I don’t remember when I first heard of SXSW. I can’t say what sparked my desire to go. But, I know I’ve wanted to go.
One of the great things about a 2 year break from life (MBA program) is you get to make things happen. So, after having missed it last year because of Spring Break, I made SXSW Interactive 2012 a priority.
Man … I love Austin.
Instead of my usual long winded openers … lets just talk about SXSW.
The Panels Were A Major Let Down
I don’t know how to say this nicely, but they generally sucked. Given the hype surrounding the conference I expected to come and be wowed by some of the greatest minds in tech and leave blown away by the greatest names in the industry. Yet, after only 2 days, I considered scalping my pass on the street for tickets to the free sold out Jay-Z concert. I think one of Mashable’s writers summed it up best with “anyone who follows tech news will already know everything being ‘taught’ in a panel” which was preceded by “skip the panels”.
But I figured out the secret. Ignore the content of panels, go listen to people who seem interesting. One of the best talks I heard was by the founder of Eventbrite, Kevin Hartz. The topic was something about the event space, which I didn’t care about, but just hearing him talk about the Eventbrite story and how transformative Facebook sharing was to his company was priceless.
The Parties Really Are That Great!
The truth is, I hate traditional “bars”. Standing around drinking beer just doesn’t interest me (I am more of a club or lounge guy). But … when the drinks are free and the conversation is on tech and startups it becomes so much more interesting. The conversations I had with random founders, serial entrepreneurs, investors, and fellow MIT alums & students were priceless.
Startups & Small Companies Dominate
Don’t think that the big names and established companies don’t have presence, but it seemed hidden at best. Startups galor, including some that are really out of the startup phase (Foursquare comes to mind). But if you think Sergey Brin is walking around giving talks … stick with youtube.
It was all worth it
In conclusion, it was just fun and I felt like I met a lot of good people I want to keep in touch with in the future. I hope to go again and for anyone who likes to go out, party, and tech … SXSW is time & money well spent.
I woke up and opened my browser. Google news greeted me with a new story.
I’m glad I wasn’t drinking coffee. I would have spit it out and then buy a new laptop to write this. For a second, I thought someone was playing a very well orchestrated joke on me.
So I decided to get on my computer, read up on the deal and then quickly share my thoughts. As someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes mobile I realize how big of an announcement this is. So, What does this mean for Android?
Google now has control of 30% of the Android Market
Instead of just playing in the software / cloud space, Google is now a manufacturer … and a big one. Google now has the ability to transform a third of all Android handsets into their vision. If there was any question about their commitment to Android, it’s just been answered.
Google takes one step closer to being Apple
One fact touted by iPhone (and Mac OS X) fans is the tight integration of hardware and software. Everything was made together from the ground up, in the same house, under the same roof, and works together beautifully. Now Google is in that game too. Also, Google finally now has a direct financial incentive to make Android great (it will drive sales). Remember my previous warning!
The “Microsoft Model” is gone
As mentioned, Microsoft never got into the production of PCs. Android, up to this point, had been following a modified version of the Microsoft Model (make the software; sell (or give away in Android’s case) the software; stay away from the hardware; let the market forces drive down prices competition, and increase your market share; rule the world). Now, they have a 30% influence in the hardware side of the equation. Welcome to the “Google Model”.
Handset Makers will be Mad!!! (possibly)
I think if you ask anyone why Microsoft never made computers or laptops the answer is obvious: you will piss off your customers. You and I are not Microsoft’s customers, it’s the Dell’s, HP’s, and Lenovo’s of the world. Most people get Windows from a new computer, not from a box. For Android that turns into 100% (you always get Android through a phone maker). Google’s customers are Samsung, HTC, LG, and (formerly) Motorola. Now they are competing against all of them, but have a clear advantage. This will get interesting …
This may not impact users … really
The truth is, most people don’t follow tech news. There is a good chance this deal may not even come into the minds of most consumers in a store looking for a new phone. I do think sales reps will start pushing Motorola phones with a new vigor, but until Google actually brands a phone as the Google xxxxx 4G, it may not affect your average consumer.
