Salesforce’s Marc Benioff: I Run My Business Entirely Through My Phone (@recode)

Expect more of these stories as the months go by and productivity software in mobile becomes further refined.

Project Ara’s secret weapon? A smaller phone (@gigaom)

Recently I spoke to Gadi Amit, the founder and principal designer at New Deal Design, which designed the Fitbit and Whistle and, most recently, did the industrial design for Project Ara. He noted that, of the three different endo(skeletons), the one that’s getting a lot of attention is the mini size.

“Every time we showed the mini Endo, everyone gravitated toward it,” Amit said. “Obviously what I am saying is not scientific, but among the dozens and now hundreds of people who experienced it firsthand the smaller size looks very interesting.”


Office For iPad Apps Have Racked Up 27M Downloads In 46 Days (@techcrunch)

In just over a month, Office for iPad has picked up another 15 million downloads of its applications. Microsoft reported 12 million downloads in early April, and 27 million today.

What I’d like to see are more than just downloads but actual engagement metrics: are people using it solely for existing documents? Are they actually creating spreadsheets/decks etc. from scratch?

Mobile Innovation in The Second Machine Age is Far From Over

There’s a lot of talk about how mobile is dead and no longer interesting for startups. Investors are already looking towards the blockchain as the next revolutionary technology. The platform wars have been declared over. Turn out the lights, the party’s over, mobile has no more room to run.

I’m not convinced.

If you read one technology book this quarter, it should be The Second Machine Age by MIT’s Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. It covers the exponential growth of the last 20 years worth of technology benchmarked against previous eras of innovation going back to the Industrial Age.

One of the more interesting chapters covers two competing theories of innovation. The first theory states that innovation is essentially low-hanging fruit that’s discovered in the metaphorical forest of ideas, that’s “picked” once and benefits everyone right away but becomes less useful as it gets depleted. In other words, a rapidly depreciating asset.

The second theory is that of recombination or recombinant growth. In this context, the value of innovation is in re-combining old ideas with new technological solutions. In other words, progress isn’t a resource with a finite supply capable of running out: as each development becomes a building block for further innovation, progress continues to accumulate exponentially.

Of course this isn’t a brand new concept. Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” video series that went viral a few years ago chronicles the remixes and adaptations inherent in popular culture, be it music, movies and even technology, using (surprise surprise) the iPhone as its canonical example. Now think of the recombinant innovation that’s taken place in mobile: Waze. Instagram. Maps and photos weren’t new concepts. What was different was the hardware that made it possible to leverage network effects to facilitate the kind of rapid growth that resulted in billion dollar businesses and subsequently, billion dollar acquisitions.

So what does all of this have to do with mobile’s perceived maturation? Simple. Just because the mobile ecosystem may be maturing doesn’t mean there isn’t a long cycle still to play out in mobile innovation. While the hardware question seems to have been settled, there are plenty of immediate questions that have yet to be solved:

How will work get done on the small screen? I’m using an external keyboard to type this out on an iPad but am going to need to move this first to IA Writer on desktop, and then into WordPress’s desktop version. Why? The formatting I can’t do on the iPad version of IA Writer (e.g. incorporating external links), the posting options that don’t appear on the iPad WordPress app, the copying and pasting that requires infinitely more effort on a tablet than it does on a desktop or laptop etc. How will this shake out in a few years? Will work change? Ben Evans and Steven Sinofsky of A16Z recently did a great podcast on the subject, advancing the (somewhat paradoxical) theory that work habits will ultimately change to fit the device rather than the other way around.

Will the relationship between apps and the mobile web become more seamless? Apps aren’t going away. I think that much is clear. What isn’t clear is how the closed ecosystem of the app world and the open web will communicate. Can we bridge the two in a more meaningful way? Can we find ways of sharing content between the digital divide? Facebook’s attempting to do this with the AppLinks open standards project but there’s still a long way to go before the idea takes traction amid Apple and Android’s collective landscapes.

Where do tablets fit in the overall mobile landscape? Are they an extension of the smartphone? A different beast entirely? Will there be a glut of tablet-specific apps at some point? And what are people using tablets for anyway? So many of these things still have yet to play out.

How will the smartphone revolution ultimately impact developing nations? Particularly those whose first computers and first experiences with the Internet are smartphones? These are people who have skipped past the PC age completely and are already utilizing things like mobile payments in ways that people in the Western world have yet to embrace. What new use cases will come outside of Silicon Valley (and indeed Western culture) once smartphone penetration reaches a sizable figure in those countries?

We’re in the beginning stages of a very long cycle that has a lot of time left to play out. While there’s no denying there are better, greater technologies ahead, it would probably behoove us all to take a step back and let that take place before abandoning it in the wake of the next shiny new thing.

Americans Just Don’t Want to Buy Things With Their iPhones (@tnr)

The New Republic’s Noam Schieber:

It’s this habituation that’s the key. Humans are prisoners of inertia. The places where mobile payments seem to be taking off are places where the credit-card swiping habit never truly formedlike parts of Africa and South Americaor places like Russia, where it was sufficiently unsatisfactory (think long lines) as to make consumers open to forming new habits. Even people like Rosenblum, who recognize the theoretical improvement mobile payments represent, apparently won’t form a new habit unless they deem the old one to be a serious drag.

