Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Social Drives Shopping

Mobile Content Ecosystem to Shift?

Mobile operators in emerging markets need to make urgent adjustments to content strategies if they are to adapt to rapid shifts in the market, according to Ovum analysts.

While mobile service providers currently are the dominant force in the emerging markets mobile content space, this is set to change due to strong competition from new platforms such as application stores.

“Unless telcos make rapid changes to their strategy and execution, their dominance is set to be challenged,' says Angel Dobardziev, Ovum analyst.

Some might argue that no matter what telcos do, that will happen anyway, given that the leading application stores are operated by device manufacturers such as Apple, independent providers such as GetJar or operating system providers such as Google.

“We have found that once a consumer has bought a data access plan, they begin to move away from telco services,' says Dobardziev. 'This will ultimately reduce the role of mobile operators to little more than providers of bandwidth.”

Some might argue that Dobardziev already has answered the original question.

Forrester Finds Most Enterprises Still Buy Phone Systems, Not Hosted IP Telephony

A recent Forrester Research survey of 567 enterprise and smaller business users that already have adopted IP telephony shows that most buyers so far have chosen premises-based solutions.

Just four percent of respondents say they have adopted a 'hosted' IP telephony service. Another four percent reported they had adopted a 'telephony as a service solution. About five percent said their IP telephony solution was outsourced. Taking all three as a group, just 13 percent of IP telephony solutions were hosted, cloud-based or outsourced.

That might make a great deal of sense. The economics of IP telephony tend to suggest that small users can benefit from hosted or cloud-based solutions, while enterprises often can justify owning their own solutions.

The study lends credence to the cable operator strategy of targeting businesses with 20 or fewer employees, as those are the venues where the economics of buying a service are best, compared to buying a premises-based solution.

About 71 percent said their IP telephony solutions were self maintained, while 16 percent said they owned their solution, but that it also was managed by a third party.

Telepresence ROI Still an Issue, According to CDW Survey

Return on investment continues to be an issue information technology staffs struggle with when trying to justify new investments in videoconferencing or telepresence, a survey sponsored by CDW has found.

Just slightly more than half of medium and large businesses currently track ROI, the report has found. Some 56 percent of respondents said they track hard dollar ROI and 58 percent track soft (productivity) ROI.

Of the medium and large businesses that track hard ROI, the majority are looking at dollars saved from trips avoided. Nearly half of medium and large businesses that track soft ROI are looking at employee productivity.

Still, half of medium and large businesses use video conferencing today, while another quarter plan to implement the technology within the next two years. Some eight percent plan to adopt within a year, while 17 said they would adopt in one to two years."

Tablets Used Like PCs, Canalys Says

Do users view tablets as functional replacements for PCs or e-readers? Is the tablet category a “new” consumer electronics product, or the latest form factor for PCs? The answers are more complicated than one might think.

A recent consumer survey by Canalys of consumers in Western Europe suggests that current tablet usage resembles that of a PC, rather than a media player or e-book reader. After web browsing, both tablet owners and non-owners in Western Europe said they viewed tablets as devices for email, messaging and social networking.

Of course, that set of applications also fits the smart phone usage profile as well, with the exception of voice apps, of course. And even email, messaging and social networking are likely relatively soon to become features of some e-readers. To the extent that tablets shifts consumption of some common PC apps, it is a “PC substitute."

Dumb Pipe: Get Over It

Nothing bothers telecom or Internet access provider executives more than the fear of becoming a “dumb pipe” provider. The fear is that value, revenue and margin will migrate elsewhere in the value chain. So the big fear is the unstated set of assumptions that go with “dumb pipe,” more than the actual phrase.

What tends to be left unsaid in all discussions of “dumb pipe” are implied adjectives such as “low margin, commodity status, low value, low revenue or low price.” In other words, it is not “dumb pipe” in principle, but low value, low revenue, low margin, low price “dumb pipe” that drives the concern.

The problem is that there is fundamentally no way access and transport providers can actually avoid being suppliers of some key "dumb pipe" services. That isn't to say the only thing access providers can do is provide simple access, but neither can they escape that unique role in the applications ecosystem. In some ways, you have to play the cards you were dealt.

OnSwipe: Web Content on Tablets That Behaves Like an App

Up to this point, content intended primarily for consumption on a tablet device would be created for the Apple iPad and use the App Store for distribution to end users. Self-executing apps such as games are ideal for that format. But such apps are less than ideal for content distribution, the founders of OnSwipe argue.

"With HTML5, however, content publishers can have the swipe features, the page movement, the rich graphics and all the other things that apps provide, and still be open and easily portable to other tablets or platforms," says co-founder Jason Baptiste.

OnSwipe gives content publishers the ability to mimic many of the user interface and features that apps provide, but on the open web. That promises a way of authoring that works for web, tablet and small-screen devices.

At first, the company figured it would just license its software platform to publishers who wanted to create a quick app-like experience for the iPad. “But that would just be a services business, not a really big company,” says Baptiste. “Not that that’s bad, but we wanted to do something really big — there’s so much potential there. So we decided to give the software away, and have as many people publish in an infinitely customizable way, and we would build a thread that pulls them all together.”

The idea now, Baptiste says, is to create a kind of networked layer on top of the OnSwipe publishing tools, to turn those tools into more of an ecosystem.

Friday, April 29, 2011

PCs Getting Less Use at Small Businesses

A survey of 2,223 owners and managers at companies with less than 500 employees, most of them with between five and 499 workers, suggests that "PC" use is declining, while other digital devices, including tablets and smartphones are taking up the slack.

Beyond the finding that nine percent of business owners were using iPads (as of November 2010), the study found that 79 percent of small- and midsize-business owners used a desktop computer, down from 83 percent in 2010.

Some 16 percent used a netbook or notebook, down from 21 percent earlier in 2010.  About 60 percent used a laptop, down from 65 percent.

Note the trend: tablets up, desktop PCs, netbooks down, notebooks down.

About 37 percent used a smartphone or other personal digital assistant, up from 27 percent the prior year.

Fully 31 percent were using mobile applications, a category that wasn’t even measured the previous year, on smartphones, cell phones, or tablet computers.

What all of that might mean is that many business and work tasks really do not require much in the way of content creation, beyond replying to emails or social media messages.

read more here

Rabobank’s iPhone App: Take a Picture, Pay a Bill

Rabobank’s iPhone app allows customers to pay bills by taking a picture of the bill.

