Influencing Innovation: The Americans With Disabilities Act

Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a code of law that has influenced society and tech companies in interesting ways already, and is expanding to influence them even more.

One recent example: feds encouraged schools around the country, notably Princeton and Arizona State University, to drop the idea of requiring students to use e-readers, specifically the Amazon Kindle DX, until the devices were made “accessible.”

Accessible and acceptable e-readers would need features that work for students who are deaf, blind or have limited manual dexterity.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice – which enforces the ADA – published plans today for four new ADA proposals that would impact our movie going experiences, the way 911 call centers operate, and how automatic teller machines and government websites are built.

No matter how much you think government should be involved in private sector business, it’s worth asking from a design standpoint:

Why can’t a deaf person watch a movie at the theater with closed captions alongside hearing friends? Does an ATM work more effectively in a tiny room where wheelchair access is impossible? Why should 911 dispatchers accept calls from the voiced, but not a text message from someone mute?

There’s definitely a market demand for more accessible technology. Today some 54 million Americans are disabled, or one in every five people, according to government estimates. Seniors and veterans returning from combat are adding to this population.

Some companies realize the needs and potential of the market, there. On display at Apps4Access in Washington D.C., today, an event hosted by the not-for-profit Committee on Disability Power & Pride and sponsored by AT&T, were products like the Braille Controller and Vlingo apps.

The Braille Controller (or Alva BC 640) by Optelec, a keyboard-like device that’s been around for a few years. It can “read screens” within Windows, web browsers, and now Skype and Facebook, and turn what’s on screen into either narrated audio content, or tactile Braille. Yes, its keys raise and lower almost like the web is typing back. It works with USB or Bluetooth enabled smart phones and PCs and a range of software.

A more mainstream technology provider, Vlingo created the already-popular “search by voice” apps for Blackberry and iPhone, and recently rolled out their Android “Super Dialer.”

According to the company website, Vlingo apps let mobile users search the web by voice, listen to incoming email text and text messages, and update their Facebook and Twitter profiles by voice. Vlingo is useful for people with vision loss, blindness or limited manual dexterity. But it’s also pretty useful for commuters stuck in traffic, or people who hate typing on touch screens.

On a bright note, Americans with disabilities are gaining access to the internet and all the information and sites that can help them there says a new survey by Harris Interactive (sponsored by Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability).

Eighty two percent of 18-29 years olds with disability access the internet (compared to 92% of people without disability in their age group). Among seniors, only 37% of those with disability access the internet, while 70% of seniors without disability do so. More than half of all disabled Americans have internet access.

Celebrations of the ADA, and conferences concerning the civil rights of Americans with disabilities will be taking place throughout the weekend and on July 26th through regional offices of the ADA Network around the country.

[FDR statue image via Jim Bowen]


Booyah’s MyTown Unlocks Product Check-Ins [Video]

The location check-in was so 2009. Well not exactly, like many, I suspect location-based services will eventually live up to their hype in the mobile arena. However, the geo-location check-in just scratches the surface. The product check-in is next.

On Friday, Booyah’s MyTown unveiled a new software update that will let users check-in to physical, real world products. Booyah is not the first to come to market with the idea of checking into a product or activity— other services like Miso and Hot Potato allow users to check into a wide array of “products” like television shows, movies, and online activities.

However, MyTown is one of the first LBS apps where you can use bar codes to check into a dress at a department store or a box of Kleenex at your neighborhood grocery store. If this initiative takes off with MyTown’s 2.5 million users (yes, that’s more than Foursquare), Booyah will have a valuable mountain of consumer data and a bevy of marketing partners eager to tap into the power of the product check-in. A few retail partners have already signed up.  Booyah is preparing to announce a major product check-in partnership in August, with a mystery (and reportedly, very large) consumer products company.

“Location is just a way to drive them to the store, but ultimately people want to actually be able to sell products, so this is one step away, getting closer to the finish line to point of sale.” Booyah’s founder Keith Lee says. “And that’s really where we want to go in terms of validating activities that you do in the real world.”

