Thursday Apr 13, 2006

Clash of the Titans in the UK TV Industry

I have been catching up on my reading over the last few days and was browising the March copy of Management Today, {now linked in my sidebar} in which Chris Allen, the CEO of ITV was interviewed. In the interview he boasted that ITV2 is now the most watched digital channel in the UK, eclipsing Sky One. Its an illustration that something other than channel is important.

He also discussed convergence and defended his purchase of "Friend Reunited" as a platform for convergence. He says,

"Four or Five years from now, nobody will differentiate between the screens in their home - they will do everything"

I do hope so. The home area network is clearly a problem domain requiring solutions design expertise. Now how can I pipe my multi-channel into the bedroom?

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Sunday Mar 26, 2006

More on Dell's takeover of Alienware

It seems that last thursday, Dell & Alienware agreed for Dell to take over Alienware. Interestingly (well, to me), I have just upgraded my household IT and have bought an Alienware Aurora for the games and a Dell for our household IT. (Am I a futurologist??) The Yahoo Finance news is here..., and this is also reported at Personal Computer World here.... It was predicted by Rahul Sood on his blog. (He explains who he is on his blog, something I should do).

In the Yahoo article, Nelson Gomez (CEO of Alienware) says "Alienware has a legacy of success designing the highest-performance PCs using bleeding-edge technologies and innovative industrial design. We believe that Alienware will realize significant advantages from Dell's world-class supply chain and operational efficiencies. They will allow us to continue to satisfy our core customers with the most innovative and highest-performing PCs, and ultimately extend the reach and appeal of the Alienware brand.". This is possible since Dell seem to be planning to run Alienware as a division maintaining the brand and R&D seperately. Interesting to see what'll happen to the Dell XPS.

Another fascinating piece of the merger is that Alienware is an innovator in the PC market and proved it can build a company on the basis of hardware innovation to the extent that the ultimate commodity supplier has bought them. Innovation counts!. Whether Dell's management can leave well enough alone to allow an operationally excellent company to co-exist within the same umbrella as one aiming at product excellence only time will tell, but its another proof point that times are changing and that "IT does n't matter!".I believe that Dell's maturity; I'm rather a fan of Dell's self help resources means that Dell have something to offer so we'll have to see.

I have tried to take a picture of my Alienware Aurora, with something that'll give you the idea of the size of things, they're huge and when you compare them with the tiny Cobalt Qube, they seem even bigger.(I may or may not get round to publishing the pictures). Personally, I havn't been allowed on it yet, but I can see that "Battle for Middle Earth" looks much better and checking out the software shelf we have certainly begun to catch up on what we've been missing due to the age its predecessor.

A final treat, here... are the links to Alienware's site's wallpaper page.

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Monday Mar 13, 2006

Game Playing on the Move (with EA)

Lincoln Wallen, the CTO of Entertainment Arts Mobile and interviewed recently at http://www.mobileindustry.biz spoke to the "Telco & Media" breakout session, at the best attended session of the day. I checked out EAs job site a couple of years ago and discovered a vacancy for "Vice President (MIS)" which sounded pretty impressive, but as I read more about it, it became clear that this job was not the No 1. It made me wonder what the CTO of an organisation like EA did and needed to know. Well, now I've heard him speak.

Lauren's presentation (not available publicly) reviewed both demand and supply factors to their organisation, and touched on his companies positioning and the competitive dynamics. He placed demand in the context of multiple channels, including retail, broadcast and mobile. Given EA is a content publisher, it was a very technology orientated presentation, exploring what tomorrows devices would look like and the impact these technology changes will have on the market. It reminds me of the disappointment I felt when reading an interview with one of the authors of the original Doom who banged on about pixel rendering and density rather than story development, depth and what made the game a great playing experience. Despite this personal reprise, Lincoln, maintained a relevance reviewing and forecasting market trends and suggesting (maybe hinting) at his organisations response. He also ensured we never forgot that playing experience is key to success. One interesting feature is that he produced some charts talking about the number of hours spent on multi-media leisure consumption. It just makes me wonder where the hours come from, I expect I'm paying for it. Interestingly, he did not necessarily talk about if the new technologies and processing capability would change the nature of content, although he did suggest that surfing Google is a leisure activity for some - I'd have expected E-Bay, but the interesting thing is the recognition that games/video have non-game/video competition, and that consumer's time, not budget may be the constraint. (This is similar to one of their most successful game franchises, "The Sims", where time is the key constraint.)

Again this was written after the event and uploaded on 21 March 2006 and back dated to the time of occurrence. Sorry its taken me so long to post this.

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SunLIVE 2006 making change

I spent the day at SunLIVE 2006, the UK's premier customer exhibition/conference.

The day was opened by Trudy who empasised the customer focused nature of the event in that the vast majority of speakers were to be Sun customers talking about their views of the future or how they've solved recent problems. The key note was delivered by Alan Mather, ex-CIO of government's ecommerce directorate and now working at one of the smaller utility companies. He spoke about his change programme, how change is difficult but they're focusing on achieving competitive business performance. He argued the biggest inhibitors for change are, firstly the legacy, what's done today is done for a reason, and secondly, the people, often at the ground floor are working very hard to keep the thing working and can't see the need for change and are usually significant stakeholders in the status quo. He quoted "The Mythical Man Month", a software engineering bible, (Wikipedia, here...) and Jared Diamond's (Wikipedia, here...) "Collapse". Useful to be reminded, so I might check these out.

