Posts Tagged ‘Google’

I am indebted to my friends at the Enterprise Irregulars, for the links in this piece.  The IE’s, if you didn’t know, are a rag tag group of certified smarties who know all kinds of stuff about the greater tech industry and I am flattered that they let me hang out with them.

The aftermath of the verdict from the patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung initially generated more heat than light.  But the last few days have made up for the light that failed to emanate from the weekend’s id fest and Armageddon prediction Internet confab.

Reuters is running an interesting story  about Apple CEO Tim Cook and Larry Page of Google keeping the hotline open — you really need to be a child of the 1960’s to fully appreciate this metaphor.  Suffice it to say that it is the origin of the little red phone.  But also, there was this really interesting post at ZDNet by Jason Perlow about Samsung and Google’s collective need for a new dress.

I particularly recommend Perlow’s article because, while the idea of product dress might seem weird to some people — especially those who take issue with the look and feel aspects of the Apple suit — it might interest you to know that product dress is a legal term.

Without giving away Perlow’s point, let’s just make the observation that the classic Coke Bottle, which has nothing to do with how the stuff tastes, is part of Coke’s dress and its IP, as much as its secret recipe.  Only Coke has Coke Bottles, for a good reason.  So go read that article.

My point here, other than giving a shout out to the IE’s and trying to enlighten others, is that Apple might have, at least momentarily, hit on the only look and feel for mobile devices that will ever be widely accepted.  Tapping, swiping, pinching — things that come natural not only to the members of our Genus but also our Family and, who knows, maybe even our Order — might be so hardwired into our beings that coming up with an alternative might be a waste of time.  Holy $%^& Batman that might mean that Apple could end up owning the mobile UI and someday soon be in a position to make a few pennies on every Samsung or HTC device running Andriod for ever.

Believe it or not, such an outcome would not be unique in the annals of business or manufacturing.  It might have something to do with cross licensing (I know, but don’t confuse it with dressing mentioned above).  That’s when more than one company asserts ownership rights to an invention that each came up with the old fashioned way (you know, R&D?).  But rather than fighting about it for years, the two (or more) companies come to terms, some money and possibly other patents are traded and then it’s back to business.

The best example of this is the car industry.  Car radios, V-8 engines, automatic transmissions, how heating and air conditioning systems work, how the controls are set up and lots more, all have patents and if all cars look more or less alike in some basic features and functions, it might be because their makers went to the same patent swap meet.  Yes, patents expire so don’t go looking to fund the fifth generation grand kids college even if you have lot of patents.

So this brings us back to Larry and Tim and the hotline.  May we be informal for a moment and simply refer to each other using first names like they do in the music biz (Elvis, John, Paul, George, and especially Ringo; but also Bono, Sting, Eric and many others)?  So, Larry bought Motorola (early car radio patents, BTW) at least in part for its stable of patents to ward off just the kind of suit that Tim’s company is making famous in the mobile industry (Tim should file a patent! hahaha!).  And Larry, Tim and their minions are keeping the lines of communication open as they say.

What are the odds that the verdict put the discussions into high gear and that there’s an informal-formal patent swap meet happening out in the Valley between these principals?  Nothing would surprise me but I think that if both sides remain reasonable and use their inside voices and big words, that there will be an announcement in the not too distant future that they’ve struck a deal.

If so, the deal would create the stack of the decade.  Just as Wintel described a stack of Windows OS and Intel chips that made the personal computer; or as LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP for cloud application servers, some standard that combines Mobile/Google/Android/Motorola/Apple might emerge from all this chaos for mobile devices.

Let’s see, MOGAM? MOGA? GAAMMO? AGAMO? AAM? AA?  Who knows, naming might be the stickiest part of the negotiations that aren’t happening on the hot line at the moment.

There is a very good article in the current issue of Vanity Fair (with Alec Baldwin on the cover) about Microsoft.  In “How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo” Kurt Eichenwald recounts the failures and bad decisions of the company’s “lost decade” a time overseen by current CEO Steve Ballmer.

