Montag, 19. Dezember 2011

IM+ meets Angry Birds, adding Beep to replace SMS and MMS

There are times to speak and times to be silent.
Today is gonna be a beautiful day. A dream is coming true, the new IM+ unites all messaging in one app.
On top of this, free and magic Angry Birds theme for iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch makes messaging more game-like.
6.1 trillion SMS were sent in 2010, a long way to go, to replace them all with free messages. My season wishes for 2011-2012 New Year eve: freedom for people and messaging.

Mittwoch, 2. November 2011

Scary

I'm in the Third World.
No power, it's cold
In my house.
Darkness.
Electrical wires
Down on streets and trees.
Why are they not underground?
Frosty, dangerous place for kids.
I'm in New Jersey, US.

Donnerstag, 15. September 2011

Venture capital mafia

As we are looking for additional capital to secure our new IM+ related project, yesterday I visited a bank in Manhattan. Namely, the Silicon Valley Bank, recommended by a good friend of mine.
SVB guys were very friendly to me. I learned that the best way to get a credit at SVB is to be a VC-funded company. What?! So, the trick is not to be profitable or to have millions of users like we at Shape but much more to have right connections and to be founded on a right way.

I hear also here and there about strange M&A deals where a VC is involved in both participating companies and valuations are somehow shady.
Isn't it a good time for federal investigators to take a more critical look at VC practices, same way like they do in case of hedge funds, e.g. Galleon case that was brilliantly described in New Yorker, what do you think?

Mittwoch, 17. August 2011

RIM: Silence of the Lambs

Big companies are arrogant. Most of them are evil.  Yep, this are clichés.

But it looks like this is the true about RIM these days.

If you didn't get the story about their anti-competitive "approval" process, here you go:

http://www.im-possible.com/2011/07/how-rim-blackberry-works-with-loyal-app.html

And this is in short how the story continued:

A month ago IM+ for Playbook story got attention of users and popular blogs like CrackBerry.com and RIM was virtually forced to react.  On July 18th Alex, SHAPE's Head of Development, and myself, have had a very strange call with Tyler Lessard, RIM’s VP of Global Alliances and Developer Relations.

Did you hear about court trials in totalitarian countries? They are not truth seeking. They instrumentalize the law and only look for pseudo arguments to get you jailed.

This was the way Tyler communicated (he asked us to make our conversation non-public – why?). During the call Tyler looked actively for arguments why RIM could take time with the approval of IM+ for Playbook and legitimate the two months approval process. And he found the way: we forgot to include our standard End User License Agreement, EULA (which is available in IM+ for BlackBerry). An absolute minority of other, RIM-approved App World social networking apps have an EULA. But you can always find a way to prolong the approval process if you are actively looking for.

At the end of the call Tyler was friendly, as he used to be at our previous conversations on (paid) RIM events like Orlando conferences. I think, inwardly he wanted to be more or less fair. Tyler said that he will take a look at the approval process with the target to make things done. Tyler also said that he will be looking into our need to get Push for IM+ for BlackBerry – a technology that gives users the possibility to get their IMs instantly even if IM+ is closed. This is no problem with IM+ for iPhone, iPad or Android. Naive, we believed and informed our users that shortly we’ll have the good news.

Next day we sent to RIM and Taylor an update and included our EULA. A month more is gone and nothing happened. Not with IM+ for Playbook approval nor with Push for IM+ for BlackBerry. Silence also to my last mail included below.

Research In Motion, your Silence of the Lambs is not only against competition, but also against you, do you recognize this?

Your BBM is a great product, but people want to have a choice. Especially for multi-platform communication.

If you feel like we at SHAPE, please tell / mail / tweet your opinion to RIM.

Perhaps, also directly to Tyler at tlessard@rim.com

We really want that RIM finally makes a turn to be a developer friendly company.
That RIM's snobbish behavior against small developers and, at the end of the day, against users, will be over.
I'm sure, this would be good also for RIMM stock.
_________________________________________________________________

And this is the full mail story after our call with Tyler :

Alex to Tyler,  Jul 19

We've just submitted the update of IM+ for PlayBook to the AppWorld. SKU is "IMPlus_for_BlackBerry_PlayBook", version 1.2. It does show the EULA on first start, as discussed yesterday. I've attached the EULA text for your reference. We're looking forward to having it approved soon.

I'm happy to say we've seen tremendous response to the news about possible enabling of Push feature in IM+ for BlackBerry. Our customers literally can't wait to see it on their BlackBerrys, and so do we.

