Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Consulting & advisory, research notes, in the press, about bubblegen,
next wednesdays.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A killer article on reforming education at b-schools by Dean Tyson of the London Business School in Strategy+Business (Free Reg). LBS just rocks, man!

-- Mahashunyam // 7:11 PM //


An interesting analysis of the offshoring decision for a firm in Strategy+Business (Free Reg).

-- Mahashunyam // 7:01 PM //


Nick Carr on Innovation in Strategy+Business (Free Reg). Same old process innovation vs product innovation stuff, with some fast imitation thrown in. Key point : have focus in what/where you innovate and try to translate innovation into a competitive advantage.

What I liked most in the article was the comparison of the innovation strategies of Dell and Gateway.

"...Compare Dell�s and Apple�s highly disciplined innovation efforts to Gateway�s shoot-anything-that-moves approach. Gateway started as a process innovator, becoming, with Dell, a pioneer of direct distribution, but it also tried to be a product differentiator, maintaining relatively high-cost manufacturing plants, investing more than Dell in R&D, and launching expensive brand-advertising campaigns. It innovated aggressively on the retailing end as well, pioneering the exclusive stores that Apple would later (and more successfully) copy. It even tried to be a service innovator, pursuing a highly publicized �beyond the box� strategy involving the provision of various consulting services to small businesses. By trying to innovate everywhere, Gateway failed to build a strong competitive advantage anywhere."

Can you see HP written all over this? This is *exactly* why I think HP's strategy (if any), will be quite ineffective. They are trying to be all things to all people, and running into more focused competitors such as IBM, Dell and Sun everywhere. Their competitive response has been to imitate all of their competitors : getting into consumer electronics like Dell and Gateway, building up consulting practice like IBM, and pushing high-end unix servers like Sun. Somewhere in this whole mess, there's also Linux, consumer electronics and printing. Imagine how much worse it would've been for HP if their bid for PwC acquisition had gone through!

Having said that, I am not quite sure of how exactly I'd fix HP if I were Carly. Probably, my starting point would be the application of Jack Welch's principle : get out of each business that is not number 1 or 2 in its market. Getting out of consumer electronics would be a no-brainer, as I think HP just does not have what it takes to compete againt the Japanese product innovators on one hand and American process innovators like Dell on the other, not to mention the emerging low-cost Chinese players. After that, selling off the consulting practice may be a good start. High-end servers could be the next to go. Then do something with the rest.

What would you do?

-- Mahashunyam // 6:21 PM //

Friday, September 03, 2004

Telus and Verizon are looking to dump SuperPages, their Western Canadian yellow pages business. I think it's a pretty smart move. IMHO, phone directory business has peaked, and the future is a few years of stability followed by gradual decline as that business slowly gets googled. Location-based search and advertising is a big strategic opportunity for all search engines and I think they'll vigorously go after it. I think Google's ad-revenue model can be particularly effective here, if they can perfect something like a "pay-per-feet-to-the-store" kind of hybrid click-and-shop model for this business. The ultimate losers here will be the buyers of the income trusts. They'll probably be left holding the (very expensive) bag, as this will *not* be the long steady income stream that the private equity funds will sell them into.

-- Mahashunyam // 7:37 PM //


The uncooling of Wet Seal - blah, blah, blah. The bigger picture is radical strategic innovation that no one in this category can imitate (from Zara, H&M, etc) because they don't have the cognitive resources.

-- umair // 2:59 PM //


Strategy Decay pt 378

Verizon cripples dream phone to work only with it's own bluetooth (and other sundry) features + packages. A nice example of when tying fails - when there are cheap (free) substitutes available, weak prop rights, and most importantly, your entire business model is a holdover from 1999 which doesn't recognize why markets for complements are cooler than monopolies over complements.

-- umair // 2:56 PM //


Simulation Economy

Market drivers - simulating virginity is just one of the many (questionably value creating) neurotech promises of the medium-term.