If you are in this business you can probably recall at least some of the major inflection points related to missed opportunities and in-fighting that cost the company its market leading position.  I thought it was just me, but Eichenwald even compared Microsoft to Detroit auto makers and their past glory.  For good measure he ends with a long quote from Steve Jobs’ biography about the difference between having a sales or ops guy running the show and having a product guy in charge.  Sad.  Worth reading.

According to the article, Microsoft’s stock has barely budged over the last ten years while other tech companies flew by — Google, Facebook and of course Apple.  In one recent quarter iPhone alone made more money than all of Microsoft.

The article quotes Ballmer saying he wants to remain at Microsoft till 2018 but I don’t think the company can wait that long.  The article also implies that Ballmer might be a smart pick to break the company up and to take the legacy products into the sunset while more product oriented people try to salvage the core of innovation, if it still exists.

Fun fact:  According to Wikipedia, “Ballmer was the second person after Roberto Goizueta to become a billionaire in U.S. dollars based on stock options received as an employee of a corporation in which he was neither a founder nor a relative of a founder.”

Ten years of stagnation can’t be sitting well with Wall Street.  What will it take to orchestrate a palace coup?

With the Facebook IPO just around the corner some people have started wondering if a “Facebook killer” might be lurking in the bushes and the new photo sharing website Pinterest has become the new darling.  Well, maybe.

I got a message from an industry watcher today, Kenneth Wisnefski, social media expert and founder / CEO of WebiMax, that said Pinterest was up and coming and a threat to Facebook’s IPO, but I disagree.  Here are some bullets from the email and my thoughts.

  • I expect Facebook’s stock price will soar in the beginning of the trading session, however once investors look closely at their fundamentals they will realize that Facebook really lacks a solid revenue stream (90% of revenue stems from advertising).
  • Facebook’s dependency on advertising revenue in addition to their vulnerability from smaller social media firms, like Pinterest, decreases my confidence in their long-term sustainable growth that we once expected.
  • Pinterest’s ease of use makes it more attractive to small businesses and we have already seen small business marketers shift toward using Pinterest and divert away from Facebook.  If this is sustained, consumers may gravitate toward Pinterest versus Facebook.

Well, then, here’s what I think.

  1. Advertising is not necessarily a bad business model.  It’s done good things for the likes of Google but as more companies enter the space and become good at the model, the demand for ads will prove to be less elastic than the supply and we will see tightening in the market and a decrease in profitability for the model.  Nonetheless, Facebook is early to the party and I believe their SEC filings make the point that they want to diversify so calling the business model a liability at this point is overblown.
  2. “Vulnerability from smaller social media firms”?  This sounds like somebody is trying to repeal the law of gravity.  It doesn’t work this way.  Certainly markets are open to disruption and certainly small companies disrupt bigger ones.  But for disruption to occur the disrupter has to demonstrate superior attributes in a market slightly adjacent to the disruptee.  Salesforce disrupted Siebel not in CRM but in the delivery mechanism.  I don’t see a sustainable difference between Pinterest and Facebook, especially since Facebook bought Instagram.  I think Pinterest will be a niche player in photo sharing.
  3. Pinterest might have the ease of use thing down simply because there is less of it than there is of Facebook.  When Salesforce started out with just four tabs they claimed ease of use and simplicity.  But that doesn’t say anything about the richness of the product or the experience.
  4. There is also the issue of switching costs which most people take into account when they consider going with a rival.  Facebook is a network and according to Metcalf’s law, networks are valuable because they have lots of connections.  A new network by definition has fewer connections than an established one, which makes switching more problematic.  Switching here gets you less not more and for the vast majority, Facebook’s network is a walled garden.

As I look at Pinterest I see a consumer site for sharing photos whereas Facebook has developed from those roots to a budding platform for doing real business and for hosting applications.  This platform is what enables Facebook to look toward other revenue forms and what makes it a better business solution.  So while Pinterest might very well be better than Facebook in some ways, to say it is superior or that it is a disrupter is to overstate the case.  It is a mistake to think that better technology wins the day.

