Future Wireless Devices

Shawn Lippert writes: “The Personal Mobile Communication devices of the future will thrive with platforms that can support many applications. One application is Symbian OS that you find on most Smart Phones and new PDA’s. Opera also makes a browser that looks like a windows browser with easy to use menus. What is going to be great about these wireless and Mobile devices is the integration and support of services. These services are going to include personal streaming radio, TV on demand, News bursts, Customized Search with pictures, links, and optional preferences that let you link to an all in one account for all you Needs that would include E-Wallet, E-Mail, and a Portable phone number that you can take from one device to another. However this phone number will change to VOIP as it catches on. Wireless and Mobile devices of the future will integrate GPS features with information services.”

Talent War

Fortune writes:

Companies like Microsoft and Google are great examples of how today’s info-based economy lets businesses create vast shareholder wealth using very little financial capital but loads of human capital. Software firms are hardly the only examples. Pharmaceutical firms like Lilly and Amgen, retailers like Kohl’s and Walgreen, even manufacturers like Dell and Applied Materials are all devising business models that generate tons of wealth with very little capital. The phenomenon is global. The world is steadily becoming less capital-intensive, generating more wealth from less financial capital. Money isn’t what today’s firms need most. Even if it were, it’s abundant and cheap–look at all those buyout firms trying to invest more money than they know what to do with. No, the best companies understand what they desperately need. It’s talent. Talent of every type is in short supply, but the greatest shortage of all is skilled, effective managers. It’s hard to believe that China could have a shortage of anything human, but it does. Even there, where you can hire factory workers by the million, companies can’t find enough managers. “They’re constantly getting stolen away,” says Tom Johnson, former CEO of Chesapeake Corp., a packaging maker with a plant in China. “Labor is abundant, but management is scarce.”

The most valued traits in managers, especially if they’re approaching the highest levels, are not entirely what they were five or ten years ago. Obviously they still have to deliver knockout results. It’s how they do it that’s changing.

Ajax Tools

WSJ writes:

In October, Software released Composite Application Integrator, which helps companies build Ajax applications by automating the coding and the engineering. The offering, which costs 599 ($736) per developer seat, interacts with CentraSite, another Ajax product that Software developed jointly with Fujitsu Ltd.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is adding Ajax support to its new Java Studio Creator 2. The test version of the product has had more than 20,000 downloads. Dan Roberts, Sun’s director of marketing for developer tools, calls this level of interest “huge,” reflecting Ajax’s popularity.

Salesforce.com Inc. has also developed a free Ajax tool kit for outside developers adding software to salesforce’s AppExchange site. And BEA Systems Inc. has Ajax support in its AquaLogic User Interaction product.

The Active Web

Bill Burnham writes:

The real innovations yet to emerge are coming on the supply side of web. And they are coming into being primarily as a result of the confluence of three important trends: social networking, search, structured blogging.

RSS and its extensions on the demand side, combined with structured personal (and business) websites and search on the supply side will transform the web from a passive entity into the Active Web and will comprise the first major step towards a more autonomous web that adds real value to peoples daily lives without requiring constant effort and input.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Newspapers: Jeff Jarvis Comments

Jeff Jarvis wrote a blog post entitled Deconstructing the Newspaper. Around the same time, there was a Business Week column by Jon Fine entitled The Daily Paper of Tomorrow. Put this along with declining advertising dollars for print (with a shift to the Internet) and one can see a need for change. In India, though, the situation is quite different. If anything, more newspaper editions are on their way. Looking ahead, in the Indian context, the combination of the three screens (TV, computer connected to the Internet and mobile) will impact reading habits. But we will get to that a little later.

Lets begin by reading what Jeff Jarvis wrote.

Newspapers waste too much money on ego, habit, and commodity news the public already knows. In an era of shrinking circulation, classified, and retail ad revenue and in the face of shrinking audience and increasing competition papers have to find new efficiencies and cut these expenses to concentrate instead on their real value (which, Ill argue, is local reporting).

Newspapers also have to have the guts to stop trying to produce one-size-fits-all products that serve every possible reader and interest in one edition. When they were monopolies, newspapers tried to have something for everyone so they would attract the largest possible audience and assure their status as the marketplaces in their markets. But today, that can be terribly inefficient: What is the real cost of maintaining stock tables for the few readers who still use them in print? More on that below.

And newspapers have to take an even more frightening step: They need to start driving readers from print to online.

Jeff made a telling point: When reality catches up to advertisers, and when buying ads online in a distributed world is made easier and that will happen will newspapers be ready? When that day does come, newspapers will even have to consider selling print as a value-added upgrade to online, the reverse of what is done today.