-- umair // 2:54 PM //


Bush by Number

"...0 Number of times Bush mentioned Saudi Arabia in his three State of the Union addresses.

1,700 Percentage increase between 2001 and 2002 of Saudi Arabian spending on public relations in the United States.

79 Percentage of the 11 September hijackers who came from Saudi Arabia. "

Link. (Via Mefi).

-- umair // 2:52 PM //


(Almost sadly) funny link of the day : a friend e-mailed this from the days of Corel's Linux ride after reading my comments on the previous post.

-- Mahashunyam // 7:06 AM //

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Modern day Robin Hoods from India.

-- Mahashunyam // 11:33 PM //


Canuck version of Enron. I wouldn't hold my breath for a Canadian version of Sarbanes-Oxley to result from this.

-- Mahashunyam // 4:07 PM //


Lest we forget

Online museum of Communism.

-- Mahashunyam // 4:25 AM //


Not Evil

Google Grants.

-- umair // 12:02 AM //

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"The only way to appreciate the opportunity before us is to comprehend the fundamentals of radio communication, and the profound ways they are changing. For all its significance to daily life and economic activity, wireless technology is poorly understood. This paper seeks to explain the established �static� wireless paradigm, the emerging �dynamic� alternative, and the implications of the coming revolution."

- taken from this (PDF).

-- dhd // 9:21 PM //


Strategy #213 from the Republican marketer's book : ridicule by association will always work.

State of the Union : A War of Words.

This is my favourite quote: "....It described liberals as a tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show".

It'd be funny, if it weren't so tragic that the Democrats have such a pathetic (non) response to this, inspite of having Madison Avenue and Hollywood on their side. Should've won over the Gubernator when he was young.

-- Mahashunyam // 9:19 PM //


Who needs WMD when you've got lawyers on your side?

The developing world lost the farm at WTO. I don't always agree with Devinder Sharma's views, but his analysis here seems to be fairly reasonable, especially since he seems to have outlined some of this earlier.

"...Interestingly, developing countries are being asked to cut domestic support for agriculture at a time when a majority of the 3 billion farmers in the majority world earn less than half of what a European or American cow gets as subsidy � US $ 3 a day. It is also widely accepted that developing countries do not have the means to provide direct farm support to farmers. It is therefore not only amazing but shocking beyond belief to see the way the developing country negotiators goofed up."

I hate to rant, but this is just *so* wrong. On the insanity scale, this is only matched by the cotton subsidies. Fortunately, there's at least some hope for sanity to prevail in this bizarro world, after Brazil successfully sued the US. However, whether the WTO's cotton ruling will result in any meaningful policy reform in the US after the latest self-goal scored by the developing world remains to be seen.

PS: Did the Chinese just sleep through all of this or what?

-- Mahashunyam // 6:31 AM //

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A new theory (requires free subscription) has surfaced (apparently based on evidence) to explain the "Tunguska event" which occured in Russian Siberia in 1908.

-- dhd // 8:57 PM //


War on Terror Butlerian Jihad

Pipe-bomb blast at stem-cell research lab in Boston.

-- umair // 4:33 PM //


Replication Wars

Engadget interviews Valenti.

-- umair // 3:01 PM //



These guys are debating what Bush's favorite rhetorical tactic should be called:

"...so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she�d heard � that I watched her hear � she in fact had never heard, and she�d never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane.

I�ve obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness."

Uhh...guys...this is what the rest of the world calls The Big Lie. Wake up. Why do you think they don't teach us history in (public) school anymore?

Here's another example.

-- umair // 2:52 PM //


Why the Dems will fail.

-- umair // 2:30 PM //


Alex Halavais takes up [email protected]'s experiment to hack Wikipedia by introducing false info.

Interesting, but kind of irrelevant - it's pretty clear that the economics of open-source anything depends on reputation and trust; both of which will be increasingly important as these mechanisms get gamed. How far off is real Wikispam? As the value of Wikipedia increase, as it's been doing, spammers will try to establish prop rights.

