Amazon Workspaces, the future of computing, and why we all need fibre

PC

I used to manually download all my movies, shows, music. Stored it all on big terabyte hardrives. Used to have to buy hard drives all the time. Now? probably weeks since the last time my computer had to actually wake from sleep and spin that drive up. These days, Rdio is a thing. Netflix, appleTV, hulu these are all things now. The whole idea of using windows/mac file manager to fiddle with media at the file-level, across all my computers, laptops, tablets, phones that’s crazy batshit talk. Who would do that anymore? There’s dozen great platforms that virtualize all that for me. Thanks to airplay, even virtualizing which device is playing the media and which is displaying it.

Enough to make you wonder, how the hell is Tivo still in business? How are DVRs still a thing? Millions of people paying millions of dollars for local hardware to make millions of recordings of media that could perfectly well be served by one copy stored on the cloud? WTF is up with that?

Someday there will be a real netflix even for PC and console games. Built from the ground up to be virtualized.

Just to play games people buy expensive graphics cards, power-hungy PCs, console boxes that only get upgraded every 5 years. five! Millions of these get distributed, but the duty cycle is really low. Most of the day they just collect dust, take up space, consume idle power. What a waste. Why can’t I rent or subscribe to some awesome gpu and compute cluster at edge of the cloud to pump-out awesome, immersive experiences to any screen, regardless of it’s local silicon limitations? Huge opportunity for disruption here. Of course, we’d all need to have fibre or much better internet speeds that we get today.

AMD gets this. NVDIA gets this, they’ve recently introduced products designed to be run in racks for remote rendering of games. Valve/Steam, understands the vision as they continue to experiment with ideas of streaming gaming across remote or local networks. However we’ve yet to see a real compelling platform player put all these pieces together. MSFT and Sony missed this boat with their latest generation, they still try to support physical media of all things. Why didn’t they just but a cassette deck in there.

Webmail, salesforce, facebook, the web in general have been proving for decades that there are huge classes of apps that work a lot better when they are architected to be entirely native to the web.

But it’s all piecemeal. I can run almost all my daily apps on the cloud, but i can’t run my whole desktop from the cloud. I have to install apps for all those apps on all of my screens. I can’t seamlessly move from screen-to-screen and keep all my state and harware resources available. Although, in cases when I can, it does feel magical: like searching for a maps location on my pc and seeing the driving instructions pop us as an alert in android, like pausing netflix on my bigscreen and pressing play on my tablet. Why can’t my whole computing experience be seamless from screen to screen by default?

We need to redefine what we mean of a ‘computer’ or an ‘operating system’ from a machine-centric perspective to a cloud-centric perspective. It’s almost like “the network is the computer”.

today amazon announce this:

“Amazon WorkSpaces allows customers to easily provision cloud-based desktops that allow end-users to access the documents, applications and resources they need with the device of their choice, including laptops, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablets. With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can provision a high-quality desktop experience for any number of users at a cost that is highly competitive with traditional desktops”

Maybe the enterprise will go first. Amazon is talking about supporting legacy desktop apps and IT management. However, as innovation in business tools is increasingly driven by cloudware as opposed to desktop apps, it makes more and more sense to just offload the whole stack to the cloud. Particularly with the benefit of portability across pc, mobile and tablet devices.

However. This great virtualized cloud future comes with several major barriers. These barriers to further innovation have names:

  1. The telcos: Bandwidth and latency are the key to enabling smooth remote and visualized computing experiences. Until fibre is much more ubiquitous, until consumer (and business) network speeds and bandwidth caps continuously increase by orders of magnitude, nothing will happen. Why does it seem like desktop PC innovation has entirely stagnated over the last 10 years? In part it’s because (unlike with mobile devices) network bandwidth available has barely improved since broadband became ubiquitous. (in fact, some consumers have even seen their usage caps come down in recent years).
  2. Open spectrum: Freeing up more licenseable spectrum for 3G/4G is good too, but unlicensed spectrum is even better and even more sorely needed. no spectrum gets better utilization than the tiny slivers (at 2.4 and 5.6GHz) that are reserved around the world for open usage like wifi (and a thousand other things). The aggregate economic benefit could be vastly greater if governments would set aside just a bit more, instead of always auctioning all new spectrum for brief one-time revenue gain.
  3. Microsoft: This company still has waning, but enormous control over our basic computing environments, especially in the enterprise. After all these years, they’ve really only come up with two really killer apps (Windows and Office) that just happen to owe their entire revenue model to per-machine licensing. As a result, Microsoft has always had a very conflicted strategy with regards to the cloud.
  4. The cablecos: Protectionist and anti-competitive strategies by cablecos and telcos to protect revenues on last century’s media distribution models is probably the single biggest barrier to ongoing innovation in computing. See also #1
  5. The powers that be: Trust in governments is not at an all-time high. And recent revelations haven’t been helping. Until we can somehow mutually resolve issues of due-process and security from domestic and foreign governments, a lot of people are going to be reluctant to allow all their base onto the internet. Maybe we just have to come to grips with the fact that spies are always going to try to do spy shit and move on.

Why Apple is giving away software for free

Free hugs

Free is an unusual price to put on a piece of enormously complex desktop software like an office suite or an OS. Especially when sales of that software currently earn you hundreds of millions a year. Yet that’s was Apple’s surprising move this week, to drop the price of OSX and their productivity suite to zero.

