The Seismic Effect of Personal Data on our Personal Lives

a great speech by Chris Anderson on how the ubiquity of sensors are going to change our lives.
The Hawthorne effect:

  • People change their behevior, often for the better, when they are being observed.
  • Now we can observe ourselves.

The New Cybernetics:

  • Observations change behavior
  • Sensor make them automatic, real time
  • Connecting people and data increases statistical power, add competitive/game dynamics

Chris Anderson speaks at TEDx Silicon Valley 2011 from TEDx Silicon Valley on Vimeo.

Updates on the smartphones platform war

The platform-based smartphone competition is moving at a fast pace and a lot of recent events are changing and shaping the competitive environment. We have seen several platform victims: Symbian,  MeeGo (maybe),  Windows Mobile, Kin.

The latest victim is WebOS, in the Third Quarter 2011 Results, HP press release states:

  • “..shutting down operations for webOS devices and exploring strategic alternatives for webOS software”

Adding: HP will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. The devices have not met internal milestones and financial targets. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.

It was April 28 2010, when HP acquired Palm for $1.2 Billion and this is the press release:

The combination of HP’s global scale and financial strength with Palm’s unparalleled webOS platform will enhance HP’s ability to participate more aggressively in the fast-growing, highly profitable smartphone and connected mobile device markets. Palm’s unique webOS will allow HP to take advantage of features such as true multitasking and always up-to-date information sharing across applications.

And just a few days ago, August 15 2011 Larry Page, Google’s CEO writes Supercharging Android: Google to Acquire Motorola Mobility. Google, an Internet company acquires a smartphone HW company. The article on the NYT Google to Buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 Billion.

There are some interesting questions. Is the modular platform approach offered by Google with Android inferior to the integrated approach used by Apple? Android has been a great success story and it is basically dominating the smartphone space in terms of market share. It is hard to argue that is not successful. However, Horace Dediu in one of his articles (appeared on HBR Google’s Strategic Mistakes Drove Motorola Buy) writes that some cracks started to appear in the Android strategy.

The mistakes mentioned in the article are:

  • Issues with intellectual property in Android caused some licensees to have to pay royalties to patent holders, increasing the cost.
  • Fragmentation took hold where some versions of the software were used by some licensees on some products without the option or incentive to upgrade
  • Finally, some vendors modified the software resulting in missing features or inconsistent user experiences — even to the extent that Google’s own services were omitted.

At the moment is not really clear Google’s motivations behind the acquisition. Is Google entering the HW business, or is just interested in Motorola’s patents, or maybe a combination of both?  Certainly, being a licensor and a licensee is not really a good thing, and if we can learn from history, this was one of the problems with Symbian.

Horace Dediu at comments the acquisition in the HBR article and in a podcast , The Critical Path Acquisitions Episode #4.

Another well written piece on the acquisition is Michael Mace Google and Motorola: What the #@!*%?

So, is vertical integration the way to go in the mobile industry? GigaOM writes Now common in 5 of 6 mobile platforms: total controlThe mobile market is shifting away from the platform licensing model as the top companies are instead looking to replicate Apple’s business model”.

At the moment 3 mobile platforms come from a single company controlling the full integration of HW and SW. Apple iOS, RIM BlackBerryOS  (and later with QNX), Samsung (Bada). Nokia  will replace Symbian with Windows Phone.  HP  with WebOS has just given up the battle.  And 2 other mobile platforms are modular, and are Android and Windows Phone.

The FT writes Vertical Success requires more than just Motorola:

““Verticalisation” is an ungainly word for what has become a highly fashionable trend in the tech world. With Google slapping down $12.5bn in cash this week to buy Motorola Mobility, the idea just received another big boost. But like many business fashions, there is a risk that this one is about to become an uncontrollable bandwagon – with unhappy consequences.


Nor has a vertically integrated approach proved to be a panacea in the smartphone business. Palm’s stumbles over the years, and the troubles of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, point to the difficulty of mastering all the skills needed to create a hit product. Even Microsoft dabbled in going vertical as it struggled to catch up with the iPod, and later the iPhone – but all it could come up with were marginal products like the Zune music player and short lived Kin phone.”

