Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Google+: The Pretty Data Bow

With Google+ it appears that Google is pulling out all the stops and bringing its information might to the party, and in the process may be in a position to have an even better user data trove than what Facebook has achieved to date.  What’s more, is that they could possibly have a much easier time of building this up and the quality of the data may actually get more and more accurate because of their numerous touch points with users.  Think about it for a moment, Google has a significant number of email users, many of which use Google as their primary personal email address, not to mention lots of small and medium-sized companies using it as their primary business email for their employees.  Google Apps are being shared by more and more people with more and more people every day.  Google Checkout, while not a raging success and pales by comparison to Paypal, still has a significant user base and is still being worked on and evolved.  Google has also normalized YouTube’s user accounts into its profile management systems.  If we just consider these services, that’s a lot of user information, or just simply a large number of user identifiers and names that Google already has for everyone of us.

So I spent last night setting up Google+ and was struck by how many of my friends and acquaintances could easily be found.  However, it was different aspects of them that were being found.  Because Google’s profiles are used by all of their products, depending on how someone used Google’s services they would have a profile completed in some way.  In some cases, I’d find multiple profiles for an individual user with different email addresses.  Not knowing how I would be interacting with that person, I tended to grab all of their visible profiles and would associate them with one or more “Circles”, only making sure that these profiles didn’t belong to different people.

For my profile, I decided that like on Facebook, I’d change my name to “P-Air”.  However, as I was executing this a reminder explained that this would take affect across my Google profile which meant that this would impact my other, perhaps more serious, uses of Google’s services.  While on Facebook I could ignore their request that I use my real name, on Google+ unless I do quite a bit more work in creating a fake email address and a profile to go along with it, they have in effect forced me into using my real name.  This began to get me thinking about all of their other services that appear as independently operating components (ie. Google Checkout) that I would or would not use very frequently, can now come to bear on this service.  As well, because I do like the “Circles” concept which Facebook really dropped the ball on with their Groups, I’m now classifying my interactions in more significant buckets for Google to be able to act upon these.  Wow!  If we thought that Facebook was getting a free ride from user generated data that they are gathering and mining, Google has just gone to the next level.  What’s most diabolical about all of this, is that Google+ feels very smooth.  Forgetting for a second that we are more the product in this new model than we have ever been, now we may be blinded by how nicely it all comes together.

Now the question is, can I trust Google more with my privacy, even with the settings they have introduced from the get-go, than I can Facebook.  This feels kind of like asking whether I find politicians of the Democrat or Republican persuasion more trustworthy 😉

Google Wallet not necessary for VRM realization @dsearls

Doc Searls, a thought leader for whom I have tremendous respect, and has most recently been the driving force behind the concept of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) through the ProjectVRM initiative at Berkman Center, authored a blog post today on Google’s new wallet initiative titled “Google Wallet and VRM“.  To say that he thinks this is important is an understatement when he makes the bold claim that, “I think it’s the most important thing Google has launched since the search engine.”  Coming from Doc, this is a significant statement.  However, when reading through the first four reasons he provides for this, I was left wanting, and felt like the technological fascination of what could be done with this ignored some of the practical realities of our global village.  With each of the initial four reasons provided, I felt a visceral objection arise, and that’s what led me to writing this blog post.  It’s also evident that perhaps our main difference of opinion on this matter is that I see the possibility of doing everything he suggests without the need for our phone to act as the main instrument used to effect a transaction.  To me, it’s the issue of taking our existing distributed cards systems and turning them into a centralized point of failure.

The best way for me to go through is to follow Doc’s reasons for why he believes in the importance of the Google Wallet initiative and provide my counter arguments on each of these.  The discussion below will only make sense in the context of Doc’s post, so you may want to read that first or have it open in another window for reference.

“Reason #1: We’ve always needed an electronic wallet, especially one in our mobile phone.”: Sorry, but this is a techies wishlist item.  No, normal people have never “needed” an electronic wallet much less one on their mobile phone.  Smartphones may be all the rage here, but in many of the most populous countries this has not been the case and they seem to be doing fine without it.  In Africa, entrepreneurs have innovated around the minutes currency which achieves a nice balance of anonymity and the ability to transact in a low-tech environment.

