Friday, July 13, 2007

People connect!

We're facing nowadays a enormous boom of any kind of online communities, ranging from the typical ones of contacts and dating services (normally making money by subscription methods) to professional ones (e.g. LinkedIn) or friendship ones (e.g. Facebook). I tried myself several of these communities and you realize that it becomes annoying having to sign in for every different interface. Finally you end up choosing the ones with the most appealing interface, the ones where most of your friends/contacts are, etc.

But when you loot at the amounts paid for some of those projects and the ones that are being at stake for the buyout of companies like Facebook, that makes us think at first hand about the "bubble burst" of 2000. Are they really profitable? Their model is subsidizing users (the only way to attract thousands of them everyday), and their main revenue is (again) advertising. But the power that lays behind them is their biggest asset: the number of customers that are using their services 'loyally'. If we imagine the amount of potential customers and the amount of data that they have from them (those non-confidential), we can easily realize their capabilities.

There are also theories that explain that any person in the world can contact any other person by six degrees of separation (six persons that know one or tow members of the chain till reaching the other side of the link). In the end that is leveraging the advantages of socialization, networking and the needs of people to communicate in a global world!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The lords of the media

The concept of 'prosumer' joins in the same person the consumers with the producers of content. Users are today being the producers of content for free, and then it's indexed, classified and broadcasted by lots of sites widespread around the world. Each time advertising is more targeted and internet companies knor more about the users and their consumer habits. This video also bets for the concentration of the industry where there will be a few big players.

There are others futuristic scenarios on the web that try to anticipate how the mid-term future is going to be. They also predict the big players will unite their power to create the owners of the information and the future media...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Google controls the world...

There’s a saying by the founder of Unilever: "Half my advertising is wasted but I don't know which half". Nowadays targeted advertising is much more developed than in the era of the old media. Google is a good example of an enabler for this change. We can start thinking about the great amount of information that this company is able to handle: tastes and preferences of users, purchasing habits… So Google has the key to a much more predictable and useful marketing.

But Google ‘domination’ is not only that it is the world’s main info controller, the plans stated in the wall inside its Palo Alto offices clearly state that they plan to expand their tentacles even to the moon. In that way they’re switching from the digital world that made them almost mythical, to the analog ‘real’ world… Do you fear anything?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Donate tech

Let’s reflect today on the unselfish actions of the techie companies. Part of their Corporate Social Responsibility plan or not, and being done just to give a good external image or not, we can say that this type of actions have in the end a positive impact... Bill Gates for example is recognized, apart from being the richest man in the world, to be the biggest donor as well. One can think that with the amount of money that he owns that’s easy, but that’s a biased point of view… There are many other fortunes in this world that don’t even do this…

Apart from that there’s an initiative in Spain named ‘Project Dono’ where a tech NGO that is in charge of distributing products donated by Microsoft and Cisco to NGO’s and qualified foundations based in Spain to benefit from this project. The products are: operating system software, office software, publishing software and products for servers. The benefited associations have to comply with certain criteria and have to bear the administrative costs. They save a total of 96% of the market costs. It’s a way of helping these associations by giving them technology infrastructure to support their activities. A nice move from Microsoft to also improve their public image?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Get a (virtual) life

Have you ever played to the Sims? Well, it’s a not so accurate comparison but it’s maybe the most similar one. Because Second Life is a virtual world, but online and with thousands of users living at the same time and interacting 24x7. I started ‘testing’ it some days ago and last week we had the opportunity of having a meeting inside the amphitheatre created by my business school, Instituto de Empresa. We were discussing the opportunities for virtual learning inside Second Life, but we realized that the application has still room for improvement, but great possibilities.

Another interesting phenomenon inside Second Life is the business created around them. Big companies and multinationals have created spaces inside Second Life, creating brand awareness. The first initiative within Spain has been Novatierra, which provides rooms and spaces for private companies to hold meetings inside Second Life. And more to come… How do you see this evolving…?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Plug & touch

Microsoft has recently launched Microsoft Surface, a product that is a service itself. It consists on a solution that works as a personal computer but the interface is tactile and very friendly. Usability becomes key in such applications. By this way they can make technology more accessible to those people that don’t feel comfortable when interacting with computers and other gadgets. Anyway, although this application is being aimed to the business segment, with this application Microsoft is also tackling the home connectivity business (easy: no keyboard nor mouse).

