Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2015: Key Trends

In 2015, mobile devices will have bigger screens, more capabilities, and many more users will have more than 100 apps, says Robert Scoble.

Home entertainment systems will increasingly go completely Internet connected and many people will unplug their cable systems.

All media will be streamed and very few users will have downloadable files anymore.

There will be “apps of apps.” In other words, there will be apps that join many apps together.

Social networking will be far more nuanced than it is today.

Study: 60% of Generation Y Leaning Toward Cutting the Cord

Fully 60 percent of survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 are either leaning towards or seriously considering giving up multichannel video services, a survey by Ideas and Solutions has found.

"Cost was the major factor in cord-cutters decisions, with 69 percent of "at-risk" respondents and 61 percent of "leaners" citing it as the primary reason for cutting the cord. See http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/reports-see-generation-y-poverty-193432.

While Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and the like don't offer video services comparable with pay TV, "when faced with a choice of pay TV or a third meal, will some customers choose to make do with a back catalog or off-the-run TV shows and movies?," asked Craig Moffett, Sanford C.
Bernstein analyst. "Of course they will."

"Other ways I can watch entertainment content" was the reason given by 36 percent of "at-risk" respondents and 35 percent for the "leaners."

Nearly 50 percent of those at risk of cutting the cord are Netflix and Hulu users as opposed to 29 percent of "loyalists" and 42 percent of "leaners."

The study of 500 respondents ed 18 to 29 who were current multichannel TV subscribers.

68% of Marketers Did a Website Redesign in the Last 12 Months

Fully 68 percent of marketers said they redesigned their website in the last 12 months, including 34 percent in the last three months plus another 34 percent from 4 to 12 months ago, according to HubSpot. And, the marketing teams are the ones driving the majority of the website redesign projects. About 55 percent of the website redesigns were initiated by the marketing team.

That might be a bit more than you'd expect, but I have yet to encounter many websites that wasn't essentially "always in beta."

YouTube’s "Studio" Strategy

Some liken YouTube to the distributor role multichannel TV networks now hold. Others might liken the role to that of HBO. Either way, YouTube wants to encourage new "native to the Web" content developers that essentially act as studios, fostering creation of video that has more of the appeal of professionally-created video.

For YouTube, it is all about scale, and networks of loosely aligned online video producers scale better than individual shows and viral-video phenoms. In fact, there is a brand new department inside YouTube called Networks that reports to global head of content Dean Gilbert. The purpose of the department is encourage the formation of these outside networks which then use YouTube as their distribution channel.

Nortel Patent Portfolio is of Interest Because of 4G

At its peak, in 2000, Nortel had a market value of $350 billion and 86,000 employees. At one time, the stock represented 36 percent of the entire value of the Toronto Stock Exchange. See http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0012362. On June 20, 2010, Nortel will no longer exist and the intellectual property it owns will be sold off to the highest bidder.

Of course, Lucent doesn't exist anymore, either. Nor does Scientific-Atlanta or General Instrument, once the two dominant technology companies serving the U.S. cable industry. That tells you something about the fundamental changes in the cable and telecom industries, aside from the value of assets serving those industries.

Google has made a formal bid for the patent portfolio, but many believe Ericsson, Research in Motion and Apple also might bid.
Some say the move is simply a defensive one for Google and Apple because a treasure chest of patents is increasingly seen as a strong defense against intellectual property litigation. According to research firm Fairfield Resources, there are 105 patent families essential to 4G technologies. Nokia holds 57 of these, Ericsson 14. Nortel holds about seven of the families.

Consumer Satisfaction with Subscription TV Falls

Video cord cutting has new drivers, a new study by Edelman suggests. As consumers are accessing content from multiple devices, 68 percent of US and UK consumers think the value they are getting from the entertainment industry has fallen, and only 17 percent of all respondents feel that entertainment sources today provide 'very good' or 'excellent' value.

One might infer there is very high latent dissatisfaction with current offerings, and presumably high receptiveness to alternatives.

At the same time, social media is arguably emerging as a potential contributor to changing end user perceptions of the value of linear video entertainment subscriptions, just as video games and other Web applications earlier established their own places within end user discretionary time pursuits.

According to the 2011 Edelman “Value, Engagement and Trust in the Era of Social Entertainment” survey, 63 percent of UK respondents and 56 percent of US respondents report they are spending more “entertainment” time than a year ago with the Internet, and 40 percent in the UK and 49 percent in the US report spending more time with social media.

Broadband Choices Tend to Be Rational, No Matter What Experts Say

People often buy products, or use those products in ways not originally intended. People also sometimes buy products experts think they should not buy. Consider the matter of broadband access. Virtually all studies suggest that fixed line access “works better” than terrestrial wireless, mobile broadband or satellite broadband, whether the measure is peak throughput or latency.

But all the evidence suggests that people continue to buy mobile broadband and satellite access services. In fact, there is evidence from the United Kingdom that significant numbers of people in the U.K. market buy mobile broadband access in place of fixed access, even though the mobile service has limitations, compared to fixed access.

One has to assume consumers are illogical, or that they mostly are buying products based on overall utility, and that value is not defined by top download speed or even latency.

Android Leads U.S. Smart Phone Market Share and Data Usage

smartphone-data-usageAccording to Nielsen’s April 2011 survey of mobile consumers, 36 percent of smart phone consumers now have an Android device, compared to 26 percent for Apple iOS smartphones (iPhones) and 23 percent for RIM Blackberry.

Some 74 percent of Android smart phone owners and 79 percent of iPhone owners report having downloaded apps in the past 30 days. About 43 percent of Android owners and 46 percent of iPhone owners say they streamed online music or mobile radio in the past 30 days.

Also, 35 percent of Android smart phone consumers and 37 percent of iPhone owners report having watched video or mobile TV in the past 30 days.

But smart phone users still consume little data, compared to fixed-line PC users. Android users used 582 Mbytes per month. BlackBerry users consumed just 127 Mbytes.

Human Brain Limits Twitter Friends To 150

Virtually all social networks, even when originally composed of people one actually knows, become "media" at about the point that any user reaches 150 people in the network, research suggests, because a human being cannot actually maintain more than 150 "strong link" relationships at a time.

Bruno Goncalves and researchers at Indiana University recently studied the network of links created by three million Twitter users over four years. These tweeters sent each a whopping 380 million tweets.

