Tag: Business

If I were in charge of Adobe

Clearly, Adobe is losing the battle with Apple. There’s no Flash on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and there’s no sign that there will ever be.

Apple is not a company that can be easily influenced. They do things the way they think is right even when everybody else disagrees. Even when everybody predicts is going to cost sales. They’ve been doing it for more than 10 years and it’s working very well for them, they are not going to stop now. For Adobe, Apple is a lost cause.

I actually dislike both companies. Apple is building an extremely proprietary environment. They are much worst than Microsoft. Apple’s tax not only includes the operating system, it also includes every third party application. Not only they get a part of everybody’s cake, they decide who have cake and who doesn’t by controlling which applications get approval and which get rejected. If Apple ever dominates the industry, it’ll be the dark ages of computers.

Adobe is not much different with Flash. Flash is a proprietary and it works well on one and only one platform; if it does at all. Everybody else is left out. Flash has been making the web inaccessible for ages. I would be very glad if we can get rid of Flash.

If I were in charge of Adobe I would do something that would help the company remain a leader on the web and at the same time make Flash good: open source it.

I never understood why Adobe hasn’t open sourced Flash already. The specs are more or less open, there are alternative implementations, and they are not making any money by selling Flash. They make money by selling the tools to build Flash web sites and that’s not going to stop if they make Flash itself open source.

Before or while open sourcing I would make agreements with two companies: Google and HP. Make sure Flash is going to be included in Android, Chrome OS and Web OS. I would also put those phones and tablets in the hand of my developers (that is, Adobe’s), for free, as a gift, with the goal of making the Flash experience is absolutely thrilling.

I think that is Flash’s only hope.

iPad, the good and the bad

I consider the iPad a very negative force. Apple is taking the close system of iPhone and moving it up to tablets. What’s the next move? Desktops? That’s very scary! Imagine a world where Steve Jobs is the final word on which programs people can and can’t run. If that happens, the dark ages of computers will have started, and who knows how long they’ll last.

Now there’s a very good side effect to the iPad. People is starting to spend a lot of time on non-Windows computers. No, this is not a rant against Microsoft.

There was a time when we had many operating systems and people use to choose. Different machines came with different operating systems. Then Microsoft dominated the market and there was one and only one operating system. For a time there was even only one browser. That hinders innovation.

Microsoft Windows obviously failed on phones and tablets. Apple, first with the iPhone and now with the iPad, opened those markets. Now people is talking about how great WebOS (Palm’s operating system) would be on a tablet (made by HP). Nobody would have though of a non-Windows tablet if Apple haven’t done it before. Also Android tablets are coming. Microsoft is rebooting its phone efforts, without Windows this time; and maybe they’ll reboot their tablet efforts too. At any rate Microsoft won’t dominate that market and certainly not Windows.

The only company capable of dominating phones and tablets is Apple; and they are not set to dominate it. Apple makes one and only one product, with no variations. If you want something different (a USB port, a memory card reader, a camera, porn, a cheaper product, whatever) you go to a competitor. Apple makes a lot of money by making the luxury products, not by selling it to everybody.

I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch a very competitive market where four players are so will be constantly innovating trying to win users over.

Breaking the Monopoly-design monopoly

monopolyI am talking about the game, you know, Monopoly! There are so many versions of it but the other day I’ve seen the most interesting one. No, not the Esperanto one: Monopolo. A do it yourself Monopoly, or a Make it yourself-opoly.

From that I’m deriving the idea, why can’t you design your Monopoly in a web application, or even in a desktop one but that ultimately submits it to the web and you get the finished game delivered to your home. You add pictures, you pick themes, you pick the title, the language, the currency. It could make a perfect purchase or a magnificent gift.

Why can’t you sell it to other people? Like you do for stuff in CafePress. Hasbro would take some earnings but all the design is ultimately crowd-sourced, the designer also gets some money. I find one reason why that may not work and that’s because most stuff for which is worth it to make a monopoly are also copyrigthed. Average Joe wouldn’t be able to make a Monopoly of his favorite movie without striking a deal with the movie makers, which is not likely for average Joe.

