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Monday, March 20. 2017
Was asked how we do this at Broadstuff Towers, in the light of our extraordinarily good prediction record ....so in true Listicle BS style, here are 10 "Red Flags" (to use the emotive form of "pointers"). The more of these it scores, the more the chance of hype, bullshit and eventual shocking, painful collapse:
Some of the red flags are more traditional analysis based - "Type 1" - about the core technology, economics or regulatory frameworks:
(i) It uses the hype tech du jour (aka AI or IoT today) - hype tech is typically nowhere near the promised capability of the Hype, so is a good sign of impending failure
However you can also discern quite a lot by "Type 2" red flags - analysing the activities of the commentariat, whose job it is to raise hype. (as noted above, hype is a good sign of an impending failure) - these are typical signs of this process:
(vi) It's a prediction from Planet Mobile (over 11 years of writing Broadstuff, we've found Mobile predictions are always the most, er, optimistic)
As an aside, most Tech media, especially free to reader, is optimistic in nature. Also most Tech journalists are not STEM trained so don't always know what's happening "under the hood" - so caveat reador. Right now nothing beats the Type 1 BS around AI stuff, except maybe the Type 2 BS around the sexier Unicorns.
Saturday, December 17. 2016
At the beginning of the year we made ten major predictions for key technologies this year. They are tongue in cheek, as an antidote to the portentious projections that come out at this time every year but there is always a serious point behind them. Here's how we did :
1. There will be an infinite number of Tech forecasts coming out in the next few days/weeks. All will be mainly wrong (except ours of course).
Well this was an easy one to get right of course Our results were 6 spot on on, one happened this year when we thought it wouldn't, one didn't happen which we thought would, and one we got half right - so 6 1/2 out of 9, that's a higher hit rate than most so we will award ourselves a point for this one as well .
2. By mid 2016 there will be an Uber for anything and everything being pitched by someone, somewhere. By late 2016 an Ubermensch will kick-start an Uber for Ubers, and the cycle will implode up its own asymptote.
Not quite an Uber for Uber, we weren't serious about that - but there have been some real doozies pitched - my favourite is the Uber for your washing machine.
3. There will be an unseemly rush of Unicorns for the IPO gate. It will be seen that many Unicorns are just turkeys though, and they will jump the shark rather than the gate, which will mostly remain bolted.
We got this one half wrong - not in our view that that many had to rush for the gate or go to the wall - but that they could. Turns out that the bubblemarket started to deflate and there were very, very few - but there were quite a few failures and a general realisation that Unicorns were not what they should be - even the Economist at year end even pointing out that " a great many of the business models that have led to astonishing valuations for startups – like Uber – may be based on attempts to end run regulations to exploit workers, as opposed to technological breakthroughs"
4. By the end of 2016, the predictions that "2016 will be the Year of Mobile X" will be reset to 2017.
This is our annual snark at Planet Mobile, which - since we started the blog 10 years ago - has always been extremely (over)hyped about its prospects each new year. Our favourite is Ben Evan's series that started in 2014 that "mobile is eating the world". This year was no exception, but the world still remains uneaten, and next year's prediction of "mobile eating the world" has just come out. By the way, they are very good reads, but the title is endemic of Planet Mobile - no ways will you ever see a report saying "Mobile growth 2017 - doing nicely enough thank you" .
5. The worry about Ad Blockers being used will continue to increase exponentially faster than the use of Ad Blockers grows
The panic was overstated as predicted but one hopeful sign is the increasing realisation in the Ad industry that (i) they may be a cause of the problem and (ii) people who are using Ad blockers do not want to talk to you.
6. Another Tech Consumer Wearable will be released amongst great fanfare, and sink in a sea of indifference.
Well, Pebble surpassed us here and overall the whole market has still not lived up to the hype in 2016, and by some measures is even in decline. This year the Apple wireless ear thingies were released, and...well, can you remember what they were called?
7. Someone will point out that The Cloud is just Bureau Computing 2.0 and a natural commodity*, and it will be rebadged (again)
We were wrong - Cloud is still Cloud, the predicted total new-wine-into-old phase change has been pushed back
8. The Internet of Things Fridge use case will still be the most oft repeated one in public. In private, surveillance and monitoring will be.
