At Fon, we are currently designing the retail box of the new Fonera SIMPL. We already sold over 1 million of these wifi routers wholesale to mobile operators. We will soon go retail with this product in Europe and the USA.

Now what we would like to do is to illustrate one side of the box with a comic strip that explains what Fon is in something like 6 squares and in English. We are offering a €300 appreciation prize to the fonero who draws the comic strip that makes it to the box.

So what is Fon? It’s in our web site. Some say, “you share a little WiFi at home and you roam the world for free”. Basically, a Fonera SIMPL is an 802.11n router (connects faster and farther than wireless g) that allows users to connect to WiFi themselves via an encrypted and secure SSID (WiFi signal), but that also has the unique capability to create a second FON SSID that allows people who live nearby or pass by your home to connect to your router and use a small portion of your bandwidth. In exchange for opening a second SSID, you get two major benefits, one is free global WiFi roaming at well over a million hotspots around the world, and the second is that you can make money selling WiFi passes in the Fon network to those who do not have a Fonera (fon router), and therefore do not share their home WiFi, and so have to pay to connect when they find your signal. You keep half of the money and Fon keeps half. Notice that you are selling access to the whole network not just to your router. Another benefit of the Fonera SIMPL is that it auto-connects to iPhone and Android smartphones.

Ideas? Somebody suggested a comic strip telling the story of a lonely WiFi user who had no friends with his conventional WiFi router until he got a Fonera router and then had lots of friends and traveled the world connecting for free. Somebody else added that now he has money and travels the world (clearly a joke as very few make the kind of money you would need for a trip, though many do make enough to subsidize the cost of their broadband). We are open to any ideas that describe the benefits of Fon in a comic strip. Please send your proposals to

update: we already have one that we are likely to use.

I would like to apologize to all visitors to Portugal and Portuguese Foneros because Fon is down in Portugal today. We are down because the routers that Zon@fon uses in Portugal were sending us so many requests that they were bringing Fon services down around the world. This is why we had to disconnect Portugal for a few hours. We are working on a fix for this and we should be up and running. We are very sorry for this inconvenience. As CEO of Fon these situations pain me.

Microsoft Zune HD portable media player
Image via Wikipedia

Why is Spotify so good? Because it starts from iTunes and improves it. It is like Apple, but better (except that is not yet available in USA). Why is the Zune a bad experience? Because it is not at all like iTunes. Like it or not Apple is the standard in music. Just as the whole world has been educated to use Windows, and a few to use Mac and Linux, in music, the whole world is educated to use iTunes, and a few to experiment with the alternatives. So Spotify built a great platform that is intuitive to use. It is like iTunes, but the songs are free and the Genius is your friends. Huge success. But Zune is just…. obscure. I try most WiFi gadgets, and this afternoon I spent a couple of hours trying a Zune out. My rating is 2 stars (sorry to use Apple again). The Zune is beautiful as a device, the graphics are attractive, original, but it is incredibly slow to load songs, the monthly costs at $15 are out of the market, and using the Zune software which is, not surprisingly, only available for Windows, is too complicated. I guess Microsoft has a hard time admitting that if you enter the music field you have to be like iTunes but better, which also means to start looking kind of like iTunes. It is hard for people to learn another language. Apple should know that, they have a better product than Microsoft Windows in OSX and market share gains are slow mainly because people are afraid to change. If I had anything to do with Zune, I would leave the gadget as it is and would do a new version of the software that is more intuitive, more like iTunes, that allows you to import your lists from iTunes, that basically clones iTunes as Doubletwist does. Or wait! Maybe Microsoft should buy Doubletwist and make it work with the Zune.

