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Tech Giants Play Dangerous Game With Their Fans

Dana Blankenhorn
With only 1 million installs, Facebook Home slips in worldwide app rankings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Teen idols, Hollywood stars and technology companies have something in common.

It's possible for them to get too close to their biggest fans, to make such a big splash that these fans tire of them, rejecting what they once loved as caricatures.

The lesson of the Olsen twins and director M. Night Shyamalan may now have to be learned by Facebook , whose widely hyped "Home" skin for Android is increasingly looking like a product failure.

AT&T has cut the price of the HTC phone running Home. While Facebook executives told reporters, including Mashable's Emily Price, this week that the software has been downloaded one million times at Google Play, it may be too much of a good thing for Facebook's friends.


The same thing may be about to happen to Google Glass, the eyeglass interface that has yet to be formally released. A picture of blogger Robert Scoble wearing his Google Glasses in the shower went viral, with some calling him "King of the Dorks" on Twitter. (It's good to be the King, I reminded him in a tweet.)

Glass is interesting technology, and may help boost the wearable market to $6 billion by 2016, according to IMS Research, but how much of that market is captured by Google depends on it fighting a growing media perception Glass is intrusive, that (as with Home) it's too much of a good thing.

The heart of the wearable market, IMS predicts, won't be in the computing space at all, but in the area of health and fitness, where monitors can track a workout or see a heart attack before it happens. The interfaces, in other words, will go into the background, while Google Glass puts them in the foreground.

The same fall may be awaiting Amazon.com , which, spurred by the success of its Kindle Fire tablet in leading consumers to buy content from it, has now replaced Apple at the center of the technology rumor mill, according to Internet Retailer. This reportedly includes a line of phones, even a 3-D phone that, as Wired notes, may just be dumb.

As I wrote last month, the whole computing industry is entering a new phase, with the gadget wars of last year becoming an interface war and companies of all sizes trying to define, then dominate, new ways of connecting with data.

As this market competition develops, companies risk forgetting what brought them to the party and may waste billions of dollars trying to dominate consumers they merely need to seduce.

Amazon is a retailer, Google sells services, Facebook sells connections to the people you know. Trying to be all things to even some people may be the surest route to a corporate supernova.


The point of a company's greatest success is often its most dangerous time. The 1994 publication of the book Game Over represented Nintendo's height of power. Now, its Wii U is taking the company down to losses, as NintendoLife reports. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates wrote a grand book called The Road Ahead in 1995 that failed to predict the growth of the Internet, as The Atlantic noted recently.

Facebook, Google and Amazon are all playing a dangerous game.

At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG and AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.



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