What a week in Tech!

October 13, 2006

Wow, what a week in tech! Ending months of speculation, Google finally acquired You Tube, The Carphone Warehouse branched out and bought something for them to play with at the weekend in the shape of AOL UK, and what did Yahoo! do? Well nothing, actually. They are still dragging their heels about getting hold of Facebook.

Why are these seemingly disparate developments significant?

In brief, Google now have the eye balls of one of the most visited sites in the world. It is only a matter of time before they start applying their super successful ad model and start seeing their stock price increase even further. You have got to admire their pace when it comes to acquisitions and NPD. Can you say the same for Yahoo! at the moment?

Having already shaken up the broadband market in the UK with their successful ‘free broadband’ campaign (possibly too successful!), The Carphone Warehouse has raised the bar once again in the market by now being able to incorporate content into their broadband business model.

Free, or next to free, broadband with content included is going to be a pretty attractive proposition for consumers and will be a great platform for Carphone Warehouse to sell their core products of landline and cell phone services. BT had better watch out, Carphone Warehouse could soon be the one-stop shop for all your communication requirements.

Now on to Yahoo! I must admit I am kind of surprised at their apathy when it comes to buying Facebook. Facebook is a great concept, has a good user base, and would compliment Yahoo’s current portfolio nicely, but why are they stalling?

Yahoo! has been fairly active when it comes to acquisitions over the last 18months, with purchases that has included great products like Flickr and Delicious, but they have lacked a truly massive purchase like You Tube or MySpace. Facebook would offer them something along these lines.

I appreciate that $1million is a big price tag, but I think the negative impact on their stock price is making the price look pretty small. I think it would be almost worth them just getting hold of Facebook and let the tech media find an alternative avenue to sink their teeth into. Yahoo! can then come back and surprise everyone at a later date with a cool product and regain their credibility for being what they really are – a great company!

Even with this in mind, I go back to what I said at the start of this post. Why are these developments significant?

Well, they all one way or another have the potential to change the face of tech for the foreseeable future.

BT could loose even more influence in the market with the actions of Carphone Warehouse. Google has reinforced its dominant reputation in the market by buying You Tube and seriously exposing Yahoo’s ‘oil tanker’ like mentality to business deals.

I am confident that Yahoo! will bounce back but it has definitely taken a few powerful blows by not buying Facebook and letting Google hog the limelight. Could this be the knockout punch?


Inside the Bubble Event – Serpentine Gallery

October 10, 2006

The use of social software and the impact of web 2.0 in the enterprise, and in particular marketing, is a keen area of interest for me so it was great anticipation that I attend the ‘Inside the Bubble‘ Event at the Serpentine Gallery last night.

The event was run by the media company, Banner, and had an informal panel format, rather than an evening of presentations.

All the members of the panel were very knowledgeable and included representatives from Techcrunch UK, Etribes, Google, Banner and others. Sam Sethi at Techcrunch UK was particularly passionate and was more than happy to chat after the panel session about his views on the evolution of web 2.0. Thanks for taking the time to chat!

Overall, the event was pretty solid and covered quite a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time. There was even a moment of controversy when one of the panellists (her name escapes me) managed to offend every member of the audience over 40 by saying that they should all be shot. This was obviously said in jest, but managed to create quite a reaction!

I think that most of the delegates would have walked away from the event feeling that they have learnt something and has hopefully sparked some ideas to take back to their organisations.

The choice of venue was also pretty inspired – well done Banner.

The use of web 2.0 technologies in marketing has only just began and I think it would be great if they could run another event in 6 months to build on what was discussed.

Top Links – Wednesday 4th Oct 2006

October 4, 2006
  • The online movie rental store, Netflix, is offering $1 million dollars to anyone who can substantially improve their recommendations algorithms. I guess it is a bit difficult to define ‘substantially improve’, but I think this is an awesome example of a company embracing the concept of social/community marketing. Putting out the opportunity to physically improve their platform to the community, not only makes the community feel more closely linked to the company, it has also generated a bunch of free PR (as seen here). Nice!
  • Michael Parekh today talks about a neat new site called Custom Google that allows you to see your name in the google font and colours. It’s not exactly going to change the face of business, but its good fun all the same.

