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Technology Surveys of Interest May 30, 2009

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SurveysThere were several technology usage surveys presented at the Wall Street Journal All Things Digital Conference (D7) this past week.  I took some screen snapshots that seem to be reasonably legible so I am posting links to those images here.

The first image explores how the folks that run Twitter might consider making money someday.  Monetizing Twitter is the title of the slide.  Things like banner adds, professional accounts, and text advertising are compared across different demographic populations.

This next image explores the iPhone relationship with the AT&T service provider.  The title of this survey slide is iPhone Disincentives and it asks the question “What is the reason that you don’t own or use an iPhone?”  This question stimulated some interesting conversation with the CEO of AT&T during the conference session.

This next survey slide shows how things are going in the social network space (relative to participation). Social Network Participation is surveyed across different demographic groups and across the different social network services.  Twitter, MySpace and Facebook show some interesting results.  Take a look.

I found this next survey quite interesting.  The qustion (that many seem to have opinions about) is: “If you were using MySpace more in the past, why are you using it less today?”  So take a look at this slide: Using MySpace Less

So how are the search engines focused on consumer needs stacking up against each other?  We could reasonably assume that Google has the dominate market position.  But by how much?  And how are the other guys doing?  Search By The Numbers shows how the different public-facing search engines are doing against each other.  Google has 54% of the take with Yahoo with 22% of the search engine usage.  How about the other guys?  Take a look here to see How Consumers Choose Their Search Engine

So you think you want to buy a “netbook” computer?  Well you may be in a small minority if that is your preference.  The following survey “Consumers Not Sold on Netbooks” tells a different story from what we see the manufacturing and distfribution gearing up for in the stores these days.

So with all this online content being generated outside the newspaper industry, how popular is Newspaper Content Online these days? It turns out to be quite popular and it seems to give emphasis to consumer demand for authoritative content. However the vast majority of Americans do not pay to subscribe to online content.  That seems to pose an interesting problem for the traditional newspaper companies.  How do they plan to make money on their “stuff?”  The good news here for the newspapers is that paying for content is not out of the question for those surveyed (even though most do not yet pay today).  Some Americans will clearly pay for news that they can use.  These authoritative sources just need to package news up for better consumption.  But just in case I or anybody else might have grand ideas about creating a subscription account for a blog, we may wish to consider that the vast majority will not pay for access to blogs.  That seems to have emerged as a defined “free zone” for information distribution.

The New Palm Pre May 28, 2009

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D7 Interview: Jon Rubinstein and Roger McNamee and the Palm Pre

See a shortened video introduction here.

Jon Rubinstein is a former Apple guy who’s now Palm’s executive chairman. Roger McNamee is managing director of Elevation Partners and the guy who recruited Jon for his current position. These guys make a pretty good team.  They both hold a lot of passion for the success of Palm through innovation that we have not seen in a while.

  • A bit part of that innovation is shaping up in the release of the Palm Pre.  Who is going to carry that system on their network is a big question that folks are asking.  Sprint it seems will have first position in the release of the Pre, but others are to follow quite soon. Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam this morning said that Verizon will sell the pre in about six months.

A demo is shown to the D7 audience and we all think the Pre looks pretty cool and it has a slightly different approach to user interface. One of the nice aspects of the Pre is the way that it integrates information from the cloudIt does this by creative use of alien technology 🙂

There is this concept of “pages” or “cards” that host each application in operation and it makes it pretty easy to switch between running applications.  We all watch as the Pre syncs with iTunes. – This is VERY COOL – iTunes thinks that the Pre is an “ipod”

We get a brief statement about Palm’s history of developing breakthrough devices.  Jon and Roger truly believe that the Pre is a breakthrough device and one that offers something different than the Blackberry and the iPhone.

“Palm is a new company today,” says Rubenstein.

Palm and RIM — each have very small market share. That means there’s a great opportunity for Palm to join them.

palm-pre-infoThe Palm Pre – The team has been working really hard for the last couple of years…

When all the initial iPhone contracts run out, they will all run and buy Pre’s – a statement said more in jest than in truth.

