Boris had an interesting announcement today that our TNW Magazine was no longer going to be published on Android. The short version of the story is that the download numbers are minuscule in comparison to the iOS counterpart, so it’s not worth our effort at this point.
But there are apparently some great magazines listed on Google Play, at least according to their reviews. Quite a few of them have hundreds of reviews, but they’re of course larger names such as GQ, Popular Science, et al.
Obviously someone is downloading and reading them; but who? Our findings were along the lines of an 80:1 ratio of iOS to Android downloads. Though that is probably more representative of the tablet market as a whole, it leaves a lot of questions to which I wish we could find answers.
Footnote: It positively blows my mind to see the reactions from some of Android’s more vocal fan base. Instead of offering real suggestions or any sort of constructive discussion the comments immediately turn to (generally poorly-written) insults.
Though, such is life on the Internet, I suppose. It’s the same type of behavior that you see in any comments thread relating to a subject about which people are passionate. What’s depressing is that this is what discussion is becoming. Or has it already happened?
Nokia was kind enough to loan me a Lumia 920 for a couple of weeks, so that I could get a better feeling for what’s going on across the Windows Phone market. It arrived today, and I’ve spent about five minutes with the device.
It doesn’t take long to notice problems.
If there’s one thing for which I’m eternally grateful to Apple, it’s that the company has (almost) unfailingly stonewalled the carriers out of the equation. “Here’s a phone. It works on your frequencies. Sell it.” As such, there has never really been much of a difference between an AT&T iPhone and a Verizon iPhone. They’re both iPhones, made by the same company.
Where I’m hoping that Microsoft steps up (a la Surface) is in providing the same type of device experience. Heck, it doesn’t have to be manufactured by Microsoft. Google has had great successes with the Nexus line, and they’ve been made by a few OEMs.
The problem at hand with Windows Phone is that there are significant tradeoffs to be made, depending on which device or carrier you want. What it leads to is muddy waters, and a disparity within the ecosystem that’s going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers.
Let’s look at the highlights for a moment.
HTC 8X - Verizon - Thin, light, great battery life. Good camera in well-lit conditions. More narrow than the Lumia 920, thus easier in the hand. But terrible buttons and a lack of an OS-level navigation app really hurt.
Lumia 920 - AT&T - Feels more solid in the hand, but also considerably heavier than the 8X. Amazing feel to the buttons. Great Pureview camera. Nokia Drive navigation.
In my case, my wife and I are both with Verizon, on a family share plan that includes my iPad. Just because I like a phone is no reason to have us paying considerably more money every month to split our plans. This disparity between carriers, with exclusive lock-ins, might somehow be good for the bottom line but it’s bad for consumers.
For Microsoft, it creates a conundrum that’s directly anti-consumer. It’s carrier-centric, and that’s an issue. We’re already in a position where the carriers have an enormous amount of power with Android, and it appears that Windows Phone is headed down this same path.
There aren’t many times when I would suggest that any company follow in Google’s footsteps, but I honestly hope that Microsoft does when it comes to Windows Phone. Call it a Surface Phone, have Nokia build it, but make it as light as the 8X. Sell it yourself, and make it available all Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.
The more notes that I continue to write here, the more I’m thinking that I need to do a full-length post on TNW about my thoughts on the whole. I’ve been using OS X and an iPhone for so long now that making this switch has been an interesting exercise into maneuvering outside of your comfort zone.
But just as it came as a surprise to me that I’d consider moving to Windows Phone from my iPhone, I’m equally surprised to say that I’m starting to like Windows 8 a lot more…and it has everything to do with the device in my pocket.
As you might remember, I’m taking 30 days and shutting off my iPhone in order to dive in deep with the Windows Phone 8 OS. I’m now in the middle of week 2, and so I thought I’d pass along what I’ve found that has surprised me.
I miss on-screen notifications of new email more than I thought I would. I didn’t realize how much I look at my phone when it dings, and that helps me to filter out what I need to respond to now versus what can wait.
