gWallet: Anyone know what’s up here?

25 07 2008

Anyone heard of anything surrounding gWallet?

gWallet’s tagline is “reinventing the way you shop”, interestingly close to the first iteration of iLetYou as “reinventing renting”.

Gurbaksh Chahal, founder of BlueLithium which sold to Yahoo, is the poster boy for his third startup.

I’m generally super-critical of any startup that attacks a stronghold market with a product that’s marginally better.  gWallet is obviously being touted as revolutionary, but from I haven’t seen as much from what I’ve seen about gWallet so far.

In this particular example, it’s very clear that comparison shopping search and merchant aggregation community (especially surrounding coupons and deals) are very lucrative and profitable spaces.

Become.com and RetailMeNot are recent and even more recent, respectively, examples that seemingly entered when there were already many established players.  Revisiting these two examples right now, Become.com seems a little Web 1.0 while RetailMeNot’s secret seems to be clean user experience incorporating social elements of voting and user-generated coupons/content (but probably a lot of competency in core areas such as SEO and PR is the real reason).

On the other hand, there is just so much value to be extracted from this whole coupon/deal/savings space.  Lots of companies do it well, but is it really a cornered market?  So I am definitely wondering if Gurbaksh Chahal understands this much: that by competently applying a marginally better experience to an inherently lucrative and not completely efficient space can translate to a huge win.  Because I’m not personally seeing the ace in the hole quite yet.

Thoughts or anything else to add?

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iPhone 2.0 3G: Initial Productivity Assessment

17 07 2008

I’ve been able to play around with the iPhone 2.0 3G for the past few days.

It’s definitely a great phone. Apple fanboys will really play this up, another reason why Apple stomps MS. Skeptics will play up the inevitable cons. And I probably fall more on the line of a fanboy with each incremental Apple device I pick up, thinking how amazing it is that an electronic device can give you a comforting, warm fuzzy feeling.

For the cool factor, most agree it’s a no-brainer though.

However, the main argument against the iPhone comes from BlackBerry users citing superior e-mail push and functionality largely due to the lack of tactile keyboard (see comments on this Web Worker Daily thread). Most, including myself, have cited the iPhone as “just a toy” not suitable for real business usage.

So how does the iPhone stack up from a productivity standpoint?

What’s good?

  • Keyboard Works Better Than Expected. Before getting the iPhone 2.0 and based on limited testing, I was one of those who shunned the iPhone based on its touchscreen keying. The biggest downside I’ve found so far is that walking and texting/e-mailing is seemingly impossible: you actually have to concentrate when there’s no tactile feel for typing. That being said, I’m remarkably fast when I am concentrating on said keyboard – it seems faster than my old Treo.
  • E-mail Setup Fast and Accurate. In syncing with my MacMail settings, e-mail worked immediately on my iPhone. I’ve struggled with numerous problems in the past with Windows Mobile; Blackberry tends to work pretty well.
  • App Store. Developers and Web 2.0-types are most interested in the new App Store this time around. It has to be the coolest new platform to come through for a while, enabling application ideas that not too long ago were only pipe dreams. When cross-platform interoperability can increase networks to the HUGE user base of mobile users, it will become the greatest network ever. Loopt for location-based social networking. Music matching and collection based on a live audio matching. Pandora for incredible music recommendations and streaming radio on the go!
  • All in one. The convergence of a phone, visual voicemail, GPS device, sync’ed life recorder (largely delivered via Apps such as Evernote, more), Internet browser, games machine and more in one really makes this device a killer.

What’s limited?

  • Easy, Almost Too Easy. In typical Apple fashion, simplicity and ease of use means there’s a limit to functionality within the device. Moving mail around folders is really easy but there’s no multiple select for marking items as read, for example. Lack of copy & paste is another.
  • Push E-mail. The push on e-mail is not as seamless as Blackberry. There may be tricks to improve this, but my iPhone really does seem to be pushing e-mail to me.
  • Flash! To me, this is huge. A large number of sites use Flash for simple graphs and navigation, such as Google Analytics. This is pretty important to me, and productivity suffers because even highly business-related sites become more limited without the use of flash.
  • Apple Lockdown. Since I did write about tethering my Treo with Bluetooth to my MacBook Pro, it stands to reason that I grew attached to that backup solution if I was unable to catch a WiFi signal. By locking down the iPhone, you have to jailbreak the iPhone in order to tether your iPhone to use the 3G connection as a modem for your laptop. As of this date, we’re still waiting for free WiFi from AT&T for all wireless customers at all Starbucks. As great as Apple can be, this is where their control for great purposes goes too far and goes wrong.

So there are pro’s and con’s. But what does this means from a productivity standpoint?

