Daily Archives: June 25, 2006

Google Preparing to Launch Writely-Based Service?

If Garrett Rogers of ZDNet is correct, Google is preparing to launch a word-processing service based on its acquisition of Upstartle and its Writely service earlier this year.

In the foreseeable future, Google probably will have an Office-like suite of services that it will make available to both consumers and businesses. It already has a spreadsheet service in beta testing, and several PowerPoint-like business-presentation applications are being developed and refined. There’s a slew of wiki-based collaborative application services on the Web, too. The problem of offline use remains an impediment to the Web-based personal-productivity suite, but solutions to that problem — based on based Flash or Java, for example — are being proposed and developed, as well.

Too much of what is blithely billed as Web 2.0 is nothing but shameless hype, programmer canoodling, or conniving hucksterism aimed at separating nostalgic VCs from their money (which is not really their money, but I digress). Nonetheless, the Web is becoming more interactive as a result of Ajax and other programming tools, and there are real business benefits, practical advantages, and a certain symmetry that can be derived from to using the browser as a universal desktop.

It will be interesting to see how Google and others build out their application-service portfolios. I’m sure the folks up in Redmond are paying close attention.

Will Nokia’s Storefront Retailing Work?

Shoppers apparently flocked to the opening of Nokia’s first US flagship store in downtown Chicago, just down the street from a temporary retail store Motorola set up to showcase its email-capable “Q” smartphone.

The stylishly appointed Chicago retail outlet is the first of four flagship stores that Nokia — the world’s largest mobile-phone maker, but second to Motorola in the US market — plans to open in the North American market. Nokia launched its first flagship store in Moscow in December last year, and plans to open 18 stores worldwide in the next two years.

Nokia says the flagship stores are aimed at giving the company total control of brand presentation. With the company-owned stores, Nokia makes “the ultimate presentation of our brand,” according to a corporate spokesman quoted in a story that appeared over the weekend in the Chicago Tribune.

Does that mean the wireless service providers, who also sell Nokia phones as well as accompanying service plans, don’t do a good job presenting the Nokia brand? Yes, most certainly.

Service providers are in the business of putting their own brands front and center, and subsuming the brands of handset vendors to their own marketing programs and strategic machinations. For carriers, it’s all about seeming more creative, innovative, and valuable than they are in reality. They have to create an illusion that they’re doing more than running a transport network with associating logistics and billing systems.

Even so, wireless carriers have their aspirations, which some might call delusions, and they might be upset that Nokia is selling their own phones and sending an underlying message — cutting-edge phones are sexy, networks are just plumbing — that undercuts the value proposition that service providers are attempting to market and sell.

Nokia says it’s not a problem, that there’s no conflict, that it will also help the service providers by offering relevant service plans along with the phones. Service providers are control freaks, though, and they won’t like Nokia’s retail gambit.

The wireless carriers are as much problem for Nokia as vice versa. Nokia is attempting to control its brand, but wireless service providers, with their walled gardens and presentation-layer transcoding, can significantly influence the ultimate customer experience of the subscribers who pay for privilege of shunting voice and data packets across their networks — irrespective of whether they’re using Nokia’s phones or other handset brands.

So, even though it’s clear Nokia wants to replicate the fashionable, high-gloss, upscale marketing brand that Apple was able to attain in the world of personal computing, I don’t think Nokia is as favorably positioned to pull it off. The oligopolistic wireless carriers control too much of the mobile experience, from closed technical standards to proprietary content, and Nokia’s branding exercise won’t change that.

From those of you who might be wondering, Nokia says it didn’t choose Chicago as its first US retail center to take a shot at hometown heroes Motorola. Evidently, the Chicago real estate simply was available before suitable property in New York could be found. That’s the story, anyway.

Dell Investigating Exploding Laptop

Dell Inc. has acknowledged that the laptop computer that exploded in flames at a conference in Japan was indeed one of its products. The tale of the exploding laptop was originally disclosed last week by British technology-news site The Inquirer.

Dell wants everybody to know it is on the case. Said a Dell spokesman:

“We’re aware of it, and we’re digging into the details. There’s an investigation going on right now. When something like this happens, we want to know why.”

Microsoft Invokes Cone of Silence on Taylor Affair

Microsoft has activated the cone of silence regarding the departure of Martin Taylor. The company, clearly caught off guard by the circumstances that resulted in Taylor’s departure, has regained its typical corporate composure, closing ranks and enforcing its customary communications discipline.

Leaks do not appear to be forthcoming, and the trade press has lost interest in the story. It’s unlikely that the details of Taylor’s parting with Microsoft will ever be known.

I know many of you are following this story, however, so if anything does come to light, I’ll let you know.