In the age of Twitter, no one can keep a secret. That’s clear from the announcements about the Gphone, the iSlate, and the likely fact that nothing will happen at CES. Comdex has been dead for years, Oracle conferences feature endless rehashes by Scott McNealy about the Sun merger, and in general most trade shows have been denuded of any real news.
That leaves product announcements by the vendors themselves, timed to fit around the old event schedule but in fact disrupt the news flow that normally used to be captured in large multi-vendor settings. But these announcements have begun to focus around hardware devices (phones) that require a supply chain, lead time, and partners. Apple used to be mostly successful at keeping the lid on the hardware part of the equation, choosing its suppliers based as much on security as the commodity parts that help maintain a firewall by need-to-know silos.
But where the process has really broken down from an IP perspective is with the partners. And particularly the media, which has a stake in its survival on top of these devices. So we see a clearly endorsed leak that Apple will ship a tablet in March, as a result of meetings with media folks about supporting the platform. Of course they want to support the platform; the Kindle has already iTuned up the book business and YouTube the video pipeline.
It’s equally important for all concerned that Google succeed with Android and Nexus One; today’s rollout confirms how cleverly this is being played with the media. Not the pixel-stained wretches who seemed oddly more impressed than their content will let on. They are of course secretly very happy that a real competition is engaged. Apple the gatekeeper stories have been milked to death, and no one really cares what Motorola or Nokia has up their sleeve. No, the story is Apple v. Google with a twist.
The twist is that it’s actually not a competition but a mutual tag teaming of our social services. The key demo today was the voice control of tweets enabled across server side resolution engines. Every single input field on the Nexus One is voice-enabled. Sure, the voice enabled search linked up to the voice-prompted GPS service finances the new device, assuming it can be integrated into bluetooth for hands-free driving. That used to cost $99 for TomTom. But hands-free tweeting over bluetooth is huge, no matter what the anti-social media morons think.
Nexus One creates a viable pool of users trained on a gesture pattern similar enough to the iPhone to be absorbed with perhaps 5 minutes of use. Voice email as absorbed into the micro-message bus creates a huge transaction-ready set of customers who can trade access to their so-called private streams in return for discounts, special offers, and so on — provided the vendors play by the rules. Those rules are not to violate the user’s sense of propriety in the use of their private communications.
Gmail has succeeded because it established a sense of respect for our private communications while at the same time providing context-sensitive information that could be useful. Those links can be scary if you happen to notice how intelligently they are generated based on parsing of your private thoughts and business communications. Yet we understand that Google understands where the fourth wall is, where they can go right up to but not over.
Now look at the Nexus gesture stream and marvel: not just the text or the audio converted to text, but the time, screen location, zoom level, what objects and information gets shared, ignored, and so on. The map of these behaviors is incredibly rich — like turning our interests and intentions into a rich kind of braille where our fingers approximate what we are thinking in the moments in between transactions. Remember, each device is tagged to a credit card. It turns just about everything we do into a Kindle experience, as long as we feel compensated for visibility into the gesture stream.
Talking in a personal way to a public audience was the disruption that Twitter engendered. The voice-tweet tool gives us a mechanism that will work just as well across micro-communities, whether inside the Chatter firewall or cross-domain in a FriendFeed conversation. And the text processing can be used in several ways, to enhance voice mail as Google Voice and Ribbit do, and most importantly as a filtering mechanism to determine dynamically who sees what in the message stream. This is a huge disruption that Apple will have to scramble to meet, and another reason why the tablet will be so important when it appears.
Nexus One may seem like me-too, just like the iSlate will be called tablet take two. But in fact we’re seeing voice replace the keyboard on the phone, which in turn creates a vacuum on the desk/laptop for the iScreen to fill. Once we trust the conversion of voice to tweets, we’ll use private tweets to replace email. Once we trust the filters to deliver us the most actionable information in our windows of opportunity, we will also select the media services that best leverage the new platform. Once we make those decisions, the content produced for the astronauts will attract the settlers. And that’s a secret the media won’t be able to keep for more than a few seconds.