Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Empire Strikes Back

I'm sorry, I had to copy the Merc on the headline.

So it happened. Intel released the Core 2 Duo, their answer to AMD's assault on the industry Intel once ruled. As the Merc reports, the Core 2 Duo has up to 40% more processing power and uses 40% less electricity than today's chips, accomplished by putting two computing brains on the same chip.

Time will tell if this is the technological innovation Intel needs to leapfrog AMD. I'm going to refrain from taking my usual highly opinionated (and often minority) stance, but I will say that its success truly depends on the quality of the technology. For all the advancements in chips, I think customers still want more - this chip doesn't, in my opinion, surpass consumer demand in terms of processing power.

But then again, it won't be long until AMD answers, and once they come out with a similar quality chip, the price war will return, slashing margins and leaving Intel in the same position they are in now.

No biggie, though, as that's life in pretty much any industry.


According to MyBlogLog, someone came to my blog from a search on technorati. How cool is that? Some random person read my blog. To the random person who did, I hope you liked it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Zune (added)

So apparently, Microsoft has adopted the proprietary that I was so sure they'd be smart enough to avoid. Om writes about it, or rather writes about a Mac guy writing about it (who of course hates it). However, towards the end of his post, he mentions that Michael Wolf of ABI Research thinks that they're closed approach is fatal, which it is.

How Microsoft could make such a mistake is unimaginable. Chasing the iPod with an iPod clone with a couple cool extra features? Looks like life in the ivory tower is finally getting them. Unless this report is wrong and Microsoft comes out with an open platform, I partially retract my statements about Zune beating out the iPod. It's going to be much, much tougher.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mobile TV

VC's are just throwing money at Mobile TV start ups. Just today, between Techcrunch, SiliconBeat, and GigaOm, I've read 3 stories about mobile TV. Veeker is just one example, GigaOm reports.

Ok, I just don't get it. Granted, I think it's a great idea, but I don't think it's deserve of the shower of VC money it's getting. I mean, the numbers are ridiculous (I don't have stats now, I'll try and post some later). And the big names are leading the way.

I really just don't see it as being that cool. I mean, the screens are tiny. Maybe TV on a laptop could be cool, or even a tablet PC, but most of these companies target straight up mobile phones. Maybe I'm severely lacking foresight and vision on this, but who wants to watch TV on a cell phone? I can think of certain circumstances (like the train to work this morning), but I just don't see the market matching the hype.

Most importantly, (this being the point of my post), what do you guys think?


I think it's great that some of you have started to comment (Gordon and Cletus). Keep the comments coming, and all of you feel free to chime in.

I'll also try to have a post up soon with analysis of the various companies' earnings that were announced last week. I know it's late, I've (pretended to have) been busy.

Monday, July 24, 2006

SF Web Innovators

Tomorrow (July 25), there is an entrepreneurs event in SF, 6-9 pm. I'll be there, wearing the Mashery hat. You should too.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Intel's dilemma

Last week, Intel announced low revenue and earnings and projected the same for at least next quarter. Revenue was $8 billion and earnings were $885 million for the second quarter, down 13% and 56%, respectively, from a year ago.

Of course, Intel's problems have been no secret - AMD has been taking back marketshare for a while now. So what is Intel to do? They are caught in a price war in a market that has finally been hit by commoditization.

Intel's storied past makes my answer all the harder to swallow. Founded by 3 of Fairchild's Treacherous 8 (Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove), the company has been the darling of the computer industry, almost as dominant as Microsoft and infinitely more likable, boasting superior technology and marketing.

In fact, the decay of the one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns in history, "Intel Inside," is one of the biggest reasons for Intel's current position. For 14 years, consumers truly believed that their computer was significantly better off with Intel chips inside and were willing to pay a premium for them. For some part of those 14 years, this may have been true, but chips have long since become a commodity, and performance across brands has become basically equal.

And, at last, the consumer has realized this. However, before I give my thoughts on what the firm should do, I will digress again. I am hearkened back, once again, to a case study in my Management 237 class last semester. Very much like Intel, Kodak had fought off commoditization in the film industry for years, but the market was finally beginning to catch up with them. We were asked what Kodak should do in this situation. A friend and I boldly convinced our group of 6 other people (or rather spoke for them before they could say anything) that Kodak should sell the company.

Yeah, you read that right. Why? Sure it's a little crazy, but it makes sense. Kodak, at the time, still had a huge brand name, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that Asian film makers would be able to match (or beat) Kodak's price and quality. So, instead of sticking around and struggling for survival in a commodity market, why not just cash out at the high price their name would allow? The company, of course, didn't do this and went on to become a market leader in other fields, but their film division kept losing market share and profits.

