Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In-Game Micro-Payments To Fuel Mobile Gaming Revenues To $11B In 2015

Juniper Research estimates mobile gaming revenue will grow to $11 billion in 2015 on the strength of in-game micro-payments and Apple’s in-app billing mechanism.

Juniper also estimates in-game purchases will overtake the traditional pay-per-download model as the primary source of monetizing mobile games by 2013.

Mobile Payments Will Move Inside Apps

Peering Dispute Between Comcast and Level 3 is Not Unusual

Despite the colorful nature of the Level 3 Communications dispute with Comcast over interconnection arrangements, the dispute is a rather typical commercial dispute between interconnection partners.

In the past, when traffic exchanged between the Comcast network and Level 3 was roughly equal, it made sense to peer the networks on a "settlement-free" basis. Now that traffic flows are about to become quite unbalanced, that won't work.

With the massive new Netflix CDN deal where Netflix is currently the largest source of traffic in North America, Level 3 will likely start sending five times more traffic to Comcast than it receives.

When that happens, a "settlement-free" peering arrangement often becomes a "for-fee" transit agreement, where the network imposing an unequal traffic load pays the other network.

That's the situation here, where a business relationship that worked well when traffic exchange was equal becomes untenable as traffic flows become highly unequal. Settlement-free peering works for the former, not the latter. So Comcast wants a transit style agreement where it gets paid for carrying the excess traffic.

Level 3 would prefer not to pay, and it is not alone in that desire. Unequal traffic flows do not lend themselves to settlement-free peering agreements.

For-Fee Online Video Demand Still Nascent

A new study by Ipsos finds that some viewers are willing to pay for online video, though much depends on the payment model and the actual type of content.

In a survey of 18-to-34-year olds, Ipsos found that 51 percent of respondents were interested in fee-based models from Hulu, Netflix or iTunes.

Ipsos OTX MediaCT created a scenario where free alternatives were not available and TV was available from Netflix at $9 a month, iTunes at $1 a download with no ads, and Hulu at $1 with ads.

While 17 percent of the younger demo was interested in a pay-per-episode Hulu model, only 11 percent of those 35 and older wanted to buy that way. Overall 49 percent of youth had no interest in pay models while 70 percent of the 35+ group suggested they were not interested in such fee-based offerings.

Eagerness to use the Web to catch up on or re-experience TV content varies a bit from genre to genre and even more from show to show. People are more likely to want to re-watch comedies than other genres, but a subscription service like Netflix was more appealing for its run of dramas since viewers wanted access to whole season.

Google Wants Groupon Because Social Ads Are the Future: Tech News «


Is email growing or shrinking?

Both, it seems.


And you thought net neutrality couldn't get more convoluted

Now interconnection agreements get tarred.


Interconnection now gets sucked up with "net neutrality"

Peering and transit agreements aren't net neutrality issues.


Clearwire races towards target of 120m POPs - Rethink Wireless

So much for the couple of years headstart over other 4G providers.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Who Wins in Tablet Business?

Apple, Google, Motorola, Samsung and HTC could be early winners as tablets start to cannibalize the PC market, some might argue.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer could be losers, some think.

Verizon FiOS Broadband Penetration?

Analysts at Trefis expect the penetration of FiOS broadband to reach 81 percent of Verizon broadband subscribers by 2016, up from about 49 percent in 2010. In other words, of Verizon customers who buy broadband access, 81 percent will buy FiOS, while the remaining 19 percent will be on digital subscriber line platforms.

Entertainment Video Accounts for 37% of Peak-Hour Bandwidth

As much as 37 percent of peak-hour Internet traffic might be entertainment video.

Mary Meeker Internet Trends presentation

Is Level 3-Comcast Dispute a Typical Spat Over Peering Fees?

Thomas Stortz, Chief Legal Officer of Level 3, says Comcast has demanded, and is getting, payments from Level 3 related to delivery of Internet traffic from the Level 3 network to Comcast's network. It isn't immediately clear whether this is simply a commercial dispute between networks that exchange unequal amounts of traffic, or a possible violation of "Internet Freedoms" principles.

That's one of the difficulties with "network neutrality." It sometimes is difficult to separate out "content discrimination" from simple commercial agreements to exchange traffic between networks.

Stortz says taht “on November 19, 2010, Comcast informed Level 3 that, for the first time, it will demand a recurring fee from Level 3 to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content."

“On November 22, after being informed by Comcast that its demand for payment was ‘take it or leave it,’ Level 3 agreed to the terms, under protest, in order to ensure customers did not experience any disruptions," says Stortz.

Microsoft in talks for new online TV service

Microsoft Corp has held talks with media companies to license TV networks for a new online pay-television subscription service through devices such as its Xbox video game console, says Reuters.

The maker of the Windows operating system has proposed a range of possibilities in these early talks including creating a 'virtual cable operator' delivered over the Internet for which users pay a monthly fee.

Netflix a Fast-Growing Rival to Hollywood and Cable - NYTimes.com

In a matter of months, the movie delivery company Netflix has gone from being the fastest-growing first-class mail customer of the United States Postal Service to the biggest source of streaming Web traffic in North America during peak evening hours.

All of that has to raise fears in the content business that a powerful new entity is arising in the movie distribution business as Apple's iTunes earlier grabbed a powerful role in distributing music.

At least in part, that explains why Hollywood studios hope to create a new distribution channel to replace lost DVD revenues.

A new "premium" form of video on demand, which would make new releases available in streaming format just 45 days or so after they start showing in theaters. In the past, newly-released movies have appeared on VOD services about 120 days after theatrical release.

Video-on-demand services often price such movies at a price of about $4.99. But studios think the new earlier release window could allow them to price movies at perhaps $25 a view. Whether consumers will have the same value perception is not so clear.

Some believe DVD sales have stagnated because consumers no longer view $20 to $30 DVD purchases a reasonable balance of value and price. Whether consumers will think earlier streaming access is worth that much is debatable.

Studios also like the better profit margins. Generally, studios get as much as 80 percent of that early VOD revenue, and much less for a DVD copy. DVD rentals might net a studio about 30 percent margins, for example.

But an equally-important issue is maintaining more control over the distribution process, and avoiding ceding power to Netflix in the same way Apple now influences music distribution.

Online, Mobile Commerce Big on "Black Friday"

The U.S online retail sector delivered double digit growth on Black Friday 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to analytics-based findings by IBM. The Coremetrics third annual Black Friday Benchmark Report indicates that online sales were up 15.9 percent, with consumers pushing the average order value up from $170.19 to $190.80 for an increase of 12.1 percent.

Consumers are also embracing mobile as a shopping tool. On Black Friday, 5.6 percent of people logged onto a retailer’s site using a mobile device, a jump of 26.7 percent compared to the prior Friday. That suggests users are using their mobiles inside stores, for example, perhaps for comparison shopping.

Jewelry retailers reported a 17.6 percent increase in sales.

