In this wide-ranging interview, Michael and I discuss not only the move to Cloud Computing, but security and the management implications of integrating new automation options into your business.
Michael O’Neil is one of the world’s foremost technology analysts. He is the author of the management book “The Death of Core Competency,” and – with InsightaaS partner Mary Allen – founder of the Toronto Cloud Business Coalition, and author of the book “Building Cloud Value: A Best Practice Guide.” O’Neil has written hundreds of IT-focused reports and headlined dozens of events and workshops in Canada, the US, Asia and Europe. He is currently active in working with buy-side and sell-side clients on technology strategy issues, and teaches the “Cloud Systems in Practice” course at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
I had the pleasure of talking to Praveen Datta about his experiences in building a culture of innovation at a variety of large technology companies.
Praveen Datta is an innovation, strategy, product and business development executive with a focus on driving new revenue through understanding consumer and business needs in the IT services industry. With a background in management consulting, he provided consulting services in areas of marketing strategy and new product development, for clients such as: AT&T, Verizon, NTT, Telstra, IBM, Switch & Data and Bell Canada. Praveen attended Dalhousie University where he received his Law Degree and later attended the Ivey Business School at Western University.
I had the pleasure to recently speak with Sunny Ray, and we talked about Innovation and meeting needs especially in the financial space with cryptocurrency.
Sunny is the Co-founder and President at Unocoin, India’s leading bitcoin company. Unocoin is a platform that makes it easy to securely buy, sell, store, send, receive, use and accept bitcoin. Bitcoin is the world’s first open source, decentralized, digital currency and payment network. Sunny studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Alberta and University of Toronto. After graduation he spent several years running a financial brokerage then joined a robotics company in Canada selling robots to different universities across the globe.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the International Facility Managers Association Toronto Chapter annual Leadership Series event and was absolutely blown away by the positive atmosphere in the room. I found the attendees both respectful and engaged and the questions really helped further the discussion about IoT and Big Data.
I reflected on my experience in Architecture specifically around bringing skilled experts together to address client needs and the similarities to both IoT and Big Data Analytics. What is the similarity? It really involves not just listening to the client, but also asking the right questions. As has been said many times, if you don’t know the right questions, the data can show you almost anything in response.
I am really looking forward to the next IFMA event and highly recommend it to people in the Commercial Real Estate industry.
Even thought I wasn’t able to attend this years Demo conference in Palm Desert, CA (which looks pretty good right now with our wind-chill this morning adding up to a balmy -27 degrees Celcius!).
This year since I wasn’t able to attend I got online and used the live stream and facebook integration to see the presenters and get a real sense from the chatter on the facebook widget, what people thought of the presentations. As usual my hunches were right! There were a few demos that stood out for their value propositions (that is their approach to solve a customer pain point), and some which were not so good. Sometimes its just the presenter which is awkward; sometimes the product/service is something that you’d question the need for; often a combination of both.
I always like this conference as the pace and structure is different from most that you attend. It goes like this: there are sometimes 80 presenters over the 2 day event and each presenter gets 6 minutes on stage in front of all of the conference attendees to explain their product/service and demonstrate how it works. Hence the name “Demo.”
This year it seemed like the energy level was a bit low compared to my previous visits and I won’t ascribe that to the economy, but maybe to the fact that Demo creator Chris Shipley is passing on the reins after this conference to Matt Marshall, co-executive producer.
Here is a quick rundown on the morning’s sessions-
Pixetel- adds voice and video interactivity to emails, plays in any browser. Users can also send as secure links / email. You can verbally and visually explain spreadsheets, drawings, designs, proposals… anything on your screen. This was something that people online in the chat seemed to think was interesting and even though has been done in other applications, its good to see it brought to email
Rallypoint – End-end Enterprise crisis management platform, but through the demo, didn’t really get a clear sense of the service until almost the end of the presentation.
Vokle- This company’s service is about adding live communications to the web. It adds an ability to discuss news/submissions live sort of like a video chat room. [Might be good for an enterprise?]
Gwabbit- We’ve all been there: cutting and pasting each line of a signature in an email to put into your address book. This service scans emails and moves contact info to address book with a single click, but isn’t this more of a feature than a service? Shouldn’t Microsoft buy them?
CC:Betty- In an interesting approach to bringing some more innovation to the email application (since Gmail who has really changed the paradigm?) This service brings content and items from email to web interface (They called it Facebook for email). I think this could be a great app from a network point of view.
Citrix-“GoView” – This company wants to make screen recordings so simple your mother could use the service. (Why is everyone so disparaging of mothers?) Its still not that simple to use. My mom would have walked away long ago.
Zuora- There are lots of Facebook apps and lots of Developers and the “Z-commerce platform” allows them to monetize their apps. But I guess the question is, how many people would want to pay for the apps?
Document Depository Corp – This application is all about managing important documents like Corporate Governance and legal processes. Important for sure, but didn’t get a sense of excitement from the demo.
Home accounts – If consumers had this service before the credit crisis, maybe we wouldn’t be in such a state now. It gives applicants a sense of the most appropriate (re: money saving) mortgage for their situation. They are independent and not funded by the banks so can give (hopefully) less biased advice.
Zipadi- A publishing platform to convert paper catalogue to ecommerce site. Hmm, hasn’t this been done before?
7billion people- (weblegend) person sales tactics; can change tactics in real time. Click stream based analysis of behaviour and site customization. Neat and they demo’d using the Amazon site even though Amazon is not their customer. [How’d they do that?]
Liquid media-personalize advertising not sure how it works- is it voice mail only?
So a full slate in the morning and I will try to get a handle on the afternoon sessions as well.
I just came across a fantastic interview with Stanford Professor and futurist Paul Saffo who talks about how we have moved from the Producer Economy (from about 1900 – 1950) to the Consumer Economy (fueled by Advertising and Marketing ) (from about 1950 till about 3 months ago (!)) and to the Creator economy, which we are entering right now.
