China 3G

WSJ writes:

After years of deliberation, analysts and industry executives say, Beijing probably will start awarding licenses for so-called third-generation, or 3G, networks in the next six months or so, to give state-owned phone companies time to prepare services for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. China already is the world’s largest mobile-phone market, and the upgrade will create what is likely to become the world’s biggest 3G wireless network.

Huawei and ZTE are expected to be big beneficiaries of all that spending. They have become major competitors in the global telecommunications industry in recent years, but they were in their infancy when China built the bulk of its existing cellphone system in the late 1990s. As a result, the two companies accounted for a combined share of only about 5% of sales of current-generation equipment in China, analysts say.

Huawei and ZTE have been pouring resources into 3G. Each company claims it has about 6,000 engineers developing 3G equipment and handsets, and they have already sealed 3G deals with smaller operators overseas.

Managing Innovation

Knowledge@Wharton has a series of articles. From one of them:

To understand innovation, you first have to distinguish it from invention; too many people confuse them, according to Linda Sanford, an IBM senior vice president. Invention is just the starting point, one of the participants noted. A companys portfolio of patents reveals its smarts as an inventor. IBM, for example, remains formidable in this regard, racking up record numbers of patents for the last decade. But patents arent enough. Their technology has to find its way into products.

Not all innovations are created equal. Paul Schoemaker, a Wharton adjunct professor of marketing, pointed out that many people cite only of hits like the Blackberry or Starbucks coffee shops when talking about innovation. But some companies dont play that game, he said. They play a percentage game of incremental innovation, like Toyota. And some companies arent really innovators at all. They play a loss-avoidance game. Think about the airlines.

Barry Diller’s Internet Play

Barron’s writes about IAC/InterActiveCorp:

In no small measure, Wall Street’s disinterest in the shares — IAC will have more revenue than Google this year, but boasts less than 10% of its stock-market value — reflects the company’s convoluted history and complex structure. Google is a simple story; IAC is not. Crunch the numbers, however, and IAC looks like a bargain.

IAC is a holding company for a host of brands, most but not all of them offering products or services on the Web. Its largest single unit, which accounted for 52% of revenue and 47% of operating income in last year’s fourth quarter, is its retail arm, which includes the television shopping channel HSN, its associated HSN.com Website and Cornerstone Brands, a recently acquired collection of catalog retailers.

CarSpace

Business Week writes about a MySpace-like site built around cars: “When you log onto CarSpace, you know the people inside are there to chat and post about chrome rims, the new Bimmer at the auto show, or to help you find a trusted mechanic in Butte, Mont. So you can upload those jpegs of your tricked-out Scion xB, bash controversial BMW chief designer Chris Bangle, and search the profiles for your dream date: ‘must love NASCAR, cigs, and CSI.'”

Mabber for Mobile IM

TechCrunch writes: “Mix open instant messaging protocol Jabber with mobile phones and you get Mabber, a new product from a team based in Cologne, Germany. The team at Mabber were early adopters of the Jabber protocol and with the lower mobile data charges in their home country decided to develop an application that would allow mobile users to communicate with each other using the protocol, thus save on SMS costs. Mabber is a product of New Media Management, a German company.”

TECH TALK: 3GSM World Congress 2006: Mobile IM, VoIP and IMS

One of the big announcements at 3GSM was that of mobile IM. BBC News has more:

Fifteen operators, including Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and China Mobile have agreed to work together to make it easy to IM across networks.

The motivation to get IM working on mobiles is driven by its huge success on the net. By getting people using IM on a mobile instead of a PC, the operators believe they can start to generate decent amounts of money for data services.

The mobile phone industry is looking to repeat the success of text messaging.
Under the initiative, the 15 operators covering 700 million mobile phone users have agreed to use a single standard for IM, which would work across networks.

The operators are looking to launch instant messaging mobile services later this year.

Silicon.com adds: The operators have agreed to charge mobile IM users for outgoing messages but incoming messages will be free. According to Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone, this will cut down on unwanted nasties being sent to users’ mobiles.

An entry on mopocket discusses the impact of Nokias Mobile VoIP phones that will be coming soon: I think that individuals, as well as and especially business’, will jump at the chance, if given, to use a VoIP service on their mobile phones to either conserve minutes and or make communication 10X more cost effective. Think about what would happen, for example, to Cingular’s International Roaming and International Long Distance Plan’s if people knew that they could just use their mobile phone’s WiFi connection (or even Cingular’s very own data network) to call Aunt Beatrice in Germany for 5 cents a minute instead of 36 cents. While in Barcelona, Cingular will be charging me 99 cents a minute to make as well a s receive phone calls; so you better believe I will be using my VoIP services as much as possible, and would, if I could, use it on my mobile.

