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Coffee Break: Startup Branding, Apple and the American Middle Class, Killing Hollywood, Textbooks and the Future of education

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We’ve been reading some great stuff at Pravda Media Group that you might enjoy as well.  So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit down, and get your read on — you’ll feel more productive than if you’re just trawling Facebook.

Startup Branding: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs

http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/76648/Startup-Branding-A-Practical-Guide-for-Entrepreneurs.aspx

 

This is a fantastic post by  Mike Troiano about branding, and why startups should invest more time and clarify  the emotional value of their brand.

 

 

Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html

 

New York Times offers a fascinating look at the changes in economics and manufacturing which have caused America to lose almost all its manufacturing labor and have severely damaged America’s middle class.

 

Killing Hollywood Will Require Learning Hollywood’s Game

http://pandodaily.com/2012/01/20/killing-hollywood-will-require-learning-hollywoods-game/

 

With the SOPA fiasco, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham wrote an interesting piece  Just kill Hollywood. The point of his post is that it’s not piracy that will kill the movie business, instead it’s different forms of entertainment that will emerge in the upcoming years and gobble up the old paradigm.   Lacy claims that in order to actually “kill” or compete with Hollywood, start-ups need to learn their game and let go of the mindset that eyeballs equal quality.

 

Why textbooks of the future are not books

http://gigaom.com/apple/why-textbooks-of-the-future-are-not-books

 

Erica Ogg wrote a post about Apple’s new foray into education with textbooks. (rightfully!) claims that these new textbooks are not books at all, but are instead interactive learning experiences: You have text, of course, but you can drag in image galleries, embed videos, 3D models, presentations and slideshows. You can touch and swipe and watch instead of just reading and taking notes.

 

 

Everything is a remix – the truth about creativity

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If you are going to watch only one video today – this should be it.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

 

Playbook – #Fail

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I was really looking forward to see a major company releasing a proper contender to the iPad. RIM looked like the best one to do just that. But Walt has some bad news:

“….But that isn’t the biggest distinction between the PlayBook and the other tablets. This first edition of the PlayBook has no built-in cellular data connection and lacks such basic built-in apps as an email program, a contacts program, a calendar, a memo pad and even RIM’s popular BlackBerry Messenger chat system.
To get these features with your $500 PlayBook, you must use it with a nearby BlackBerry phone connected to it wirelessly over a short-range Bluetooth connection. Once this link is made, these critical applications pop up on the PlayBook’s screen, via a system called Bridge.
But these are essentially ghosts of the same apps on the phone. In my tests, I could use them from the tablet, where they looked nicer, and they did synchronize with the phone. But when I broke the connection, the apps became grayed-out and the data they held disappeared. It is all stored on the phone….”

You can’t beat a great product with crap.

iPad and the (Bleak) Future of Publishing

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eMediaVitals, website geared toward publishers going digital, and FIPP digital content partner,  invited me to write a column about digital media, platforms and business models.
The first article describes  why Jobs is not the knight in a shining armor for publishers, and why technology is not the answer to the challenges the industry is facing.
Would love to hear your thoughts.

You can find it here.

Humus Manifesto and Shakshuka Reality

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Shakshuka
Image by STML via Flickr

Michael Eisenberg, an Israeli VC, wrote two thought provoking posts about the way the government  invest properly in Israeli High Tech. From Microsoft and .Net monopoly through iPad banning, to poor distribution of CSO funds, our government neglects the important aspects of maintaining Israel’s technological leadership.
Though not a VC, I’ve worked in several industries, from mobile to internet to media, and I meet a lot of startups in different stages. And I think that though Michael is right in his claims, there is another angle to this story – the core competencies of the Israeli industry is not as important as in the past.

Origins of Israeli High Tech
Israel’s High Tech originated, broadly speaking, from 4 sources:
1. Technological army units such as 8200, Air force and Mamram
2. Universities such as Technion
3. Russian immigration
4. ECI/Comverse RAD group and other major companies, whose employees who jumped ship and opened their own startups.

The strong points of these sources were electrical engineering and telecom oriented know how.

The Best Beta Site
Israel has one of the highest mobile and broadband penetration rates. Therefore, a mobile startup could easily sign a deal with a local mobile operator and make it a beta site. The local mobile industry was at the same level as  European mobile markets, so Israeli companies could launch products in that huge market relatively easily, as it was close to what they had locally. I was a part of such process when working with Flash Networks. First we sold our product to Orange, and then to T-Mobile. We knew what was needed in order to build and deploy a product in such an environment.

Media and Internet are Winning. Pipes are losing.
However, the market changed. World wide innovation lies more and more in internet companies. Hulu is more innovative then Motorola. Google is more innovative (and profitable) then Nokia. Mobile operators are not as important in the value chain as they were before. And Apple is changing the game again and again with innovative hardware and software.