MyTown’s product check-in is currently available exclusively on the iPhone and iPod. Using the camera option, a user simply scans a barcode on a retail product. Within one second, MyTown recognizes the code and unlocks any points, virtual goods or promotions associated with the product. Thus, the product check-in provides an extra layer of gaming over MyTown’s universe. For those who have never played MyTown, it’s basically an augmented reality version of Monopoly. Users check into real world locations to unlock virtual rewards, they have the option to “purchase” their favorite properties,  collect rent from others and update those properties. Furthermore, like Foursquare, you can see where your friends are checking-in and access real-world discounts.

Inevitably, other LBS startups will attack the product check-in category, but until then, MyTown provides a unique way for businesses to interact with the consumer. Lee says partners will be able to craft challenges, including scavenger hunts, and offer special real world promotions or discounts through the service. In a way, it’s an ad that incentivizes the consumer to reach out.

On the analytics end, there’s a wealth of information that’s probably comparable to Blippy, a social service that aggregates a consumer’s purchase data.  Through MyTown, a business will be able to learn about the interests of its consumers, which products they find attractive and how they interact with a retailers’ competitors. The real hurdle here is getting users to embrace the mechanics of the product check-in, the extra step it takes to scan an item, and to get them to do it often enough that it matters.


Apple’s Real Problem With The White iPhone 4 — Well, Potentially

I’ve fielded a lot of questions today about the iPhone 4. No, not about the antenna — that was last week — today, all people want to know is why the hell is white version being delayed again? Like everyone else outside of Apple, I have no idea. Is it a problem with the glass supplier? That they’re prioritizing the black ones for now? That they’re working on an antenna modification? Any of those things could be the reason behind the delay (though if it’s the last one, Apple is going face a whole range of new questions). But I can’t say for sure what the reason actually is. What I can say that this is potentially a real problem for Apple — and I don’t mean from a manufacturing perspective.

In their two-sentence statement on the matter this morning, all Apple said is that the white iPhone 4 “will not be available until later this year.” This is a quick reversal from just one week ago when Apple confirmed that the device was on track to ship by the “end of July” — which itself was already quite a bit of a delay from the original iPhone 4 launch in June. “Later this year” is a bit ominous. It could mean anything from August all the way until December. The fact that Apple isn’t saying “August” or “another month” seems to suggest that it will be at least the Fall when we see the ivory device.

And again, that’s a problem. Let’s just pick a random month that it could be released — let’s say November. A white iPhone 4 released in November means it will have been a full five months since many customers have had the black iPhone 4 — the exact same device, only black. More importantly, it will only be seven months until the next WWDC event, where the iPhone 5 (or whatever it will be called) will be announced.

Sure, some consumers won’t care about that. But many others now have in their minds three years worth of evidence that a new iPhone will be unveiled every June. Many of those customers will have a decision to make: is it worth it to spring for the white iPhone 4 now and have the latest and greatest Apple gadget for only seven months? Or is it worth it to wait?

Compounding this tough decision at that point will undoubtedly be a whole new round of rumors that Apple could unveil a Verizon iPhone shortly — perhaps even at an event in January. Can you imagine the horror customers will feel if they sign their souls over to AT&T for two years in November, only to have the option to instead go with Verizon a couple months later?

The white iPhone may reveal itself to be a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothes at that point.

But Apple is nothing if not genius marketers. A white iPhone unveiled in November will be spun as a holiday iPhone — the perfect present for Christmas. Look, it’s even the color of snow!

Apple will sell millions of them to customers oblivious to the fact that the next version — one undoubtedly without the same antenna issues we’re seeing now, and possibly one that works on Verizon — is just months away. But plenty of consumers won’t be oblivious to this. And Apple will move less iPhones than it could have.

The issue here is that more than anything else, people interested in the iPhone but who are holding out are doing so for three reasons. First, many are still unsure about the antenna issue and think it may be worth it to wait until the next iteration next year. Second, many are waiting to see if a Verizon version becomes available. Third, many are waiting for the white version of the iPhone 4.