This will make or break Android!!!
This will be very good for Android or very bad. If all the other makers of Android devices decide they don’t want to compete with the maker of the OS that they are selling, things will get ugly. HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson would all eventually drop support for Android (maybe for Windows Phone 7). And since Google has NO proficiency in designing or selling hardware (remember the failure of the Nexus One), Motorola-Google-Android could quickly die. Then Google is the sole maker of Android phones, but is incapable of selling them correctly.
But, on the other hand, this could now force the standardization that Android needs and solve a lot of the crappy usability issues the platform is plagued with. And, if handled properly, handset makers won’t fear the competition if it results in better sales.
Too much to predict
I’m trying to predict how consumers, the market, manufacturers, Microsoft, Apple, and my mother will be affected by this, but it’s overwhelming. I don’t want this to turn into a 10 page list of every possible impact … so I will end it now.
- Damien Peters
I love my Xbox 360.
I really love this machine. I got the Red Ring of Death, and I went out and bought another. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t overthink it … I just bought another. I couldn’t imagine being without it for more than a night. What would I do for entertainment? How would I pass the hours of boredom?
And if the title didn’t give it away … Call of Duty nor Halo are in my disc drive.
I gave up cable in December of 2009. It started out as just an experiment. I needed to cut back my television watching and I thought the amount of money I was paying for the 4 shows I actually watched was stupid. Additionally, I invested in a networked mess of machinery for my entertainment needs. A central computer stored months worth of movies and television shows. My Xbox 360 & Modified Xbox Original provided easy ways to get shows from the computer to my TV. In any bedroom, and in HD, I had access to years of great programming. Cable seemed … pointless.
And at that point in time … my Xbox 360 became the center of all my entertainment needs.
I signed up for Netflix, and after waiting well over a year, I signed up for Hulu Plus when it came out. I continued to download movies, I continued to get my DVDs in the mail, and I continued to spit on Comcast (television at least … I still needed internet).
I soon found I wasn’t the only one. Coming to school there were many who had given up on monthly cable bills. We didn’t have time to watch TV anyway, so what was the point when old seasons of “The Office” and “Parks & Recreation” could entertain us. I still got the bare minimums from Comcast (Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC) and in HD. With years of streaming content at my fingertips now, what more do I need?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how little had changed since I had cable tv. When I had cable, all I watched was my DVR. I set a bunch of shows that I liked and I watched them when I wanted to watch TV. TV usually sucks … so no point in channel surfing. Might as well stick with the list of shows I love and will watch anytime of day.
So … the point of all this …
The Xbox 360
Before I had this machine, there was a lot of work I put in to getting shows and keeping content. A 2 TB (really really big) hard drive stored my movies & shows. Scouring sites of questionable legality got me seasons of South Park & The Simpsons. Movies could be viewed on any TV … but after a few hours of downloading. Lastly, it was hard to get good HD content … making the process all the more annoying.
Now, I don’t need to know anything to have it all. Netflix and Hulu have tons of shows and movies. The movie selection has degraded a lot since my home set up, but the lack of work is refreshing. And if I really did want to see a recent box office movie … I can rent instantly through the movie market.
On Demand Cable Free television is available to the masses. Game consoles, while great at playing games, are even better at bringing internet television to the masses.
Looking for a cheaper option with no games, look to Roku. $60 gets you in.
- Damien Peters
I am happy to say I have spent the last 9 weeks experiencing San Francisco and the tech scene here. I’m learning Product Management at Zynga as an intern and loving every minute of it.
But SF as a city … It’s OK.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a sense of energy about hi-tech and entrepreneurship that I have never seen before. Sure Boston isn’t bad, but it’s not the same and it’s not focused on web, mobile, and software. There are meetups and gatherings that allow people to easily congregate around hi-tech topics of interest. Pitch contests allow everyone to experience the entrepreneurial spirit. Kleiner Perkins VCs come and talk to interns. High-profile startups buy you drinks as part of the recruiting process. A trip to the coffee bar shows 4 guys furiously working on their start-up.
