Thought Starters

Content that has caught my eye recently, which includes coverage of Amazon, Apple Pay, Facebook’s financial results, the music industry, income inequality among other things.

Vanity Fair has a feature article focusing on the increasingly fraught relationship between Amazon and the publishing industry. The piece charts how Amazon was originally seen as a counterbalance to to the growing power of Borders and Barnes & Noble, but over time it was Amazon that upset the relatively cosy relationships within the publishing industry (albeit at the expense of the consumer).

Whilst Amazon’s hold on the publishing industry appears relatively secure, the company has received a bit of stick recently for its performance in other market segments (most notably the Fire Phone) .

Bezos’ sterling reputation kept few questioning these initiatives, but in recent months that has started to change. A number of recent initiatives seem to be costing more money while not necessarily showing signs of sure success.

Benedict Evans made a strong case a couple of months ago for Amazon’s approach of  putting off profits as it invested in new market segments, but  Amazon needs to have more winners if this strategy is to work over the long term.

Ben Thompson takes a valuable look at how Apple has carved out a strong strategic position in the payments space by creating a situation of mutual advantage for its customers, credit card networks, banks, and to a lesser degree, merchants:

Apple Pay

Technalysis has forecasted healthy growth in the wearable computing category. Whether its enough to provide a lifeline to Samsung and other besieged smartphone manufacturers remains to be seen:

Wearables

Facebook’s revenue results reported by Benedict Evans point to the company doing a good job of adapting to consumers’ increasing time on their smartphone:

Facebook Mobile

What Facebook is doing a less good of is reducing its reliance on the North American market as reported in Inside Facebook, despite the continued growth of internet and mobile internet penetration in the rest of the World:

Facebook Revenue by Region

Whilst Western consumers are relishing increasing mobile internet speeds, it’s a rather different story for many consumers in the developing world where the cost of data makes internet access a relative luxury. Ben Bajarin talks about the ‘light web’ in which mobile experiences are carefully optimised to reduce the data usage for consumers wary of:

Mobile Internet Developing World

Much has been made  of the move by brands from an era of disruption to engagement, enabled by broadening array of interactive digital channels. Given these changes, its valuable to read Tom Doctoroff’s spirited defence of more traditional marketing agencies.

An interesting counterpoint to Doctoroff’s  view is Faris who points to the lack of interactivity in the majority of digital advertising, pointing to Honda’s The Other Side campaign as where things should be heading:

You get the idea. I guess I just miss ideas that work on the web, where the user is in control of the interaction. Where everyone gets an interactive experience.

Bradley Leimar takes a look at how banks will look to improve their offering using enhanced digital channels that go beyond simply putting a customer interface online:

We are moving away from a banking relationship defined by the goal of being a customer’s primary financial institution to one where we focus on becoming their primary financial application. It’s no longer about wallet share. It’s about app-driven mindshare – as our customers reach into their pockets for their mobile device or use their glasses or other form of wearable technology and think about their financial relationship choices – before, during, and after a financial moment of truth.

The music industry is adjusting from an ownership to a streaming model. Mark Mulligan argues that the music industry needs to drop the pricing of streaming music if it wants to maximise overall revenues:

Music Revenue

Felix Salmon on the other hand focuses his attention on the value of having three dominant record labels in facilitating streaming music services, arguing that an oligopoly in this case serves the interests of consumers.

We take globalisation for granted in the increasingly interconnected world we live in. Given this, it’s interesting to see analysis from Pankaj Ghemawat and Steven Altman which compares how globalised information, trade, people and capital is over the last 10 years:

Globalisation

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has sparked renewed interest in the issue of income inequality. Oxfam has looked into correlations between income and inequality and health outcomes pointing to some of the more tangible negative outcomes associated with income disparities within countries:

Inequality

 

Sorapop Kiatpongsan and Michael Norton’s research points to the vast gap between the income of CEOs and their unskilled workers across different countries, with the wage gap being much larger than most people saw as being appropriate:

Wage Gap

The featured image is 25% Black by Elian in Cordoba, Argentina and found on eksoystem.

