Archive | October 2013

Why platform fail?

There are several reasons why many startups fail even though they got a piece of outstanding product in their hands, choosing wrong business model is one amongst them.

Pipes could be categorized as one of the most popular business model in every industry. Companies that adopted is model will create their product and then push them out to the market. The flow of the product is linier and straight forward. The pipes model could be easily found everywhere especially in the consumer products industry. The major difference between pipes and platform is the origins of contents. Platform allow users to create their own content by using API.

Most of the startup know the difference between pipes and platforms, however these are areas that they got mixed up when they try to build their business.

In the pipes model, business acquire users and then convert them into transact. Numbers of platforms tend to follow that route and fail because they forgot that platforms have no value when number of users are low.

Some of platforms creators forgot that successful platform need a support from both parties. They only pay attention to only a single side of the platform. For example, YouTube has built a platform which is convenient for both content creators and viewers.

Pricing tends to be another challenging area for a platform business. For pipes Price = Cost + Margins. However monetization in platform is complex especially when provider have to choose the side that have to subsidize others.

In the current business world, companies that ignore differences between pipes and platform will fail even though they have the best product in their hands.

 

source : http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/10/why-business-models-fail-pipes-vs-platforms/

Search Engine Optimization

All firms have a website these days but how can you make sure that customers find you in the Internet interface?

Having a website does not guarantee that customers will be able to find you online. Customers are overwhelmed with the availability of websites and experience difficulties in finding the websites that address their needs. This is where search engines make an appearance, search engines make consumer’s lives easier and helps them to find the website they are looking for more easily. The most commonly known search engine is Google, we don’t even use the words “search for it”, we simply “Google it”. Personally, I cannot imagine my life without the ease of this search engine. Can you?

Since we all use search engines very often, it is important that a company’s website is well designed so it appears in the search engine’s search results. The search placement of the website is becoming increasingly important to attract consumers to your website. Search engine placement is defined by the rank where a website appears in a list of search engine results. Obvious, the higher your website is on this list, the most visible it will be to potential customers.

A strategy to optimize this search engine placement is known as search engine optimization. Since web traffic to a company’s website is essential to ecommerce companies it is important to increase this traffic. SEO can affect the visibility of a Website in the search engine’s natural and unpaid search results. SEO can result in higher places of your website in the search engine search results, leading to more visibility to consumers.

However to ensure your website will end up in the search results anyhow, it is important to edit your website in such a way that it will be relevant to keywords consumers type in the search engine.

I think search engine optimization is a efficient and effective way to improve your visibility to consumers and attract new customers to your website. What about other strategies to improve your visibility to consumers online?

 

References:

Davis, H. (2006) Search Engine Optimization, building traffic and making money with SEO, O’Reilly.

 

You lost your phone at the concert last night. Now what?

ilost

Joost, a friend of mine, loses a lot. Not in the sense that he is a loser, he actually is a very nice and funny guy. I mean that he is a frump. There is not a day that goes by, on which Joost hasn’t lost something. Two days ago I caught him stressfully searching his house. “What is wrong?” I asked. “Yeah, damn man, I can’t find my phone! I have looked everywhere but the thing is gone!” he said to me while he was opening the litterbin to check if his precious piece of technology was there to be found. “Can you call me?”

A week earlier, on Tuesday, we were going to have dinner with some friends in his house. We bought the best ingredients to make a delicious dinner including sirloin steak and walked back to his place. What we found there was a closed door and a person desperately checking his pockets for keys in front of it.  I think you know who that person was.

This doesn’t only happen to Joost. We all have our moments on which we have lost something. Your sunglasses, your money, maybe even your wallet. Truth to be said, some people have the habit of losing stuff on a far more regular scale than others. Fortunately, most of the times we are able to find our lost possessions. While Joost was head-down in the garbage bin, I called him. It turned out to be that his phone was in his back-pocket.

Sometimes our stuff really seems to have disappeared.  After a festival or a concert, the lost&found counters are overwhelmed with coats, keys, cameras, wallets, bags, sunglasses, umbrellas and phones. Pubs, nightclubs and restaurants are places that experience people’s habit of losing as well. Losing your stuff without knowing where you could have lost it, can be a real problem. The Dutch woman Hanneke Stenweg came up with a solution to this inconvenient problem: iLost.

In the Netherlands, a person loses one thing a year on average. That are 16 million items, of which only 7% meets its rightful owner again. So far, there hasn’t been a central point that supports the recovery of lost stuff. The idea of iLost is simple. It is a platform that matches lost and found possessions.

If you find a lost possession of somebody else, you can make a picture on your phone that will be placed on iLost. The loser can contact you once he described a specific thing of his lost possession. Large organizations like airports (Schiphol), public transport services (NS) and government instances (Police) deal with a lot of lost stuff. When they join, iLost can be the central platform to recover lost stuff.

iLost is still in the start-up phase, but the market potential of their service is great, in Holland for a starters, in Europe for the future. Actually there isn’t a market for lost stuff yet, so that would make iLost the first-mover.

I think Joost would be more than happy with iLost. What do you think of iLost and its potential?

iLost:

https://ilost.nl/

References:

http://fd.nl/ondernemen/entrepreneur/young-entrepreneur/336342-1210/een-app-om-verloren-spullen-op-te-sporen

http://www.z24.nl/ondernemen/t-gat-in-de-markt-de-marktplaats-voor-verloren-voorwerpen

http://www.molblog.nl/bericht/httpmolblog.nlberichtaccenture-innovation-awards-concept-van-de-week-i/

http://www.bnr.nl/radio/bnr-zakendoen-met/357571-1302/zakendoen-met-bavaria-dagvoorzitters-en-zakenvrouwen?s_cid=program:Programmaupdates

Disappearing content

In modern day society, the number of devices, online communication channels and user content have increased substantially. From a business point of view, these provide opportunities for segmentation and resonance marketing through increased customer information. However, there seems to be a parallel growing concern among internet users on the security and privacy of their information. To this end, there have been a considerable number of new software and mobile applications that are leaning towards disappearing content. What this means is that the photos, messages, and other content created by users will disappear soon after being generated. Skim, a new mobile application similar to snap chat, bares witness to this trend.

download

“Disappearing content is a growing trend, yet nobody seems to do textual messages very well. At Skim, we have a design-first mentality. Simplicity and beauty is incredibly important, but even more so is security,” said co-founder Jordan Singer. “The feeling of privacy and security the app gives to our users is bar none.” (Techcrunch. 2013)

Whilst reading the message,  the content of the message starts to vanish from right to left at a speed specified by users. Hence, once opened, the message will be erased, and will be no longer traceable. Given the growing number of apps dedicated to this functionality, one may rethink the future of IT and information systems in terms of their contribution to differentiation and personalization of services. If privacy concerns and security indeed become inherent among users, the value of Information systems may have to be re-evaluated.

