Archive | September 2012

Europe Shoots For The Clouds: EC Lays Out New Cloud Strategy To Add €160B To EU GDP By 2020

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Last week we discussed Dropbox and how everyone, not just people, but also organizations are more and more making use of cloud services. Now the European Commission is also taking that step, investing heavily in the cloud. Below an interesting article by Ingrid Lunden:

Up to now, the European Commission has kept a relatively light position on where it stands with cloud services — putting more effort into the wider issues like broadband and mobile regulation and ensuring that users all get a fair deal as these services continue to grow. Today that changed, as the EC unveiled a high-level cloud services strategy, with the aim of adding €160 billion ($206 billion) to the region’s economy by 2020, equivalent to 1% of total GDP. Plans include improving interoperability standards; setting up lists of “trustworthy” cloud providers; taking a part in regulating how service level agreements (SLAs) should work; and creating a formalized structure for how governments and other public bodies in the region should procure in cloud services: the public sector accounts for 20% of all IT spend in the European Union.

Some will undoubtedly argue that government intervention in cloud services, especially at this relatively early stage in their development, may actually slow down rather than speed up innovation in the area.

But on the other hand, it’s an area that is growing fast — set to bring in $100 billion globally by 2016 according to IDC — and already has a lot of proprietary players — from Box and Dropbox to Microsoft and Google — who will become ever more competitive as more cloud companies emerge. That, plus the simple passage of time, will have a massive impact on how cloud-based data gets handled, protected, and used.

But for now it seems the main point of the EC getting involved is to make sure that Europe does not fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to cloud services and their economic benefits. (And if you follow much EU regulation, the fear of falling behind seems to be a prevalent theme across various areas.) Given the otherwise sad state of economic affairs in Europe, the region needs all the encouragement it can get.

“Cloud computing is a game-changer for our economy. Without EU action, we will stay stuck in national fortresses and miss out on billions in economic gains,” Neelie Kroes, EC vice president in charge of Digital Agenda, said in a statement. “We must achieve critical mass and a single set of rules across Europe. We must tackle the perceived risks of cloud computing head-on.”

In a speech today in Brussels announcing the new agenda she also put the emphasis on “thinking European” when it comes to promoting these services. “If we stick to a national approach with national rules, we will constrain the cloud to national borders. We shouldn’t limit our ambition like that,” she said. “Only with a European approach can we find economies of scale, with benefits for cloud providers and consumers alike.”

Her colleague Viviane Reding, VP for justice and citizenship (who has played a big role in developing EU policy around data services) also got behind the European idea: “Europe needs to think big. The cloud strategy will enhance trust in innovative computing solutions and boost a competitive digital single market where Europeans feel safe. That means a swift adoption of the new data protection framework which the Commission proposed earlier this year and the development of safe and fair contract terms and conditions.”

The measures the EC hopes to put in place will also create some 2.5 million new jobs by 2020.

Again, today’s announcement was relatively high level and we’ll only start to see how this plays out in actual actions in the months ahead.

Areas that are worth looking out for are whether we see rules proposed for how we, as users, can move cloud-based data from one provider to another (not so easy right now); and whether there are special concessions given to smaller players and whether companies that have shown to be dominant in other areas of digital (eg Google in Search and Microsoft in browsers) or other new cloud players ever manage to achieve the kind of ubiquity in cloud services that they have in other parts of the Internet.

Perhaps equally important is whether we will see the EU and corresponding, local bodies put their money where their mouth is and step up investment in cloud services procurement.

Today the EC also published a more lengthy document about the general state of cloud services, to explain why Europe needs to step it up.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/27/europe-shoots-for-the-clouds-ec-lays-out-new-cloud-strategy-to-add-e160b-to-eu-gdp-by-2020/

Sponsored Search

In today’s market firms need to engage in new and innovative ways of advertising. One of these is the sponsored search. Generally a ‘sponsored search’ is a position that was bought by advertisers to search engines to be displayed alongside organic web search results.

It is even possible to draw parallels to a financial market system.

Similarities Differences
1. Member base is required

2. Volume-driven profitability

3. similar aim of maximizing revenue while keeping bidding cost at a minimum

1. Keyword vs. Stocks

2. Stock market more transparent due to regulations whereas keywords come with no source of transparency.

3. Higher risks in stock market

4. Search ranking vs Stock acquisition

Before going further into the topic of sponsored search it is important to understand why social media can actually have a positive effect on business performance.

First of all social media actively drives traffic in the virtual world and can thereby be a helpful and sometimes even necessary tool. This is due to the fact that usage of social media will create ‘noise’ that ultimately leads to curiosity within the potential user base of each business actively engaging in this environment. Especially by engaging customers, by e.g. allowing them to write reviews, sales can be increase significantly.  Engaging in social media also plays a crucial role in influencing and establishing brands and product awareness/recognition (‘Buzz’).

Coming back to the topic of sponsored search it is important to be aware of the face that the selection of keywords, which will be the grounds of this advertisement approach, is still very uncertain and more research, especially empirical, needs to be conducted in the field to really establish ways of best dealing with this new medium. Main guidelines in today’s business are the amount of Buzz specific keywords are able to generate as well as the volume of search for these specific keywords. How to invest also depends on the customer and his research stage concerning the product. Whereas in the early stages of research customers tend to search for very generic keywords, specificity increases as a purchasing decision becomes more concrete.

Various payment mechanism present today such as Pay-per-impression, pay-per-click and pay-per-action allow advertisers to approach this topic from a number of different angles catered to their need.

