Mobile vs Computer

Russell Buckley writes:

I was thinking that an interesting test of how advanced mobile phone evolution has got would be to ask if there was anything you used your mobile for, when your computer was readily available.

Of course, I know that mobiles are generally used when youre out and about and dont have a computer with you. But if you were to put them head-to-head, what would happen?

Personally, heres where mobile wins:

Alarms
Voice call (even then Ill use Skype if the other person is available on their computer)
SMS (again if I cant see theyre there on IM)
Calculator (but spreadsheet wins if its more complex)
Camera (I can take still shots with my computer cam)

Metered Web Services

Jon Udell writes in the context of Amazon’s S3:

Id like to find out whether metering infrastructure services in this way will prove technically and economically viable. When we talk about a grid of Web services, we like to compare it to the power grid, but the analogy is deeply flawed in at least one way. My electric bill isnt itemized. I dont know what it costs me to run each of my appliances, or how long it will take to amortize the cost of replacements. Lacking this feedback, we make poor individual decisions that, collectively, add up to a tragic misallocation of resources.

Creating whats called the energy web — a marketplace where smart producers and consumers of power exchange price signals in real time — will require a massive overhaul of our legacy power grid. Theres just no way for us to start from scratch. But in the realm of Web services, were just now building the grid. Given a clean slate, perhaps we can figure out how to aggregate demand, meter usage, and value services for what they do rather than just for the eyeballs they attract.

Helio and MVNOs

Wired writes:

Helio is a mobile virtual network operator. MVNOs sell phones and service plans just like ordinary mobile network operators, but they don’t own cell towers and spectrum and all the other baggage that makes up a network. Instead, they lease all that from companies that do, creating virtual networks. They’re hot because established mobile operators like Cingular and Verizon Wireless have been too busy selling plain-vanilla plans to Middle America to worry about niche markets. With a virtual setup, a startup can pick any market that’s not adequately served, rent capacity from an existing network operator, come up with phones and services that appeal to its niche, and go.

Helio, set to begin service this spring, is going after a niche that’s broader in age – 18 to 32 – but narrower in focus: trendsetters, gadget geeks, gotta-have-it-now guys with credit to burn. It will operate on the high-speed 3G networks that are essential for music, video, and games. It’s also promising handsets that haven’t been seen in the US and services that go beyond the basic music and video offerings from Sprint Nextel and Verizon. And while the company is as much a marketing ploy as any other MVNO, it feels almost like a cause.

Online Advertising Future

Business Week writes:

The race is on to find new ways to track customer behavior. Advertisers and agencies are progressing far beyond the standard arithmetic of counting clicks and page views. They’re tracking the to-and-froing of the mouse on Web pages, and they’re finding new ways to group shoppers by age, Zip Code, and reading habits. CEO David S. Rosenblatt of DoubleClick Inc., which serves up some 200 billion ads a month for customers, says that every campaign now allows for 50 different types of metrics. One New York advertising company, TACODA Systems Inc., is set to wire a group of web surfers with brain scanners to see which ads register in their minds.

This flood of new measurements is likely to roil the Internet ad industry. Until recently, the data have primarily shed light on the ads customers see and click. But the details pouring in are sure to provide a far more thorough understanding of the Internet players themselves: which ones assemble the best overall portraits of customer behavior, and which ones fall short.

Google Report

Richard MacManus writes about a new Jupiter Research report:

Google has what Jupiter calls “the most powerful ad network online”, with $6 billion in advertising revenue in 2005…Compared to Yahoo’s $4.6 billion, this makes Google the premier online advertising network. So despite the relatively small time spent per user, Google still comes out top in online advertising. More than anything, this points to the value of the distributed nature of Google’s ad network – the ads don’t just appear on Google’s web properties, they are also displayed on millions of external websites and blogs. This is a portal circa 2005/6, not the old-style ‘MyYahoo’ portal.

TECH TALK: The MySpace Story: The Future

Newsweek wrote about whats ahead for MySpace in a December 2005 story:

In November, they teamed with Interscope to create MySpace Records, a label that will release a few albums each year from bands discovered on the site. In coming months they’ll launch a MySpace satellite-radio station, new features that let users access their MySpace accounts from mobile phones and, soon, MySpace Films. With help from their new owner, News Corp. (which bought MySpace parent company Intermix in July for $580 million), Anderson and DeWolfe plan to back a few independent films each year and flood openings with MySpace members. “It costs us nothing to get millions of MySpace users to show up at events,” DeWolfe says.

