Recent Blogs

RIAA and MPPA Go Down: Pirates 1 – Suits 0

Last weekend a bunch of folks at the 4chan internet forum organized and launched a series of Denial of Service (DDoS)  attacks against the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA websites. CNET reports that the attacks resulted in 37 service interruptions and 1 hour and 37 minutes of downtime for the MPAA, and 24 separate down-times for the RIAA.

Now I know what your thinking: “yeah, my server at the office goes down that much every time we have a quarterly sales call”. But, hey, is that a coordinated attack? Were all your salespeople deliberately trying to bring down headquarters? Well maybe, but that’s not likely. Not at least until now.

And yes, this ain’t exactly a French-style national strike that shuts the whole country down but it’s a taste of things to come.

Here you have a bunch of folks 1) coming together,2) for a single purpose, 3) to protest in an organized fashion 4) against something and someone that they feel is forcing them to do things their way and doesn’t want to listen to an alternative point of view or realize that history is passing them by. Do I hear King George anyone?

I just want to posit that we’ll see more of these types of protests.

In the future – that’s a time far, far away like five years from now – we’ll see people band together and protest from the comfort of their homes or while at a stoplight. They’ll coast over to their favorite protest site, enter in their favorite online ID, obscure their IP, anonymize their presence and hit send to protest against their government, their school, their employer or whatever it is they want to protest about.

Hey, could this be the start of the anti-Facebook, anti-MySpace, generation. The one that re-discovers plausible deniability… Hey, that’s not me protesting on the steps of Columbia University, that’s someone else. Maybe people need their anonymity to take back their collective voices? Maybe they need to get their voices back without the fear that some Facebook or MySpace picture is going to cost them their job. Maybe, just maybe, Democracy as we know it is evolving right before out eyes.

A Blog In Two Pictures – Apps vs. Songs

Aysmco is reporting that iOS application downloads on Apple’s iTunes store should overtake the number of song downloads sometime this year. The report is based on figures from the recent September 1 update to the iTunes Music Store.

Picture #1 – Total Apps Vs. Songs Downloaded In Months Since Launch:

Picture #2 – Growth Rates In Downloads for Apps Vs Songs (aka velocity):

Conclusion: Apps are hot, really hot, so hot that Lady Gaga is burning up the Telephone telling all her friends.

Total apps downloaded will soon be greater than the total number of songs downloaded on iTunes. I don’t believe anyone anticipated how big apps would be. So what does this mean to the idea of SaaS and the very meaning of Cloud Computing? I’ll let you know in a future post. Right now I’m busy re-watching the Lady Gaga video… wow, I love those product placements…

This Whole Android Vs. Apple Thing Is So USA

We Are The WorldRecently, I’ve been speaking with a few folks in the telecom business in Africa and a $299 or $199 or even $99 phone is not even a starting point. Try $10 or $20 or $30, heck splurge on an old blackberry retrofitted (i.e. someone cleaned the screen) and now you’re beginning to see how THE WORLD really works.

And that’s the same in China, India and other developing countries. (Yes, yes, I know they have smartphones and nice Apple stores but it’s a small part of those markets)

Sure a smartphone is cool, way cool; but being able to actually send a text message to your village telling them about your new job in the big city – now that’s way cooler.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld was fond of saying,  and by that I mean not that there’s anything wrong with smartphones but where are the entrepreneurs that are trying to come up with $99 supercomputers or $10 laptops or $5 solar powered phones that the “rest” of the world could use.

We’re so busy trying to conjure up the next Facebook that we’re missing Facebookx10 opportunities. So start innovating outside the box (e.g. the Fifty States, the EU).  Take a summer off and travel. Heck, take a year off and go study a foreign language. Just expand your horizon.

Maybe you won’t actually invent something you can sell directly to these markets but when you do invent something – you’ll be thinking globally and then instead of inventing the next Google, you’ll invent the next Google AND Baidu all-in-one and not have to deal with the “do no evil” quandary ‘cause you’ll start off from day one doing good for the whole world.