In the end it is interesting to see that a completely new market is forming around the idea of filtering information and gaining new customers through the usage of media content and keyword auctions.

Some first insights are provided in the following article and video:

Sponsored Search and Market Efficiency, Vasant Dhar, Anindya Ghose, Information Systems Research, 21(4), December, 2010, 760-772

Generation..? : Soluble Electronics

Scientists have invented a novel type of technology, which I consider as revolutionary. The scientists have created ultra-thin electronic devices that dissolve into a human body or any other liquid like water once their job function is completed. Although there are already implants developed by scientists that can dispense medical drugs or offer electrical stimulation in a human body, these electronic devices cannot dissolve.
The greatest noticeable gain of this latest creation of soluble electronics is related to the medical world, where it can enable the development of medical implants, for example it can remove the risks of surgery or long-term side effects. However, despite the respectable medical development there are more possibilities and gains that can be achieved by soluble electronics. Since we are BIM students and not medical students we should reflect how this new technology can affect our future and more importantly, our normative ways of thinking.

Since I have started my BIM Master, I have learned many things regarding IT concepts, business models, opportunities etc. One thing that all these IT sub-fields have in common is that they emphasize upon the fact that the key to IT design it to build devices and systems that last forever- in other words the best IT design is the one that provides complete stable performance. Conversely, these new dis-solvable electronic devices provide completely different kinds of application opportunities to open up and consider for in the future. Consider the electronic waste problem which we are encountering in the contemporary world, a problem which is suspected to only grow in size in the future. Suppose we are able to design electronic devices that are there when we need and want them and after their purpose is done, we can make these electronic devices disappear in a controlled and programmed manner. This technology can be used to develop cell phones, laptops or other common gadgets that after a number of years end up in the landfills and hence also contribute to the electronic waste problem.

My question for you guys is: In what different manners, except medical and electronic waste, can dis-solvable electronics provide opportunities for the IT future?

References:
http://tweakers.net/nieuws/84646/wetenschappers-ontwikkelen-oplosbare-elektronica.html
http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/12385/20120927/scientists-invent-vanishing-electronics-dissolve-body.htm

PlaceRaider: The Military Smartphone Malware Designed to Steal Your Life

Actually this blogpost is not related to the topics we will discuss this week, but I think this new development is worth to be mentioned.

Technical review posted this weekend an article about the increasing development of malware for smartphones. Therefore researches from the university of Indiana made a program (malware) to test the security of smartphones.

The researchers call their visual malware PlaceRaider and have created it as an app capable of running in the background of any smartphone using the Android 2.3 operating system.

Their idea is that the malware would be embedded in a camera app that the user would download and run, a process that would give the malware the permissions it needs to take photos and send them.

PlaceRaider then runs in the background taking photos at random while recording the time, location and orientation of the phone. (The malware mutes the phone as the photos are taken to hide the shutter sound, which would otherwise alert the user.)

The malware then performs some simple image filtering to get rid of blurred or dark images taken inside a pocket for example, and sends the rest to a central server. Here they are reconstructed into a 3D model of the user’s space, using additional details such as the orientation and location of the camera.

I personal think this is really freaking and I hope there will be good smartphone virus-scanners availble soon.

Read the whole article online:

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/429394/placeraider-the-military-smartphone-malware/

Technology of the week: Bitcoin and NFC

For this week’s Technology of the Week, we analyzed two innovative technologies which could revolutionize the payment of tomorrow: Bitcoin and NFC.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital currency which uses a decentralized system, based on the Peer to Peer (P2P) technology. Bitcoins can be obtained by either converting them from other currencies or by powering the network through mining. Mining entails installing the application on a computer, which allows the Bitcoin network to use your computer to handle payments and other tasks. The amount of coins obtained through mining is limited, so that the system does not inflate its currency excessively.

Bitcoin tries to disintermediate the financial market, by not using a centralized institution such as a Central Bank to manage its currency. Instead, democracy through its users decides on what will be the next steps in the system. The system has significantly less costs than traditional currencies, and is able to provide the service with lower transaction costs.

The lack of a centralized system, due to the system operating through all of its users’ systems by incorporating the P2P technology, also allows it to have significantly lower costs than traditional systems. Security- and privacy issues are countered by using a highly secure encryption system that ensures anonymous trading.

Bitcoin is an open source system created by its users, increasing the transparency of the bitcoin system. It creates an entire new economy, based on democracy and the transparent algorithm used in the system. Markets have already appeared where firms use Bitcoins to sell y merchandize, books, gifts and other products.

Near Field Communication

The second technology we have analyzed is Near Field Communcation (NFC). It is currently the standard for contactless communication on a short range (10-20cm). It is an evolvement of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and enables an easy way for devices to communicate, one-way or two-ways. It is currently being implemented in a significant number of mobile phones.

The possibilities for NFC are endless, possible examples include identifying yourself into restricted buildings, opening your car, adjusting WiFi settings with a mere touch or mobile payment.

The business model analyzed is Google Wallet, an electronic payment service using this NFC. The Google Wallet allows you to have an electronic wallet, which can store data from your credit cards, debit cards, customer cards or information from Google’s Offers service. All this data is stored into the cloud, allowing you to bring it wherever you are (provided you have an NFC enabled device with you).

The main advantage it provides is an easy, fast, reliable form of payment, overall improving the customer experience. Partnerships have been established by Google with major players in the payment industry, including Mastercard and Citigroup, which allow Google to have a massive compatibility to their disposal. The power of Google knowing a lot about their customers also brings advantages, as they can align the system with their other service offerings.

