Thursday, April 29, 2010

HP and Palm, a good match

These two companies might very well go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Palm has a very good smart phone matching or exceeding some of the capabilities of the iPhone. HP needed a platform by which to enter the growing market of smart phones and tablets. Palm needed the distribution strength, the capability to educated store sales people, and international expansion potential. HP has strong distribution via their PC business, a well developed plan on how to train and incentivize store sales people and international presence.

Challenges still remain namely working with carriers especially in the US, and growing the number of applications to compete with the iPhone and Android. But these are table stakes in the business.

Having a separate brand is not a problem. Palm, an HP company can be the smart phone and tablet brand. HP can be the PC brand. HP has reputation for quality, ease of use, and stability from their products in printer and PC business. The Slate, HP’s current tablet brand can be for enterprise use and the Palm version can be the consumer tablet.

This also gives HP a greater entre into the enterprise. The mobile workers want an easy to use device like the iPhone, but with a keypad, that can do multiple applications and effectively surf the web. The enterprise wants a secure, enterprise device that it can control. Palm can do this.

As a hardware play, the smart phone market is a good one if you have a hot product. The smart phone market is growing, and people typically change out their phones every two years or less so there is a good residual market.

HP is about putting the most technology in people’s hand so that they can use it, making it easy for people to use, and creating a strong customer relationship via care. Apple may have the best user interface but they do not always give the consumer the most technology options. The Blackberry is about messaging, email, and security. Android is about giving the customers technology and power in their handsets with a good experience, but not always with a strong focus on customer care. Nokia is about providing good smart phones to the masses and international markets. There is an opportunity for HP to connect the dots and rise in this market doing it the HP way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is Yahoo?

Yahoo seems to me to be the newspaper of the Internet with a few other added services attached like email, search, messaging, Flickr, and Groups. I do not think you can discount search because is still highly used especially outside the US, email because it is a strong player in this market, or Flickr because it is an excellent photo web site. But essentially most of the space on the Yahoo site is dedicated to information and it has many of the similarities of an old time newspaper like providing news, sports, weather, finance, comics, cooking, and classifieds (Personals, HotJobs, and Autos). It also has a very generalized, national, middle of the road feel. Sort of like the USA Today. It is essentially the average American’s news source on the Internet. Other people offer this type of service like AOL, and MSN but Yahoo seems to do it the best, have the widest selection of information, and get the most viewers.

Yahoo has improved the news viewing experience over the traditional newspaper. It has allowed people to click on videos, send information via email or to Facebook, to sort and to focus on information, and to get more information via a search engine so it is in fact an enhancement over the existing generalized newspaper and the user can do this for free, which is very powerful. The one weakness which Yahoo has is the ability to go local. This is also a weakness of USA Today. Yahoo can in some instances be local via search or select content but essentially its strengths are in wide reaching content and brand advertising.

As the devices that people view content on change so does the situations in which they view content. When a new content viewing technology comes out the initial response is to replicate the old content on the new technology. Examples include: Radio on TV, Newspapers on the Internet. But over time the advantages of the new technology are recognized and the content and advertising is changed to best suit this new technology. The content companies that are best at adapting to the new technology gain the most market share. The two devices that are changing the way people view content are the smart phone and the tablet.

The smart phone changes the way people access information because it is personal to that individual, carried with that person, and can sense location. This makes local information a much more important component. It is true that Yahoo has a local component on its mobile web site, but it does not capture the essence of local the way that some sites can like Where or Yelp! Some of the key attributes that attract the local users include sports, weather, social, directions, and micro communities. In essence local has to come alive on a mobile phone to draw people’s eyes to it. The creation of content on such a micro level will be a nearly impossible task, so Yahoo needs to be an aggregator, organizer, deliverer, and communicator of this local content. An example of a company which does this for sports is Fan Feedr. The service essentially puts every relevant posting on the Internet for a particular sports team in the palm of your hand, and sends updates of team scores. This can be done for community and social information as well. Yahoo also needs to have a more interactive navigation service like Google and Nokia so that people can get to where they want.

The tablet is also a personal device, but it is less portable. It is also a device that is much more inclined to be used in a comfortable position. It is a device which is optimized for the viewing of all content, national and local; print, sound, pictures and video. The fact that it is more inclined to be used in a comfortable position bodes well for the viewing of Yahoo’s traditional content vs. the PC in which content is seldom viewed in a comfortable position. Location is inclined to be less important than a smart phone because people will not be accessing the device at all time and locations. But the personal aspect is important because people want to view information which is relevant to them. The local services offered on smart phone will also apply to a tablet.

