Noticed this week that WordPress has upgraded to some new version (at least the UI has changed significantly). And it now does not seem to work very well with Safari. Specifically, opening the “link” window gives you an empty window. Any one else notice this? I actually have reverted to using Safari because it feels snappier so this is a bummer. I also like Flock because of its integration but it does feel very slow compared to Safari.
So I am not going to do STP again this year (but I may attempt a single day ride next year). But I will definitely do flying wheels and I am considering doing the high pass challenge (basically biking up the back of Mt St Helens). Not sure if I am going to need a compact crank for the HPC. Probably will but don’t want to spend the money. Any other cool rides you think I should participate in (has to be close to Seattle)?
So MSFT just turned up the heat on Yahoo and I agree with Henry Blodget that Yahoo has been out maneuvered. I am not sure that there is much left for Yahoo to do unless some other deal gets done in short order. I also think MSFT has already figured out what kind of quarter Yahoo will announce. They run similar businesses and I am sure they have active benchmarks comparing the businesses. As such they probably know that Yahoo’s quarter will not be that great (pure conjecture on my part). In other words they know what cards Yahoo holds. And other than another deal getting done, having a stellar quarter is probably the only defense Yahoo has left.
For those saying this proves that MSFT is evil, I am not sure what they are on about. This is business, pure and simple. MSFT is doing something that they think will improve the value of MSFT. That is actually their responsibility as a public company.
Update: BTW I told you MSFT has a plan.
Fred Wilson has a post this morning about streaming audio services on the web. Fred’s point is that streaming music is changing how people listen to and discover music on the web and that this type of use will accelerate. And I agree with that. But some fundamental problems still exist with streaming music. For one the user experience will always be somewhat compromised as compared with getting data from your hard drive. It will get better over time but your connection speed is always going to be variable. However, more fundamental is the economics of streaming. As Fred points out, advertising will play a role here but that only helps the labels/artists get paid (and I am not sure this pencils out). However, the elephant in the room is your ISP. Right now all these streaming services do not have any agreements with the ISPs of the world. We already know that the ISPs are “shaping” bandwidth and if/when streaming becomes mainstream it will strain networks. Even worse from a bandwidth standpoint is that no network caching can really go on because in this new world of streaming everyone is getting a custom stream. So the networks will start to have issues and the ISPs have no economic incentive to play along. Now let’s move this to the mobile space and these network issues become even worse. The networks are even more tightly controlled and constrained (LTE/Wimax etc notwithstanding). In some ways constant streaming from large number of users will be a nightmare for mobile operators. Which brings me back to the user experience I touched upon in the beginning of the post. One of the things that made iTunes/iPod so successful was the user experience. It just worked as opposed to any number of pre-existing services and devices. It’s my contention that streaming will have a place in this new world but that I am not as bullish on it as Fred is because of the above issues. So if not streaming then what? Well, I believe trickling content to a hard drive will become a major delivery mechanism for content. It delivers a better user experience and the network economics make a lot more sense. In some ways that is already the model that iTunes uses but I think we will see it used in innovative ways (eg AppleTV).Now for the crystal ball gazing about Topspin media which Fred also talks about in his post. I am guessing that Topspin will try to connect artists more directly with buying public and thus bypassing the labels. This will have to rely on the internet to a large extent and will finally address the distribution issue in today’s music business model. It needs to happen and it’s way overdue. Peter and I both had a hand in democratizing music production and I am guessing that both Ian and Peter are eager to knock down this last barrier for artists. It will be cool and will have a bigger impact than streaming because every article about music on the internet will not be filled with a bunch of caveats about the labels and what they think. The labels will not be invited to the party and new business models will flourish. And that may be a bigger deal than MySpace’s music service because that service will be about lock-in just like every other music service on the net today.
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.
The music space news keeps coming. MySpace is launching a music service with 3 out of the 4 majors on board (EMI curiously sitting this one out). It could obviously have a huge impact and you have to believe that Facebook will do the same thing. It will likely not have that much effect on Apple/iTunes but could have a big impact on others such as Amazon. For right now it is a little hard to discern what will be the major focus of the MySpace music service because the press release seems to indicate that they are offering everything. The unique aspect is the tie-in with MySpace where lots of kids spend lots of time. Still if I have an iPod I will likely only “listen” on MySpace (perhaps via ad-supported model) and continue to “buy” from Apple. Another interesting angle would be if ad-supported model generated enough cash to “subsidize” lower download pricing. That might move some people away from iTunes but it probably would not matter a great deal to Apple anyway as long as the iPods kept flowing. Now if there was all of a sudden a ton of cel phones that supported the MySpace music service that might move the needle. Over-the-air content acquisition would also be cool and a clear differentiator because you take the PC requirement out of the picture.
Ian Rogers announced today that he is leaving Yahoo to become CEO of Topspin Media. The company is co-founded by Peter Gotcher who was the co-founder of digidesign and subsequently became a VC (IVP/Redpoint) and is now a private investor. Ian headed up Yahoo’s music and video offerings as far as I can tell. Peter has a pretty good track record and is also an investor in Avnera where I worked. Super smart people so I am betting some cool music offerings (unfettered by DRM) will come out of it. Go, go, go!