Monthly Archives: October 2008

YouTube is Inventor’s Best Friend

If Internet is a great tool for entrepreneurs to test business ideas, YouTube is becoming the natural place to disclose inventions and test their relevance.

Leslie Berlin, a Silicon Valley historian, writes If no one sees, it is it an invention? for NY Times. Leslie explains that inventors have found in YouTube the right tool to make their inventions known and test whether those are worth any attention.

The video of Johnny Chung Lee (see above) where he explains how to use the Wii Remote to track your head to create a Virtual Reality display has been seen more than 6 million times! He has now been hired by Microsoft for their entertainment and devices division. And that has been a good hire, because the invention and how he explains it in the video are outstanding.

Two ideas from Mr. Lee extracted from the NYTimes article:

  • Mr. Lee chooses his projects based on the “work-to-wow” ratio. “I want to get the biggest wow for the smallest amount of work,” he explains.
  • “Would providing 80 percent of the capability at 1 percent of the cost be valuable to someone?” If the answer is yes, Mr. Lee says, pay attention. Trading relatively little performance for substantial cost savings can generate what Mr. Lee calls “surprising and often powerful results both scientifically and socially.”

YouTube is definitively becoming another great tool for Open Innovation. Ideas are shared faster and better than ever, and inventors as Mr. Lee even provide their code in their websites.

By the way, watching the video and reading about Mr. Lee’s ideas, and mixed with the announcement of Microsoft Surface to bring a Touchless interface, I have no doubt that in 5 years we are going to be interacting with computers and consumer electronics in a very different way.

The Earth on your Palm

Found via TechCrunch, Google keeps producing great stuff, and “organizing World’s information” for us. Google Earth for iPhone (and iPod Touch) puts literally the entire blue planet on your handset. Enriched by links to Panoramio and Wikipedia, and fully using the iPhone user experience, these apps will soon make GPS Navigators vendors like TomTom or Garmin worry.

Definitively iPhone, powered by this kind of applications, is much more than a mobile phone.

Does Google know too much about you?

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, just landed in Spain to receive the Principe de Asturias Prize, the Spanish version of the Nobel Prize. In his dialog with the press, Larry said that, working in Search, Google aims to be more and more intelligent, know more and more, gather more information and develop more intelligent computers. Artificial Intelligence is their next target.

Is this funny video an exaggeration or is it what Larry and Sergei really aim at?

Know everything about you and those around you.
Decide and act on your behalf.
Suggest new initiatives.

Isn’t life so much easier thanks to Google?

Apple Vs. Nokia: Less is More

While Nokia posted a 30.5% drop in earnings in the quarter ending on 30 September, Steve Jobs proudly announced to analysts that 6.9 million 3G iPhone units were sold in the same quarter, outselling  even RIM’s Blackberry 6.1 million units.

While Nokia blames price cutting for their profit decline, Apple says that their iPhone helped push net income up 26% to $1.14 billion.

While Nokia sells their phones worldwide in more than 140 countries, iPhone is currently sold in only 51, targeting 70 by year-end.

While 159 different Symbian models were shipped in the previous quarter, only one Apple model was shipped.

Only one quarter after launching the 3G iPhone, Apple is ranked third by revenues among smartphone vendors, just behind Nokia and Samsung, and ahead of SonyEricsson and LG.

In Steve Jobs words, Apple’s mobile phone strategy focuses on “software and user experience“. It is the usability, stupid. That is the magic why a phone without MMS, video recording, videocall or a memory card slot still rocks.

Nokia downplayed Apple’s impact in the mobile phone market when iPhone was launched. Now the financial numbers confirm the revolution anticipated by all the headlines and hype iPhone generated.

Anyone bet that Android and iPhone will outsell Symbian by end 2009?

Handsets Two Horse Race

Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote it in many of their marketing best-sellers: “In the long run, every market becomes a  two horse race”. Jack Welch, legend ex-CEO of GE, made popular his rule of closing every business unit where GE was not number one or number two.

Mobile handsets market is not different, and in each segment expect in the long-run a one-two race. Here are my bets for the winning horses:

Business segment: Blackberry and a distant second Windows Mobile. RIM’s devices are trusted by companies to provide secure access to email, intranet, enterprise directories, sync with MS Exchange calendar and address book. Not to name a great user experience for mobile email. This segment is an opportunity for Microsoft to extend their dominant position in the desktop and email solutions for enterprises. This is Microsoft’s only chance to secure a position in the mobile handsets (read GigaOm views on Windows Mobile). RIM’s increasing arrogance could open an opportunity for Microsoft, provided they can learn to play humble.

Personal SmartPhone segment: iPhone and Android. These two platforms are in a different league (read TechCrunch comparative) due to their coolness, rich applications and engaging user experience. With new Android models coming to close the beauty gap with the iPhone, these two are going to be the choice for people that want to enjoy the web, cool apps and multimedia everywhere. Enterprises will be reluctant to buy these gadgets for employees for some years.