“Reason #2: We’ve needed one from somebody who doesn’t also have a hand in our pocket.”: Perhaps I’m misunderstanding this point so I’m open to being corrected, but the line that didn’t set well with me was, “List the things Google does but doesn’t make money with, and you’ll have a roster of businesses that needed commodification.”  Would Gmail or YouTube or Maps fall into this category?  Would their efforts with Google Books fall into this category?  What exactly are the businesses that Google does not make money with?  Last I checked, Google was in the “monetizing attention” business and all of their efforts focus around collecting information on users in order to better monetize their attention.  Is this a 2nd or 3rd order effect?  Perhaps it was at first, but now they have perfected this monetization machine so I’d argue that it’s very much of a first order effect.  In other words, Google also has a hand in our pocket and the currency they’re extracting is information, the most valuable currency of them all.  It’s actually a more dangerous hand in the context of an e-wallet application since it gains tremendous advantage and control from learning about our transaction history.  Control over its users, advantage over its competitors and every other company selling anything.

“Reason #3: This reduces friction in a huge way.”: This is the bill of goods online users of applications and services have been sold since the beginning of the commercial Internet (I’ve been along for the ride the whole way).  But what is not discussed are the tradeoffs users have made for all of this convenience and removal of friction.  The tradeoffs have come in no smaller ways than in forfeiting of Constitutional rights we were afforded before all of this.  Yikes!  Can’t believe I went there 😉  OK, I’ll discuss this point further at the end of this post, but for this section let me get back to the more specific points that are raised.  Wallets slow us down at checkout, whether it’s from pulling out cash or cards.  Loyalty cards are a cumbersome addition to the checkout process.  How about if we talk about the current state of the best smartphones (never mind the mobile phones used by the unwashed masses, for now)?  How many times have you tried to locate an app on your iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, etc. mobile device and either not found it quickly (it’s on the third swipe screen at the bottom right), or touched the screen but it was non-responsive even after multiple taps, or had to reboot your mobile device, or saw a pop-up flash showing some sort of exception error, or ran out of power because you forgot to plug it in before leaving the house, or forgot it at home altogether, or watched someone struggle typing on the screen keyboard, miniature keypad or numeric keypad?  I dread the idea of being in line at a Starbucks and watching people struggle with their devices in any of these ways, and that would be a relatively simple transaction, never mind something more complex.  Already I see the lines at the self-serve checkouts in grocery stores getting longer than the ones with human cashiers.  Now, on the flip side, with a credit card you or the cashier can always type in your number if the reader doesn’t work (worse case scenario the cashier can even call in the card number to the credit card processor), no power to your card is required for this.  While the idea of being able to carry everything in your device sounds appealing, the practical issue is that we become incredibly dependent on a single point of failure.  When there are problems with the device (and I defy anyone to name a device that has never had a problem), it’s not just one payment instrument or loyalty card that’s affected, they all are and all at once.  The tradeoff between a point solution for reducing the friction in our transactions, versus the greater systemic failure that could increase the friction in our lives (imagine loosing the smartphone or having it remotely hacked or other nefarious acts done to it because it will be worth a lot to the attacker), is not worth it.  At least not as discussed here.

“Reason #4: Now customers can truly relate with vendors.”: This one is a hot-button item for ProjectVRM and I like it, but not in the context of Google doing it.  This intermediary role needs to be handled by either a non-profit or a company that works on behalf of consumers because consumers pay for the service (note, I’m not specifying how they pay, but only where consumers are the primary customer of this service provider’s will they be able to trust that their needs and interests will be respected first and foremost).  Google’s efforts to know everything about me and in turn be able to use this information in ways that as a user I never intended, does not sit well.  The temptation to use this information in ways that may not necessarily be in the best interest of the consumers, but may be in the best interest of Google shareholders, is too great a power to bequeath to any company who’s objectives are not primarily aligned with or focused on, serving the individual.  Also, in their current state, privacy laws do not sufficiently protect users from how their information is used nor provide them enough transparency and control to have confidence and trust in such services.  Having said this, today email and a hosted service where the info from all of one’s payment and loyalty instruments can be brought to bear (something more closely resembling what Minthas done) make sense, but I would keep all of these aggregation services independent of the device.  In other words, there should be no need for the Google Wallet to accomplish this.  When positioning this as a Mint-like service, we see that Reasons 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11 all still apply, but we’ve separated ourselves from being at the mercy of our device for the actual transaction.  Today, when I withdraw money with my ATM card, instead of getting a receipt at the machine it emails me that info.  When I make a purchase at the Apple store, they email me the receipt.  We may need open standards around portability for making those emails machine readable and for them to be sent to our personal transaction aggregating services (ie. Mint or other similar services), but we can accomplish this without the need for the Google Wallet per se.