Jeff had a harsh prescription for the newspapers. Stock tables have to goReduce coverage [of national news] to digests and major newsPersonal finance is more of a national story than a local oneTV listings are a gonerEntertainment listings work best online if they are comprehensive and searchableSyndicate sports columnistsNational sports coverage is a luxurySyndicated features like bridge and advice columns, similarly, get no ad revenue and have nothing to do with the local mission of a paper.

Jeff suggests that newspapers focus on local news. Local news is what should matter most to a newspaperThe essence of a newspaper is local news with some other services and distractions. It is important for newspapers to boil themselves down to their essence and figure out how to do better at providing that unique and valuable service.

The point newspapers need to ponder: What is the role of a newspaper in a community and in readers lives. If it is still expected to be all things to all people in a nichey world, Im afraid the business will not work. Thats why newspapers need to figure out their essence.

Tomorrow: More Comments

Continue reading

India Internet

Anand Sridharan has an excellent update on the Indian Internet space: “Growth is decent (subs, e-commerce, ad spend), but no hockey-stick effect yet. Given the small base, evolutionary growth isnt good enough to quickly reach significant scale. We are not seeing the equivalent of cellphones circa-2003, where the industry exploded (triggered by CDMA entry, free incoming and a $10 entry cost to go mobile). A base of 4-5 million Indian homes have PCs, with new PC sales to households hovering slightly north of 1 million/year. To put this in context, the PC base is roughly comparable to the base of passenger cars (remember, the average car costs 10x that of a PC) and the number of households with an annual income of over Rs. 0.5 million. PCs are yet to penetrate the Rs. 0.2 to 0.5 million annual household income segment, that forms the mainstay of the Indian middle class (this segment has roughly 14 million households).”

NYT on Yahoo’s Semel

The New York Times writes:

Perhaps the most glaring difference between Yahoo’s vision of a media company and the visions of more conventional media groups is in the definition of content. In a world of high-speed connections to a growing web of material that audiences can consume or manipulate in endless ways, Yahoo strives to be a 24/7 global blockbuster of self-expression. “Terry has said he’s been very clear about the fact that the habits and the desires of the consumer are the common theme between his last career and his current career,” Mr. Yang said.

Mobile Killer App?

The Pondering Primate writes:

The announcement of Google patenting the click to call hyperlink brings up a point I have been trying to make on the Pondering Primate. The personal computer hyperlink is very valuable, the physical world hyperlink will be invaluable.

The next platform for the Web and search is the mobile. When there are more phones connected to the Web than PCs, what kind of value will hyperlinks have then?

The Click Economy

Nicholas Carr wrote recently:

Google’s business isn’t really about monetizing eyeballs; it’s about monetizing clicks. That may seem like a small distinction – you have to attract the eyeball, after all, before you can spur the click – but I think there’s actually a very big difference. Eyeball monetization is the traditional media strategy: publish or broadcast content that attracts readers or viewers, and then intersperse ads among that content. The content, in this case, serves not to prompt action directly, but merely to draw an audience that’s attractive to companies looking to promote their products and services. There’s a natural distance, in other words, between the content and the ads – a distance that’s good for the content producer but often frustrating to the advertiser.

The click monetization strategy removes that distance. In Google’s AdSense program, for instance, a media company, or other content producer, earns nothing by simply attracting eyeballs. It only brings in cash by getting viewers to click on an ad link…Google talks a lot about the “relevance” of its ads, but relevance is a byproduct. Google is building an extraordinarily sophisticated machine for manipulating consumers – for increasing the odds that you or I will not just view or read but click. The most economically successful online content producers will be those that work within that system.

DRM and Media Companies

Knowledge@Wharton discusses digital rights management:

Wharton legal studies professor Dan Hunter says his problem with DRM has to do with the stringent restrictions favored by music labels and Hollywood. “Ultimately, those limits will lose customers,” says Hunter. He isn’t alone in that assessment. Ben Macklin, senior analyst at research firm eMarketer, notes in a report that “if the rightful owner does not allow consumers to get the content they want, when they want it and how they want to use it, they will get it elsewhere. Content providers can either get a piece of the action or put such tight [controls] on their content through DRM and restrictive terms-of-service agreements that consumers will simply avoid them.”