One pivotal piece to mention is that I instinctively did not think of applications I wanted to install from a productivity standpoint as much. Yes, my Facebook activity may be a little faster. Yes, productivity tools like Evernote can be great life sync tools moving forward. But will there be a Microsoft Office killer app? I don’t think so.

Yes, I think that net the iPhone makes me more productive for many of the above reasons. It falls short because of Apple’s choices, largely constraints made due to limited screen real estate. But it’s also a lot of fun.

Finally, I would question anyone that says you are really that productive on a phone. The iPhone does a fine job with many productivity tasks, despite some limitations. You still need the full screen experience to get real work and production done. Short, pithy e-mails plus piecemeal clean up so that you don’t have a pile of things waiting for you at the office after a long day away, are great to be able to do, but to me that’s not where the real work is done.

Entertainment can be done better on the go. A PSP or a Gameboy holds its own when you want to waste some time on the go.

As far as the evolution of the phone goes, I see a “good” productivity device and a “great” entertainment device to be as good as it gets. And the iPhone is getting close. Please improve some of the limitations and I’ll rave even more :-).





Yahoo BOSSes Its Way Into Long Tail of Search

10 07 2008

I could have almost missed this: Yahoo has announced Yahoo! Search BOSS (Build your own search service) as also reported by GigaOM and TechCrunch. You can access Yahoo! search results via API or framework, mashing up Yahoo’s index, and ranking and relevance, with your own algorithmic take on search. Not much concrete is being commented, possibly because there’s not much to be said. Om Malik has has reservations, but is interested in seeing what comes of it.

Broadly, it is one of the neater applications of open strategy and web service. For Yahoo, it’s smart indeed just like SearchMonkey was the neat and smart first part of its open strategy.

It is hard, or maybe impossible, to tell what will come of the strategy. It still hinges on someone to create a better secret sauce of smart algorithms, data mining, machine learning, artificial intelligence and all the cornerstones of CS intelligence. And it must be done: it’s a hedge to give Yahoo a better shot at possibly acquiring or partnering with the big bang company that somehow does search better than Google. But all the infrastructure savings doesn’t presume that a better algorithm will emerge.

So I do applaud Yahoo for going down the long tail of search with BOSS. Yet Farecast, Kayak and Sidestep, Oodle, Vast, SimplyHired, NexTag, Shopping.com and many more “vertical search” aggregators ofttimes rich in metadata dominate the fat middle (fat belly?)– and I bet they will continue to do so.





Yelp beats Citysearch in Traffic?

1 07 2008

Compete has Yelp beating Citysearch in monthly unique visitors for a few months now, although both the New York Times (via Comscore for March) and Quantcast have Citysearch trouncing Yelp with 8M or 16M uniques to Yelp’s approximately 3M uniques, respectively depending on who you believe.

Yelp is most definitely an interesting, and thus far successful, case study but certainly the story is not over for finding success in local with SMBs as a notoriously difficult group of businesses to sell into.

Yet Yelp is not universally known.  It’s a Bay Area staple and people SWEAR by it here.  A business that doesn’t have a Yelp sticker on its window is clearly clueless.  But step just barely outside of Yelp’s big presence here and outside of the technorati and it’s probably the biggest property for which you’ll hear “what’s that?”  It’s still showing a great growth curve, and the biggest hurdle for Yelp is just simply the difficulty of repeating its success here into nationwide success.

At its heart, Yelp is still just a venue reviews site.  They’ve done a insanely tremendous job of integrating the famous Yelp parties and Yelper badge of honor, and translating that fanatic behavior into fanatic online behavior.  The same went visa versa, and the snowball effect launched from there.

My top questions from the Yelp story:

  • How do you best cultivate offline “socializing” to translate to online activity?
  • Is there an upcoming backlash in social media and social networks?  It’s en vogue to call this fatigue, but I would call this “I’d rather be outside than staring at a computer” for the vast majority of people.  It’s well known that traffic spikes during the week and during work hours when you’re forced to stare at a computer.
  • In the long run, what garners more wins: utility or entertainment “time wasters”?  I personally think there will still be winners in both, but the current Web 2.0 landscape is focused on the time wasters.  Note that also an explosive success like YouTube successfully navigates both.
  • What are the opportunities in ubiquitous computing?  A march back towards utility benefits mobile and ubiquitous computing.

I sometime wonder how much we really “enjoy” being in front of a computer.  Even for a computer geek like me, I still have to answer “not so much.”  Maybe that’s what Yelp beating (or soon beating) Citysearch means.

Latest (direct from Compete site):

Yelp versus Citysearch

May 2007 to May 2008 traffic (saved):

May 2008 Yelp vs Citysearch