Archive for March 30, 2012

6 Ways Spotify Could Improve Its Mobile User Experience

Having used the service on my phone everyday for the last eight months, I’ve developed a list of things I wish it did better. None of these things is enough to cause me to think twice about my subscription, but when a mobile app is weaved this thoroughly into your day-to-day life, you tend to grow a little picky and particular about how it should work.

1. Improved Social Features

When it comes to social media integration, Spotify’s mobile app scrapes by on pretty much the bare minimum. You can share songs via Twitter and Facebook, and under the “Friends” tab, you can view playlists from your Facebook connections. That list includes everybody you know on Facebook who has signed up for Spotify, even if they aren’t active. As a result, I’ve got a lot of people in my “Friends” list with absolutely no music saved. This isn’t at all useful to me. Those people could be easily filtered out.

The potential here is practically limitless. Spotify’s Facebook integration presumably gives it access to data about which songs are shared most widely. Tapping into Twitter’s API could allow them to build a list of songs that are currently trending on Twitter, as well.

Spotify already has a list of your social connections, but they could be baked into the mobile experience a little more seamlessly. Music-sharing could be expanded beyond the usual players, as well. Social integration into music services isn’t necessarily a nut anybody has cracked yet (just ask Apple), but if anybody is well-positioned to do it, Spotify is.

2. Spotify Needs an iPad App

The iPhone app for Spotify works perfectly fine on the iPad, and doesn’t even look that bad when blown up to double its original size. But in this day and age, the tablet form factor calls for an application that takes true advantage of the screen real estate and user-interface possibilities.

MOG and Rdio, Spotify’s two chief competitors, both have iPad-specific apps and they both make effective use of the bigger screen. Rdio launched theirs a few weeks after Spotify launched in the U.S., and MOG just released an iPad app a few days ago.

Granted, streaming music is probably more suited to the smartphone experience, but at this point, enough people are using their iPads as a sort of impromptu radio at home to justify making the experience as enjoyable and tablet-appropriate as possible.

3. Make it Easier to Browse by Album

spotify-android-phones.jpgOne thing that’s always bugged me slightly about Spotify is its user interface is not very album-centric. New releases and search results are easily browsed by album cover, but one’s own collection is basically a gigantic list of songs. In fact, the library itself is just a series of playlists, which includes starred tracks, your inbox and local MP3s, as well as any other custom playlists you’ve created.

By comparison, when you’re browsing your music in Rdio’s mobile app, it feels a lot like the iTunes UI, in the sense that content is arranged by album. It’s a natural and intuitive way for music to be organized. As a result of the way Spotify is designed, I find myself using shuffle and playlists a lot more, rather than listening to albums from beginning to end.

4. Subway (or Airplane)-Friendly App Launching

This one might seem a little nit-picky, but the last time I was in New York, I rode the subway from Queens to Manhattan to attend a conference and made the mistake of not launching Spotify before the train went underground. What I didn’t realize was that the app needed to re-authenticate my log-in info before the service would work. Thus, I couldn’t listen to any music during my subway ride, since the app needed an Internet connection to hit Spotify’s servers and log me in, even if all of my music was cached locally.

Apparently, Spotify needs to log you in every time you launch the app. I’m sure there are legitimate technical and security-related purposes for this, but it’s inconvenient when you’re not able to get online, and all you want to do is access your local MP3s and cached songs.

The easy way around this would have been to launch the app before losing connectivity, but you’d think that an app designed to work offline wouldn’t have this weird little limitation.

5. When Will Those Third-Party Apps be Ready For Mobile?

One of the most exciting things about Spotify’s desktop client is the third-party app platform it launched in December. By mashing together Spotify’s API with other services, the platform opens up enormous new possibilities for the service.

Early partners include Pitchfork and Rolling Stone for audio-augmented album reviews, for music recommendations, Soundrop for group listening and MoodAgent for tonal analysis and song-matching based on the mood of a given track. And this is only the beginning. There are a number of other apps on the platform, presumably with more to come.

