So.cl — One more… keep the faith!

I felt a bit empty, without a purpose, even bored. As a seasoned social media warrior (I promised @thebrandbuilder not to use words like guru, ninja, persona, celebrity, Special Operations Commander and rainmaker in vain), I was secretly hoping for yet another social network to pop up, and make my day.

See, everyone is on Facebook now. Even the Belgian Prime minister is on Twitter. My boss is on Foursquare. Nine real smart people and a horsehead are on Google+. My primary schoolteacher’s little niece is on LinkedIn. I have an avatar on 2ndLife. I am connected to people I will probably never meet on Path, most of my female friends go bananas pinning stuff on Pinterest. Their boyfriends are on Gentlemint.

My Sony laptop faithfully remembers my account details of 14 (fourteen) social sites.

Make that 15 (fifteen). Since yesterday I’m a registered user of a new social online thing called So.cl . Microsoft started it as a top secret social research experiment fueled by social groups. They first tested it on virtual machines, then on small rodents, scared orangutans and finally on students.

As a social study on students rarely generates any tangible data, So.cl  got a nihil obstat from Nato and WHO, and has quietly been released to the  general public. Microsoft claims it is not looking to wrestle with Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare  or Google+ for world supremacy in the social space. It describes So.cl as “an experimental research project focused on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning.”  Users of So.cl  can find information on any topic, and share interesting findings directly with their network. So.cl also enables sharing ‘rich content’ that consists of little  scrapbook-like potpourris of multimedia content.

So, it’s a mixture of Bing, Facebook, and Pinterest.  It’s search on steroids. It’s Microsoft’s crazy Frankenstein-mix of Google and Facebook. It’s vaguely interesting. I think I’ll give it a go. I just have to. It’s my job. Confucius said sternly “Faced with what is right; to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.”

Students can do it. Orangutans can do it.  *deep sigh* I’ll keep you posted.

So long Steve, long live the king

It’s sad to see how everyone, from markets, over journalists and influencers to White-Van-Man is overreacting when something terrible happens to one of the leaders of star corporations.

Steve Jobs passed away, and people all over the planet make his testament, and -in one breath- the one of his beloved Apple Inc. I’m sad that Jobs lost his yearlong battle against cancer. I feel for his family and friends. I feel for his colleagues at Apple, and I feel for the broad Apple community. The world lost a charismatic futurist. His loved ones lost a loved one…

But Steve Jobs is not Apple. Apple was never diagnosed with cancer. Apple never was one man. Hearing Bob O’Donnell from research firm IDC say that the timing of Jobs death is “unfortunate” gives me the creeps. What is a good timing then? Is it really better for anyone to read the obituary after the launch of the iPhone 5?

Analyst Chowdry from Global Equities Research said on abcnews.go.com: “Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation, only God creates innovation.” God? Really?

Apple’s stock dropped 2.3 percent after the sad announcement. Earlier this year, when Steve Jobs asked for some privacy and time off to deal with his health issues, the Apple stock dropped 5%, instantly.

When Eric Schmidt announced that Google did not need his babysitting anymore, black hatting tweeps preached the end of the world, and Google-as-we-used to know it. Remember the day Bill Gates told the planet he would find wise ways to spend his capital, and would leave Microsoft in the hands of Steve Ballmer?

Let’s get real. Apple will survive Steve Jobs.  That is why Jobs worked so hard. There will be Google after Schmidt. One might argue that Microsoft is experiencing a second youth under Ballmer.  William Procter and James Gamble; William Hewlett and David Packard, have found their place in history books (and on Wikipedia), but P&G and HP are still very real.

France had Napoleon, De Gaulle, Pompidou… the US had Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy… The UK still is a great nation, even with Churchill long gone… Good corporations, and most nations, survive the change of leadership.

The King is Dead, Long Live The King. Life, even corporate life moves on. Historically, change in leadership opens room for new blood, new ideas, new challenges. Darwin would argue that change, of all things, generates evolution.

Strong charismatic leaders are important. But not more than that… It takes lots of people to make a thriving company.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery voiced it perfectly – “How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on.”

