Demo Mobile

Forbes writes about some of the companies who presented:

DigiMarc, based in Tualatin, Ore., is one of the very few publicly held companies presenting at the conference. The company may have come up with one of the first useful applications for the camera phone. It works like this–a user takes a snapshot of a print advertisement, which has been embedded with a digital watermark. The camera phone processes the information in the ad say, for a new movie, and wirelessly retrieves information about the ad. A user can then watch a trailer for the movie, read reviews or buy tickets all from the camera phone.

Vazu, based in Palo Alto Calif., is solving a problem that every mobile phone user can relate to–how to quickly and easily transfer data from PC to a phone. Using its free application, users highlight text (directions, movie times, etc.) and send to their phone. Vazu also automatically highlights phone numbers on a Web page, which users can simply send to their cell phone address book.

David Hornik has more:

Chris Shipley, the Executive Producer of DemoMobile, started out the conference with a mea culpa. Last year at DemoMobile, Chris welcomed the dawn of the age of “Device Computing.” She contended at the time that computing was moving to the edge of the network where it would hereafter be resident in smart devices. It was a reasonable conclusion to come to. Devices like the Treo 600 were emerging and starting to crack the code on mobile computing.

That said, Chris has changed her mind. On closer inspection, she has determined that we are, in fact, in the age of “Service-Based Computing.” In Service Based Computing, devices are not the brains of the operation. They are just pretty little end nodes on a smart data network. The real horsepower is going to be delivered in the network through managed services. And that’s not just for consumer services. ASPs like Salesforce and QuickBooks Online, for example, demonstrate that, as Chris put it, “the future model for nearly all computing” is service based. I could not agree with her more. Fat pipes and elegant devices make it possible to deliver immense services to the edge of the network but the real work is going to get done in the network, not the device. The result, Chris concluded, is that devices and the services that work on them are going to have to “simply work and work simply.”

I believe purpose built hardware and services (like those demoed) will fail. The thing that is exciting to me about the increasing power of wireless devices and the increasingly thick wireless pipe is that these devices will become full-featured, general-purpose computers. While I agree with Chris that the future is in the services delivered over the network, that future will be about any device accessing any service, not about specific devices accessing specific services.

Ambition

WSJ has a column by Carol Hymowitz:

As children, we don’t feel inhibited proclaiming that we want to be president or fire chief or a famous actress when we grow up.

But as adults we often hesitate to admit our ambitions, which usually require gaining both expertise and recognition. To advance from management to leadership positions, we know we must excel at our jobs and be rewarded for our efforts. But few of us feel comfortable bragging to bosses about our accomplishments or manipulating others for our own gain — and we’re turned off by colleagues who do.

“Some people hear the word ‘ambitious’ and immediately have negative thoughts of a ruthless person who crawls over others to get ahead,” says Brian Keane, chief executive of Boston-based Keane, an IT services company with 8,000 employees. But ambition is a necessary and positive quality “if you think of it as a commitment to doing one’s very best,” adds Mr. Keane, who describes himself as very competitive. There’s also nothing wrong with seeking recognition for one’s contributions, he believes, “as long as you never forget that no one can achieve high success without others. It’s almost always a team effort.”

He tries to gauge the ambition of prospective employees by inquiring about their achievements in sports, the arts or other activities. “I love recruiting people with high levels of competition,” he says, “If they’ve achieved something significant in athletics or music, I know they know what commitment, effort and sacrifice mean.”

The best time to assert and realize one’s ambitions may be during a crisis. “When things are going along just fine, inertia sets in and nobody wants to change or adopt your new ideas,” says Ms. Blanke. “In a crisis, people start to listen to each other, and sometimes it takes a crisis to step into your own power.”

Mass-Market Mobiles

CNN writes what the industyr is doing to go after its next users:

Firms are now designing handsets and payment systems that work for those who would not normally be able to afford mobile services.

Telecommunications companies are realizing that $800 for the latest mobile phone handset is just too expensive for the average consumer — particularly for those in low income countries.

“With many markets in the developed world maturing, handset makers and service providers are looking for new ways to generate revenues,” David Almstrom from Trolltech told CNN.

“One way is to target the lower income subscriber. Today we have one billion subscribers and we need to get another billion subscribers.”

Handset makers are targeting these markets by offering mobile phones which come with only the most basic functions such as voice calls and text. In China, some of the phones are even simpler.

“It is a glorified cordless phone. We think this phone will do well in developing markets,” says Richard Lee of Huawei Technologies, a Chinese handset company.

Service providers have also come up with innovative ways to cater to the needs of the low-end consumer, using the text message as a virtual prepaid calling card.

eBay’s Challengers

WSJ writes that competitors are finding success by focusing narrowly:

Despite little competition in the broad online-auction market, eBay faces vibrant challengers in a number of specific categories, including the following:

Event Tickets: StubHub.com says it’s thriving with a site that auctions tickets for everything from New York Jets football games to Christina Aguilera concerts in part by guaranteeing that buyers will receive tickets in time for eventssomething eBay doesn’t do.

Automobiles: AutoTrader.com says it has many more used-car listings than eBay on its classified-vehicle advertising site. The company also says eBay’s format, which requires users to make their purchases online, doesn’t work well for most car buyers.

Real Estate: eBay executives say they’ve made little progress in real-estate sales. Why? Largely, the multiple-listings service Realtors have relied on for years has proved to be an efficient way to advertise homes through a wide variety of online venues, including Realtors’ own sites.

Books, Music, Video: Analysts say eBay rival Amazon.com has successfully established itself as an alternative way for individuals and small merchants to sell books, music and videos, three areas where Amazon already has a big following.

