Product Management :: Product Marketing

13 August, 2008

NeoMedia's patents, New CEO and fund-raising

U.S. Patent Office Rejects All Ninety-Five NeoMedia Patent Claims.

Neomedia, you may remember, owns a large patent portfolio in the field of connecting to internet content using the mobile phone (amongst others). I have taken a dim view of their patents and the impact to the use of QR codes, particularly outside of Japan. See this post which generated some interesting discussion in the comments.

The Electronic Frontier put together a patent busting initiative which overturned the decision in July. See report on their site. (Thanks to Dean Collins for alerting me to this news.)

Other machinations at NeoMedia

An avid follower of this sector, the Pondering Primate noted:

On October 15, 2007, the day before the Patent Office ordered the re-examination, the Chairman and member of NeoMedia's Board resignation became effective.

I noticed that NeoMedia appointed Iain McCready as CEO in May (see announcement). Ian was one of the early folks at Mobiqua in the Scotland who were doing nicely in the mobile ticketing field with their own 2D bar code solution for an excellent niche vertical (nice one!).

Then I noticed that Ian has got off to a flying start by raising $8.7million for NeoMedia (see annoucement) last week. Clearly, someone has a lot of confidence in the new approach - I am told that NeoMedia have been fractious organization in the past.

19 July, 2008

Service interruption

Yep, no posts for ages.
I've been busy with my company, Webmetrics, being acquired by NeuStar (announcement) in January, birth of a baby girl in April and relocation from San Diego back to the UK / Ireland in June.

11 April, 2008

BBC's iPlayer traffic swamps UK's ISPs

Following my previous post about the demise of Mobile TV - due to the broadcasters enabling downloads of their shows (such as BBC's iPlayer), then the UK's ISPs have gone bleating to the BBC saying that their iPlayer is generating too much traffic on their networks.

Silly ISPs are demanding that the BBC pays for the network upgrades. Here's some of the statistics being throwing around:
  • In its first three months more than 42m programmes have been accessed via the catch-up TV service.
  • According to figures from regulator Ofcom it will cost ISPs in the region of £830m to pay for the extra capacity needed to allow for services like the iPlayer.
  • iPlayer usage now accounts for approximately 5% of our network capacity. (see this story on
I'm very surprised at the reaction of the ISPs - surely this is a perfect method to segment the market into light users and heavy downloaders... surely??!?

It appears the key point is that iPlayer streaming outnumbers downloads by 8 to 1, which, I interpret, wasn't anticipated.

Note: I originally read this story on the BBC, so the reporting may be biased.

20 March, 2008

The future dims for Mobile TV

I've been back in the UK recently and I have seen the future of Mobile TV and it doesn't involve the live streaming of content to handsets. Oh no, that looks antiquated – like crappy portable FM radios in comparison to an iPod.

So what prompted this? Two things:
  • Using BBC iPlayer – the ability to view high quality broadcasts downloaded to a laptop.
  • BBC’s announcement that iPlayer would work on iPods and iPhones shortly.

Those that know we well will tell you how much I detest television – I despise it.

However if you combine the very high quality of the BBC’s content with flexibility of the BBC’s iPlayer:

Features of the iPlayer
  • You can download content that has been screened within the last 7 days.
  • The content is viewable for 30 days
  • Once you have started watching a programme, you have 7 days to finish it.
  • Big catch: You can only download the content if you are in the UK. No doubt there are pirate sites or proxy servers that can assist you here.
  • It’s a peer-to-peer service (technology from Kontiki) – and works delightfully well.
Those brilliant David Attenborough nature programmes (what a national treasure!) that you missed? And interesting documentary that you missed that everyone’s discussing? Not a problem.

Incidentally, after the launch of iPlayer, UK consumers noticed that they had exceeded their monthly broadband capacities for the first time. See article. In the UK, Broadband is usually capped, started at 1GB / month.

So, if you were to combine the BBC's rich content:
  • with a 'browse the recent back catalogue and remotely queue for download the next time I am connected' service (nicely designed for a mobile screen of course).
  • plus “download this future programme when available” for future scheduling
  • plus always download the most recent news broadcast
  • plus some brainlessly easy phone synch functionality so that you could synch across all your devices (phone, iPod, Wii etc)
  • with a decent recommendation engine that sieved your previously viewed downloads with other people's recommendations
then I would definitely be MUCH more interested in the TV!

I think in-hotel viewing figures would plummet too. Perhaps this is also a fantastic opportunity for the BBC to build a community around its programmes. Nature lovers, sit-com fantatics.

There now, I don't know how many enterpreneurial ventures could be spawned off this little lot!

05 March, 2008

Yahoo supports OpenID

Yahoo now supports OpenID with the public beta at the end of Jan. (Article)

With 248 million users, Yahoo is the biggest fish in the pond, meaning that 368 million Web users can use the standard.

Google remains out in the cold (even though Blogger permits comments on articles using OpenID), but Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign and Yahoo! have joined OpenID as board members (see article), so we should anticipate an announcement from Google soon.

Previous announcements:

27 January, 2008

Neomedia's patents in 2D Barcode

Neomedia (for their Gravitec division) have a bunch of patents (all carefully listed on Neomedia's website) in the 2D Bar Code area. Fundamentally, their inability to capitalize on their (pretty weak) patents are holding up the market that has blossomed around QR Codes in Asia (where Denso / Toyoto have the patent, but aren't enforcing it).