Crook, J. (2013). SKIM is snapchat for text. Techcrunch, <http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/20/skim-is-snapchat-for-text/>

 

Something better than our own Benchmark project?

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With this small blog I would like to raise your attention to something similar to our own eCommerceBenchmark. Where our own research was devoted to retailers not only in Europe, but worldwide, Twinkle has set its boundaries to the Dutch market. Twinkle, a (online) magazine about ecommerce, produces a yearly list with the top 100 Dutch retailers. This list is based on revenues in the previous year (excluding VAT) solely earned in ecommerce activities in The Netherlands and directed to the Dutch consumers. Not only Twinkle produces a list with the 100 best earning companies, it also evaluates the companies on aspects like the suppliers of these web shops, information about page views, social media-accounts, website loading times, conversion rates and click trough rates.  

When the Twinkle 100 2013 is regarded, Ahold is the leading company for the first time, due to the takeover of Bol.com. It has bumped of RFS Holland Holding (owner of Wehkamp.nl, Create2Fit & Fonq.nl), which was the leading company for the last three years. The total online revenue of the top 100 for 2012 was a stunning 7.8 billion euros, ten per cent more than last year. Due to all the bankruptcies of last year, the lowest noted revenue is four million. Last year this was five million, meaning that more little companies are being noted in the top 100.

This seems very nice and all, but how come does Twinkle gets such good and detailed information? Well, maybe you should take a look on this (Dutch) blog. Although it is written in 2008, it suggest that the list is compiled like the Quote 500. All is based on public information and estimations. When you take a look in the app and select the number one Ahold, this statement seems to be apply for the newest list also. In the last sentence of the little story about Ahold, the following is stated: “Twinkle estimates the online revenue of Ahold in The Netherlands on 660 million euro for 2012”.

The data gathering method we used for the benchmark project was far from optimal, but maybe not so bad after all 😉
At least, it seems a bit more reliable, as it is provided by the companies themselves.

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http://twinklemagazine.nl/nieuws/2013/09/ahold-voert-nieuwe-twinkle100-aan/

http://www.twinkle100.nl/

http://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/20090930_twinkle_nattevingert_met_twinkle100/

http://www.marketingtribune.nl/food-en-retail/nieuws/2013/09/twinkle100-grootste-webwinkels-groeien-sneller-dan-de-markt/

MiCoach

With the digitalization of information, a lot of ways have been developed for measuring things in our lives. For instance, with easy accessible smartphone applications we can measure: How well we eat, how well we sleep and how well we perform in sports. I think that the latter deserves a bit more attention. It is true that measuring performance in sports has been around for a while. However,  with the development of innovations like Addidas MiCoach and , storing all kinds of information about the performance of sports has become available for a large crowd.

The Addidas MiCoach is a small chip you can store in your Adiddas sports-shoe. The chip measures and stores information like: number of sprints, degrees of movement, total distance moved, maximum speed, total training time and so on. After your training session you can synchronize your data wireless to your smartphone. Then, you can share the information with your friends and post it on Facebook. You can compare your own performance with your friends or even with professional athletes like Lionel Messi. Also the software contains several training programs and gives achievements when you complete them.

I think that by sharing your performance with friends has the benefit of making even traditional individual sports, more social pastimes. In a time where people’s day-to-day lives are so busy that proper exercise  is often easily “forgotten”, And obesity is an increasing problem in society, the social aspect of these innovations can hopefully trigger more people into exercising more. Maybe simply because people can compete with the performance of their friends, or people feel the peer-pressure,  causes the social aspect to add more value to the exercising-experience.

Does anyone here has experience using a Addidas MiCoach or a similar application? Do the former mentioned features really add value to your sporting experience?

 

http://meponine.blogspot.nl/2010/04/experiencing-adidas-micoach-working-out.html

http://micoach.adidas.com/

How Journalists Used Big Data to Uncover Royal Dutch Shell’s Deals with Iran

It’s not just individuals that should be concerned about their privacy. With the enormous amount of digital information publicly available, companies have every reason to be concerned as well. 

As the Dutch documentary “Big Data: de Shell Search” shows, analyzing publicly available large datasets can reveal what would have otherwise remained a company secret.

Shell Search: visualizing the connection between people, companies, places and times. Image credit: http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/nieuws/2013/oktober/powermap.html

Shell Search: visualizing the connection between companies, governments, people, places and times. Image credit: http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/nieuws/2013/oktober/powermap.html

Data-driven journalism

Data-driven journalism is a relatively new practice, defined as “a journalistic process based on analyzing and filtering large data sets for the purpose of creating a news story”.

As a famous example, big data analysis methods were employed by news agencies to make sense of the 251,287 US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks. This dataset was also part of the data analyzed in the aforementioned documentary, to find out more about Royal Dutch Shell’s at times secretive business practices. Read More…

Are you on Tinder?

Tinder, the new, very populair dating-application has reached the Netherlands. For those of you who don’t it, it’s very simple. After downloading the application you have to log in with your Facebook-account. The application then uses your preferences from your Facebook, together with some photos and you’re set. After that, Tinder shows photos of people living relatively close by and asks the user to “like” or “dislike” the photos. At the same time Tinder shows your photos to another user and asks them to “like” or “dislike” the photos as well. If it happens that two users like each other’s photos, Tinder automatically opens a live chat, where the two users can interact. You could think of it as speed-dating without the awkward real-life conversation. Sead Rad, the Chief Executive Officer of Tinder says: “The way Tinder works is the way people tell us they see the world. They walk around, they see girls, and they say in their heads, ‘Yes, no, yes, no ‘”.

