The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is on at the moment, over in Las Vegas. Which is why every technology news service is blowing up right now and dropping a million articles into your RSS reader… countless numbers of technology companies, big and small, have been saving up all their big announcements for this.
The one that caught my eye this morning is verging on the ridiculous side of genius…
…called the AR.Drone, it’s a military style remote control drone, with camera, that you control using your iPhone.
No, really. Have a look:
It’s from a French company called Parrot. They started with a remote controlled car, originally, and thought that might be a little tame…
It reminds me a bit of the film ‘Toys’ with Robin Williams…
…except in that they took toys and made ’em into war tech, rather than the other way round…
Yes, OK, it’s not world changing, but it certainly looks like a lot of fun…
…and it makes you think of what this technology will soon be able to do.
For instance, stick a small screen on it, hook it up to a Skype account and voilà, you’ve got your very own flying avatar.
Which will make it a whole lot easier to go to meetings when the snow knocks out the transport infrastructure…
It’s much more of a ‘gifting’ present, of course – a one off cost rather than an 18 month subscription to a service. And if you’ve got (increasingly available) wi-fi access, it doesn’t need the phone signal to access the interweb, so can pull all the same tricks.
That’s not all Apple’s got up it’s sleeve of course… the much rumoured ‘tablet’ (let’s hope to god the rumour it’s called the ‘iSlate’ is a cruel trick by someone). You can do no better than read John Gruber’s brilliant post (via BBHLabs) on what it may come to pass with that…
It’s not all the Apple show this year though. Google’s first phone, the Nexus One, looks like being launched later today (I should have waited a day with this post, it appears)… whether it’s the true iPhone challenger everyone’s been waiting for we’ll have to wait and see, but there’s a sneak preview here from Engadget who’ve got their mitts on one.
Then Motorola have the Droid, Nokia are fighting back to find some mobile magic, there’s the Palm Pre…
…there’s an increasing array of smartphones being developed, built and shipped out, in the hope that they’ll find their way into your pocket. The more that are made, the more will eventually be discounted, offered free even, so that increasingly everyone’s phone becomes ‘smart’.
Why is this important for us who work in media, advertising, ‘digital’ and so on?
I reckon the most important function of this generation of mobile devices is that they are not so much ‘smart’, but simply ‘aware’… they know where they are.
The combination of GPS, compass & accelerometer means that a smartphone can orientate itself in three directions… it knows where it is, at what angle, facing which direction, within the same 3-dimensional world in which we live.
But beyond awareness, it’s pretty dumb of course… it doesn’t do anything until you, the owner of the phone, ask it to.
“Get me to here, find me this, what about this, I’m hungry, I need some snow shoes”… you decide you need or want something, and use the locationally aware computer you carry to help find it.
Of course, this is something we’ve being trying to do on behalf of our clients for years… point of sale advertising that directs people to our client’s store, or another store in which folk can buy a particular product… like the ‘Golf Sale’ sign…
(If you like, read a quick Golf Sale sign diversion from Stewart Lee…)
Or we’d get people at the right time of day… ‘modal targeting’. Commuters on the way in to, or home from, work. People popping out for lunch. Mums doing the school run.
We would use research, intuition, and personal experience to make a best guess of where to intersect people in the right place at the right time. And then advertise in that place, or at that time, and hope that the conversion rate from all the people who saw or heard the ad would be high enough to make it worthwhile.
We did this though because there was no way of knowing where everyone was, what they were looking for, and delivering them a relevant offer as a result.
However… if everyone increasingly carries around a device which knows when and where they are, and use it to ask for offers, then we’ll increasingly see more services which help them navigate the choice available, at the best price.
I’ve talked a lot about FourSquare (see the second point here) before, and how it’s set to provide a really interesting ‘local offers’ service for people, augmented by recommendations from your social group…
Over the holidays, I saw that lastminute.com have launched an interesting app called Snaffle which looks like rivalling some of the FourSquare features…
It doesn’t have the community & game aspect (which for me is the important differentiator for FourSquare), but if it can tap into the lastminute.com list of existing clients, it’s got enough of a presence in the ‘deals’ market to make waves.
So there’s clearly potential in this area for companies to reach people at the right place and right time with an attractive offer , and I think we’ll see a lot more people trying things out this year as the ‘smartphone’ population increases. But there’s two things that are important to think about.
i) Locational/modal advertising efficiency
Previously, this type of advertising would pull in two types of people; those who were ‘in the market’ for something to eat/drink/wear, and those who were brought into the market by the advertising.
