On Privacy

I’ve written about Xobni for Outlook in the past, but a recent experience illustrated the role data will play in the future and ultimate implications for privacy.  When it first launched I tried freecycle and several months ago I signed-up again to see how the service had evolved and was progressing.  Because I knew this…

The Future of Postal Service 2020

Last week I had an extended conversation on the future of postal service and wanted to share some of my thoughts on potential scenarios 10 years from today. These are clearly quick sketches. The future – as is often the case – will likely be an amalgamation of these scenarios.  

Scenario 1: Traditional Mail Ceases to Exist, Small Parcel the Only Thing Delivered

Small parcel post is escalating.  I seem to recall a statistic recently from Fred Smith of FedEx, suggesting small parcels represent some 15% of their total shipment volume. This category of mail is driven by online retail sales and consumer-to-consumer transactions – both of which continue to increase.  Consumer-to-consumer transactions are on the rise as sites like eBay continue to gain in popular and are used more frequently for a wider assortment of goods. Online sales represent only about 5% of retail sales today, but this is clearly growing as well. It won't be surprising to find online sales representing a quarter of all retail sales within five or six years. As these transactions increase, small parcel post naturally follows.

There are a few trends playing out in the technology sector which will also impact the rate at which small parcel post increases. First, as the retail sector has become more challenging, manufacturers are increasingly looking at selling directly to consumers.  This isn’t unique to technology companies, but is playing out across a host of categories. A second element I see evident in technology is the rapid acceleration of product launches, the speed at which companies are attempting to bring these products to market, and the swiftness at which information about new products is disseminated to potential consumers.  Manufacturers are building less inventory over a shorter period time before bringing a given product to market. Seeking to fill a broad supply chain in a shorter window will force manufacturers to increasingly rely on expedited, small parcel post – regardless if they are going directly to consumers or through more traditional retail channels.

Scenario 2: The Death of Direct Mail

Today, direct mail represents roughly half of all mail sent. According to a report from advertising and marketing consulting firm Winterberry …

Making the Social Graph Linear

John Battelle writes about Color, a new social photo app. Color creates a visual (user-generated photos) public (anyone sharing photos through Color) timeline of any given location (using a proximity algorithm). (It is worth noting Dave Winer suggested the need of a "social camera" four years ago.)  Battelle suggests color matters because of location ("colors has the opportunity to be the first breakout application…

Why Excluding Drunk Driver Apps Might be a Bad Idea...

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and fellow Senators Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg and Tom Udall recently wrote to Apple, Google, and RIMM asking them to exclude apps which allow users to identify, among other things, drunk driving checkpoints.  In the request, the Senators write, "we appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at…

Super Bowl Commercials as a Leading Indicator?

Can super bowl commercials predict bubbles? I don't know. Here are the commercials from the past 13 years: http://superbowl-ads.com if you want to find out. We did seem to have a myrid of dot.com related commercials prior to that implosion. Signs of bubbles from this year? Perhaps deal-of-the-day sites.

What Market Share Matters?

Both Lessien and John Gruber take on the topic of market share and I think they miss some of the nuances.  

Lessien applies the basic business school approach: 

Large market share attracted developers who built software exclusively for the dominant platform. That software, in turn, created further lock-in as users grew accustomed to the workflows and proprietary data formats that emerged. Typified by Microsoft’s “embrace and extend” strategy, market leadership yielded a nearly permanent advantage, which suffocated competing platforms and deprived customers of choice. Essentially, the historical advantage of dominant market share has been the ability to raise (discriminately) the switching cost of competing platforms.

In other words, there are massive network effects in technology.  These network effects can lead to monopoly rents.   

While she doesn't do so explicitly, Lessien goes on to suggest these network effects aren’t applicable to mobile. Despite even a commandeering market share, monopoly rents can’t and won’t be created and therefore market share is largely irrelevant.       

Gruber takes a slightly different tack by suggesting market share and profitability are loosely correlated, but that this correlation has been minimized in the world of mobile. In paraphrasing Lessien, Gruber states, "profit share seems a better indicator of success than market share — both today, and historically."

I think the three of us agree that the most desired applications from a user perspective, the “table stakes applications” that represent the top 85-90 percent of desired applications will be ubiquitous to all platforms. I think we also agree that the perceived horse race created by pundits shouting every month when the market share metrics drop is overdone.  Everyone wants to catch the inflection points, but these inflection points will never materialize as a single number.

But let’s take some of this to its limit.  Developers are constrained.  Big players do have the ability to ensure their services are ubiquitous to all platforms and thanks to web applications the  “table stakes applications” are (or will be) available on the leading mobile platforms. But with what lag? Even a short lag creates network effects. Consumers, knowing that their horse will always finish, but never first (sport analogy for Gruber) will be inclined to change their bet to a platform that gets the newest and next table stakes applications first.…

State of the Union Analysis

This year's State of the Union was about 400 words shorter than last year's State of the Union address. Likely due the changes in Congress, this year's address also had nearly 30 fewer applauses (77 compared to 106 in 2010) and about a third of the laughter (4 compared to 12 in 2010). The word clouds below illustrate some of the key themes of the two speeches. 


 

I also did some text analysis of the speech this year compared to last year which provides some interesting signs of times.

2011 CES Tablets

In October I said I expected 80+ tablet launches at 2011 CES.  AS CES approached it was clear 2011 was going to be the year of the tablet and a few days before the show I said that my 80+ estimate was looking conservative.  I updated my expectations and said I wouldn't be surprised by 100+ tablet launches at CES and by my count we saw over one hundred launches. Here is a draft list of the launches we saw: