Google Box

Robert Cringely builds on his previous post about Google’s plan for a “data centre-in-a-box.”

…the most important reason for Google to distribute its data centers in this way is to work most efficiently with a hardware device the company is thinking of providing to customers. This embedded device, for which I am afraid I have no name, is a small box covered with many types of ports – USB, RJ-45, RJ-11, analog and digital video, S-video, analog and optical sound, etc. Additional I/O that can’t be seen is WiFi and Bluetooth. This little box is Google’s interface to every computer, TV, and stereo system in your home, as well as linking to home automation and climate control. The cubes are networked together wirelessly in a mesh network, so only one need be attached to your broadband modem or router. Like VoIP adapters (it does that too, through the RJ-11 connector) the little cubes will come in the mail and when plugged in will just plain work.

Think about the businesses these little gizmos will enable. The trouble with VoIP in the home has been getting the service easily onto your home phone. Then get a box for each phone. The main hurdle of IP TV is getting it from your computer to your big screen TV. Just attach a box to every TV and it is done, with no PC even required. Sounds like Apple’s Video Express, eh? On top of entertainment and communication the cubes will support home alarm and automation systems – two businesses that are huge and also not generally on the radar screens of any Google competitors.

Swivel

Dan Farber writes about the new avatar of Grand Central:

Swivel is applying the Grand Central hosted integration platform concept to hottest Web spaceonline advertising and e-commerce. According to the Swivel Web site, the software service helps monitor ad spend, site traffic, conversions and other metrics across popular Web commerce platforms, such as Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, or Yahoo Publisher, tracking real time stats and optimizing revenue across all programs.

Under “Coming Soon” is integration with salesforce.com (Minor was an early investor in the company), PayPal, Intuit, eBay and various shopping sites. If you have blog or sell products across various online shopping sites, such as eBay and Yahoo Shopping, Swivel is designed to aggregate and synchronize the data, send out alerts and provide dashboards and business intelligence for optimizing revenue generation. According to the Web site, Swivel is currently working with a limited number of beta users.

The Return of Monetised Eyeballs

Om Malik writes:

A sharp rebound in the online advertising market, and big media companies like AOL (a division of Time Warner) buying up folks like Weblogs Inc, has prompted a sudden increase in the value of the eyeballs, the dreaded phrase from the early days of Internet mania.

This time, the buyout metrics are slightly different as new variables like cost of customer acquisition and stickiness. In the article, I point out that the acquisition price per unique visitor had fallen from an all time high of $710 (Yahoos purchase of Broadcast.com) in April 1999 to about 73 cents in November 2001. How are we doing these days? About $10 a unique visitor! Weblogs Inc. co-founder Jason Calacanis advises And build a brand. Because without that, youre going nowhere.

Cellphones Future

Technology Review has an interview with Mats Lindoff, the CTO of Sony Ericsson:

Technology Review: Where do you see the cell phone’s biggest impacts in the next few years?

Mats Lindoff: In 2009 we estimate cell phone companies will sell over 800 million phones. With a six billion global population, that means every eighth person will buy a new cell phone every year. I think that is quite amazing. Think what other technology has had such influence — maybe electricity? TV is much less, Internet is much less, cars are much less. The Internet is a little piece of the cake compared to cell phones. I think half a billion people will, this year, make their first phone call on a cell phone.

TECH TALK: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Work

The Economist wrote about his early work:

The two most interesting arguments in The Concept of the Corporation actually had little to do with the decentralisation fad. They were to dominate his work.

The first had to do with empowering workers. Mr Drucker believed in treating workers as resources rather than just as costs. He was a harsh critic of the assembly-line system of production that then dominated the manufacturing sectorpartly because assembly lines moved at the speed of the slowest and partly because they failed to engage the creativity of individual workers. He was equally scathing of managers who simply regarded companies as a way of generating short-term profits. In the late 1990s he turned into one of America’s leading critics of soaring executive pay, warning that in the next economic downturn, there will be an outbreak of bitterness and contempt for the super-corporate chieftains who pay themselves millions.

The second argument had to do with the rise of knowledge workers. Mr Drucker argued that the world is moving from an economy of goods to an economy of knowledgeand from a society dominated by an industrial proletariat to one dominated by brain workers. He insisted that this had profound implications for both managers and politicians. Managers had to stop treating workers like cogs in a huge inhuman machinethe idea at the heart of Frederick Taylor’s stopwatch managementand start treating them as brain workers. In turn, politicians had to realise that knowledge, and hence education, was the single most important resource for any advanced society.

Business Week outlined his key ideas:

It was Drucker who introduced the idea of decentralization — in the 1940s — which became a bedrock principle for virtually every large organization in the world.

He was the first to assert — in the 1950s — that workers should be treated as assets, not as liabilities to be eliminated.

He originated the view of the corporation as a human community — again, in the 1950s — built on trust and respect for the worker and not just a profit-making machine, a perspective that won Drucker an almost godlike reverence among the Japanese.

He first made clear — still the ’50s — that there is “no business without a customer,” a simple notion that ushered in a new marketing mind-set.

He argued in the 1960s — long before others — for the importance of substance over style, for institutionalized practices over charismatic, cult leaders.

And it was Drucker again who wrote about the contribution of knowledge workers — in the 1970s — long before anyone knew or understood how knowledge would trump raw material as the essential capital of the New Economy.

Knowledge@Wharton adds:

Wide-ranging as Drucker’s contributions were to the field of management, his writings about marketing are as important, say Wharton professors. Stephen J. Hoch, chairperson of the marketing department, describes Drucker as “the Warren Buffett of management gurus. His analysis of management and marketing issues always was pithy and to the point. No pandering to buzzwords and fads, but a constancy of message, with straightforward reasoning and clearly articulated ideas. The following statement attributed to Drucker is today still the essence of marketing: ‘The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. (It) … is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy.'”

Tomorrow: Writings

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Microsoft Moves Beyond the PC

The Economist writes:

Microsoft has been trying for years to move beyond the PC, and into other devices such as mobile phones, television set-top boxes and games consoles. The big ber-strategy that this falls under relates to what’s happening in the home, says Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s chief Xbox officer and head of a newly formed business unit that brings together Microsoft’s gaming, mobile and TV divisions. We identified many years ago that the digital revolution was going to have a big impact, and we see a big opportunity there, he says. As all these other electronic devices increasingly resemble computers, they offer Microsoft new opportunities to sell software. Just as importantly, they offer new avenues for growth: sales of non-PC devices are growing much faster than sales of PCs. Microsoft wants the next 30 years to be as successful as the last 30 years, so we have to continually find new market opportunities, says Christine Heckart of Microsoft’s TV division.

Post-Network Economy

Umair Haque writes:

The fundamental economic shift taking place in the 21st century is the shift from cheap information to cheap coordination.

In the second half of the 20th century, thing got digitized, and then networked – the cost of information itself dropped discontinuously. This made the dominant strategy hyperspecialization – to leverage this cheap info by building core competences, which are essentially, scale economies in specialization.

Now, new technologies are making coordination discontinuously cheap – it’s now increasingly possible to do things with that information, without the need to build the huge coordination mechanisms firms employ; like bosses, managers, meetings, roles, and performance assessments.

At it’s heart, this is why Web 2.0 is important – it’s about going beyond cheap information; about dropping the costs of coordination. This is the shift to a post-network economy; where what we do with the stuff on the network is more valuable than just being part of the network.

Attention Namespace for OPML

Nick Bradbury writes:

What I propose is that aggregator users and developers have an open discussion about what specific attention data could (and should) be collected by aggregators.

Although there’s a lot of attention data that could be stored in OPML, my recommendation is that we keep it simple – otherwise, we risk seeing each aggregator support a different subset of attention data. So rather than come up with a huge list of attributes, I’ll start by recommending a single piece of attention data: rank.

We need a way to rank feeds that makes sense across aggregators, so that when you export OPML from one aggregator, the aggregator you import into would know which feeds you’re paying the most attention to. This could be used for any number of things – recommending related feeds, giving higher ranked feeds higher priority in feed listings, etc.

