Friday, June 26, 2009

Waiting for Godot

Last night we attended the Roundabout Theatre's production of Waiting for Godot, ostensibly a play about nothing, but, similar to Seinfeld, really about much ado about nothing.

The two main characters in the play spend two days waiting for someone named Godot to arrive. They really don't know him, nor do I think they know why they are really waiting for him. But waiting and speculation is in abundance.

During the play, I was thinking about Windows 7 (I must confess, it was a bit soporific so my mind was wandering) and what people are really waiting for in this new(er) MSFT OS. The pricing was announced the other day to great fanfare, but I am having a devil of a time wondering what folk are really expecting from this new generation OS that was more than 3 years in the making (older than Twitter).

For me, the reality is that my computing metaphor has drastically moved over the past 18 months, let alone 3 years. I now spend as much time now viewing internet rendered pages on my mobile device as I do on the PC, and the trend line is clearly against the PC. My applications have shifted to the cloud, reducing cost, complexity and downtime (thanks Google, RIM and Apple) and the nature of my computing is clearly changing from a 1:few to a 1:many metaphor. Unfortunately, nothing I have heard about this new OS accelerates, or even facilitates this shift.

It's unfortunate, and a huge opportunity for young companies looking to fill the void.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Power of passed links

Great talk by Fred Wilson at Jeff Pulver's 140 Conference on the power of social networks in directing traffic. He shares his thoughts on the way social media sites can/will monetize their traffic. Fred draws a comparison of the way Google created a great franchise by recognizing, then monetizing the value of site links, with companies, such as Twitter, doing the same for links shared via 'social' interactions.

Abbot and Costello buy a computer

My buddy Scott sent me this funny parody of A&C buying a computer, we are not sure the original source to credit (the oldest internet posting I found is 2 years old and did not cite a source), I will happily cite one, if/when I find it.

While hysterical, I think a deeper message is how MSFT is increasingly being relegated to a role as a bridge between the mainframe, computer scientist computing world, and the intuitive digital generation.


If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch,
'Who's on First?' might have turned out something like this:


ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO : Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking
about buying a computer.


COSTELLO : No, the name's Lou .

ABBOTT : Your computer?

COSTELLO : I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou .

ABBOTT : What about Windows?

COSTELLO : Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT : Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO : I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT : Wallpaper.

COSTELLO : Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT : Software for Windows?

COSTELLO : No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write
proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT : Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT : I just did.

COSTELLO : You just did what?

ABBOTT : Recommend something.

COSTELLO : You recommended something ?


COSTELLO : For my office?


COSTELLO : OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT : Office.

COSTELLO : Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT : I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO : I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm
sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?

ABBOTT : Word.

COSTELLO : What word?

ABBOTT : Word in Office.

COSTELLO : The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT : The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO : Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT : The Word you get whe n you click the blue 'W'.

COSTELLO : I'm going to click your blue 'w' if you don't start with some
straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I
can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO : That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT : Money.

COSTELLO : I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT : It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO : What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT : Money.

COSTELLO : Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT : Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO : I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT : One copy.

COSTELLO : Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT : Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO : They can give you a license to copy money?


(A few days later)

ABBOTT : Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO : How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT : Click on 'START'..........

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Analog dollars to digital cents

Jeff Zucker, the CEO of NBC has a wonderful quote about the way the Internet is transforming digital dollars into internet cents. Essentially, he's holding up a mirror to the way a multi-billion dollar market has the potential to be a multi-hundred million dollar market due to the ravages of internet caused deflation. Silicon Valley Insider, has a wonderful chart showing the trend of newspaper ad sales vs Craigslist revenue here.

Nowhere is this savage deflation more visible than the print media market is experiencing, in large part due to the effect of a self-deprecating 'nerd' Craig Newmark and Craigslist. A bright future is before many entrepreneurs who hope to garner large market shares of once billion dollar markets, now relegated to large, but not gigantorous (sounds like an impressive size) opportunities. Analog dollars to digital cents is a threat to the establishment, but music to the next generation of Sam Walmarts, Henry Fords and Bill Gates. All deflationary leaders.