But the movie makers could make them in a self-service way. That’s also unlikely to happen. But an xkcd Monopoly? That’s likely to happen and sell quite a few copies. Companies with a sense of humor or with a good PR would have some employee doing tha. Do you imagine Microsoft or Google Monopoly with each property being a product. Do you want to buy Office? Do you want to buy Chrome? Do you want to play as Bill Gates? Steve Ballmer? Larry Page? I know some geeks would stack them up and have one of each of those.

I thought about starting to make the web application for designing a Monopoly. It could generate PDFs that you download and print and paste in a normal board as an interim while not having any production. But there’s only one company that can legally do this: Hasbro, and having only one company as your potential exit is not a good idea. So it was dropped from the ideas board into here, my blog.

Papers books are going away, and so does signing them

Free as in FreedomLet’s face it: paper is dying. It’s going to be a slow death, but for some purposes it’s dying faster. Newspapers find themselves not being able to print anymore due to costs and books are starting to be digital. I’ve recently got a Sony PRS-505 which I love (and my wife does too). And of course there’s the Kindle. With the death of paper-books, a fine tradition is going away: authors signing books.

It’s very likely that the tradition will continue with paper books for a very long time after our book-shelves were replaced with one little device. After all, a signed book is not a book but a collectible item, like a signed baseball or a signed t-shirt. They are stored and displayed differently than their mundane non-signed counterparts.

Eventually the books being signed will be custom-printed because there won’t be any more mass production. But what if we could replace signatures with something digital, and better?

At first I though that you could have your digital book signed. That’s possible, to have a PDF that has the signature in it. That’s trivial to generate automatically so it doesn’t have any value. If it has dedication, that is, your name hand-writen by the author, then it gets trickier to generate; and more valuable. But this is the digital age, the future, we can do better than that. What if you have a PDF where the picture of the cover of the book is not the usual one but a picture of you with the author.

Now, that’s something! The signing booth would now be a photo booth. After you take the picture they’d generate the PDF which you could download instantly by bluetooth or with a code they give you. Now suddenly the digitally signed book is something even more valuable than the usual signature.

Free as in Freedom - dedicated

If you plan on developing the software and do the hardware integration for this, let me know, I might be interested.

Almost losing faith in a product

cakeSeth Godin wrote an interesting blog post titled “Two ways to build trust” in which he says that, to gain someone’s trust, you have to either be very professional, or very human. You are either like Apple: everything just works because they are super professional, or you are Joe the Baker who would make a custom cake for you.

The problem is when you try to be like Apple and stuff doesn’t work or you try to be like Joe and your cake says “Made in China”. I’ve never thought about it consciously, but I’ve felt it, and it makes perfect sense.

I was using an application in my Android phone called BeyondPod. It’s basically a podcast grabber. I liked the application and I wanted to buy it. I was using a limited version. They offer you two ways to buy: through the Android Market, the usual way; or if you live in a country where the paid applications are not available, like me, you could buy a license on the web site. That’s very professional.

Also the application is quite good. So that was another hint that the maker was a very professional team.

When I was ready to buy I went to the web site and it looked so 1998ish. Oh-oh. Not good. I’ve looked for a way to buy outside the Market and I’ve found two. Buying it on-line and paying with Paypal or using an alternate Market. The Paypal link didn’t work. Double oh-oh. That alternate market was hard to use, so I’m not totally sure if this is correct, but it seemed the application was not there. Strike three?

By this point, I’ve already tried to buy the app through several days, failing each time and just going back to whatever I was doing before. The only thing that kept me coming back was that I was using the app, liking it and wanting the unlimited version.

There was no contact address for support. One day, fed up, I signed up in their forum and said “I want to pay! How?” I wasn’t expecting any answer really, but about 42 seconds latter came a reply “Oh, the link was broken, try again.” That looked like the developer of the app, although he never mentioned that. That’s good. It may not be an Apple, but a Joe the Developer.