Although user interface and workflow differences require each aggregator to have its own algorithm for ranking feeds, we should be able to define a ranking attribute that makes sense to every aggregator. In FeedDemon’s case, a simple scale (say, 0-100) would work: feeds you rarely read would get be ranked closer to zero, while feeds you read all the time would be ranked closer to 100. Whether this makes sense outside of FeedDemon remains to be seen, so I’d love to hear from developers of other aggregators about this.

Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs

Forbes writes:

Paul Jacobs dismisses the myriad threats. The Nokia complaint in Europe is merely a political attempt to slow Qualcomm down, he says. The Broadcom suit is “without merit,” the company says. Intel’s Wimax dream is little more than a PowerPoint presentation, he adds. “They’re the kind of people who see the world as a nail because they have a hammer.”

To keep Qualcomm ahead, he puts his faith in innovation, packing ever more lifestyle features into the cell phone of the future. Picture-taking, music-playing, television, movies, videogames–Qualcomm engineers are integrating as much of this fun stuff as possible into their wireless chips. In three years the company has invested $4 billion in such pursuits as a better call-routing design, push-to-talk calling over the Internet, vivid color screens and ways to beam live, crisp video to handsets.

Next year Qualcomm launches its MediaFlo service, offering carriers 15 live TV channels and 40 channels of videoclips; it is spending $800 million to set up the net. It grew out of a random chat Paul had one day in late 2001 with Sanjay Jha, who now runs Qualcomm’s chip division. Paul pulled out his new iPod handheld player and rhapsodized, “It is so cool.” Soon they were what-iffing:Wouldn’t it be great if you could hear a song on the radio and buy it and download it at the press of a button on your phone? “And that is how MediaFlo was born,” Jha says.

It’s another long shot, but Paul Jacobs is undaunted by skepticism about the huge capital drain. Says he: “I think having people underestimate you is a good thing.”

How Can Start Ups Grow?

HBS Working Knowledge writes:

Assistant professor Mukti Khaire believes that small companies can grow by developing intangible social resources such as legitimacy, status, and reputation. In an interesting twist, her research on this insight is that these intangible resources may be best acquired by following a road of conformity in how your company is organized and presented to the outside world. Conventional business titles such as Marketing Director are much better than Chief Evangelist. Organizationally, a hierarchical structure will be much better understood and accepted by outsiders than a flat, decentralized decision-making structure.

These social resources are acquired by mimicking the structures and activities of established firms, and by affiliating with high-status customers respectively, she wrote in the abstract to her recent paper, Great Oaks from Little Acorns Grow: Strategies for New Venture Growth.

TECH TALK: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Profile

The Wikipedia entry for Peter Drucker gives a brief profile of his life: Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 19, 1909 November 11, 2005) was a management theorist who created many phrases common in business today. Drucker, born in Vienna, Austria, fled from the Nazis to the United States in 1937. In 1943, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He taught at New York University as Professor of Management from 1950 to 1971. From 1971 to his death he was the Clarke Professor of Social Science and Management at Claremont Graduate University. He wrote thirty nine books, the first in 1939, and from 1975 to 1995 was an editorial columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and was a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. He continued to act as a consultant to businesses and non-profit organizations when he was in his nineties.

The Economist wrote:

Mr Drucker was born in 1909 in the Austrian upper middle classhis father was a government officialand educated in Vienna and Germany. He earned a doctorate in international and public law from Frankfurt university in 1931. In normal times this would have led to a distinguished, if predictable, academic career. But those were not normal timesand Mr Drucker was not a man to bow down to the confines of academic disciplines. He spent his 20s trying to avoid Adolf Hitler and drifting among a number of jobs, including banking, consultancy, academic law and journalism (his journalistic career included a spell as the acting editor of a women’s page).

Along the way, he became increasingly convinced that the best hope for saving civilisation from barbarism lay in the humdrum science of management. He was too sensitive to the thinness of the crust of civilisation to share the classic liberal faith in the market, but too clear-sighted to embrace the growing fashion for big-government solutions. The man in the grey-flannel suit held out more hope for mankind than either the hidden hand or the gentleman in Whitehall.