Disadvantages or possible problems have been identified as security risks, with the possibility of manipulating the card without a customer knowing, and the issue of deploying the NFC devices in the market. Retailers will have to be convinced of the added value and the service requires a certain network effect in place. Building this network effect will be a big barrier to overcome. We are convinced, however, that the Google Wallet concept will turn out to be a success.

Lastly, we compared the two technologies and described how these two could be incorporated in one system (using Bitcoin as a separate currency for mobile payment). We analyzed them using the Gartner Lifecycle, a SWOT analysis and compared them regarding maturity.

Team B-5

Additional information:

Old-fashioned, not tech savvy?

Last week we discussed the use of Dropbox during class. All advantages are clear and one might wonder why not everyone uses it. Today, coincidentally, a pop-up message appeared on my wonderful laptop, which stated: ‘your start up disk is full, if you do not remove files..’ and then a harsh threat which made me want to flip my screen down, just to get it out of my face. The reason for my full memory disk is very obvious, and has a lot to do with my love for taking pictures when I travel, my tendency to travel any chance I get, and my reluctance in deleting pictures as I might need, really need, them someday. The only solution was to buy extra memory, and before I knew it, I found myself typing in the word: ‘external hard drive’ in my beloved Google window. Without even considering using a cloud service, I automatically assumed that if I were to need extra memory, the only go-to storage service had to be an external hard drive.

This is quite sad, as I perceive myself to be a proud member of Generation Y, tech-savvy (except for my complete and utter lack of programming skills), and non-conservative when it comes to technological advancements. Once I discovered what I did, I started to wonder whether I might actually wanted to use a cloud service to store all my pictures. I Googled here and there, but was still not really convinced that I should use a cloud. After all, what if the cloud-provider is bankrupt? Or what if the servers are harmed? Become overheated? Are threatened by hackers? Or what happens if I need to look at a picture I saved to my cloud right now, and my internet connection fails? We all know that the wifi on the university is not always to be trusted, so what would I do then?

No, after all these scary questions came up in my head, I rigorously rejected the whole Cloud storage idea, and decided that if anything, I would buy an external hard drive to store my cherished pictures. Although that could break as well, it is more tangible, and therefore, feels safer to me.

What do you guys think? Would you go for the Cloud? Or be old-fashioned like me and purchase an external hard drive? 

ToW: MyHammer vs. Marktplaats

Based on to the articles that we will consider in class for session 5, we as group tried to analyze the state of today’s e-markets, by considering two companies in this field.

In doing so we strived to take into account different factors in order to understand how companies manage to remain successful in today’s increasingly competitive atmosphere. In our analysis we see internalization, local positioning and differentiation as key factors for success. We see our two companies as relevant and interesting examples that enable us to have a closer look at these strategy types. That is why we will be talking about MyHammer and Marktplaats in the workshop on Monday.

MyHammer is a German-based company operating on the auction market. It always tried to differentiate itself from competitors by offering a brand new kind of service: while well-established companies always considered the auction market as a place where to exchange goods, MyHammer dared to look forward, and understood the opportunity for creating a new market based on the exchange of a particular service: craftsmanship.

On MyHammer, customers can post requests for certain jobs to be done. Handymen can respond to the job offer with proposals. By doing that, the company was able to create a meeting point for supply and demand of manual labor. Revenues are generated from fees charged to craftsmen for subscriptions and by charging a certain percentage of revenues when closing a deal.

This business model led to a great success in Germany, and gave the company the drive to expand its market: in 2006 and 2008 the company expanded its activity respectively to Austria and the UK, and today, with over 1,7 million users it’s the market leader in all three countries.

On the other hand, we considered Marktplaats, as an example of a company that since 1999 preferred to remain focused on its home market – the Netherlands. In 2004 the company was bought by competitor eBay for 225 Mio. €.

Marktplaats offers a very similar service as MyHammer, but manages to bring together supply and demand by adopting an opposite strategy. While on MyHammer market initiative is triggered by customers looking for handymen, on Marktplaats craftsmen are taking the lead, by offering their services. (One should keep in mind that Marktplaats is not only focusing on these types of deals but rather provides a platform where users can advertise all sorts of different goods and services.)

This business model allows Marktplaats to gain profits by charging different fees for advertising. Furthermore, Marktplaats focus on local areas within the Netherlands helps handymen to target the right customer group.

If we try to analyze and compare the two business models, with the purpose of understanding how they performed in the market, we can discover two surprising different results: on the one hand MyHammer, despite focusing on internationalization, only one specific industry segment, and being able to gain market share in 3 different countries, still didn’t reach profitability. On the other hand Marktplaats implementing a broad strategy was even able to compete with its owner, eBay, so far without being capable to conquer new markets abroad.

Marktplaats.nl is operating in a similar environment as MyHammer and, thus, dealing with similar issues. Their approach, however, differs considerably. Marktplaats.nl does not reduce product uncertainty through third-party product assurance, unless evidence is provided by the buyer himself. Visual product description is not very helpful for the type of product that we are focusing on. The main tools that Marktplaats.nl is relying on is textual product description and word of mouth (through user ratings).

Which approach do you think is in the long-term a better strategy? Broad or narrow? How would you innovate a business model that basically hasn’t seen any change in the last fifteen years? Or do you think incremental innovation within the services provided are enough to keep a strong position in the market?

