zondag 30 november 2003

E-Shoppers Are Now E-Spenders

"It seems that the virtual world's top retailers are succeeding because they've learned the simple and time-honored tradition of keeping their customers satisfied. The idea is straightforward -- at least in concept: Provide a good experience consistently, and buyers will keep coming back. 'What defines a retailer is how well it serves a meaningful group of customers,' says Ken Seiff, chief executive of online fashion retailer Bluefly."

woensdag 26 november 2003

Tech Bloom in full flower

"When the markets crashed and the money steamed from high-tech like coolant from a blown radiator, most of us made a logical assumption: The engine of technological innovation was shot and things would settle down and act normal. If this is normal, I don't want to meet weird. In basements, garages and the empty warehouses that once held the Next Big Thing, tech-savvy folks are huddled over their laptops, working together online to give away the future. The result? We're seeing a surge of technological creativity that easily trumps anything we dreamed of with the dot-com PR guys crooning in our ears."

Fiber to the People

"Burlington, Vermont, is building a network. Like many municipalities across North America, it has decided to construct an advanced fiber network on its own. The AFN is being deployed first to support city services. Then, as part of the four-phase project, this municipality of just 40,000 will extend blazingly fast Internet service to businesses and residences. To many, this just looks like more socialism from Vermont. Why should government be in the business of providing high-speed networks? Isn't that what free markets are for? Haven't we all learned that the market is more efficient at supplying goods and services? Do we really need to rediscover the failings of Karl Marx at 100 megabits per second?

The answer, as Cornell economist Alan McAdams argues, has nothing to do with Karl Marx and everything to do with basic economics. AFNs are natural monopolies. That doesn't mean that there can be only one, but rather that if there is one, then it is far cheaper to simply add customers to the one than to build another. The electricity grid in a local neighborhood is a good example of a natural monopoly. Sure, we could run four wires to every home, but do we really need four electricity companies serving every home?"

Bill Gates: Unplugged

"At the semantic level, we actually now have standards. That's been a holy grail for over 20 years. People spent a lot of time futzing around getting the bits to flow between machines and now that we have that, you think, 'Well I can point a browser at any Web site. Why can't I do a query about all the sellers?' The reason you can't is because that's at a higher semantic level than just how to put the stuff on the screen. And it's far more complex. Only Web services give us a foundation for us to do that, so in a sense, a lot of the dreams of the '90s, like true e-commerce, had to wait for this industry standard infrastructure and the tools to be put in place."

The Triumph of Good Enough

"The rise of converged devices will have a huge impact on operators. More functionality in devices at the edge of the network makes it harder to monetize the network in the middle. My Treo is technically a SprintPCS phone, but I don't view it that way any more than I think my laptop belongs to Comcast, my home broadband provider. With voice-over-IP, WiFi, number portability and the inevitable unbundling of phones and wireless networks, operators will get retain even less control. Multi-year contracts and SIM locks will only hold back the tide so long.

Where the Money Will Be

In the new world, the money will be in applications on the edge devices, hardware sales, and of all things, dumb connectivity. The first wireless operator to execute the Dell/Wal-Mart model -- being the efficient commodity provider, with a great brand -- will make a killing. (Partly because they will kill their competitors.) Not that this is an easy task. Legacy billing systems and legacy culture are huge hurdles to overcome, and the ideas of 'owning the customer' and 'delivering value-added services' are deeply embedded in operator DNA."

dinsdag 18 november 2003

We've had Napster since 1909, and the sky still hasn't fallen

"In 1909, residents of Wilmington, DE, were able to subscribe to an online music service that piped phonograph recordings over their telephone lines and through loudspeakers. 1909 was one year after the sheet music publishers were told to get bent by Congress: see, they'd grown alarmed at the prevalance of unauthorized piano rolls and had asked the Congress for a Broadcast-Flag-like regime that would let them veto any new music tech that would endanger their business (like online music delivery), making it illegal. Congress told them to get lost. Good thing we rescued those idiots from themselves back in 1908 -- can you imagine a music industry where the most lucrative product in the market was sheet music?"


"The next generation of hirees is the Net Generation, and they may force companies to rethink the relationship between employer and employee. Companies will have to plug into flexibility and openness if they want to tap the talents of the best and the brightest of the Net Generation. Young people who have grown up with the Internet balk at curbs on the free flow of information and that, experts believe, means companies will have to rethink how they treat their employees."