According to Saffo the Producer Economy was preoccupied by overcoming the scarcity of making stuff. It ended after the WW2 when firms realized they could make more stuff than people wanted.The next economy was dominated by the introduction of the credit card – and it was less about the workers who produced than the consumers who purchased the goods and services. Power shifted to those who created desire which pushed sales/ marketing (and especially advertising) to the forefront of the purchase process.
Interestingly enough he highlights that in the Producer economy the promise was abundance but actually scarcity was the key motivator in the continuing goal of producing more goods and services.
In the Consumer Economy, the mantra was buy more, then repeat. And we all know now that endgame.
The fundamental difference he outlines in the creator economy is that the fundamental actor is the person who neither just produces nor consumes but does both in the same single act. People can create value without it costing anything and its all about interactivity. Google, YouTube, Wikipedia all exist as part of this new economy.
He continues to detail the rise of the City State (not the Nation State which was prevalent up till now) and how mega regions will start to define how economic decisions are made in the future. As interests fragment keeping nations together with an incredibly diverse population will increasingly difficult. But people will self-select with others in creative geographies to provide the most opportunities for expression.
He maintains that the essential theme for the next economy is uncertainty and he contends that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and we have to get used to it because that’s the way it is. I think he is largely right but additionally we have to somehow realize the flipside of uncertainty is opportunity because we can do so many things we have less constraints on our lives than ever.
The implication is on the financial models that underpin this new economy. In the past, if you had invested in credit card companies at the beginning of the Consumer Economy you would have done well in hindsight. (Well up to about 6 months ago!) What is the model which underpins this new economy? Is it selling advertising against a whole bunch of creators work like Google? Or is it some other non-economic model like reputation or credibility?
Only time will tell but Saffo’s advice? Always look back twice as far as you are looking forwards.
In a recent Bloomberg article, HP is focusing on design to help it widen its lead over 2nd place Dell in terms of sales of computers. With an eye to Apple, it has started producing machines in a variety of colors and materials that challenge previous wisdom that computers are “boring beige boxes.”
Taking a page from one of its competitors is nothing new in the PC business but HP is aiming to deliver “lighter, more stylish laptops at prices that beat or match those of Dell. With little to separate the machines’ performance, design may be the tipping point.” As Roger Kay president of researcher Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. in Wayland, Massachusetts explains, “They’re not charging a premium for design — they’re just doing great design.”
What is really interesting is the way HP is introducing design to its line-up. Since the company started to understand that design is a differentiator, they have made “cultural shifts” in order to foster this type of thinking within the ranks. In an early meeting with designers, PC chief Todd Bradley told employees that PCs should be an “object of desire and possession” and that designers had permission to explore form and function not just cut costs. “Not only did they have the permission to be creative and design beautiful products, it was a mandate,” said Bradley, 49. “We made design a very visible priority.”
The team even has a different physical environment in which to work reflecting the increased focus on design with frosted glass Hermann Miller partitions rather than the grey cubes housing workers in the rest of the company.
The team is challenged to think about all aspects of the value chain, not only the end product. For instance, the company is re-thinking its shipping process, slimming down the amount of packaging used not only to cut costs and get more units on a skid but using less polystyrene is better for the environment. In looking at the way colors and designs are laid down on the laptop cases the company switched to a process called imprinting which is used in car detailing and fuses the designs right onto the material. This has improved the yield of units coming off the assembly line to 90% from 60%. In fact HP is working with BestBuy to offer special edition notebooks to target groups such as students, gamers and women.
This focus on design is estimated in a recent Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. report to help boost sales 6% over its rivals in the coming year as customers in challenging times become more discerning in their PC purchases. Not one to be outdone, Dell has introduced new colors to its laptop line and is rumoured to be completely revamping its line-up within the year.
I was taking a look at a bottle of shampoo the other day and remembered the story about how a Proctor and Gamble marketer came up with the concept of “Shampoo, rinse and repeat.” I have to ask: is this really better for the customer? Is it going to get an average customer’s hair twice as clean? Did they ask to use twice as much shampoo? According to the story, its probably more of a benefit for the manufacturer, than the customer.
In fact, this used to be the holy grail for marketing; selling more products that the customers maybe didn’t necessarily want. So I’m looking at maybe a return to traditional marketing where actually retailers and manufacturers ask customers what they want and give it to them.
I’ve always thought that Bill Buxton had a good view on what was essential in design and technology. Even way back when I saw him in 1996 or 1997 when he was at Alias Wavefront he caused me to think about how Design impacts how we interact with products on a daily basis.
Now having done innovation from the inside of a large corporation, I can’t agree with his view more. It sounds like he could be talking about my (or I bet 90%) of the organizations out there when he recalls stories from his experience. His view is that many companies still need to be convinced of the value of design and how design affects (and requires) co-ordination with all parts of the organization.
But this is not design (or “Design”) that is the equivalent to window dressing or chrome or garish menus, but really a holistic approach to approaching problems. One of the questions he answered at the conclusion of his talk revolved around how he would characterize design. In addition the aforementioned “way of thinking” he very emphatically stated that it was not traditional problem solving, but a way to facilitate a conversation. In fact he mentioned that design is probably the “most negative” profession out there as it required a continual progression from a blank sheet of paper (millions of possibilities) to exactly one, with all the rest being thrown out!
But seems to be redeeming about this process is the conversation and improvement it causes as the ideas are thrown out; each idea informs the next to make it even better than it could have been on its own. This however, requires that design is supported at the proper level in the corporation, which he noted was part of the success of Apple and part of the continuing lack of progress in the 90% of other organizations currently producing products.
During the early days of Industrial Design, designers such as Walter Teague, Harley Earl and Henry Dreyfuss brought something unique to large organizations; how to differentiate their products based on context. They also had a distinct advantage in the early days as they reported in to very high levels in the company, usually the President or CEO (partially because they were “expensive”) but also because they could bring something distinctive to products which were becoming quite similar in customer’s eyes.
Today most design firms report into levels below senior management (in large organizations) and at this point are “positioned to fail.” He went on to ask the audience several hard questions:
- Is Design an Executive level position at your company?
- If not how can you claim it’s important?
- If it isn’t what message are you delivering to your employees?
The key message was that firms have to stop paying lip service to the value of design and actually incorporate it into the strategic decisions of the company.
