Monday, 5 March 2012

What I've been reading this week

I think 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 (last!) week – Daily, RIM blow their own trumpets, DSL trumps cable in the UK, why startup investing isn’t like Moneyball and how Africa is becoming a creative force in media

Digital Media

The headline here is that The Daily (of Murdoch ownership/ fame) is the highest grossing iPad app... currently and only in the US. Apple doesn’t release global or granular statistics, so who knows what this really means.

App download volumes keep rising – to be expected given the vast number of devices sold every quarter – however per person this isn’t a big number. In reality, most people don’t download many applications and when we do, they’re the most popular ones. We’re herd animals, after all.

BT has made great strides in enhancing the speed and quality of DSL in the last few years. Combined with the superior choice offered by multiple DSL vendors and BT Retail’s own improved marketing, it’s no surprise that Virgin is getting beaten up. Shows that speed alone is not a reason to select an ISP.

Traditional Media

I think Silver River is a good acquisition for Sony. TV is still a great market to be in as the value premium of live or near-live broadcast is more-or-less intact. The UK remains a major innovator in the sector and is exactly where Sony need to be.,0,493043.story

New business models

A somewhat rudimentary article, but the point is a good one – by wrapping Playstation Network into its online offerings to create Sony Entertainment Network, by taking full control at Sony Ericsson and by integrating Vita OS more widely, Sony finally looks to have an effective strategy to combat Samsung. If it can also use its content portfolio effectively, then it might well be onto a winner.

Sony will also need to engage operators to sell their dream as their retail presence is poor. Here, they’ve announced that they’ll be selling a tablet product with AT&T subsidy.

Apparently 76% of retailers are targeting tablets for in-store digital experiences. WTF? Who carries a tablet around with them in the mall? Anyway, a few interesting connected retail data points in all of this. Which is nice.

The headline is “how to make start up investment like Moneyball”... except, this isn’t really like Moneyball, because the Billy Beane concept was to mine a wealth of information to make judgements based on fact. Also, Beane never won the World Series, which is precisely what a startup investor needs to do. Doubtless, many people will use this site, but for me, good judgement, rather than good data are the keys to making good early stage investments. This feels like snake oil!

A sensible article about how to determine the return on investment of social media. It’s the same as any other return on investment. She had me from “I can tell you the value of a Facebook fan: zero freaking dollars”

Linkedin users more often than not come from big, US-headquartered companies. Not a surprise (although I like the data). Interesting that 18.7% of users are in education though. I didn’t expect that.

Breakthrough technology

Microsoft are very innovative when it comes to interface design. Here they show off 3D display technology, married to Kinect-based motion and eye-tracking technology. Very smart!

I’m very excited about Virgin Galactic. Their test flight schedule is now public and the long wait for commercial passenger (near) space travel is (nearly) over.

Maybe not a breakthrough in technology terms, but certainly a breakthrough price point. And the market agrees – the Raspberry Pi $35 computer sold out on its first day. As reported here previously, this initiative is very exciting as it aims to reinvigorate enthusiast computing and with it start off a wave of new innovations from teenage bedrooms everywhere. I wish them luck!

Emerging Markets

A good read about how the future Africa is portrayed through indigenous science fiction.

Nigeria’s film production hub, “Nollywood” is a little known but hugely productive part of Africa’s entertainment economy, releasing 1,000 films a year and grossing $500Mn. As populations edge above the poverty line, cinema and TV will become the next mobile telephony in Africa, although the film makers themselves will continue to retain a distinctly African flavour.

Some nice Twitter data points here, but most interesting to me is that Brazilians are the third largest Twitter population. Another data point that shows how the Latin American Internet is being driven by social media, rather than traditional browsing...

...but the same isn’t true in Africa. It’s still early days for the Internet and for social media in Africa and although it’s interesting that some things are happening, with web penetration so low, I’m guessing social media won’t be changing the result of Senegal’s presidential election...

...nor can it be regulated simply in India. The fact that politicians there are focused on the “issue” of regulating social when the rest of the communications market is in such a mess is indicative of the lack of focus that will constrain the Indian economy if not addressed.

RIM are strong in Asia, it’s true, however, like Nokia, their lack of a credible full screen smartphone in the crucial $100 - $200 price range means that they’re also in serious trouble in this market. Sales points of presence will help, but ultimately retailers in these markets are fickle. They’ll go where the money is. And that probably isn’t where RIM are... it’s strange that this Blackberry evangelist site tells us that the analysts are wrong and that RIM is a great company. That maybe true, but for me it isn’t a great investment.

Finally on emerging markets, here’s news that China’s largest mobile payment company has gone past 30Mn downloads. 53% on Android and as many as 3% on Blackberry (assuming ”other” doesn’t just mean Bada or a local OS). Going well for RIM in China, then...

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