Facebook’s App Center, Switzerland of Apps?

Facebook’s user volume presents so much opportunities, that a lot of them, perhaps even the Facebook staff or Zuckerberg himself haven’t discovered yet. One of these opportunities was app development and support. It has been done for quite some time now. However, Facebook had much more potential than that. It has now announced that it will become an App hub. This “App center” will be the app shopping mall to go to.

Fear not, Facebook is not in on it to become the new king and major competition to Apple, Google or any other app store out there. It rather is the place to go to no matter what device you have. Just like in a shopping mall you can find hundreds of different stores and brands, Facebook App Center will offer these options.

Once you enter the site, you can select the device you are handling and will automatically be redirected to its main app center; if you have an iPhone, you’ll be redirected to Apple’s App Store; if you have an Android device, you’ll be redirected to Android Market and so on. Not only is it a handier place to look for the latest trends and your favorite apps, but it is also a better place to compare prices (if any), ratings, quality and just how many people are actually using certain apps or not. It is a more critical, user friendly place in which you can better trust your friends’ judgement instead of the biased opinion of their developers.

Now, if Facebook’s App Center doesn’t charge users a penny extra, what does Facebook gain out of it? Just like regular Facebook apps like Farmville and the like, Facebook credits can come into play. Although this won’t mean an extra cost for users, it will mean a commission cut from manufacturers and developers. Impressive right? What will they think of monetizing next? Stay tuned.

What 1 Billion Represents for Instagram & Facebook

The number “One Billion” means two key things for both Instagram and Facebook. We’ve all seen how in the past days, a company that had no defined Business Model went from zero to a $1 Billion USD worth in under 18 months. This past sentence rises several questions, so let’s take one at a time.

  • How did Instagram survive 18 months without a monetized mobile business?
Instagram has had several rounds of funding that have fed the company and its multiple developments. This is the most basic piece of information according to Crunch Base. The company has had a rather small staff, and its product has been rather attractive to investors, SO MUCH that well, Facebook just bought it.
  • Why did Facebook pay $1 Billion dollars for a company that offers an entirely free service with no monetization?
After several valuations, the company has risen its value overtime. But it’s not just about what Instagram is worth alone, but how much Facebook can take advantage of. This price tag is really more about what Facebook can do with Instagram’s product. Although they have clarified that Instagram will remain as an independent app from Facebook, with separate functionality, Facebook is in for a gold mine of data.
To further grow its databases, Facebook can sell better advertisement placements and targeting with an expanded data base. Instagram can provide Facebook with particular tastes of niche users with very peculiar activities.
  • Where is Facebook standing in terms of number of users right now?

Facebook has 901 million users at the moment, with predictions of it reaching 1 billion users before the year ends. The largest social network is still at a growing stage definitely. More numbers, more power to them.

Overall, many have protested about Instagram’s purchase, threatening to close their accounts (or have closed them altogether). Which makes sense given that it’s human nature to reject change. However, Instagram also grew 40% in number of users in a period of 30 days, give or take. In any case, the world still spins, and two great companies now operate under the same umbrella.

Social Media vs Apps, or both?

We are living an era in which traditional media is not trusted nor is it profitable anymore. People don’t read the paper; they scan through their iPads or smartphones. People don’t watch TV, they watch TV shows or movies on multiple, Internet connected screens (although the movie theatre experience is a subject apart). People like to play and interact with their favorite brand, this cannot be done via traditional media.

For not so long now, people were starting to panic when they saw that their traditional marketing strategy was not delivering customers. “Is this company going down? Am I broke” many entrepreneurs might have thought. Those that were not early adopters or innovative minds, were being left behind on print.

It’s different today. Right now, log into your Facebook account, how many brands or companies have you “liked” on that network? How many of those have a Twitter account that you also follow? Even if companies and brands still publicize their product or service via traditional media, they’re using that to inform you that they have an app ready for you to use on your preferred device, or that they have a channel of communication in X social network.

Now, the question is, out of the new and innovative communication channels, who is winning the race: apps or social networks? Let’s break them down one by one.

