Saturday, 28 January 2012

What I've been reading this week

I’m firmly of the belief that participants in the TMT industry need to read widely in order to understand the present and future dynamics of the market. To that end, this post is a collection of the articles that have caught my eye.

This week – pirates take over your 3-D printer, antivirus, military industrial complex, the EU goes 1984, the world realises that Chinese data might not be all it seems while Apple continues to take it over

New business models

A nice analysis of Google’s earnings, which were released late last week. The headlines are that although Android devices are being “lit up” at a rate of nearly 750,000 a day, most of Google’s mobile revenue comes from search on iOS. Google also persist in saying that Motorola will stand alone and not receive preferential treatment – not sure I buy that, but stranger things have happened! Revenues outside advertising were very low. Goes without saying...

The TV advert for the first Macintosh inferred that Apple was the antidote to all-powerful mega-corporations and 1984-style blind obedience. Now it seems that Apple is fast becoming the very kind of monolithic corporation foretold in dystopian future visions. Be afraid, be very afraid...

...Nokia. I remain bullish about Nokia’s potential – they’re the best engineers in the mobile industry. My worry is that despite appearing to turn a corner on the marketing of the Lumia, their results demonstrate that the device itself just isn’t selling. A real shame, because it offers a great experience that is in some ways superior to iOS. Unfortunately, Apple is the new Nokia, the safe haven in a storm of smartphone choices. Nokia desperately needs to find new categories to compete in – for now I think that smartphones are a losing game. 2012 is a critical year – I think NOK has 18 months before the decline is terminal (pun intended...)

The brand potential for sports is ever-rising. With fragmented, confusing media options, sport delivers consistent value for viewers and advertisers; principally because it is almost unique in being best consumed live and in the highest resolution vision and sound possible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Chinese data is like sausages. If you like the taste, don’t ask where it came from! The Chinese market clearly has long term potential, but to judge it today by the terms of a democratic, market capitalist system is to use flawed logic. This is a brutal, communist dictatorship that uses just enough capitalist language to trade with the world on its own terms and thereby achieve its national goals, which are to promote the survival of its own political system. In my opinion.

I guess we all assumed that the US could do this sort of thing. Now we know. Cyber warfare is going mainstream this year. Its ramifications are still a total unknown.

Therefore: my prediction is that one major corporation will suffer a similar breach every month this year (on average).

And although Anonymous are the least of our worries – principally because they don’t (yet) have war fighting capabilities (!), they do have Symantec’s source code...

...Although if they can take over your 3-D printer, then with Pirate Bay’s help perhaps they can make... a club? 10th Century war fighting capabilities...

Digital Media

Not a huge surprise that Sony has pulled Google TV – it doesn’t really fit with their in-house 4 screen strategy even if the technology itself was any good. Which it isn’t. I’m generally pretty sceptical about the consumer benefit of any of the current or proposed connected TV propositions. Bearing in mind the amount of content that can be crammed into a PVR and the amount of TV that the average consumer can physically watch in a day or even be aware exists is rather limited, I don’t see the need to sully the TV experience with needless “search”. Put that on the second screen.

Good that someone is making money from News Stand. I also like the refreshingly frank comments about the nature of magazine business models online. The rule book is indeed blank.

Following last week’s news about Facebook taking #1 spot in Dutch social media, here’s a wider ranging study that shows the company’s increasing dominance elsewhere in the world. This is great for Facebook as it’s fast becoming a global social directory, however I still feel that consumers will have numerous social profiles, aggregated together by computing platforms at the handset/ tablet/ laptop. As such, revenue may not flow to Facebook so much as to the aggregator. Flipboard, for example, has changed the way I use my iPad. Active tiles on Windows 7.5 are even better. Sadly it’s yet to catch on.

Emerging technology

Kinect is an astoundingly clever technology and proof (if any was needed) that Microsoft are still innovative. I’ll be interested to see how this gets integrated into Windows 8 devices – not obvious what it’ll be used for outside of the corporate presentation and performance arts markets.

Not the most insightful article on behavioural pricing, but the aggregation of customer data for use in decision making is topical because... afraid, be very afraid! The EU has decided to wade into the consumer data arena with a typically misguided attempt to control something they don’t understand. It doesn’t feel to me like many of these measures would be enforceable in the real world. Even if you could technically use deep packet inspection to work out whose data was flowing where (which would be very hard to do in practice) doing so would violate the laws it was designed to enforce because you’d need to know what the customer data was in order to identify it. Very Big Brother, and I suspect quite scary to many consumers... or perhaps just to me!

Also appalling for innovation in the sector and for European competitiveness writ large. Still, that’s never stopped the EU before – see the demise of our high tech’ industry for prior art.

Self-healing materials will ultimately be a standard feature on our consumer devices. Also great to see cross pollination of advanced materials between technology categories.

Breakthrough technology

As ever, fascinating news about the long term direction of computing... but this is a 2020 technology, not a 2013 one. Improving the architecture of silicon devices will have far more impact in the next 5 years than advanced materials. It’s notable that in many areas of silicon chip design (e.g. mobile), the industry is significantly outperforming Moore’s law and its equivalents.

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