The easy answer is – well, they make a lot of money from hardware already, PCs are becoming more like devices/appliances anyway, why not through in the software as part of the whole stack. Also given the ever shrinking prices and margins of consumer hardware, Apple needs to do something to keep up their consistently high ASPs on notebooks and desktops.

But for strategy wonks, there a few more interesting ways to read this move:

  1. You could read it as powerful competitive move to undercut Microsoft’s primary business model (which is still per-machine OS and office licenses). Microsoft’s model makes less and less sense in a cloud, multidevice and integrated product world. This is Apple trying to kick MSFT further into obsolescence and compete in a way that MSFT can’t.
  2. You could read this a competitive response to Google, who already offer free OSes and web-based productivity suite (google drive) with a constant stream of free upgrades. It’s only a matter of time before Google’s office suite and chrome book OS is widely-enough considered ‘good enough’ to start triggering bottom-up disruption. So you could say Apple had no choice but to give up revenue and has been forced to compete on Google’s terms.
  3. Lastly, from an ecosystem perspective you could look at the advantages and operational savings related to having all (or almost all) your users using the latest version of your stack. MSFT and Google ecosystems both suffer from heavy fragmentation due to many people stuck on old versions of OS/products. Apple is moving to a model where they can rapidly move users to the latest and greatest versions. This reduces their own support costs, their developers’ costs and increases the value of the ecosystem in the eyes of developers.

see also: this post is essentially a repost of a comment I left on asymco. Horce’s post there is worth a read – The value of zero-priced software

Upvotes on that comment and a couple other interesting moves by apple lately have inspired me to blog again and write a few more posts I’ve been noodling. There’s a few other implications of Apple’s recent announcements that tech press seems to have missed out on. Stay tuned.


Track of the day: Get Free by Major Lazer, because you probably haven’t been listening to enough Major Lazer today. I mean, how would that be possible?

The State Valley Money in 2013 – Liveblogging from START SF

START SF Poster

Unless you are feeling particularly exceptional, now’s not a great time to be raising money for your consumer internet startup. But there is money still out there.

Had the great opportunity to be invited to attend the private START in San Fran today put on by the folks behing f.ounders. One of the first panels on Micro VC I took a few notes. And I thought few of my friends would be interested in some inside scoop on the current valley funding environment circa mid-2013. If our rotating door on Ashbury st (aka The Unofficial Visiting B&B for Canadian Tech Nerds) is any indicator, there’s still lots of opportunity down here.

Here’s my speed notes on the session, errors or crazy-talk is probably my fault in typing.

Panel: Micro-VC – 4 Small Funds Focused on seed through series A software VC
Mike Maples (Floodgate), Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures/KPCB),
Jeff Clavier (SoftTech), Alex Mittal (Funders Club)
Moderator: Tomio Geron (Forbes)

For some reason, the panel started backwards – talking about big liquidity events and working backwards to seed funding.

Snapchat’s crazy round and founder liquidity

  • Snapchat exit at 800M really big news item this week at huge valuation. Seems like it was highly competitive funding deal to get such a deal. What do you guys think of the the 20M(!) payout to the founders? Huge founder liquidity after only 2 years is risky, because founders have made their money for life and might not be incentive to stick around
  • As an entrepreneur you need to think that you will overcome any obstacle and there is no plan B. taking money of the table with liquidity gives them a plan b. some folks who get rich just get more hungry, but not everyone. (Early cash-out is like the opposite of burning-the-boats motivational strategy)
  • better is founder liquidity after 3-5 years to keep them rewarded and engaged in the company
  • - w/o healthy IPO market, high valuation also creates problems finding a future acquirer at a valuation over a billion dollars

Current Funding Environment

  • Enterprise is strong, but Consumer VC is currently “brutal” vs 2 years ago
  • lots of companies were invested a few years ago and haven’t paid out yet, or at all, or went in too high, and investors do
  • Series A expectations: 1 Million users for a consumer service 2yrs ago, now you need 5 or 10 M users
  • Before you needed 4M revenue run rate for a service business to series A, now 10 M
  • This raising of the bar on series A, has also raised the bar on seed investment
  • Contrary point: the exceptional founders and companies (really about 5-15/year any year) are truly exceptional. They will always manage to get funded. What happens is that, cyclically, less exceptional also founders get funded.
  • Really, there’s always money. But often too much money flocking to certain hot segments or geographies, and not enough going to all opportunities which makes the industry cyclical.
  • Last point: (Panel may be biased but claim) Party rounds (lots of investors at 25-50k each) not great for seed rounds without an achor, institutional or specialized Micro-stage VC investor firm that will really work with you to get you to the next round

Tom’s Best of 2012 Indie Mix

Diamond Rings Live San Francisco 2012

I’ve been sitting on this one for too long. Well not so much sitting, as bopping in my chair. The dog’s been looking at me funny. You will be too. I mean the bopping, more than the looking funny. You are beautiful. I swear.

So much good music this year. And I just have to keep the tradition alive (search this blog for music mixes going back to 2006). I know you guys need you fix of the yearly music mix. enjoy!