Why did you put so much money into this product?  The VC funding is very focused at making the Pre technology successful and survive the long and difficult economic downturn

You have two choices in PHONES today (feature or smart)…  Feature phones / Smart phones – price difference is narrowing Feature phones is narrowing from 100 to 80 percent of the market share

This is going to be a wide market with lots of opportunity (lot’s of white space)?

Why start a new company when you can leverage the assets of Palm

The DNA is there (the way of thinking about making new products – but we brought in a new team).

Out situation is sufficiently bad that we have to “RESTART” – we have been shipping bricks – we have to get back into the game – we have to bet the investment fund – to bet huge amounts of money for success

Fred Anderson – Roger’s partner called me out of “retirement from Apple” to do this deal – this is going to be “huge” – we are just at the infancy.

It is so rare to get to start with a blank sheet of paper

With a new O/S

A whole new set of products…

Twitter as a sorce for “universal search”

This is more of a software problem than a hardware problem – competitors are apple, rim, – people leave the house with keys, wallet, and mobile device

Who is the customer? – They will be people that buy the Pre – people that use the web a lot.

The Pre’s positive feature include:

  • a built-in keyboard
  • a cool “mirror” on the back (for checking on yourself or signaling your friends from a distance using the Sun)
  • really nice integration between applications (less moving in-out between browser and application launch) – they understand how to integrate with javascript / html / and applications
  • consumers have a different choice in the Pre (it’s smaller than the iPhone and offers a different experience) – it won’t be for everybody but it has a nice format
  • The product provides an “alternative” to the iPhone and Blackberry

Semantic Web Demo – Siri May 28, 2009

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Siri is about making the interactions with the web and information much more intuitive.  It is a mashup / aggregator that understands natural language inputs and vectors outputs to specific service providers that optimize reporting information based on the type of questions.

See https://alpha.siri.com/comparison

D7 Interview: Mitchell Baker and John Lilly May 28, 2009

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duo-baker-lillyCEO of Mozilla, Mitchell Baker and chairman of Mozilla  John Lilly steward the development of Firefox, the open-source browser that challenged and then broke Microsoft’s choke hold on the browser market.

Firefox (as of April 2009) has 23% percent of Web browser market, according to Net Applications. That makes it the second most popular browser world-wide, after Internet Explorer, which holds 66.1 percent. An impressive feat. And an important one. Because by dislodging Internet Explorer from its dominant market position,

Firefox has proven not only that open-source projects often provide better software–something to which any Linux geek will attest–but that it’s possible for a particularly well done one to become an everyday consumer application.

  • 300 million people use Firefox (23% of the web users)
  • Other interfaces to the web beyond the browser may change this…

Is Firefox doing better or worse? – Firefox is growing linearly since its inception (23% is the high point so far).

Why does 75% of the web use other browsers?

The browser is actually an important “mediation layer” to the web and not just a pane of glass

Some of the things that Firefox did that have offered an advantage have been matched…

Safari bested Firefox in speed for example – tabbed browsing, quick bookmarking, Firefox is a LOT smaller (less than 100 million) is fighting with multi-billion dollar competitors – Google (Chrome), Apple (Safari),  Microsoft (IE), Opera, etc.

People are now designing for modern browsers

IE always loses on speed

If you were going to pick a business space to operate, you would not intentionally pick a location where Apple, Google, and Microsoft were competing. – People a few years ago were really looking for a high quality product that offered performance and features with simplicity – Non-profit arm that has commercial “roll-ups” –

Steve yelled “Bing” at you this morning…

As a CEO, I can get up and make a lot of noise about the technology and demand a response.

The “open source” component of Firefox gives big leverage to open source development

Volunteer coders – this is a “risk” for the non-English versions of Firefox

Do you want to check the “code” or check the “translation”

Other foreign speakers will scream about it when something is NOT RIGHT

Would I rather buy a product that is sorted out at the beginning or buy into a product that is using the volunteer army to produce the product.

How much software do you think is great?  Not much of any category is great. – And those companies that have hired experts are also producing a good percentage of that.

Internet Explorer is the “leading browser” – Mozilla folks are “describing it” as “out of date”.

