Monthly Archives: March 2008

How much Governments need to intervene in business?

The Economist.com debate of this week was about Governments making things worse by intervening to regulate business and financial risk. I am surprised by the result of the debate, with “interventionist” winning by a slight difference. 

In my view, we have not discoverd  yet any method better than Free-Market to regulate markets by the law of supply and demand. Yet, the governments have a fundamental role to make free-market work:
– ensure Competition
– ensure the rule of law
– intervene in key social areas, to guarantee minimum coverage for all: education4all, health4all, justice4all
– protect basic goods (including housing and medicines) from speculation
– invest and manage public infrastructure making them available for all: roads, railways..(and why not, Broadband Internet Access)

Free-market and healthy competition are the true engines for innovation. Successful innovation not only rewards the innovators, but the society overall. e.g Internet and Mobile Phones are affordable to the lower income population, thanks to private investment and intense competition driving prices down.

Excess of regulation can never stimulate innovation and progress in the long run, even if in the short term it seems to work.
e.g. Protectionism in the car industry, as Argentina or Brazil suffered and Malaysia still does, may seem as a good practice to protect domestic car-makers. The reality is the domestic car industry becomes uncompetitive, car prices rise and the lower-income population ends up not being able to afford a car in those countries.

I agree the financial market might need some extra regulations, as a credible banking system is key for the economy. But that should not be further than establishing mechanisms to protect the savings of their customers from a bankrupt.

iPhone makes Mobile Web a reality

In a previous post, back in January, Google already advised that the traffic to Google from iPhones surpassed any other smartphone, even if iPhone accounts for only 2% of the worldwide smartphones. Nokia’s Symbian 63%, Windows Mobile 11% and RIM 10%.

M:Metrics confirms those findings based on a report of iPhone user behaviour during January 08. The percentage of users accessing the Web from their handset shows a staggering 85% for iPhone, compared to 58% of smarphones, and a mere 13% of the overall market. For access to a social networking site or a blog, the difference increases, with 50% for iPhone, 19% for smartphones and 4% for the market. Even for video the data is striking: 31% of iPhone users watched a video versus less than 5% average market.

These data confirm that iPhone and its Safari browser really represent a major improvement  for Mobile Web access compared to existing devices. Apple’s iPhone is delivering to the hype it created. Another proof is that, even if iPhone is only official in five countries (USA, UK, Germany, France and Ireland), traffic from iPhone has been detected from almost every country in the World.

Will Android will be up to the expectations too?

Why we need WiMAX?

TechCrunch post today about WiMAX, Why Cable And WiMax Shouldn’t Mix, clearly misses the point. Their two conclusion items are misconceived, not to say wrong:

1. TechCrunch says: “WiMax is more an alternative to fixed broadband Internet access than it is to mobile phone service
TechCrunch seems to ignore that WiMAX Rev-d brings mobility and it is the one being deployed now in many operators. Wimax is about mobile broadband, something 3G operators are supposed to provide, but they only do at a prohibitive price, due to lack of competition.

2. TechCrunch brilliant idea: “It no longer makes sense to try to own all the pipes because pipes are becoming a commodity
It seems that for TechCrunch it makes more sense to invest billions in Social Networks, Speech-to-text start-ups, with no business case to make a profit, than in a business to provide a communication service for which customers are willing to pay. Ask telcos, where their billions in profit come from… yes, from those “commodity pipelines”
Network infrastructure is an asset. Millions of users of a free service, e.g. Skype, is not necessarily an asset. Ask eBay what they think now of the multi-billion valuation of Skype, that they later wrote-off.

As a user, I welcome WiMAX to bring more competition to mobile communications in something mobile operators have failed to mass market: Mobile Broadband. Partly due to mobile telcos greed to over charge data based on volume, partly for their fear to congest their spectrum, we are far from ubiquitous wireless IP access.

WiMAX is a disruptive technology with better spectral efficiency (higher bitrate for the same spectrum), designed with IP in mind, and backed by Intel to be seamlessly supported in laptops, the same way Wifi is today. But WiMAX operators will not only do Mobile Broadband. The guys at TechCrunch have probably heard about VoIP. By deploying IMS, these operators will be able to offer voice, video, presence, IM and many other services from a WiMAX handset. Can that compete with a 2G/3G mobile phone? Skype is the proof that it can. IMS just enables a Skype-like service but carrier-grade, with QoS control provided by the network.