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 6

The following provides a roundup of articles and thought pieces which have got me thinking recently.

It’s over eight months since the launch of the Google Glass Explorer programme and we have some more considered reviews of their use now available. Marco Arment doesn’t so much as review Google Glass as argue that it doesn’t offer any real enhancement beyond that provided by computer internet connectivity and smartphone (although arguably people said the same about tablets when they launched).

Robert Scoble paints a rather negative picture, pointing to shortcomings in the number of apps, user interface, battery life and lack of Facebook functionality among other things.

Mat Honan in Wired strikes a more optimistic tone seeing the form factor as something we’ll see a lot more despite negative reactions on the part of other consumers to Glass wearers and poor quality of third party apps available (although Google Now is described as amazing).

Bitcoin is also a subject area that’s been getting a lot of coverage lately reflecting its soaring value (with the odd wobble) through 2013.

Bitcoin: Price v hype
Bitcoin: Price v hype

Stephen Mihm writing for Bloomberg points to the threat that governments pose to Bitcoin’s viability, pointing to historical examples of where alternative currencies have been shut down by the state.

Brad Delong looks at how competition from Bitcoin alternatives could put an end to the enviable returns for investors as investors jump ship to Namecoin, Litecoin, Peercoin or even Dogecoin.

Chris Dixon provides a rather different perspective, arguing that Bitcoin (and other associated cryptocurrencies) provide an important enabler for digital enterprises, given the brake the payments industry is having on emerging digital practices and models.

Mike Bracken looks at gov.uk project and how responsive digital delivery sees delivery informs policy rather than simply being dictated by it in an agile development environment.

Interesting article from Chester Ng hypothesising what it would be like if Microsoft forked Android which would would provide Microsoft with access to the rich environment of apps that is currently lacking with the Windows Phone.

Craig Mod writing for the New Yorker looks at how advances in smartphones are making most cameras obsolete, particularly as we share photography digitally across our digital networks.

Goodbye, Camera
Goodbye, Camera

Thoughtful essay from Nathan Jurgenson on how disconnecting ourselves won’t lead us to a more authentic self. Taking a more satirical approach is Ethan Kuperberg’s look at deactivating your Facebook account in the New Yorker.

Print publications are facing a hard time with declining readership as people spend more time with their digital screens. Bruce Handy and Dasha Tolstikova look at how print can reposition itself to increase its allure.

Restart the Presses!
Restart the Presses!

What does 2014 hold? Questions I’m looking to see answered this coming year

There’s been lots of talk about trends and technologies that are likely to affect us in the coming years. The following are some of the questions I’m interested to have answered come this time next year.

Mobile Ecosystem

Will we see Samsung fork its Android offering in 2014? Samsung is developing an increasingly comprehensive selection of alternative mobile apps and services but Google is doing everything it can to raise the price of those who go it alone with Android.

Will we see Xiaomi develop a tangible presence in Western Markets? The company has a strong selection of handsets at competitive prices with growing interest in the brand abroad. Whether this is enough to see it stand out among other players Android (Samsung, HTC, Sony Mobile, LG, Nexus, Huawei, ASUS etc) remains to be seen.

Will CyanogenMod’s open source model enables it to grow beyond its tech savvy Android user base? The mobile operating system recently received funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, Redpoint Ventures and Tencent but also faced a setback with Google’s removal of the software installer from the Play Store. CyanogenMod will need to make it as easy and safe as possible for users as the majority of people will be content with the status quo.

What wearable computing forms will break out of the current niche of early adopters? Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear have received mixed reviews from various commentators but there is a huge opportunity here with a wide selection of potential uses — something that is likely to see a range of form factors rather than a Swiss army knife approach where one tool solves all problems.