Yahoo! Hack Day

October 2, 2006

Not that I attended, but Yahoo’s Open Hack Day sounded absolutely brilliant and is a great example of how to run a value-added, community orientated, event.

Yes, Beck, adds a different dimension to most corporate events you would typically attend, but the quality of sessions and the hands-on involvement from all of the Yahoo staff involved on the day is commendable.

Other corporates, large and small, should take note.

Open Source in an enterprise environment – Good or Bad?

October 2, 2006

From a consumer perspective, my opinion of Open Source is more than favourable. Firefox beats IE hands down, and even the blog platform I use to write this blog pips many of its peers to the post.

But can the same be said for the use of Open Source software in an enterprise environment?

In the space of one week I have heard two completely conflicting, very passionate, opinions on the subject. But who is right?

Open Source software is generated by its community of users and is not restricted from the innovative and commercial constraints of a corporate development team. You, therefore, get software that addresses the specific requirements of the community, is free of licensing costs and is more responsive to market drivers than a commercial offering.

All this is great, but what about support? What if something goes wrong at 2am as you are working on the final changes on a big project? Are you really going to call Fred1963 for help on how to fix the problem with a particular plug-in he has developed that is now crashing your machine: probably not.

With a commercial provider you could. Yes, you will be paying for the privilege, but when it comes to a business critical application I think you can probably justify it. Having someone you can turn to is worth its weight in gold!

Furthermore, commercial providers add value by offering consultancy and advice in helping implement the solution. Admittedly, the quality of this advice often differs but on the whole my experience of this from a client/user perspective has been quite positive.

Ultimately, there are clearly pros and cons when it comes to deciding which direction to go down with regard to enterprise solutions, and at the end of the day these can only really be debated on a company-by-company basis.

I appreciate that is a huge generalisation, but if you are a cash strapped University or charity, than you may find that an open source solution is most appropriate for your requirements. Alternatively, if you are a large corporate like Morgan Stanley or HP, you would probably be better off opting for a commercial provider.

Now, just to throw a spanner in the works of this conclusion, you could always go down the Open Source route and outsource the hosting and development to a commercial service provider. Would that be the best of both worlds?

More on that to follow……..

Apple goes potty over the use of the term Podcasts!

September 25, 2006

I am a big fan of Apple, but even I will admit they are being a little short sighted over their latest legal escapade.

The Guardian technology blog reports today that Apple is taking Podcast Ready and myPodder to court over the use of the term ‘Podcast’.

Apple argues that they own the copyright to the term and that other organisations can’t use it.

Since its successful appearance 12-18 months ago, Apple has become synonymously associated with this increasingly popular method of distributing content.

For this reason, surely it can only assist their promotional efforts if others use it to describe the activity.

While they may own the term ‘podcast’, if every time someone downloads a podcast they think of the iPod and Apple, what do you think their preferred device is going to be?

It is much like (to a varying degree) hoover and band-aid, whereby brand names or product names become linked with the activity or product, itself.

Apple has the best technology when it comes to Podcasting and continues to innovate in this space. I don’t think that they should be overly worried about other organisations using the term. It could even do them more harm by throwing their toy’s out of their cot, rather than just sitting back and letting their great products keep them at the front of the pack!

If others are prevented from using the term and developing products and services that expand the appeal of the distribution channel, we may find an alternative come along that pushes podcasting to one side. We are then faced with all the great work achieved by both Apple and the wider community being eroded before it really even began.

Enterprise Web 2.0 – Is marketing collateral necessary?

September 22, 2006

I am currently working closely with a Swiss internet company (watch this space for more info) to launch an enterprise web 2.0 product within the UK.

During a recent meeting with the CEO, we got onto the topic of promotion and marketing collateral and whether the practise of producing brochures etc is appropriate for a web based product.

The CEO felt that it wasn’t appropriate, whereas I felt that we should: to a point, anyway.

I must admit, I can see where he is coming from in one way, but the enterprise market (stating the obvious here) is vastly different from the consumer market that web 2.0 apps are traditionally associated with.