As you could read in the previous paragraph, we have named several concepts at the same time: product, service and application. Product in this example with ‘Surface’ could be more understood as the hardware itself and its features, which are assembled and executed by different applications. While the service could be defined at a higher level, like something more abstract that explains the purpose or the outcomes of the technology applied. How would you define the distinction between these different words?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Duel of the techie titans

Every sport fan likes always to watch the greatest teams playing, like a Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona game. Even if they’re not in their best playing moment, at least there’s always the curiosity and interest of watching two giant rivals playing. This last week, the techie world could witness the meeting of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs included in a conference promoted by “All Things Digital”.

Both top executives didn’t appear together since the beginning of the nineties, when both have bee in the leading edge of the industry since the end of the seventies… However there was no battle as such, but more the mutual acknowledge of their successes. It was also a moment to take a look back to memories thirty years ago, and how things have changes since then! In the end we have the opportunity of having a conversation between two real legends that apart from the love & hate that they can generate, we can recognize that they accumulated important achievements and charisma.

Friday, May 25, 2007

TechIE Tuesday!: delivered

This week we hosted in the Instituto de Empresa the "TechIE Tuesday!". The name is based on the gatherings of entrepreneurs and investors at the dawn of endless ideas in the world of internet. It was an initiative organized by the TechIE Club, the first 'big' event since its foundation. Firstly we had the opportunity of listening to Anil de Mello, from Mobuzz TV, a Spanish start-up that has an interesting proposal about internet TV. After, we hosted a panel session with presentations from Google, Vodafone and Zinkia, another Spanish start-up that is being successful creating original cartoons. This debate was moderated by our professor Enrique Dans.

Initiatives like this are examples of win-win scenarios. All the stakeholders get a benefit from the celebration of this event: the Instituto de Empresa appears as the host for student initiatives that gives it a good external image, the speakers and participant companies get visibility in an event in one of the top Business Schools, the attendants have the possibility of listening to top industry speakers for free, and the organizes have the possibility of learning from the experience to organizae an event like this, apart from the networking possibilities open to everyone.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Silicon Valley, not alley anymore...

During the last week, I had the opportunity of participating in a trip to San Francisco included in my Management studies at the Instituto de Empresa Business School. It was a great opportunity to 'live' Silicon Valley, the most dynamic zone in the world for new technologies, internet, etc. and one of the models followed by other initiatives throughout the world. From our operations base in the Bay Area we could easily reach Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, ... and visit companies such as Google, Cisco, HP, Sun, Electronic Arts, Ideo, etc., including several conferences and workshops that were very profitable in terms of knowledge of this market.

Having a first-hand view from people inside the valley, we could experience the story of this area like if it were the history of a country: the beginning of dozens of start-ups in garages, the crack of 2000, the environment surrounded by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business angels, financial markets ready for ‘hype-type’ IPO’s, the workforce coming from Stanford, Berkeley, and each time more the very talented people coming from any part of the world, etc., makes the perfect formula for a success story that will still remain as one of the main references in the business world.

Friday, May 11, 2007

In search of the Paneuropean operator

Blyk is a European venture that aims at creating a pan-European mobile operator. Have you ever dreamt of going anywhere in Europe using your cell phone, without caring which mobile operator is serving you and knowing that they’re not charging you high prices? Thinking in the GSM standard, widely spread in this continent, technically speaking that doesn’t pose a lot of difficulties.

Actually nowadays Vodafone is the operator with more national operators in Europe and could leverage this situation by implementing a true global and unique network. However they’re still keeping each local business separately while starting to unify some back office systems and offering special price plans to their customers to call abroad while using their network. At the same time Blyk is also proposing a different business model, based on being ad-funded. So customers would use their services for free but being receivers of advertising.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Our environment interacts

The concept Ambient Intelligence (AmI) refers to idea that technologies, networks and computers surround people and interact with them. It’s like technologies being embedded in our environment like nature does and respond actively to changes around us and to our own requests. It requires the combination of different technologies: wireless, nanotechnology, biotechnology, sensors, etc.

