Showing posts from 2010

A New Year's resolution for Google: buy MySpace, stat!

This post was also published in VentureBeat.For all the money Google has thrown at MySpace over the years, the search giant of Mountain View might as well have bought the troubled social network. For years, News Corp. CEO liked to brag that Google paid him more in its landmark $900 million search deal than he paid to buy MySpace in the first place.

Oh, sure, no one’s bragging now. News Corp. executives are openly talking about dumping MySpace, and Google only recently renewed its advertising agreement with MySpace, after months of delay, in a deal that smacked of throwing good money after bad.

But that’s a sunk cost, as economists like to say, and chump change for Google’s multibillion-dollar money machine. What Google really needs is a convincing social strategy to get Wall Street and Silicon Valley’s collected punditocracy off its back. MySpace is for sale. And Google should jump at the chance to buy it.

The stratospheric success of Facebook in 2010 has put Google on edge. Five hundred…

Why Google needs the video digital-rights technology behind Netflix

This post was also published in VentureBeat.Google announced yesterday that it’s purchased Widevine, a video digital rights management company mostly known as the technology behind Netflix’s video protection. Widevine gives video sites the tools to license, encrypt, and distribute videos to a variety of device platforms.

So why does Google suddenly need a credible DRM solution? It’s all about gaining the trust of the networks. Bear with me, and I’ll explain.

People have been saying for years that hordes of consumers would soon unplug their cable boxes and rely exclusively on streaming video. In the last few weeks we’ve seen signs that might actually happen. Cable subscriber numbers have dropped two quarters in a row, accentuating that last quarter’s first-ever drop in subscriber numbers was no fluke. And organizations like HBO have made the leap to online streaming and may soon charge direct subscription fees that skip cable providers once the price is right, thereby maintaining their g…

Groupon is Google’s $6 billion Facebook hedge

This post was also published in VentureBeat.Why is Google willing to spend over $6 billion for Groupon? The local advertising market is massive — yellow pages ads still bring in more revenue than Google’s annual revenue. Local has been an extremely difficult market for online ad solutions to capture. Consider how a yoga studio in Cleveland can advertise. With Google AdWords, the yoga studio can target people searching for the keyword “yoga”, but this is an expensive, nationally bid-up keyword, and not a word the people search every day. Adsense provides a bit more context, and the ad could be placed in websites that talk about yoga, but there aren’t that many people looking at pages like that to click on the ad. Google Maps lets the yoga studio ad coupons to its location, but it has not had much uptake. The incredibly large local ad market has remained primarily elusive to Google, to the point where it considered purchasing Yelp for a large sum even though it did not have that much lo…

You've got mail! How Facebook can avoid becoming the Next AOL

This post was also published in VentureBeat.What’s the difference between Facebook and the AOL of old? On Monday, Facebook is expected to announce that they are adding true email functionality, and users will be able to send emails to addresses, as well as use software clients like Outlook and Thunderbird to read and send emails. With the introduction of email, Facebook has now completely replicated the features of AOL’s 1990s-era desktop client. Both offer messaging, profiles, profile names, chat, pictures, groups, games, and news, and thrived on the simple promise of connecting you with your friends.

So, Just How Similar are They?

AOL, the fabled “walled garden” of mediocrity, was hugely popular before the broad popularity of the wild, unkempt Internet intervened. AOL offered everything a user could want in a nice, consistent interface, and email accounts persist to this day. Facebook has long offered simple messaging between users on its website, and has become…

How Microsoft might win the mobile phone battle after all

This post was also published in VentureBeat.While there is broad consensus that Microsoft has actually delivered a decent phone OS with Windows Phone 7, pundits are universally panning Windows Phone 7’s future due to the market traction of iPhone and Android, Palm’s HP reset for WebOS, and the reawakening of Nokia and RIM. Mobile is clearly a huge trend that is displacing desktop computing, and people so soon forget that when Microsoft feels its turf is threatened, it is a fierce competitor.

