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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Speculation time?

When stock prices take the kind of beating that we're witnessing, the emergence of potential bargains always leads to a sort of fantasy league for takeover speculation, in which analysts and pundits play at making matches between the vulnerable and their possible suitors. These hypotheticals should always be taken well salted, but they still can make for interesting thought exercises.

The player is Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek, who gave fresh legs to a possibility -- that Microsoft might snap up RIM. The logic - Microsoft would have its own smartphones to compete with Apple's iPhone and the devices running on Google's Android platform.

Peter Misek feels RIM is a massive strategic fit for Microsoft and they have a standing offer to buy them at $50 (a share). RIM's shares traded at close to $150 just a few months ago, but stock price slides so fast lately and it's within a few bucks of that offer. The way things are going, that's hardly a stretch as it would make the deal worth just over $28 billion, and Microsoft is flush enough to pull it off without having to tap the credit markets. The question is whether MSFT really feels compelled to get into hardware wars or if it's satisfied to compete on the platform side with Windows Mobile. Neither company graced the speculation with a comment.

Meanwhile, up at RIM the folks I guess are trying to stay focused, getting the just unveiled iPhone competitor launched ("BlackBerry Storm") and as rumor has it, they are already working on the next two generations.

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Friday, October 10, 2008


Has Google lost the fine art of going to market?

Chris O’Brien of Mercury News asks whether Android is going the way of Google’s open social initiative (to counter Facebook). The challenge starts off way Android figures down the list of operating systems for smart-phones. At the top of the heap are BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, the iPhone and Symbian. This last one is produced by a consortium of the largest cell phone manufacturers in the world, including Ericsson and Nokia.

Given that Symbian will soon become open-source, Android’s pitch appeal – one of developer freedom, pales. Throw in the fact that a group called the LiMo Foundation is developing a Linux-based operating system for mobile phones, and Android becomes just one of three open-source options after counting in the restricted freedom allowed to developers by Apple’s iPhone. And then came Chrome browser from Google stable. It turns out that even that will take a while before it becomes the choice browser in Android phones.

So why is Google doing this? Here’s how I can explain it.

Google sees everything as a media real estate. Be it the web pages where its ads are served up, the videos on youtube and now to operating systems and open source applications. It can’t have enough of walls to stick its bills. It is fearful that some day it will exhaust its relevance if web goes out of fashion and so it wants an upper hand on anything that remotely seems like competition. There you get it. Competition. Google feels it’s easier to chase than to lead. So up comes a feature rich product that the world loves, say iPhone, Google wants a slice of that. It goes ahead and develops Android – the open source operating system. Microsoft leads the browser market? Google wants a piece of action there. In comes Chrome browser. Google can’t afford to lose consumer mindshare. It just has to be there, at the core of people’s mind. Think media mileage, consumer outreach, think Google!

Didn’t we express shock when Google paid $3.1 billion for YouTube? Now we wonder the same way how Android or Chrome browser will make money. May be, we’re wrong. It’s advertisement for Google, the way Google builds its brand value. The money it makes the old fashioned way – by serving ads. And that’s not going to change anytime soon!!!

Except if a web equivalent of Wall Street meltdown threatens redefining the space…

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

I want my clear blue sky and unadorned wall back

What had started out as simple TV advertising between programs have become so intrusive that almost every two minutes there is a commercial break. Consumers armed with remote controls zapped away commercials in snarky if not sadistic glee. So what do broadcasters do to ROI insistent advertisers?

They innovate by subtler intrusion. The Times Online reports that the boffins at ITV have come up with a new approach called "automatically placed overlay advertising" using technology from Keystream that can spot large "clear" areas in video content -- an empty blue sky, for instance, or an unadorned wall -- and superimpose a logo or message, embedding it into the programming.

And you thought set-top boxes that allow us to record programs and then jam the commercials mean that we’ll get uncontaminated content! As viewers get cleverer, broadcasters get smarter. Now it’s the turn of the viewers again to invent new ways to get back that clear blue sky and that unadorned wall on the screen ;-)

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