Category: Business

General thoughts on business practices

How long can companies ignore the Windows Phone platform?

How long can companies ignore the Windows Phone platform?

This original post was written for the Aspenware blog

NokiaLumia1520

The Windows Phone platform initially launched in October of 2010. The new Windows Phone 7 operating system broke compatibility with early versions of Windows Mobile which left Microsoft starting from ground zero in terms of market share and apps.

Shortly after the initial launch Microsoft partnered with Nokia to build phones for its new mobile operating system. Nokia abandoned Symbian and started making all of its new phones for Windows Phone 7. Nokia has been the saving grace for Windows Phone, even though it hasn’t yet gained any significant market share, especially in the United States.

Currently market share in the US stands at 3.6%. Android and iOS dominate the rest of the market leaving only a shred left for Blackberry. Beginning a few months ago, Windows Phone finally made it to all of the big carriers with the HTC 8x released on the Sprint network. Verizon has had a few phones from Samsung and HTC for the last year or so, with Nokia only offering GSM compatible phones on the T-Mobile and AT&T networks.

As far as app development goes, one can certainly make the case to ignore the platform with only 3.6% market share in the US. Twitter and Facebook have not developed their own apps for Windows Phone as of yet. Microsoft has released their own version of a facebook app, along with many other third party developers. With so many different third party developers supporting the platform, it probably doesn’t make sense for Facebook to support their own native app at this point. That being said, it’s still somewhat of a blemish for the Windows Phone Marketplace. So we can start to look to the future to see what’s in store for the Windows Phone platform.

International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts at least a 10% global market share for Windows Phone by 2017. This equates to over 100 million devices being sold per year as they predict global shipments to exceed 1 billion units per year.

The real excitement for Windows Phone is in the international markets, particularly in Europe. In Italy Windows Phone enjoys a 3.5% lead over iOS with a 13.7% market share. Windows Phone is enjoying similar success in Germany as they are neck and neck with iOS for 2nd place behind Android. Overall in the major European markets Windows Phone hopes to grab around a 10% share by years end.

App developers should not be ignoring what is happening in Europe with Windows Phone. Nokia is charging ahead strongly with highly desirable devices, mostly from their advanced camera capabilities. The new Nokia Lumia 1520 boasts a 6” HD screen and 20 MP camera. So far early reviews have been very positive. There’s also been news that the new Nokia phones will support 3D touch, so you can navigate through your phone without actually touching the screen.

What’s happening in Europe will ultimately help the Windows Phone market share in the US. As more and more apps are developed to support the growing customer base in Europe, it will make the Windows Phone platform more appealing to consumers in the US. With Instagram soon to hit the Windows Phone Marketplace, along with Vine just landing in it, Windows Phone will satisfy a broad appeal of consumers with many of the most popular apps now being available on the platform.

Even though the Windows Phone Marketplace will support most of the well-known app brands, it still lacks a lot of what I call ancillary apps which my favorites include: US Bank, Safeway and Golf Channel. These were the apps I used a lot on my old Android phone which are not available yet for Windows Phone. Nokia claims that it is now a matter of when vs. a matter of if major brands are coming to the platform. Once Microsoft can shore up its app store to compete better with Android and iOS, it should be very interesting to see what happens to the market share not only in the US, but with the platform worldwide.

Social Networking Personalities

Social Networking Personalities

LittleComputerGirl

Most of us are cautious about things we post on Facebook, Twitter and G+. We should be cautious, because it is forever etched in digital history. When somebody accidentally presses send, there are no take backs. It’s done. It’s over. Even if you accidentally posted something, and then deleted it, it could have gotten emailed to somebody, or texted, or even a screenshot picture of the post.

From personal experience I have taken screen shots of posts that I knew were a mistake and would be deleted. It’s a fantastic way to preserve the information and then later unexpectedly spring the information on them.

So what if an employer goes trolling around the Internet to find information about you? Are you worried about what they find on Facebook? Facebook allows you to lock down your profile so it’s not publicly available, but those options aren’t turned on by default. The same privacy settings go for Twitter and LinkedIn. But what about Pandora? Pandora is an extremely popular service, but most people do not think of it as a social network. If you go to a person’s profile you can see likes, stations and comments.

