Sunday, 18 November 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: Gaza conflict spreads to social, Pebble suffers growing pains, Apple to lose tablet dominance next year, attacks Google with giant reptile

Digital media

The most interesting bit of this fluff piece on how people use their mobile phones is the proportion of UK consumers that think the devices stop them truly relaxing. I can’t decide whether uptake of wearables would make relaxation easier as the connected experience fades into the background, or harder because connection is even more persistent.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza has led to a rather public slanging match on social media, with Twitter hosting the brunt of the fighting. A couple of articles on the subject:

eProf is a technology platform that allows anyone to become a teacher in an online classroom and charge lucky students for the privilege. Nice idea and a natural extension of the cult of expert trend that has been building on the Web for a while now. Here’s some more about it.

Matter, a kickstarter funded business that intends to produce well thought out essays on a rolling basis and sell them for $0.99 a time has just published its first story. In a sign of things to come, it’s about a psychological condition that compels the sufferer to amputate their own limbs. I’ll stick to X-Factor.

At the other end of the digital media spectrum, Spotify has just received another $100m in funding, with $10m coming from Coca Cola, of all people.

Business models

Facebook are daring to charge brands for reaching their target audience. As the title of this blog makes clear – that really shouldn’t be a surprise!

Bloomberg is launching an app store to enable users of its financial systems to get alternative features and create an apps revenue stream for themselves. A number of specialist platform providers have gone this way recently – RM in UK schools being a good example. It’s fine as a strategy provided you can fulfil one side of the bargain, which is to bring in captive consumers. Bloomberg clearly can and I suspect this will work well for them. Others I’m less convinced about.

The Pebble smartwatch was a huge Kickstarter success story, so much so that they’re struggling to fulfil orders in time for Christmas. The positive spin to the story is that it’s pretty amazing to get a product like this designed, built and launched in such a short time. Ten years ago this would have been a multi-million dollar, two or three year project. Not anymore.

Programmes like Haxlr8r in Shenzen will enable technology start-ups to advance to manufacture much faster than has previously been possible... provided they can afford the downtime.

Practical advice from innovative leaders on how to create innovative organisations. Number 1, use your mind. Too many leaders are operators in this day and age (I blame “best practice”). They need to think and to explain the future to their organisation.

An interview with Dennis Crowley of Foursquare fame about how he’s aligned that business around a Brownian pursuit of his North Star. Or vision, to the rest of us. Some good lessons in this piece.

Use of predictive analysis to work out where crimes are likely to occur ahead of time is a smart idea and, according to IBM at least it’s possible and UK police forces should be doing more of it.

Walmart is a smart business. It’s using it’s impressive logistics platform to launch new businesses into niche markets – a similar strategy to that taken by Amazon. This one delivers artisanal food boxes on subscription. Not a typical Walmart business, but popular in much of the developed world’s aspirational classes nonetheless.

I can see local peer-to-peer delivery services making a big splash in 2013. Here’s a short article about Instacart, which is doing just that in the US.


Data can tell you a lot about the performance of sport, but as this Washington Post article explains, there’s also lots it can’t. A lesson that advocates of BIG DATA should heed.

Natural selection has made us more stupid than our ancient ancestors, according to new research out of Stanford. Interesting philosophical point, but fortunately collective intelligence is enhanced by mass communications, so although we have perhaps reduced raw creativity by devoting evolutionary imperative to disease resistance and so on, we now waste less time on blind alleys and have to compete with ideas from a much wider community. But then I’ve never been the sharpest tool in the box.

A nostalgic story about the first British laptop, from back in the days (1984) when we were leaders in computing (and yes, I know about ARM and CSR, but I mean a full on computing industry)

Emerging markets

A wonderful article on the reality of African emergence on the global scale. This is a story that is positive on the individual level, but should not be overstated into a driver of global economic growth. Yet.

African mobile subscriptions to break 750m this year, say Informa. I say 750m SIMs, which is an important distinction. A personal focus on economy and the poor quality of networks in much of the continent mean that multi-SIM is a common behaviour, so it’s likely the actual number of subscribers is much lower – perhaps 400m? Other interesting stat: only 5,000 LTE subscribers on the whole continent today.

7iber is a great service that enables citizen journalists in the Middle East to tell their stories. Worth looking at during the current Gaza crisis.

Superpower politics

iPad’s share of the tablet market will dip below 50% for the first time next year. Amazing it’s taken this long, to be honest, although shipments are massively up and I’d imagine Apple remains the most profitable company in the industry by a country mile.

Android is also more than 90% of the smartphone o/s market in China. Again, no surprises there.

Some stats on iPad Mini purchasers – apparently they’re more likely to be new to tablets and replacing PCs with them than they are to be replacing a full size tablet.

Apple and HTC have settled all patent litigation. The beginning of the end of the patent battles or a lull before an Apple/ Google/ Samsung showdown.

And is the first salvo in this battle the introduction of a 4 foot long alligator into the cooling pond of a Google server farm? Read here to find out:

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