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Christophe Maximin
I make things.
I make things.


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Steve Ballmer vs iPhone, And Why It’s Not About The Features

Bearer of bad news
Recently, I’ve been asked to give a talk to new and/or aspiring entrepreneurs.
The truth is, I almost resent talking to them, as I hate being the bearer of bad news.
And boy, there are many. I usually start with: "It’s going to be harder than you think, it will take longer than you think, you will lose health, friends and money in the process, and you probably won’t succeed in the end."

But there is a good news. Especially valuable in the startup community, but not only.
This good news makes the conversation worth having, because so few people are aware of it:
You don’t need to have more features than your competitors to successfully launch your product.

Case study - Steve Ballmer vs iPhone
Steve Ballmer, January 2007, on the newly announced iPhone: "You can get a Motorolla Q phone now, for $99; it is a very capable machine, it will do music, it will do internet, it will do email, it will do instant messaging. So I kinda look at that and I say, I like our strategy, I like it a lot." (video: Steve Ballmer Laughs At The iPhone).

Ballmer obviously failed to understand that users actually do care about the way they use their device, not just that it "does it".

Yes, you couldn’t install apps on the original iPhone (can you believe it?). Yes, you couldn’t use the 3G network. And there was no camera. (There was one actually). And on top of that, it was crazy expensive.
So why did it prevail? Where was Ballmer wrong?

He just made the common mistake of many entrepreneurs, upcoming and experienced alike: Users actually do care about the way they use their device, not just that it "does it".
The iPhone then went on to become the gold standard in the smartphone industry.

Three years later, difference device, same story.
Remember how the iPad was decried for being pricey, while having way less features than its competitors? No USB ports, no camera, no multitasking, no Flash...
Phil Schiller (Senior VP of Worldwide product marketing at Apple) dismissed these criticisms in a very simple way: "It's not about the features — it's about the experience. You just have to try it to see what I mean." (source:,9171,1977113,00.html).

Not just for big companies
This approach works especially well for young startups, and you still don’t have to be first. Just more focused than your competitors.

Google didn’t invent search engines when they released Google search.
37signals didn’t invent web based project managment softwares with Basecamp.
Dropbox surely didn’t invent concept of online backup services.

Being focused on the core of your product is a big part of the "Lean Startup" methodology.
You can watch the case studies of startups like Dropbox or IMVU here:

Conclusion - "Just do it"
There is still room for innovation everywhere. It will always be hard, but never impossible.
Always remember, to not just work harder, work smarter.

PS: This post was also published here:
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Today, we lost a true visionary, a creative genius, an inspiration for so many, a legend for some, a hero for others.

Now, with the enormous amount of articles about him being published, if you still don't understand why he touched so many people in such a profound way, me included, there's not much I can do for you.

Thank you for everything Steve.
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The photo I took early this morning was chosen to illustrate Wikipedia's article
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In the last 7 days, I received more (interesting) emails than in the whole month;
Funny how it works sometimes, I wonder if it obeys to some mathematical function no one told me about ...
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Funny line of the day: "Being a Blackberry fan boy in 2011 is like denying global warming; everyone knows you’re wrong at this point and can’t really be bothered to hear your “counterarguments.” "

From: "Haters Gonna Hate: The Argument Against Fanboys"
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How Google Can Really Innovate / The Biggest Feature Missing in G+

== Why it’s not search ==
Many posts have been written about how search is the biggest thing missing, but I don’t really worry about that.
We're talking about Google; search will come eventually, maybe even through the “traditionnal” Google social search, which already works really well for searching Twitter posts of people you follow.

== The need for innovation ==
The truth is, we like G+ mainly because it’s a Facebook by Not-Facebook ( ), and because most people on it are geeks talking about geeking things.

But I don’t believe you can only build a lasting social network that way, since eventually, all kinds of people will use it. And even without pokes and zynga games, the content posted will tend the same, it already started. Google needs to innovate in a big way to have a real edge in this game.

Circles aren’t really new, even if the interfacing is really neat. You can create lists of friends on Facebook since so-long-i-can’t-remember.

== What I really want ==
You know this person, (s)he’s in your contacts right now. Most of the times he posts about things you really care about, but too often, he posts about a subject you don’t really care about, e.g. some political issues, funny cat pictures, his taste of music.

I want G+ to automatically tag each of his post, with a few keywords, leaving me the choice to not adding to my stream his posts which are tagged #music or #politics for instance.
Of course, he should be able edit the list of tags generated.

With this fantastic noise-control feature, your timeline will be guaranteed to be only “the stuff you want”. I already use G+ so much, I might even use it more than Twitter at this point.

== The politics of it ==
Facebook will never implement this feature because their politics are “people should share everything with everyone at all time”, which means no real filtering.
That’s the reason why the “list of friends” is a feature buried deep into their interface: They don’t want you to use it.

== Three other features I would love==
- Archiving by year/month/day : I would be able to “blog” here
- A better timeline (compile the posts re-shared in one block, like facebook does)
- Search (duh)

TL;DR: I want G+ to automatically tag each post of the people I follow, and being able to filter out some of them.
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I'm kind of glad they gave G+ a different color scheme from the "big blue" of other social services...
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According to my tests, G+'s posts are limited to 34465 characters. That's more than enough I guess.
For comparison, this article is ~6000 characters long.
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I won't be surprised if people fall in the same "trap" of limited sharing (as they always do):
"Well, I shared this very embarrassing photo of myself only with X and Y, and somehow Z got a hold of it! Google+ sucks as well as Facebook !"

Rule of thumb: once you put something on the internet, it becomes public domain. No exceptions.
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+Tom Critchlow Do you feel like google+ will replace picplz for you or ... ? (just wondering)
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