Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Auntie Torrent

A mega-uber value reader pinged me today with this - BBC Worldwide signs a distribution deal with Azureus' Zudeo. This is a major, major shot in the arm for P2P distribution from the mainstream content arena.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas wish list, 2011

Dear Santa,

Please bring me some of this kick-ass
electromagnetic induction carpeting, and a doll-house version for the kids. As I obviously plan to be working at home all the time, following the destruction of the desk-bound analyst model in 2009 (which delivered massive cost savings to the company and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but unfortunately led to a catastrophic downturn in the commercial property market and congestion charge receipts), this will help to ensure that I can work anywhere in the house without having to drag power cables around. Also, if you can fit it in your sleigh, can you deliver a porta-me to my office, in case anyone should insist on having a face-to-face meeting?

Your friend,


Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Well, there probably aren't many people out there who have any lingering doubts about the Murdoch brigade's grasp of "this internet thing," but if so, here's the final nail in the coffin - Sky and Google in a wide-ranging alliance covering advertising revenue share, a Sky-branded version of Gmail, UGC video, and an intention to "explore opportunities to provide further services such as Google's VoIP (voice over internet protocol) telephony services, enhanced storage and future product developments," and to "explore future forms of web, TV and mobile advertising." If you expect, as I do, that Sky is eventually poised to do something disruptive in wireless, then this last little piece is even more intriguing. Stay tuned.

Broadcasters still think bloggers are not "media"

Today I tried registering as a member of the press at the Channel 4 website, primarily because I think the company is involved in some very Chaotica-friendly activities, which are worthy of coverage for an audience outside the UK. C4 is apparently a big believer in blogs (at least to propagate its own content) and participatory media, but alas, I received the following response to my application:

Dear James,

At this time we are unable to provide you with an account for the Channel 4 press extranet. If you require more information about why your registration has been refused please contact the press and publicity department at Channel 4.


C4 Press Department.

Any views or opinions are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Channel Four Television Corporation unless specifically stated. This email and any files transmitted are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which they are addressed. If you have received this email in error, please notify
Thank You.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A bit of positivity

There's a lot of harrowing coverage around today in connection with World AIDS day and the horrendous suffering of those affected, particularly children in the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa. Education alone is clearly no panacaea, but it was nevertheless nice to see this video on the Negroponte & Co. initiative to deliver one laptop per child to the developing world.

Open up, it's your user base

Nice to see this announcement from AOL engaging the hordes of talented coders out there in the pursuit of something better and different.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The vision thing

Well, Monday is the moment of truth for BT's long-awaited entry into TV, and I guess there must be more than a few sets of white knuckles at BT Centre. The launch comes at a time when TV viewing in the UK is seeing some interesting shifts - around 40% of respondents to a BBC survey say that internet video is displacing TV viewing to some extent, 20% say it is significant, and it also looks like the HD bug is catching. I'm curious to see what BT delivers, and I wish the company well, but there are still some pretty difficult fundamental questions as to what the medium even is anymore (ignore the long downloads and initial annoying advertisement - these are worth waiting for), which I doubt will be answered on Monday.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Whose tube?

The downside of user-generated content, from South Korea, as some shibpallom gets literal.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Things are in the saddle, and ride man

It's 2015 in London, and you're still trying to recover from the fantastically successful Olympics. Your home has a 100Mbps symmetrical broadband connection which satisfies most, if not all, of your media and information needs. Your legacy PSTN connection is a distant memory, and in idle moments you reminisce about those bad old days when a movie used to take a few hours to download. Most of the applications you run are web-based, and a lot of your media is stored somewhere other than on a device in your home. Well, if this LogicaCMG survey is right, you'd better have your own generator, or a house covered in solar panels, if you want "five nines" access. I wonder how much of an issue the telecom industry sees in securing/guaranteeing a reliable energy supply for customers? Any comments, as usual, are most welcome.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Abandoned blogs

I thought this would be an appropriate topic with which to start the revival of Chaotica. Recent work commitments have made it impossible to maintain momentum here, but I will now return to regular posting as things have finally calmed down a bit.

The hard-working people over at japan.internet.com have updated their regular series of surveys into blogging, focusing this time on reasons why people give it up. Interestingly of the 1,041 people interviewed, 42% claim to have published their own blog, but of this number 31% claim to have abandoned it. Of those who abandon their blogs, 67% say it is because "maintaining it is a hassle," 22% say they "got tired of it," and 17% say that the relevance of the topic their were posting on had diminished. Most interesting to me is that another 17% of respondents say that their attention has moved to community sites such as Mixi.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I have been faring poorly in my pledge to increase posting frequency on this blog, and must do better. A mega-uber value reader alerts me to coverage of a Northwestern University project called News at Seven in NewScientist. Here's where it all comes together - entirely personalized text, audio and video content culled from RSS feeds and other sources, edited, transformed to natural speech and delivered by a virtual character. It's intriguing to think about what else could eventually be fed into such an update, for instance virtual life management things like, "In other news, you have two Skype voicemails, three friend requests from MySpace, a couple of unsavoury-looking people hanging around your virtual boutique in Second Life, and your guild is getting an ass-whoopin' in World of Warcraft."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Esteemed mega-uber value readers, I have ignored you for too long, buried under work commitments. I am committed to doing better in the coming days.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mobile micropayments

Those hard-working people at japan.internet.com and JR Tokai Express Research have published the findings of a survey into use of contactless IC mobile payment systems, two years on from their launch in Japan. The 32% of the total sample group which had RFID funtionality in their handsets were asked a variety of questions about usage patterns. Over 40% of this subgroup had some experience of mobile payments via RFID in the handset, and nearly a quarter (23%) of this claimed to make use of the feature frequently. As for payment scenarios, 82% claimed to have used it to make payments in convenience stores, the most popular response, followed by "shopping" at 40%, and paying for train tickets (using the Mobile Suica service) claimed 20%. This latter result is pretty high, in my opinion, considering that this handset-based service was only launched at the end of January. Only 10% of respondents described themselves as being "very familiar" with the new credit card functionality being added to handsets via RFID, though 80% claimed to have some familiarity with the concept. So, for now at least, it looks like micropayments and commuting behaviors dominate the space.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Omega man

Well, here's one of my scoops referred to last week, which I claimed would advance the disruption of a certain industry - and that industry is my own. Longstanding readers of this humble blogatelle may recall that one of my recurring themes is that, if IP can enable disruption of voice, "entertainment" and distribution of all forms of media, then surely the hallowed halls of investment research may be candidates for makeovers as condominiums or shopping arcades.