Laying Down the Virtual Law

"You're a dwarf in a virtual world, and that troll over there has just defamed you in front of everyone. So can you sue, or is it all just fun and games? That's what a collection of the brightest thinkers and best designers of games like EverQuest, and metaverses like There and Second Life, will be talking about in New York starting Thursday. They're gathering for the first State of Play: Law, Games and Virtual Worlds conference. A host of questions are on everyone's minds: Are virtual worlds the new Wild West or a legitimate province of the courts? Is game play equivalent to speech as defined in the First Amendment? Is there such a thing as fraud in a metaverse?"

vrijdag 14 november 2003

Open Source Everywhere

"ThinkCycle's collaborative approach is modeled on a method that for more than a decade has been closely associated with software development: open source. It's called that because the collaboration is open to all and the source code is freely shared. Open source harnesses the distributive powers of the Internet, parcels the work out to thousands, and uses their piecework to build a better whole - putting informal networks of volunteer coders in direct competition with big corporations. It works like an ant colony, where the collective intelligence of the network supersedes any single contributor."

maandag 10 november 2003

BigChampagne is Watching You

"In fact, they're tracking every download and selling the data to the music industry. How one company is turning file-sharing networks into the world's biggest focus group. Joe Fleischer twists restlessly in his Aeron chair and nods at the voice on the other end of the telephone. Tapping his fingers on his computer's mouse, he stares out the window of his Beverly Hills office at the new BMWs and battered Celicas inching down Wilshire Boulevard. 'Uh-huh, uh-huh,' he says. 'Got it.' Fleischer is talking to a client, an executive at one of the major labels who's working a band he's sure could go platinum, if only radio would give the group a chance. The band's first two albums earned it a fervent fan base, but to get bigger, its new single needs airplay, the all-important spark of sales. 'Give me a story I can take to radio,' the executive on the other end of the line tells him. Fleischer hangs up, turns to his computer, and clicks through an online database. On his screen, he can see in astonishing detail when, where, and what Internet users are sharing on peer-to-peer file-swapping services like Kazaa, Morpheus, and Grokster. He searches for cities where downloads of the band's single are outpacing its exposure on radio. He likes what he sees. In Atlanta, sharing of the group's new album is up more than 1,200 percent over the previous week; in Houston and New York, 300 percent. So Fleischer"

The Fast-Forward, On-Demand, Network-Smashing Future of Television

"A New York marketing entrepreneur named Frank Zazza claims to have the answer. Zazza has come up with a scheme that grades placements by 10 levels of impact, from having the product in the background to naming an entire episode after it. Mix this in with his carefully calibrated "awareness scale" plus a couple of other factors, and you get the dollar value of a placement. For $300,000 you could buy, say, 3 seconds of "verbal" (talk about the product) or 90 seconds of background. "This has the ability to completely change the dynamic of television and the way it's bought," says Peter Gardiner, chief media officer of Deutsch, one of New York's hottest ad agencies.

Zazza has his eye on an even bigger prize. He's working with a company that inserts virtual billboards into sports broadcasts to apply the same technology to product integration. Instead of having an actual Coke can on the set of Friends, the producers could digitally insert it before the show airs. If Pepsi offered more for the DVD version of the series, they could replace the Coke with a Pepsi. It's product integration without the product. What this means for the networks is unclear; the important thing, Zazza says, is to keep the advertisers happy: "Unilever, Procter & Gamble - they're going to be around a long time after CSI is kicking up daisies."

vrijdag 7 november 2003

The Blog of Things To Come

"The history of the Internet has been about people trying to get the same things they already get, but cheaper, faster, or more easily. Banner ads are just online billboards. Email is just an online fax. Search engines are just a better, faster library. We didn't change our lives--we just used the Net to make our lives faster and more flexible. That's where Joi Ito comes in. Joi is one of the preeminent bloggers working today. (A blog is an electronic Weblog, a diary filled with quick posts and links.) But Joi isn't doing what almost everyone else is doing with their blogs. The typical blog contains uninformed opinion about world events, or overlong posts about the weather or your uncle Bob. The typical blog is narcissistic and often focused on how to get other people to link their blogs to your blog, so that both blogs will rank higher in Google searches."

Lara Croft to hit the catwalk

"Next week sees the launch of the so-called 'Miss Digital World' competition - a chance for designers and programmers to win a virtual beauty contest by sending their computer-generated e-Babes down the online catwalk. Franz Cerami is the man with the plan and the artistic vision: 'Every age has its ideal of beauty, and every age produces its visual incarnation of that ideal from the Venus de Milo in ancient Greece to Marilyn Monroe in the 1960s. Miss Digital World is the search for a contemporary ideal of beauty, seen through virtual reality,' he expounds."