Researchers say it's not enough simply to follow or be followed by somebody for there to be a strong link. Instead, there has to be a conversation, an exchange of tweets. And these conversation have to be regular to be a sign of a significant social bond, so occasional contacts don't count.

At some point, "strong links" have to be replaced by "weak links." And turns any social network into a broadcast medium.

Will Facebook Credits Work as a Real-World Currency?

horizonfacebookcreditsMillions of Facebook users use Facebook Credits to pay for virtual goods inside games like CityVille and FarmVille. But the logical next step is to use Facebook Credits to purchase digital and real-world goods. That might have some implications for mobile payments, in some instances.

This has begun to transpire; we are seeing a robust Facebook Credit economy for virtual goods and an early stage Facebook Credit economy emerging for digital and real-world goods. Facebook Credits are used to purchase movie rentals, for example.

Twitter Becoming a Niche Media?

Some believe Twitter will increasingly be a one-to-a-few medium, with a small base of hard-core users, increasingly selective about the contents they broadcast and who they follow. To be sure, power Twitter users are few. About five percent of the users account for 75 percent of the page views.

As an example, a recent Pew Research study indicates that 85 percent of USA Today.com users visit the site less than three times a month. And for the top 25 American news sites, “power users” who visit a site more than 10 times a month, account for seven percent of total visits.

That has some observers questioning Twitters’s limitations as a channel to drive consumption of online news. According the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism, Twitter is an insignificant referral (one percent) source for news when compared to Facebook (five percent) or Google (30 percent).

YouTube Reaches 3 Billion Daily Views

youtube 6 months infographicMore than 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, the company says. This constitutes a 37 percent increase over the last six months, and 100 percent over the last year.

YouTube also has surpassed the three billion views-per-day mark. This is a 50 percent increase over views last year.

Apple has Serious Brand Equity

Researcher Eric Fisher analyzed millions of Flickr photos and recorded where each was taken by using associated geotags. He determined that the four most popular places to snap photos in Manhattan: Times Square (4), Columbus Circle (3), Rockefeller Center, (2) and the 5th Avenue Apple Store (1).

'Please ReTweet' Generates 4x More ReTweets

please retweet binaryDan Zarella, writing at HubSpot, suggests that asking followers to "re-tweet" actually results in much-higher re-tweet rates. After analyzing more than 10,000 tweets and found that 51 percent of tweets that included 'Please ReTweet' were retweeted more than once, 39 percent of those including 'Please RT' were re-tweeted more than once, and only 12 percent of tweets that included neither were retweeted more than once.

QoS is Next Frontier for Broadband, Ovum Says

Asus Launches Padfone

Padfone2Asus is the latest firm to market a converged smartphone-plus-dock approach to smart phones. The Padfonecombines a smartphone and a tablet computer into one symbiotic gadget that allows users to choose the screen size that best fits their activities while sharing data and 3G Internet access.

The Padfone features a way to dock the smart phone inside the tablet to give users an expanded view. With the phone docked, it can recharge from the tablet’s larger battery and the tablet can also make use of the smartphone’s 3G Internet connection.

The dual interfaces for both the pad and phone ensure the layout is automatically adjusted for all activities such as video conferencing, web browsing and emailing.

When Do "Features" Become "Attributes"?

Nobody thinks of a "battery" as a feature of a mobile device, unless the battery offers unusual performance. On the other hand, few really consider short battery life when using Internet features a key "bug," either. People just learn that their batteries won't last very long when they are using the Internet on their mobiles. That's a bit like the ability to make and receive phone calls. It isn't a feature, just an expected capability or attribute of a mobile phone.

But some features do, over time, become mere attributes. That might be happening to Research in Motion, which once dominated the "email-optimized smart phone market. It isn't so clear that the ability to use email on a smart phone any longer is a clear feature, as opposed to an attribute or expected capability.

The point is that when features become mere capabilities, the ability to build a whole market segment based on that feature also goes away. That might be one key reason for RIM's faltering market share.

So now Blackberry’s most significant feature – email – is no longer very interesting.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Google Wallet Has Advertising as Revenue Model

Advertising has become a revenue model for software. Now Google Wallet takes the concept another step by attempting to make advertising the foundation for mobile-based payments.

Though mobile payments often are seen as a mobile phone replacement for use of a credit or debit card for retail payments, Google Wallet is more of an advertising play. Sure, it will store loyalty program credentials, but the clear new revenue model is ads, promotional emails and store coupons.

Twitter Is Launching Its Own Photosharing Service?

Twitter is reported ready to unveil its own photo-sharing service, according to TechCrunch, a move that will place Twitter in direct competition with some of its own third-party developers, but which some say is a logical step for Twitter to take, given the popularity of photo sharing and its obvious relevance for sharing fast-breaking news and opinions.

24% of U.S. Internet Users Have Used PC-Based VoIP

Nearly a quarter of American adult Internet users (24 percent) polled by the Pew Internet and American Life Project say they have placed phone calls from their computer using a service such as Vonage or Skype. That amounts to 19 percent of all American adults.

On any given day five percent of Internet users are going online to place phone calls, Pew researchers say.

Both figures are marked increases from previous readings in surveys by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Using different question wording, the Project found in February 2007 that eight percent of Internet users (six percent of all adults) had placed calls online and two percent of Internet users were making calls on any given day.

The latest survey was the first time that Pew researchers had asked the question using this wording: “Please tell me if you ever use the internet to make a phone call online, using a service such as Skype or Vonage?"

Users Trust Product Information Found on Blogs

Some 88 percent of active blog readers surveyed by Nielsen Co. on behalf of BlogHer  trust the information they get from familiar blogs. Asked why they have this level of trust, nearly half (48 percent) say it’s because they had made purchases in the past based on blog recommendations and were satisfied with the results.

Over 50 percent of the active blog readers in the general U.S. online population have made a purchase based on a blog recommendation, the study found. That number jumps to 80 percent in the BlogHer network community.

The top categories where BlogHer users turn for reviews include food and beverage (67 percent), clothing and shoes (67 percent), movies (62 percent), and cosmetics (59 percent).  

In the general online population, the top vertical for blog reviews is consumer electronics.

Every week, 78 percent of online women use some form of social media, and 40 percent read blogs that frequently, the study suggests.

BlogHer says a key implication is that, when it comes to product recommendations and information, consumers now trust the voice of any "person like me" over just about any "corporate" voice.

Women bloggers talk about brands and products regularly, authentically, and enthusiastically. Brands should find the bridge that will help them join in.