Naturally, Spotify can’t fit every third-party app into the limited real estate of its mobile applications. There are design, technical and, in some cases, legal issues to consider for each one. Presumably, the best of these apps will find their way to mobile platforms as quickly as is feasible.

6. Personalized Recommendations, Please

Another thing that Spotify does reasonably well in a desktop environment is offer personalized recommendations to music fans. Their integration does a great job of this, and other Echo Nest-powered features such as Spotify Radio could pose a legitimate challenge to services like Pandora.

The ability to stream songs based on an individual song or artist, as Pandora has done for years, could be a huge bonus for mobile users. Incorporating MoodAgent’s emotional analysis could play a key role here as well. Whether a user wants to discover new music based on their existing tastes or just isn’t entirely sure what they want to listen to at a given moment, a more serendipitous listening experience would be a worthwhile feature to have in a mobile context.

Personalized recommendations are relatively new to the Spotify desktop client, so we’re not surprised that it’s not available for mobile users yet. Like the third-party apps, it’s something that is presumably on its way.

Get the most byte for your buck: Who has the best 3G/4G plan?

In the last year, there have been a lot of changes in the way that mobile operators charge for 3G/4G data: more operators have dropped unlimited plans, revamped their pricing structures and introduced new tiers for tablets and mobile hotspots. So at GigaOM, we figured it was time we updated you on just what the Big Four nationwide operators are charging for a gigabyte these days. It’s certainly very different from what they charged three years ago, when the unlimited plan still ruled.

For this post, I’m just tackling the Big 4, exploring the price-per-gygabyte differences between their most common mid-tier smartphone and tablet/modem plans. I should point out there are several other regional carriers, like MetroPCS, and innovative new virtual operators, such as Republic Wireless, that are overturning the norms of mobile data pricing. But I’ll get to them a separate post. Like it or not, Verizon(vod), ATT, Sprint and T-Mobile are the operators the overwhelming majority of us look to for mobile services.


All of the operators offer a myriad of data plans at different price points and megabyte allotments, but for the purposes of this post we identified each of the carrier’s $30 plans (which in some cases required ferreting out the data portion of their bundles). The idea here is to show who offers the most bang for your buck in what we consider a reasonable mid-tier plan. Keep in mind, though, that some of the big bucket plans are only a deal if you really use them. If you’re like most U.S. smartphone users you probably consume less than 1 GB a month.

  • Sprint Unlimited (The name says it all): Sprint is the last major operator to offer truly unlimited smartphone access without throttling to its 3G EV-DO and 4G WiMAX network (where it’s available). Also, you can’t use your phone as a hotspot unless you sign up for an additional $30 upgrade, which caps tethered data at 5 GB ($6/GB).
  • T-Mobile Classic 5 GB ($6/GB): T-Mobile calls all its plans unlimited, but it throttles back speeds once you hit your monthly cap on its HSPA+ network. That doesn’t mean it’s not the next biggest bargain after Sprint (though Classic plan prices are set to increase). But T-Mo is also on oddball since it has separate pricing structures depending on whether you opt for a subsidized device. If you bring you own device or buy your phone upfront, you can take advantage of a T-Mobile Value plan and save $5 off the normally $30 plan price, which adds up to $5/GB. All of T-Mobile’s upper tier plans also allow you to use your phone as a hotspot at no extra charge, so if you tether your phone you stand a pretty good chance of actually using up your 5 gigs.
  • ATT DataPro 3GB ($10/GB): ATT recently hiked prices for new customers on its HSPA and LTE networks, but in the process it drove down the cost it charges for a megabyte. The end result is new customers pay a $5 premium over the old $25 plan, but they get an extra gig. That works out to be a savings of $2.50/GB. ATT is still much pricier than Sprint and T-Mobile, and it doesn’t allow you to use personal hotspot features unless you upgrade to the $50 tier.
  • Verizon Data for Smartphones: 2 GB ($15/GB): Verizon Wireless is by far the most expensive mobile data provider, though when you get into the elevated tiers it does cut you some slack.. If you’re willing to commit to 10 GBs a month, you pay $8/GB, and it charges for overages at $10/GB. To use your phone as a hotspot you need to buy an additional 2 GB for $20. Verizon has always taken a get-what-you-pay-for attitude. It may be expensive, but it has both the most extensive 3G and LTE networks.