Rest in peace Steve, we’ll miss you…

Nokia : the come-back kids…

Opinions are divided, as they should ;-). Lots of experts see Nokia’s handshake with Microsoft as a complete surrender and guaranteed death sentence, the others see it as a stroke of genius. Let me help you get all the little yellow ducks on a row.

It’s Microsoft. Their operating system populates about every single PC on the planet, and then some. People are using their applications (Outlook, Word, Powerpoint) like there is no tomorrow…. and they happen to have a phone operating system that is neat, fast, and fully integrated in the Microsoft ecosystem. One bummer: Microsoft has no clue how to sell phones abroad. They do not have the retail infrastructure, knowledge or distributor history to pull it off short notice. They do software very well, but apart from X-boxes, a lonely mouse and keyboard, their global box selling capabilities outside the US are fairly limited…

It’s Nokia. The older ones still can remember that Nokia made some of the very best phones ever. Only, lately their operating system got a bit old fashioned, and lost the burning competition with windows mobile, Android, RIM and Apple. But Nokia does know how to make and sell phones.  This is a company that started 160 years ago… as a paper mill! It moved into  rubber, built some darn good Zodiacs, sold floating devices, went into cables and electricity, employed Olympic wrestler Verner Weckman as CEO before getting some historic mobile phones on the shelves. Rambo would grunt that these people are survivors. Liquid adaptable.

With that handshake, Nokia finds direct access to one of the leading and most promising mobile OS systems, and a new go at conquering the US market. Microsoft sizes an opportunity to plant its OS slambam into the coming generation phones from a giant phone manufacturer. Through the deal, Microsoft can also tap directly into the well of Nokia-owned Navteq maps, adding state of the art location based capabilities directly into the ecosystem, and adding a great map and navigation partner to Bing.

You know what? I’ll think they’ll do fine 🙂

Beyond Apps: the ecosystem – the Battle of the Titans

Walking through the endless halls of the Mobile World Congress, you see mobile applications everywhere, ranging from e-health, over facial recognition, location based services and dating to picture apps, and apps juggling with a growing number of social communities.

One might even think it is all about the application. But, admit, that is exactly the same feeling you get while wandering through a supermarket where you have the impression that the battle for the planet is between a handful of price competing cornflakes-brands that struggle for your attention.

We all know the reality of life is that it’s not about the cornflakes. It’s about which supermarket will survive. So it’s safe to think it’s not about applications either.

The magic handshake between Steve Ballmer from Microsoft (clnt), and Stephen Elop from Nokia gives something away that has been preluding war since the dark ages: getting the right ally by your side before rallying the enemy.

The battle for the mobile consumer will not be a battle of devices, or a battle of applications, it will not even be a war of platforms. The very battle for the soul of the mobile consumer and world supremacy will be fought over the ecosystem.

Let’s face it. Heavy consumers do not care about the device as such. Heck, holding Android, Apple, RIM and Win7 together, you barely know what to choose. Same networks, same functionality… and more smartness and megapixels than we can ever use.

And applications? Steve Ballmer almost apologized for only having 8000 apps to choose from today. 8000… how many of those will make a real difference…. 100? It’s also a fact that most users do not even know or care about what operating system their mobile sidekick is packing. They know the brand. But is their HTC now running on Android, or Winmob7? Va savoir…

The consumers are simply looking for the best user experience. And most users like to stay in a trusty environment. So the ecosystem will be where the big players will battle for consumer loyalty; ecosystems, where the ease of use of functionality between the different devices in the consumers’ Personal Area Network will be key. Seamless interaction between mobile phones, tablets, laptops and more heavy desktops is increasingly important, and the ability to juggle data and documents between devices is what differentiates the experience most.

Apple has been working on its ecosystem for a while, HP (clnt) is back into the battle through the cloud-loving Palm OS system, and Android hopes that its open source approach and its mighty brotherhood with Google is the way to go. With Nokia and Microsoft Win7phones joining forces, the next generation of Nokia phones will be able to integrate the Microsoft ecosystem, with features that most users need every single day: like Sharepoint, Office (with Outlook) and the imminent Explorer9. Taking the great user experience of Windows7 PC’s to mobile devices might appeal to more consumers that Apple finds comfortable.

The battle of the ecosystems will be a battle of Giants. As long as user experience benefits from the effort…. I do not care who’s winning ;-).

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