Another topic related to this one is Human Computer Interaction: how are we going to communicate with machines in the near future? Are we going to accept the intrusive and invasive use of a different set of gadgets inside our everyday lives?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Music everywhere

How many times have you thought that the music that you have in your computer could be played in the Hi-Fi system in the living room? Or maybe in your car? Well that’s becoming each time more a reality: wireless standards that allow equipment to understand each other in a fast way will drive it.

This is the beginning of a current that we’re going to see boosting in the coming years: convergence and user’s customization. Imagine what a user wants from the technology and plan your design for it. Another field that comes into place in this case is domotics, think about a single interface in your house where you define all the parameters that control any single device. Do you fear that all the machines will talk inside your house?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Reshaping the music market

The music industry is being suffering enormous changes in the last decade. Internet posed an interesting threat to a very well established and profitable market. Their traditional business model basically selling CDs was partially replaced by digital downloads via internet and more specifically through peer to peer file sharing applications. And then Intellectual Property Rights came into scene, until different protection systems appeared such as DRM. Steve Jobs, considered one of the best tech gurus, questioned the utility of such methods, and soon an agreement between EMI and Apple announced the appearance of music sold without DRM protection in exchange of an additional charge per song.

Undoubtedly, the power of users sharing music (not piracy of people selling it…) is difficult to control. So business models have to be redefined. And the ones that will adapt best to this scenario will be (are) the most successful. As normally artists get more revenue from concerts and merchandising that the sale of records itself, they should take profit of he huge power of internet to broad the reach of their music. However the record companies don’t want to lose their piece of cake. Talking about the possibilities of internet to promote new music talents, let’s take the example of ‘Sellaband’, a website that allows users to buy a kind of ‘virtual shares’ of new groups, and then if they get enough ‘investment’ the group will record a CD. The users that invested on them will get a discount to buy it and they’ll share a 50% of the revenue coming from this CD. Don’t you think that’s innovation and really taking this industry to the future rather than anchoring it in the past?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Stop the warming...

Climate change is a very hot topic nowadays. It’s a very important issue, and the kind of problem that it’s not really taken into account until some consequences of its devastated effect are suffered. One of the main issues regarding the climate change is the information manipulation. People usually just see and/or believe what is broadcasted in the news and everything depends on what the ‘experts’ tell us. There’s an interesting awarded documentary talking about it: “An inconvenient truth”.

Internet is a very powerful information source, so in some way it has the responsibility of providing true information. But of course that’s not always like that, so users must learn to distinguish between real and fake information. Then which is the most trustful source? Like the web 2.0 spirit, oneself has the responsibility to be the chooser and disseminator of the real truths. And climate change should be among them. Here we have some basic advices to follow to do one's bit...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Playing telecom games

Game theory has been widely used in very different subjects such as economics, politics, sociology, psychology, transportation, etc. It’s emplyed in situations where there is more than one player that has to take decisions interactively. Basically there are a limited number of players, a set of actions and an output function to be maximized for each player.

Game theory has induced a vast range of studies and some of them have tackled the communication systems. For example it has been used for wireless communications, in the case of calculating distributed power control, for example when the power transmitted by one cell affects the adjacent ones (here we have an example where there are several ‘decision makers’: several cells). Gaming, strategy and telecommunications at the same time …

Friday, March 30, 2007

Videoconference in three dimensions

It’s neither a dream nor something that you find in an amusement park. 3D videoconference, also called 'telepresence', consists on creating a virtual image of the person at the other side of the line like if he or she were in our own room. Some related examples are 3D movies, which anyway are not having the spread of classical movies, probably because the industry is not concentrating their efforts on them, which might be spectacular but difficult to produce.