You can't make it up - these two use cases crashed together and hit the headlines in a big way when the Mirai virus roped in surveillance cameras as well as all those dumb fridges, toasters etc using endemic IoT insecurty to launch one of the biggest DDoS attacks of the year. I guess technically we were wrong, in that the hidden use case became very public, but we are delighted to be wrong here, it as really put the cat among the IoT pigeons!
9. Artifical Intelligence will be seen as The Answer, despite the salutary experience of Die Antwoord (The Answer) with robot artificial intelligence. Someone will hack a traffic routefinder system and send all cars to Coventry.
The hype over AI has indeed gone into overdrive, but our point about self drive cars not really ready for use had more tragic outcomes than our tongue in cheek comment, with a number of drivers being killed in crashes
10. There will be multiple leaks of private user data, and users will still blink lemming-like every time it happens, believing that their free service provider values them as a special, unique snowflake (well it does of course, that value is their sale price)
And there were! Just before writing this Yahoo put the bow on the show admitting 1 billion accounts had been hacked in 2014. - and yet everyone still just seems to sign up, hit the "I agree" and dump their lives onto the 'Web.
So by our reckoning two wrong (one almost -over-wrong), one half wrong, six right, one we gifted ourself so 75% hit rate. Arguably the mobile one and "we'll be more accurate" are self righting, so 5 1/2 right out of 8 may be a better marker - a mere 69% then.....
Friday, March 28. 2014
Interesting 2 paragraphs from Fred Wilson's blog, talking about "what's next":
But the roadmap has been clear for the past seven years (maybe longer). The next thing was mobile. Mobile is now the last thing. And all of these big tech companies are looking for the next thing to make sure they don’t miss it.. And they will pay real money (to you and me) for a call option on the next thing.
I'm intrigued by the idea of a call option, I think it could be executed better than via VC funding though, Fred - now that would be disruptive
But I think Fred's largely right that Mobile was the last Next Thing - though strictly speaking its not "Mobile" now per se, but PC level processing power meeting Moore's Law and shrinking in size and price so it can be easily portable, with a damn good UI (think iPaq then iPhone). These "Smart" phones and "tablets" killed good old Planet Mobile dead in about 3 years (Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry - where are they now? They were earth shaking giants a few short years ago!)
Anyway, where is the Next Big Thing to be found is the question Fred asks. The future is of course here, just unevenly spread, so the trick is to see what bits of the future are here, now - and actually are going somewhere. Ten things that have changed exponentially in the "networked technology" areas we follow, in the time we've been writing Broadstuff (est 2006) are:
- Robotics (including the flying type)
As you can see, these are hardly New New Things, just things that were already here in 2006 and even then clearly had high potential. What's interesting is that they were all already on very predictable development vectors in 2006, but no one looked at them as killer technologies in those days. That was because at that time, their rate of development was still mainly all theoretical, and not provably valuable. To compare, here are 10 other things that were also floating around in 2006/7 that I thought also could happen sooner and haven't yet, but still may as they are all Big Next Next Things potentially.
These are all here today, unevenly distributed, and still chugging along - but at slower rates than the various laws of networking, learning, Moores et al would predict. Typically there is a something in them that is missing, obstinately sticking at current capability or economically unavailable, awaiting the "key" to their leap over the Chasm. But all it takes is a small shift (think iPaq vs iPhone again) and over they go.
All you have to do to build your own mind-boggling portfolio of New Next Things To Watch is read the various Gartner Hype Curves for the last 10 years, and you will see a slew of things on the hot S curve one year and disappearing 2-3 years later. They don't go away though, and are still evolving in the Darwinian mud of technology species, it's just that something hasn't yet quite worked out for them yet. And somewhere in that stew already, are the next 10 New New Things.
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
Its the ay after Orwell Day, and news comes in that Smartphones are not just blocking Porn - now they are blocking blocking Feminist content - and Satire, of all things. Torygraph:
Mobile provider 3UK is blocking access to political satire as "mature content"; Orange is preventing access to feminist articles as "mature content" through its automatically applied Orange Safeguard service; several providers are blocking perfectly legitimate sites like Pink News because they deal with gay issues, or Channel 4's excellent Embarrassing Bodies website, because of the graphic discussion of body parts and sexuality.