Here's an interview with Jeff conducted at Ad Age in February

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Perspective on Venture Industry from Kaufman Foundation

The Kaufman Foundation has published a report that shares their perspective on changes that ought to happen in the US venture market to keep it vibrant and offering sufficient risk adjusted returns to attract capital.

Though I don't agree with each point made by the author, it is well thought out and researched. Here's a snippet from the conclusion:

"It seems inevitable that venture capital must shrink considerably. While there is
no question that venture capital can facilitate some forms of high-growth
entrepreneurial firms, its poor returns make the asset class uncompetitive and at
risk of very large declines in capital commitments as investors flee this
under performing asset. While any estimate is subject to much uncertainty, it
seems reasonable—based on returns, GDP, and exits—to expect the pace of
investing to shrink by half in the coming years."

It's hard to argue with his perspective that the status quo needs change

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The conversation is changing

Over lunch with Scott today we had far ranging discussions about most of the usual things, but not the stock market. It seems that a sense a normalcy is returning to the business environment where customers, value, quality and pricing are pushing the market to its place as a lagging indicator to customer value.

Scott followed up the meeting with this tongue in cheek video about customers negotiating with 'vendors'.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interviews with today's innovators

With the upcoming release of the Palm Pre, this weeks unveiling of Bling and Google Wave, as well as continued torrid growth of Twitter and Wikipedia, I thought it would be interesting to share a flavor of the opportunity and execution philosophy of the founders/senior executives of these companies see.

Enjoy the clips of:

Evan Williams- Twitter
Jimmy Wales- Wikipedia
Richard Stallman Open Source pioneer
Jon Rubinstein- Palm
Steve Wolfram- Wolfram Alpha
Steve Horowitz Android (Google)
Jason Kilar Hulu
Craig Newmark Craigslist

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Search is again interesting (especially if you like gossip)

With the recent introduction of WolframAlpha a 'computational' search engine, and now Bing from MSFT the rhetoric and war stories are flying. Investors are on needles and pins.

Here's a wonderful post detailing a MSFT/Yahoo meeting from the early days of the web.

You also have to appreciate the kick in the pants style of Carol Bartz, who makes Margaret Thatcher seem like a shrinking violet. Here's her comments at the video too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

David Kirkpatrick is Always On

David Kirkpatrick is the former Tech Editor of Fortune Magazine who has taken a leave of absence (probably permanent) to write a book on Facebook "The Facebook Effect". Earlier today, he spoke about FB, and other industry trends, at an Always On breakfast session in NY. Here's the highlights:

FB's mission is to evolve into an infrastructure layer of identity on the net. You will use your FB account for authentication, commerce, as well as social applications.

Advertising will work on FB. With an anticipated $500mm of revenue for '09, you can argue they are already working. Moreover, targeting is improving and a host of young companies are working with, and outside of FB to improve the value proposition

MySpace and FB are forking as competitors as MySpace is in the media distribution business and FB is gravitating towards infrastructure.

Tony Perkins also spoke, using excerpts from Mary Meeker's March Internet slide deck. Of greatest import was that innovation is live and well as evidenced by 6 of the top ten sites (measuring uniques) in Q1 '09 did not exist in '05 (per Alexa).

Youtube (yes, msft, and being rebranded Bling)

As a category, Social Networks is growing nearly 60%, in terms of unique visitors, and has a penetration rate short of 40%. Compare with email, growing 12% with 70% penetration, and online gaming, growing 35% with 22% penetration.

Platforms to innovate from are also shifting from the Wintel dominated world towards iPhone, Youtube, Wiki's, Kindle, and game consoles. The IT world is disaggregating, creating wonderful opportunities.

Turn on your lights....