Some of the main big players in the industry are interested in this platform like Nortel, Cisco, Ericsson, Lucent, etc. If we compare this proposal with existing mobile videoconferencing, it seems there’s no much hype around this service over 3G networks: still not many people using it. However, if we think in today’s global world where lots of people travel around the world for business matters, don’t you think that these advances in videoconferencing can help to reduce the travel necessities and improve the quality of people’s personal life?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cell cinema

One of the main drawbacks of today's cell phone is its small screen and its limited capabilities when talking about visual content. However this situation is improving. Screen resolution and graphic processors are inevitably arriving to this industry.

There’s a company called Actimagine that patented a video codec that uses low power, therefore suitable for mobile and portable devices. There’s has been a recent launch with a Sony Ericsson phone and it seems that it’s just the beginning of a new era for mobile video. Do you imagine watching films in your while flying in your phone?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Video in your pocket

DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Hanheld, there’s for example another version for Satellite) is a technology that enables efficient video transmission over the air. It uses IPDC (IP Datacasting). The idea is to offer a common standard and provide a useful harmonisation for the deployment of the mobile operators. The technology can be integrated in networks such as UMTS.

Video streaming is one of the most characteristic services that 3G networks can offer. The possibilities are quite varied and after the recent success of web initiatives like YouTube, we could say it’s a promising service. Now we should think about the revenue model for it. Users download video for free on the internet, and the industry is already talking about profitable advertising. Mobile video will have to differentiate to offer high quality content anywhere. And how is going to be the acceptance for this offer?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Telecom stars play together

There’s an initiative called Telecommunications Platform Initiative, initiated by Sun MicroSystems in junction with Ericsson and Nokia. The idea is to create a standardized Platform to facilitate the integration of telecom equipment and improve the design, development and supply chain of the networks provided by the networks.

Standardization is fundamental for Telecommunications, and it’s interesting that some of the giants in this world partner to come up with a unique solution. But standards are good also for several other aspects of life. For example, the world is a “babel” of languages, but can you imagine what would happen if not all the world were using a decimal numbering system?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Communications in the sky

Satellite communications are a lesser known means of telecommunication compared to fiber, DSL, wireless, etc. However their possibilities are quite wide. Their have a very broad reach, which makes them really suitable for broadcast applications like Satellite TV. For example, satellite TV is surviving and being profitable despite deploying costs are huge.

But what about transmitting personal communications? The problem is that in this case the capacity is limited because it depends on the number of total communications, while broadcasting uses a fixed bandwidth to transmit data in the downlink. At the same time it requires big power to be transmitted by the handsets… Actually attempts of creating mobile operators through satellites sunk. Now let’s fly with our imagination and think in a future with colonies in Mars and other planets… Then satellites could be the ‘fiber’ that interconnects the world nowadays. Hundreds of satellites deployed in the space acting as repeaters to link planets one to another, does it sound sci-fi?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Collaborate for 'humanity research': it's free!

You may have heard about the SETI project, where it was asked for the collaborative union of the idle capacity of computers connected around the world to analyse vast amounts of information of signals captured from the space, searching for any extra-terrestrial communication. IBM is powering the project “World Community Grid” to contribute to different projects in humanity benefit (including AIDS, genome comparison, cancer, etc.). I have already tried it and the computer performance is not affected, try it!

There’s another curious initiative initiated in a University in Barcelona, where they want to take profit of the high capabilities of the Play Station 3 (20 times bigger that that of a normal computer). They’re researching molecular interactions that are useful for pharmaceutical research, and that requires very high calculation capabilities which become quite expensive. They discovered PS3 power and have started to recruit videogamers which can share the idle time of their consoles while connected to the internet.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wireless world congress

For the second year in a row, Barcelona has been the host city for the GSM World Congress, the biggest annual event of the GSM Association, which gathers almost one thousand members in the mobile industry. Each year, the main players in the arena dress up to astonish the telecom world: no one can be left behind.

