Treo PC

treonauts >Andrew Carton writes:

Imagine this scenario:

1. A 17″ Bluetooth+WiFi enabled LCD monitor (or any other monitor)
2. A Bluetooth Keyboard & Mouse
3. Your future Treo Zen with broadband wireless connectivity

No wires, nothing to connect, just place your Treo in proximity (up to 20 feet) to your monitor and you’re done – that’s your next PC!!!

Thus the Treo Zen acts as a thin-client and all the actual application processing can be done remotely… You could then do everything you currently do on your PC like watching movies, listening to music, playing games, working (of course), shopping, access information and services and all the countless other things that we currently or in the future will be doing via a digital network.

Flickr and del.icio.us

Jon Udell writes that with the two services, “social networking goes beyond sharing contacts and connections.”

Both Flickr and and del.icio.us address specific activities that benefit from an informal, diverse network of people. Flickr, as I would explain it to my friends and family, is a way to easily upload and share digital photos. And del.icio.us does the same thing, only for Web bookmarks.

To CTOs, though, Id say that both are collaborative systems for building a shared database of items, developing a metadata vocabulary about the items, performing metadata-driven queries, and monitoring change in areas of interest. In the case of Flickr, an item is a photo; in the case of del.icio.us, its a URL. But the same methods could apply to any of the shared digital artifacts that we create, find, and use in the course of our daily work.

Abandoning taxonomy is the first ingredient of success. These systems just use bags of keywords that draw from and extend a flat namespace. In other words, you tag an item with a list of existing and/or new keywords. Of course, that ideas been around for decades, so whats special about Flickr and del.icio.us? Sometimes a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind. The degree to which these systems bind the assignment of tags to their use in a tight feedback loop is that kind of difference.

Feedback is immediate. As soon as you assign a tag to an item, you see the cluster of items carrying the same tag. If thats not what you expected, youre given incentive to change the tag or add another. If your items arent confidential and online-only access is sufficient, this can be a great way to manage personal information. But the real power emerges when you expand the scope to include all items, from all users, that match your tag. Again, that view might not be what you expected. In that case, you can adapt to the group norm, keep your tag in a bid to influence the group norm, or both.

These systems offer lots of ways to visualize and refine the tag space. Its easy to know whether a tag youve used is unique or, conversely, popular. Its easy to rename a tag across a set of items. Its easy to perform queries that combine tags. Armed with such powerful tools, people can collectively enrich shared data. But will they? The success of Flickr and del.icio.us wont necessarily translate to the intranet. You can import the global-hive mind, but you cant export the local-hive mind. That asymmetry defines the challenge we face as enterprise knowledge gardeners.

Internet Trends

Forbes discusses six trends, part of what it calls “My Internet.com.” The six trends: VoIP, Online Gaming, Mobile TV, Embedded Networks, Thoughtful Gadgets and Broadband Wireless. Forbes profiles a company for each of these trends.

Mobile Video

Kevin Werbach writes that “video will be a significant driver for next-generation mobile networks. Just not in the ways most operators and analysts are expecting.”

The upshot is that handheld devices will never be a major market for one-way distribution of commercial broadcast video.

The good news is that mobile phones are not just video playback devices. They are, increasingly, video recorders. More cameras will be sold worldwide this year in mobile phones (an estimated 150 million) than in digital cameras (50 million) and analog film cameras (60 million, excluding single-use boxes) combined. And that gap will only grow.

Since video is, in essence, just a stream of still photos, the same basic hardware that allows a phone to take pictures allows it to shoot and display video. Many popular cameraphones, such as the Nokia 3650, already offer video capabilities. The biggest difference is the storage required. With increasingly capacious flash memory and miniature hard drives, however, that limitation is easing. And don’t forget the millions of laptops with cheap add-on webcams or digital video cameras, online through wireless hotspots or 3G data networks.

Using the mobile device to record changes the video from a form of content to a type of communication. There are plenty of other ways I can watch the highlights from last night’s football game. Most of them are more convenient, a better experience and cheaper than my mobile phone. However, if I want to give my wife a virtual walk-through of the apartment I’m looking at right now, or show my parents how their granddaughter is starting to crawl, or show my friends that I was just standing across the street from Madonna, there is no better alternative.

Journalists and would-be journalists will use the same technology to cover news stories live from the scene. Users will share popular video clips as MMS messages, the way they ship them around to PCs as email attachments. People will record how-to guides, recipes, and video tours. And they will share their daily experiences in video weblogs, or videoblogs, which are already springing up. A video-enabled cameraphone with the right software and back-end hosting becomes an instant videoblogging factory.

In short, a video-capable mobile device is an extension of its owner’s eyes and ears. It means that you can transmit what you see, anywhere and any time, to nearly two billion Internet users worldwide. Suddenly, we’ll be living not just in a global village but a global auditorium. Some of the consequences are frightening and some are trifling — imagine the audience of mobile users who will share a future equivalent of the Paris Hilton sex video. Too bad; it’s inevitable. Similarly, operators won’t like the demands that two-way video puts on their networks. Having built and promoted fat data pipes and needing something to replace falling voice revenues, though, they will have little choice but to go along.

