Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is the best eReader for the disconnected world? Kindle vrs iPad vrs Sony eReader

In March of this year, sixteen outdoor lovers spent thirty days rafting and kayaking down the Grand Canyon, where the rush of rapids, steep canyon walls, cool night air, moonlight hikes, and stargazing replace the drudgery of being chained to an inbox. Four of us were Digital Wanderers who brought our respective eReaders in place of books.  Read more

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Where has Becky been?

I've been writing. I have been writing a lot and I am nearly ready to publish a series of Whitepapers. I am in the midst of launching a new analyst firm under the name Vesselhead focused on Technology Disruptions.

Add the new blog to your RSS feeds. Go take a look at the new blog/website.  I have already posted two entries, one on the eWallet and another on HP's debut in the Tablet market.

This Blog I will keep and write occasionally on; however, I will use it to discuss other life interests like kayaking, poetry, etc.

Thank you for humoring my musings and participating in discussions on this blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

AAPL Hits $300 per share

Seems ironic that AAPL just passed the $300 a share during the advent of the Windows 7 phone release.

It was fun to throw mud at Cramer's original target back in October of last year. My assessment back then fundamentally missed the fact that once a company proves that they understand consumer sentiment, you should automatically assume that their future offerings will be just as disruptive as their past offerings. While AAPL has a lot of competitors on it's coat-tails, it is currently leading in form factor, design, application breadth, overall innovation, and now distribution channels.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Life at 3MPH

I just accomplished one of my dreams, I kayaked the Grand Canyon. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. 24 days of river life. The hikes, people, food and everything about the trip was surreal. While words cannot truly describe the experience, here is a little something I wrote to describe it in simple terms...

Life at 3MPH

life at 3mph
    the closest i'll ever get to the speed of light

worldly cares wash away with spring rain

then comes the desert bloom
   Palmer's Penstemon, Desert Larkspur, Sacred Datura, Primrose, Mariposa Lily, Prickly Pears and Poppies

sing in the amphitheater
   scale to look for another view

the enormity of everything is a halting horse

carved giants watch from above
   river, washes, tributaries
relics of the past leave simple traces
   stories make them into legends
      Anasazi, Hopi & Navajo

tracks of the day: mountain goats, deer
   scorpions, ringtail cats
   and river rats

survival is a simple cadence
   chores, paddling, swimming, and grooving with a view
life is more primal, routine, slowed
and every eye blink is of canvas quality

subtle fear sets in as the south rim arises

dance in the shadows of the canyon walls and laterals
   where serpentine waltzes show respect to the boil lines

STOP what you are doing
look up, it's breathtaking
   promontories, mesas, buttes, pinnacles

       as the fire red colors melt into the starry sky.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is Apple really going to hit $300 a share?

Cramer recently updated his AAPL target to $300. While I have been Bullish since returning from Ecuador, recently I have been pulling back. But that isn't my reason for throwing some mud on the $300 stock value.

Looking at a recent BusinessWeek valuation comparison. Apple is in second place:

Microsoft — $236 billion
Apple — $183 billion
Google — $176 billion
IBM — $162 billion
Cisco — $140 billion
HP — $115 billion
Oracle — $111 billion
Dell — $30 billion

Apple recently had a record breaking earnings quarter; however, I attribute Apples recent record quarter to ongoing anti-Vista sentiment. But Microsoft is trying to get everyone to throw them a party for sucking less this time round with one of the most eery advertising campaigns I've seen since the IBM Linux boy.

I just bought myself a MacBook and iPhone two months ago because I abhorred Windows Vista, but I am still reasonable about my outlook on AAPL. I've heard good things about Windows 7 and want to wait to cast my verdict on AAPL's price target until after I have evaluated it. I know that Windows 7 will likely slow down MacBook sales because Vista will no longer be driving customers to OS X. Microsoft is the king of good enough. The consumer has to choose between a 1.5K MacBook and an equivalent $750 Windows 7 box. In this economy, the consumer will think hard about the extra spend.