About 30 percent of Dutch consumers pay their bills by using "acceptgiros," standard yellow payment forms that merchants sent to them together with their bills. These forms are prefilled with all relevant information that is required to make the payment. The customer can pay the bill by simply signing the acceptgiro and dropping it into the letterbox of his bank, or by paying it directly using online banking.

Dutch Rabobank has added a new functionality to its iPhone mobile banking app which it calls "acceptgiroscan." Users of the app can pay bills by simply taking a picture of the acceptgiro with the phone’s built-in camera.

Fiber to the Home in Shanghai

Summary of the Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS Service Disruption

"The issues affecting EC2 customers last week primarily involved a subset of the Amazon Elastic Block Store (“EBS”) volumes in a single Availability Zone within the US East Region that became unable to service read and write operations," Amazon says.

This caused instances trying to use these affected volumes to also get “stuck” when they attempted to read or write to them. In order to restore these volumes and stabilize the EBS cluster in that Availability Zone, Amazon disabled all control APIs (e.g. Create Volume, Attach Volume, Detach Volume, and Create Snapshot) for EBS in the affected Availability Zone for much of the duration of the event.

For two periods during the first day of the issue, the degraded EBS cluster affected the EBS APIs and caused high error rates and latencies for EBS calls to these APIs across the entire US East Region, Amazon says.

Summary of the Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS Service Disruption

"The issues affecting EC2 customers last week primarily involved a subset of the Amazon Elastic Block Store (“EBS”) volumes in a single Availability Zone within the US East Region that became unable to service read and write operations," Amazon says.

This caused instances trying to use these affected volumes to also get “stuck” when they attempted to read or write to them. In order to restore these volumes and stabilize the EBS cluster in that Availability Zone, Amazon disabled all control APIs (e.g. Create Volume, Attach Volume, Detach Volume, and Create Snapshot) for EBS in the affected Availability Zone for much of the duration of the event.

For two periods during the first day of the issue, the degraded EBS cluster affected the EBS APIs and caused high error rates and latencies for EBS calls to these APIs across the entire US East Region, Amazon says.

Consumers Feel Smart Phone Obsolescence

When asked, 62 percent of respondents to a Retrevo survey said they currently feel their smart phone already is "out of date," or will be before their service contracts expire. That speaks both to the rapid pace of smart device innovation and the upside for providers of the latest smart phone models.

The solution, some would argue, are shorter contracts, or no contracts. One is reminded of the surveys taken to assess consumer receptivity to advertising. Those surveys virtually always find that people don't really like ads. But they like the idea of paying more for their desired content even less.

That's essentially what the Retrevo survey found as well.

When asked if they would be willing to pay extra for a shorter contract, most responded as you would guess, with a "no." But some would pay as much as $100 extra to get a one-year contract rather than a two-year contract.

Those sorts of questions and answers are instructive, but also hinge on consumer desire, at least in the U.S. market, for high subsidies on their devices. Few consumers really want to pay $400 to $500 for their devices, to get a contract-free service plan. Most put up with contracts so they can buy those devices for $200 to $250.

You can argue all you want about the wisdom of those preferences. Most of the money a consumer spends over the length of the relationship is service fees. The device cost is a relatively small matter in comparison. But consumers have voted with their wallets, and service providers, though not enamored of the operating expense the subsidies represent, do not seem likely to abandon the model, simply because it works.

One also might argue that the subsidies, which encourage users to swap out their devices more frequently, are one reason the U.S. market now is the world leader in terms of application innovation. A user that has invested $500 to $600 in a mobile device is likely to feel obligated to use that device as long as possible.

A user that has invested only $200 to $250 is less likely to be wedded to any particular device, and is likely to feel that investing in another, updated device makes sense.

Cloud Incidents Illustrate Trend

The recent Amazon Web Services outage illustrates a broader computing trend you'll all recognize, in your roles as consumers, small business or enterprise users of technology. And that trend is that, across the board, users are required to take a more-active role in managing their technology. Most people discover they are required to learn more about their computing devices and applications than they actually would prefer, just to use the tools.

Many would note that the lesson from the AWS outage is that the normal advice to build in redundancy and resiliency into an applications or hardware infrastructure applies equally when buying cloud computing services.

"While it is important to maintain pressure on service providers to improve their reliability footprint, the onus of developing or contracting reliable system stays with their clients, and there won’t be any miraculous cloud that provides 100 percent uptime or that does not risk to fail meeting its own SLAs," says Andrea Di Maio, Gartner VP.

FCC to Report "Broadband Gap" Growing?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to argue, in its annual "706" report on U.S. broadband status, that broadband providers are not deploying services in a reasonable and timely way to all Americans.

The report hasn't been officially released yet, but we understand the methodology used to argue that the broadband gap "is widening" will be different from past reports, which have focused more on a lowest common denominator approach. The new report is expected to focus on the higher end of broadband speeds and adoption.

Some suggest the latest version of the study will mirror the conclusions from last year in other respects, which found the speed of broadband deployment unsatisfactory. ” "The FCC concluded in its Sixth Broadband Deployment Report that between 14 and 24 million Americans still lack access to broadband, and the immediate prospects for deployment to them are bleak," the FCC said at the time.

Some might find that an odd way to report the results of survey that found 95 percent of people do have fixed network access. Others might simply note that even the claim of five percent "unable" to get access requires ignoring satellite access which is available to nearly every location. There are likely some locations that cannot get convenient line of sight access to a satellite providing broadband access, but that is a rare situation.

Until 2009, the 706 reports had found adequate and continual progress. The cynical will simply note that broadband has not changed, the political agenda has changed. See

"This report underscores the need for comprehensive reform of the Universal Service Fund, innovative
approaches to unleashing new spectrum, and removal of barriers to infrastructure investment," the FCC said when unveiling last year's report.

The agency has cited the 2010 findings to justify instances of government intervention, some would say.

PayPal Buys Mobile Payment Enabler

PayPal has acquired Fig Card, which developed a low-cost USB device that plugs into the cash register or point-of-sale terminal and allows merchants to accept mobile payments using a smart phone app.

The solution requires no new hardware on the phones (iPhone, Android, many Blackberry models) and free hardware for the merchants.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 Reasons You're Consuming More Mobile Content

Consumers are consuming more mobile content than ever before, but why? For the simplest of reasons. There's more content to watch and there's more widespread mobile broadband, and better mobile broadband. There are more smart phones and tablets to make it convenient. There are simple applications and better user interfaces, allowing users to get users to video fast.

