Friday, 9 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 week: dastardly Germans cloning web businesses, invisible hydrogen coming to your high street, twisted spectrum puts the mobile industry in a spin and the terrifying scale of EVERYTHING amazes

New business models

I quite like Ideo’s work; if nothing else, they offer a fresh perspective on tricky issues. In this short blog, they talk about new concepts for retail. I like the ideas, but in a land (the UK) of ridiculous high-street rents, it’s difficult to see many of them being practical.

This is a fascinating article about a German company that routinely copies and exploits the models of US online businesses. All totally above board, but a great reminder of why in the Internet economy you need to go global the moment you go local

An infographic on the rise of mobile... but they really mean the rise of smart devices, since the statistics don’t really delineate between Wi-Fi and cellular; tablets or smart phones. Interesting data, nonetheless

Digital media

A nicely written paper on the travails of (particularly local) newspapers in the face of declining print circulation and difficult digital business models. I feel terribly sorry for them – it must be very hard to go from monopoly to also ran in a decade. Without new and asymmetric talent, most newspapers will succumb before the end of this decade.

Perhaps newspapers will become a plaything of Facebook... lots of other industries make it onto this entertaining infographic about the future of the alpha social network.

Facebook is also the largest Internet IPO of all time; as mentioned on this little infographic of the 10 biggest. What stands out is how small most Internet IPOs actually are. And that there are a number of less-known companies like Yandex (the largest search engine in Russia) and Giant Interactive Group (a nearly defunct online games company). I also think that the list is incomplete. When Cisco Systems IPOed in 1990 it had a market capitalisation of $224Mn – about $390Mn in 2012. But that’s eclipsed by Akamai Technologies. It IPOed in 1999 at $216Mn, for a valuation of about $2Bn. By the end of the first day it was valued at $13Bn. A record 1st day increase. It’s now valued at $6.5Bn. Facebook better hope it does better than that...

...or this – a blatant rip-off of Pinterest. This is Facebook’s problem – they aren’t cool or innovative anymore. Resorting to copying their rivals features is not going to result in market leadership and this sort of news should make grim reading for their investors, who now own a social media version of Yahoo.

Mind you, none of this matters BECAUSE THE MEDIA INDUSTRY IS DOOMED. This infographic has got some decent facts, but is very dumb in what it concludes. People still love media, they’ll just consume it in different ways and the companies that supply it will (eventually) adapt or be substituted.

I’m not a fan of industry analysts, so I include this news for light entertainment. Basically there’ll be lots more tablets in the next few years. How many, who knows. Forrester think they know to 3 significant places though. Bless.

New technology

I like these comparisons between supercomputers and normal devices. Amazing to think that so much power can be in your hand... but also that there are computers in the world that have more power than a personal device 20 years hence.

Breakthrough technology

I’m bullish about hydrogen... but then I have been for years. Even so, it’s great to see Toyota jumping from concept to production. Unfortunately the infrastructure challenges in converting to a hydrogen economy won’t be easy to overcome...

...perhaps with Mercedes’ help they’ll manage to get so. Although I’m a bit confused as to why the Germans have decided to cover their F-Cell vehicle in an “invisible” weave of LEDs. Weird!

Quite a technical paper, but really quite exciting! Essentially what it says is that it’s possible to use the same frequency band to carry much more traffic by “twisting” the electromagnetic waves. Hypothetically, this means you could cram an infinitely larger amount of traffic into the same bands. In practice that would require an infinite number of antennas and every phone would need infinite aerials and infinite power amps. If we could double capacity using this method, however, the impact would be immense.

The US military machine has made unbelievable advances in autonomous robotics in the last decade. Here’s a humanoid shipboard fire-fighting robot, due to start testing next year. Power, I suspect, will remain a problem.

And just to ram home the point, here’s a robot cheetah – an adaptation of the famous Pack Bot currently undergoing trials.

Orion is NASA’s latest heavy lift platform and would form the basis of renewed manned exploration of the Moon and possibly even Mars.

Meanwhile, the US Airforce’s mystery space plane just celebrated a year in orbit. If only we knew what it was doing up there...

Superpower politics

In an earlier post I identified Amazon as the 4th of the tech superpowers. Here’s why – they have excellent product focus, a clear value proposition and brand and global reach. Watch them carefully!

Microsoft are still scrabbling for a mobile foothold. I actually think Windows 7.5 is the best O/S on the market, but it lacks application support. RIM are finished.

Just for fun

Scale (or should that be “perspective”) matters! This is a great little website on the subject, although the speed at which Earth disappears is pretty terrifying!

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