Tablets and mobile broadband

The smartphone rankings practically invert when it comes to tablet and modem pricing. It’s worth noting that with tablets and hotspots, the differences in data buckets really matter to the average users. While it might be hard to eat up multiple gigabytes on a smartphone, it’s actually quite easy on an iPad. We aimed for the $30/month mark here as well, but not every operator has a plan at that price point. So instead we took the closest plan to $30 each offers and calculated the cost per gigabyte.

  • ATT Data Connect for Tablets ($10/GB): ATT has a bunch of different types of plans for its non-smartphone devices but once you get to the $30 tier they pretty much work out to $10/GB (including overages). The exception is if you buy a subsidized Android tablet on contract, where a 3 GB plans costs $35. Also, if you sign up for a laptop, hotspot or dongle plan, your minimum commitment is $50 for 5 GB.
  • Sprint Mobile Broadband ($11.67/GB):  Sprint stopped selling unlimited data plans for everything but smartphones last October, and the data tiers that replaced unlimited aren’t very exciting. It’s closest tier to $30 a month is $35 plan with 3 GB of data for tablet and hotspot plans. What’s more Sprint charges some pretty punitive rates for overages: 5 cents a megabyte, which works out to be an extraordinary $50/GB.
  • Verizon Mobile Broadband ($15/GB): If anything Verizon is consistent. It charges the same data rates and overage fees for smartphones, tablets or modems, as well as for contract and prepaid services. The pricing here is for the standard $30/2 GB tablet data pricing plan, but if you opt for a subsidized hotspot of dongle the minimum charge is $50 for 5 GB.
  • T-Mobile Mobile Broadband ($20/GB): T-Mobile’s progressive data pricing in smartphones becomes awfully regressive when you get to tablet and modem plans. Its cheapest $40 tier gives you a only 2 GB of unthrottled data. If you go for the unsubsidized device or bring your own tablet,  prices drop by $10 ($15/GB), but that’s still hardly the deal of its smartphone plans.

Sale image courtesy of Flickr User Peter Kaminski

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

The unstoppable Angry Birds Space hits 20 million downloads in first week

Just four days ago we let you know that Rovio’s Angry Birds Space edition hit ten million downloads. Just four days later the company has announced that the app has hit twenty million downloads across all platforms. It’s unknown what the ratio between paid and free versions are, but it’s still impressive.

What’s more impressive is that the company is giving us updates on its progress every few days, as if we didn’t know that the game was unstoppable already. I don’t blame them though, I’d be pretty stoked too:

Even though we don’t know how many of those downloads are paid for, we do know that the app still sits on top of the list on Apple’s App Store for top grossing. After just a few days it knocked out OMGPOP’s Zynga’s Draw Something from number one.

I’m not sure if we’ve ever seen this much fanfare when it comes to a game since the days of Nintendo’s Mario Brothers. It seems that each installment of the game does better than the last.

As with most popular games these days, the key appears to be the massive distribution that the Rovio games have set up for itself. There aren’t many platforms that don’t have a version of an Angry Birds game, even including promotional tie-ins with Microsoft’s Bing.

One thing’s for sure, if Rovio ever creates another series of games again, there were quite a few before Angry Birds that didn’t do as well obviously, companies like Zynga are in for a world of hurt.

Yahoo To Begin Firing Thousands Next Week (YHOO)

scott thompson yahoo

Flickr/Yodel Anecdotal

Yahoo layoffs start next week, Kara Swisher says.

She says the ultimate goal is for “thousands” of people in product, research and marketing to be let go.

The cuts won’t all come at once.

The vision is for “a drastically slimmed-down organization with a focus on media, advertising and new but unclear “future” initiatives.”

Ross Levinsohn is expected to run Yahoo’s media business. 

Product boss Blake Irving’s future is uncertain, says Kara.