Can’t run complex web apps in IE8 – things run slow there

Two paths (fast browser apps and slow browser apps) – new graphics standards support and the performance of the browser within that support.

Distribution is hard for Mozilla – but easy for Microsoft and Apple.

Google Chrome is going against Mozilla, IE, and Safari.

IT FEELS COMPLEX (the relationship with Google).

Geo location is an area where there is good cooperation

Converting Firefox to a top-quality open source product has taken some significant effort – this is the effort to establish that really “finished” look.

Apple is not a “hospitable environment” for us – they want to manage their own browser. – That makes it impossible for Firefox to be that “mediation layer” like it is on the other environments.

D7 Interview: Arianna Huffington and Katharine Weymouth May 28, 2009

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duo-huffington-weymouthArianna Huffington and Katharine Weymouth

Arianna Huffington’s self-named Web site is one the most prominent (and fast-growing) examples of the new media aggreation model — produce a smattering of your own content, and spread it across a site filled with stuff everyone else has made.

Katharine Weymouth runs the digital arm of the Washington Post Co (WPO). — which happens to be the family business. Unlike the rest of the company’s flagship paper, the Post’s online revenue is still growing. But not fast enough to offset the rest of the company’s decline.

How people use the web – really “blow up out newsroom” – used to be structured around “sections” (feature section for example) – on Oscar Sunday we looked at the cover of Sunday’s source – we had “how to plan your funeral” – well we thought that was useful information – we thought we could not cover the Oscars because “style” had that…

Will the print product keep declining?

60 people work for the blog run by Arianna Huffington

800 professional editors and writers, etc. work for the “print” version of the post lead by Katharine Weymouth

Is the print media facing a similar situation as the American auto industry?

Disruptive innovation – will this be the way to address the problems we see – we cannot go back to the way it was – there is no “wayback machine” for the media options now.  We live in a “linked economy” today – there should not be special treatment or set asides or other benefits for print media – we tried that with the auto industry many years ago and just recently and look how well that worked out.

Can you keep that big organization going (the Post?) – Why do people come to the Washington Post – They trust the content.  Internet investments have been significant at the Post and yet the technology landscape is also changing rapidly.  We are cutting costs (printing plants and shrinking the newsroom).

In 1975 – when the Post broke Watergate – we had 375 people in the “newsroom”  IN 1933 when the “great grandfather” bought the newspaper they were the 5th newspaper in a 5-newspaper town and it took years to build up to profitability.

Nothing yet has been invented (in digital form) that represents the “package” that is offered by the “newspaper”.


Digital media suffers from attention deficit disorder – Traditional print media suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder

Canesta – Minority Report Gesture-Inteface for TV May 28, 2009

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From Canesta we have something rather interesting and it looks like something out of the movie “Minority Report.” This is a cool interface based on a small camera that is built into a TV that allows “Gestures” to be used to control the TV.  Lot’s of development to be done and target release date is 2010.  Hitachi is the first company to announce a commercial product.  Does not require anything to be put on the body (glove, etc.).  Jim Spare, CEO of Canestas says ” you can use gestures to control your TV and other devices (in the future; today it’s just TV). We’ve developed a new kind of 3-D camera that’s built in to the TV.  They show the camera and it’s really tiny (about the size of a stick of gum.)

You can see the demo here and watch how the different gestures are used to control a TV set.

D7 Interview: NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker May 28, 2009

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jeff-zuckerAn intro video features a song from NBC employee Jimmy Fallon praising (teasing) his boss. Zucker:

“Jimmy will be fired later today.”

NBC as a broadcaster.

Jeff Zucker wishes you wouldn’t think of the company that way.

The CEO of NBC Universal likes to point out, that his company boasts an array of cable channels, which make money from both advertising and subscriber fees.

That dual income stream looks like the way of the future for big media companies (at least in the near term), but that model also makes it hard for big media companies to adapt to the Web — if they give their programming away for free on the Internet, why will cable providers pay for the same stuff? Yet Zucker has just committed to work for another two years with Hulu, the joint venture with Fox and Disney that does just that.
Kara: What is state of TV business?