Simply, the barriers to watching video simply have fallen in every way.

Time Warner Cable Looks to Close an Era

Time Warner Cable apparently is looking at converting all its programing to IP, a move that would allow it to serve up video to all sorts of digital devices, eliminating the need for a set-top decoder and opening the door to either over-the-top or captive video on the existing model, but with one infrastructure supporting all forms of access.

There are all sorts of immediate, and some potential, implications. Decoders represent a huge amount of capital investment for a video provider using decoders. Eliminating the decoders would vastly reduce Time Warner Cable capex. That's the immediate benefit from an operations perspective.

From a strategic perspective, the shift to all-IP would open the possibility of over-the-top service, which in an early scenario might allow Time Warner Cable to serve up its video to current customers who also use tablets, PCs and smart phones to watch video.

In a more-disruptive scenario, Time Warner Cable could envision selling video to anybody in the United States, over the top, providing content contracts and municipal regulators allow it.

That could create quite a change in the famously collegial U.S. cable industry, where cable operators simply do not compete with each other.

Search Results Follow Market Share Rules

Many years ago, I learned that there are fairly reliable relationships between market share and profitability. Basically, the rule is that the number-one provider in any market has twice the market share of provider number two, which in turn has twice the share of provider number three. It's a remarkably useful rule of thumb.

A new examination by Chitika, looking at the value of Google search results, ranked by share, is remarkably consistent with those rules of thumb about market share.

As it turns out, the number-one search result tends to get double the traffic of the number-two result. The Chitika data also shows that search result three has 11.4 percent share, while the number-four result has eight percent share. That's pretty close to what the rule of thumb would suggest.

Traffic by Google Result
If the number one result has 34 percent share, the rule would predict the second result to be 17 percent, which is precisely what Chitika found. The rule also would suggest result three would have 8.5 percent share. In the Chitika data, the third search result has 11 percent share. The fourth result has eight percent share, as the rule suggests would be the pattern.

In search results, as in other markets, share makes a huge difference. The other thing you might recognize is a standard Pareto distribution, sometimes known as a "long tail" or 80/20 rule.

Rules of thumb can be excellent guides to strategy, if a company really wants to lead a market. It's also nice to know that at least some things one learns in school turn out to be correct in real life. 

Google Announces Video Chat for Android 2.3 Devices

Google is launching an update to Android Gingerbread, version 2.3.4, enabling video chat using GTalk on Android smart phones. This is the same functionality offered as part of Honeycomb, version 3.0, and allows any Android phone with the proper version of Gingerbread to conduct a video chat with anyone using a compatible (Honeycomb) Android tablet, their smartphone, or GTalk on their desktop.

RIM: Weaker Guidance, Near Term

Research In Motion has updated its financial guidance and said it expects to sell fewer BlackBerry smartphones than it previously estimated. "RIM now expects fully diluted earnings per share for Q1 to be in the range of $1.30-$1.37, lower than the range of $1.47-$1.55 previously forecasted by RIM on March 24, 2011," RIM said.

"This shortfall is primarily due to shipment volumes of BlackBerry smartphones that are now expected to be at the lower end of the range of 13.5-14.5 million forecasted in March and a shift in the expected mix of devices shipped towards handsets with lower average selling prices," RIM noted.

RIM still expects “strong revenue growth” in the third and fourth quarter thanks to the introduction of new BlackBerry smartphones. The near-term shipments aren't really the issue.

The problem is that with Apple and Android leading the smart phone market, plus the expected revitalization of Microsoft, given its alliance with Nokia, there is precious little room left in the smart phone market for player number four, whomever that might be. Unless you conclude that Microsoft, which now will count Nokia as part of its ecosystem, falls further, RIM is the provider likely to be bumped down into the fourth spot.

Mobile Content Ecosystem to Shift?

Mobile operators in emerging markets need to make urgent adjustments to content strategies if they are to adapt to rapid shifts in the market, according to Ovum analysts.

While mobile service providers currently are the dominant force in the emerging markets mobile content space, this is set to change due to strong competition from new platforms such as application stores.

“Unless telcos make rapid changes to their strategy and execution, their dominance is set to be challenged,' says Angel Dobardziev, Ovum analyst.

Some might argue that no matter what telcos do, that will happen anyway, given that the leading application stores are operated by device manufacturers such as Apple, independent providers such as GetJar or operating system providers such as Google.

“We have found that once a consumer has bought a data access plan, they begin to move away from telco services,' says Dobardziev. 'This will ultimately reduce the role of mobile operators to little more than providers of bandwidth.”

Some might argue that Dobardziev already has answered the original question.

Dilbert Isn't Fiction; Neither is This

LG G-Slate: Walt Mossberg Still Prefers iPad 2

"I’ve been testing the (LG produced) G-Slate, and in my view, it performs pretty well overall—about as well as the first Honeycomb tablet, the Xoom. But it isn’t nearly as good a choice as the iPad 2," says technology reviewer Walt Mossberg.

"Of its three big differentiators, the only clear winner is the 4G cellular capability, which is much speedier than cellular data on the iPad, or on any other Honeycomb tablet I know of," says Mossberg.

"The 3-D feature, which requires the use of 1950s-style colored glasses, seems like a parlor trick to me," Mossberg adds. "And the in-between size, while potentially attractive for one-handed use, is undercut by the fact that, somehow, despite being smaller, the G-Slate is actually a bit heavier than the iPad 2, and a third thicker."

As has been the case recently for other tablet devices, the Apple iPad in its Wi-Fi-only, 16-gigabyte version costs just $499. If you buy the G-Slate without a phone contract, it costs $750. The comparable iPad 2, with the same 32 gigabytes of memory offered by the G-Slate, both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, plus its bigger screen, is $729.

Aside from price, the relatively undeveloped state of the apps available for Android devices is an issue, though that is a problem that corrects itself over time, as was the case for the Android Market for smart phones.

Cable's Future Network Will be Flatter

Mobile Shopping Search Grows 181% in U.K.

In the first quarter of 2011, total retail search volumes grew by 29 percent compared with the first quarter of 2010, the British Retail Consortium reports, while mobile retail search traffic grew by 181 percent over the same period.

Mobile searches accounted for 11 percent of total retail searches in the first quarter of 2011, the BRC says.

Retail searches grew fastest for multi-channel retailers, usually those using physical stores and the internet, with search growth of 42 percent, year over year. Searches for online-only retailers grew 19 percent, year over year.