Obviously, Tinder is a real “next generation” application. It is specially designed for the smartphone and its next generation users. Whereas online-dating usually  used to go through chatting behind your PC or laptop at home, it is not a surprise that an application like Tinder is also very successful on the mobile phone. Tinder seems to be a very innocent and playful application.

While in the USA the first stories of “Tinder-marriages” appear, one might imagine smartphone-applications like Tinder are the perfect solution for people who have trouble, or are even afraid of, meeting new people in real-life. I think Tinder is indeed an easy accessible way to meet new people, however the application is also about validation. It seems that a lot of people give an approval on a photo on Tinder, just to see if the counterparty reacts positively on their own photo. Studies show also that likes on Facebook and re-tweets on Twitter give some kind of dopamine-rush to the user. Therefore,  when it comes down to seriously meeting new people, I think one should take the application not that seriously.

 

http://blog.apostle.nl/blog/2013/september/tinder,-de-dating-app-tilt-online-dating-naar-een-nieuw-niveau-authenticiteit-/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/10318706/Tinder-dating-app-review-a-mans-perspective.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/10317832/Tinder-review-a-womans-perspective.html

 

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/27514afc-5444-11e2-9d25-00144feab49a,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F27514afc-5444-11e2-9d25-00144feab49a.html%3Fsiteedition%3Duk&siteedition=uk&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.telegraph.co.uk%2Ftechnology%2Fjackrivlin%2F100009761%2Ftinder-the-casual-sex-app-that-makes-us-even-more-vain%2F#axzz2iOLZuidy

Ketchuppp – Another social app that’s not just another social app. Huh?

A good example of SoLoMo, the social app Ketchuppp launched in August of this year by a Dutch entrepreneur. Personally, I hadn’t really heard about this app yet until somewhere last week. What is about you ask? Those were my thoughts exactly.

The supposed value this app offers is the ability to reconnect with friends in real time, friends that drifted to the fringe of your life. Friends that had become just a number in your phone, or a friend of Facebook. The idea is that the app is synced with your contact list, and runs on the background at all times. Then, when a person form your contact list (who also has the app on his/her phone, of course) is nearby, you will get an automatic notification – a chance to catch-up. The proximity at which you’ll get a notification can be selected in the app. After this notification, you still of course both have to agree to meet up. Next to this, you have the opportunity to be ‘invisible’ for a limited amount of time, and to block people from your ketchuppp list (e.g. frienemies with whom you do NOT want to catch up). 

The revenue model behind it is that when you agree to meet up, the app suggests a couple of nearby places to go to. Local businesses can make special offers through the app. Next to the special offers, Ketchuppp plans to eventually charge people for the app.

Personally, I like the idea behind the app – pulling yourself from all screens and social media around you and actually engaging with friends. However, I do not really see the need to have an app for it; I would just call up a mate, or send him a text, whichever would be best at that moment. I do not see this app becoming a success. A couple of months into its launch I had never heard about it, and we all know that for platforms as these, the user base is most important. But hey, maybe I’m wrong, and I’ll spontaneously meet a friend through Ketchuppp in the future.

 

Source:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/20/ketchuppp-app/?ncid=fb

Choose the channels you want to watch on tv!

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In Canada, the government is initialing a law that will require the cable providers to unbundle the channels it is providing. As is also the case in The Netherlands, you usually buy a full package that contains multiple television channels, and you do not have much packages to choose from. Sometimes you can add a premium channel like Eredivisie Live, but that’s about it. You do not have the option to buy only one single channel (What if I only wanted to watch Discovery Channel all day). In Canada that’s about the change. The new law will force the cable providers to offer single channels. You might wonder what this has to do with Information Technology. It does not impact IT perse, but it does have a huge impact on Information Strategy. In the required literature there was an article concerning bundling and unbundling, and the impact of a high initial bundle tariff on customer’s willingness to buy (The framing effects of multipart pricing on consumer purchasing behavior of customized information good bundles, article 17). It can be interesting to witness what the impact of such a law will be on the demand side of the television channel market. Since the channels can now be bought separately, a shift in consumer demand will now probably occur. According to the article, when customers are faced with a high initial bundle price, they fill see this price as a loss that they incur. However, all the products they make up the bundle and follow after the initial fee will be seen as a benefit or profit in the eyes of the customer. This results in customers then adding large amounts of products to these bundles, once the initial fee has been paid, to offset customer’s loss.

The theory does not directly explain what will happen if the products that were in a bundle, are made available as single purchases. However we do know that the customers add more and more products to the bundle to balance their profits and losses. This leads me to believe that when there is no such bundle, and when the channels are available as a single purchase, the customers will add less channels to their basket, simple because they do not have to compensate for the initial bundle tariff. This will in turn result in less channels per customer.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/13/canada-politics-idUSL1N0I30BW20131013

Goh, K.H., and Bockstedt, J.C. 2012. The Framing Effects of Multipart Pricing on Consumer Purchasing Behavior of Customized Information Good Bundles. Information Systems Research, Article in Advance 1-18.  

Another interesting way to look at this new law is by using the insights gained from the theory of new vulnerable markets. A market is newly vulnerable when it is Easy to enter, Attractive to Attack and Difficult to Defend.  When this theory is applied to the given conditions it becomes clear that the Canadian cable television industry has become easy to enter due to government regulation. One could also say that IT also allows for streaming technologies, bypassing traditional methods of distributing the product. The Canadian cable television industry has become attractive to attack due to its customer profitability segment. A lot of customers are buying bundle and within those bundles are channels that customers do not want. This also results in subsidizing of some channels. Hence, a new firm could only target for example specific channels that generate more profit, and completely bypass those that are not profitable or are being subsidized. The market is also difficult to defend now that the regulation is going to change. This stems from the fact that the companies have upheld an oligopoly for so long that they did not come up with new and innovative business strategies. This has resulted in a lack of vision.

It will be interesting to see how the industry will develop.