This lead to a quote from one of Buxton’s mentors, Alan Kay:
“It takes almost as much creativity to understand a good ida as it is to have it in the first place.”
Upon which Buxton added his corollary:
“It takes even more creativity to make an idea real as it is to have on in the first place,”
which I can wholly agree with given my experience in product development!
So where it really gets interesting is his assertion that you need a design culture, not just products to be successful in a chosen industry and he (of course) gives Apple as an example.
In 1993 when Apple’s stock price was declining, future head designer Jonathan Ives started at the company. Through the next two CEOs the stock price declined further (likely through no fault of Ives) until the Apple board brought Steve Jobs back to the company and the rest, as they say is history, with the introduction of the iMac and later the iconic iPod.
So what did Jobs change? Buxton just mentions that Jobs became the Chief Design Officer and promoted the value of design throughout the company. And the remarkable thing to keep in mind is that he did it with largely the same staff that was around during the previous leaders’ tenure. He really just gave the existing staff the tools they needed and the right support to be able to execute on those good ideas.
You may ask what about the Apple G4 cube and hockey puck mouse? Well design is not always about a straight path to success and those “failures” positioned the company to really hit the ball out of the park on their next endeavors. Which meant that the conversation (and risk tolerance for failure) had to exist in the company or they wouldn’t be able to come back and build successful, game-changing products after previous ones failed to catch on in the market. And it also suggests that corporate culture can change to support design if it is supported from the top and becomes a part of the organizations conversations to deliver contextual products customers crave.
I recently had a chance to see Richard Florida speak at the launch of his new book, “Who’s your City” hosted at the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. He was ostensibly being interviewed by his old friend Meric Gertler, but he was able move the conversation fluidly from the question at hand to such topics as keeping talent in Atlantic Canada and even on the “Singles index.” But more on that in a moment….
He started out by mentioning that one of the working titles for the book was “Why Place Matters” but upon finishing the draft felt that the title of “Who’s your City” really captured the essence of the book better. Because as he noted, with increased global mobility of everything from goods and services to citizens, where you choose to set up shop and live out your life can be a very telling indicator of how successful you’ll be in life.
Common wisdom says that advanced in communication technology combined with advances in transportation technology means that the world would tend to become more decentralized as in “The world is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman. Or basically that with a PC and broadband you would be able to work anywhere. But Florida said this is only about half of the explanation. These advances are not spread evenly throughout the world and as a result, would lead to clustering around certain centers.
As further evidence, this year (2008) more than half of the world’s population will live in cities and that in around 200 or so nations on earth there are only about 40 “Mega-regions” that really matter. These regions have less than 20% of the world’s population but produce more than two-thirds of the world’s output and 80% of the world’s innovation.
But what if you’re unlucky enough to have missed out on the opportunity to be born (or live) in one of these Mega-Regions? How can these areas like Pittsburg or Hamilton (his examples, not mine!) help to transform themselves? There are two main things to recognize:
- Urban policy transforms economic policy (not just social policy);
- People policies are the key to a vibrant economy (attracting Artists, musicians etc.)
The key to understanding this is to keep in mind that the manufacturing jobs that made these “blue-collar” areas great in and around the turn of the 20th century (with Union involvement and increasing wages) have largely disappeared in favour of service economy jobs which are by and large less lucrative. So these cities must fight a battle against a rapidly increasing vacuum, sucking prosperity out of these cities to more “attractive” Mega-Regions.
Another topic that has caused some debate is Florida’s assertion that regions exhibit their own personality and that certain people are drawn to these personalities. Among the five kinds of personalities are “extroverts” and those that are “open to experience.” Those that are open to experience tend to migrate and cluster where they can “identify” with the regional personality. The critical message in this discussion is that one needs to understand the regional profile (and make sure it matches yours at that time) or you won’t be happy with your choice (or lack of choice).
To switch gears Gertler asked Florida what drew him to Toronto (besides the great job opportunity)? His answer surprised more than a few audience members in that he asserted that Toronto is one of two great cities in North America! To further his point he noted that the city is on the upswing and he really sees that he has an ability to make an impact (and it certainly helped his case when he mentioned that the city was a hybrid entertainment/ creative centre, with a heart!)
When asked about the Singles Map, Florida seemed a bit exasperated stating that this is the only thing that the media in the US seems to want to talk about from the book, whereas in Canada, there was a more broad based debate on many aspects of the book. In fact if you look at the map it seems that if you are a single man, the eastern US (and particularly the north east) is the place where you would seem to do all right. His research leads to the conclusion that this clustering occurs even within the dating game, though not sure how this would translate to other segments.
When initially considering cities to relocate to Florida made a map on a napkin with the pros and cons listed and Washington, DC and Toronto rose to the top. He noted that he chose Washington because at the time he thought that he could have an impact and change the entire nation, based on his work. But then Bush got elected… twice, and he pretty much gave up that notion.
In an interesting twist, he asked aloud whether the cities we live in are somehow matched to our situation in life. Even thought it is a tradeoff between our jobs and our lifestyles we do make those calculations based on what we think will match our aspirations at a given point in life. And corporations should become more adept at realizing these choices as they search for talent to help them grow. He noted that Google has become extremely strategic about location and bases some of their decisions based on the “people factor” in the surrounding region.
He then mentioned that Jane Jacobs said Adam Smith had it wrong; cities and people drive development by creating new work and that now instead of government planners, market forces are increasingly responsible for our urban outcomes. Because in the end we have to be responsible for our choices, even if we don’t end up making the decision to move out of our current locations. He also mentioned that in his adopted city of Toronto, he wished its citizens would “stop whining about how bad the city was” and really start to lead to make the city truly great, because in his eyes it seems as if the best days are still in front.
I was at a conference recently (called The Millennials – the generation roughly born from 1982 to 2001) and the most notable session in the morning was chaired by Alan Cross whose “Ongoing History of New Music” really was influential in giving me a new appreciation of how popular music forms around trends and influences. The topic of the session was “Connecting to a New Generation of Music Consumers.” The session focused around how they consume music and other content. On the panel was Jodie Ferneyhough – MD, Universal Music Publishing; Dave Kines- Manager, Music Partnerships, Rogers Media; Daniel Ewing – EVP, Ticketmaster; Dave Jaworski – CEO, Passalong Networks.
