Archive for the ‘launch’ Category

Inside The Venice Project - Screenshots Included

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

The Venice Project logoTalk about ironic. I first mentioned The Venice Project this morning. No sooner did I post the story did Om Malik post an EXCLUSIVE with the stealth start-up, screenshots included. Let the PR onslaught begin…

Internet start-up rock star Niklas Zennstrom and partner Janus Friis aim to disrupt the current television industry with this new venture. Details are finally being released.

Here is a quick rundown courtesy of GigaOM:

Venice Project screenshot 1Upon log-in into the system, users are directed to a download page. Only Windows XP is currently supported. Dowload and installation are apparently very quick and easy. After opening the desktop application, users are pointed to a start screen that contains default channel options and staff picks, among other things.

The image quality, says Om, appears to be very crisp and clear. Streaming was smooth with very little hiccups. Only default content delivered from the Venice servers was available - no live broadcasts just yet. Some of the video footage contained ads, much like those presented on traditional TV.

Some lag did manifest when switching channels and navigating menu choices, but expect those to be cleared up. Channel set-up and removal were easy. Program navigation was clear and intuitive. Functionally, a plug-in section will provide the ability to create valuable add-ons to expand the feature set. Currently, a lone chat plug-in facilitates discussion between friends. Chat can also be program or channel specific.

The challenge in gaining massive distribution and acquiring a huge user base will be to aggregate high-quality content.

For more screenshots, click here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Once again, thanks to Om Malik for the exclusive and screenshots.

Jajah + Apple = iPhone with VOIP?

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Jajah logoRumours are swirling around a possible deal between VOIP up-and-comer Jajah and cultural icon Apple. News of a possible deal first spawned from a MacDailyNews article. Apparently, co-founder Daniel Mattes has been spouting about a possible partnership. The company was contacted about an announcement, but had no news to report.

An announcement may come as early as Monday.

Jajah has maintained a relatively low profile thusfar. The porn star of online VOIP, Skype, garners most of the attention. But Jajah is quickly gaining ground and some are calling it the “Skype Killer”, including myself.

Why all the fuss about a pending deal? What may come of it?

Well, as an announcement is not yet official and details are scarce at best, I think it suffice to say that the structure of such a deal is inconceivable. However, I will tell you why this deal is very important for one of the two players - Jajah.

As I previously mentioned, Jajah has flown below the radar for quite some time. This can be seen as good and bad. It is good when you are in stealth mode and want to conceal your product offering and feature set. But the company is at a time when exponential growth and mainstream penetration is essential to compete on a higher level. A deal with the king of PR, Apple, would not only raise the profile of Jajah, but also create instant credibility among those unfamiliar with this VOIP insurgent.

Apple, on the other hand, would benefit from a solid offering in an area that is not a core competency. Though I do not see this deal as being as important for Apple, I still believe it validates a push by this tech monolith toward perpetual innovation and a cutting-edge product downline.

How to Launch a Successful Internet Start-Up

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Earlier today, Mashable posted an article outlining the steps for success for a web-based start-up. It was very well written and brought up some interesting points. However, the article missed a few key points that I would like to touch on.

Mashable explains that a successful busines model should be tailored around either viral distribution or natural search. Two very valid points. However, I think there is much more to the story. The build-up of the plot looks good, but this story needs an introduction.

My take on success focuses around notions pulled from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Here are the four steps that I see necessary for exponential growth:

  1. Target your key influencers and evangelists.
  2. Provide them with a compelling message and value proposition.
  3. Facilitate viral growth and distribution.
  4. Execute efficiently and effectively.

Easier said than done. The last step may very well be the most challenging. Time and time again, numerous start-ups have emerged with killer apps and extraordinary product offerings. Their inability to execute ultimately led to their demise and current inexistence.

The four points mentioned above have been compiled mostly from my own personal observations of Internet success stories (and failures) over the years, as well as from numerous books and articles.