Despite the click-baity headline, this is a really good piece. I’m interested to see how the market reacts to Coin, which is something of a hybrid, since it doesn’t fundamentally alter the behavior to something involving a smart phone or wearable. Maybe that helps ease people into the process.

Instagram Just Geotagged Us To Hell (@parislemon)

But wait, Facebook now owns Instagram, so of course they’re going to want to use their own place database, right? I guess. The issue I’m having is that for the first couple years after the deal, the database remained in the hands of Foursquare’s trusty API. Now, for whatever reason, that has changed (at least for some users). And we’re all worse off as a result.

That’s the real problem here. I get that Facebook owns Instagram and so they want to bring the geo functionality in-house as well. But the product is worse because of this change. Facebook place database is a nightmare of mislabeled and mislocated geo-barf. The data makes Apple Maps look like a pristine globe of information (more on that in a second).

Excellent post from MG. Couldn’t agree more. The phrase “cutting your nose off to spite your face” comes to mind. Although perhaps, as with Apple’s maps fiasco, there’s enough of a backlash for Instagram to go back to Foursquare’s database or at least allowing the user the option to choose between the two. Here’s hoping anyway.

Survey: In-Store Shoppers Prefer Their Smartphone to Sales Assistants (@WSJ)

More than half the people surveyed said they would prefer to look up prices, get product info and check on available from their own devices. Nearly half said they would prefer using their own gadgets to make a payment or find it on the shelves. Kiosks were the second choice in all categories, above speaking to sales associates.

Apple, Hardware, and the Cloud (@innonate)

Nate Westheimer:

Many of these areas are experiences Apple could have won if they had truly invested in and understood the cloud; more importantly, they could have owned the experience even outside of Apple devices and if they had gone so far as to innovate and win with their Maps, Mail, and Photos in the same cross platform way they won with iTunes in the early 2000s, and in the way Google is winning with the cloud today.

I think all indications point to the fact that they were trying to get better in this area – it just didn’t happen fast enough for them. Steve Jobs was notoriously upset about the MobileMe product at the time and Drew Houston has spoken about acquisition talks Jobs had initiated with Dropbox back in 2009. But it obviously didn’t happen and iCloud has never really materialized into the entity I think Apple wanted it to be.

But to Nate’s point at the end of this piece, I think that’s OK. Apple isn’t a company that does the cloud well. Alternatively, Google doesn’t do hardware well, as we all saw with what transpired with Motorola. One company’s strength is another’s weakness and vice-versa. The thing is both models seem to be working for their respective companies – why shouldn’t that continue? This is not a Manichean choice of hardware vs. the cloud, as if one is inherently right and the other inherently wrong. They both can continue doing what they’re doing and doing it well.

Apple Retail And The Innovator’s Dilemma (@stratechery)

So I agree with Ben to the extent that the stores clearly help Apple as a company, particularly when it comes to less sophisticated consumers who may need help with some of the basics. Ben also argues that they’re probably under-appreciated in that regard. I agree. However, I’m less inclined to agree with this:

The lack of something similar to the Genius Bar makes low-end products a much less attractive alternative

Perhaps, but stated another way, has the proliferation of Microsoft stores made people more likely to buy a Surface, knowing their concerns about the product can be addressed by someone in-store? It doesn’t seem that way. Microsoft apparently doesn’t publish their retail data and I haven’t see anything elsewhere that would support the theory that the Microsoft stores have, since their introduction in 2009, done anything to push more product.

To me, low-end products are much less attractive precisely because they’re inferior products, in the way most consumers come to that conclusion:

-My friends don’t use them

-They don’t have the software (apps) that I use on a regular basis

-They have a learning curve that I don’t have the time to invest in, after having used device X for Y years

So while the Apple Stores continue to be of importance to Apple in helping them push more product, I don’t think that same theory holds as a general rule for the industry. Having a rep or MSFT’s own equivalent to a “genius bar” hasn’t seemed to mitigate the product gap in any substantial way for Microsoft, as an example. Although it will be interesting to see how Google fares with this, as they gear up for their own retail experience in the US after having opened a few Android-specific stores in Europe and Australia.

On your way? Routeshare for iPhone lets you share your real-time ETA with a link (@TheNextWeb)

Routeshare for iPhone is more specifically about sharing with another person where you are and how long it will take you to arrive at a specific destination, rather than what route you’re taking. You simply enter a destination, select how frequently you want to display location updates, and hit ‘Start’.

A few other competitors in this space, most notably Glympse. One of those pain points around location that I’m surprised hasn’t already been baked into Google Maps/Waze.

The Great Smartphone War (@vanityfair)

Good read on the ongoing Apple/Samsung patent wars. Doesn’t get too far in the weeds and provides a lot of interesting backstory that folks might not be aware of regarding Samsung’s deliberate history of skirting authorities and regulators by copying electronic devices, colluding with competitors in price-fixing arrangements, not paying partners whose technology they’ve “borrowed,” etc. A lot of nasty stuff. You almost feel sympathy for modern-day technology patent holders, until they start going over some of the day-to-day stuff in court and you realize the current system remains flimsy and not protective of anything or anyone, aside from the lawyers these companies are represented by. We need patent reform and badly; but where to begin?