In fact, if we take a look at the threats imposed by the market on both companies, we may find out a major flaw shared by their business models: they are easily reproducible. Both Marktplaats and MyHammer are relying on the mere power of Internet in order to meet demand and supply. Is this nowadays still a unique characteristic? For example wouldn’t it be easy for eBay to wipe out minor companies from the market by simply extending its service range and copying them? Or can even new companies enter the market and provide a better service than the existing ones?

We’d like to know more about your opinions on this topic!

Group 5

http://www.myhammer.co.uk

http://www.marktplaats.nl

Group B, team 1: Technology of the week: Retargeting & Real Time Bidding (RTB)

For this week, we will present you two technologies that are (becoming) one of the most widely used technologies in the online marketing world. To understand the fully context we provide you some background information in this blog-post.

Since the introduction of the internet, this phenomenon has grown explosively and consumers are spending an ever increasing amount of their time online. The traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, brochures, flyers and the television were the major channels for conveying marketing messages to the consumers, but nowadays their influential power has decreased and is further falling due to the still growing amount of online consumer activity.

Due to these changes internet marketing is now a real business strategy that can make a significant difference for companies. The emergence of internet development has created a electronic market with high potential which can be targeted by using online marketing.

Our report is focused on two technologies that are fully based on making online marketing effective. In the first place the technology behind ‘retargeting’ will be explained. As follows we will address to the technology of ‘Real Time Bidding’ (RTB).

Retargeting

You could consider retargeting as displaying personal advertisements. The mechanisms of the retargeting approach (also known as remarketing) are actually not really new developments, as the phenomenon has existed for almost more than ten years. In the earlier years of this technology, retargeting was defined as follows:

‘Retargeting online ads are displayed elsewhere on a site or other sites in an ad network after a customer has interacted with an initial ad or related content’ (Dave Chaffey, 2008).

However the development of the internet provided retargeting with new potential and possibilities, presenting retargeting with new forms and developments. The most essential and recent development of retargeting is making advertisements towards consumers more personal in their content. Due to this development, the earlier mentioned definition is no longer applicable to the current retargeting-technology. The definition has shifted and is now determined as follows:

‘Retargeting is the practice of automatically serving relevant ads to shoppers based on their on-site behavior after they leave your website'(Chad Little, 2012).

Real-time bidding

Real-time bidding (RTB) has been around for several years, but is still relatively new to the advertising market. The RTB platform facilitates a marketplace for advertisers. This technology often employed as an additional technology to empower retargeting. It is a dynamic auction process where each advertisement receives a bid in real time.

These technologies are the background of the services provided by a diverse portfolio of online marketing agents. But in our report we highlighted two different business models that are using above named technologies as a core service.

ReTargeter

ReTargeter is offering various B2B services to companies who want to increase their ROI by displaying personalized banner ads. In essence the base technology used is retargeting for all these services.

 Facebook Exchange

Facebook Exchange was a result of the work to improve the advertising program of Facebook. This new idea was launched on 13th of September 2012. It has resulted in soaring share prices (Bloomberg, 2012). In essence, Facebook Exchange is a form of retargeting. However, Facebook claims this form of advertising to be more timely and relevant and thus superior to the traditional retargeting approach.


Difference in business models

The major difference between these two, are their target groups. Whereas Facebook Exchange is only targeting their own user base (Facebook), ReTargeter is able to target all internet users.

Another distinctive fact is that Facebook Exchange can only display ads on their own website (Facebook), ReTargeter has the internet as domain and is able to more and often visible to internet users.

ToW: Hollywood Stock Exchange vs. Intrade

This week, we would like to draw your attention to the phenomenon of prediction markets. It is one of the topics introduced in this week’s literature.

Prediction markets are speculative in nature and they gather information on future events and the related outcomes. One of the first prediction markets was the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM), founded by the University of Iowa. Nowadays, there are prediction markets on all possible interests, be it sports-related, political, economic or on social events. Furthermore there is a difference between prediction markets that trade with real currency and those that trade with virtual currency.

We decided to take a closer look at two prediction market platforms from each category. Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) is a prediction market that allows users to trade with virtual currency on movie-related events. Intrade allows user to bet with real money on real-word (not sports-related) events.

Hollywood Stock Exchange was founded in 1996. It basically is online entertainment market where users can buy and sell virtual shares on movies, directors, actors, Grammy Award winners etc. and it is the biggest player in the industry. HSX allows its users to use the site for free. This means it has to make money somewhere else. The business model is centered around delivering industry-related services for a fee, e.g. HSX sells information and research data to companies in the entertainment industry as well as advertising space on its website. In 2010 HSX wanted to experiment with offering real currency to trade with. However, as their servers are located in the U.S., this project was shut down by the Dodd-Frank Act, which regulates the financial market. Being the biggest player in its sector HSX shows some strengths. In spite of that failed attempt, HSX has a loyal and large user base that regularly votes on a number of outcomes. This makes predictions very accurate. Furthermore HSX is easy to use and free of charge, which attracts more users and makes it easy to just try the websites. The site is often used in education to get students interested in trading, but then on a subject they can relate to. Dealing in virtual currency results in a couple of weaknesses. Predictions of outcomes can easily be manipulated as there is no financial incentive for users to make correct predictions. Furthermore, their business model is limited and they forego an opportunity of income.

