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The Schaumburg Flyers of the Independent League have decided to take a web 2.0 approach to managing the ballclub as they have introduced a new production initiative called FanClub. FanClub is part of the MSN Originals project and is an online show from the makers of Project Greenlight, LivePlanet, that lets viewers watch and influence the managerial decision of the professional minor league team based in a suburb of Chicago. According to PaidContent.org:
“Fans will be in charge of key managerial decisions, and votes will be reflected in what the Flyers do on the diamond and in the clubhouse. The online content also includes videos detailing the first half of the Flyers’ season, player profiles, game highlights and behind-the-scenes vignettes. Team players, family members and friends will blog on MSN Spaces.”
Wow, FanClub takes fantasy baseball gaming to a new level as it is empowers the people via the web to manage a baseball team. It will be interesting to see how the fan managed Flyers do. If they do well, I wonder if the Chicago Cubs could look into something similar for the remainder of the season?
Google has finally launched Google Finance into public beta today (March 21, 2006) which should directly compete with Yahoo Finance, MSN Money and CNN Money in the finance space. There have been mixed reviews of the service thus far but I think it offers an interesting presentation of news clips and stock performance information. The display offers several unique Flash based sliders to help examine the peaks and valleys a companies performance record. In the screen-shot below I analyze the profile of Google to demonstrate some of the features that differentiate Google Finance from the competition.
For additional reaction to the Google Finance beta launch check out these write-ups:
What do you think about Google Finance?
Bill Gates gave the keynote address today (March 20, 2006) at Mix 06, the a 72-hour Microsoft conference taking place out in Las Vegas. According to a report by Richard MacManus, Bill Gates focused on the theme of rich media through a number of devices and spoke of the release of Internet Explorer 7 (which is now available here) and beyond just the browser (phones and other devices). Bill praise RSS and how he thinks it is very important. Bill also spoke about moving further enhancing the web capabilities of Office 2007.
After the keynote, Robert Scoble gave Mike Arrington of TechCrunch a "big present" or what Robert refers to as a power lunch - lunch with Bill Gates. Mike has been a champion ringleader for the web 2.0 movement and it appears Bill wants to better understand it. Mike got a few questions in about Office going online but admits he was a bit starstruck and surprised by the lunch guest.
For additional Mix 06 updates check out the video cast from the conference provided by Virtual Mix.
*Special thanks to Robert Scoble and his smart phone for the image of Bill Gates and Mike Arrington
There is so much talk about Google and its products these days that Microsoft may not be the first company that comes to mind when you think of the online space. However, Microsoft has been quietly building an online arsenal and doing so without accusations of being 'evil.'The name of the budding e-powerhouse is Windows Live. I think that Microsoft is back to whole-heartily compete with Google in the online software space.
If you take a look at this chart (or click on the screen-shot below) of all the products Microsoft has on tap with Windows Live, I think you'd be pretty amazed.
I understand that not every product is able to compete with current widely-used Google online applications, but I think that if Microsoft integrates all the services into existing online applications it will be successful in several of these endeavors. Microsoft is not only competing with Google; they also are positioned to take on eBay, Craigslist and Yahoo among others.
I used to make origami cranes in grade school similar to the one shown. The blogosphere has been buzzing about origami in the last week or so you would have thought a herd of crazed paper cranes armed with the bird flu were pulling bloggers from the comfort of their homes. Thankfully, origami cranes are not attacking and the blogosphere has been buzzing about a new ultra-mobile PC called Origami that Microsoft has been trying to gracefully leak into the conversations of the blogosphere . I say gracefully because I really do not know how else you could drop origami into a conversation totally unrelated to paper crane construction.
I have yet to jump on the Origami bandwagon but decided to finally break my silent because there are finally official images behind all the buzz and speculation. Microsoft's Channel 9 video blog has posted this Origami clip and Microsoft's website has this new page devoted to the ultra-mobile PC or UMPC.
