Social Networking for Bookworms

WSJ writes about LibraryThing.com:

Creating a personal catalog is time consuming but also surprisingly easy. After signing up for a free account — only a username and password are required, with no personal information or email necessary — members can enter the ISBN numbers, author names or titles from their books. The LibraryThing search engine, which is connected to Amazon.com, the Library of Congress and 45 other libraries around the world, returns likely matches.

A click adds each book to a personal virtual library, along with the title’s complete card-catalog information and a thumbnail of the cover art, when available. Personal catalogs can be sorted by author or title — or even viewed graphically as a colorful collection of book covers.

Why the US Leads in Tech

Sramana Mitra blogs about a talk given by Geoffrey Moore, who identified three reasons:

* Silicon Valley is very good at failing. Failing fast. Learning from failures. Using that learning to do new and different things. In any other place in the world, you get one chance, and if you fail, that carries a stigma for life, and you never get a second chance. Very powerful advantage.
* The US still has the best higher education system. Great universities.
* The US still has the most mature and best organized capital market.

These three, Geoff thought, could still help maintain the US lead.

On the negative side, he thought that the US has become very lazy. Weve had such a cushy life for so long, and during the boom years, things just became goofy. Faced with hungrier competition, this can become the defining factor for this century.

Italy’s Postepay

Business Week writes:

[The] “Postepay” card, accepted by the Visa Electron network, is a prepaid, rechargeable Visa or MasterCard that is rapidly becoming the credit card surrogate of choice for Italians without plastic, credit ratings, or even bank accounts.

It’s not just for ATM withdrawals or store purchases, either. Postepay has also become a cornerstone of Italian e-commerce.

Fon’s WiFi Plans

BBC News writes:

A Spanish firm is to sell subsidised routers as part of a plan to turn domestic wi-fi networks into public hotspots.

Fon will sell wi-fi routers, which allow people to surf the net wirelessly, for $5 (2.75).

The company, which has financial backing from Google and Skype, aims to create public wi-fi networks street by street across the US and Europe.

“Wi-fi is universal in cities, but access isn’t,” said Juergen Urbanski.

Can we do something similar in India?

NComputing’s Thin Client

Business Week writes:

NComputing’s gizmothis one, the unsexily named L100 modelonce attached to a mouse, keyboard, and monitor, can be used to tap into a PC somewhere else, across the room or across the continent, at a far lower cost than owning a PC yourself. Dukker’s cost is less than $50 per user, vs. $250 for a cut-rate desktop PC. And if volumes rise as he hopes, that price could fall below $10. “Pretty soon, we’ll have reached the point that the hardware is essentially free,” says Dukker.

Despite having no real sales or marketing effort, NComputing has sold more than 100,000 units since 2004, and is on pace to sell nearly that many in the remainder of the year. Most are going to small companies and school districts in places like Brazil, Thailand, and Ghana. But interest is picking up with U.S. schools as well.

TECH TALK: Video on the Internet: New Media (Part 4)

At heart, the Internet is shifting from text to video. An article last September in the New York Times highlighted this:

[Yahoos ] Mr. Semel and others are finding that the long-promised convergence of television and computers is happening not by way of elaborate systems created by cable companies, but from the bottom up as video clips on the Internet become easier to use and more interesting. Already, video search engines, run by Yahoo and others, have indexed more than one million clips, and only now are the big media outlets like Viacom and Time Warner moving to put some of their quality video online.

“The basis for content on the Internet is now shifting from text to video,” said Michael J. Wolf, a partner at McKinsey & Company. “This allows advertisers to take advantage of the kind of branding advertising they are used to on television.”

Mr. Semel thinks that his approach combining content and technology could well make Yahoo the place people go first when they decide what to watch, as well as where to surf.

“You are not going to have 1,000 channels, you will have an unlimited number of channels,” Mr. Semel said. “So you aren’t going to use a clicker to change channels.”

Newsweek wrote in a story on the future of entertainment last September:

Just as all politics is local, all news and entertainment is now personal — in the digital age, users can manipulate media to do what they want, when they want. Thanks to high-speed broadband pipes and peer-to-peer technology that puts more computing power in the hands of individuals, it’s become much easier to create and manipulate media online. In this new world, consumers, as much as creators, are in control.

Secondly, the Internet changes the timeline of entertainment production, broadcast and consumption. Instead of a movie opening on the big screen, then trickling down to television, video and the Internet, it can appear in all formats at once, as 2929 Entertainment plans to do with new Steven Soderbergh releases. At the same time, in a world of digital choice, people can ignore your offerings, but they can also keep watching, reading or listening forever. That concept, famously dubbed the “Long Tail” by Wired editor Chris Anderson, also changes the entire economic model of entertainment, creating hugely successful niche products over longer periods of time.

