Archive for category Web

YouTube Movie Rentals

There is a rumour that YouTube i.e. Google is about to launch a movie rental service. As grand and nice this might be in Google’s executives’ heads they are about to be rudely awaken by the reality of the entertainment industry. As it stands, cable operators all over the world are looking into providing on demand movie rental service of some sort. Even if Google manages to get the content rights holders on board with their little scheme they will run into some serious problems with other content providers. Since, in quite a few cases your cable operator is also your ISP Google is going to get blocked all over the place just like they did with GoogleTV. For whatever reason, Google refuses to admit that Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs was indeed very much on the money when he said that creating a TV streaming service/device is a bag of hurt and it comes with some serious challenges which currently cannot be easily overcome. The YouTube service will compete in price no doubt. Well that will not go well with a lot of other providers. And at the end of the day, if I am going to use my computer to watch content, then why on earth would I pay for it when there are countless free sources that I can choose from. Yes 1080p is great but Google seems to forget that most laptop screens (i.e. over 1/4 of all computer screens out there do not actually support a 1080p resolution). On top of that you have another 1/3 of all computers in the world being in household which cannot afford to pay for online content or simply refuse to pay for such. And as a result Google will have to work with a much much smaller group of potential users than they think. Yes youtube is popular but how much of that is due to the fact that it is a free service?

I hate to be a pessimist but I think this would be yet another project that Google might have to scrap eventually.
There are some rays of light however. An increasing number of TVs are coming with a YouTube viewer and that would allow people to rent movies straight from their TV provided that the ISP is not allowed to block the content. However, the player that TVs use might not always be compatible with the latest and greatest of YouTube and would probably need modifications in order to allow for the rented content to play. YouTube will have to introduce a modified player as the current one allows for the content to be downloaded to your computer and played without any restrictions. That would not go well with movie studios. Updating the software on your TV will literally take eternity and I would bet you money that most users don’t even know that your TV software can be updated or that your TV actually does run an operating system. One of the hardest and most expensive things for a company is educating their customers.

It would be interesting to see how the new rental service stacks up in such a complex environment and I honestly hope that I am wrong about it’s future. And for what it’s worth I really hope that Google is not pitching this as an on demand service for computer users and that they have indeed looked at what cable operators currently do.

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The data analytics age

I remember years ago when people were telling me how the information age is over and everyone was trying to come up with a name for what was to follow. Well guess what, the information age is not over. We are finally getting to the point where the Internet dream of having access to all sorts of data from anywhere is being realized. Increasingly companies and individuals are tracking their every day lives and creating digital records of their activities. Life hasn’t really changed much (well sort of) but what has changed is the fact that now you have a digital trace of most of your activities which makes data analysis of your life possible. If you are under 25 (or so) you can actually create a digital footprint of most of your life (well the bits that actually do matter) and if your are under 15 then your whole life has a digital footprint. You can analyse things like the amount of money that you spend, the types of activities that you like, your friends, the social groups that you belong to, and the list goes on. It is actually possible to analyse your own decisions and sometimes even predict your next one. And things are only starting in that aspect. Advertisers love it and so do marketing people. We are only experiencing issues related to ownership of digital content but what I thing is more important is that we have actually entered the age of data analytics. 10 years ago, history was only used as record of past events. You record events and maybe one they it is being passed down to the next generation as an account of what happened. It was a bit of an identity building tool. Today however, the history of your life is being recorded as it happens and we are getting closer and closer to actually being able to obtain real time analysis of those events. History is actually used more and more as a decision making tool and it even seems like you are having a communication with other people through their historic records. You read tweets, blogs, facebook messages and you comment on them. Within seconds the words knows what you think and you feel important and in control.
Fair enough, it doesn’t work the same for everyone and you still have a lot of people who’s voice is never heard just because they are poor but hey you get to hear the opinion of a lot more people than you use to even 5 years ago and that is another step towards freedom. Of course you realize very fast that you don’t really want to listen to 95% of the people out there because they don’t really have anything of value to say but hey freedom has it’s price. Anyway back to the analytics question. Like I said we are in the age of analytics and it is scary though that your life is simply being turned into a digital record of it and that whoever controls that digital record de facto owns your life. This is where governments need to step in and they really need to catchup fast. Now more than ever is true freedom at stake. Forget the constitution and all those innate freedoms listed in it. I think both Hobbs and Locke would find it very hard to explain who the enemy is today. Does Google really control the world or does the world control Google? What right does and advertiser have to know then was the list time you purchased toilet paper and what brand it was? Do you really want your car to know what music you prefer and does your car send out that information to someone else? Questions like this would become more and more important as we slowly move to cloud computing and as collected data becomes too large to be stored locally. I’m not saying that there are no solutions, but designing services should by law be made a lot more responsible job and there should be some universal data storage and sharing laws that ensure that you don’t become a victim of your virtual presence.