Time after time we see that the company in first and with greater marketing resources is the winner.  If you doubt this, check out “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Trout and Reiss.  It was published in 1994 and while it shows some wear and tear, it still gets this idea right.

On April 23, 1516 in the duchy of Bavaria (thank you Wikipedia), the Germans put a law on the books governing the purity of beer.  The Reinheitsgebot stipulated that beer could be made of only three ingredients: water, malted barley and hops.  That may have been the highpoint of European tinkering with technology through government fiat.

The low point for government technology tinkering might be another German law enacted in the last few years Verpixelungsrecht or the right to be pixilated.  I got this nugget from Public Parts a book that takes on our various ideas about privacy in the modern world by Jeff Jarvis published last year by Simon and Schuster.

The right to be pixilated stems from Google’s efforts to map streets all over the world using cameras so that you can Google-up a street and see it.  How cool?  But the Germans have this thing about privacy and didn’t want anyone’s face captured for all posterity.  So they came up with the right to be pixilated.  What’s interesting, and what Jarvis makes very entertaining, is the contrast: the Germans’ favorite indoor sport, the sauna.  Naked.  Co-ed.  Sauna.  Go figure.  At least no one gets pixilated.

All this is brought into sharp focus by the latest effort at hemming in Google and other Web properties for their privacy practices.  In an article in today’s New York Times, it appears that Google’s upcoming changes to privacy rules are not up to snuff for the French, of all people!  The French are not known for their saunas but…oh never mind.

According to the Times:

“… the French privacy agency, the National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, said in a letter to Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and chief executive, that the proposed policy was murky in the details of how the company would use private data.”

Privacy agency?

If I understand this right, Google takes a zillion pieces of data, strips out the identifying characteristics (let’s say they pixilate it, ok?) and then use analytics to look for patterns so that when you browse a page they can suggest ads.

Isn’t this just a big focus group masquerading as a science project masquerading as real work for politicians who can’t get their economy moving because they’re wedded to draconian economic ideas that were last tried by Diocletian?

Look, my name is Denis.  For the first forty-odd years of my life, before people met me they assumed I was a girl because Dennis is the ‘correct’ spelling of my name.  Every year the first day of school had a predictable little drama when the teacher read the roll.  Let’s not go there.

Sometime in the late twentieth century something changed.  Writers and actors (Lehane, Leary) with my spelling made enough of a dent in the culture to make having a single ‘n’ acceptable.  Perhaps more importantly, we all began collecting and crunching enough data that even those who try to market on autopilot realized that I might like beer over white wine or whatever.

Let’s be clear.  There is a big brother threat from all sorts of things in our culture, some driven by computer.  For example, bank foreclosures accelerated by robo-signings and lost paper work, but no one thinks about this in a big brotherly fashion.  Why?  Just as Ayn Rand’s economics is fictional, so is Big Brother.  We’re going to have to work harder to find those excessive intrusions on our privacy than reflexively flogging Google and Facebook.

So, all you Europeans in the sauna, if you want privacy, put your pants back on.

The Cyber Savannah

Posted: January 10, 2012 in CRM
Tags: , , , ,

Peter C. Whybrow, M.D., is a neuro-psychiatrist and director of the Semel Institute for Neuorscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, or at least he was when he published American Mania: When More Is Not Enough in 2005.  In the book he quotes numerous economic thinkers and writers from the last 300 years including Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) and Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America) as he analyzes how we behave in modern business.

Whybrow’s book is definitely relevant today though it was researched just before the social explosion of the last half decade.  But that perspective gives added weight to his observations of humans as social beings before we became economic actors.

Whybrow’s chief assertion is that Homo sapiens evolved on the savannah as highly social creatures living in small hierarchical groups that provided mutual security (both protection and food), emotional support and served as a repository of knowledge.  The time between when we lived in those small societies and today is infinitesimal in evolutionary terms and thus, one of his conclusions is that the human being performing as an economic actor today is virtually no different intellectually or emotionally from our ancestors on the savannah.