The number of overseas consumers searching for U.K. retailers grew by 27 percent in the first quarter of 2011, year over year, while the number of UK consumers searching for overseas retailers grew by 21 percent in the first quarter of 2011, year over year.
same period a year earlier.

Android Market Eclipses Apple App Store for Free Apps

The Google Android Market eclipsed the Apple App Store for iPhone in terms of free applications and now has 134,342 free applications, while the Apple App Store iPhone has 121,845 free applications, Distimo reports.

If all application stores maintain their current growth pace, approximately five months from now Google Android Market will be the largest store in terms of number of applications followed by the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad, Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, BlackBerry App World and Nokia Ovi Store.

The rise of Windows Phone 7 and the relative decline of BlackBerry and Nokia as leaders in the smartphone category might have something to do with the state of the respective app stores. Some observers would say that the Microsoft deal with Nokia, which has Nokia essentially abandoning Symbian for Windows Phone 7, will vault Microsoft into position number three in the smart phone OS market, eclipsing RIM.

Looking at history, one would be hard pressed to imagine why RIM would remain a force, or perhaps even viable, in a market so dominated by the iPhone and Android, with Microsoft claiming the third spot, in terms of share. There is not much precedent for a viable "number four or five" provider in the mobile OS ecosystem. So as shocking as the assertion might be, it appears RIM's best days, even its existence as an independent company, are at grave risk.

The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace will also be larger than the Nokia Ovi Store and BlackBerry App World prior to the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace being available for even a full year, Distimo says.
One year after launching the iPad, Apple will be confronted with its first serious competition as both BlackBerry and Google enter the emerging tablet market.

Apple has already seized momentum and grown the App Store for iPad in the first year to 75,755 applications developed by 21,975 publishers. Daily downloads in the "Top 100 Overall" paid and free applications for iPad combined exceed 500,000, while the daily revenue in the Top 100 paid is approximately $400,000 excluding in-app purchases.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Studios Split on Selling Content to YouTube

Hollywood’s major studios do not always march in lockstep over key industry issues. It appears they are divided over licensing of content to YouTube for its new movie on demand service.

Fox and Paramount have said they will “not move forward with any deal at this time." Disney hasn't said anything final, one way or the other, while Warner Bros., Sony and Universal have just concluded deals to license content to YouTube for rental.

Executives at the hold-out studios reportedly are not opposed to a deal, but want more assurance from Google that it will take a harder line on piracy, specifically linking to pirate sites in Google searches or selling advertising on such sites.

But it seems likely all the studios ultimately will want to work with YouTube. Its 130 million potential buyers represent a huge audience, and are especially interesting demographically. YouTube viewers skew younger, and probably are the sorts of viewers unaccustomed to buying video and might be only lukewarm about the theater experience.

In the online video business, it often is the content owners who dictate the pace of movement, even when other partners are willing.

Social Shopping: What's the Big Deal?

How do you use 1Gbps Internet links? Chattanooga residents find out

With the caveat that much will depend on how Google prices its symmetrical 1-Gbps service in Kansas City, Kan., results from Chattanooga, Tenn. suggest that prices will have to be substantially lower than anything consumers yet have seen, to entice people to pay for a full 1-Gbps worth of capability. See

EPB's fiber network currently covers all 600 square miles serviced by the community-owned Electric Power Board, which has also provided electricity for decades. EPB rolled out a 1-Gbps upgrade in the fall of 2010, but it "hasn't been flooded with calls" for the service, says David Wade, EPB COO.

Indeed, even this may be overstating current demand; only six or seven Chattanooga residents and "several businesses" have ordered the high-end service, which launched with a $350 per month price tag.

Most customers likely are buying the typical triple-play packages of video, phone and broadband access at speeds up to about 30 Mbps that EPB sells for about $120 a month. EPB also sells 50 Mbps connections and 100 Mbps connections as well as the top-end 1-Gbps service.

In November 2010, EPB said it was "ahead of our business plan projections. Since our launch last September (2009), we have signed up 18,873 homes to our EPB fiber optics services."

That is a 15.5 percent take rate. The EPB goal is a 35 percent take rate, and EPB believed in November 2010 that it would reach that level by 2012 or early 2013. See

So Google faces a bit of a quandry. Does it really want to make money providing access, or does it want to provide a testing ground for new applications and consumer behaviors. The goals might be contradictory.

Comcast's Over-the-Top Dilemma

Comcast Corp. executives are talking about the possibility of selling its own programming to subscribers outside its cable footprint, Senior Vice President of Video Distribution Mark Hess says.

But there are obvious internal struggles over that potential policy. While its programming arm, which now includes NBCUniversal LLC , could benefit from an over-the-top play, Comcast's cable operation is focused on selling a triple play of video, high-speed data and voice to subscribers within its own franchise areas, he says.

So Comcast faces the same issues other content owners have to contend with, namely fostering growth in the emerging online distribution business while protecting the existing multichannel video distributor channel.

500 million people worldwide to use their mobiles as metro and bus tickets by 2015

Half a billion people worldwide will use their mobile devices as travel tickets on metros, subways and buses by 2015, according to Juniper Research. This is over five times the number generated last year.

Significantly, Juniper expects usage to spread widely from the current concentration of users and providers in Japan and several European countries.

Outside Japan, systems in operation typically use SMS or bar codes, but near field communications is expected to start driving usage by 2013.

That makes sense, as transit tickets represent one of the most-obvious scenarios where a mobile device makes great sense as a mobile payment method. It is a repeated, routine type of purchase involving relatively small amount of money, in a setting where people are moving about, often in a hurry, and where a simple "waive and go" purchase method saves lots of time.

Verizon Tweets: "We're aware of an issue with 4G, LTE"

 Verizon Wireless 
We're aware of an issue with   connections & our network engineers are working to resolve quickly. Will update here.

Verizon Wireless Says 4G Network Is Down

"Verizon Wireless said its 4G network was suffering an outage April 27, 2011.

It's the first major problem for Verizon's 4G wireless network, which launched late in 2010.

"Our 4G LTE customers are experiencing connection issues to the LTE network," said a Verizon spokesman.

It's unclear how widespread the problem is, but it might be a nationwide problem.

New Google Docs App for Android

The new "Google Docs" app for Android allows users to filter and search for their content across any Google account, then jump straight into editing docs using the online mobile editors. The app also allows users to easily share items with contacts on their phones, right from within the app.