This year one of the main actors has been the content producers and internet companies. Probably operators trust them a lot to boost their 3G networks. Another interesting point is the strong irruption of Chinese manufacturers, while other big players have switched part of their business to other activities more related to IT solutions providers. For those readers that are Spanish speakers, you can check the Vodafone blog for this Congress with some interesting topics. Apart from the convergence happening in this world, what would you expect for the future of wireless communications?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Squeezing the spectrum

A more technical post today: let’s talk about ultra-wideband (UWB). The frequency spectrum for wireless communications is becoming quite scarce, and expensive for some operators… So it’s like a ‘natural resource’ with some slight differences: its amount is fixed and we know it (well, theoretically frequencies are infinitely extended, but other thing is that they are feasible), and their extensive use is not exhausting the resource nor polluting the environment…

UWB uses a very large bandwidth (more than 500 Mhz, imagine commercial UMTS mobile communications use carriers of 5Mhz…). And the more bandwidth tat is used, the more is the throughput. Although this is some kind of tricky because they have to use very high frequencies, and the range is very low Taking into account Shannon limit for the wireless channel, that states that the highest the bandwidth, the lower the signal to noise ratio required for a certain throughput. Also the emission levels permitted are relatively small. Therefore its main use will be for personal area networks.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Be an owner of the web

Have you ever dreamt of owning the web? Do you want to get part of the cake that you generate while web browsing? Now you can do it with AGLOCO. I got to know it when reading to my ex-colleague in Nortel Javier Alvira, now MBA Candidate in Stanford. Actually it’s an idea born in Stanford Business School, the cradle of so many successful internet start-ups.

It works essentially with a Viewbar that is added to the bottom of your browser and allows you to get the benefit from the money generated by your searches, ads, and anti-fraud and other software utilities. The idea is to refer as much people as possible so you can get benefit also from their navigation and referrals. However the Viewbar is not still available, just as a beta tester. It is an original idea, attracting people with revenue, so it seems a nice move...

Friday, January 26, 2007

IP all around us

IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) is a standard for Next Generation Networks (NGN) that will allow operators to offer different multimedia services: video retransmission, PTT (push-to-talk), instant messaging, presence indicator, etc. IMS entails using IP protocol for all the networks, independently of the access. It simplifies the structure so in the application level, there’s more freedom to provide ‘all-platform’ solutions.

Mobile operators are the customers for handset and network manufacturers, which are already offering this technology. And IMS offers them very big possibilities to leverage their 3G networks. And the questions are: how are they going to promote these services to really make them as extensive as possible? Talking about the flat rate model, by the one hand operators seem to be reluctant to impose it, but the market is asking for the flat rate and the idea of making people used to new services through this type of invoicing customers, what would you say?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cyber Society

Today we have an issue that might open our mind to different reflections and ideas about how new technologies and gadgets are changing our lives. Daniel Goleman is the well-known author of the books about Emotional Intelligence and more recently Social Intelligence. They are two interesting concepts that extend the concept of intelligence beyond the classic one. Both are linked and take into account the capacity of people to capture and manage emotions and social relation in a positive manner.

Now let’s turn these concepts into an application to the Digital Society that we have today, specially in big cities full of noise, rush and computerized systems. In our everyday life we see continuously examples of how people spend more time with their fashionable devices that allow them to listen to music, make photographs or play videogames. Some can argue that internet and seamless connectivity is allowing us to establish relations with people far away and make contact easier. However at the same time, don’t you think that the traditional way of living and contacting with the people we meet everyday in our way, is being put aside and substituted by these machines, our ‘new friends’? Where is all this going?

Friday, January 12, 2007

iPhone comes to rock the coolness world

It's one of the main news in the new year for the telecom and IT sector: Apple finally decided to launch the iPhone. It's a ver cool (and expensive) gadget with the following characteristics: there's an option with 4 GB and other with 8 GB memory, a 3.5 inches tactile screen, a 2 megapixel photo camera, and connectivity through WiFi, Bluetooth and EDGE (GSM based). It's gonna be launched in the USA in June and planned for Europe in the end of this year.

For those of you also Spanish speakers you can find here two opinions from my Master mates Alex and Javier. Personally I see there's a big lack in the connectivity of the iPhone as it doesn't include 3G technologies. I would bet that at least for its European introduction it's going to be upgraded to include 3G connectivity. For example, Nokia N series already have very high capabilities as music reproducers, photo cameras, PDAs and they of course are 3G capable, one year before iPhone landing... Anyway, Apple is clearly leveraging its reputation with the iPod and its high design capabilities. Do you dare to make any predictions?
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