Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

At the bus stop this morning, I saw a dude with an iPod, and it struck me just how obsolete the iPod (big one) is gonna look in about a month or so. It also struck me that the figures of iPod penetration quadrupling in the last few months are probably for real.

-- umair // 1:35 PM //


The Beeb talks to billg about the "digital lifestyle".

-- umair // 1:33 PM //


Cringely on the Mac Mini as personal video iPod - we talked about this a week or so back.

He makes the jumps to Mac Mini + iFlicks as the integrated digital distribution end of video, just like iTunes and iPod - something that's been discussed a lil bit before, but never put in the context of Jobs as movie industry players, which Cringely talks about. This is brilliant stuff and I think it's right on.

In fact, just like iTunes is where Apple really stands to capture massive long-term value, iFlicks + iTunes may position Apple as the digital media distribution monopolist (I am assuming that players will become rapidly commoditized, as is already happening).

-- umair // 1:28 PM //


Replication Wars

OK, ok, so by now you've heard about Marlin, the joint DRM effort from Sony, Matsushita, Philips, and Samsung.

Look, I see this as a nonevent, mostly because it won't work out, but also because even if it does, there are other players waiting in the wings to arb away the DRM and trade the extra value for nice fat profits - the new Chinese CE guys.

-- umair // 1:17 PM //


The First World is the New Third World

"...The White House has eliminated funding for a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope from its 2006 budget request and directed NASA to focus solely on deorbiting the popular spacecraft at the end of its life, according to government and industry sources."

RIP Hubble - what do you expect from Bush and his theocratic goons?

-- umair // 11:50 AM //

Friday, January 21, 2005

Dot Com 2.0

LiveJournal reader cuts head off penis and posts pics (LinkFilter link is safe to click on - I haven't actually seen the pics myself...).

-- umair // 8:41 PM //


Googling "neurotech market" returns exactly 1 result. This blows my mind - wow.

-- umair // 7:34 PM //


A nice paper about the ethics of neurocognitive enhancement.

-- umair // 6:45 PM //


I am enjoying wheii quite a bit (uhh...despite the fact that it's kind of off the wall).

-- umair // 6:18 PM //


Competitive Advantage

A nice paper critiquing the concept of competitive advantage. Interesting stuff that the strategy literature is resisting.

-- umair // 5:29 PM //


Network Effects vs Network Effects

Om questions whether Metcalfe's law has an upper bound, and whether eBay's reached it. My take: in most economic models, the utility of a network is represented by a U-shaped function - at some point, additional members of the network create disutility by increasing transaction and coordination costs (or decreasing signal/noise, if you like). Put another way, marginal utility has a bound, after which marginal utility becomes marginal disutility.

I think this is a lot closer to reality than Metcalfe's law, which is kind of only half the picture. So, yes, the marginal value of each new member to eBay is decreasing - that's only sensible.

He also thinks there's an MP3 price war looming - I thought it was already happening!!

-- umair // 5:14 PM //


A loose A-Z of subversion in the late 20th century.

-- umair // 4:39 PM //


Powell to step down as FCC Chair. I'd say this is a good thing, but my money's on an even more flagrant ex-industry crony replacing him.

-- umair // 4:26 PM //


21st Century

Intelsat satellite loss cuts off comms to South Pacific island countries.

-- umair // 4:25 PM //


BW on US wireless carriers ongoing failure to build a truly compelling value prop for content providers, esp music...Europe was (is) very much like this, if you ask me.

-- umair // 1:28 PM //


Bhutan is the world's first nonsmoking nation.

-- umair // 1:25 PM //

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Stuffed buckyballs could lead to truly revolutionary materials.

-- umair // 3:05 PM //


Politics of the Day

What Doc says.

-- umair // 3:04 PM //


Selection Effects

A nice post from Venky about the so-called Wiki Wars - essentially, a nonevent, since competition often helps markets for emerging technologies grow. Remember the shape of the dominant design curve (a left skewed pseudo normal distrib) - until the curve peaks and the shakeout begins, competition is a sign that users are accepting your market. Anything otherwise would be, I think, a pretty bad sign.

Om thinks Wikis aren't gonna be big money-makers - I think I have to disagree. The potential market size for Wikis could be as big as a significant percentage of the KM market, which is (was) pretty big in it's heyday. So to call Wikis a minor play now is a bit premature - I'm keeping my fingers crossed about Wikis the way I did about blogs in 00. (Via Om).

-- umair // 2:53 PM //


Simulation Economy

Agent-based sim of innovation dynamics & R&D spend - interesting paper.

-- umair // 2:47 PM //


Humour of the Day

Today I got referrer spam from:


-- umair // 2:38 PM //


So today I tried to resub to some lists I used to be on some time back - before the blogsplosion - and most of them are dead, though the subjects they address are live and kicking.