Currently our servers process about 6M incoming messages per day for all users of IM+ for BlackBerry. However the actual number of push requests may be much lower, since BlackBerry users often leave application running in the background and push is not activated in this case. But at least that gives you some understanding of the volumes we are dealing with. Please keep us informed on the progress with this.

Thank you again for all your assistance. We are waiting for the good news about approval for Playbook and enabling Push.

Regards,
Alex

Igor Berezovsky  to Tyler, Alex,  Jul 22

Hi Tyler,

Hope you are doing well!

How you see our progress going towards IM+ for Playbook in the App World and enabling Push for IM+.

Thank you, have a great weekend!
Igor


Tyler Lessard to ib, Alex,  Jul 22

Hi Igor,

I understand that we are making progress with the review. Let me check on the status. Thanks!

Tyler


Igor Berezovsky to Tyler, Alex,  Jul 22

Hi Tyler,

Thank you, waiting the news!

Igor


Tyler Lessard to ib, Alex,  Jul 22

Hi Igor,

I just wanted to confirm something related to the EULA: do users ever create an IM+ "account" and are those credentials stored on your server? Or do they only add 3rd party user accounts (AIM/Yahoo/etc) for identity? If they do not create an IM+ account, how does the service "remember me" when I switch devices, or am I forced to add all of my accounts again?

Thanks!
Tyler


Igor Berezovsky  to Tyler, Alex,  Jul 22

Hi Tyler,

We do not store user accounts on our servers.

So when devices switched, user is forced to add all accounts again.

Thanks!
Igor


Tyler Lessard to Igor, Alex,  Jul 22

Great, appreciate the additional insight, that is consistent with what I thought!


Igor Berezovsky  to Tyler, Alex,  Aug 1

Hi Tyler,

Any news about IM+ for Playbook and enabling Push for IM+?

Best!
Igor


Tyler Lessard to ib, Alex,  Aug 1

Hi Igor,

We're finalizing review of the privacy policy implications and the related information for the 3rd party messaging services that your app connects to. I hope for that to be complete within the next 5-10 days, I'll try to get you a status update on Friday and will let you know if any other questions come up in the interim. So far, it looks like we have all the information from your team that we need and the review is going well. Hang tight!

Thanks!
Tyler


Igor Berezovsky  to Tyler,  Aug 15

Hi Tyler,

OK, another two weeks gone, and this is how I see the situation chronologically.

We are a long time Alliance Partner, supported BlackBerry on IM+ and other our apps since 2003.

Sometime mid 2000's high RIM managers called SHAPE one of the most important ISV partners in Europe.

In all the years we did our work with a great engagement, thousands of users changed from other phones and ecosystems to BlackBerrys because of our activity as well as availability of our apps, especially IM+, on BlackBerry. Additionally we paid our Alliance fees, participated on paid RIM events, won some RIM ISV and other BlackBerry related contests.

With all the respect to RIM and our success story: now we feel really pissed off. This is not only because of the strange situation with approval of IM+ on Playbook.

Even more we feel us betrayed with the silence to our and our users needs, especially Push for IM+.

The absence of BlackBerry Push on IM+ makes the user experience much worse then on iOS and Android and also brings IM+ and SHAPE in a bad position to competitors like WhatsApp that do have Push on BlackBerry.

Tyler, I would love very, very much to keep the long-term partnership between RIM and SHAPE.

And I do not think that it would be good for RIM, to lose SHAPE and, may be, dozens of other developers that listen to us.

Vice versa, a strong signal that RIM want to be at least so loyal to long-term partners as Apple and Google are, would be a game changer for us and developers that listen to our story.

Actually, we have a lot of partner, media and user requests about situation with IM+ for Playbook and BlackBerry Push for IM+.

Tyler, I ask you and RIM to decide positive about both of the questions today.

All Shapers will be waiting today for two short approval notices from your tech guys: IM+ for Playbook and Push for IM+.

Again, we consider our long-term partnership with RIM as very important for SHAPE.

Thank you very much and best regards,
Igor

NO RESPONSE FROM RIM.

Dienstag, 26. Juli 2011

Homo Ludens

News of the day: cryonics founder Robert Ettinger dies at 92, joins 105 other "frozen" patients.
OK, but what has this in common with, say, games.
The trick is, we are living in a (Western) world, where entertainment has the highest priority.

No one wants to have a boring time. Everyone wants to be entertained all around the day (and night).
And if anything goes so perfect, why the hell should we die at all.