You have to love it.
Yet something is offsetting about the Bay area. It’s spread out, expensive, and a mix of such different and fundamentally different cultures that things don’t seem to truly mesh. And no matter what area of the city I travel to … weirdness is there to greet me. And weird is cool to an extent … but then it’s just not.
Regardless, there are two things I have failed to do while here.
2) Network outside of my internship
Well … I’m determined to change. I will blog and network. I have 3 weeks to finish make the best of my time left here and I will do it.
More to come …
- Damien Peters
I bought an iPad!
For those of you who know how much of a deep down Android fanboy that I am, this might be a bit shocking. There is a slew of reasons that forced (yes … I had no choice) to buy one, but the biggest is the Android offerings just aren’t there yet. But this thought isn’t about my purchase.
Why does Apple refuse to implement a real file system in their iOS products?
This has to be the single biggest beef I have with the iPad and the source of endless frustration for me. I have a dropbox account, but it’s almost useless. For me to go into dropbox and open a file in another application, a copy is made and the file name is changed. In addition, any changes made are lost to the ether.
For Example: I wanted to add some non iOS compliant videos. Downloaded an app (a video player). Added the videos to the apps file storage. Problem is … they are completely hidden and undetectable to anything else on the iPad. So, when I downloaded another video player, I had to add them to that app and keep two copies on my iPad. Silly …
Are you an iOS device owner? Have you been annoyed by this same thing? Is it a virtual non-issue to you and most people?
Vic E. Nary – CEO of A Corp.: A Corp is going gangbusters! Customer adoption is right in the best part of the hockey stick. Even the most critical of tech blogs has hailed A Corp’s product as addressing every single need of their customer. Vic was an oddball to his classmates in grad school and his idea for A Corp was never taken seriously. Even one of his professors told him he was off the mark and the idea just didn’t make sense. Lucky for him Vic refused to listen and continued to believe he had the right vision for the future. A Corp is turning down a slew of acquisition offers as it tries to grow into a multi-billion dollar company.
Ari Gant – CEO of B Inc.: B inc. is attempting to conduct it’s second down round. Sales haven’t hit their target since the company was founded and investors are sweating. Morale is low in the company and the entire board has been pressuring the CEO to rethink the initial product after customer adoption proved sad. Ari, while open to tweaking some components of the business model, is ardent about the viability of the product. He has been spotted walking around the office in “Jobsian” turtle necks and has started to let his beard grey.
What is the difference between Ari and Vic?
It might not be obvious, but Vic and Ari are basically the same person. They both have forward thinking visions of the future. They are both capable businessmen. They both have been able to assemble a company and team around their ideas. They received funding and have both been just as lucky. Only one thing separates Ari and Vic
If you think about it, the only difference between a stubborn CEO who is leading his company into the grave and the “visionary of our time” (think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or whoever else the Valley has bestowed the honor too) is success. The visionaries are stubborn, sometimes arrogant, and usually won’t bend significantly on what they want, but when their products hit and they are making money no one questions their ways.
Is this a bad thing?
I have come to the conclusion that to be a successful Entrepreneur, you need the perfect balance of Arrogance (the belief that you are right in the face of blatant criticism), Stubbornness (your ability to stay on the path you believe in the face of opposition), and Correctness (this makes the stubbornness and arrogance pay off … because you are the right one, not your detractors).
If you are correct, then the arrogance and stubbornness that makes you hard to deal with will make you and everyone around you very rich and successful. This is a good thing.
But the reality of things are most of us probably aren’t 100% right. We might have a good sense of what is right, but we are probably missing … something. We might have the vicinity of the target in our cross hairs, but we need the guidance of others to help us find the exact bulls eye.
You might have the market, but not the go to market strategy. You might have a great understanding of the customers needs, but no good way of explaining it to them. You may have the deep technical expertise to build the worlds best mousetrap, but ignoring the fact that the average person can’t use it makes it useless.
