Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rich thin client - the future of our PC ?

Treehugger wrote this morning about a small device, the size of a pack of cigarettes. It is a kind-of very small PC(it includes some CPU, USB ports, DVI output...) and has to be plugged in an Ethernet LAN.

It is LAN powered only - no need of other energy source - it can be plugged anywhere in your network. USB ports allow to plug what you want on it: keyboard, usb key, mouse...

In a server environment, those devices will allow people to execute distant apps, via thin client installed (like Citrix or Microsoft Internet Explorer).

This means that to execute simple apps, you no longer need to deploy and maintain expensive hardware. Of course, there is no hard drive, but you can save your work on the network or plug an usb key to save your data.

Could be very useful in schools, libraries, municipalities, shops... where you only have to access to remote info or to remote applications.

The french Minitel is back!


Friday, January 12, 2007

Smart use of a search engine feature

In their attempts to differentiate themselves and reduce (if possible), the gap with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and others are multiplying Web marketing campaigns.

Today, Microsoft emailed to some of its livemail (former hotmail) French users http://www.image-addict.fr/

A classic Internet game, allowing users to participate to a contest (andwin an Xbox360 maybe). The principle is simple: to guess a word in a limited time (30sec here). But guess what are the hints: 20 images.

This is smart.

The first clever idea is to use sets of 20 pictures to guess a word. It is simple to understand and quite funny considered the time limit. Same neurologic principles are used in some “train your brain” games.

The second clever idea is the use of live.com’s image search. Most users admit that Microsoft’s search service main spectacular feature, is its image rendering engine – a clear difference with Google search image rendering for instance.

Considering the importance of image search, this marketing campaign really combines
- funny and quite addictive principle (depending on the number of words to guess)
- focus on a major market trend (importance of image)
- clear illustration of a differentiating factor (MS's image rendering)


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The problem with Microsoft and Google revenue

The two giants are dominating their historical markets. Microsoft Windows and Office dominate the operating system and desktop applications market, while Google dominates the searches market.

1)Let’s have a look to their revenue
Microsoft's revenue split between client software (Windows), server software (SQL, .Net), business apps (Office for 90% of the amount), online (Live) and entertainment (Xbox).
But 2/3 of Microsoft’s revenue comes from Windows and Office.

As for Google’s revenue, it is very simple: nearly all of Google's revenue comes from advertisements that appear on search result pages and on partner sites

2) What is the problem?
Core revenue of both companies could be reduced by successful community initiatives:
- open source operating system (Linux),
- open source (Open Office) or rich web based desktop application (Ajaxwrite),
- search engines based on Wikis (Wikiasari)

Each point of market share taken by community initiatives, will weaken the two giants and reduce their revenue.

3) What does this tell us?
The traditional barriers to entry in the software industry has dramatically changed. With the expansion of communities … it is possible for focused networks to challenge some established companies. Here is the paradox.

Although it is difficult for a private help company to challenge Microsoft or Google (to challenge them would cost millions of dollars), it is possible for communities, where passionate people work for FREE (or for glory), to challenge established companies on some markets. Microsoft spent billions and paid 10 000 people to develop Microsoft Vista. A well managed community (Linux) is doing (almost) the same. For free.

Take it as granted: communities can challenge established companies, it is just a question of time. Especially if communities develop better MS like or Google like apps.

Nevertheless, they will only challenge those companies on some segments.

And here lies the interesting part. Communities cannot challenge established companies on:
- hardware (Xbox),
- business solutions (MS Dynamics ERP),
- localization service (Microsoft Local or Google earth),
- hosting terra data (Gdrive)
- …

So I’m betting that the two giants will always re-organize themselves and shift their business if needed.

Open Office the open source desktop application
Linux the open source operating system
Wikia the open search project
Ajaxwrite the ajax desktop application

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We will all create our own power

Motorola Emerging Market has showed a nice bike during CES: a bike allowing to recharge your ipod (or iphone), while bicycling. Interesting but this is not a revolution. Isn’t that a big dynamo, powering your bicycle light & your mp3 gear by the way?

Nevertheless, it may open a road (not a boulevard yet) to funny and cool forms of energy.

We all have tens of electrical powered devices (fixed phone, mobile phones, smart-phones, wireless mouse, video camera, digital camera, portable game device, gps… whatever) consuming more and more power and using more and more batteries AND we want to lose weight (I want, for sure).

So forget nuclear energy, personal fuel cell… It is time to develop and market funny ways to create electrical power, by moving our fat and over-weighted bodies.

Creating energy while bicycling has always existed but it is a good start. But what about:
- the floor that allows dancers to create power (let’s have a party and save Earth)
- the ab chrunch machine that allows to do sport (and save Earth!)
- the stairways that allows to elevate us (do sport and save Earth!!)
- creating power simply by wearing swim suits

Not to mention the famous Hamster power of course :-)

The bike that generates power
The dancefloor that generates power
The stairways that generate power
The solar paint that generates power

Web prices versus real shops

It’s the sales period in France.

Funny how people are queuing in front of shops for hours, just to be amongst the first to get goods with 50% rebate or more. Looking desperately through shop windows, to see if their stuff is still there, at the good price.