The Docs app also allows users to upload content from their phones and open documents directly from Gmail. Users can add a widget to their home screens for easy access to three core tasks: jumping to your starred documents, taking a photo to upload, or creating a new document with one tap.
Using the app and the phone’s camera, users can turn photos with text into editable Google documents. Just create a new "Document from Photo" or select the camera icon from the widget, and a converted document will appear in the user's documents list shortly after the user snaps the picture.

One immediate use case: all those conference attendees who snap photos of slides during presentations now can turn the pictures into text documents for later sharing.

Users can also convert photos already stored on your phone by sharing them with the Google Docs app.

CenturyLink Buys Savvis

CenturyLink is acquiring Savvis, allowing creation of a business unit that will operate 48 data centers located in North America, Europe, and Asia with more than 1.9 million square feet of gross floor space; a national 207,000 route mile fiber network, a 190,000 mile global access network; and a customer list that includes a majority of the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies.

That is a dramatically different customer profile from the legacy rural telecom operations that have been a staple for CenturyLink, and might provide more evidence that CenturyLink plans a future that is quite different from its past. The acquisition of Qwest brought CenturyLink a handful of larger metro markets and the Qwest national and global operations as well.

Some might have questioned the fit between CenturyLink's legacy customer base and the arguably-different profile of the Qwest enterprise and metro markets customer bases. But the Savvis buy indicates that CenturyLink plans to grow beyond its historic rural carrier emphasis to reposition at least part of the company's operations in non-traditional markets and customer spaces.

"With the addition of Savvis, CenturyLink will achieve global scale as a managed hosting and colocation provider and will accelerate its ability to deliver quality managed hosting and cloud capabilities to its business customers," the company says.

read more here

Cable Ops Want Adaptive Streaming

New mobile and untethered device support is a key reason those capabilities are important.

How Do You Take on Paypal?

PayPal has a mobile app. Venmo thinks it has an app that works better for peer-to-peer payments. And Paypal expects its mobile payment app to be used for $2 billion worth of purchases in 2011.

You might not think that making a payment app "social" will be enough to carve out new space in mobile payments, but Venmo expects to try. First of all, Venmo will make it easy for users to review their history of payments. Second, Venmo will allow users to share the history with other people.

When you go to pay someone in Venmo's app, it automatically assumes that you want to share your payments (the what, not the how much) with the world on its site and your Facebook account. The social aspects of Venmo are its major differences from PayPal.

In some ways, its an analogy to "check in."

Verizon Wireless Starts Mobile Vending Machine Payments Business

Verizon Wireless and USA Technologies are teaming up to enable mobile payments at vending machines nationwide. Some will consider this application a form of machine-to-machine communications or the "Internet of things."

Others will say it is more a way for Verizon Wireless to insert itself into the mobile payments value chain. Either way, the deal is a sign that both M2M mobile revenues and mobile payments are viewed as a practical, achievable new revenue stream for some mobile service providers.

Apple Hints That It Will Release Turn-By-Turn Navigation On The iPhone

"Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years," the company says. See

That suggests Apple is building its own turn-by-turn navigation system and service. That presumably will have some implications for the navigation service offered by Garmin, for example, representing about $10 billion in annual revenue.

Apple also would level the playing field with Android devices and Google Maps, whose turn-by-turn navigation application, available for free use on some Android devices and mobile networks, has proven a significant draw for some users.

Google Makes Google Apps Easier for Small Business to Buy

Google has created what it calls the "Flexible Plan," a new $5 per user per month pricing option which requires no contractual commitment, designed to be easier for small businesses to buy and use.

With this plan, businesses can add or remove users as necessary and will automatically be billed for the proper amount, Google says. The current pricing option of $50 per user per year with a one-year commitment, will become the "Annual Plan."

Google also is eliminating upfront payments for new customers to make it easier for them to manage their cash flow. Whether they choose the Flexible or Annual Plan, customers will pay at the end of each month. Google also will offer direct debit in the United States, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain to make payment even easier.

High Teen Computer Use Might Have a Downside

A study of Canadian teenagers by epidemiology PhD candidate Valerie Carson has found that high computer use was associated with approximately 50 per cent increased engagement with "smoking, drunkenness, non-use of seatbelts, cannabis and illicit drug use, and unprotected sex." High television use was also associated with a modestly increased engagement in these activities.

The study might suggest that "seeing people engaged in a behavior is a way of learning that behavior," says Carson. "Since adolescents are exposed to considerable screen time – over 4.5 hours on average each day – they're constantly seeing images of behaviours they can then potentially adopt."

Smart Phones $80 to $100, Globally, in 2012?

James Bruce, lead mobile strategist at ARM, says smart phones now are getting so affordable, at the low end, that they will push feature phones to the side. Vendors are already showing U.S. carriers smart phones at $70 per unit.

Bruce believes this will translate to low-end smartphones with price tags of $80 to $100 in 2012, for consumers worldwide.

How Will Comcast Compete, in the Future?

Sky to Build Own U.K. Broadband Access Network?

Sky, the U.K. ISP, has become the first major U.K. ISP to sign up for a duct-and-pole-sharing trial with BT. Typically, agreements of that sort are necessary when a service provider is getting ready to build a new network, so one must assume Sky is getting ready to build a facilities-based fixed network.

ISPs in the United Kingdom also have the ability to buy wholesale services from Openreach, rather than investing in their own access facilities. So the strategic choices for U.K. ISPs are the typical "build versus buy" alternatives. If it builds its own access network, Sky will have more control over its own pricing and packaging, as it will not be limited, cost-wise, by the built-in wholesale cost of its inputs.

If Sky wants to under-price BT retail products, for example, it can more easily do so if it fully controls price inputs on its owned infrastructure. Likewise, if Sky wants to create new packages that are differentiated from BT's, or those of wholesale customers using the BT wholesale access products, Sky can more easily do so on its owned infrastructure.

BT also signed up business internet service provider Call Flow for a three-month trial to test out the system and assess "real costs" connected with ISPs deploying their own broadband network using BT's wholesale "Openreach" infrastructure.

"Average" U.S. Broadband Speed 5.1 Mbps

The overall average (presumably the arithmetic "mean,") broadband access speed for the United States as a whole in the fourth quarter of 2010 was 5.1 Mbps, according to Akamai.  Consistent with the prior three quarters, the "average" connection speed was exceeded by 21 states and the District of Columbia.