Kara has lots of details

Microsoft may be set to combat piracy with special Chinese edition of Windows 8

This is quite interesting. In a potential bid to combat piracy, Microsoft is said to be building a specific Windows 8 SKU, or build, for the Chinese market. This edition of Windows 8 will likely, if built, be cheaper than other versions of the operating system, making it more generally affordable.

That affordability is Microsoft’s tool to attack rampant piracy in the country. Precautions will be taken to ensure that the special build is only used in China, NeoWin reports: “The SKU can apparently be installed only with a Chinese ISO. The article adds that if you try to do so with an English ISO, a Blue Screen of Death alert appears with the error message ‘Bad MUI’.”

This idea, building a lightweight and cheap version of its flagship software, is not new for Microsoft. The company is preparing Tango, an update to Windows Phone that will allow for lower priced handsets, as the software is being stripped down to support them. Microsoft hopes that low price will entice new customers. In both cases, Microsoft is targeting developing markets with specially designed, and priced products; one size fits all this is not.

Putting aside what piracy is (a service problem), Microsoft appears to understand that if it can find the right price point, it can change the way the Chinese computing market functions. Generally, SKUs annoy me, when it comes to Windows; do we really need Home Basic, and Home Premium? However, in this case, if Microsoft does release the build, it will be to make the product simply more accessible. It’s hard to get mad about that.

You can find all our Windows 8 coverage here.

YouTube Slam now lets you create your own video duels

YouTube now lets you create your own video Slams, Google’s video platform announced on its blog today.

Before you rush on it, it’s worth mentioning that you need at least one channel or playlist for the feature to work properly:

youtube slam no channel 520x58 YouTube Slam now lets you create your own video duels

Here are the steps to follow to create a Slam:

  1. Make a playlist with the videos you want to include in the Slam (you’ll need at least two videos and they have to be public), or choose a playlist you have already
  2. Go to
  3. Click the “Create Slam” button next to one of your playlists.

In the example below, you can see the results with my personal selection of Faireset videos (in French):

youtube slam 520x272 YouTube Slam now lets you create your own video duels

As you can see, a Slam is actually a video “battle”, where you can vote for your favorite video. The feature itself isn’t entirely new, and YouTube had been experimenting this idea for a few months. However, what’s interesting is that you can now manage the game yourself, by handpicking the videos that will be included.

Once you’re done curating your game, you can play it solo and earn points by predicting the crowd favorites. Yet, it will probably be funnier to share the link with your friends or play together in a Google+ Hangout, as YouTube suggests.

slam leaderboards YouTube Slam now lets you create your own video duels

If you are uninspired, you can also decide to subscribe to pre-selected Slam leaderboards, which can help you find the cutest or the weirdest videos, among other categories.

From Google’s perspective, Slams are also a good way to unveil and promote the most popular videos on its platform.

➤ YouTube Slam

Here Are 11 Desperate Companies That Might Buy RIM (RIMM, GOOG, HPQ, DELL)

jim balsillie rim


Gone, but not forgotten.

See Also

Ignition West Deck

foxconn factory

Jim Balsillie

After RIM’s latest train-wreck of a quarter, the clobbered BlackBerry-maker has announced that it is “exploring strategic options.”

That’s code for “We’re desperately trying to sell ourselves.”

And that’s a good plan.

At this point, there’s almost no foreseeable way for RIM to make a comeback. Their products have been leap-frogged by Apple and Google, they have a small and shrinking proprietary platform (operating system), and the distinction between the “enterprise market”–RIM’s former stronghold–and the “consumer market” is disappearing.

So, the questions are…

Who might want to buy RIM?

What might they be willing to pay for it?

Let’s take the “who” question first. We’ll come back to the “how much” later.

Here are 7 companies that might want to buy RIM. There are several others that might be dumb bold enough t do it, but these are some that leap to mind.

Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola (Google), or Nokia: All of these smartphone makers are struggling for dominance in a fragmented market with low profit margins. In markets with low profit margins, especially “platform” markets like smartphones, market-share is a competitive advantage. All of these companies might look at RIM’s meaningful but dwindling share of the global smartphone market and conclude that it made sense to own.