In future, more and more people ‘in the market’ will use mobile devices to find offers and deals, and so the advertising will no longer be the thing. Which increasingly leaves the role of locational/modal advertising to be just to bring people into the market from cold. The question is whether it does that half of the job well enough to be cost efficient?
ii) Sold… to the cheapest bidder
I’ve talked about perfect competition before, and have a monster post brewing on it, but it’s relevant here too.
It’s the (hypothetical) economic theory of when customers have complete, instant information about the price and quality of every good in a market, it makes it very hard for any company to make a profit, as to get an additional customer they must offer their products at a very low price to match the competition. Here’s a graph that explains it to people who understand economics…
For everyone else, think about this. You’re standing in Covent Garden with your mobile device, and look around for a lunch offer. Now, all the sandwich shops in the area would like to get you in their shop, as they’ve invested lots in the setup, staff wages etc, and need to make some money back.
But in an ecosystem like that of Snaffle, their offers will have to be increasingly appealing (i.e. cheap) to pull you away from competitors.
Over time, they will continually undercut each other to the point that it makes sense for them, where they can just meet the cost of them of ingredients, staff, and some of the fixed costs. It’s enough money for them to keep going as a business, but not enough for them to make a decent profit.
More on Perfect Competition soon…
So it’s a big year for mobile, which means that it’s a big year for everyone in the ‘connecting companies to people’ business. Especially if ‘knowing where folk are’ is a factor.
(BTW – happy new year and that, good to be back, innit?)
Our timing of the Xmas dinner was off this year; we sat down at 5.45pm, precisely fifteen minutes before Doctor Who started.
The second-last-ever episode featuring the tenth Doctor, and we were going to miss it…
But of course, we needn’t have worried… anything you miss on the BBC nowadays you can download or stream from the iPlayer, and watch at your leisure.
As I downloaded ‘The End Of Time – pt I’ (in a surprisingly nippy three hours, given I did it using an Orange mobile broadband dongle in a cottage in the middle of nowhere), I felt that once again, my TV license has repaid itself back six times over this year.
Of course, it was a Christmas special episode of Doctor Who that gave the iPlayer its first really big success, back in 2007. It seems that most technological advances often have a ‘tipping point’, when a large number of people suddenly use the service or product…
…something that I was reminded of when I saw this (via those lovely folks at BBH Labs) about the Amazon Kindle…
On Christmas Day, there were more Kindle books bought on Amazon than there were physical books.
On the face of it, this is huge. There is of course a bit of statistical jiggery-pokery, as no doubt Christmas Day itself is a really slow day for selling physical books on Amazon, and when everyone who gets a Kindle for Christmas opens it the first thing they’ll want to do is download some books for it.
But nonetheless, Christmas 2009 may just be a significant tipping point for not just the Kindle, but for non-physical book sales as a whole… a lot more people are experiencing reading books in a whole new way as I write this.
Perhaps Christmas is always a tipping point for something, especially in this day and age when every year a revolutionary new something floats into the mainstream consciousness, and people start asking for it for Christmas.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that this Christmas is also going to…
…be the busiest week the Apple App store has ever seen for iPhone downloads
…see a significant boost to Youtube and Vimeo uploads, as budget HD camcorders from Flip and Kodak find their way into stockings
…lead to increased use of photo function on Facebook, as people get yet more cameras to take pictures with, and cheap laptops with which to conveniently upload them with in the living room with Gran.
…prompt more films and TV content downloaded through consoles like the XBox, as families gathering round the box in a post-turkey haze look at the other things these devices can do
I’m quite sure we’ll see quite a few more ‘biggest day EVER’ style statistics coming out in the next few weeks… it’ll be interesting to see whether the ‘Christmas bounce’ is sustainable for everyone who sees one.
Right then, back to Digital Spy to geek out more on Doctor Who speculation… 🙂
The musician’s lot is not a happy one. We know this, we’ve seen plenty of evidence, but here’s another piece (via Dan) that just might give a sense of just how futile the act of making money from music is becoming…
Over on TorrentFreak (a blog covering all things around bittorrent
technology), there’s a report on how much money Lady Gaga made from
Spotify for a million plays of her songs…
How much do you think? Go on, guess. A MILLION plays.
How about $167?
Or, if you prefer, 0.017 cents per play, or to bring it back to real money, 0.01p per play.
Now, you maybe don’t know if that’s a lot or a little, compared to what musicians may be used to receiving for plays of their songs.