One of the big differences today is our communications reach.  Small groups of our ancestors were about the size of a soccer team or an army platoon and communication was face to face.  Social media may hugely increase the size of one’s intimate community, but it does not change our social approaches or approaches to intimacy.

This is all highly important when figuring out optimal uses of these new technologies in business.  To a high degree, businesses and individuals have very different reasons for approaching social media.  Businesses see it as a nearly frictionless way to “meet” customers and possibly sell something.  Regular people may just want to hang out and hook up.  In other words individuals seek community and for many of the same reasons that our ancestors aggregated.

We all know that modern social communities enable people to compare notes about vendors, products and services as well as to provide support for many of the vendor conundrums customers face in the marketplace.  Of course, people also approach the internet and its social communities in their new incarnations as Homo economicus but one should not assume that.

Given that slight misalignment of reasons for engaging in the social sphere, vendors are well advised to tread carefully when leveraging social communities for commerce.  Two new books by respected thought leaders in the space offer their wisdom and advice for trading in this brave new world.

In The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money with Facebook, Brian Carter presents a primer on marketing and selling through Facebook.  While Carter does a good job covering the basics the feel of the book is like reading some marketing 101 treatise moved to social media.  The assumption seems to be that this is a tool more or less expressly for business, all other considerations not withstanding. You can read self-help styled chapters like “FaceBucks: Five Ways Businesses Achieve Profits with Facebook” and “How Not to Fall on Your Face: Six Mistakes That Block Facebook Profitability”.

Carter’s approach is all business, which is fine, provided the reader has already understood that social media is not exclusively about marketing and sales and that people can turn you off like a light.  Carter recommends many tactical things you can do to optimize your sales and marketing efforts but I would have preferred some nod to the need for listening to customers or sponsoring real community give and take that may not be directed toward buying the next shiny object but to answering questions about the current one.  In other words blending in with the natives, so to speak.

A more rounded approach comes from Chris Brogan in Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything.  At first glance, it’s funny that both authors seem to have a need to state in direct terms why the social network, which is their subject matter, is the first-best-and-only one for the assignment.  Perhaps it is an artifact of the publisher the each uses, Que.  While we’re at it, the cover designs aren’t that different either.  But I digress.

What’s useful, to me, about Brogan’s effort is the more holistic approach he takes to commerce on the Web.  Brogan starts at the beginning indirectly reminding us about some of our savannah heritage with sections like “Businesses Are Made of People, Connections Before the Sale” and How You Appear to Others.”  Most important there’s a whole chapter on Circles, those aggregations of community members that have like reasons for being in some kind of a relationship with you to start.

There’s more too, like Chapter 8 “The ‘Warm’ Sell” with sections like “Attention is a Gift” and “Make It About Them”.  I could go on but if I had my druthers Brogan’s approach, regardless of the social network I choose, would be my preferred way of getting the job done.

Like Carter book though, I would have appreciated it more if Brogan had managed to insert a bit more of community away from the sales process into his offering.  In the future of Web commerce, I doubt companies will have one community for service and another for sales and marketing.  It’s all becoming one and some of the best marketing can come from listening to and understanding a customer’s problems or issues especially if you can turn that issue into a need.  Each book is missing a discussion of the new role of the community manager and a bevy of people whose job is to listen and administer the communities.  Regardless of how frictionless this kind of commerce is, it does require work.

I think the more we regard the community as something with roots on a real savannah, the more successful we will be in the new cyber savannah.

Marc Benioff’s Facebook page says that is a rising leader in the effort to get carbon out of business.  I didn’t know there was such a survey or report but I am glad there is.

