Business Week on Steve Jobs’ Leadership

Business Week writes:

So what is Jobs’ secret? There are many, but it starts with focus and a near-religious faith in his strategy. For years, Jobs plugged away at Apple with his more proprietary approach, not worrying much about Wall Street’s complaints. In fact, one of his first moves was to take an ax to Apple’s product line, lopping off dozens of products to focus on just four. “Our jaws dropped when we heard that one,” recalls former Apple chairman Woolard. Time and again since, Apple has eschewed calls to boost market share by making lower-end products or expanding into adjacent markets where the company wouldn’t be the leader. “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do,” Jobs often says.

It’s all based on a fundamental belief that a killer product will bring killer profits.

Multiplayer Games

WSJ writes about MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games):

While World of Warcraft and a handful of other “massively multiplayer online games” have become lucrative blockbusters, most U.S. titles don’t generate enough sales to offset high development costs. The reason lies partly in the runaway success of games like World of Warcraft fans of the genre often don’t have time to play more than one title at a time. Now, publishers are making a big push to lure new gamers by making games easier to play, lowering prices and expanding the subject matter beyond the traditional dragons-and-wizards fare.

It costs as much as $30 million to develop massively multiplayer games, and, historically, the games have had limited appeal.

VoIP: Market Expansion

Om Malik writes that VoIP is more than just for making cheap calls.

I saw an interesting little app recently, a conferencing calling tool by vApps, that turns Skype into a full blown conference call system, working seamlessly with the old world telephony. A lot of other new tools have started to emerge – Salesforce and Zimbra for example are simply integrating Skype into their apps. I hope they turn to SIP and make the calling even more seamless.

There are more applications which are on the horizon. Take Mabber as an example. Or Tello, which could possibly be able to connect large corporations with their partners directly over the Internet and thus bypassing the PSTN. There are so many more experiments waiting to happen. I sincerely hope someone takes a crack at building Mac-VoIP apps. Wouldnt it be cool if someone wrote a plugin for Apple Address Book, where a click could route the call over say, Gizmo Project soft-phone.

Microsoft’s Cellular PC Concept

The New York Times carried a report a few days ago on Microsoft’s cellular PC plans:

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and chairman, demonstrated a mockup of his proposed cellular PC at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, and he mentioned it as a cheaper alternative to traditional PC’s and laptops during a public discussion here at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Craig J. Mundie, Microsoft’s vice president and chief technology officer, said in an interview here that the company was still developing the idea, but that both he and Mr. Gates believed that cellphones were a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations. “Everyone is going to have a cellphone,” Mr. Mundie said, noting that in places where TV’s are already common, turning a phone into a computer could simply require adding a cheap adaptor and keyboard. Microsoft has not said how much those products would cost.

Interface Innovation

MediaPost writes about designer Dale Herigstad:

While many media professionals think about media in terms of time and space, Herigstad has begun thinking of it in terms of linear feet. The 1-foot screen (handhelds such as an iPod or a video cell phone); the 2-foot screen (the PC); the 10-foot screen (the huge flat-screen TV in the living room); the 25-foot screen (place-based media like signs and billboards); and the 200-foot screen (digital outdoor billboards and wallscapes).

“The whole conversation about broadband and Internet TV is really the ‘2-foot experience,’ which will perhaps be transitory in the future,” predicts Herigstad, who believes new digital media centers, such as Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, will ultimately ensure that the “10-foot” screen remains the primary way people interface with video content.

The biggest mistake the media industry and Madison Avenue make when they think about media design, Herigstad maintains, is looking at the experience through their own eyes, as opposed to consumers’.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Newspapers: The Indian Context

Indian media is booming. TV channels are sprouting up to cater to every niche. FM radio is coming into its own. The Internet too is showing signs of a revival. The mobile is emerging as a new alternative. And newspapers are proliferating. Flush with funds, most Indian publishing houses are expanding operations. Mumbai provides a good snapshot of whats happening: Hindustan Times entered, DNA launched, and Mumbai Mirror was created by Times of India as yet another alternative.

Yet, when I sit to read the newspapers every morning, I find fewer and fewer stories to read. And it is not just because I may have read the stories on the Internet or seen them on TV. I cannot but help thinking that, in their efforts to build (or retain) a mass user base rapidly, most newspapers have decided that they need to cater to the lowest common denominator. That means focusing on the youth, whove got limited attention span and (perhaps) prefer dumbed-down versions of stories. And that is exactly what the rest of us get. The Indian Express remains the only exception and thats why it is the paper I read first.

After reading Jeff Jarvis and Jon Fine, I started thinking about the Indian context. How can Indian newspapers improve their content so that I spend more time with the newspaper and with their brand? I may not fall in the youth category but, surely, my attention is worth something and there are plenty of others like me. How can an Indian newspaper build a compelling print and online proposition for readers like me? For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus on English newspapers.

An English language newspaper in India must make the assumption that every one of its readers has access to the Internet. Considering that the largest English-language Indian newspaper sells a million copies and the Internet user base is estimated at anywhere between 25-35 million users, that is a reasonable assumption. In fact, it can also be assumed that the reader uses a mobile phone. So, that is the context in which one needs to think. The newspaper reader is not just always reachable (via mobile) but also has access to a connected computer for complementing the printed paper.

In this context, much of what Jeff Jarvis says is applicable in the Indian context also. Some of the newspaper sections can be moved entirely online with support for personalisation. The printed paper can work as a window to the various sections and stories online. For example, each story in print must have a number which allows me to easily find that story online and send it to friends or colleagues at work, and perhaps, blog it. Also, as a user, I can set up my own e-paper (or m-paper) online with preferences for different sections especially, in finance and entertainment. SMS can be used to alert me to local events and breaking stories. Taken together, these will create a much close relationship between the reader and the newspaper allowing for monetisation through advertisements which can much more tailored.

Tomorrow: Better Times?

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