Esther Dyson write in Release 1.0 last year: IP TV is not WebTV redux. It is a set of Web-based software and services that allows video content stored on any server to be delivered to any device located anywhere, including the TV in the living room. The point is not to surf the Web from your TV, though consumers may choose to do so. Its also not to download video to a PC something that millions do today. The IP TV audience will get video content delivered over the Net to the device of their choosing and anytime they want. Theyll rely on Web-based directory services, program guides and utilities to establish personal preferences and to explore content marketplaces for good stuff to watch. More than that, some members of the audience will participate in the production, editing and remixing of that content Perhaps the most important difference between the two models is that on network TV, the lions share of the content is produced and distributed by established media concerns, whose main concern is to create shows that will become popular enough to sell mass advertising around. On networked TV, anyone with a video camera, a piece of inexpensive (or free) video-editing software and an Internet connection can make and distribute content.”

Video on the Internet is a fascinating space. As we begin our journey into understanding what is happening, we will start with a guided tour from one of the experts.

Next Week: Video on the Internet (continued)

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Cyberrcafes and WebOS

Venkatesh Rangarajan writes:

The SIFY Iway cyber cafes have computers which are stripped down Microsoft Windows with absolutely minimal storage options. Once the user logs out of the computer all the files created during the session are deleted, so the only option is saving the files as an attachment in an email message. Besides local storage doesn’t make sense, since it’s a shared PC and users might end up using a different PC during the next visit to the cyber caf.

These computers have the mandatory Microsoft Office which is used mainly for editing or updating resumes. These machines are strictly meant for browsing, but lack of choice in terms of operating system limits them to using Microsoft Windows.
Companies like Google, Yahoo which are putting together the components for a WebOS, should take a closer look at iWays, since webOS has better chance of getting accepted in this model. If Google were to launch a Gdrive, online storage of bookmarks, Word Processor, Spread Sheet etc which could be delivered over the web, IWAY can be perfect match for this technology.

Social Local Search

Clickz writes:

Sites like Yelp.com and Judy’s Book believe they have the answer or, rather, that their users have the answer. Not only are the businesses local, so too is the content. With a passionate community of reviewers, local businesses can leverage the power of true advocates in the community. Local searchers can find not just reviews with which they can identify, but also reviewers with similar tastes they can trust.

For marketers promoting these businesses, sites and e-mail newsletters such as the ubiquitous DailyCandy and Flavorpill aren’t options that fallen within their budgets. Opportunities for marketers are limited and typically geared toward national advertisers with significant dollars to spend. Local is still getting off the ground for the major search engines.

Mobile as Guide

The New York Times writes:

If you stand on a street corner in Tokyo today you can point a specialized cellphone at a hotel, a restaurant or a historical monument, and with the press of a button the phone will display information from the Internet describing the object you are looking at.

The new service is made possible by the efforts of three Japanese companies and GeoVector, a small American technology firm, and it represents a missing link between cyberspace and the physical world.

TECH TALK: Video on the Internet: New Media (Part 3)

In an article about ABC, John Hagel outlined the challenges facing media companies:

The most powerful brands in the media business will be held by successful intermediaries that help to consistently improve return on attention for audiences. In the process, the nature of the brand promise will change in a profound way. It will be a massive opportunity for media companies that understand the shift in economic and competitive dynamics and that focus on the rebundling plays required to build these brands.

Theres another way to frame the strategic opportunity/challenge for media businesses going forward. In addition to unbundling and rebundling of content, media companies face a choice: do they want to remain product businesses or do they want to become audience relationship businesses?

Of course, media companies have elements of both embedded in their companies today, but their hearts and minds are firmly in the product business. Heres the test: how open is the media company to providing access to third party content on behalf of their audiences? If the answer is not very open, the company is primarily a product business. If the answer is very open, then the company is primarily an audience relationship business.

The Wall Street Journal wrote recently about the convergence between the PC and TV as people spend more time in front of their computer:

Networks are making shows available online, whether on their own sites or through a service such as iTunes. Some are going even further, creating programs exclusively for the Web — a step that could eventually make the Internet a proving ground for television shows. Meanwhile, creative teams outside the television industry are producing their own online series — leading some experts to speculate that Internet companies like AOL could morph into de facto networks as well.

From a viewer’s perspective, all of this obviously means lots of new choices — more shows to watch and more say in when you watch them. But the Web also gives the public something more subtle: creative power. Not only can die-hards discuss their favorite shows on message boards, they can create high-tech tributes online, such as “best of” video montages.

[Advertisers] look forward to a time when they can use the Web’s data-gathering capabilities to get a breakdown of who’s watching a show and create ads targeted to each demographic segment.