IMS was another dominant theme at 3GSM. Light Reading wrote:

IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) has, not surprisingly, been one of the dominant acronyms at this year’s 3GSM event, with all the major, and many of the minor, vendors talking up their network and service convergence capabilities.

“IMS is going to play a strategic role in our future service delivery,” noted the operator’s head of Global Supply Chain Management, Detlef Schultz, in a prepared statement. “We intend to pilot the next generation of services using this technology and will start interoperability testing with other operators as soon as possible,” he added.

So, what exactly is an “IMS-ready deployment”? Alcatels COO of mobile activities, Marc Rouanne says that’s where technology conforming to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) ‘s IMS standard protocols, such as SIP, is already installed and ready to be part of a broader convergence archiecture. He cites applications servers, softswitches, gateways, and HSSs (home subscriber servers, the master customer database) as typical examples of such elements, and notes deployments with the likes of China Mobile Communications Corp. and T-Mobile USA as commercially deployed references.

Tomorrow: Hot Issues

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Cringely on Video Distribution

Robert Cringely writes:

The poster child for television 2.0, it seems to me, is a company like Grid Networks, which might be a new name to you. Like Bit Torrent, Grid has built a peer-to-peer distribution system. Like Mike Homer’s Kontiki, Grid has married Digital Rights Management and a business model of sorts to its Torrent-like distribution system. But unlike most of the others, Grid (no, I am not an investor but thanks for asking) most approximates what my Mom thinks of as TV.

Kontiki has been around for a long time, and are definitely first mover in the market. They adopted a subscription model (RSS+P2P=Video), but for that the videos have to be downloaded in entirety, and there really is no “browse, click, watch” functionality in their system (at least yet). It is certainly better than waiting 2 days for NetFlix at the mail box, but it’s just not quite user friendly enough in my opinion.

Grid’s system, on the other hand, accomplishes two things from the end-user perspective: it is point, click and watch; and it is very very high quality. Using p2p, they can afford to send 1.5Mbps – 2Mbps video over their network because it costs the same as sending 150Kbps-200Kbps video. I was shocked by the video quality, watching a DVD-quality movie at Starbucks on my notebook computer with virtually no waiting.

WiFiber

Technology Review writes about GigaBeam’s technology:

Although the technology is wireless, the company’s approach — high-speed data transferring across a point-to-point network — is more of an alternative to fiber optics, than to Wi-Fi or Wi-Max, says John Krzywicki, the company’s vice president of marketing. And it’s best suited for highly specific data delivery situations.

This kind of point-to-point wireless technology could be used in situations where digging fiber-optic trenches would disrupt an environment, their cost be prohibitive, or the installation process take too long, as in extending communications networks in cities, on battlefields, or after a disaster.

MySpace and the Blogosphere

Jeremy Wright writes:

MySpace is Bigger Than Blogging: There are more nearly as many MySpace accounts as blogs (about 30M vs about 100M. More of them are started every day than blogs (about 250,000 vs about 100,000). There are more posts per day being made on MySpace than on all blogs combined (about 1.5M vs about 1.4M).

MySpace is Accelerating Faster Than Blogging: Considering it is much newer than blogging, this should be obvious. While it is currently smaller than blogs, at the current rate of growth and acceleration, it will be larger than blogging by this summer. That is ALL of blogging.

MySpaceers Network. Fast: It isnt that unusual to find MySpace accounts with thousands of connections. While many (outside of MySpace) might think that these connections are useless, the truth is that they represent the ability for networks to form quickly, and when graphed they do show that certain people are more likely to connect nodes and groups of nodes than others.

Adobe’s Engagement Platform

Knowledge@Wharton interview Bruce Chizen:

Knowledge@Wharton: Let’s start with the basic question: What was the primary motivation behind the acquisition of Macromedia?

Chizen: Flash.

Knowledge@Wharton: That simple?

Chizen: The combination of [Acrobat’s] PDF [file format] and the Adobe Reader with Flash’s SWF [file format] and the Flash Player enables us to create an “engagement platform.” Think of it as a layer or a vehicle in which anybody can present information that could be engaged with in an interactive, compelling, reliable, relatively secure way — across all kinds of devices, all kinds of operating systems. If you look at the success that Adobe has had with Adobe Reader and the ubiquitous nature of that client combined with what Macromedia has done with the Flash Player — especially on non-PC devices — that puts us in a position that is probably better than anybody else’s.