Alan Cross posed the first question “How will the Millenniums consumer music?” The response from the panel revolved around how these consumers had access to many devices (phones, iPods, computers etc.) and wanted their content to be more mobile, just like they are. Furthermore, they have also shown that they will not be content to wait for content and wanted it faster than previous generations. The conversation turned to convenience and not only getting the content ‘whenever, where-ever,’ but how this generation appears to want to purchase ‘a-la-acarte’ instead of getting a CD with ‘one or two tracks’ they like.
The next question from Alan brought me back to my youth in that he asked “What happened to broad consensus in music?” It seemed to me that back then, there were a few stragglers who liked country or jazz or new wave, but at a certain time everyone liked Kiss or Cheap Trick and God forbid if you didn’t… One of the panelist mentioned that maybe the format imposed this type of restriction on behavior, but now consumers could customize their playlists so it didn’t seem as relevant today.
But if this is true, what happens to the ‘social experience’ of music? The listening party; the ‘tribal experience’ of belonging to the ‘metal heads’ or ‘new wavers?’ Are we really programming to a listenership of ‘one?’ How then could the industry market to this group? One theory was that it had to be an ‘experience’ that was the actual thing being sold, not just the recorded music and perhaps the expectations of selling millions of copies of a track were not based in this new reality.
This led to a lively discussion on the question of whether music is still a unifying force for this generation. Given the prevalence of protest songs of the 60s and 70s and the rebellion songs of the late 70s and early 80s is this generation still expressing themselves through music? Sounds like the jury is still out on this one as there were several theories floated ranging from expression in different ways (rather than writing songs, Millennials were actually joining NGOs and going to Africa) to a thought that the songs were out there, but we weren’t seeing them.
So amongst the music execs, there is not a whole lot of consensus, although they did agree that the model of selling hardcopy tracks is in transition and the eventual ‘replacement’ for this model is still not certain. Now where is my copy of Live at Budokan
Last night I had the pleasure to attend a talk by David Smith, President of NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) at the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. The topic was “Why business people needed to think more like designers” and drew a packed house which was quite an achievement on such a cold wintry night.
After a brief introduction by Heather Fraser, David quickly went into his prepared notes. He started off by saying that this session was going to be more about him asking questions to the audience rather than telling the audience what he thought was the right answer, which aligned with his premise that “critical inquiry” was part of the hallmark of successful designers. I’ll get into this a bit further later.
One of his first questions to the audience was “What are the benefits of an Arts Education?” He proposed that a key attribute was being curious about how things worked and to then remain curious throughout life and not be satisfied with the status quo. He delved into this a bit deeper when he later asked the central question, ” Why do business people needed to think more like designers?” His answer came back to the ability to ask the right questions, not necessarily come up with the “Be-all and end-all” product. His rationale was that designers (and business people) who ask the right questions can come up with the right solution for this moment, but guaranteed at some time in the future that solution will not be the right one for all time.
After concluding the formal part of the talk, he took some questions from the audience. One of the first questions was around asking the right questions and this lead to a discussion of whether process was indeed more important than product as he submitted. (One group which really values process is the Government and we know how fast they move on things….)
While he admitted that the government does surround itself with process, process in this context is not the end goal. The key thing to remember is that while products may be right for today’s constraints and opportunities, as these constraints change, designers and business people have to be willing to go back and question the initial assumptions (in the process) to come up with a new “right answer” for the new constraints. He insisted that the Apple iPod of today may be the Microsoft Zune of tomorrow and given the fast rate of change (especially in technology) this may be something to consider.
But if indeed creativity and artistic intent are valuable skills in society why are they arguably not as highly valued as business and technical skills? It all comes down to (in his estimation) the education system and how imagination in children is eventually supplanted by the ability to determine “right and wrong” answers and to be authorative on subjects.
So how do we then encourage creativity in business people? It really can be learned (I am an example of this!) by never feeling so comforable that “you think you know what you know.” (Or the often heard refrain, “Been there, done that.”) One has to be willing to think be curious about how things work and question assumptions to come up with a “right” solution for the problem at that time.
I was thinking recently about all the work being done around “natural language” search with several startups (notably powerset.com and textdigger.com) looking to make everyone’s search experience less frustrating. Let’s face it; despite all the work going into algorythms behind the scene, I don’t think that search today is significantly different than 5 years ago.
You type in your word combos into the box and hope and pray that something relevant comes back in the first 10 entries on the page. Or you can repeat with a slightly different boolean combo. And still hope and pray…
But maybe its not simply in the initial search terms that determine how successful the search for information will be. Maybe if we acknowledge that its really really hard to get back the results we want on the first try, that the way to develop a better search experience is how you engage with the results to refine that search.
That’s why I was interested in Quintura and more recently in silobreaker.com. In each case they look at related items in a search visually in order to expose connections to the key search term. Don’t think an item is related? Just get rid of it either by clicking the ‘x’ or in the case of silobreaker, dragging it to the trash.
It makes refining the search more intuitive but also exposes linkages between items by proximity and size. Which helps you understand what the
Well another Demo has come and gone with a whirlwind of information and opportunities. There are a few things which I found at this year’s session.
It seems like collaboration is no longer a nice to have but a feature that is really becoming standard when it comes to online products. Notably, Cozimo, LiquidPlanner and some others are taking it to a new level as they are allowing simultaneous work across multiple locations which points to the new, geographically dispersed nature of projects these days. And LiquidTalk allows simultaneous translation across differerent groups all within an IM client.
Social media as a concept is also being rolled up into all products; so much so that Demo is going to stop having a separate grouping for these products. How’s that for validation of a concept?
Gadgets and devices are still around (even thought sometimes it feels like all the services are being delivered inside the browser). Livescribe‘s pen
brings your voice (or any audio) to the printed page. Even translation of words into other languages!
And for another audience alltogether (kids 4-8) Leapfrog‘s tag system (available Nationwide in June ’08) gives little ones the ability to interact with books with audio and music with their pen-like reader.
