Amazon Dash may be the most amazing and ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen


Amazon announced a new thingamajig called Dash Button last week. The idea is you put the whats-it, which is branded for some recurring purchase item, near that item and every time you need a new one, you just click the button. One of the examples was Tide. Put the dingus in the laundry room and, when you run low on Tide, click the button and two days later, you’ll have a new box on your doorstep courtesy of Amazon.

This is brilliant. It is the combination of cheap technology, ubiquitous wifi and Amazon at its best, making it brain-dead-easy to buy more of whatever you need. In some ways this is Amazon at its finest, mixing technological innovation with shopping, two of America’s favorite pastimes. I might even consider this the ultimate in direct advertising: a constant reminder to buy Tide with no intermediary between pressing the button and getting your fix. Pavlov, anyone?

But it seems so 2005 to me. Is buying a new box of Tide really so painful today that I need a doohickey in my laundry room? And how many of these thingies am I going to have in my house? Ten on my refrigerator, one each for Lucerne milk and another for Dole mixed juice and another for my Philadelphia cream cheese and another for … it just goes on and on and on? I already have a ubiquitous, always connected device with me all the time for ordering stuff, though. It’s called a smartphone. Wouldn’t an app that lists my common household items with a simple Buy button be so much simpler?

I get it. This is a first stop — and maybe the most tangible so far — involving the Internet of Things. But it seems like this is a weak stopgap to a much more interesting future. In a couple of years, after all, there will be a sensor at the bottom of that Tide box that can sense how much detergent is still in the box. When it hits its target amount the Tide container is smart enough to send a notification to my smart watch: “Tide low. Order more?” with a simple “Buy Now” button awaiting your command. Having another whatchamacallit is definitely not what I need.

So many things can be like this in our lives. My car can notify me when I need an oil change, my coffee machine can notify me to order more coffee, and it is all possible with ubiqutious technology and cheap sensors. This future is fascinating, but I don’t think it is going to look like a big branded whatsit attached to my washing machine.

The trade-offs of changing people’s lives

I’m going to say it: I want to have influence. I want to change people’s lives. I want to help people learn and work more efficiently than they ever have before. I want to leave my mark on the world.

We’ve had over 2 million downloads of our powerOne products on iOS and Android now over almost 8 years. Believe it or not this is far behind the pace we set for ourselves in the earlier part of the decade on Palm OS and Windows Mobile, where we had close to 15 million downloads over 5 years. 2 million, 15 million, though, is only a (good) start. There are over 1 billion people carrying around an iOS or Android smartphone, which means only 0.2%, roughly, even know about us.

The hardest part about building a business is getting people to know about the product. It is clear that charging for apps keeps people from using your products. But if we don’t charge for our software — that’s charge real, sustainable subscriptions, not these ridiculous $1 or $5 one-time price points — means we can’t afford to be in business.

Without funding it feels like we only get to pick one: 1) scale and have influence, paying for our families to live through some other means, or  2) charge a subscription, limit our influence ambitions but have the potential to make sustainable revenues near-term. I don’t want to pick but I can’t find a middle ground. I want my cake (influence) and eat it too (revenues).

You’re going to pray at an altar. The question is, which one?

Gigaom shut down last week. Gigaom was a fairly innovative “new wave” media company aimed at technology markets, trying to build something big on the back of subscriptions, events and paid-for research reports. To fund itself Gigaom raised $22 million over nine years.

Om Malik, founder, said last year after it raised its last round, “In 2008, our company decided that we would not pray at the altar of pageviews and advertising metrics that do nothing but devalue our reader’s time and attention.” Instead, Om and Gigaom apparently prayed at the altar of venture capitalists.

We all pray at the altar of something. Some pray to the ad gods, others prostrate at the feet of lenders or VCs. Even those without funding still need funding. It just comes from customers instead. I know I’ve spent many a sleepless night praying for a few more paying customers.

Why Apple’s Force Touch technology was Monday’s most interesting announcement

There was a lot of interesting aspects to Apple’s Monday keynote. The Apple Watch is compelling, although I still have not decided if the first generation is for me. The new Macbook is exciting. The only thing we ever plug into our family laptop is the power cord. The idea of lighter, simpler and smaller really appeals to me. And the ResearchKit SDK is fascinating. I hope it really helps us solve some of life’s most troubling diseases. Given all that, though, the minute or two spent on Force Touch technology was the most interesting.

When Apple introduced the iPhone, one of the biggest innovations was Apple’s touch layer. For really the first time we could use a finger to scroll around a screen, zoom in with a tap, gesture with a pinch motion and more.

All of these gestures, though, were two-dimensional across the surface of the device. With Force Touch, Apple now makes touches three-dimensional. The force applied to the touch will also have meaning.

Think of all the ways this could be used by developers:

  • A game could use Force Touch to indicate how hard to throw a weapon
  • Drawing apps can thicken the line based on the force used to touch the screen
  • Note-taking apps with pen input can use force to distinguish between the pen and the wrist resting on the device, significantly improving palm rejection (and opening up true pen input)
  • Buttons can take on additional meaning, revealing power user functionality based on the force of a tap

There are already rumors that Apple will be integrating the technology into iPhones. This is a no-brainer and hopefully Force Touch will be a standard iPad feature as well. Adding a third-dimension to touch interaction could open a world of fascinating possibilities, one that no other device manufacturer has.

Introducing DEWALT Mobile Pro for Android

I am proud to announce that we shipped DEWALT Mobile Pro for Android last week. It is available from both Google Play and Kindle Appstore.

While the basics are the same, a wonderful scientific and unit calculator, a few free templates and a number of additional packs that can be purchased in app, the Android version has been completely re-written from scratch using some of the technology we’ve developed for Equals. The app itself is much cleaner and, hopefully, much simpler to use.

If you are interested in where we are taking our products, you might want to take a look. Even if you don’t have an Android or Kindle device, there are multiple screenshots available to review. And if you do have an Android or Kindle device, please download the app and give it a nice review!