None of the other reasons really require the Google Wallet to be realizable, and I’d argue that it’s not by turning our phones into the means for making payments that we benefit, but by creating a transaction aggregating services focused on respecting the user, that we make the gains.  Where a true wallet application for payment would have been interesting is when the prospect of something like David Chaum‘s Digicash(let’s see who’s awake and remembers them from back in the day).  The ability to perform truly anonymous cash-like transactions.  This was something for which a device would be needed at the point-of-sale, though with today’s smartcard technology, I could see it being possible without the need for the phone as payment device.  These could still provide useful transaction data for the user, though the merchant would not necessarily have information on the transacting user other than knowing that the transaction was good and money was transferred into their bank account.

Perhaps now is a good time to elaborate on the more general concerns with hosted and aggregated transaction services.  Service providers that would be maintaining transaction data for us constitute a third party in a transaction (first party = me; second party = merchant; third parties = credit card bank and any transaction aggregating services).  Given the state of the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act), the idea that government could gain access to this info in a nice neat package, at will (OK, maybe with a subpoena, but certainly no warrant requirement), is truly frightening.  While we can try to divorce the wish list of capabilities we would want from transaction aggregating services, from the laws around us, the fact of the matter is that by using many of the SaaS services today we are slowly diluting our Fourth Amendment rights.  It’s nice to push the envelope on ways of making life better for individuals, but in a setting where governments have made been attacking what few privacy rights we have online, using industry to carry out their assaults (see Amazon shutting down Wikileaks servers and Paypal, Visa & Mastercard shutting down their merchant account), and making more and more changes that advantage industry in its quest to have unfettered access to people’s information, I’m concerned that by making it easier for people to manage their info we are also making it easier for governments to control and coerce their own citizens.  We need to get the privacy statues in place *before* radically facilitating the aggregation of information on citizens, otherwise our best intentions risk putting us in prisons of our own design.  Sorry for the heavy ending here, but there doesn’t appear to be any indications that governments around the world are relenting in their desire to legislate every aspect of our lives, in and out of bedrooms, so we shouldn’t make it easier for them to monitor us.  The world Kafka imagined in The Trial, is sadly coming to life, most recently exemplified by the DOJ’s refusal to make its interpretation on the recently renewed Patriot Act clear.  We have be awake and more alert to this as we develop the next generation of online services.

PayPal Should Have Stuck With “the Government Made Me Do It”

Paypal_logo1

Paypal’s General Counsel, John Muller, issued a clarification of PayPal’s position on restricting the Wikileaks account earlier in the week.  You can read it for yourself, but I was struck by his description of their Acceptable Use Policy and how he uses this to justify the action taken.

Specifically, Mr. Muller explains:

“PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy states that we do not allow any organization to use our service if it encourages, promotes, facilitates or instructs others to engage in illegal activity.”

A few paragraphs later he explains why Wikileaks’ account was restricted:

“The account was again reviewed last week after the U.S. Department of State publicized a letter to WikiLeaks on November 27, stating that WikiLeaks may be in possession of documents that were provided in violation of U.S. law.  PayPal was not contacted by any government organization in the U.S. or abroad. We restricted the account based on our Acceptable Use Policy review.  Ultimately, our difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks website was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of law by the source.”

What PayPal is saying is that a site that in effect provides a safe haven for people to reveal illegal activity, is actually encouraging people to engage in illegal activity.  The fact that someone broke the law in providing the most recent batch of cables does not mean that Wikileaks is encouraging people to break the law.  Certainly, none of the people who are providing the information are getting paid for doing so.  They are not seeking fame either.  So in what way exactly, is Wikileaks encouraging that people engage in illegal activity.  It’s like saying that a gun store is promoting that people engage in illegal activity because they sell guns which can be used for committing illegal activities.

Mr. Muller also does something strange in the last part of the sentence where he describes their decision.  Instead of simply saying that the released classified material “is a violation of law by the source”, he throws in the qualifier “likely”, as in the released classified material “is *likely* a violation of law by the source”.  In other words, PayPal is acting on a hunch since they clearly don’t know that it’s a violation of the law.  Saying it’s likely doesn’t make it so.