So do I think Intel should sell itself? No, but they should learn a lesson from the past. Currently, they're saying all the things investors want to hear (they're going to try to gain back market share, etc.), meaning they will pour vast amounts of money into marketing and production. But why? Instead of trying to fight the inevitable, they should scale back operations, cut production, and try to limit losses. By realizing the hard times ahead and saving cash now, they put themselves in a position to live to fight another day. The price war and commoditization of the chip industry means that Intel will never enjoy dominance and high profits until a discontinuous innovation comes along and turns the marketplace on its head. Intel needs to devote resources to discovering that next discontinuous innovation (i.e. R&D) and exploring other business opportunities and industries (outside chips) that give them a better shot at market dominance.

Though it's unpopular and unconventional, this is the way to go. But will they do any of it? Probably not.


This is the story of a company with a cute logo and an insanely great (in some ways - not so much in others) CEO. The CEO unveils a killer product that captures the hearts and minds of the entire nation. But then along comes another company with a CEO who is so cunning it's scary. According to legend, he somehow convinces the first CEO to give him a couple prototypes of the product, and his company proceeds to reverse engineer it (albeit slowly) and build a competing one. The company understands the power of creating an open system and foresees the commoditization of hardware. With this insight, its product proceeds to conquer and rule the industry, despite its technical inferiority, leaving the first company to slowly wither away. It does just this, until it is saved by yet another killer product in a completely different field...

Side note: I write this blog for the Valley-savy, but I realize most of you are probably college kids who didn't grow up with stories like the one above, so I'll explain. The two companies are Apple Computer and Microsoft, respectively, and the tale refers to the OS wars, which Microsoft won by eschewing Apple's proprietary philosophy and allowing others to build the hardware and develop software, among other things.

Funny how history repeats itself. Just a few days ago (sorry, this post is late because the draft I was working on got deleted), Microsoft announced Zune (click for details), a hardware and software package aimed at the heart of Apple's iPod. Reactions have been mixed, but the majority opinion amongst pundits is that Zune will have a hard time catching up to the iPod.

I disagree, and history is on my side. The parallels with the OS wars are eerie. As long as Microsoft thoroughly analyzes the industry conditions, they should be able to build a product to knock off the iPod. They must recognize and capitalize on their inherent advantage: Windows (and Vista soon). Their product should offer an integrated solution (not unlike Apple's iPod/iTunes) and interface that ties in with the OS. Cool features are a must, but following through on this advantage will set them apart. Apple should be scared.

A caveat, though. Microsoft should realize that hardware isn't the path to victory in the industry. The iPod is nice and very much in vogue today, but its days are numbered even without Zune because commoditization will set in. The principles that governed the OS wars will also come into play here (software over hardware, open system, etc.). Apple has already made the mistake of creating a closed system around the iPod (they make the iPod and every related product, much like they tried to do with the Mac), Microsoft should not follow suit. The greed to capture every penny of profit in the marketplace has sunk many companies. Microsoft should be wary of delving into the hardware world, one that has not treated them kindly in previous forays.

All in all, this should be fun to watch.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Firefox 2. is out (in beta). The big change is a built in spell checker. So, when I spel something wrong, theres a little red line under it.

Yeah, ok that was a really lame joke.

On Google

Enough of you have asked me about tech stuff and my job and whatnot that a Google post was inevitable. So why not now...

Google. The enigma. I lived with two kids last year who embodied the two polar opposite (least coast) opinions of the company. One firmly believes Google is the company, destined to change the world and make billions doing so, while the other maintains that its financials reveal it's nothing but another overpriced Silicon Valley company.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Though they continue to beat the Street (earnings were 12% above expectations), they struggle against absurdly high expectations placed upon them. But the funny thing is that people take such strong stances on the firm without knowing much about what it does. Today, almost all of Google's revenue comes from ads, whether brokering deals as a middle man or hosting them on their site. So all those cool gadgets that they regularly roll out aren't making money.

So the state of Google's then boils down to the sustainability of their business model. I'm not saying some of their other profit-seeking ventures won't succeed (Google Checkout, for example has potential to steal some market share from PayPal, especially if it can be as innovative as Gmail was for email), but I think a thoughtful analysis of the company should start there.

With online advertising spending projected to double by 2010, Google is in good position to profit even if their market share slips a bit. But all sorts of new competitors are moving into the space, so they will have their work cut out for them. In the end, they are atop the industry now but will need to be careful going forward.