Failure in  Growing the Business
Most Israeli companies are just not big enough, or maybe not with the right culture and financial resources to win over the mobile and telecom market and create the next Nokia or even next iPhone. The last guys who tried it failed and closed shop, not to mention their founder’s financial trouble. Yes, I am talking about Else Mobile and Eli Reifman‘s troubles. So in that area we are basically, well, screwed.

No Longer a Beta Site
So let’s look at the Israeli internet industry. Unlike the mobile market, there is a huge difference between local internet industry to international or American one. While video is growing drastically in the US, and major media companies experimenting with new business models, our market is just too small, too centralized, to make companies feel their bread and butter is at risk. With 3-4 major media players (Hot, Yes, Reshet, Keshet), and two major portals (Walla, Ynet) no one has the incentive to innovate. They are making enough money as is, and digital cents are not even on their map, as no one buys content here.
We don’t have an Israeli iTunes. We don’t have an Israeli Hulu. We don’t have an Israeli Huffington Post. We don’t have an Israeli ereader market (Sorry E-vrit, not enough units sold yet). Come on, iPhone, one of the biggest media innovations, landed here less than a year ago.
Amazingly, there is a huge gap between Startup innovation and portals’ adoption of technology.
So the Israeli media and internet is like Shakshuka – some great cutting edge media technology (eggs) floating in a sea of not extremely innovative portals (tomato sauce).

Culture
With technology less of an issue and winning product is the focus in the online and media industry – culture and media consumption habits become the key for creating a winning company. And, we don’t have the visibility of neither. Cause our local market is so different.

Is This The End?
Is this the end of Israeli startup industry? No. There are several amazing content and media companies here in Israel such as Innovid, Outbrain and many more.
But we need to start think differently. It is not like 8200 will start to create cool video players so Israeli innovation won’t die. But it might be that in the future these units won’t be as important in Israeli High Tech as in the past.

Possible Solution
We need a simple plan – and do the so unIsraeli thing to do- actually follow it. We should encourage Hot, Yes and the major portals to invest in innovation. It might be through tax incentives or other ways, but we should give them a reason to do so, cause they don’t have one now.
We should create special incubators for media companies with international media veterans. I have couple of names in mind.
And we should take into consideration that the market is going to change to the worse for us. As Michael said, we are definitely not competitive in price. If the current situation will continue, we will lose our technological edge as well.

What’s Wrong with this  Post?
If you know me you know that I love well established facts. Unfortunately I don’t have the numbers to back the claims here. It is based on personal experience and being in the industry for 10 years.
Would love to hear your opinion.

Android Apps: From Open Market to Flee Market

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nokia e61i symbian v google nexus android
Image by osde8info via Flickr

Google released their Android app inventor, an intuitive development tool for non developers, that enables anyone to develop and publish an android app.
Open ecosystem followers rejoice!
Well, sorry, but it seems that instead of improving Android’s ecosystem, this latest move will only harm it.
You see, Android is becoming the new Symbian. Too many devices, too many different features in each phone, and not enough standardization. We are back to square one, explaining to our customers which phones are supported by the apps we develop for them.
And now things are going to get worse. Instead of improving user experience and providing better apps, Google are opening their app market to a flood of poorly written, mostly useless and probably badly designed applications.
When deciding between “open” and “just works” I chose the later. Ecosystem should cater consumers with easy to use, high quality, and screened apps.
Google will win the smartphone market. The sheer volume of new android phones will eventually eclipse Apple‘s production power. But at the end of the day, Android Is heading towards lower consumer satisfaction, bigger headache for developers, and a clear decision to chose quantity over quality.

iOS4 – Multitasking done wrong

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After couple of days with iOS4, the new iPhone/iPad operation system, I find myself a bit confused. Yes, it’s that multitasking feature that everyone were waiting for it, if not due to its usefulness, then in order to shut all those Android lovers mouths. But it was implemented wrong. Here’s why:
1. I still don’t get it – which app supports multi-tasking and which just freezes? The main difference is the experience. The ones that don’t really support Multitasking just start again when you chose them from the open apps menu. The experience isn’t consistant, which is pretty annoying.
2. Who the hell decided to use the home button to reach the open apps? Sometimes clicking the home button works as intended, but in some cases I reach the search screen.
3. The apps don’t quit on their own. Now I have gazillion open apps. What am I supposed to do now?