But there also is some evidence that consumers know what they want, where to get it and are being very targeted in their efforts to find those items. People are viewing 18 percent fewer products on sites than they did last year, suggesting that they are shopping with a specific item in mind and quickly moving on.

Consumers appear increasingly savvy about their favorite brands’ social presence, and are turning to their networks on social sites for information about deals and inventory levels. While the percentage of visitors arriving from social network sites is fairly small relative to all online visitors—nearly one percent—it is gaining momentum, with Facebook dominating the space.

read more here

Survey Finds Little Video Cord Cutting So Far, But DVDs Have Suffered

An annual study of consumer video consumption habits and platforms conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates reveals that despite the increased use of alternative video viewing platforms (like video-on-demand, set-top boxes, instant streaming, and mobile apps), the vast majority of consumers intend to continue to maintain their traditional subscriptions with cable, satellite, and telco TV providers.

So far, online and other alternative video channels are mostly complementary to existing multichannel video entertainment services. Consumers using the greatest number of alternative platforms also tend to spend the most money on traditional subscription services, the study found.

But the study also suggests the potential is far greater.

Only 10 percent of consumers express an interest in trying TV show and movie viewing from the Internet to a computer or tablet screen. In contrast, interest surges in viewing this content on a TV screen via a computer connected to the Internet, and it climbs even higher for devices designed specifically to stream content to the TV, such as AppleTV and Roku.

"The average American's capacity to consume video content is impressive," said Maryann Baldwin, Vice President of Magid Media Futures. "As new video viewing platforms such as instant streaming and mobile apps proliferate, consumers are simply adding them to their portfolio of video viewing options. Our research indicates that this is definitely not a zero-sum game -- at least at this point, it appears that traditional subscription services and alternative viewing platforms can coexist with services like 'TV Everywhere' locking in revenues for traditional providers."

In addition, the study indicates that when the availability of Internet content has caused consumers to cancel their traditional service subscriptions, these circumstances remain the exception. Only a very small minority of consumers are even considering cancelling their subscriptions.

Only one percent of consumers report that they have cancelled their subscription service in favor of accessing content available on the Internet, and only 2.5 percent of consumers use Internet content exclusively.

In terms of future cancellations, only three percent of consumers report that they are even considering cancelling their traditional subscriptions without replacing it with a competing subscription, suggesting a relatively stable subscriber base for traditional providers.

Purchase and rental of DVDs continue to be most at risk from the growth in use of alternative video viewing platforms.

The online survey was conducted in October 2010 using a nationally representative sample of 1,208 adults age 12 years or older.

read more here

Redpoint Ventures on Future of Cloud Computing

Redpoint Ventures exec talks about software as a service, cloud investments, the big impact of Amazon on startup economics and mobility.

AT&T, Sprint Target Over-50 Texters

As growth in voice revenue slows, carriers are pushing data services and the over-50 market is largely untapped. Forty-two percent of Americans 50 or older sent any texts in a given month last quarter, compared with 85 percent for 13- to 34-year-olds, according to ComScore Inc.

“It’s a very attractive market for us,” said Michael Woodward, vice president of AT&T’s mobile-phone portfolio. “The opportunity has been to improve the rate at which people are attaching data plans and that starts with texting.”

To reach the older market, wireless carriers are offering lessons in how to text, introducing phones with oversized buttons and fine-tuning their marketing strategies. AT&T has boosted its advertising in media that draw older generations, including the AARP magazine from the over-50 advocacy group and the “Dancing With the Stars” series on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC.

Cloud Computing Gets Traction in Asia-Pacific Region

Close to 25 percent of Asia Pacific enterprises use some form of cloud computing, says Frost & Sullivan after a survey of Asia Pacific senior IT decision makers.

More than 50 percent of the survey respondents believe that cloud computing technology can help businesses reduce their infrastructure cost and lowers capital expenditure investment compared with traditional IT management.

About 23 percent of the respondents indicated using some form of cloud computing now, while 61 percent of the respondents are likely to increase their cloud computing spending in 2011.

IBM, Google and Microsoft had the highest mindshare in the public cloud computing space while IBM, HP and EMC/VMware were the top mindshare garners in the private cloud space.

Generation Y Chooses the Mobile Web

Most 18 to 27 year-old Opera Mini users use their mobile phones to browse the Web more often than they use a desktop or laptop computer for the same purpose, according to the results from a survey released today by Opera, the web browser company.

In Nigeria, South Africa, and Indonesia, over 90 percent of Millennial-age users said they use their mobile phones more than desktop or laptop computers to access the Internet.

Looking at the top handsets used by Opera Mini users in those countries, we notice fewer smartphones (compared to the Poland, Germany, the United States, and Brazil). This result challenges to the long-standing belief that smartphone uptake will be the major driver of mobile web usage globally.

The findings are published in Opera's State of the Mobile Web report. The full report is available from http://www.opera.com/smw/.

Mobile eBay Purchases Up 30% This Year

On "Black Friday" of 2010 (the day after Thanksgiving), eBay saw a 30 percent increase in mobile bidding activity, compared to 2009 levels. And since the launch of its first mobile application in July 2008, nearly 30 million items have been bought or sold using eBay mobile apps around the world.

eBay sales in the United States from its suite of mobile apps nearly doubled over Black Friday 2009.

Globally, eBay mobile is on track to nearly triple its sales over last year and is expected to bring in well over $1.5 billion in mobile sales this year.

3rd Quarter Rough for U.K. Consumer Services, Worse Expected for 4th Quarter

The value and volume of consumer services sold in the United Kingdom fell unexpectedly during the third quarter of 2010, the CBI Service Sector Survey, published by the Confederation of British Industry, reports.

Of those businesses surveyed, 30 percent said the value of consumer services sold rose and 38 percent said it fell, giving a balance of minus-eight percent. That was weaker than the modest growth that had been expected (eight percent).

Looking at the volume of business, 23 percent of respondents reported a rise, and 41 percent a drop, giving a balance of -18 percent. That too was weaker than expected (nine percent). In the next three months, consumer services firms expect business values (minus-eight percent) and volumes (-20 percent) to contract further.

The latest quarterly CBI Service Sector Survey was conducted between 27 October and 10 November, and covered 169 service sector firms. They are divided into Business & Professional Services, such as accountancy, legal and marketing firms, and Consumer Services, such as hotels, bars and restaurants, travel and leisure.

Telstra Structural Separation Moves Ahead

Telstra will be structurally separated into wholesale network services and retail businesses as part of new legislation related to creation of a new National Broadband Network for Australia. As part of the new law, Telstra will sell its fixed-line access assets to the NBN as well.

Many practical details remain to be ironed out, and it is too early to make a firm judgment about how the structural separation will affect Telstra's market and financial position. But the separation ought to provide some evidence, over time, of how important "network ownership" is for a major tier one telco.

