Product Management :: Product Marketing

12 December, 2007

Big feature on QR Codes in major UK newspaper

The Sun, the most read newspaper in the UK (famous for its topless Page 3 girls), had a series of pages promoting QR code last week:

Mobile Content News reports that News International, the Sun’s owner, is watching the take-up of the service closely, and may roll it out across all of its titles if it proves successful. Naturally the Sun is looking at the advertising potential and have already signed up Ladbrokes, Sky and Twentieth Century Fox to the service.

Also from
Google has stated that Andriod will feature a basic, but functional “format agnostic” QR reader, to be preloaded on all devices shipping with the Android Open OS.
The same link also contains this:
many of the major US carriers are getting behind the technology, giving the downloadable readers some fairly prominent deck placement over the next few quarters (sources confidential).
Obviously, I still haven't researched how the legals in QR Codes outside of Japan have been overcome. Any pointers anyone??

05 December, 2007

Opera mini over one million downloads in 10 days

Selling like hot cakes!

Opera Mini 4, the newest version of the world's most popular mobile Web browser was released at the start of November. Overall, Opera Mini has already been embraced by more than 26 million cumulative users who view more than one billion Web pages every month.

From Opera's own press pages.

O2 and Nokia test mobile wallet in UK for travel and payments

O2 has launched the UK's first large scale pilot of NFC (Near Field Communications) technology on mobile phones reports MobileMonday.

500 users in London will be able to making purchases in retail outlets and travelling on London's public transport system.

Trialists will also be able to touch the NFC-enabled handset on selected smart posters at the launch and at other locations over the course of the trial. The smart posters contain embedded tags which serve as shortcuts for services enabled through the handset. Once the user taps the poster with the handset, they will automatically dial a number, send a text message or be sent a shortcut to a mobile internet site with more information about the subject on the poster e.g. an event taking place or downloading content.

The trial will also examine mobile payments using the Barclaycard payment application in the O2 Wallet for purchases under £10.

1.7 million new GSM subs every day

Blimey - this even makes Facebook look pedestrian!

No surprises - India and China provided most of it.

GSM has over 86 percent market share of all mobile systems, 2.2 percent increase since the end of 2006.

From MobileMonday

03 December, 2007

LTE reaches 100Mbps in the lab

Nokia has announced 100 Mbps data transfer speeds using LTE. Story from MobileMonday.

LTE (or its official name 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) - definition at wikipeidia).

From the same article:

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group plc shocked some in the industry when the companies announced they were considering LTE as the 4G evolution path for their respective networks. However, neither company has yet fully committed to the technology.

Many still expect Vodafone partner company and CDMA operator Verizon Wireless to eventually select Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) technology, which stands on the CDMA evolution path, and is often touted as an alternative to LTE technology, which is the WCDMA evolution path.

WiMAX: two steps forward, one step back, but the dance continues

Excellent summary of the state of the WiMAX implementations from Analysys.

Sprint Nextel revealed on Friday that it would not be following through with the previously announced plans to build a mobile WiMAX network with Clearwire; at least not within the timescales previously mentioned.
Both WiMAX and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are aiming to meet the ITU’s 4G requirement of 100Mbit/s data rates in a mobile environment.

Here's another summary of WiMAX's prospects (also from Analysys) from March '07. It poo-poos the opportunity in developing world, citing high Cap-Ex and the greater value placed on voice (rather than data) services.
In developed markets, head-to-head competition with DSL could be disastrous for WiMAX.
Here are Analysys' success criteria:
  • a WiMAX operator with a large existing customer base, strong brand and substantial marketing budget, to expedite the growth in customer numbers
  • strong demand for mobility, to enable a significant price premium over fixed broadband services
  • free spectrum available
  • low frequency of operation (2.5GHz), to minimise the number of WiMAX base stations required
  • strong leverage over terminal vendors, to drive substantial price declines
  • existing base station and transmission infrastructure, to minimise capital investment.

Google's My Location

Google Maps has My Location in beta.

It displays your current location on Google Maps. It works with a GPS-enabled mobile phones - so no real surprises there.

What I like is that it works (using the same interface) on non-GPS phones using cell triangulation. You press '0' on your keypad to do the location look-up. Here's a YouTube explaining it.

Now, we all know that mobile operators charge for location look-ups using cell triangulation (eg about 7p in the UK (about 15 US cents)- I know because I experimented launching an LBS service in 2003).

Google's service is in beta - what happens on launch? Presumably, it will be funded by Google's giant advertising machine. I also assume that there will be a geo-location version of their advertising service to follow.

CommNexus GadgetFest 07

I attended the excellent GadgetFest in the middle of November in San Diego.

Companies presenting are listed below. The winner was Shopping Assistant from Motorola. I would have awarded the prize to WiseDV - see below.

CompanyProductMy POV
  1. Make a local call.
  2. You say the person's name in your address book that you would like to call.
  3. You're connected. (More here)
Very similar to Rebtel, which I have just configured for my wife.Interestingly, the COO is the former Head of the Mobile Product Group at Skype.
Not differentiated enough from other VoIPs
MotorolaIn-store handheld advertising.
  1. You pick the device up and the entrance.
  2. You swipe your loyalty card, so it knows your regular shopping list
  3. Coupons and offers are presented, ALONG with the map of the store (nice!)