Yep, there’s a lack of apps. But I’m strangely not missing them all that much. Well, other than Path and Pocket. Oh, and I’d really like it if Simple (my bank) had an app or a site that worked in the mobile version of Internet Explorer.
I freaking love Live Tiles. They’re everything that Android’s widgets should have been, but weren’t.
Microsoft is missing an opportunity by relying on OEMs or third parties for navigation. Oh, and Verizon’s navigation shutting off my music makes me sad.
Disparity between the different models of phones is a problem. I hope Microsoft takes the Surface route here, and finds a way to make its own devices.
The OS (or is it the phone?) is fast. Like really fast. I find myself surprised at how quickly I can accomplish things within WP8.
Skydrive integration is fantastic. I’d prefer Dropbox, but I’m not unhappy with Skydrive.
Xbox Music is stellar. It’s better (for my tastes) than Spotify.
There’s more, of course, but these are the most pervasive points that I’ve found so far. I don’t want to get into reviewing WP8 devices, but I almost have to because of that disparity that I mentioned. Nokia was kind enough to loan me a Lumia 920 for a couple of weeks, so I’ll have more thoughts on that soon.
Now for the shocker – I’d seriously consider leaving my iPhone behind.
In grade school, the strongest currency with which someone could attempt to make a deal was this – “I’ll be your best friend!” Social media is a lot like grade school. Friendship has devolved into a fleeting promise.
As Candace and I have been having some pretty weighty discussions over the past day, she questioned how many real friends I have. (For the purpose of this discussion, I’m counting the term “real friend” as that person who you could talk to about positively anything. They’re the one you think of when things go great or go poorly.) Not out of spite, but simple curiosity. The sad answer is that I have one real friend, three or four with whom I am close, and then a lot who fall somewhere outside of that inner realm.
This realization made me consider what we’re doing to ourselves via this ever-present social society in which we live. If you were to look at my numbers alone, here’s what you’d find:
I follow 377 people on Twitter, 7,000+ follow me
I’m “friends” with 332 people on Facebook
I have 21 people with whom I’m connected on Path
Yet my true friend? She exists only on one of these networks, and it’s not Path, which is supposed to be the tightest knit of all social circles. That’s not to downplay my Path connections. They’re people about whom I genuinely care, but it’s interesting that I wouldn’t pick up the phone and call them if I needed life help.
I work from home. I rarely go into the city to meet with people. I don’t miss the office environment, but I will admit that life from your home office can get very lonely. I am connected, on some level, with these hundreds of people, yet I’ve never had a time in my life when I’ve felt more alone.
The cost of our connected lives is that we’ve devalued what the word friend truly means. What’s interesting to me is the divide that has been created between being able to form relationships with more people, while simultaneously ruining the idea of true friendship.
My personal challenge is to stop overvaluing these tenuous, social connections and to form more relationships that actually matter. It’s not easy, when you choose a life that keeps you separated, but I’m up for the task.
Writing about tech isn’t necessarily my job anymore, but I’m still a junkie for it at heart. As such, I wanted to delve in deep with Windows Phone 8 so that I could hold an educated opinion on it.
Yesterday I gave up my iPhone for day 1 of 30 with an HTC 8X. It should be an interesting experiment. I’ve been a big fan of the Windows Phone OS since 7, so I expect that I’ll have an easy enough month ahead. But what I really want to find are the surprises, whether they’re nagging problems, or things that surprise and delight.
Here’s what I know, going into this experiment:
Live Tiles are fantastic
There’s a decided lack of apps
Many of the apps are actually very good
I’ll miss Path, Spotify and Pocket
What questions do you have? Curious about anything surrounding the OS? Mind you, I’m not reviewing a phone, but rather an operating system.
Oh, and as a bit of a disclaimer, I’ll still have to occasionally use my iPhone. This device is a loaner, from Verizon. As such, text messages to my number will still go to my iPhone. I’ve forwarded my phone calls, but I can’t activate this HTC device on my account.