01.    Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros     Man on Fire
02.    The Lumineers     Ho Hey
03.    Electric Guest     This Head I Hold
04.    Miike Snow     Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)
05.    Passion Pit     Take A Walk
06.    Stealing Sheep     Shut Eye
07.    Crystal Castles     Plague
08.    alt-J     Matilda
09.    Grimes     Oblivion
10.    The XX     Angels
11.    Tycho     A Walk
12.    Washed Out     Amor Fati
13.    Yppah     R. Mullen
14.    Now, Now     Dead Oaks
15.    Islands     This is Not A Song
17.    Bat For Lashes     Laura
18.    Beach House     Myth
20.    Diamond Rings     I’m Just Me
21.    Hot Chip     Look At Where We Are
22.    Sea Wolf     Old Friend
23.    Joel Plaskett Emergency     Harbour Boys
24.    Skinny Lister     If The Gaff Don’t Let Us Down
25.    Chromatics     Kill for Love

Two good options, download the whole thing as a big-ass-zip-file here: Tom’s best of 2012 zip file
Or if you Rdio, you can follow me and stream [almost all] the playlist here: Tom’s best of 2012 Rdio Playlist

pictured: Diamond Rings, San Francisco 2012

Gluten-free, Spicy Dark & Stormy Oatmeal Cookies

Delicious cookies

First I hired a gastroenterologist to help figure it out. This disagreement I was having. His name was Dr Man, very nice guy. Though secretly I wished his name was Magnum. Then I could say that Magnum GI was on the case.

It at last came to this because my own belly and I of late have come to certain difference of opinion on the relative merits of wheat gluten. Obviously wheat gluten is delicious. This is the argument my brain and mouth try and tell my other organs. But another faction within body is convinced gluten is some kind of murderous toxin, that it must tie my innards in knots to get rid of it. And so I’ve been trying to go gluten free. Going gluten free is hard. I find myself creating a lot more of my food. I find myself buying oats by the bushel to get that carb fix. Damn I miss [real] croissants. Meanwhile I find myself learning how to bake, owning mysterious ingredients like xantham gum or sourgum flour.

But there are upsides to having to DIY your own baked goods. This awesomeness is one of them. Perfected over the last few weekends for your enjoyment.

    1/4 Cup brown sugar (seriously cut down from other cookie recipes)
    1 Cup butter (mmm butter)
    2 eggs
    1 tsp Vanilla (better: 1tblsp ground Tahitian Vanilla)
    1 tbsp spiced rum (Kraken, Sailor Jerry or Goslings)
    1 tsp Baking Soda
    1 tsp Baking Powder
    Pinch salt
    1 tsp Xantham Gum
    1 tsp Guar Gum (in a pinch, 2tsp of either)
    1/2 cup Sorghum flour
    1/2 cup white rice flour
    2.5 cup Gluten-free oats ( on Amazon)
    1 tsp ground ginger
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 fistful Candied/Crystallized Ginger

If solid, nuke the butter for 30s or so til mushy or half melted. Then cream it with sugar. Stir in eggs, rum, vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and spices (feeling fancy, you can sift together the dry ingredients first in another bowl). Now stir in oats. Rinse or soak the ginger for couple minutes to remove excess sugar. Dry and shop into bit-sized bits. Stir ginger into mix. Spoon cookie dough onto cookie sheets. Makes about 2 baking sheets worth of cookies. 350, 11 min, will do the rest. Allow to cool on the baking sheet before removing.

Serve with a tot of your darkest rum. For dipping. Zomg.

There you have it, awesome super-gingery oatmeal cookies. For my non-gluten-free friends, just call these Oatmeal Dark and Stormies… and thank me later

Toronto: Get Wired, Get Hydrated, Get Your Robot On

Some of my dearest Toronto friends Leila Boujnane and the crew at Mozilla Toronto are putting on an event combining two of all of our favourite things: robots and hackathons. I wish I could go! But alas the west coast is a little out of the way. So I need your help to help me help them. First you need to vicariously go for me. Build fantastic bots! Second, Leila needs sponsors.

Sez Leila:

Help us make this robotics hacakthon happen http://www.getyourboton.com/. We need to raise $5,000 in 10 days to acquire all the hardware required! That’s 200 people donating $25. Do I have 200 friends who could help? or perhaps just 100 friends with $50 to donate? I am organizing a robotics weekend hackathon at the end of November and would really appreciate your help to give people a chance to build a robot in a single weekend with support of mentors, volunteers and hardware fans! I believe in our generous community! Can you friends help?

Robots are always a good cause. I chipped in, you should too. Myself I’ll next be back in Toronto in early December, I’ll expect to shake hands with your robot.

When: Friday, November 23 at 6:00 pm
Where: Mozilla Offices – MozSpace
366 Adelaide Street West, Suite 500
Toronto, Canada
Go to Google Maps

LINK: tickets and sponsorship via GuestListApp

What’s In My Backpack

A snapshot in time of my current glass pancake stack.

One iPad 1st gen, one iPhone 4th gen for iOs demos and prototyping. One Android tablet (Nexus 7) and phone (HTC One X) for demos and prototyping. One old Samsung Infuse Android work phone I hadn’t got rid of yet. Now I’m using the HTC. One primary work PC. One personal Macbook Air. One personal LTE iPad also functions as personal hotspot. Assorted cables, chargers, dongles, NFC tags, and assorted doohickeys. Car keys. Pen and goddamn paper. Cause you know what? Brilliant as the rest of the device is, 5 years after Apple’s iPhone killed the mobile stylus dead, writing & drawing notes with your fingers on glass like digital cavemen still sucks.

