Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Radio Technologies of the Past and the Future

December 4, 2008

For us technologists, it is easy to assume that a good technology will find market success based on its technical merits alone. Sadly, this is not the case – otherwise we would all be using Amiga computers (yeah, not Macs).

I was at Forrester Marketing event in Dallas a few weeks ago and was invited to a tweetup event. The 80 or so business cards I brought for the trip were gone that night before the event started.  For the next two days I had to exchange information in a very primitive way. What happened to infrared (IrDA)? Back in 2001 I could beam by vCard to everyone at the Palm Developers Conference. IrDA is a well defined standard, the radio is super cheap (less than a buck, I am pretty sure) the vCards are well defined standard. What happened? lack of customer adoption combined with a need to save power?

Then this past weekend at home we changed the arangement in our living room and we got new furniture. The cable box is now slightly behind a sofa. My wireless remote (infrared, coincidentally) is no longer useful. What? this is 2008 – the 21st century! Where is Zigbee?

Zigbee is a super low-power and low-cost RF technology ideal for industrial and home control applications. It has been available for years. Now that most people are buying $1,000 40+ inch LCD TVS it would add a few cents to the cost of the TV and remote. Or maybe not because it would save the cost of infrared. Customers would enjoy longer-range remote controls and would not have to point the remote at the TV or would not even have to have line of sight. Your cable box and stereo could be in a closet and things would still work.

So I went to the ZIgbee alliance website and looked for a remote control – they have to have one. Sure enough, there are a few, like this Niles iRemote, but they are super-high end remotes costing $1,000.

As an entrepreneur/marketer, where I spot an unfulfilled need I see opporutnity. Hello, Logitech, Sony, anyone?

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Microsoft buying RIM? 6 reasons why it will happen and 6 reasons why it won’t

October 11, 2008

A few friends have asked what i think of the speculation about Microsoft buying RIM. It is certainly an interesting proposition. Let me offer a few pros and cons. Keep in mind that RIMM is a company built of three main areas: an operating system and software stack, device design and manufacturing, managed service operations (NOC). 

Why it could happen:

  1. At current value, RIMM is cheap, at least compared to what it was worth six or twelve years ago. Not a lot of money.
  2. Microsoft is a very competitive organization. Steve Ballmer is hyper-competitive. To an extent, you could say Microsoft is obsessed with winning. They hire type-A persona lites, they like to win. Not being able to beat RIM hurts. Buying your competition is not exactly beating your competition but it eliminates the competition.
  3. Microsoft would instantly have a much larger share of the smartphone market and would have a better chance at driving consolidation in a crowded space (iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian, Android, Access PalmOS, OpenMoko, etc.)
  4. Microsoft would gain some unique hardware design and usability skills that the company could use.
  5. Microsoft is already in the device business. A similar thing happened in the music player business: Microsoft tried a partner-based approach by licensing Windows Media to creative, Sony and other electronic manufacturers and when it became evident the strategy was not working the company launched its own device, the Zune, while maintaining the licensing model for Windows Media, DRM and the player platform. Microsoft has proven it can be good at consumer electronics and hardware with the XBox and with the keyboard and mice business. With the acquisition of Danger Microsoft is already in the smartphone hardware business.
  6. Sure, the platform is incompatible – so what? It did not stop Microsoft from buying Danger. DataViz offers a J2ME ActiveSync client that could sit on top of the Danger and the BlackBerry to get both platforms connecting directly to Exchange servers.

Why it will not happen:

  1. There is no glory in buying the competition. Microsoft could not never say they beat RIM, they don’t “win”. The acquisition would build upon the bully/monopolistic image of Microsoft rather than the innovator image they are trying to build.
  2. The technology is incompatible. BlackBerries are built on a proprietary OS with Java on top. To make it work, Microsoft would have to migrate the entire software stack to Windows Mobile and .Net which would take a lot of time, take a lot of resources and skeptics would say in the process Microsoft would kill all the goodness of the BlackBerry platform. Not because of this goodness is tied in any way to Java or because of lack of capabilities in Windows Mobile (in fact, I believe the Windows Mobile architecture, developer platform and tools are an order of magnitude better), simply because porting a full smartphone stack while leaving it intact from a customer experience perspective is pretty much impossible.
  3. Microsoft would become a hardware manufacturer becoming a competitor to all the 45+ Windows Mobile licensees and pushing them to accelerate their Android/Linux investments. Alienating your partners is not a good business practice.
  4. Microsoft is not very good at building devices – XBox succeeded because it is a separate division with its own culture and in a different market. The Zune has not yet failed to capture a significant share of the market (even though it is a great product, I love mine). Hardware design is not one of the core competencies at Microsoft.
  5. Microsoft has been touting the inefficiencies of a NOC, which I agree on. The iPhone, palm OS devices, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and other players licensing ActiveSync signal the death of middleware. It would be difficult for Microsoft to justify a platform based on a NOC model.
  6. The culture is too different. The business model is too different. RIM’s model is fundamentally to please the wireless carriers, give carriers control (with the NOC) and support the carriers as the main channel in selling devices plus service. The Microsoft model is about giving IT organizations control, less middleware, and about partnering with multiple device manufacturers. RIM’s strategy is about controlling the user experience with a proprietary platform end to end while Microsoft’s strategy is to provide a platform on top of which device manufacturer partners, software developers, and carriers can innovate.