Generally speaking, most executives of tier one service providers continue to believe that access network ownership confers business advantage. Ownership means service providers can create more advanced facilities on their own accord, without the restriction of leasing only such capabilities as a third party might be willing and able to supply. Comcast is free to create and sell 50 Mbps broadband access connections whenever it wishes to, because it does not have to rely on a third party to create such features. Wireless providers can upgrade to fourth-generation networks on their own schedule, rather than waiting for third parties to build such networks.

Also, to the extent that a single network can be used to support multiple services (the whole idea between IP networks), ownership of a broadband access network allows creation and offering of many complementary services ranging from voice to entertainment video, business services and conferencing, for example.

Smaller competitors, on the other hand, frequently deem widespread wholesale access to be the underpinning for their business operations, since they cannot afford to build their own access networks on a widespread basis.

So at least in principle, the coming NBN ought to allow many more retail service providers to try and grab some share of the consumer and smaller business markets. In principle, that should lead to Telstra having less overall market share.

In June 2010 Telstra's share of the total Australian communications market was just over 60 percent, but virtually all observers expect Telstra's share to decline in 2011 and 2012.

Optus is perhaps the major contestant Telstra faces, as Optus has market share between 21 percent and 22 percent.  Vodafone and Hutchison have merged their Australian businesses and could be a stronger competitor as well. Optus has built and operates a number of hybrid fiber coax access networks in Australia and is not likely to decommission them, suggesting that Optus will use the NBN access facilities at some point to expand into new geographies.

Optus competes in the mobile segment as well, operating a wireless 3G network that reaches more than 97 percent of the Australian population.

Historically, one might argue, the competitive benefits of robust wholesale access have been most clear in markets where the former telecom monopoly represents the only fixed-network access capability in a region. One might argue that the benefits arguably are least when at least two strong facilities-based access networks exist in most markets.

Despite concern about Telstra's strong position in the market, its declining market share, across virtually every fixed-line and mobile service, suggests that the move to a NBN framework will not fundamentally change the Australian marke's dynamics. At least immediately, the NBN will spur many new entrants.

But communications always is a scale-dependent business. Over time, the normal market dynamic is for disparate smaller operators to combine in an attempt to gain more marketing scale. The NBN will not change that dynamic. One might predict an initial flurry of new entrants into the wireline markets, followed by a period of consolidation where market share concentrates in a smaller number of viable players.

Nor will the Telstra structural separation necessarily settle the argument about the strategic importance of access access ownership. One might argue that Telstra's retail unit's success now will be judged solely by its retail effectiveness, not the advantage of its network asset ownership. That will be true to some extent. The problem is that Telstra's market share has been declining for some time.

A continuation of that market share shift would not conclusively prove that access network ownership was important, and that Telstra "needed" those assets. At the same time, it is perhaps unreasonable to expect Telstra's market share to tumble without end.

At some point, Telstra's share should stabilize. That would not, in and of itself, "prove" that the access ownership ultimately was unimportant. In the U.S. market, where strong telco and cable competitors face each other in nearly every local area, the two players dominate consumer markets, roughly splitting new markets and gradually taking share in each others' legacy markets as well. There are a few markets where a third fixed-line contestant operates, but those scenarios are relatively rare, and no third provider typically has market share anywhere near what the local telco and cable operator have.

There are some market segments where a third provider has significant share. Satellite entertainment video provides one example. Also, looking just at the "voice services" market, mobile providers collectively have more than 50 percent voice market share, across all network access types.

read more here

Online Video is Killing the DVD Business, Not Cable TV

The DVD industry rose to a breathtaking level nearly as fast as any entertainment medium in history. The basic technology for the product was created in the early 1990s. DVDs were not available in the US until 1998, but it only took another five years for them to outsell VHS products.

After a short and spectacular run, the reign of the DVD is coming to an end, though. Global DVD sales dropped nine percent in 2009, for example.

Tablets Will Cannibalize 10% of PCs by 2014

Growing consumer appetite for substitute devices will cannibalize about 10 percent of global PC sales by 2014, while smartphones are likely to displace some additional percentage of sales, particularly in developing markets, Gartner analysts predict.

In fact, one illustration of how much device trends have changed in less than a year can be gleaned by forecasts of "emerging devices" published as recently as January 2010.

One such forecast, published by Strategy Analytics, shows no "tablet" or "media tablet" category at all. In all likelihood, tablets are going to displace a portion of the forecast notebook and netbook sales.

Growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad also is affecting near-term sales, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

“PC market growth will be impacted by devices that enable better on-the-go content consumption such as media tablets and next-generation smartphones,” said Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. “These devices will be increasing embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired."

Video Aids E-Commerce

Web visitors are able to process information up to 30 percent more rapidly when it’s provided in a combination of video and text, rather than text alone. Additionally, 65 percent of users might be "visual learners," and more likely to digest information and learn from it, in a visual form. Most types of ecommerce, notably apparel and products suited to emotional and personal tastes, excel with visual additions.

A comScore study revealed that when video was included in the shopping experience, visitors were 64% more likely to purchase than without it, and stayed on the site for an additional two minutes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nothing is "Normal" This Year, it Seems

The traditional "Black Friday" start to the holiday shopping season seems mixed. Black Friday sales this year showed a very slight increase over last year, according to ShopperTrak. Retail sales increased a very slight 0.3 percent compared to last year with consumers spending $10.69 billion in various retail locations.

Sales on Black Friday 2009 increased 0.5 percent versus Black Friday 2008, with $10.66 billion spent.

ShopperTrak’s data suggests that earlier sales in November might have sapped some of the Black Friday spending. Sales and traffic for the first two weeks of the month through Nov. 13 increased 6.1 and 6.2 percent respectively versus the same two week period in 2009, ShopperTrak says.

As with auto buying and home buying propped up by government subsidies, shoppers might simply have pushed forward planned spending, resulting in no net new sales.

New Home Depot iPhone App

The new Home Depot iPhone app v2.0 now offers the ability to research and purchase over 100,000 products directly from within the app, as well as use eight tools such as an Interactive Caliper, Measurement Converter, Nut & Bolt Finder, Tape Measure, Drywall Calculator, Flooring Calculator, Insulation Calculator and Interior Paint Calculator.

The app also includes an in-store product locator, how-to videos, a list function and access to user accounts. An Android version is being created as well.

Mobile Payments Business Has Shifted Gears

According to Richard Oliver, executive vice president with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, who says he is "flabbergasted" by the development, a wide range of current and would-be participants in the mobile payments business have agreed on a framework covering business and technology matters related to mobile payments, apparently for the first time.

"Dynamic authentication" is one of the issues the participants seem now to have reached agreement about, including ways of handling "on-the-spot" generation of unique identification credentials for each transaction.

The apparent consensus developed during a series of three meetings held earlier in 2010 that included executives from software companies, processors, and merchant and wireless trade groups, carrier, bank, and card-network representatives.

