Facebook’s Platform Strategy

WSJ writes:

On Thursday, the Palo Alto, Calif., company will announce a new strategy to let other companies provide their services on special pages within its popular Web site. These companies will be able to link into Facebook users’ networks of online friends, according to people familiar with the matter.

For instance, an online retailer could build a service in Facebook to let people recommend music or books to their friends, based on the relationships they’ve already established on the site. Or a media company could let groups of users share news articles with each other on a page inside Facebook.

Sea Dragon

John Battelle writes:

In short, the idea is this: Finite real estate, infinite information…Imagine the ad as a rabbit hole of sorts. If you go down it, you can explore all of Wonderland without ever really leaving the page you are on.

Nokia and Computers

Michael Mace writes:

Not smartphones, not converged devices, but full-on mobile computers intended to replace both PCs and mobile phones. Nokia says it expects these devices to eventually sell in the billions of units, and to become the world’s dominant means of accessing the Internet.

Even though these future devices will still be mobile, if you take all of Nokia’s statements at face value the changes from mobile phones will be so extensive that it’s fair to call it a new business.

The fact that Nokia’s even talking about this is a remarkable change. Five years ago, Microsoft was charging hard in mobile and the big topic of discussion was how could a company like Nokia possibly defend itself. Now Nokia’s talking about how it will put the PC industry out to pasture, and oh by the way take over the Internet as well.

Mobile Use in Japan

[via Textually] Sydney Morning Herald writes:

In 2004, Tim Clark of the University of Southern California observed in Japan Media Review: “A surprising number of Japan’s high school students graduate without learning how to use a personal computer.”

Between 2000 and last year, the proportion of Japanese 20-year-olds using home PCs to access the internet plummeted from 23.6 per cent to just 11.9 per cent, say Net Ratings figures published in Facta online. Twenty-year-olds now make up the same proportion of the total as 50-year-olds. The plunge could be only partly explained by ageing of the population and growth in PC use by other age groups.

n Japan, the problem is that as the youth become more adept with mobile technology, their ability to use PCs and real keyboards has regressed to the point where it matches their parents’. Many of the 4 million young, part-time workers cannot afford PCs, and are being permanently locked out of white-collar work because of their ineptitude with computers.

Cringely on Google Universal Search

Robert Cringely writes:

Universal Search is Google’s attempt to destroy its major competitors who, like Gorbachev in the waning years of the USSR, have to follow suit and start spending money they don’t have if they want to even appear to still be in competition with Google. This means for these companies more software development, more sweeps of the web, as well as the greater likelihood that among their top results will be pages located at Google properties like YouTube.

It has to burn Yahoo, MSN and the others to now have to drive traffic to YouTube, but that’s what will happen if these search competitors choose to continue to compete head-to-head, which they will.

There is literally no downside for Google in this strategy.

TECH TALK: Indias Digital Infrastructure: Mobile Internet

There are 170 million mobile users in India, but only just over 1% of them use their mobiles for Internet access. Of course, not all mobiles have the ability to access the Net, but from a technology standpoint, I would estimate that at least 30% of the phones in India on GSM and CDMA would be able to access the Internet. And yet, few of us do. We seem quite happy just using the mobile for phone calls and SMSes. Some of us use the operator portals to get ringtones, wallpapers and games. But thats about it. Why not more?

There are a number of reasons. First, while CDMA phones have a convenient button dabao (press the button) to access a portal, the GSM phones need some extra configuration to get connected over GPRS. Second, mobile operators want to keep the users who do get connected within their walled gardens. So, they become the gatekeepers for the services. So much so, it is almost impossible for any independent service provider to create a portal that can be accessed by all users who have active data connections. Third, short-sighted pricing plans for data ensure that the ones who do want open access will have to pay a high price for it.

In addition, no one in India is really promoting the mobile Internet. Mobile operators are busy focused on new customer acquisition after all, every new $3 ARPU (average revenue per user per month) customer adds anywhere between $500-1,000 to their market cap! The handset makers like Nokia focus mostly on features that are native on the handset like a great music experience. The mobile value-added service players have still not gone out and determinedly create independent off-deck brands which attract users presumably, because they know few can access them as of now. The PC Internet companies are, well, focused on the PC Internet.

Put it all together and we have a mobile Internet that has neither users nor services. Can this logjam be broken? If so, how? Can the mobile become like a magic lamp fulfilling all our wishes? What are these wishes? When the Nokia N95 ad asks if is this is what computers have become, why dont we feel like going out and buying one? Is there really an opportunity for mobile data services beyond the downloadable ringtones, wallpapers and games?

For the mobile Internet to happen, mobile operators need to believe that Data, not Voice, will change the direction of the ARPU trajectory assuming of course that ARPU matters. In India, currently, everyone is happy focusing only on the minutes of usage. A time will come in the not too distant future when voice will go to zero-margin and then to zero. It is for that world that mobile operators need to learn from the PC Internet that creating an open platform can foster innovation in a way no closed environment can.

Tomorrow: Network Computing Devices

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