Porn I can understand, and I can see how some sites may look pornographic, as they may have Bad Words in them (literally, in the case of the Scunthorpe Gazette) and I know some of the more radical feminists can cause furores - and even get taken down by their newspapers (well, one did, anyway), but Satire? The implication is clearly that Boat Rocking Ideas are Bad For You. Orwell would smile wryly...
As the Torygraph says:
There are two distinct issues here – the blanket blocks, which wall off certain parts of the internet, and the overzealous, stupidly risk-averse corporate definitions of what is too "mature" for under 18s to see.
Would you belive that Broadstuff is one of those publications that falls foul of some corporate websites (and not just the ones of companies we take pot shots at). Now I know we talk about racks and porn and that, but its strictly in the interests of strategic advice, you understand.. But the main issue we have here is the risk averse corporately cleansed content:
The phone companies are run by risk-averse, bloodless suits who just don't want trouble. It's much easier for them to just block anything even mildly offensive than to deal with the "moral outrage". That keeps the suits safe from a Daily Mail article, but ignores the fact that exactly the people who probably need to be able to browse sites privately, without leaving an internet history that mum or dad might find on a shared family machine, are teenagers who are looking at mature content like advice for homosexuals, feminist blogs or sexual health advice.
But Satire? Really? Are the Professionally Offended on the march now?
Still, if you look at the pops we have taken at Planet Mobile over the years, maybe we're on the hit list right now....anyway when they start blocking technology satire like wot we sometimes write, you'll let us know, right?
Wednesday, November 28. 2012
Very interesting analysis of the fundamental problem of building mobile consumer service businesses from Vibhu Norby, who has started up two mobile consumer service busineses. In essence he recites the impact that has been there since we first looked at mobile app functionality 5 years ago, ie small screen, small phone brain, closed walls and low returns to creators make for "high friction" service experience - here are the key stats from their first startup:
- Out of 300,000+ downloads and 250,000 unique website visitors, 200,000 people have signed up. So right away, chop off 60% of your audience whom are just window-shopping. As an aside, I have heard privately from an app maker with a 100m+ downloads that 50% of people don’t even open their app after downloading.
Result is at best, they retained about 5% of users through the entire onboarding process. Attempts to fix it raised it only nominally. If you try and ratchet up the total number of downloads, and that costs money - paying Google’s $1 CPC for people to enter your funnel, you’re really paying $20 per user and you will never recoup that cost. Service redesigns are too slow and expensive, and in a non-uniform set of separate walled systems (as opposed to the 'Net/Web) there is little of the systemic innovation that removes friction, so even if the Ad gets through the user has "already calculated in their mind how long it takes to go to the app store, find your app, download it, enter their password, open the app, and go through onboarding, and because it will take so long they simply won’t do it"
In conclusion, I want to say that I don’t think mobile is going to stop growing. We are not going web-first because people use the web more than mobile. I use my phone more than anything else. I just don’t think that an entrepreneur who wants a real shot at success should start their business there. The Android and iOS platform set us up to fail by attracting us with the veneer of users, but in reality you are going to fight harder for them than is worthwhile to your business.
May I repeat what I wrote in 2007 on this subject, in our first research project on the Mobile Internet industry:
The story emerging is essentially that:
Doing a quick 5 year review here, (i) the causes of friction are by and large still true (albeit with different players and for slightly different motivations), (ii) absolutely still applies, see above article (iii) "Pay as you go" and "sticker shock" pricing has largely disappeared as a problem, but (iv) the small audience for any one application means the economics of new content and service creation are still not attractive so apps are small and simple (by service creation I don't mean the initial app, I mean the development of that app into a useful value added service) - there are very few mobile application successes that are not "Web first" services.