My Pop-Up, My Friend

"I hate pop-ups! Seriously, I do. But the other day I found myself playing with one for nearly 20 minutes. As the senior executive producer of this Web site, I spend a good part of the day (and night) surfing our site and others—doing research, checking links, seeing how the other guys do things, getting the overall daily temperature of the Web—you name it. So I've seen my share of pop-ups, and while I do not employ a pop-up blocker (I think it's important for me to experience the Web in its unvarnished form), I'm also a darn fast pop-up zapper. Or I was."

donderdag 6 november 2003

Everyone's a Programmer

"Software is collapsing under the weight of its own complexity. Charles Simonyi’s solution? Programming tools that are so simple that even laypeople can use them. Few software experts have had as revolutionary an influence on the development of computing as Charles Simonyi, and few have been so richly rewarded for their efforts. As a scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, Simonyi invented Bravo, the first word-processing program that showed on-screen exactly how a document would look in print—a concept commonly referred to as “what you see is what you get.” Simonyi then joined Microsoft, when it was still a startup with three dozen employees. There he became the company’s chief architect, piloting the development of both Word and Excel. Along the way, he also became a billionaire: Forbes recently listed him as the 209th richest person in the United States."

How good is Google? - The next hot internet stock

Google is now more than a business: it is a cultural phenomenon. But where will it be in a few years? If the ultimate measure of impact is to have one's name become a new verb in the world's main languages, Google has reason to be proud. When they founded the company five years ago, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, friends at Stanford University, chose a word play on “googol”—the number 1 followed by 100 zeros—because their ambition was to organise the information overload of the internet in a transparent and superior way. These days, singles “google” suitors before agreeing to a date, housewives “google” recipes before cooking, and patients “google” their ailments before visiting doctors. Dave Gorman, a comedian, even has a popular show, the “Googlewhack Adventure”—a Googlewhack being what happens when two words are entered into Google and it comes back with exactly one match."

Acquiring goods and services via the Internet

"The Internet is transforming communication, collaboration, and commerce. This research focuses on the commerce function and examines the nature of Internet transactions, in terms of the consumer needs fulfilled, the Internet as a contact vehicle (in purchasing) and the Internet’s acquisition function. A questionnaire is administered to undergraduate students to capture their perceptions on the above issues. The findings indicate that the largest number of items being purchased via the Internet is to fill love and affiliation needs, with physical needs being second. The Internet is also considered to be convenient and flexible, but less reliable and secure. Finally, the Internet is perceived to be least similar to purchasing from a store. These findings will help organizations conducting business via the Internet to better address the needs and wants of consumers, and system designers, marketers, managers, etc. can use these findings when assessing their organization’s Web transaction activity."

woensdag 5 november 2003

Second Sight

"It's great being a music fan online. There are endless tools, legal and illegal, to improve your listening experience. But people who want to engage with civil society aren't so lucky. Music fans get Napster and KaZaA. But what tools are there for people who want to make civic life better? All they have is the ill fitting cast-offs of the business world, such as Outlook. Why don't they have Napsters? Many people, myself included, believe such tools aren't appearing as often as they should or could. So, we are setting up an organisation you might think of as a charitable incubator for those who want to develop software to make society better, and who want to pay the bills while doing it. We're calling it MySociety.org. And we need your help."

Wanna Bet? Online Biz a Winner

"The traditional British betting shop fancies itself a social institution, a convivial place where people can wager a few pounds on a horse race or soccer game. But that's not how Andrew Black sees it. The Internet entrepreneur considers bookmakers financial parasites who build a fat profit into all the odds they offer. Inspired by the way shares trade hands on the New York Stock Exchange, Black designed a way to match both sides of a bet on the Internet, bypassing the bookmaker. By acting as a broker, his company Betfair has rocked the hidebound world of sports betting."

Info Overload! Billions of Bytes Born

"Telephone networks account for the largest percentage of information flow. [Ed. note: I already knew this, because I have a teenage daughter.] Worldwide telephone calls would have contained 17.3 exabytes of data if stored in digital form, representing 98 percent of information flowing through electronic channels."

