June 14, 2012

Brands: How to cut your exposure to Facebook business risk

Will Facebook stick to its core competency or be waylaid?

This is third of a three-part series on Facebook as an investment. Also see:
Facebook’s biggest barrier to enormous wealth? Trust
Facebook will remain king, but social pure plays will fade

Christopher RollysonMany brands are boosting their investments in social business platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest with every passing quarter, but CMOs are too often focused on next quarter’s numbers. They fail to insulate themselves against platforms’ business risks. Facebook’s IPO will likely cause the company to change its behavior in surprising ways, and without warning, by changing its policies and features. Here, I’ll address how brand executives can insulate themselves from Facebook’s — or any platform’s — fortunes by moving to make their relationships and networks portable.

Seeing beyond the platform

Pure play firms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have defined language, behavior, features and the very concepts of digital “social networks,” but they are quite expendable when brands manage their investments appropriately. However, brand leaders need to follow the digital ecosystem closely and be ready to adjust quickly.

Here are some principles for avoiding surprises. Specific action steps follow.

Assume pure plays’ gradual obsolescence

Watch the ecosystem’s major players, and the interactions among them, but the trend will be specialist sites maximizing value from “social networking” and fading dominance of pure plays. The latter will continue to exist, but they will not maximize value because they are designed for “socializing” (which people can’t resist), not doing things. Moreover, I use “ecosystem” intentionally because it indicates a pervasive, real-time network that increasingly interoperates. Because it’s digital, it’s more dynamic than any human market we’ve ever experienced. Here are brief comments on some of the players:

Buying RIM won’t help Facebook enough to warrant the distraction — not even close.

Facebook is so entrenched globally that it may remain the dominant general social network for many years. However, there is a big caveat. Facebook’s management team looks like it’s losing focus due to the IPO and too much time with Wall Street bankers. It’s “using the money it raised” for M&A, purportedly considering entering the hardware market (buying RIM). If Facebook’s management team and core competencies included M&A (like, say, Cisco), I would be confident. But they don’t. If Facebook buys RIM, I would seriously question Facebook’s medium-term relevance and long-term survival. Making phones will not help Facebook sell more mobile advertising. Not even Apple’s best-in-class iPhones will likely display much advertising due to user backlash. The device wouldn’t help Facebook enough to warrant the distraction — not even close. Continue reading

February 16, 2012

Round two for forums and message boards?

http://nerdberry.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2_tapatalk_logo.pngChris AbrahamThe problem with most social media marketing agencies is that we’re fickle. We tend to keep rushing into the future, adopting anything and everything hot and new and overlooking the rest. In our constant hunger for the latest and greatest, we have mostly abandoned working class heroes like forums and message boards, preferring exciting new money to boring old money. But isn’t any kind of money good?
Continue reading

January 9, 2007

At Macworld: Steve Jobs unveils the iPhone

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs on stage (photo by JD Lasica)

JD LasicaThis was the fifth Macworld Expo in San Francisco that I’ve attended, and it may have been the most memorable. I wanted to live-blog it, but I was told the conference hall didn’t have wi-fi. I’ve got a signal now.

Here are my notes from Jobs’ keynote, with quotes and a few numbers, in the order in which it happened:

A jaunty-looking Steve Jobs took the stage in his trademark black turtleneck sweater and jeans to the strains of James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” 

“We’re going to make history today,” Jobs began.

The introduction of Intel processors “has been the smoothest transition in the history of the industry.” (Indeed, I’m blogging this on an Intel processor MacBook Pro.)

He showed off a new Switcher ad, “Major Surgery,” about the travails of upgrading to Microsoft Vista.

Digital music

Apple has now sold over 2 billion songs on iTunes. It took 10 months to get from 1 billion to 2 billion songs. He said of press reports of a supposed slowdown in online music sales: “We couldn’t be happier with the growth rate of iTunes. We’re selling 5 million songs a day." Apple is now the fifth largest music retailer in the world, behind Walmart, Best Buy and Target. It just moved ahead of Amazon.

