Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Social Networking and the Bottom of the Pyramid

Here's an inspiring story in New York Times about how social networking is made available for the societal good in India. It refers to an initiative--babajob.com-- that seeks to
bring the social-networking revolution popularized by Facebook and MySpace to people who do not even have computers — the world’s poor. And the start-up is just one example of an unanticipated byproduct of the outsourcing boom: many of the hundreds of multinationals and hundreds of thousands of technology workers who are working here are turning their talents to fighting the grinding poverty that surrounds them.

As I blogged earlier, the ultimate power of networking is to ensure that it impacts those at the bottom of the pyramid.
This initiative may spawn other such efforts--using the power of networks for societal good and also elevate the standard of living for many.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Network Era--What's the Impact on the Bottom of the Pyramid?

Professor CK Prahalad has challenged corporations to focus on serving the bottom of the pyramid. His book is a very inspiring read.
I have often wondered how to link his ideas to the broader shift to a network era that allows knowledge-workers to participate in the global development. What we need are applications that specifically focus on the value that can be delivered to those that can be characterized as being at the bottom of the pyramid. Here's a video of an experiment underway in rural parts of South India. This is impressive. We need to scale up such initiatives. We need to learn from these initiatives and adapt the applications so that they continue to deliver superior value. We cannot afford to have the network era worsen the digital divide. Network era has the opportunity to close the divide between the rich and the poor and this should be pursued.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Google Pontiac Television Ad Trial-- Just an experiment or shape of things to come?

I have seen a few reference to this advertisement run by Pontiac with the ending... "Google Pontiac"

I started to wonder: "How many other advertisements have followed this trend? what has been the impact?"
Then I started thinking if Google may be using this as an experimental probe to assess the attractiveness of getting into television audience measurement business, competing against Nielsen? Or as an ally to the television networks that are struggling to better understand their audience viewing habits?
I should look at this issue in more detail soon.

Apple iPhone and Third Party Applications

At one level, it is easy and straightforward to leverage the power of independent software developers to make your platform more attractive. We know that the attractiveness of a platform like Windows is largely based on the strength of complementary applications (just as XBox and Sony PS3 etc..).
We also know that Apple has been relatively closed and only cautiously leverages third-party developers. It does not mean that Apple has not recognized (or understood) the power of indirect, complementary network effects. I see it as Apple selectively deciding when and how to bring the power of third-party developers to maximize the attractiveness of Apple products to its users. If Apple had not made iPod and ITunes compatible with Windows, Apple would have surely remained as a niche player in the music sector.
In the case of iPhone, Apple is also being selective and cautious. Sure, there are a lot of people wanting Apple to open up its architecture to third-party application developers. Yes, we all want to be able to customize the look-n-feel of our phones. But, we also want stable and robust applications that are reliable (and do not just hang!). So, as an Apple iPhone user, I welcome what Steve Jobs has announced as his intention to bring the power and creativity of third party developers.
Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.


P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch.

[Oct 17, 2007]

Orchestrating an ecosystem is a a core competence for success in a network era. I am one who argues for seriously recognizing how complementary capabilities can be brought to bear in business innovations. In such cases, every company should ensure that the benefits of a vibrant network outweighs the downside risks.
Apple's success with iPhone depends on how well it ensures that its distinctive signature--design and elegance--are enhanced (not detracted) by its partners (including network operators such as AT&T, O2, Orange and others) and third-party application developers.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Social Retailing: Social Networks + Next Generation Retailing

It is fascinating to see applications of social networking in different fields. Here's an initiative (social retailing) that could appeal to the generation that cannot live without mobile phones...

I wonder what the initial reactions are from users that have tried this out..

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pfizer-Sermo Social Networking Link

Pfizer and Sermo have entered into an interesting agreement whereby one pharmaceutical company will preferentially have access to Sermo's network of physicians. The following paragraphs from their press release is worth looking at closely.

New York and Cambridge, Mass., October 15, 2007 — Pfizer Inc and Sermo, the nation’s largest online physician community, today announced a strategic collaboration designed to redefine the way physicians in the U.S. and the healthcare industry work together to improve patient care. Sermo is a Web-based community where physicians share observations from daily practice, discuss emerging trends and provide new insights into medications, devices and treatments.

Through this collaboration, Sermo’s community of physicians will have access to Pfizer’s clinical content in tangible ways that allow for the transparent and efficient exchange of knowledge. With access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on Pfizer products, physicians will be able to find the data they need, when they need it, to make informed decisions.