Granados, N., Kauffman, R.J., and King, B. 2008. How Has Electronic Travel Distribution Been Transformed? A Test of the Theory of Newly-Vulnerable Markets. Journal of Management Information Systems 25(2) 73-96.

Cork’d: A Social Network for Wine Lovers


F
ounded in 2006 by Dan Benjamin and Dan Cederholm, Cork’d is a playground for wine lovers. It is a free service for wine aficionados, allowing members to review, share and discover wine. Dan Cederholm and Dan Benjamin launched Cork’d publicly in May 2005. It was later acquired by internet wine star, Gary Vaynerchuk.

“The goal of Cork’d is to bring wine to the everyday person – to remove the snobbery often associated with the world of wine. The result is a fun, playful, easy-to-use site that’s enjoyable to explore and offers a service that focuses on community for keeping track of and discovering new bottles ” (simplebits.com)

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Cork’d as a social network

Cork’d is a social networking site which has attracted a niche market of wine enthusiasts, connecting wineries and people who have an interest in wine. Reflecting its CEO’s vision, Cork’d has been established and served as a social network, where its users and wineries can interact with each other. The site comprises specific features of a typical two-sided network, such as same-side and cross-side network effects. The large numbers of users of the platform on each side attracts more users in the other side, while the number of users on the same side also escalates. The key factor for such an attraction is values that users bring to each other’s and simultaneously, is values which are expected by people who intend to participate in the network. These values would be discussed in the following, from each direction:

Values that wineries bring to users

Firstly, from the perspective of users, the site provides them easier access to wine purchases or product offered by different wineries. It allows wineries to post information and provide links to their website, where wine can be purchased presumably. Owing to this feature, users may feel it convenient and enjoyable to purchase from guaranteed wineries about which they have just read reviews from other users. Moreover, they could effortlessly find information about wine-store opening hours, updated promotion and events from wineries. They could also search for information and reviews of nearby wineries around the corners of their districts. Besides reading reviews, users could also maintain a “wine-cellar”, create their preferred shopping list and more importantly, actively interact with their favorite wineries. All of these features create a so-called community feeling on local wineries, which is an essential sensation that users seek for in a typical social network.

Values that users bring to wineries

More than just being a place to post business information, Cork’d serves as a customer base for wineries, where they can find potential buyers for their products. Furthermore, It enables wineries to interact directly with their loyal customers and new buyers. The site provides data on customer preferences and wine tastes through reviews and rating system. These reviews, either positive or negative, may help wineries to improve their products and attract more consumers. On the other hand, a network effect to the outsides also occurs since the more users know about wineries, the more their reputations increase.

Values that users bring to users

The most obvious advantage seen by users when joining the site is the reviews and rating system about various types of wines. These reviews help them to have a clear impression on the wines that they intend to purchase or they have interest on, avoiding wasting money on poor quality wines or wines that do not suit their personal tastes. A more fabulous feature that Cork’d provides their users is the focused education system, where users may find it easily and exciting to learn about grapes, manufacturers and winemaking process. Most of these feature and utilities are generated by users themselves. Moreover, joining such a social network like Cork’d, users may find people sharing their mutual interest, making friend and expand their network based on similar interests on wines. However, like other social networks, the site itself could not avoid negative network effect since there are people, who are price sensitive and new to wine tasting, write their negative reviews, which may cause misleading negative impression.

Generally, Cork’d could be a potential platform-mediated network, as it owns an outstanding concept and gathers required attributes of a two-sided network. However, the site has been shuttled down in 2011 since Lindsay Ronga, the site’s CEO, decided to move to other opportunities and Vaynerchuk is involved in too many other projects.

Interested ? You may read more about the case in this article:

http://hbr.org/search/911064-PDF-ENG

Reference

http://simplebits.com/work/corkd/

 

Information Goods: Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2013

 
Traditionally up until now, Microsoft only offered their Office Suite software which includes Word and Excel in a package that could be bought with a single payment by the consumer. Their current product using this pricing strategy is Office 2013. 
It comes in three versions (which is the optimal amount as discussed during class):
Office Home & Student = $139.99 (for a single PC)
Office Home & Business 2013 = $219.99
Office Professional 2013 = $399.99
 
 
Recently, Microsoft introduced Office 365, a web-based productivity suite like Google Docs(Free):
 
“Office 365 is a subscription-based online office and software plus services suite which offers access to various services and software built around the Microsoft Office platform.” – Wikipedia
 
It’s basic packages also come in three versions:
For Home =  $10 per month (Up to 5 users)
For Small Business = $5 user/month (1 – 10 employees)
For Midsize Business = $15 user/month (10 – 250 employees)
 
To encourage the adoption of Office 365, the Microsoft Office 2013 install is locked to a single machine forever.
 
Why would Microsoft want users to switch to Office 365?
What do you think of Microsoft’s product product and pricing strategy?
 
sources:

Android vs Apple iOS: Who will win the mobile platform war?

In the last century there have been many platform wars: from VHS vs Beta to Videogame console wars. Arguably the most important battle in today’s tech is between Google Android and Apple iOS.
 
A key element that helps winning a platform war is the amount of users and content creators the platform can attract.
 
“This smart-phone showdown is important because Apple and Google are advancing radically different business models to the fight. This is bigger than just a commercial clash between two tech titans. It’s a war between two fundamentally different visions for the future of computing, described in simplistic terms as closed vs. open. Apple’s model is end-to-end control over the iPhone process, from hardware to software to the mobile applications that it must approve for sale in the App Store. Google’s model has been to distribute the Android system for free to the developer community at large and let a thousand flowers bloom.” – Business Time
 
Whereas Apple’s “closed” vision ensures that products on it’s platform will be of good value to it’s customers, Google’s open vision made Android the most distributed platform on handhelds and tablets.
 
According to the last guest lecture, the ability to attract developers and the positive network effects of a larger user base of Google’s strategy will lead Android to victory.
 
Which vision(closed or open) do you think is a better strategy and why?
Who do you think will eventually win the platform war?
 
sources:
Apple’s $1 Billion Patent Win over Samsung Rattles Google’s Cagesource: http://business.time.com/2012/10/12/why-apple-vs-google-is-the-most-important-battle-in-tech/

Eye tracking for consumers: we are almost there

Nowadays we all know about voice control and motion control (like the Nintendo Wii), but what about the technology of 2013, eye control?