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Yesterday I learned how to do Time Lapse Photography. I am sure that Jonan Basterra only taught me a fraction of what he knows in a couple of hours but the basic technique is simple enough for me to share it with you. First start with this tutorial. If you know something about photography you will be amazed at how quickly you can be doing Time Lapse. Indeed for me the worse part was to get Apple to accept my $30 for the upgrade to Quicktime Pro. For some reason Apple was not accepting my key. But other than that the rest was easy. In order to do Time Lapse photography you need to change the settings of your camera from raw to jpeg as you will be taking tons of pictures. Take them at a low speed to avoid images to look jumpy. If light is changing as the Time Lapse evolves shoot in P or auto. When you have the thousands of pictures import them into Quicktime Pro selecting “open image sequence” and then export them as a .mov file cropping the top and bottom cause the picture format is different from the video format. My homework? Here it goes. Life at home. You must watch it in HD.

I would like to thank Jonan Basterra who was kind enough to teach me the Time Lapse technique.

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I carry a Nexus One and a Blackberry Bold. The iPhone I mostly leave at home. It is too slow. If it was as fast as the iPad and it had multitasking I would probably take it instead of the Nexus One. But what defines what I take out with me in the end is the way information is input in the device. The iPad, the iPhone are spectator devices. People who have to frequently express their views prefer devices in which input is easier, like Blackberries.

Image via Wikipedia

I thought that you could not download rare movies with Vuze, that Bittorrent clients were for very popular movies. But I was wrong. You can actually download movies even if the torrent has, say 5 seeds. So these are the films I downloaded (in Spain we pay a tax on storage media and it is legal to download movies for personal consumption).

Amreeka, Revanche, Seraphine, Shake Hands with the Devil, Chidren of Heaven,Eastern,The Sweet Herafter,The Messenger,Food Inc,La Meglio Gioventu,Secretary,Afghan Star and Crazy Heart.

All these films were recommended to me by Netflix. The paradox is that I pay my monthly Netflix fee but Netflix does not allow me to stream these movies in Spain. So I use Netflix recommendation engine to know what I will like (Netflix is 90% accurate with my unusual taste for movies) and I complement it with free downloads from Vuze. I am also paying Witopia to show me with a US IP but it works with Pandora, Hulu, HBO and not anymore with Netflix.

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Image representing Spotify as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

In 2007, I met fellow serial entrepreneur Daniel Ek and was very impressed with him and Spotify, his new music service. I blogged about it, calling it the Joost for music. Unfortunately, since then, Joost has faded away and as a small investor in the company I lost some money. But the concept of Joost lives on in Hulu. I should have called Spotify the Hulu of music, but in 2007 Hulu was not around yet. And, in any case, Spotify is so famous now that people are calling the all-you-can-eat, $10 per month, streaming service of Netflix the Spotify of movies. And we are all waiting for Spotify to launch its own movies service.

Two years later, in January of 2009, I blogged that Spotify was coming to Spain. The response was great. Many readers asked me for invites. Spain took off nicely for Spotify, becoming an over represented country in the Spotify community. This I found very interesting because over here music downloads are legal, nobody needs to pay for music, and yet, Spotify has done super well. Indeed Spotify in Spain thrived despite competing with free.  That people would either pay or put up with advertising is just another proof of how great Spotify service is. Or most people I should say, because until today I was not one of them. Even though I pay for and for Grooveshark, I could not get myself to pay three times as much for Spotify Premium. And because I hate commercials I was not using the free Spotify. Instead I had in my Sonos, Grooveshark in my Android phone and in my Blackberry, and both services in my computers. These service are around $30 per year instead of around $150. So I became this unusual person in Spain who first promoted the hell out of Spotify and then failed to use it. It would have helped had Daniel gave me a free premium account, but I guess he is as cheap as I am, and did not volunteer. 🙂

So, no Spotify for me, until today. Today Spotify introduced a €5 per month service that is not as good as the premium, but good enough for me to join. It does not allow you offline playing nor mobile playing, but it gives you all the songs you want for less than I used to spend in a week on music when I was in college and used to raid Tower Records, spending $100 or more per visit. Now Spotify costs twice as much as or Grooveshark, but not 5 times as much.

If you don’t have Spotify you are probably wondering what makes Spotify so great. Or why it’s the only web service in the world that Americans seem to be truly sad that they don’t have. Here’s a list of what it does:

It piggybacks on iTunes and makes all your iTunes music and lists available to you, even all the music you have without copyright (which is not a crime in Spain to download).

