Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
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?
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
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Friday, December 01, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
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
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
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
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
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
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
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006
"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
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
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
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
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.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
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
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.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Monday, June 05, 2006
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
- 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:
- To leave behind personal memoirs
- To share received information with others
- 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
Thursday, May 25, 2006
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
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
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
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
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!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
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.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tags: missed opportunities, dumb pipe
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"?
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
"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).