Intrade was founded in 1999 and in 2003 acquired by TradeSports to work as a sister company and allow trading in all non-sports related manners. Intrade works a double auction system which simultaneously matches buyers and sellers. The site charges its users $4.99 on a monthly basis and the money has to be deposited into an account before any trading can happen. Intrade can legally deal with real money because its servers are not in the US. This business model results in some strengths for the company. It allows bidders to bet on a large range of topics. Furthermore, studies show that prediction markets with real money are more accurate, so they have the wisdom of the crowds. The business model also has weaknesses. The monthly fee discourages new users from trying.

When comparing the two one can say that they face similar threats. Betting legislation is changing and getting stricter. Moreover, competition is increasing as well for virtual currency as for real currency platforms. However, the business model of Intrade allows for more opportunities. In addition to its existing business it can offer virtual currency in addition to the steady income they have or they could charge companies to let bidders trade on specific events. HSX on the other hand has to be more creative to create an income flow.

ePrint service in the University Library

How often has it happen that you only need to print something quickly, but the queue for the printer is long? Students often copy parts of books which takes a lot of time at the printers. This, however does not matter as I too at times need to copy things as well. The overall process of printing is quite slow as you first have to print it from the computer and then have to select the required documents at the printer.

A solution for this is ePrint!

This is a technology that allows you to quickly search for network printers and send documents that will immediately be printed. Options for print settings on color, duplex, sepia, paper size, orientation and print image preview are available.

In order to make use of this technology, you can download the application HP ePrint from Google Playstore or Apple Store.

Here is a nice video of how ePrint works: http://www.e-workshop-dev.com/PC_EN/ePrint_-_English.html

Another options is Google Cloud Print, which works basically the same as the apps.

http://www.google.com/cloudprint/learn/howitworks.html

What do you think of this new possibility of printing?

Disruptive Technology: A real life example

Now everyone is working on the digital transformation project, I would like to share a real live example with you, which won’t be covered in one of the assignments. Last year I did a board year at STAR (together with Thomas and Raymond), where we where confronted with preparing the organization for an upcoming change caused by a change in technology.

As most of you will know, STAR is the Study Association of the Rotterdam School of Management. The propose of the organisation is to offer you value adding services to improve your student live. In these days, this is done via a wide array of different project, but the basis of the association is still the booksale. Most students join STAR because of the large discounts we can offer on the books. The €40 membership fee is for most students worth it’s money because is saves them even more money on their books.

This stable basis is about to change. With the upcoming growth of the e-books, the basis of STAR’s existence is threatened. It might take another 5 years, but sooner or later the students and the university will change to the use of e-books instead of the current hard copy books. Reading e-books becomes more mainstream every year and it offers professors new opportunities to customize their curriculum.

When the university will switch to the usage of e-books it will be hard for STAR to maintain it’s position as distributor of the books. Why would you need an another intermediate if you can get your books directly from the publishers? With the low margin on e-books the current cost advantage of STAR is not likely to continue to exist. And with the disappearance of the cost advantage, STAR’s competitive advantage will vanish.

Although it is unknown how fast the developments will go, the chance that STAR will loose it’s position as main distributor of books in the feature is almost certain. With loosing this position it will loose the main reason why people join the association, and that is the main problem. Not selling books anymore is no real problem. STAR does not make a profit on the books sold to the students. But loosing the main reason why people join the association is a real problem. STAR gets it’s money from being the intermediary between the students and companies. Without a large member basis, it will be hard to raise enough money to continue to continue organizing all the activities currently preformed.

Waiting for the changes to come and see what will happen is not an option. That’s why the past few boards of STAR have been working on new strategic options to gain a new competitive advantage.
Diversification of it’s value proposition is the first major change. More attention is drawn to the other 56 projects organized by STAR for the students of RSM, besides the booksale.  Among which, for example 12 studytrips, charity projects and the well known social events. Besides this, STAR is working on expanding its portfolio of value adding services, by offering discounts on other products and services besides books. You can think of discounts on summaries and language courses or a free second ‘kapsalon’ at ‘de Has’ after you get back form a night out.
The second major change is the modification of its membership model. STAR is working together with RSM to be able to offer a free or even automatic membership to all RSM students in the feature. This will make STAR less dependend of its booksale activities for gaining new members.

STAR celebrates it’s 35th birthday this year, and it will probably continue to be successful for many years in the feature. But to achieve this it will have to adapt to the changed environment because the the disruptive e-books technology.

Amazing mind reader reveals his ‘gift’ – The INTERNET!

Privacy seems to be a notion of the past!

F-commerce reinvented

During our last lecture we were talking about f-commerce. Relating to this, I found an article on http://www.theverge.com, which I think is worth a read. It describes Facebook’s new way of sharing gifts between users. 

A few years ago, Facebook started “gifts“. Users were able to send paid, virtual presents to friends. These came in the form of graphics, such as flowers or greeting cards. We all know how this ended – it was a complete failure.

Now however, they completely rethought the process and came up with real gifts. Users will be able to send physical gifts to any friend, through Facebook’s business partners, such as Starbucks or 1-800-Flowers. The gift button is directly incorporated into a users profile, even on mobile devices. To me, this seems to be a great way to monetize on mobile platforms and it could lead investors to have more faith in Facebook’s mobile revenue strategy.

What do you think? Will this be a kick-starter for Facebook’s e-commerce business strategy?

Fake facebook likes

Is facebook faking likes to boost it’s ad turnover?

 

An investigation by BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones highlighted some shortcomings in Facebook’s “like” system. His fake company, Virtual Bagel, which used Facebook’s targeted advertising programme, attracted more than 1,600 “likes” – despite having neither products nor interesting content. Closer inspection revealed these had come from accounts in countries such as India, Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines. Marketing experts argued that had Virtual Bagel been a real company, using Facebook advertising to gain these likes would have been a waste of money. At the time, Facebook told the BBC that there was no “significant” problem.