I’d like to have file upload, VoIP calls, and IM sessions open in the background. But who needs this app cacophony?

iPad Chronicles (2): App Store – Home of Overpriced, Buggy Apps

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iPad blurs the line between traditional devices
Image by myuibe via Flickr

After spending tens of dollars on iPad apps, I can tell you one thing – developers are still in the dark re the UI of this device. However it doesn’t stop them from charging more than $10 for an ever crashing app.
While iWork apps prove to be stable and usable, others are just riding the hype. I couldn’t finish a 2 minutes session of Elements, without a crash. It didn’t stop the developers from charging $14 for it. And yes, I am talking about a periodic table, with fancy pictures. Compare it to an amazingly useful GoodReader, that costs $0.99, and you start to see how misguided the iPad apps pricing is. SocialReader is another great idea done wrong, that cost $1.99.
And while Things is overpriced but useful ($19.99), the guys from Omni Group are asking for $49.99 for OmniGraffle, a diagram application.

I have to admit that some of the best applications are the free ones. NYT is awesome. The same for Bloomberg and BBC. Gaurdian’s Eyewitness app is great too.

Now, I am all for pricing applications based on their value. But many of the apps on my iPad are simply unstable to the point of unusable.

I have a short list of apps that I really like to use. But I will wait until sanity regained in the pricing of iPad apps.

The Myth of Openness- Response to O’Reilly

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Windows v0.0
Image by . SantiMB . via Flickr

Apple is continuously under fire for lack of openness. Once the industry’s underdog, as it’s market power grows, Apple slowly becoming the target of many attacks, the latest one from Tim O’Reilly.

Interestingly enough, Apple never claimed to be open. Or nice. Apple claimed one thing only – that it knows how to create great innovative products. They aren’t cheap. They are good. and that’s how the Cupertino based company mange to have 10% market share with 83% market cap in comparison to Microsoft.

The myth of openness
Being open is a business decision. Nothing more and nothing less. Some companies harness openness to cut development cost (open source companies are great example). Some do it in order to cultivate a vibrant development community that in turn increase its value and market power (Google is a good example). But there is nothing sacred or better in openness.

The irony is that one of the most so called open companies in the world, Twitter, just dropped an A bomb on its ecosystem, when it announced the development of desktop and mobile clients. While the blogsphere is attacking Apple and praising Twitter, the industry darling itself single-handedly sent the companies that made it so succesful to the deadpool.

So, let’s stop being naive. At the end, it is all about business. The rest is fluff.

The iPad Chronicles (1): iPad, Crippled Innovation?

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I got my iPad a week ago, and in this series of posts I’ll cover this device from point of views of a power user, publisher, marketer and media consumer.

iPhone was and still is a revolutionary device. it changed the whole concept of mobile interaction, the way we perceive mobility, and our expectations from mobile devices.
But just like any other device it has its flaws. Two of the most important ones are:

1. Lack of mulitasking – the inability to run several applications in parallel was one of the main points against the iPhone by Linux/Android/Symbian lovers around the world.
2. Lack of Adobe Flash support – well, unless you don’t have internet connection you probably know that Jobs hates all thing Flash with passion. iPhone and iPad do not support Flash. At all.

These two points were really not that important on the iPhone. I found that I have no issue what so ever with multitasking. Whenever I need a background app, Push notification gave me all that I needed. The whole “listen to Pandora while browsing” Scenario seemed a bit stupid to me – or at least relevant to less than 10% of my time. Other issues raised by iPhone users seemed esoteric to say the least.
The lack of flash wasn’t a biggie either. The iPhone screen is too small to watch embedded videos, as you need to watch them in full screen anyway. And besides one case, I never watched long format videos in the iPhone – and this one too was from the iTunes store.

But while these issues are minor when talking about the iPhone, iPad is a totally different story.
The iPad is using the same OS as the iPhone, with both limitations. But while I use my iPhone for limited time in each iteration, the iPad is an actual laptop replacement. I am writing this post on the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard – an activity that takes time. Suddenly, not being able to have my IM client running in the background becomes an issue. I am using IM+, that supports push notifications, but it isn’t enough. Luckily this lacking feature will be implemented in the next iPhone OS, that will reach the iPad in the coming Fall.
But lack of Flash support is a different story. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel here. We know that Apple is in a head to head battle against Adobe, and judging from history, it doesn’t seems like Apple is going to back down. Not having Flash on my iPad means that not only I can’t watch video streaming from most sites out there today (including many of the local official TV sites, that stream full episodes for free). It also means that I can’t access Google Analytics, Livestream Statistics and many other websites that I use every day. Cracking open my laptop just to look at stats seems stupid to say the least.

It might be just a matter of time before HTML 5 will gain more ground and additional sites will support it. And I am still very happy with my iPad, and amazing device that is truly a game changer.
But till then, I feel that my iPad is a bit crippled, and a bit less useful.