Plus ca Change. Or better, the more things change, the more they stay the same. There has been change - better devices, better pricing, fewer annoying ringtones, a huge App development ecosystem - but systemically all that has changed in Planet Mobile is the 2007 mobile operators end to end control of the value chain has shifted to Apple and the "Android mishmash", but the open web environment that drove all the Web service innovation still has not emerged, and the rewards have still not moved to the service creators in any sustainable way - "sell a billion $0.99 games with 30% taken off the top by Apple/Google and you now have the equivalent revenue of a Call Of Duty opening weekend" as the author puts it.
So, lets make a date for 2017 and see if anything has changed.
(Vibhu has also done a very good analysis of the issues around Ad supported consumer Web businesses, but that is the subject of another post)
Update - Ciaran Norris responded via Twitter:
Not all ad businesses need low income/educated ppl to survive. Most are doing everything they can to get ad-dollars from FMCGs, & FMCGs depend on people with disposable income to spend on brands, rather than own-brand products. So he's wrong, & offensive
Friday, March 9. 2012
I was at the FT Digital Media Conference yesterday and on Wednesday, and it was very interesting comparing and contrasting it to the 2010 and 2011 ones which I also attended, as a sort of Zeitgeist sampling exercise (of which more, later). These days I am not so much looking for stuff I haven't heard before, but more looking for change of emphasis and what is seen to be the New New Thing - or what I call Digital Ketchup, the thing which, if slathered over your Old Thing, will make it look so appetising today.
This is my impression of the Wednesday morning, in point form, taken on that conference tool du jour, the iPad (if Microsoft's Macromanagers saw the number of iPads there, they would have heart attacks....):
Session 1. Jimmy Wales - Harnessing the Power of Social Media - Or why we are a Charity
Old media models money making games are over ( eg windowing), but new models not yet evolved, Apps library is interesting new low cost evolution. Teenagers will always find ways to copy music but they are not the problem, the law needs to support the way people use content. Go after the criminals, not the users. The one sided "every few years the industry increases it's copyright" is over, the public now has a voice. Quality - getting better, but WP is far more comprehensive than anything else. Simplifying the Wiki UI to get higher diversity of contributors, but Wikipedia in classic tech trap of having to support power users at the same time.
So far so good, then this:
"You don't want to pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel" has changed to "page views by the million"
Shazam! - the story of these last few years and the next few - the transfer of power and influence in one pithy statement. Click. The picture falls into place. The dominoes fall. That is why "Murdoch, Now" happened.
Also, on Privacy, heightened sensitivity - Wikipedia will not let Facebook see what you are reading on Wikipedia, they are increasingly concerned about a closed world. Wales sees a need to move from "Net neutrality" to "Privacy neutrality", devices are getting more locked down and privacy more intrusive and roadcasted.
And also this - Apps stores have a risk, bottlenecks in software distribution from a small number of major players
But the really, really piquant moment was when the UK CEO of Encyclopedia Britannica asked a question* - why did Wikipedia use a charitable biz model, not a commercial model? JW says charity allowed enthusiastic volunteer content production PLUS finessed micropayment problem for content snippets. There endeth the lesson.
2. The Obligatory Future of Newspaper Navel Gazing Panel
Nothing particularly new, except that it continues to highlight the different strategies necessarily being followed between mass and specialist media (essentially is your customer an Advertiser or a Subcriber - that makes all the difference in the path followed), and hybrid vs purely digital models. Data analytics is supposedly the next big thing, as you can now tell which 50% of ads work. Evgeny Lebedev noted that the Moscow election has sent some major shock waves, a real time lesson on how citizen journalism is changing game in serious issues.
3. The Investment Landscape VC Session, aka "Is Facebook really worth $100bn"
Predictably fairly cagey on The Facebook Question, but fairly faint praise methinks:
Dharmash Mistry (Balderton) - depends on your view of sustainability and defensible (Clintonesque, no? )
Note One - when they say "Mobile" today, they don't mean "mobile", they mean "tablet" and all who sail in her - Neil Rimer said the obvious (but oddly largely unsaid in public fora till The Tablet) - that no one could invest in Planet Mobile for a long time owing to huge market scatter, and the convergence into a small no of platforms and a viable applicationss market now making it viable. And of course, as the pendulum swings away from Planet Mobile, it swings to..... Planet New Telco - as Mistry pointed out - all screens from TV to smartphone now have converging computer platforms, so the risk is too much convergence shifts power to the new platform owner.