Eventual winner.

I envisage lots of implementation issues here, but Motorola's brand name will most probably mean this will become a familiar feature of shopping in the future.

GPSitA sturdy GPS tracking device that can be bolted onto the bottom of a vehicle (for example) and tracked for many days.Not blowing me away with innovation here
Novatel WirelessGlobal tri-band HSDPA/UMTS and quad band EDGE/GPRS modem stick with 4Gb data storage.
Not sure I'm doing it justice here....
Looked darned useful.
Your Truman Show Err, YouTube with a little more social pixie dust, I think. Nice UI, but didn't see much evidence of pixie though.
Truphone Wi-fi VoIP - similar to a former client of mine, Barablu.
The Presenter was Tom Carter, co-founder of BridgePort Networks (MobileVoIP + FMC) who presented last year at GadgetFest.
There's much more to this than meet the eye. I'd like to know more please!
Pulse~link First room-to-room distribution of multiple HDTV streams and multimedia content over both coax and wireless connections simultaneouslyAs one of the judges said, "I think I'll buy another DVD player instead".
The Pulse~link presenter was flummoxed.
WiseDV Handheld device that gives the attendee at sports stadiums, arenas and concert halls more angles, more views, replay, stats to enhance the viewing experience.The winner, IMHO.

Doc Searles on writing our own privacy rule

Doc Searles, someone whose views I admire a lot, writes a great post on this blog about how it's time for US to write our own privacy rules.

Doc's passionate about VRM, Vendor Relationship Management. Here is the definition:
Create an ecosystem of tools, protocols, and services that help users manage vendor relationships.
Hmm, I agree, but see my previous post on privacy - people expect high standards and assume that this is the case. They don't read the privacy statements in depth (neither do I). So a much simpler rating system is needed.

Facebook's Beacon cranking up privacy concerns

Mighty rumbles across Facebook universe as it has implemented a new advertising technology, called Beacon, to make the online shopping experience that much more social ... and has now reversed out the most intrusive elements of the new functionality.

What's the fuss about?

When Facebook users shopped online, Beacon told friends what they looked at or bought. More than 40 websites, including, and Blockbuster, signed up to use Beacon software on their webpages and report what Facebook users did when they visited. Could be useful, yes?

YES, but naively Facebook launched Beacon as an "default opt out" system (ie everyone knew what you had bought, unless you specifically said 'Absolutely no way').

International Herald Tribune reports that there was a pop-up box alert to FB users that indicated that information was about to be shared with Facebook unless they click on "No Thanks." The pop-up disappears after about 20 seconds, after which consent is assumed. Admittedly, this pop-up appears on every partner site that has adopted Beacon.

Here's one the more harmless examples of where it went wrong, also from IHT:
"People should be given much more of a notice, much more of an alert," said Matthew Helfgott, 20, a college student who discovered his girlfriend just bought him black leather gloves from Overstock for Hanukkah. "She said she had no idea (information would be shared). She said it invaded her privacy."
At the other end of the scale:
"What if you bought a book on Amazon called 'Coping with AIDS' and that got published to every single one of your friends?"
Yukky, basically.

For users of social software, best practices in privacy are assumed - and those practices don't vary. Messing with these principles messes with the brand.

So guess what? Disgruntled Facebook users formed an online protest (more than 50,000 of them) and forced the mothership to rescind - Beacon is now 'default opt-in'.

As the BBC reports:
The changes to Beacon may not be the last that Facebook has to make to the technology.

Two rights groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, are believed to be compiling a complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission about it.
I'd be much more afraid of further Facebook backlash - further investigative reports like this don't help: Facebook's Beacon More Intrusive Than Previously Thought.

02 December, 2007

Huge Data breach in UK opens further questions about National ID card scheme

UK Government's Customs and Revenue mailed 2 CDs for 7 million citizens who receive child benefits from one end of the country to the other. Unfortunately, the CDs become lost in the post. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown had to stand up in Parliament and apologize profusely for the department in question 'not following the proper procedures'.

Side note: For the opposition party, it was a wonderful opportunity to pour scorn on the Labour Party. It was a situation, delightfully described in the Guardian:
This wasn't just shooting fish in a barrel - it was harpooning a porpoise that's got into your bath.

Anyway, the real issue is that it raised further concerns about the controversial National ID card scheme. As Nick Robinson from the BBC writes in his blog:
What is clear to me is that the public would like to see the information they provide guarded like a dangerous virus in a lab. In reality, there is clearly a culture of casualness toward it which allows one man, apparently, to copy 25 million names and details onto two discs and chuck them in the post.
Clearly, the vulnerability in the system is most likely to be human or systematic. This ID card initiative has many, many tortuous turns to make before it becomes reality.

Much harder (ideologically) to implement in Europe than in the US and even harder in the UK, given its suspicion of centralization.

Symbian dismisses Google's mobile foray

Cute quotes from John Forsyth, vice president of strategy at Symbian:

"mobile OS is a very specialised form of rocket science. It's not search rocket science. "

"Search and a mobile phone platform are completely different things."