Facebook is very highly adopted in the online population, approaching the level of adoption that television enjoys. It's also clear that there are two driving forces that cause active social media participants to turn to Facebook: to keep in touch with friends and family (78 percent) and to relax and have fun (55 percent). Why? Facebook has made it very easy to quickly check in, catch up, and play a game or two. It's all about digestible, casual, friendly interplay.

Users do not go to Facebook expecting to research potential product purchases. Instead, those same users turn to blogs to spot trends (47 percent), research products (35 percent), and drive purchasing decisions (25 percent), BlogHer suggests.

But most women surveyed by Nielsen still turn to search, and the ensuing links to blog posts, websites, and articles, when they want to research and ultimately make purchases. That suggests the clear rationale behind multi-channel strategies.

Bh social media 0511 without notes
View more presentations from BlogHer

See  http://www.blogher.com/2011-social-media-matters-study

PayPal Lawsuit Against Google Won't Derail Google Wallet

PayPal's lawsuit against Google alleges that former Google employees took proprietary information to Google. If past precedents hold, PayPal's suit will fail to halt Google Wallet. Courts have in the past ruled that even "non-compete" clauses of employment agreements are unenforceable, one might note.

Friday, May 27, 2011

155 Different Digital Marketing Channels Complicate Choices

One reason digital marketing has gotten so complex is that there are so many channel choices. A recent Adobe global survey of 1,941 respondents, primarily at businesses headquartered primarily in North America, Western Europe and Japan shows that 155 different digital venues now are in operation by businesses.

In addition to the expected emphasis on websites and web analytics, social communities, blogs and microblogs were among the tactics respondents were using most frequently. Mobile tactics, starting from a low base, are growing rapidly, however.

As you might guess, though marketers are unsure about the return on investment from social and mobile tactics, that uncertainty is not preventing companies from investing in the tactics.

While a majority (58 percent) of the respondents say social has a positive impact on conversion, social
features garnering the most “very effective” ratings remain those more mature and proven tactics like
customer reviews and ratings.

In fact, unchanged for the last three years, the social features that drew the most “very effective” votes this year are user comments and reviews, and user ratings and rankings, cited as “very effective” by 32 percent of the respondents.

The content marketing angles are clear. Content has to be created in order for users to comment, review and rank products and services.

Social and mobile tactics, though, are poised to be adopted quickly by small businesses, Adobe says.
Despite the mixed outlook on social and mobile’s effectiveness, that these tactics are among the most planned deployments suggests that small businesses are bypassing tools like site analytics, universally deployed by large businesses.

Instead, smaller businesses are eyeing leading-edge tactics in social and mobile as a fast-track
to reaching users and converting them.

Fully 73 percent of the businesses surveyed say they plan to invest in website redesigns or would otherwise make significant enhancements to improve their site’s return on investment. The vast majority (82 percent) say they plan to deploy those enhancements within the year.

Analytics, social media, and rich media and merchandising are the most deployed tactics globally, while mobile apps, social executions and rich media are among the top planned tactics.

Read more here

Business use of ‘big-screen’ mobile broadband to triple

The number of connections for "big-screen" mobile Internet devices (tablets and notebooks) used for business will almost triple over the next five years as the worldwide workforce becomes increasingly mobile, predicts Ovum.

Broadband connections for devices such as laptops and tablets on enterprise contracts will hit 74 million by 2015, up from 25.8 million in 2010 and a compound annual growth rate of 24 per cent.

Use of mobile handsets will continue to dominate the enterprise market with connections on enterprise contracts predicted to hit 233 million by 2015, a CAGR of six per cent from 2010 to 2015.

Meanwhile, total global revenues for the enterprise mobile market will reach $146 billion in 2015, with the majority of growth globally coming from the use of data services.

Cisco to Unveil New Wholesale Managed Services?

Cisco Systems believes it has found a gap in the telecom managed services market and is set to unveil a new white-label offering for operators in the coming weeks. Cisco will attempt to sell the managed service, called SmartOps, to telecom operators looking to serve small business customers.

Operators are expected to brand the service under their own names, which would be run from a Cisco data center.

6% of U.S. Mobile Owners Used a Shopping App Last 3 Months

About six percent of U.S. mobile phone owners have used a dedicated shopping application in the last three months, according to Forrester Research. That doesn't include any shopping-related activities using a standard mobile browser.

CEO Changes Evidence of Computing Era Shift?

Hewlett-Packard Co., Google Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. lead technology companies with a combined $265 billion in market value on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that have changed CEOs since August 2010. That’s up from companies worth $75 billion a year earlier. Privately held Twitter Inc. replaced its CEO in October, a month after Finland’s Nokia Oyj did the same.

There now are calls for replacing Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer and Cisco CEO John Chambers. Research In Motion probably is next, said Bill Coleman, a partner at venture capital firm Alsop Louie Partners in San Francisco.

One wonders whether the changes are just one more sign that a new computing era, to be lead by new firms, is gaining momentum, pressuring the old leaders.

Those of you familiar with the evolution of computing technology over the past few decades are aware of the way historians describe the key "eras" of that history. We begin with mainframe computing, transition to mini-computers, then to personal computers, then to a period we generally call the "Internet" or "Web" era and now seem to be at the beginning of the next era, for which we do not generally agree on a name.

The point we like to make is that, in each era, and eras do not break cleanly and neatly into 10-year periods, there are some firms which dominate the business in terms of market share and influence. What we also have seen, though, is a different set of leaders in each era.

Apple might be the anomaly, as it is in so many other ways. Some will argue that Apple already was a "leader" in the PC era. Others of us who once were Apple fanatics and were forced by our trading partners to join the Wintel orbit might not agree that Apple was a leader in the PC era.

In that case Apple might yet remain a candidate to emerge as among the leaders of the next era. But you already can see that leadership is shifting to software companies rather than "hardware" firms.

PayPal Sues Google Over Google Wallet

PayPal has filed a lawsuit accusing Google of stealing trade secrets because former PayPal executive, Osama Bedier now works at Google.

Stephanie Tilenius, another ex-PayPal executive now at Google, violated contractual obligations by recruiting Bedier, PayPal said.

Bedier “is now leading Google’s efforts to bring point of sale technologies and services to retailers on its behalf,” according to the complaint. “Bedier and Google have misappropriated PayPal trade secrets by disclosing them within Google and to major retailers.”

All Spectrum below 5 GHz for Mobile Broadband?