He finally found a home in American academia, teaching politics, philosophy and economics.

The Telegraph wrote:

An Austrian-born exile from Nazi Germany, Drucker made his name as the first modern management guru as a result of a groundbreaking study of the structures and practices of General Motors, which he embarked upon in 1943.
The resulting Concept of the Corporation (1946) looked at a large manufacturing company for the first time as a living social organism; and although GM tried to ban its executives from reading it, the book became an international bestseller.

It argued for treating workers as valued team members, rather than as mere assembly-line fodder, and developed the idea of management as a specialised skill, the aim of which is to make people capable of joint performance, like players in an orchestra under the baton of a conductor, but each responsible for his or her own instrumental part. This was the core of Drucker’s life’s work.

Tomorrow: Work

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Microformats

Jeff Jarvis writes in the context of Google Base:

Imagine if you could go to a page that lets you put in your resume or house ad or job ad and it spits out tagged XML you could put on the web anywhere to be found by anyone.

Or imagine putting tags on restaurant reviews you post on your blog so anyone could aggregate or search for, say, all the cuisine=mexican restaurants in location=chicago. Well, you dont really have to imagine that. If you agreed on the tags, you could start doing that today via Del.icio.us and Technorati.

And imagine if you could go to Google or other services e.g., Indeed and SimplyHired for jobs or Baristanet for three Jersey towns and see the tags they use so you can swarm around those tags and find and be found. Thats the openness we need.

Content and Attention

Michael Parekh writes:

There’s no eBay like marketplace where content can find it’s own value as stocks do in the stock markets.

Sure, there are auctions on used books, music and videos and that tells you something, but it’s not a front and central price signaling marketplace. And there are always the consumer reviews and rankings at Amazon that give you some sense of what a piece of content might be worth.

And now of course, we have tags, be they from Del.icio.us and others, that allow folks to publicly display their favorite and not-so-favorite lists of content for all to see.

But there’s no online site that gives you a sense of what a piece of content is worth from a consumer point of view..

But there will be.

They may incorporate deeper implementations of Web 2.0 technologies like tags and RSS streams and the like, but at some point a marketplace will develop.

That would be the “Dream” scenario from a consumer perspective to counter the “dreams” of the music and content industries that Joel cites.

After all, Content ultimately seeks Attention, and Attention ultimately prices Content.

Single Chip for Cellphone

WSJ writes:

n their unending drive to pack more circuits into a smaller space, semiconductor makers have reached a new milestone: cramming the key parts of a cellphone onto a single chip.

This squeeze play is making mobile phones cheaper and smaller. It suggests that the under-$40 market, now driving the handset industry’s expansion in India and Africa, could prove profitable for cellphone makers as well as appealing to consumers. Cellphone makers see great promise in the developing world, with Nokia Corp. dubbing the opportunity as the “next billion” users.

Executives recently toured Asian cellphone manufacturers with working prototypes of phones that used the chip and just 58 other components packed onto a circuit board about one inch square. By contrast, one of Motorola’s low-priced mobile phones, using the older four main chips, has 245 components.

The VC’s Customer

Fred Wilson writes:

Many of the people I know in the venture capital business think their customers are their investors, called LPs in the industry vernacular. I’ve always thought that was dead wrong.

The entrepreneur is the customer and the LP is the shareholder. That’s the only way to think about the venture capital business that makes sense to me.

Entrepreneurs are really difficult customers to serve well. It takes a significant investment of time, energy, money, and intellect to satisfy them. But if you do it well, you will develop a reputation for great customer service that will keep the best ones lined up at your door.

TECH TALK: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Tributes

I become aware of Peter Drucker quite late in life. For the most part of the first half of my entrepreneurial life, management came by walking around and doing the necessary firefighting to prevent things going out of control. When I started reading Druckers writings for the first time somewhere around 2000-1, I was fascinated by both their simplicity and depth. Since then, Ive tried to read and imbibe the spirit of what Drucker has written. The first principles thinking that Drucker brings seems so obvious in hindsight. Just like it required an Isaac Newton to discover the laws of mechanics, it needed a Peter Drucker to do the same for management.)