It almost sounds as if they’re building a rival to Viacom’s MTV. “I think MySpace already means something to its audience in much the same way that MTV meant something to its audience during its early years,” says News Corp.’s Internet chief, Ross Levinsohn.

MySpace announced a tie-up with mobile company Helio in February:

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch hopes to extend MySpace’s influence beyond the PC. [The] popular site [has announced] a partnership with Helio, a wireless carrier backed by Internet service provider EarthLink and SK Telecom, a Korean wireless carrier which operates what’s viewed in the industry as the world’s most advanced cell-phone network. This spring, MySpace and Helio will launch a service that will let users access MySpace from their mobile phones.

For MySpace, the deal is another move to keep its users bound tightly to it, communicating with friends or listening to music from artists featured on the service. Such innovation should help MySpace avoid the fate of social-networking pioneer Friendster, whose users ended up going elsewhere when it failed to introduce new features.

The move also gives News Corp a foothold in the rapidly growing mobile market. More than 60 million teenagers now carry cell phones, and most take them everywhere they go. MySpace Mobile, which is a free service, could turn into another lucrative advertising venue for News Corp.

A number of moral issues have been raised around MySpace. Danah Boyd writes about the future and the importance of MySpace:

If MySpace falters in the next 1-2 years, it will be because of this moral panic. Before all of you competitors get motivated to exacerbate the moral panic, think again. If the moral panic succeeds:

1.Youth will lose (even more) freedom of speech. How far will the curtailment of the First Amendment go?
2.All users will lose the safety and opportunities of pseudonymity, particularly around political speech and particularly internationally.
3.Internet companies will be required to confirm the real life identity of all users. At their own cost.
4.International growth on social communities will be massively curtailed because it is much harder to confirm non-US populations.
5.Internet companies will lose the protections of common carrier which will have ramifications in all sorts of directions.
6.Internet companies will see a massive increase in subpoenas and will be forced to turn over data on their users which will in turn destroy the trust relationship between companies and users.
7.There will be a much greater barrier for new communities to form and for startups to build out new social environments.
8.International companies will be far better positioned to create new social technologies because they won’t have to abide by American laws even if American citizens use their technology (assuming the servers are hosted outside of the US). Unless, of course, we decide to block sites on a nation-wide basis…

Friendster was a fad; MySpace has become far more than that. If it doesn’t evolve, it will fade, but MySpace is far better positioned to evolve than Friendster was. That said, i think we’re seeing a huge shift in social life – negotiating super publics. I kinda suspect that MySpace teens are going to lead the way in figuring this out, just as teens in the 60s and 70s paved the way to figuring out globalized life with TV. I just hope law doesn’t try to stop culture.

So, go to MySpace.com and create your space. In doing so, try and understand what makes it tick. And think about what it takes to do a MySpace for India.

IDC’s SaaS Predictions

IDC predicts (for 2006):

# Large ISVs Will Spin Off On-Demand Versions of Products
# Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Remain a “Tough Nut to Crack”
# Microsoft Strengthens SaaS Resolve
# Software on Demand Providers Focus on Partnering
# Mini-Ecosystems Emerge to Extend the Reach of Software on Demand
# SaaS Enablers Continue to Aid Availability of On-Demand Offerings
# Merger and Acquisition Activity Continues
# SaaS Providers Concentrate on Improving Offerings and Customer Experience
# Hosted AM Becomes a Stepping Stone Towards On-Demand Delivery
# SaaS Will Help Drive a Software Industry Transition to Subscription Licensing

Will Internet replace TV?

Mark Cuban doesn’t think so:

The last mile into our homes wont have enough bandwidth to support all that we will want to do via our internet connections at home. There is no moores law for bandwidth to the home. THere is a huge misconception that bandwidth will just continue to experience unlimited expansion for every broadband household. Its what we are used to with hard drives, processors, all technology. It gets faster, cheaper, bigger. Thats not the case for the next decade with bandwidth

The net result is that TV is going to be TV, delivered like TV for a long time to come. (I consider IPTV to be regular TV). There wont be enough bandwidth for it to be any other way.

The problem is that our consumption of digital media at home will continue to grow. The bandwidth we want to consume will many times exceed the bandwidth available to us at that time.

The viewing of internet video will continue to grow. We will upload and download more and more video, consuming increasing amounts of bandwidth. We will want to download movies in High Def quality. Digital pictures will increase in resolution, and we will upload and share our lives through digital pictures that consumes multiple mbs per picture. Too do all of the above without limit, where and when you want to do it just cant happen. For the vast majority of us, there wont be enough bandwidth for at will , unlimited downloads.

