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Hollywood Disenfranchised

Posted on Monday, Jan 23rd 2006

Video as a micro-content category is increasingly gaining momentum, as statistics such as this become available: Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes store, which was the first to secure a major licensing deal to sell TV content online last October, sold more than 8 million videos in three months.

AtomFilms Studio is a new effort from Atom Entertainment, focusing on the same opportunity, and intends to produce short films.

Most interestingly, this niche is likely to trigger a broad array of new small businesses, each with a different nuance, segment focus, and style.

Hollywood hierarchy will encounter further defiance.

Featured Videos

Venture Fund Investment & Endowments

Posted on Monday, Jan 23rd 2006

An interesting article in WSJ today: Venture-Capital Bets Swell Stanford’s Endowment.

The author argues that the top schools’ ability to invest in the best funds and their continued access to the top applicants, students, and alumni – will further stratify US higher education.

Well, I do not have a problem with this. Top intellects gathering within the framework of a highly effective system is a very good way to generate advanced thoughts, ideas, innovation.

However, these top schools ought to take some responsibility in sharing their methodology with educational institutions worldwide to raise the general level of education, as well as to standardize the world’s widely taught disciplines along best practices vectors.

MIT’s effort along these lines is the Open Courseware (OCW) project.

I believe, Harvard has a similar effort, but I don’t have a URL for it.

On the other hand, the 1,000-1,500 Engineering Colleges in India ought to align their courses and syllabus to that of MIT’s, to enjoy the benefit of OCW.

India as a Jewelry Manufacturing Hub

Posted on Friday, Jan 20th 2006

On my recent trip to India, I had an opportunity to explore a non high-tech outsourcing opportunity.

Some of you may recall my previous article: Digging for Diamonds. Well, I was invited by one of the top jewelry houses in India to explore this opportunity.

Here are some nuggets from my visit:

Just as we learned in the early days of software outsourcing that the design and architecture of a system was best done in the US, in jewelry too, design is best done in the US (or in Europe or Japan). Otherwise, there is too much disconnect between the local market’s taste and that of the Indian consumer. Indian jewelry tends to be heavy and complex, not appropriate to be worn with western clothes.

This will change with greater awareness, but at this point, bulk of the jewelry export from India goes to countries with similar taste, the Arab countries being a major conduit.

There are exceptions in the commodity segments of the market (hearts, crosses, solitaires, studs, etc.) where simple diamond price arbitrage may produce a business opportunity. However, this is a low-margin business, and one with intense competition. Blue Nile has managed to create a big brand in this segment, by becoming the Dell of diamond jewelry.

From the perspective of manufacturing capability and metalwork skills, however, India has a tremendous resource base. Ditto in enamel-based craftsmanship.

Hence, the real opportunity that I see, is to create high-end brands for the western markets, leveraging this enormous skill-base in India.

Margins could be tremendous, judging by the prices of jewelry by Gurhan, Roberto Coin, David Yurman, etc., especially with a branded retailer relationship such as Bergdorf or Neiman Marcus.

The key differentiator, however, would have to be Design.

Video FAQs

One more

Posted on Friday, Jan 20th 2006

Back in November, I wrote Cisco: Inching Us To True Convergence.

Yesterday, I wrote that Apple should focus on gaining PC market share.

R: Apple and Cisco ought to strike a strategic partnership in bridging the gap in the software / user interface end of the convergence spectrum.

In other words, questions such as Where is downloaded digital content stored?, What is the interface to navigate and manipulate the display environment for content? TV? PC-Sreen? Home Projector? – and myriad other such – are best answered by a UI expert such as Apple.

Left to Cisco’s incompetent hands, this will be another disaster a la Linksys.

Not Predictions

Posted on Thursday, Jan 19th 2006

Prediction is not my business. Recommendation is.

In early 2006, here are some:

Disney is in serious talks to buy Pixar. The deal would make Pixar CEO Steve Jobs the largest individual holder in Disney. Safe to guess that this deal will go through. This will free up Steve to focus exclusively on Apple, while leveraging Disney. R: Steve should now make gaining PC market share his #1 agenda and free the world from Windows tyranny.

Autodesk COO Carl Bass was named president and CEO, as Carol Bartz moves up to Executive Chairman. Earlier, Autodesk announced a strategic alliance with Microsoft that is intended to eventually bring business and technical productivity improvements to manufacturers. Specifically, the companies will integrate Autodesk’s engineering data management (EDM) software with Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) enterprise resource planning (ERP). R: Microsoft should buy Autodesk this year.

The digital content and media industries have turned upside down in 2005. Finally, a business model has emerged, making online content & communities viable. R: Entrepreneurs, VCs & LBO firms should focus heavily on this industry, as the resulting discontinuity opens up many opportunities.

In India, growth conitinues at satisfactory rates. However, some reshuffle is in the works in terms of geographical focus. Bangalore infrastructure and human resource pool is crumbling. Other cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Delhi are also starting to become stretched. Infrastructure is now India’s biggest bottle-neck to support the growth. R: If you are looking at a new India operation, you need to look at places like Kolkata, Nagpur, Kanpur, Indore, Cochin.

More later.

Pulitzer Prize for blogs

Posted on Friday, Dec 23rd 2005

Here is an article I recently wrote for the MIT “What Matters” series …

Writers?

Posted on Friday, Dec 16th 2005

Gus Kawasaki had asked me to check out Filmloop, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, and I am traveling for the next 4 weeks … if any of you would want to try the software and send me your feedback, that would be terrific … I am hearing good things about it.

Speaking of travel, I will probably be writing considerably less for a good chunk of the next 4 weeks, so if any of my readers have interesting thoughts to share, I would love to get a hand from you, in keeping the content refreshed.

For some portion of my trip, I will have email access, and I can post stuff. For about 10 days in the middle, we’re going to be in very remote places, and I don’t plan to access the Internet at all. I will, however, write with a nice ink pen, in my beautiful journal, and some of that writing, I will publish here when I get back.

I miss writing with a nice pen, on beautiful paper, in magical settings … something I used to do often, until I traded in my allocated pen-and-paper journal writing time for this Blog.

In return, I now have you – my readers.

You give something, to get something, I guess!

Alexa App Ideas

Posted on Thursday, Dec 15th 2005

The Alexa announcement from Amazon has generated a lot of buzz and discussion.

Without getting into the argument of whether this will affect Google, Yahoo or Microsoft’s Search Businesses, I do want to write about the impact of isolating the “engine” out, so that developers all around the world can create applications on it. If there is developer uptake, then it would be safe to assume that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will follow suit, and also open up their engines to the developer community.

I have always been a big fan of application-specific search engines, whereby, you can constrain the domain of the search, manage the taxonomies of the results, and synthesize information into digestable formats. Today, I submit, that Google is not very “digestable” except for very simple searches.

Okay, example. I spent a few years of my life on a Search Engine application called Prospectminer. Our positioning was An Application for Sales Lead Generation and Qualification. This application had a built in crawler that could search the web for B-to-B sales leads (Suspects, not Prospects or Leads, really), and facilitate the qualification process.

If I were designing this application today, I would probably use an engine such as Alexa (or Google, if they opened it up), and offer it as a web service. We were working on the project in 1998, before the era of web services. We had all sorts of Prospecting tricks programmed into this app, and used learning algorithms and NLP algorithms to augment the pure web crawling that a crawler would achieve.

I would like to hear from other readers who have ideas for / experience with such applications. I believe, the developer community ought to be able to do a lot of very creative and interesting things with such an engine, and some of these ideas could be viable new businesses.

I will suggest some other such apps to try your hands at, if you wish as well …