Sunday, January 22, 2006

What happened at Google?

A brief post.... Google's stock price dropped 8.3% on Friday in the US and already some of the press are preaching "gloom and doom" about Google's business model. From what I can gather, the sell-off was triggered by news that the US Government has issued a subpoena for certain internet search data logs for reasons of "national security" (give me a break... but that is another topic for another time) and concerns about Google's "reliance on advertising as a business model." It seems that the drop wiped something like US$11 BILLION off the value of Google.

My 2 cents worth - I think that this noise around Google reflects the unfortunate habit of governments and markets seeking to "gain control" of businesses which challenge the establishment and propose to change the way things are done. The Google team are brilliant business people (as are the teams at Yahoo, MSN, AOL and others like them). They understand the way the internet is transforming business and they are making money from it. Furthermore, the close to $10 BILLION that Google expects to earn from online advertising revenues this year has to come from somewhere - and it is the traditional media who are feeling the crunch. These businesses are rolling ... quickly and those established players under threat are now not responding from a position of strength - It might be time to look for other ways to slow the juggernaut and spreading a bit of FUD just might help.

The "reliance on advertising concern" is a real tilt at a windmill - ALL media businesses rely primarliy on advertising and they have done OK... and the "security concerns" that are supposed to "push online users away from search" are also a bit of a stretch.... Face it folks, the game has changed and the traditional media players just have to respond..... buy just getting BETTER at what they do and by adapting to this new competitive terrain.

[end rant]

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Everything old is new again.....

I have to make a small confession ...... I am not as young as I used to be (and some of my friends would say as I think I am). I have been in this commercial internet business for about as long as it has been "mainstream" (since 1994 and am proud to say have worked with a team of great people responsible for many *firsts* on the internet in this part of the world) and have seen a lot of things come and go. Surprisingly though, I am now starting to see a lot of things come back.

The early internet was mostly about the potential of a loosely formed concept .... a persistent network of millions of connected computers sharing, linking and transmitting information. As we go into 2006, the internet today is now more about the fact - this stuff REALLY works and there have already been big changes in the way we work, recreate, communicate and socialise as a result.

When I started my internet services business in 1994, we thought is was going to be "just like TV" and before the first commercial Australian websites started to emerge, we had a vision of a million channels running through the network - in fact before there were HTML editors and while the decisions were being made to support BOTH the JPG and GIF image formats, there was a lot of discussion about how this content would look (and behave).

Our first foray into internet content was to use a couple of VERY expensive Silicon Graphics workstations. These were the ones which were used to "make dinosaurs" on Jurassic Park and since we thought that the internet would be made up of interactive "TV-like" content, these things seemed to be just the tools we needed..... I believe one of them now runs as a mail server of some sort and have to confess that I don't think we ever used the computers for much more than a bit of graphics rendering.

It seems though, that this early vision of the internet including lots of rich media content is now starting to come true. As I have mentioned in the past, we are doing a lot more work with embedded video these days as the content and the functionality integrate..... and about time. I had a chance to read up on some of the releases from Microsoft and Intel (and others) about their innovations for 2006 announced at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the whole message this is year is about two things; the convergence of the content and more leverage from the network.

Some of these concepts aren't so new (if you read the Microsoft announcements about Microsoft Live you'll see old favourites such as customisable web portals and peer to peer web based communication reprised). So what's changed?

A lot!

The big changes are across the board; the internet is faster, the hardware and the OSes are purpose built for it, the applications work, the content is ready made, the security is MUCH better (with still a ways to go) and the commerce is starting to work as well. A lot of the building blocks we fudged around, made up or just went without a decade ago are now commercial grade and ready for business.

Most importantly though, I think WE have changed . Coming back to work for 2006, the team are already off and running on a range of interesting and innovative projects and many of them are about the things mentioned above. We are already doing some cool stuff with media-rich content, some AMAZING work for the mobile space (some stuff which is VERY high profile) and a lot of work on integrating commerce to this next wave of the internet.

I guess this sort of brings me to the end of this post, part of the benefit of being a bit of an "old man of the internet" (and it is all about the frame of reference right) I have the benefit of having seen some of whatis happening before. There are some real "gotchas" out there but if you work with the right team (and I do) then I think the opportunities are amazing .... and our clients are starting to see this too.

I love my job ...... 'cause we get to change the world.

Monday, January 02, 2006

If you can't stand the heat .....

For me, every New Year starts with a New Year's Resolution (or more than one usually) and this year is the same. Once again I find myself promising that I will eat better, exercise more, focus on work / life balance and spend more time with friends and family. I have to balance these with the demands of a business which keeps getting busier and busier and the demands of living in a modern city (anyone else notice just how long it takes to get stuff done in Sydney?), but I am getting to an age now when these things have more meaning than they used to and maybe this year I will actually mean it .....

The New Year has certainly started with a BANG here in Australia and we celebrated(?) the start of the year with the HOTTEST January 1st on record for Sydney. The official temperature (recorded at Observatory Hill) was apparently 43.4 degrees celcius, but this only tells part of the story.

To the right I have included two photos (taken with my Sony Ericsson K750i - a generally average phone but with a pretty good camera) taken on the two occasions I bothered to venture out of the house. As you can see from the outside thermometer of the trusty low-speed cruise banana, not only was it HOT, but it was HOT ALL DAY. I can't remember a time when it was over 40 degrees at almost eight o'clock at night!

Thankfully, the weather returned to more sane levels today, following a very strong southerly which brought a dump of rain and took the sting out of the heat - today was 24 degrees - abnormally low for this time of the year. Pretty unusual weather patterns, and having seen that scientific masterpiece, The Day After Tomorrow, maybe it is time to pack my mukluks and suntan lotion and move to a cave somewhere........

So enough of the holiday banter .... after a very busy run up to the end of 2005, and an outstanding two day planning session with our Executive Management Team (what an impressive group of professionals they are!) we are ready to leap into 2006 and the exciting times ahead. I have high hopes for this year as the momentum in Online Services continues. Stay tuned for exciting activities from the Hyro team!

Happy New Year to all of our friends, their families and may your 2006 be marked with health, happiness and prosperity!