Mobile Content in India

Express Computer has a nice overview of what’s happening in India.

According to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the mobile content market in the country for 2004-05 was worth Rs 558 crore and is expected to reach Rs 1,802 crore by 2007.

Preeti Desai, President, IAMAI says, The increased interest in and demand for personal expression applications across mobile users is driving the applications and content market. Entertainment and content applications offered by content publishers, aggregators and operators are increasingly central to the revenue and competitive positioning.

According to Arpita Pal, Principal Consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the content market comprising mobile gaming, ringtones, ringback tones and wallpapers is expected to increase tenfold in the next five years. Pal points out that mobile operators are working towards offering 3G to their subscribers to support content-rich applications.

Quarterly Earnings Forecast

John Hagel writes:

Public markets, especially in the US, do tend to put undue emphasis on short-term performance. But whos to blame for this?

Ask these same CEOs and their management teams two simple questions:

* What will your relevant markets look like five to ten years from now?

* What will your company need to do in order to thrive in these markets five to ten years from now?

Almost always, the answer will come back that theres just too much uncertainty to have a clear point of view on this. But, heres the rub: If the senior management team of acompany doesnt have a clear point of view on where the company is headed, why should investors put a lot of faith in the long-term performance of the company? In the absence of a clear and compelling long-term perspective, investors naturally fall back on short-term results.

TECH TALK: The MySpace Story: The Acquisition

The Acquisition

In July 2005, News Corp bought MySpace for $580 million. BBC News wrote then:

The central message was that the days of newspapers editing content into a one-size-fits-all package to be consumed without question by the reader were numbered.

Young people “don’t want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important,” Mr Murdoch said.

“And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.

“Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle.”

Myspace fits neatly into that definition. It is a network of pages – most set up by individuals, some by musicians and other creative types – each mixing self-generated text and pictures, links to other content elsewhere, and streamed music and video to create networks of friends and contacts.

The result is a densely interwoven community, which its adherents say is highly addictive.

Robert Young analysed the purchase of MySpace by News Corp:

Although ad inventory was surely part of the equation, I believe there is larger strategic reason that motivated Murdoch to make such a bold move: He is planning to create a competitor to MTV.

Much like Viacoms CBS decided to use the broadband web to bypass cable and compete against the 24-hour news networks like CNN and FoxNews (see PaidContents coverage here), the acquisition of MySpace positions Murdoch to challenge the dominance of MTV in their category. Im willing to bet that he will go even further by eventually extending the MySpace brand to include a dedicated cable & satellite network/channel. He is after all an old media guy. In fact, just a couple of weeks before News Corp. announced the deal, we all witnessed the webs potential in this context when AOLs webcasting audience for Live 8 outreached MTV and ABCs ratings of the same event (details here.) Such a data point can go a long way towards justifying a $580 million price tag.

In addition to live concerts, MySpace is an ideal platform to release music videos (which the major record labels are desperately trying to monetize), as well as other short-form reality programming (think Foxs American Idol) thats likely to attract the 22 million youngsters in the MySpace community an audience that happens to also watch MTV.

MySpace has helped catapult News Corp and Murdoch in the forefront of the Internet revolution. Going ahead, the challenge for them is to keep the spirit and community features that helped MySpace succeed even as they monetise the brand and the user base.

Tomorrow: The Future

Freemium Business Model

Fred Wilson writes about his “favourite business model.”

Give your service away for free, possibly ad supported but maybe not, acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth, referral networks, organic search marketing, etc, then offer premium priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to your customer base.

Examples:

Skype basic in network voice is free, out of network calling is a premium service

Flickr a handful of pictures a month is free, heavy users convert to Pro

This business model has been around for a long time. Shareware always used a model like this and there are many successful software companies that have been built with this model.

It works even better with web native services.

10 Emerging Technologies

Technology Review writes:

Nanomedicine and nanobiomechanics both illustrate nanotechnology’s increasing contribution to the understanding and treatment of diseases. In biology, epigenetics is part of an exploding effort to understand the ways that chemical compounds can influence DNA, while comparative interactomics is a compelling example of how researchers are beginning to visualize the body’s remarkable complexity.

Diffusion tensor imaging is the most recent in a series of astonishing breakthroughs in imaging the brain. Meanwhile, cognitive radio, pervasive wireless, and universal authentication reflect the continuing struggle to keep the digital world accessible and secure.

There is also controversy on the list: nuclear reprogramming describes the contentious hunt for an “ethical stem cell.” Finally, some of the technologies, such as stretchable silicon, are just cool.

