Friday, 7 September 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: robots, holograms, hacking save/ destroy world, Valve to make hardware, Samsung vs Apple rumbles on and authors take on sock puppets in by the numbers death match

Digital media

The first of many Amazon stories this week: their growing publishing arm is to sell its ebooks on other competing content ecosystems. Another step towards Amazon being fully vertically integrated in the book market.

Google have quietly given up their efforts to provider a bid style model for TV ad slots. Turns out TV is hard to disrupt...

Arguably the recent Amazon and B&N announcements about upgrades to their ereaders are the first major evolution in the format since it emerged around 2007. In short, the changes are brighter, higher resolution screens that are easier to read and can be viewed in the dark. I expect adoption to continue at pace as readers see the portability and convenience benefits of ebooks. Good for publishers (it’s just a book, after all). Bad for high street chains (other than B&N).

The BBC is now offering license fee payers DRM-free downloads of its content to enable them to watch offline. About time, too!

Android dominates the Southeast Asian smartphone market, as reported by Ericsson. Little surprise given the large number of $100 or less Android handsets on the market. iPhone remains resolutely premium.

RIM’s market share in the US has declined to 1.5%, half that of the other smartphone challenger, Windows Mobile. Bad times for the Canadians. How much longer can they survive?

Recommendation is one of the currencies of digital business so the practice of “sock puppet” reviewing is rather damaging, particularly now that many authors want to go direct to consumer. Lots of the aforementioned authors have written a petition against the practice. I’m sure that’ll make all the difference. Perhaps Lee Child would be better off karate chopping them, or something. That would make an excellent by the numbers novel.

Business models

Vodafone is the first global mobile phone network. This deal with Zain to support subscribers roaming in the Middle East region and bring the Vodafone brand to native consumers is another step on that road.

Good Technology just completed their acquisition of Copiun, whose technology enables secure mobile collaboration. Given Good’s increasing status as a major player in the enablement of “bring your own device” strategies, adding collaboration (also a trendy capability) should make their offer even more attractive and further reduce the need for complex integrated LANs and WANs.

Valve are one of the coolest technology companies in the world. And now they want to reinvent computer hardware. An exciting thought! My view – more integration between hardware and OS. Less upgradability of the former, more hackability of the latter. Not revolutionary. Hope their idea is better!

Samsung have 20 times as many designers as Apple, but are infinitely less creative. In my view, innovation is an activity best done by dictators. The crowd leads to compromise and compromise (in design, at least) is weakness.

Fastcompany asks “when will your phone replace your wallet?” No time soon. At the moment there’s still too much of a gap between the act of tapping a phone and something useful happening. Until you scan an NFC and a simple menu comes up showing all the actions you could do with that tag – pay, loyalty, contact, acquire, etc... – then we’ll still need a wallet. And some cash, of course.


Robotics is fast becoming the revolution of the 20-teens. Roomba, makers of the eponymous robot vacuum cleaner, have launched a robot doctor, that offers a physical, mobile presence for tele-medicine. Amazing stuff, particularly at the price.

Although the comparison to Star Wars is inevitable, this hover bike technology is certainly innovative and real-world ready. Whether there’ll be any takers, I’m not so sure.

Kickstarter-funded VR technology company Oculus Rift are now demonstrating their hardware. Looks fantastic. Lawnmower Man, here we come!

Wow, this guy really doesn’t like holograms! Me, I think they’ll be a cool video conference option for 2030, but otherwise they’re a fun communications gimmick.


Most file sharers are being monitored by 3rd party organisations working on behalf of the media industry... or perhaps that should read “most casual file sharers” – the pros are too smart to be caught by these sort of organisations. Yet another example of the media industry missing the point and spending money to stamp out the edges of the forest fire. Big clue – fix your value proposition and the problem goes away...

The organisation of hackers is really interesting to me. The group that attacked Google 2 years ago appear to be more like a business than the hyper-distributed model of Anonymous. A good – short – read on the subject.

Emerging markets

The WACS cable has brought a huge upgrade in bandwidth to west and central Africa, now the countries that co-funded it need to back up that initial investment with a much larger one that will connect offshore bandwidth into their countries and start to reap the benefits of a connected industrial base.

A timely reminder that however fast development is happening in emerging markets, there are still risks in operating there. MTN and Airtel cellular masts in Nigeria have been attacked and damaged by gunmen. As countries depend more and more on their telephony infrastructure, so it becomes a viable target for insurgents seeking to cause disruption. Western capitalist trappings are not robust and are easy pickings.

Superpower politics

Three quick fire Amazon stories. Fire is 22% of tablet sales in the US and half of Android tablet sales. To take advantage they’re launching a 9” version of the Fire and also launching the 7” versions in the UK. The UK had been a great market for Amazon and the tech giant has reciprocated by creating huge numbers of jobs. Another 2,000 positions will be created in the next 2 years.

And because I’m feeling the love for them, here’s another report on the ‘Zon: their movie deal with EPIX knocked a ton of value off Netflix, who’s star is most definitely waning.

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