Some of you know probably about the latest eye tracking features Samsung integrated in their own TouchWiz smarthphone interface, but that’s not the real deal. Danish eye tracking company ‘The Eye Tribe’ presented in September 2013 the world’s first truly affordable eye tracking device.

The Eye Tribe Tracker is a small hardware device with USB 3.0 that you can plug directly into your Windows PC, laptop or tablet. The company is talking with software and gaming companies already to bring eye controlled applications and games to consumers on a wide range of platforms.

Probably the best thing about this small device is the price, only $99 for a single one. Johansen from Eye Tribe Company even told techcrunch.com that “In the future prices will go down, as volume goes up. We want to earn money on licensing, not on hardware sales. We see this being integrated into tables, smartphones and laptop without any visible price changes for the consumers.” So this deal will even be better in probably 2014.

In the links I posed below you can see yourself how small this device is and how well this is working with an app like Fruit Ninja (in that app you have to slice fruit, in the old days with your finger).

http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/09/05/the-eye-tribe-demonstrates-an-impressive-eye-tracking-suite-on-android-via-a-usb-dongle/

http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/05/the-eye-tribe-starts-pre-orders-for-99-eye-tracking-developer-device-for-windows-pcs/

http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/12/will-the-eye-tribe-99-eye-tracker-make-gaming-easier-or-give-you-eye-strain/

Steam – a platform for multiplayer gaming

My interest in this blog is on a particular type of 2-sided networked market, namely gaming service platform, called STEAM. I will review the site as a platform for multiplayer gaming, based on the theory that we studied in last session.

Describe the service

Steam is a digital distribution, multiplayer and communication platform developed by Valve Corporation. From the perspective of the company, Steam is used to distribute games and related media online, from individual developers to large software providers. Through Steam, Valve introduces its own developing games as well as games of other third-party developers. Steam serves as a portal where gamers can purchase, play and update their favorite games. The site could be accessed at: http://store.steampowered.com/

Steam has more than 2000 computer games in various types, from action to strategy gameplay. Some of the games offered are for single players, who just play the game in offline mode, without the participation of other players. However, most of the games are offered with multiplayer feature, which is the core business of the site. In this online mode, the players need network connection to play the game together with many other players in all over the world and Steam serves as a hub to connect players, arrange matches and manage players’ levels in game.

The number of Steam’s users reaches 4,777,123 at the beginning of 2013, and is increasing. To attract more users, the platform also provides a forum where users can discuss about gaming related issues, such as malfunction in game, patch and update, tips and tricks, and suggestions for development of the platform. The forum also allows developers to access and answer players’ questions, and receives feedbacks for their games.

Image

Exhibit.  Steam play’s interface

Service concept

Consumer side: Steam is initially an online retail store where gamers can purchase their favorite game conveniently and quickly. The site allows consumers to pay in most popular forms of online payment, such as credit cards or Paypal. Once the game has been purchased, Steam allows users to download that game to their gaming device and re-download it for unlimited times in other devices, as long as the game is supported in that gaming platform. The site well exploits same-side network effect by enable functions as making friends, achievement and discussion. Making friend function allows users to add other users as friend and follow or invite these friends to join their game, while Achievement function allows users to compare their in-game process and special achievement with other players, by a system of achievements gained and ranking. By these functions, Steam attracts more and more users to their platform since multiplayers gaming requires a lot of users to become more exciting.

Content provider side: From the perspective of third-party developers and publishers, Steam offers a customer base with a huge increasing number of online gamers, exploiting cross-side network effect. Moreover, a service called Steam Greenlight was launched recently, allowing developers and game publishers to pitch their games to the Steam community to examine whether the users will vote for it to be released on the service. This tool not only welcome new developers and publishers to join the platform, but also provide potential customers and game fans an opportunity to connect directly to the latest offerings.

Opportunities and challenges of the network

WTA propensity

None of Valve’s sales figures of Steam service has been released to public, instead the company only shares the data to companies whose games are on Steam, which cannot be released without permission due to a non-disclosure agreement with Valve. However, Stardock, the former owner of Impulse, which is a competing platform of Steam, estimated that Steam has a 70% share of the digital distribution market for video games in 2009. It was reported by Forbes that Steam sales occupied 50-70% of the $4 billion market for computer games in early 2011.

From the perspective of game developers, Steam contributed a huge source of consumers for their products. It was exposed by the developer of “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings” that 200,000 to 250,000 versions, which is approximately 80%, of their total online sales of the game came from Steam. It is so obvious that Steam is currently the market leader in the market of digital gaming distribution.

Pricing strategy

Gamers prefer purchasing game from Steam because the site often offers a lot of promotions and sales, when users can purchase their game with very cheap price comparing with normal price offered by third-parties. There has been debate over whether these promotions are favored by game developers. It has been argued that games could be devalued by major discounts, affecting the industry in the long-term. However, according to a number of developers that participate in Steam Summer Sale, the promotions not only attract more sales, but also generate more revenue and revive games of old time.

Threat of envelopment

Although Steam provides lot of benefits to users, many disadvantages are also recognized, including:

  • When the program is started, it automatically update to a new version. This process may require a lot of time regardless users’ network speed; confusing users are in the mood for playing.
  • Downloading games in large size may be an endless process if users’ network connection is not fast. Moreover, players cannot start playing until all of the content is downloaded, requiring from them a huge amount of waiting time, comparing with purchasing a disk from a game store.
  • It is complicated for users if they wish to play their game in offline mode. They have to log in using their Steam account and enable the function “I am going offline”, which prevents unexpected loss of connectivity.
  • Although Valve has launched their Steam version for Mac, most of the games offered are available only for Windows, preventing Apple fans to enjoy gaming.

Another threat for Steam has been proven to come from hackers. On November 6 of 2011, Steam temporarily closed the community forum, mentioning potential hacking terrorizations to the service. Afterward, on November 10, Valve informed that the hack involved a compromise of one of their customer databases, possibly allowing the perpetrators to access customer database including encoded password and credit card information.