Remember the Xbox

In the late 1990’s, there was a huge race to the living room, with combatants such as Sony making a play to be the digital center of the home. Microsoft felt enormously threatened by this trend, and decided to enter the gaming console business that was dominated by the Sony Playstation. Pundits laughed and claimed that Microsoft would fail enormously in this effort.

However, Microsoft was in it for the long haul and willing to invest enormous amounts of money to ensure success. …

It's collaboration software that's dead, not Email

This post was the source of a CRM Magazine article. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg caused quite a stir by stating that email was becoming obsolete. Sandberg drew her conclusion from data on the communication behavior of teenagers, who predominately use SMS and social networking, and extrapolating that this generation will never use email. This is no surprise, since Email has evolved into a communication tool used primarily for business, and teenagers are not in the workforce yet. In ten years when these teenagers have jobs need to coordinate a project between say a web design firm, a hosting company, internal IT staff, and their boss and organizational stakeholders, what are they going to do, text them all?

Sandberg is right that Email is pretty much dead for social communication. When you want to ask a friend what they are doing tonight, you text. When you want to ask a colleague what they are doing for lunch, you chat. To ping a friend you haven't talked to in a while, you p…

Adobe finally ships the real Flash for phones

This post was also published in VentureBeat.When my company Transpond added support for Nokia smartphones, we were excited that we would be able to deliver Flash videos in apps deployed to Nokia handsets. Instead, we were shocked to learn that there were no Flash video players that worked on the devices, even though the handsets supposedly supported Flash. We talked with Nokia. They couldn’t find one. Then we called our friends at Adobe. The only one they could recommend was JW Player, which didn't work on Nokia's Flash-enabled phones. Between Nokia and Adobe, we could not get a way to play Flash Video (FLV) files on a Nokia/Symbian handset.

Flash Lite is not Flash

We discovered Adobe’s dirty secret: while Adobe’s asserts that 80% of videos on the web are viewed in Flash, virtually no online videos other than YouTube are viewable on shipping, Flash-enabled mobile device since they use a limited version of Flash called Flash Lite. And since most mobile devices include a na…

iPhone now as fragmented as Android

This post was also published in VentureBeat.At Transpond, when we were building apps on the iPhone and Android platforms last year, all of our engineers were enamored with the iPhone and annoyed with the pesky Android devices.

The iPhone environment was remarkably consistent. There was a single 480×320 screen resolution and API consistency across iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS. Even though the original iPhone doesn’t have GPS, it provided an approximation based on cell towers, and our customers like CBS and NBC are more interested in syndicating video and engaging users, so we did not need the 3D graphics of the newer generation iPhones. All in all, the iPhone platform presented a clean, wonderful experience for our engineers where they could write one piece of code and it would run beautifully on all of the iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

Android, by comparison, was a disaster. Every Android device had a different screen resolution. Every hardware feature had to be checked, since eve…

Why worry about AT&T’s new rates? Your phone bill will soon be $60

This post was also published in VentureBeat.Mobile plans are ridiculously confusing. Voice, text messages, and Web surfing — it’s all data, right? Yet carriers make consumers guess — the minutes they’ll spend talking, the number of text messages they’ll send, and worst of all, the amount of data they’ll use in a month in order to avoid steep surcharges.

The only thing that’s sure: It’ll cost you. Mobile phone plans for typical usage of 800 minutes of talk time, 100 text messages, and 2 gigabytes of data typically run between $150 and $200.

When Apple and AT&T introduced iPhone plans, people complained about the expense. The one silver lining: They were unlimited. Now Ma Bell, by introducing new, capped plans, will have new iPhone customers once again play the guessing game. It’s a game only a regulated utility could love.

In the fiercely competitive world of Internet service providers, flat-rate pricing won out. Consumers loved it: They could budget against it. Here’s the good news: …

Google TV is Sony’s last stand against the Apple juggernaut

This post was also published in VentureBeat.Everyone’s buzzing about Google’s new TV platform. But the real battle in your living room is Apple vs. Sony.