This post inspired by Steve Wozniack, who I had the rather unexpected pleasure of meeting the other day at a rock show, and his incredible backpack.

And by how wonderfully quaint and archaic these now-shiny things will look if I can remember to come back to this post in 10 years or more.

Wish I had a shot of my backpack of 2002, full of palm pilots or pocket pcs, some brick of a nokia phone, and maybe an mp3 diskman.

But Woz had it figured out. When I met him he showed me his nixie watch. Made of awesome cathod tubes technology from the 1950s. Long live #deadmedia

I’ve just about had it with QR codes

Robot Vomit!

I dunno why I’m talking about airplanes again. But I thought it’s funny. Though they’ve been around forever, and sortof indifferently hyped by airlines for years, I’ve never got around to trying to one of those mobile/QR/paperless boarding passes. Until today that is. Ya that was a error.

Imagine your typical looong line at the gates to your local FAA security theatre-dome. At first the code is ready and showing fine on the screen. Ok great. Boredom ensues. Surf a few emails, read twitter. Getting close now, flip back to the United email with the code. The phone spontaneously has decided to refresh the page. What could go wrong? Everything is blank. It’s not loading. Not loading again. or again. Our local carrier, who we like to affectionately call $!@#$%! AT&T has chosen this moment now to take one of it’s not-infrequent cat naps. The line is looming behind you. Something finally loads … with all broken images links. F5! F5! crap! and… we’re back ok whew it’s loading, hold it out steady. It’s not scanning. hold it closer. hold it further. Try to hold your hand perfectly more steady… (People near you are starting to offer helpful suggestions). And thank god, at last we’re through.

Technically QR codes do work. And lest when all the conditions are right. Trust me I resent, more than most, carrying around bits of paper instead of a proper digital solution.

And a lot of folks, myself included, but especially it seems marketers really, really want to believe in the ugly little buggers.

Wouldn’t it be great say the marketers to make your print and out-of-home marketing actionable and trackable.

Wouldn’t it be great say the developers if we had this internet of things, if connected devices could just close the last inch to connect and link with the physical world in a cheap/easy way.

Wouldn’t that be great?

So collectively we’ve been trying really hard to believe that QR codes are like a real thing.

Ask yourself. When was the last time you were out there traveling the world and said, oh my gosh, oh look a QR code, I can’t wait to scan that and see where it goes?

QR codes just don’t feel right. They are not self-revealing to humans, you can’t trust or be sure what they will do from looking at them, they take work to use, the optical/focusing screen/waving dance is awkward, they are widely considered to look like chunky robot expectorate, nothing about them feels “cool”

I think we need to do better than QR codes.

Tell me I’m wrong about this one.

How to get upgraded on Air Canada

It’s that time again. The last few days of February. The season where Canada’s favourite national airline rewards its loyal fliers by deleting all their accumulated upgrade points. Use them or lose them. So here’s my guide to burning those AC e-upgrades anytime or especially timely this time of year.

  1. Step 1: Collect air Canada eupgrade points. You’ll earn a token few when you make status and more as a threshold gift each time you fly another 20k miles or so
  2. Step 2 It’s time to use those points. First status check. You’ll want to be AC E (Elite) or SE (Stupid Elite). Upgrading at prestige status? Hahaha no.
  3. Step 3 Fork over $99 for an annual membership at expertflyer.com to get access to data that AC should have made available to you anyway, importantly the number of upgrade seats still or ever available for any given flight. Put in the day you need to fly, search for “R” class seats on Air Canada. Find a flight on your day that has any R seats available (many flights wont!)
  4. Set a reminder exactly 4 days + a few min (Elite) or 10 days + a few min (Stupid Elite) before your flight.
  5. Time passes.
  6. At last! upgrades are opening in just a few minutes
  7. But wait. Check expertflyer again. Curse that your flight has suddenly gone to 0 R-class seats. But don’t worry, the one an hour later still has 3 left.
  8. Change your flight to the one an hour later. Explain creatively to your spouse, agent, coworkers, boss etc.
  9. Ok we’re ready! time to fire up your e-upgrades account. Of course, you can’t use the e-upgrades site without logging in to your aircanada account first. You can’t actually log in from the e-upgrades site without being immediately re-directed to the aircanada homepage. There’s absolutely no obvious way how to get back to the e-upgrade site from the aircanada homepage. So we follow the standard procedure…
  10. Navigate aircanada.com. log in.
  11. Now close your browser tab.
  12. Enter “Air Canada E-upgrades” into Google, punch I’m feeling lucky.
  13. Congrats! You are now on the e-upgrade site. You’ll still be logged in to your AC account and the site will greet you with your name and aeroplan points balance.
  14. You forgot to have ready your booking reference didn’t you? More gentle cursing while you contemplate of an airline website can somehow know exactly who you are but not what flights you have booked imminently under your same name and aeroplan number.
  15. Alt-tab, dig past 600 more recent messages in your inbox to fish out the godawul-pdf-formatted travel itinerary for your airline booking reference invariably printed in mice-type on page 3
  16. Cutpaste booking reference and, at last, wait while AC spins the epugrade roulette wheel for what number of points the upgrade will cost this week (which may vary widely from month to month upon whims of AC promotions and random top-tier policy “enhancements to serve you better”)
  17. Your points haven’t auto expired, there’s a seat left, you are not waitlisted…. Victory!
  18. Now relax, fly in style, and laugh at the plight of those savages in the back suffering the ignominies and inconveniences of flying standard economy.