Across the whole country, 43 states and the District of Columbia saw average connection speeds increase year-over-year, with growth rates ranging from a significant 44 percent increase in Montana to a scant 0.7 percent increase in New York. For the seven states that saw average connection speeds decline year-over-year, the losses were fairly modest, ranging from a drop of 0.2 percent in Pennsylvania to a drop of 8.5 percent in Mississippi, Akamai says.

The overall average peak connection speed calculated by Akamai for the United States as a whole for the fourth
quarter was just over 20 Mbps. This was once again met or exceeded by 21 states and the District of Columbia.

read more here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nearly 100 Million HH Online By 2016

An estimated 99.4 million U.S. households will be online by the end of 2016, of which 97.9 million will have broadband services, according to a new forecast from Interpublic Group's Magna Global.

As of the end of the fourth quarter of 2010, about 84.7 million homes, or 71.5% of the total, were online, while 90 percent of these homes accessed the Web using broadband services.

Magna now predicts that 61.9 million U.S. homes, or 50 percent of the total, will subscribe to DVR services by the end of 2016, which would be up from 39.2 million (33.5 percent) at the end of last year.

By 2016, Magna expects that video On demand, including all over-the-top services, will reach 70.1 million households, or about 57 percent of all TV-viewing households.

Google Releases Smartphone Data

How Do Users Find Content?

Top 20 SourcesWhile search still represents 41 percent of the sources leading users to content, social apps are gaining, and now represent about 11 percent of sources, according to a new study by Outbrain.

Of six content verticals examined, stories in the news, entertainment and lifestyle categories are the most likely to receive traffic from social sources.

Traffic coming from social media sources has the highest tendency to bounce, or result in very-brief stays on a site.

Readers who go from one content site to another, moving from one content site to another, are most likely to be engaged in what they’re reading, presumably because they are already in content consumption mode.

Facebook delivers a more diverse audience than Twitter, Outbrain suggests.

Android 2.3.4 could have video calling

Android 2.3.4 might get video calling as a standard feature, a rumor suggests. Honeycomb (3.0) does support video chat using Google Talk.

That feature is one example of the way that applications once thought of as being services provided for a fee are becoming applications used on devices that support the feature natively. It is a fairly broad trend and isn't likely to halt.

Whatever the adjustments that are being made to existing industries and business models, over time more features and apps that once were viewed as services bought from providers have become "just one more app" a communications device using the Internet can support.

AT&T Cracking Down on Tethering Using MyWi

It is in many ways understandable that some consumers think they ought to be able to use applications that allow a standard mobile device with a data plan to be used as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. It perhaps also is understandable that any mobile service provider wants to protect a new line of business providing that feature as a separate revenue driver.

AT&T most recently appears to be notifying users that they cannot use MyWi, an application that can allow the iPhone to be used as a mobile hotspot when the device is jailbroken.

The same sort of conflict arose years ago when many users argued they should be allowed to use the broadband connections that already had paid for to use VoIP apps. Over time, these things tend to get resolved in ways that are not fully the "best" for either users or providers, but they do tend to get settled.

A Predictable Story, Given High Gas Prices and Earth Day

Some stories are predictable. Gas prices rise 100 percent and we start seeing stories showing gas signs and stories about what people are doing to avoid driving. That's not unusual or unexpected. Stories get written around seasons, important events, weather and news of the day.

So it is that Bob McCandless, CEO of BrightCom, a telepresence and video conferencing manufacturer, argues that "one reason why sales are falling at gas stations in the midst of increasing prices is due to the rate of enterprises becoming aware and adopting telecommuting solutions including telepresence and video conferencing to help minimize executive and employee travel."

Whenever gas prices get this high, we see stories about how telecommuting and related underpinnings of telecommuting are helpful.

Sony Announces “Sony Tablet” with Android 3.0 in 2 Form Factors

“Sony Tablet”  S1 (Left), S2 (Right)The new “Sony Tablet” to be available in the fall of 2011 will feature two form factors, including S1 (codename) which is optimized for rich media entertainment and S2 (codename) which is designed for mobile communication and entertainment.

The “Sony Tablet” will use Android 3.0. The S1 uses a relatively standard a 9.4-inch display. The
S2 has two 5.5-inch displays, in a clam shell configuration that is intended for more-mobile use, as the folding screens will collapse into a smaller overall package.

IP Could Change Conditional Access and Need for Dedicated Decoders


OfferedApp Blends Social Shopping with Ad-Supported Apps

The idea of giving consumers something of value in exchange for the right to send or show advertising is not new. In fact, communication service or app providers have periodically experimented with the idea for years. The idea of offering free voice calls in exchange for listening to a few seconds worth of ads has been tried more than once, for example.

More recently, social shopping sites have plumbed a slightly different idea, aggregating groups of potential buyers before triggering an offer. A firm called "OfferedApp" works in both veins, offering users "free" apps that normally sell in app stores, in exchange for the right to show those consumers advertising. It's sort of like Groupon, but with the twist of offering free access to "paid" apps in return for the right to deliver advertising.

Optimum Link: Stream PC Content to TV, Using the Network

The executives at Cablevision Systems Corp. long have had a reputation within the U.S. cable industry of doing things just a bit differently than most. That also extends to applications and services that allow consumers to display PC-delivered content on their TVs.

"Optimum Link," a new service available to Cablevision subscribers, offers the ability to view online content on the subscriber's TVs for $4.95 a month. The feature is included with the "Optimum Ultra" package.

Optimum Link obviously can be used to view videos, pictures, music and other web content, for example.

"If you have iO TV and Optimum Online you can send images and more from your computer to your TV with Optimum Link," Cablevision says. "Just download the Optimum Link software, follow the simple instructions, and turn to iO TV Channel 641."

This is a "service" version of capabilities consumers can obtain using some gameplaying consoles and dedicated set-top boxes, and is conceptually in line with the "network DVR" concept Cablevision fought so hard to create and offer.

How long does it take for a Facebook post to beoome stale? - Social Marketing - BizReport

After one hour and 20 minutes a post on Facebook will have already attracted 50 percent of its total "Likes" and comments, a study by Visibli has found.

By the seventh hour 80 percent of "Likes" and comments have been left and 22 hours later 95 percent of all activity already has occurred.

In essence, that means that if you want maximum exposure post every one hour and 20 minutes but if you want to reach as many on your social graph as possible, one post a day will suffice.

How long does it take for a Facebook post to beoome stale? - Social Marketing - BizReport

After one hour and 20 minutes a post on Facebook will have already attracted 50 percent of its total "Likes" and comments, a study by Visibli has found.