After this leak Facebook is said to be deleting fake ‘likes’. According to Pagedata, many of the site’s most “liked” pages suffered large drops in numbers on Wednesday. The move follows the social network’s admission that 8.7% of its users are not “real”, many having been set up by spammers who use them to artificially make pages appear more popular. The issue poses a problem for Facebook as it seeks to expand its targeted advertising service.

Might facebook become a serious competitor for Google Adwords – what do you think?

Cheers!

Are you an Angry Birds Addict?

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The way games are developed has been changed. Whereas they used to be sold for €60 euro’s,  it was not particularly important how long we played those games. Buying the game generated revenue and was quite basic the business model. There was no purchasable in-game content or subscriptions.  They just needed to make sure we liked it enough to buy the next one.

‘But the industry is moving toward subscription-based games like MMO’s that need the subject to keep playing–and paying–until the sun goes supernova.’  (www.cracked.com)

The last decade MMO’s like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars have been a representative image of the development of the industry. Users pay monthly subscriptions and the thing is to keep them playing…  or in other words, make them addicted to their game.

But you might wonder, is it because of the game (graphics, story) or are there other ‘powers’ at work here?

Developers are designing games around the user  to manipulate, control and condition them. There are some influential mechanics and elements that are nowadays used in almost every form of games. From large MMO’s (WoW), to basic games (FIFA), Social games (Farmville) to mobile games (Angry Birds). It doesn’t matter what you play, every games is intended to make you addicted and become a lab rat (to some extent) in a Skinner box.

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When people talk about hardcore (addicted) gamers people might remember the Farmville hype, where Facebook user spend hundreds of hours on managing their farm, how crazy does that sound anyways?

The focus shifted now to mobile games and developers are flooding the app stores with ‘free’ games that will entertain you, but eventually trying to make you addicted and triggering you to buy in game or additional content.

There are some real interesting theories and articles regarding this topic, to fully understand why people (or even you) are playing games… it is good to know the underlying mechanisms and how they affect behaviorism .

The future will bring innovative developments that might bring gaming to a new level. Will people get more sucked in games or maybe we will even participate and live in virtual worlds? If you’ve seen the sci-fi movie Gamer or Avatar,  you might know what I mean….

An interesting but also frightening question that many people wonder, what for games will be made 10 years from  now?

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Sources and interesting articles/readings.
http://wings.buffalo.edu/aru/ARUreport01.htm
http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted.html#ixzz27oCmt39G
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131494/behavioral_game_design.php?page=1
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/feeds/social-gaming-the-popularity-the-kids-the-concerns/3503
http://blog.games.com/2010/10/28/farmville-facebook-gaming-addiction-runs-rampant-the-years-he/
http://tech2.in.com/features/apps/10-addictive-mobile-phone-games/254212

Looking through the eyes of the customer

This week’s topic is e-commerce. I work at a company that performs usability studies on websites. They try to figure out what makes a website ‘good’ in the eyes of the users. One of the research methods they use to figure this out is eye-tracking research. Eye tracking is a way to track where the eyes of the consumer are going whenever they are using a website. It’s a good way to see what a customer is looking at and where their attention is focused on.

Eye-tracking research has a lot of benefits:

  • You can really track where the eyes of the user  goes. You can get the answers on questions like:  Are the parts of the website you want the user to  see, really seen? and What are users focused on and interested in?
  • Eye movement works really fast.
  • The user doesn’t need to be trained.
  • Good way to get an understanding in the interaction  between users and the environment.

Although it’s common to use this technique in usability research it has a big limitation. It doesn’t come with the user’s explanation. So when a user looks a certain part of the website you don’t know if the feeling of the user towards that part is positive of negative. That’s why in my opinion such research can only be backed with other research tools/methods. However it’s a great tool to have when your are collecting data.

Codeacademy: The best way to learn to CODE!

Codecademy is a web-based platform that provides programming tutorials designed to teach JavaScript, HTML, CSS, JQuery. Its designed to be easy to learn and employs a practice-makes perfect approach to teaching users the basic and more advanced parts of coding.

You can read more about it here:  http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/01/26/codecademy-launches-peer-to-peer-coding-lessons/

They recently announced a release of Python…

http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/30/codecademy-python/

… and Ruby …

http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/ruby

… learning tracks for new users to try!

Check it out: http://www.codecademy.com/

Alibaba: the future trend of E-Commerce – transformation from B2C to C2B

The 2012 network operators conference in Hangzhou just finished, Alibaba Chief of staff Zeng Ming gave speech under the topic of the future of E-Commerce. I think his point of view of future e-commerce is very interesting, so I would like to share part of content with you guys.

“B2C is only a transitional business model, the future of the real mode of E-Commerce is C2B”

According to Alexa statistics, Alibaba is the world top-ranked site in both E-Commerce and International Trade category. Up to 2012, it has almost 30 million subscribers and 2.5 million registered merchants all over the world, and perceived as the most successful B2C E-Commerce platforms. However, Zeng Ming believes that B2C standard mode is the mode of operation of the traditional industrial economy, it represents the traditional industrial economy era of large-scale assembly line, standardization of this mode of operation, low-cost, inventory a fatal around the past in which its natural mode. However, “the future business model customization will be mainstream. Its requirement is that the individual needs of many varieties, small batch, rapid response platform collaboration, we can see the future.”