And Nokia with Symbian..

It is not really clear what’s the successful path to smartphone platform competitive advantage. Vertical integration provides advantages, but as the industry mature, the theory says that the modular approach is the way to go.

For a theoretical back ground on vertical integration, see my the older posts:

In this smartphone highly competitive environment, everything can happen and in a very short time. Nokia is exiting the software business, Google is (probably) entering hardware business and HP is exiting the hardware business. What’s the next?

The Innovator’s DNA

Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen have just published the book The Innovator’s DNA.  The book, based on several interviews with entrepreneurs and persons considered innovators in their field, comes out with 5 different skills and behaviors that make these people different from the rest.

The five discovery skills identified are:

  • Associating—drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
  • Questioning—posing queries that challenge common wisdom. Innovators are consummate questioners who show a passion for inquiry. They frequently challenge the status quo, just as Jobs did when he asked, “Why does a computer need a fan?”. They love to ask, “if we tried this, what would happen?” Innovators, like Jobs, ask questions to understand how things really are today, why they are that way, and how they might be changed or disrupted.
  • Observing—scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
  • Networking—meeting people with different ideas and perspectives- Rather than simply doing social networking, they actively search for new ideas by talking to people who may offer a radical different view of things.
  • Experimenting— Innovators are constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas. They visit new places, try new things, seek new information, and experiment to learn new things.

Why? The authors found two common themes. First, they actively desire to change the status quo. Second, they regularly take smart risks to make change happen.

The learning. Some people are more innovative than others, however, anybody can improve their skills by focusing on the identified behaviors.

Stuffs that sense and communicate

Machines that sense the environment, thanks to sensors and components like Arduino, and transmit the information over the Internet are becoming increasingly popular. They can post their “status” on Facebook or Twitter. For example,  your scale can tweet your weight, you can get updates on the tide level in Cape Cod or the air pollution in Beijing or get tweets from your plants when they are thirsty.

Some people define this concept as Internet of Things, see a Google search for the different definitions.

McKinsey Quarterly writes in March 2010 More objects are becoming embedded with sensors and gaining the ability to communicate. The resulting information networks promise to create new business models, improve business processes, and reduce costs and risks.

Fred Wilson wrote on his blog a post titled Things That Tweet :

It got me thinking about things that tweet (like weather vanes, refridgerators, traffic lights, etc) and their role in the land of social media. I believe that devices and sensors that broadcast their data via social media channels are an important source of social data and engagement. And for some reason, they are way more common on Twitter than any other social platform.

These devices feel and communicate creating a social conversation around the data and the updates they convey. These machines can transmit data but they can also reply and communicate (M2M Machine to Machine communication). They can also create an environment that react, adapt and respond to us – and perhaps more importantly – each other.

Not only Fred’s post gave a good point of view, the comments in the post added a lot of value.

Gonzalo Garcia-Perate, writes in the comments (edited: I have added further links):

At a macro level you have people like IBM with their Smarter Planet initiative… trying to build value out of data streams (potentially) coming out of cities to create new types of intelligent services for cities. GE, Philips, Cisco etc all have similar initiatives.

At a smaller scale you have lots of new companies innovating and creating new product and service propositions based on the idea of objects communicating. Some over twitter others over their own proprietary and open networks and protocols. In this space there are two main types of companies, middleware and appliances.

In the middleware camp you have people like the recently acquired Pachube and many others like IOBridge and Thingspeak, Twingz, (not sure what is this) Open sense, Simplio,… ThingWorx,,,,, etc etc etc

At the appliance level there are many small and not so small companies that are exploring the IoT (Internet of Thins) space. See Nike +… Vitality Glowcaps Wifi scale and body monitors by Withings fitbit, greengoose, www.plantsense.com,

Andy Stanford-Clark (@andysc ) of IBM has been doing a lot of work to use twitter with various devices and things (see the links about his twittering house or the Isle of Wight ferries off