Over the past few years, Apple has muscled its way past Sony as the top purveyor of premium, high margin consumer electronics products. Sony has long had a deep culture of NIH (Not Invented Here) ranging from Betamax in the 1980s to the Memory Stick in the 2000s. But the iPod replaced Sony’s Walkman, the iPhone replaced Sony Ericsson handsets, and the resurgent MacBook and iPad have leapt past Sony’s Vaio PCs.

Apple’s unique blend of software, hardware, content relationships and rich developer ecosystem has eviscerated Sony’s core markets. The television set, Sony’s last bastion of premium consumer electronics, is already undergoing a relentless assault by Samsung. Now it’s facing a rumored Apple TV upgrade.

Upcoming: Apple TV

Apple’s much maligned Apple TV mini set-top box has long been due for an upgrade. Even Apple executives call the…

With social game market in flux, what Zynga needs is Farmville 2

This post was also published in VentureBeat.There’s been a lot of chatter over the past few weeks about the long-term viability of social game developers. Facebook essentially shut down the viral channels social games were using to fuel their growth and is now attempting to force game developers to use Facebook’s own virtual currency, the very expensive Facebook Credits. While social game developers like Zynga are contemplating moving games to their own destination sites and launching full fledged mobile versions, they in fact have a much bigger challenge that needs to be addressed: their games have got to get a lot better.

Social Games are Now a Hits-Based Business

While there’s a tendency to think of social gaming as an extension to the casual gaming market, they are, in fact, a major growth market that is quickly becoming a high stakes, hit-based business. Social gaming is now generating over $1 billion a year in revenue and attracting major gaming players such as Electronic Arts. No…

Why Google can’t out-open Facebook with XAuth

This post was also published in VentureBeat.XAuth, Google’s attempt to head off Facebook’s domination of online content sharing, is fraught with problems. It appears to be built with good intentions, allowing smaller social services to persist in a Facebook- and Twitter-dominated world. But unlike OAuth, the standard many of those services use today to link publishers’ websites to their services and which allows any website to work directly with any identity provider, XAuth actually stands in between the two and directs traffic. And that spells trouble. I should know. I’ve tried what they’re doing before.

I was the CTO of Sun Microsystem’s Liberty Alliance, where we invented the concept of federated identity, and am the inventor on the patent that covers federated identity. We first attempted to do the exact same thing –stand in between the websites and the identity providers in order to provide a seamless interaction. But no one wanted a single third party in that position — least of …

TV 2.0: Hulu’s flatlining, and the networks are ready to innovate

This post was also published in VentureBeat, where there is feedback from the founders of TiVo and Brightcove.Hulu — a joint venture of NBC Universal, News Corp., and Disney — has had a good thing going. The ad-sponsored video site carries numerous TV shows through agreements with the broadcast networks. And for the past year, it’s made good money selling ad space on network shows and luring in viewers with its quality streaming. But that’s all about to change.

The Hulu value proposition as a destination for premium online video was always doubtful given that Hulu is owned by content companies that stream the same content from their own websites. Sure, there was a window of time there when it was very difficult to stream good quality video with a modern player, but that window is long gone. The networks now all offer excellent streaming high-definition 1080p players (although some properties such as could definitely benefit from a phone call to Brightcove or Ooyala for…

The evolution of 1:1 marketing - Facebook Pages and the Cost per Fan/Follower model

Facebook Pages were only introduced last May and have grown massively... for example Lady Gaga's Facebook Page has nearly 5,000,000 fans, one of the Top 10 pages on Facebook. Transpond has created several Apps for the Lady Gaga fan page such as song cards and the amount of user engagement in newsfeed posts, comments, likes, etc. is mind-blowing.

Last week I was in Katoomba, Australia (you probably haven't heard of it and that is the point here) and River Deep, Mountain High, the outfit that was taking us climbing and abseiling in the Blue Mountains was running a Facebook promotion. If you get 10 of your friends to Fan their Facebook page, River Deep, Mountain High will give you a coupon for $350 AUD, roughly $300 US. That is a $30 CPF, or cost per fan. In 1:1 marketing terms, a fan is the rough equivalent of someone who has opted into an email list, and a CPF is the equivalent of cost per email to acquire relevant mailing lists.

Now why would a small business pay $30 for a C…