Green has to get bigger at Demo and the buzz around the pavilion was that having only two companies there representing the category was a real letdown. There have got to be more worthy companies out there (besides the great offering from Celsius and GreenPlug.) With the amount of monitors and cpu’s buzzing over the sessions, there is growing awareness of the impact of this sector.
Video is not just for broadcasters anymore and although we’ve know this for a while, there are a bunch of new tools out there (VisibleMeasures, TubeMogul) which help monetize and analyze online video for publishers, be they consumers or national brands.
And of course, the web is a Web 2.0 (sorry couldn’t resist) playground as everything is and can be, mashed up together. One service (Flypaper) even allows searching and viewing of flickr photos right from inside their application. Sprout brings the power of custom flash applications to a wider audience with their cool builder application which allows users to create cool flash apps right from inside their browser. No download needed.
But my concern as always with these new services is how they will sustain themselves over the long term to support their rapid advancement and integration of really fantastic functionality. I have heard that funding for “Ad-supported” services has tapered off over the past 6 months or so, and if that is the case, what other type of subscription, transaction or other models are out there?
The last afternoon sessions are hard as a lot of people have mentally checked out, so it is hard to keep peoples attention. Some guys came out and smashed a server with a sledgehammer (that got people’s attention) as well as one with a dog (yes, a real live dog) that fetched the presenter’s slippers. (?)
A couple of highlights include Yoics which can connect formerly ‘unconnected’ devices like cameras and your pc to a mobile device.
Not Business as Usual
Forget heavy-weight applications, complicated deployments, and astronomical capEx bills. Software is getting out of the way and letting businesses small and large get things done. Demonstrations by:
|KonoLive||Instant collaboration. Keep working with the same applications you are used to. Immediate feedback from collaborators. Can see comments all at once of one at a time. Everyone’s feedback stays on the same page. With Video, comments stay on the timeline.|
|CHALEX Corp.||Manage lifecycle of an asset from creation to deletion. Secure environment with SSL to upload images if required. Comments on each file and workflow. This is pretty boring and the interface looks pretty basic compared to some of the more flashy stuff I’ve seen here.|
|Huddle.net||This is funny, the guy has a Dilbert tie on. “Work sucks, but work with friends is better.” Simple low cost collaboration solution. They have a Facebook app that embeds their workspace . Open APIs so other developers can build on top of the collaboration features.|
|Rove Mobile, Inc.||Have 5000 customer for |
|Catalyst Web Services, LLC||Web based suite of integrated apps for SMBs, email, calendar, contacts, collaboration. Their suite works the way SMBs work. Unlimited user licence. Can define profiles for all levels. You can edit a excel document without installing excel. No licences, no per seat, just pay on the amount of space used (10GB plan free for a year promo)|
|Sterna Technologies, Inc.||BPS – Business Positioning system. Basically a dashboard for how the business is doing (and some predictive features for seeing upcoming forecast) Strange demo; had a dog on stage to fetch his slippers. Cute dog, but not clear why he was on stage?|
|Asankya, Inc.||Real-time media content delivery. Optimizes real-time traffic on IP.. Can do HD and live streaming. Prioritizes packets to that experience don’t drop. Multipath technology to deliver better experience. Can also handle two way traffic. Optimizes upstream capacity as well. Can be used for video conferencing or broadcasting. Launching new network (Hypermesh network). Can also deliver to home theatre (working with CE companies)|
|Kaazing Corp.||Technology behind stockmarket. 20 year old tech, but reliable, and scalable.|
Web is 1 way communication (but you can fake it – like meebo). True 2-way communication platform. If you have to send a msg to 100k users you have to send it 100k times; theirs can send one message. Can turn anyone of the nodes into servers. Not sure I really get this one… the demo didn’t really go across that well
|Nirvanix||Guys brought a server onstage and smashed it with a sledgehammer… Cool! Distributed storage in the cloud. “Storage Delivery network” Media transcode built into the service so you could serve a handset as well. Freedrive uses them (free 1 GB storage) Facebook app. Transcode automatically to flash to play in the browser. “Akamai + Storage + service.”|
|Squidcast||Can deliver high quality video over the internet. Guys are doing a parody of the Mac/PC ads, complete with music. PC guy looks lame. With current services, can’t send big video files. Start with browser; create a package in Squidcast; and type email address of recipient. Drag video straight to browser. Click send. Completely free because they use a portion of users resources. Cloud computing environment.|
|Yoics, Inc.||Take network connected devices and make them available on the net. Secure client that looks like an IM client. Converts a PC folder to a virtual web server. Dedicated secure connection PC to PC. TVersity- you can access this music app over the web. Can view your PC files on mobile device. Can also access devices such as cameras. Can unplug and replug device somewhere else and it will still be live.|
|Delver||Takes social search to a new place. Gets results from your personal network. Problem is that results may not be authoritative because your friend may not be the best source of info on “non-social” topics.|
|HealthPricer Interactive, Ltd.||Aggregator of health care products. Expedia of health products. Comparison shopping service. “No body owns health shopping space.” Need vertical expertise of how people purchase and the products. They don’t transact, but they refer and can track data and clicks through their site.|
|Eyealike, Inc.||Copywrited items search on the web. Find images (faceial recognition), and video as well. Problem: Studios can not identify their material in User Generated content and sharing sites. A variety of techniques to identify the content. Extracts visual information from the content. Kinda creepy the way it can zero in on content really effectively|
|Silobreaker, Ltd.||Gives ability to put context around context with a variety of tools, like trends. Neat network diagram and ability to drill down in search. Definitely a hit with the geeky search crowd.|
|Circos.com, Inc.||Extracts opinions from authoritative sources to organize searches. Search with a brain and a heart. Creates a guide – results that match the preference with a rating. “Me-Centric search.”|
|Jodange, LL||Provides a sentiment analysis of commentary on the web. Problem: Too much information, but difficult to find what you want by keyword. Track opinion and sentiment about topics.|
Not really.There were the requisite B2C startups and also a lot of Enterprise or B2B companies in this session, but an interesting comment from Chris Shipley in that there is currently a category for “Social Media Companies” which will be dropped in the next event as this is becoming not a separate category, but integrated into every product that will be demo-ing in the future.