All of this suggests a common recognition that the fundamentals are in place for significant development of the budding business.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Portable Devices Top Amazon "Bestsellers in Electronics" List

Of the top-10 "best selling" items on Amazon.com's "Bestsellers in Electronics"list, the Wi-Fi version of the Kindle is number one. The Apple 8-Gbyte version of the iPod Touch is number two; the Kindle 3G is third. The 32-Gbyte version of the Apple iPod Touch is number four.

The Western Digital "My Pasport" external hard drive is number five on the list. The Garmin GPS navigation device is sixth; the iSymphony 32-inch TV is seventh.

The Canon Powershot camera stands at eighth, while the LG Blu-ray player is ninth. The Tom Tom GPS device is 10th.

It is worth noting that eight of the 10 top-selling devices is a portable device of some sort.

Amazon top-selling electronics list

Orange claims major benefits from HD Voice - Rethink Wireless

The jury is still out on whether high-definition voice provides enough real user value to alter end user behavior.

The main exception is Orange, which is an enthusiastic supporter, and the carrier claims the service gets customer satisfaction ratings of 90 percent, helping boost average revenue per user and reduce churn.

That example might suggest that HD voice primarily will find its initial niche in the mobile market, rather than the fixed-voice market.

Will “ChromeBooks” Succeed First in the Enterprise?

Given the cannibalization of netbooks and the usurpation of the “second machine” position by the iPad and other tablets, could Chrome-based netbooks wind up being used in enterprise settings rather than as consumer machines.

Some think so. Corporate IT departments could deploy thousands of low-cost machines that could be updated quickly and cost effectively. And consumers might not respond too well to Chrome OS netbooks unless those devices are priced in the $250 range, since a more-traditional netbook can be gotten for $300 or so, and even some laptops will be priced in that range.

Others might just say it is too late for Chrome-based netbooks, since tablets will become the popular second PC device for lots of people.

YouTube Looking to Acquire Movie Rights

In an effort to gain access to premium content for YouTube, Google reportedly is negotiating a deal to obtain the digital rights to the Miramax library, which has over 700 films, including 'Pulp Fiction' and 'No Country For Old Men.'

Walt Disney Co. (DIS) is expected to close a deal to sell Miramax to Filmyard on December 10. Google is talking to Filmyard about gaining access to the Miramax library.

With Netflix also dramatically stepping up its efforts to secure content rights, it should be clear that a bigger shift to online video will occur only partly as better access connections and applications are created, and primarily as content owners are willing to license their content for online distribution.

The need content distributors will have to monetize their investments virtually ensures that a future online distribution ecosystem will include "for fee" access. People will change the name on provider payments, but users will pay for access to professionally-produced content, directly or indirectly. What isn't so clear now is whether access to that content will necessarily be "less costly."

When switching from multichannel video service to some form of over-the-top viewing, one also has to factor in the additional cost of bandwidth on a recurring basis, and the business interests of ISPs who might already be making money from multichannel video as well. They won't have much incentive, if any, to allow substitution of over-the-top viewing in ways that cannibalizes the existing business.

Latest Harris Poll Shows Continuing Changes in Voice Line, Video, Mobile Downgrades and Cord Cuttin

The latest Harris Poll survey of actions Americans have taken to save money shows consumers still are cutting back on spending on cable TV service, wireless or fixed-line voice over the last year.

Compared to October 2009, more consumers report they have reduced spending, or changed providers of,  cable TV, wireless or fixed-line voice as in October 2009.

There is some small evidence of less cutting in areas such as purchasing of generic products, brown bagging a lunch,going to the hair stylist or cutting magazine subscriptions, for example.

The latest survey suggests more consumers now have dropped landline service, compared to October 2009, a finding that would surprise very few observers, one suspects. In the mobile service area, a logical conclusion is that people are keeping service, but adopting other measures to reduce cost, such as switching plans, switching providers or moving to cheaper prepaid service.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Video Advertisers Looking for Alternatives

Forrester Research and the Association of National Advertisers surveyed 104 US advertisers representing nearly $14 billion in measured media budgets, and 62 percent said that TV advertising is less effective than it used to be. Were the emergence of online, social and mobile alternatives not available, the declining effectiveness of traditional ads would lead to a search for more-effective alternatives.

Advertisers want more accurate measurement and the option for more targeted and clutter-free ad inventory. Meanwhile, U.S. marketers are willing to explore alternatives to the 30-second TV commercial as they shift budget from TV to social media, banners, and search.

More forward-looking marketers are ready to experiment with online video ads, branded entertainment, and interactive TV.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What a Twitter News Service Might Look Like

What a Twitter news service might look like.

Gartner Says Cloud Computing As Important as E-Business

“Cloud computing heralds an evolution of business no less influential than the era of e-business,” says Stephen Prentice, Gartner VP and fellow. Individuals and businesses will be able to choose how they’ll acquire or deliver IT services, with reduced emphasis on the constraints of traditional software and hardware licensing models, says Prentice.

“The potential benefits of cloud are a shift from ’capacity’ on demand to ‘capability’ on demand, a reduced cost of computing resources and a shift from technology use to ‘value’ consumption,” says Rakesh Kumar, Gartner VP.

Smartphones and iPads Top "Wish Lists"

Smartphones and iPads are among the top-four items consumers 13 or older indicate they want to buy in the next six months, according to The Nielsen Company.

Among the top-10 items are e-readers, the Nintendo Wii, the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

iPad on Wish Lists for Kids 6 to 12, Says Nielsen

The Apple iPad leads all devices (31 percent interest in future purchase) among American kids ages 6 to 12, according to The Nielsen Company.

Apple’s iPod Touch is also popular choice among kids, generating similar levels of interest as computers. Of note, the iPod Touch outpaces the perennial handheld gaming favorites Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable, Nielsen says.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Federal Debt Will Reach 100% to 200% of GDP Unless Checked

The federal government's debt levels could exceed 100 percent of gross domestic product as early as 2020, the Government Accounting Office now estimates.

"It is clear that over the long term historical levels of spending and revenue cannot be maintained going forward," the GAO warns.

The debt problem predates the economic downturn and is driven on the spending side largely by rising health care costs and an aging population, says the Government Accounting Office.

read the full analysis here

Congress Needs to Update Telecom Act of 1996

Verizon Communications EVP Tom Tauke says the time has come to revamp the Telecommunications Act of 1996, in light of new developments related to the Internet.

In addition to creating a uniform national policy, the framework should not involve anticipatory rulemaking, but rather principles that allow for case-by-case adjudication.

The test for government intervention in the marketplace should be to prevent either harm to consumers or anti-competitive activity. And a single federal agency should be given clear jurisdiction.

Though he didn't specifically say those, those principles will rule out preemptive common carrier regulation of broadband.

Will Stores Become Obsolete?

Harris Interactive asks the question: as Americans increase their online shopping and their reading of product reviews and discussions online, will the in-store shopping experience ultimately become obsolete?