So as I continue to bombard myself with the knowledge and experience around me … I’m trying to get my personal mix right on target.
- Damien Peters
In order to ensure that I am posting more often, I am going to start doing these “quick thoughts”. Not a fully fleshed out post, but something that is just on my mind and needs to get off.
Almost all of the tablets out (besides the camera-less iPad) come with two cameras. They have a self facing one for video conferencing, and they have a forward facing one so you can capture the world.
But who needs the latter?
My laptop has a self-facing camera so I can video chat with people. There isn’t one on the hood so I can take pictures of the world. It would be kind of pointless and add to the costs of the laptop. Leaving the camera out make sense to me.
Yet, we see so many tablets with two cameras. Now, I could be wrong and people may love to take pictures of things using their tablet, but given most tablet users are expected to have a cell phone on them, and the uses of a tablet is drastically different then a cell phone, does this really make sense?
There are some use cases, in particular augmented reality (putting computer images over real life video) that may be cool, but I don’t think that one has caught on just yet.
What are your thoughts? Is this a good feature, or a useless tool that increases the price?
- Damien Peters
Tablets are great!
Everyone loves the iPad, right? (Not me)
I want a tablet, and I don’t want an iPad. The reason I generally don’t buy iOS products is long and complicated, so I won’t bore you.
So when I heard about these high-end Android tablets to be launched, I got excited. First there was the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Then there were several other cheaper tablets by companies like Coby. But they all lacked something. The Galaxy Tab was 7 inches and too small for my tastes. My high-end tastes kept me from going low end. So there I was, wanting a nice 10-inch non-iOS tablet … but nothing to satisfy my desire.
Then I hear about Motorola! There is a cute little demo video announcing the tablet (the 3D one that bashed iPad and GalaxyTab). I go all the way to CES just to put my hands on this tablet. I hear all this about Honeycomb, a new flavor of Android catered to the tablet. Finally I might have real support for applications on a 10-inch form factor. Also, I get the high-end components of a major manufacturer.
I am excited.
Until I heard the price tag!
The Motorola Xoom is supposed to sell for $800. I just don’t understand this (and I’m not the only one). Considering this a new device, and Motorola has no track record in making tablets, it astonishes me that they would go for this price point. I know pricing is a careful science and there maybe some deep business insight into this process that I am missing, but at this point I doubt it. Why is this a bad price point you ask? Why … let me tell you.
It’s significantly more expensive than the iPad
No matter your current beliefs or views on Apple, there is no denying that they are clearly the market leader in tablets. They are the current platinum standard that every tablet is judged by. I just don’t think Motorola’s offering has the added benefits to justify the premium they are asking for. Just as with laptops, Apple generally sets the high-end of the market in terms of price. I just don’t know why Motorola thinks they can come in more expensive the current Mercedes-Benz of tablets.
While Motorola itself has a pretty good track record, there are a lot of firsts in this new product. It’s the first major branded Tegra 2 (the CPU) tablet. It’s Motorola’s first tablet. It’s the first Android 3.0 tablet. Considering I would be one of the beta testers to purchase this thing … the price is just too high.
It’s aimed at the average consumer
This whole post would be worthless if the Xoom wasn’t aimed at the mass market. If this were a business device, or something for early adopters (areas where price premiums are acceptable), then I wouldn’t take the time to gripe. But with a Superbowl ad that is very consumer focused and given Best Buy will be selling them, this is a mass market item. At this price though, I think it becomes too much of an investment for the average person.
The price is too close to a laptop
Tablets are thought of as this middleware in between laptops and cell phones. It compliments the two and gives you a minimized experience for on the go. But when you price your compliment as the same price as a laptop, it just seems silly. Even the iPad is the same as a mid-range laptop, but at $800 I can buy a really good computing machine.
So … Motorola, please do something. It may be steep discounts from the carriers, or maybe some crazy rebate program, but $800 is just too much. The tablet market is just heating up, so don’t make your first entry the single most expensive tablet in the entire industry.