This was written after the event and uploaded on 21 March 2006 and back dated to the time of occurrence. Sorry its taken me so long to post this.

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Tuesday Mar 07, 2006

Transaction to Relationship

I've travelled to Leeds to participate in a Sun "Show & Tell" tomorrow and on the way stopped for a tasty Burger King double whopper. I saw advertised on a poster on the site http://www.newreg.com.

It seems to be another site offering the brokerage of personalised number plates, car registrations and/or private number plates. Despite the .com address, it looks like UK only. I checked a couple of plates that might interest me and some of the prices seem a bit steep. Interestingly, the site offers finance on the more expensive plates. An illustration of the conversion of a (brokered) transaction into a long term relationship. Pretty clever!

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Saturday Feb 25, 2006

McKinsey on Strategy. Services and Product

The most recent McKinsey Quarterly is pretty relevant. The keynote article, "Distortions & deceptions in strategic decisions" looks at the flawed human values often inserted into major business decisions. They quote a major aquisition decision taken by a dominant player and suggest that the major advocate of the merger wanted it for personal political gain. They look at ways in which these human factors can be brought into the open and evaluated in the decision making process. Despite identifying over-optimism as a frequent occurence once a proposal has been made, the decision not to proceed is often taken in private and so collaborative decision making cannot neutralise these human shortcomings. One suggestion is to ask the proposer, what their next best proposal is.

The second article of interest is entitled "The right service strategies for product companies". I last wrote about this subject last year, when I reviewed Gordon Moore's article "Don't shoot the messenger", where he talks about aligning service offerings with the product life cycle. The McKinsey article offers a two by two matrix. The goal of the services business is either to enhance or enable product sales or to deepen the value proposition to the customer (and hence earn money). The service vendor can then seek to leverage economies of skill or scale. Like most strategy analysis, its important to understand your choices and then focus on that choice. The choices affect pricing, sales, delivery and organisation. This varies from some of the things covered in my previous reviews in that they have reduced the choice to a 2x2 matrix and conern themselves with questions of strategy.

My previous article, concerning aligning service to the product life cycle is here... and the article concerning alignment ideology (the economies of skill?) is here....

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Thursday Feb 16, 2006

Seperating the telco hype from the reality

After lunch, Lars Godsell, one of Forrester's principal analysts shared his views about the telco industry. He promised to "separate the hype from reality".

He started with a dim view on the economic success of the european telcos, by looking at their share price performance, revenue decline and return on capital employed. He then turned to the issue of innovation, and looked at a number of inhibitors. His list included the usual suspects, from CEO commitment, through the organisational model to leveraging cluetrain & Rifkin by having sensible profitable partnering stratgies and balancing internal and external innovation investments. Companies now play multiple roles in a supply chain and yesterday's supplier is tomorrows customer, although with today's speed of business these roles do not change on daily basis, but much more frequently. (The previous speaker, Xavier Kirchner's four collaboration models also took notice of the fact that a telco can play multiple roles in the technology-to-service supply chain.)

Lars argued that Forrester see telcos as being in three businesses, Retail, Innovation and Network, and that the telco's should organise around these three factors, since they require different core competencies and face different challanges and constraints.

He looked at the role of regulation on the speed of change and profitability of the industry, being mainly critical of the European regulators and specifically the UK regulator (OFCOM), arguing that they inhibit innovation, either economically, by destroying margin, or by diversion. i.e. demanding they do stuff that is an alleged public good such as the European Data Retention directive.

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Don't just listen, understand!

It's half term, so Sun have arranged a business trip to Barcelona. I'm attending a Telco Sales team training event. The customer keynote was given by Xavier Krichner, Director de Prospectiva of Telefonica.

His talk offered a definition of innovation, examined some historical and, in hindsight, stupid forecasts to show how difficult finding the runners is. The key to getting it right is understanding your customers, and its not enough to just give them what they say they want. Innovators need to understand the problems and needs and deliver to unstated and future needs. Just listening and minimal compliance are not enough to build sustainable services.

He talked about four collaboration models for bringing technology innovation to the market and then went through some examples of new services in the market, based on VoIP, IPTV and an urban transport solution.

There are two points of interest (to me) about the IPTV examples. They both addressed the ability of the technology to deliver new forms of content. The first example is the use of IPTV to enhance healthcare delivery for the chronically ill. They have developed biometric capture devices and streaming and interactive content for the ill and their carers. The second example looks to leverage the channel hopping syndrome. Content can be designed for the restless to encourage hopping to additional content, which can be factual or commercial. This sort of application is easy to conceive and possibly doomed to failure, since one of the major causes of my channel hopping is the ad. breaks, I am not going to hop to an advert. However, one very interesting example is the ability to choose camera angles which has applications in both the world of fiction and sport. It has been well implemented in the computer game "Little Big Adventure 2". Xavier also demonstrated how the technology enables authors to design content with multiple paths. A "who dunnit" can either be a detective story or horror story depending upon the viewers choices. Writing non-linear fiction is reasonably rare; books are not well consumed in the wrong order, however RPG games writers have been writing non-linear stories for years. IPTV may be one way of delivering this content to consumers.

The key take-away for me is that IPTV enables new forms of content, only if service providers leverage this will it really take off. People who think that IPTV is about delivering streaming content such as movies & films are missing the point. I think that Xavier's view is that new uses or new answers to old problems drive adoption, its not just IPTV.

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