"I think mobile broadband will occupy all of the spectrum below 5 GHz in five years," said Telstra general manager Brian Miller, as Australian authorities prepare for mobile spectrum auctions expected to happen in 2012. Whether that was just a bit of exuberance or a genuine belief is hard to say, but it is nothing if not bold.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority plans to auction 700 MHz frequencies as well as 2.5 GHz licenses for mobile use, and is expected to underpin new Long Term Evolution fourth generation mobile networks.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vast Majority of Small Businesses Unaware of Cloud Computing?

Some 71 percent of small businesses surveyed by Newtek Business Services said they have never heard of cloud computing. The poll of approximately 1,800 respondents found 26 percent of those who had heard of cloud computing could describe what it was. See http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/most-smbs-ignorant-of-cloud-computing-30355.

On the other hand, during the first half of 2010, 14 percent of small and medium businesses reported using cloud computing services and another 10 percent reported plans to deploy cloud-based services, according to a study by Spiceworks.

Twice as many SMB information technology professionals (28 percent) are using cloud solutions today compared to the second half of 2010 (14 percent).

The difference in survey findings might be that the Newtek survey is of non-technical business owners, while the Spiceworks survey is of IT professionals. One might assume the Newtek respondents do not have in-house technology staffs, while the Spiceworks respondents in fact work in that capacity.

Growth plans for 2011 continue to be aggressive, as another 14 percent of IT professionals plan to start using the cloud by midyear. In all, 42 percent of SMB IT pros plan to be using cloud services by mid-2011.

Among SMB IT pros using the cloud today, 39 percent use the cloud for web hosting, making it the single largest varietal in the cloud family. Another 14 percent plan to start using the cloud for web hosting within the first half of 2011.

As for other cloud services, email hosting (32 percent), data backup and recovery services (29 percent) and application hosting (25 percent) were top applications.

The 1,500 Spiceworks respondents work at firms with fewer than 1,000 employees. But the study suggests smaller SMBs are more aggressive when it comes to cloud services adoption than their larger SMB counterparts. See http://www.crn.com/news/cloud/226700068/smbs-gobbling-up-cloud-computing-in-2010.htm.

Some 38 percent of SMBs with fewer than 20 employees use or plan to use cloud solutions in the next six months, the Spiceworks survey found. This adoption rate is markedly higher than the 17 percent of organizations with between 20 and 99 and the 22 percent of organizations with more than 100 employees that use or plan to use cloud services over the same time period.

Technology companies also are adopting cloud services at a faster pace. Some 34 percent of SMBs in the tech sector use or are planning to use cloud services. Companies in the services sector (finance, HR, consulting) comprise next fastest growing vertical segment with 22 percent using or planning to deploy cloud solutions.

So Where are the Net Neutrality Rules?

It has been about five months since the Federal Communications Commission decided to impose network neutrality rules on fixed line access providers. But the actual rules haven't been published in the Federal Register, so haven't taken effect.

That is an unusually long delay, and some think it will take another five months before the rules actually are published. The delay, say FCC officials, has to do with the sheer complexity of implementing the order. In other words, some might say, it isn't easy to quantify exactly what has to be done, what cannot be done, and how to collect information to ascertain what is happening.

Then, once the actual orders are published, the lawsuits will start to be filed, leading to possibly years more delay. And in the meantime, it is entirely possible that the market participants might themselves come to some understanding that either side steps the rules or makes them unnecessary.

PayPal Payouts with Facebook Credits

Developers signing up for "Facebook Credits" as a currency will have the option to use PayPal as a payout option, Facebook says. When signing up for Facebook Credits for the first time, developers can add an existing PayPal account as well

Adding PayPal offers more flexibility and choice for payouts and makes it even easier to monetize apps with Facebook Credits. It also raises the issue of what "currency" or "money" is, or could be. In the same way that airline miles now are a form of currency, so "credits" or "tokens" or other mechanisms could emerge as a supplemental form of "money," both in the mobile and online spaces.

Google Passes Yahoo in Online Display Advertising

Google has passed Yahoo as the biggest seller of online display ads in the United States, according to IDC.

Google's share of the U.S. display ad market grew to 14.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to Yahoo's 12.3 percent, IDC says. Google's share is growing fast (up from 13.3 percent last year), while Yahoo's is declining almost as fast (down from 13.6 percent last year).

Google had $396 million in display ad revenue in the quarter, compared to Yahoo's $330 million. And Yahoo's second-place position is under threat: Facebook is well within striking distance, with $238 million.

U.S. online revenue overall is up around $7 billion a quarter, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Google Wallet: Smaller, Impulse Buys are Likely Sweet Spot

Google Wallet has launched with a rather impressive set of partners spanning the key retail, finance and mobile ecosystems, each of which is necessary.

The leveraging of the MasterCard "PayPass" network is important, as it brings potential access to more than 124,000 merchants in United States.

But the partnerships with Verifone, Hypercom and perhaps others will put Google Wallet in next-generation point of sale terminals over time. But it is the immediate installed base of terminals that is most important right now.

Starbucks signed up so many users for its mobile payment system in part because it was able to use the entire installed base of POS terminals, did not have to create or recreate a payment system or deal too much with the number of smart phones able to use the network.

One would not be surprised if the "killer" transactions turn out to be relatively small purchases, many of an impulse nature. Walgreens and Subway provide examples. People will probably spend a relatively small amount per transaction, but might conduct transactions relatively frequently.

Google Wallet Highlights a Business Model

PartnersGoogle's new mobile wallet illustrates the expected potential of local and mobile advertising, promotion, loyalty offers and "offers" as a full-blown revenue model in the mobile payments space, having nothing to do directly with the revenue earned by card issuers from the actual payment transactions.

Google says its service will start out with "daily deals" but will expand into things like check-in offers. Though much attention remains focused on new "payments" platforms, the local advertising, mobile advertising and promotion businesses are seen by Google as the opportunities it wants to focus upon, logically enough, given its advertising revenue model.

Google Launches Mobile Wallet

Google has launched its "SingleTap" mobile wallet service, working with Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint. Google suggests one of the advantages, aside from reducing the need to carry multiple loyalty program cards and credentials, are savings and offers of various types.

Google Wallet is a key part of Google's strategy for enhancing shopping for both businesses and consumers. "It’s aimed at making it easier for you to pay for and save on the goods you want, while giving merchants more ways to offer coupons and loyalty programs to customers, as well as bridging the gap between online and offline commerce," Google says. See http://www.google.com/wallet/.