TECH TALK: 3GSM World Congress 2006: The Event

The 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona was another event (after DEMO 2006) that I would have liked to attend but could not. I have aggregated reports and comments from multiple sources to give an overview of what went on there.

962 companies and over 50,000 visitors. That captures the scale of the worlds premier mobility-related event. Mobile phones having increasingly become the centerpiece of our digital and connected lives, and the 3GSM event is a reflection of that. There are over two billion mobile phone users worldwide. Last year, over 800 million mobiles were sold.

ZDNet captured the essence of the 3GSM announcements:

Convergence has been one of the hottest buzzwords in the mobile industry for several years. This week, the 3GSM World Congress saw compelling evidence that once-rival technologies can work together, and that the world is moving fast towards an all-IP environment.

CSR is making good progress towards merging Bluetooth and Wi-Fi onto a single chip, but it’s Nokia’s decision to add Wi-Fi to its 6136 phone is a stronger indication that the landscape is changing.

Most exciting of all is the multi-operator alliance for instant messaging services. IM will force the industry to embrace convergence, and will also make it face up to issues such as open standards.

The Wall Street Journal had a 3GSM News Tracker. Among the items that caught my attention:

Beijing Buzz: Participants at 3GSM were buzzing with the likelihood that China will issue third-generation mobile licenses as soon as the first half of this year. Equipment vendors such as Siemens, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia are eagerly awaiting the development, which is expected to unleash up to $12 billion in spending on new equipment. Siemens and Nokia executives at 3GSM told Reuters they expect a decision by June. Many executives have cited the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a key time constraint, since China would like to have cutting-edge mobile systems in place for the global event it hopes will showcase its arrival onto the world stage.

Game-Device Duet: Opera Software will supply Internet browsers for Nintendo’s popular dual-screen handheld game device, the Norwegian company’s chief executive said. “This is the first time we have provided a browser for a game device,” Opera co-founder and Chief Executive Jon S. Von Tetzchner told the Associated Press. Nintendo has sold more than 13 million of its Nintendo DS devices, combine dual screens, touch screen, voice recognition and wireless communications capabilities. Mr. Von Tetzchner said users will now also be able to surf the Internet with both of the device’s screens by using the Opera browser inserted on a card into the machine’s Wi-Fi slot.

Handset Venture: Nokia and Sanyo Electric said they plan to set up a joint venture to develop and manufacture advanced mobile phones using the CDMA standard. At 3GSM, Nokia Chief Financial Officer Rick Simonson said his company will take a minority stake in the venture, which will merge the companies’ CDMA units. The venture will control about 20% of the world’s CDMA market, rivaling current leader Samsung Electronics of South Korea, the companies said. Mr. Simonson said the new partners complement each other: Nokia has no meaningful presence in the Japanese market, but has a good position in Brazil and India, whereas Sanyo is very strong in Japan and North America.

Sub-$25 Target: Texas Instruments says it will soon start supplying mobile-phone producers with a single chip that powers an entire entry-level handset, saying those GSM handsets might sell as low as $20. “We are targeting the $25 and low-$20 price range” for handsets that contain the chip, TI’s chief of wireless chips, Gilles Delfassy, told Reuters. “We will ship millions in ’06, hopefully tens of millions,” he said.

New From Nokia: Nokia unveiled two new mobile-phone models, the 6131 and the 6070. The 6131, which has a folding design, features a camera, Bluetooth wireless technology, email support attachments, a memory-card slot and audio messaging. The 6131 is expected to sell for about $330. The 6070, which is expected to cost about $115, features a camera, radio, audio messaging and email. Both handsets are expected to start shipping in the second quarter.

Tomorrow: Mobile IM, VoIP and IMS

Funding Invention vs Managing Innovation

Business Week has an article by John Hagel and John Seely Brown.

If we shift our attention from invention to innovation, we begin to see a much broader horizon. Innovation — the ability to create and capture economic value from invention — is what really drives both the economic prosperity of nations and the shareholder value of corporations.

Innovation isn’t just confined to commercialization of new products. It can also build upon creative new practices, processes, relationships, or business models, and even institutional innovations such as open-source computing — invention occurs in all these domains. And while breakthrough innovations can generate significant economic value, sustaining that value requires a capacity for continual incremental innovations.

