Thinking about transitions

I was recently in a web conference that included a physical meeting room with some 5-6 people in it whilst others in the meeting were connected to WebEx.  Whilst no issues technically, the mix of physical and virtual, in my opinion just wasn’t effective.  Now, normally in a 100% WebEx meeting there  is an indication of identity and who is speaking.  It is a great attempt to visualise physical meetings.  Nothing new there, it has been around for ages and as a platform is brilliant.

However, when a meeting room dials in and is shared between multiple people in a room, the physical to virtual is completely lost.  Yes you can see the room speaking, but identities are not prevalent and this is a problem, especially if you are not familiar with the personnel at the other end.

This leads me to believe that we are in a transition.  I believe that transitions are short periods of time that help us evolve to better methods of achieving or goal.  They also have their ups and downs until we get through it.  Do you remember the compact disc?  That was a transition.  It was a transition to where we are now with streaming media.  It was supposed to be more durable than vinyl with crystal clear clarity in digital form.  It delivered that, but in a short period, it has been superceded by music downloads and of course the mp3 player that not only offer the supberb quality in sound and vision, but also the simplicity to obtaining content.

Obviously every transition will have a start and an end.  In this case the start is a physical meeting.  Traditional in every sense, but now as we embrace and extend globalisation and boundaryless enterprises our colleagues and more importantly the knowledge pools are being pull together from far-flung places across the globe.  Technology has allowed us to do this, but we don’t always get it right.  Admittedly the physical meeting is king, but productivity can still soar using multiparty voice and the combination of both.  I think we’ve proved that as we continue to increase the usage of online conferences.

The goal however, is to emulate the physical meeting as much as possible and that’s where video has to be the answer…for now.  Not just any video but high-definition real-time video.  It is here today, but the usage is minor compared to voice and I think that is just a matter of time before video overtakes voice on the network as it becomes more affordable and the quality increases.

So, I have to keep reminding myself, not to dismiss what we have today, embrace it and accept that the transition to video is almost here.


The Androids are coming!

If you search for Android in Google there no surprise that the first hit will take you to Google’s Open Handset Alliance page with tons of information and help on Android, and in fact 90% of the first page results are all about Google’s Android. There is one hit that points to the wikipedia page describing a more familiar definition of an Android.

Now if you look at that page, the results from Google are predictive to say the least, but one surprising fact about the page is that there is no sponsored links! Well there is one, sometimes, but there is no one making money from that page.

Now if your business model is based on advertising revenue and you are the number one search engine in the world with millions of hits per second, there’s no wonder you are a leading success and a global brand. Your revenue is based on selling advertising space, your clients pay for the benefit of reaching your vast audience and rely on you placing there ads on the first page in the right place. Of course you have competition, but being number one and staying at number means that you are smart, competitive and understand what the consumers want better than your rivals.

Staying two steps (or more) ahead of the rest means that they are all competing with each other whilst you are defining the next steps and not just waiting for it to arrive.

So who or what will threaten Google? This recent article in Business Week raises an interesting point.

You see according to the article, over two thirds of Americans have experienced Mobile Internet Services and of course this figure is growing. In Europe and in Asia we’ve been doing it for years and faster, but with wireless cities appearing, WiMax on the way, China and India exploding onto the scene and more recently, Cuba, there will be a shift from the traditional PC to the Mobile device. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t likely to be an overnight shift nor will it be a migration from PC to Mobile. What is happening is that more and more of us are experiencing better quality browsers and applications on the mobile platforms and we are embracing it.

According to Gartner, in 2006 there were just under 1 billion mobile phone units shipped worldwide and in 2007 this was around 1.13 billion. With Apple and RIM entering the market the devices are more attractive and functionally stable compared to the browsing experience on early Nokia and Motorola devices. These new devices really are becoming usable and I can at last see the day where I carry a single device.

With the increase in mobility the target audience for the ad execs is now mouth wateringly vast, BUT, the traditional banner ad and sponsored search ad will not do. The billions of mobile and wireless consumers will not accept the same content squeezed into a mobile device display. So, what’s the plan?

Enter Android. Develop a new mobile operating system that will allow your winning business model to thrive. So far, the advertising on Android is anyone’s guess, but personalisation and profiling seems to be the way forward. The recent launch of Blyk from Orange is a good example of how Google’s business model will continue to thrive on the mobile platform and some are predicting a coverflow type of interface that will contain target advertising as well as the content you request.

Travel, Technology and Time Machines – My Foot!

I’ve always maintained that travelling is educational and recently my visit to Singapore for the first time taught me many new things. It also stimulated thoughts that would never have been exposed whilst in London.