Currently I am writing my thesis on gamer behavior on purchasing games from Steam vs. downloading cracked games. I would love to discuss with someone who find some interest on studying this platform-mediated network from other perspectives.

References

Martin M., 2010, StackExchange. Retrieved from: http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/4304/what-is-the-steam-gaming-platform

Oliver C., 2011, Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverchiang/2011/02/15/valve-and-steam-worth-billions/

Steam Store. Retrieved from: http://store.steampowered.com/

Stephanie M., 2012, PCMag. Retrieved from: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2409173,00.asp

Tom C., 2012, Gamasutra. Retrieved from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/174587/Steam_sales_How_deep_discounts_really_affect_your_games.php#.UTOjdzBRDK0

Wikipedia, 2013. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_(software)

Wikipedia, 2013. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valve_Corporation

 

Third world countries, the real winners?

IT has been a major driver for change in our world. In our lectures we have seen how IT can create new products, and make old ones obsolete, how feely available information can destroy and create markets, and how IT enabled new business models (such as the platform model) and new organizational types (such as the networked organization).
However, when we looked at the impact of IT on our world, we were looking at the impact of IT on our western world. The impact of IT might have been even bigger for third world countries.
The internet allows people from geographically remote areas with bad physical infrastructures to still compete in the main markets. A lot of new industries do not require any physical transaction anymore, which favors the people in low-cost countries. Over the past few years, the amount of third world internet connections has skyrocketed, and it gives the people there an opportunity to make some money (and sometimes a fortune). Gold-farming companies, online poker players and small scale software developers are commonly found in less developed areas. Even though the money they earn may seem minor, the spend it almost solely in their local areas, resulting in a major boost of the local economy.
Besides making money, there is also the opportunity for learning. With initiatives such as coursera, people from third world countries no longer have to be held back by poor national education systems. Right now it still requires people to be able to speak one of the major languages, so anyone with an internet connection and some understanding of English or Spanish is capable to follow education up to the university levels. It will be interesting to see what impact that will have on our little world.

One small world

During our lectures, we have discussed some pro’s and con’s of outsourcing, and in the literature we have seen how the internet allows corporations to cooperate more, for example by building shared databases. (Malone et al., 1987)

However, with a tool such as the internet, it is possible to go further than just outsourcing specific tasks, or just using information technology to improve one specific area of the process. It is now possible to start a fully virtual company, a collaboration between people across the globe, that even though they never meet in real life, work together for years, in order to earn their livings.

Though this might sound futuristic, one industry in which this is already common practice is the Flash games industry. Flash games are the little free online games you can play on sites such as armorgames.com, kongregate.com and spele.nl. Flash games are made by developers all over the world, and in order to make a Flash game, you need to both write the code (a rather mathematical job) and create visual assets (a rather creative job). People are rarely talented at both, and Flash game developers are sparsely distributed, which creates the need for cross-national collaboration. Many Flash games, especially the high quality ones, are already made by international teams of independent developers.

This new organizational form comes with a couple of challenges, not only the limitations of Information Technology, but there are also for example legal issues with cross-continental two person companies. Most countries haven’t made their laws with such a possible organization form in mind.

Despite the challenges however, the amount of cross-continental collaborations seems to be steadily growing, and this new organizational form might gain popularity in other industries as well. I personally think that when people get better acquainted to the possibilities of the internet, cross-continental collaborations will become more common. As our society and economy increases in complexity, there will be more and more different expertise’s, most likely geographically spread over the world.

 

Malone, Thomas W., Joanne Yates, and Robert I. Benjamin. “Electronic markets and electronic hierarchies.” Communications of the ACM 30.6 (1987): 484-497.

On the Horizon: EU Legislation on Data Protection

A breakthrough on the issue of whether or not US companies operating in Europe should be subject to EU law rather than US court orders is expected by the end of this week after a two year gridlock. The current situation obligates US companies to give in to data requests from US soil (i.e. the NSA) forced through court orders. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, the European Commission is expected to put an end to this by means of EU legislation which will authorize fines up to 2 to 5% of a company’s annual global turnover, depending on the outcome, which could possibly run into the billions [1].

” The new rules, if agreed, would ban the transfer of data unless based on EU law or under a new transatlantic pact with the Americans complying with EU law.”

Apparently this course of action, designed to limit privacy infringements, required a world-wide scandal in order to be finalized. In my opinion it is only logical for companies that operate on EU soil to abide the rules of the corresponding jurisdiction, rather than those halfway around the world. Then again, who am I to judge? It took me almost as much time to finish my bachelor thesis. I guess there were more pressing matters during the early stages. Although rumour has it that it was being blocked by US and tech-industry lobbies [2]. Can the Snowden effect really conquer the obstacles this time?

If successful, the question remains whether or not this legislation will be enough. Fines are one thing, but in order to fine an entity you need proof of illegal action, which seems hard to come by in this case if you ask me. How would you go on about checking what kind of data foreign companies send to their home countries and for what purpose it is? Regulatory auditing would be one hell of a task and as for the subjected companies: enjoy the extra paper work.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/17/eu-rules-data-us-edward-snowden
[2] http://www.nu.nl/tech/3605685/eu-wil-data-europeanen-middels-boetes-beschermen.html

Art in Big Data and Big Data in Art II

In the blog post I posted few days ago, I described a way, how by using big data it is possible to improve creative processes, this entry, on the other hand will examine a few ways, how big data can be turned into art in the most direct way possible.

I will briefly explain two of the most interesting examples, I stumbled upon, also added small pictures, that everybody can decided, whether that would be something to pay money for a chance to see in real life.

So, there are artists who literary insert the Big Data in their work.  For example, Jer Thorp’s ‘’Random Number Multiples’’ depicts in an interesting way, how many times the words ‘’hope’’ and ‘’crisis’’ are printed in media between 1981 and 2010. In addition, specific events and keywords are thrown in to better inform the viewer. The result is stunning and it also provides a few very interesting insights, one of the most interesting being  to see those times when crisis eclipsed hope.