My thesis has always remained that the mindshare of bloggers and other independent opinion shapers inevitably would collectively overwhelm the walled gardens which are brokers' research products. The expertise "out there" is just too great, and the analysis too frank, to be ignored - and it grows daily into something I like to call "open source analysis". I have argued that investment banking research, to remain relevant, would have to adopt the same tools and approach, to create a "point of presence" in this new ecosystem, indeed to create a Media 2.0 profile for its analysts. It's no longer enough to go on CNBC looking buff and hyperconfident.

So, for any depressed analysts on Wall Street, or within the Square Mile, go pour yourself another half-caff skinny latte and consider what it means that David Jackson and his team at Seeking Alpha have struck a deal with Yahoo! to get the insights of the open source analysts into a prominent placing on Yahoo! Finance. David (an early reader of EuroTelcoblog who has offered a lot of moral support and was kind enough to include me as an early occasional contributor to Seeking Alpha) has worked hard to make the site genuinely useful, funding free conference call transcripts, taking on experienced editors who understand what makes a piece relevant.

For the fund manager or independent investor who hasn't had the time, stamina, or knowledge to amass and keep up with a long list of RSS feeds on a wide range of issues, having a trusted aggregator of independent voices within an already trusted and familiar source of financial news and data poses more than a trivial challenge to the brokers for gaining and holding one's attention.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

... and part 29

The number of Americans who claim to have downloaded a TV program from the internet has doubled in the past year, says IPSOS.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The relentless rise of online video, part 28

Our Television 1.0 set broke a couple of days ago, after many years of faithful service. Rather than rush into replacing it, we're taking our time and considering our options, and catching a little TV progamming on the web. Personally, I am a fan of the strange and wonderful gems to be found on the Internet Archive, and my wife and kids have been catching up on unwatched DVDs, all on our laptops. Unsurprisingly, we seem to have become more discerning in our viewing, and the kids seem to enjoy the novelty factor of it. Whether this happens out of neccessity (as in our case) or choice, it seems to be happening a lot more generally, at least according to this new survey from AOL. Among other things, it finds that one third of those who have some experience with online video claim to watch more of it today than they did a year ago. What I find really interesting is the breakdown of content watched, which shows "amateur videos" (presumably this includes some p0rn) almost on a par with sports highlights and music videos. Also of note is that video podcasts have been watched by 17% of the respondents, putting user generated content on a level pegging with live sports. Also note that half of respondents said they prefer watching on the computer than on the TV.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Americans and the internet over time

Those hardworking people at the Pew Internet Project have very kindly produced a spreadsheet containing some of the data they've collected about internet usage habits in the US over time. Download it here.

Blogospheric re-entry

Well, mega-uber value readers, I'm back for real now, and hunkered down for a busy autumn, during which I promise to endeavor to post more frequently and interestingly to both this bloglet and the somewhat neglected Chaotica. As I warned before I went away, I knew something major would happen while I was unwired, and indeed there was no shortage of interesting news, most of it predictably coming from outside EuroTelcoLand:

Google/eBay: I don't know how surprising this deal really was, given the click-to-call obsession of the past year and the efforts Google has been making towards achieving universal interoperability with other IM clients. I have for some time been of the suspicion that Skype would be forced at some point to pursue such an arrangement, though the official line has been that interoperability would be driven by user demand, which was reportedly not strong. Then again, what we have here is an agreement to "explore interoperability between Skype and Google Talk via open standards to enable text chat and online presence." Not the whole hog, but a step in an interesting direction. Andy makes an interesting observation about Skype becoming an alternative, communications-centric browser, which I thinks jibes well with some comments made by Niklas Zennstrom at VON Stockholm, to the effect that Skype has value as a conduit/enabler for other applications. This is going to run and run.

I reckon more than one telco music download product team hastily updated their CVs upon the revelation of Universal Music's deal with SpiralFrog. I am skeptical that the formula will work (DRM was made to be cracked, and there is no shortage of WMA conversion software available), but then again if we see another major label jumping on board maybe it will grow teeth. I could go on and on about the fascinating developments around YouTube, Goople, etc., but the point is that telco newsflow continues to be pretty turgid by comparison:
  • While the global VoIM players engage in an ever-changing alliance exercise resembling a game of Twister, on the ropes, in the corner swinging wildly, BT counters with a me-too VoIM client notably not co-branded with Yahoo! (the fine print alone is enough to make the Skype or Gizmo user titter with contempt).
  • If you can imagine what the word "Duh" sounds like heard through a stifled yawn, then you can imagine my reaction to the Vodafone Belgian retreat. This is step one on my long-established roadmap to a slimmer, trimmer Vodafone, and I also expect a Swiss-shaped hole in the global domination map by Christmas. And, once again, despite all the "asset-lite" rhetoric, I fully expect some broadband acquisitions will follow.
  • VDSL T-Day came and went in Germany, with the European Commission using some strong language and also urging a fast-track to naked DSL. Read T-Regs' excellent overview.
  • Dick Notebaert of Qwest wants to protect the hapless consumer from the evils of net neutrality. If anyone can translate his comments into a language I can understand please send your version along.

So, compare and contrast: expansion, risk-taking, innovation versus regulation, retreat and paranoia. God am I glad to be back in EuroTelcoLand!!!!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Breaking into the pod

Japanese advertising colossus Dentsu and a partner cyber communications have come up with a technology for audio ad insertion in podcasts without requiring re-edits of the original content. As much as I am fascinated by/contemptuous of advertising, this looks like a really cool idea, especially coming on the same morning that I heard Sir Martin Sorrell speaking once again of the challenges and opportunities to generate higher ROI in more targeted niche marketing strategies.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where it all comes together

The very worthwhile ITVT blog has an interesting interview with the CEO of the formerly independent Kontiki (now part of Verisign) about how Kontiki (which has partnered with both the BBC and Sky) slots into the Verisign gameplan. Interesting factoid along the way is the claim that Sky by Broadband is doing multiple terabytes of video per day.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Britons with long tails

UK mega-uber-super-duper regulator OFCOM has done it again, releasing today its annual market overview of all things communication. The really sexy bit from the press release:

"The Report reveals striking evidence that a new 'networked generation' is turning away from television, radio and newspapers in favour of online services , including downloadable content - used on multiple devices such as iPods and mobile phones - and participation in online communities.

