Thursday, June 29, 2006

 

Google Checkout

The long-awaited and much-hyped Google Checkout is here.

It will clearly alter the lanscape of e-commerce by linking search to purchase behavior more finely than ever before. Worth wattching to see what ebay, Yahoo, MSN and Amazon do in response..

Monday, June 19, 2006

 

When Nokia and Siemens Join Forces for Handsets....

It looks like Nokia and Siemens will combine their operations to produce handsets in a 50-50 joint venture worth about $31 billion. The handset market is consolidating. This is not surprising given that the handset 'layer' is becoming commoditized. The value is shifting to software (applications) and services (SMS, MMS and ringtones) as well as search and transactions. One reliable estimate of the # of handsets in use by the year 2010 is 4 billion (yes, 4 billion). This clearly has implications for business operations--not just for th emanufacturers of handsets but also for services that can be delivered through the handsets.

This deal follows announcement by a group to create Linux-based software for handsets. This group includes: Motorola, Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, NEC and Matsushita. NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone are operators while others are hardware manufacturers. Clearly, this is meant to challenge Symbian (Nokia-dominant; but Siemens also is a shareholder) and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Is the Nokia-Siemens merger intended to further consolidate the role of Symbian against competing software standards? It may be curious that Samsung and Panasonic are common members of both Symbian and the new Linux-based software initiative. But, it is expected in dynamic networks.

Positioning in multiple networks may be a strategic requirement for success in the network era. Fixed, static positions under conditions of fast-change may prove limiting.

Friday, June 16, 2006

 

Transitions at Microsoft

Bill Gates announced that he will transition from day-to-day responsibilities by July 2008 and retain his post as the Chairman of the company that co-founded over three decades ago. More important is the elevation of Ray Ozzie as the Chief Software Architect.

Why is this critical? It signals a fundamental commitment to the inevitable move to the network era. The future is not about software as a product but about software as service. It is about reorienting the company around the concept of Microsoft Live. It is about building the requisite capability to win in the network era.

Will they win? That's an open question. Microsoft will always be Bill Gates. and Bill Gates will always symbolize Microsoft.

But the announcement of Ozzie as the Chief Software Architect is more than a symbolic transition--in my opinion. It is a signal of the power of the network era and the need to adapt business models to the new context.

The leaked memos a few months back hinted at the transition. Yesterday, Gates made it official.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

ebay Wiki: Shape of Things to Come?

ebay wiki
eBay and Jotspot have joined together to launch ebay Wiki. I think it is an evolution of the electronic marketplace that thrives on conversations between buyers and sellers. EBay community is 193 million strong and apparently, their message boards get over 100,000 messages per day. And Wiki makes this set of conversations tidy and efficient.

Richard MacManus noted in his blog:

Having a Wiki on eBay will serve to refine and formalize the cream of the content in its user forums. It will also help eBay in the search engine rankings, as its user-generated content coffers will increase significantly over time!

I spoke to JotSpot co-founder and CEO Joe Kraus about the new eBay wiki yesterday. He described eBay Wiki to me as "a kind of Wikipedia for eBay and about eBay". He said its main focus is to give "tips and tricks on how to get the most out of eBay". The eBay Wiki will complement and build on the eBay forums, in that the wiki will be a "single point of reference" on topics.

I think it is a sign of markets as networks that focuses on information and knowledge of buyers and sellers to create effective trading mechanisms.

Seen other companies offering wikis as ways to connect and converse with customers?


Saturday, June 10, 2006

 

Sony: Innovating to Win in the Network Era

Sony has an uphill battle to win in the network era. Here's a candid interview in WSJ with Dir Howard Stringer. It's worth taking a look at to understand the enormity of the challenges he faces at Sony to transition to the inevitable network world and compete against Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and others.

This following quote is particularly interesting..
If you're talking about delivering music, [there's] the Sony walkman phone.
We sold three million before Christmas in Europe, but thanks to the confusing
cellular system in America, we're only just bringing the Sony walkman phone into
the United States. We're bringing out another Sony Ericsson phone that pushes
email and that will give BlackBerry a bit of a headache. That's coming out this
summer. I'm not suggesting this is going to have Steve Jobs sleepless, but you
just have to keep coming at him, and I'm fairly convinced that the next
generation of devices will master software.

Worth seeing how he will succeed in the transformation..

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

 

Inside Look at Google: A Year-old Video but worth looking

It is a good overview.

 

Google Picasa and Joga

Google is making it easier for users to upload their photographs to Joga: the Google-Nike unofficial community created around the FIFA 2006 worldcup (Soccer of course!). This may be their way to experiment before making a full-fledged attack on Yahoo's Flickr. See here.

In the transofrmation of the music network, the traditional music companies stood in the sidelines while Apple established the new rules for winning in the network era. Similarly, it looks like the transformation of the photography network is taking place with Yahoo and Google calling the shots.

I think it is one more way we see Google's ambidexterity in action.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

"Google Spreadsheets"

Google offers now a new spreadheet web service. The files are stored on a Google server and allows file export and import (.xls and .csv) for offline service. The service also provides a sharing and chat function.

Microsoft will not be happy, but I think that they will also initiate an Office online ("live" program) version.

Monday, June 05, 2006

 

Google Offerings: A Wishlist

This is an interesting list.

While some may be far fetched, others are not so crazy at all and we may end up seeing some version of these ideas in reality sooner than some may think.
For example, Google TV is not so far fetched as an idea in light of IPTV (the convergence is already happening). Similarly, Google Travel is not a far off extension (aftera;; advertising around travle is a big business!). So also is Google Storage (logical extension of GMail and riding the cost curves of storage!).

What do you think? Suggest?