At first, Google Wallet will support both Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you’ll be able to fund with almost any payment card.

Users will have to use a Google Nexus S at first, since that is the only Android device that natively supports near field communications. The service also will be available in a limited number of cities.

Google Wallet is built to work with the fast growing MasterCard PayPass network—a merchant point of sale service that enables consumers to tap to pay. As a result, Google Wallet will immediately be accepted at more than 124,000 PayPass-enabled merchants nationally and more than 311,000 globally.

Google is also working with point of sale systems companies and top retail brands to create a new SingleTap shopping experience. Consumers will be able to pay for an item using a credit card or gift card, redeem promotions and earn loyalty points—all with a single tap of their Google Wallet. Google is working with VeriFone, Hypercom, Ingenico, VIVOTech and others to develop these next generation point of sale systems.

Retailers participating in the new SingleTap experience include: American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdale’s, Champs Sports, The Container Store, Duane Reade, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Foot Locker, Guess, Jamba Juice, Macy’s, Noah's Bagels, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, RadioShack, Subway, Toys“R”Us and Walgreens.

“Google Wallet allows us to harness the power of mobile technology to enhance our in-store shopping experience and helps bridge the gap between our online and in-store consumer interactions,” said Martine Reardon, executive vice-president of marketing and advertising, Macy's. “Macy's is always looking for cutting-edge technology that will deliver value and engage our customers in personal ways. Google Wallet delivers this unique interaction across channels.”
The first Google Wallet field tests are focused in New York and San Francisco, where many retailers, Coca-Cola vending machines and even taxis are enabled, including major outlets such as CVS, Jack in the Box, Sports Authority and Sunoco. First Data, a global leader in electronic commerce and payment processing, is actively recruiting thousands of new merchants in these areas and will soon expand those efforts to deploy more contactless merchant terminals across the country.
Google has also been testing a variety of consumer deals that can range from a 20-percent discount on a new pair of boots discovered on a Google search advertisement; to a $5 off check-in offer received upon entering a store; to a "deal of the day" offering a $20 lunch for $10 at a local restaurant.

At most stores you will be able to use Google Wallet to show your offer at the register, where the cashier will either scan it or manually type it in. At participating Google SingleTap merchants, you will be able to pay and redeem an offer with one tap of your mobile device.

Because Google Wallet is a mobile app, it will eventually be able to do more than a regular wallet ever could, but without the bulk, Google says, SingleTap will start with offers, loyalty and gift cards but some day items like receipts, boarding passes and tickets will all be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet.

Google Wallet will work best if it’s an open commerce ecosystem so you will be able to carry all the credit cards, offers, loyalty and gift cards you choose—and eventually much more. To this end, Google Wallet will make it possible to integrate numerous types of partners, and Google, Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint invite the banking community, mobile carriers, handset manufacturers, merchants and others to work with Google Wallet.

Official Google Blog: Coming soon: make your phone your wallet

Google Might Agree to Compensating Access Providers

Way back when, when access providers began complaining in public that huge application providers such as Google were "riding pipes for free," one concern application providers have had is that they might wind up having to pay the access providers fees of some sort to reach customers. That is the business concern behind much, if not most of the support for "network neutrality," on the part of application providers.

But government pressure often goes a long way towards convincing telecom and video ecosystem participants that they need to solve a problem before the government tries to solve it for them. So it is that French regulators are putting pressure on Google that could ultimately lead to Google, and then other application providers, compensating mobile network operators for use of their bandwidth.

A compromise can be found between operators urging direct compensation for investment in faster networks and app providers,” France Telecom SA Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard says. The threat is serious enough that Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently has been saying Google and access providers are "co-dependent."

To be sure, Google would rather not encounter a new cost of doing business, were it to be required to help participate in some way in assisting access providers to keep expanding bandwidth. But the French action suggests serious pressure is mounting, and Google might not want to have governmental authorities make those rules.

The changes show that the broadband business remains dynamic, but also shows the increasing need Google has to work with and shape regulatory thinking. Google isn't a common carrier, but it is part of a common carrier ecosystem, and that means paying attention to regulators who can shape, define or eliminate revenue models.

Satellite Providers Argue for Inclusion in Broadband Funds

There is nothing quite as contentious as any proposed changes to current intercarrier compensation or universal service programs, even though many would argue the programs no longer work very well. 
The U.S. “Connect America Fund” represents billions of dollars worth of support for broadband suppliers in unserved and underserved rural areas. As you would expect, potential suppliers are going to fight over those funds, including the matter of eligibility. One clear fight is between some fixed line providers on one hand and wireless providers of several types, including satellite providers, mobile providers and fixed wireless providers as well. But there also is contention between fixed line providers. 
Independent rural telcos have complained that a disproportionate amount of those underserved areas are served by AT&T and Verizon Communications, preferring that funds be earmarked only for smaller and independent companies and cooperatives. Satellite providers in the United States and Europe think they should be eligible providers. 
Separately, European satellite broadband providers are lobbying the European Commission to provide public funding for the rollout of satellite broadband across Europe.
At a conference held by the Association of Telecommunications and Value-Added Service Providers, industry stakeholders said that satellite was the only form of broadband provision to offer universal coverage, patching the holes left by other solutions, such as fixed networks and mobile broadband.
In the United States, Dish Network Corp., Hughes Network Systems, ViaSat and WildBlue Communications (ViaSat) argue they should be allowed to apply for Connect America Fund projects.

Google Maps Adds D.C. Transit Info

Transit directions in Google Maps for Android have been available for two years, including directions for 440 transit systems. Washington, D.C. is the latest city to be added.

Each page now includes a list of upcoming scheduled departures for different lines, all the transit lines serving the station, and links to nearby transit stations.

Dump Steve Ballmer?

David Einhorn, hedge fund manager for Greenlight Capital, called for the Microsoft chief to step down on Wednesday during a speech at an investor conference. Ballmer's presence is the biggest drag on Microsoft's stock, according to Einhorn. The high-profile investor also blamed Ballmer for wasting billions on research and referred to Bing as a 'sinkhole,' according to The New York Times. Microsoft's stock is widely considered undervalued at under 10 times its expected earnings, according to Reuters.

Calls to rid Ballmer from Microsoft's helm are nothing new.

Google Mobile Wallet: Who Controls the SIM?