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Recap of MWC 2011

I’ve been away for a week or so. I went to Mobile World Congress and I just needed a long weekend after that. There have been a lot of in the press about the event however, it seems like quite a few things got missed.

Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7 pretty much overshadowed everything else. I had the chance to attend the Nokia analyst event on Monday morning so here is what was not covered in the press. Nokia is adopting WP7 because they desperately need to reduce OPEX. Effectively what this means is that Nokia is content with the idea that they are never going to be as big as they were. The gold days are over and now they have to scavenge whatever is left from the wrecked ship. There are no talks about expanding market share. It is all about stopping the decline and maybe retaining the existing market share. Windows is being adopted because it reduces OPEX and because as it is, turning Symbian in to a smart phone OS would take too much money. I personally doubt very much that that is the case but that’s just me. For me, Nokia is chopping off their nose to spice up their face but hey we’ll see how it works out for them.
A lot of people are upset that Nokia did not pick Android but here are the facts about Android. Motorola aside, Android is the OS of the Far East. East Asian OEMs are the ones selling Android phones and Nokia cannot compete with any of them when it gets to OPEX. They desperately had to get out of that market and despite what WSJ says Android was actually never close to adoption. A statement like that seems uneducated and overly enthusiastic.

Here is the ugly side of the deal. Nokia is giving up Ovi maps. Yes Ovi Maps never brought the company any direct sales but it was one of the selling points for Nokia phones for years. Nokia has agreed to give the Ovi maps content to the Bing so now certain, or all Bing content will be powered by Ovi maps. It is not clear at the moment, but the difference might be that Ovi maps run from the phone on Nokia and off the web with other phones, but essentially they are the same maps. However, given the tone of the analyst briefing, Nokia Windows phones will be very very similar to any other WP7 phone and more likely than not, they all will have the same version of Bing Maps. It was not discussed why Nokia chose to give up so much, but there were talks about supposed revenue sharing with MS.

Symbian is not going anywhere. It will stay on smartphones (low end ones) until Nokia and MS figure out a way to put WP7 on them. Symbian will also power all the feature phones for as long as they exist.

RIM was a complete disappointment. No new phones and nothing to show so they rented out their own booth to software providers. Oh and the tablet is an utter disappointment. It has a small screen and apparently the whole interface was written in Flash. Really Flash! It runs OK and they were showing off some games, but the device is strictly consumer oriented. I don’t care what the press says, this is not a corporate device unlike iPad. I was amazed to see so many people at WMC using iPads actually. Looking back, it is a bit like when mobile phones hit the streets. Almost everyone had one and it was the same with iPads.

HP had a very nice demonstration of devices. WebOS is truly great but I am not sure if it can make it. There are simply too many competitors. Oh and HP has skipped NFC … what were you thinking. The touchstone does not use NFC but rather a proprietary standard, as if we needed another.
But to be fare the devices are nice and I hope HP gets to release them soon.

All the new Android devices are absolutely pitiful. The interface is slow and when you consider that they are running crazy fast chips compared to my iPhone 3GS it makes them look even slower. Also the new LG phones kept locking up constantly and there is no way in hell that I am buying a device like that. 3D displays are mostly a gimmick unless you have one of the Sharp phones that Docomo sells. Those actually work well.

Overall there was a bit of a confusion over NFC and we got a lot of conflicting statements. It seems like operators and suppliers of NFC chips cannot make up their mind whether embedded NFC is a good or a bad thing. But this will sort itself out by next year.

What was really amazing is to see small software developers being represented at MWC. You have 5 man outfits churning huge profits and being able to afford the entrance fee and this is simply unheard of in an industry that is basically pinching pennies. That said, Huawai was spending money like it was the end of days. By the looks of it. it was the company with the biggest show budget and this is hardly an exaggeration. But then again when you pay hardly anything to most of your workers and expect then to work well over 12 hours a day you can afford to splurge every once in a while.

Oh yeah Qualcomm had a little show and tell about Mirasol … unfortunately the portable light was dead but that was hardly the only problem. The demo was basically a video running in a loop and was exactly the same as the last one we saw. Yes the device is light and thin but Mirasol displays are like the display on my sister’s truly ancient GBA. Only when Nintendo released GBA, expectations were a lot lower and we both didn’t care that an addon light was needed to play it in the dark. No offence to Qualcomm but the market for a Mirasol display is shrinking very fast. But you never know. Maybe Amazon can make it a success despite the small size.