Russell Beattie calls it “personal broadcasting” and adds: “Even though I generally agree with Kevin’s post – Personal Broadcasting will be key – I have to say that 1) On-demand mobile video will be huge. This isn’t MMS or some other non-proven system, this is TiVo in your hand – both convenient and compelling. And 2) The carriers and manufacturers are exploring every possible avenue to generate higher ARPUs. It’s a feeding frenzy right now as small companies compete to get a piece of the action. Now, how long will this take to happen and how long before my mother is sending me videos and making video conference calls from her mobile? That’s a hard thing to guess. But I think with the carriers starting to push mobile video capable phones, launching mobile media online services and the general public starting to use mobile data services more, the tipping point could be a lot sooner than you would think.”

Small Fish Strategy

HBS Working Knowledge has an excerpt from a new book “The Keystone Advantage” by HBS professor Marco Iansiti and Roy Levien. “Think of the business environment as a series of ecosystems, they urge, with ‘keystone’ companies such as Microsoft and Wal-Mart providing for the health of all who do business with them. What are the best strategies for companies living in these ecosystems? This excerpt focuses on strategies for niche players.”

The essence of a niche strategy is to achieve specialization by taking explicit advantage of the opportunities provided by the ecosystem while avoiding the kinds of traps that challenge firms in such environments. Our observation of a variety of niche strategies in action highlights a few critical components.

The first driver of an effective niche strategy is value creation.

An effective niche strategy creates value by selecting a specialization that is truly different and whose differences are sustainable over time. A classic mistake made by a variety of new ventures during the venture capital boom of the late 1990s was selecting areas that had no staying power, such as Web calendars or Web-dispatched limousine services. Over time, it was inevitable that these new niches would merge with existing ones. The services are now broadly offered, but the firms that started developing them have ceased to exist as independent entities. In those cases in which the skills and capabilities that characterized new ecosystem domains were distinct enough to justify a truly focused strategy (for example, personal financial accounting or customer relationship management software), these strategies have endured for many years and enabled the growth of large and successful firms (such as Intuit and Siebel Systems).

A well-executed niche strategy, because of its focus, will exhibit strong defenses against a keystone and dominator trying to expand. Intuit is again a strong example here, with the continued success of its Quicken application against Microsoft Money. The key is finding a large enough market that requires specialized capabilities.

TECH TALK: From Employee to Entrepreneur: Next Steps

I have spent quite some time emphasising the need to build the right mental models for the industry we are choosing to operate in. I have not discussed the importance of specific ideas. There is a good reason for this.

I believe that mental models are more permanent in the sense, that they help us place events as they happen in context, and provide the framework for our decisions. They are not constant they must keep evolving. Ideas, on the other hand, are ephemeral. They come and go. It is dangerous to start a new business of the basis of a single idea. Every idea needs the foundation of a mental model to stand a chance of being successful.

In an entrepreneurial venture, it is rare for the first idea to be successful. What we will find is that the first idea is just the key which unlocks the doors to a new kingdom where more doors await us. Think of the first business idea as an alarm clock it’s only purpose is to wake us up to the new dawn. How we live the day is up to each of us.

The transition from employee to entrepreneur is also a shift in mindsets. What we will realise when we do decide to make that switch is that we will start seeing the same world very differently. We no longer have blinkers on. The lens we use now is one where we know that each mistake could be fatal for our fledgling journey. We will find a heightened sense of observation. It is like finding oneself in a forest. Either we hunt or are hunted down. We will find survival instincts that we never thought we had coming to the fore. The game is now afoot!

Much of what I have written in this series is easier said than done. It is hard work. It is different work. But that is also the fun part of it. It is not something that every one enjoys and that is perhaps why there are more employees than entrepreneurs. To each his own. Once you make the decision of being an entrepreneur, don’t look back. Success and failure are but two sides of the same coin. Focus on the journey.

I remember the summer of 1986. I had just completed two years of my undergrad at IIT-Bombay. That was the time I made the decision to go on Himankan, a two-week odyssey through the Himalayas. I had never done any significant trekking before that. I worried first about whether I would manage what if I become tired and could not walk more. I worried about the food I’d have to eat. (Those who have cooked dinner for me or gone out with me will realise how difficult I am to please!) I worried about not having an exit route I’d have to go through the entire trek as a whole. But I decided that the experience of Himankan was more important I had heard others talk about it. So, I decided to go ahead.

It was a tough journey. But once the initial decision was made the first steps taken there was no looking back. Yes, it was tiring. Yes, I hated the food. Yes, there were times when I wished I was back home sleeping in my comfortable bed. But, when I saw the breathtaking beauty around, when I walked for hours with my own thoughts on snow-capped peaks and through the greenest of valleys, when at the end of a long day I chatted with people I had only a passing acquaintance with prior to the trek even though we lived barely a few rooms apart all of this was a life-transforming experience.

That is what entrepreneurship is about. Give it a try at least once in your life. Things will never be the same again. Whether it is a successful venture that results from it or memories of things that could have been been, it is an experience that is unforgettable. Best of luck!