Television is of declining interest to many 16-24 year olds; on average they watch television for one hour less per day than the average television viewer. Of the television they do watch, an even smaller proportion of their time is spent viewing public service broadcasting channels, down from 74% of total viewing among this age group in 2001 to 58% today. Instead, the internet plays a central role in daily life; more than 70% of 16-24 year old internet users use social networking websites (compared to 41% of all UK internet users) and 37% of 18-24 year olds have contributed to a blog or website message board (compared to 14% of all UK internet users).

The same group also uses mobile phones extensively, on average making seven more calls and sending 42 more texts per week than the wider UK population.

Extensive use of the internet has also influenced 15-24 year olds' consumption of other media. Their radio listening is lower, by an average of 15 minutes a day compared to the wider population; additionally, 27% of those surveyed said they read newspapers less as a consequence of their online usage."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Auction 2.0

I've returned from my brief camping trip (see Flickr badge at right for highlights) to find two interesting posts on the AWS auction, which commences today. Both are well worth reading and absorbing. Harold Feldman gives a lot interesting historical color on the process, and predicts an outcome north of $15bn. Keith McMahon is looking for $30bn. In my humble opinion, both are right on target when they cite the crucial role this auction could play for DirecTV and Echostar in changing the competitive landscape (i.e., breaking the cable/RBOC duopoly), and I am intrigued to see John Malone backing this "third pipe" consortium. The flipside of this situation, which both authors point out, is that Time Warner Cable and Comcast will have huge motivation to bid aggressively, both to thwart the DBS players and establish a degree of independence from Sprint-Nextel. The other three incumbent wireless players (Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile) will all want to hurt one another as well as limit future competitive pressure from upstarts. And I assume that Verizon and Cingular want to see T-Mobile burn up cash, as it needs the spectrum far more than they do. All in all, it promises to be an extremely ugly experience - just what Chaotica loves to see!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Web 2.0 datapoints

This blog has been seriously neglected while I have been dealing with a very intense Q2 reporting season. Must try harder in future.

The ever-industrious folks at japan.internet.com have come up with a couple of more interesting research pieces, which will no doubt be of interest to non-Japanese speakers.

First podcasting. Out of the 1,046 people interviewed, 47% claimed to have some familiarity with podcasts (this is up from last year), and nearly 10% had either listened to or produced one. Of this group of 103 podcast users, 68% responded that they listened to content from radio stations or other mainstream media, but 32% responded that they listened to independent content created by individuals. Just under 8% said that they had some experience of producing a podcast. The japan.internet.com article almost turns apologetic in tone at this point, citing this c.8% figure as low, but what proportion of the public has ever had experience producing a TV or radio broadcast? I think 8% is actually pretty high. Interestingly, though I guess, I at least, tend to think of podcasts as being portable media, the Japan survey shows that 70% of listening occurs at home. The author also cites apparently sluggish podcast adoption figures in the US, and asks whether podcasting in Japan is "hot or not." The survey shows that 29.3% of respondents said they felt podcasting was becoming more popular, but 28.9% said they felt it wasn't.

Secondly, they attempted to discern how deeply Web 2.0 usage habits have penetrated mainstream internet use in Japan. While a previous survey conducted in May showed that 10% of web users are familiar with social bookmarking, and nearly 4% of respondents claimed to have used it, this survey found that 94% of users still rely on the "Favorites" tab on the browser, and only 0.3% of respondents claimed to use social bookmarking as their primary bookmarking tool. The researchers also attempted to ascertain just how broad web usage is. Asked how many sites they check on a regular basis, two-thirds said between two and five, with only 12% replying "11 or more." Most shocking to proponents and fans of RSS (myself among them), while previous research showed that as much as 17% of web users had some experience with an RSS newsreader, in this survey only 0.6% of respondents claimed to use one as their primary method of monitoring favorite sites, vs. 94% who use the bookmarks saved in the browser.

Back to the UK to wrap up, my friend Neil Fairbrother over at thamesvalleypod.tv pinged me yesterday with some pretty amazing stats. Check out his account here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Prodigem reborn

Mega-uber value readers may recall that I have written about Prodigem with some enthusiasm on many occasions over at EuroTelcoblog, and have also used it to distribute some of my content. Following its acquisition back in the spring, Prodigem has revamped its look and relaunched as MoveDigital, and has moved beyond its original remit of Torrent creation and hosting, to encompass direct download hosting. There's also a sharing widget which includes the ability to donate bandwidth, presumably to those considered particularly promising authors. Check it out - apparently Senator John Edwards was the first official customer.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Cracked up

Last Friday afternoon I was only about 100 yards or so from my office, beginning my bike ride home, when I had a three-way misunderstanding with an unobservant pedestrian and an innocent bus. I was the only injury, but as I never like to do things halfway, I seem to have bruised most of the ribs on my right side. All outpourings of pity are welcome, as are cash donations and unwanted painkillers. Understandably, I think, blogging is a low priority for me right now. Though it's unlikely that they will be reading this, I would nevertheless like to extend my gratitude to the three very kind, decent people who came forward from the throng of gawking morons in front of Cannon Street Station to help me get upright again and see if I was okay.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Blowing a tube

Poor internet, it's in real trouble as each passing day brings some new claim or counter-claim to value creation or destruction, requiring someone to plead victimization and demand compensation (we've seen the likes of this before). What makes things even scarier, in fact bordering on the surreal, is the risible justifications for some of these claims from the political sphere. Take this vivisection of Senator Ted "Tubes" Stevens by Jon Stewart (it takes a while to load, but it is well worth the wait). You really couldn't make this up if you had to - my favorite section is where Sen. Stevens claims that his staff sent him "an internet" and he didn't receive it until days later, presumably because of congestion. I get the distinct impression that the internet is an entirely alien concept to the man, though he appears to have a much better understanding of the traditional content industry...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The proof of the pudding...

...is in the gaming, obviously. Does the Murdoch empire understand the internet? I think so. Trying to drive some synergies between the gaming acquisition and a core portfolio holding in broadcasting is entirely sane, and the cross-promotional opportunities will abound. Can you see a future game developed around the adventures of a professional gamer (as has already occurred with skateboarding)? Sounds silly, I know, but live broadcasts of gaming chamionships are already commonplace in South Korea, where the gifted gamers are celebrities.

I got yer long tail right here

Nielsen//NetRatings have just put out some interesting stats which suggest that nearly 7% of US adult internet users have consumed an audio podcast in the past 30 days, with 4% downloading video podcasts during the same period. That's an audience of 9.2m for audio and 5.6m for video - not huge audiences, but the browser analysis included here suggests that they are above average in tech savvy, which may make them more lucrative for some advertisers, I suppose. On a separate but interesting note, check the monthly update on advertising spends at the end of the memo. Some things never change (Vonage number 2 at $37.5m in June - hey isn't that 4% of your current market cap?) while some certainly do (Skype outspending TimeWarner? Sacrilege.)