Robert Scoble is wondering if all the hype about Origami was warranted. I am wondering the same thing since Origami is a small table PC which is not anything new. Though, I maintain an open mind and would be interested in testing an Origami out to see how it fits my lifestyle. I wonder if it could replace my currently laptop computer which is already ultra-portable but has a full keyboard.
Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's Chief Technology Officer, showed off a new live web clipboard application yesterday (March 7, 2006) at the O'Reilly eTech Conference enabling a user to easily cut and paste information from one website to another. The web clipboard runs on your machine and offers up a scissor icon (shown below) compatible pages offering the ability to cut, copy and paste data from one web page to another. To better understand the actual concept you might want to check out this screencast demo where an event is copied from Eventful to a Microsoft Live Calendar. Additionally Ray details the live clipboard in this blog post.
I think the live clipboard is a great idea and has value, however a standard needs to be set so forth so that the live clipboard features are on all on the same playing field from site to site. This means is that the data structures for events and other types of data need to be standardized which could be a big obstacle for success so we will see how Microsoft handles it.
MapQuest was the leader in the mapping space until Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and A9 targeted the space with open mapping API’s. It appears MapQuest is back in the game with the release of its own API called OpenAPI. According to Jim Greiner, VP and GM of MapQuest:
"OpenAPI represents our initial step to provide developers with a simple way to access all the core tools, routing included, necessary to create truly useful mashups."
MapQuest hopes the move will vault it back into the forefront of the online mapping world which it ruled solely for so long. I just hope it isn’t too late for MapQuest with all the new players in the space. MapQuest has answered my concern by simultaneously announcing a developers challenge for mashup supremacy with the OpenAPI. Nothing beats a little competitive blood to motivate developers in the web 2.0 mashup happy online world - we will see if it is enough.
Have you checked out the new MSN Live.com Street-side Drive-by local mapping beta yet? If not, I would highly recommend you check it out by visiting: http://preview.local.live.com. Just as the name might imply you can explore the city from the street level in a sports car, race car or by walking. Currently, you can only explore Seattle or San Francisco but the city pool is sure to expand with time. Check out the street perspective in the screen-shot from San Francisco above which might remind you of the popular video game Doom.
I think this new application is wicked however I do not see searching via a map overtaking the customary text field entry search format for some time. Mapping technology still has a little more catching up to do to ensure that searching and navigating via a map a quick, smooth and seamless user experience.
For additional blogosphere coverage check out these posts on TechCrunch, Blogbob and connecting the dots. Additionally check out what Microsoft Channel 9 has to offer via video.
Publisher content is the backbone of a web of information on the Internet. Without publisher content, search engines would have less results to provide thus searchers would be less likely to find relevant results. Content producers, namely large publishers, have known this for years but have been trying to determine the best way to position content to monetize on this strength. This could help examine the recent trend by the large search engine companies jump into their own unique content development. Additionally, bloggers have begun to realize and capitalize on content production via the emergence of the blogosphere. After various attempts, two high-level, basic publisher content strategies have emerged though they may have slight variations or hybrid form the purest form are as follows:
1. Paid Content
2. Free Content
The paid content method has been tried by many but has been successful for few. This strategy has only worked when the content offered is so extraordinary that visitors cannot get it somewhere else and, therefore, are willing to pay for it. The Wall Street Journal is the prime example of successfully executing this strategy as an online newspaper site; however, the WSJ produces an overabundant amount of unique content and boasts an international brand that people trust.
The New York Times recently started a similar strategy with Times Select and seems to be doing well thus far for predominantly the same reasons as the WSJ. Outside of the traditional newspaper publishers, Playboy is the prime example of how sex sells with its paid content offerings. Additionally, Consumer Reports is another example of a paid content success story for its valued, exclusive reviews and ratings of consumer products. There are probably other paid content initiatives that I have failed to mention but I will leave it to you do find and discover them.