Anyone at Microsoft want to loan me a device to do a full switch? Yeah…didn’t think so.
My friend (we’ve met twice, so I can call him that right?) David Tisch brings about a point that I wish I could drill into the heads of more founders – Your relationship with your investors is not a one-night stand.
He’s talking, of course, about the subject du jour of the Series A crunch, which we’ve seen discussed all over the place lately. (As an aside, this is the smartest writing I’ve seen from Pando Daily since its inception, and something I hope that they do more often.) Alexia Tsosis of AolCrunch takes things a bit further, examining all of the pieces. It’s worth a read.
The fact is that nobody wants to do the morning-after walk of shame. That is precisely the issue that is facing Y Combinator, and it’s almost to a T an issue that I raised back when the YC/SV Angel deal was first formed.
As is true with every partnership that you form in your life, choosing the right people and then nurturing that relationship is an integral part of the process. For many companies who took the money and ran, there are about to be some big issues when they need that Series A or Bridge round.
Founders have to think of their financial backers the same way that they do mentors, trusted advisers and friends. When you’re suddenly in a tight spot, you don’t call a stranger. You call someone who has a vested interest in their relationship with you. Needing money when you can’t get money? That’s the tightest of spots a company can face.
Your Angels, VCs, funds and the like are in this deal with you for the long haul. Yes, at the end of the day it comes down to that bottom line, but if they didn’t want to invest the time or effort then they wouldn’t have invested the money. Stop treating them like the hookup that you grabbed at the bar. Wake up early, make them breakfast and get ready for a long-term relationship.
A few weeks ago I opened up the doors to mentoring companies. I couldn’t possibly have been prepared enough for the enormous response. It’s both humbling and terrifying.
The first thing that I had to do is come up with a process by which I decide whether or not I scribble on the metaphorical dotted line. I’ve played this out a few hundred times in my head, and it’s come down to a very specific set of questions that I have to ask myself.
1. What Can I Offer?
It would be very easy to accept every request that comes across my desk. But if I do this then I’m going to run out of bandwidth quickly, and I won’t be doing a very good job for anyone. So I start my process by looking at where the company is right now, and seriously considering whether I have a set of skills or knowledge that can help them. If I don’t, then I immediately thank them for their interest and explain in detail why I don’t believe that I’m the best choice for their goals.
2. Am I Conflicted?
This one’s a bit more tricky. Thus far I’ve had everything from Android apps to daily deals marketplaces in my email. The hazard here (for one example) is that I seriously dislike the daily deals system, and so I know that I can’t be a good mentor to them unless we’re talking about completely changing their approach to their business. Sometimes that’s a viable option. More often than not it isn’t.
3. Who’s Behind It?
I believe firmly in the TechStars and Y Combinator method of investing in teams who do great things. I’m investing time, rather than money, but time is a valuable asset to me. Ideas can change. The people behind them are less likely to do so. I request a story from every person on every team that I mentor. I want to know who they are and what they do, not just their idea.
4. What’s the Timeline?
In many cases I’ve had companies who have simply needed a bit of help prior to an investor pitch or demo day. These are easy. An hour or so on Skype and things are pretty much finished. But other times I have people who are still in the idea stage of a project that could literally be a hundred-year company. I have to do some soul-searching to figure out how much time I can offer them, and whether it’s mutually beneficial to start that relationship.
5. Where’s the Love?
Sometimes it’s the team. Other times it really is the idea. But there has to be a near-tangible connection in order for me to work with someone. If I don’t love them or their idea, why am I going to waste their time? Maybe the idea is genius, and perhaps it’s being put together by the verifiable best people in the world. But without a connection it’s just a power grab and that’s the wrong way to approach mentorship in my opinion.
There you have it. These are my five questions that I ask every single time. There are others, of course, but they’re perhaps less frequent or more specific to the situation. I’d love to hear from other mentors to see what I’m missing, because I’m sure I don’t have all of the answers.