Steve Jobs is back. Apple fanatics rejoice! Yesterday's Wall Street Journal included a story about Apple's development of a new tablet computer, which could end up competing with netbooks and e-readers, like the new one Sony just introduced. But the real story was that Apple founder Steve Jobs, who had taken an extended leave of absence and received a liver transplant, "is once again managing even the smallest details of his company's products," the Journal reports. Valleywag translates: "Old Steve is back."
Washington D.C.'s cupcake bubble. How much cake and buttercream icing is too much? The nation's capital may be on the verge of finding out. As the Washington Post reports, a glut of high-end cupcake bakeries have opened recently, competing with an equally large number of previously-established sweet shops. At least a half a dozen new bakeries have opened in the area in the past 20 months and more are expected. Aaron Gordon, owner of the bakery Red Velvet, sums the situation up nicely. "We are coming close to a bubble now. One or two more shops is about as much as the public can support. After that, the folks with the highest-quality cupcakes and best locations will be the ones who survive." May the best cupcake win.
From social networking to social giving. When we caught up with Michael Birch last year, he and his wife had just made a handsome little profit selling their social networking site Bebo to AOL for $850 million. In the interview, Birch told us that he was looking to dedicate more time to social entrepreneurship. Turns out over the last six months, Birch and two others have been building CharityWater.org, the website for the popular non-profit charity:water, TechCrunch reports. Since its launch yesterday, the site has raised more than $7,000.
Customer loyalty the organic way. The American Express OPEN Forum has an interesting video of Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farms, discussing his company's approach to gaining customer loyalty, a concept so vital he calls it "the Holy Grail." As he explains it, rather than attempting to mimic the Coke and Pepsi approach, by which companies make an inexpensive product and then use the big gross margins to pay for large advertising campaigns, Stonyfield Farms relied only on the quality of their yogurt to gain loyal customers. As a bootstrapping, upstart yogurt company, Hirshberg didn't have many other options. "We didn't have money to spend on advertising and promotions. We got there by selling a better product." Inc. columnist and Gary Hirshberg's wife, Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, looks at the difficulty of maintaining a work-life balance when you are building a business in her latest column.
Mark Cuban: "The Internet is about to change." You might have been entertained or enlightened by it, but for a while now, Mark Cuban has found the internet dead and boring . But all that's going to change with WebHooks and the unfortunately-named PubSubHubBub, which will both simplify and organize the web, says Cuban. Webhooks lets apps communicate with each other using a simple HTTP. Thus far, it's worked on apps run on hosting sites in the cloud. What's unique, says Cuban, is that they constantly scan for POSTS to a designated URL. If your accountant sets up an app for his customers with sales tax rules by community and state, every time your company sells a widget, your online store application sends the transaction ID, the amount that's taxable, and zipcode. The Webhook-enabled app picks that up, calculates the correct sales tax, and instantly sends back the result to your store. PSHB, on the other hand, challenges the idea that information online has to be pulled--email is received in intervals, as are RSS feeds, news alerts, etc. PSHB hubs are cloud-based distribution centers that facilitate information exchange between huge databases. Publishers, like say the New York Times, could distribute data through publicly available hubs, which in turn multicast that data to subscribers in real-time. The implication for content businesses is staggering, says Cuban. Businesses can get their members information first, in real real-time, not with the lag of an RSS feed or the time it takes it hit refresh. It might just be enough of a differentiation to get consumers to start paying for content online. "Dive in and take advantage of the opportunity, ignore it at your own peril," warns Cuban.
Too cool to Twitter. Most techies have long assumed that young people, especially teenagers, were crucial to the development of anything new online. It was teens, after all, who drove the growth of MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook. Turns out Twitter is an exception. The New York Times reports that the kids just don't Twitter. "Many young people, who have used Facebook since they began using the Internet and for whom text messaging is their primary method of communication, say they simply do not have a need for Twitter," the Times says. Twitter CEO Evan Williams (read about him here) points out that Twitter is used by many for "professional purposes," and that it's not "optimized for friend communication." But the Times's Claire Cain Miller makes a more obvious point: the under-18 set doesn't always want to broadcast their activities to their parents. The lesson for entrepreneurs: Adults can be early adopters too. As long as you've got Shaq.
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