The Harris Poll surveyed 2,258 adults surveyed online between September 1 and 3, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

When asked if, over the past year, the amount of time spent doing various activities online has changed, one quarter of online adults say that they have increased their time spent shopping (24 percent) online, as well as their time spent reading product reviews (25 percent).

The age differences here may indicate this trend will continue, as approximately three in ten younger online adults, aged 18 to 34, say they have increased time spent doing both of these activities (30 percent and 28 percent, respectively), compared to fewer than a quarter older online adults, 55 and up, who say the same (22 percent and 23 percent, respectively).

Home Phone Connect for CT and Upstate NY Customers

Verizon Wireless is testing customer demand for a wireless access service that replicates fixed-line service by allowing users to connect landline phone gear to an adapter.

"Home Phone Connect" can be used with either an existing wired service phone number or users can get a new number. The service can be added for $9.99 on any Verizon Wireless "Family SharePlan" with at least two lines, on a monthly plan costing $69.99 or higher, Verizon says.

Users have unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling from the "home number" with all other Verizon Wireless customers. Unlimited calling costs $19.99.

Google generates 43% of the world’s online ad revenue in Q3

Google now represents 43 percent of the industry globally in the third quarter of 2010, according to Strategy Analytics.

40% of Skype Minutes Were Video, First Half of 2010

For the first six months of 2010, approximately 40 percent of Skype-to-Skype minutes were video minutes. That should make Skype one of the world's largest providers of video calling or videoconferencing service, one would think.

Assuming half of the 2009 total of 113 billion Skype-to-Skype minutes were at least matched in the first half of 2010, that would suggest something on the order of 22.6 billion minutes.

Younger Users Show Preference for Mobile Apps Over Web

Preferences for mobile apps over Web browsers are growing among younger demographics, say researchers at Parks Associates. "Consumers under 35 are starting to ditch browsers in favor of mobile apps, where they don't have to type in a Web address or contend with slow browser speeds," says Harry Wang, Parks Associates director.

"They are also put off by Web pages that do not fit the small phone screen, whereas the mobile app is native to the platform," says Wang.

Mobile apps are already the dominant medium for access to Internet radio (including Pandora), maps, social networks, navigation (including Google Maps), and games.

Where Will SMBs Spend Marketing Dollars in 2011?

Small businesses are predicted to maintain steady marketing budgets next year, including spending on websites, direct mail, e-mail marketing, social media and print advertising, according to a recent survey by Zoomerang and GrowBiz Media.

Small business marketing budgets leaned toward websites this year, with 39 percent of SMBs with fewer than 1,000 employees spending greater than 20 percent of their budgets in that area. Online spending is expected to continue in favor of websites, as 17 percent of respondents plan to increase budgets for their sites in 2011, the highest percentage increase in planning for any marketing item included in the survey.

In comparison, 15 percent of respondents reported that they plan to spend more on email marketing next year, while 13 percent of respondents plan to up their social media marketing budgets.

Social media is predicted to be the third most increased area for online marketing spending next year. Among the more than 750 businesses surveyed, 34 percent indicated that they currently engage in social media marketing. Of those using social media, Facebook (80 percent), LinkedIn (37 percent) and Twitter (27 percent) were the most commonly used platforms.

One obvious conclusion is that small businesses do not use mobile marketing channels much, if at all.

The State of Small Business Online Marketing Budgets

Online TV Show Viewers Tolerate More Ads

Will online TV viewers accept levels of advertising normally associated with multichannel video service? A new study funded by Turner Broadcasting suggests the answer is "yes."

In the study, online video viewers were randomly exposed to different amounts of adertising. One set of viewers was shown about a minute of ads an episode; the second set of viewers was shown eight to 10 minutes of ads; and the third was shown 16 to 20 minutes worth of ads.

Viewers of 30-minute TBS sitcoms like “Meet the Browns” watched, on average, 40 percent of the episode, including the ads, if there was one minute of ads and 37 percent of the episode if there were 16 minutes of ads.

Viewers of hourlong TNT shows like “Memphis Beat” watched 59 percent of the episode if there were one minute 15 seconds of ads, and 49 percent of the episode if there was 20 minutes of ads.

The takeaway is that viewers watched, on average, for the same number of minutes no matter how many ads were embedded within the program.

The Turner research also suggests that online viewers often do not watch an entire episode, just as they channel-surf while on the couch.

Conflicting Data on Consumer Communications Spending

Though surveys taken in 2009 and 2010 seem to indicate that consumers were cutting back on communications and multi-channel video entertainment spending, other data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggests that did not happen; in fact, such spending increased between the start of 2008 and the middle of 2010, for example.

Since the recession started in the fourth quarter of 2007, U.S. consumers have apparently been cutting back on their spending. But Bureau of Economic Analysis data suggests that consumers have been cutting more in some areas than others, and actually have increased spending on many communications services.

BEA show aggregate personal consumption expenditures were up 2.9 percent, or $285 billion, between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the end of the second quarter of 2010, for example.

Mobile device spending was up almost 17 percent since the fourth quarter of 2007. And spending on communications and multichannel video services was up by five percent.

Americans were spending a little bit less on clothing and hotels; a lot less on foreign travel, video and audio equipment (think televisions), and furniture. The big drop came in motor vehicles and associated goods and services, like gasoline. Spending on household furnishings dropped six percent.

Spending on international travel dropped 7.4 percent; purchases of audio and visual equipment dropped 8.4 percent; spending on motor vehicles declined 16 percent; while spending on moving, freight and storage services dropped nearly 20 percent.

Spending on pets increased 14.4 percent. Spending for child care increased 13 percent. Health care spending grew 11 percent while education spending grew 13 percent.


Location-Based Services Getting More Traction

The 2010 Christmas shopping season should provide new evidence of the usefulness of location-enhanced mobile shopping, if a survey commissioned by JiWire is accurate. The study suggests 37 percent of mobile users will make more use of location services this shopping season, while 42 percent will continue to use such services as they have in the past.

Finding stores is seen as highly valuable by about 61 percent of respondents.


"Finding Stores" is Top Use for Location Services

When searching for local content, 61 percent say that finding store locations is the most valuable feature of location-based media, says JiWire.

(Click on image for larger view)

About 89 percent of respondents to a recent JiWire survey say they likely will use location-based apps and services during the Christmas shopping season.

Some 36 percent plan to use location-based services to find product reviews while 33 percent plan to discover current inventory at nearby stores. About 26 percent plan to connect with social networks through location-based features.

On average, 30 percent are willing to travel more than five miles to redeem a mobile coupon.

Internet TV and The Death of Cable TV

Products have life cycles, which is about all one has to know about changing dynamics in the video business. And while there might yet remain a period of time before a firm trend can be definitively confirmed, "cable TV" might finally have reached that point in the product life cycle where its decline begins.