Getting carbon out of your business processes is hugely important.  While most people will view this as an anti-pollution idea and good corporate citizenship — and it is — it has an even more serious driver and consequence.  As important as carbon abatement and climate change limitation is, it is secondary to the idea that the planet is running out of fossil fuels like petroleum and coal.  Why secondary?  Because without the affordable fuel to grow food and bring it to market (just to name one idea) you’ll die in a food riot long before the planet heats up enough to threaten your grandkids existence.

You might like to think that the earth has a limitless supply of fossil fuels but for that to be true the earth itself would need to be limitless.  Of course nothing is limitless though some things are so big that they appear to be.  In fact, the earth was endowed by about 2.5 trillion barrels of crude oil which we began tapping in earnest in the 1850’s at Titusvill, PA to be precise.  Since then we’ve discovered all kinds of uses for petroleum as fuel and as raw material for numerous materials from rubber and plastic to paint and pharmaceuticals.

But we’re running out of the stuff.  Estimates from petroleum geologists and others in the industry are that the planet now contains about 910 billion barrels of crude and it’s in harder to reach places of extreme weather or ocean depths.  Oil and therefor transportation will never be as cheap again as they are today.  Check that, transportation that is not tied to fossil fuel has a chance of being this cheap again but that will require a massive investment in infrastructure and I doubt anyone has the stomach for that — yet.

So that leaves it to the business community to fend for itself.  Taking carbon out of your business processes is not simply good environmentalism but smart business.  If you can find ways to visit customers over an IP connection or replace the visit with a video you are taking carbon out of that process.  That’s where this report fits in and why it’s so important.  The tech sector is about to be called on to pull our collective chestnuts out of a big fire and those who lead this process stand to make a lot of money.  Google, Cisco and Salesforce are all at the top of this stack and your company ought to be trying too.


Posted: September 2, 2011 in Technology
Tags: , ,

I am on a Virgin flight coming home from Dreamforce to the Boston area and while I’m in flight I have a loaner of a Google Chromebook computer.  I am writing this review on the device itself and plan to turn in the machine when I land.  This is a rather creative approach to marketing and Google should be praised for this,

As delivered the mouse pad is too sensitive and too fast and you find yourself doing wacky things to do the right things.  IT’s sort of like over steering until you either crash, get the hang of it or best outcome, find the settings screen.  Having founod the settings and adjusted thin, I am into the third phase of my Chromebook life.

The keyboard is the opposite of the mouse pad.  It seems to be fullish size with big keys and space between them for my fat fingers and that helps me avoid most spelling/typing errors.  The screen looks to be thhirteen inches and it is fine for most uses.  It is glare free and crisp enough,  Navigation is fair.  The mouse pad is one though think to get the hang of and I found myself skating off the reservation and not getting mouse-like things to happen.

The big difference between the Chromebook and a conventional notebook PC is the OS but those differences are completely covered up because you live in the Chrome browser.  The full Google Apps suite is what’s available an what you use to write or do other things you might often use Microsoft Office for.

Speed is good, I don’t find the machine slowing down or unable to process my instructions unless I’m trying to access the net but that might be more of a function of the wireless internet available on the plane.  The screen dims periodically to save battery and that’s fine.  I suspect the display is a thing you can adjust but I have not bothered to find the place for that.

The Chromebook gets good marks for ease of use once the mouse pad is squared away to suit your needs.  It is light and the battery will last throughout this flight without charging which is good because the slipcase doesn’t hold one or much else other than the device itself.  I understand that it has a hard drive but it boots in under 8 seconds.  I can live with that and I suspect that it’s easy for Google to hold the OS in memory to make booting quick.

I think the price is $430, about the price of an iPad with WiFi only.  It’s a different form factor than the tablet traditional if you will.  This book is good for travelers and anyone else who needs a real keyboard to operate conventional apps.  As a traditional device it is used for both consuming Internet traffic and for content.  Tablets are for a different but related market of consumption and I find that’s a question you need to ask before you buby on.  It’s the question we all should ask whenever buying things, not just electronics. Too many of my friends bought tablets — iPads — and discovered they needed to buy wireless keyboards to write.  Before theey knew it they were building and buying their own laptops and carrying around two separate pieces.  Where’s the advantage in that?

