Monthly Archives: December 2010

Personal television thanks to the iPad.

Apple’s iPad has been nothing short of a phenomenal success, but why should that surprise us after the iPod and the iPhone, the latter thrusting Apple from a zero market share to being one of the major players in the smart phone business. The iPad is expected to potentially surpass 12 million units sold in 2010 and double that in 2011. Apple’s tablet computing device has already had a drastic impact on the sale of more traditional computing platforms – laptops. None of this is too shocking.

Apple has earned the mantle of the “cool” device company, the one that has simple to use, powerful, flexible and sleek hardware devices coupled with a content distribution network – iTunes and AppStore. Put all these together and the consumer will naturally gravitate to your product when their alternative is the old Windows style offering.

What I have come to appreciate with my iPad…and I am someone who waffled on the iPad – first I wanted one, then I thought it wasn’t something I needed, eventually purchased one and now love it. But what the iPad has become is not a web surfing device, not a replacement for my laptop to do computing but a wonder entertainment device. I realize that might encompass so of what I just mentioned. The iPad has allowed, or pushed, television viewing to be an individual outlet. The television has always been a communal activity. Granted, I realize that some of us watch hours of television alone, but at its core it is for a group of people to aggregate around: watch a movie, the World Cup finals, the evening news, the season finale of Survivor or the launch of the space shuttle just to name a few activities.

What the iPad has brought is the ability to take this experience and truly allow the individual to control and enjoy it on their own. The form factor is much more personal, you sit at your desk and watch a movie, lie in bed and watch the last tv series or while in the airplane catch up on an iTunes movie from last season. The ability to truly personalize the selection and viewing of movies and television has finally been truly unleashed thanks to the iPad and other personal tablets.

While all the apps are great, and the form factor is basically a iPhone/iPod Touch on steriods, the iPad and its form factor is more adaptable to the visual nature of video. That might be its greatest app. Now if I could only get real time streaming television to my iPad….

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Joyeaux Noel

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Be thankful…you are not in this line

I always find it amazing when places such as London get snow before Boston, but that was the case this past week. The snow created all kinds of traveling snafus, some flights were not going to be able to leave for a week out of Heathrow! A great video of a queue at a London train station…I feel for the baby that you hear crying in the beginning or maybe that is the cry of an adult having been stuck in line for 5 hours!

What this reminds me of is that for all of our technology and gained efficiencies we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. Supply chain companies, technology companies and the like can all talk about improving asset turns, inventory, worker output and the like but all you need are a couple of inches of snow in a place like London and it brings the entire machine to a halt. Remember all the problems the Icelandic volcanoes created earlier in the year? As our supply chains become longer, more complex and more subject to risks we can neither model nor control, we must ensure our strategy and thinking takes into consideration these real variables.

Hope those folks in London were able to get to where they needed to go…

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Yahoo to drop Delicious – moving in the wrong social direction

The fall out continues over the rumored move by Yahoo with regards to their social tagging service – Delicious. Add this to the news that Yahoo will be having a RIF along the lines of 4% of their overall work force and you do not have a good end of 2010 for the online giant Yahoo! The story that continues to have legs is the news that leaked out that Yahoo will be sun-setting Delicious, one of the many social bookmarking sites that many have leveraged – according to their Wiki page they have over 5 million users with 180 million unique pages bookmarked. While this is insignificant when compared to the 500millon Facebook users, it is nothing to sneeze at, especially in the greater scope.

Yahoo has been struggling since the early 2000s when it was seen, with AOL, as the Google or Facebook of its time. They were the new companies redefining how we searched for information, how we interacted with one another and how we communicated with the world. Yahoo mail remains one of the leading free email services, double the size of the likes of Gmail. Messenger permeates the instant messaging services. The portal remains a strength for Yahoo, its reader as one of the preferred aggregator of RSS feeds. Unfortunately, these assets are “old” they are stagnant. They keep Yahoo in the conversation, but too often it is a conversation about the difference between the new kids on the block – Facebook, Twitter and Google versus the old guard – Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL.

Yahoo has fought to try and reinvent itself, even exploring a merger with Microsoft – would have been an interesting merger of old guard technology firms. Yahoo has tried to revamp its search to compete with Google, with minimal success, Bing has been much more successful thrusting itself into the search game. Yahoo poured millions into a marketing campaign to make its brand important again…to minimal success. Yahoo has gone through a musical chairs of leaders. All the while watching their rivals Facebook, Twitter and Google grab all the attention. Microsoft remains a presence due to their Xbox, mobile platform and ubiquitous operating system. Even AOL has been quietly trying to redefine itself – purchasing a number of assets in the social media sphere.