With the increasing use of the Internet and network, every consumer’s voice is getting stronger. Increasing the time of the power of consumer groups, the first driving force of the future value chain will come from consumers, not manufacturers, so in this sense it is the Consumer Driving instead of Manufacture Driving, which is a fundamental business model changes.

Then when you actually driven by the consumer, the future business model, “customization” will be the mainstream, the first move toward mass customization, and finally toward customization, custom mode, the requirement is the demand for personalized, multi- variety, small batch, rapid response, the platform of collaboration, we can see the future. E-commerce will inevitably require fundamental changes in the mode, is a new business value chain reengineering, e-commerce oversimplify tradition.

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Zeng Ming concluded:

“First, the future of electronic commerce must be C2B, consumer-driven large-scale e-business models, e-commerce is definitely not just the sales channels to move to the Internet.

Second, the Alibaba Group, the next five years will go all out to create an open, collaborative, thriving e-commerce ecosystem, B2C to C2B era is the most important foundation. In e-commerce platform better with partners on the platform more closely we can work together innovation, in order to create the future of e-commerce.”

Do you agree with him that the future e-commerce will transfer from B2C to C2B or what is your opinion?

The Kickstarter Economy

In this blog post, I would like to share with you some aspects from the article The Kickstarter Economy by Harry McCracken that was published in the TIME October issue.

As was discussed during the ToW presentation, pledgers often do not get equity stakes in the company they ‘invest’ in due to difficulties with regulations. In the article, the authors asks whether crowdfunding platforms will end up competing with venture capitalists, angel investors and other sources of funding for start-ups. Since venture-capital investments are down by 70% in the US, entrepreneurs could really use the help. This is also why Obama signed the JOBS (Jumpstart our Business Startups) Act. This act relaxes securities regulations in the interest of encouraging crowdfunded investment in companies. After the SEC has done due diligence, it should be possible for crowdfunding platforms to engage in some form of venture capital. Although it will be possible, this is not really the goal of Kickstarter which just want to support create people, whether or not they will be profitable.

Another point the article makes is that overambition is a common snag. A couple of projects that reached their goal and promised to send their pledgers a product before a certain date were seriously delayed. Ethan Mollick, a Wharton Assistant Professor analysed 471 projects and concluded that 75% did not meet their own deadlines.

Some facts:

  • Projects launched: 1,454 (2009). 28,718 (2012)
  • Most projects are in these categories: Music, Film/Video, Art
  • In 2012, the top funded project was Pebble, a smart watch which received $10.3 million.

Voting Online?

The exciting elections in the Netherlands are long over, but little of you might know that the elections of a former colony island, Curacao, is nearby. For this purpose, I have currently been working on a project to establish a way people can cast a vote online. This is only a simulation I’m doing in corporation with a group of small organizations that are interested in the opinions of young professionals living abroad of Curacao (CYP). Given that these CYP’s are important for the future of the island and a lot of them go abroad for their studies, we think it is important to let their voice be heard (of course they have no more voting rights or a voice what so ever).

While doing research on how to digitally replicate a real physical election as much as possible, I realized how difficult it is to establish such a scheme. I’m going to spare you the details about the flaws of voting online, but in conclusion, the physical election is still the only way to ensure the identity of a voter.

But still wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to vote online?

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I’ll take myself as a example who this year was stupid enough to leave my “voting card” at home and couldn’t vote because of a fully booked day with no time to stop by at home. I could have vote if it was possible online.

Now, in the Netherlands we do have a smart technology called DigiD. In short, DigiD is an identity management platform that government agencies of the Netherlands, including the Tax and Customs Administration and Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, can use to verify the identity of Dutch citizens on the Internet.

This system is now widely used. Many of us have used this DigiD to enroll for this year BIM college year. So in theory this system should be able to provide online voting. Of course government elections are very sensitive and the government needs to decide if voting online with DigiD is even possible. The system really needs to be bulletproof, which at the moment is doubtful. Time will if online voting will be possible in the future. What do you think? Is it too soon to think about this solution?

 

PS: the “electoral simulation” project is going well. If you have friends from Curacao, tell them to keep an eye on http://www.kivacuracao.com/ to cast their vote. Info coming up in the next week 😉

The future of e-commerce?

Regarding to last lecture I found this movie that I want to share with you. It’s really simple but fun and it provides a lot of nice facts. You better watch it: it suggests that our master is partly worthless in a few years. 😉

The question raised in the end really triggered me. What does this really mean to us? Fantasizing about this, I imagine a world where we rarely leave our houses anymore. Only a few services will make us, like a dentist visit. But I suppose they even come up with a solution for that! Home-based business is already incredibly big, so let’s assume this success will only grow. We will work from home over the internet, we provide ourselves with almost everything we need over the internet. Does this mean we will start living in ‘internet communities’, as I will call them? It should be a possible solution for the environmental problems. If the air quality becomes worse and it will only soil our lungs if we come outside, we could better stay inside you would think. 😉

But seriously, I’m curious what you think. Will the growth of e-commerce continue or is there a certain maximum?  People are after all social beings and not everything can be provided over the internet, or does it?

Wickedpedia – Quality of Information

Hello, I just quickly wanted to share this link. Maybe it might even have an impact on the results that Micheal Zhang found in his study: “Impact of Wikipedia on Market Information Environment: Evidence on Management Disclosure and Investor Reaction”

As posts are up for sale !