"About every three months this year there has been a mobile Linux initiative of some sort launched. "It's a bit like the common cold. It keeps coming round..."

from a BBC report.

23 November, 2007

Google mobile objectives: Open Handset Alliance / Android

Google make a huge foray into the mobile arena, by providing a phone operating system for free 'Android'. It has launched Open Handset Alliance as the vehicle to facilitate its penetration into the mobile market.

See Sergry Brin introduce it:

Four handset manufacturers are on board: Samsung, HTC, Motorola and LG. Operators?? Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile, China Mobile, Telefonica and Telecom Italia will sport the Google-powered phones - the first of them will be available late 2008.

This announcement is more than a poke in the eye with significant mobile OS providers such as Microsoft, Research in Motion, Palm and Symbian.

Clearly, everyone is feeling everyone else out with this new offering - 'of course, I'll participate, but I'm not going to jettison any of my existing partnerships that I have nurtured for years'.

I think this strategy is too early for Google - mobile internet isn't what 99% of users require out of a phone at the moment. Another desktop player, MS, took years to gain traction in the mobile sector. Admittedly, this strategy isn't home grown, it came from the acquisition of Android in 2005 - so it will have a better chance than MS, but still...

Google's behemoth is advertising - the mobile industry is a lot more sophisticated and VERY different to the internet. 'Free' isn't word that is trips off the tongue of mobile executives.

I reserve judgment. As I've said before, when people with lots of ammunition are wandering around the battlefield, be careful, they don't have to know too much about what they are doing to be very dangerous.

UPDATE: Here's a biting critique of Google's announcement from a report from Analysys:
As a strategy to bring fundamental change to the mobile industry, Android is way off target.
In reality, a free OS will not be sufficient incentive for major players to write off investments in established software platforms and adopt a platform that offers nothing new from a development perspective.
Manufacturers have a financial liability for their devices, and cannot contemplate the prospect of an open-source OS that could release a virus or trojan into the market. The required investment in OS security and stability would be high, as it has been for Android’s predecessors.
They (members of the Open Handset Alliance) can exploit the publicity if the initiative is successful, and minimise their exposure (as one of several players participating in numerous initiatives) if it fails. In cash terms, partners will invest little in R&D to support this programme.
Ultimately, Google’s primary strategic and revenue objective is to encourage the use of its search engine. If, by backing an OS alliance, Google can expand the scope of its search box placement by cementing relationships with established partners and developing deals with new partners, arguably Android will have done its job.
No surprise that I agree with this viewpoint!

Google opensocial aims to become the social platform glue

At the start of this month, Google released standard set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for building social applications that will work across social networking and other Web sites. So as a developer, write once, integrate with many.

Here are some of the companies that have signed up:, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo,, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING. (Most of these are consumer sites, but some are business sites.)

This could be seen as a face-off between Facebook's platform (representing 50 million active users) vs OpenSocial (which leverages users of existing silioed services which together represent 100 million users). However Google is stressing this is an developer platform (rather than commercial one).

Hello? Identity management standard in another guise??

Nice point from this Gartner analyst in this article:
What's missing, said Valdes, is any common user experience, which he believes is one of the reasons that Facebook has prospered.
Also Facebook represents a trusted brand - with privacy standards & trust, as well as a similar consumer experience. A set of APIs alone doesn't represent that.

10 November, 2007

Pipex reveals UK WiMax plans

Pipex, using the brand Freedom4, announces launch of its WiMax service in the UK, targeted for the end of the year.

Let's be clear here: at this point, you get a receiver the size of a side plate with a toilet roll on top. It allows you to receive a wireless signal (4Mb/s) 500m to 2km (indoors) from the base station; 10km away if you're outdoors. Once you have the signal, you have to pipe it into your PC or Mac or whatever (eg cables or wireless). This Silicon article reports that a USB plug into the back of your PC is coming too - such things do exist. (I'd love the ability to set up my own base station, please?)

Two areas served to date: Warwick, Milton Keynes and Warwick; parts of Manchester coming soon - here's the coverage map.

Clearly, this is complementary to Wi-fi, rather than competitive. Their marketing is aimed at remote access for SMEs:
  • those out-of-towners
  • too far from the exchange to get broadband
  • don't want a phone line.
"Pricing competitive with equivalent fixed line access services." If you've ever had to priced satellite internet access, then this looks like a good deal. But is the market big enough to support this size of initiative??

Google proposes global privacy standard

While Google is leading a charge to create a global privacy standard for how companies protect consumer data.

USA Today story adds some historical colour to the story, by highlighting the fact that Google is struggling with privacy concerns that threatens its purchase Internet ad service DoubleClick for $3.1 billion:
Facing pressure from European regulators, Google got the privacy ball rolling in a new direction earlier this year when it announced plans to regularly remove key pieces of personal information about the search requests stored in its computers.

It then narrowed its time frame for depersonalizing search requests from as long as two years to 18 months — a standard that Microsoft, which runs the third-most-popular search engine, also has adopted.

Yahoo, which operates the second-most-popular search engine, has gone further by promising to scrub personal information within 13 months — a standard Time Warner's AOL also follows.

InterActiveCorp's is going even further by offering its users a tool that will prevent search terms and the Internet addresses of computers from being retained.