If Apple doesn’t get the white version out there soon, all three of those issues are likely to collide. And it may push a lot of would-be iPhone purchasers back from making the jump until next year.

Either that, or the special edition Disney™ Snow White® iPhone 4 will be the fastest selling iPhone yet.

[image via NQB]


OMG/JK Episode 4: A New Hope

It’s that time of week again: the latest episode of TechCrunch TV’s OMG/JK has just landed. As always, the show features fellow TechCrunch writer MG Siegler and myself discussing (and arguing about) the week’s top tech stories.

This week’s topics include the demise of the Nexus One, AT&T’s troubled relationship with Apple, and plenty of other key information that will help you impress your friends. Also, one thing to note: you can now subscribe to the show as a podcast! Subscribe now, so you’ll never miss an episode. At some point in the near future we’ll be distributing a subscriber-only video featuring MG serenading his iPhone 4. You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?


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Marriott Unveils Green Hotel Prototype

Marriott International today unveiled a prototype that will help it build more green, LEED-certified hotels.

The prototype is the first of its kind for the U.S. hotel industry, the company says.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED-certified buildings are designed to meet environmental goals including reducing landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions, conserving energy and water and lowering operating costs.

The Courtyard Charleston/Summerville is the first of Marriott hotels following the new, green design. It is expected to open for business in South Carolina in 2012.

Using the prototype will save the hotel giant six months of design time on each hotel. That’s about what the company says it would usually take to design a LEED-certificate worth new property. Marriott plans to roll out similar prototypes for its other brands in the future, including Residence Inn by Marriott and Towne Place Suites.

The company also expects to save about $100,000, and up to 25% in energy and water savings on each hotel built following this prototype.

Going green is nothing new to Marriott. It currently owns close to 50 LEED-certified hotels and aims to raise that number to 300 by 2015.

According to the USGBC, there are currently 937 LEED registered and certified hotels in the U.S.

The environmental bug has hit the economy segment of the industry, too.

A Motel 6 in Northlake, Texas became the country’s first LEED-certified motel property earlier this month.

And Motel 6 is using a prototype approach to increase its number of LEED-certified motels as well.


LinkedIn Hires Shannon Stubo, Key Exec For IPO Run

LinkedIn has hired Shannon Stubo as their new Vice President Communications, CEO Jeff Weiner tells us.

Stubo, most recently at OpenTable, took that company through their IPO process. Prior to OpenTable Stubo spent seven years at eBay, eventually as vice president of corporate communications.

Companies usually stack their executive teams with people who’ve previously worked at public companies, and execs who’ve actually gone through the IPO process are particularly valued. Stubo will understand the nuances around complicated SEC rules around publicity in a pre-IPO company.

Of course Weiner says he hired Stubo for other reasons, and won’t comment on the company’s IPO plans. But it’s clear LinkedIn is looking to file for an IPO sometime in the next few financial quarters. Unless, of course, one of the big guys makes them an acquisition offer they can’t refuse.

This isn’t the first addition to the LinkedIn team that indicates that the company is looking to boost its experience of advising a company through an IPO. Earlier this year, LinkedIn brought on its first outside board member, Skip Battle, former Ask.com CEO and board member of Netflix, Expedia and OpenTable. While Weiner told us at the time that Battle’s experience advising consumer focused and enterprise companies made him an ideal choice, it’s clear that the seasoned exec’s role in helping lead a number of technology companies through a public offering may have been a factor as well.

I sat down with Weiner earlier today to talk about the hiring of Stubo and to talk about LinkedIn in general. The company has 70 million users now, and about 40 million people visit the site each month.

He doesn’t see LinkedIn as a professional version of Facebook. I asked him if LinkedIn, which generates significant revenue from job listings and from companies that pay for insights into people for recruiting purposes, if he considers Facebook or Monster the more direct competitor.

Neither, he said. LinkedIn is a unique thing. And just as people think of Starbucks for coffee or Google for search, he wants them to think of LinkedIn for human talent – finding jobs, finding people and making people more successful in business.


