October 12, 2007

Los Angeles Tech Events

The LA tech community has been working on putting together various events such as Twiistup and Lunch 2.0.

Today, YellowBot is hosting Lunch 2.0.

Vani & Ask, after getting the idea from Erik and Chad, started a new blog to talk specifically about Los Angeles tech events.

I also created a public Google Calendar that you can subscribe to in order to track these events and have added all for them as publishers to that calendar:

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October 3, 2007

The Future of Maps: 3D Immersion

Techcrunch points out Earthmine, a sort of Google Streetview but with tagging, higher resolution photos, and more details.

[I]magine you’re a restaurant owner who wants to entice potential customers by tagging the outside of your diner within a 3D panorama with menu information and digital coupons.

What this all means is that Earthmine’s system can keep track of the objects found in the real world and attribute information to each of them (a process known as “asset mapping?).

There seems to be a growing number of companies in this arena. I’ve emailed/talked briefly with Danny Moon of UpNext, Jeff Brandes of Everyscape, and others. I really like what these sites are doing and what they are planning to do. More to come when I can talk about it some more. ;-)

The interface definitely has a coolness factor. However, finding the information you are looking for still needs some work. I imagine some sort of combination between traditional local search and these 3D immersive technologies may lead to a useful product…so it was no suprise to me when Google came out with their Street View product (and what also fuels the speculation that they could build a Second Life competitor). Blending online and offline will lead to a better product. Whether you sue this immersive map, mobile phones with GPS integrated with maps, or even QR Codes that you can take a picture of with your mobile phone and be automatically taken to an appropriate website, menu (if it is a restaurant), or map (for example).

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October 2, 2007

Yahoo Adds Local OneBox

Yahoo has announced that they have added and improved their one box (a “box” at the top with some quick answers to search queries):

Whatever it is you want to do: research a topic, find a website, plan a vacation, research a medical condition, view a funny video, or any of the other billions of queries we get from users — their intents expressed via a few keywords in a search box.

Search Engine Journal notes that this has been applied to Local results but seems to be heavily weighted towards hotels & restaurants which are often the top categories searched for (and reviewed, and …).

The most influential and useful Yahoo Shortcuts seem to revolve around the travel and hospitality industries in terms of Hotels and Restaurants. These Shortcuts emphasize the user generated content, the true power of the Yahoo Network’s Local Search, in user reviews and ratings.

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Google Ends Immersive Media Relationship and Talks of Future

Immersive Media announced that their deal with Google for StreetView has terminated. Once can only speculate on who terminated and why or why Google decided not to acquire them. Google has had their fleet of StreetView cars spotted on their lot and IM says they’ve sent them out. They’ve been doing their own collecting while simultaneously using IM for a while now.

Why would Google build its own fleet to begin with? The press release mentions that their content licensing deal has ended. If Google was licensing the technology, they could own the content but the press release indicates they are licensing the content so IM would own those photos. Could this mean that the licensing terms were too restrictive? When I was a SES in San Jose this year, I went to the Google Dance on the Google Campus and the engineer working on the StreetView project (he was in charge of the pictures, not the programming) said they were planning to bring those photos into the API so people could use them for their mashups. I already have noticed that a lot of features and data that exist on their site are not in the API because of other licensing issues. Could this have been one of the issues? Or is it that Google wanted to ramp up quickly and do this in such a large volume that IM could not handle that sort of demand in a short period of time…so Google would build its own fleet and, once completed and large enough, they would not need IM anymore? Well, we won’t know for sure until someone says more.

Meanwhile, at SMX Local & Mobile, Michael Jones, Chief Technologist for Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Local gave a keynote where he speaks a bit about the future direction of their products and the industry. Some take-aways include:

  • Google strives to be a local searcher’s concierge (as in a concierge that helps you at a hotel or elsewhere)
  • Theirs other data out there that must be mapped into local (the ones he mentions such as traffic, reviews, etc are no-brainers and they’re already happening…what is up Google’s sleeve??) and using all that info to “geographically organize the world’s information”
  • Google knows they have a lot of work to do to improve their product
  • Crowdsourcing is a way to collect info and improve data (perhaps a way to internalize the risk of external contracts)
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October 1, 2007

Nokia Agrees to Acquire Navteq for $8.1 Billion

Nokia, the largest mobile phone manufacturer has been working on trying to acquire Navteq for along time now but there are now published reports that both sides have agreed on terms.

Nokia said in August it will assemble all its Internet services under the “Ovi” brand, which means “door” in Finnish. Ovi will include Nokia Music Store, N-Gage games and Nokia Maps, and more Internet services will be added.

Nokia’s music store, coupled with devices that can download songs directly from the service, will make the Finnish company a competitor to Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

Last month Nokia agreed to buy Boston-based marketing company Enpocket to add technology for placing advertisements through text messages and e-mail. The mobile advertising market is dominated by Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. Global sales are estimated to rise to $11.4 billion by 2011 from $2.17 billion currently, according to Informa Telecoms & Media Group.

One of the new units will be called services and software as the company aims to capture more revenue outside traditional handset and network sales.

Sounds like a play to become a more services-oriented company and rely less on phone hardware sales for revenue. They will sell services and possibly provide content and monetize it with ads. With maps, a music store, and more around the corner, it seems possible that they would go after the iPhone knowing very well it would increase sales of their phones (not to mention concern over maintaining their own marketshare with the iPhone going international and rumors of Google’s GPhone popping up regularly).

What does this mean to new competitors?

…here’s the rub: Garmin last quarter was one of two 10% customers of Navteq; the other was BMW. If Nokia, through its phones, becomes a competitor to Garmin, does Garmin shift to a Navteq competitior (not good for Nokia) or does Garmin team up with Nokia/Navteq to somehow capitalize on the cell phone/navigation phenomenon?

Nokia claims it will continue to support the Navteq customers…but for how long?

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