My hope in writing this post is that it doesn’t sound overly generic. Numerous books, articles, blog posts, and other documents have been written around the same topic. My goal was to cut out the BS and really dig down to the major points that I consider most important. I think that all articles that guarantee a recipe for success should be taken at face value. Success can never be guaranteed. If it were so, the author wouldn’t be writing the article or telling the world about such a formula. He or she would be executing on the plan and making billions of dollars.

Therefore, pull your own conclusions and take from your own experiences and background to determine the best possible strategy for your start-up or company.

Google Finance - Lower Than Expected Results

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Next time you need a Google stock quote, use Yahoo Finance. The second iteration of Google’s much hyped finance portal is nothing to cry home about.

The portal debuted yesterday. Buzz around the blogosphere verified exactly what I had already concluded - this offering cannot and will not be able to compete against Yahoo Finance. It just doesn’t have that X-factor that other Google products manifest.

In phase one, the company flaunted their interactive Flash charts and blog integration, but to no avail. Phase two simply provided a more comprehensive feature set, but nothing overly revolutionary or ground-breaking like we come to expect from Google. Finance is one of the few areas where Yahoo is kicking Google’s ass. Badly.

So what did Google do wrong and what is it going to take to compete (or beat) Yahoo?

Well… let’s take a step back and look at previous successful Google product launches. Gmail, for one, offered a ridiculous amount of storage that Yahoo and MSN had to match (on some scale). This created an enormous amount of PR and buzz, which catapulted account creation into the stratosphere.

These wacky, crazy, out-of-the-box PR marketing tactics and antics are what Google has come to be known for. So why try to re-invent the wheel? 

I began to think… long… and hard… until my brain hurt. I wondered, “What if Google offered something spectacular - a specific feature (similar to the 2GB storage) for free in their finance offering?” My conclusion was that FREE, real-time stock quotes may be the ticket. An exceptional offering like that would stimulate discussion and spread the word. Rather than spend money on marketing, let the product sell itself ala Purple Cow. The PR and buzz alone would generate consider traffic and exposure.

This strategy has already worked in the past. People expect big things from this heavy-hitter. Why not crank another one out of the park?

Dear Microsoft, Get Well Zune

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Microsoft Zune logoWhen Microsoft announced that it was going to enter the MP3 player market with a so-called ‘iPod killer’, nobody held their breath. And rightfully so. The demise launch of Zune has been nothing short of disastrous.

Why did Microsoft decide to enter this market in the first place? It beats me. I can understand that the MP3 player market is large and growing fast, but is there really a solid fit? Microsoft is a software company at heart (I think using the terms ‘Microsoft’ and ‘heart’ in the same sentence is a bit of a stretch). Nonetheless, the company should stick to its core competency and shy away from shiny objects, such as the MP3 player arena.

Although the XBox has been somewhat of a success, the amount of money poured into such a venture has been astonishing. And yes, I know that Microsoft is a cash cow and has tons of capital to throw around. However, I think that there are better projects and ventures to throw money into.

This tech giant just seems to think it can enter any given field, pour a pile of money into R&D and marketing, and expect big things. The world has evolved immensely over the past 10 years and the playing field has opened up. For this reason, even large cap technology companies cannot become overly complacent.

Even with the enormous breadth and reach of this monolith, Microsoft is entering the game a wee bit late. The iPod culture is still running rampant. Add to that a complimentary (some might say monopolistic) MP3 download service, ala iTunes, and Apple has a stranglehold on the market. It will be very hard for Microsoft to break down this culture fortress.

Here are some interesting stats about Zune pulled from a BusinessWeek article:

  • Debuted at #2 in retail sales for music players in first week.
  • Slid to #5 in second week.
  • More recently, the best-selling Zune model was outsold by 13 different iPod models and 5 non-Apple players.

Not exactly a spectacular launch. I don’t think that the Zune is going to keep Apple execs up at night.

As for the product itself, I have yet to delve further into its functionality. But at first glance, it seems nothing more than an iPod rip-off with networking capabilities.

It will be interesting to watch another Microsoft product slowly fade away into the abyss. That is, unless management can scheme up yet another monopolistic strategy to ward off competition and once again declare dominance.