Along with new viewing choices, the Web lets people get involved with their favorite shows in creative new ways. For years, enthusiasts have gathered online to discuss plot twists, share theories and script alternative endings. Now, thanks to evolving technology and widely available digital content, fans can take snippets of shows and repackage them, drawing thousands of eyeballs in the process.

Tomorrow: New Media (continued)

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Announcing Mobile Monday Mumbai

Mobile Monday

I’m pleased to announce that we are launching the Mumbai chapter of Mobile Monday and are holding its first event on July 3rd, 2006.

Mobile Monday is a open community of mobile professionals and enthusiasts. It is a forum to network, share knowledge and discuss developments in the mobile world. Founded in Helsinki (Finland) in 2000, it has more than 25 chapters worldwide.

Click here to know more about Mobile Monday.

Mobile Mondays main activities are

  • Monthly meet-up on the first Monday of every month
  • Online networking and knowledge sharing with the community

    The first event will be held on Monday, July 3rd, 2006 at Netcore Solutions’ office in Lower Parel, Mumbai. Know more about the event and registrations.

    Speakers and format of the event is as follows.

  • Introductions
  • Rajesh Jain, MD, Netcore Solutions (me!) on “Mobile Internet for Emerging Markets”
  • Pankaj Sethi, VP – Value Added Services, Tata Teleservices on “VAS: An Operators Perspective”
  • Open forum, Networking and Dinner

    See whos coming to the 1st Mobile Monday Mumbai.

  • RSS as New Intranet Protocol

    David Berlind writes:

    With RSS as both the notification mechanism and the content subscription mechanism, you basically have a single technology that takes e-mail, e-mail attachments, and far too many round-trips (of email, to fully facilitate the collaboration) completely out of the equation.

    With wikis, which can notify you when their content is changed via RSS, not only can the collaborators use 95% standard technology (there is no standard wiki markup language, yet), any and all virtual expression of the collaborative activities (new content, revisions to that content, annotations, comments, approvals, etc.) happen in the context of the collaborative environment. It’s all in the same one one that involves almost no proprietary parts.There’s no jumping back and forth between systems or even integration of multiple systems. No word processor. No special content management system. No e-mail. No strapped-on transfer stations to get it all working together.

    YouTube’s Challenges

    WSJ writes about YouTube’s efforts to build a lasting business around video:

    Through YouTube Inc.’s Web service, consumers view short videos more than 70 million times a day, ranging from clips of unicycling jugglers and aspiring musicians to vintage Bugs Bunny cartoons and World Cup soccer highlights recorded from TV. Users post more than 60,000 videos daily, with a limit of 10 minutes for most clips.

    YouTube’s 29-year-old chief executive, Mr. Hurley, and its 27-year-old chief technology officer, Mr. Chen, see two big challenges. The first is to figure out how to make money. The second is to address concerns of copyright holders that many of their TV and movie clips, music videos and songs are available through YouTube without permission.

    Taipei’s WiFly

    The New York Times writes that only 40,000 of the city’s 2.6 million people are using the wireless network.

    That such a vast and reasonably priced wireless network has attracted so few users in an otherwise tech-hungry metropolis should give pause to civic leaders in Chicago, Philadelphia and dozens of other American cities that are building wireless networks of their own.

    Like Taipei, these cities hope to use their new networks to help less affluent people get online and to make their cities more business-friendly. Yet as Taipei has found out, just building a citywide network does not guarantee that people will use it. Most people already have plenty of access to the Internet in their offices and at home, while wireless data services let them get online anywhere using phones, laptops and P.D.A.’s.

    Mobile App Sales Dropping

    Michael Mace writes about the reasons:

    The first is that the two platforms that had been driving the most app sales, Palm OS and Windows Mobile, are not growing in total.

    The second problem is that as the mix of devices shifts from handhelds to smartphones, I think application downloads become less attractive.

    The third problem is that application sales haven’t tracked the growth of some of the smartphone platforms (in particular Nokia S60, which is producing most of the reported growth in smartphones).

    TECH TALK: Video on the Internet: New Media (Part 2)

    Kevin Werbach captures the essence of the coming Videonet:

    I get a lot of skepticism, even from technology enthusiasts, when I talk about the convergence of the Internet and video. People point out all the ways that TV is hard to distribute over today’s broadband and wireless networks, and all the business or regulatory challenges new entrants face in trying to replicate the businesses broadcasters and cable TV operators developed over decades.
    That’s not the goal.

    The Internet won’t completely replace television as we know it. Instead, it will mutate and extend it. Right now we’re seeing the long-promised “convergence” play out on two levels. Big phone companies are deploying digital platforms on fiber optic networks to compete with cable operators, who are rushing to add on-demand features in response. To me, though, that’s less interesting than the distributed, bottom-up activity around short video clips on the Net and wireless networks. One is about competition; the other is about transformation.