Microsoft: Microsoft is about to throw a Hail Mary pass in the mobile market in the form of the new Windows Phone 7. Microsoft is nowhere in mobile. Owning RIM would not give Microsoft a commanding position in the market, by any means, but it would put it somewhere in the market. Also, RIM is strong in the enterprise, which is where Microsoft is strong. The combination of Microsoft and RIM might be able to argue persuasively that they’re a better choice for corporations than Apple or Android.

Facebook. Go ahead and laugh. Facebook’s working on its own Facebook phone. It needs this because Apple and Google currently control the gateways with which hundreds of millions (soon to be billions) of Internet users will access Facebook. Facebook is also about to have a market capitalization of ~$100 billion. Facebook might conclude that RIM’s expertise and distribution would be nice things to own.

Amazon.  Amazon already makes its own tablet–the Kindle Fire. Lots of people think Amazon will soon make its own smartphones. Amazon doesn’t care about building the state-of-the-art tablets. It just wants to make affordable tablets and smartphones aimed at the mass consumer market, gadgets that consumers can use to buy stuff from Amazon. Like any other acquirer, Amazon might want to blow up RIM’s proprietary platform and replace it with Android or Windows, but RIM’s gadget expertise and distribution expertise might be helpful.

Dell, HP, Acer, and other PC manufacturers who are getting absolutely clobbered because they’re not making hit smartphones and tablets. All of these companies might view RIM as a way of leap-frogging into these businesses.

Intel. Intel has announced that it is going to make smartphones (in fact, it has already made some). Intel has pots and pots of cash and is hunting around for things to spend it on. We think Intel would be nuts to go into the making-smartphones-and-tablets business, but Intel apparently doesn’t think so. So Intel might also buy RIM.

So that’s 11 companies that might want to buy RIM.

And there are two other reasons why these companies (and others) might want to buy RIM.

First, RIM owns patents. Patents are being viewed as valuable these days. And patents are especially useful and valuable in the mobile market right now, if only as a way to extort money out of your competitors. One of the big non-Apple smartphone vendors might like to own those patents.

Second, RIM has $2 billion of cash and is still highly profitable. Yes, RIM’s business will continue to crater, but it will be a long time before RIM stops generating cash. In fact, in the last quarter, RIM generated more than $600 million of cash.  If someone bought RIM and stopped some of the dumb investments the company is probably making, it could presumably wring a ton of cash out of the company before it collapses. So there’s even a financial reason to own it.

So, we imagine that the bankers helping RIM “explore strategic alternatives” will have lots of folks interested in seeing the pitch-book. And the threat that a competitor will buy it will probably goad lots of these folks to actually consider doing it.

SEE ALSO: Jay Yarow Doesn’t Think Anyone Should Buy RIM

How To Create Reminder Lists With Siri (AAPL)

As we have shown you before, Siri can do a lot of cool things and become a very useful tool for you if you fully understand all of her capabilities. For example, if you need to make a quick list of things you need to remember, such as items to pick up from the grocery store, you can use Siri to do that. Check out the demonstration below.


amp;amp;lt;object classid=”clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000″ id=”ooyalaPlayer_2qvij_h0ba4bm6″ width=”618″ height=”348″ codebase=””amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;param name=”movie” value=”;amp;amp;version=2″ /amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;param name=”bgcolor” value=”#000000″ /amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always” /amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;param name=”flashvars” value=”embedType=noscriptObjectTagamp;amp;amp;embedCode=9ubm45NDoqMBCwYqFCSVJb_kCt_SN8gEamp;amp;amp;videoPcode=BhdmY6l9g002rBhQ6aEBZiheacDu” /amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;embed src=”;amp;amp;version=2″ bgcolor=”#000000″ width=”618″ height=”348″ name=”ooyalaPlayer_2qvij_h0ba4bm6″ align=”middle” play=”true” loop=”false” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” flashvars=”amp;amp;amp;embedCode=9ubm45NDoqMBCwYqFCSVJb_kCt_SN8gEamp;amp;amp;videoPcode=BhdmY6l9g002rBhQ6aEBZiheacDu” pluginspage=””amp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;/embedamp;amp;gt;amp;amp;lt;/objectamp;amp;gt;