Zuker:  “Television in the aggregate is in very good shape.” Plus a plug for Conan O’Brien. “We’re in this transition period of trying to figure out the new technology that is out there…the issue with broadcast television is that it’s an inferior model to cable television with the dual revenue streams… having said that, the pipes still work” Events still work: Olympics, American Idol, etc.

“Jay (Leno) decided that he actually didn’t want to retire… we didn’t want to lose him… we had to figure out a way to keep a person of Jay’s stature and caliber.”  Jay’s comedy show – a way to keep Jay, we need to and want to address the changing landscape of TV, we wanted to provide a topical show for comedy that is “live” and “current” – there is a place for that during the week.

Lot’s of new digital channels in the works.

State of Hollywood and impact of “digital issues”…

The idea of HULU (not to suffer the same fate that Music had suffered – wanted to come together in a joint venture – that aggregated the content together – so people could see the content online in a way that did not corrupt the compensation for content.

HULU Labs is a “place for partners to experiment” with different ways to monitize content.

How much does HULU actually make?  The D Conference probably makes more money than HULU…

HULU has a plan and it is exceeding its plan and yet it is not a big money maker yet – just getting up and not being laughed at was the first goal.  The next 18 months the goal is to increase monitization.

When can you make truly significant money with things like HULU?

It will take increased advertising and subscription.

HULU may have subscriptions

There are a number of different ways that you could bring in money… One of the things that needs to evolve is better online advertising.

HULU itself can be an advertising agency for distributors…

Issue with iTunes and Steve Jobs…

We did not think that a library copy of the Rockford files should sell for the same price as Battlestar Galactica.
Apple is in the business of selling hardware.  Apple is the only company that gets to set both the wholesale and retail price.  Steve was committed to $1.99 for all video.  NBC decided not to participate any more.  Steve opened up to “tiered pricing” – especially for HD premium pricing.  Apple has gone to tiered pricing for music also.
It will be confusing with the consumer and they won’t spend an extra “buck”…
The $2.99 price point for HD-based content has proven that tiered pricing can work.

The problem with all the media companies is that we were replacing analog dollars with digital pennies…
Commercials on Analog TV were “dollar-based” and we were getting tiny revenue from the digital (Internet) channel.

We are now up to “digital dimes” (we have made progress but we have a 90 cent gap).

We need to get to “digital quarters…”

Steve Ballmer on Bing! May 28, 2009

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steve-ballmerSteve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft

I ran into Steve in the lobby of the hotel in the early AM.  I was returning from a short morning run and Steve was heading out for his run.  His “assistant” was coordinating their route after getting some input from the hotel staff.  I said hello thinking that the best route was to stay along the trail that runs adjacent to the golf course.  Hearing that they planned a different route, I decided to keep that suggestion to myself since Steve would be kicking off the D7 session in about an hour with a big announcement.

Fast forward to the session.  Steve is here to make his big announcement.  But first a bit of discussion about the economy and what Microsoft is doing to reallocate its operations…

Steve says that he believes in the “long term”

What we are experiencing today is “normal” – all the money that has evaporated from the economy… Consider most of that GONE.  We are building from here now and have what we have…

Ballmer says this is a “different recession.”

In a recession implies that you sort of go down and go up. In this case, i think this is money that’s just got to come out of the economy. … we’re really resetting the economy. Maybe we should think of today as normal and yesterday as the blue-bird.” So how long will this continue, asks Walt. Ballmer says to think things will return to the good-old-days quickly is naive. … “Is this a 50 year phenomenon? I don’t think so. But it’s not going to be over in three months, either.”

We need to have “great people” in order to execute on things.  Make sure that you don’t interlock strategies or “do” interlock strategies – we have good talent and hire well.

I’ve got seven children that I love (thinking about the different lines of business at Microsoft) – You can’t ask me which one that I love the most. Some are young, some are growing up and having children of their own. They are at different levels of maturity.

Apple has done good stuff.  Blackberry has done some good stuff.  PC business is still big – netbooks, etc is the vibrance in all of our children.

bingBing is the new name for Microsoft search.

Steve Balmer Introduces Bing here

Verb-up! is important.

