May 31, 2011

A long time ago, back in 1987, a man called John Sculley, published a book called ‘Odyssey. Pepsi to Apple. A journey of adventure, ideas and the future’. Apple’s ceo at the time explained in his book why Steve Jobs had hired him and why Steve left.

On page 403 John Sculley tried to look into the future:

‘A future-generation Macintosh, which we should have early in the twenty-first century, might well be a wonderful fantasy machine called the Knowledge Navigator, a discoverer of worlds, a tool as galvanizing as the printing press. Individuals could use it to drive through libraries, museums, databases, or institutional archives. This tool wouldn’t just take you to the doorstep of these great resources as sophisticated computers do now; it would invite you deep inside its secrets, interpreting and explaining -converting vast quantities of information into personalized and understandable knowledge.’

Some people at the company came up with a video. They were inspired by the Dynabook concept, created by Alan Kay in 1968. The Knowledge Navigator looked like this:

The video can be found here.

John left and Steve came back.

And now we all have and/or want an ipod, iphone and iPad.

It indeed has been an epic voyage, as the word odyssey came to refer to.

Microsoft is far from stupid

May 10, 2011

As Nicholas Negroponte thaught us in the early days of the web, one of the certain trends in the transformation from atoms to bits is the convergence of Media, Telecom and IT industries.

Boundaries blurred, blur and will keep blurring.

IT companies are fighting for positions as Media powerhouses. And as things look now, some of them are quite successful, especially Apple and Google, who yesterday changed places as ‘most wanted worldwide brand’.

But things move quickly. Today Microsoft acquired Skype for a hefty fee. In cash, one might add.

Most commentators reacted stunned. Why buy Skype? Skype may have 663.000.000 active members, only 8.800.000 actually pay. And a turnover of 860.000.000 is not that big, is it? It’s only about a 100$ per paying member. So they say.

But let us look at this big news from a different perspective. Imagine that it is possible to double the amount of payments. Imagine it is possible to double the amount of users that actually pay. Then it becomes a no brainer.

Look at this strategic move from another different angle: strategy.

It becomes clear this is a perfect move again. Microsoft is already moving to the clouds. Microsoft just did a deal with Nokia. Microsoft is doing a public beta with Office 365. Microsoft is already one of the fastest growing telephone services companies in the world.  Microsoft has quite an installed base in the business world.

And last but not least the real power of Microsoft is  the strong ties with developers, reaching hundreds of millions of businesses all around the globe.

Microsoft is moving into the business of making phone calls. Phones, not media.

But what are phones really these days?


May 2, 2011

In a very interesting interview Seth Godin talked about the publishing industry. He shared his ideas on the question where books might be headed. Seth recently launched a new project, trying to change the way books are sold and distributed. The Domino Project has already produced some successes.

One of the intriguing statements Seth made was about adding multimedia to books.

He called this a cul-de-sac.

In his view it will become a crying game. He compared the days publishers produced cd-roms with Vietnam. He mentioned several publishers going nearly broke.

In Seth’s opinion a book is written by one person and at some point the product is finished.

Multi Media projects are produced by lots of people. Being software projects they are never finished.

I found this quite interesting, even a bit alarming. I had the idea that adding multimedia would change the way we read. Maybe it’s not books as such that need a change, maybe it will be magazine like products. Maybe only textbooks will turn into multimedia.

Anyway: the interview is great. Take the time and listen.

Zoom In, Zoom Out

May 1, 2011

The Digital Revolution recently entered a new phase. The new screens in our hands offer new ways to read, browse, listen, watch and interact with content and with people. As people keep embracing these handheld devices, businesses are trying to catch up. Again.

Let’s look at the three sectors, usually considered to be at the center of these digital waves of change.

The smartphones and tablets are taking over all IT related industries. Computers basicly just left the building and are on the move. Software will turn into a service more rapidly soon, certainly when Office 365 will go out of public beta.

Telco’s are struggling. Landlines are out. Mobile became texting. Who could have imagined people writing on these things, since they were supposed to talk through them. The industry did not see smartphones coming. Their solution was to sell  internet bundles, but their customers started to use these bundles to acces free services. Why pay to call, if you can send a message for free?

Publishers are starting to realize they can no longer wait to change. Publishers have been neglecting All Things Digital too long. Change was something others would have to undertake, after the publishers themselves retired. A book is a book, you know. Yeah, and a newspaper a newspaper, right? A few years ago publishers had worries and money. Now it’s panic while they are almost broke.

In the midst of all these waves of change it is easy to focus too much on details. We tend to zoom in. But we need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture in the world of business still is the simple fact that all links in the chain that do not add value, will disappear. Vanish. Evaporate. Fade out.

The middleman is under attack.

Take a look at your market. Zoom in on the chains. Which chain is only an intermediary?

Zoom out on the basic needs of customers. What is it they want?

Zoom in, zoom out!