The Revolution Will Be Broadcast on the WebThe demand for rich video content places big demands on content producers and the networks that distribute their product. It also opens the imaginations of individuals to become creators as well as consumers of video content.Demonstrations by:
|BitGravity||Make internet powerful for delivering media. Experiences that rival television but are compelling because they are interactive. First broadcast quality content delivery network. Live video streaming HD, affordable and scales. Flash client , not download. Can use it as a DVR. Fast channel change as well. Good demo.|
|Cozimo.com||Collaboration of filmmakers and clients. Markups that are designated by contributor, can chat and respond. Quite a few attributes and features. Can step thru all notifications on the timeline.|
|xtranormal||Gives avatars new life. From templates can do things like a talk show with avatars. Has preset actions and this is all in browser! And you can scan in pictures and map them on the avatars. “Movie making in a box”|
|Capzles, Inc.||Social storytelling – empowers anyone to create multimedia stories. Time-based emphasis. Can be used by consumer brands to tell a story.|
|HubDub, Ltd.||Prediction markets, aggregation and social networking. Weird demo start with props (entrails and magic 8-ball). Predictions or forecast on how news stories will develop. EG who will get the republican nomination? Given $1000 virtual dollars to make a prediction. Can will virtual dollars. Users are news participants.|
|notebookz.com, Inc.||Connects users to others research on the web. Place and tools to discover others research on the web. Goes out and looks at other collections of information on the web. Sort of like del.icio.us but allows cutting and pasting as well of text.|
|atlaspost.com||Social mapping network. Putting houses on a google maps mashup|
|Liquidus Corp.||On Demand Marketing. Production and distribution of video to channels. Pulls images from the web in turns them into flash videos.|
|TubeMogul, Inc.||Ratings for video. Content creators can upload video to the site and the metadata. Can then push it out to the video sites in one click. Saves time in uploading etc. provides a single dashboard for tracking/stats. Can analyze demographics of audience. Helps provide more metrics for doing deals to get advertisers for content on line.|
|Visible Measures Corp.||Measure behaviour of internet video audience. Can see what people do in each video like replay, rewind or leave the video. Good for advertisers to see also how other sites pick up the videos and blog posts feature the ad. Can also see geo-location who is seeing the video.|
|support.com||Remote support. Pc health check does a scan of the pc to look at where problems exist… What about if the PC is offline and they have to download the app? Gives a report using traffic signals and colors. Then gives a huge list of things that could be fixed. Looks a little overwhelming at first, but gives a description of what each would do to fix.|
|Pathworks Software Corp.||Customer service. Application called help stream. Customer service is hard to do cost-effectively. Looks like aggregation of web results, community and KB. Its also Free !?…Not sure how they do this…|
|SupportSpace, Inc.||Community based tech support market space. Community can then engage experts based on their profile and rating. Can do desktop sharing.|
|good2gether, Inc.||Reinventing philanthropy. People want to get involved and it makes it easier to recruit the volunteers. It is free and the local non-profits can sell ads. Can share to facebook and email invites out to others. Hyper local content that can be monetized with partners. Connecting people.|
Simplicity was the kickoff theme as we went through a wide variety of demos this afternoon; all the way from virtual desktops for the enterprise to teaching music over the web.
Chris Shipley noted that: “Simplicity on the other side of complexity. Making really hard stuff simple.”
A real cool demo was Sprout, that allows you to create flash widgets without being a flash programmer.
He wasn’t much of a technologist, but Henry David Thoreau had the right idea. We make our lives easier, and arguably better, by using products that wrap complexity and capability in simple designs and interfaces. DEMO will continue to beat the drum for practical products that work well, hide complexity, and make our professional and personal lives more enjoyable.
|LiquidTalk, Inc.||Podcasting- better connect and engage mobile workers. |
|Zodiac Interactive||Mobile content for the TV web- |
|Voyant, Inc.||Do it yourself financial planning.|
|Review2Buy, Inc.||Review a free mobile price comparison product. Wine comparison with winereview.com reviews.|
|Acesis, Inc.||Simplifies healthcare records keeping. Built on Flex and Adobe Air. Templated forms for doctors to enter information/ patient records. Can customize without professional services because in effect, it is user-generated content on a CMS.|
|blist, Inc.||“Worlds Easiest Database” online application that has a more friendly UI for non-programmers. Competitors are DabbleDB , quickbase etc. [name is: WeBLIST]|
Content Made Easy
As consumer-generated content become de rigor, we’ll want tools and techniques to create and deliver better looking, more stylish and professional content. Whether it’s presenting materials at work, delivering messages to friends and customers, or distributing content, these products give individuals the ability to communicate like pros.
|Flypaper, Inc.||“Tell stories that stick on the web” bridges gap between PowerPoint and custom flash development. Using templates users can create rich flash animations that they can then upload to the web.|
|GoldMail, Inc.||“Voiceover messaging” – uses rich messaging in custom branded player. Recipients get an email then a link back to the site where they can view the content. Simple easy-to-use creation tool, which you then basically do a slideshow with voice-overs. Not as rich as the previous company in terms of impact, but there is an email tie-in automatically.|
|Sprout, Inc.||Web-based drag and drop environment for building flash files using Flex. It integrates with other web services such as Yahoo maps, Ribbit etc. Can publish and republish to popular platforms such as Facebook and blogger.. Can change the widget and republish and it updates wherever you have published it.|
It’s Easy Being Green
Over decades, the technology industry has had a profound negative impact on the environment. With greater awareness, the industry is also poised to have a profound positive effect as well. We’re watching for products, technologies and services that are responsible to the environment and sustainable in the economy, with an eye toward a future DEMOgreen event.
|Green Plug, Inc.||Is there a universal power adaptor?? Will recognize the device and just charge it. They sell a chip for free, software on the product side and they both recognize each other. Shuts off power when device does not need it.|
|Celsias, Ltd.||First online collaboration site for climate change projects. Easy to put up projects on the site and easy to join whatever projects users want. Revenue Model: (in addition to Google Ads), they want companies to use it for CSR projects for 29.99/month.|
On Research: Turning Ideas into InnovationsSponsored by The Kauffman FoundationAcademic research centers are fertile ground for discovery of some of the Next Very Big Things. With the support of the Kauffman Foundation, DEMO is again reaching deep into the academic community to identify innovators working on some very big ideas.Panelists:
Steven M. Barlow , PhD., Professor, SPLH
Programs in Neuroscience, Human Biology, and Bioengineering
Director, Communication Neuroscience Laboratories, University of Kansas
Ronald Indeck , PhD., The Das Family Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Washington University, St. Louis
Yannis Papakonstantinou , Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, School of Engineering, University of California, San Diego and Founder, app2you.comThis discussion with the two academics went on a bit too long and I got the sense that audience was tuning out.Virtualization . . .