Apple offers 350 TV shows for download, and they’ve sold 50 million downloadable TV shows. Apple also offers a catalog of 100 movies on iTunes, and they’ve sold 1.3 million movies. Today Jobs announced a new partnership with Paramount to sell Paramount movies on iTunes.

How are iTunes song sales faring? In November 2006, the latest month in which sales numbers were available, Apple commanded 62% of the online music market, compared to 2% for the rollout of the Microsoft Zune that month, with the rest split up among other online retailers.

Digital television

In September Apple introduced iTV, a way to network Internet video onto your living room TV set. "We’re going with a new name: Apple TV. It’s a way to enjoy your media on your Apple TV. You can buy video and movies on iTunes, download it to your computer, put it on your iPod. Now you can get an Apple TV and transfer it wirelessly to your digital TV."

The gizmo delivers 720 lines of hi-def video, with a 40GB hard drive that stores 50 hours of video, and it has 802.11b, g and n wi-fi wireless networking (the latest cool wireless technology). "It’s a really cool box," Uncle Steve tells the thousands of attendees. "It works with video, music and photos, and it’s designed for widescreen TVs. You can stream content from up to five computers." It’s priced at $299 and ships next month; they’re taking orders today.

Major announcement: The iPhone

Then it was showtime. Apple did a good job of lowering expectations for this year, so few of us knew what to expect. Jobs walked up to the edge of the stage and folded his hands. "This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for the past 2 1/2 years. Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything." He recalled the introduction of the Mac in 1984, the iPod in 2001, which "changed everything about music, and we’re gong to do it again with the iPhone in 2007."

The Keynote screen flashed with images of an iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator. "These are not three separate devices. This is one device. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. We want to make a leapfrog product that’s way smart and easy to use."

"We’ll start with a revolutionary user interface, the result of years of research and development," he said, displaying the far-too-complex form factor of the Moto Q, the BlackBerry, Palm Treo and Nokia E62. Each have teensy keyboards with about a jillion buttons — "whether you need them or not. The buttons and the controls can’t change.

"We solved this in computers 20 years ago with the bitmap screen and the mouse. So how do we take that to a mobile device?" He then displayed the photo of the new iPhone — like the iPod, sleek and minimalist. Amazing — it’s a huge blank screen with a single button to turn it on. (Thank God this thing has an on and off button, unlike the iPod.) The designers couldn’t go with a mouse for their mobile phone, and who wants a stylus? Their solution?  "We’ll use the finger as a pointing devices. … We’ve invented a new software that works like magic. And, boy, have we patented it.”

Where Apple introduced the mouse for the Mac and the click wheel for the iPod, it is now introducing software called MultiTouch — and what it does is just plain jaw-dropping.

"Software on today’s mobile phones is like baby software," Jobs said. "Our new software is at least five years ahead of anything on the market."

The secret? It’s built on top of Mac’s operating system. iPhone runs OS10. It supports syncing, networking, multitasking, video, Cocoa, core animation, etc. — all of it built right into iPhone, allowing desktop class applications and networking.

Jobs posted a 30-year-old quote from Alan Kay: "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." And so they are.

iPhone automatically syncs to your iPod or Mac. IPhone will sync contacts, calendars, photos, notes, bookmarks and email accounts. It has a big, bright 3.5-inch screen with 160 pixels per inch, "the highest resolution screen we’ve ever shipped." It’s only  11.6millimeters wide and has a 2-megapixel camera built into the back.

Here’s the amazing part: You scroll with your finger. Volume control is done on screen by moving your finger across the screen. Scrolling through your contacts is done by moving your finger down the screen, a la the iPod’s click wheel. As a visitor to Apple recently told Jobs: "You had me at scrolling."

The killer app for a mobile phone, Jobs said, is making calls. "We want to let you you use Contacts like never before – sync your phone to your computer so you can bring in all your contacts." This is something that few people do today because the device manufacturers have made it so difficult.

‘Visual voicemail’

Here’s a neat trick the iPhone supports: "visual voicemail." You can scroll through a list of voicemails, including photos of the callers (if available), and go directly to the voicemails of most importance, rather than having to listen to all the ones that are of less consequence. Very cool. It’s wi-fi and Bluetooth 2.0 supported.

