Monday, January 22, 2007

Will multi-touch change computing?

While the first sales of this system have been to the military, what might this mean for the internet?

I think the number of educational flash-using sites/blogs will skyrocket .. eventually. Flash is great for educational "videos," and blogging has pushed the amount of educational material up tremendously on the web. But flash is too complicated to learn (not to mention expensive) for most people. Even though there are less expensive packages that create flash, alas, they are still too complicated for most people.

If Apple (who else?) one day includes this kind of on-screen intuitive interface, people will start using it to create educational content very widely. (Update: Of course, they have now included it on the iPhone). You could eventually see a kind of YouTube for flash, as average people will be able to create flash content as easy as creating video.

Article, New Video; Original site.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Can Google leapfrog PayPal and end up a player in the financial markets?

Another "What might Google's future hold?" article.

When I do business development and marketing consulting for businesses, the factor that most often determines what the business will be doing if still successful two years hence is what is their core competency, and what internal barriers to execution are there?

With Google, they have been developing some fascinating core competencies. Take fraud detection. Building on their competency in search, they have developed an advanced and ever-changing click fraud detection system. Will they be able to apply this to their payment processing service, and will it give them an advantage vs. PayPal?

PayPal has been very unpopular during virtually all of its business life. There were a lot of online payment processors starting around the same time, and to win against competition, PayPal concentrated on simplifying it's fraud prevention and recovery. REALLY simplifying. As most people know, PayPal will freeze the accounts of anyone it suspects being even peripherally involved in fraud--meaning you don't have to do anything wrong to have your funds frozen for 6 months.

Sure enough, fraud took out the competition, and PayPal survived their users wrath. (And as far as I can tell, they're handling fraud and angry customers very little different today than they did years ago.) PayPal's core competency was in part willingness to suffer the "PayPalSucks" websites and still hang on to enough dedicated users by getting the features right and growing quickly.

Fast forward some years. Enter Google. In one of their many recent imitations of Microsoft, they are entering a market against a very successful, entrenched player. But they are internally synergistic: Google is rolling out places to spend your money AND providing the payment service. And they excel in managing and delivering features over the internet on a large scale.

But what if their fraud detection is an order of magnitude better than PayPal? Can they turn this into a decisive advantage? If so, I would say yes. A lower cost of fraud means they can lower the cost of merchant services. Then, similar to how I mentioned they might get into the finance world by automating investment, they would be in financial services. And I think they will grow in that area.

The thing about Google is, their expertise is solving problems in real-time and rapidly scaling up delivery of the solution. There has never been a company quite like them. GE's past emphasis on management best practices and execution is the closest parallel I can think of. GE had repeatedly been able to take on an incredible variety of business successfully because of this emphasis on smart execution. And I think Google does them one or two better.

So I'm still predicting that Google will be, one way or another, applying their brainpower VERY successfully in finance before the decade is out. They are working on prediction markets already. There is no more profitable place for Google's digital IQ points to be applied. Taking on PayPal successfully might end being just one more route into Global dominance in the financial markets.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

All your bandwidth--and your money?--belong to Google

And after they dominate that, then what? Things ever bigger, of course: Dominating the financial markets

As more bandwidth becomes available, new ways to use it up an order of magnitude or so beyond what the current network can handle will always come about. Bandwidth need follows its own version of Moore's Law

There will always be huge new bandwidth consuming developments. Today's is video. Yesterday's was bitTorrent. What can scale up most rapidly to meet internet bandwidth demands? Peer-to-peer (P2P). So the question becomes: who can scale up a large P2P solution the fastest? Robert X Cringley has one answer: Google.

The kind of P2P I'm talking about is where the web pages and files you want from the internet are duplicated somewhere physically near to you--so you browse the internet, but a large portion of your bandwidth needs are handled by duplicate files located near to you. That way, your bandwidth needs affect only a small portion of the internet--the portion closest to you. (Well-explained here by Cringely.)

Google is building a lot of data centers. Places where they can store parts of the internet near to each of us. Then as the companies we rely on to give us bandwidth today can't keep up with our video and other high-bandwidth needs, Google steps in to give us a virtual increase in bandwidth by storing (caching) key parts of the internet near us.

P2P is also more responsive to the kind of brainpower culture Google brings to the game than traditional bandwidth. There are many stories of well-funded organizations failing to handle the technical side of scaling up the bandwidth and features of an existing product. Friendster and Yahoo! Search Marketing are two of my favorite stories of failures to execute. Took 'em both years to get where they thought they could be in months.

Google understands the technical side of scaling up with smart features better than probably any company that has yet existed. Giving us a high-bandwidth internet connection through P2P is tailor-made to their expertise. One question will be: What to cache? They can't store the whole internet.

But who better to figure out how to handle user requests in real-time than Google?

Can Google use their core competency to dominate financial markets?

Finally, for the most interesting part: What if their stock price quadruples again when they are perceived for dominance in this new area? With the money from that kind of market valuation, what will they choose to do next? That kind of financial power begets other kinds of power as well. It gives them great leverage to increase ... their financial power! Really the question is, what can Google do if they have one more big success?

Right now there are a lot of programs trying to read news in real time and make automated investment shifts. At the potential kinds of valuation and dominance Google could achieve, they could toy with dominating computerized investment intelligence (I won't call it AI) just as a means of protecting their finances. Google is already more expert at reading text and understanding what it means, and matching text queries to other text--it's their search technology! They could easily extend this to automating the reading of news and linking it to financial decision making.

And once they start playing seriously in that area, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to dominate there too. Part of their business model seems to be "do the smartest thing, in the smartest way, with the smartest people." You know there are things they would love to do if only they had another few hundred billion dollars more. And computerized investment programs would be a great way to get there, if they could find a legitimate reason to move in that direction.

What I'm saying here is that they can create a positive feedback loop that makes them bigger and more powerful without a visible end in sight. Google to date has demonstrated an excellent positive feedback loop, but they're still a young company as far as charting new directions.

Really any additional huge success on their part can begat more huge success, because they will think big. They are trying to think of things no one has ever considered before. Moving into Artificial Intelligence in the financial markets (there, I said it) is just one possibility.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Freeze reality into slow motion right before your eyes

The time fountain LED experiment is a stroboscopic light experiment that makes the water drops seem to freeze in the air or move in slow motion. You can actually touch them while they are frozen in mid-air .. watch at 0:53 into the video---don't miss this part!

Found here, but see the real thing here.

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