Microsoft Is (A)Live With Photo Sharing, Social Roll Out While Apple Searches

Microsoft has rearchitected its Live.com portal to be more of a social network on which users can pull in data from various sources and interact with their friends. TechCrunch has more coverage:

Users are automatically connected with any friends they have on Windows Live Messenger, which is by far the most popular instant messaging service worldwide (Comscore: Microsoft Messenger has 268 million worldwide users, compared to 116 million for Yahoo and 6 million for Google Talk).

Users are asked to build out their profile, and can also bring in content they create on blogs (or any RSS feeds, Flickr, LinkedIn, Pandora, Photobucket, iLike, Twitter, WordPress and Yelp. When you do something new on those sites, the information flows into Live.com for your friends to see (in a very similar way as FriendFeed, Plaxo and others do today). Eventually, says Microsoft, more than 50 partners will be supported. When users add photos, write reviews, and update their profiles directly on Live.com, that content will be put into the activity stream as well.

The hope, of course, is to get people to hang out a lot more at Live.com. At least those people who use Messenger, since they already have their contacts established. Like Yahoo, Microsoft is going with its strengths, which in their case is instant messaging.

Microsoft’s software plus services strategy has clearly infiltrated Live.com as well as their approach with Office. Live.com users can now access a variety of online services like mail, calendar, photos, online storage, etc., as well as downloaded services that include a mail client, instant messaging, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, the Toolbar and other services. And now it’s also one big social network.

Included in this new roll out is a photo sharing site call Live Photos. ReadWriteWeb has a solid review.

They point out that the slideshow background changes color depending on the dominant color in the photo being displayed at any given time – this is an interesting feature and points to photo sharing services growing their intelligence of what is taking place inphoto as it were.

Furthermore:

You can share your albums with very granular permissions, and also share individual photos. Every photo can be tagged and your visitors can also leave comments.

On the other side of the spectrum, Apple is reported to be working on a search engine. This one’s more of a rumor than substantiated Valley lore at the moment. Again from TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington.

TechCrunch Gets Down To Hard Business

Just as you were thinking the world had righted itself from a tech company like Apple delving into the phone business (and achieving 38% year on year revenue growth), along comes TechCrunch with a bombshell.

This leading tech blogging business has decided to build its own web tablet hardware device. The aim is to create a device that spans the gap between the iPhone and the Macbook Air – the ideal device would be a lightweight small tablet running nothing more than Firefox on a decent screen and with a WiFi connection.

It’s really tough going from being a purely content and connections play into the hardware arena, but here’s why I like it: – the connections side of TechCrunch will be heavily leveraged to create an open source development community and also to bring in the right corporate partners to make sure this succeeds.

Get to it guys and log my order!

Elevator Pitches: Rule 1, Don’t Hang Your Pet By Its Tail, Even On TechCrunch!

TechCrunch has set up a community video project called Elevator Pitches. Limited to 60 seconds these pitches are voted up or down by the community.

It looks like a fun way to get entrepreneurs to hone their pitching skills and get some coverage. Below is the video from Ugobe‘s CEO, Bob Christopher – it’s an interesting take on the whole elevator pitch by a company with a great product and by the sounds of it, great vision.

But Bob – holding the Pleo by the tail until it squeals breaks the first rule of pitching — keep the focus on your venture and its value proposition…

Google Search 2.0 = Digg Plus Friendfeed

The following video sourced from TechCrunch outlines a possible next iteration of Google Search. It’s very interesting to note the inclusion of Digg-like vote up/down features as well as on-search comments and profiling a la Friendfeed.

Should Google go ahead and implement this new feature set it will make search an order of magnitude more social.

Angel Investing Rule No1: Communicate First, Broadcast Last – Lessons From Seesmic, Omnidrive

Earlier in the month I wrote a post about the Omnidrive situation in which an angel investor in the company, Clay Cook very publicly denounced the company’s founder Nik Cubrilovic. I’ve since spoken with Nik and heard his side of the story and also delved more deeply. There are definitely two sides to every story and this case is no exception.

As a brief aside, there is an interesting bacskstory at play. In addition to being a founder of Omnidrive, Nik was at the time writing for TechCrunch. This made him a magnet for people wanting to be “in” with the Atherton Web 2.0 camp, as personified by TechCrunch HQ – Michael Arrington’s place in the Silicon Valley suburb.

Sometime after Clay had invested in Omnidrive he moved with his family from Perth to Atherton. They quickly became a part of the scene, Clay bought himself a Hummer and they began to hit the Valley circuit of launches, parties and conferences. He made a follow on investment into Omnidrive, but soon after this things seemed to go pear-shaped.