After reading this nonsense, I would suggest to PayPal that they leverage the opportunity provided to them by our ethically challenged legislators, and just go along with the excuse that they got a call from Senator Lieberman pressuring them like the other companies, and be done with it.  At least then we can just say that PayPal bowed to government pressure, rather than having to think that this company is represented by morons, which is the natural conclusion to reach from the excuse they’re trying to get us to believe.  Really PayPal, that’s the best you got?

Comment to Peter Fleischer’s blog post on “Exhibitionism, or Self-Expression?”

I’m using my blog to comment on Peter’s post as it appears that my response below was longer than what his blogging platform (Blogger) could accept.  Really, Google sets comment limits? 😉

First off, I highly recommend Peter’s blog if you are into privacy issues.  It’s nice to see that despite so much negative hype about Google’s general attitudes towards privacy, there are real people working there and they have concerns and think about these issues like every one else.

In reading this post’s comments on sharing, it brought me back to a debate last evening with a dear friend about this very issue.  However, where he debated in effect a similar position to Peter’s (be comfortable about what you’re going to post), he was viewing it as an issue for his children (currently 9 and 13 yrs old).  He raised the typical and oft repeated anecdotes about college admissions doing online searches on candidates and employers making hiring decisions, and how destructive negative information could impact his children’s future success.

My contention however is that the amount of data being put out there will soon become prohibitive for people to search against.  As Peter noted, first you have to determine if the data you are reviewing is about the candidate that you’re considering.  Then you have to determine the validity of the data and its source.

Collaborative filtering and network analysis tools and techniques are gaining ground in these areas, and are being applied to the selection process for various activities.  Of course, behavioral and interest-based ad targeting has been at the forefront of this (ie. Amazon’s “people who bought this also bought that”).  However, as you might be aware, when governments try to segment terrorists from non-terrorists (ie. “No Fly List”), they tend bring more and different data sets to bear.  For example, they might apply clustering around credit records, travel logs, transaction records, and other data sets in order to come up with something like, “people who bought this and flew to these places and have open balances on their loans are more likely to be terrorists”.

From the average citizen’s standpoint however, we don’t actually know what data is being combined and corolated nor what assumptions are being made to come up with this lens.  Now, if we go back to the university or employer examples, one can imagine a near future where employers (who are already making use of people’s credit records) and have access to too much data, start to combine avaialble data sets to determine whether an employment prospect is suitable for their company.  That employee won’t know the model against which they are being evaluated. 

Now in a world where kids will make mistakes, and mistakes won’t disappear, then one can argue that mistakes will be understood as part of what makes us human (call it being a “normal” person).  One could also argue that a college kid that screws up his credit while in college, learns a valuable lesson which may make her more vigilant in the future about paying bills on time.  Employers may begin to understand this and derive similar conclusions which they will build into their models.

Hence, those kids who worried about not having anything negative about themselves appear any where, might actually be the ones at a disadvantage.  But the problem is no one will really ever know.  Unless the models are made public (which is not likely unless the current laws change), the best we can do is live our lives in a way that is respectful to others and society in general, accept our mistakes, and keep living our lives.

In a world where transparency rules, then trying to be abnormally good makes one less human and hence less desirable.  It’s almost as though the lack of having made any mistakes brings suspicion on a person that they’re either gaming the system or likely to be more destructive in the future, though one can still imagine some less progressive companies deciding to eliminate candidates with any blemishes.  In other words, no different than the situation we have today.  This actually reminds me of a college friend who didn’t drink while we were in college, he got married right after graduation but within 5 years was divorced and an alcoholic.  Here he kept a natural impulse bottled up inside him and it cost him more dearly when he finally succumbed.

Sorry for the long response/comment, but I thought it worth sharing a position on how things might change/evolve in the future.

“Tweeting Out The Dead”, really Forbes, this was worth writing?

Forbes writer, Mike Isaac, wrote a piece last week titled "Tweeting Out The Dead", which has been bothering me all week.  Maybe not bothering me so much as annoying me like gnat buzzing about my ear.  In this Twittermania segment, Isaac invokes "Miss Manners" then goes on to discuss "Condolence tweets".  For anyone who has used Twitter for even 10 seconds, it wouldn't take long to understand that it's purely a broadcast platform where people push out messages of a promotional, informational, and in some cases directly communicative, nature.  Those who use it to communicate with one person publicly (as opposed to using the "Direct Message" capability), do so because they know that person is reading their tweets and does not wish to keep that tweet private.