Let me clarify that while I used to work at Microsoft in the Windows Mobile team, I have no insight about these discussions at Microsoft. These are conversations that would happen a level or two above where I was.

My guess is that it won’t happen. But who knows? this is what makes the industry so interesting, anything could happen. Especially in this economic climate. It is reasonable to expect smaller, underfunded and companies who have lost significant market cap to be acquired by the big guns. Isn’ t it amazing that Microsoft could buy GM (at current market cap of $2.6B) with the equivalent of roughly two months of profits?

-Gerardo

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Please welcome my Blog co-Author!

October 1, 2008

I am very excited to welcome Patrick Gilbert as the co-author for this blog. Patrick is a good friend, former business partner and more importantly an industry expert. He is currently President and CEO of www.4Smartphone.net which has diversified into www.4iPhone.net and others. He has been at the forefront of SaaS and mobile technologies including Hosted Exchange, Communicator and SharePoint.

Welcome Patrick!

Patrick Gilbert

Patrick Gilbert

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How Apple Did It

September 27, 2008

When the iPhone was first announced, I remember exchanging many emails with industry colleagues -as many people did – speculating about the possibilities of Apple hitting the 10 million target that Steve Jobs set during the announcement.

Many emails were based on market research: how many people were buying phones at over $500 at the time, how big was the market for smartphones, etc. I was skeptical given the complexity of the software stack that powers a phone. Most of us had to eat our words.

How did Steve pull it off?

There are amny answers: articles and surely books are being written about it. I found a key piece today while reading a new book “Do you matter? how great design will make people love your company“. In this book, the authors explain how apple and other leading companies are design-driven and how most other companies are metrics-driven.

As a marketer and product marketer, many times I have had to justify my plans with market research: opportunity analysis, market sizing, CAGR (compound annual growth rate) numbers, etc. Most companies financial discipline require this type of financial justification based on hard data and require some kind of proof that an investment will yield results based on research, focus groups, etc.

Not at Apple. The key to design-driven companies is that they place significant value in customer experience. The company is aligned behind it. The problem with customer experience is that it is emotional, therefore not measurable. Steve Jobs has a knack for great design (in the broad sense of the word, meaning how to create products people love) and is able to pull it off because he runs the company and the board of director trusts his investments will pay off most of the time. Or at least he has a success ratio that allows the company to experiment.

If Steve had to justify the iPhone based on hard numbers, or if anyone at Motorola had envisioned the iPhone, they would have more than likely been shut down by senior managers because market research, hard data and market trends do not support the idea of a $600 first-generation smartphone selling 10 million units in the first 18 months.

Intersentingly enough, Motorola actually came up with the idea of the iPhone: they went to Apple and had to convince Jobs it was a good idea based on the fact you don’t leave your house without three things: car keys, cell phone and wallet. Everything esle is secondary. But I digress.

If this is a topic you are interested in, I highly recommend the book. It is written by Robert Brunner and Stweart Emery. I am half-way though but it is well worth it already.

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Google Chrome – Advertising Replacement?

September 18, 2008

I was reading YAGA (Yet Another Google Article) about contextual advertising in Chrome when it clicked:

Back in 2000 I was working for a web applicantion server. One of our customers, a big well-recognized retailer, was thinking about starting their own ISP service (remember when you accessed the internet though a phone line?). The goal was not to  make money on the ISP service, but to subsidize ti to get very broad adoption and then use it as a marketing tool.

The idea – which I thought was brilliant at the time – was to have a server inspect every page being served to customers sing the service to browse the web, understand the context, and replace any banners being served in the pages with banners for the retailer that were contetually relevant. Basically, they would be replacing ads in any page the ISP customers visited with their own ads. The retailer was getting a free, contextually relevant advertising channel to their customer base. The guy who was thinking about this told me it ws perfectly legal. It sounded great but never materialized for reasons not relevant to this post.

Could Google do the same with Chrome? I expect Google to be capturing tons of customer behavior information from the browing history and no question they would use it to improve the targeting of their ads. This is pretty scary if you think an employee could be using Chrome to brose the company intranet or to access company confidential informatioon thorugh the browser and a subset of the data could be sent to Google.

But could Google replace any ads on the pages being browsed via Chrome with their own? for some reason, the idea that seemed really smart for a retailer now sounds pretty scary when I think of Google doing it. Is Google too big? Does Google already know too much about us?