Apps. They are everywhere. “There’s an app for that” started out as a joke, but now, it’s nothing but the truth. Anything you want to solve, you can do so via an app installed in your smartphone or any other smart device. Heck, my iPhone has apps I barely use but that have saved me from a lot of trouble. For instance, I installed the Flash Light app; yes, a flash light on mi iPhone! Spare time aside, there are plenty of useful interactive apps from famous brands that achieve direct access with their consumers.

Take Nike for example. They transformed the runner’s culture into a whole smart and connected community. You run, it syncs up with your favorite playlist, it tells you how many miles you ran, how many calories you burnt, etc. It changed the whole runners scheme. Sure, billboards and TV commercials are still up now and then, but this direct and customized experience cannot be achieved with traditional media.

Social Media. Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest are the most effective social networks. Let’s skip the ones we’ve already been familiarized with for quite some time now and focus on Pinterest. To be perfectly honest, at the beginning I didn’t give this network any faith. I wrongly thought it would be just like any other social network and their 15 minutes of fame. However, Pinterest has achieved in images what Twitter has in text. This image collection is so simple to use, that Tech Crunch has pronounced it the third most important social network (I believe the first two are obvious) in so little time.

Pinterest is really more about the branding connection it can offer to companies rather than any other strategy, but nowadays branding per se takes a large piece of the strategy pie.

Now, as an entrepreneur or strategist, which do you prefer? Apps or Social Networks? Why not have both?

TEDx Zapopan, Independently Organized

My dedication to watch TED talks started at an Innovation course when I was in college. The main idea behind these talks (even mentioned in their logo) is to share ideas worth spreading. All kinds of speakers with different backgrounds, topics and fields of study have spoken here. Anything from religion, to innovation; from ancient history to modern and advanced technology. The beauty of these talks is that it recognized work done by thousands of people around the globe.

Adalberto Flores - Director of Operations Ooyala Mexico

TED started out being specially organized conferences that had tremendous logistics and organization. However, many people around the world felt like they needed such an event to be close to them, to be hosted in their cities and countries. Thus, TED developed TEDx – Independently organized events.

Darius Lau - My Ex classmate and CISCO prize winner

One of my former teachers from college, Daniel Pandza, decided to go forth with this independent license here in Guadalajara (or Zapopan, the neighboring county). At first it seemed to be a longshot project. But like all things innovative, there was disbelief at the start and complete confidence in the end.

Jorge Sánchez - Agencia Espacial Mexicana

Finally, twenty speakers from all of Mexico were gathered under one roof at Tec de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara (my alma mater) to speak about their struggle in life, and how they followed their passion to become who they are now. Every speaker that went by just made the event more and more interesting. It was as if like the passion fever was spreading from one person to the next.

Rodo Padilla - Mexican Sculptor and Designer

The room was filled with an entrepreneurial audience (yours truly included). I met many of my old classmates (it was like a mini reunion after graduation), I met with other entrepreneurs from the area, and even former co-workers. All of them had but one thing in common, passion for what they do.

Patricia García Torres - Steinway Artist

Although the event started at a little past 5pm, I was there earlier to help out with the logistics and get a bit of an inside scoop behind the scenes. One by one, the speakers came in and were redirected to the make up room (yes, believe it or not, they also have their make up privileges). I spoke with a few of them and was amazed at their current projects (many of which were not exactly spoken about during their talks).

And so, the event was a complete success and ended until 10pm. An event that we usually saw in class through the Internet, one that seemed so far away, was finally here and I was part of it. Here are some of the speakers who were present at the conference, and you can watch the entire talk here. Cheers!

A little thing called Branch Out

A great number of people have (rightfully) said (in my opinion) that personal Facebook profiles should not be used for professional purposes. That’s why so many people have leveraged Linked in for their working lives. Both social networks are widely known, and have very different sets of tools that will help different purposes. However, there is little that Linked in can diversify on outside the professional realm; which makes it a highly specialized tool.