UPDATE: It's obviously not just a US phenomenon, as attested to by Neil over at ThamesValleyPod. He just pinged me to say that total hits in June were 81,500, but that this has risen to over 133,000 in the first eleven days of July.

Pimp my mobile PVR

The beautifully named Adisasta has released WinMobile Fusion, which I guess more or less takes the principles behind Torrentocracy (the marriage of RSS and BitTorrent) and brings them to Windows Mobile devices. Anyone on the sort of extortionate data tariff that I'm on would find this a horrifying prospect, but bring on the WiFi and everything changes (check out the specs on the new Windows Mobile handset from HTC to be sold by DoCoMo).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's in your wallet?

Skype is apparently holding an event for bloggers and media today in London, showcasing hardware produced by its growing ecosystem of partners. Unfortunately, a prior commitment prevents me from going. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to observe eBay's share price at the market opening today, as long-standing speculation comes to fruition. It would be great if Maestro was an additional payment option...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Massively multiplayer ads in my Seoul

Well, it sure didn't take Microsoft long to get into the groove with the Massive acquisition (or perhaps this was in the works beforehand?), today signing up Webzen for ad placements in two upcoming MMORPGs.

Wilkommen bei mein Minihompy

Cyworld to launch in Germany with T-Online.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Humor, the last refuge

I am off to the States for a family reunion tomorrow, back on the 26th for more adventures in chaos. While there I'm keen to assess just how visible some of the issues that concern the international geek sister/brotherhood are among "normal" people (well, my family and people I meet anyway...). Carol Burnett is credited with saying that "comedy is a tragedy plus time," and it's refreshing to see my American brethren/sistren employing satire in raising awareness of some very unfunny business (thanks Richard!). l8r

Friday, June 09, 2006


I got this message repeatedly for about 10 minutes earlier this evening when trying to get to google.co.uk. I checked other domains, like google.fr, which seemed okay. Then I got kicked out of Gmail in the middle of a chat exchange and was prompted to log in again. Did anyone else notice anything strange with Google at around 8:30 PM UK time? Everything seems to be fine again now.

UPDATE @ 11:05 UTC: Mega-uber friend Thomas Anglero up in Norway has pinged me to say he hasn't been able to access his Blogger account since 10:00 AM CET, which means 14 hours of downtime. What is going on?

UPDATE 2: A Palladium Club mega-uber reader in the Netherlands also remarked that his Gmail was out of service at the same time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How happy are you with your place in the ecosystem?

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of moderating an event and the London Waldorf Hilton sponsored by TEN (the Telecommunication Executive Network), which is, as the name would suggest, an industry networking body which sees good attendance at its events. Last night's panel was attended by around 250 execs from the UK telco and vendor community, and what brought them there was, to my knowledge at least, an unprecedented head-to-head meeting of Skype, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google all on the same stage, under the banner of "New Kids on the Block."

Sharing the stage with me for 90 minutes were:

James Bilefield, General Manager, Europe, Skype
Eileen Broch, Director, Communications Products, UK and EU, Yahoo!
Jim Holden, Director, Global Wireless Strategic Partnerships, Google
Adrian Whaley, EMEA Business Manager, Communications Solutions, Microsoft

Let's start from the beginning, or better still, before the beginning. As is frequently the case with panels of this type, we all got together beforehand to lay down the structure and a few ground rules, and also so I could sound them out on certain issues. The problem one frequently encounters with these situations, and last night was no different, is that as employees of SEC registered companies, the participants have to be careful not to disclose information not previously made public. Also, though I may occasionally write cheeky or critical things in my blogs, it's not my job to embarrass anyone or put them on the spot at someone else's event. There were a number of things I was dying to discuss, including:

  • How does the Yahoo!/eBay alliance reconcile with the Yahoo!-MSN interop agreement, which should be going live any day?
  • Are interop agreements really necessary, when you might be able achieve the same ends with software?
  • Was the Google Secure Access release an accident, an innocent experiment, or something with a deeper meaning?

It was pretty evident from our pow-wow that I could ask these questions, but that I wouldn't necessarily get answers, so I opted to leave it. In any event, the TEN organizers like maximum audience participation, so my questions should be limited and aimed at directing the flow of discussion. To be fair, this also was probably not the group to ask some of these big picture questions - we would have really needed Meg Whitman, Steve Ballmer, Eric Schmidt (with bodyguards) and Terry Semel on the same stage for that - an image I find surreal to contemplate. I felt I could count on some awkward questions from the audience in any event, as this is clearly an increasingly sensitive issue for telcos.

It was interesting to observe the interaction between the panelists upon first meeting, because they were all mutually unknown to one another, with the exception of James and Eileen, who apparently used to sit next to each other at Skype. I guess the first few minutes of interaction could be described as professional and somewhat reserved - it was fascinating to try to imagine what was running through their minds, having committed to sit together as four very different companies who share some views but must regard one another with a fair amount of mutual suspicion and disdain.

Eventually we made our way to the stage and began. (The folks at TEN are apparently going to produce a transcript, and if I can secure their blessings, I will post it here.) I opened with the observation that a Google search for the term "phone" which I did yesterday yielded 2.4bn results, which is huge. Then again, we're talking about more than 100 years of PSTN history, and "phone" is a very generic term. "VoIP," on the other hand, returns 285m results, despite the fact that VoIP as a viable consumer proposition really only goes back about four years. Perhaps more tellingly, "Skype" returns 242m results. The point I was striving to make is that it might be one good measure of just how fast voice at the edge has proliferated that it already claims around 10% of the "real estate" on the web occupied by the "phone," but with less than 4% of the history.

We then moved through five minute remarks by each of the participants, much of which will be familiar to readers. Rather than to break each one out, I'll just touch on a few points of interest. One message shared by all was a conciliatory tone, something along the lines of "we come in peace." I think a couple of the panelists were somewhat distressed at being referred to as "new kids on the block," because they don't see themselves as being in the same space as telcos. (I have always expected that there would be a complete disconnect at the most basic semantic level in any interaction between the two camps, because voice is one component in a much bigger picture for the Big Four, while the telcos struggle to define what their own bigger picture should contain). Eileen Broch pointed out that Yahoo! was "a resident on the block," but not looking to take it over. Adrian Whaley stressed that Microsoft is focused on partnership with telcos, and could help make them "heroes in new services." Jim Holden stressed that his presence at the event was part of a conscious effort on Google's part to communicate more clearly with the market and the industry generally. All four panelists alluded at some point to viewing their efforts in voice as part of an ecosystem, repeatedly in some cases.