Note Two - when the inevitable question about Facebook, Privacy and impact on FreeConomic business models was raised, there was a palpable....... pause.......of about 4 heartbeats before the answers started:
Neil Rimer - "have to believe FB valuation won't be affected"
Very telling. I predict 2014 before conferences will be told "well, of course privacy impacts the business models of free-to-consumer social networks" Because that is when the man in the street will have bought all shares...
4. The Soundcloud Story - Frühling im Berlin
We predicted podcasting would crash out in our 2005 analysis, and it did. We haven't seen the "sons of" catch fire either, and our own client work in the audio area has told us that navigation/sampling remains a pain. So what has changed? Eric Walhforss, Soundcloud CTO argued that the New Audio is different due to:
- better mobiles now, smart phones do a better job with navigating audio
We shall see....good luck to them, I think Audio is still a very tough game, even with Social splattered all over it like ketchup.
What interested me most in this talk was the following snippet - they moved to Berlin, although they are Swedish, as the city is "amazing - like early Silicon Valley, but more punk meet geek than hippie meets geek". Now that I can easily believe - although their move was prompted largely by where their angel investor is, Berlin - especially Olde East Berlin - has a "cool" vibe that London's Siicon wotsits just don't have. As Wahlforss noted, London's bid to be a Silicon EuroCentre has to deal with a mobility in the VC world, so is not a slam dunk.
Big Data and Privacy Friendliness got a big shake-out, but Prime Ketchup of the morning was...Social! (just Social - there is no verb nor noun attached anymore).
*Added 5 days later - even more piquant, Britannica has just announced they are no longer printing when stocks run out)
Thursday, July 21. 2011
Since setting up this blog we have railed against the myopia of Planet Mobile in general and of Nokia (read here) - the Olde Guarde mobile phone makers and the elements in the Mobile Telcos that have fought tooth and nail against Mobile IP and decent IP devices. (The well powered, user friendly smartphone was technically possible some years before Apple brought the iPhone out, all it required was the will) so it is with no surprise we note Nokia is hitting the wall of its own self-created obsolescence - PaidContent:
Nokia today reported an operating loss of €487 million for the quarter, a decline of €782 million from the same quarter a year ago, when it made an operating profit of €295 million. The declines seen at the handset maker were near-total, represented by a string of negative percentages down the balance sheet.
That doesn't even begin to cover the disaster that is Smartphones:
In sales, smart devices saw a decline of 33 percent, to €2.368 billion from €3.503 billion a year before; in volumes that worked out to a 34 percent decline to 16.7 million units. In comparison, Apple sold nearly 34 million units and the combined Android makers sold around 37 million, according to figures from analyst Benedict Evans.
The "Microsoft Effect" had better be felt, and fast then..... if they want to have anything left of the JV and all the $ they are pumping into it. But they can't carry on doing "more of he same" - our own view is that they are better off putting their young turks in charge, rather than carrying on with the current management team.
Putsch Technology in other words......
Tuesday, April 26. 2011
I just don't believe these numbers on advertising from “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users,” a study from Google and conducted by Ipsos OTX, an independent market research firm, among 5,013 US adult smartphone Internet users at the end of 2010 - Google blogs:
71% of smartphone users search because of an ad they’ve seen either online or offline; 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads, 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, and 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.
Or more accurately, I don't believe the face value. I'd like to see the underlying definitions, for eg how often the 71% who search because of an Ad actually do search, and what the 88% "taking action" means. . While reading the whole thing (below) I also became aware that many of these were probably generic facts, ie applied to nearly any comms device - so I replaced the term "smartphone" with "dumbphone" and found the results still made nearly total sense, ie these are generic "this is what people do on phones" stats (The`y still made quite a lot of sense when I replaced smartphone with "carrot".....). I have also added a few "watch out for misleading wording" tags in [square brackets].
General Dumbphone Usage: Dumbphones have become an integral part of users’ daily lives. Consumers use dumbphones as an extension of their desktop computers and use it as they multi-task and consume other media.