Facebook on the other hand, is mostly used for entertainment and personal social life. However, it is also the largest international database that holds the likes and dislikes, behavior, and demographic information that any company in the world would die for. So, of course fan pages had to be born. This however, is a consumer directed approach, companies stepping in to sell their product or service in a more socially friendly environment. This is very different from a consumer, or in this case, an individual to use their Facebook profile as their professional résumé.

It’s been said that companies do a background check on potential employees before hiring them. That includes Facebook, Twitter and of course Linked in. A very large number of people have sweat in the past because of their personal profiles on Facebook. Not because they’ve done something wrong, but because it is the place in which people just are who they are informally. Of course security enhancements have been brought to the network in which users can raise their level of privacy and block people whom they are not friends with.

This brings me to the new professional app & tool on Facebook: Branch Out. Of course, as any other app on Facebook, the user must allow it to use Facebook data in order to function. This would be like melting Linked in & Facebook together. All privacy settings that you may have, only work for external people (or existing contacts) not to see certain information. By allowing the app to connect to your personal profile, you are disabling these settings for the app to run properly (just in the app, the settings will continue to be how they are for the rest of the contacts in your list).

To be clear, this is my predisposed opinion of the app. However, many of my contacts have begun using the app. I would like to wait out and see just how effective it really is. I’m sure it will guarantee jobs to many of its users, but will it be better than Linked in? Will it have repercussions? We’ll see what the crowd’s wisdom says after a while of using it.

Global Start Up Fever

It’s been a while since Silicon Valley was the sole holder of the term “start up”. Every day more and more, the initiative is spreading across the globe, not only because it’s a catchy and trendy phrase, but because it has high impact results both locally and globally. Each country seems to have a concerned community of technological entrepreneurs that wish to make a difference, and yes… make money in the process (it is a business after all).

But more than just a small company, start ups are the new working scheme under which thousands of people prefer to work in. Why? Simply because start ups have come to redefine the workspace as a more humanitarian, social space to be in. The old model shows us that we are all set to have a set schedule (one that is almost a sin to break), a defined mechanical job, a cubicle, and no interaction with the outside world.

The new model, or the start up model, is one in which the workspace is more than just that, it’s a recreational spot. Studies have found that the mind can be much more productive when it feels happy, relaxed and interactive than if it just “thinks” for 8 straight hours with no way to blow steam off. Most start ups have the following within their compound:

  • Ping Pong table
  • TV with video games or DVD player
  • Walls that become white boards (get the idea out there)
  • No cubicles, only open work spaces
  • Fridges filled with goodies (the mind needs to be refreshed)

Those are the basic perks. But don’t get it wrong. This is not a little kid’s dream (although it might be at some point), it is the little details like these that make employees happy to get up every day to go to work and be productive. Why keep the same square model as before? Even high management would appreciate jolly employees.

As mentioned, this model is being adopted around the world. In Mexico for example, in the city of Guadalajara, events that encourage this type of business model are always present, like today’s iTuesday. An event in which entrepreneurs (local and global) gather around to talk business and discover new opportunities. Get out there and be happy to have a productive, interactive workplace instead of sitting down all day wanting to go home.

Squeezing out your iPhone

A friend of mine recently shared a post with me about the differences between our daily activities back in the 90’s and now. The post was a comic showing several activities like music listening, socializing, sending mail, and other things. Basically, the column on the right kept showing the same drawing for all of those activities, one of a person sitting with their laptops on their desks. It’s true, we can now virtually do most things without having to change position or even leaving the comfort of our homes (offices?).

However, as soon as I finished looking at the comic, I turned to my left and saw my iPhone. How many things have I used this little piece of machinery for? And so I started listing out all of them in my head:

  1. I keep all my social networks there. Thus I interact via my iPhone no matter where I am.
  2. I text message
  3. I use it as a regular phone
  4. I browse the web
  5. I scan documents and send them as attachments via email
  6. I manage three email accounts of mine
  7. I blog (very important)
  8. I play games
  9. I IM with friends, family and coworkers
  10. I use it as a camera

The truth is I could go on with this list forever. It’s not so much the actual gadget anymore, but the apps and the creativity of the people who create them that help the consumer define what they really want to do with their technological tool.