There weren't a lot of datapoints involved, though a few interesting things came out. James Bilefield stated in his opening remarks that 30% of Skype users are business users, with a particular sweet spot in companies of 20 people or less. He also observed that 80% of Skype users surveyed want mobility, and made mention of the Linksys deal, though I'm not sure how many in the audience were aware of this beforehand. Jim Holden later put the Jabber user community at 150m worldwide, which I think goes a long way toward explaining Google's focus.

Given what I expected to be a broadly distrustful view of the panelists' developments by the audience assembled, I opened up the Q&A with a starter question about usage patterns, citing the recent Japan survey, which seemed to point to Skype usage as being incremental rather than substitutional, on the whole. All remarked that this was consistent with their experiences. Adrian Whaley used the example of a group IM chat session which reaches a point at which it becomes more beneficial to actually move to speech. In the PSTN world this would involve arranging a conference bridge, and the moment may pass before that can be organized. In the IM world it becomes a natural and easy next step to conference on the fly, part of a "flow" as James Bilefield termed it. In other words this might be a voice interaction which simply wouldn't occur otherwise, therefore it is incremental. Eileen Broch chimed in that the overall voice pie was increasing in her view.

Questions from the audience predictably revealed that the telcos don't entirely buy this line by any means. One questioner asked, "How much of the block do you want to occupy? For example will consumers one day carry a Google-branded phone?" Jim Holden alluded to deals with mobile players as well as handset partners, but stated, "We have no interest in sitting in our partners' chairs," adding that Google makes nice margins in its core business and cannot envisage attaining the same as a network operator or vendor of devices, stressing once again the ecosystem message. This was echoed by all.

Another questioner challenged how real the ecosystem concept was in practice, citing shifting alliances and a lack of interoperability between platforms as disincentives to third party developers to invest. Eileen Broch responded by citing the MSN-Yahoo! agreement, Jim Holden stressed Google's commitment to standards (my take is that given its core business, it's in Google's interest to ensure that the "ecosystem" is as open and wide as possible). I then pressed James Bilefield on Skype's views of interoperability, and he responded that users hadn't shown any significant demand for it, otherwise Skype would have offered it before now. I was dying to ask about the risks of third-party workarounds removing control of the process, but held my tongue.

One line of questioning began by pointing out that there has been a visible effect from VoIP substitution in incoming revenues of emerging market operators and that the four collectively have had a significant impact on consumers' expectations of international call pricing. Clearly some areas of traditional business would be less attractive in years to come as a result. If the four could offer any advice to the telcos about what businesses to get into, and conversely, out of, what would it be? Again the tone was a fairly conciliatory one, and no one stepped up to the challenge of recommending a business to get out of. The general message was of opportunities for partnership and of third-party voice applications as an accelerator for sales of broadband connections and 3G datacards. Adrian Whaley gave a few specific examples, including hosted solutions for SMEs and integration of voice into other activities/services (namely IP TV), though he did remark that the returns in these new services might not match what the telcos have enjoyed in voice - a frank and realistic observation, but probably not one which the audience was ecstatic about hearing.

Question of the night, by far, came towards the end. It was stated so eloquently and amusingly that I'm not sure I can do it justice here, but it went something like this. "You have spoken a lot about the ecosystem, which is a wonderful concept, but let's recall that ecosystems involve a food chain. You seem to be suggesting that the vegetation should be happy to be consumed by the herbivores because the by-product of this consumption will fertilize the vegetation. However, in a real ecosystem, the vegetation evolves. Some becomes poisonous, some becomes more attractive to certain types of animals. How do you see this playing out?"

There was a moment of stunned silence. No one was willing to predict a specific outcome. The general consensus was that outcomes might vary considerably depending on which parts of the world we're talking about, but that generally speaking any impediment to consumers' access to content and applications would be detrimental to the health of the internet - particularly as the cost of access is already being borne by the consumer. (It occurred to me that the philosophical argument behind Whitacre Economics might be interpreted as implying that incumbents are selling broadband at below cost, but I'm sure that would never happen.)

However, all agreed rather somberly that the real risk was to the next generation of innovators. While this was a fairly predictable response, I was also intrigued by this line, and wondered if this betrayed an unspoken expectation by the panelists that some sort of compromise would eventually be hammered out. I also recalled a claim by Dick Notebaert at VON San Jose that Qwest had been in talks with someone in the room, though none of the four companies on my panel were there at that time, to my knowledge. I wonder what effect a 269 - 152 defeat of the Markey "Net Neutrality" amendment to the Barton bill last night will do to alter the balance of power.

There was a lot more which occurred than I can do justice to here, but I think I've done a fair job of representing the highlights. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I'm left with far more questions than answers, and I suspect a few telcos may also feel that way today.

Monetizing P2P

EDRI's newsletter points to an English translation now available of the University of Nantes feasibility study last year on a potential compulsory levy for system for file sharing in France.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Net neutrality debate a boon to creatives?

One fascinating thing about the huge Net Neutrality controversy is the extent to which it seems to be stimulating a kind of open source video creative community, which has risen to the challenge of creating a viral public information campaign of a sort (some of it well-intentioned, but stultifyingly bad). Director Stefano Boscutti has sent one of his works my way. I like the juxtaposition of a dirt track for the "Information Superhighway."

Addicted to mobility

Nokia has released the interesting results of a survey which shows, somewhat unsurprisingly, that the mobile phone is insinuating itself more deeply into our lives as storage and features improve. There are lots of intriguing statistics here, among them that half of those surveyed cited their phones as their main cameras, and the extent to which the phone has replaced the humble watch/clock. However, what strikes me is the extent to which the behaviors being described here are really associated with use of mobile storage and capture - note that only around a third of respondents admit to using their phone to surf the web even once a month, and even Japan's oyayubizoku (親指族, "thumb tribe") can only muster 37% who claim to access the internet on a mobile device every day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

More useful Japanese research

Japan.internet.com and its partners continue to produce some interesting research, which I cover here mainly because it might be useful for non-Japanese speakers. Today we learn that 19% of survey respondents claim to a have VoIP from their ISP as a primary line service, and 22% claim to have an FTTH connection. Curiously, for all of Japan's broadband, IP and mobile sophistication, only 7% claim to not have a fixed line phone, versus mid-to-high teens for much of Europe.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Ted Shelton at IP Inferno has written a couple of interesting posts, speculating that some of the telco-apologist comments he's been getting in response to a piece on net neutrality may actually be a coordinated effort by astroturf (i.e., fake "grass roots") lobbyists. He may be on to something, he may be mistaken, he may be paranoid, but it raises an interesting question: how do industry lobbyists reach people in the age of the Long Tail? Seems obvious enough to me that anonymous/pseudonymous blog comments and participation in online forums would be an ideal strategy.