For some reason, Isaac has chosen to see tweets where people seem to extend public condolences as being "condolence tweets" and therefore raises the issue of whether this is a proper way to extend sympathies out to the deceased's loved ones.  Clearly Mike needs to spend some more time on Twitter if he's going to write about that medium.  These tweets by celebrities or others are not real condolences as in those one might extend to close family, but rather "shout outs", making others aware that they cared about the deceased, and in some cases simply letting others know that someone they cared about has just passed.  While the family may see this, that's not the intended audience for this message…and frankly, Isaac should have understood that.  Making snide comments about Ashton Kutcher's tweet about Brittany Murphy's passing, clearly shows that Isaac is out of touch.  This was one way that Ashton chose to let the world know he noticed her passing, irrespective of the other ways he might have reached out to her family directly.  This message was intended for his followers not for the family per se.

From here, Isaac goes on to quote various folks (a doctor from UCSF and an analyst from Forrester Research) about the process of grieving and how it's moving on to Twitter.  I won't stand here and pretend to understand the full extent of people's grief nor why they might tweet about someone's passing, but to the extent that condolences remain "an expression of sympathy to someone who has experienced grief arising from death, deep mental anguish, or misfortune", then I'll say that what's happening on Twitter is not "condolence tweets", but simple sharing of expressions of grief with one's followers at large.  So Mr. Isaac, consider spending more time on Twitter if you need topics here to make your publishing deadline 😉

Private Equity’s “Waiting for Godot”, Things Haven’t Really Changed Much

First off this post isn’t a general slam on all private equity investors as there are lots of folks in the industry that I know and highly respect.  

As some of you know, I recently closed AdPassage Inc., a company officially started back in May of 2008 to help video publishers classify their content for better ad targeting, to more easily package for syndication, and to make the content more addressable on their web sites.  After 18 months, we were not able to adequately validate the model and had not reached the milestones necessary to secure a follow-on round of financing.

So imagine my surprise when yesterday, almost three months after closing the biz, I received the following email sent to our former VP of Technology (the names have been removed to protect the innocent (in the case of our VP of Tech) and the rudderless (in the case of the Associate from the Private Equity fund ;):

——-

[VP of Technology],

Hope you are doing well and my apologies for the unsolicited email – I am writing to introduce my firm, North Bridge, a venture capital/private equity firm based in the Boston area.  We’ve learned about AdPassage through our research in identifying the most promising and rapidly growing technology-enabled companies for prospective investment and partnerships, and thought it made sense to connect. 

To give you a brief introduction on North Bridge, we manage $3.2 billion in total capital.  While traditionally known as a leading early-stage venture capital fund, in 2007 North Bridge raised a $545 million growth equity fund focused on making investments ranging in size from $15 million to $75 million in growing, profitable technology and technology-enabled businesses with revenue greater than $15 million.  This is the investment team that I am a part of, although we liaise frequently with our colleagues at North Bridge Venture Partners (who will look at businesses starting at the pre-revenue stage).  In North Bridge’s growth equity investments, our capital is intended to provide shareholder liquidity, accelerate growth and/or fund acquisitions.  We are comfortable being either a minority partner or a controlling shareholder through our investments, typically join the board of directors in connection with an investment, and take an active role in partnering with management to shape strategy and grow the company.  Our team spent several years leading firms such as SAP (one of our founders was the co-founder of SAP America), Advent International, Apax Partners, Alta Communications, Pequot Capital, Summit Partners, and TA Associates and has deep experience investing in and founding/running technology-enabled businesses across multiple sectors and stages.

Please let me know if there is a good time for us to connect in the upcoming weeks to introduce you to North Bridge and see if we can be helpful.  I look forward to speaking with you and thank you in advance for your time. 

Regards,

[Associate]


[Full Associate Name]

North Bridge Growth Equity

950 Winter Street, Suite 4600

Waltham, MA 02451

——-

While honest mistakes happen here are a few items that stand out.  First off, AdPassage isn’t a common name nor one found anywhere but associated with our company. We may have a had a total of two items (if that) ever written about us beyond our blog, our web site, and my entry of our company info into Linkedin and Crunchbase.  Our company was closed in January of 2010 after suspending operations in the middle of December of 2009.  We were pre-revenue and just about to start on trials with two significant prospects.  I could almost understand this note from this… dare I say… reputable firm if it had come from the venture capital side of their organization, but it didn’t, this was from their “growth equity fund focused on making investments ranging in size from $15 million to $75 million in growing, profitable technology and technology-enabled businesses with revenue greater than $15 million“.  Yikes!!!  At this point, you really have to ask yourself what sort of due-diligence got done here for us to even make it on to their radar.  Here’s my other favorite line, “We’ve learned about AdPassage through our research in identifying the most promising and rapidly growing technology-enabled companies for prospective investment and partnerships“.  Wha-wha-what?!  Did they know something we didn’t?  More importantly, do any of the investors in that fund know how this group goes about identifying investment opportunities?  This is the sort of pitch I expect where someone’s trying to pitch me to invest in something, not where they’re pitching me to discuss my own investment opportunity with them.

