Microsoft & Yahoo!

Post ImageEveryone is buzzing about the New York Post story that Microsoft is very seriously trying to hook up with Yahoo!. You can read lots of opinion over at TechMeme. The idea is not new – rumors surfaced back in January 2006, and probably existed before that too.

I am excited about the possibility of a combined Microsoft-Yahoo! organization. However, it seems the reason behind such a deal would be to better compete with Google. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason for MSFT and YHOO to tie the knot. Why not? For the same reason this person thinks Google should buy Starbucks (what a stupid idea):

Google was listed as the 17th largest US company in market value, $143 billion at the time of publication in the Forbes 500. Google sprang to that size faster than any company in history. It remains the only company that is not diversified, at that scale or anywhere close to that scale. And when you check on its standing according to revenue (10.6B), it drops from #17 to #241.

Google has one source of revenue: AdSense. What if something happened to AdSense? Nothing is bulletproof. Without AdSense, Google would die. Period. I’m not saying that Microsoft and/or Yahoo! should try to disrupt the AdSense machine. All I am saying is that it’s far easier for Google to make a mistake and pay the price than it is for Microsoft or Yahoo!.

Do it like they do in F1
In Formula 1 racing, one strategy for passing a competitor who is in front of you is to wait, especially if there are a lot of laps left in the race. The reason behind this is simple. If you get too impatient and a take a big risk to go for it, you could very well crash. In general, you’re far better off staying close behind your competitor, putting immense pressure on them. Most of the time, they’ll make a mistake, and you’ll have a chance to capitalize on it with a clean pass. Michael Schumacher was incredibly good at this.

Perhaps Microsoft should take a page out of Schumacher’s playbook? Microsoft can afford to be patient, and the race is far from over.

If Microsoft and Yahoo! want to join up to share technology and build better products, that’s one thing. If it’s just about beating Google, there’s better ways of doing it.

Read: TechMeme

New Pricing for Amazon S3

Post ImageLate last night Amazon sent an email to S3 customers announcing an upcoming pricing change. Storage costs will remain the same, but the price for bandwidth is going to change:

Current bandwidth price (through May 31, 2007)
$0.20 / GB – uploaded
$0.20 / GB – downloaded

New bandwidth price (effective June 1, 2007)
$0.10 per GB – all data uploaded

$0.18 per GB – first 10 TB / month data downloaded
$0.16 per GB – next 40 TB / month data downloaded
$0.13 per GB – data downloaded / month over 50 TB

$0.01 per 1,000 PUT or LIST requests
$0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests

They claim that if the pricing had been applied to usage for March 2007, about 75% of customers would have seen their bill decrease. In some cases however, the price change makes things significantly more expensive, as this thread points out:

Uploading 1GB of 4K files will cost $2.72 instead of $0.20

We haven’t yet figured out how Podcast Spot will be affected, but I suspect we’ll see a slight decrease. I’m also interested to hear from Don MacAskill on SmugMug.

UPDATE: Don talks about the new pricing model here and says they’ll save money.

Read: S3 Forums

Google on Acquisitions

Post ImageA few hours ago I was reading some of the stuff on TechMeme, when I came across this article about Google. I thought Dickson might find it interesting, so I fired it off to him in an IM. He replied a few moments later with this quote from the article:

Google wants companies that can build revenue streams from their users, instead of buying firms with a lot of users that don’t bring in much in sales, Ullah said.

“We don’t do traffic for traffic’s sake,” he said. “It has to be highly monetizable.”

And then followed that up with this message:

Uhhh…YouTube?! lol

Haha so true! Ullah, who is Google’s director of corporate development, basically just described the very company they purchased last year for $1.65 billion. Which begs the question…what kind of companies do they really want?

Read: Bloomberg

Canadian Mobile Data Access Sucks

Post ImageI readily admit I am simply echoing the chamber with this story, but it needs to be seen by as many people as possible. Mobile data service in Canada is horribly expensive. As Boris said, “this pricing structure is stifling mobile innovation in Canada.”