Twitter Nabs Google’s Lead Android Evangelist. Next Target: Students

After a bit of a slow start, the Android app ecosystem is now growing at a rapid clip, as it nears 100,000 apps. One of the people Google can thank for that is Sun Hu Kim, their lead for Android developer marketing. But come Monday, he won’t be pitching Android anymore, he’ll be pitching Twitter.

Twitter has hired the longtime Google employee (he’s been there just about 4 years) to be a part of Twitter’s fast-growing platform team, the company has confirmed. Kim tweeted about the news a few minutes ago, as well.

Twitter didn’t have any more to say about what he’ll specifically be doing for the company now, but you can bet he’ll be playing to his strengths as a marketing manager. As he notes on his LinkedIn profile, at Google his job was “Encouraging developers from around the world to build apps for Android.” Now he’ll likely be doing the same thing for Twitter.

You may recall that Twitter worked closely with the Android team to make their native Android app. Earlier this year, the head of Android’s core library moved on to the mobile payment startup, Square — a company founded by Twitter chairman (and creator) Jack Dorsey.

In other Twitter recruitment news, earlier today, Twitter’s Join The Flock account (the account they use for recruiting purposes) tweeted that they would soon being recruiting for new employees on college campuses.

Twitter University Recruiting is coming…need a Twitter-y name for it, suggestions?,” reads the tweet. Twitter is growing fast, but employee growth can’t seem to keep pace with user (and usage) growth, as they made pretty in their post talking about the recent scaling issues. There are over 20 engineering positions they are actively looking to fill — on top of several other ones.

University recruitment is a huge area of emphasis for larger companies like Microsoft, Google, and even Facebook. You’ll soon be able to add Twitter to that list.

Update: Jokes Twitter’s Ryan Sarver, the Director of the Platform team Kim will be joining, “he’ll be working on the twPhone 🙂” iPhone killer watch take 600!


VH1 Will Be Promoting Foursquare On National Television All Summer Long

The caliber of the partnerships that location-based startup Foursquare keeps landing continues to be impressive. A new tie-up with VH1 will see the cable network promoting Foursquare through the commercial below — all Summer long.

Foursquare has had commercials before — like this Bravo one in February — but this one should be the biggest draw for the masses yet. Foursquare has linked up with VH1 and Live Nation for an “unlock it to rock it” promotion. The commercial not only plays up the ability to win Foursquare badges, but also a contest that will have a winner getting access to a year’s worth of concerts for free.

The commercial showcases key Foursquare functionality: the ability to check-in to places around your city and get tips. VH1′s Foursquare account also gives you the added bonus of getting tip from celebrities — well, if you consider that a bonus.

It took quite a bit of time for other hot startups like Twitter to get this kind of mainstream exposure. Foursquare is getting it much, much faster. And again, this will be playing on VH1 all Summer (Foursquare head of business development Tristan Walker also hints that the promotion will extend past this Summer).


Apple: Due To Manufacturing Challenges, White iPhone 4 Won’t Be Available Until Late 2010

Looks like you’ll have to wait a little longer for the White iPhone 4. Apple just released a statement saying that the white model of the new iPhone won’t be available until later in 2010.

In late June, Apple released a statement saying that the white iPhone 4 will not be available until the second half of July due to manufacturing challenges. As with this most recent release, it is unclear from the statement what those challenges are. But we received an update last week during Steve Jobs’ ‘Antennagate’ speech that the White iPhone would ship at the end of July.

It appears things have changed within a week.

Apple said that the shortage of the white iPhones will not affect supply of the more popular black models. But for those of you who were pining for a white device, you will have to wait until later this year. The iPhone 4 was available for pre-order in Black starting June 15. At that point, it was assumed you’d be able to purchase the white model of the phone in stores on June 24. But clearly, these “Manufacturing challenges” have prevented Apple from releasing large quantities of the phone to the public.

Here’s the full statement from Apple:

White models of Apple’s new iPhone® 4 have continued to be more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected, and as a result they will not be available until later this year. The availability of the more popular iPhone 4 black models is not affected.