Telcos have a bit more experience with this sort of thing, as fixed-line voice seems to have reached a clear product life cycle peak in 2000 or 2001, depending on which set of data one looks at. Before that, telcos had to deal with a decades-long decline of stand-alone long distance, not so much in terms of usage, but a historic disruption of profit margins.

Since 2000, though, there has been a steady decline of fixed-line subscriptions. And it is starting to appear as if 2010 might mark a similar turning point for multichannel video, as we now have had two consecutive quarters of overall subscriber decline, something that never has happened before.

A rapid change to new forms of digital delivery will take some time, even though increased talk about "the death of cable TV" certainly will escalate. Content owner financial interests are the main reason. Simply put, content owners have learned quite a lot about the economics of digital distribution and are moving deliberately, to avoid cannibalizing existing business models before the new mechanisms can be perfected.

“The networks aren’t blocking Google TV because it’s Google," AdAge notes. "They are blocking Google TV because it is putting a web TV show, with web TV show economics, on a TV, which would be incredibly disruptive to their business."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Multichannel Video Subscriptions Grow in Major Markets, Shrink Elsewhere

The number of U.S. households paying for TV subscriptions is falling outside the largest TV markets, and growing in the biggest markets, a new analysis by MediaBiz suggests.

Between the first and third quarters of this year, 335,000 fewer homes out of 100 million subscribed to TV service from a cable, satellite or telecom company, according to research firm SNL Kagan.

But the latest local data show that subscriber drops have largely fallen outside the biggest markets. The 10 biggest media markets collectively saw their number of TV subscribers grow by 125,000 from the first quarter to the second quarter, while the rest of the country lost 279,000 between those two periods, according to MediaBiz.

read more here if you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal

Facebook: 25% of All Page Views in U.S.

Nearly one in four page views in the United States took place on Facebook.com for the week ending November 13, 2010.

Click image for a larger view.

Debt Service Now is the 800-Pound Gorilla of Spending


Mobile Revenue Model Has to Change

"Frankly, we are not going to realize the financial return that we are looking for unless we move into the application space or we attract others into that application space on our network; that’s really how we are going to realize value from our network, how it becomes relevant for our customers.' - APAC telco exec"

Netflix Launches U.S. Streaming-Only Service

Netflix has introduced a $7.99 streaming-only subscription plan in the United States for the first time. The plan, which allows members to instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix to TVs and computers, is available now to both new and existing members.

The company also announced that the price of its popular subscription combining unlimited movies and TV shows streamed instantly over the Internet and unlimited DVDs delivered quickly by mail, with one DVD out at a time, will increase by a dollar a month to $9.99. Prices of subscription plans allowing for more DVDs out at a time will also increase.

"Collaboration" and "Telepresence" Trump "Unified Communications" and "Videoconferencing"

One can argue about the future integration of video into today's voice, email, messaging, conferencing and broader unified communications approaches. Cisco prefers the term "telepresence" to "videoconferencing," for example. In fact, Cisco also prefers the term "collaboration" to "unifed communications."

In part, that is because Cisco is banking on video becoming integrated into other existing modes of communication, and in part because "unified communications," whatever you think UC is, and whatever you think it includes, has been in the marketplace long enough to have lost some of its luster.

The change of nomenclature has been underway for a few years already.

read more here

What Ails Newspaper Business Model?

To fix a problem, one first must define the problem correctly. Some might argue the problem for newspapers is "declining readership." Others might argue it is the existence of Internet alternatives which are the problem.

But a new book published by Oxford University essentially argues "too much reliance on advertising" is the problem newspapers in some countries face. The study, commissioned by the Oxford-based Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, examined newspaper industries in several countries, including the US, UK, Germany and Brazil.

In many countries where online activity is high, including Scandinavia and Germany, newspapers are still faring well, with titles typically generating 50 percent of revenues from advertising.

The U.S. newspaper industry, which has generated more than 80 percent of its income from advertisements, is today in a much more serious crisis than its counterparts in Germany and Finland, where advertising typically constitutes about 50 percent of total revenues, Reuters suggests.

To be sure, there probably are numerous reasons why newspapers are in trouble. See http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/five-key-reasons-why-newspapers-are-failing for one view on what the problems are.

But it might seem somewhat silly to suggest that excessive reliance on advertising is the problem. Advertising only works when users already have ratified their appetite for consuming content in a particular venue. To argue "too much advertising" is the problem, or more accurately, that declining advertising now is the problem, sort of mistakes a symptom for a cause.

In the United Kindgom and the United States, where advertising accounts for a larger proportion of revenues, the picture is worse, but could be explained by a cyclical advertising recession which has seen spend fall dramatically in recent years, the study suggests.

That ignores the fact that readership has been falling for decades. Falling readership leads to lower ad spending and lower ad rates, which leads to lower revenue. But those problems are directly related to the availability of other channels that have more user engagement. People have shifted attention to other media formats.

The book challenges the conventional wisdom that the Internet has undermined business models by claiming there is no correlation between Internet usage and newspaper profitability. Up to a point, that is undoubtedly true. But likely only up to a point. To be sure, newspaper readership has been declining for decades, including the period before the advent of easily-consumable Internet news.

But advertising is shifting throughout the media world, and it might be wishful thinking to assert that the growing use of online channels is not directly responsible for a shift of growing amounts of advertising.

To be fair, one might argue that the researchers mostly are saying there should be a better balance between end user payments and ad support. That's fair enough, but anybody who has spent time in print publishing would agree that it is tough to get large numbers of readers to pay very much for the ability to read publications. The reason advertising historically has been important in the publishing business is precisely that readers do not necessarily "value" print content all that highly.



Viacom Nixes Google TV Access, Web Streaming Options Dwindling | Android Phone Fans

Add Viacom to the growing list of networks blocking access to online streaming content from Google TV. News Corp, NBC Universal, Disney and CBS are among networks that block Google TV access to content. You might argue the networks have multiple reasons for crippling Google TV.

The networks are not enthusiastic about forms of online TV that cut them out of the controlling role. Networks are uncomfortable handing a third party more control over online video, as music companies have found Apple iTunes now is able to do.

The Future of Work

Distributed, virtual work offers many advantages for avoided energy consumption and employee happiness. It also makes outsourcing of work easier.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Channel Stuffing is a Bad Sign

Most analysts and investors likely were quite shocked when Cisco Systems reported a surprise revenue miss in its third quarter financial report. That is relatively unusual, and has some observers wondering whether technology sales are suffering more than people think. Some are worried about "channel stuffing," a practice that can temporarily hide market weakness.

Groupon Said to Weigh Sale to Google

Groupon, the application that sends daily messages to users in 300 markets in 29 countries, offering steep discounts on products and services ranging from cupcakes to yoga classes, dinner cruises to dental exams, is said to be weighing selling itself to Google.

Groupon keeps a 50 percent cut of every deal sold, while the business benefits from a rise in new customers. Deals, known as groupons, activate when a certain number is sold, encouraging users to recommend offers to friends.