Now, that’s an app I’d like to see on my iPhone.

The CIO Is Not The Customer

The CIO Is Not The Customer

I remember, and I may be dating myself here, when software developers or engineers would actually speak with customers and get their input and feedback on a product. You know, plain ordinary folks, the workers on the shop floor or the accountants in operations – the actual people who would use the stuff that engineers designed and made.

And, then something strange happened. I don’t know when it happened. Slowly, we stopped doing that. It was too difficult, you actually had to listen. Or, it took too long as you had to actually go and talk to someone face to face. (Remember face to face, f2f, live?)

And, that’s when the machines took over… no, wait, that was a movie…. Well, here’s what really happened:

Engineer # 1: “Hey, I’m tired of speaking to real people. All they want is things made easy”.

Engineer #2: “Yeah, I had a guy the other day actually say he wanted less features. What’s wrong with people?”

Engineer #1: “Hey, wait a minute. I’ve got it. Oh, you’ll love this. Let’s just make it harder to use. That way everyone wins. We’ll get paid more because it takes longer to make really complex code and stuff. We’ll use up lots more materials so everyone in the supply chain makes more money. It’s so complex that users will have to get more education, so all the schools will make more money. Then all the users get paid more ‘cause they have fancy degrees and have to do more complex tasks. And, this is the best part: the CIO absolutely loves it ‘cause the more complex it is the more job security and higher pay they get. Everyone wins!

Engineer #2: “Oh, you’ve outdone yourself. That is frigging brilliant!” [Jumps up and down with pure joy]

Engineer #1: [Locks arms with Engineer #2 and dances around and around. Music swells…]

Isn’t it about time we started speaking to users again?

How To Design Like Apple

Steve Jobs WWDC

I’m sick of seeing half baked products trying to be me toos to the slick products coming out of Apple (e.g. Mac, iPod, iPhone). So, here’s a list of 12 things all you wanna be’s will need (are you listening Bill, Sergey, Larry?) if you want products that look as good as and that consumers will love as much as Apple’s products:

  1. Start wearing black mock turtlenecks – all the time!
  2. Be born either Italian or French so you have natural design skills in your genes (I can hear the comments starting on this one).
  3. Actually think that you should spend at least 55% of your time on making something look good and less than 45% of your time making it (Guess that one didn’t make it to Detroit).
  4. Go to Xerox Parc and copy everything you see in sight and then tell everyone you knew that all along. Xerox, copy, get it?
  5. If you can’t go to Xerox Parc wait for Apple to release the product (Hey that Window thing sure looks familiar).
  6. Stop selling stuff by the size of your megabytes. Get some confidence in you. Just tell people what it does: Puts 1,000 songs in your pocket, not has 32Gb hard drive.
  7. Start believing that what you do does matter and that how customers feel (yes, that touchy feely stuff) about your product is more important than how they actually use it (they go hand in hand actually but you knew that). If you’re unsure about this one and are married, ask your wife.
  8. Study Buddhism, practice yoga, learn Chinese, drive a formula 1 car, play soccer – all things that over 2 billion people on the planet do. Yes, get out of YOUR box and see the world.
  9. Disband your consumer focus group department; all you’re getting is yes answers any way.
  10. Put people with a sense of design in charge of products. Make engineers and designers work together. If you don’t know how see Step #1.
  11. Listen, listen some more and then do what you think is right.
  12. Repeat daily until you get it right (see #11).

HTC Android Gets an “F” in Branding

HTC Launches on HSNYes, “F” as in fail, freak-up, complete failure, go to the back of the class, do not pass Go.

The new Android HTC EVO 4G was launched this weekend on Home Shopping Network – before the official launch on June 7th at Sprint stores. Oh wow, HSN, Sprint Stores, I’m jumping up and down. Plus it’s also the same day Apple is supposed to announce their new iPhone.

Yes, you read it right, the Home Shopping Network. The place to be for great deals on ginzu knives and other such must have items. Wow, so now the really cool, cutting edge stuff is going to be sold on HSN. I would never have guessed. Isn’t that cool. Maybe I’ll even be able to buy a blender at the same time and then do one of those “will it blend” tests.