It blends incredibly well with Facebook. You sign up, connect with Facebook and have instant access to your friends’ iTunes and Spotify lists.

As opposed to and Pandora, you can play the song you want when you want it. This, btw, is where Spotify can lose their shirt because licenses for radio playing are much cheaper than song on demand licenses.

The quality of the music is great and the speed at which a new song that you asked for plays is remarkable.

On the negative it does frequently happen that you go to a friend’s list, want to play it, and you get a message that says “this track is currently not available in Spain”. The solution? If you are in Spain, go to Vuze, Limewire or simply to a friend, get the music, upload it, and then Spotify considers it your own and plays it off the list of your friend. But, Grooveshark for example, does the same thing for all your computers. Spotify, probably more closely watched by the rapidly vanishing music labels, actually check if you have the music in your library at that computer before it plays it for you. This forces you to use Spotify from computers with huge hard drives to avoid the “not currently in Spain” label and that gives an advantage to Grooveshark. Especially on netbooks and mobile phones.

If you are willing to pay €10 per month, the offline and mobile playing should be great.

Lastly, I would like to say that I think the two best user experience entrepreneurs in Europe are Janus Friis and Daniel Ek. They both went into crowded fields: VOIP/Chat and music players, and outdid everyone else.

What else?

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We were trying to get to London from Madrid in my plane to attend Google Zeitgeist. As I insisted in going there, and as the airports reopened, my pilots alerted me to the fact that the trick airlines are using to avoid the ash cloud is to fly long distances at very low altitudes.

This is something that I haven’t heard in the media. Flying long distances, at say 3000 feet, may be good to avoid the ash cloud, but it’s terrible for the environment. Aircraft consume twice the fuel to fly the same distance, and in general it is less safe. While most people think that low and slow may mean safety, the opposite is true in aviation where high and fast somehow works better.

We did not go in the end. We did not think it was safe to fly long distances at low altitude. And we did not know what effect that would have on the range of our small Citation Jet.

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First the usual disclosures. Google is an investor in Fon. Twitter has no relationship with Fon, but I know Ev Williams a little and some investors like Chris Sacca well. Personally I think that neither investments nor friendship will taint the objectivity of this post, but disclosing is better than non disclosing.

Now the post.

Google knows that Twitter is both an opportunity and a threat. Twitter is a threat because it is instant search – compared to Google’s crawled (slow) search – but also because, in many cases, Twitter yields better results. For example, what is the point of collecting a 3-year link history for a fashion brand and give search results if the most relevant information about that fashion brand may be that 5 minutes ago a hugely followed celebrity says she’s crazy about it. Twitter is now big enough to move the needle in the real world quickly enough for Google to miss it.

Now here is the opportunity:

Google is great at creating hierarchies of information. The original idea of Google, which comes from science, is that “he/she who is linked to the most must be saying the most relevant things”. Now what is missing is that same analysis but cranked on Twitter data.

How would I refine search in Twitter? To me there are two measures of Twitter relevance. One is how many followers a persons has, and the other one how frequently this person is retweeted. In my opinion, the opportunity for Google is to use its computing power to come up with very relevant, instant answers to problems using Google results, Twitter results and when using Twitter ranking according to followers and retweets. To that, it should add PINGED results, namely results whose location on the web has been volunteered as in blogs or news. To see a ping search engine check out Technorati in which I am an investor.

Google created a meritocracy on the internet. If you have a high Google ranking, what you say, for example in your blog, matters more in search. Well, I think Google is the company most equipped to blend crawled search with real time search by combining Google results, Twitter results and PINGED results (results that were not crawled but picked up from recent blog and news pings).

Here’s a small experiment I did called “unfolding news” that shows the beginning of a twitter+news+blog results. This is what you get when you search for “ash cloud” in unfolding news. This is what you get when you search for “ash cloud” in Google. Unfolding news is an experiment that does not use Google results, but I find it more useful than Google for learning about things that are happening or “unfolding”. Google could do a much better job blending “old web” and “new web” sources.