Last Friday, the folks at japan.internet.com and goo Research put out another intriguing bit of research, this time an update in their ongoing (since April '04) look at the blogging phenomenon in Japan. A total of 1,068 respondents 10 - 70 years old were asked a number of questions, and the key findings were:

  • 96.9% were aware of the existence of blogs;
  • 77.3% had read a blog;
  • 67.3% stated that they had found genuinely useful information through reading blogs;
  • 36.8% had created their own blog, and another 25.9% expressed an interest in doing so;

Key motivations in starting a blog, in order of popularity, were:

  1. To leave behind personal memoirs
  2. To share received information with others
  3. To get others to understand one's opinions

Somewhat curiously, only 6.6% of respondents with blogs said they publish under their real names. Key inhibitors are "fear of publication of my real identity" and "not wanting those close to me to find out."

Being self-effacing is a major part of Japanese culture traditionally (I can genuinely recall colleagues in Japan years ago saying things like "my children are stupid" and "my wife is ugly and can't cook"), so I guess this isn't particularly surprising. I would be curious to see some sort of comparative ethnological research in this area. This report on China last year contained a few fragments on blogging motivation, but it would be nice to see how/if cultural attitudes and values translate to the blogosphere.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The march of internet time

The Internet World Stats newsletter points to a nice Flash population clock created by AMD for its "50 x 15" campaign to get 50% of the world's population online by 2015 (and obviously a lot more AMD chips in circulation).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Activist mash-up time

I receive updates from the NO2ID campaign in the UK, just because I'm curious as to how this exceptionally controversial issue is going to pan out, politically and technologically. Today's newsletter contains a link to a nice Google Maps mash-up of all the local chapters of this apparently rapidly expanding movement. There is also some very silly video, which may be somewhat dated, but still brought a tear to my eye.

All mapped out

A couple of interesting things I have stumbled across here and there recently which might be of interest:

SKMap, a Japanese project which maps Skype presence icons onto Google Maps (I can see two users in Antarctica!);

Worldmapper, an amazing project which rescales the world map to specific themes - this adds a lot of perspective to certain issues, such as the concentration of intellectual property in a few hands (look how big the UK is). A communication map is forthcoming.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stoking the Weed

Weedshare is something I've returned to occasionally as one example (there are others) of how it might be possible to monetize viral distribution, and this seems to be happening in an ad-hoc sort of way in communities like MySpace. This announcement caught my eye, however, as a pretty interesting endorsement of the concept, which also involves the kind of compelling content which might get a more mass-market audience into the loop. I will be intrigued to see how this unfolds.

Peeling the onion

Check out this interesting page at MediaPost, devoted to top product placements, which itself appears to be mainly... a product placement for the iTVX Player, a diagnostic tool for calculating the impact of product placements. Take some time and watch it in action (I tried the Outback Steakhouse segment from The Apprentice).

Skype usage: Incremental, not substitutional?

I think one of the many lessons for the telecom industry from the advent of Skype has been the need to redefine our understanding of user motivation. Obviously, the industry was right to be alarmed (when it would admit to being alarmed, that is) at Skype's potential to drive simple price arbitrage opportunities, but there was clearly a lot more going on than this alone. Ease-of-use, audio quality, presence, multi-chat, file transfer, etc., all came together to form a "killer cocktail" experience for the user, resulting in something not necessarily recognisable to the industry as a competing "voice service". It was/is something else, another behavior - purple minutes vs. grey minutes, as JP might say.

This view seems to be borne out by a
survey just out in Japan (Japanese only, ご免ね、外人さん). Japan.Internet.com and goo Research interviewed 1,011 internet users aged 20 - 59, and found that just over 11% of them (113 people) had downloaded and installed Skype, and 42% had heard of it. Of those who hadn't used Skype, once the application was explained to them, just over 42% expressed some degree of interest in using it. What I find most interesting and relevant is that, of those who had installed Skype, only 14% said that their use of fixed line and mobile phones had declined as a result, in contrast to 74% who said that their phone usage patterns remained unchanged. This is consistent with a similar survey carried out among Skype users last year, which found that 20% said their conventional phone usage had declined, while 78% cited no change.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hi-Fiber Seattle

Well, this is what I alluded to earlier today, Seattle goes for an FTTH muni network. Check out the goals section (page 5): affordable, true broadband; increased transparency and efficiency for local government; job creation; increased consumer choice; stimulation of investment and enhancement of Seattle's position as leader in the ICT industry. Note also the section starting on the bottom of page 3: "It is vital to the future of the Internet that network owners not discriminate in terms of bit transport or unnecessarily mediate between users and content or application providers...We believe that preferential treatment by network owners or operators of data streams will distort the evolutionary path of the Internet, stifle creativity and innovation, and ultimately abridge the ability of the Internet to be a medium for the free dissemanation of diverse thought and opinion." Whew!

Fibrous growth

If my sources are correct, a major US city will today issue an RFI for a municipal fiber project. Stay tuned.

無線 2.0

A couple of interesting tidbits out of Japan for wireless web watchers. Firstly, an updated survey (alas, Japanese only) of PC users from Japan.Internet.com shows that over 90% of respondents claim to use a laptop/notebook PC either at home, at work, or both. The top usage scenario (55%) was in personal travel or on business trips, though the number two scenario (26%) was at home or in the office. The article's authors interpret the results as pointing to signs of a break with desktop computing. If so, then the various NTT units' decision to pull together in WiFi connectivity is well-timed.

TV, I remember that

Last week at VON, I spent a good portion of my presentation actually talking about media, and specifically about how "old media" has been making some interesting and dramatic moves to embrace "Whatever 2.0." On a breakout panel, Martin Geddes alluded to an alarming statistic, and now he has kindly provided a link - only 25% of US 12 - 34 year-olds can name all four national free-to-air broadcast networks.