The question this begs is - have blogs killed mailing lists? Here's a bit of a nostalgic link about flamewars on usenet driving the digerati to mailing lists in the first place. Interesting to think about blogs as part of this bigger picture.

-- umair // 1:52 PM //


Long Tail Thoughts

Where would we look for evidence of the LT? If we accept the proposition that I've put forward - that the LT is a shift towards the mass customization end of the feature spectrum (ie, away from industrial-era mass production) - I think the answer's fairly straightforward: industries which used to be monopolies, duopolies, or oligopolies, and whose structure has changed somewhat due to cheap information slashing transaction costs. In effect, industries which are (slowly) becoming less concentrated. Alternatively, industries in which product offerings used to be tightly segmented and largely homogenous within segments during the 80s and 90s.

There are quite a few nontypical (ie, nonmedia) examples that come readily to mind (with varying degrees of LTness) - autos, cosmetics, medicine (viz plastic surgery niches growing), to name just a few.

-- umair // 1:45 PM //


Why Work asks some interesting questions.

-- umair // 1:39 PM //


Genome Economy

How did we get so much diversity from so few genes? RNA editing - pre mRNA recoding catalyzed by specific aminases - is now thought to be a big part of the story. Here's a more in-depth resources page and here's the lab's page discussed in the article - fascinating stuff.

-- umair // 1:13 PM //


Moglen's page for Law in the Internet Society at Columbia Law has a long collection of nice links - the mail list archives are interesting as well.

-- umair // 11:36 AM //



It's funny to me, as someone who straddles the US and UK, how bizarrely removed the entire UK video industry is from the massive innovation taking place across the pond. Fine, we all know the drivers - regulation, history, etc - but I never cease to find it amazing that the British public stands for such anti-innovation.

-- umair // 11:15 AM //


Replication Wars

eXeem FAQ is up - note the bit about it being 'ad-supported'.

-- umair // 11:12 AM //


Beeb piece on nano...blah, blah, blah.

-- umair // 11:10 AM //


Ibogaine blocks alcohol cravings.

-- umair // 11:09 AM //


Post article about ChoicePoint:

"...Now the little-known information industry giant is transforming itself into a private intelligence service for national security and law enforcement tasks. It is snapping up a host of companies, some of them in the Washington area, that produce sophisticated computer tools for analyzing and sharing records in ChoicePoint's immense storehouses. In financial papers, the company itself says it provides "actionable intelligence."

-- umair // 11:07 AM //


Rumour of the Day

De Niro + Scorsese in talk about Taxi Driver sequel. (LinkFilter).

-- umair // 10:55 AM //

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Post on the enormous influence of Philip K. Dick.

-- umair // 4:07 PM //


GraceNote + ScanSoft in voice-recognition MP3 infrastructure alliance. Interesting.

-- umair // 3:49 PM //


Web 2.0 - Tags

So - in case it's not obvious, Technorati Tags are exactly the kind of coordination mechanism that enable massively distributed information to be easily aggregated and gathered, which creates what I've called distributed economies of scale - when it's cheaper for many 'prosumers' to do the same thing that a bunch of professionals formerly used to do.

I haven't blogged about it much, but let me underline it here: the impact of mechanisms like these is going to be nothing less than tectonic.

Example: here's a fascinating discussion by a pro-am about how the animation in the Polar Express could have been made much better quit easily. Now, think about the same discussion, but multiplied by some amount by cheaper coordination (aka tags, etc) - you've got essentially the beginnings of a form of organization that resembles a firm, but without the corporateness. This is the kind of thing that better coordination mechanisms will begin to enable cheaply, massively, quickly.

-- umair // 2:14 PM //


Leveraging installed bases:

"...A Method to process real-time digital audio using graphical processing unit (GPU) of video hardware is announced. The official site is not up yet, and information about the upcoming beta and products will be released soon at BionicFX.com."


-- umair // 2:08 PM //


Google + rel="nofollow"

Of course, this attribute alters the value equation of blogs by removing the upside of commenting by other bloggers - all comments become invisible to Google. I think it's a pretty bad idea for blogs as conversations, since it kills (a large part of) the incentive to comment.

Update - I just noticed that Battelle points out much the same thing.

-- umair // 1:55 PM //


Art of the Day

Art about unbundling, or what the artist calls 'deconomics'. The point is that unbundling is made possible by tech which lowers the transaction costs of buying each bit of the former bundle separately. No doubt...interesting nonetheless.

-- umair // 1:49 PM //


Media 2.0

"...Right now, when viewers replay a show they've recorded on DVR (a service that typically costs $5 to $13 a month), the networks get nothing. In Poltrack's model, networks would negotiate to get their slice of the revenue pie from distributors � cable and satellite TV operators, Internet service providers and perhaps even telephone companies � which would pass those costs along to the audience."