But what about the rest of Apple's market? Here is my bullet list of pro AAPL $300 target and cons.
- iTunes content
- iPhone (unmatched application strength and speed)
- Superior engineering design for laptops and desktops
- Superior OS
- Boot, Sleep and overall virus reliability
- Linux underneath cause I'm an old school nerd
- Still not first to be supported for new technologies
- Proprietary connectivity
- Expensive (even in this downturn they did not lower their prices much)
- Often does not support really basic and expected functionality
- Still not viable for the Enterprise customer :(, their market will continue to be limited to the consumer, designer, media, startup spaces.

I believe that Apple is a great company; however, technology doesn't sit still. And while AAPL definitely shows leadership in innovation, their competitors are becoming increasingly more threatening. iPhone is still king, but the Palm Pre, Android variations, and CrackBerry are on it's tail. And there are hints and allegations about MS Pink.

When it comes to content, I think there is going to be continued pressure from all sides. Pandora, LastFM, etc challenge the itunes MP3 store. Amazon, Netflix and others are competing now for video. Hulu is quickly becoming an alternative to cable and while their current movie selection is poor, I believe it can and will improve and begin to compete. Overall, I believe that Apple's content market is being challenged by a plethora of free and paid for choices.

Market pressures finally pushed Apple to support MMS (Send Pictures via text) and Flash on the iPhone. But lacking critical features like these from the get go are the types of annoyances that can keep them from being adopted and keep AAPL from being trusted by it's consumer base. Disclosure: I gave up my first iPhone due to lack of support for both of these features. At the time the iPhone Apps simply weren't as sexy as they are today. Right now I couldn't imagine having any other phone but my new 3G.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of GOOG, left AAPL's board Aug 3 because of increasing conflicts of interest. Now Google is speaking publicly about the Google OS (likely a combination of Android + Chrome + offline caching and app support) that will be releasing on Netbooks in 2010. The majority of internet users are already highly aligned with the Google brand and tools. BING is still trying to prove itself in search as a viable competitor with their recent deals with Twitter and Facebook; however, Google still holds 70% in US and 80% globally for search. With the introduction of Android, their smartphone platform, preceding it's laptop release, they are only strengthening their brand ubiquity. And recently they have been making inroads in the enterprise with their cloud services where Apple is not a player. Tight integration here will be key to Android's success and likely be a primary threat to BlackBerry and Window's Smartphone spaces; however, if done right can also become a potential threat to the iPhone.

In the Enterprise space, I see a future run of Google vrs. MS with a combination of smartphone, laptop, enterprise collaboration infra like SharePoint+Exchange. Eric's view is that the lines between the consumer and the employee lines are becoming increasingly more blurred. If this is true, this leaves GOOG in the most likely to succeed and grow position. Overall, Apple has yet to prove that it can enter the enterprise and this will limit their market potential greatly.

While I think AAPL is doing a phenomenal job. The bar is high and they will have to keep up with the innovation especially since the cost of their systems is well beyond the reach of most. They will not be able to penetrate emerging markets as well as their competition because of the price barrier. I think that AAPL was a killer buy at $8; however,to be a great buy at $200, they are really going to have to begin to make some strategic moves to grow their customer base without losing their core business model around innovation in their closed environment.

In the meantime, I believe GOOG is on the up and up.

Friday, October 23, 2009

You'll love your PC again

We just waited for 2 hours for my friend's computer to be backed up by Windows Vista. Sadly, the tool was too pathetic to tell us ahead of time that there was not enough room on his drive for all selected files. I am helping him by trying to wipe his computer clean after getting malware. Unreal!

A few weeks ago, my brother Mark asked me where he can join the 'I hate Windows Vista' fan club. I responded sarcastically with "Get in line at the Mac store."

My entire family traditionally was a Windows family where programming and gaming ruled. Realize that I am the last of 14 and have over 40 nieces and nephews. Also, my family grew up in the Bay Area and are all nerds. My cousin invented a piece of the hard drive and my father worked at IBM for 40 years. He is 90 now. My family is slowly but surely becoming a Mac family. Not a good sign.

I am a Microsoft shareholder but that will not stop me from being critical. I have been waiting to upgrade my PC for Windows 7. I considered Windows Vista to be a hog with little to know extra value. Sure integrated search was nice but seriously you could have that functionality on XP with google indexer.

I have been told, it doesn't suck as much as Windows Vista. It is very sad to read an article where Michael Dell explains that you will "love your PC again." It is sad and frustrating to say the least.

But I am actually hopeful and excited. I get a new Windows 7 box in an hour. Full side by side comparisons of OSX and Win7 to come.

Has Twitter, the timesuck, won me over?

I joined Twitter in the early days of it's launch, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to delve in and  figure it out. After three weeks of living in the twitosphere, I am almost won over, BUT I am reserved about my praise.

Twitter is a great way to ascertain the heat on a new topic and to learn more about things you are interested in. For instance, in I have a search in my TweetDeck for GeoThermal. This allows me to see all realtime broadcasts from 12 million people tweeting that include the word GeoThermal. My friend @NASeason says that twitter for her is "more real time than Facebook, follow people without having to friend them, no more feeling strange about changing status 5x a day."

So why am I still reserved?  Because in my Twitter exploration I have found the time suck factor to be quite high and I am still waiting to see if it is just another fad that will be supplanted with newer, more superior technology e.g. FriendFeed which has better support for conversations.

My friend NASeason highlights exactly why I think the time suck factor can be so high... people do change their status 5x a day. That is a lot of content to consume or filter esp if you are following a lot of people.

One of it's primary drawbacks is that the conversational paradigm is nearly non-existant yet that seems to be the whole purpose of the tool. Weird eh? Not really.

The original idea was to be able to use SMS to tell groups what you are doing. It is easy enough to send a quick message, but to carry a dialog is another thing. The retweet (RT) paradigm allows your message to easily be fanned out to different networks of people which is cool because ultimately people forward your broadcast and expand your message to new networks of people. The respond to (@) paradigm is interesting; however, there is no straightforward correlation to what someone is actually responding to. The trail can't easily be followed between two people let alone groups.

I am constantly asking myself the following questions in my Twitter exploration:
  • How can I optimize my engagement with Twitter to make my time investment valuable?
  • Could I be using my time more effectively somewhere else?
Some things I have learned along the way that may help you if you decide to jump on the Twitter bandwagon.
  • If you are new to Twitter, Mark Oneil has a step by step guide. Scott Hanselman also does a good job of explaining Twitter in a slightly more technical fashion on his blog post, usefulness of microblogging.
  • Some etiquette 
  • Use it wisely. For example, I spend a lot of time investing in and researching stocks. I was curious if the tool could help me more readily predict what was going to happen in the market. Mostly I found that the tweets were often just highlighting articles on WSJ, NYT, SeekingAlpha, etc. that I would have read more directly if I wasn't using my time to browse tweets. Occasionally though, a great article or point of view shows up that I would never have seen without a tweet. It is the diamond in the rough that I seek so I keep coming back.
  • If you need to laugh search for #textthatgetnoreply on twitter, quite funny
Overall, I think Twitter is a simple, but powerful broadcasting mechanism that let's you follow topics and people you think are cool or pertinent in realtime.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Etiquette in Social Networking

Recently I have been diving into Twitter and trying to find out how I can leverage it in my daily life. One of the first things I did as a part of this exploration was to syndicate my Twitter feed to my Facebook profile. I quickly realized this was a faux pas.

Why? Because I engage with different social networking sites in extremely different ways and my audiences' intrests vary. Before I delve deeper into this, let's see how I classify my Social networking world:
  • LinkedIn is my professional profile where my audience is my peers, potential clients and money making opportunities. This audience primarily cares about updates in my career successes and where I may be for networking opportunities using TripIt.
  • This Blog is my professional voice, rants and chronicle for my hobby, kayaking. My audience has the potential to be anyone in the public domain; however, generally it is a mix of friends and professional contacts. If I had the energy, I would have two blogs, one for kayaking and one for my professional public voice.
  • Twitter is a public dialog about all things with anyone and everyone that is paying attention to things I care about e.g. stocks, alternative energy, technology, the economy and other news. Very chatty forum and dialogs are announced to everyone following you or searching on a topic.
  • Facebook is a semi-private dialog about my personal life and less public views. I think this forum can stretch to be far more emotional than my public forums would ever be.  Dialog updates are announced only to people who have actively participated in them.
  • Yelp is where I communicate my public opinion on what tastes good and things I would pay for.
Some people have the same voice on on social networking sites and so they simply don't differentiate. But the reality is that most recipients of facebook status, tweets, blog entries, etc. actually do care. For instance, I am not into Farmville and I have blocked everyone on facebook that plays it. For me, I can only imagine how annoying would it be if Farmville announcements were on Twitter.