Updated: I now hear that the high-end model is $1200 at Best Buy! (link)
- Damien Peters
The goal of business: Make Money
Let me take a step back …
How does Google make money off of the success and popularity of the Android Mobile Operating System?
- They sell ads in various google apps that are available (they don’t really do it … but it could happen)
- They collect data from users (Google is all about turning data into money. More data = More money)
- Brand benefits (You like “Droid” … then you like Google)
- Strategic Partnerships (Want to work with Android … then you work with Google)
And there are probably a ton of other benefits that come from controlling what is now the fastest growing smatphone operating system, but no need to list all of them. The main thing to note is:
Google doesn’t make money selling Android software or selling Android Phones.
I didn’t really think much about this for a long time. Google gives away a lot of it’s products for free. In some cases I feel it just grows the brand, in other cases it is an opportunity to sell more ads, and in other cases its just a hedge against waiting too long to get into a particular market. But with Android, I wonder if things are a little … different.
Android came to Google through acquisition. They bought the rights to the operating system, the code, and the staff before a product had actually been released. The original plan of Android was of the classical open source business model. Give away the software for free and make money in support, add-ons, consulting, and etc. This doesn’t seem to be the pure goal of Google at the moment.
The problem this may cause for us Android devotees out there (I am a proud Android phone user and a fan of the operating system in large) is wondering whether Google has the proper incentives to ensure the best user experience for us Android phone owners.
Really … think about this …
Look at iOS. Apple makes the software and the hardware. They make money on every device that runs the operating system. There is clear cut desire to make the best product available. They control all aspects of the iPhone (maybe to a fault) and are very invested in delivering a good product that people will pay a premium for.
Google gives away Android. In order to actually release a phone or device with Android on it, you don’t need any permission from Google (you do to use things like the Android Market though). You can even strip the phone of any ties to Google and remove them from the equation entirely. You can put your own GUI on it, you can brand it with Yahoo or Microsoft service, you can do whatever you want. Me buying an Android phone may not impact or help Google’s bottom line at all (potentially).
So … that brings me back to the title?
What incentives does Google have to ensure a world-class user experience? What incentive does my favorite search company have to invest money and time into polishing the bugs that may plague the system? Where is the motivation to hire the best in class Human Computer Interaction people to make sure navigating Android is effortless?
Basically … good will.
So what am I saying? What is my point? Am I advocating everyone to leave the Android operating system? Should you run to a OS that is sold and licensed to ensure proper development?
Don’t leave Android. It’s a great operating system with a lot of support from Google and the community. It’s incredibly powerful, and because of it’s openness it is allowing better phones to be produced for cheaper. There is a reason it is currently the best selling smartphone Operating System.
But … be weary. I do believe we will see Google continue to focus on it’s mobile applications and revenue centers (Android Market). Given the fact that it’s always hard to find good developers and Google has limited resources for their many many endeavors, they will prioritize. And given that at the end of the day business is business … I do think Google as a company will focus on improvements that help further Google’s reach, brand, and revenue.
But … don’t be too concerned. Device manufacturers looking to differentiate have come to the rescue. HTC’s sense had been shown to address some of the shortcomings of Google’s stock look and feel. Keyboard enhancement’s like Swype make the basic android typing experience more enjoyable. Even Samsung, with their lackluster Touchwhiz interface, adds in a few enhancements that help with the overall experience.
In conclusion, does Google care about Android … sure. They bought it and they benefit from it’s success. They know that having such a successful product in the mobile space is very important for future success
- Damien Peters
One of the key reasons behind choosing MIT as the place to pay thousand upon thousands of dollars receive my MBA from is because of the expertise here in Entrepreneurship. Not just in the business school, but all over the campus you will find people trying to start the next Google/Facebook/Twitter. There are few better places to go to if you really want to start your own company.