Here’s a graph that Thomas Purves made (click for the photo page):

Thomas explains:

The motto of the CRTC, Canada’s telcom regulator is “Communications in the Public Interest”. Right. If you live in Canada, write to your MP. The CRTC, as an institution, needs to be taken out and shot.

I would like to say that Canada is a 3rd world country when it comes to Mobile ICT, except you can clearly see from this chart that even *Rwanda* has orders of magnitude better Mobile Data service than Canada.

This is just sad. Certainly the CRTC is at fault, but the companies themselves deserve some of the blame as well. Write to your MP, but also write to your service provider.

Read: Thomas Purves

Ikea to sell electronics?

Post ImageMaybe the next time you visit Ikea, the computer sitting on the desk will be a real one that you can buy. Maybe you’ll see a beautiful HDTV perched atop a familiar Ikea TV stand. It could happen (via Agenda Inc.):

Ikea could be next in a long list of retailers to move into the electricals market after Anders Dahlvig, chief executive, said that the company is considering adding electricals to its iconic furniture. In light of electricals’ positive market outlook, Ikea’s brand strength and its vast store footprints, selling electricals could prove a sound move by Ikea.

I think we have enough electronics retailers already, but I have to admit, it does make a lot of sense for Ikea. You can already buy an entire room (furniture/decoration at least) from Ikea, why not the stuff that goes in it?

Read: CBRonline.com

Don Tapscott Talks Wikinomics at the U of A

Post ImageEarly this morning I attended a lecture sponsored by the U of A’s School of Business featuring Don Tapscott, author of the new book Wikinomics. It’s a good thing I didn’t buy the book a couple weeks ago like I was going to, because everyone got a complimentary copy at the event (and I got him to sign mine).

I had no idea, but apparently the event was something of a homecoming for Don! He got his M.Ed. in Research Methodology from the University of Alberta, as well as one of his two honorary Doctor of Laws. He joked that he was happy to enjoy the Alberta spring weather with us! From a distance, Don looks a little something like Red from That 70’s Show, but I can assure you, he’s a much more engaging speaker than Mr. Forman.

He started by congratulating us for being named Time’s person of the year, and said that in his opinion, it is the corporation (as opposed to an individual) that is undergoing the biggest change. Much of his talk focused around what he called the “four drivers” of mass collaboration:

  1. Web 2.0
  2. The Net Generation
  3. The Social Revolution
  4. The Economic Revolution

The one that caught my attention the most was the second one – no surprise I suppose, as I am a member of the net generation (he said anyone under 29). The comments he made really resonated with me (such as that we view email as a more formal way to communicate). He is currently working on a research project to demonstrate that members of this generation are wired differently…we think differently than our parents. Perhaps the most profound aspect of the net generation is that we view work, entertainment, and everything else as the same thing. No longer is there a clear distinction between work and fun…they need to become (and are becoming) one.

Don also explained that the net generation is incredible at detecting BS, and that we actually do care about things. He said a common remark from older people is that members of the net generation don’t care about the news, all they watch is The Daily Show. Don’s reply was brilliant: “The Daily Show isn’t funny unless you know the news!” Truer words have never been spoken.

The talk finished with a brief question period and a few final thoughts from Don. He said an important takeaway is that leadership can come from anywhere. It doesn’t have to come from the top, which I thought was a good point.

I look forward to reading the book now!

A sign of things to come? DRM free music from EMI

Post ImageI certainly hope so. EMI announced today that they will begin selling higher quality, DRM free music for $1.29 USD per download. I can’t stand MP3 files at less than 192 kbps, so they’ve got that solved – the files will be 256 kbps. And the price is pretty good – not great, but good. The only thing preventing me from dropping some cash right now is that only iTunes is selling the music so far. I can’t stand iTunes.