I don't want to see 10 facebook update status from a person a day. Twitter is a more appropriate forum for that. And sadly, when people syndicate their twitter feed into Facebook, their Facebook status is often nonsensical. For example, say you tweet "@johndoe I'd do a put at 3".  Your Facebook community cannot see that you have been dialoging with a guy by the name of John Doe about geothermal energy. The context is simply not there.

Facebook is a forum for keeping in touch with people I love or want to play with. It is my playground. I do things I would never do in public e.g. post a pic of my friend's child. I would even allow my niece to tag horrendous pictures of me when I was younger.

How do you answer and respond to the the question, what do you do? Are you the type of person who answers with details about your profession or your hobby? Do you roll your eyes when you ask the question and the person responds with their resume? For me it depends on where I am and what I am doing i.e. am I at a conference or on a river. When someone posts their work status on facebook, I generally feel sorry for them and believe they are working too hard and aren't happy in their personal life because their work is their entire life.

Sometimes the boundaries cross, but not always. For some people whose connections are synonymous in work and their personal lives, these variances may not be as relevant.

In general, unless you are a food critic, honestly, most people don't care where you ate on twitter. They would rather use Yelp to find out public opinion on the Sushi Restaurant in Fremont. By all means tweet about your review, but make your review count by cataloging it in the right place. On Facebook on the other hand, one can feel nostalgia and miss a loved one when they tweet about what/where they are eating. I am all about inviting myself over for dinner. And if I am making something sumptuous or going to a great restaurant, if I like you, by all means show up!

Another reality is, that while I may rant to my private audience on Facebook, I don't consider that to be a public forum where potential employers may see my cynical side. I don't want to be misunderstood in the public domain. My thoughts need to be more well articulated and complete in the public domain; whereas, my Facebook status is more contextualized based on knowing my character more intimately.

Personally, I don't like connections on facebook unless they are friends. I do have some colleagues on there, but that is usually because I have created a deeper relationship with them beyond the bounds of the office. If that relationship is not there, I would prefer they were following me on my blog or Twitter.

Each tool has a very profoundly different use for me and I recognize that my audience varies greatly in all scenarios. What is your social networking etiquette?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marketing in the Social Age

Joakim Vars Nils articulates in 102 slides (yes a long one) why empowering people is key in marketing. If you don't have time to go through the deck, I summarize and highlight the best parts of his deck below.

People don't want to be interrupted by brand advertisement, they want to be engaged. Engaging brands that work within niches will be more successful in the Social Age. People confer with each other about their interests and what to buy. You have to engage the influencers.

"We have gone from scarcity of media to scarcity of attention, which cannot be bought but earned"

Slide 20 - He shows top brands and highlights that only 50% advertise. I have a different conclusion from him on this slide. The most valued brands today in technology do not use advertising. They use viral marketing i.e. they prove their brands worth and let the community market them.
Slides 39-42 - The Mobile internet is the wave of the future, people social network everywhere, videos and social networking are used more important than email
Slide 73 - Great segmentation of the Social Internet (Internet Marketplace, Social Content, Social Networks, Services, You)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Wish I could have seen Susan Mernit's talk live

Check out the words in this deck... excellent. Now this is a woman I have to meet.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Is the blog dead?

Due to the amount of time I spend on Facebook, I am now syndicating my blog posts to it. Sadly they don't syndicate the comments back. It makes sense because they want to own the discussion i.e. the advertisement impressions. But sadly this means that my poor blog is losing views and lacks discussion. Ultimately, it means I sacrifice advertising dollars to Facebook.

With my Facebook time and recent exploration of Twitter, it seems that using the blog as a vehicle for discussion is now legacy or dead as some would call it. Most pull snippets from their blogs and post them on Twitter. Then most comments are simply tweets.

The blog is still a good medium to author articles, but lower expectations on direct syndication and discussions in the traditional comment trail.