So, after a few sections of "well they apply to anyone " data, it is that last section that I really struggle with. Those action rates are an order of magnitude (at least) higher than any Ad responses I've ever seen, and the behaviours reported here look nothing like anyone I asked about it (granted that is a small sample). Do you fit the profile here?
Given that it is (i) Planet Mobile (famous for exagerrating/misleading data) and (ii) self serving for Google, I'd approach those latter numbers with a large pinch of salt and a healthy dose of scepticism. Anyway, there is a webinar tomorrow with (hopefully) more details.
Monday, April 11. 2011
Last September we wrote that we just did not believe Gartner's forecasts for the smartphone market (see Dumb Forecast for Smart Phones):
Turns out they have radicaly revised them more in line with our views, ie much more Apple, much less Nokia and Android - Apple Insider.
Whereas we have argued till we are blue in the face that (i) Olde style Planet Mobile suppliers (read Nokia) don't have the DNA to build smartphones, and that "Open" (aka Android) is not what it is about, the lessons from the PC market and most others after is that "Software" - or "Apps" as they call them in SmartPhoneSpeak - is what drives intelligent device sales, not device features. And Apple has the winner take all end-to-end supply chain for that.
So why the error? Apple Insider reckons its because of Payola:
If Gartner's historical predictions were more accurate, it would be harder to suggest that the firm was simply concocting its numbers to fit a particular outcome for profit rather than modeling numbers to deliver a useful outlook for the market. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. Microsoft's confidential memos leaked during its monopoly trial state that the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gartner as it "lobbied" the firm to change its outlook to flatter Windows NT and denigrate competing Network Computers in the late 90s prior to that trial.
Like Apple Insider, I just cannot see where they are getting their Microsoft assumptions from, it seems hugely optimistic - the "what you have to believes" are fairly extreme in this case. Unlike Apple Insider, I think they are capable of making the errors without payola, because their predictive models do not seem to look at the end-to-end supply chain and how it impacts the game theory of decisions downstream at the device end. In my experience, until a market is fairly mature and just chugging along so you can run it on "last 3 years mean growth", it is essential to understand the "whole system" dynamic.
(I should add that in may other areas I find Gartner quite reasonable, but they have always been very optmistic about the Olde Planet Mobile growth data over the 10 or so years that I've been watching the industry - and they are not the only ones, mobile seems to be continually subject to overoptimism by many analysts - pre smartphone days we used to take a mean of all the major analysts' forecasts and halve the growth - turned out to be surprisingy good 2-3+ years out )
Friday, March 4. 2011
Fifth up on Wednesday at the Financial Times Digital Media & Broadcasting conference was "Reinventing TV" with a panel discussion featuring:
- Fearghal Kelly, VP Media Solutions, ioko
Again, very little new, and I felt that Richard Waters didn't press Lovefilm boss Simon Calver hard enough on why they eventually sold to Amazon and what they implied for the current value chains. As with my earlier post on News, you feel the sackcloth and ashes spiel is somewhat overplayed given the dominance of Olde TV still in terms of audience and advertising share, and OTT TV is (five years later from The Great OTT Year at IBC 2006) is still about to win all - next year - and in the meantine Lovefilm sold in to Amazon, Netflix is bumbling sideways at $7.99 for the whole farm. The things that made me open one eye from my pre-lunch torpor to scrawl a note were:
- "Live" TV and "Catch UP" TV are actually two different markets, like say newspapers and magazines.
There was the obligatory Recital Of The Credo - that The Tablet will be the Great Gamechanger for Media (sadly no one pointed out that it still only has a c 2.5% market share - so I went back to energy-saving mode at that point.
Forgive the bored ennui of this post, but if you go to the MyPCTV posts we started writing in 2006 you can see how little has actually changed in this particular game - or arther, how the current players are sleepwalking to their own doom, much like Planet Mobile has. We did a major piece of work on the Future of Web TV in 2008, and -a part froma few minor edits - its pretty much good for 2011. It is with sad resignation that I await Apple coming in with an iTV offering in 12 - 24 months and show the industry how to do it.
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