Expo: Guy Kawasaki's developer showcase
Long-time Mac fans will remember Kawasaki as one of the original Apple evangelists, having joined the company in the mid ’80s. He also worked as an Apple fellow whose job was to help rejuvenate Apple while the company was on its last legs in the mid ’90s. Since then he’s become managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm, a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine, and author of numerous books about the tech industry.
Jack Dorsey from Square began Friday’s procession of developers. His company’s app turns the iPhone into a credit card reader, giving users the ability to accept payment via credit card using a small, self-powered plastic card reader that plugs into the iPhone’s audio jack. During the live demonstration, Kawaski donated $25 to Red Cross using nothing more than Dorsey’s iPhone and card reader. The process was remarkably seamless and intuitive: slide the card, enter the amount you wish to charge, sign with your finger on the touch screen, and voila. After the transaction is processed, the app sends a receipt via e-mail.
While this technology should be great with non-profits, as it would allow Red Cross workers to accept donations via credit card using only their iPhones, I’m not sure how well this will fly in the private sector. I, for one, would be wary of swiping my credit card on a stranger’s iPhone—what’s to keep someone from writing a card-stealing program that would allow them to repeatedly charge my credit card once they swipe it? Unless Square can offer a legitimate solution to these concerns, I doubt many people will use this app to make Craigslist purchases—an example Dorsey brought up more than once.
Next up was Steven Echtman from Hear Planet. His company’s app effectively turns the world around you into a guided audio tour. Using your iPhone’s GPS, or by simply typing in your location, Hear Planet loads up and reads information about your location to you.
It’s a pretty cool idea, and the demo was impressive, with the app instantly showing a list of nearby attractions in the area that it could inform you about. Guided walking tours are also in development for this app, which could be extremely helpful for tourists in any location. Hear Planet Lite is available for free; there's also a paid $5 version that includes native mapping integrated with the app.
Oliver Breidenbach from Boinx Software came up next, to show off his company’s BoinxTV application for the Mac. His humorous presentation involved him filming Kawasaki live and adding fun headlines and various affects to the footage in real time—the first such headline reading “I am a Twitter whore.” The app’s purpose is to allow anyone to create their own TV show by making headlines and other fun effects easy to implement. While there aren’t any post-production features, BoinxTV looks like a solid choice for on-the-fly web TV productions. BoinxTV costs $499.
Up next was Florian Voss from Microsoft, who showcased the Bing Mobile iPhone app. It may pain Mac fanatics to hear this, but the Bing app looks great. The app, which ran on a laptop, rather than an actual iPhone for the demonstration, ran very smoothly, showing off a quick, elegant photo search, and a Map feature that seems a bit smoother than Google Maps. When zooming in and out of a map of San Francisco, Voss noted the lack of blank tiles, and the smooth blending of the images on the map. He also showed off the app’s movie feature, which finds movies nearby and then provides a map with directions to get to the nearest movie theater. When asked by Kawasaki if Bing will be the new search engine for the iPhone—as has been rumored—Voss danced around the subject. Whether or not Bing ends up as the new search engine for the iPhone, Voss’ presentation convinced me to download the app, which is free, by the way.
Last, but not least, was Bill Atkinson from Bill Atkinson Photography. Atkinson is an old timer in the Apple world, having joined the company when were there 30 people in it, by his estimation. His latest app, PhotoCard, lets users license and send his high-resolution photographs as physical postcards, complete with fun virtual stickers that you can slap all over the back of the card. To use the app, you must purchase credits, which go for around $1 each. You use these credits to pay for postage and printing of the cards you choose to send. The interface that Atkinson demonstrated looked smooth and efficient, and the quality of the printed images was remarkable. You can also use pics that you took yourself on the iPhone. Atkinson demonstrated this by snapping a picture of Kawasaki, using the app to adjust the brightness of the image and add a caption, then sending it out to be printed and mailed with the push of a button.
While most of the presentations were interesting and high quality, my one complaint is that Kawasaki offered little analysis or insight during what was supposed to be his event. Most of his time was spent watching his guests present their apps, and then making a few random comments or jokes that added little value to the overall show. While he was a friendly presence on stage, in the future I hope to see more Kawasaki and less app show and tell.