Ray Ozzie’s startup, Talko, wants to reinvent the phone call, starting with an iPhone app (@GeekWire)

What has Ray Ozzie been focusing on since leaving his position as Microsoft’s chief software architect? Here’s the answer. A new app and online service called Talko, from a company co-founded by the Lotus Notes creator and collaboration software pioneer, is aiming to bring the phone call into the modern era of cloud computing and connected devices.

Features include the ability to tag and bookmark specific moments of a call for easy reference and sharing afterward. For example, it’s possible to search all calls to find moments where a conversation was tagged #budget or #followup, or any other tag a user chooses. Users can also take and share photos with each other using the app during a call, and send text messages through the app.

This is interesting, although the recording calls part obviously requires consent on behalf of both parties. This has the potential to be super useful though. At some point in the future, the capability will be there to likely make manual tagging irrelevant and voice recognition will reach a point where an entire call will become searchable for content. But even if you have to tag instances in a call manually, that’s still a valuable thing to be able to have at your disposal, be it a work project, a to-do list for specific stores etc.

The Demons Of On-Demand (@techcrunch)

Covers a lot of the same ground as Liz Gannes’ “I Want It Now” Series for Re:Code. Because the “Uber for X” model is so pervasive across so many different categories, it’s hard to speak in generalities to say they’re either all derivatives of “first world problems,” for lazy and/or rich people or B. that they’re the future of jobs, commerce etc. I think the model works well in some instances and not in others.

The bigger thing to me is whether or not all of these, particularly ones that rely on physical transportation, can scale to suburbia. From Sarah’s piece:

Not only that, but I live outside the Valley – and outside the city – so the things that are built and hyped as the “future of local services” don’t really touch me at this time. At least, not unless I move. Or until they scale to suburbia and beyond – aka 50% of the world today. Still, despite this sort of separateness from a large part of the on-demand, sharing-economy movement, I understand that much of what first gets offered to the better-off city dweller may eventually trickle down to the everyman or everywoman. (Or at least, this is the argument.) While some things will only scale to the urban centers, others could come to small town/middle America.

If you think about it, even big companies like Seamless that were able to scale on-demand food delivery in cities 7-8 years ago were never able to scale out in suburbia. Can a service like Sprig move beyond the SFs/NYs/LAs and cater to the rest of the country? Not so sure. I think making services like that work will require developers and an accompanying thought process that exists outside of the typical Silicon Valley bubble.

Wearables, Payments, Chickens & Eggs (@stratechery)

Another great take on Apple’s entry into mobile payments from Ben Thompson, who believes the wearable device will be the centerpiece in making this happen:

That’s where Apple’s ability to move units simply because they are Apple becomes something that is an incredible weapon: suppose 10% of iPhone customers are willing to buy a wearable with some cool fitness functionality mainly because it’s built by Apple. Boom – suddenly there are 80 million wearables with payment functionality out in the wild. Moreover, the customers sporting said wearable are likely to be both vocal about their desire to use said payments, and high spenders to boot. That’s a very good way to spur merchants to install what will likely be a free payment device, available at your local Apple Store. 

He also argues that having this functionality baked into a watch or other wearable makes payments a very different proposition than having it done through the phone:

Moreover, I’d bet the difference between using a wearable for payment and using your phone will be greater than most people expect. I have no particular evidence for this outside of my own experience with keyless ignition systems in cars; the first time we got it, I thought it was a tremendous waste of money (it was part of a package); since then, I can not imagine buying a car without it. Saving a bit of hassle and a few seconds on a daily basis really adds up; it’s the type of subtle experience improvement that is Apple’s biggest differentiation.

A mobile scan via a watch that’s always at-the-ready and alleviates the friction associated with pulling out of a phone, opening the proper app etc.? Sign me up.

h/t MediaREDEF

Going where the money is (@asymco)

Horace Dediu with the smartest take on why exactly Apple is (potentially) taking the mobile payments route after so many have failed in similar endeavors:

But one word of caution: if Apple does enable payments it’s important to realize that being a (payment) bit pipe is not a particularly profitable business. It will undoubtedly bind value to the iOS devices which make it possible, but I don’t think there will be a direct capture of profit from the transactions themselves.

So for a company that facilitates the payment clearing system, the margins are likely to be very thin and with costs being non-zero it may be nearly a wash. The real impact of the decision to support payments will be in the aura surrounding the iOS ecosystem. An aura which will glow intensely.

And an aura that will do even more to perpetuate lock-in to current hardware, which is where the real value is; not in facilitating your 99 cent cup of coffee. Makes a lot of sense.

Apple courts fashionistas as smartwatch expectations mount (@Reuters)

Apple Inc has invited top fashion editors and bloggers in unprecedented numbers to its Tuesday launch gala, further evidence that the iPhone maker is preparing to take the wraps off a smartwatch. Apple is forging closer ties to the fashion world as it plots its foray into the fertile field of wearable technology, trying to win over a critical crowd that may prove crucial to the success of consumer gadgets worn around the body.

On The Audience for an iWatch

Analyst Ross Rubin for VentureBeat:

Ultimately, Apple’s competition in the smartwatch space is not Samsung, LG or Motorola, at least not with the products that they are shipping today. It is brands such as Tag Heuer and Movado, brands that represent premium quality and materials while still being affordable and relatively mass market compared to elite luxury brands such as Cartier and Rolex.

I just don’t agree with this. Not that the current competition is any kind of barometer for what smartwatches can be but the last part about typical “premium” watches. Those purchases are still made for very different reasons. Yes, in some ways, it can be argued that gadgets have become as much of a fashion statement as clothes and accessories. But I think most people continue to make their gadget-purchasing decisions based primarily on functionality rather than fashion.

Eventually, these two markets will probably converge. But in the near-term, I believe the audience for the iWatch, aside from tech geeks and Apple loyalists, will consist of a lot of first-time watch buyers who have stopped wearing wristwatches (because their smartphone can tell time) or with younger millenials, have never worn a watch at all. I don’t think the folks buying Swatches and Tag Heuer watches are necessarily going to gravitate towards an iWatch because they’re looking for something fashionable first and foremost; not a gadget.

Samsung and Oculus partner to create Gear VR, a virtual reality headset that uses the Note 4 (@engadget)

Facebook’s Oculus VR is creating the Rift. Sony’s PlayStation is creating Project Morpheus. Google is… well, Cardboard exists. And now Samsung’s getting in on the virtual reality action, announcing Gear VR at IFA 2014 today in Berlin, Germany. Gear VR is a virtual reality headset with a removable front cover where Samsung’s newly announced Note 4 slips in, acting as the screen

And what’s the first thing you’ll see when you strap on Gear VR? Oculus VR’s handiwork. The company behind the re-birth of virtual reality is partnering with Samsung on Gear VR: Samsung handles the hardware; Oculus offers up its software prowess.