 

Google-Microsoft's Collision Course

Most observers and analysts expect Google and Microsoft to compete directly more and more as the software industry evolves from software-as-products to software-as-services.

The so-called leaked Gates/Ozzie memos clearly hinted at this eventuality. The latest move is Google's announcement to offer a web-based spreadsheet application. Google already offers a word processing application through its acquisition of Writely. What does this mean for Microsoft when it introduces Office 2007? If you are an analyst, you track the rate of upgrade from prior versions and the distribution of such upgrades across different sectors and across different regions in the world. That will give a strong indication of the impact of the shift from software-as-products to software-as-services. Other early-indicators are the degree of use of Windows Live and Office Live as compared with Google's applications.

So, what next? May be it is no longer about the market share of applications such as Word and Excel--which made sense when software was a product. May be it is about the click-through advertising when users rely on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications. If so, then it also has important implications for companies such as IDC who track market share data in the software industry when software functioned as products. I wonder if these companies have the requisite competence to track patterns of click through advertising when people use different applications or do they suddenly face competitive threat themselves from Google and Microsoft--who have this data as part of their service offerings?

Update: It looks like Google is particularly focused on the shared application idea--further bolstering the importance of networks. Take a look at this from AP.

To avoid swamping the company's computers, Google's spreadsheet initially will be distributed to a limited audience. Google also wants more time to smooth out any possible kinks and develop more features, said Jonathan Rochelle, the product manager of the new application.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to begin accepting sign-ups for the spreadsheet at 9 a.m. EDT Tuesday through the "labs" section of its Web site. Rochelle wouldn't specify how many people will be granted access to the spreadsheet application.

Google's spreadsheet isn't as sophisticated as Excel. For instance, the Google spreadsheet won't create charts or provide a menu of controls that can be summoned by clicking on a computer mouse's right-hand button.

Rochelle said the program's main goal is to make it easier for family, friends or co-workers to gain access to the same spreadsheet from different computers at different times, enabling a group of authorized users to add and edit data without having to e-mail attachments back and forth.

"We are totally focused on the sharing aspect," he said.

So does it mean Google gets the network era? Perhaps, Yes!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

 

Is Friction Inevitable in Dynamic Ecosystems?

Friction is inevitable in dynamic ecosystems. It is because the roles and business scope changes dramatically. Take the case of Symantec (publishers of the Norton Software). For a long time, Norton software was a complementor to Microsoft. Many retailers bundled the security and virus protection software and offered trial versions free for 30- or 60- days. The roles were clear: Microsoft offered Windows platform and Norton offered security protection modules.

But when Microsoft begins to offer Windows Live OneCare service, the distinction between platform and module blurs. Microsoft and Symantec are no longer partners but they start to compete more directly for the same customer dollars. Their cash registers collide.

I had blogged earlier about the tension between Microsoft and Adobe over whether Microsoft can offer the PDF making functionality for free. The WSJ article reported that:
The dispute with Adobe is whether users of Microsoft's Office software, which include the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications, will be allowed to save files in Adobe's PDF format. If Microsoft included PDF in its widely used Office programs, it could potentially crimp distribution of Adobe's Acrobat software, which is one of several programs that can be used to create PDF documents.

Adobe declined to clarify its exact objections to Microsoft's use of the specifications. (my emphasis).

Adobe offers technical specifications for PDF free, allowing other software makers to build applications that can read or write PDF files. Software from Apple Computer Inc. and open-source software called OpenOffice use the PDF technology.
These two incidents are not isolated incidents. They are part of the inevitable tension that exists when partnering under fast changing conditions.

Effective strategy in a network era is about navigation under dynamic conditions. And it calls for recognizing the early signals of shifting business roles even in tight ecosystems.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

 

End of Conglomerate Synergy? Time Warner Thinks so..

We had debated that the network era is about thinking of a corporation as a portfolio of capabilities through relationships, not vertical integration through ownership of assets.

One of the aberrations during the shift from the industrial era to the network era was the Time Warner-AOL merger in 2001. Steadily, it appears that Time Warner has concluded that the synergey was never created and captured by the merger. Here is the WSJ article that provides a good update. Recall that Google and AOL entered into an equity stake recently. Google-Dell link to preinstall Google Pack. Yahoo-eBay link and so on. At the same time, mergers wont go away (Ebay + Skype is a recent example).

Will we see less mergers and major acquisitions and more alliances in the network era? I will have to say Yes unless managers still rely on the logic of industrial era focused on economies of scope that has proved elusive.

Friday, June 02, 2006

 

Microsoft Office 2007 and PDF (Adobe): Friction in Software Ecosystems

Microsoft had intended to offer native 'save as pdf' option within Office 2007. Adobe 9which incidentally gives the reader away free) is not too happy with Microsoft providing this functionality! This seems to be the latest friction point within software ecosystems.

This seems to be an interesting case of who likes Open Source and who embraces it under what conditions...
Here is an interesting observation from Brian Jones, a program manager working on Microsoft Office:
"I'm still trying to figure that one out given that PDF is usually viewed as an open standard and there are other office suites out there that already support PDF output. I don't see us providing functionality that's any different from what others are doing.

It looks like Adobe wanted us to charge our customers extra for the Save as PDF capability, which we just aren't willing to do (especially given that other companies already offer it for free). In order to work around this, it looks like we're going to offer it as a free download instead. At least that way it's still free for Office users, but unfortunately now there is an added hassle in that anyone that wants the functionality is going to have to download it separately."

There is a CNET post on this as well discussing the legal angle.

The path to seamless interoperability is paved with many bottlenecks and coordination across the different software entities is a key to make the system work. Such frictions are inevitable. Microsoft and Adobe should work together for the sake of the customer.


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