I have been watching the trends of Twitter Applications, Browsers and Platforms over the last couple of months and this type of segmentation and convergence had emerged.
First of all, what has excited me and what I have been waiting for over the last year has been an application that handles automatic translation.
Given the fact that I speak both Japanese and English and have business in both Asia and here in North America, I have wanted to build a consistent cross-border following on twitter. I found that with the existing Twitter platform, the only way to do this is with two-accounts. With my existing account, when I tweet in Japanese, I loose followers. When I tweet in English, I have a hard time growing Japanese followers.
I mentioned this concept to the Digital Garage folks last February when I was in Japan, but they all laughed. About a year ago during a Breakfast in Vancouver, Jeff Pulver ( Founder of 140conf.com, serial entrepreneur and VOIP visionary) and I had a lot of fun with this by cutting segments from Google translate into twitter to go back and forth between English and Twitter. Even when Jeff started to Tweet in Hebrew, he saw how this took conversations to the next level and really touched individuals on the other end. I can not stop thinking of the smile on his face when he said ” This is amazing”. So this is really the state of now when we see the auto-translation of different languages for different countries or multi-lingual translations.
When I saw the announcement in April by Hootsuite I felt like they were really listening to the customer; as there must had been lots others like me with the same predicament. In my mind this is a big move by the Hootsuite folks in their attempt at this and even though we have not yet seen this capability on Facebook, MARK MY WORDS….. This is going to be one of the most important features for them with their 500M users in the coming months. If they do not buy Hootsuite, then they will do this timeselves by the end of the year.
Given the fact I would like to Tweet in both English and Japanese simultaneously, I really thought this would be a feature that Twitter would release to the market. Given that Google is so strong in language tools, and Google has a terrific product ( Google Translate), I was pretty sure we would see this from our friends at Google first. Even thought this would get quickly integrated into Google Buzz so that it scaled. English language schools have grown from the cottage industry base to a core part of Japanese society. With the growth of iPhone and Android devices cross-border, I am sure this type of feature is going to be more and more important.
What we have seen is that our friends in Vancouver ( Hootsuite) have really looked to market differentiation with these translation tools. It only makes sense as Vancouver is one of those multilingual communities, and even here in Canada most people have adopted the two-language way ( English, French).
This is what the Hootsuite folks have to say:
Need more ways to socialize? Seeking zen-like efficiency? Start by updating HootSuite for iPhone to clear your mind and make your social media experience more enjoyable. This update adds full localization in four languages to go along with the recently-released translation tools. Both are designed to help marketers, socializers, and internationalists understand the vibe about their brand, industry, and interests from all over the globe. Additionally, the release includes a kit full of new tools to help you stay on top of multiple social streams — and share the best parts with remarkable efficiency. All the features are available in both the Lite (no-cost) and Full ($2.99 USD) versions of HootSuite for iPhone.
This may be a risky strategy for Hootsuite as unless they can get clients on both sides of the pond ( meaning that in order to really use the multilingual features, but send and received need a Hootsuite client) Twitter will just copy and improve on this. When Twitter does release its interfaces to support multilingual capabilities, where will this leave Hootsuite?
Secondly, when it comes to integration we are seeing many companies bring in all the different feeds into there Applications. Fring just announced with much success their Video-Call capability for mobile, Seesmic continues to be “Switzerland” with all of the different Feed integrations. I have just been waiting for them to make the product opensource or open API’s… as we have started to see more of with Tweetdeck and the Buzz API.
So where does this leave us? As Twitter sits in the middle of it all, it makes me wonder if Twitter has just become a proprietary TCP/IP-like bit pipe? They made the move to build there user experiences by buying the Application company Atebits most recently, but they are in a good position being in the middle.
The wildcard in this evolution in my mind is now the Browser. So lastly, I must say that the convergence that starts to get interesting is now what Plug-ins and what enablers we start to see in the browser as it also has become a standalone application in its own right. Opera released its application for the iPhone and in weeks we have seen Millions of downloads. They have developed a widget framework that has been adapted by several of the carriers now to promote services, application and advertising revenue from the Widgets. JIL ( Joint Innovation Lab – Softbank, Verizon, China Mobile and Vodafone) have actively been starting to promote the cross border opportunities with widgets through there entire network of devices as a core driver for developers, but the fact still remains that over 50% of developers are now focued on iPhone Applications.
Opera has positioned themselves very nicely in this Application game and it is going to be interesting what the next big moves are? Will Opera be aquired as part of the JV of JIL? Will Facebook buy Opera? or will we see the integration of Twitter and all these applications into Opera? or will we see Opera buy Hootsuite?
The fact remains that in the Application space there is a lot of convergence going on. What we have not heard much of these days for advanced integrated apps is Google. They did have their flagship Google I/O conference several weeks back and it is exciting to see that they are really driving HTML5. As HTML5 expands this gets very interesting from the standpoint of Application convergence. Where will this all go with HTML5 ( See my next post)