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As a 22 year veteran of the intersection of media and technology (going back to the interactive video disc days) I have many views on the subject. Having been doing this for as long as I have, I have a different perspective on it than many bloggers. This is where I opine.

Entries in gut feelings (3)

Saturday
May052007

Video on Cell Phones

I've been skeptical of video on cell phones for some time. I've mentioned it here and here. I've been meaning to blog about it for a while. Hunter (who runs some segment of video for Google and/or YouTube) reminded me to finally do it, so I am.

There are a number of real challenges to mobile video. Technology can solve many of them at some level. But one of them is much more fundamental and does not have a real technological solution. That problem is driven by biology, and by market forces. There are also a number of business issues involving the cellular carriers, but we'll assume the carriers will wise up at some point and those will go away.

Technology challenges include:

Battery life
Bandwidth
Local storage
Limited UI capability of handsets
Screen size
Batteries are getting better all the time. Mobile bandwidth is also improving (here in the US it lags, but that too will pass). Storage is always getting cheaper. Clever engineers can make good UIs. Screen resolutions are getting higher and higher.

Technological advances will solve many problems, but Moore's law will never give us better eyes.

A biological fact: Human eyes are limited in their capability. Very small complex video images, even at very high resolution, are difficult to see. It has more to do with the angle subtended in your field of view than with how many pixels there are. If you get a small screen close enough to your face to subtend an acceptably large angle, it will be too close for your eyes to focus on.

A market reality: People really like small cell phones.

So...

A) On one hand you have a downward market pressure for smaller and smaller handsets.

B) On the other hand to make video viable and viewable a handset needs to have some minimal X-Y dimensions.

If the dimensions required by B are greater than the maximum acceptable mass market size defined in A, cellphone video will be niche.

The iPhone will provide an interesting test here. There's been a lot written about the iPhone; battery issues, connectivity issues, storage issues. The one thing that is seldom discussed about the iPhone is how physically large it is. It's bigger than an iPod. It's bigger than a Treo or a Blackberry. It's MUCH larger than a RIZR or a KRZR. It's big enough to need a belt holster. It's smartphone size and smartphones are a niche market. The iPhone has 3.5 inch screen. I suspect that's about as small as you can go for an acceptable video experience. But a 3.5 inch screen necessitates a really big phone.

FWIW, I rarely see people watching video on their video enabled iPods.

Sunday
Mar252007

Hire Fast, Fire Fast

I blog about start up teams quite frequently --- and poking through our logs, the posts about building start up teams are among the most searched for. The reason we talk about it is that there is nothing more important to success of a start up than having the right team. Michael Cerda at Jangl had an interesting post the other day on the topic. Dick Costolo at Feedburner hits it on the head.

Dick talks about a "hire fast, fire fast" approach and this great quote:

"The hire fast, fire fast approach basically can be boiled down to 'it's really almost impossible to understand whether a person is going to be a killer A+ match before they start working with you day to day, so best to find somebody that seems close enough, and then remove them quickly if they don't work out.'"

This is so true. Until you're in the start up trenches with someone, you don't know if they're for real or are just puffing. While you certainly want to avoid bad hires, it is absolutely essential that you also give yourself an out in case someone isn't working out.

What makes it harder is that the traditional metrics one uses in hiring for a big company don't apply when you're building a team for a start up. In fact, success in big companies (where office politics have set in) may be a contra-indicator for start up suitability.

Joe Kraus also has some great thoughts on hiring.

Friday
Feb232007

So Much for the CLEC Loophole Biz Model

Quest is suing a bunch of Voice 2.0 companies that have been terminating in Iowa and relying on the CLEC termination fees for revenue. There are a bunch of free long distance companies involved as well as a few of our direct competitors.

From GigaOm:

In a lawsuit filed Feb. 20, Qwest joined the list of long-distance carriers who are bringing legal heat on the Iowa-based “free calling” schemes. In its case the Denver-based Qwest alleges that the “fraudulent, unfair and illegal” free-dialing schemes had resulted in “millions” of dollars of increased expenses for Qwest, including monthly bills that were as high as $500,000 from one rural Iowa telco.

Like AT&T’s earlier suit, Qwest’s was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division. It seeks to stop free-calling concerns as well as their rural Iowa telco infrastructure partners from continuing with the operations that use regulatory-fee arbitrage and VoIP to provide international or higher-service calls (such as conference calls or chat) for only the price of a long-distance call to Iowa.

Unlike AT&T’s suit, however, the Qwest pressure has not yet shut down operations of some of the named defendants, a list that includes Fonpods (dial-up podcasts), FreeConferenceCall.com and HotLiveSexChat (please feel free to find that link yourself), whose websites all seem operational. The free international calling service advertised by FuturePhone, an AT&T as well as a Qwest defendant, remains offline.

Foneshow considered going this way, but eventually decided not to. We were concerned by our main revenue stream being dependent on the whims of congress. We were concerned that the people paying the bills were not the people who were getting value from our product offering. It did seem like easy money, but we had a bad gut feeling about it.