Friday, 14 December 2012

So long, 2012, we'll miss you!

After a busy 2012, the Amphibian is reclining on a beach in Vietnam, drinking cocktails out of a coconut. Normal service will resume on January 7th.

Friday, 7 December 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: Spotify for everything, social advertising only sort of works but everyone loves it, Apple returns to the US, Windows get sticky for Microsoft. US planned to nuke Moon in ‘50’s.

Digital media

This is a well researched article on whether a “Spotify for books” service could work. I’m undecided. I think that a subset of readers will find this a valuable service, but in the early days the subscription charge will have to be set high in order to create sustainable value.

Meanwhile, the real Spotify has just passed the 5 million paying subscribers mark. That’s pretty impressive and suggests that annual revenue will be somewhere around $250M in the calendar year 2012.

Red Box Instant – Red Box and Verizon’s streaming movie joint venture – is delayed until the New Year.

Internet advertising will overtake print in 2015. Perhaps. I’ll be interested to see how the curated, written word news format develops in emerging markets. There might be a little life in print yet.

The Daily, Murdoch’s ill-conceived tablet only newspaper is closing its doors on December 15th. Can’t say I’m surprised. Reputation equity is one of the few things print newspapers have going for them right now. The Daily had none. Hence it failed.

I agree with the author of this post – mindlessly collecting social media rankings is pointless but something that many marketing departments aimlessly pursue.

And social ads are annoying, ill targeted but get this, also “somewhat useful” according to Nielsen. Although I agree, expecting Nielsen to get off the fence on this is like expecting turkeys to vote for Christmas (or anything else, seeing as they can’t reach the table in the ballet box and are scared of pens). In my opinion.

Still, marketers are always one for the Zeitgeist. They’re super-psyched by social and mobile for 2013. Bless ‘em...

...hence why 92% of agencies are using social in client campaigns. I’d love to see the ROI calculations. What’s that you say? The returns are HUGE? Because you value a “like” at $4? Of course... isn’t much better in truth – smartphone and tablet owners have a generally negative reaction to it. They’d better get used to it though, since it’s here to stay.

Technology market

A great report on the platforms in play in the smartphone market. Ars Technica are producing some great stuff at the moment.

Samsung are in the process of doing an Apple and launching a retail brand. A store has just opened in Paris. I worry about the onset of hubris with Samsung – getting retail right is not easy, it requires genuine understanding of consumer experience, which I’m not convinced Samsung yet has.

This is a classic – pointless – tech story. Rumour has it that the Xbox 720 will have only a 1.6GHz processor, half the clock speed of its predecessor. But clock speed isn’t directly analogous to processing power. Even if it were slower clocked, the 720 processor likely has many cores and is much more efficient than that in the 360. It may also have a comparatively low CPU and one or more high performance graphics and even physics processors. So there.

Nokia have suddenly had a mini resurgence and maps are at the forefront – the only area where they’re effectively competing with Apple and Google. Regular readers will know that I believe maps and street view technology to be an exciting growth market due to the rise of self-driving cars from 2013.

Breakthrough technology

The rate at which password cracking techniques are advancing is pretty scary – this monster, GPU-packing PC can break any 14 character password in 6 minutes using a brute force approach. Any of you have a 14 character password? Thought not.

Emerging markets

Syrian rebels are using Skype and sat phones in their campaign to overthrow Assad.

Microsoft is putting $75Mn into digital education programmes in Africa. Admirable.

Superpower politics

Apple is struggling to keep up with demand for it’s products. You can put that down to “supply issues” as this blogger does, or you can put it down to extreme demand in a PC market that’s otherwise stagnant. Windows 8 is the best thing ever to happen to Mac!

Curiously it seems that some iMac 21” models are assembled in the USA. Is Apple coming home? Probably not – likely the supply issues are causing smaller scale manufacturing centres to take up slack.

As these data on the Windows PC market show. Microsoft are in a tough spot.

Just for fun

I love this piece of retro jingoism. It transpired this week that after the USSR launched Sputnik, the USA needed to show that they were ahead in space. So they decided to nuke the Moon. Obviously.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Effects of mobile on the economy

A few months ago I prepared an abstract for a paper on the effects of mobile technology on the economy. Since the requirement for the full paper has gone away, I thought I'd share as this summarises several previous posts I've done on the subject. Hope it's useful!

Mobile is often referred to as revolutionary.  I agree, but not, perhaps for the reasons most regularly cited. 

I’m not down on mobile technology. Smart devices have enabled greater scale and scope of communications between individuals, greater consumption of content, greater variety in that content.