Jer-Thorp-Hope-Crisis-lo-640x497

 

Furthermore, there is even a modern art form that takes into account real-time updates. One of the more popular examples is the ‘’Listening Post’’ developed by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin.  An algorithm extracts information from thousands of virtual public spaces identifying the prevailing themes and most popular trending topics of discussion. According to popularity of the trending topics, short texts are displayed and simultaneously read by a voice synchronizer. The effect is overwhelming.

listening-post_2002-2006_ben-rubin-og-mark-hansen-01

This concludes the series of two blogs that briefly introduced the ways in which big data is changing ways what is understood with art. Shall this be something that will develop further and spread- time will tell. However, if the trend continues we are not far from the perfect art anymore, that is for sure.

To see the first part, please, refer to:

https://informationstrategyrsm.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/art-in-big-data-and-big-data-in-art-part-i/

 

 

Do you train at least?

In recent years tracking technologies have reached great steps becoming more precise and discrete. Starting with GPS and then watches that receives heart rate information from a rubber belt on the chest (Polar: http://goo.gl/EEQUcf ), these and more advanced sensor and tracking technologies have been integrated in cellphones. Over the past years big brands released tracking products like Nike Fuel (http://goo.gl/QH5Ifc) and Fit Bit (http://goo.gl/vqnWH8).
But lately there has been a new release: The Shine activity tracker from Misfit Wearables. It’s a thin metal disc about the size of two euro coins which slips inside a wristband, a pocket clasp, or an amulet on a necklace. It’s the first fitness tracker that’s so small and inconspicuous that it can be imaginable. It looks like shiny UFO-looking device on top of which there are lights that illuminate to tell you the actual progress or display the time. Misfit co-founder and CEO Sonny Vu, says his “team’s top goal was making a device that was simpler and more wearable than other activity trackers on the market”. He sees the slim design, together with the fact that the Shine doesn’t require external cables or regular recharging. As Misfit’s main advantages over its larger rivals it works with replaceable batteries. “The option to wear it anywhere” is “a big deal” for Misfit’s customers, especially women, Vu says.
As simple as double tapping on it and then put it closer to the phone to synchronize all the data. Probably the main advantage of this device is the possibility to keep track of your activities without having your phone on you, like sleeping, for example. The Shine can easily be clipped to you without affecting your sleep. The Shine is also waterproof, so you can keep track of your activity while you’re swimming, something else you won’t be able to do with an iPhone. To those afraid of radiation, this device emits 1/10 000th compared to a smartphone.

Though buying the ultimate smartphone with an activity tracker app cuts down on carrying any additional gear when you’re exercising, the minuscule size and weight of the Shine almost makes that a moot point. The advantage to attach such a small object to your body when you are exercising is what attracts customers. It looks like designers and engineers made a good job showing its elegance which makes it easier to wear every time. On the other hand, I believe that because the device is so small and light it is possible to lose it, and from what customers write in the comments and reviews it seems rather easily. Another issue can be linked to the disposable round batteries which don’t align with sustainable features that many companies in the electronic industry are advertising. In my opinion wearing such a device would be also an excuse to commit to a healthier living style and even that 100$ looks expensive the price reflects the willing to hit a specific target of customers that can more easily create a status changing the way you approach sports that can influence other customer targets. Furthermore, since the hardware takes a minimalistic approach to providing activity data, the free Shine app is really the main way to interact with the tracker. However since this is the first release hopefully on the next versions there will be small issues fixed like the still little confusing use of the pointing system and the clock function which you can miss if you are blinking while the time appears on the device which will last for less than a second.

SOURCES:
Official Website ==> http://www.misfitwearables.com/

Articles and blogs:
Misfit Shine and the Pros and Cons of Wearable Fitness Trackers ==> [http://www.xconomy.com/national/2013/08/23/misfit-shine-and-the-pros-and-cons-of-wearable-fitness-trackers/]
Misfit Shie is truly a wearable fitness tracker ==> [http://appadvice.com/appnn/2013/10/review-the-misift-shine-is-a-truly-wearable-fitness-tracker]
Misfit Wearables Shine Activity Tracker ==> [http://tightlightning.com/2013/09/17/misfit-wearables-shine-activity-tracker/]
Usage Examples ==> [http://www.medicineandtechnology.com/2013/08/a-month-of-wearing-misfit-shine-every.html]
==>[http://www.bookofjoe.com/2013/09/misfit-shine-the-worlds-most-elegant-physical-activity-tracker.html]

Apple’s “ Hunger marketing” still works!?

Everyone knows that Apple is one of the organisations that use the “Hunger marketing”. For those who do not know what that means, read the following quote:

“Hunger marketing” refers to a kind of marketing strategy where the commodity provider reduces production in order to create demand. If the product is popular, this strategy will allow the provider to achieve control of supply and demand while maintaining a high commodity price and profit purpose.

Source: China daily 2011 (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2011-05/09/content_12473412.htm)

Apple was quite successful using this marketing strategy in the previous years. IPhones and I Pads where great innovative product. These devices were always new to phone (/gadget) market, have the newest and coolest stuff installed, and not to forget the devices have one of the better designs, when they were introduced. Everyone wants it! Therefore, Apple “was not able” to supply sufficiently. Which makes the customers even want it more.

Well, nice strategy! However, as we all have experienced during the last two years. Apple did not come with something that contains groundbreaking innovations, at least I haven’t noticed for the phone and tablet market. My IPhone 5 was just a longer version of IPhone 4 with some extra processing speed and better camera, and more expensive, that’s it.

Furthermore, in the recent years, it seems that Samsung did catch up in the race with Apple. The phones and tablets introduced by Samsung aren’t that bad anymore in the perception of the consumers and maybe even better than the apple devices in the eyes of some consumers. It is a fact that Samsung took over some of the Apple’s market in the past few years.

Moreover, there are also other electronic devices manufactures, probably not Nokia, but large player in China such as Huawei and Coolpad could become serious competitors for Apple and Samsung. These Chinese electronic devices manufactures have already a very large market share in China (with 1.3 billion people!) and became rich in there. Now they are trying to introduce their devices to the Global market. Once they are able to create brand awareness and overcome the bad perceptions of the Chinese products. They can become serious competitors of Apple and Samsung.