Mobile Data Survey

Financial Times writes (via Yahoo News):

Mobile phone users are unlikely to pay extra to access the growing range of video and audio content available on their phones, according to a global KPMG survey. This trend could push operators into rethinking their business models.

“Mobile service providers will need to stop thinking of converged services purely as a revenue booster,” said Sean Collins, global chair of KPMG’s communications practice.

“They should consider them as a churn reduction tool, allowing them to present a much more stable, loyal subscriber base which should be attractive to advertisers and digital commerce partners.”

Software as a Service

InfoWorld writes in a special report:

SaaS ecosystems are emerging, such as the on-demand, SOA-based platform developed by Rearden Commerce, which connects business customers with travel, shipping, and other service providers through identity-based Web apps. And then theres Salesforce.coms (Profile, Products, Articles) exciting new AppExchange platform, which offers a hosted space for sharing Salesforce.com-based apps that the company calls an iTunes for business applications.

All this activity, however, doesnt mean the SaaS wave is poised to engulf traditional licensed software. SaaSs share of the business application market today is more like a drop in the bucket. And enterprises have been slow to embrace SaaS, raising objections over reliability and availability, underscored by recent Salesforce.com outages.

Yet the arrival of the big enterprise-software guns, the emergence of integrated business communities in the cloud, and increasing desperation on the part of IT to minimize application deployment and maintenance hassles, suggest that SaaS is on the verge of much faster adoption.

Live Clipboard

Jon Udell writes about an idea proposed by Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie:

The first bridge connects Web and Windows applications. Copy from one Web site, paste into another. Copy from the Web, paste to Outlook. Copy from Excel, paste to the Web. Web-style data, including RSS feeds and microformatted pages, is augmented on the clipboard with Windows-style representations. Finally!

The second bridge connects Web users to emerging Web activities. Subscribing to an RSS feed, for example, has never conformed to any familiar user-interface pattern. Soon copying and pasting RSS feeds will feel natural to everyone, and Ozzie hopes the copy/paste metaphor will also make advanced capabilities more accessible. Consider my LibraryLookup bookmarklet. Dragging it onto the browsers toolbar isnt something easily understood or explained. Using the clipboard as the wiring junction will make a lot more sense to most people.

The third bridge connects cultures. OReilly conferences are ground zero for the open source alpha geek tribe. Encounters with visitors from Microsoft have sometimes been tense. But Ray Ozzie strode into the midst of this gathering bearing an olive branch and an offering. The olive branch was Firefox, which he used for his demo. The offering was Live Clipboard, which he called a gift to the Web. This was exactly the right way to ask for the broad support that will be necessary if Live Clipboard is to become a Web-wide standard on all platforms.

TECH TALK: The MySpace Story: The Popularity

What made MySpace succeed where others failed? Robert Scoble spoke to MySpaces CTO Aber Whitcomb who pointed out the reasons:

1) They made sure influentials in Hollywood (stars, bands) were among the first users.
2) They listen to their users and add features frequently (usually noticeable new features every week).
3) They let the users tell them what to do. He mentioned that other services, like Friendster, tried to tell their users what not to do.
4) When MySpace visitors first log on they already had a friend: the founder Tom. That was in contrast to other services where you had to work to find your first friend. His page also gave you a template to get started.

Danah Boyd analysed the MySpace phenomenon in a talk recently:

I have been following MySpace since its launch in 2003. Initially, it was the home to 20-somethings interested in indie music in Los Angeles. Today, you will be hard pressed to find an American teenager who does not know about the site, regardless of whether or not they participate. Over 50 million accounts have been created and the majority of participants are what would be labeled youth – ages 14-24. MySpace has more pageviews per day than any site on the web except Yahoo! (yes, more than Google or MSN).

MySpace is a social network site. In structure, MySpace is not particularly unique. The site is a hodgepodge of features previously surfaced by sites like Friendster, Hot or Not, Xanga, Rate My Teacher, etc. At the core are profiles that are connected by links to friends on the system. Profiles are personalized to express an individual’s interests and tastes, thoughts of the day and values. Music, photos and video help users make their profile more appealing.

The friend network allows people to link to their friends and people can traverse the network through these profiles. An individual’s “Top 8” friends are displayed on the front page of their profile; all of the rest appear on a separate page. Bands, movie stars, and other media creators have profiles within the system and fans can friend them as well. People can comment on each others’ profiles or photos and these are typically displayed publicly.