Produced by Daniel Goodman

Don’t Miss:

How To Use Siri To Solve Math Problems

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide To Pinterest

Become Your Own Techmeme: Curating Big Data in the Cloud

One of Flow’s clients, Alterman tells us, is a Fortune 15 company. (No, there’s not a missing digit.) It has a customer base of 75,000, and currently the complaints system made available to them is a form on a Web page. The complaints are amassed every 72 hours or so, and a report is generated and sent to a representative via email.

For this company, Flow Platform enables the engineering of a kind of automated information stream called, easily enough, a flow. A content item may be directly attached to this flow by way of what’s called a drop. Or, content from Web pages (including, for instance, the complaints data form) may be made to stream into the flow. Rules may be generated where specific fields (customer’s name, location, product serial number, etc.) are translated into the flow. Filters may be employed to determine whether the complaint is on account of a damaged shipment, a faulty shipment or a bad experience with the salesperson. “You can actually ask questions,” Alterman says. “Compare that to a product like Yammer or Chatter, where you really don’t have any structure in the stream.”

A notice from a customer for a damaged shipment can be routed to a stream directed immediately to the fulfillment department and the salesperson assigned to that customer, who then views that stream the same way they would anyone’s Twitter stream. A rule may be created where orders over a particular dollar amount may be directed in a stream to the CFO. Another rule could have the marketing team’s stream be updated whenever there’s a request for materials.

“So the idea of thinking of the flow in the enterprise as real-time routing of information, begins to give you an idea of how the workflow of a company can be improved in a highly contextual way,” Flow’s CEO explains.

What’s more, Flow Platform can be leveraged by that same Fortune 15 company to cultivate a content channel for its customers, including those who’ve posted complaints – “a flow that gets routed to your customers based on what they care about.” Up until now, Flow’s Fortune 15 client had been communicating with all its customers as a mass, by means of a handmade newsletter. “Once you set this up,” he says, “you have a publishing system that allows you to contextually reach all your customers with new information, new products, new regulations, best practices… Whether your customers are talking to you or you’re talking to your customers, [you have] information flow, and some intelligence to the way that information flows, instead of manually creating spreadsheets and documents and emails that have no way of routing intelligently, and that in no way scales when you don’t have the staff to do it.”

The tool Alterman demonstrated for us is not the Flow Platform itself, but rather a tool for using resources that is made available to all levels of users of the Flow Platform. “Even if I’m not a person who wants to curate or do anything fancy, every employee wants to tune into the flow that matters to them, my customer flow. I’m on a product team; we have a new product initiative. Show me the flow of all the different ideas, or maybe the roadmap, or maybe some other collection of information about what we’re working on.”

The Platform upon which this Flow tool is deployed is a kind of IaaS service, through which information from multiple sources may be channeled, directed and filtered. It’s through this streaming, like the creative hydromodification of a river, that the Flow company generates the power for its business model.

The output from this filtering tool may be directed to users like a cultivated stream. Here, using an example set of flow production rules on Alterman’s own account, is a stream of categorized information reconstituted into a simple Web page, in a format that may be published to an individual user. Alternately, the Platform may produce an RSS stream or simple HTML that may be laid out with a CSS stylesheet.

The tools Flow’s customers use are like this one, though modifiable by developers using the Platform’s Sandbox, depicted above. Here, developers may craft specific queries of the source data and try them out live in a safe, sterile environment.

But the cultivation process need not look so much like software development. Alterman took us through the process of making a new flow by way of his customized tool (which, by the way, is one he uses personally every day). It’s a wizard-like process that guides the user through the selection of known sources (including a personal favorite of mine). Later, if the tool detects the presence of a real database instead of just a Web page – a resource that contains records, usually as indicated by the presence of a form – you can select which fields are to be filtered and added to the flow.