-- umair // 2:26 PM //


Very nice piece about measuring media concentration and why the HHI doesn't capture the value most attach to plurality in media. Highly recommended.

-- umair // 12:44 PM //



Tiffin carriers. I could use one right about now.

-- umair // 12:34 PM //


The Beeb asks if vinyl will disappear. Uhh...it won't - because to guys like me, tinny music on MP3 is not a substitute for the warmth of music on vinyl. In fact, they're complements.

Now, people like me aren't the mass market obviously. But the growth rate in my segment is really, really high; and so this is a niche that is the future of music demand, not the past. This is not a paradox to anyone under the age of 25.

Nice quote, though:

"..."Record companies used to be run by record lovers, providing some amazing packages," he said. "Now they're run by accountants."

-- umair // 12:05 PM //


You have gotta be kidding me. The Beeb has an article about Gartner's Hype Cycle, which I think is kind of not cool, because it's just a restatement of the most simple innovation dynamics with a bit of cosmetic surgery,

-- umair // 12:01 PM //


New iMac. I think this is a singularly uninspired and totally uncool design, but ymmv.

-- umair // 12:00 PM //


Can someone explain to the NYT that the term 'unsanctioned demonstration' is fundamentally opposed to, umm, the United States Constitution? Thanks.

-- umair // 11:57 AM //


Genome Economy

Synthetic life - Sciam article from a month or two back. Worth a read.

-- umair // 1:32 AM //


Hydrogen Economy

"...Supramolecular complexes created by Karen Brewer's group at Virginia Tech convert light energy (solar energy) into a fuel that can be transported, stored, and dispensed, such as hydrogen gas.

The process has been called artificial photosynthesis, says Brewer, associate professor of chemistry. "Light energy is converted to chemical energy. Solar light is of sufficient energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas, but this does not happen on its own; we need a catalysts to make this reaction occur."

Link. Interesting.

-- umair // 1:27 AM //


2000 (1957 version)

Air-conditioned jackets. Finally!

-- umair // 1:25 AM //


Gartner predicts India to lose outsourcing revenues. Blah, blah, blah - arbitrage is a zero-sum game.

-- umair // 1:24 AM //



"...What do we get in return for granting TV stations free use of our airwaves? Unfortunately, when it comes to coverage of issues important to our nation, the answer is less and less."

That's what an FCC commisioner says.

-- umair // 1:21 AM //


I am completely obsessing over Battelle/Mayfield's Sell-Side Advertising, which is the coolest idea I have heard for ages.

I have the intuition that the economics of this model is absolutely spot on, and I'm trying to give it a bit of structure (and a pricing mechanism).

Note it incorporates the idea of viral revenue streams like in my network licenses.

-- umair // 1:17 AM //


Coordination Machines

Finding college roommates is a lot more riskless than it used to be. And there's probably a lot less upside as well.

-- umair // 1:15 AM //


Niall Ferguson thinks a Bush reelection would be bad for conservatism - like John Major bad; it might essentially kill the party. I think Niall is great at sounding huge alarm bells, just like this one.

-- umair // 1:12 AM //


A bit about Orion, who hope to create personal supercomputers, aka cluster workstations.

I'm not sure if this is aligned with consumer needs in the long (long) term - I think it's the Net that needs to provide data crunching capability. That means real data crunch, not just simple database manipulation. Think about how difficult it is to build (or view) even a serious graph on the Net.

Of course, Orion's target market is professional users of scientific workstations. The problem is that this market is relatively small, and it's not clear whether global growth will happen. Still, it's big enough to make Orion a nice chunk of $$.

-- umair // 1:03 AM //


Utility Function

Sewer divers.

-- umair // 1:02 AM //


Release the Photos

There are more and worse Abu Ghraib photos. The Post has the entire disc (as do others). Sy Hersh has talked about them. I would like to see them. Would you?