If someone had been worried about the low mobility that having to do everything from a single spot represented, they needn’t be so anymore. Our little phones are now getting empowered more and more every day to behave as super mini computers. If they go wherever we go, then we don’t have to worry about not being  able to complete tasks if we’re away from the mighty computer. The very concept behind the original Wii is now being perpetrated by the smartphone itself. To be technological, you don’t have to be sedentary. On the contrary, technology follows you.

So better yet, you get your entire world in your pocket. Of course, there’s still a long way to go. No matter how practical it may be and from how many so called “emergencies” might the smartphone save you from, the computer screen is still more comfortable to work on. However, it won’t be too long for someone to come up with a practical solution for this. Have you thought about all the things you’ve done with your phone so far? Some of them might be even unbelievable to some of us.

In the Land of Magazine Editing

There are plenty of things that can be said in writing, in fact, that is the only time machine we really have (although it only works when traveling to the past). Knowledge, theories, traditions and statements are passed down to us from generation to generation through writing even if we never met that person in real life.

Although today, words spread like fire across the world, there is a new problem that affects us all: clutter. Everyone has a different opinion of everything; even research finds itself to be contradicting from time to time. So how do you know what to take seriously and what to throw away? There is no formula. We’re all free to believe what we want to believe, the thing is, what happens when those beliefs start disagreements, wars even?

We can only trust people to be tolerant to different statements to their own. That’s the beauty of diversity. In my city, a city to be well known as an ever growing one and a friendly place to be in, there are still many factors that are cast aways or that are not paid enough attention.

Therefore, in the spirit of crowd journalism and that today, we all have the right and means to be one, a group of friends and myself have started off a small project. Little detail is what I can offer at the moment, for it’s still in the works. My experience as a writer has been (up until this moment) purely individual work, a very personal view of my surroundings. Perhaps group writing will result in something much more profitable (and no, I’m not just talking about money).

Anyway, our main goal is to bring those unexplored aspects of this city out into the open, those that portray innovation, technology and other things that you may already be taking for granted, yet aren’t fully aware of their importance in your every day life. Perhaps there are places (figurative and physical) right next to you, places you haven’t casted an eye on. Might be worth it, you never know.

The overall question is, will people pay attention anyway? Even if they do, in the slightest manner, I would consider our effort to be well reciprocated. Who knows? It might turn out to be forgotten in little time or it might actually make a tiny difference. We’ll see.

The Economic Machine Finally Flourishing

After entire eras of being blocked from the world with internal ideologies and economic systems, China started the greatest economic growth ever recorded in history. It wasn’t long ago when foreigners turned to look at the Red Dragon for business opportunities. Entire Western educational systems have been shaped around this focus. As more and more foreigners visited the country and many of them decided to call China “home”, there was a clear product consumption difference between locals and foreigners.

While foreigners looked for products that reminded them of home or were internationally trusted labels, locals remained with their traditions and seldom did they choose something else in lieu of. I myself witnessed such a consumer behavior. Even at restaurants, bars or night clubs; the places were full of foreigners and few Chinese citizens to be seen in those places. Perhaps it was I who unknowingly chose those places?

Well it turns out that after four years, my then-roommate went back for another visit to the Red Dragon. This curious division was at last forgotten about. Foreigners started consuming more and more local products, and locals were consuming more international brands in more public places. What made them change?

Although many can speculate the possible reason, perhaps it must have something to do with information consumption and locals’ economic growth. The more you get to know a product and inform yourself about it, the more likely you are to consume it. More importantly, if you have the purchasing power to feed on that curiosity, then the sky is the limit.

So the long standing and rapidly developing economic plans in China have been doing terrific good to its people. So much so, that not only is local consumption being more internationalized, but locals are spending their holidays in other countries. In fact, this 2012 is a marked trend that all major touristic places around the world will be receiving a large flock of Chinese tourism.

Despite the controversial website blockage in China, plenty of Internet development is still occurring. They might not approve of the Internet giants like Facebook, Twitter or Google, but it doesn’t mean they came up with their own versions of these services.

Other than individuals’ economic growth and local IT, what will China do next then? Where will their machine-like economic plan take them?