What is USA Today now? It is a national newspaper who has seen its popularity decline as a print newspaper as people have gone to equal or better, free information sources on the Internet. It is a company that has tried to make the transition to the PC and the cell phone but is still best known for its print version. Content companies need to make the adjustments in the focus of their content and the way the content is delivered when new technologies arrive in order to maintain their position as the top content provider.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interesting Products at CTIA 2010

At CTIA 2010 I was able to walk the show floor, meet with a number of vendors, go to Gerry Purdy’s Innovation Dinner, and also attend a number of keynotes and panels. From my viewing these were some of the interesting products and services that I saw:


Toktumi is Mobile VoIP software that allows the user to use voice minutes over a Wi-Fi network or the 3G data network. It essentially functions as second line for your phone and it cost $14.99 a month. It offers nice features like conference calling for up to 20 people, and cheap international calling. It works well with the iPhone giving an iPhone like user interface, and declining an AT&T call without losing the VoIP call. It basically gives all of benefits of VoIP calling: less costly nationwide voice minutes and cheaper international calling, with a good user interface and a lot of good calling features. It may not be for everyone but it is good for small businesses who want to look larger especially those with an international component and it is good for people who do a lot of calling, especially internationally and want to save money. The long term effect of services like this are easier call set up for groups and more price pressure on voice services especially international voice services.


AirKast is a platform that allows radio stations to stream their listening content to users of smart phones such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android devices via an application. The application also allows users to see information and advertisements from that radio station. The radio station can offer interactive ads that allow the customer to interface with sponsors. The benefit to the consumer is that they can listen to their radio station via their phone when they are away from a traditional radio or out of town. There can be significant interest for people who want to listen to their local sports team when they are out of town. Out of country radio stations could also be popular. Most of the implementations so far have been music services. These services also give radio stations the opportunity to engage advertisers with an interactive platform; and gives them relevance, local targeting and reach with the new devices that are coming out.


The NearbyNow Mobile Shopping Platform creates applications that allow customers of retailers and brands and readers of magazines to shop for items that are seen in magazines, or heard about from friends. On the iPhone retailers can display their wares on an application or a magazine can show items that were advertised or displayed in the magazine (i.e. Seventeen). On the application users can find the item, gather information about the item, put a hold order on the item, and find the store where that item is sold. The benefit to the consumer is that they can find an item they saw in a magazine and be able to find the nearest place to try it on, and to purchase the item. For print magazines it gives them an added way to entice advertisers as there is added benefits in giving the customer an additional place to shop, learn about a product, put a hold on the item at the store and get directions to the store.

Absolute Software:

The Computrace software from Absolute Software is essentially LoJack for PCs. It allows people and organizations to retrieve their PCs if they are lost, stolen or have not been returned. The service can remotely delete information on the PC and recover laptops via monitoring of the computer activity (IP address, Cell Tower Usage). The software is located in the firmware of the computer and can be reconfigured on a computer even if the hard drive is erased. This can be good for individuals or businesses that have had their computers stolen, schools that want their kids to return lent computers, or law enforcement that wants to arrest criminal thief rings. So far there has not been a strong market for this service for smart phones as law enforcement has showed more interest in PC recovery. But that may change in the future as smart phones are used more like PCs and the information stored on these devices is more valuable.


Leapwave offers a service that allow venues like bars and stadiums to provide information, games and content to viewers using the TV screen or other digital signage at those venues and the mobile phone as the interactive device. These can be used for trivia contests or games, and ads can be placed next to the games on the screen. The added benefit of the service is that it can give additional entertainment to patrons, provide more audience participation for live events like voting on live entertainment, and bring in additional advertising revenue. This is one more example of how a mobile phone can be use as an interactive device in a very customized solution and create an additional platform for advertising.

