One of the big dangers in the social media space is groupthink. We see ourselves as cool kids and arbiters of fashion. We have our dedicated followers, so we must know what is going on, right? But the kind of people that swear by the latest service with a missing vowel are weird. We’re outliers. We’re not normal. The blogosphere is a different country, and we do things differently here. In the real market we’re not even a rounding error in terms of share.
Of course web dorks can be harbingers. We knew the Mac was going to hurt Windows long before “market research” did. But its really important to understand that while the future is already here, in outlying regions, it may well look different by the time we get there. Tim O’Reilly is the alpha and omega of alpha geek watching. Indeed, RedMonk has stolen from Tim relentlessly if explicitly – applying his models to the industry analyst business. But more important than thinking alpha geeks get it, is realising they don’t. The piece to read is Watching the “Alpha Geeks”: OS X and the Next Big Thing.
Systems get easier to use by ordinary people, but less satisfying for advanced users. During the standardization process, dominant players put up barriers to entry and try to control the market. Entrepreneurs get acquired or squeezed out. Hackers move on to new areas, looking for “elbow room.” Innovation slows down. The cycle repeats itself.
The best platforms know how to find a balance between control and hackability, and the best companies learn how to disrupt themselves before someone else does it to them.
The point here is that the mainstream is different. Or as I am fond of saying: Facebook is Twitter for civilians.
So where am I going with this, given HP is in the title? I first began to understand HP’s approach when I visited HP Labs in Bristol last year. At the time I said:
I have regularly hammered IBM for having no “consumer” touch points. I came away from Bristol realising that HP has plenty, and its helping the company better understand Everything As A Service. HP owns snapfish. I knew nothing about this online photo storage app (being a dork I only know about Flickr, Smugmug and Picasa) – it has 50m users.
Like Cisco with its consumer facing video strategy which will drive bandwidth consumption and so router sales, consumer photography benefits HP because it sells cameras, and particularly photo printing.
Which finally brings me to the news peg for this post. By launching Gabble this week HP is experimentally competing with Phreadz, Seesmic and to a lesser extent Flickr Video (long photos) and so HP says, YouTube.
What do we need a private YouTube for? Same reason as a private Flickr, I guess. As a geek It would be easy to be dismissive. But consider that SnapFish has a claimed 50m users… not sure how many of those are paying, although apparently revenues are generated globally, in places such as India. Now consider that according to Credit Suisse, YouTube will lose Google $470m this year. I am pretty sure HP is not looking to emulate that particular aspect of the YouTube model.
So what else is HP up to in this space? Check out logoworks, an HP hosted service where designers offer logo design services for small and mid-sized businesses at around the $500 mark. Or MagCloud, a recent acquisition and intriguing pointer towards an on demand/vanity/niche magazine print market.
Or Tabblo for making stuff out of pictures.
What might my morning paper look like in future? How about Tabbloid, which turns feeds into PDFs with “newspaper” layouts. Wouldn’t you more expect to see this kind of thing from Adobe?
HP evidently doesn’t care in the least about competing with leading Web companies. Well- these firms have hardly bought a lot of IT vendor gear in the last few years. Indeed web companies see themselves as competing with enterprise vendors. HP is prepared to return the favour, its free to invent.
Some of you are probably wondering why monkchips is calling this stuff cloud when its really just consumer facing web services. You have a very good point. But – as HP opens up the APIs to these services (its activities in this arena are quite limited so far), they are likely to become steps in longer running cloud composed services. HP is not known for its skillz in marketing to developers- but digital creation tools is a massive opportunity for the firm. HP has oversized pockets, and a very different take on the world from IBM. Its clouds will look different accordingly, as will the namespaces they inhabit.
HP and the consumer cloud- where underground becomes mainstream. I am going to start watching a little more closely. It seems to me that other web heads probably should too.
update – got a good response from @davejohnson of Nitobi on twitter last night: “great post on HP! Is most of their interest in consumer or are they also into commercial Web 2.0 properties?”
My response - You could say HP is trying to consumerise some web 2.0 ideas. Safer, [with] family as the [basic] social network unit.
disclosure: HP is a Greenmonk client. IBM is a RedMonk client.