Jobs did a little demo on stage by calling Jony Ive, the British-born designer behind the iPod, for the first public phone call made with an iPhone. Then Jobs got an incoming call and clicked the "Merge calls" button, instantly creating a conference call. Way, way cool.

The phone also lets you do SMS texting with an online keypad. "It’s faster to type on than all these little plastic keyboards," Jobs said.

It also has "the coolest photo management app ever –- certainly the coolest we’ve ever seen on a mobile device," he said. Check it out: You display a photo, rotate the device from vertical to horizontal — and the photo turns with it. Even cooler: You can also touch the photo to move it around and zoom in to any section of the photo with a finger move he called “the pinch.”

“We have reinvented the phone,”Jobs declared for emphasis.

There was more: an internet communications device that’s part of iPhone. You’ll be able to get rich html email on a mobile device for the first time. It works with any iMap (Yahoo) or POP3 (Gmail, most ISPs) email service.

Here’s where I was sucked in for good: "We wanted a real web browser," Jobs said. The iPhone sports the first fully usable html browser on a phone –- Safari. Instead of a sucky little WAP window where you cant really navigate a site like the New York Times, the iPhone displays the front page of nytimes.com in sufficent size in a horizontal landscape view to see the entire width of the site — and lets you zoom in on images or headlines by double-tapping on it. Double tap again to get back to the full screen.

Jobs also showed off the last features of the iPhone: widgets such as seeing the 5-day weather forecast in Aspen, Paris, SF and Hawaii. Plus, Google Maps showing street maps, satellite maps, directions and traffic.

He used Google Maps to zoom in on Moscone West and showed a half dozen Starbucks in the hood. He then selected one, phoned it, and said, “Yes, I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go. Wrong number!”

He then double tapped to zoom in on a satellite image of the Washington Monument, Eiffel Tower and Rome’s Colosseum. "Isn’t that incredible? Right on my phone! …It’s the Internet in your pocket."

The iPhone will have a Bluetooth earset accessory as an option instead of earbuds. (It’s an ugly black rectangle that droops from your ear like a misplaced Lego.) The device has 5 hours of battery life and can play 16 hours of music and audio.

For those interested, here are the technical specs.

Google and Yahoo! on board

Jobs then trotted out Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who sits on Apple’s board and predicted, "This product is going to be hot! This is what happens when you put it all together." Pointing to the Treo, BlackBerry and other now-obsolescent (in my opinion) phones, he added, "After today I don’t think anyone’s gong to look at these phones the same way again."

Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang took the stage to announce a partnership with Apple that lets Yahoo’s 250 million email users plug easily into the device.

Jobs took the stage again to announce, "We’ve filed for over 200 patents for all the inventions in iPhone, and we intend to protect them. …iPhone is the ultimate digital device.”

The price point was a bit high for my wallet: Where the iPod sells for $199, BlackBerry $299, and $499 for the combination of music player and phone, Apple will sell the 4GB iPhone for $499 and a model with 8GB of flash memory for $599 — but not until June. That drew groans from the audience. Takes months for FCC approval, Jobs explained.

Stan Sigman, CEO of Cingular, took the stage — 11 days after AT&T’s takeover of Cingular — and extolled the glories of Cingular’s phone service. The telecom exec seemed out of place with his commercial pitch to this crowd.

Jobs had one last chart, showing sales of various products in 2006:

• 26 million game consoles 

• 94 million digital cameras

• 135 million mp3 players

• 209 million PCs

and the kicker:

• 957 million mobile phones

"A 1% market share equals 10 million phones. This is our goal in 2008."

This year, for the first time that I can recall, there was no One Last Thing. The iPhone was the big announcement, and Jobs got to it in the first half hour. He wrapped up with the announcement: "Today we’re dropping Computer from our name. Apple Computer Inc. is now Apple Inc."

It was another command performance.

Engadget has some great coverage of Jobs’ talk and the Expo here. ZDNet covers all the bases here.

The blogosphere weighs in, of course.


NY Times:  Apple Introduces Innovative Cellphone. (I think revolutionary would have been more apt.)

Tristan Louis looks at how Apple’s iPhone stacks up against the incumbent cell phone makers.