Unfortunately for Yahoo, they appear to be moving in the wrong direction. The rumor that they will be selling off Delicious or shutting it down as well as a host of other assets smacks of a company that does not have a clear strategy for what it wants to be or where it wants to go. Rather they seem to be reactionary – only 5 million users we cannot support that profitably, cut it.  We cannot figure out this search engine game, move on. Let us hunker down behind our toolbar and portal and hold out.

I have been a loyal user of many Yahoo services – messenger, email, finance to name a few. I hold out hope that the one time cool internet company finds itself again. They have some cards to play in the space, but I fear that time is running out. The move with Delicious is just another decent face card that Yahoo threw away rather than playing it aggressively.

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The biggest threat to Google: Facebook or Apple?

With Groupon telling Google thanks but no thanks to a $6 Billion offer, the shine of Google appears to have dimmed just a bit. Then again what do you expect from a company who has a valuation of $180b and over 20,000 employees? Usually when companies get to be that size they “slow” down, become hindered by the inevitable bureaucracy that comes with the weightiness of being a bigger company. Of course Google is still…well Google. A company known for its free massages, gourmet meals and other perks associated with the traditional high tech start up. The fact they have been able to maintain that image is not small feat, and by all accounts for the most part it remains true. Of course all good things must come to an end, and just as Google rose up and became the coolest kid on the block, someone else will do so as well. The leaders in the club house – Facebook, Twitter and Apple. I realize this is not a news’ flash.

The question becomes, are there other players that could emerge a dark horse? Groupon? Foursquare? Wikipedia? Netflix? Okay I jest, I think that we are already seeing the new bullies in the block are Facebook and Apple, with Twitter learning to be a bully…or at least trying. So which of these will become THE bully? My bet is on Apple. Why? They are well positioned from a platform and solution basis. Platforms – iPhone, iPad, iPod, AppleTV and good old computers. Solutions – app store and iTunes.

I realize the Android operating system has made a meteoric rise in the mobile platform space, which would be remarkable had Apple not done the same with their iPhone. Unlike Google, Apple’s OS is proprietary to their own product, two very different strategies. Both have their merits. But all you need to see is where do developers go first…iPhone/Apple. Of course search is still Google’s bread and butter; however, how long will the reliance on the web remain. Now I am not saying the world wide web is going away anytime soon, just the way we interact with it. It is an App world and web addresses are just trying to latch on to their own icons. For example, and I realize it is a data point of one…recently I was looking for some information on my local CVS. Did I turn on my PC? No. I went to my iPhone and did I go to the Google or Bing app? No. I went to the App Store and searched for CVS, low and behold a CVS app! I downloaded the free app and leveraged it to get my information. Granted I might have down a more traditional web search…had I turned on my iPad. Does this data point mean that no one will use Google? Of course not. But as web sites gravitate towards the app world for devices such as your smart phone or tablet and as the reliance of the PC diminishes, we will be more likely to look for information via our apps rather than opening a browser and searching or typing in a URL.

I realize that “traditional” computers will remain a vital cog in our information access pantheon, but even as we evolve into the mobile and app world we will interact with the world wide web via apps rather than search engines. Book marks might go by the way of the dodo bird. Finally you cannot carry around Google nor Facebook, there remains a “coolness” when it comes to the Apple devices. A MacBook or iPad or iPhone has become a fashion accessory…not sure Google search or Facebook holds the same aura.

Combine the coolness, the Apps and the content aggregation and I can see Apple becoming, if it has not already, the tech bully on the block. Amazing for a company that a few decades ago was seen as dead in the water.

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Groupon tells Google, thanks but no thanks…

I am still trying to get my arms wrapped around how a social media start up walks away from $6 BILLION…that BILLION. Based on Groupon’s supposed revenue of $350m that would be a 17x multiple of revenue…wow. Throw in the valuation of over $1b and that is a 5x multiple, common place during the good ole days, not something you really want to walk away from in today’s market.

I am sure that Groupon and its founders want to keep plugging away with their idea and business, good for them. However I wonder what exit strategy they are communicating to employees and investors…we are going public and getting more than $6b? Facebook will buy us for $10b? The deal would have gone down as one of the biggest deals in business history….but that and $4 gets you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Wonder if Groupon will look back at these days with regret or will they prove us wrong? Either way it will make for an interesting story! But must have been interesting when Sergey and Lawrence got the call that the $6b offer was going to be turned down…wow.

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Friday Funnies…cross training for Marketing

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