Those successful examples aside, the free content scenario seems to make more sense, as not every content-producing firm has the same brand awareness and iconic following. However, with a free content offering a content producer could still position its offering to leverage abundant and strong content by making content free, permanent and opened to the world to discover. This way, each individual site could push out thousands of content items or stories a week that could then be optimized to the item level for search via Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, at the item level is very important to a successful free content strategy. It has, for example, helped countless bloggers pull visitors to their blogs without having the brand awareness of a large content producer. So, in short, the website is just a place to display free content and serve advertisements around that content. Syndication has furthered the website as a landing place for content display and ad serving, however, that’s another Somewhat Frank post topic altogether.
Google, Yahoo, MSN search and the viral qualities of the blogosphere content producers should drive traffic and page views to the excess of indexed content. As more content becomes available online, there is now more virtual real estate available to sell and display advertisements. By making content evergreen, or permanent, a publishing company will have enormous amounts of content available in search engine results, thus, increasing their traffic. Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines should just be brokering visitor eyeballs to this content and the content producers should truly be King.
*SEO logo thanks to funponsel.com
Google had a big day today (December 17, 2005) in acquiring 5 percent of AOL for $1 billion as reported by David Vise of WashingtonPost.com and Saul Hansell of the New York Times. The deal calls for advertisement sharing between the two companies. The most notable advertisements will be ads on Google search results that will display an AOL logo. Google has been the search provider for AOL for years but MSN was reportedly courting AOL to upend Google in the AOL search space. Today's move by Google will most likely solidify Google as the continued search provider and also could help Google leverage AOL to get into some of Microsoft's precious software business.
Is this a good move for Google?
Microsoft recently announced that they will be creating a operating system for supercomputers. According to an AP report, Microsoft has a supercomputer initiative and wants to create an easy to use offering for small to mid-sized companies to use without having to be the most technically savvy. The product is called Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and is supposed to be available within the first months of 2006.
I could see where this could be appealing to some companies that are light on UNIX administrators and technology staff. This will be interesting to watch since it is going go head-to-head with open source coding methods which appear to becoming to the forefront as the way to handle large coding efforts. There is definitely something to be said for usability. However, check out this report on the Benefits of Open Source. For additional information on supercomputing check out Supercomputing.org.
Microsoft announced today (November 1, 2005) that they plan to rollout an online version of its popular Windows operating system off of a website platform called “Windows Live”. This comes just a few weeks after Google announced it would team up with Sun Microsystems to work on OpenOffice. OpenOffice is a free, open source software said to be similar to Microsoft Office. This team-up between Google and Sun also lead to speculation that they were going to develop an online operating system to try and erode Microsoft’s positioning with its client-based Windows offerings. It is unclear to what extent Windows Live will replace the current Windows operating system however Bill Gates did have this to say about the new online offerings, according to a report on MSNBC:
“It’s a revolution in how we think about software ... this is a big change for ... every part of the ecosystem.”
This announcement by Microsoft surprised me but I give Microsoft some credit for being proactive announcing its plans. I guess the only downside I can see to having an operating system online is that you are reliant to have an Internet connection for the operating system to work.
Check out the Windows Live homepage and "ideas page" to find out about all the Windows Live Products soon to be available. Also read more about it by checking out the articles on MSNBC, ChicagoTribune.com and CNet’s News.com. Furthermore, visit posts in the blogosphere on the Microsoft Live.com Blog, John R. Durant’s Weblog, Paul Mooney and ZDNet Blogs.
Intellext a small search company based in Chicago, released a new version of its Watson product, called Watson 2.0, earlier this summer. Watson 2.0 offers web search results based on the content of your office files, like Microsoft Word, Office and PowerPoint. The “personal research assistant” by Intellext is now available as an add-in to the MSN search toolbar. So users can now have the same sidebar search assistance action by simply downloading the add-in for the MSN toolbar. The Watson 2.0 add-in download is currently available for a 30 day trial and after that it costs $10 a month or $99 for a year.
I could see this functionality being extremely advantageous to students and researchers that write lots of reports and white-papers since it appears the Watson could save users time in searching for supporting materials. I have no measurement of the relevancy or quality of these links and would have to do further research to quantify those points. However, here is the website to obtain additional information on Watson 2.0. Also check out these articles discussing Watson on PC Magazine and CNet News which considers Watson a competitor to Google's sidebar.