Corruption in Wikiland? Paid PR scandal erupts at Wikipedia

Laptop-alarm as theft prevention

I love my laptop (and it’s not a Mac) –  I study on it, I watch TV on it, I take it to class and to the library. However, having my laptop in the library I always find tricky. While I enjoy studying for long uninterrupted hours, there are inevitably moments where I want to get a coffee or just a short break. In the past that meant packing everything up and possibly loosing my cosy study spot.

Luckily, the University Library now offers a new service: Virtualock. It is a small software application that will protect your laptop while you’re away. And though I’m sceptical that it will really prevent theft, I downloaded it, just because I’m curious.

VirtuaLock logo

And here is how it works: you download the program (for free – the license is paid by the university), register with your phone numer and when you want to leave your study spot you just lock your computer. Via Wi-fi localization the application will identify other Virtualock users in the vicinity and every theft attempt will be reported to them and to your mobile phone immediately. Furthermore the laptop gives off a really loud alarm, when either the lid is closed, the  power cord is unplugged or a USB-stick is unplugged (it is loud, I tried).

Something I noticed, however, is that the Wi-fi localization is not really specific. During class I received a pop-up on my screen that there was a theft attempt on User XY’s laptop, but it wouldn’t tell me were the user was (e.g. Library 3rd floor). I personally think a better localization would help your peers look out for your computer, too.

Why am I posting this? Simple: network effects. I realized that on campus I am often the only Virtualock user around. A lot of students don’t know about this new software application yet and so the advantage for the few individual users is not that great.

I do hope, I could get you at least a little curious and I would like to know if you would consider trying Virtualock.

Facebook Stores

This post is related to last week’s theme: Business models and digital transformation. In it, I will refer to the concept of ‘Facebook stores’, which are integrated in Facebook’s platform and suggest products based on the user’s interest.

Facebook was setup as a social network to connect students from various universities and then expanded from there on. The service offered is relatively easy and straight forward: stay in contact with your friends even over long distances, and – maybe – share photos, video etc. with them. This function not only creates a certain premise in the browser, but also in your brain. It follows that when you think of Facebook, you think friends, parties, jokes and distraction. This presupposes that a certain part of your brain is active, namely exactly the one that is responsible for everything that has got to do with your social interactions. At the same time it implies that your brain is not focused on searching and comparing products as well as consuming commercials.

A comparable real-life situation that everyone can relate to would be following: “You are sitting with your best friend in a café chatting, drinking coffee and looking at her latest holiday-pictures. You haven’t really seen her for a long time and you enjoy the conversation and to able to catch up with her. Suddenly a guy tips you on the shoulder asks: “Wanna buy some roses?” – How do you feel? How do you react? There are essentially three ways to answer this question: 1 “Yes please”, because you really think you could use some roses right now, 2 “No thanks please leave us alone”, because you want to enjoy the special moment with your friend, and 3 “Okay give me one”, because you have empathy for the seller. Judge for yourself what answer you would most likely pick.

If this situation is applied to advertisements or stores on Facebook’s platform, the replies are somewhat the same, except that you do not say them out loud, and that answer 3 is basically impossible. This is because the empathy you feel for your machine and the pop-up banner is rather limited (even if you have a mac 😉 ). This leaves only 1 and 2 as viable choices on Facebook. But as long as you are not a (digital) rose-fanatic, you will most likely choose option 1; (or if it is a commercial simply not pay attention to the ad displayed next to your friend).

Coming back to the situation in the café. This would have probably been different, if you and your friend just had and intense discussion about roses. In that particular case it would maybe be more interesting to buy those roses form the guy who just tapped on your shoulder.

The same might apply to Facebook, as long as you actively discuss a product with, or it is recommended by, your friends on the platform, you might be willing to instantly purchase it in a facebook-store. In all other scenarios you will rather choose to buy your product somewhere else, in a less constraint market-place. As a consequence my belief is that Facebook is a good networking and social platform which can be used to retain high-involvement-customers and to keep them informed, but it is a sub-par platform for direct commercial interactions and advertisements.

This post is partly motivated by Max Kohnstamm’s column, which can be found here.

Microsoft enters the “fields”of Hollywood

Microsoft  is soon getting its own film studio in Hllywood, with the purpose of distributing prototype video material through the XBOX Live service. The “boss” of the studio will be Nancy Tellem, a former CBS executive. Nancy Tellem has taken part in the past, in the creation of successful TV series like “CSI” and “Two and A Half Men”.

As Tellem stated at her interview at Los Angeles Times, the studio is built from scratch. So many predict that the studio won’t be complete until late 2013. She also referred to the movies and series that are going to be produced and said that they will be similar to those playing on TV. Microsoft will also produce interactive material.

Microsoft is hoping that with that move, they can give a clearly advantage to their console, and transform it from a game console to a complete entertainment machine. Already, in USA, XBOX users can watch movies and series from “online video clubs” such as Netflix.

Meanwhile, they hope making more attractive both the computers that are using Windows 8 and the smartphones with Windows 8 operation system, as both have XBOX Live integrated.  Microsoft has not yet made clear if the material will be free of charge or not, and if it will be ad-free or not.

It isn’t also clear how the players in TV market are going to react, as Microsoft can be a potential competitor. The more time people will spent watching Microsoft productions, the less spectacularity the competitors will get.

Finally, Tellem stated that, Microsoft will cooperate with Hollywood producing companies and that there will be deals with TV companies, so that their products will be available through XBOX Live.

How do you think will Sony and Nintendo, the main competitors of XBOX, will react?

And what impact you think will the Microsoft productions have on consumers?