In the wake of Druckers death recently, most business publications have discussed his life and writings in great detail. In this weeks Tech Talk, I have attempted to compile together what theyve had to say along with excerpts of Druckers writings.

Steve Forbes wrote in a tribute in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Drucker’s genius for extraordinarily farsighted insights came from a combination of intense curiosity, right principles and deep understanding of the perfections and imperfections of human nature. He never went stale intellectually, which is why business journalists, executives, entrepreneurs, leaders of nonprofit institutions, students and the occasionally wise politician eagerly sought to pick his brains right up to the time he died.

What helped make Mr. Drucker so insightful was a profound understanding of economics, an understanding that still eludes most economists today. Not for him was the notion of “macroeconomics,” of seeing the economy as something of a machine that can achieve steady, stable growth. To him, traditional economic notions of “equilibrium” or Keynesian ideas of “aggregate demand” were nonsense. Innovation, constant change, and turmoil were the true constants of a progressing economy.

Geoffrey Colvin wrote in Fortune:

Drucker simply didnt care about the conventional view on any management topic, since he had thought them all through and knew where he stood. Yet I was still surprised by the vehemence with which he disdained the modern vogue for exalting leadership, as distinct from paltry old management. It infuriated him, though he was too polite to say so unless you asked him about it, which I did. His reasoning was extremely simple: The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. If thats leadership, I want no part of it.

There were many things Drucker wanted no part of. Big universities, for instance. He scorned them all to remain at tiny Claremont Collegepayback, perhaps, for the scorn theyd heaped on him early in his career. Economists dismissed his work as cheap sociology. Sociologists had no use for business. And Drucker was dismissive of them all. No economists were interested in organizations, he explained in a 2001 interview with my colleague, Jerry Useem. The field was based on the asinine assumption that organizations act like individuals. They dont. Here, Drucker had sensed a huge opportunity. Like any great entrepreneursomebody who creates something new, as he once defined the termhe was raiding these older disciplines to create one that didnt yet exist. Physics sprang from Newton, economics from Adam Smith. And Peter Drucker became the undisputed father of managementthe discipline devoted to the study of organizations.

Tomorrow: Profile

Attention and Appreciation

Dave Pollard writes in the context of cultural anthropolgy:

I think what most of us want, male and female, human and other, is attention and appreciation. Everything else is derivative of those two things.

It’s really all about attention, and paying attention. The attention we pay to others, and that others pay to us, defines us, far more than our appearance or our name. And how can we appreciate what someone (a life partner, a business partner, a customer, an employee, a friend, a foe) is about and has to offer unless and until we pay attention to her, really listen and observe with (as much as is humanly possible) no judgement, no personal filters or frames impeding. And once weve paid enough attention that we really understand that person (or for that matter, that creature of any species), how can we not appreciate her?

Things are the way they are for a reason. Watch, listen, observe, pay attention, and you will know that reason. Most genius, most innovation, most emotion, I am convinced, stems from this ‘first-hand’ knowledge.

This is the skill, more than any other, that I need to learn.

Solar Energy

WSJ writes:

Ambitious plans to cover two big swaths of California desert with solar dishes could finally help the energy-producing technology make the leap to industrial-scale development.

Stirling Energy Systems Inc., of Phoenix, hopes to construct 20,000 solar dishes covering four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville, Calif., each dish pointing skyward to collect the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that would flow 80 miles south to power-hungry Los Angeles. The solar encampment, if eventually built, could produce 500 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the daytime needs of 300,000 homes, doubling the state’s solar capacity. The project cleared a hurdle last month when state regulators approved a 20-year power-purchase agreement between Stirling and Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International.

A second project, involving Stirling and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., a unit of Sempra Energy, awaits approval. It calls for the purchase of 300 megawatts of solar power from a Stirling project in the Imperial Valley, east of San Diego, with an option to expand to as much as 900 megawatts — the equivalent of two big gas-fired power plants.