Is Twitter the next Webvan?

Great article and especially great chart showing private vrs VC funded companies from the 90s and beyond. Will Twitter with ~155M raised to date be the next Webvan or PayPal?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Will Twitter win me over?

I had a talk with Ray Valdes about my skepticism around the twitter business model. Don't get me wrong, I think Twitter has huge value. I just question the grandiose valuation of 15 Billion dollars. Why? Well for one, I don't see a legitimate way to advertise directly to users without pushing them away. The indirect approach isn't yet earning them dollars. And while there is a lot of potential up-sell opportunities, one would think, they would be in motion by now. There is a lot of money to be made by doing analytics over the data and selling it as research, but Twitter's openness makes me believe that anyone can do this. Perhaps I haven't read all the fine print.

Regardless, even if I haven't bought into the price tag yet, I still question it's value to me. As someone who was involved in the social internet from day one, I have been a very tentative user of the system. I registered with them early in the first year of their existence. But I never really enjoyed the short blast to the ether. And since then, even with all of the research I have been doing, I never find myself using it as a source. Simply put, I have always found the @ and # to simply be too much noise. Sifting through basketball, football, and what I ate for lunch info from people I'm not close too, doesn't add any value to my life. I much prefer the tidbits from my social network, once MySpace, now Facebook. And when I look at some of the folks like Scoble who seems to tweet more than write anymore. I must say, I still prefer his more well thought out rants to his tweets.

Sure if I was at a conference and wanted to know what I was missing in other sessions, I may just plug in. But other than that....

Hmm, but maybe I have been using the tool incorrectly. Maybe I am simply following too few people and not a broad enough sample or perhaps focused sample. Really, what I need is to get a broader perspective and do some analysis on what the conversation of the day is.

Why would I care about this? I have always seen the value of getting the news before the news hits the wire, and if I were responsible for PR at any company, I would be all over Twitter. But outside of work, in my day to day life, why would knowing the news a day before it is published be valuable? Day Trading!

So my experiment begins. Can knowing the temperature of the tweetosphere lead me to know what the news will be about a day later and thus know how a stock will move?

Let's see if Twitter can finally win me over.

Tools I'm in love with on the Mac

Okay, so a couple of years ago I bought a Mac and felt some level of remorse. Yes, remorse. While there were moments of being overjoyed e.g. seeing my photographs with more vivid colors, iMovie editing, iChat, and a unix based OS. For the most part, I felt less productive. And my #1 frustration was lack of synchronization with my SmartPhone.

Why? Well, the reality was that some of my applications just weren't either a) as good or b) available. So I went back to the PC for a year.

Recently I decided it was time to upgrade my PC. I was very frustrated one day when I was trying to leave the house but Internet Explorer took an hour to upgrade only to find it wasn't as good as Chrome and ultimately looked like a rip off of FireFox. This drove me to go buy a new Powerbook for my personal computer.

With my new PowerBook, I can honestly say, I don't feel any remorse... YET. In fact, my only remorse was that I did not buy a larger hard drive because I am installing so much goodness.

Here are some of the awesome tools I have found:

  • Think or Swim (Up to you how much money you make or lose ;) My day trading app is on the Mac, I thought for sure I would have to keep my PC for this one.
  • Dupin ($15) - Yes, finally something to get rid of my duplicate songs in iTunes
  • TinkerTools (free)- Opens up the hidden controls on the Mac
  • Chmox (free) - Helps me read online books with .chm extensions
  • Stuffit Expander (free)
  • Senuti ($18) - To pull my songs off my iPod and onto my new computer
  • Vuze - For Bittorrents
  • Little Snitch ($29.95 - works for 3 hours in demo mode) - to tell me what my network is up to and block communication I don't want. This has been awesome when you are on sites that have a lot of callbacks to advertising firms etc. Also this a great tool to identify a potential worm or virus.
  • TextMate ($59) - Simple text editor for code
  • Site Sucker (Donation) - To help me in my consultancy work. I can easily archive a client's old web-site for later reference. Also it is great when I am trying to learn. I can easily look at someone's web code
  • VLC (free) - Media player
If you have any other great tools like these, let me know about them. I would love something as good as TextMate for cheaper.