Someone should set up a website. I would, but I'm (honestly) too chicken, because I don't want to get clockwork gitmo'd.

Aside - this is why I think the Dems are missing a big opportunity. Coordination machines do things. Blogs are only information machines - they filter things. Now, there are many different kinds of filters. But they can't multiply action like coordination machines can. Releasethepictures.com would be a nice example of a coordination machine.

-- umair // 12:55 AM //


Freedom --> Slavery

"...The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation and is demanding records regarding Internet postings by critics of the Bush administration that list the names of Republican delegates and urge protesters to give them an unwelcome reception in New York City."

Link. Voter intimidation is only really voter intimidation when it's anti-GOP. What a surprise.

-- umair // 12:52 AM //

Monday, August 30, 2004

The impending doom threatened by self-replicating nanorobots transforming the planet into "grey goo"???

-- dhd // 9:06 PM //


Our grand children will likely be taught these principles in grade school. However, it's kind of exciting (from a nerd point of view) to be alive in a time with so much innovation (mind you, it could be argued that being alive at anytime in history would satisfy this criteria, except for the dark ages of course.) Check out one application of quantum theory that will ensure the quantum memory in my quantum computer in the year 2050 won't get away with spontaneously switching a 1 to a 0 (i.e. memory error correction). ... and no, they haven't figured out how to construct Scotty's transporter...yet. Damned Heisenberg compensators!

-- dhd // 8:11 PM //


A good article on some of the issues and benefits of adopting an open spectrum policy. It reads more like a manifesto, but still addresses some key questions including some previous issues discussed on bubblegeneration.

-- dhd // 8:02 PM //


The recent iTunes Music Store's Volume Discounts is interesting. The individual customer has been serviced; the new "individual" is businesses. I like this positioning. B2C, now B2B. Which means Apple will now be spreading its Fairplay/AAC in 10,000 or 25,000 lots, minimum. A clever way to progress the audio-codec format of choice from non-DRM'd mp3 to DRM'd aac (albeit crackable, but that's beside the point). Get someone else (or some aspiring business, promotion, what-have-you) to spread the "currency" for you. Jobs noted that iTMS's competition was not other EMD services, but piracy. At this rate, to compete with iTMS does an EMD have to act like a pirate? A little weed is starting to seem like the only option....

-- matt // 11:47 AM //

Sunday, August 29, 2004

This fascinates my Linux-geek side : all hail the arrival of GmailFS. Wow!!! Like really, wow!!! I think the Google strategy wonks are doing an exceptional job of entrenching the platform.

-- Mahashunyam // 7:05 PM //


Creating infrastructure for the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) : Refuting objections to a Global Rural Network (GRNet) for developing nations. This is an example of how infrastructure directly aimed at the BoP may look like. I think there is a huge potential for disruptive ideas in addressing the BoP.

I think CKP has only discovered the demand side of the equation, and explained how to create strategy around meeting it. However, I think the economics of the BoP can go much farther. There's an entire eco-system of government, infrastructure, platforms, markets and applications waiting to be built here. I think we need to use technology and policy as key drivers to bring the BoP into a value-chain intermediated by strong market mechanisms. The BoP can hugely benefit from the efficiency gains brought about by this.

These market mechanisms will need strong infrastructures and regulatory environments to operate in. This makes me think that scope for innovation in creating these environments is much more than what CKP has alluded to. We need to think of creative ways of building, funding and operating such infrastructure. Above all, we need to fundamentally re-think the designing of the infrastructure, policy-making and regulatory apparatus to make it specifically suit the unique needs of the BoP.

I recently came across a pretty cool example of what some of this may look like. The Rural Infrastructure and Services Common (RISC), addresses "The problem of the economic development of large underdeveloped economies present unique challenges that require innovative solutions." Here's their concept paper (sorry, it's in MS-Word .doc format).

-- Mahashunyam // 5:24 PM //



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