Billing Revolution:

Billing Revolution is a company that allows merchants to set up one click billing for credit card transactions from the merchant’s web site or application on a mobile phone. One click buying by companies like Amazon has made shopping easier on the web. On a mobile phone where clicks are at a premium one click billing is even more important. This can be beneficial for merchants who want to promote buying in a mobile situation, entice deal of the day buying, or attract purchasers who use their mobile phone more than their PC. Besides credit cards Billing Revolution can be attached to PayPal accounts. This is one of the steps that had to happen to increase m-commerce and boost mobile advertising, basically easy purchasing on a phone. This may even be applicable to some retail environments where few items are purchased but there are long waiting lines. Purchasers can make selections via barcode, pay via credit card, and have an employee check the items purchased when they leave the store (Like Home Depot). The benefit to consumers is that they can easily purchase items on their cell phones; the benefit to business is that consumers are more likely to purchase items on their cell phones if it is an enjoyable and easy experience.


Right out of Star Trek episode, a wearable computer that is essential a headset with a small computer screen at the end of a slim arm so that the user can access computer information while their hands are free. The computer responds to voice commands. The screen is small but it is close to the eye so viewing is like a normal computer screen. It is still fairly expensive so that it will be used for specialized industrial applications. Exact applications will probably revolve around specific information retrieval, and remote control of other devices. But if you want to get an email from your boss when you are on top of a rig you can do that too. It also allows for more efficient and safer workplace because two hands are free at all times. It the future there could be a web cam in front of the arm to relay and record video information which can be examined by experts in the home office.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

CTIA 2010: The Industry Looks Toward the Future

The CTIA Wireless show on March 22nd to March 25th, 2010 was marked by a number of keynotes and product announcements that were clearly meant to guide the industry to a future where data will play a prominent role. The keynote addresses were focused on outlining the need for additional wireless broadband capacity, the desire for more spectrum to be released by the FCC, and the business viability of less overall regulation. There was subdued praise for the FCC broadband plan with the understanding that many details have to be worked out, but that it is considered a start in the process of growing the mobile internet.

Some key issues remain in guiding the industry forward:

Is LTE going to provide a big enough capacity boost to create large amounts of bandwidth increase?

Data from a report: HSPA to LTE-Advanced: 3GPP Broadband Evolution to IMT-Advanced (4G) by Peter Rysavy of Rysavy Research done for 3G Americas,, indicates that for an apples to apples comparison of HSPA+ and LTE, the capacity increase for LTE is around 25%. What that says is for the last mile of a wireless network (handset to base station) there will need to be a lot more spectrum available as well as more micro solutions like Wi-Fi Hotspots and Femtocells to cover the capacity gap between what users want to do on their phones and the capabilities of the network, especially as it relates to video.

There are other benefits of offering LTE however, and much of them comes from the efficiencies of an all IP network and the lower latency which improves VoIP. The cost saving from these efficiencies allow the investment in the LTE networks to become worthwhile.

Video is a Bandwidth Hog

Video seems to the elephant in the room when it comes to bandwidth capacity. Cisco in their keynote highlighted that over 90% of all wireless traffic will be video in five years time. This is somewhat self -serving in that the more IP traffic increases the more Cisco provides the equipment to drive this traffic but the appeal of video still remains especially as the experience on the fixed Internet is transferred to the mobile phone. This point was further highlighted by the CEO of Clearwire, Bill Marrow who compared the usage on the Clearwire network vs. the 3G network where average usage is almost five times higher on the Clearwire network. Clearwire openly promotes that usage of video viewing as a differentiator for customers.

The other aspect that the mobile phone brings is the use of the camera as a video conferencing device, as well as, a live video camera. The proposed new Sprint WiMAX phone will have a camera both sides of the phone to allow for video conferencing. In addition, a service that allows for on the spot live video capture also has the potential to be popular, as a restriction free “See What I See” video service. Those video services have the potential to create more bandwidth issues.

Apple and Google Missing

One of the strangest aspects of the show was that there were no major presence of the two companies that have made the most impact to the industry in the past couple of years: Apple and Google. The iPhone has clearly become an icon in the industry so much so that a company like Samsung is offering an iPhone like product called the” Galaxy S” which promoted itself primarily with its stronger screen characteristics: brighter, more battery efficient and able to be viewed in sunlight, and its Android operating system. Google has clearly made an impact in the market allowing handset manufacturers the ability to compete with the iPhone and changing the fortunes of manufacturers HTC and Motorola for the better. Much of the conversation around the show was marveling at the staying power and impact Android has had on the mobile market. In essence these two major internet players are saying we will work with carriers as we need to but, our interests for what we see the internet being are clearly different, and we do not need to promote an organization that is clearly a carrier organization.

Next week in my blog I will talk about some of the interesting new companies and product ideas that I saw at CTIA.