Google is expected to announce today its mobile wallet program, working with MasterCard. To do that Google will need to have control over the near field communications secure element, which it does on the Nexus S. That obviously raises the question of which participant in the ecosystem will control the credentials loading function as mobile wallet or NFC-based mobile payment services proliferate.

Mobile service providers will want to control that credentials process themselves, to retain a vital role in the mobile payments and mobile wallet businesses. Handset manufacturers, for the same reason, will want to maintain control of the credentials management to add value to their handsets and create the platform for new revenue streams.

Google to Launch Mobile Wallet Today

Google on May 26, 2011 is expected to announce its new mobile payments service in partnership with MasterCard, Citibank, Spring and various retailers. The mobile wallet service will work for the moment on the Google Nexus S device that comes equipped natively with near field communications capability.

The service will use "PayPass" retailer terminals supplied by MasterCard. The program will launch in five cities, including New York,San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C in the summer of 2011. Macy's, American Eagle and Subway will feature the payment system alongside customer rewards programs.

In taking a mobile wallet approach, also now the stated goal of Isis, Google clearly is aiming not at the transaction revenue, but at other opportunities ranging from loyalty to local advertising and promotion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PayPal Mobile generating $6M daily in total payment volume

Mobile payment volume on PayPal Mobile is expected to more than double by year’s end to cross $2 billion. The eBay-owned payments service currently generates up to $6 million in total payment volume each day.

Comcast Tests Over the Top Delivery

Comcast is getting ready to test its own streaming delivery system that would, in principle, allow Comcast to deliver linear programming to any customer with an Internet connection, regardless of whether they live in an area covered by Comcast's cable system.

That capability obviously will depend on getting content rights to do so, as well as a decision by Comcast about how to do so without cannibalizing its existing "in territory" operations, and without disrupting the industry's famously collegial approach to doing business, where cable operators simply do not directly compete against other cable operators.

Comcast executives say they simply want to deliver such video to customers in the current footprint for now. But it is one more potential brick in the foundation of full over the top delivery.

Twitter Sees Content as a Big Opportunity

Among the opportunities Twitter sees for its ecosystem are monitoring, content curation, enterprise features, publishing and content. Those also are areas where Twitter seems to believe its partners can do better than Twitter itself.

How Twitter 2.0 will make money

Twitter might not seem like a vehicle for banner ads, but that is what some observers think will be a new way for Twitter to capitalize on its growing audience. Also, there is the data mining.

Companies like ClearSpring and RadiumOne are mining what content is being shared by consumers and selling the data at a huge premium to advertisers who want to know what topics are trending and how to better target users.

Google Maps For Mobile Poised to Eclipse Desktop

Google Maps on mobile devices, which makes up about 40 percent of all Google Maps usage, is on pace to eclipse desktop usage for the first time next month, said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of maps and local.

"Proximity" Grows as a Way for Online to Enhance "Real Life"

LoKast is a "proximity-based" social networking app that allows real-time messaging between users within 1,000 feet of each other. It's another way online tools are starting to be applied to real life in bars, living rooms, classrooms, conferences, cafes, retailers or maybe even conferences and trade shows.

We're So Addicted To Our Phones That We Can't Even Watch TV Without Staring At Them Anymore

The mobile phone is the most common distraction while watching anything, according to a new study by Youme. Some 60 percent of the study sample distracted themselves with mobile phones while watching TV, and 46% percent did while watching online video.

This makes a strong case for mobile marketing, or for media companies and brands to do more to reach people on their phones while they're watching TV, using apps or interacting with online content.

Cox backpedals on 3G network, will remain Sprint MVNO - FierceWireless

Cox Communications will decommission its own 3G network infrastructure and buy wholesale capacity from Sprint Nextel service to support its wireless service. Cox owns 700 MHz spectrum of its own, so the question is what the company might do with it.

It's tough to be a regional infrastructure-based provider of mobile service these days, given the speed with which the technology is moving, and the scale needed to make decent financial returns. In wireless, as in video, volume makes a difference.

Cable companies have had quite a long history of dabbling in spectrum and working with Sprint for wireless services, and nothing too significant ever has developed from those efforts. For whatever reason, cable operators have been most successful offering new services over their existing broadband networks.

One might speculate on the cultural reasons for that state of affairs, but among the possible explanations is that cable executives never had felt comfortable relying on other networks to deliver their services. Whether that has created some managerial impediment is a question.

Mobile Ecosystem Shifts to Apps

Whatever different participants might think about the change, the mobile ecosystem, traditionally quite closed, is becoming not only more "open," but also more complex. As that happens, value is shifting as well, towards the application layer and end user experiences, and with a greater role for the devices that enable those experiences.

“It is the ecosystem not the operating system that is important,” said Enrico Salvatori, Qualcomm’s European vice president. That's the reason one hears so much, so often, about the business problem of "dumb pipes."

But some of the change is inevitable. Apps always have been the reason people have bought network-based services. Consumers never directly buy the access itself. But the decoupling of app creation and network access means apps can be created at Internet speed, all the time, while networks have to be built physically.

“The cycles of innovation in applications are orders of magnitude less than those for service providers,” said Houston Spencer, marketing vice president at Alcatel Lucent.

"Net Neutrality" in the Netherlands

Network neutrality is a complicated issue, despite occasional efforts to paint it as a simple matter of content freedom. The Netherlands, for example, recently has decided to ensure that over the top applications such as Skype are usable on fixed and wireless networks.

That is heralded as a network neutrality move. In the U.S. market, such rules already are part of the Federal Communications Commission "Internet Freedoms" principles, which state, among other things, that users should be able to use all lawful applications."

The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation decision seems aimed at services such as Skype, which the rules specify are allowed to work without interference from access providers.

Of course, that is not the heart of debates over network neutrality, which really becomes an issue because network management practices and application management sometimes overlap. Strong versions of network neutrality, which would prohibit any traffic shaping at all, even at the request of the end user, would complicate delivery of quality of service for any real-time service.

Users might not care so much about quality issues with "free" video clips, but they might not be happy paying for a video service that freezes frequently because there is congestion on the network. Nor are users likely to be any happier paying for video conference or calling services that suffer from impairments.

Some argue that bandwidth fixes all these problems, but that isn't true. Given enough bandwidth and a reasonable buffer, any pre-recorded form of video will work fine, almost always.

Real-time services, on the other hand, suffer from latency impairments because there is no way to buffer the bits. In such cases, quality of experience measures, such as delaying other types of less-important traffic, will improve end user experience. But strict forms of network neutrality might forbid even that practice.