Yes, it wouldn’t be appropriate for marketing teams to produce slick brochures for sites like MySpace and Flickr, but in the B2B market it is culturally expected to be able to send a brochure (PDF or printed) when requested. Furthermore, products aimed at the enterprise market tend to be more complex then those aimed at the consumer market and need to be ‘explained’ in something more than a 4 click tour of the product.

So what is the right answer here – should you produce brochures or not?

I believe that with the majority of enterprise web 2.0 products you do need some kind of collateral, but this should be used in combination with other techniques to communicate the benefits and functionality of your product.

What is ultimately needed is a blended approach that predominately focuses on the site to promote the product, but with a brochure to support your message.

Voice over video demos and scenario orientated examples should be at the core of your education communication strategy, but you can’t ignore power of a brochure or product sheet.

The majority of purchasing decisions with the B2B sector are made within a decision making unit, and are rarely made by one person as a result of looking at a demo on a website. A brochure is a useful way for members of the DMU to circulate consistent information about the product.

Salesforce.com, for example, has a plethora of video demos and case studies etc on their site, but when it comes to the crunch they still have a large catalogue of brochures and fact sheets that they send out to prospective clients.

So, the answer to the question of ‘collateral or not’ is that they should be used, but the site should form the core of your education communication strategy.

At the end of the day, though, I guess this is fairly subjective and I could be either correct or highly delusional and out of touch.

What does anyone else think?

Today’s Top Links

September 21, 2006
  • Ex-Rocket Boom presenter, Amanda Congdon, has launched a new Vblog to document her trip across the US. Aside from a quirky intro, they have kicked things off for real with pretty interesting interview with a video Blogger who was jailed for not handing over some footage of a protest demonstration. Let’s hope the quality of content continues. Check it out
  • I know it was announced a couple of days ago, but I just can’t resist mentioning a cool new business card printing service, Moo.com. The service integrates with your Flickr album and allows you to create mini business cards based on the pics you have selected. It costs $20 for 100 and Flickr Pro users get 10 cards for free.

Techcrunch to launch an enterprise blog

September 21, 2006

Well, not even a day after I kicked off my Web Business blog, Michael Arrington of Techcrunch as announced that he will be launching an enterprise blog, also.

Nik Cubrilovic of the online backup company, Omnidrive, will be editing the blog.

I am a big fan of the other Techcrunch blogs and look forward to checking out the new addition to the TC family, when launched.

It is also further evidence that the enterprise is the natural next step in the evolution of the web business.

The journey starts here!

September 20, 2006

Hi and welcome to what I hope is going to be the start of a pretty wide ride.

In this blog I am going to be talking about the web 2.0/social software scene, but with an emphasis on the enterprise market.

The last couple of years have seen a plethora of new internet companies’ such as Myspace, Flickr and Digg rise from the embers of the web 1.0 dotcom crash to reach mainstream status, and dare I say it, actual profitability.

High speed internet connectivity, combined with innovative , yet pragmatic, business models has helped fuel this success, but what is next in the evolution of the internet business? Are users and investors going to be uttering the words “oh, not again” as they are showered with what is left of these enthusiastic, but bewildered, start-ups as the new bubble bursts, or is this really the start of something sustainable?

I would argue the latter.

The current wave of success that web 2.0 companies are riding is predominately focused at the individual user. While the landscape of this market will undoubtedly change as the number of players condenses due to acquisition from the likes of Google, Yahoo! and MSN (GYM), I feel that the next 12 – 18 months will not only see this success continue but start to spread into the enterprise market as more companies see the value that collaborative software can offer them.

As a keen follower of the dotcom industry since the late 90’s, it is this transition from individual users orientation to the enterprise market that interests me, and will be the main focus of this blog – Web Business.

In the blog, I intend to add commentary to ever changing web 2.0 scene, and also share some of my own experiences as I try to launch an enterprise product into the UK market, on behalf of a Swiss start-up.

Additionally, as a huge gadget freak, I will also talk about some of my favourite new tech products to hit the market.

I hope to post entries 2-3 times a week, so stop by and leave comments. This is going to be a big learning curve for me so your thoughts and suggestions are always welcome.