IMS doesn't kill the internet, people do

The always insightful and engaging Richard Stastny has a nice post on the IMS debate from VON last week, including a link to his entertaining presentation. Both are highly deserving of your time. Richard and Martin both point to the KPN presentation on Thursday (unfortunately I was back in London by then), citing it as an outbreak of sanity, and indeed this does seem to represent a glimmer of hope in the suspicious mind of a pessimist like me. I have to question, however, how much KPN's stance relates to its respect for the end-to-end principle, and how much is down to simple market dynamics - cable is, afterall, alive and well in the Netherlands, and capable of absorbing a lot of disgruntled customers. I wonder if the dominant players in some of Europe's less competitive markets will be as reasonable?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Le EuroSearch

Interesting and pretty balanced BBC story on Quaero, worth a listen.

Rockers and holy rollers

I have been somewhat concerned that the campaign to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the Net Neutrality debate might fade into the din which is the American mass media landscape. However, these advocates obviously know their PR 2.0 - roping in both R.E.M. and Moby, as well as the Christian Coalition. This could get extremely serious. I think we should escalate, drafting in Oprah (she got America interested in books, right?) and the cast of Friends, reunited for a "webisode" entitled, "The One Where They Tried to Steal Our Internet." I'm only half joking.

M&A is the new HR

AOL is taking Lightningcast from supplier/partner to full-fledged part of the family, yet another dynamic ad insertion acquisition.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Placeshift pimp my open source PVR

Gary Lerhaupt, the brains and brawn behind Prodigem (one of my favorite things in this whole "Whatever 2.0" phenomenon), has a fascinating post on his work to enable place-shifting using Torrentocracy (which I first wrote about here). Slingbox may be great, but do you need it?


Om had the scoop yesterday on the move of GTalkr founders Wes and Dudley Carr into Googleland. My first encounter with Wes and Dudley was over two years ago, in the early days of their fantastic Gush client, and I have often used them in my presentations as examples of what the future might look like, long before (this photo is from VON London 2004) people were talking about Web 2.0. Though they might be better known for the GTalkr client, these men are (in my opinion) Grandmasters of Flash and Jabber, and they will be another great asset for Google's efforts in this area.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Imitation is the sincerest form of...

An eagle-eyed mega-uber value reader points out that CNet has a what's hot application that dynamically displays story headlines by the interest level they generate. Wow, that's a great idea, and it's even better because it's a tried and true concept. I have contacted the Marumushi folks to see if they are involved, or if this is a bit of, ahem, imitation.

In space, everyone can hear you scream

I just got a press release saying that Eve Online, published by CCP Games in Iceland, is going to be integrating voice from Vivox. The quote from CCP's CEO says it all: “Players of EVE are attracted by its unique role playing and space simulation features, but when players unite to form corporations and alliances, the game’s dynamic, immersive experience really comes alive. Now users will be able to talk, strategize, plot and negotiate naturally with each other."

My slides for VON contain this view:

  • This (the voice game) is ultimately not a battle for minutes of traffic (packetized or otherwise)
  • It’s not even really about voice as a service
  • It’s about voice as a feature, and your share of the consumer’s attention
I think the gaming crowd has understood this for a long time, and adding voice enhances the total experience of the game. What experience can telcos offer users to enhance the voice?

UPDATE: I spoke about this deal at VON, and following my presentation, Jeff Pulver walked up and broke the news that Vivox is his baby!


eBay has won the backing of the advertising elite to put together and run the "Nasdaq" of the media buying world, apparently over Google and unnamed others.

Gimme that old time broadband religion

NewsCorp's got it, that's for sure. I just saw a story on Reuters in Italian saying that Sky Italia has struck a deal with Tiscali for a broadband product offering apparently to be called "Tiscali for Sky," offering speeds of 4, 8 and 12Mbps. We could see this move coming a mile away, though I had suspected the Italian strategy would involve acquisition rather than partnership - still I guess it's early in the process. If any Italian mega-uber value readers have any further insight please let me know.

BBC at Googleplex

Some short videos from the press day:

A brief tour with commentary

Interview with Larry Page

Exclusive with Eric Schmidt

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Last week, in writing to clients about the Telenor results, I included a comment to the effect that I was concerned the complicated solution proposed for the row with Alfa Group over control of Kyivstar (Ukraine) and Vimpelcom (number two in Russia) could get a lot more complicated if a financially stronger and larger player (say one which might be on the verge of being handed $45bn or so) were to emerge as a partner with Alfa. Damned if today we don't see a story about MTS (the leading player in the Russian market). Is this genuine, a typical market rumor, or a head-fake by Vodafone M&A strategists?

Hello, goodbye

Telcos, life sure is getting more complicated. DT said today that line loss (which I make out at 5.7% annualized) was unexpectedly high in Q1, though this is tame compared to KPN's 15.5% in consumer, Telia Sweden's 10%, or Telenor's 16%. The company cut its revenue outlook for the Broadband and Fixed division by EUR600m based on this first quarter, and it looks as though the likes of Freenet and United Internet are really starting to bite.

Meanwhile, over on the Viacom call, management said XFire's user base is growing at 8 - 10% per month, and that one million of its four million users (heavy hitters) are on the service for an average of 91 hours a month. 91 hours a month! Two years ago at VON in London I put up some usage statistics from Social Networking 1.0 poster child, Friendster, which was hot sh^t at the time, and made the point that the time spent in the site was way ahead of time spent on any other "dating site" and more than on the PSTN typically. I made the point that communities of interest could generate this level of intensity of usage, provided they were tied to a compelling experience - and this made them fertile ground for IM and VoIP. I thought it was a no-brainer, but I think some people disagreed with me, and I'm not convinced the telecom industry has yet really grasped this, but old media seems to have gotten hip very quickly.

UK, vice capital of the world?

The UK gets a bad rap, but is it undeserved? Take a few minutes to play around with Google Trends, as I have. The results might look different when you check it out, as the data will change over time, but at this point it says a lot about the British "database of intentions." When I search for "booze," I get Portsmouth and Manchester as numbers one and two, "bondage" brings up Birmingham and Manchester in the top two slots, "Viagra" also returns Manchester as number one, "smoking" is a big hit with the people of Edinburgh, "crossdressing" seems to be popular in Milton Keynes (well, it is a very dull place afterall) and Manchester comes tops under "hooliganism." Spooky.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Neil 2.0

I first met Neil Fairbrother when he was at Neos Networks, before it was sold to Scottish and Southern Energy. He's now running Thames Valley Pod, which is currently in beta and within a few days of going live. This is independently-produced content (video, spoken word, music) with a highly localized focus, and as a result it has had buy-in from local sponsors. There's a lot more to go into the archive ahead of launch, and I'm intrigued to see what the numbers start to look like once its live. Apparently, even in stealth mode, the site gets about 100 downloads per week. (Hell, that's more viewers than BBC News 24 has...)