Previously, all the search engines had been vague about how long they hold on to the personal information logged from search requests.

TerraNet - peer to peer mobile comms

Swedish company TerraNet has developed the concept of mobile communications with mesh networking concept.

From this BBC report:
The TerraNet technology works using handsets adapted to work as peers that can route data or calls for other phones in the network.

The handsets also serve as nodes between other handsets, extending the reach of the entire system. Each handset has an effective range of about one kilometre.

This collaborative routing of calls means there is no cost to talk between handsets.

When a TerraNet phone is switched on, it begins to look for other phones within range. If it finds them, it starts to connect and extend the radio network.
Note that Ericsson has NOT invested in the company, as the BBC reports, but is funded by private investors - see clarification from TerraNet. However backing from a handset manufacturer would make sense, as it would allow them to bypass mobile operators and increase the value in the handset, not in the network

20 October, 2007

People search - a review

A review of a couple of people search engines: Zoominfo, Spock & Wink.

Gotta say LinkedIn and Zoominfo are the two that I use.

Here's another profile aggregator, ProfileLinker (here's a TechCrunch review). Upscoop aims to identify which social networks your buddies are a member of.

Blimey - transmission to be continued

Haven't posted for ages, so I'm obivously feeling the itch or guilty or something!

02 May, 2007

Plaxo & LinkedIn sync up

The two strongest social network software providers for business users, Plaxo & LinkedIn, have produced a cross-network sync, so that Plaxo contacts can be synced with LinkedIn contacts.

Clearly, if you have extrapolate the utility of this feature, then you'll want to tie many address books together.... ie around a single identity (well, a reduced number at any rate). I'm surprised it has taken this long to put this together - especially as their offices are about 3 miles apart.

26 April, 2007

With ads .... radio, television, wi-fi, telephone?

Those ingenious chaps at Fon (free wi-fi) have been messing around with an ad-supported service - and I don't mean the dull Google Ads variety. When you connect to a 'Fonera' (ie a Fon hotspot), you'll have to watch an ad to continue surfing - one every 30 minutes, according to Martin Varsavsky's blog.

Any reason why the same business model can't be applied to ordinary ISP, IM or (mobile) telephone service? Not really - apart from market appetite.

25 April, 2007

Orange (at last) has a common sense data plan

After years of being in the mobile business, then finally Orange UK looks to have discovered a common sense pricing model for consumers to use the mobile internet.

Bear in mind that 96% mobile revenues comes from plain ol' voice and text, so growing the 'proper' data component is pretty important. To date, pricing has been on a per MB or an 'all you can eat' basis.

I have blogged previously on why 3's gargantuan X-series package was indicative of amateur marketing. Looks like Orange have found a customer-centric solution.... wow, what a concept!

So here's why Orange's announcement will make total sense to users and I would anticipate the other operators will follow suit:
  • Pay-as-you-go: Internet snacks – 40p for 15 mins with daily cap of £2 (or a daily £1 bundle).
  • Contract: Internet “snacks” – 30p for 15mins with daily cap of £1.50 (or a “bundle” priced at £1 per day or £5 monthly for evening/ weekends or £8 monthly “anytime”)

24 April, 2007

New position at Webmetrics

Just started a new position at Webmetrics, as Product Marketing Manager - hence why there hasn't been too many posts recently!

It's a fascinating company just north of San Diego. In essence, what Webmetrics provides is simple and useful: they verify that your website is available and functional. But, given that the web is fragmenting, the page that you see is the result of multiple partners working together for the end-user experience, then knowing that your partners are up and running and functional, is vitally important.

For a small company, they have a great customer base: Yahoo!, Barnes and Noble, DHL, Heaps of exciting potential!

As a side-note, I remain one of the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at UCSD (University of California, San Diego) on the CONNECT program.

29 March, 2007

Multiple 'transport' mechanisms used to interact with Internet in developing world

A lovely story from the BBC about cached WiFi intelligence: how, in rural India and parts of Rwanda, Cambodia and Paraguay, the local store has a community computer which gets updated with content whenever a bus (equipped with wi-fi) drives past. The bus connects both people and information requests to larger (connected) communities.

The founder of the United Villages initiative Amir Hassan said:
"0.003% percent of the web that rural India cares about. They want to know the cricket scores, they want to see the new Aishwarya Rai photos, and they want to hear a sample of the latest Bollywood tunes."
It also provides everyone in the rural community with email access too. Users can request specific pages that isn't normally cached. Clearly not designed for personalized services.

OK, so what's the relevance of this heart warming story to the first and second world?

In essence, that most of the internet is asynchronous, so much so that it is (largely) independent of time. So content consumers will use low (or zero) cost communications mechanisms for this type of information and expensive mobile when speed is important or when they lack of access and can justify the expense.

Mobile operators take note.

19 March, 2007

Cisco & Webex

Cisco, mentioned earlier this month, in Social Software goes corporate?, has agreed to buy WebEx, the video conference company for $3.2b.

Lots of people in Silicon Valley are rubbing their hands with glee as Cisco continues to suck up social & collaborative software into into portfolio.

More acquisitions (plus glee) to follow, surely?

18 March, 2007

Free Web-based SMS - Old Skool!