By the seventh hour 80 percent of "Likes" and comments have been left and 22 hours later 95 percent of all activity already has occurred.

In essence, that means that if you want maximum exposure post every one hour and 20 minutes but if you want to reach as many on your social graph as possible, one post a day will suffice.

Normal People Don't "Share," They "Send"

Facebook has replaced its "share" button with "send" button. You might wonder why. Most likely, it's an attempt to leverage user behavior. People who have been using email for a long time are used to "sending," though the notion of "sharing" is not so well entrenched a behavior.

The "Send" button forwards the current Web page a user is on to a Facebook friend or Facebook group. Facebook probably guesses, and probably correctly, that the former "share" function will get more use as a "send" function.

U.S. Smartphone Market is a Bit Like Fashion

Smartphones and other mobile devices are a bit like fashion, introducing a great deal of volatility.

According to The Nielsen Company’s monthly surveys of U.S. mobile consumers from July 2010 to September 2010, consumers planning on getting a new smartphone had a very clear preference: A third (33 percent) wanted an Apple iPhone.

Slightly more than a quarter (26 percent) said they desired a device with the Google Android operating system. And 13 percent said they wanted a RIM Blackberry.

Those same surveys for January 2011 to March 2011 show significant changes. According to the latest figures, 31 percent of consumers who plan to get a new smartphone indicated Android was now their preferred OS. Apple’s iOS has slipped slightly in popularity to 30 percent and RIM Blackberry is down to 11 percent. Almost 20 percent of consumers are unsure of what to choose next.

Developer Enthusiasm for Android, iPhone Pauses a Bit

Android has lost some of its momentum among developers, if not consumers, amid concerns about fragmentation, patent protection and open source credentials. However, the alternatives to the Google OS and Apple iOS are failing, as yet, to take advantage of these weaknesses. In fact, developer interest in the iPhone and iPad also has slipped a bit in recent days, an IDC study sponsored by Appcelerator has found.

Attention is the New Currency

You might argue it is hard to get attention from Millennials. Heck, it's hard to get anybody's attention, these days.

(Graham Brown mobileYouth) #Trends: Paid vs Earned Media

YouTube to Launch Streaming Video Service?

YouTube is launching a movie-on-demand service, TheWrap reports.

Major studios including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Brothers and Universal are said to have licensed their movies for the new service, as have numerous independent studios, including Lionsgate and the library-rich Kino Lorber.

YouTube already sees 130 million monthly users, giving the site a huge potential buyer base.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mobile Banking Growing; Still in Single Digits

By 2015, more than 50 million U.S. adults could be using mobile banking services, says Emmett Higdon, Forrester Research analyst.

In a survey of 5,500 U.S. consumers Javelin conducted in November, 29 percent of respondents said they call their bank and 30 percent log into online banking when they receive an alert about their financial status from their bank, says James Van Dyke, Javelin Strategy and Research president.

Only four percent said they log into mobile banking. By comparison, of the survey respondents that were customers of Bank of America, 25 percent said they call their bank and 38 percent log into online banking. Another seven percent said they log into mobile banking.

"UC is Free!" Might be Going Too Far

Per-seat costs for unified communications are down 50 percent since 2010, a comparison suggests. At Enterprise Connect 2011, 11 major vendors presented UC solutions, each with the four UC building blocks: IM/presence, conferencing (audio, web and video), mobility and extensibility.

Each supplier presented its UC pricing for the standard configuration. The per-user-per-year average prices for the UC-only configurations were down more than 50 percent from last year, to $38 per user per year (software, hardware and maintenance for 2,000 users for three years). Costs are dropping, no doubt.

Storage Failures Hamper Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry, the new cloud platform hosted by VMware, experienced problems with its storage infrastructure April 25, 2011. Cloud Foundry says the issues have affected its cloud controller system, limiting users’ ability to log in and manage their applications. Existing applications will continue to run, but are unable to recover if they experience problems.

“Early this morning we experienced multiple failures in a portion of our storage infrastructure,” CloudFoundry said in a notice on its web site.

Coming on the heels of the Amazon Web Services outage, at least some potential users will be reassessing their options.

Netflix Now Has More Subs Than Comcast

If all that mattered was subscribers, Netflix would be a bigger company than Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company. In the first quarter of 2011, Netflix added 3.6 million subscribers, ending the period with more than 23.6 million subscribers in total. That was up 69 percent from the 14 million subscribers it had a year ago.

Comcast ended 2010 with 22.8 million pay TV subscribers. Of course, subscriber numbers are not the only metric. Comcast's average revenue per user is much higher. Netflix ARPU is about $12 per subscriber, per month. Comcast ARPU is somewhere north of about $82 a month.

read more here

Netflix Earnings Up 88 Percent, Adds 3.3 Million U.S. Subscribers

Netflix added 3.3 million U.S. subscribers in the first quarter of 2011, plus another 290,000 interantionally, to end at 23.6 million, which is slightly below the 3.7 million analayts were hoping for but still double the growth from a year ago.

Netflix saw a rise in domestic operating margins to 16 percent, from 14.9 percent in the fourth quarter, largely due to an increase in streaming-only subscribers and price increases on hybrid subscriptions. Margins should fall back to around 14 percent as streaming and marketing costs continue to rise (offset by declines in DVD shipping).

Content or Context? Both, but Context Might be More Important than You Think

Startups Often Succeed After Failing

One of the certainties about startups is that the initial idea fails, to be replaced by something else that does result in success.

Initial idea: Allow groups of people to band together to accomplish a goal called ThePoint
Eventually: Groupon

Initial idea: Web-based massively multiplayer online game called Game Neverending
Eventually: Flickr

Initial idea: Compare two people’s pictures and rate which one was more attractive
Eventually: Facebook

In-Store Marketing Begins at Home

The Internet has changed many things, including shopping. Among the bigger changes is the amount of research shoppers do before they actually go to a retail location. In other words, a shopper's "buying" process begins before any retailer's "selling process" begins. The implication is that the sales process has to catch people when they are conducting buying research, not after they have finished that research.

Since shoppers now conduct research before they enter a store, retailers have to move up their promotional activities to match the buyer's process, instead of waiting until a shopper is physically on the premises. Saatchi X, for example, used to find that 10 percent of client projects included an online component. Now, virtually 100 percent include an online presence.