"Mobile First" Content Implications: Be Visual

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been talking for some time about a “mobile first” strategy. Schmidt underscores his point by noting that all today’s top software engineers are applying their craft to mobile
platforms "only."

The key implication for content marketers is to master the ability to “tell your story” visually. Hemmed in by 12-sound bytes and 140-character tweets, your brand’s messaging needs to be visual to break through. The mobile dominant realm requires that marketers create new context for the diverse forms of messaging that are so crucial to maintaining customer attention and brand impact today.

Here are two powerful ways you can begin creating visual stories that reduce complexity and drive memorability. Also included are two key points for making your visual storytelling more compelling. One way of describing the advantage is to note that visual processing 10 million bits per second.

Auditory processing rates are 125,000 bits per second while verbal processing occurs at 300 words per minute.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Google’s Mobile Payments Strategy Ready?

Google apparently is ready to articulate its mobile-payments strategy, and is reportedly going to unveil a service with Sprint and several major retailers, including Macy’s and Subway, on May 26, 2011.

The service will let consumers with Google’s Android operating system and near field communications (the Nexus S) pay for goods and redeem coupons with their handsets.

Sprint has said it was working with a variety of handset makers and technology companies on NFC payment systems. Google has said it plans to introduce the service in five cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Google does not appear to be banking on transaction fees as part of its revenue model. Instead, Google is looking at ways the service could boost its digital advertising business. The planned payment system would allow Google to offer retailers more data about their customers and help the retailers target ads and discount offers to mobile-device users near their stores.

Significantly, that makes Google a partner to the card issuers, Visa and MasterCard, not a competitor.

Google earlier had been said to be using hardware and software from companies including VeriFone Systems and ViVOtech as part of the service.

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Friend Recommendations Drive Local Business Visits

Primary Factor that Influences US Consumers to Try a Local Business, March 2011 (% of respondents)Social shopping can be hard to understand, but the point of mobile-enhanced shopping is that it builds on the ways people who buy things locally decide to do so. Fully 52 percent of consumers surveyed by CityGrid, for example, say that the primary reason they would try a local business is a friend’s recommendation. That far outstrips any other type of channel by at least 500 percent.

The revenue model for any mobile service provider or mobile-based app also is sometimes hard to envision, but it is, in large part, as simple as shifting a portion of today's spending on local advertising, for starters.

Word of mouth, in other words, drives lots of traffic. The whole idea of mobile-enhanced shopping apps is to build on that natural activity in a more systematic and structured way.

Online Sources US Consumers Check Before Visiting a Local Business or Restaurant, March 2011 (% of respondents)On the other hand, there also is quite a bit of evidence that consumers rely heavily on search when looking for a local business to patronize. Data from local search engine optimization firm BrightLocal shows that the top two traffic sources to local businesses were Google Places and Google search. Facebook provided only two percent of visits to local business websites.

Overall, BrightLocal found that 59 percent of Internet users search on Google at least once a month to find a good local business.

Square Aims to Replace POS Terminals

Square has been growing fast, but now is launching "Square Register," a replacement point of sale terminal for retailers. Some will point out that "replace the merchant terminal" strategies are inherently difficult, as merchants generally have proven highly resistant to payment schemes that require them to change out their POS terminals.

Still, Square's approach aims at "adding more value," particularly by enhancing a retailer's relationship with paying customers. The approach might not get traction, but it illustrates an important element of the evolving mobile payments space, namely that the actual transaction is only part of the total value proposition.

Historically, Square’s readers always stored every purchaser’s receipt for merchants and allowed merchant’s to send a copy of the receipt to the purchaser via SMS and email. It was fairly simple.

Now, using Square Register, merchants can access Google Analytics style data with an inventory angle, such as how many units of a certain type of product were sold, and to which types of customers.

5% of Tablet Usage is "at Meetings or Class"

connected-devices-2Lots of tablets are being sold to business users. Still, perhaps five percent of tablet usage, in terms of time, occurs when "at meetings," a Nielsen survey suggests.

But 24 percent of tablet owners say they use the devices at meetings, about the same percentage who say they use their smart phones at meetings.

Tablets can be used in business, no question. But most tablet usage seems to be entertainment related.

connected-devices-1Smart phone owners say that 20 percent of the time they use their smart phones is while watching TV, compared to 11 percent lying in bed.

eReader owners indicated only 15 percent of their eReader time was spent watching TV, though they spent a 37 percent of their device usage time in bed.

Tablet owners said 30 percent of their time spent with their device was while watching TV compared to 21 percent lying in bed.

In the U.S., Tablets are TV Buddies while eReaders Make Great Bedfellows | Nielsen Wire

Half a Million Apple Apps, and Angry Birds is at Top of Download List

Latest FCC Global Broadband Report Nuanced, Careful, Sure to Disappoint Some Observers

The latest Federal Communications Commission report on global broadband suggests the United States ranks about ninth for mobile broadband adoption among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries and 12th for fixed (DSL or cable) broadband on a per-household basis.

But assessing broadband availability is more complicated than it used to be, in large measure because of mobile broadband, an area where the United States is forecast to lead, at least in terms of fourth generation Long Term Evolution deployments.

Also, using only the OECD data, which FCC report authors say is the best overall, the United States ranks first out of 28 in cable modem coverage, sixth out of 16 for fiber-to-the-home coverage and eighth out of 29 in 3G mobile wireless coverage.

Some would argue that, for any number of reasons, including population density and continental size, the United States will not typically, if ever, rank at the very top of any global measure of tele-density.

Where did the United States currently rank on per-capita measures of broadband penetration in early 2010? 15th, as it turns out; precisely where it has long ranked in terms of fixed-line voice line penetration. If that seems unremarkable, consider that a 15th-place ranking is sufficient for observers to see few problems with voice service availability. In other words, the "problem of voice access" is solved even when the United States ranks only 15th globally on common measures of tele-density.

None of that is to suggest there are not real or potential issues in rural areas, issues with the price of the faster services or issues with adoption. But based on historical comparisons, the data is entirely consistent with the realities of service in a continent-sized nation with lower population density than many other nations, and regulatory policies in some areas that support government-lead or supported network investment more aggressively than is possible in the U.S. market.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Moore's Law, Cooper's Law, Zoning Law

Current spectrum holdings
Spectrum efficiency typically doubles about every 30 months, where Moore's Law suggests computing or storage capacity doubles about every 18 months.