Vintage stuff: the mighty Gizmo project is revisiting some dusty, long forgotten functionality: the ability to send text messages to mobile phones from a web page for free.

Remember when telco operators used to let any third party do this back 5+ years ago? They permitted this so that the recipient would hit reply thus generating usage. Sadly, only mobile operators themselves permit this through their own sites - and cap usage to a fairly meager daily limit.

It will be interesting to see if this takes off again - perhaps it will shove SMS into the mainstream in the US market.

In the meantime, you can send a SMS to my mobile / cell phone, by clicking on the Gizmo Logo above.

Jubii - Not quite, yet

Had another mess around with Jubii. I was hoping the service had improved after its launch a couple of weeks ago. Actually it was the comments in the blogosphere that clarified whether / how some of the functionality worked.

So, it comes from Lycos Europe, it's all Web 2.0:
  • You get an email address. When you receive emails, they are divided between a public and private inbox based on whether the sender is in your address book
  • Send SMS - not available yet
  • VoIP (landline to landline, a la Jahah, rather than using PC's speakers + mic)- 30 mins of free calls per day to Austria, Canada, Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK and USA (an interesting mix of countries!). Each call is limited 5 mins. Free while in beta.
  • Blogging, photo and file storage and sharing. You can selectively share content with your contacts like etribes or vox (10Gb storage for the first million users)
  • Interconnects with AOL & ICQ messengers
Several key features are idenabled yet, launching SMS or VoIP is pretty unintuitive. IE7 reports errors from time to time. Overall, some of the concepts that it is aiming for make lots of sense, something that the original Midentity desktop application was aiming for.

It looks reasonably good, but it's buggy - I'd rather not right it off at this point in time - it might be revved up into something reasonable.

12 March, 2007

Importance of the cost of land on entrepreneurship

One other factor that weighs heavily on entrepreneurship is the cost of land (and therefore the cost of living). The UK is cramped nation of 60 million people - space is in high demand, driving up the cost of land. The US is a vast nation that remains sparsely populated, even with 300 million people in it. The risk of starting a business (and possibly losing your home) is much more significant in the UK than US. For the more extreme contrast, compare with Japan (130 million in a country most mountainous that 75% is uninhabitable).

As a side note, land is more expensive in California than elsewhere in the US, approaching the value in the UK. In my experience, Texas with a reputation for cheap land, hard work and can-do attitude, is much more entrepreneurial than California. Silicon Valley has historically built an innovation cluster (compare with London's financial industry) and now has all the ingredients to make building new high-risk businesses much easier.

Lack of Entrepreneurship in UK - stop whining

Why Britain needs to change its view of entrepreneurs

I find the point of view that UK lacks a culture of entrepreneurship short-sighted - get over it - innovation is a second class career in the UK. This is from a Brit that has bounced between both sides of the Atlantic, who has founded an internet company in the UK, but now lives in the US tech community.

As Napoleon described UK as a nation of shopkeepers 200 years ago, the same is true today. The UK is blessed with historical existence of the City of London, a financial trading power house that generates billions of dollars of value. It's an center of excellence whose contribution to the UK FAR exceeds that of other trading centers of similar size. As a result, the UK (and the Scottish even more so) are supremely skilled in dissecting risk and reapportioning it and trading it. This contribution is something that the UK should be thankful for and, at the same time, recognizes what is disables.

So, imagine I am a bright, young thing in the UK, fresh out of school or university. The most profitable method of being successful is to be drawn to the bright lights of the metropolis and work in 'the City' - where I use other people's money to buy and sell resources and to shave off a commission out of other people's ventures. Would I even consider assuming the majority of the risk of a venture myself? You must be 'havin' a laugh'.

It is well known that immigrants are much more likely to start new businesses for the reasons that they usually lack powerful networks of local contacts and cannot bring an existing reputation in their new country. They rely on their own intuition to build a shelter for themselves and their family.

UK enviously looks over its shoulder to the US, a nation of immigrants with an immense repository of raw commodities and natural resources. It's a nation so large that it can't be dominated by the financial industry in New York (a country can only have one financial center after all). As a result, any bright, hard-working American considers entrepreneurship to be perfectly valid career choice.

Speaking from personal experience, I have found the UK venture community to be superb at quantifying the risk in a start-up business - analyzing it, slicing it and dicing it, synchronizing it perfectly with the rest of their portfolio of investments. They may (or may not!) provide the cash for the venture, but infrequently the practical expertise to assist the new business.

The venture community in the US, on the other hand, provides not only the cash, but also the understanding of the fledgling business (as frequently those with the cash have been successful entrepreneurs themselves, thereby perpetuating the cycle) and are more likely to jump into the ditch and dig or into the boat and row (you chose your metaphor!).

So my answer to British whiners is: if you don't like the golden egg, then kill the goose, otherwise recognize its limitations and be grateful!

07 March, 2007

Social software goes corporate?

A sign of the times, Cisco (yes, those router people) acquires, a social networking site. Interestingly, Cisco wants to provide "MySpace in a box for its customers", according a comment from the Head of Strategy and Marketing for the Cisco “Media Solutions Group,” which leading Cisco’s Web 2.0 foray.