You see, when at home in London, it is extremely easy to embrace routine and continue to base life around that routine. I personally dislike prolonged routines. It’s okay to maintain a routine, but that routine must also evolve with the times, I believe. Sometimes that is easier said than done. That’s why travelling expands the mind and provides the stimulation to change. It is education as I say.

As a technologist, I once tried to embrace video conferencing in a bid to lower travel costs and of course to be greener, but with that comes a hidden trade off. It is the ability to touch and feel other cultures. There really is no substitution for that face to face experience.

On my recent trip to Singapore I experienced what I can only describe as a Geo-Fusion. Many cities claim they are multicultural and cosmopolitan and most are, but Singapore has a visible harmony to their mix of cultures. The fusion provides a friendly carefree environment that I do believe is an example to the rest of the world.

During my MBA studies I exchanged many discussions with students across the globe based around a topic and I learnt a great deal. It was an excellent transfer of knowledge, but it wasn’t quite the same as experiencing the same topic through the eyes of the students around the world. I took this opportunity to do just that.

A stark difference I noticed was their attitude to technology. Whist Singapore is awash with technology, their consumer habits are not the same as say the US and the UK. E-Commerce is not there yet and yet still they are thriving without it. I say this with little research but simply on the face of my visit.

There is no comparable returns policy in the shops and very little evidence of online shopping and I believe there is a reason for that. There is a rich market environment in Chinatown, Little India and throughout the HBD (council estates) areas. Where the people spend the day socialising over a meal/snack or simply a cup of coffee (as we do in the our cities).

Walking through the HDB areas (which are not visibly segregated in any way they simply blend into the landscape), it was evident how trade continues to thrive with very little change. Singapore historically was a trading port and to this day that culture is stronger than ever. From the Samsui women making a living the only way they know how, to the affluent professionals also making a living the only way they know how, through trading they live side by side in what I can only describe as harmony.

If you ever wanted to experience time travel, Singapore provides the machine. I witnessed supplier, wholesale and retail in one glance at the side of the street as one man cycled up to a weighing station with his wares, exchange his goods for money and another exchanging money for goods to sell to the consumer through the wholesaler. It was simple, effective and fast; golden rules for anyone in business.

Another inspiring sight I witnessed was the business of reflexology. A very successful chain called My Foot provides employment for many local people with disabilities in particular visually impaired individuals that are skillfully trained. These talented therapists provide the most relaxing environment and effective reflexology in the country. My Foot provides an opportunity to an otherwise limited community to earn a good living by developing the skills that are in demand. Having experienced reflexology, it can be quite addictive, particularly if it has cured an otherwise tired pair of feet as it did in my case! I need to find an equivalent in London.

ok, ok you’re right!

For many years I have argued the american view that it always rains in England. I live in England and have enjoyed many dry spells year after year, so I felt it only natural to correct those americans who sneer at the weather in England.

Having just returned home from my east coast tour where the weather was glorious sunshine throughout, I am presented with an August that has casued me to enter into my winter wardrobe far too early.

It’s cold, wet and my daily commutes to work are still crowded (and smelly), even though it is still the holidays when commuter traffic is supposed to be lighter and the weather is supposed to be warmer and dryer.  What is going on? The effects of global warming… pah!  the americans were correct all the time.  I was just to stubborn to realise it.

Added to that, I read in the press that record number of brits are leaving the country for sunnier shores, with Austrailia, Spain and the USA top choices. How about that to add to my post holiday blues?

Is the grass greener on the other side?  Time to research me thinks.

Go Global not regional.

Whilst many organisations have accepted globalisation and embraced it to create many more opportunities, it seems Apple are trying to do things differently.

Region encoding DVDs piss me off.  There is very little justification for it.  It’s another obstacle that is overcome with simply technology hacks.

To my point…Apple have announced they are launching the iPhone in the US ONLY on AT&T and it will not be able to be unlocked or switched to other providers.  So Europeans and Asians wanting to be one of the first to own one will either have to wait until local providers take it on OR put up with a over priced roaming device (unlikely).

Why?  Why are you doing this Apple?  I’m sure there is a business strategy that will provide Apple with the target market and the financial rewards, BUT it can work to their advantage if they launched worldwide at the same time, surely. 

I realise that some of the delay is caused by the telco providers, especially due to the fact that the device is a Wi-fi device capable of destroying their business model with VoIP, but that’s a threat they need to overcome and turn into an opportunity.

Very soon, I’m sure, there will be a method of unlocking a US iPhone very soon.  So why not avoid this and go global at day one?