Tom’s Best of 2011 Music Mix!


It’s back! Thomaspurves.com’s traditional regularly irregular mix of awesome and slightly irregular music. Basically here’s a track from all the bands that kept my earbuds spinning this long year. As usual the list is autobiographical more than canonical. I’m never one to color perfectly amongst the lines. It’s already a few days past 2011 and there may have even been a few songs snuck in from the last days of 2010 but lets not be picky, let’s just rock out. DL the whole set and listen in playlist order, or just mix them up.

Special thanks to CBCRadio3, NPR, KEXP, Rdio, eMusic and various friends for most of these discoveries. Do let me know what I missed. And let’s bring on 2012!

01 M83 – Midnight City
02 The RAA – Barnes’ Yard
03 Salteens – If Love Is Gone Where Do We Go from Here
04 Austra – Lose It
05 Young Galaxy – We Have Everything
06 Emm Gryner – Ciao Monday
07 Lightning Dust – Never Again
08 Teen Daze – Let’s Fall Asleep Together
09 Active Child – Hanging On
10 Washed Out – A Dedication
11 Tycho – A Walk
12 Cut Copy – Need You Now
13 Holy Ghost! – Wait And See
14 Beach Fossils – What a Pleasure
15 Hey Rosetta – Seeds
16 Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
17 One Hundred Dollars – Ties That Bind
18 J Mascis – Not Enough
19 The Dodos – Black Night
20 Craft Spells – Party Talk
21 Braids – Lemonade
22 Timber Timbre – Black Water
23 Low – Try to Sleep
24 Bon Iver – Calgary
25 The Antlers – No Widows
26 Alexi Murdoch – Slow Revolution
27 CYHSY – Same Mistake
28 Tapes’s ‘n Tapes – Freak Out
29 The Fires Of – Pulse

enjoy!

http://thomaspurves.com/media/Bestof2011/Bestof2011.zip

Book Review: the Impulse Economy

Korean subway mixed reality

Nevermind the hype, the ongoing explosion of mobile could either be the best or worst thing to hit ordinary retail business since the internet.

Imagine you are in the business of selling things at retail. What does it mean when you see your customers predaciously roaming the aisles armed with smartphones and suddenly better informed about the competitive quality and pricing of your goods than even the store manager. What does it mean when you see a competitor like Tesco do away with goods altogether and light-up mixed-reality virtual aisles the length of a subway station? According to Paypal, this year’s black Friday saw a 516% jump in mobile commerce. Meanwhile, savvy ecommerce vendors are using mobile apps and offers to cherry pick customers out of busy store lines. Or how to respond when you hear that apple has a new almost-magic in-store mobile experience that does away with checkout queues entirely?

Ever since the first ecommerce boom more than a decade ago, many brands out there still wrestle with tensions between direct/online and retail channels. That’s going to get a lot more complicated.

With mobile there is no separation anymore. Mobile means you can’t keep the internets in the tube. With the separation of channels eroding, physical retails are at last feeling the full brunt of online competition. As they say, bestbuy is now Amazon’s showroom. Depending which side you want to be on, there’s enormous promise and disruptive risk from mobile and the convergence of commerce.

So it’s very timely that my friend Gary Schwartz is out with a new book on m-commerce: the Impulse Economy. This is the most useful and thorough book I’ve seen yet on the current state of the nation of m-commerce, how we got here and what may lie ahead.

If you are new at mobile commerce you’ll find a good overview of all the current technologies and players from tags and texting to mobile wallets and telcos. Most useful for me were Gary’s insights into the behavioral aspects of mobile. Done right, mobile isn’t just about imposing new payment interactions or hurling coupons at consumers for the same transactions they might have consummated anyway. Impulse Economy argues that mobile done right is about dropping consumer frictions and resistances to buying.

Another takeaway, targeting and relationship value. “The physical store is limited aisle, online is limitless aisle, mobile is targeted aisle”

For consumers, mobile promises not just more convenient checkouts but also the opportunity make better informed, more confident purchase decisions.

For merchants, mobile offers new ways to reach, increase engagement and deepen relationships with customers. Mobile is a chance to provide more information, more services attached to products or tell stories and deliver digital experience that enrich the value of a brand. All of which could drive consumers to pay a premium. Especially if the payment method is easy and impulsive. Rather than just being a vector for discounting, mobile could give merchants more power to grow ticket size or better price discriminate by tailoring pricing and product offers individually to customers.

Of course there’s more to mcommerce than physical retail. There’s commerce through content, there’s turning marketing channels into actionable sales channels, there’s tablet and couch-based commerce. But I won’t give away too many spoilers.

Now, there is some irony in packaging a very emergent field onto static sheets of flattened would pulp. You best pick it up now, as any book like this will only be up to date for so long. Although the book offers a good number of relevant examples, much of the promise of this future impulse economy is still yet to be invented. I guess to help with that, the book comes bristling with all manner clever tags linking you to an official blog, which I hope he’ll be keeping up to date.