Do not forget that most consumers procrastinate their purchases, waiting for 'Les Soldes'. As a consequence, shops do, on average, 30% of their revenue (and their margins) during this short period. Some even more.

TV, radios, newspapers are now celebrating this shopping ceremony by interviewing consumers. What worries me with the given interviews, is the repeating story:
- “We wait all year for this period”
- “I only buy during sales period”
- "I have postponed some purchases"
- “I’m doing 50% of my yearly turnover now
- …

It is a now a strong tendency in France (and in the rest of the world) to postpone purchases until the sales. Shop keepers admit that consumers no longer spend massively out of sales period (except some products, like groceries, food, luxury goods…).

There is now in consumers’ mind a general agreement on acceptable price levels: the right price. Or rather: what's the point of buying at expensive price the rest of the year, when I can but at the right price (the only acceptable price during the sales).

Except for luxury goods or newly launched high-tech goods (PS3 for instance), in retail, the acceptable price is the price paid during the sales (or the price found the rest of year on most Web sites – that propose goods at reduced prices 364 days a year).

Two consequences:
- a purchase slowdown the rest of the year
- retailers that have to put in place new techniques to sell goods (events, sales before the sales..)

Is there a third way?
Maybe. Let's try this. What’s the point of having a rock solid shop 12 months a year, with ship windows full of goods the rest of the year, if consumers only shop 2 or 3 months a year?

Is it only because we human need to touch and see products ? Because browsing the Web is not enough for us to have the experience of the product? Because it allows accompanies to keep touch with its consumers and prospects ?

If most consumers truly do not spend out of sales period, we may see soon real evolutions in terms of investments in retailing. Couldn’t retailers use spare space differently? To transform shopping center depending on consumers' behaviour?

Some ideas: come companies may rent places in city centers during sales period to get access to consumers and leave the rest of the year. Other may lower/increase their shopping surface depending on the year period. It could be an interesting opportunity for art events, customer inquiries, community meetings …whatever.

There are multiple answers. But ‘real’ shopping centers may change very very soon.

Apple Iphone's non removable battery

According to APC, the iphone does not have a removable battery.


Since 1996, the Battery Act in the US (similar acts exists elsewhere) imposes companies to get rid-off mercury and develop collection methods and recycling/proper disposal.

Although I believe Apple uses mercury free battery, why on earth do they use non removable battery? And how to collect the used batteries then (just remember the Ipod and its poor battery life) by the way?
Like for the Ipod, by sending the devices back to Apple for replacement (imagine travel costs, logistic impacts and CO2 generation…) ? And how should I phone and consume in between?

I cannot believe that such a conscious and design company like Apple markets a product that requires users to send their device back.

If I were them, I would open more Apple shops or contract with distributors to collect and replace/recycle batteries – to avoid users sending back devices by the Post.

And hey, it’s a good way to keep contact with one customer. If the average I-phone user has to replace (or upgrade) its battery every 6 months or every year, Apple could develop an environmental marketing.

APC article
Battery Act

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Trauma Center : second Opinion

How long will it take for developers to combine Real life simulation with new kind of ergonomic ? 2 years, 5 years ? Whatever – it is going to be unified very soon. And may be even playable on today’s console (Xbox360, PS3, Wii).

Consider first acclaimed Nintendo Wii

The console has been last winter's success. Not only in Japan, where Nintendo has always sold lot of units (Nintendo Wii performed to beat Sony PS3) but in Europe and in the US too. Thanks to games targeting the family (included sport games, French mad rabbits), teenagers (car driving, World War II playing) or the Nintendo first fans (with the latest Zelda).

Now editors are marketing games mixing education, real life experience and Wii’s unique user interface.

Altus is one of those editors. It is about to market a medical trauma simulation, where you use the already famous Wiimote to cure and do surgery on your patients.
The game was brilliant on Nintendo DS and is supposed to be as brilliant on the Nintendo Wii (even if they use the same missions and did not add many new challenges).

Consider now celebrated Second Life

This online life simulation allows to create and manage your avatar in a full 3D world. You decide to create and play any kind of characters: you can chose to create someone like you or someone not like you. Someone you would love, you would admire or would hate in real life. It is up to you.

And after? Well, just enter the room and – as they say on their Web site, “you'll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. It’s your imagination”

Then what ?
Developers will merge life simulation with new interaction. Be prepared to buy different paddles – to really act/be who you want to be.
Users (oops, sorry citizens), will wander in huge areas and will be able to interact with their commuters, like in real life.
Say goodbye to your old keyboard, keypad, paddle or mouse (well, except in dev centers). Welcome to enhanced user interface, interactive screens, boxes stuffed with sensors, moving panels...
If you chose to be a cop, you will have a sensor gun. If you chose to be a cab driver, take your IR wheel. If you prefer being a doctor, then take your Bluetooth scalpel
It's going to be a good time for ergonomy companies.

Hardware: Nintendo Wii
Game: Trauma Center Second Opinion
Editor: Altus
Avaible: 2007
Trauma Center

Hardware: your pc, your Mac, your open source hardware
Game: Second Life
Free download
Avaible: now
Second life