    At some point, thanks to VOIP, most of the voice conversations we engage in across the network won’t be phone calls. (That’s at least part of what eBay/Skype is about.) Similarly, most of the video content we watch won’t be television. Those traditional forms will still be around, but they will become specialized, much like radio after the emergence of television.
    This is what the incumbents can never appreciate. They are hard coded to assume that voice = phone calls and video = TV. The two great economic drivers of the communications industry, advertisers and users, will have no trouble adapting. AOL, Yahoo!, and Google, each in its own way, cracked the code for harnessing the text Internet as an advertising medium. Those companies, and perhaps others, are bound to do the same for the video Internet. Once they do, look out.

    Media is changing. The likes of Napster and Google have, over the past few years, forced media companies to think hard about the business they are in. Media is being forced to change because the habits of users are changing. The Economist wrote in a recent survey on new media:

    Last November, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 57% of American teenagers create content for the internetfrom text to pictures, music and video. In this new-media culture, says Paul Saffo, a director at the Institute for the Future in California, people no longer passively consume media (and thus advertising, its main revenue source) but actively participate in them, which usually means creating content, in whatever form and on whatever scale. This does not have to mean that people write their own newspaper, says Jeremy Zawodny, a prominent blogger and software engineer at Yahoo!, an internet portal. It could be as simple as rating the restaurants they went to or the movie they saw, or as sophisticated as shooting a home video.

    This has profound implications for traditional business models in the media industry, which are based on aggregating large passive audiences and holding them captive during advertising interruptions. In the new-media era, audiences will occasionally be large, but often small, and usually tinyWith participatory media, the boundaries between audiences and creators become blurred and often invisible.

    Tomorrow: New Media (continued)

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    Opera CEO Interview

    MobHappy interviews Jon von Tetzchner:

    von Tetzchner is quick to point out that while operators might have to give up something in the short term, empowering users net access with a full browser and open service leaves them much more to gain in the long run though it requires a fundamental change of view. Instead of trying to lock people in, entice them to stay, he says. Operators can offer services that make use of a full browser, whether on a subscription basis, or as a tool to fight churn. Directing mobile users out on to the internet doesnt mean operators are suddenly out of the picture. They can offer different service plans to cater to different needs, as well as utilize existing infrastructure to provide services like third-party content billing.

    Much of operators approach to the mobile Web has been predicated on a closed strategy, whether by blocking access outright to anything outside the portal, billing for it at ridiculous rates, or setting things up in such a way that theyre a necessary gatekeeper and technical expert for anybody that wants access to their customers. This strategy is outmoded and ill-advised; operators stand to gain far more by opening up, and allowing users to get what they want, and making it easier for content providers to give it to them. von Tetzchner and Operas contention is that this is best achieved by using standard web technologies rather than mobile-specific ones, allowing content providers to simply serve mobile users, and allowing those users access to everything they want. People just want the internet, he says, not to look at it through a keyhole.

    Marketing Challenges

    The McKinsey Quarterly has an excerpt from a new book “Profiting from Proliferation” by David Court, Tom French, and Trond Riiber Knudsen. The book discusses “how companies should respond to the challenges posed by rising complexity in today’s marketing environmentwhich is characterized by increasingly fragmented customer segments, the declining effectiveness of traditional media, and a constantly expanding number of distribution touchpoints.”

    The scope of today’s marketing challenge is breathtaking, and proliferation is the reason. Recent advances in technology, information, communications, and distribution have created an explosion of new customer segments, sales and service channels, media, marketing approaches, products, and brands. But despite better customer information management and lower communications costs, marketing to consumers and businesses is becoming more complex and difficult every day. Marketerseven the most sophisticatedare struggling to keep up.

    To understand the full impact of proliferation, consider the wireless-telecommunications market. Carriers used to manage 3 demographically oriented consumer segments; today they manage more than 20 need- and value-based ones. Rather than view baby boomers as a single segment, the industry has created 6 or 8 subsegments, differentiated by their usage tendencies and product needs. The number of discrete offerings has ballooned into the hundreds: prepaid and postpaid calling plans; family-friendly and nights-and-weekend plans; text-, data-, and messaging-capable mobile telephones; video and music phones; and so on. The number of distribution touchpoints has increased from three to more than ten, including company-owned stores, shared and exclusive dealers, telemarketing agents, affinity partners, and the Web. As a result of customer-specific service bundles, the number of price points exceeds 500,000. And the number of communications vehicles will continue to grow dramatically as event marketing, viral marketing, product placement, and other approaches augment traditional media such as television, whose effectiveness is under assault.