Eventually stores will be able to sell the music in either AAC, WMA, MP3, or “other unprotected formats of their choice.” Works for me! You can read much more analysis at TechMeme.

Did you know Napster had suggested this idea more than seven years ago? Don Dodge explains:

We suggested free file sharing of 56 kbps files that were good enough for “sampling” and probably analogous to AM radio quality sound. We would offer higher quality versions in 256 kbps format for sale at $1.00 per download. This way Napster could continue to offer free downloads of low quality files and sell high quality music.

We know how that turned out. In more ways than one, Napster was ahead of its time.

Read: EMI

Wanna buy Odeo?

Post ImageHard to believe that just two years ago Odeo was a star. Heck, they even have a star in their logo! Over that period of time, they have slowly but steadily faded from the spotlight. And now even Odeo’s founders don’t want to keep it around:

It seems likely Odeo is worth more to someone else than it is to us at this point, so we’re looking for a new home for it.

We’re open to a variety of scenarios – from cash offer to an equity position. Our main concern is the ability to focus on Twitter and to see Odeo live on in some legitimate form.

All of my criticism of the service aside, I’d buy Odeo if I had the capital. The way I see it, Odeo has two main assets: a huge database of media and lots of “online presence” – that is, lots of incoming links, good search engine rankings, etc. Tons of potential.

To his credit, Evan Williams says that Obvious will continue to run Odeo if they don’t get any attractive offers. Not sure if that’s the right thing for Odeo, but at least it proves that Evan and his team still care about it.

Read: Obviously

Steve Jobs leads the charge against DRM!

Post ImageI never thought it would be Jobs, but in an open letter titled “Thoughts on Music”, the Apple head honcho seems to support getting rid of DRM altogether. Just over a week ago I mentioned that music should be free – no need for DRM if it is! Here’s what Mr. Jobs has to say:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Bring it on! I am so glad he has written this letter. If nothing else, it will simply increase the pressure on the labels to give in and realize that DRM is a stupid way to sell music.

When I read about this letter today, I had the same thought as Jason Calacanis did: Somewhere Cory Doctorow is smiling! Indeed it sounds like he is…kinda:

Well, this is pretty excellent news! Now, let’s see if Steve means it.

I hope he does. The way I see it, there’s only a few people that will be hurt by abolishing DRM – the product teams at Microsoft, Apple, and other companies who have put a lot of time and effort into creating the DRM technologies. No one likes to see their hard work end up being ignored. Though I suppose, if they truly like music, they’ll benefit from having no DRM too.

Read: Apple.com

Did Facebook miss the boat?

Post ImageThat’s the question that Robert Young asks over at GigaOM today. Facebook apparently turned down many potential suitors last year, deciding to go it alone. Was that a good decision or a bad one? Robert does a good job of explaining that if you ignore the financial side of things, it looks like it was a good decision:

So given such positives, one might conclude that Facebook did in fact make the right decision not to sell. as momentum and value creation certainly seems to be in their favor.

Overall traffic is up, loyalty and usage stats are high, things look good. The problem is that advertising on Facebook appears to be a win-lose situation – good for Facebook, bad for the advertisers. Which means Facebook is going to have trouble earning revenue.

My personal opinion is that Facebook missed the boat, but that they’ll likely get another shot. The product has incredible value – they are just doing a really shoddy job of extracting it. It’s only a matter of time before they need to be rescued, by Yahoo! or another big player. Whether the rescuer will fare better at extracting value from Facebook is another story.

I’d be quite happy if Yahoo! purchased Facebook, and added support for del.icio.us and Flickr. I don’t upload photos to Facebook because I use Flickr, and I don’t use the share feature at Facebook, because I use del.icio.us. I’d still like to be able to share this stuff with my friends though.

(Another thing: all three products – del.icio.us, Facebook, and Flickr – have a clean and efficient design. That alone should be reason enough to make them play nicely together!)

Read: GigaOM