Mobile Messaging

Will we see Kik, Line or KakaoTalk make a substantial inroads in Western Europe? WhatsApp has carved out a strong position but the mobile messaging sector is not a category where winner necessarily takes all.

WhatsApp has stated that they’re not looking to diversify beyond mobile messaging, but it will be interesting to see if this changes given the success of Kik, Line and KakaoTalk in developing alternative revenue streams?

Will Snapchat manage to capture the public imagination in a similar manner to the way it has for teens over the course of the next year?

Social Media

Will Facebook’s changes to the News Feed see the demise of virality mills (Upworthy, Buzzfeed et al)?

Will Foursquare’s adoption of push notifications see wider adoption of the location based social network? Manually checking in is a clunky solution and it will be interesting to see whether this change of tack will be enough to gain mass appeal.

Gaming

Will the Steam Machine and Oculus Rift manage to break the stranglehold of Playstation and Xbox have in the gaming console market? Question will be moot if Steam (and their hardware partners) and Oculus VR don’t meet their target of a 2014 consumer release.

Internet and Society

Does the UK public care enough about what they see online to raise a fuss about ISP’s adoption of porn filtering? There’s been plenty of evidence pointing to the systems questionable effectiveness but the general public doesn’t seem to be up in arms about it.

Instore

Will retail brands be willing to invest in the relatively untested Bluetooth 4.0 (iBeacon, Paypal Beacon etc) technologies or will it be a case of wait and see?

Will Apple’s adoption of iBeacon in iOS7 permanently stall the introduction of NFC indefinitely?

Digital Currencies

Will we see Bitcoin become adopted as a method of payment outside the black economy? The recent erratic shifts in value of the currency make it a risky proposition for retailers without the infrastructure to adjust to changing prices.

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 2

There has been some interesting analysis surfacing looking at the different mobile and tablet platforms and their respective audiences. Benedict Evans raises the important point that Android tablets encompass a broad array of devices making comparisons between Android and iOS tablets very difficult. Daniel Eran Dilger expands on this, pointing to IDC, Gartner and Strategy Analytics’ failure to properly unpick the tablet and smartphone market leading to a situation where apples (iPads and iPhones) are compared with oranges (low spec Android phones and tablets). The ecosystem of mobile apps and their respective community of developers has a vital role to play in the success of any mobile operating systems (no apps > no sales). In North America and Western Europe, iOS dominates the developer community, but Mark Wilcox points out that this isn’t the case for Asia and Latin America. Something to bear in mind as Asia becomes a growing source of innovation in the mobile sector.

Global Platform Preferences

Ben Thompson has taken a valuable look at the different channels consumers are using to interact with online. It’s well worth reading his commentary on the roles of the different channels.

Social Communication Map

Whilst Silicon Valley may no longer have a near monopoly on startups, it still provides one of the driving forces for the tech sector. In this presentation, Loic Le Meur looks at some of the organisations and innovations that have gained a profile in the region. Wearable computing has been getting some renewed attention with a preview of the Glass Development Kit for developers. Thomas Claburn explores some of the myths currently associated with the wearable computing sector. The Guardian continue their great work on data visualisations with a look at which corporations have made a major contribution towards global warming.

The Guardian Contributors to Global Warming

I moved from an iPhone to an Android device a couple of years ago. Whilst the Android app ecosystem is moving towards parity, every so often you come across an app that you wish there was an Android equivalent. The latest one is I PIXEL U which enables users to pixelate particular aspects of their photographs.IPIXELU_COVER2

Google has created a charming pair of binoculars to celebrate the Sydney Opera House’s fortieth anniversary, giving consumers a window to other inspirational places.

24 hour music video has been created to support Pharrell Williams’ song Happy. Beautifully executed promotion of music outside your standard Youtube container. Google profile Doctor Who with their latest doodle and when activated, leads users through to an online game. Find out more about the Whodle over at the Guardian.

Doctor Who Google