I went to the site, clicked on the Paypal link and was redirected to another web site, a Paypal-clone. That’s it, too much. I’ve dropped a bomb on the forum: “I’ve clicked the paypal link and it sent me to another web site, looks very scammy, I’m not putting my credit card number there”. And I proceeded to search for another podcast reader.

4.2 seconds latter came “My apologies, that’s my fallback merchant account, the Paypal one is working again”. Having a fallback account? That’s very professional. I know many companies working with Paypal, moving thousands of dollars, and not having a fallback transaction system. In a sense, this guy showed a lot of professionalism in some respect, and being a human being willing to solve the problems for the parts not very well done. I paid right away.

I almost lost my faith in the product and company, but the owner wasn’t afraid of acting like a little company and that bought me over. I don’t expect a podcatcher for a niche platform to be developed by a corporation full of things with “Enterprise” in their names. I expect it to be developed by a guy on a basement and that doesn’t mean I won’t pay for it.

Reviewed by Daniel Magliola. Thank you!

If I were in charge of Audible

audibleI have one little idea to implement for Audible: make it free for blind people.

I’m sure there are channels to verify whether someone is (legally) blind: government certificates, associations, or something like that. On third world countries, audio books for blind people are a rare and expensive luxury. Building a public library of them that can be accessed for free is a painstaking process that some volunteers do. And here I am talking about collecting cassettes.

I don’t think this market would represent huge numbers in Audible revenues (although it’s a big market, as show by screen readers which are only useful for visually impaired people). And before you say “but an mp3 is of no use to someone with a cassette player”, I’m sure it is much less effort to download an mp3 and record it in a cassette than finding the cassette with the book in the first place. Some volunteers would do it for people with sight problems that want to access books and have no means.

Unlike screen readers, Audible is useful for everybody and providing a free service to handicapped people is an amazing thing to do, and if played correctly, also a very good PR campaign. If not free, it should at least be very cheap.

Reviewed by Daniel Magliola. Thank you!

Deferred Twitter posting

twitter-woodHere’s an idea for those Twitter clients, web and desktops out there: deferred posting.

One tweet per hour during eight hours is much more effective than 8 tweets in a row. But sometimes you want to write eight tweets in a row and I find two reasons to do that.

You are using Twitter professionally, for your work, as a marketing and social tool. You want to minimize the hit it takes on your productivity so you limit yourself to 15 minutes of tweeting per day. In those 15 minutes you generate tweets for the whole day, you want them to be automatically distributed through the day.

When you open twitter after some hours of not using it, like after sleeping, you’ll find yourself replying to lot’s of stuff as you go through it. That’s specially true if you are 8 timezones away or so from most people you follow.

I think a Twitter client should do the distribution automatically. It could distribute them evenly through the day, depending on how many you have on your queue. Whenever you want to tweet you just add it to the queue.

Why limit itself to one day? why not leave tweets for tomorrow? And if not one day, how long? A way to solve the problem is to try to maintain your speed constant, minimize acceleration and deceleration.

For example. If you normally tweet 5 times a day, and you have 10 tweets in your queue, do 7 today and leave 3 to tomorrow so that you don’t double the speed, you just increase it a little bit. If tomorrow you add another 10, you’ll have 13 and you are at a speed of 5.2 (previously you were at 5, but yesterday with 7 you sped up a little). So today you get 9 published and 4 left for tomorrow and so on.

You’ll have different speeds on weekends and business hours. There’s a curve of speed and the Twitter client should try to match it with what you have on the queue.

If you want to direct tweet, you can do that, just fine.

Another interesting way is to match the curves of you readers instead of your own. The tweeter client would measure when your readers are posting more, and presumably, also reading more. It’ll make an average and it’ll have the curve of speed of your network. Instead of posting following your previous curve, it’ll post following your network’s curve maximizing the amount of people that is likely to read your Tweet.

I would call that, Professional Tweeting.

Another interesting feature would be to set importance to your tweets. More important tweets are sent when the chances of getting it read are highest, when the curve reaches its peak.

Reviewed by Daniel Magliola. Thank you! Twitter carved-wood icon by gesamtbild.

