How to Make BillG Look Like a Saint, Part VII

Nathan Myhrvold, patent troll.

    Millionaire Nathan Myhrvold, renowned in the computer industry as a Renaissance man, has a less lofty message for tech companies these days: Pay up...Over the past few years, the former Microsoft Corp. executive has quietly amassed a trove of 20,000-plus patents and patent applications...In recent months Mr. Myhrvold's firm, Intellectual Ventures, has secured payments in the range of $200 million to $400 million from companies including telecom giant Verizon Communications Inc. and networking-gear maker Cisco Systems Inc., according to people familiar with the situation. Verizon, for instance, disclosed in a July filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to pay as much as $350 million for patent licenses and an equity stake in a patent-holding investment fund.

Multichannel Customer Service in Retail Sector - Trends, Innovations & Best Practices

Please join me for a webinar on September 23 entitled: "Multichannel Customer Service in Retail Sector &mdash Trends, Innovations & Best Practices"

Retail sales around the world continue to grow and online commerce is growing at a faster clip. In the US alone, Forrester projects that online commerce will grow 21% to $204B in 2008, compared to 2007. European retail sales increased 58% in 2007, compared to 2006, and the trend is expected to continue in 2008. However, the retail industry is also one of the most competitive industry sectors, affected by economic cycles and cut-throat competition. The hypercompetitive business environment and the growing use of emerging communication channels such as web self-service, email, chat, SMS, web collaboration and kiosks, in tandem with the traditional phone channel and retail stores mandate that retail businesses provide superior and seamless customer service experiences within and across channels and across the customer lifecycle. And at the same time, they must do more with less in order to sustain operating margins. What are the latest trends, innovations and best practices in multichannel customer service? How can you do more with less in customer service?

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Why Is It Taking So Long?

UK digital music provider 7Digital announced today that 100% of its 4 million strong catalogue is DRM free MP3 format. All previously purchased WMA tracks will be upgraded free of charge. This is great news and reflective of the pioneering spirit of 7Digital as they try to eek out market share at the expense of the Big Apple. The bulk of Europe's 300 odd digital music services would do well to take lessons from 7Digital on how to compete. Often what happens when a single company dominates a marketplace it eventually falls foul of complacency and finds itself under multi-directional attack from niche innovators. Apple's dominance of digital music is comparable to that of Google's footprint: it continues to augment its dominance through innovation and weak competitive threat. Most other digital music providers have settled for me-too WMA stores. 7Digital hasn't.

The irony of all this though, is that DRM-free shouldn't even be an issue anymore. 18 months ago I wrote a report showing that the majority of the digital music industry (major labels included) were ready for DRM-free. I even expected (hoped) that Apple would be finally announcing DRM-free last week. Instead of empowering the flagging digital music market by granting Apple DRM-free catalogue the major labels have focused on getting Apple's competitors, such as 7Digital, stocked up with DRM-free first. Though this tactic is aimed at leveling the competitive playing field, the risk is that the effect is to weaken the most driving force of digital music and therefore the digital music market itself.

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Controlling the social address book

There were lots of recent announcements in the mobile space around adress book / calendar back-ups, tools to save and share content (from pictures to video and messaging).

Vodafone's acquisition of ZYB (still wondering which services were really available commercially or if they only bought competences), o2's launch of Bluebook or SFR's Ma Sfere are good examples on the operator front.

Bluebook is by far the most advanced project with a significant marketing campaign launched last March. I quite like the idea that memories are goind digital and that "now, when you lose your phone, you won't lose your memories". But let's face it, this all about controlling the social adress book. Operators are often viewed by other stakeholders as players who consider to "own the customer".

Reality is that customers own their contacts and use communication services not only from operators but also from Internet players (social networking sites, Instant Messaging,...), particularly the younger generation.

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End of an Era, Part XII

File this under "End of Era." MTV is ending Total Request Live, one of the originators of "illusionary programming" (what Jupiter called entertainment where you fooled the audience it was in control, ie off-line UGC).

Speaking Gigs

I thought I'd give you a heads up on some of my forthcoming speaking engagements:

On Thursday I'm giving a presentation in Paris to the "Charge de mission Socit de l'Information" which my French colleagues tell me is a governmental organization that advises the President on cultural affairs. And with the French Minister for Culture attending it looks like it should be a really interesting event. I'll be presenting on why Europeans just won't pay for online content and on the impact of piracy.

The following week I'll be moderating a roundtable discussion at EconMusic in London on the 23rd. The event is being run by Content Next (the people behind Paid and has a very impressive line up for a first time event (that's the pulling power of Paid for you). The fact this music conference is being held in the natural history museum is going to be the source of endless fun for the media no doubt. I'll do my best not to refer to the dinosaurs in the lobby.

On Monday 6th I'll be moderating a panel at the long running In the City in Manchester. This will be the first year fully run without any involvement from the late Tony Wilson. You always had some almost imperceptible sense of his personality on the event in previous years. It'll be interesting to see if that's still there this year.

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Best Buy's Best Buy?

Best Buy to buy Napster (see David Card's blog). So just as Comes With Music, the first of the 2nd generation of music subscription services, prepares to enter the market, one of the founding fathers of subscriptions sells up. I still think Napster and Rhapsody need to go 100% DRM-free to have a long term future. Subscriptions are dead, long live subscriptions?

Keitai shosetsu

This Japanese expression relates to books or short stories written for mobile phones. There is a good article published in Le Monde the other day. Nothing really new in the sense that these have been available for a while in Japan and recently introduced in Europe.

However, I was really amazed by the high level of downloads. Apparently, one the latest books (just made available in physical bookstores), Koizora, has already been read by 25,000,000 Japanese.
The buzz around Amazon's Kindle should be put in perspective.

Best Buy to Acquire Napster

Yes, and Circuit City used to own MusicNow. I'm not sure I see what's different about market conditions now versus then, other than it's a few years later and the market has consolidated.

- I see why a music retailer would want an online play, but I don't usually think of Best Buy as a music retailer.
- On-demand music services are a fairly complicated product for a minimum-wage clerk to sell, but Best Buy has more skills than some
- I suppose there might be some hardware/services combos in the works
- I'm more bullish about ads supporting this business in the long run than anything else right now, and this doesn't play to any strengths there

My "Fun" Blackberry - part 2

Echoing my colleague's post on RIM's move in the consumer segment, here's a pic taken a few months ago in the London Tube.


Sorry for the pic quality, it was actually taken with a camera phone (won't say anything about the brand / model):-)

Also, see here an interesting interview with one of the team members of Blackberry's Partner Fund.