Of course you can always try to build your own white iPhone 4 if you don’t want to wait.


The Best Of The iPhone 4 Spoofs [Videos]

Okay, after our last post on Darth Vader and the iPhone 4, we’re getting pinged way too fast with all the videos we left out but should have included. So behold: the best of the iPhone 4 videos.

If you have any others you know of, be sure to let us know and we’ll throw them in here.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Is A New And Improved iMac Coming Later This Year? Likely

If all the rumors are true, Apple is preparing to totally overall its entire computer line from the MacBook Air, Mac Pro, and iMac. Apparently the retail supplies of iMacs are dwindling and and according to AppleInsider, Apple told at least one distributor not to expect any new shipments. The last time this happened, the new Mac Mini appeared shortly afterwards.

Hope you didn’t just buy an iMac. The next refresh should be nice. It might even come with a desktop version of iOS and a gigantic touchscreen.


Google’s New Video Ad Highlights How Content Farms Rule At The Search Game

So yesterday, I notice there’s a new article up on Google’s main blog, head on over there and see it’s merely a post featuring the latest video in the company’s Search Stories series, video ads which essentially aim to highlight how all kinds of people use Google Search. They’re nice and all, if pretty pointless in my book, but nothing particularly spectacular about them.

But this latest one, labeled ‘Brother and Sister’, caught my attention because of something entirely different than the narrative or the concept.

First, watch the video:

Did you take notice of the search results that are shown, and at times clicked upon?

Take a look at the screenshot below if you didn’t pay attention to them.

Here are the sites that are shown throughout the video:

1) TellMeHowTo.net – property of Clarity Media; an online community of users sharing hints and tips on how to do just about everything.

2) eHow (shown 3 times) – part of the Demand Media stable; an online community of users who publish how-tos, images and video clips and receive a percentage of profits earned from traffic and advertising.

3) Instructables.com – independent service; an online community of users who share what they do and how they do it, a place where people go to learn from and collaborate with others.

4) Teenadvice.About.com – About.com is part of The New York Times Company; the site banks on ‘guides and contributors’ to offer solutions and advice on, well, again, just about everything.

5) TheKnot – a listed niche media company that caters to brides and, to a lesser degree, grooms by serving just about everything you might ever want to know about weddings; while the main content comes from professional editors, a core aspect of TheKnot is its online community of users who actively share information, tips and whatnot on its message boards.

Notice a pattern here?

I realize full well it may not seem fair to everyone to be calling all these sites mere content farms – that all depends on what you think the term entails, or doesn’t.

But clearly, all these sites rely on users generating content to a certain degree, either in exchange for cash or other benefits, or simply for the sake of being part of an online community of like-minded souls who actively engage in content creation and curation.

In my mind, Google in its latest ‘Search Story’ perfectly highlighted that amazingly often content produced by non-professional writers tends to come out on top when one does certain types of searches on the Web (the same goes for Q&A sites, which also shows in the video).

That’s the whole point of course: companies like Demand Media, Yahoo’s Associated Content and AOL’s Seed thrive on throwing online masses of search engine friendly but often poorly researched or written content, produced by amateurs at low cost.

I mean, sweet Lord, did you read this?

You can debate if this is the future of online journalism or the definitive end of hand-crafted content all you want. What Google’s video inadvertently shows is that the strategy is clearly working – these sites are getting an enormous amount of traffic from search engines, all of which gets monetized quite efficiently in most cases (that’s what the whole business model depends on).

Thanks to Google for reminding me of Michael’s last sentence in his essay on the rise of (crappy) content farms: “Long live fast food content, it’s here to stay.”


Darth Vader Calls Apple About His iPhone 4 Antenna [Video]

Regardless of what you think about the whole iPhone 4 antenna debate, there’s no denying that it’s fueling a massive amount of creativity on the Internet. We’ve got the iPhone 4 antenna song (which Apple even played at its press conference), the cute “End Call” antenna covering stickers, the College Humor take on the press conference, and, of course, the Taiwanese animation for Antennagate with light sabers.