I’ve taught marketing and strategy classes at the MBA level and let me tell you that you don’t need an MBA to know that is just plain stupid – unless of course, a) you just made too many of the damn things and you need to dump them as fast as possible before the new iPhone is officially out or b) you work for Doctor Evil and you want to do as much harm to Google/Android as you can without having to buy a Death Star at 3AM with 2,500,000 easy payments of $79,999 per month.

Stupid is as stupid does“. Thanks Forest, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Do I love Android or do I hate AT&T?

Nobody loves me :(Do I love Android or do I hate AT&T? I find myself asking this question over and over this week. AT&T just announced that they are doing away with an all you can eat data plan and the new iPhone is expected out any day. How you phrase the question gives you insights into the behavior of buyers of iPhone versus Google powered phones. Hey it gives you an insight into my own behavior…

[Disclosure: I think the iPhone is a phenomenal piece of technology and a seminal event in the birth of Cloud Computing (see my earlier post). I’m also planning on going out next week and finally buying one – my Sprint plan finally expires.]

I’ve been wondering why anyone would purchase an Android phone since it came out and I believe that it’s not that folks just love the Android but that they hate AT&T. Price gouging will have that effect on you.

Here’s another question: Do people love the Android or do they just simply hate, beyond all measure, Apple and Steve Jobs? I think you’ll likely to get a strong response on this one and that lots of Android buyers simply just can not stand Apple, and that they don’t really love the Android.

So what does that make the Android? People are buying it because they hate Apple and because they hate AT&T. But do they really love it? I think not.

It’s practical, it responsible, it does the job. It makes you anti-frilly, anti-flip-flop, anti-mock turtleneck, and anti-design. Hey, you wouldn’t want to actually admit you live in California, right? Hey, it makes you a PC person. More gray than sleek aluminum.

OK. Have I pissed off enough people? I hope so! I would love to see a real competitor to the iPhone and AT&T. So, why can’t someone do it? Common’ Sergey and Larry, you can do better, much better. And you will. If only you started asking the right question: Why doesn’t anybody love me?

Loic Le Meur states “Make Love Not War”

Loic Le Meur - founder of seesmicWell, he didn’t quite say that. Common’ did you really think he would? You all know how shy he is.

But he did say something quite interesting, not long ago, in Miami where I had the pleasure of listening to him make a presentation on social media. You see, Loic Le Meur is the founder of seesmic – a social networking tool and site. During his talk he said that “social media is not a campaign”. And, it got me thinking (and should get you thinking too). It’s also the perfect bookend to my last post on the death of advertise.

He’s right, social media is not a [marketing] campaign. It’s the soul of a marketing campaign, the very heart and essence of what marketers are aiming for when they do campaigns. It’s a connection with their customers that a campaign can only dream about.

A campaign is an act of war. It goes after the customer. Open a magazine – BANG! Turn the channel – BANG! Drive down the street – BANG!

BANG, BANG, BANG! A campaign wants to reach into your eyeballs and your wallet to make you purchase something.

Social media is like an act of love. It’s there, inviting, pulling you in. If you’re interested you will come in. You’ll have a taste. A sample. Even try experiencing what owning the product (or service) might actually be like. You’ll take a virtual ride, read comments by those who’ve tried it, perhaps even talk to them. It’s softer, it’s kinder, it’s less in your face. And, it’s hugely more effective in reaching beyond our rational ability to judge a product and to experience it on a visceral level. Just like love.

So, what do you think? What do you prefer? Love or war?

16 Year Old Foresees The Death of Advertising

NFTE winners announcement

I had the great pleasure of attending the South Florida finals of the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) last week and what I learned should scare Google, Yahoo, and every company dependent on advertising. In short, the takeaway is that advertising is dead – we simply just don’t know it yet.

[If you’ve never heard of NFTE, they are a wonderful organization. They teach high school kids how to start a business. Having been a judge at some of the past competitions, I can tell you that I’ve seen 15 and 16-year old put to shame entrepreneurs that are twice, three times or more times their age – I mean – these kids are learning how to pitch!]