Ettinger, the cryonics prophet, entered the game. It would be hard to lose, after all he is already "dead".
But probably he will win at the end of the day. Robert, I wish you good luck!
In the meantime we can play Angry Birds, CityVille or say Sherlock Holmes.

Let me mention also two other prophetical people who did a lot for our entertainment world.

Eric Berne described brilliant in Games People Play how we play our lives.  It seems comfortable for modern people to be the most time in the Child ego-state.

Johan Huizinga wrote in 1938 Homo Ludens (Playing Man).
He said that a play is free and is in fact freedom.

And this, my dear Apple friends, is exactly what we see today. Millions of people playing free or $0.99 games, all the time, forever. Please forget all statistics about apps and in-app purchases of virtual goods for iPhone, Android or Facebook. Apps are an euphemism. We are speaking about games. Sure, there are some AppGames around, like Foursquare, with a great in-app entertaining value. You can love gamification or not, it will be hard in our entertainment world without in-app game elements for "serious" apps.

Some scientists mean that games are great for peripheral sight of kids and at the end of the day for their mind and IQ. May be, long-term. 
I think, short-term we are moving towards a more stupid world, without old intelligentsia and with much more game experts in Child state. Homo Sapiens moves away. Homo Ludens, the Playing Man, comes.
The good news: You will be entertained! :)

Mittwoch, 20. Juli 2011

Marijuana, venture capital and tango dance

I just learned, Tango raised another $42 million of venture capital ( in addition to previous raised $14 million).
What makes great investors crazy? 
Is it that easy to get medical marijuana in California?
Dudes, please invest $41 million in Color, $56M in Tango and more, more, more. Revenue does not matter. They will scale and then monetize. Or not. But please don't forget on the other hand to spend money for Africa or homeless kids in Eastern Europe, they will need it.
And this is my view of mobile video and chat investments.

Montag, 18. Juli 2011

RIM BlackBerry and IM+ for Playbook: continued

OK, as I wrote in my previous post, RIM is an organization where a lot of nice people are working.
Shape's Development Head Alex and myself just had a talk with Tyler Lessard, RIM's VP, Global Alliances and Developer Relations.
Tyler was really friendly and helpful and we have now a hope that IM+ for Playbook will be approved within two weeks or so. We understand that to approve such an complex app can take the same time or more as the development of IM+ for Playbook itself. Just as remember, the app is now for two months in the testing queue.
And the best of the talk: after years of our requests to RIM we got from Tyler a promise to consider BlackBerry Push usage for IM+. It would make user experience on the BlackBerry platform the same kind of beautiful like on iOS.
Please continue to follow-up the story, it will really help to make things done. And to celebrate the moment we will offer to our friends from crackberry.com 25 free licenses of IM+ Pro for BlackBerry right now and 25 free licenses of IM+ for Playbook after release.

Freitag, 15. Juli 2011

How RIM BlackBerry works with loyal app developers

With the rise of iPhone and Android a lot of developers are thinking about, to do or not to do apps for RIM's BlackBerry and Playbook.
We at Shape used to love BlackBerry and ported our IM+ to BlackBerry as early as 2003.
A lot of nice and competent people are working at RIM (Research in Motion, NASDAQ: RIMM ). For instance, Tyler Lessard, Head of Developer Relations. But as a company RIM was never too friendly to developers. At least to developers of consumer oriented apps.

And now we feel really pissed off with RIM's behavior regarding our new app IM+ for Playbook.

This is the short chronology: 

On May 19th the first submission of IM+ for Playbook was sent to RIM.
We've got auto response from RIM  acknowledging the submission of a
new release.


Since we haven't heard from RIM back and the developer was working on
improving the app,
on June 2nd we have submitted an update and got second auto response
from RIM.

We have never heard from RIM about the status of IM+ for Playbook. There were numerous attempts from our team to reach people from App World.

After there has been some discussion on CrackBerry forums and other
BlackBerry related websites, some of guys have managed to get through
to RIM and received a response from BlackBerry representative denying
the submission. Below is an email:

==
RIM Incident number: INC000023319419

Hello Timothy ...,

I understand that you are inquiring about IM applications on the
PlayBook. Unfortunately, there is no complicated answer for this, it's
as simple as the developers for those IM applications have not created
one that is supported on the PlayBook as of yet. We have not heard of
any release dates for any IM applications yet. I'm sorry that I do not
have more information for you. But keep checking www.blackberry.com
for any new features available for the tablet. Sorry for the
inconvenience.