Betting on the carriers?

One of my mega-uber value readers put me in touch with Richard Marshall of Rapid Mobile, and he paid a visit to my office today to give me a demonstration of the betting solution and some other projects which aren't public yet. I was blown away. Keep your eyes open for some news from this company. One thing Richard conveyed to me, which was not particularly surprising, is that the company has found the process of trying to get carriers onboard frustrating - so they've given up. The subscription betting model they have been running has processed a staggering amount of bets to date (I'm not sure if I should state the number, so I won't), and you would think that any carrier would be eager to enter into a revenue share or at least be a transaction agent for this and whatever else it might evolve into (banking, lottery, stock trading all spring to mind, just for starters). Alas, the only upside for the carriers is incremental data revenues.

Tags: missed opportunities, dumb pipe

Finland's nuclear winter

Finland's going to get a lot colder. A Platinum Club mega-uber value reader there points me to the new pricing plans of Saunalahti's Nettipuhelin (netphone). Salient points:

Startup costs 0
Monthly fee 0
On net calls 0

PSTN minutes 1 cent per minute + 10 cent set up (international calls are very competitively priced)
GSM calls 7 cents per minute + 10 cent set up
Calls to Saunalahti GSM network 5 cents per minute + 10 cent set up
Bring your own ATA or use softphone
Port your PSTN number or pick a new one in any area code
Use any Internet connection (i.e. service not limited to Saunalahti ADSL)

This is incredibly aggressive, to say the least, and as he points out you can barely get local minutes in Finland for 1 cent, let alone international. But check out the
3G tariffs:

Unlimited on-net minutes start at EUR20 per month
Unbundled minutes are 7 cents or 500 minutes for EUR18
Bundled, unlimited minutes on all GSM networks is EUR50 per month
3G data is EUR10 for 128 kbps, EUR30 for 384 kbps and EUR40 for 1 Mbps
Sign a two-year contract, get a 128kbps datacard for EUR10

What's the Finnish for "ouch"?

Know your limits

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has an interesting definition of the word "unlimited," as demonstrated in this complaint against Vodafone's laptop card advertising. It's apparently acceptable to use the word "unlimited" if you make it clear that this actually means 1GB, and as long as you haven't levied additional charges or churned off violators. I find several things strange here. Average usage on the datacard product is apparently "a small fraction" of the 1GB limit, but I find this hard to imagine, or maybe the average user has "your father's" internet habits - mark my words that will change. I also find it strange that the industry regards 1GB as a generous limit, because for a product so far taken up mostly by corporate road-warrior types I don't think that's very much - my slides for VON San Jose alone were 45MB, and if I were to do Skype file transfers to ten other people, I'd eat up a huge chunk of my monthly limit, risking intervention - except that it appears that not many people have crossed that line and that Vodafone apparently doesn't enforce its own rules very vigorously.

Egocasting 2.0

Apparently it's been really hot in Scandinavia recently, but now they're expecting snow by the weekend, just in time for my arrival in the region. I will be presenting and doing two panels (regrettably I have had to drop out of a third due to commitments at my day gig) at VON Stockholm. Bring a sweater. Some time back I half-jokingly predicted that we might soon see a perpetual VoIP conference on a cruise ship, and I had VON in mind, given its increasingly global coverage, and also the priceless opportunity to call it "VON Voyage." Now it seems that some the folks at Teleavisen, the leading industry news portal in Norway, have hit on the same idea, and the ship should be leaving the dock sometime soon for a two schmooze cruise with Norway's telecoms elite.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Absolutely Fabchannel

A Palladium Club mega-uber value reader points out that our old friends Justin and the gang at Fabchannel in Amsterdam have won a Webby (you have to read well into the release, where they get around to mentioning people who are doing interesting things in the part of Cyberspace which is not designated American territory). Congratulations!

Vodafone's oyster?

There's trouble in Ken Livingstone's transport paradise. Transport for London say they don't know where to turn next to expand the service, though they're "still interested in getting it up and running." As I stated here, I can think of a couple of people who might be able to help.

John Lennon was wrong...

...when he said this, but then again he'd never met Steve Jobs. One day he kicks butt on the Beatles, the next day he's won over Rupert Murdoch to the iPod vision - iTunes to carry Fox programming.

It's getting hard for a paperboy to make ends meet

Read all about it!

Going with the FLO

An eagle-eyed Titanium Club mega-uber value reader spotted this, which at this writing is not on the Qualcomm website. Qualcomm and Sky to trial MediaFLO in the UK. Is that frowning I can hear in Finland?

Polar bears, or arctic monkeys?

I'm happy to say that my friend and longstanding mega-uber value reader, Paul Sijben, has started a blog and has a rather downbeat assessment of telco prospects as his first post. My favorite quote:

"I like to compare the old telcos to Polar Bears, strong and all-powerful in
their domain of frozen polar wasteland. However the ice-caps are melting and this leaves them with an ever shrinking domain while the rest of the world is taken over by the competition. This goes on until the ice sheet has melted completely and the bears drown."

Wish I'd written that.

Paul's message mirrors some conversations I've had with clients recently (the gist of which is generally reflected
here), regarding telcos' ability to innovate and think outside the box, and the lack of confidence evident in the sectors' huge underperformance in the stock market. On every occasion, I see the ghost of Juan Villalonga sitting in the corner - okay, he was waaaay too early and maybe execution wasn't all it could have been, but maybe he was on to something. Whatever the ultimate answer is, I think what investors are looking to see is whether telcos are in fact polar bears on a shrinking sheet of ice, or Arctic Monkeys (for those unfamiliar with them, this is a group from Sheffield who have attained record-setting levels of success despite [or perhaps because of] their tendency to break every rule of conventional music business strategy).

Q1 trivia time again

The conference call season is in full swing again, and this morning we were treated to a decent set of numbers from KPN. As usual, from a telco disruption point of view, the fixed line KPIs hold some interesting datapoints. Consumer line loss in Q1 of 194k equates to a run-rate of 15.5% on an annualized basis, which is three times the level seen in Q1 last year, and the loss of discount PSTN call packages was also noteworthy. Against this, the company added 60k "InternetPlusBellen" (its voluntary naked DSL offering with VoIP bundled in) subs out of a total of 179k DSL net adds. Consumer EBITDA margin contracted 3.9 percentage points YoY, however, though the company's share of the retail broadband market looks to have risen again. I think it was Jack Welch who coined the phrase "destroy your business before someone else does it for you."