The Taiwanese video features Bill Gates (or some other Microsoft guy) as Darth Vader. Vader also plays a pivotal role in new video today by Russell Arch. No, it’s not as good as the Taiwanese one (nor the iPhone vs. EVO videos), but it’s still pretty funny. It starts off slow, but it gets good at the end.

The choice lines:

  • “Are you seriously defending the new phone by saying that it almost performs as well as the old phone? Is that what the plan is?”
  • “So everybody gets hit with 4 times the radiation just because these idiots can’t work together?”
  • “Ha ha, and get what, the EVO? I mean those poor saps are having light leaks and their screens peeling off after a couple of days.”
  • “And don’t even get me started on the Droid X. Uh, let’s see, you take the original phone, remove the physical keyboard, make it as big as a toaster, and still don’t add a front-facing camera? Yeah, that’s progress.”
  • “Look, just level with me: it’s AT&T isn’t it? If it is just cough or something.”

See also: The Best Of The iPhone 4 Spoofs

Information provided by CrunchBase


HP Wants To Become Apple. WebOS Is The Key

In season 1 of AMC’s hit show Mad Men, Rachel Menken comes to the advertising firm Sterling Cooper because she wants to give her department store, Menken’s, a makeover, so to speak. She wants to transform it from a successful department store into an elite one. “What kind of people do you want [coming into your store]?,” Creative Director Don Draper asks Menken. “I want your kind of people Mr. Draper. People who don’t care about coupons — whether or not they can afford it. People who come into the store because it is expensive,” Menken replies.

Based on what we’re hearing, HP has been having similarly themed meetings in recent months. They want to transform themselves — from HP, the successful tech juggernaut, into Apple, the sexy one.

When you think of HP, what do you think of? For most consumers it’s either printers and sort of crappy, cheap computers that you get at Best Buy. But that’s not what HP aspires to be anymore, sources familiar with HP’s thinking are telling us. They want to be Apple. They want be the makers of high-quality consumer gadgets all connected by way of a digital ecosystem. An ecosystem they own and operate. One tied together by webOS.

While it should hardly be surprising to hear that any company wants to be Apple given that company’s recent success, HP is one of a very few — and actually maybe the only company with the required assets to potentially pull off such a makeover. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to — but it’s possible. And they know that, and that’s exactly what their strategy is going forward, apparently.

On the face of it, it may not seem to make a lot of sense. After all, HP makes nearly double the revenue that Apple does each quarter. But despite this, it’s Apple that actually makes more profit. And it’s Apple that has more than double the market cap of HP. In the eyes of investors, Apple is the up-and-coming rockstar, HP is the aging one. And they’re closely tied to their counterpart, Microsoft, who is also seen as aging.

And that’s what HP is trying to break away from.

WebOS is the key to all of this. It’s the software layer that HP’s hardware has been lacking — forcing them to go with Microsoft instead. But the Palm acquisition in April changed all of that. From the moment that happened, HP has made no secret that the reason for the deal was to “double-down” on webOS.

Just listen to what HP executive Todd Bradley had to say today at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, CO. “I think you’ll see us with a family of slate products, clearly Microsoft for the enterprise, and a webOS product,” Bradley said. “Our focus is working with still our largest software partner, Microsoft, to create a tablet, a slate, for the enterprise business,” he continued. What he’s doing there is carefully positioning HP’s relationship with Microsoft on new products going forward as being focused on the enterprise side of things. Previously, it was stated HP would do a Windows-powered slate for consumers. That is no longer the case. That tablet will be built to run webOS.

Does that mean HP is going to ditch Windows altogether anytime soon? Of course not. As the largest maker of PCs, HP is Microsoft’s largest customer. But for the new products HP is planning, it’s going to be all webOS. And on the desktop side of things, they’re working on webOS-syncing software that will run on Windows (and Macs), we hear. So again, they’re basically trying to recreate the ecosystem that Apple has.

HP executive Jon Rubinstein (the CEO of Palm) also confirmed at the same event today that webOS 2.0 is coming later this year. This new version is likely to be the first one that will start to tie all of these HP products together.