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Why does iAd matter

Ok this is not going to be a comparison of advertising methods or the offerings out there. This is just my view on the subject and quite frankly I am not expert. But here is the thing, iAd is this Apple product that I never cared about. I am not the type of person that clicks on ads and I tend to avoid them like the plague. But iAds have started popping up in applications all over the iOS place so I must admit it, I clicked on one or two of them. And I must admit, iAds are by far some of the best online advertising that I have ever seen. Sorry Adobe but Flash is dead! I don’t know how hard it is to create an iAd but they are actually apps within apps. You get to watch an ad and most of the time after that you get to interact with the ad elements. Yes you can do that with Flash ads and it has always been the appeal of Flash advertising but get this, there is actually quality control on ads and I am loving it. Clicking on a flash ad actually makes me absolutely livid. Windows start popping up everywhere, the supposed games are designed by complete idiots and the add does not makes me like the product more, it makes me hate the company for using such cheap tactics. Not to mention that even well designed Flash ad campaigns take forever to load and well, do nothing other than make my surfing experience slow as molasses.
iAds are still annoying because they take up like 1/10 of my screen hight, but they actually never run unless you click on them. There is this little bit of added level of control that makes you feel in control of your workflow. And when you do click on an iAd, you are presented with stunning graphics, hardware accelerated transitions and quite a few other cool effects. The few that I have seen included a simple game, and the ability to listen to the music of the ad. Pretty cool actually. Oh and you get a link to iTunes where you can buy the song. Now that is cool if you ask me. There have been a few times when I though an advert song sounds good and finding it in google can be a real challenge and then after than you still need to find a place where you can buy the song. Well iAds seem to understand quite a few predicaments that people have (sometimes) and it’s like the designers actually knew that you had a problem and solved it for you without you even having to request it. Well that is not really the way it works but you get that feeling. And that feeling is exactly what makes a good product great. I actually think that iAds create a connection between the view and the product and they do connect a positive emotion in the user. Next time you see the product you will think of the ad and the positive emotion will surface. And if you have the money you will buy the product. If you ask me, that’s exactly the stuff that great advertising is made of.

I am all for freedom but I think Apple’s curated advertising experience is actually the best web experience that I have ever had which kinda makes me want to stay an iPhone user even if iPhones are not quite the best business tools at times and the plans tend to be more expensive than BB ones (at least where I live). I must say that Apple made an excellent decision with iAds and I have no problem letting them control that bit of my life.

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In search of the perfect project management system (continues)

Ok here is my position of project management software.
Maybe this does not apply to your business but it certainly does to mine so take it with a grain of salt.

GANTT is the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen. No offence to the creator supporters and users alike but you must be insane to use GANTT for small to medium projects. It has not concept of ease of use and minimalistic maintenance. Sorry, but my time costs money and it’s much better spent managing tasks and people than maintaining an insane system of resources, cost for those resources, time lines etc. etc. etc. Yes you need to know how much a certain projects costs and you do that in the feasibility study. Which by the way should never take you more than 1 days for mid size project. You should know how much the whole projects costs you and you should be able to analyse costs and efficiency after the project or a set of actions is completed but doing so should take you very little time. Also tasks have 5 states; planned, in progress, completed, delayed, and cancelled. I couldn’t care less what percentage has been completed and if you’d like to argue I dare you to tell me the difference between a 40% completed task and a 50% completed one.

Anyway so I hate GANTT with a passion. For my daily activities I need a system that is simple to maintain. Is based around talks and not milestones. Allows for changes in the plan, i.e. is flexible. Does not concern me with crap like resource distribution and most of all, does not waste my time. Well I have looked high and low and there is no such system. Yes there are semi academic management techniques that do all that and a bit more but I need a usable software. Well I found one that just might fit the bill. See I don’t need file storage/sharing because that is done on an internal Sharepoint because of security concerns. So all I need to be able to do it to share links. If you don’t have access to the network then the link means nothing to you even if it does get leaked.

Cohuman seems to do everything that I need in a very polished web interface. It’s not perfect and it is not exactly like my idea but it is pretty close. It look intriguing enough so that I would like to give it a shot and that is exactly what I am doing. So stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes. The first thing however, is that unlike Basecamp this thing has unlimited projects and only has a limit on storage for the accounts. It is still a new product by this start up that just got some more VC funding.

Oh and if you want to know more about my project management pet peeves, take a look at my older post.

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Market Research Links

A list of great Market Research Links/Resources. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Rubbish will be removed so don’t bother.

 

http://www.inc.com/research-and-development

Inc. is a great resource for MRs/Analysts. The one above deals just with research but there are equally good sections for branding, sales, customer relations, etc. It is a must for every market analyst.

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