But for now, anyone grappling with the potential disruption or opportunities of the new digital commerce, the Impulse Economy is a great place to start.

LINK: The Impulse Economy Blog

Impulse Economy on Amazon

Gone West: Heading to San Francisco

This train is about to leave the station. Please hang on. Please set luggage cart brake to on

Probably time I should mention this. In a few short days I’ll be heading west. For a longer trip this time. This October I start a newer, bigger gig with Visa Inc. at the head office in San Francisco. I’m pretty excited about the big move. Of course, lots of daunting little details still left to figure out like where I’ll be living exactly, what to wear on the first day or whether you’re really supposed to pick toughest-looking dude and beat them up to earn respect at lunch hour.

As for the job itself, soonish be able to explain better what I’m actually doing. In the months ahead Visa will be launching a very new way to pay online, on mobile and most any kind of digital platform you can think of. My job will be on the merchant side of that proposition designing product features and APIs and building relationships with clients and partners.

But not to fear dear Toronto, there will still be much visiting. It’s a heck of a commute for both of us, but I’ll be back and forth to see as much as possible of dear Michele and the dingo.

Meanwhile wish me luck. An if you are ever in San Fran drop me a DM and let’s get a beer and maybe a delicious enchilada. San Fran is a great town. They may not of have heard of peameal bacon (heathens!) but the mexican food is excellent. I hear the sailing is also not bad.

Circle overload and the trouble with Google+

Google+ is about 1 week old and people are already posting stuff like “G+ for noobies guides“. I, for some reason, find this hilarious. On the other hand, I’m already starting to struggle with this wünder-socialnet myself.

The big problem right now is friend management. Google has this concept of circles. It’s based on this insight that people do have different sorts of friend relationships and that these relationships so perfectly modeled by the existing services like facebook, twitter, linkedin. There’s also, what seems at first, like a great drag/drop UX for managing G+ circles.

But there’s several problems with google+ circles.

  1. It’s labor intensive. You can’t just add somebody and be done with it, you have to cognitively evaluate what circles(s) each and every contacts of yours belong in, you then have drag each of them in there.
  2. Real world friend circles have fuzzy edges. Real human relationships don’t fit cleanly into one circle or another. And as an author, you can’t necessarily predict who will or won’t be interested in your musings. Is it really so easy to define who is a “friend” and who is an “acquaintance”? Does it often not depend on context?
  3. Just trying to remember who’s in what circle. Sadly, I’ve already lost track of who I have and haven’t added yet and to which circles. For better or worse, I have thousands of contacts on each of gmail, twitter and linkedin etc. So far I’ve added at least a few hundred to G+. As a result, I’ve already blown past my mental dunbar number of keeping track of who’ve I’ve added and who I haven’t to which circles etc. Every day I wake up and to another notice that x dozen new people have added me on Google+. I love you for following me, but fuck me if I can remember I’ve added you yet or not.At least with other social networks it’s a binary relationship. You’ve either added someone already or you haven’t. Here the current google UX falls down because it’s never clear from their suggestions of users if you already added these people once before or not.
  4. Scaleability and friend overload All of these problems with Google+ are exacerbated by the number of contacts you have online. Categorizing a few close friends isn’t too hard, categorizing a few thousand is an incredible chore. Google either needs to do a better job in the UX of bulk managing contacts, or we’ve got to just say fuck-it and blindly refollow absolutely everyone in one giant circle (essentially defeating the purpose of circles).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like google+ to work out. I just don’t know if they’ve got the magic formula yet, particularity when it comes to have any more than a few connections. What does inspire me though is that g+ circles could rather work really much better in an enterprise context. In an enterprise context, circles are a lot easier to define, between teams, extended teams, communities of expertise etc. I’ve been waiting a long time for a decent realtime social sharing app for the enterprise and G+ might just have the right DNA for it.

Sadly though, for personal use, one week in and I’m almost ready to declare friend bankrupcy on google+. I just can’t find the time to keep up with the influx of people to the service.

If you’ve got any good tips for this G+ noob please do let me know.

Meanwhile, you are welcome to find me on google+ here. Do go ahead add me to your cuddliest inner circles.

photo credit: Andrew Kuo

DemoCamp Toronto 29 WrapUp

Cross posted from StartupNorth.ca

Last night marked amazingly the 29th event of Toronto’s increasingly supernumerative DemoCamp scene. To warm up the crowd we had a little help from legendary Canadian investor and the man with a few more twitter followers than you, @howardlindzon. In case you didn’t make it, here’s my notes for you, of varying coherency, of the course of the evening.

    The job of entrepreneurs is to get in the way of trends. You don’t need to predict the future you just need to get in the way of trends. The larger and longer the trend the better. Lindzon is not a value investor, he’s a momentum and sentiment investor.

    Lindzon started his company through social leverage. But it didn’t come over night, he met Fred Wilson over the course of a year and becoming friends before starting Wallstrip which they sold to CBS. And gained some more cred. But once you sell your company you lose control of your vision. Then he passed on Twitter at 20M valuation. You don’t always catch the winner. You make mistakes. But he could see when he was wrong so he was, by force of will, able to get into Tweetdeck, Bit.ly and others, the idea was to put himself in the way of the trend. I didn’t understand Twitter but I knew it was a trend and was able to buy everything around Twitter. You have to use social leverage to find investors that understand your domain and understand your passion.