Grid and SOA

Phil Wainewright wrote recently:

Grid and SOA are going to be on something of a collision course if enterprises embrace both simultaneously. At first glance, that seems like a counter-intuitive statement. Aren’t grid and SOA both aiming to do the same kind of thing? Well, yes … and no. SOA aims to create a unified loosely coupled software architecture in which resources can be plugged in and out at will. Grid aims to do much the same in hardware, except that being hardware, most commercial implementations tend to prefer tight coupling wherever possible, because that allows them to squeeze higher performance out of the environment.

The vision being sold to enterprises, then, is of a homogenized IT infrastructure providing computing resources on demand to power the on-demand applcation infrastructure of SOA. Armed with this vision, systems vendors are fully geared up to sell a new generation of grid-capable hardware and systems software that of course forces their customers to accept vendor lock-in in order to realize the economies of tightly-coupled scale and efficiency that they claim will come from adopting the grid approach.

What they won’t tell you is that adopting an SOA can help you realize much greater efficiencies in resource utilization without having to buy any new equipment at all. SOA doesn’t need grid it virtualizes all resources within the IT infrastructure anyway, irrespective of whether they’re hardware or software resources. It’s just a matter of how granular you want to make your service definitions.

Grid has its place in an SOA, to power those resources that will benefit from a highly integrated distributed computing infrastructure. But to position grid as the ideal platform for SOA is asking too much of grid and too little of SOA. Grid technology today as offered by commercial systems vendors is still too monolithic and platform-centric to offer the kind of flexibility that prompts enterprises to sign up to SOA. Grid solutions are well worth investigating to improve the efficiency of existing data centers, but any vendor who suggests consolidating from multiple platforms into their proprietary grid solution to power an SOA is probably more interested in lining their own pockets than advancing their customer’s SOA implementation.

Naming Success

[via Marketing Playbook] Laura Ries identifies 9 keys to naming success:

The single most important marketing decision a company can make it what to name a brand. A brands power lies in its ability to grab a position in the mind of the consumer. With a poor brand name you make the job of getting into the mind that much harder. With a great brand name you can help your brand down the road to success.

Its not that a brand with a poor name wont ever succeed. Many do. If you price something cheap enough, it will move in spite of a dreadful name. Hyundai, for example, sold 400,221 vehicles in the U.S. last year. But did you ever hear someone say, Eat your heart out, I just got myself a 2004 Hyundai? Is Hyundai a powerful brand? I think not.

Some powerful brand names include: Lexus, Red Bull, Google and Starbucks. The 9 keys that follow will help you pick the best name possible for your brand. Dont expect a name to meet all the nine requirements but if it covers more than a few youll know you have a winner.

Key #1: Short
Key #2: Simple
Key #3: Suggestive of the category
Key #4: Unique
Key #5: Alliterative
Key #6: Speakable
Key #7: Spellable
Key #8: Shocking
Key #9: Personalized

TECH TALK: Thinking A New Food Portal: The New and Next Internet

This Tech Talk is a bit of a thought experiment. As I look at Internet portals (especially some of the Indian ones), I find that few of them actually use the emerging technologies to create a better user experience. Most of them are built on the same basic ideas that were prevalent in the mid-1990s when they were launched. Their legacy is now their biggest handicap. How can we imagine and build better portals looking ahead to the future?

Even as we seek to address this question, it is useful to try and understand some of the shifts that are taking place in the world of content. In a recent Business Standard column, I identified some of the defining characteristics of the next and new Internet:

Always-on: We are moving in India from a pay-per-use pricing model to a flat rate subscription model (in some cases, with download limits). But the instant availability of the Internet connection will fundamentally change the way we use the Internet everything now becomes a few clicks and a few seconds away.

Ubiquitous: As data networks envelop us, the Internet will become pervasive. Already, the presence of cellular networks provides computer users the ability to connect from anywhere. In the coming years, technologies like WiMax and mesh wireless will blanket much of urban and semi-urban India.

High-speed: The narrowband speeds that we are used to will give away to higher speeds as real broadband makes its way to the mainstream. The world wide wait will be a thing of the past. What this will do is encourage the use of more media-rich content.

On-demand: As connectivity improves, there will be little difference between online and offline. If it is out there, it is instantly available. This will lead to the rise of centralised services especially for business applications. We will have control over when we want entertainment delivered.

Multi-format: The computer will no longer be the only device accessing the Internet. Smartphones with wireless data networks will provide equally viable alternatives. This means that there will be two screen footprints that content providers will need to cater to.

Two-way: The growth of weblogs is a harbinger of the publish-subscribe Internet. Readers and surfers will have the ability to participate in the content creation process. Cellphones with cameras can turn device owners into content producers.

Personalised: The Internet will also become more individualised as websites (especially search engines and portals) build up increasingly sophisticated profiles based on what we do. This will enable highly targeted advertising.

Not Free: This new Internet will not be built around the free access model that we have been used to. The eyeballs-centric business model is a thing of the past. As we find content and services of value, we are more likely to start to pay for them.

To the above, I should also have added Multimedia. Jeremy Allaire puts it thus: Now that video can be produced cheaply and with reasonable production values, and now that it can be affordably distributed and perhaps even easily monetized, will we see an emerging new class of video site producers rather than classic textual content. In 1994 when the Web really emerged, it helped bring forth an explosion in the amount and richness of text that was produced and available globally. I believe we’re at the front-end of a very similar curve in video, and this world / opportunity is not going to look very much like how we as consumers find, acquire and view video today.

So, given the changing Internet platform, how can we think portals? In this series, I propose to look at one vertical Food, and how we can apply some of these emerging trends to create a more compelling and enriching user experience.

Tomorrow: Todays Food Portals