Category Archives: attention

Live Mesh – the ultimate P2P platform

Live Mesh was introduced yesterday by Microsoft.  It is the brain child of Ray Ozzie and really seems like an out-growth of the work he did with Groove.  At its simplest, Live Mesh is basic file sync.  But another way to think about Live Mesh is as the ultimate P2P platform.  When people think of P2P they think about Kazaa, Napster etc where everyone’s files are available to everyone else.  Live Mesh is different from vanilla P2P because it adds the following:

  • control over who sees what files
  • creates a personal P2P cloud amongst your own devices (file sync)
  • the concept of your own cloud store
  • a platform, which will let ISVs build applications on top of it

So what does this mean?  Live Mesh has the following implications:

  1. Cloud storage companies can kiss their businesses good bye because cloud storage is integrated with Live Mesh.  Cloud storage is a thin margin business and only those with scale can make it work.  After the shake-out likely survivors are MSFT, GOOG and AMZN.  I should be clear that there may be still be a lot of 3rd party applications that leverage the infrastructure of the big 3 but if you are doing your own storage thing, you better switch now.
  2. Sync is a big deal because if done right it has the ability to transform our digital lives.  I know that sounds like hyperbole but if you have more than one computer you will likely have blown productivity managing your files.  It basically makes computers (and devices) more useful.  There is a lot of people playing in this space but by virtue of creating a platform and a standard set of APIs and protocols, MSFT has the chance to win big time.
  3. MSFT has an advantage over GOOG and AMZN here because they have better distribution (by virtue of their operating system).  Additionally, they have been marketing to ISVs for years.  Don’t underestimate this.  Once Live Mesh is integrated into Visual Studio, any kid with rudimentary Basic skills will be able to build applications on top of the mesh.
  4. Going back to the P2P angle, Live Mesh can be a content delivery platform.  If I were a content company I would start thinking about this right now.  Streaming media has economic issues that Live Mesh solves.  Microsoft should be out licensing this to every device maker on earth.  The consumer electronics companies will be reluctant participants but they should embrace it because it enables them to compete with Apple and frankly they need help in this area.  If you look at Ray Ozzie’s memo, he talks about the 3Cs the first being content.
  5. Social networks are about interaction whether it be IM, posting or sharing.  Guess what?  Live Mesh addresses posting and sharing and if done right will make it easier.  YouTube flourished because it let people embed videos in HTML.  Well, Live Mesh can take this to the next level, facilitating what Fred Wilson calls micro chunking.

However, the biggest key to Live Mesh’s success will be how much lock-in is baked into the platform.  If all protocols are published and any one can interact with Live Mesh completely at the protocol level and for free, then Live Mesh could be transformative.  If the above is not true, the Live Mesh will fail because lock-in does not work on the web.

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Does trust trump DEMO/TechCrunch50 fame?

Lost in the hubbub about DEMO vs TechCrunch50 is another news item that is getting some press today but not nearly enough by my reckoning.  Basically the study asserts that web influencers don’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things.  People instead get their recommendations from people they trust, namely their friends.  And this makes perfect sense to me.  Not to say that getting covered my Mike Arrington has no value for a startup but what is that value exactly?  Companies should be very deliberate in their thinking when they try to get fame/fortune from the DEMO/TechCrunch50 crowd because it may not translate into the business value they thought it would.  Jeremy has some good tactical advice here but I don’t think he addresses the relevance of these conferences head-on.

Is EMI actually going to do something interesting?

It seemed like an April fools joke but apparently it’s true that EMI has hired Douglas Merrill, the CIO of Google.  Hopefully this will lead to something interesting! As I (and others) said before new business models are required to revive the music industry and to date the labels’ efforts to take their collective business out of a nose dive seem very uninspired.

Is free ad supported music the future of online music?

The Wall St Journal has an article this morning saying that Google will launch an ad-supported music service in China.  This is in part a response to Baidu’s lead in the Chinese market (where a large share of the searches are for music on the web) but could also be a harbinger of things to come in other geographic markets.  If this indeed has been blessed by the majors it is an interesting step for the music industry.  In some ways, the nature of the Chinese market may have forced them into this.  Note that the majors are also suing Baidu so the timing is a little strange here. 