So, this is the polar opposite of the supply-driven (advertiser subsidizes media consumption) model. As always, a synthesis will emerge somewhere between these two extremes - imho, elements of both models will be part of the Media 2.0 dominant design.

Something that hasn't been discussed so much is that the net effect will be that consumers (financially) pay more for the same amount of media - the media market size gets larger - because the relevance (and thus value) of the media they consumer will increase massively.

Alternatively, that the subsidizing of media consumption by advertisers will decrease, which means that the (traditional) ad market size will decrease. That's a less revolutionary conclusion because it's already happening.

The effects further down the value chain of a demand-driven model are also fairly straightforward - a Long Tail effect for content producers, rather than a winner-take-all market dictated by media buyers' economies of scope.

-- umair // 1:40 PM //


I'm finding unmediated to be a vital resource these days - excellent stuff.

Also don't Paul Kedrosky's blog.

-- umair // 1:33 PM //


Om notes Blinkx is building out it's supply chain - it's signed deals with Sky, Fox, the Beeb, etc. Keep an eye on this space.

-- umair // 1:28 PM //


Text spam in Japan...very nice.

-- umair // 1:22 PM //

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Data vs Processing

Zawodny follows up the Silicon Beat guys in noting that ubiquitous storage and falling barriers to connectivity make data more important than hardware.

I don't know that I buy the argument - hardware's always been worthless without data. More strictly, the value of data can be leveraged by complementary hardware. So it's an important observation, because it tells us that interconnectivity (ie compatibility across formerly competing standards) will probably begin to be a serious value driver across data-driven consumer markets .

-- umair // 1:55 PM //


Future of Music

Is not Polyphonic HMI.

-- umair // 1:35 PM //


Open-Source Pharma

"...Only about 1% of newly developed drugs are for tropical diseases, such as African sleeping sickness and dengue fever. While patent incentives have driven commercial pharmaceutical companies to make Western health care the envy of the world, the commercial model only works if companies can sell enough patented products to cover their R&D costs and produce profits for shareholders. The model thus fails in the developing world, where few patients can afford to pay patented prices for drugs. The solution to this devastating problem, say Stephen Maurer, Arti Rai, and Andrej Sali in the premier open-access medical journal PLoS Medicine, is to adopt an "open source" approach to discovering new drugs for neglected diseases."

Link. The stirrings of a revolution - no mistake about it.

-- umair // 1:31 PM //


Genome Economy

The cost of gene synthesis is dropping exponentially, making mass production viable - a Moore's law for the biotech industry? The key driver is microfluidics - arrays which can synthesize genes in massive parallel at little cost. Synthetic Bio imho promises to be a truly disruptive technology - forget disk drives, think penicillin:

"...These results illustrate the potential of microfluidics-based ultra-fast oligonucleotide parallel synthesis as an enabling tool for modern synthetic biology such as construction of genome-scale vectors and cell free proteome protein expression. It is exciting to foresee one day protein libraries can be made as easily as libraries of small molecules so that the functions encoded in protein sequences can be fully explored to benefit human health and life."

Link to quote. Some microfluidics players: Fluidigm, Surface Logix, Caliper.

-- umair // 1:14 PM //


Nice short bit about advances in thin-film tech - in this case, transparent transistors which can be fabbed at room temp cheaply, and may create markets for disposable consumer electronics.

-- umair // 1:12 PM //


TaskTracer - predictive organization for productivity software. Interesting (kind of).

-- umair // 1:10 PM //


Amazon.com mining by academics - a nice example of the power of aggregate info.

-- umair // 1:09 PM //


Strat Errors

Bricklin on why he didn't patent VisiCalc. Interesting. (Via).

-- umair // 1:06 PM //



A lot of buzz about tags lately - rightly so. A new economics is emerging here. The implicit transaction is simple: viewers trade their private information (by tagging content) for public information (by viewing already tagged content). This way, the public info gets more and more accurate - the accuracy of tags grows with the size of the network (viz, classic direct network externalities).

It sounds trivial, but it's hugely important. Every new business model is built on an innovative implicit (or explicit) transaction between consumer and producer. So here we have the first step - a trade of public information for private info, which is fed back into public info.

The next step is the critical one - building a b-model on top of this new transaction. But this first step is significant - it's further than RSS has gotten, for example (because RSS is a one-sided transaction so far).

-- umair // 1:00 PM //


Dot Com 2.0

Thailand plans death row webcam.

-- umair // 11:59 AM //



Fox forced to pixelate cartoon nudity.

-- umair // 11:59 AM //

Monday, January 17, 2005

TiVo Day

TiVoToGo growing pains.

-- umair // 4:50 PM //


RIP Media Lab Europe - we hardly knew ya. Europe vs innovation strikes again.

-- umair // 1:52 PM //


Fair-use RSS comes to the fore.

-- umair // 1:06 PM //


NYT on TiVo vs Comcast drama...yawn.

-- umair // 1:01 PM //




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