technology

As a Duke alumnus, it’s weird to be excited about college football; but after last season’s phenomenal 10-2 run here I am hopping on the bandwagon.  Yesterday was media day for ACC football, and one of the topics ACC commissioner John Swofford talked about is showing ACC games nationally on digital.

Given the ACC’s attractive footprint, I can see the potential.  But I can’t help think there’s a huge, missed opportunity: international.

US college sports is classic long tail content.  It’s content meant for a very specific person: the die hard college sports fan — already niche in the US, miniscule outside it — and alumni from the two schools competing in any particular game.  I follow college basketball quite closely but even I don’t really care about Missouri playing Arizon State.  During the regular season it’s Duke first and foremost, and perhaps ACC games second.

Any business model predicated on showing me multiple “Missouri vs. Arizona State” type games for the occasional game I really want to watch are bound to fail.

Read Full Article

Ten years ago, when Microsoft had more than 90% control of the computer market, they were handcuffed in how they can innovate Windows due to anti-trust concerns.  Some things were already obvious even for Vista (at least to me while I was there): native security, centralized app store, collaboration, etc.

The reality today is that Microsoft has merely 14% share of the larger devices market.  So Microsoft was finally able to build in security and an app store into Windows 8.  They misfired on the latter however by making it unpleasant for those living in the desktop world to download and use Modern apps; an error they are fixing for Windows 9.

Windows is in danger of losing relevance in today’s mobile world.  The brain trust in Redmond is busy figuring out how to catch up with Windows Phone, but it would be a great mistake to put Windows into maintenance mode.  Windows is still one of Microsoft’s greatest assets, and instead of fighting losing battles, they should be building more strengths unique to Windows.  Especially now that they don’t have to answer to regulators.

Read Full Article

Can videogames be a sport?  There’s an article about the subject at The Verge that’s so-so reading, but this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  In my younger days, I was a decent Virtua Fighter player, having won a national tournament in the US.  (That sounds better than it actually is, because the best US players are merely average in Japan and Korea, the meccas of Virtua Fighter players.)

I argue that videogames can and should be considered sports; but there are also fundamental reasons why it may never be an Olympic-worthy one.

Read Full Article

Satya Nadella posted a mission-styled memo to Microsoft employees yesterday. There’s good stuff in there, and while Nadella writes in clear prose, he does use jargon and corporate speak that might make it difficult to read between the lines. So we will attempt to distill his words into plain speak. Here we go:

Our Worldview

  • The world is changing with mobile and cloud, and we will lead that change
  • And more subtly: while my predecessor is sales-oriented, I’m mission-oriented

Read Full Article

Here’s another irresistible thought experiment: Android apps on Windows Phone.

GigaOm says the tweeter is “Eldar Murtzin, a long-time industry insider who has a few correct predictions to his name.”

The writing is on the wall for Windows Phone.  Even though Microsoft made significant inroads with the Lumia 520, that opportunity is rapidly closing with all the high quality, low price Android phones being sold at razor thin margins from Chinese manufacturers like Oppo, Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo.  The Android One program might be the killing blow.

Unless something changes, we don’t expect Microsoft’s share of smartphones to ever break double digits.  That change might be putting Android apps on Windows Phone.  Here’s how that could theoretically kick off a virtuous cycle of growth.

Read Full Article

If there’s a company I’d work for just because of its leadership, it would be Google.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin are just on another level when it come to thinking about technology, the world and our future.  If we think like ants, they think like giants.  I learn something new every time I hear them speak, and the latest Fireside Chat with Vinod Khosla is no exception.  If you haven’t, see the insightful 42-minute interview as soon as you can:

Khosla had remarked (at around the 13:50 mark) how scary it was that technology and machines are displacing a lot of the work that people used to do and what that meant for jobs.  Page pointed out that 90% of people used to be farmers, and Khosla then added that today the number is 2%.  Page goes on to elaborate how we should be living in abundance, and that in actuality it’s pretty easy to meet everyone’s basic needs, but we’d have a new challenge in giving people something to do.  I agree and disagree with his hypothesis.

Read Full Article

We wrote before how the future of driverless cars won’t be Toyota but Uber.  We hypothesized that car manufacturers won’t risk putting their brand behind such a project, and that you wouldn’t be able to walk into a car dealership in the next 7 years to buy one.  Instead, the future of driverless cars will be in services like Uber, where consumers don’t own the car but pay to ride it.

This excellent article from Reuters, chock full of insider reporting, supports all those hypotheses.

Car manufacturers won’t risk their brands:

Car companies, all too familiar with the devastating financial and brand damage of recalls, would see any hiccups with the self-driving car as a threat to their main business.

“We’re not going to put our name on a project like that because if something goes wrong, we have a lot more to lose.”  - Guy from major car manufacturer

It’ll be years before you can buy a driverless car from a dealership:

Some in the industry predict fully automated cars will be available as soon as 2020, though research firm IHS Automotive does not expect the cars to be widely available until 2035.

To start, driverless cars won’t be purchased but used on-demand:

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has described self-driving cars as an on-demand service that consumers summon when needed. That would represent a seismic shift from a longstanding model based on individual ownership.

Ahhh.  It does feel good to be right.  :)

Mary Jo Foley just posted a big rumour about Windows 9, aka “Threshold.”  We prefer to avoid reacting to rumors, but Foley is usually reliable and the thought experiment is irresistable.

The rumor is that unsurpisingly, the primary interface in Windows 9 is expected to align with hardware.  If you’re using a tablet, it’s the start screen.  If you’re using a laptop, it’s the desktop plus a Modernized start menu.

The juicy bit is that Microsoft may make this update free for Windows 8 users and…get this, Windows 7 users too.

This would absolutely be the right move.  Microsoft must win back user interest in Modern apps and regain developer support.  The strategic benefits of offering free Windows upgrades for consumers far outweigh the financial cost, which won’t even be too large.  Appeasing Windows 8 users who feel envy that Windows 7 users get to upgrade free is a simple matter of exclusive bonuses.

Microsoft is on the precipice — the threshold — of being made obsolete, and now is not the time to reticent.  Microsoft must move aggressively if it wants to stay relevant long-term.

Read Full Article

Lots of really good stuff at Google’s I/O conference.  I’m sure we’ll be delving into Android L and other announcements in more detail in the coming days, but today I’m shooting from the hip and unpacking what caught my attention.

If you haven’t watched it already, see the gargantuan 3 hour keynote here:

My most immediate reaction is “Wow.”  Google is killing it.  Android extends its lead over iOS and Microsoft is way behind in the rear view mirror.

Read Full Article

The winner of Echelon’s India satellite, Hoverr, caught my eye.  Their business is about putting ads in front of websites’ images; what they do is analyze what’s in the image and then serve a targeted ad.  For example, if the photo is about a car, why not serve an ad for the latest BMW.  People don’t look at banner ads in the usual places but they do look at a story’s photos, so not only can the ad be more compelling it can also have prominent placement.

It’s an interesting idea.  I wanted to vote for them to win Echelon until they freely admitted they were a copycat, and about the fifth or sixth to the market too.  You can’t win a start-up competition by being a clone, can you?

I recently saw such an ad — I don’t know if it was Hoverr’s or one of their competitors’ — and I almost coughed up my drink when I saw it.

Read Full Article