You got to build a brand “step by step”

BallmerIt will take a while before people say “I’m going to ‘bing’ that” like they say ‘google that'”

Name is short, easy to say, works globally, have to get a URL clearance, – there are not a lot of issues to cross to get a 4-letter URL…

The focus of bing during the demo was toward trying to order and present good results on search and avoid having users hit the “back button”.

Ballmer brings out Yusef Mehdi to demo Bing.

The BING product is going live on June 3. From a UI perspective it’s box and a button format with screensaver-esque background.

Cool feature – Best Match denotes an official or definitive site — the site we know to be authoritative. Instant Answer — Answers to obvious questions delivered along with search returns, a search for Oscars immediately returns a result for who won an Academy Award. Search for UPS automatically returns customer service number at the top of the page.

Walt asks to search on “Microsoft.” Much laughter, but the search return does feature a customer service number.  The “customer service number” is shown for all service providers as a component of returned search results.

Mark Cuban – HDnet Chairman & Co-Founder May 27, 2009

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mark-cubanWhere is the consumer electronics money being spent today?

We don’t care or know when new PC’s are coming out?

When are the new TV’s coming out – how much are they? When can I put one in my living room? Is the resolution getting better in the next model?

Internet video is where Mark Cuban got his start… Internet Video has come a long way (from the 10-years ago experience of Broadcast.com)  Mark was lucky enough to make billions on Internet video during the Web 1.0 bubble, and smart enough to cash out before it burst.

Anybody can create and distribute for close to FREE.  There is no limit to the cost of how much people will spend to market content – that is the thing will differentiate content that generates revenue.

Without the HUGE subsidy to the Internet provided by Advertisement (channeled by companies like Google) we would NOT have Internet video, photo sharing, etc.  Even the social services like Facebook and others would need to radically change their business models.

Moving from the docsis std to the current Java-based application client architecture that we see inside the current cable boxes gives rise to the concepts of Yahoo widgets that can sit inside your cable box and that you can interact with from your hidef TV in your living room.

Where is TV going?

TV can be defined in many different ways.  Cable TV is alive and well because they have a foundation of subscriber fees.

The Internet now is a simple utility.  Twitter is as simple as it gets.  Facebook is just an evolution of what was there before.  We are at the stage where there are no “revolutionary” new applications but instead “evolutionary” applications.  Where the action is now is on the mobile platform.  The movement of these applications with the sort of interfaces that need to be formulated is moving to iPhone, GPhone, Blackberry, Nokia N97, etc.

When can I buy something that is really “random access” when I can pick the show I want to see at EXACTLY the time I want to watch it?

Don’t be looking at the “same spot” (not the Internet) -If everybody is looking at the Internet, look in a different location to innovate.

Yahoo, Google, MySpace, Facebook, etc. – all are 1-hit wonders living off their gravy train.

Infinite bandwidth (or the appearance of that) is the online equivilent of the Internet Buffet. One fat kid at the front of the buffet line is OK but a whole family of fat kids is going to mess it up for everyone.  So the pricing for content is not properly tied to the consumption of that (bandwidth) resource.

D7 – MySpace Update by Jon Miller and Owen Van Natta May 27, 2009

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duo-miller-van-nattaJon Miller and Owen Van Natta

So how is it going at MySpace and why are you guys running this show?

Told story of what it is like when you go to pick up your “towed car” in NYC.  The window says – “This person did not tow your car and if you cooperate you will get your car back faster.”

That was the comment that the new CEO made with respect to the “fixup” of the MySpace property since MySpace has gone cold: It is losing its audience to Facebook and other sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc.)

A 131 million visitors to MySpace last month – it is still a significant web property.

When the new leaders look at MySpace they see it as a huge platform to “build on”

Music is a huge part of the MySpace experience.  This is a big differentiator with other social media sites.  Walt’s kids (musicians) had pages on MySpace. But they don’t really go there anymore.

Has MySpace become too narrowly focused on Band Promotion?

MySpace is also “big” on video

So it seems that MySpace is focused on the “noisy” aspects of social media?

MySpace needs an improved user experience that is part of a core “re-design” – a design that is responsible to shifting user needs – When you go to MySpace you are almost “attacked” by the media there!