    Raising money is an art. We’re in a great environment to raise money but that doesn’t entitle you. You have to have a great angle of attack against your competitors, you have to be great at telling your story. You have to explain the benefits of the product not the features.
    Dashboards, I want to get my life down to as few screens as possible. Also I read Hackernews and TechMeme in order to understand the sentiment of my industry.

On to the Demos:

500 pixels – Oleg Gutsol @500px
There are many picture websites like it, but this one is ours. Very pretty pictures. We promote the best pictures in the world. Recently closed funding, getting some media buzz. Also a premium themed galleries for photographers. What we nailed was not just the product but the community. Something that they doing better than Flickr “Flickr has become a dump site” 500px is an art site.

TitanFile
Sending secure files, slick interface. Common demo gods, Soo… “lets assume that you received the email…”. No, wait it’s there, to the adulation of the crowd, stupid Gmail delay. You send an notification email and then it also calls you to IVR read you a passcode. Then everything is tracked. Wants to thank Assange for helping to push their business forward. Accountants, lawyers anyone who needs to make sure their documents get there every single time. And delivery receipt is an added value.

High Score House – turn household chores into a game for your kids
Great playful signup screen that sets the tone. Brilliant super obvious reminders and rewards for doing stuff like making a bookmark and remembering your PIN. App awards virtual currency (stars) that parents can set the price for like what the value of helping to make dinner and what points are worth for tv time or a new toy. The Ah Ha! moment is when kids are running up the stairs to do clean their room. Also great for kindness points, what have you done that’s kind today? Cool! You rock! You earned it! This app really rocks and has so much character. App works great on the ipad. Beta testing is spending just a tiny bit of money a day on facebook to bring on 10 moms at a time. Key dashboard metric number of exclamation points in emails from moms. Lookout ClubPenguin, with a little work, High Score House could will be the next big exit that gets Canada to a billion dollar year. Judging by Twitter response, High Score House wins Democamp this round.

Money quotes: we’ve got moms all over loving us, but like, in the acceptable way
Top question: Can you make a version that works on spouses? [I don't know, but in our household we're already debating who'd the "parent" side of the account...]

Vizualize.me – is a startup that won startup weekend. It’s a 5 day old startup.
Problem is how do you display yourself in a different way than a resume. It’s an infographic that scrapes your linkedin profile and makes really pretty graphs. Sign-up rate they just hi 12 thousand users 5 days after launching the company… [holy crap] Product itself is nicely viral because you post your infographic to twitter or facebook or linked and other people see it and feel compelled to create their own. Feemium businessmodel. We want to be the site you go to brand yourself visually and socially. Could easily expand into other personal visual branding applications… but that can wait at least until next week.

WeAreTOTech - A new community service launched by @Michele_Perras, @LeilaBoujnane & @AprilDunford
A Toronto-based Directory that will profile, showcase, promote and connect profiles of local tech heros in Toronto, to help you make connections, to help you find advisors, mentors and conference speakers. Inspired by WeAreTechNY and “in the hopes of connecting everyone, shining a spotlight on developers, CEOs and founders, executive, hackers who make our tech community what it is, we decided to give you We Are TO Tech.” This is a fantastic idea, and what they need right now is you if you fit the description to fill out this form here.

XtremelabsAlpha Slides demoed by James Woods
Remove some of the failings of presentations, by making a simple mobile app that broadcasts slide decks to everyone in your audience’s devices simultaneously. Works in a coffee shop, boardroom or conference. Alpha Slides is in the App Store now. I can cast a mini slide deck from one mobile device to another. When I slide a slide it slides on your slide too. Cross platform is the key (apple now has mobile keynote for iphone but only does iphones). Business model is to sell app space, and freemium features. You can follow a conference when not at a conference or I can follow a conference when I’m at one even if I can’t get close to the screen and take it with me when I’m done. A company like Dell could have their own secure instance if they want to as an internal meeting tool. App has potential, could see this taking off in the enterprise as well as the personal or conference usage.

That’s it folks. Awesome caliber of demos again this round. We’re now looking forward to the big DemoCampTO 3-oh. You know what they say, thirty is flirty.

Further reading: @Sachac’s nifty sketchnotes of DemoCamp Toronto 29

Is this the future look of augmented reality?

I have this vision of nerds everywhere staggering around the city with big slates in front of their faces only seeing the world through shared web tablet camera experiences. I’m guilty of looking something like this in public myself, even hoisting a tablet onto my shoulder boombox-style to make skype calls. And that’s a part of why this picture (taken at GoogleIO) made me laugh.

Like everything old is new again.

photo credit

ANNOUNCING: PowerPoint Karaoke Toronto 3

It’s back! Once again, to close out Social Media Week Toronto, we are going to be hosting a rocking session of PowerPoint Karaoke. The rules of Powerpoint Karaoke are simple. A set of presenters and local social media luminaries will be asked to play the role of an earnest expert speaker on classic topics like “How to succeed at social media without really trying“, or “Should you keep bees in your pants: An honest debate“, or “My sensational life as a Japanese tentacle porn star“. As always, many, many new decks are in the throws of preparation for premiering at #PPKTO like “How is babby formed? an amazing factual expose” or “All reported side effects were minor and … temporary”.