120328 Flow Platform test 08.jpg

The final step in the process is to set policies for authenticated users. It’s this part that determines whether the publication of the flow is public or private, and if it’s the latter, who has control over the flow’s content. “As I create these different streams, I’ll provision only the right people to see them,” Alterman explains. He perceives the role of flow controller – of curator of the data that flows to and through an organization – as attaining executive status.

“I’d call that person the ‘Chief Content Officer,’” he says. “We believe that’s the next most important position in the enterprise.”

Google: AppEngine is here to stay

Software developers in search of a platform still wonder whether Google is serious about Google AppEngine. As in serious enough not to pull the plug on the platform as a service in six months, next year, or the year after.

Google’s problem is that many developers simply think GAE and other development tools are a sideline to Google’s advertising-fueled search engine and are thus expendable in the fluctuating line of services that Google launches, tests and either keeps or discards. That’s why Google, despite its formidable infrastructure, doesn’t get much respect from developers.

Greg D’Alesandre, AppEngine product manager, understands their angst, since he worked on Google Wave, the collaboration service launched with fanfare in 2009 and folded the following year.  He acknowledged that Google sometimes launches services before a business model is cooked.

But, he insists that Google AppEngine is different. “We have support all the way up to Larry [Page, Google CEO]. AppEngine is here to stay, there is  no plan to re-evaluate. We are sticking around, increasing the investment,” D’Alesandre said in an interview on Thursday. “AppEngine is no longer a beta or a preview product.”

Doubt about Google’s focus

Those words may reassure current GAE users but the lingering perception that third-party developers are not really a priority for Google was fed by a recent blog post by James Whitaker. He was a Google tech evangelist and engineering director, who returned to Microsoft because he felt Google had lost its tech edge. Whitaker’s bottom line:

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

D’Alesandre would not comment on that personnel move but reiterated that Google is fully behind developers.  Current GAE developers fall into three categories — mobile developers like Pulse; consumer web applications; and internal business applications “like Lotus Notes,” he said.

Other applications running on GAE are Webfilings, Best Buy’s Giftag gift registry, parts of Evite, and Cloudlock.

Victor Sanchez, CEO of, a Madrid-based online collaboration and video conferencing service, does not have to be sold.

Sanchez went with GAE because it takes care of all the infrastructural heavy lifting. “Google is my sysadmin. I cannot say how big this is for us as a startup,” he said via email. Although the team is very technical, they wanted to focus entirely on product development, not plumbing and plumbing management.

Second, Google has made progress with its platform support and now offers attractive  service level agreements, in his view.  The adoption of those SLAs convinced Sanchez that Google was serious about GAE.

His platform choice was influenced by bad experiences with Amazon. When his last company experienced an EC2 bug, it took Amazon five days to respond while Google responds within two or three hours if he has an issue. Then, if the problem persists, they call. That is “really hard to beat,” he said.

What developers want: consistency, no surprises

He and others acknowledged that Google shot itself in the foot when it raised GAE prices last year, sparking outrage among some GAE shops. But Jeff Bayer, backend systems engineer for, said Google worked with his company to tune its  workloads and mitigate the impact of the changes. And some maintained at the time, that the fact that Google is pricing GAE as a bona fide business platform, means GAE really is a business. 

Still, Google needs to bring more developers aboard, and to do that it must persuade them that developers can rely on GAE and related services well into the future as well as provide a consistent, predictable roadmap with no more unpleasant pricing surprises .

Toward that end, developers would like to see Page, who assumed the CEO title last year, make an appearance at the Google I/O conference in June. The presence of Google’s top exec at its developer-focused event could go a long way to show that Google really is all-in with developers. A Google spokeswoman would not comment on the speaker lineup for the show.

Say what you will about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: He has always been clear that developers are absolutely critical to Microsoft. Page needs to convince them that they are also crucial to Google.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Spencer E Holtaway

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

Plugin from the creators ofBrindes Personalizados :: More at PlulzWordpress Plugins