The issue then turns to all that other stuff they're doing, begging the question, "Why?" I mean, I love that they give me almost 3 gigs of email storage now, but what is it doing for them. Sure they make more advertising revenue, but is that it? Some claim the services are primarily to gather information on users, which can be used later to roll out even cooler applications.

So, overall, I think Google's ability to "take over the world," as my roommate often put it, will depend on their ability to leverage all these side activities into meaningful profit at some point down the line. If they don't see a dime for all the widgets they put out, they are doing their investors a grave disservice by not consolidating operations to search and ad revenue and enjoying an absurdly high ROI.

One last point on Google - in talking to VCs and entrepreneurs in the Valley, I've noticed that, above all, the fear is gone. People aren't scared that big, bad Google will put them out of business. Time will tell if the beast has really lost its fangs.

Monday, July 17, 2006


So since you all now know about 2 of the 3 companies I work for, I think it's about time I give the third and final one some blogging love (ok, well maybe it's not exactly the final one, but that's topic for another day).

MyBlogLog got started as click tracking for blogs, accomplished by pasting a line of code into the html of your site. Essentially, MyBlogLog offers the solution to the "Cotten Eyed Joe" problem: "where do you come from, where do you go?" The unique nature of blogs make the highly interlinked, and oftentimes readers come to one blog via a link on another. Over time, the data aggregates and allows blog authors to see which sites shuttle the most readers to their blogs. This information can be useful in offering advertising, creating partnerships and business opportunities, etc.

Once the site began to gain traction, the overall vision grew. Why limit to just blogs? Blog readers aren't the only ones who exhibit such behavior, so there ought to be other sites where this sort of tracking could be useful. Thus, the site expanded and their service is used by news, gossip, and all sorts of other sites.

However, the most recent expansion is, in my mind, the coolest. Having placed over 65 million cookies, MyBlogLog now knows quite a bit about sites and their readers' behaviors. So, the site has been completely redesigned as a social network around blogs. Once you've signed up, MyBlogLog keeps track of the sites you read or subscribe to and refers other that are similar in nature. Groups are formed around blog authors and their readers, helping both groups learn more about those around them.

Lastly, one of the great things about the site is how safe it is. It collects information in a non-intrusive way, so readers' identities are completely protected, and the information is kept extremely securely.

So yeah, if you have a blog, go sign up and check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, July 14, 2006

MashupCamp (2 of 2)

So the actual MashupCamp (which was Wed and Thurs, July 12 and 13) was a great experience. As the Merc article talks about, the agenda for the unconference was determined Wednesday morning. I'm going to give my thoughts on some of the issues discussed, but a thorough summary is available if you want one. Visit the wikis on the individual topics for indepth info.

The Computer History Museum (where the event was held) was filled with true Silicon Valley nerds, intriguing new companies, giant old ones, VCs, and a few movers and shakers. My impressions of the individual discussions were mixed. Interestingly enough, my favorite one, Jeff Clavier's talk on start up financing, had very little to do with the conference's focus on mashups. Jeff is a great guy and offered some fantastic, straight-shooting advice. He is also one of our (Mashery's) investors, so it was cool to hear him give examples involving our funding process. As a side note, I also got to meet Josh Kopelman of fame, who I have pointed at on this blog a few times. Again, fantastic guy by all accounts.

Another discussion hit at a fundamental point in the mashup world, and one very pertinent to Mashery: API pricing models. The discussion itself wasn't extremely enlightening and at times was reduced to the affirming and denying of mashup developer's willingness to pay. However, the motivations underlying the discourse were very telling. Already, two seperate camps are forming in the space - the people who want to make developers pay for APIs (and make money off the transactions) and those who want to keep them free. So far, Amazon is the only example of a successful monetized system. It was generally agreed that most models would be based on volume (pay per API call) rather than a licensing system.

The basic problem is actually quite interesting. You have API developers, who do tons of work and then publish it, making their code and data available to the public. Then you have mashup developers who use multiple APIs to throw together cool stuff. This is where it gets tricky - what if this cool stuff makes the mashup developer money? Well ok, you can say, if the mashup makes money, the API developers, who did most of the work, should get a cut, right? But what if the mash up is only making money on ads, i.e. it's just a really popular site that happens to use multiple APIs? A good overall solution would be to charge based on volume while giving the first few API calls for free. But then again, charging in general takes away from the open source feel of mash ups by economically disincentivizing creativity in making new mashups. So it is a sticky problem indeed.

A few more points about the unconference as a whole. It was interesting that one widespread problem was the lack of reliability in the space. API providers reserve the right (in their terms of service) to change their APIs whenever the way. So building a serious mashup (one that aims to make money or perform a hardcore task) is risky because tomorrow Google could just change part of its map API and you'd be left out in the cold.