Brain Puzzles

800-CEO-READ Blog writes: “Most people want their brain to work as well as possible for as long as possible. There are obvious things to do, such as oxygenating your brain with exercise, eating good foods that promote healthy cells, and avoiding bad things like cigarettes and recreational drugs that hurt your brain. Books and puzzles and social gatherings are all good for keeping your brain sharp, but it turns out the key is novelty. To keep those neural connections forming in your brain, do something you are not accustomed to doing. If you dont do crossword puzzles, start now.”

The Value of Attention

OpenBusiness interviews Esther Dyson:

OB: OpenBusiness is about investigating an apparent trend on the internet. More and more businesses are throwing themselves open in many different ways for instance, offering free services and content. At times, however, they seem to have no real business models. Yet the social bookmarking service deli.cio.us, which requires no payment at all, has been bought by Yahoo! It creates value through the sharing of bookmarks in a sense an exchange for information but its entirely free of charge and there are no advertisements. Its all very open, but where is the business model?

Esther: Well, its true more and more businesses are being built around openness. I think you need to pay attention to timing. You can use one strategy to get into the market, and then you adopt another once you are established. Few of these strategies are actually new, many of them rely on quite well established business strategies.

For example, I was one of the angel investors in del.icio.us. We certainly planned to change our financial strategy over time. First we would build a useful resource or service,. offering it for free and gathering a community around it. Then, with luck, we would reach a point where we would have a platform to which we could add revenue-generating services. That may be ads, or it may be various premium functions you can charge for. Of course, you have to take care not to promise something for free if you plan to charge for it later!

Naming Companies

Guy Kawasaki has suggestions. Among them: “Begin with letters early in the alphabet. Here’s the scenario: you bought a booth at a massive trade show like Comdex. The list of exhibitors in the show guide is alphabetized. Would you rather be listed in the front of the guide or at back of the guide? Another scenario: A reviewer analyzes a dozen or so products. She lists them in alphabetical order in the review. Would you prefer that your product be at the beginning or end of the list?”

Future Marketing

WSJ interviews Rishad Tobaccowala, “formerly chief innovation officer of Publicis Groupe’s Publicis Groupe Media, has been tapped to head a new consulting firm Publicis is setting up.”

WSJ: If I were a marketer and only had enough of a budget to invest in one new ad platform, which one would you recommend?

Mr. Tobaccowala: If you were a marketer that has used lots of TV advertising, I would recommend broadband [high-speed] Internet-TV. Advertisers have long thought the Internet was about key words, buttons and banners because there weren’t enough households that had broadband pipe. Now that has changed with broadband penetration. But the moment you get broadband the way you utilize the Internet completely changes. You use it more and use it for entertainment. It’s the spine that makes the Internet more than just information and communication . But now it’s also an entertainment medium. The next addictive medium after TV is the Internet.

Microsoft’s OfficeLive

Walter Mossberg reviews it: “Office Live, at www.officelive.com, is a set of Web-based applications. That means the programs don’t reside on your hard disk but live on Microsoft’s servers. This approach isn’t new, but it’s all the rage now, and it’s part of a trend some in the tech industry call “Web 2.0.” Microsoft is working on a whole series of such products and services, all with the word ‘Live’ in their titles. I’ve been testing Office Live, and I generally like it, though it has some rough edges and the applications it provides are pretty basic.”

Paul Graham’s Boot Camp for Hackers

The New York Times writes:

If it is possible to systematize the archetypal two guys in a garage (and they are generally guys), the year-old Y Combinator wants to do it. The company’s formula is to throw smart people together and provide them $6,000 in seed money per person to cover the initial costs of the company, cookie-cutter legal paperwork and an extensive network of business contacts.

In return, Mr. Graham and his partners Jessica Livingston, Trevor Blackwell and Robert Morris collectively own 1.2 to 12 percent of the company, with an average of 6 percent. The company holds two boot camps a year for about eight groups each session, a summer one in Cambridge and a winter one in Mountain View. Y Combinator is not so much an incubator as a hatchery for baby companies, and as with all things spawned in bulk, some will die, some will flourish and some will eke by.

Creators, Synthesizers and Consumers

Bradley Horowitz writes that for every 1 creator, there are 10 sythesizers and 100 consumers:

As an example take Yahoo! Groups.

* 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
* 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
* 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers)

There are a couple of interesting points worth noting. The first is that we dont need to convert 100% of the audience into active participants to have a thriving product that benefits tens of millions of users. In fact, there are many reasons why you wouldnt want to do this. The hurdles that users cross as they transition from lurkers to synthesizers to creators are also filters that can eliminate noise from signal. Another point is that the levels of the pyramid are containing – the creators are also consumers.