Five years ago, applications were the preserve of suits with laptops. Now they are a mega-industry in the making. A new media untarnished by the false dawn of the dotcom era. Androids are cool for the first time since Star Wars.
Mobile has enabled all of this and still found time to revolutionise banking in Africa, catalyse the growth of the largest company in history and overthrow half a dozen regimes. Not bad for thirty years work.

Yet the largest effects of mobile are still to come. In proliferating to the degree they have, mobile devices have fundamentally altered the economics of technology. Low power, high performance computing is now a billion unit a year industry. Digital cameras: a billion unit industry. High resolution screens: you get the idea.

This is why you can buy a tablet computer for $40 on a market in Shenzhen; why it’ll soon be possible to wear your screen on your spectacles, rather than hold it in your hand; why robots have gone from something found in factories and fiction to commodity items that roll around conference suites and hospitals.

All of these applications grow the market for processing, imaging, sensing and communications technology. So those technologies get faster and cheaper still and devices using them proliferate ever-faster. The amount of data generated and consumed by these devices will be many orders of magnitude greater than today’s Internet. Managing it in the way we manage data today will be essentially impossible.

What seems likely to change in lock step is the nature of human consumption and manipulation of data. Rather than today’s more-or-less linear consideration of information, the consumer and worker of the near future will be a fast twitch being, flitting between layers of content that inform, enable and entertain, all empowered by an equally diverse ecosystem of connectivity and service.

Fast twitch responses and instant, infinite information provision will further increase productivity, a boon as decreasing technology costs and increasing capability make automation ever more possible. Supply chains will fragment, yet become markedly more efficient as advanced manufacture processes and simple localised supply and demand matching platforms supersede manually enabled super-scale global ones.

The threshold at which human beings are required to participate in business processes will rise and rise fast; however this is unlikely to lead to more free time. Instead, white collar workers will be required to compete harder to derive insight from a flood of data. Efficient software agents, matched to machine vision and voice-controlled interfaces will go some way to empowering this process, but the demands on the human brain will be greater than at any time in our history.

All of this machine enablement should fuel the most rapid growth in global GDP in human history. But we shouldn’t be complacent. Growth is not merely a function of MIPS, terabits and megapixels. Legislation and regulation must loosen or tighten appropriately to avoid stifling progress; education in particular must evolve to become more relevant to a society in which experiences are customisable and fit for purpose. It is these basics that must be correct if we are to build a digital dividend, rather than a digital divide.

Wednesday, 5 December 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 – a late posting this week as I was on holiday. Lucky me!

This week: Apple and Amazon beat Microsoft on Black Friday, Volvo goes self-drive but Cambridge warns of robogeddon

Digital media

ITN launch a citizen journalism on Youtube. Perhaps one of the aforementioned citizens can post a story about why ITN would do that.


Jawbone were one of the first companies to launch a wristband activity monitoring product. Seems like they’re still learning.

Tiresome tech wannabe launches an add on gadget that turns the iPhone into a camera. Unless it’s super-cheap I don’t see the point, although I’ll doubtless now be proved wrong by the power of celebrity.

Amazon’s “Black Friday” sale in the UK yielded record sales of Kindle tablets and eReaders. These categories will be the tech’ gift of Christmas 2012 and a force for change in publishing in 2013.

Nokia has re-introduced “Facebook” buttons on phones. I think this might be a good idea – it’s still faster to press a single button to jump to a function than navigate a menu. Good for Facebook too, provided it is the default setting. Most users won’t bother to customise.

The revamped Asha looks like it could be a real winner for Nokia. Here’s more details about some of the device’s features – aimed at catering for multi-SIM users and social sharers.

Intel has reduced forecasts for sales of its education tablets. Intel not a consumer brand? Who’d have guessed?

Galaxy Note was one of the unexpected tech successes of 2012. Samsung have managed to sell 5 million of the sub-tablets/ super-smartphones worldwide.

Inrix is an interesting company that provides real time traffic data. The article shows Black Friday congestion – a barometer for retail sales, but I’m more interested in the increase in points of presence, all of which are collecting data that will be useful for self-driving cars.

Breakthrough technology

On the topic of self-drivers, Volvo are launching their own in 2014. My prediction is already coming true J.

Bionics are another super-growth area. Here’s some information on different types of bionic leg.

Cambridge University are investigating whether robots will one day try to overthrow us. Glad we’re funding that out of the UK Government research budget.

Emerging markets

African innovators are benefiting from the reduced infrastructure in their countries according to Ethan Zuckerman. I can’t agree. It’s much better to have all the infrastructure and brilliant access to information and capital. Necessity is the mother of invention, but how innovative is your mother?

An excellent blog post about the divergence of sub-Saharan African economies.

Superpower politics

Sigh. Just when you thought the Patent Wars were on the wane, Apple takes aim at Samsung once more.

Apple comfortably outsold Microsoft on Black Friday according to exit polls conducted in the US.