Speaking of Rubinstein, his pedigree here can’t be overlooked. He was the executive at Apple in charge of the iPod until he left in 2006. He’s the one who oversaw the framework for the ecosystem Apple has in place today. There was some talk leading up to the Palm acquisition if Rubinstein would stay or go — he’s apparently onboard with this new “let’s turn HP into Apple” idea. That shouldn’t be surprising given that this was the basic strategy at Palm with the Pre.

But Palm failed simply because they didn’t have the resources to do what they wanted to do (challenge Apple’s iPhone directly). HP does — and then some. And while HP is not a player in the mobile space right now, they plan to be once again with webOS.

From what we’re hearing, HP wants to create a seamless experience for all of their hardware. That’s PCs to notebooks to netbooks to tablets to mobile phones to printers. And they want to do so with a much more controlled product line than they’ve previously had. They want to move towards more premium products, ones with higher margins. That will make the profits go up, just as it has with Apple.

Of course, whether or not HP can make any of this happen is a pretty big “if.” One obvious problem with them being Apple is that they don’t have their own retail stores, like Apple does. HPs are sold everywhere from Best Buy to Costco, but those stores tend to attract people looking for bargains. And those that aren’t, buy Macs there.

Second, HP’s strategy in mobile phones will meet resistance not only from the iPhone, but from Google’s Android phones. But Google appears to be positioning Android as the sort-of Windows of the smartphone era. That is, they’re all about getting their software as widely distributed as possible. Like Microsoft with PCs, Google don’t make their own hardware for Android (though they had a hand in designing the Nexus One, which is all but dead now). HP would be making its own hardware to run webOS. Again, like Apple.

Android also poses a potential threat in the tablet field. But again, Google won’t be making this hardware. As I said at the beginning, because HP is a hardware maker that just happened to purchase a great piece of software in webOS, they have a shot at pulling off what Apple has. Whereas most other rivals, even Google, cannot. Android may be ubiquitous by this time next year, but the experience won’t be as seamless as it is within Apple’s ecosystem. And, HP hopes, their ecosystem. As Apple has proven, people are willing to pay a premium for that.

This is HP’s big bet on the future. They’re betting on the Apple way. And that’s the right way for them to bet because they’re a hardware company. With a shift towards mobile starting to take place, as well as new products like tablets starting to rise, HP seems smart to get ahead of this trend. They’re not Microsoft or Google where profits are in licenses and advertising, respectively. With the webOS buy, they’re much closer to Apple. The profits there are in premium products, buoyed by the seamless ecosystem.

That’s where HP is heading.

[images: AMC]


Disney About To Acquire Playdom

Disney and social gaming startup Playdom are in “very” late stage acquisition discussions, we’ve heard from, oh, about seven independent sources, including sources close to Playdom, over the last several days. Internally the two parties have referred to the deal as “Project Platinum” based on due diligence documents we’ve reviewed.

Some sources have said the deal is signed and in the closing process. Others say it hasn’t been signed yet and could still unravel.

Disney is already an investor in Playdom – last month we reported that Disney’s Steamboat Ventures participated in a new injection of $33 million into the company. Playdom has raised a total of $76 million, and the most recent valuation of the company was around $345 million.

We’ve heard a wide range of speculation on the price Disney is paying for Playdom but haven’t confirmed anything yet. It’s probably safe to assume it’s a multiple of that $345 million valuation, though. Zynga, Playdom’s much larger competitor, has likely been valued at more than $2 billion in recent financings.

Does the deal make sense for Disney? There are a number of arguments that it does. Disney is weak in the social space, and despite making investments in MMOs, such a the acquisition of Club Penguin in 2007, digital revenues continue to make up a tiny percentage of overall revenue.

Disney has exceptional brands, from characters to movies, that can benefit from having social games being built around them. Social games generate revenue, sometimes lots of it, and it’s also free marketing. Expect to see social games around movies being released in advance in the future.

Earlier this month Disney acquired Tapulous.