Sincerely,

..................
BlackBerry Customer Support
Research In Motion Limited
Tel:
Canada Toll Free: 1-877-644-8405
United States Toll Free: 1-877-644-8410
Puerto Rico Toll Free: 1-855-651-4936
Email: playbooksupport@blackberry.com
Web: www.blackberry.com

==

We consider it a scandal.

Now it's obvious for us that RIM doesn't want IM+ for Playbook to exist. (We learned also, other developers of communication apps for Playbook are in a similar situation).
May be they see it as a threat to their BBM. This would be very anti-competitive behavior.
Or is it just a chaos in RIM house? For an underdog competing on tablet market with Apple this kind of cooperation with developers is not really promising.
No response from RIM so far. Even from Tyler Lessard.
Anyway at the moment our development for Playbook is on hold and the key IM+ for Playbook
developer is temporary switched to IM+ for Android.

Please think about it: in all the years we developed a lot of apps for BB: Alongside with IM+ and IM+ Talk these are Business Card Reader, RDM+, Mobiscope, Mobiola Web Camera and xPlayer, VR+, Photo Translator...
Now we invested several man-months into IM+ for Playbook. Just to find out how RIM breaches their own game rules and steals our time and money investment. Nice. This is a good lesson for every developer or small companies considering development for Blackberry or Playbook.

And this is my forecast: if RIM will continue with their snob behavior against loyal devs, their company will be acquired as soon as 2011 or first half of 2012 latest. This will be the end of independent BlackBerry devices. And perhaps a start of new Microsoft or Android powered BlackBerrys.

Dienstag, 12. Juli 2011

Startups vs. Mittelstand

End of 2001, five years before Steve Jobs made the word 'app' popular, we at Shape started our first mobile app, IM+.
Shape was not a startup. It was, at least from a psychological point of view, a mix of startup and Mittelstand.
Mittelstand is a German word that stands for solid, innovation focused, mostly family-run businesses.
A typical life cycle of startup: raise money, scale as fast as possible, sale.
Most startup founders would consider a quick profitable sale as a big success.
This is not typical for a Mittelstand company. Most Mittelstand founders would compare a company sale to a death. Even if they would get out of business with some million dollars in the pockets. This was a business that they built for long-term, for generations.

A Mittelstand company has to be profitable from the very beginning. At the end of the day, the company doesn't have venture capital and must pay all mistakes on their own.
This was the way that we choosed with Shape. Instead of venture capital: family savings, friend and bank loans. Keeping private control is critical for a Mittelstand company. At the same time we cultivated in Shape the best of startup culture: young spirit, welcome to new ideas and innovations, horizontal management structure, quick decision making. And we were profitable from day one.
Mittelstand is a bit family like. Our key people often received very lucrative offers from competing companies. No one of the core team changed. Who would give up family.

2002-2004 IM+ won various international contests. First IM+ copycats opened the doors.
It was always amazing for us to see how VC funds pumped tens of millions dollars into projects similar to what we launched with some $25 thousands.
Then, 2005, Meebo started, with $70 million venture capital to date. We took a closer look at ups and downs of our competitors, experimented with new apps and technologies like mobile audio, video, OCR and, recently, check-in. And we kept profitable.

Sales like OZ Communications to Nokia or recently Qik to Skype amused us from dual point of view. First, the valuations, second, this was a death of competing products and companies.
We were always happy to see high startup valuations.
However, we thought that crazy investors that pump dozens of million dollars in apps like Color, are contra-productive and destruct the smart image of tech companies.

Perhaps the most controversial and famous valuation story is Facebook. No doubt, Facebook is one of the greatest companies. But how many users has Facebook? I'm not a Facebook user, actually I prefer LinkedIn and Google+.
Anyway, I have at least three test Facebook accounts. A lot of people I know have two Facebook accounts. So, I suppose, the real number of Facebook users is significantly less than 750 million. Perhaps 500 million? This is a big number. But does it really valuate Facebook ten times bigger then business networking oriented LinkedIn? Especially in times of Google+ rise. I wish, Facebook would have at least a bit of Mittelstand in their startup culture. I'm writing this from a friendly point of view, a few weeks before launch of free mobile Facebook video calls in IM+ Video.

Both of startup and Mittelstand cultures have advantages. To combine the best of two cultures could be a magic formula of success.
And please don't be surprised if Deutsche Börse is going to acquire NYSE, this is a Mittelstand - Startup battle, where a long-term strategy can win.