Lastly, there was an overwhelming cry for better support in mashup creation. Developers seem to really want what Mashery is offering: support via blogs, wikis, forums, documentation, etc. There's a real lack of it out there in the mashup space right now. So from that standpoint, and seeing that almost everyone had heard of Mashery by the time the event wrapped up Thursday afternoon, I'd say it was quite a success. Look forward to the launch of our site ( in a few weeks, and I may blog once more on the unconference over the weekend.

MashupCamp and the Merc

MashupCamp was featured on the front page of the business section in an article about unconferences. Decent read, puts some of this stuff in context.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

MashupCamp (1 of 2)

This is the first of either two or three posts on MashupU/MashupCamp. MashupU was Monday and Tuesday, while Camp is today (Wednesday) and tomorrow.

Word to the non-technical: Mashups are the cool new thing in programming - they combine multiple APIs (application programming interfaces, essentially interfaces provided by organizations both large and small that allow developers access to their methods and data) to create new, cool applications.

MashupU will be the focus of this post. The two days consisted of a handful of companies (big names being Microsoft, Adobe, Intel, Amazon, and AOL). Presentations that stuck out most to me:

Microsoft's Windows Live looked top notch. The live messenger demo involved combining chatting with simultaneous editing of documents, games, maps, etc. So you could talk to you friend about where you're getting lunch while locating the place on a map and getting info about it in the same window that both of you can see. Pretty cool stuff. The map UI (Virtual Earth) is also very good.

Plaxo was very interesting, only because I (finally) learned about them and their business model. The idea itself (an address book that is compatible with many applications) has always been good, but the reach that their "sync" program already has is incredible. They've got a ton of companies that are already compatible, giving their service significant value, and more companies will keep coming.

Amazon's S3 stuff was also pretty cool. One interesting side point is that they claimed 160,000 registered users, proving the developer community is in fact quite large. Amazon provides a ton of APIs and have created a decent model to monetize. The Elephant Drive mashup, which combines Amazon S3 with Intel's Mobile SDK is a sweet mashup that allows users to backup their hard drive very easily.

Adobe's also stuck out, especially because they've managed to do so much with their traditional proprietary system. Though it's hard to say how their shunning of the open source philosophy will fare in the mashup world, they've created a bunch of APIs and have quite a few mashups that developers have created, primarily due to the widespread reach of their Flash player. It was amazing how quickly their newest version, Flash 8, has gotten mass adoption.

The company I'm with, Mashery, also had a great demo, and we've done a solid job getting the word out about us. Conceived less than 2 months ago, it's a testament to our team (primarily the work of our founders and architects) that pretty much all 300-400 people at this conference have heard of us. As a quick overview, we aim to provide a turnkey solution for mashup developers and create a community for them to aid each other and enhance the development experience. This is everything from blogs, wikis, and forums to a extensive list of API providers and a whole bunch of other stuff. I'll blog when we launch, but if you're at all interested in mashups, you should check it out.

More to come, especially on the actual MashupCamp.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Tech side of the World Cup

To combine my enthusiasm for the World Cup with my tech-minded blog, I've decided to dedicate this post (yes, I know, the first in a while - I apologize) to examining the intersection of the sport and technology.

Aside from my ire over Zidane's inexplicable head butt and England's early exit (despite outplaying Portugal with only 10 men), my biggest pet peeve of the tournament, like many others, was the abundance of diving and atrocious calls. There were so many it's hard to recall all of them, but just in the last game there was the PK awarded to France over a questionable call, and then a much more clear cut case later in the game that was not called.

How do you solve this? There are two problems: refereeing mistakes and the rampant diving. So the obvious answer is to implement some sort of instant replay system. How would this work? I think the easiest would be to have a referee in a replay booth who can talk to the ref on the field. But FIFA has said this would disrupt the flow of the game. Maybe cutting edge technology is the answer - why not give the refs a replay device that fits in his pocket? For a disputed calls, he would simply whip out the screen, take a second look, and (possibly) change the call.

And although the Zidane PK in the final was ruled correctly, other "did it cross the line completely" calls were very questionable. FIFA (and the NFL actually) needs to start using micro technology to track the ball and have a more reliable way of determining whether the ball went in the net.

Anyway, just getting some tech post-Cup thoughts off my chest. Expect a couple more posts (very soon, possibly later today) as I'm currently at MashupU, the two day precursor to the two-day MashupCamp, a tech conference in Mountain View (at the Computer History Museum, in the heart of Silicon Valley).