If I were in charge of Skype

SkypeThis is what I would do if I were in charge of Skype, a product that could be doing much better. The big problem is, of course, adoption. Currently there are a lot of show stoppers:

  • You have to go to the site.
  • You have to download the software.
  • You have to install it.
  • You have to create an account.
  • You have to find and add your friend.
  • You have to remember to re-run it after you restart the computer.

If every obstacle halves the amount of users you are getting, Skype’s market could be 64 times bigger. That’s a lot.

I would start by writing a Flash implementation of Skype: Skype-on-the-web. Then going to skype.com/call/bob would call the Skype user bob without having to install anything or even create an account. With this feature Bob could tell his friend Sally, in an email or chatting with a competing product: “Go to skype.com/call/bob, let’s talk”. Personally, I would prefer Silverlight, but someone at Microsoft decided to halve its market by not supporting the microphone.

That’s open to abuse because anyone can call Bob at any time, anonymously. What a nightmare! That can be solved by requiring some random password, or hash. Bob would have a button on his Skype client that says “Generate call-me address” that would generate a use-once URL like skype.com/call/bob/dckx that would even work only for a short amount of time.

That last solution got a little bit too complicated. I would offer it, but I would also offer something much more intelligent. When Bob wants to talk with Sally he would go and add her to his buddy list by email address. That would automatically create an Skype account for Sally with a randomly generated password. Sally would get an email saying “Hey! You now have a Skype account! You can download Skype or just go to skype.com/on-the-web and start using it”. The most likely outcome is that Sally won’t do any of those things and will just throw that email away. That’s all right because now comes the best part.

The next time Bob calls Sally, since Sally is a non-convert yet, she’ll get an email saying: “Bob wants to talk with you! Answer him on skype.com/call/bob/dckx”. When Sally goes there, she doesn’t get a call-only-bob Skype, she gets a full featured Skype-on-the-web, automatically calling Bob. She’ll be able to call other users but what’s most important, she’ll have Bob in her buddy list. And when John does the same as Bob to call her, Sally will have Bob and John in her buddy list. Skype’s value for Sally is growing! She now has two good reasons to start using Skype

To increase the network effect hugely, I’d make it so that Bob won’t be able to see that Sally is not a Skype user. He won’t search for Sally and give up because she doesn’t have an account. He’ll just add her and it’ll seem to him that Sally is a Skype user. Because eventually she will. This model is nothing new, it’s how Paypal became the number one (only?) player in its field.

With the upcoming feature of screen sharing over Skype, tech support could also improve

Another thing I would do is target the support market. I would allow companies, like Dell, Microsoft, Apple, etc, to open corporate accounts and get the ability to have a lot of users under the same name (like “Dell Support”, “Microsoft Office Support”, “Apple iPod Support”, etc). Skype would handle all the routing and distribution of calls to each user using the typical call-center algorithms. Currently you call a local number and Dell routes you over the internet to where the call center is: India. That routing over the Internet is most likely paid by Dell. If their customers used Skype they’d be calling India directly lowering the bandwidth bill for Dell.

For the users it’s a huge win because sometimes it’s a hassle to find the right local number to call. And if you don’t speak the language of the country you’re in, or are traveling, it’s always a problem. Serving a global market globally is the way to go. After all, Skype knows which language you want to speak most of the time.

But the real jewel of this idea is this. Skype could try to discover the type of machine it is installed on and what products are installed alongside. You download Skype for MacOSX? Here’s Apple Support on your buddy list automatically. Microsoft Office installed? Either Mac or PC, here’s Microsoft Office Support on your buddy list. Running Skype on a Dell laptop? Here’s Dell support on your buddy list. The next step is letting any developer and company register a support line with Skype and enable it at install time of the application. For example: when you install Picasa, Google is added to your buddy list and, through a Skype API, Picasa has a “Call support” button that triggers Skype if locally installed or Skype-on-the-web otherwise.

Suddenly, Skype is becoming the dial tone of the internet (instead of that Twitter thingy).

Reviewed by Daniel Magliola. Thank you!