One key part of my entrepreneurial dreams (besides this blog) is the Entrepreneurship and Innovations program at MIT Sloan. Through additional classes, treks (just organized group trips with a business purpose), and team building, the goal is to create a cohort of like-minded entrepreneurial individuals. Is that 100% accomplished … I’ll leave that for another post … maybe after graduation.
A big part of the program is the well known Silicon Valley Trek. Everyone in the program heads out to the Bay Area and gets to visit and interact with several tech start-ups. It’s one of those good bonding and learning experiences.
Here is the recap of the companies I visited. I’ll focus on interesting things … you can go to their websites for info.
I started off my trip with Blippy, a new system to monitor your purchases and allow you to share them and provide reviews. We were greeted by Ashvin, the co-founder and led to a relatively empty room littered with exercise balls (yes … those big rubber balls you work your back out on). Still had that start-up smell.
What stuck out to me about Blippy’s creation is that it came about after Ashvin and a friend decided to stop working. They took a full year, without salary, got some free office space, and basically started hacking. They launched idea after idea, seeing what worked and what they liked. At the end of the year, the experiment was over. Blippy was born and soon funding followed. History is just starting.
One thing I liked about Ashvin is he is focused on more than just reviews. He understands at the core of the company is creating a product graph, a concept similar to the social graph but focused on purchases and products.
Born out of Singularity University’s inaugural class, Getaround is aimed at changing the way people think about car ownership. The simple explanation is imagine a company that allowed any single person to become their own Zipcar. But really, it’s so much more than that. Car ownership actually accounts for a great percentage of a household’s income and isn’t really structured efficiently. Every person driving their own car isn’t good for the environment or economical. By allowing people to rent your car when you aren’t using it will bring money to the car owner, better utilize resources, and is also a boost for building communities.
There are a lot of things to watch out for, especially when it comes to insuring the car’s safety, making sure the renter doesn’t trash the car, and the classical principal-agent problem talked about in economics (the driver has no real incentive to treat the car correctly). Right now, Getaround is growing well and hasn’t reached the mass to worry about some of the ills that can happen, but with a smart team and a goal to change the world, I really enjoyed my time with Getaround.
I was overly excited to see Facebook for a number of reasons, and this visit was well anticipated. As a start-up that is finally hitting puberty, I am very interested to see how things work out as the company is forced to mature and face more scrutiny. When structure has to be implemented … things change.
I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say and not say because of something I signed … but all I will say is that … I saw Mark Zuckerberg. I’m not a celebrity groupie at all, but I am a high-tech CEO groupie … sue me.
So this doesn’t count as a start-up, but I have always been interested in VMware and the B2B market. Since it was an option as a company I could visit, I decided to jump on it. You should know VMware, so I won’t go into details.
Two things surprised me about VMware. First, how much growth they have been seeing as of late. I have known of VMware for years in terms of virtualization and enterprise software, but didn’t realize that they have grown their headcount by about 25% in the past year. Business is great! Secondly, their headquarters is really nice and modern. After having interned for IBM, a B2B focused tech company, I just didn’t expect much. Very nice.
Take two iPhones and bump them together and what do you get … broken iPhones? NO! You just got someone’s number, name, and address transferred to your phone. The simple app has reached great fame after being featured on several of Apple’s commercials.
Did you know it was started by two MBA dropouts? Yes, the founders left the Chicago Booth MBA Program after one year, with their technical co-founder, and entered into Y-Combinator. The rest is history.
Few things I learned: they are apologetic about the fact that their Android App isn’t up to par with their iOS app. The power of networks is key in the Bay. When things need to get done, it really really helps to have the right person on your roledex. There is no actual transferring of information from one phone to another, it all goes back to BUMP’s servers and there is an elegant matchmaking process that occurs.
So … I enjoyed my time in Silicon Valley. In addition to getting to meet great companies, I got to chill with my classmates (remember … I love em). I got exposed to a lot more of the area that I may end up living in than I had before. Also, since entrepreneurship is hard to just teach … the more exposure I get to people who are out there really doing it is really the best way.
- Damien Peters