Saturday, 21 April 2012

What I've been reading this week

I’m 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: how engaged are millennials, how effective is customer engagement, how we’re heading for another bubble, how annoyed are Anonymous and how to play Mario on the coffee table

Business models
 A fascinating look into the organisational structure... or unstructure... of Valve, the developer behind Half Life, Steam and many other groundbreaking pieces of code.

 40% of customer experience initiatives have unproven ROI. It doesn’t surprise me, to be honest. I imagine that online and social initiatives are even less proven. Doesn’t mean don’t do them, just means you need to think how to measure them.

Quite an in depth study on the millennial consumer. It turns out that the stereotypes about this group’s laziness and sense of entitlement are incorrect – this is a heterogenous but generally engaged, participative and consumptive generation.
An article on Boston’s approach to becoming a more digital city. It starts off very slowly, but is quite interesting nonetheless. Basically, the message is focus on one citizen issue at a time (in Boston’s case, pot holes) and fix it end to end.

 London hasn’t got it’s apps right, but it’s sure powering ahead as a centre for digital businesses.

Digital media

Oh, here we go again. Nothing says “tech boom” like money pouring into cloud based “media management and monetisation” platforms. It’s as if everyone’s forgotten the lessons of The Platform, Ooyala, Maven Networks, Brightcove and all of the other people who’ve said they could do this but couldn’t get the big content owners to sign up. Rant over.
Actually, rant back on - $40Mn more cash for Path, the utterly pointless social network with no users (2 million actually, but I’m one and I don’t use it anymore) and no obvious use. It isn’t gameification, it’s too late to be Foursquare. Fools and their money...
 ...nearly pay $6Bn for Groupon, which is on a real downer. I wonder if that’s because it’s a fad that was easily replicated and then passed? Perhaps that’ll be it.
It’s acquisition central this week. Twitter just announced that its acquired, a social analytics and revenue engineering team. Twitter’s on a hiring binge at the moment, with lots of jobs appearing on its website for sales and marketing jobs in its new London European HQ...
...and WPP has added price comparison to its ever-growing list of digital businesses.

 Here’s Facebook’s next acquisition: Viddy, the video equivalent of Instagram and now pushing ahead of it in terms of weekly downloads. I suggest you try it, since it’s quite good fun!

 Harry Potter is the gift that just keeps giving. £1Mn in eBook sales in 3 days is pretty damned impressive for a franchise that ended several years ago. Pottermore looks like a good idea all of a sudden.

Google Play is yet to get going, but perhaps making 600 MGM movies to its catalogue will give it a boost. One thing that springs to mind is whether Play will finally get Google TV moving as a platform to compete with Apple TV, Netflix and the like.
Finally on video, Sony says that the future of the TV is the tablet and that cord cutting is a possibility. I say they’re talking rubbish, but I still think that as a whole Sony is on a strong upwards curve and is launching differentiated, high quality products that are finally desirable again.


Red are intent on disrupting the major Japanese camera manufacturers and given the buzz around “Red Dragon”, their $6k, 6K resolution CCD/ lens kit they’re really kicking on from irritant to genuine threat. Only Canon seem to be able to respond, as illustrated by the use of prosumer EOS cameras to shoot the recent action movie “Act of Valor”.

And another camera story. Even cheaper than Red, but a bit less capable. Clever tech and very disruptive, nonetheless. Amazing that something so small can capture HD in RAW.

Canon’s response – I was very impressed by them at NAB. Shows that focussing on their core - rather than diversifying into workflow as Panasonic and Sony have done – can reap dividends.

As well as Google, GM are working on driverless cars, which could see the light of day by 2015. To start with, there’ll be limited to bumper-to-bumper traffic, but given how many accidents happen at these speeds, even this would have a positive impact on travel times.

I wrote about Google Glass last week. It transpires that Oakley has also been doing a great deal of work in this area and holds 600 patents. I’m becoming certain that this will be a major category in the next 2 years.


Sergei Brin on the threats to the Internet. I agree with much of this, although I can’t say that I see Facebook or Apple as significant threats, more likely governments and the entertainment industry that lobbies them.

Meanwhile, in a more proactive protest against web scanning, extradition treaties and people who basically don’t agree with them, Anonymous (who have a cool logo for a terrorist organisation) took down the CIA website this week...

They’ve also done what the rest of the world should have done and attack F1 for agreeing to race in Bahrain, a country with a disgustingly low regard for human rights and free speech.
 Emerging markets

A brilliant op-ed on the stifling effect of the Chinese Government on innovation by artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Worth reading.

Consolidation happening in the online side of Bollywood. The article isn’t terribly well written. What it hints at is Bollywood producers looking for digital ways for their increasingly online audience to find and consume their products.

Estonia is the world leader in digital government. A reasonably superficial but still useful article on some of the things they’ve done over the last decade or more. Worth pointing out that Estonia had no infrastructure or process to replace and is a very small country. Doing this in a developed market would be hard. It does however set the template for emerging countries in Africa.

Just for fun

Want a coffee table that’s also a working games console controller? Etsy provides...

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