Virtualization technology is at the center of more secure, more stable, more scalable IT infrastructure. These two products are leading that trend.
|Citrix Sytems||Streaming virtual desktops- can roll out virtual desktops remotely with a instant on logon and no real difference than a physical installation. If users open a presentation the application is dynamically automatically provisioned to the virtual environment.|
|StackSafe||Virtualized pre-production testing. Trying to eliminate downtime in software applications. Cost effective staging and testing platform.|
…. In a Virtual World
From virtual IT infrastructure to virtual entertainment . . . why indulge someone else’s second life when you can build a second, or third, life of your own?
|SceneCaster||First social media content creator to share within the browser in 3D. Sceneweaver creates new opportunities for 3D media on the web. Full in browser 3D experience.|
See it again for the first time
You may think you know these products, but we invite you to take a closer look, as each demonstrator unveils a new aspect that brings new dimension and import to these emerging products.
|Livescribe, Inc.||Smart pen – part of a mobile communications platform. Just begin writing on the special paper, and as you speak it records audio. You can scrub to the audio you recorded by just touching the area where you started speaking. It even does translation as you write! Books $5 each, 2Gb pen for $199. Neat! (see the video here- http://livescribe.com/smartpen/videos.html)|
|Seesmic||Can push video to twitter as well as seesmic.com. Their marketing material calls this “the twitter of video.” Not too sure based on their demo (but a whole bunch of smart guys, including Arrington and Clavier have invested so what do I know?)|
|MOLI, LLC||“Next generation social networking sit” and can allow you to control multiple profiles in one account. Can permission each profile separately to allow access to each profile. Co-brand and whitelabel technology for Enterprises and SMBs. These companies can communicate with their customers. Can also add ecommerce as well (and the Moli doesn’t take a piece of the transactions!) Has reporting on visits, % gender etc. Also has video content. Like what else do they have? It seems like they have a lot of different pieces going on.|
|iVideosongs||Brings innovation to music – “its all about the songs” they teach complete songs accuratelyIts about the people – the instructors present the songs as they were recorded. Original artists present the story behind the songs. Control – customers have complete control (non-DRM) to put it on their TV or mobile device.|
Here is the schedule for the first day.
People starting to arrive for first day’s sessions.
[‘The number of iPhones here is pretty overwhelming, but I’d expect it with this crowd. ]
Chris Shipley (Host and founder of Demo) gives a brief kick off talk:
Her update on state of industry:
· 77 demos this week out of hundreds that applied; representative of the market and direction
· Why 77? Not really driven by raw numbers, but only want to present best products and wide range of ideas
· Can’t just show Web2.0 products but it has to represent broader industry
· All products are interrelated; Demo is about seeing connections where maybe none were apparent before.
· All of us are driving new products and concepts, we create a new opportunity and put more demands on infrastructure or security etc. met by many of products here
· More reliable CDNs, or security; whatever it is should be driven by customers
· Software on the web often better than many of the business apps we use today; the general web and interface experiences have upped our expectation. Why the slow response and bad user experience from
· We can get these web tools without a requisition, they are just available and people in the Enterprise are starting to use them as they help get work done more effectively (like Basecamp?!)
· Communication- text, voice, video need to be part of all applications- seamlessly
· We as consumers are challenging s/w and h/w providers to make it easier and easier.
· We are defined by technology we use – but we need to drive good user experience for ourselves. The experience will matter more and more
· How will you deliver experience to our customers?
I had the opportunity to attend a discussion about Roger Martin’s new book, “The Opposable Mind” at Indigo the other night. [I had purchased a copy of the book but I still had not finished it when I attended the discussion.] Heather Reisman the CEO of Indigo interviewed Roger and after a exuberant introduction asked him to explain the main thrust of his book.
He responded that many business books on the market now are challenging in that they ask the reader to emulate certain behaviours shown by successful leaders. The issue with this approach is that many CEOs approached problems differently in various stages of their career and more importantly readers have a hard time internalizing many of these key behaviours because each situation is unique and readers may not be equipped to deal with subtleties particular to their challenges.
So instead of looking strictly at anecdotal situations, he went back and asked was there a common thread in their ability to think about challenging situations and resolve them to a satisfactory conclusion? After interviewing many leaders, he saw that there was a common thread to their thought process: they were able to hold two opposing ideas in their heads at the same time and think about them not in as ‘either/or’, but as a ‘both/and’ manner.
Like the concept of an ‘Opposable Thumb’ where humans and some primates can create tension between the thumb and fingers, the concept of an ‘Opposable Mind’ allows great leaders to create this ‘Idea Tension’ between two opposing ideas to create something which is better than either of the individual concepts alone.
Heather Reisman then brought up Edward deBono’s concept that “our brains are like formed Jello” and that if you pour boiling water over the Jello, it creates a ridge which water then returns to again and again. This is roughly analogous to developing and reinforcing techniques by repetition.
If this is true she asked, can using your mind “laterally” strengthen the techniques in the Opposable Mind?
Roger responded that he shared de Bono’s confidence that this is possible but added that it would not be enough to tell someone to “think laterally” but that leaders do something different; as described in the book, they use a four part thinking process (usually unconsciously). They consider:
- Saliency – They consider more things and absorb complexity in the front end
- Causality – How do these concepts relate? They consider increasingly complex relationships. Instead of looking at ‘A’ causing ‘B’ they also consider how then ‘B’ can create more ‘A.’ He commented that “They wade into complexity to get to simplicity.”