Looking Toward a Networked World

"O'Reilly, a longtime industry watcher who runs tech book publisher O'Reilly & Associates, cited Apple's iTunes, iPhoto and iChat as applications that all reach out to the Internet and devices like Bluetooth phones to extend their functions. In iPhoto, for example, users can publish their photo collections on the Web or go online to order prints or a bound book of their pictures. O'Reilly said the old idea of stand-alone software -- the unconnected word processor or spreadsheet -- is becoming passé. Even the idea of making a distinction between software platforms -- Mac, Windows and Linux -- is starting to no longer make sense."

Can Cable Fast-Forward Past TiVo?

"TiVo, the best-known maker of digital video recorders, may need to worry about people like Peter S. Palermo. But Mr. Palermo may also represent just what the cable television industry has been looking for.

A few weeks before the P.G.A. Championship golf tournament in Rochester in August, Mr. Palermo, a real estate broker, was trying to figure out how he would record the broadcast. Mr. Palermo thought about buying a TiVo, the digital video recorder, or DVR. Using a computer hard drive and advanced software, a DVR lets the user pause, rewind and fast-forward even with live television programs. It also provides a much easier way to automatically record programs than is possible with videocassette recorders."

What You Don't Know About Dell

"It's this combination -- reaching for the heights of perfection while burrowing down into every last data point -- that no rival has been able to imitate. 'It's like watching Michael Jordan stuff the basketball,' says Merrill Lynch & Co. technology strategist Steven Milunovich. 'I see it. I understand it. But I can't do it.'"

dinsdag 4 november 2003

Why PVR technology is good for marketers

"All the sturm und drang around personal video recorders should come as no surprise to readers of this column, who were warned more than three years ago that PVRs meant 'treacherous times ahead for programmers and the marketers that depend on them.' But let's parse the warning a little more carefully. In fact, TiVo and other PVRs are a boon to marketers. It's only the broadcast networks that are in trouble."

A Dud in Cupid's Online Quiver?

"That's all well and good, but the Friendster froth could be a classic case of Valley disconnect with the vox populi. Essentially, it's an attempt to apply the economic theory behind eBay -- bringing buyers and sellers together to create commerce -- to a far more complex social phenomenon. And in that context, the Friendster model for dating, while fun, has a number of flaws that don't plague the personal-ad approach favored by most successful dating sites."

The Emperor's New Broadcast Season

"Most disturbing to the networks is an apparent complete disappearance of young male viewers, a segment coveted by advertisers. Nielsen reports a 12 percent viewership decline among men 18-34, and a more worrisome 20 percent drop among men 18-24. Nielsen's evaluating a variety of explanations for this precipitous drop. According to The Times, high on the list of possibilities are increases in video game play and DVD viewing."

Unorthodox Brand Alliances

"Why is this development so relevant? Most likely you control an online business. If there's one business arena that can benefit from a brand alliance strategy via links, co-branding and general brand alliances, it's the interactive sector."

The Industrialized Revolution

"Clay Christensen's idea of 'disruptive innovation' made him the unintended mascot of the dotcom boom. So what's he thinking now?

A Motel 6 on a nondescript stretch of First Street near the San Jose airport holds a special place in the history of management thinking. It was there, nearly 13 years ago, in the no-frills accommodations he could afford on a doctoral student's stipend, that 39-year-old Clayton Christensen hatched his powerfully unsettling idea. A onetime White House Fellow, a former assistant to two U.S. secretaries of transportation and Rhodes Scholar, Christensen had just bailed out of the high-tech-materials manufacturing company he cofounded. A question had taken hold in his mind, and he couldn't help but follow its trail. As the chairman and president of a company that served the then-booming minicomputer industry clustered around Boston's Route 128, Christensen had watched a familiar pattern play out. The novel solutions, rapid growth, and marketplace wins of these companies were invariably credited to the management team's extraordinary vision, capabilities, and tactics. And when those same companies, those once-celebrated executives were blasted for ineptitude."

zaterdag 1 november 2003

Web Redesigns for the Holidays

"After any redesign, Mr. George said, companies typically see a drop in conversion rates as consumers become familiar with the new setup. 'But in the week and a half we've been live with the new site, we're not seeing that,' he said. 'And we're absolutely getting more interest and traffic to key areas we were trying to emphasize'' - like the home wireless installations - 'and the conversion in those parts has increased noticeably.'"

Two Companies at Odds Over the Internet's Future

"One year ago, almost to the day, Samuel J. Palmisano, the chief executive of I.B.M., delivered a speech in New York that sketched his company's vision of the future of computing, which he called 'on-demand computing.' Today in Los Angeles, Bill Gates, the chairman of the Microsoft Corporation, will present his company's notion of where things are headed, which the software maker calls 'seamless computing.'"