Now, this is the first sign that I have seen of social networking (typically the domain of consumers or end users) crossing over into the enterprise arena. Caveat 1: I discount LinkedIn-type services as they aren't 'corporate mandated'. Caveat 2: Corporate wikis not included.

The thinking is that Cisco will now be able to approach any brand and create a social networking site for its brand followers, paid for by the brand.

I have no idea why Cisco is charging into corporate fan sites, either. If you know the answer, then please comment below. Thx.

01 March, 2007

Our digital lifestyle, content publishing, privacy - a good thing

A USA Today article decries the loss of privacy as a result of everyone having a camera phone & the easy ability to publish content.

Far East Asia, then Europe and now the US is realizing the implications of our near 'always-recording' lifestyle in the 21st Century. From 2003, Camera phones banned in changing rooms of leisure centre.

There are positives: at the bottom of the US Today article, it mentions the Dog Poop Girl whose refusal to clean up her dog's mess on the Seoul subway was captured and posted and resulting social shame and capitulation. User generated journalism (most famous being Korea's OhMyNews) and consumer crime prevention (eg text your incriminating photos to your local police station) are other examples.

It is said that you shouldn't put anything in an email that you don't want published on the front page of the NY Times. See this list of career-limiting email blunders (the Claire Swire email, US banker in Korea from 2001).

However, what struck me was that teenagers / early twenties have ONLY lived in an era with the ability to snap 'n' publish content so willingly. Now these students are looking for a job little realizing that all those photos from yesteryear might come to haunt them.

I do think camera phones, the easy ability to post content will make for a cleaner and more just society - it will certainly make things harder to conceal in public.

27 February, 2007

Facebook - should it exit or not?

Great article on Facebook at CNN, discussing when Facebook should sell. (It has spurned a $1billion offer from Yahoo! already. Its ticket price is apparently well over that now.I mentioned previously that a rumoured price of $2b was greedy. Or should it - shock novelty factor - IPO?)

Myspace sold to News Corp for $580 million. Marc Andreessen, who founded Netscape Communications comments, "Had MySpace remained independent, it would probably be worth $5 billion now".

The story contrasts with Friendster, who turned down $30 million in Google stock in 2003 (now worth $1billion today).

Web analytics in the 21st century

I went to a discussion on Web Analytics on Thursday evening at SDSIC. (Definition: Web analytics provides usage & segmentation strategies for web services to serve up more relevant and timely information eg cross selling or provide advertising.)

The issue of profiling customers and customer behavior was front and central, then two minutes later it was followed by privacy and identity.

When an end user / consumer manages their identity in the 21st century meaning of the world, will internet profiling be easier? Read this article on why it's important: Win the keys to the customer kingdom - Retailers will fight for ownership of online user identity.

The knee jerk reaction would be YES, of course - if a user provides a richer set of identity information, the analysis of web traffic and usage would be much easier.

But in reality, the answer yes, to a small extent, but mainly no. Here's why.

Some sites we demand unique personalization: eg logging into MY internet banking account. Other sites become more relevant if the web service knows a little more about us - whether we've visited the site already or that we have an interest in news stories about London for example.

Most of our internet usage is anonymous... which is great for the most part. Sure, we have to surrender our internet (IP) address which can (usually) be tracked down to a pretty precise location (a sub-section of a city for example) using IP lookup - a feature that most web service don't use. In general though, that's it.

Having to create and manage username & password pairs & profiles on every site that we visit would be painful and needless. If you've signed up for a Yahoo! account, then the profiling is ridiculous - websites that provide valud usernames+passwords such as bugmenot become very useful.

21st century ID solutions such as Microsoft's CardSpace (check out an overview of Cardspace in use - technical, but good) will make identification easier - users will create several identity cards for different purposes. Those identities with lots of information accessible by the service provider will be used with highly personalised sites (eg financial institutions). Users will also create a range of weak identities that allows them to glide easily onto websites.

These sites will be unwise to needlessly prompt users for their 'Identity Cards' - imagine being prompted for your household salary or whether you have children if you surfed onto a news site - it would be even more irritating than pop-ups.

So users will remain largely anonymous, unless the site can coax an identity out of a surfer in return for a better experience (hmm, marginal) or other benefits (eg 5% off price).

As a result, web analytics will divide into analysis on those with identity and those without - the latter requiring all the skills that are required to match usage to segmentation.

SMS predictations are revised upwards

Portio Research takes an optimistic outlook for Mobile Messaging Futures 2007 - 2012. It upwardly revises previous predictions from 2005 - SMS growth has not flattened out in mature markets but continued to boom whilst the US market has grown much faster than expected. By 2012, global SMS revenue will reach $67b, driven by 3.7 trillion messages.

The report states that just in Asia 450 people every minute will get their first mobile phone - and the adoption will tick along at this rate for the next 6 years.

Portio reckons that Mobile IM will supplant SMS as the principle messaging service by 2011. I strongly disagree - because IM currently requires opt-in. Admittedly, interconnectivity between IM providers has occurred technically, but the mass market certainly hasn't appreciated this yet, nor is IM embedded at all with the weak exception of the US.

22 February, 2007

Showing their true colors - Skype & Google

Two announcements, one shortly after the other, indicate the intended strategic direction of some big players.