- Architecture – How to work their way through the problem. They hold the whole in mind while working on the parts in contrast to the tendency to break things up or parcel out the parts. He gave the example where Issy Sharp, CEO of Four Seasons Hotels emphasizes how Guest Services is a critical component of his operation, but in contrast to other organizations, there is no huge ‘Guest Services’ Department. It is part of all the staff’s job description and responsibility to ensure a world class experience for all guests.
- Resolution – They go back to the problem until they find sufficient resolution of the issues. He said that these leaders are, “Not constrained by two models but are informed by them.”
He made a good point in illustrating some issues where representatives from Herman Miller (disguised in the book as a company called VisionTech) hear two different things from a potential client based on their perspectives in the organization. “Reality seldom is,” was how he termed it, and leaders have to listen to different viewpoints of people in their organization to determine salience because some things are salient that were never in their original assessment of the situation. [Heather actually remarked that the way she remembered these steps was with a mnemonic: S.C.A.R. Roger responded that he’d never thought of it that way!]
Then Heather put out a real life challenge to the audience that Indigo faced: given the currency fluctuations and the fact that most of her inventory is sourced from the United States, when books arrive on the shelf there is often a marked discrepancy in prices in US and Canadian funds. How could Roger and then the audience use this methodology to come up with some solutions to the problem.
Roger went over the basics of the issue and then Heather asked the audience. There were a few suggestions, but one member remarked that the tendency was still to jump right to solutions without doing more listening to the different stakeholders, which is true to a point, but difficult to do in that context. [I have some thoughts on this problem… but haven’t put them down in print… yet ;> ] In the end, it seemed that this was a challenge which didn’t have any quick fixes but will require imagination and a different path to solving.
Apple launched the MacBookAir to great fanfare in some circles with much celebration about the form factor and design of the device. The Steve-note certainly highlighted the sleekness of this device and to give weight to the argument, compared it to a Sony Vaio. Other sites have a more detailed comparison here.
The real value I think is in the ‘Touch’ interface developed first for the iPhone and the iPod touch. The MBA has touch on the trackpad so you can resize photos, scroll, swipe, rotate, zoom and other motions to interface with the screen. But wouldn’t it be great if you had a screen you could do this on directly? So make the screen touch sensitive (like the iPhone) and all of a sudden you have the Apple tablet, with a better interface than the UMPC.
I have seen people who first encounter a PC try to either take the mouse and lift it off the table and point it at the screen, or often, put it directly on the screen and try to manipulate the icons directly. As seasoned users we may scoff at this behaviour but its not really as unsophisticated as it sounds.
If you think about it, this is an entirely natural way [See this fantastic presentation by Jeff Han about Multi-touch] of interacting with items, and the fact that we (Microsoft and Apple really) tend to describe the working surface of the PC as a “desktop” really makes folks believe that they can rearrange things to the same degree as in the physical world. Microsoft is looking at this with their surface initiative and you could even draw a comparison with Nintendo’s Wii; that interacting with something on a screen with some sort of “controller” that has no real relationship with the actual task is not intuitive.
So even though rumors of an Apple tablet have been squelched before for a variety of reasons, I think for them it is the next logical evolution of a mobile device. When users can’t go to the small form factor of an iPhone, with a great user interface they could be persuaded to give up lugging a heavy laptop around. And besides, it’s something that Microsoft/Intel tried (and weren’t too successful at) . And Apple has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
Tom Krazit from Cnet has also written about this today (Feb. 26th) in his blog article “Has Apple found the magic Touch?”
Nintendo has quite a reputation in the gaming industry as video games have been this company’s forte for a long time. Although in the period leading up to the launch of the Wii you wouldn’t know that this company was once a giant in the gaming business. They were suffering from a distinct lack of buzz as other competitors spent more to drive the core gaming experience.
Nintendo is currently in the lead in the $30B game business (and correspondingly still generating a huge amount of buzz). This rather recent development was not anticipated by the other players in the industry: Microsoft and Sony bet on a continuation of better graphics and more processing power to sway core gamers over to their platform.
What made the Wii innovative is their intention to move beyond core gamers to casual gamers, which makes up a far greater sized pie. But first a few stats:
- Nintendo has already sold 13MM of their devices so far (at the end of 2007) and expects to sell 35MM or more by 2012
- In its first month on the market in the US (it launched on November 19th, 2006) retail market watcher NPD said the Wii sold 476,000 units, compared to 197,000 PS3s (launched on November 17th, 2006). It even came close to the X-box 360 which sold 511,000 in the whole month!
- Amazon.com sold Nintendo Wii systems at approximately 17 per second when they were in stock
Here is a sales comparison:
As you can see it appears that the X-box sales have leveled off (have they gone to the Wii?) 🙂
So what happened to the gaming market? As the leading edge moved to move the bar higher and higher on high-res graphics and detailed gameplay, the number of gamers that wanted a less intense (but still engaging) experience was growing. Whether for time reasons (no time to learn detailed combinations/ controllers) or intimidation (I don’t want to feel lame in front of highly accomplished players) the market was less visible (and vocal) than the core gamer community. And here is where it is really difficult to guess what was going to happen.
By listening to their core community, both Microsoft and Sony built some of the most advanced technology to deliver a superb gaming experience to their customers. Problem was that there was this growing (but less vocal) customer group playing Bejewelled and Tetris that felt disengaged from the core. This is where the Wii, with its intuitive gyroscopically controlled gameplay could succeed.
It really lowered the bar on console gaming, bringing casual games that did not require significant effort to understand (uhhh, bowling?) to a larger audience. (They also did a fantastic job at viral marketing. Because the Wii was new and different, it automatically attracted people that wanted to find out what made it tick). All of which drove Nintendo to increase production three times in 2007 . Still the devices are hard to get a hold of…
…Leading to the fact that we are in 2008 (almost 18 months after launch) and I still can’t get a copy of Guitar Hero for Wii!