I did go to their Web site to find that the Associate indeed works there, and from the summary of their qualifications, seemed to be pretty good.  So what gives?  Perhaps I’m overreacting and am letting my left-brain react to this incident with a righteous attitude, but in this climate of careless investing and a need for more attention to details, I felt that this was a perfect of example that while things seem to have changed a bit, they really haven’t changed that much.  Some still haven’t learned a thing from the economic debacle we’ve just been through.  Perhaps Boston firms are just more desperate.  I don’t know.  Guess it’s time to respond to that Associate with a note on a special offer, if they act now on the AdPassage investment opportunity I’ll thrown in a nice shiny bridge in New York as an added bonus 🙂

The iPad, “it’s ‘evolution’ my dear Watson”

Since the announcement of Apple’s iPad and the subsequent leaks on what features and capabilities will or won’t be included, I have taken a ‘wait & see’ attitude.  Some of the things that it won’t have like Adobe’s Flash or a camera, seem like real detriments to the device.  Then, this afternoon I caught a blog post from Clay Shirky titled “The Collapse of Complex Business Models“.  While on a different theme, his piece was the catalyst for the subsequent thoughts that formed for me.

First off let me qualify that I’m a Kindle user and love this device.  It is bar none, the best electronic reading experience I have ever had.  The combination of the soft backlit-less screen, the light weight, the awesome battery life, the built-in 3G for downloading books seamlessly, and the cost of books, really makes this a book reader’s device.  Second, let me qualify that other than pictures and online videos, I have yet to come in direct contact with an iPad.  With these two disclosures, I’ll explain why I think the iPad will still rock the world.

As I thought back to what kind of reading I was doing before the advent of the Internet, this broke out into four groups; (1) books (hard cover and paperback), (2) magazines, trade journals and newspapers, (3) documents that I or others had created using wordprocessors on our computers and printed, and (4) newsletters.  What all of these had in common was their portability, the idea that I could take any of these into any part of my home, or review on the way to the office, or on a plane, and still enjoy them all the same.  When most of these publications went online we gained from their timely delivery and in some cases from the ease and frequency with which they were updated, but we lost a tremendous amount in terms of their portability.  In the case of books and certain magazines, there were certainly not a practical read online.  The Kindle deals very well with books, but the magazine and newspaper experience has been a stretch for the device in my opinion.

Well, all of that looks to be resolved with the iPad.  In seeing some of the early prototype offerings being planned by the magazine publishers, it’s clear that the things that made magazines enjoyable like glossy pages and gee-wiz high quality images, are all looking to make a comeback on the iPad in a big way.  As for the newspapers, so many have moved towards similar online layouts to magazines that I believe they will benefit equally to magazines.  While the backlit screen won’t help with eye-fatigue, hence not making this device ideal for long hours spent with a book, the fact that many publishers are promoting more video (some are even going to offer HTML5 versions of videos for iPad users) and that the device will support iTunes, should overwhelm the book negative.  While perhaps in shorter doses, books might still be enjoyable given that the same device can distract its reader in so many other ways.  But most important in the iPad’s value proposition is the return of portability.  In a way, it’s the evolution of portability, because we’ve had portable music and video viewing devices already, but now all of these are be rejoined by the portability of magazines, all in one device.  Reading blog posts and tweets also come as additive bonuses, since at least in the case of the former, reading those on mobile devices did not make for an ideal portable experience.

Where magazine publishers’ content might be what makes the iPad successful, for all of these years that such a device has not existed, I think it’s Apple that should get most of the credit for bringing a device that can once again make magazines and newspapers relevant.  As for end-user fee-based business models, I think Clay Shirky’s piece referenced above should be heeded lest a new crop of magazine publishers come along and is able to better capitalize on the new device with a more compelling business model for end-users.