There's a comment from StreetStylz (whose blog has lots of commentary on Neomedia) with an analysis of Neomedia patents in this area.
Too many Patent Experts and legal representatives have looked at the core patents (mainly the Huedtz patents) and have not figured out a way around them; Motorola, Symbol, Qualcomm, Digital Convergence's legal team, Cross Pen, etc.
Another comment mentions:
USPTO has principally agreed with the EFF that all 95 of NEOMs claims in the patent need to be reexamined, not just a few of the claims. And this one patent is the core of the other patents. So if this patent is thrown out, the other patents that he claims NEOM holds are pretty much worthless as well, because they all use a similar process for their core operation.

Sprint (in US) promoting 2D Bar Codes

On page 35 of Jan '08's Wired Magazine, Sprint has a full page ad called "The Captivating Future Of The Bar Code".

It uses ScanBuy's ScanLife mobile bar code reading application (so it's not QR Codes) for camera phones. (They are the first company to sign up a carrier, as reported by the Pondering Primate.)

Great to see this stuff coming to market outside of Japan & Korea etc.

I have a nagging doubt about Neomedia's patents in this area though. See my next post.

Operators share 3G masts in UK

3 and T-Mobile intend to share their 3G cell towers. They expect to save GBP2 billion (USD4 billion) over ten years, by decommissioning over 5000 duplicate base stations.

Analysys, in this insightful report, applauds the decision. (Note: for some time after 3G licenses were sold in the UK, sharing of infrastructure was illegal. This requirement has since been relaxed.)

Voice remains the mainstay of ARPU with SMS being the primary source of non-voice ARPU. The demand for heavy data hasn't been apparent enough. AND that requirement is threatened by substitutes such as Wi-fi and Wi-Max, which means that operators need to invest in alternative technologies (examples below), which reduces the investment that they can make in their traditional cellular infrastructure.
  • fixed broadband ie triple plays and quadruple plays
  • Mobile TV
  • Femtocell - indoor base stations
Analysys also sees this as indicative of how operators will make future investments (such HSPA+ & LTE) - a strategy that led to the dominance of GSM.

Analysys calls this a 'major shift by mobile network operators' - and I agree.

05 January, 2008

Rebtel - perfect for international calls

I've had a Rebtel account for at least 18 months, but I have recently introduced my wife to the service.... and she's loving it.

Here's how it works:
  1. Configure your account / telephone numbers / address book appropriately. (Yep, there's some set-up required at Rebtel's website.)
  2. Then the Rebtel User (eg in US) calls their international contact (eg in Ireland) on a local (ie US) number.
  3. Rebtel takes the incoming call and, matches it with the directory in your account, connects to your contact's number in Ireland (ie their ordinary landline).
Advantage: Given that local calls are free in the US, then the Rebel User only pays for the international portion of the call - which is priced at VoIP rates not International Mobile rates (ie 2 cents per minute rather than 50+ cents per minute!)

There is an additional twist in it for advanced users. After step 3 above, then if the international contact hangs up, and then immediately dials the last number received, then the call between the two people is re-established. Then Rebtel user is then not paying for the international portion at all! Very cute.

However this last step is usually way too fiddly to be bothered with. And I've had quality problems too with this advanced usage.

Another huge advantage is that my wife now has a number in Ireland. So if anyone rings it, the call will be patched through to her mobile phone or landline. So the initiator of the call pays for the cost of the local call (if applicable) and my wife pays for the international portion of the call. Very useful.

04 January, 2008

Plaxo for sale

From TechCruch:
The company has raised $28.3 million to date over four rounds, including $9 million last February. The company had over 15 million users as of September 2006, and their recent integration into Google Open Social has led to a further growth spike.
Growth figures to the left.

Private Equity Hub reports:
Social networking site Plaxo has received an unsolicited acquisition offer of around $200 million.

Jeff Nolan evaluates Plaxo on the same basis as Facebook's price (ie per user):
The FB transaction valued each of the company’s 59 million users at $254, which when applied to Plaxo’s reported 15 million users nets the $3.8 billion valuation. So what is interesting about Plaxo reportedly hoping to fetch $100 million is that this valuation implies each user is worth $6.66 (hmmm 666…), which when applied to Facebook suggests not a valuation of $15b but rather $400 million.

02 January, 2008

Facebook opens up its platform

Facebook senior platform manager Ami Vora posted a blog entry:
(We) want to share the benefits of our work by enabling other social sites to use our platform architecture as a model. In fact, we'll even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags to other platforms." A developer page elaborates that "the 100,000 developers currently building Facebook applications can make their applications available on other social sites with no extra work.

BTW, Bebo, Friendster have released their own developer platform initiatives, as anticipated. (See previous blog entry)

LinkedIn's Intelligent Application Platform

LinkedIn has arrived that it's permitting third parties build applications for use within its community. (Article from Silicon)

For example, BusinessWeek will integrate LinkedIn onto its news website, allowing people to find out more about individuals or companies mentioned in articles. I can envisage a Snap-type hover over.

We can expect similar announcements from all the companies that are part of Google's Open Social community.