TechCrunch might have jump into WiMAX only because of the fiasco for Xohm in the US market, but WiMAX is taking off in other markets (India, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia), and hopefully this new backing from Comcast, Intel, Time Warner, Google and Brigh House will bring WimAX to US too, the big way.

Still skeptical, GigaOM addresses the story with more detail in: CableCos Join The $3 Billion U.S. WiMAX Rescue Act

Surprise surprise! I got Safari on my desktop

By surprise, I found a Safari icon on my desktop after updating iTunes. My first reaction is “What! how can Apple use this malware-like tricks to push Safari?” So it is no surprise the complaints of Firefox boss, and the general condemn from blogs: VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, The Open Road

Once the initial annoyance fades away, curiosity comes in “anyway it is installed so let’s see how it works”. The first impression is Apple wants us to get used to his Mac look and feel. And it works, you feel like using a Mac, and I have to admit that I like it. Still, the fonts seem fuzzy in Safari when compared to IE7. Safari uses Mac OS X font anti-aliasing, while IE uses Windows native ClearType, and that is reason according to a report on Safari 3.1 on Windows in Ars Technica.

So, will I uninstall Safari? Well, why not keeping two browsers… Now I use Safari for Gmail and Google Reader, and IE7 for the rest: general browsing, on-line newspapers, banking, Amazon, YouTube, etc. I find useful to have email and RSS in a separated browser, and I can enjoy the cool look of Mac.  

Conclusion: Steve Jobs is so convinced of the excellence of Safari, that he has pushed it with an iTunes update regardless the adverse comments it would generate. Is that arrogance or self-confidence?

According to an NPD report “Apple’s Mac shipments grew 60 percent in February compared with the same period last year, while the entire market grew just 9 percent.”

Maybe it is just self-confidence.

SpinVox: Do just one thing but do it right

SpinVox, founded in 2003, is a pioneer in delivering speech-to-text applications. SpinVox claims it has agreements with twelve telcos, to provide a system to translate voice mail messages into SMS or emails. These days SpinVox has been in the news because it just secured $100 Million financing from Goldman Sachs, GLG Partners and others, to fund their international expansion. See the blogsphere reaction:

Considering Automatic Speech Recognition as just a Voicemail feature, $500M valuation seems really high when compared to Voicemail suppliers.  Current price for Voicemail systems can easily be under $2/user. Even assuming Spinvox could sell the feature to carriers at $2/user, how many customers do they need to have to justify their valuation? Note the many competitors in this domain: startups (Jott, GotVoice, SimulScribe), specialized software (Nuance), big players (Microsoft, IBM, Google) and messaging vendors such as Comverse, Openwave or Alcatel-Lucent. The valuation reminds me of the Internet Bubble, where money was coming from investors instead of from the customers.

Nonetheless a good learning for any start-up seeking financing. SpinVox just does once thing, speech-to-text, and builds on its core competency to provide related applications (voicemail, blogs, social networks, etc). Do one thing, and be the best at doing it. Venture capital will love you, and hopefully your customers too.

Pay-TV Market in Spain: IPTV wins

One out of two new Pay-TV users in Spain sign up with Telefonica’s IPTV service, Imagenio. Orange IPTV Service is the second one attracting new users with a 21% share in 2007. The table below is based on data from Spanish business newspaper, Expansion.

If we classify by technology, the table shows that 70% of the new Pay-TV users choose IPTV (Telefonica, Orange), 22% Cable (Ono, TeleCable, R, Euskaltel) and only 8% opt for Satellite (Sogecable).

By providing interactivity and on-demand services such as Catch-up TV, IPTV is quickly taking market share from satellite. New services, like watching the next chapter from popular TV series before its broadcast, are bringing users to IPTV and Cable. Interactive TV services are in its infancy, so expect new killing apps coming.

The Triple-play bundle with voice and broadband is also an advantage that IPTV and Cable operators are exploiting, to win users to Satellite.

The On-line Generation and Common Sense

Following the previous post about the use of mobile by children, in the clip below distributed by Google you can see good advice on how to educate the kids on a safe use of Internet. No doubt that Internet and Mobile is giving to the new generations access to huge amounts of information, new ways to interact with friends and more tools to express their creativity. But it is also posing new dangers that need to be prevented. A safe use of Internet is clearly part of the education for our children.