The deal is noteworthy for several reasons. For starters, it is part of Google's announced acquisition spree, which Google says will occur basically on a "a company a month" sort of pace. The other angle is that a Google purchase would show Google's deepening moves into mobile-facilitated commerce and shopping, all with social networking angles and local advertising angles.

Groupon might be seen as a "social coupon" or "digital coupon" business. That makes it a mobile marketing and advertising vehicle as well. Local advertising through media including newspapers, direct mail, radio and the Internet will reach $133 billion in the U.S. this year, according to BIA/Kelsey, a consulting firm.

Groupon also illustrates the growing synergies between mobility, location, local advertising and commerce.

FCC Still Looking at Title II Regulation?

The FCC might still be looking at putting common carrier regulation of broadband up for a rule-making in December, some suggest.

Reclassifying the Internet under Title II regulations would be bad for business, bad for consumers and would hurt broadband’s innovative drive, many will argue. Congressional leaders also reportedly are gathering signatures for yet another letter to the FCC insisting that the FCC does not have authority to do so.

GSMA Launches Embedded SIM Initiative

The GSMA, the global association of GSM mobile providers, today announced the formation of a task force of mobile operators to explore the development of an embedded SIM that can be remotely activated.

The move is expected to enable the design of new form factors for mobile communications, especially machine-to-machine devices, cameras, MP3 players, navigation devices and e-readers and smart meters.

The idea is to make the devices easy to sell in traditional retail venues, but also easy to activate for service later, on any GSM network. You can probably expect the carriers not to be quite so enthusiastic to embrace the same concept for mobile phones, though.

Extended to smartphones, users could buy any device they wanted, so long as it was GSM standards compliant, and activate with any GSM service provider. I doubt the carriers would enjoy the loss of control that would mean.

Consumers Prefer Unlimited Plans

Mobile subscribers in the United States prefer unlimited data plans, according to a newly released survey conducted by analyst firm Sanford C. Bernstein and Co.

According to the survey, 58 percent of light data users said they would change carriers to get an unlimited data plan. Among the highest data users, that figure rose to 67 percent. 'Customers generally have strongly negative perceptions about UBP, and these are often not correlated with self-interest,' Bernstein analyst Craig Moffet said in a research note, referring to usage-based pricing.

Small Businesses Want 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, But Won't Pay Too Much For It

There are lots of interesting tidbits in a new study of small-business broadband Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, which conducted a nationwide survey on behalf of the Small Business Administration, but the really significant finding is that respondents won't pay all that much for 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps connections.

And price resistance is stubborn. Even when the price for such a service is just 10 percent to 20 percent higher, businesses are significantly less likely to switch to a 100-Mbps service from what they currently buy.

As you might guess, if small businesses are hesitant to spend 10 percent to 20 percent more to get 100 Mbps, they are even more hesitant to spend more for an extremely fast Internet connection of 1 Gbps. This is especially true for prices that are 40 percent or more higher than their current prices.

If you asssume the average prices now range between $70 a month to $124 a month, then survey respondents show significant resistance to paying much more than $84 to $149 a month for 100 Mbps service, or $98 to $174 for 1-Gbps service.
This graphic might confuse you. The taller the bars, the less likely the respondent is to take the action indicated. The tallest bar, a score of "5" would mean "highly unlikely" to take the action.

A score of "1," shown by a shorter bar, would indicate strong willingness to take the action.

The point is that small business users aren't willing to spend much more to upgrade from their current level of service to 100-Mbps service.

The most surprising finding is that even the same prices, or prices 10 percent 5to 20 percent lower do not cause small business respondents to become certain of switching. Scores around "3" indicate a "maybe, maybe not" attitude.

No matter what these respondents say about wanting higher speeds, they don't appear to be willing to pay much of anything for it.

read the full report here

House Prepares to Remind FCC It Has No Authority to Impose Net Neutrality

House Commerce Committee Republicans reported are signatures for a  letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski reminding him there now is bipartisan agreement that net neutrality must be resolved by Congress.

"FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will imminently flout the  will of the American public, the Congress, the unions, numerous civil liberties and minority groups, former FCC officials, and even members of his own political party, and unilaterally impose Net Neutrality regulations on the Internet," said Mike Wendy, director of Media Freedom.org.
"In light of other recent statements, it represents a 180-degree shift away from his call to ‘catalyze private investment, foster job creation, compete globally, and create broad opportunity in the United States.’"

Widgets are Not a Business, As it Turns Out

There are hits and misses in the Web 2.0 business. Some once thought "widgets" would provide the foundation for full-blown business models. Apparently, not.

Should San Diego Just Declare Bankruptcy? Will Others Follow?

Aside from everything else citizens of United States have to deal with, growing structural imbalances in municipal and state government revenue and spending provide additional unpleasant challenges. Consider the city of San Diego, Calif., which were it a private business would face outright bankruptcy.

"When all costs for retirement benefits are totaled up in city government, they exceed $370 million this year, or roughly two thirds of the city’s entire payroll expense," says San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio. In other words, of taxes paid by city residents that are spent on personnel, only a third actually support current employees supplying services to residents.

That same problem is going to overwhelm most school districts as well, leading to inability to educate today's school children because nearly all funds to support schools will have to be diverted to pension obligations.

This cost structure cannot be sustained, DeMaio says, and any organization with these excessive costs for retirement benefits would face bankruptcy in short order.

Unless San Diego takes significant actions to mitigate future payments on the unfunded pension liability, the growth rate of these payments is almost certain to outpace the growth rate of tax revenues, he says. All of that will be unpleasant and painful, but there now is no escaping the decisions.

San Diego's current forecast for 2012 through 2016 already shows scores of millions of deficits in every year.

The city’s defined benefit pension payment has climbed from $154 million last year to approximately $230 million this year. And it only gets worse. According to the pension system actuary, it will climb to $343 million in FY 2016 and spike to $511.6 million in FY 2025.

In addition, pension-related health care obligations add another $120 million a year, at current levels.

"To put the magnitude of the pension problem in a more simple perspective, if General Fund revenues grow at a rate of two percent per year, fiscal year 2014 projects the city’s defined benefit pension payment alone to consume more than 20 percent of general fund revenue: one out of every 5 dollars," says DeMaio.


Telco 2.0: FT World Telecoms: Broadband & Fibre

BT CEO Ian Livingston makes an interesting point that successful high-bandwidth, fixed-line broadband network deployment.

Deployments seem to involve either massive investment by government (as in Sweden or now Australia), toleration of an incumbent monopoly (as in Japan), or unusually favourable circumstances such as extremely high urban density, or to put it another way, extremely low trench mileage per subscriber passed (as in Hong Kong or Singapore).

One suspects that list of strategies will be longer in the future. It is possible that a sort of "hybrid"model could develop in the United Kingdom and some other markets, where there is a single facilities-based wholesaler, but also relatively easy ways to create new facilities-based access drops that use the single distribution network.