Skype has announced SkypePro in Europe for €2 per month:
  • Pay nothing per minute to numbers in your country
  • Free Voicemail
  • Ability to purchase SkypeIn at a discount
  • Bunch of other discount vouchers, freebies

Interestingly, Skype will still charge a 'connection fee' of about 3.9 Euro cents per call. This sounds a trivial charge for Skype to eat in comparison to the zero cost per minute.

Frankly, I'm surprised Skype haven't put this bundle together years earlier.

Google finally announces an Office-like suite of productivity tools for business called Google Apps Premier Edition for $50 per user, per year: online e-mail, calendaring, messaging, and talk applications, as well as a word processor and a spreadsheet.

It differs from the the consumer version (launched last August) with an API to permit businesses to interface to their existing applications.

Missing from the line-up are a presentation tool (I wonder if the Google M&A team will be busy??) and full-on contact management capabilities.

And in the Microsoft corner: Office 2007 for $499 or MS Live (and Ray Ozzie: Chief Software Architect, creator of IBM Corp.’s Lotus Notes). I wonder what Yahoo's reaction will be?

Emap buys Yospace - sounds familiar?

Just as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp purchased MySpace last year for $580m, then Emap purchases YoSpace at a steal for £8.7m. Here's the press release.

Emap is a print and digital publishing house. YoSpace provides a platform for mobile user generated content - best known for 3’s (ie the mobile operator) SeeMeTV which allows mobile users to share and get paid for mobile video clips. Customers receive 1p for every clip watched - 3 has paid out £100,000 up to March last year.

YoSpace also provided the platform for O2’s Look AT Me TV service. And topped the 'UK 50 to Watch in Mobile 2007’ (sponsored by O2) published earlier this month.

17 February, 2007

Handset manufacturers getting into Location Based Services?

The world's two largest handset makers (Nokia and Motorola) have each introduced their own navigation services that use GPS on their phones. From a CNET article:
The company also said this week that it plans to make application programming interfaces to its software available to third-party developers so that they also can develop new services and applications that leverage location through GPS.
This is a great prod in the right direction, as the mobile operators (as least outside of US - see the excellent article for the reasons why) have been slow to deploy or make much value out of LBS. However, this won't really work as a platform to enable innovative (and compelling) 3rd party applications to appear - you know the sort of services that are always showcased:
Where's are my friends? Then lets go to a nearby Italian restaurant that has a fish promotion on.
The reason being is that these LBS APIs needs to be inter-operable so that someone on a Nokia handset can find out where their friends are on Seimens, Sony Ericsson, LG handsets. Sadly, this isn't a strength of handset manufacturers - operators do a better job of this generally. However this announcement may spur the operators to innovate.....

Debate about DRM hits the headlines

Quite astonishing that the technical subject of DRM has reached the headlines of the consumer press.

Apple's Jobs posted an open letter carefully articulating the history of Digital Rights Management and why Apple chose to copy protect the music that it sells. Its conclusions that content (at least music) should be freely available appear to be perfectly reasonable.

Being Jobs, it has generated a lot of discussion. Chatter describes Jobs as a hypocrit. Macrovision's CEO defends DRM, but clarifies some of the points.

Interoperability between devices is the most important issue in my mind: consumers expect to be able to move their content from their MP3 device, phone, home entertainment system, car etc easily. Content must licensed to an individual, rather than to a device - achieving this is complex and implementing it to a consumer market, even worse.

15 February, 2007

AOL supports OpenID too

This doubles (approx) the OpenID user base. As the article says, 'Come on, Google and Yahoo!'.

Microsoft to back open ID scheme

Open ID

Microsoft (contrary to most of their corporate history) intends to make its identity technology, CardSpace, interoperate with lots of other identity projects. This announcement embodies that far-sighted approach.

Here's what it enables (from Seattle PI) :
After users type their identifier into a participating site, they're momentarily redirected to their chosen OpenID Provider. They need only remember the name and password they've set up with the provider. That provider, in turn, sends the participating Web site an encrypted message, known as a token, confirming the identity of the person logging in.

For a meatier description of this announcement (plus other partners), see Kim Cameron's blog entry (Kim being MS's chief identity architect).

BT to partner with FON for more phone ready wi-fi hotspots

A rumor from earlier this month hasn't been substantiated yet: a deal between:
  • BT -- broadband ISP and more importantly providers of BT Fusion, a dual-mode phone that connects to your wi-fi router at home, but roams on cellular network (Vodafone) elsewhere and
  • FON --the largest WiFi community (250K) in the world grown by purchasing a modified wireless router that allows to connect to other 'Foneros' when you're roaming.
Nice deal, of course, which makes oodles of sense.

Two comments that I thought were interesting:
BT can separate VoIP packets on their side of the broadband connection, providing a higher-quality service than a company like Vonage, which must push VoIP packets over the broadband connection out to the Internet, over an unpredictable route.
Clearly if the call terminates with BT too, otherwise the consumer won't see too much difference.

The article claims that BT could push software to its routers to enable Fon.
Possible I suppose, but sounds messy.

14 February, 2007

Internet social software YouTube partners with Vodafone

Vodafone allows users to update their YouTube site - more here.