Mobile Phones segment: Nokia and Samsung. This is the segment of telephones with a dial-pad, a poor camera, some multimedia features and packaged in a candy bar or clam-shell form. Still, essentially telephones with a dial-pad. Low cost, emerging countries and laggards. Nokia retains leadership. Before the Chinese vendors come, Samsung could be a good candidate for a second place, before Sony Ericsson and Motorola, provided they all survived with some other Android handsets in the other two segments.

Which ones are your bets?

Will Internet TV Kill IPTV?

Internet TV has definitively arrived and it is here to stay. YouTube crossed the chasm for video on the Internet, and Internet TV is now steadily going mainstream. Here is some piece of evidence:

  1. Lean-forward TV gets traction. Mainstream users now feel comfortable watching videos on the PC. First it was the few minutes clips, but more and more people have no issue sitting in front of the PC for long videos of one hour or more. With bigger displays, many are getting used to watching video while browsing and chatting in the same screen.
  2. Broadband bandwidth keeps increasing, and video compression techniques keep decreasing bit-rates for the same quality. This trend is not going to stop any time soon.
  3. PC2TV concept has not crossed the chasm, but it is easier than ever to connect small-form, silent, low power PCs to HDTV-ready LCD TV sets with DVI/HDMI connections. The Mac Mini, the Vaio TP-1 or even the EEE Box PC are easy to connect and make Internet TV enjoyable from the sofa. Wii, PS3 and Xbox360 can also make the Internet TV connection, as well as some specific set-top-boxes, such as Apple TV,  new Tivo models, or even LCD manufacturers adding an Internet connexion (see Sony Bravia Internet Video Link).

YouTube and Hulu are gaining a leading position in advertising-supported Internet TV. YouTube has reached an agreement with CBS to offer complete TV shows with inserted video ads, which is a different game from current UGC and short clips from TV shows.  On top of that, many TV channels are developing their own Internet sites to deliver Catch-Up TV, i.e. broadcast TV-shows offered on-demand. Spanish TVE site is one fine example.

If all this is already posing a serious threat to IPTV and Cable, other over-the-top players are also strongly positioning in Video-On-Demand. Apple TV, Amazon Unbox or even Netflix offers of movie downloads, compete seriously with the VoD that IPTV telcos and cable operators offer.

How can IPTV telcos fight back and win?

  • Embrace Internet as another channel for their offering. Provide users with access to their subscription channels on the PC (and mobile) , with a one-stop-shop offering for catch-up TV for all channels they offer. Enrich the lean-forward TV experience on the PC screen, and add interaction to main social networks.
  • HDTV. Bet on better video quality and immediacy. iTunes can offer HD movies, but it will take a while to download. IPTV streams the content and the user watches immediately. With increasing bandwidth the advantage will erode with time, but the telco can always be ahead with newer ultra HD formats.
  • Content is King. Exclusive content deals make the difference. IPTV telcos should focus on Live premium content (sports events, concerts). No Internet TV player can support millions users concurrently streaming a live HD broadcast of the Super Bowl. Only multicast IPTV can cope with it.
  • Manage the complexity of the Home network on behalf of the user. Bet on set-top-boxes with PVR features and open to support Internet TV, including competitors offering for video downloads. Make YouTube and iTunes just another TV channel in your catalog. Position your set-top-box in the living room before someone else does and makes yours replaceable.

IPTV is a platform for a next-generation Pay-TV service. Exclusive content and a wide offering of channels is a key success factors for IPTV, as it was for Cable/Satellite pay-TV operators. Embracing Internet TV as part of IPTV offering is another one.

Judo and O’Reilly on the Financial Crisis

Tim O’Reilly published yesterday a great post on the current financial crisis. His thoughts are inspiring and an excellent guide on where to focus in times of trouble.

Here is a summary of his main points, most of which are part of an email O’Reilly sent to his employees:

  • Need for robust strategies. Those are needed in good and bad times, but the strategy will be more robust if we prepare for the worst.
  • Rough times are often the best times for creativity, opportunity and change.
  • Great problems are also great opportunities for those who know how to solve them.

After recognizing he does not know how the crisis might affect his company, he advises his employees:

  • Work on stuff that matters. If the world go to hell what would you still work on?
  • Exert visionary leadership. In tough times people look for inspiration and vision.
  • Focus on the “must do” things and accelerate them

Read the entire post including some illustrative examples of how this worked in the past for O’Reilly.

Judo Principles to weather the storm

O’Reilly’s advice is a wise one to sail troubled waters. How about adding the five principles below?

  1. Carefully observe oneself and one’s situation, carefully observe others, and carefully observe one’s environment.
  2. Seize the initiative in whatever you undertake.
  3. Consider fully, act decisively.
  4. Know when to stop.
  5. Keep to the middle.

I find that Jigoro Kano‘s Five Principles of Judo are also a very valid framework to guide us in good and (specially) in rough times.