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a partner in 2929 Entertainment, a holding company that has begun to release high-definition movies simultaneously in theatres and on TV and home-video, adds that DRM restrictions could easily alienate customers, especially as entertainment platforms such as the PC, handheld devices and television converge. “You could really [anger] your customers, so you better come up with something that puts the customer first,” said Cuban in an email interview.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Newspapers: The Daily Me-al

My mornings have been the same since I can remember when it comes to reading newspapers I just need to have one to read. The days when there isnt one (like January 27 recently because of the previous day being a holiday Indias Republic Day) feel quite odd. For the past few years, the newspapers I get at home get read at the breakfast table. Earlier, it used to be just three Indian Express, Economic Times and Financial Express. Now, there are a lot more. Along with these three, we get Times of India, Hindustan Times, DNA, Free Press Journal, Business Line and Business Standard. Since my breakfast time hasnt gotten any longer, the time with each newspaper has gotten shorter!

To top it all, in the evening, we get 5 more newspapers Mid-Day and Afternoon (the two Mumbai eveningers), along with the Financial Times, Asian Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. So, that makes it 15 newspapers daily.

Ive enjoyed reading newspapers ever since I can remember. When I was very young, I used to go to the sports pages and pour over the cricket-related news. (Those were the days when the Internet still hadnt made an appearance in our lives.) During my college days, Id read the papers and also cut out interesting stories and file them a habit I acquired from my father. During my IIT days, there was a mad scramble every morning to get to the Times of India and cut out the crossword to solve during lectures.

In the US, while at Columbia University, I fell in love with the New York Times. Id scan the first section for their occasional India story. Then, get to the Business section. I also enjoyed reading the Science Times and Circuits. Id stay up a little late on Saturdays to get the Sunday Times. I also realised (a little late in my stay) that I could get the Times of India at the university library (in the School of International Affairs). Then, slowly, the Wall Street Journal became a daily read as I entered the world of business. I especially liked the Page One in-depth stories.

After returning to India and starting my own business, I got little time to spend with the papers. But after I started IndiaWorld in 1994, the love affair continued. Id read the papers each morning and then update the Headlines on the website and create a digest to send to people via email. For a long time, the Times and the Indian Express were the only two mainstream papers available in Mumbai, along with their financial dailies (Economic Times and Financial Express). In the past year, as the media scene in India has exploded, so have the reading options.

Of the national newspapers, the Indian Express remains my favourite. Among the business dailies, the Business Standard is better (but thats not saying much). In the triad of international papers, the Financial Times is what I like more. My reading habits have changed with the times. The newspapers, though, havent changed much. All of them have websites, but I rarely visit the Indian newspapers online.

And so it was that one day recently, I came across an article by Jeff Jarvis which made me think about newspapers and their future.

Tomorrow: Jeff Jarvis Comments

Edge Competencies

Umair Haque writes:

What do Googles use of markets to disrupt advertising, Lego harnessing prosumers to amplify innovation, and connected consumers self-organizing into networks on MySpace all have in common? Theyre all nascent examples of edge competencies.

Management thinkers and economists have long speculated that cheaper and cheaper information would disintegrate value chains into more and more highly specialized segments. Less often, theyve considered the possibility that as value chains disintegrate, value creation might begin to shift outside the boundaries of firms themselves.

Yet this is exactly the world thats emerging. Because coordination is becoming cheaper, the universe of value outside the boundaries of the firm the resources, activities, and skills external to it is beginning to explode: different organizational forms, like markets, networks, and communities, are beginning to emerge as powerful economic forces.

Great Design

Joel Spolsky writes:

You know those gorgeous old brownstones in New York City? With the elaborate carvings, gargoyles, and beautiful iron fences? Well, if you dig up the old architectural plans, the architect would often just write something like “beautiful fretwork” on the drawing, and leave it up to the artisan, the old craftsman from Italy to come up with something, fully expecting that it will be beautiful.

That’s not design. That’s decoration. What we, in the software industry, collectively refer to as Lipstick on a Chicken. If you have been thinking that there is anything whatsoever in design that requires artistic skill, well, banish the thought. Immediately, swiftly, and promptly. Art can enhance design but the design itself is strictly an engineering problem. (But don’t lose hope — I’ll talk more about beauty in future articles).

Design, for my purposes, is about making tradeoffs.

Information Week on India

[via Ramesh Jain] Information Week writes:

Welcome to India, where labor is cheap, raw talent abounds, and first-generation entrepreneurship is remaking the economy, rewriting IT playbooks abroad, and disrupting jobs in the United States. Challenges abound, too. Business leaders fret over the sorry state of travel, wage inflation, and the investments required to mold tech grads into top-notch professionals.

To interpret this upheaval firsthand, InformationWeek editor-at-large Aaron Ricadela and Network Computing lab director Ron Anderson spent last week in Bangalore and Delhi, meeting dozens of business and technology professionals. Here’s their account of the traffic, the turmoil, and the high-tech engine in full throttle.