The internet social software services have, frankly, struggled with the whole mobile scene. I am skeptical that today's successful internet SoSos are going to able to migrate to mobile successfully - I think a new generation of social software will appear that is equally at home on the desktop / laptop AND the mobile.

Mobile handsets for the developing world

This BBC article reports on the user growth in India and the associated scrum from the handset manufacturers.

Interestingly, the article mentions the fact that improved phone locking techniques (ie locking the handset to a SIM or locking it to a network provider) means that phones 'stay with' the network provider. This in turns enables the operators to subsidise the cost of the handset to the subscriber, thereby lower the entry barrier to adoption - further driving growth.

This, of course, will reduce handset churn (a essential component if the network and handsets are rapidly evolving; Question: has development plateaued suitably for this step to be appropriate) and hamper the second hand market (good at preventing theft and resale of mobile phones - a big problem in London, for example).

13 February, 2007

Preview of GSM, Barcelona

The great and good (50K of them!) gather in Barcelona this week for 3GSM. Here's an interesting preview from John Strand, a telco consultant that got his head screwed on and from Informa.

Hot topics for this year:
  • mobile-TV (so last year)
  • IMS
  • mobile VoIP
  • user generated content (so last year and the year before that)
  • mobile advertising (worth US$11.3 billion by 2011 according to Informa)
  • Location based services (another any-day-now service, but this time GPS-based, rather than cell-based)
There is no doubt that the industry is facing large changes, but who will be the future heroes: "the big old boys" or "the small new kids on the block"?
I think this year will be the last year that we can state with confidence 'the big old boys'.

Next year's conference will raise the question: 'Lots of new technology - SO WHAT? - show me the end-consumer benefit!'. Read this excellence article on Pricing and User Experience in Industry Remembers Customers from 160 Characters.

Linking all your profiles together

Following my previous post on profile aggregators, there's the other side of the coin: managing the multiple profiles that you maintain. Having just relocated a couple of times in the last six months (including internationally), this is a real pain in the neck.

Some players (or associated players as this space has ill-defined edges)
When searching other profiles marries managing my (multiple) profiles, we'll have digital lifestyle aggregators - a term coined by Marc Canter - see his excellent description at Broadband Mechanics.

Marc is a good friend of Midentity and its service etribes, the company that I helped to found.

O2 allows users to store pictures, messages and contacts online

O2 (UK) intends to allow its mobile users to store photos from their camera phone and text messages online. (The initial service requires users to text content into a short code, but, in the future, reports 160 chars, these messages will cached automatically.

Additionally, users will be about to store all their contacts. ShoZu, a favorite application of mine, has been doing this for at least 18 months.

Rise of Profile Aggregators

If you've ever searched for yourself on the internet (or more usefully, others), there are a couple of tools - profile aggregators - to help:
  • spock - still in closed beta
  • wink - very useful and appears to have the broadest range of searches
  • zoominfo - provides you with the ability to create your profile under your control
Each service aggregates data from a variety of different sources: LinkedIn, myspace, bebo and other blogging sites. Using these services + Google, you can build a reasonable profile of friends, colleagues or enemies if they have left a digital footprint.

Note that each service has a different business model. Thankfully, none are charging for contact information, unlike nasties like Jigsaw.

26 January, 2007

1 billion mobile phones sold in 2006

IDC and Strategy Analytics reports a near-25% rise from 20065 and predicts 1.1billion sales for 2007. See this nice summary.

No surprises that China & India provided most of the growth. Nokia remains the market leader with a third of all phones sold. Congratulations to Sony-Ericsson for 61% growth to overtake Samsung as the third largest manufacturer.

25 January, 2007

Feature Prioritization - Parts 2 & 3

Part 2 covers :
  • Grouping the features into clusters
  • Why some high-ranking features shouldn't be added to the product anyway
  • Feature Interdependencies ('snowballs')
  • Product Road Mapping
Part 3 covers:
  • Product management - the difference between new and mature products
  • Raising money with your road map.

10 January, 2007

iPhone announced

Blogged to death elsewhere (see Apple site and Steve Jobs keynote at MacWorld, but these are the things that made it fascinating:
  • Most impressive is the touch sensitive screen and its capabilities has been baked into the operating system - slick scrolling & appearance of QWERTY keypad when you need it for example.
  • iPhone switches from portrait to landscape mode based on the way when you rotate the device. A proximity sensor detects when you put the phone to your ear, so that you don't 'press' any on-screen buttons.
  • Zooming in on photographs & webpages
  • Sync with iTunes - seamless - kinda as you'd expect: music, podcasts, contacts, calendar etc
  • Auto switching between EDGE (ie mobile) and wi-fi. (3G to come)
  • Conversations in SMS Messages - I like the way that the history of sent and received emails displayed together and not separate Sent and Received folders.

Apple have filed 200+ patents for their iPhone.
Available in June in US (using Cingular exclusively); Q4 in Europe. Asia next year.
Cost starts at $500.

04 January, 2007

Feature Prioritization (Part 1)

A number of people have asked me '..... so how do YOU do product management?'.

I've decided to articulate the processes that I use: Feature Prioritization & Product Road Mapping (Part 1) . Part 2 to follow in the very near future.

Comments welcome, of course.