In principle, that might have advantages if one thinks about a neighborhood optical access terminal representing the aggregation point to the backbone network, and then multiple providers compete to supply the "access" or "drop" connection.

In the United States, competition is more likely to continue to take the form of a landline duopoly and a few wireless broadband providers, all operating using their own discrete facilities, for the most part.

News Corp. to Produce "Tablet Only" Daily

Many print publishers plan to produce apps for tablets. News Corp. appears to be preparing a "table only" digital product that will not be available anywhere else.

News Corp. reportedly has spent the last three months assembling a newsroom that will soon be about 100 staffers strong. The Daily will launch in beta mode sometime around Christmas, and will be introduced to the public on the iPad and other tablet devices in early 2011.

It is expected to cost 99 cents a week, or about $4.25 a month. It will come out seven days a week.

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. CEO, believes that within a few years, tablet devices will be priced and sold through mass market retailers at reasonably affordable prices, and that, at some point, every member of the family will have one. That obviously makes a tablet the ideal "reader" platform.

Is Cloud Computing a Bubble About to Burst?

The current hype about cloud computing, now going on three years, is "just another bubble," says Gartner analyst Jack Santos. In Gartner-speak, it is reaching the peak of inflated expectations. But the higher the peak, the greater the crash to the trough of disillusionment), and this peak has reached amazing heights, Santos argues.

That might be so, but all consequential new technologies have a "hype cycle" and therefore always feature an investment bubble. The issue is not the over-investment, but the degree to which the sector has profound and destabilizing implications for the broader economy.

But there is another side to bubbles. "Even in a bubble, there is a germ of truth and reality," Santos notes. Google was a dot com, but was different. It proved to be the provider of a consequential new technology, unlike most of the other inconsequential endeavors.

The real trick in any bubble is not trying to talk yourself out of the hype, but picking the winners that come out of that bubble, Santos says. In other words, cloud computing is going to produce a couple of big winners. The unknown today is who those winners will be, and why they prove to be winners.

Reed Hastings: Master of Business Transitions

Netflix was supposed to be toast, roadkill on the digital content highway, remember? Most firms might have met that fate when a huge transition had to be made. But that is partly, perhaps largely, what defines business winners from losers: there are some people and companies that actually can manage a transition from one business era to the next, replacing a successfu--but dying--business model with a new one.

Reed Hastings has for those and other reasons been named "number one" on Fortune magazine's "Businessperson of the Year" list. Apple CEO Steve Jobs might also have been a very-strong candidate for inventing yet another consumer product category (the tablet). But Steve Jobs is something more like "Businessperson of the Decade," one might argue.

In January 2005, Wedbush Securities stock analyst Michael Pachter called Netflix a "worthless piece of crap." He put a price target of $3 on the stock, at the time trading around $11. The doubters thought Blockbuster, Wal-Mart or Amazon, with their economies of scale and established customer bases, would simply destroy Netflix. Ironic, eh?

Take Risks Outside Your Area of Core Competency

If you are going to take business risk, take it outside the area of your core competency and revenue stream, if at all possible, one might argue.

Amazon: It's Tough Being "Number One"

The appearance of arrogance is a constant danger for any firm that leads its business category.

New Cox Wireless Campaign Targets "Unfair" Mobile Practices

Cox Wireless is launching its branded wireless service in Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb.., and Orange County, Calif. with an unusual pricing plan and a clear attack on a perceived weakness on the part of the dominant service providers.

"Our research found that value and transparency are very important to consumers when choosing a wireless service plan, but they are not finding these qualities in the wireless plans offered today," said Cox Wirless VP Stephen Bye.. "Total loss of unused minutes as well as unforeseen overage charges on bills are just two examples of what our customers have told us is just unfair."

To address those issues, Cox Wireless has created the "MoneyBack Minutes" program, where customers receive a five-cent credit for unused minutes, up to $20 a  month. 

86% of Firefox Revenue Might be at Risk

Financial analysts get squeamish when too much of any company's revenue comes from a single, dominant customer. If so, Mozilla should make virtually all analysts blanch. Fully 86 percent of Mozilla's revenue in 2009 came from a single customer, Google.

There are a couple of dangers here any analyst would note. First, Google now has launched Chrome, its own browser. To be sure, Chrome has perhaps nine percent share of the browser market while Firefox, Mozilla's offering, has about 23 percent. That likely means Google still will want to pay Mozilla for access to premiere placement in the search pane.

So would Google renew its contract with Mozilla after November 2011? That depends on how many search queries, and how much revenue, Google gets from the deal today. If the money outweighs Google's long-term strategic plans for Chrome, then Firefox is safe.

But as Chrome encroaches on Firefox's market share, there will come a tipping point where the search deal no longer makes sense for Google.

Is an iPad More Like a PC or an iPod?

Lots of people will argue about what a "tablet" device actually is. Some might argue an iPad, for example, is an iPod "Touch" with a much-bigger screen. Others will argue it is more like a PC without a keyboard and mouse. To make the argument even more complex, there now are different form factors for tablets. There's the iPad with a 10-inch screen and the Samsung Galaxy with a seven-inch display.

Size matters in mobile devices, and smaller is usually better. The iPad is 50 percent heavier than the Tab, about a half a pound more, and that makes a big difference if you're holding it for long periods, some would argue.

The form factor might ultimately lead to differentiation in the tablet space. Most tablet users will wind up using them as an e-book reader and video player. So the issue is how much value a user places on larger screen size versus portability. It isn't so clear yet how much content creation actually will be done on such devices. They are built for consumption (reading, watching, hearing) more than creation of such media.

For some of us, that really does make the iPad an iPod "Touch" with a bigger screen, Apple's protests notwithstanding. To that extent, the question is whether an iPod Touch style device with a seven-inch screen, or a 10-inch screen, is useful. Don't get me wrong, one would have to conclude that the tablet really is a brand-new product category, not simply a new form factor for a notebook PC.

But like many other devices that are "multi-function" appliances, there are trade-offs. Smartphones have to work well as phones, even though they also are mobile Web devices. PCs have to work well for content creation and work, even though they can be used to read e-books, listen to music and watch videos. E-book readers have to support the reading experience. A tablet arguably has to work well as a mobile Web appliance.

But that's where the product category issues lie. Smartphones and Internet-connected PCs, notebooks and netbooks also support the mobile Web. The tablet lies between the smartphone and the notebook. Tablets support content consumption "better" than a smartphone, but do not support "content creation" as well as a notebook.

But that still leaves lots of room for positioning devices. You might say an e-book reader now is a tablet optimized for reading, an iPod is pocket-sized device for listening to music, while other multi-function devices are optimized for watching video or navigating the touchscreen Web. In some ways, you might argue the tablet has separated the "work" and "content creation" roles of the PC from the web browsing role.

Sales Friction Creates Barriers to Buying Behavior

Sales friction occurs when a sales process is: too long (the line at the grocery store) too complicated (working with real estate agents) a...