If I were an employer, I would try and find the person’s profile on Pandora. I would look at Facebook and Twitter, but most likely you won’t find anything that will tell much about the person. Social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn promote likes but do not support dislikes. It’s a positive and friendly environment that usually will only show the most positive pieces of a person’s life. If you find a person’s Pandora profile I believe you can get the best insight into the person’s personality. If somebody looked at my Facebook profile they would think I’m a very interesting person who has a perfect life. If you’d look at my Pandora profile you would think that I’m a dark and disturbed person who likes to go clubbing.

Here’s a list of my Pandora stations: Today’s Christmas, Frank Sinatra, Smashing Pumpkins, Ke$ha, Bran Van 300, 311. Each station serves a purpose in my life. Each station comes in handy base on what mood I’m in. I think if a person saw this profile, it would give them much better insight into my personality than any of my other social networking profiles.

What are your experiences with social networking profiles? In this day and age, we have to be careful what we post. It’s not always about what we post on Facebook though. The next time you get turned down for a job it may not be based on what your last Tweet was, but maybe it’s from that like on the Marilyn Manson album.

How Do Established Companies Innovate?

How Do Established Companies Innovate?

Innovation

Most companies start form a few people who have a goal of running a business. Sometimes there’s a vision. Sometime’s there’s a very unique idea that will change an industry or create a new market. All of these start up scenarios require innovation. Once these start ups grow up and become established companies they want to protect the moat they created. This is normally done by continually updating their product. This same product is the one that likely initially disrupted the market. The continued enhancements of the product help to keep their position in the marketplace.

Once a company is established they tend to become comfortable with where they’re at in the market. Whether the business is taking advantage of an existing market through innovation, pricing, or creating a new market, a time will come when the business feels like their established. The business will often have loyal customers and good momentum in the market they are doing business in. This inevitable feeling of comfort will try to set in. The business will want to slow down especially if the employees have been working long hours just to get the business to the comfort point. So then the question arises… Should a business ever feel comfortable? It’s a fine balance between maintaining the status quo and trying to defend yourself from the next disruptive start up.

When Google launched Google Plus (g+), Facebook went into lock down mode. For about 2 months the staff was instructed to not leave the office. This is common in the game industry, but most employees were not expecting to not come home for 8 weeks. Studies have shown that burnt out employees become bitter and become less productive. This instance was a little different because all of the employees knew their stock options were about to become gold when Facebook went public. Facebook was able to hold their employees at ransom. Why not take advantage of the situation?

From the Facebook lock down, they were able to turn out enhancements to their chat and feed parts of the site. In that case g+ forced Facebook to innovate. If g+ were to not be unleashed to the world, Facebook would go along its merry way. Why? Because Facebook doesn’t want to push its employees to the extreme, like a communist regime. Burn out developers will most likely quit and end up working for a company who may end up disrupting what Facebook is doing.

Usually the answer is to innovate within the niche that you have created. If you’ve created a niche in the healthcare industry, it usually doesn’t make sense to jump into another industry and try to innovate there as well. When a company continues to innovate within their market, they are likely to increase their competitive moat they have already created.

Once and a while an established company will even have a big breakthrough that will support future growth for years, or even decades to come. This is what IBM is betting on with Watson, their super computer that thinks likes a human, but has vast more resources than a human does. The implications that Watson can have on society are enormous. In this case IBM is innovating with brute force, pouring billions of dollars into R&D along with purchasing companies that can help speed up the delivery of Watson to the market.

The larger the company becomes, the harder it is to innovate. At least innovate enough to move the earnings needle. That’s why companies in the S&P 50 usually resort to acquisitions to support their growth.

To me, innovating is a fascinating topic that I continue to learn about. I love to read how start-ups were born, and how established companies keep moving the earnings needle forward each quarter. I welcome your comments.