When MySpace was initially introduced, skeptics thought that it would be just another fad because previous sites like Friendster had risen and crashed. Unlike the 20-somethings who invaded Friendster, the teens have more reason to participate in profile creation and public commentary. Furthermore, MySpace’s messaging is better suited for youths’ asynchronous messaging needs. They can send messages directly from friends’ profiles and check whether or not their friends have logged in and received their email. Unlike adults, youth are not invested in email; their primary peer-to-peer communication occurs synchronously over IM. Their use of MySpace is complementing that practice.

The community angle of MySpace has highlighted in a comment by Robert Young on Om Maliks blog: If you are a member of MySpace, its not the web-page and blog you spent time constructing, its your social network of cyber-friends youve cultivated and accumulated over time.”

The Economist wrote in an article about News Corp and Rupert Murdoch in January:

Like Google before it, MySpace.com has entered the English language. Its appeal is that its members create an anarchic mix of their own content. The site is a collection of individuals’ homepages with photographs, music, links to friends and blogs.

As an internet business, MySpace.com considers itself to be an entirely new breed. Chris DeWolfe, its co-founder, says he wanted the company to take inspiration from sociology as well as from technology, and for that reason he based it in Los Angeles rather than Silicon Valley. The community has grown virally, with no advertising. Some of the photographs verge on the pornographic, and MySpace.com has about ten people in a room at its headquarters in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, weeding out explicit photographs. With its young members, its 24-hour discussion groups on everything from graffiti to independent film-making, and its thousands of undiscovered bands, MySpace.com has the ambition not just to be useful, like Google, MSN or Yahoo!, but cool.

Jeremy Wright wrote about the impact and influence of MySpace in February:

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.

Fred Wilson wrote about MySpace and captured the broader trend: We are at the dawn of the age of personalized media. The web has given the world a place where the audience is the publisher and what we are witnessing (and hopefully participating in) is the personalization of media. It will manifest itself in many strange and wonderful ways.

Danah Boyd also compared Friendster and MySpace:

When Friendster launched, it was quickly inhabited by populations who had good reasons to connect with each other. By and large, the early adopters were living in a region different from their hometown (or living in their hometown post-college and cranky about it). Finding “lost” friends was a fun game – people wanted to connect. Of course, connecting is not enough and it was bound not to last, but it was fun.

Connecting is also the initial activity of newcomers on MySpace, but they move beyond that quickly. Of course, it never completely goes away, especially since MySpace acknowledges that not all “friends” are friends and no one bats an eye if someone collects hundreds of people. It’s more like a process of namaste – i acknowledge your soul and you acknowledge mine. MySpace did not try to force people’s connecting practices into pre-existing ideas of what should be. They let the practice evolve as users saw fit, without criticism, without restriction. As it evolved, people did new things with it. They used it to flirt, to advertise bands and activities, to offer cultural kudos.

The key message: Social technologies succeed when they fit into the social lives and practices of those who engage with the technology.

Tomorrow: The Acquisition

Deal or No Deal

David Hornik writes about the dilemma faced by early-stage companies which receive buyout offers from the likes of Google and Yahoo:

To my mind, these acquisition offers are just like the new TV game show Deal or No Deal.

Entrepreneurs who receive acquisition offers early in the lifetime of their companies are essentially faced with the same conundrum as that posed in Deal or No Deal. Relatively little information has been revealed about the long term value of the company, yet the entrepreneur must decide whether or not to take the offer and, in essence, stop playing the game. As can be seen from the game show itself, in many instances taking the deal early on is a good idea because as each new briefcase is opened, the perceived value of the case being held by the contestant goes down, as do the buyout offers from the Banker. However, in many other instances, as time goes on and risk is removed (all the low numbered briefcases are picked), the buyout offers from the Banker increase to substantial dollar values.

Microsoft’s iPod Killer Plans

Dean Takahashi writes:

In a bid to capture the huge audience for handheld entertainment gadgets, Microsoft is designing a product that combines video games, music and video in one handheld device, according to sources familiar with the project.

The Microsoft product would compete with Sony, Nintendo and Apple Computer’s products,
including the iPod. And Microsoft has some of its most seasoned talent from the division that created its popular Xbox 360 working on it. Game executive J Allard leads the project, and its director is Greg Gibson, who was the system designer on the Xbox 360 video game console. Bryan Lee, the finance chief on the Xbox business, is leading the business side of the project.

By anchoring its entertainment device as a handheld game player, Microsoft is starting from its position of strength in the entertainment business that it hopes Apple cannot match, even with its iPod. The game press has dubbed it an “iPod killer,” but its functions would likely more closely resemble Sony’s PlayStation Portable multimedia gaming device.