So this is the end of the review.  I wrote the whole thing on this little computer and it’s ok.

Necessity is the mother of invention and last year when Bill Clinton was late for the closing keynote, Marc may have discovered an ideal medium for closing out Dreamforce.  This year he perfected it.

I don’t know if Clinton was scheduled to give a conventional speech last year or a sit down interview I only know that in selecting Stevie Wonder as an interview subject, the limitations of the situation bred a new kind of closing ceremony and enabled a new level of customer or audience intimacy.  Mr. Wonder is many things but one thing he is not is a stump speaker like the former president.  In selecting Wonder, Benioff had to accept that limitation and from it the interview format was a natural outcome.  But who knew the Marc could be such an engaging interrogator and listener?

This year the interview was established and organized as much as such a thing can be.  In selecting Eric Schmidt of Google, Benioff called on a friend of several decades, a former colleague at Oracle and an individual who has by any measure lived the life of a highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and innovator.  Benioff and Schmidt spent more than an hour discussing the evolution of their industry and setting what Dreamforce had been all about in that context.  When you left it was still possible to think of an alternative universe, but only with great difficulty.

In fact, there is no alternative universe.  You get what you have and what we all have is an industry that is leading business into the new century and a new era.  That era is mobile and social, it is connected physically and emotionally and increasingly the connectors are technologies.  It is also rapidly iterative and Salesforce was careful within Dreamforce to ensure it touched all bases.

Benioff’s breakthrough with Schmidt at this year’s Dreamforce was the realization that other people could carry the ball and deliver the same kind thought leadership that Salesforce is delivering.  Salesforce has always been about extending thought leadership; about getting people to imagine a world without the complexities of conventional IT.  The closing interview didn’t just expand that franchise, it sent a lot of people home knowing they were on the right track and doing something important.

What a difference a decade makes.  The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Microsoft will file antitrust charges against Google in Brussels today.  Just about a decade ago circumstances were reversed as Microsoft was the 800-pound gorilla in the operating system world.  Today Google is the monster of search and all things related to it and Microsoft is looking to level the playing field for bing, its late entry into the search field.  Timing is everything in this business.

From the Times article — Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management who has studied Microsoft said, “The company that was the 800-pound gorilla is now resorting to antitrust, where it is always the case that the also-rans sue the winners.”

That might be a bit harsh on Microsoft but the reality is that it coasted on the success of Windows and Office and a few other products while others invented new technologies.  You might also say that the company was involved in a protracted legal tussle with the Department of Justice over its monopoly position in operating systems and browsers during that time.  But that would imply the company couldn’t walk and chew gum, not something any self-respecting multi-tasking operating system vendor would willingly admit to.

There’s a lot at stake and search is only one of Microsoft’s beefs.  Others include access to YouTube (a Google property) and mobile operating systems.  If past is prologue this should provide entertainment for several years.


“Day-to-day adult supervision is no longer needed.” So wrote Eric Schmidt CEO of Google, one of the most successful digital economy companies ever, in a Tweet today.  When he was brought in by the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin to run things in 2001, Schmidt acquired that moniker in part because the founders were so young.

As has been typical in Internet related industries youth and a new way of looking at things has often been enough to launch iconic brands and mind-boggling wealth.  Google may have been the poster child for youthful innovation but the industry is full of people from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg who fit the mold.

So now what?  Co-founder Page becomes CEO as well as president of products while co-founder Brin remains president of technology.  The company is clobbering its numbers and despite a challenge from Facebook and continues to print money for its shareholders.

I do not understand why the shakeup occurred.  According to Google this change will make communication channels cleaner but it’s hard to see how from outside.  The trio appears to still be friends but perhaps a decade at the helm has sated Schmidt.  Or possibly the two still youthful co-founders have a second act.  But if that were the case, it is hard to believe they could not have acted from their previous positions as mere presidents.  We may just have to watch as this company continues to evolve.