The last 48 or so hours in the tech world have been pretty interesting- 3 of the biggest companies have had pretty significant public showings of new products and services. While I pre-emptively wrote about Facebook’s mail announcements yesterday, here’s what Google and Apple had to reveal as well;
Facebook – A Modern Mail Service
So Facebook didn’t quite announce a rival to Gmail and Hotmail as everyone predicted… or did they? You can now still register for a ‘@facebook.com’ address once your account receives an opt-in invitation, but this new service will focus on convergence of SMS, Email, IM and other current messaging platforms rather than going head to head with existing providers. The existing concerns remain about Facebook, privacy and email, but guess we know what FB poached that Google Wave dev for now, huh?
Google – The Nexus S, Gingerbread, NFC and Chrome OS
Although Facebook’s revelations largely overshadowed what was going on at the Web 2.0 summit, Google’s CEO had a few almost-groundbreaking things to share with the community. Firstly, he demonstrated Android 2.3 AKA Gingerbread on an unannounced phone many summise to be the elusive ‘Nexus S’ from Samsung. We can’t confirm either way since branding was concealed although a special hardware component was explicitly mentioned – a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This lead in to what will no doubt be a key feature of the new OS, set to release in the next few weeks, as it enables ‘bump-to-pay’ transactions. Seems like this will be another area where Google and Apple are racing to get a cutting edge technology into consumers’ hands first.
Chrome OS, that bastard topic largely relegated to the background by Google’s more prominent Android, was also given a clear purpose by an offhand comment by Eric Schmidt- it is for low cost keyboard devices. Which rules phones and tablets out.
Apple – iTunes News…?
Apple threw its hat in the ring this week as well teasing an unforgettable iTunes-related reveal on Tuesday. However this hype sizzled out as soon as it was revealed that the Beatles catalogue would be coming to the popular e-store. The Beatles? Who cares. Everyone who gives a damn will have ripped their CDs, bought their audacious USB collection or pirated the stuff by now.
Luckily this was dispelled with the also predicted and highly anticipated iTunes Cloud, Streaming, iTunes Pass, 90sec previews and a redesigned client.
The war for the internet, ad revenue, market share, hearts and minds is very much underway and at this very exciting time in history I dare not call a winner. Especially since likelihood suggests that even if there is one, there won’t be for long. Microsoft is notably absent from this week’s festivities- no doubt working on getting all those missing features into Windows Phone 7.
Internet giant Facebook seems set to unveil it’s own email service to essentially compete with Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail in the next 24 hours. However, given the ubiquity of those established services, and Facebook’s poor track record with privacy, would you sign up for a @facebook.com?
This discussion reminds me of my switch to Gmail from Hotmail a few years ago. Gmail at that time fofered a better service- more storage space, a better web client, free POP access – and the fact that it never deaciivated your account, deleting your mail in the process, as Hotmail was known to do. Service-wise, Google’s offering was compelling enough for me to up and transfer over, migrate what mail I could and tell everyone my new address.
However as Google learned earlier this year with the failed ‘Buzz’ experiment, people don’t want social in their inbox, especially if they have little control over it. And what is Facebook all about if not the removal of individuals’ control over their information? The only obvious trump card FB has over other webmail services is potentially tight integration with it’s main social network; one that 500 million people are already tied up in. As to whether that’s something people actually want, I’m not so sure.
Given its massive user base, any Facebook Mail project has its foot in peoples’ doors already. If it wants a whole bunch of people to switch from their existing mail providers, it will have to offer something those competitors do not while also dodging the backlash that’s sure to arise from any privacy-related missteps. Whatever Mark Z and friends reveal today, it looks set to upset the existing webmail equilibrium but to what extent remains to be seen.
What an absurd concept: a big budget film chronicling the inception and creation of a website. Facebook is an empire built on arrogance and blind luck. To make it’s transition to film, claiming to be the social network is fittingly arrogant and a filmic retelling of its creation is unwarranted. Fairly, the writer knows this and points out the folly of this supposed social marvel at every turn. They also fearlessly goes on to overturn ever stone and dredge up every detail that could potentially cast Facebook.com in a poor light. Bravo for that.
There is a good reason why posters for The Social Network credit both director and screenwriter, and also why other do not. The tight writing is really what carried the film. The tight editing and tight scoring both come in secondary, and it shows. That is what people will recall after a first watching- witty dialogue and a bloated, unweildly narrative cut down its palatable essentials. If I wanted to be uncharitable, though, I could describe this as wrapping dogshit in tinfoil and selling them as earrings.
Ultimately this story could have been The Operating System and dealt with the founding of Microsoft or, just as easily, The Personal Computer and been about Apple. See what I did there? The actual events at the heart of the Social Network form a typical and thoroughly predictable tale that I’d go so far as to say could describe most businesses, let alone every dotcom startup dreamed up by drunken college freshmen in some preppy fraternity dormroom. Betrayal, good timing and a little intuition, it seems, is enough to make America’s youngest billionaire. And that is sad. Yet I still have pity for the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world who had all those things, but still had to work a hell of a lot harder than that cockly little asshole Mark Z for their fortunes. And as much as I hate Steve Jobs, after watching this, he seems like tech’s greatest saint by comparison.
In all, given its rewards showered on such disreputable behaviour, this is one mighty troubling film. Doubly so since it’s all true. But you won’t notice. Or care. You’ll walk out of The Social Network remembering how swish a retelling it was, even if the story told was a tremendously depressing one. So who’s going to go delete their Facebook account after seeing this? No? I didn’t think so.