Ability to place new cell towers does not double every 30 months, according to a rule of thumb called Cooper's Law.

For reasons of zoning rules, neighborhood objections and money, the ability to build new towers to increase capacity without additional spectrum is limited.

There is no Moore's Law for steel towers or electricity or construction costs. Some estimate that the cost to each national mobile provider of additional capacity, gained by shrinking cell sizes, without adding spectrum, is as much as $40 billion.

To be sure, spectrum costs money, and new towers would have to build at some locations, even with new spectrum allocations (networks operating at different frequencies require different topologies, all other things being equal). So there is no way to avoid additional investment.

All that explains why the Federal Communications Commission believes it is imperative to license new spectrum, and why AT&T thinks it has to move now to acquire T-Mobile. It's a real estate deal, more than anything else.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Square Adds Digital Wallet Features, Pay by Name

square card caseUp to this point, Square arguably has gotten the most traction from smaller and non-traditional retailers who need the ability to accept credit and debit card payments where they are, without investing in the full retail point of sale infrastructure, using just the Square appliance and an iPhone. But Square also is developing ways for retailers to use an iPad as a functional equivalent of a POS terminal, in addition to iPhones.

The new wrinkle is that the iPad software also allows businesses to update their inventory, add specials, and track customer behavior, moving into the analytics function. Square also is offering a sort of peer-to-peer service that allows retailers to accept payments from customers who already have received credit card information on file.

The new "Card Case" app allows users to see nearby businesses, read menus, store electronic copies of all your receipts and pay by giving the retailer just a name. The merchant then can access credit card information the customer already has provided to the merchant.

Watch Out When Valuations Aren't Based on Earnings

There isn't a social media bubble, a PwC consultant says. But watch out when experts start using metrics other than those based on earnings. That's what happened during the 1999 technology bubble as well. People started inventing metrics not based on earnings, because there were no earnings.

Obviously, some firms do have actual earnings. But many do not. So beware when people start saying "price to earnings" ratios aren't the best way to value firms. That's the same slippery slope that lead to disaster last time. PwC partner Ian Coleman says "value per user" is a reasonable way to value firms. Watch out. That's bubble talk.

How Small Businesses Look for Customers

Fully 86 percent of small and mid-sized businesses (500 employees or fewer) rely on their websites to look for new customers, a survey of 300 business managers and owners suggests.

But small business owners and managers use a wide range of channels to look for new customers, a study by Bredin Business Information suggests.

But 74 percent use email and search marketing. Some 57 percent use blogs and LinkedIn.  As you might guess, executives are not as satisfied with the channels as they want to be.

Most Effective Online Marketing Tactics for Customer Acquisition According to US SMBs, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)But given typical marketing industry rules of thumb, virtually all of the channels are effective. For example, you might think the fact that 29 percent of respondents think blogs and other forms of social media are effective, a huge drop from the 2010 surveys, as an indication that the channels "don't work."

But compared to a direct response "success" rate of perhaps one percent, 29 percent effectiveness is quite high. Still, the 2011 survey results indicate that an initial burst of enthusiasm in 2010 for various forms of social media now has settled down.

That's normal for any emerging channel: there is too much optimism at first. Then reality sets in and marketers learn to use each tool in the right way, with reasonable expectations.


Shopping has Become More Social

A study by Yahoo finds that consumers are less impulsive in their shopping behavior because of the Internet, but also has become much more social, with 49 percent of users sharing their views and opinions about products.

Consumers routinely are checking consumer and expert reviews before committing to purchases, for example, and social networks are a particular enabler of such sharing.

"We found that 49 percent of consumers give advice to others, motivated by a feeling of solidarity with other shoppers," the Yahoo study says.

25 ways IT will morph in the next 25 years

With the caveat that futurists often are quite wrong (we were supposed to be flying instead of driving cars by this time), the next 25 years might include dramatic changes in the computing fabric, including smart phones with the processing power of supercomputing and personal fixed terabit and gigabit mobile connections, some predict.

25 ways IT will morph in the next 25 years

But 25 years is a long time in technology. By 2020, the Internet might have evolved in ways that are more linear extrapolations of today's trends. See http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/010410-outlook-vision-predictions.html?page=2.

Will Google Make the "Tablet" a Peripheral?

Motorola's Atrix is a smartphone that docks to a "notebook" peripheral. Will Google try something similar, and make an Android the central processor for a "tablet" that is a display? It is at least possible, given some new intellectual property Google has purchased.

Patents Google seems to have purchased would allow a smartphone to Though the drive any number of "peripherals," ranging from tablets to notebooks to typical PC peripherals or machine to machine devices. Though the notion will be unsettling to many within the consumer electronics and computing ecosystems, such a move would make sense for several reasons, among them more options to deal with the issues of screen size, battery life and input-output choices from the one device everybody carries with them, all the time.

Google buys Modu's patent portfolio for $4.7 million

Such an approach would "solve" a problem many users might have, namely the requirement to carry multiple devices, in a variety of form factors, when traveling or out of the office. As a practical matter, many simply solve the problem by carrying only a smart phone most of the time, then swapping a tablet for a notebook when away from the desk for longer periods, making the smart phone and the tablet the two essential devices.

Traveling then raises the issue of which other devices one chooses to carry, in addition to those two. The ability to dock a powerful smart phone with peripherals could make some of the choices easier, and should, in principle, also reduce the cost of the overall set of solutions.


What Does 100 Mbps Cost?

Here's an example of what Internet access costs in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Policy advocates will tend to point to such examples to argue that municipalities should be allowed to compete directly with private Internet service providers. Commercial providers will tend to say government should not compete with private firms when a market for services clearly exists.

Whatever you think of the policy issues, there is something else equally important. It is one thing to argue that, as a matter of policy, everyone should be able to buy access, at affordable rates, it is quite another to get agreement on what "access" or "affordable" means.

"Reasonable cost" is at least in part a simple matter of price transparency. In a triple play, the actual "cost" of a component is an accounting exercise. Still, what is "reasonable" changes over time. At any given point in time, however, there typically is a gap between the pricing of consumer services and business services, at least in part because the business services are offered with quality of service assurances and a higher level of service overall.

But it wouldn't be unusual for price differences between a business class service and a consumer class service to amount to an order of magnitude. Even a municipal provider might have to maintain those sorts of price relationships.


Public Policy is Devilishly Hard Stuff

Public policy success always is harder than you might think, if only because the causal relationships between a policy and an intended out...