However, the tracks that Google (together with Top100.cn) will be providing will be watermarked to allow download tracking although it’s not clear how this will work exactly.  Somewhere in the download chain something/someone will have to inspect the files for the watermark for this to work.  This therefore implies that whoever is providing the pipes will be inspecting all the content which seems like a serious problem.  As I mentioned before the music industry is already pushing for ISPs to snoop on internet users and this is most likely already going in China where the internet is not really open.  So while the business model here is interesting, I don’t much like what is going on behind the scenes:  Google (“do no evil”) and music labels using the fact that the Chinese government (“not open”) already is snooping on internet connections to further their own economic good.  Of course Google has already agreed to censor their searches in China so I suppose this move should not be a surprise.

I think Google and the majors could have been more innovative because the ad-supported music sales angle has legs.  But I don’t think it requires intervention by the government and ISPs of the world to work.  Perhaps I have this wrong but it does smell funny.  And lastly we should all work to prevent ISPs and our governments from routine 24/7 monitoring of our internet connections.  This is just plain wrong.  Additionally, when (not if because I think it will happen) someone comes up with a non-evil scheme for ad-supported music sales, it could potentially alter the internet music landscape in a big way.

Entertainment/music dollars – more destinations, same amount of cash.

Lots of thought has gone into why music sales are declining with piracy always pointed to as the likely culprit. Some say music today is not as good as yesterday’s music which seems like a weak argument. However, one thing that I have been thinking about is that the buying public has a finite amount of “entertainment dollars”. However, the number of things you can spend your entertainment dollars on keeps increasing. For example in the 80s most people did not pay for cable TV, now they do. Similarly, in the early 90s most people did not pay for mobile phones, now they do. I am sure there are more examples but essentially if the entertainment dollar game is a zero-sum game (inflation not included) then it makes a certain amount of sense that people have less dollars available for music. This is analogous to the attention economy but applied to dollars. The difference is that attention scarcity can be improved by applying filtering to prevent information overload. However, music overload is not the problem that is effecting music sales i.e. I don’t think people are having a hard time finding music they like. One solution might be to somehow derive more revenue from other sources that fight for your entertainment dollar eg via mobile phone services like ringtones. But that is just the start and I think the content folks need to create an environment where the music can flow and developers can build new services quickly. In other words, create a platform and harness a thousand coding monkeys & websites to deliver new and innovative flow/services.

I am guessing this is what MTV is trying to do with their assets as pointed out in this excellent post by Robert Young. They are trying to put themselves at the vortex of the dissemination of their assets allowing them to monetize the flow instead of youtube. I could be wrong about this. Be interesting to see.

I am sure others have thought through this already so ignore if this is redundant.

Attention: do podcasts and video blogs matter?

Scoble pissed off the blogosphere yesterday saying that Engadget does not link to others. I read some posts on this subject and a bunch of comments on Scoble’s blog. When I read some of this, it reminded me that I don’t really listen/watch to podcast or video blogs (Scoble’s new gig). Yes, there will be some successful video “channels” on the internet based on user generated content but I think they will be very few. It reminds of a bit broadcast.com and how internet radio was going to replace broadcast radio. Well, that did not happen although I will admit to listening to some internet radio and that broadcast radio is changing.

Here’s the problem: podcasts and video blogs require too much attention. It’s not news but just as most inidividuals have a certain amount of money they can spend on TV, internet etc, these folks also have a limited amount of attention “currency” they can spend. The attention currency is spent on whatever is important to them but most folks have already maxed out their attention currency and so have none left over for podcasts and video blogs.

Some fundamental problems with podcasts and video blogs:

  • They require attention currency which busy people don’t have to spend
  • Video blogs require a lot of attention – you have to use your eyes and ears
  • They are often long which runs against the grain of what RSS and news is all about. In 5 minutes I can scan through the 20 most important feeds to me. This is not possible with podcasts and vlogs.
  • People are used to high production values from TV and commercial radio. These production values are usually missing on the internet. Actually, as “shows” grow longer I maintain that it is harder to weave a good story. That’s why there is film school.
  • They are passive which again runs counter to the 2-way internet.

BTW the word “vlog” is terrible. We need a better word.

What do you think?