Well, not so long ago in 2003, if a song of yours was played on Radio 1, you’d receive a massive £18.44. PER MINUTE (though of course the amount was less if you were on regional or local stations).
But still, one 3 minute play of a Lady Gaga song would make her £55.32.
Or indeed a THIRD of the totally amount of money she’s receiving for a million plays on Spotify.
Much as I love Spotify, I really can’t see how it’s going to continue if the people who’re making the content for it only receive such paltry rewards for their efforts. It’s barely better than piracy…
“Firstly, any payment to STIM would only represent a fraction of the
payments rights holders receive and only for music played in one
country (in this case Sweden) as we pay not only collecting societies,
but also publishers and the record company to play their music,” says a
“Secondly, the figure (unrepresentative as it is) is from a short
period just after our launch last year, way before we’d established
ourselves as a music service and built up a large user base. Specific
payments are of course confidential, but this is certainly wide of the
There’s obviously more to this than meets the eye. Yet until someone clarifies how ‘wide of the mark’ it is, we’ll never know whether artists are getting a good deal or not. I wonder if anyone will come out with some real figures..?
So, Mat has found this… from Steve Lawson’s blog, who’s also done some quick maths on this, but using some sources suggestion that the real figures are ten times this (as the $167 is just a royalty payment… there are other things to include).
So maybe the decimal point needs to come forward a place… 0.1p per play.
And it points out that’s she’s also had 20 million paid downloads…
…but that this is a TOTAL figure across every platform, not attributable to Spotify, but rather to the promotional effort as a whole. She’s not done badly, either way.
My point on the whole affair remains this though; compared to what they used to receive from listens to a song, there’s another whole chunk of musician income that’s disappeared.
And I’ve just found out The Sun sent their 40th birthday edition up too.
(It looks kind of doctored, this image. But there’s more authentic looking pictures of them doing it here)
Anyway, I’d like to propose that 2010 is the year that nobody sends anything up into space. Space is closed for sending stuff up into. It’s been done. LEAVE SPACE ALONE.
It just goes to show you that Moores Law seems to work for Space travel too. It now seems to cost $150 to send something up into space and have photographic proof that you did it. Imagine how much that would have cost in the fifties…
In terms of email, to maximise collaboration between 4 folk you’d send it to someone, who forwards it to someone else, who then sends it to someone else, and it arrives back in your inbox with input from everybody. Then everyone’s input is included.
If someone doesn’t send it on, the circuit breaks, and nothing happens… until, like Christmas lights, the bulb is replaced.
In comparison, parallel circuits don’t need every bulb to work in order for the others to keep working. The others keep on working until you eventually replace the dud bulb.
If you attempt to make traditional email systems a ‘parallel circuit’ (usually by including everyone in the email all at once), then you undoubtedly end up with a disparate set of people’s input strewn across different emails…
You get multiple iterations of the email, sometime simultaneously, which isn’t really all that collaborative… and more often than not, he who shouts first shouts loudest in email chains…
Anyway, it’s clear that Google Wave has been created to get over this problem, and it’s clear we could do with something to help us over it… but why hasn’t it taken off?
A fairly rubbish launch strategy
Google have launched things very successfully before using the ‘limited invites’ method… just think how precious Gmail invites were, and the great word-of-mouth that the service received from those who had it.
But why is it not yielding similar success for Wave?
Well, of course, it needs everyone to change system. If you were on Gmail, you could still talk to people in with work, hotmail, yahoo or other email accounts. Gmail spoke the same ‘universal language’ as the other systems, so still let people connect.
Wave’s not like that. It demands that everyone signs up to Wave in order to do stuff together.
And here’s the problem… if you have a limited invite system in place, but need everyone in any group that want to ‘Wave’ together to have an invite in order to make it work properly, then there’s going to be an issue…
…essentially you’ve designed a beautiful parallel circuit, but you’re only letting one bulb use it at a time…
Fixing the problem
So, how can they rectify this issue? Obviously they don’t want everyone testing it at once… I’m sure there’s all sorts of load testing issues and refinement stuff they’re up to.
But perhaps they should change the way they distribute invites, or change the language they use to do it?
Ask people something like ‘want to collaborate with others on Google Wave? Then write a quick outline of the project, give us the emails of the peopel you want to collaborate with, and we’ll invite them for you…’
Rather than inviting people as individuals, invites teams of people as ‘projects’.
And then all of those people will be able to see what Wave can really do for them…