New for PPTKTO3:

    CanadaHelps.org! all proceeds are going to support an awesome local charity CanadaHelps.ca. Canadahelps provides tools and training to help thousands of Charities raise funding and donations online and through social media.

    Duets! New for this round we’re going to introduce a “duets” as well as singles format, and we’ll have some excellent prizes for the best in each category.

    If you yourself would like to present at PPTKTO3, you can apply at the link below and by tweeting with why we should pick you (and/or your partner) the hash tag #PPTKTO.

Want to join us at PPTKTO? Of course you do! get your tickets here:

LINK: Official Ticket Site for PowerPoint Karaoke 3

 

Sponsors for PowerPoint Karaoke 3 Toronto:
(ok, this is a pretty crazy-amazing list)

BTW you going to REALLY want to buy an armlength or two of our charity raffle tickets…

Photo credit: Matthew Burpee

Tom’s Best of 2010 indie music mix

Graeme and the fires of This is what happens I fail to publish my “seasonal” podcast mix, the list I keep in iTunes just gets longer and longer. With a little time over the holidays and the clock on 2010 having officially run out… I present you with Tom’s best of (mostly) indie 2010 mix. As usual the list makes no claim to the canonical, more rather it’s autobiographical. Your mileage could well have varied, but these are my top songs of the year.


Track listing. To be clear: In suggested playlist order as opposed to any particular “top-tennish” sequencishness.

01 Jónsi – Go do
02 CEO – white magic
03 Crystal Castles – Baptism
04 Daft Punk – Derezzed
05 We Love – Hide Me
06 Delorean – Real Love
07 Active Child – I’m In Your Church At Night
08 Diamond Rings – Something Else
09 Groove Armada – Paper Romance
10 Broken Bells – The High Road
11 Brasstronaut – Slow Knots
12 How To Dress Well – Ready For The World
13 Agnes Obel – Riverside
14 Stornoway – Zorbing
15 Mountain Man – Sewee Sewee
16 The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
17 Shearwater – Black Eyes
18 Active Child – Wilderness
19 Ratatat – Alps
20 Stars – We Don’t Want Your Body
21 The Guest Bedroom – Curses
22 Stornoway – Boats And Trains
23 The Mountains & The Trees – More & More & More
24 The Sadies – Another Year Again
25 Zeus – Marching Through Your Head
26 Brasstronaut – Hearts Trompet
27 Woodpigeon – My Denial in Argyle
28 Royal Wood – Do You Recall
29 Love Is All – Take Your Time
30 Vampire Weekend – I Think Ur A Contra
31 The fires of – Pulse
32 Caribou – Odessa
33 Groove Armada – History
34 CEO – illuminata
35 Jónsi – Animal Arithmetic

Instructions: 1. unpack the zip and drag the .m3u file into your fav media player 2. Rock out

Download: Tom’s best of 2010


pic: The Fires of CD release party at El Mocambo 2010

psst… and for the nostalgic, see also Tom’s best of 2005

Pizza Libretto as transformative mobile business model


Pizza Libretto doesn’t take reservations. What they do do is make some of the most delicious Neopolitan style pizza in the city. Libretto finds themselves smack in the middle of the (for the moment) uber-trendy Ossington strip of hipster bars, restaurants and galleries in the west end of downtown Toronto. As a result, demand for a table on any Thursday, Friday or Saturday night vastly exceeds supply. Surely a “problem” that most restaurateurs would love to have. But, when you are hot you are hot, so how do you make the best of it when fortune favours you.

What they do is take your mobile phone number. Then they pack you and your party off to any of great many little bars/pubs next door and they tell you, “don’t worry we’ll call you when your table is ready”.

The key insight is that in this day and age, the odds of at least one person of any dinner party will have a working cell phone on them is effectively 100%. As heard on some public radio program recently that similarly one of the big restaurant trends in New York city is to go reservation-less. The one restaurant operator quoted that without reservations turnover can increase by up to 30%. That’s a huge change in the business model!

And you can see the effect at work at Pizza Libretto. On any weekend night, no available serving space goes unused for more than seconds. The restaurant keeps their queue full by filling up the bars next door (an arrangement that works well both ways).

I love this example because it shows what’s possible when a technology becomes so ubiquitous that you just switch off an old way of doing business. Using only the “phone” feature is the dumb-simplest way imaginable of leveraging the wonders of mobile technology. But in this case it’s genius.

Oftentimes the biggest impacts of a new technology occur only once we can take it for granted. This is on e reason why issues like universal access to connectivity and the accessibility of mobile is important. If simple mobile phone calls can be so transformative for an ordinary business, imagine what business model innovation may be possible in a few years if we can safely assume that just about everyone is equipped with a much more richly interactive smartphone.

ps. If you have other examples of mobile tech already changing old business models, let me know. I’d love to hear ‘em.

pps. Pizza Libretto’s owners Rocco Agostino, Max Rimaldi and Daniel Clarke just opened up a new place around the corner called Enoteca featuring slow-food style Italian cooking. Enoteca does not take reservations.

photo credit: Qin