“This collaboration reflects Pfizer’s commitment to engaging in peer-to-peer medical dialogue with physicians to better meet our mutual goal of delivering the best care to patients,” said Michael Berelowitz, MD, Senior Vice President of Global Medical and New York Site Head of Worldwide Development for Pfizer. “Sermo’s state of the art technology has the potential to greatly improve our ability to provide physicians with timely and accurate information they want about our medicines and clinical data.”

Pfizer, working together with Sermo’s physician community and other Sermo partners, plans to pursue a number of key objectives through this collaboration, including:

* Discover, with physicians, how best to transform the way medical information is exchanged in the fast-moving social media environment

* Create an open and transparent discussion with physicians through the innovative channel offered by online exchange

* Engage with the FDA to define guidelines for the use of social media in communications with healthcare professionals

* Work with physicians to develop a productive exchange between pharmaceutical professionals and the Sermo community

Here's a video that discusses the deal in some detail


I can clearly see the first-mover advantage that Pfizer is striving to get. Instead of creating a site that is visited sparingly by doctors who may have a preference to get on Sermo, they have created a preferred partner agreement. But, i wonder what Sermo may do if Merck or J&J wanted to be on it as well? How will the doctors deal with these competing demands? Who will arbitrate?
I am intrigued to see social networking logic go from C2C to B2B. This is clearly an important move--one that may get refined as both parties better evaluate the benefits over time. Clearly worth watching to see what the next set of moves are in this space.
update: Here's a short overview of Sermo's business model as described by CEO Daniel Palestrant.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Social Networking and Google

I am not surprised that Google is planning to make a big push into social networking. This blog from NY Times gives some details based on comments made by Eric Schmidt. Two points made in the blog are central to discussions of how important network thinking is to business strategy these days.

1. “People don’t appreciate how many page views on the Internet are in social networks,” According to Schmidt.

2. Mr. Schmidt did say that over the next year, Google is planning to use information it has about the connections between its users, something techies call the “social graph,” to improve searches and other Google services.

I am looking to see what Google will do in terms of software and applications on the mobile phone. This is where it could have an edge over MySpace and Facebook. Worth watching to see how this space evolves in the coming months.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Monetization Challenges (1): eBay's Skype Premium

eBay took a risk paying a huge premium for Skype a few years back. Now, it has written down the value by over $1 billion.

eBay is growing (in terms of subscribers and calls) but is not making appropriate profit contribution to eBay's bottom-line. Monetizing eBay's main business model is clear and straightforward but monetizing Skype (with value-added services on top of base free services) is not that clear and simple. Moreover, the so-called synergy between the core business and Skype never materialized. This is what Meg Whitman said about the acquisition in September 2005.
“Communications is at the heart of ecommerce and community,” said Meg Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer of eBay. “By combining the two leading ecommerce franchises, eBay and PayPal, with the leader in Internet voice communications, we will create an extraordinarily powerful environment for business on the Net.”
Social connectivity is hot (and trendy) but monetization challenges remain. That does not mean Meg Whitman made a mistake when she bought Skype. This is a high-risk fast-changing business and some mistakes are inevitable. She deserves credit for acknowledging it and then writing it off against her otherwise good financial performance this year!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Microsoft's Move in Shaping the Healthcare Ecosystem

Microsoft has announced a new 'software and service initiative.' I was expecting Google to take the lead in the health arena but Microsoft seems to have beaten Google at least in terms of launching version 1.0.

The website is live now. It will be worth watching how many individuals sign up. Ultimately, in such initiatives, the critical first performance indicator is the rate of sign-ups; subsequently, we should look at how steadily do people update and maintain their health records on this site.
--Here's the WSJ article discussing this initiative.
As in any network-era initiative, success will depend on Microsoft's ability to orchestrate multiple entities in the health ecosystems. The launch site shows the initial set of players that have committed to show their support. But there is a huge difference between showing commitment (intent) and actually supporting it on a sustained basis (use).
Clearly, health is an important area and this initiative is worth watching and tracking as this ecosystem takes shape over time.
Update: Here's a reference article published in NY Times.

NY Times article noted how this can help mitigate risks of heart attack:
At the American Heart Association, Dr. Daniel Jones, the president, said working with Microsoft was a way to accelerate his group’s efforts to curb heart disease. Microsoft is collaborating with the association on an online tool for managing blood pressure. Heart patients will be able to go to the association’s Web site, open a HealthVault account and submit their blood-pressure readings, weight and medications.

At first, Dr. Jones said, consumers will probably enter the data themselves, but later they may have it sent from a doctor’s office or laboratory. Ideally, he said, patients would share the information with their doctor or nurse, who could call or send an e-mail message to warn of any disturbing changes.
Healthcare ecosystems will evolve around complex issues of information, privacy, service delivery, insurance and preventive care. And, information technology will be at the center of the dynamic ecosystems. Microsoft's healthvault is an important building block.