Conclusion: instead of wasting time with Buzz emulating or copying Twitter, Google could complement Twitter with what Twitter needs most, making sense out of searching something in Twitter.

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Image representing Tariq Krim as depicted in C...
Image by Rsepulveda / flickr via CrunchBase

This morning we had breakfast with my good friend Tariq Krim. Tariq is the founder of Netvibes, an app I use every day to get the internet I care about in one glimpse, and of Jolicloud, the best operating system for the 100 million netbooks out there in the world. In the past, during our meetings, we would speak about Fon and Jolicloud. But lately, Fon has been growing very well and profitably (TG). So this time the conversation focused exclusively on the challenges faced by Jolicloud. Especially now that the Jolicloud product is ready to reach the masses, the conversation was about how will the masses know that Jolicloud exists.

Now this post is mainly about one curious fact. Until our conversation today, I don’t think that Tariq was focusing on his real target: Microsoft. This is as if we had built Jazztel for example without focusing on Telefonica. Or, if Apple built Mac without focusing on the PC. A non starter. When you are taking market share from a monopolist you have to attack that monopolist. I hope our amicable debate on this matter changed Tariq´s mind and soon we will see Jolicloud’s web site making clear claims on exactly why Jolicloud is better than Windows. Otherwise Jolicloud will not go anywhere. Any prospective Jolicloud user now has Windows, and if Jolicloud does not explain point by point how Jolicloud is better, they will not make the switch. Switching operating systems is not like downloading Skype, it is a life changing decision for computer users. And if you go to the Jolicloud web site now, you don’t really understand that Jolicloud is a better alternative to Windows for your netbook.

But getting to the point was not a straight line in our two hour conversation. Instead we drifted towards all Operating Systems as we are both fans of the subject. Learning from their pros and cons may be important, even from a product design perspective.  But for the mission of communicating Jolicloud to the planet, OS other than Windows are irrelevant. Android is irrelevant because it is not for netbooks. Mac OSX is irrelevant because it does not have a netbook. All the other Linux based operating systems have managed to convince very few people to adopt them in the laptop market so they are irrelevant from Jolicloud’s point of view. Chrome OS may become relevant but so far it is not ready and is not a player. The iPad in itself is a competitor to netbooks in general and will have an effect on netbook markets, but when you look from Jolicloud’s perspective the key is not if the iPad causes a dent in the netbook market, but how to dent the netbook OS market with Jolicloud. So the iPad is irrelevant. What is relevant for Jolicloud is to convince the millions of netbook buyers every month to download Jolicloud and either dual boot or just use Jolicloud.

So concretely I advise Tariq to make it the mission of Jolicloud to show that it is better than Windows. That he should offer a prize within his 50K community of early adopters for the best video that shows that Jolicloud is better than Windows. That his website should clearly explain, in great detail how your use of your netbook will be greatly expanded when you switch to Jolicloud.

To me, the “Jolicloud is better than Windows” campaign bullet points are:

-Jolicloud is faster to turn on and faster to turn off than Windows. So is Mac btw but Mac is the rich kid choice, netbooks cost 70% less than a Mac.

-Jolicloud offers you a safe virus free world, no virus, no anti-virus installs, no internet paranoia.

-Jolicloud is social, friends discover apps, friends share apps, friends help you. Jolicloud is a community of users. So are all the Linux communities, by the way, and they have done an incredible job but most of humanity does not know this.

-Jolicloud leaves your data in the cloud which means that your data is safe and if you lose your computer for any reason you can clone your computer in less than an hour, try that with Windows. A new PC is a day of work.

-Jolicloud is free, most apps are free and install faster than downloads in a windows based PC.

Yes, I know, if you are a Linux person you will argue that Jolicloud is just another Linux version focused on the non technical user. But, Linux person, the truth is that 99% of the planet either does not know Linux, is afraid of Linux or uses Linux on servers and does not even know it. Saying that Jolicloud is a Linux that is more social and idiot proof will not get Jolicloud anywhere. Their job is to prove they are better than Windows. And the truth is they are. Now they have to get the message out there.

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