated new behavior models
  6. Windows 7 will be a widely adopted release and MicroSoft’s most successful OS release
    VISTA was a marketing and adoption failure. As a VISTA user myself, I don’t see why there was no widespread move to VISTA (although I myself have moved back and forth between XP and VISTA three times since VISTA’s release). Windows 7, already a very mature BETA positioned for release Q3 this year, promises to make up for lost time. MicroSoft’s low-no hype on this release and it’s base in a currently mature VISTA architecture will have users who have been dragging their feet adopt this new Windows release
  7. IPTV and the computer as a true media hub
    YouTube, Hulu, Joost, and network-branded websites will all take a large share of viewer attention. Metrics show that younger users already take preference to the computer as their preferred medium. As the media loosens it’s grip on content and advertising models adapt, more and more viewers will flock to watch their favorite shows on their own schedule, in their own terms and in their own time. Intelligent advertising will focus ads and make those spots that are viewed more relavent and easy to monitor and act upon

Happy New Year.

About Cullmann

Chris Cullmann is a Creative Director and Online Strategist. He works for Ogilvy CommonHealth Interactive Marketing, a digital agency dedicated to healthcare marketing. His professional and personal portfolio includes interactive websites, viral and social media, and online education applications. His portfolio and observations about the design and marketing industry can be found at www.cullmanndesign.com

The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or those who I am professionally connected.

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