So here’s what happened. Daniel, who’s 16 years old, presented his idea of having a DJ service that serves high school kids his age and as he grows older he can sell to college students – his unique selling proposition was that he was a kid and only a kid can understand the musical tastes of kids. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, he goes through his deck, about a dozen slides tops and one of the judges asks him: “How come you have zero dollars in your budget for advertising”. His answer:  “I don’t need any, customers will find me through word of mouth and social media”.

Sure there could be a cost with doing that (time and maybe hiring someone to do it for you) but the point is that you can do it yourself. You can create your own community. That’s what fan pages are on Facebook. That’s what successful blogs are all about. That’s what Meetup, Ning and LinkedIn groups are all about.

So roll forward, 20, 30 or 40 years into the future. Every entrepreneur has a similar first response. I’ll skip the ad budget and put effort into building a community on Facebook or whatever is popular at the time. Hey, isn’t that what many are already doing? How scary indeed if you depend on ad revenues.

So, what do you think? Will advertising eventually devolve and become less important? Where are the opportunities here? What are you going to do to get Daniel’s business?

BTW, Jessica won ‘cause she had a kick-butt idea to create a custom wall design business that required minimal capital to start. In VC terms Daniel’s business might have more immediate scale but Jessica’s can definitely be something that she can grow now and into her future.

If NFTE’s in your neighborhood, get involved. And bring along some of those over the hill entrepreneurs in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and more and have them witness a 16-year-old pitch a deal like a pro really should.

Moses Created Cloud Computing (no not Jobs!)

Moses created Cloud Computing, not Jobs

At what point did this thing called “cloud computing” come to life? Was it when the marketing folks got together and decreed that what was needed was to resurrect 1960’s era leased computing under a new name. Was it when Jeff Bezos woke up one day and said “holy cow, we need a cloud”?* Or did Al Gore have something to do with it?

Personally, to me, cloud computing was the day Moses (the internet) brought down from the mountain (ubiquitous wireless and mobile access or the cloud) the tablets (iphone/ipad/ aka I gotta have one). It’s that precise point in time when three factors reached critical mass: the internet, wireless access and a device that showed us mere mortals where we could take our computing – namely everywhere. I’m sure I heard someone say “holy cow” on that day June 27, 2007 – the day Apple iPhones went on sale.

That was less than three years ago and here are the steps I see this revolution taking:

1. Baby is born – June 27th, 2007

Internet + Mobility + Killer device

OK, we have the Internet. We have mobility. We have a two killer devices now (the iPad and the iPhone) – Apple is in this camp – but we’ll need more. And yes, Google, I know you’re trying, but try harder.

2. Mommy and Daddy learn to walk

Big corporate IT spenders move to the cloud to save money. Storage is the first hot thing, followed by infrastructure (i.e. servers). This is what is happening now. It’s propelling the ability of us mere mortals to talk to our jobs and to connect us to our paychecks. The more this happens the more baby learns to walk.

3. Baby learns to walk

We’re seeing this already but the pieces aren’t in place yet. We need more infrastructure, more cloud, more corporate IT moving to a cyber existence. In particular, we need our applications and all our files on the cloud. When this happens, we – you, I, your neighbor across the world – we all become hyper-connected. We will be in an age of frictionless music, video and information (I said frictionless, not free). There will be over 6 billion people talking to each other. Will this be the new age of enlightenment? Will this in fact be what Moses (the Internet) was bringing to us?

It will all happen very quickly. Heck, how old is the internet? July 25, 1995 – that’s the day Netscape (the first really popular web browser company) went public. That’s ground zero, the day the world heard the bang. That’s only 15 years ago. And, June 27th, 2007 is just short of three years ago. Holy cow indeed!

So chime in. When do you think cloud computing started? What caused the tipping point? But most of all: what are the main forces at work? If we can envision those forces, we can envision the next Facebook, Netscape, or Google. Let’s invent the future together!