Notes from CTA Apex Event

Notes from CTA Apex Event

I recently attended Colorado Apex put on by the Colorado Technology Association. The CTA is a great organization doing great things for the technology community in Colorado. The following is a summary from the event.

Colorado was recently ranked 4th in the nation for new tech startups. Pearl Street in Boulder is a well known hub for tech startups in Colorado. With Colorado as one of the most desirable places to live in the United States, it only makes sense that the state will draw entrepreneurs to start their companies here. This is great news for the state, but the discussions on Wednesday were mostly about how do we accelerate and become better. Currently a new technology company is created every 72 hours in Colorado. The goal is to continue to bring that number down and accelerate the pace of new technology companies forming. Is that really what we need? More startups? I think we should be more concerned about the success rate of startups rather than the amount of them being created.

A common discussion point was Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is a breeding ground for some of the most well-known and largest technology companies in the world. Imagine driving 20 minutes and passing the headquarters of Google, HP, Intel, Cisco, Facebook and Apple. These are some the most valuable companies in the world, and they are all located in the same area. Silicon Valley is able to feed off itself with the smaller companies selling to the larger companies. The smaller companies eventually become the companies that new smaller companies are selling to. This type of environment attracts some of the most talented and ambitious people in the world.

Colorado currently is home to 9 companies in the Fortune 500. While none of these companies are considered technology companies, there is still opportunity to tap into their large revenue streams and provide new technology services. There is a lot of concern that Colorado does not have the large companies to support a really good technology ecosystem. With plenty of startups, the success rate could be much higher if larger companies could be attracted to the area. There was also a concern that there aren’t enough medium size companies in the area (100 million to 1 billion in size).

As Colorado definitely isn’t struggling for technology jobs and technology startups, how can we do even better? I believe geography is currently a limiting factor to taking our technology scene to the next level. One reason a lot of great companies are in Silicon Valley is the location. The coast is beautiful and the mountains are not far away either. I believe we have the climate to compete with Silicon Valley, but not the location. The #1 place for startups in the state is Boulder and there is limited space in Boulder. It’s very hard to attract people to live in Boulder due to the high cost of living there. Most of the communities around Boulder are suburban style communities, or older blue collar communities.
If we were to start over from scratch, Golden would be a great location for a tech startup hub. Today Golden is too much of a blue collar city to turn into a hotbed for new technology companies. West of the continental divide is beautiful, but real estate and space is limited. And who really wants to start a technology company next to a bunch of ranches?

I believe Colorado will continue to be one of the top places in the nation for tech startups although there’s no way it will get close to the level of Silicon Valley. The tech scene there is in another stratosphere leaving the rest of the world envious of what has been created. Technology companies can and will thrive here for the foreseeable future, and we should continue pushing the envelope to nurture what is happening in this great state.

Altruistic Business Charity – Personal Experience

Altruistic Business Charity – Personal Experience

A few years when I was a part owner in a company. I was asked by a friend to contribute to the YMCA scholarship fund. I realized that my company had done nothing in the form of charity in the last 3 years of its existence. I consulted the other owners and we decided to give $250 to the scholarship fund.

After we gave the donation I immediately updated the web site to show that Keystone Materials Testing proudly supports the YMCA scholarship fund. I believe that contribution was given in 2010, and it’s still on the web site. Most people probably think we support the fund annually, but we haven’t given any more money to it since 2010.

The point is that we really weren’t concerned about the scholarship, but about our corporate image. Perhaps that is why I’m so skeptical of other companies being aultruistic.

Altruism in Advertising?

Altruism in Advertising?

A great truth in advertising example that rings a bell is the Domino’s Pizza campaign a few years ago. Dominos came out and said that their pizza sucked. They went out to see what would happen if they were honest to the viewing public. They didn’t just say the pizza sucked, but also said they’re coming out with a new recipe that is much better. The public responded very positively to the news, with sales increasing by 15% within a few months.

I first read about this phenomenon in Fortune, as they reported the stock price more than doubled within a year after the truth in advertising campaign began. I think it’s a great case study in how truth in advertising can work.