East and West

Knowledge@Wharton writes:

The [Chinese] securities infrastructure is just one part of the development equation, stressed the Republic of Korea’s Choi. In trying to understand Asia’s position today, one must consider that “the population is the area’s most important resource for economic growth.” East Asia’s 1.6 billion people, more than double the population of North America and Europe combined, are “a highly educated, motivated population, determined to change their lot,” said Choi, noting that East Asia has a distinct culture and character that support economic growth.

Using the example of yin and yang, he contrasted the ways of the East with the ways of the West. In the East, when writing an address on an envelope, one writes the country first, then city, then family name, then first name. In the West it is the opposite. In addition, there are differences in how people count: In the West, a person holds a fist and counts by putting out fingers. In the East, counting is done by first outstretching the fingers and bringing them in, one by one. “My observation,” said Choi, “is that these characteristics are reflected in business practices. It’s the difference between the moderation of the East versus the extremism of the West, long-term planning of the East versus short-term gains in the West, strategic planning in the East versus tactical gains in the West.”

Continuing the comparisons, Choi suggested that the game of chess epitomizes the way the West developed: victory after victory, head-on collision after head-on collision. “The West developed by conquering wide open spaces and wide open seas,” he said. “The East developed in a closed environment, with an un-navigable ocean to the east, the world’s highest mountains to the north, and jungles to the south.” Ironically, said Choi, the West turned an open world into a closed world.

Neopets

Wired writes about “a virtual animal kingdom that has become a product placement paradise:”

Neopets has a staggering 25 million members worldwide. It has been translated into 10 languages and gets more than 2.2 billion pageviews per month. These dedicated Neopians spend an average of 6 hours and 15 minutes per month on the site. That makes Neopets the second-stickiest site on the Internet – ahead of Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and eBay, according to Media Metrix. What’s more, its demographics are the stuff of marketers’ dreams: Four out of five Neopians are under age 18, and two out of five are under 13.

It’s these numbers that have captured everyone’s attention – Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and toy companies, all desperately trying to grab younger and younger audiences. The Neopets characters now appear as stuffed animals and action figures and on board games and trading cards. Warner Bros. is developing a Neopets feature film. A PlayStation 2 version hit the market in October, and a PSP version is due out next year. And then there’s perhaps the biggest deal of all: In June, Viacom – which owns CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures – bought Neopets for $160 million. “We want to be wherever kids are,” says Jeff Dunn, president of Nickelodeon, who took charge of the Neopets brand. “And there are plenty of kids at Neopets.”

Business Week on CK Prahalad

Business Week carried a profile of management guru CK Prahalad recently: “Now one of the management world’s most creative thinkers has an even more radical idea: He believes that the entrepreneurial ingenuity at work amid such poverty, where success depends on squeezing the most out of minimal resources to furnish quality products at rock-bottom prices, has cosmic implications for executives and consumers everywhere. Some of the most interesting companies of the future won’t emerge from Silicon Valley or other places of abundant means, he says. They will come from places many executives don’t even think about because they have been considered too marginal. They won’t have that excuse for much longer, though.”

Vertical Search Engines

Forbes writes:

Vertical search sites have a big advantage over general search: They are able to go much deeper and present much more structured information for the user.

“The advertisers on vertical sites are gaining exposure to would-be buyers who are much closer in time to a purchase decision than the average Google user,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst with the Kelsey Group. “That’s the motivation for advertisers to appear on vertical sites. Someone on Edmunds.com is typically more serious than someone doing a car search on a general search engine.”

Feedster, Search and Syndication

David Berkowitz writes:

Feedster’s business model centers on RSS advertising, syndicating ads every few posts into its feeds. If you’re looking to run an advertising campaign on Feedster, get in line. “We’ve probably turned away more campaigns than we’ve run,” said Redlitz. Holding Feedster back for the time being is an inventory crunch. Redlitz said Feedster could double its inventory this year, yet advertiser demand is spreading beyond the early adopters. I asked Redlitz when he foresaw inventory meeting advertiser demand. He answered bluntly, “I don’t think it will.”

In the context of other developments in the search engine space, Feedster fits in most closely with vertical search, both as a vertical search engine itself and as a distribution channel for other vertical search sites. In aggregating others’ feeds, Feedster can be a resource where consumers can subscribe to publishers’ feeds of news, jobs, movie reviews, recipes, message board posts, product listings, travel deals, and other types of content. The syndication model changes the nature of search from a pull to a push model, and in the push model, search isn’t really search at all.