Facing the fierce competition from Samsung and other players in the electronic device market. Apple is still using the Hunger marketing. During the introduction of IPhone 5S, it was sold out in the first weekend.  Well the question is, is it still smart to market the product this way? Now the competitors are able to introduce similar product. Once the customers switch to another, they might never come back!

Source:

–       Finance.Ce.cn

–       http://www.nzweek.com/technology/hungry-marketing-apple-has-reduced-the-production-order-of-iphone-for-the-4th-quarter-4447/

–       http://www.beurs.nl/nieuws/Buitenland/3253420/apple-iphone-5s-uitverkocht-in-eerste-weekend

The road to becoming a robot.

Recently a bio-medical engineer by the name of Theodore Berger has made some astonishing progress in the field of brain implants. For decades he has focused his work on deciphering the human brain and specifically the part of the brain that triggers memories (the hippocampus). He is now at a point where he is able to trigger memories in the brain of a mouse or monkey. He does this by using a computer chip which mimics the signals a hippocampus uses to trigger a memory. For now this silicon chip is still on the outside of the body and no testing has been done yet on humans. Imagine though what it could mean if Berger manages to develop a model which you can plant in your brain that will help you to recall memories. Alzheimer patients will have less issues with forgetting the names of their beloved ones, to give one example.

If this would become reality, and this is a big if, it would be a pretty large step forward in biomedical technology. But let’s take it a step further, what if we could build chips that will allow us to start dreaming at command or which will be able to feed our brain all kinds of information in a matter of seconds? Once we have unlocked the code of the brain this process could be very fast. It will probably be the ethical side of it which will slow it down. And now that we are fantasizing anyway, what about the other way around? We can put machines in our minds, but can we put our minds into a machine? According to Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, this will also be possible in a matter of years. It all comes down to computing power for this particular challenge. It’s estimated that by 2045 we will be able to store our minds on a computer and therefore achieve (digital) immortality.

However, this means your mind will be stored on some sort of datacenter, or perhaps in a virtual reality somewhere, but you won’t actually be able to put your mind in a new body. Which is where Bergers findings and Kurzweils predictions come together. Kurzweil thinks that by 2090 all the biological parts of our body will be replaceable by manufactured body parts. Combine this with a mind you can store and download in a manufactured brain, and you have really achieved immortality.

The implications of these kinds of technologies on our society would be enormous and I’m interested to hear how you guys would feel about techniques as these.

Personally, I only need to find a way to keep myself alive until 2090.

 

Sources:

Cohen, J. (2013) Memory Impants, MIT Technology Review, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/513681/memory-implants/

Woollaston, V (2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2344398/Google-futurist-claims-uploading-entire-MINDS-computers-2045-bodies-replaced-machines-90-years.html

The US government damages itself by launching its own site

As we all know, president Obama has been trying to launch his healthcare act “Obamacare” for quite some time. This act would provide health insurance to tens of millions of uninsured US citizens.

The US government tried to make this easier by running its own healthcare insurance eCommerce website, called Healthcare.gov. On this website, can apply for healthcare insurance that satisfies their needs. Frankly, it was actually unnecessary for the government to build this website. Many startups were already capable of providing such a service. However, the US government decided to build its own website to protect consumers, because private companies would then have access to income data. This seems an invalid argument because there were already private companies that have access to such data, for tax purposes for instance.

When the US government did launch its own website, it was full of glitches and crashes. This scared away potential customers, thereby tarnishing the government’s reputation even further.

More on this story can be found here : http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/20/how-healthcare-gov-doomed-itself-by-screwing-startups/

A Google Engineer Explains Why Google+ Sucks: Platforms vs. Products

You probably remember the guest lecture on platform-mediated networks by Prof. Marshall van Alstyne, right? He also shared some slides, and this one on Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos caught my attention:

I googled this so-called “Bezos Platform Mandate” to learn more about it. I expected it to be part of an article Bezos published, or maybe a presentation he did.

As it turns out, the quote is part of an infamous rant by Google engineer Steve Yegge, that was accidentally made public. It was meant as an internal memo, highlighting some key differences between Amazon and Google. It provides an honest, uncensored and at times hilarious insight into the differences between these companies in terms of culture.

Read More…

Why choose LINUX

Image It is common knowledge that the Linux operating system was developed and released for distribution as open source freeware and when it was first introduced it was thought to have very little real life application.

However years since the trip started Linux operating system are seen worldwide , it’s on our smartphones our tablets our PC the banks from where we have our credit cards use it, universities and government agencies.

1.It’s free

Who does not think free is a very good price ?  While Linux is free the competitors for commercially available products come with pricey tags for their operating system. If you consider the economy it’s worth the while for your company and even yourself to get used it and more importantly “it doesn’t cost anything to try it” as the saying goes.

2.Customization

Customization is one of the defining traits of Linux  and includes not just choice of distribution but also the desktop environment you prefer. New developments have made so that you the interface adapts to your actions therefore you are free from other OS makers and you can build your interface to your heart’s desire.

3.Modest requirements

Where other OS such as Windows forces the user to keep upgrading hardware to keep up with the software requirement Linux does the opposite . It runs flawlessly even on older resource computers due to the simplicity of the software and the minimum resource usage and as a bonus you can spend that money for something else.

4.Think of the future IT manager in you

Linux Os has very attractive features for both public and private sectors , adopting Linux users are less probable to be faced with a lock-in from proprietary platforms. On the long run these benefits are important for computing environments where large users have the option to customize their software.

5. Reliable 

The main reason why so many companies turn to Linux is the strong characteristic of reliability. Using Linux OS means  no more loss of data due to unforeseen crashes where you spent hours on your work and thus a result in productivity and a decrease in the level of personal stress.

The Linux has seen it’s share of increase in familiarity due to the appearance on desktop environments that have been introduced to consumers. We could argue that there is no perfect operating system but when it comes to giving the user the ability to change the system to its preferences but as far as the available options currently on the market Linux takes the lead by a landslide.

Sources:

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/20-reasons-you-should-switch-to-linux-912294

http://www.tuxmagazine.com/node/1000117