Some 62 percent of shoppers surveyed by Booz & Co. report they searched online for deals before they began shopping trips, the Wall Street Journal reports. That might explain why there is new interest in content marketing, where brands invest in various types of online content. It no longer makes sense to be invisible when shoppers are making choices. Rather, brands need to be visible online, when buying processes already are occurring.

It's well known that consumers research expensive products like electronics online, but coming out of the recession, consumers are more scrupulous about researching their everyday products such as diapers and detergent, too, the Wall Street Journal reports.

More than 20 percent of them also research food and beverages, nearly a third research pet products and 39 percent research baby products, even though they ultimately tend to buy those products in stores, according to WSL Strategic Retail, a consulting firm.

The importance of online communications obviously is much higher, and more necessary, if one assumes that key decisions are being made in the virtual sphere. If buyers are making more decisions before they go to a store, then it is important to try and steer traffic towards stores before the more traditional promotion campaigns retailers often have relied upon, in store, can take place.

Content marketing then becomes the first step in the sales process.

Proof that Shoppers are "Shopping" at Home, 8 PM to 10 PM

A study by Compete illustrates the increasing disconnect between many forms of marketing persuasion that are part of the selling process, and the increasingly disarticulated shopper buying process. In other words, people are shopping long before they ever set out to visit a retail store, and at non-traditional retail hours when shopping online.

category visitation by hour march 2011Visits  to most retail categories peaks in the evening hours, around 8 pm to 10 pm. There is a steady increase throughout the day (from about 9 am on), and it drops off around 11 pm. The lowest levels occur in the early morning hours—between 3 am and 5 am, when the fewest people are awake.

Sporting goods retailers see a concentrated peak around 8 pm, after fairly low levels throughout the day. Home improvement sites peak in the morning and remain steady through the afternoon, with an early drop-off at night.

All of that is instructive in terms of its implications for online and mobile promotion, marketing and advertising.

read more here

KPN to Introduce New IM, Skype, Video Plans

One can argue that mobile pricing plans which charge separately for certain applications such as Skype, instant messaging or streaming video would be "consumer surly" by definition. But Netherlands regulators appear to believe that such "per application" charges could be consumer friendly, in particular if they lead to consumer ability to construct customized service packages that correspond to their unique usage patterns and preferences.

KPN has announced plans to charge mobile phone users separate fees for using VoIP services like Skype, instant messaging programs, and streaming video, but specific new rate plans haven't yet been announced. The way it might work is that consumers would buy those sorts of services on plans, just as they now buy voice or text messaging buckets or plans. See
Dutch regulator OPTA has already said publicly that it's fine with the move, so long as KPN is transparent about how it charges. In fact, an OPTA spokesperson said she would "cheer such a development," since it provides more choice for consumers to put together a subscription package that meets their needs.

Will Netflix Add Family Plans?

Netflix will introduce additional streaming plans later this year that will offer the ability to stream to multiple devices simultaneously, GigaOm suggests. The offering could look like a mobile phone family plan, with an option to add additional accounts at a lower price point.

“One option would be to allow an account to add additional concurrent streams (using the analogy of our DVD business, it would be like choosing a higher-priced plan that allows a subscriber to have more DVDs at home)," Netflix states. "Or it could be that there is a price point that would encourage multiple accounts in one household."

The change potentially is important, as it is a step in the direction of "service for people," rather than "service to a location." That also was the difference between mobile and fixed-line adoption. People bought one phone line per home, but each person has a mobile device.

Netflix might be looking a shift towards "personal" consumption rather than "household" consumption. The "personal consumption" market is much bigger than the "household subscription" market.

Businesses Up Tablet, Notebook, E-Reader Spending 30%

Business spending on 3G and 4G devices such as tablets, notebooks, and e-readers was up nearly 30 percent in 2010, compared to 2009.

“A key take away from the research is that the non-handset spending increase trend seems to be universal across all sizes of business,” says Greg Potter, research analyst.  “There are some slight variations in some of the vertical segments but, they too, share a robust 2010 and have a very healthy five-year forecast.”

Enterprise spending makes up over 62 percent of business spending on non-handset data services, spending over $1.9 billion in 2010.

Enterprise (1,000 to 4,999 employees) will increase spending in 2011 by 19.5 percent in the professional services vertical. Small office and home office spending will surpass $275 billion by 2014, In-Stat projects.

The healthcare and social services vertical represents the largest share of spending, over $400 million in 2010.

"Apps as Games" Pointers

There is at the moment heightened interest in building apps that act like games. There are a few good guidelines when attempting to build "game-like" apps.

First and foremost, the apps have to be fun. If it isn't fun, it isn't a game. If it doesn't entertain, it isn't a game. Some apps try to create a game-like feel by awarding points to app users, but that's inadequate, in many cases.

Gaming has to take advantage of the unique aspects of the technology platform. If an app is entirely web-based, it should be socially-connected, interactive, persistent, and take advantage of the comparatively larger screens (and often higher-powered graphics) offered by desktops, laptops, and tablet computers.

If an app is mobile, it should take advantage of location-based services, video and audio recording capabilities of smartphones, the ability to send messages to people no matter where they are, the ability to integrate the telephone, and maybe even how the accelerometer can be used to measure behavior or integrate with the game experience.

Apple has $66 Billion in Cash, and Growing

Apple's growing cash and marketable-securities hoardApple's $66 billion in cash is a nice problem to have.

From time to time investors clamor for Apple to "do something" with the cash, but Apple invariably responds that it simply wants to make sure it has the ability to make big moves if it has to, or wants to.

So far, Apple hasn't ever made a big acquisition, though.

How SmugMug survived the Amazon Outage

SmugMug, a photo-sharing site, says four simple things allowed it to survive the recent Amazon Web Services outage, despite its reliance on Amazon and cloud computing infrastructure. Geographical dispersion is the first principle. SmugMug uses "multiple Availability Zones." When there is a problem at one of the three centers, service continues from the other sites. The company also "designed for failure," assuming there would be a major outage at some point, requiring backup systems and components.

SmugMug does not use "Elastic Block Storage," which failed during the recent outage. SmugMug also does not rely completely on cloud computing. "The exact types of data that would have potentially been disabled by the EBS meltdown don’t actually live at AWS at all; it all still lives in our own datacenters," says company CEO Don MacAskill.

The advice is obvious. When using cloud computing facilities, an organization requires the same level of redundancy as when using facilities on the premises, or in an owned data center.

When Better Broadband Might Not Help

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, in detailing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on various sectors of the Wisconsin economy...