Sunday, 19 February 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 – social video hype turns to dollars, cyber crimes’ billions revealed; Apple, Google set about Microsoft; and 1955’s view of space

Digital media

Online video services and technologies that underpin them were all the rage before the downturn. It’s almost as if the venture community has come into a bit of capital and remembered where they left off. How services like this get funded, I don’t know. Perhaps worth asking the YouView partners.

I’ve always said that QR codes are an intermediate step towards more advanced AR technologies. This interesting technology from Brazil suggests why their days are already numbered.

It amazes me that people still believe that they can make money from standalone instant messaging platforms, but apparently there’s always someone with deep pockets and no idea. Even if Shape is fully monetising its inventory (which is pretty doubtful – even Google can’t do that) then it’s only turning over a million dollars a month and has a frankly pitiful number of users.

It’s rare to find a report on second screen that isn’t over-hyped and off the mark. This one is succinct, but concentrates on the key issue for all buyers – measurement. Without this, social campaigns can’t deliver positive ROI in aggregate.

Someone obviously believes in the potential of these technologies, however, as consolidation has already started!

Some interesting tit-bits of information about social agencies. Basically, it’s small beer today. I also suspect that the biggest “social agencies” are inside the big guys, rather than being indies.

Cyber security

I said at the start of the year that there’d be a major loss of consumer information once a month this year... so here’s one – 5 local councils have managed to lose data on citizens...

... part of a cybercrime problem that cost $114Bn in economic activity in 2011. Which is a BIG number. Then they go and spoil it by trying to suggest that the time lost in correcting it was worth a further $274Bn due to lost economic activity... except that since the most likely victims were 18-31 year old men, I imagine the only casualty was a reduced amount of time spent in the pub. It devalues what is a really important issue for 2012 – combating criminal and state-sponsored cyber attacks.

The Symantec study is referenced in the US Cyber Security Act, which aims to protect critical infrastructure from hacking and resultant disruption. China in particular has tacitly signalled that it supports this kind of activity, presumably because it would allow them to strike the US in any future conventional conflicts in Asia (China lacks the conventional military capabilities to do this without resorting to nuclear weapons)

In parallel, the US military will spend $3.4Bn on cyber warfare in 2013, the same as in 2012. The US seems keen to dominate the “civilian” electronic battlefield in the same way it dominates the military equivalent.

Maybe they should just leave it to Google, who seem very adept at spying on everyone. Naughty Google! Bad!

And on the subject of borderline unethical web services, it looks like we’re not rid of Demand Media yet. Shame.

New business models

A neat business model, although I’m not sure I’d call it crowd-sourcing. In effect, 99designs have created an open market for pitching ideas. Smart, but not crowd(y).

I’m all about “inner geek”. Technology like this is more likely to accelerate the design cycle in fashion than lead to particularly outlandish designs. The underlying story is about the massive increase in computing power that enables modelling of soft materials at reasonable cost – we’ve hitherto been restricted to hard ones.

As Gen Y become more entrenched in the workforce, companies will need to pay more attention to how they service the need for always on, open and honest communication. The only thing I disagree with is the idea that people don’t need to come to the office to be productive. Human beings are social animals – our innovative nature is dependent on the tension and collaboration that comes from co-location. Social and mobile media just can’t replace the sense of sitting across a table from someone. In my (Gen-Y) opinion.

Apple are really putting pressure on Microsoft in O/S – shifting the already outstanding OS X to annual update cycles puts the slow and clunky Windows customary five year re-imagination cycle into stark relief. If Apple could just figure out a way to compete with Direct X and Direct 3D, they’d have the answer to everything Microsoft has in the locker. Windows 8 better be good.

Google are in on the act as well, targeting Microsoft’s enterprise heartland. I think that will be a much, much harder target – Redmond is the place for enterprise and their products are excellent.

Boom! Apple puts the smack down on the GOOG/ MOT axis of evil in a German court! Actually, the story isn’t very interesting. Slide to unlock is a genius feature though.

And let’s not forget Amazon, who have managed to shift an impressive 3.9Mn Kindle Fires. Not a lot next to iPad, but the product is aimed at a different demographic – one that are feeling their way into tablets. I like the Fire and think it’s underrated.

The UK high street banks are taking totally different approaches to online/ e-/ m- and other types of banking. Barclays seem to be the most innovative and although Pingit only seems to have a small range of use cases, it clearly offers something more than the credit card duplication technologies being talked about by their rivals.

Just for fun

A fascinating look into the future of space travel, from the 1955 point of view. If only we could predict the future of technology so accurately now that innovation is not solely the preserve of mega-corporations and governments.

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