He was unable to secure a visa to remain in the US and ended up back in Perth a few months later. During this time there was a breakdown of communication between Nik and Clay. In addition Nik fell completely off the TechCrunch radar. He stopped writing for them and Michael Arrington has not mentioned Omnidrive or Nik since then. Michael recently lauded Duncan Riley when he left the TechCrunch stable, and he pointed out that all his former staffers remain TechCrunch friends – Nik’s name was not included on this list.

It would seem that personal and business frustrations reached a boiling point and Clay made his public denouncement. At the time he was still a shareholder of the company.

This gives rise to certain legal and ethical obligations. While the strict black letter set of rights and obligations are crystallized in a company’s Shareholder Agreement, it can be argued that even if that document is silent on the matter there are two duties that emanate from the angel investor relationship.

The first is a synchronous duty of disclosure or communication. As an executive of a company, the CEO has a duty to maintain a regular channel of communication with shareholders. In my view this goes beyond providing regular reporting on the status of the business. Angel investing is largely personal and the communication should match that relationship. This duty also rests on the investor and it is not prudent to close that channel.

The second duty is a duty of care that the investor has, as a shareholder in the business, to not harm the company through their actions. Where that investor has a public channel of communication open to them, this duty suggests that channel should not be used to air grievances between the company, its executives and the investor.

As I said initially, I’m not taking sides in the Omnidrive situation, but looked at as a case study, it is clear that we can derive a key rule for angel investing: Communicate First, Broadcast Last.

This rule is directed at both the investors and investees in an angel transaction – both parties should communicate as much as possible and try not to broadcast their grievances.

Let’s now turn to a more recent case study that again illustrates this rule: Seesmic.

In February Seesmic’s CEO, Loic Le Meur, (seen here outside TechCrunch HQ) announced the company had raised a $6 million investment. The funding came from Atomico, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis’s private investment vehicle, as well as from a line-up of angel investors that included Steve Case, Ron Conway, Reid Hoffman, Michael Parekh and a few others including two people who have been involved with Omnidrive – Jeff Clavier and Michael Arrington.

I spoke with Loic recently and in our conversation we discussed how he was building Seesmic and also explored the nature of the relationship he had formulated with his investors. From this conversation I had the distinct feeling that he got this rule: Communicate First, Broadcast Last.

Loic told me that he is “building Seesmic a lot in the open”. He found his investors through networking around: “if Reid Hoffman invests then you have two more entrepreneurs who want to invest.”

And similarly he made it clear that he talks to his fourteen investors on a daily basis. “There is not a single day when I don’t talk to one of them.”

So it came as a big surprise when I read Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch post: Don’t Screw Your Partners Over A Marketing Promotion. Michael is a minority shareholder in Seesmic and yet here he was very publicly taking Seesmic to task over a lack of communication.

Again, I don’t want to take sides – I also have Seesmic’s video enabled in the comments on this blog, but it seems that the first part of the rule was not followed by either Loic or Michael – communicate first. Loic should have let all those parties who have the Seesmic plugin know that there was going to be a series of outages, but he should have told his investors about this as a priority.

At the same time, Michael would have been better off taking Loic to task privately and working collectively to ensure that the public issues management aspect was handled more appropriately. He clearly did not adhere to the second part of the rule: Broadcast Last.

In closing, I call on all parties involved in building early stage ventures to communicate more, no matter how busy you may get and when emotions run high try to exercise restraint, especially when you feel compelled to hit the broadcast button.

And Coming In Third, Here Comes Google

TechCrunch has broken the news that Google intends following MySpace’s Data Availability and Facebook’s Connect with an Open Social product called Friend Connect.

Similarly this will be a set of APIs for Open Social participants to pull profile information from social networks into third party websites.

Perhaps if Google had played nice with Open Social all along they would not be third to market and other players would’ve followed Open Social more closely.

[picture courtesy of squarewithin]

Micrsoft/Yahoo Deal Theme Song: It Ain’t Over Till Its Over

The blogosphere has been abuzz since Microsoft indicated it was walking away from its offer to acquire Yahoo. But as many of us know a deal like this ain’t over till its over – anything can happen, and indications from Ballmer behavioralists is that anything probably will happen.

Taking a read through Michael Arrington’s comments on his colleague, Erick Schonfeld’s blog post speculating on the departure of Steve Ballmer we find:

Wow, Erick. Your poll options remind me of the “so when did you stop beating your wife” jokes. In yesterday’s Gillmor Gang we talked about what, if anything, Microsoft did wrong in the negotiations. Overall it seems they were handled as well as could be expected right from the beginning.

and later,

I mean, seriously, how about “He’s played this perfectly from start to finish”

and it isn’t over yet.

One thing the team at TechCrunch hopefully can agree on, and which they’ve got right is that Yahoo will be having an interesting Monday.

The best comment so far though has to be this parody: