Archive for April 2011

Can Sony’s tablet repeat the success of the PlayStation?

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Sony have announced that they’ll be releasing two tablets later this year – one is similar to Apple’s iPad while the other is a clamshell design, reminiscent of Nintendo’s DS. The tablets will run the Android OS. Music and video content will be provided through Sony’s Qriocity service (I assume the Qriocity service will be extended to support distribution of apps).

I can’t help thinking about how the Sony PlayStation gatecrashed the Nintendo-Sega party and ended up outselling the N64 three-to-one. The clamshell approach is a brave one and it’s interesting that Sony’s opted to go with the Android OS, given their track record of pushing their own formats (e.g. U-matic, Betamax, 3.5″ floppy discs, DAT, MiniDisc, Betacam, UMD, Memory Stick, Blu-ray), although not entirely surprising, given that Sony Ericsson has embraced Android for its mobile phones.

Sony’s most successful product was the Walkman which relied on the freely-licensed compact cassette. Could they end up exploiting Android in a similar fashion and knocking Apple off the tablet pedestal?

Written by jackgavigan

April 27, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Innovation, Openness

Mediocrity, not failure, is the worst-case scenario for startups

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There’s an excellent article over on, about the dangers of mediocrity.

Back in 2000, I was CTO of a startup called The founders (I was the first employee) had raised £800,000 in seed funding and we got things rolling in November 1999. Four months later, the dot-com bubble burst and the VCs we’d been talking to about a multi-million pound investment round seemed somewhat less keen. However, the original seed investors were pleased with the progress we’d made and were prepared to continue funding us to the tune of another £800,000.

However, in June 2000, we decided that the prospects for raising the money we needed to execute on our business plan before the end of the year were remote and, rather than limp along, the board opted to shut the company down and return the investors’ money. We effectively mothballed the company, left the site running on a server in a data centre, laid off the employees and took freelance contracts to pay the rent while we waited to see if the investment climate improved. It never did so we continued on our separate ways.

Had we opted to keep going, we’d probably have survived well into 2001 before running out of money. It’s unlikely that we’d have been able to raise another investment round but it’s possible that someone like might have been interested in sympathy-acquiring us to get our content management platform. The bottom line is that it wouldn’t have been a stand-out success. So, the decision to shut the company down was the right one.

Obviously, it’s important that you believe in your business idea but it’s equally important to keep a sense of detachment and recognise that, although your idea may a good one, its success or failure may well depend on circumstances that are beyond your control.

Or, to put it another way, you need to know when to quit.

Written by jackgavigan

April 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Entrepreneurship

Ubermedia to launch a Twitter rival?

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Following on from my previous post about the Ubermedia vs. Twitter confrontation, news has emerged that Ubermedia is planning a service that would compete with Twitter. CNN has the scoop, although I prefer the Business Insider article, purely because it has an awesome photo (I’m actually quite jealous of that photo – it makes my ground squirrels seem quite boring by comparison) .

One curious aspect to all of this is that, although rumours first emerged that Ubermedia was in talks to acquire TweetDeck more than two months ago, there’s been no official confirmation. Twitter’s announcement that new client apps are unwelcome suggests that it won’t now be possible to launch a new Twitter client, which means that the existing clients have just become more valuable. TweetDeck may have other suitors. Combine that with the fact that it could be argued that Twitter’s targeting of Ubermedia has made them a less-attractive merger prospect (rumour has it that TweetDeck’s shareholders would have been paid at least partly in Ubermedia stock), and it wouldn’t surprise me if TweetDeck’s holding out for more money.

A month ago, Mashable reported that recent auctions of Twitter shares value the company at $7.7bn. If Ubermedia is the biggest threat to that valuation, I wonder how much it’s worth to Twitter to remove that threat, either by buying Ubermedia or, if that’s not an option, by snapping up the remaining third-party clients (like TweetDeck) to deny Ubermedia the opportunity to add their users to its own.

Meanwhile, and Diaspora are quietly bubbling along in the background and could end up crashing the whole party.

Written by jackgavigan

April 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Openness

Ignore customer feedback at your peril

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Recently, I’ve had occasion to use both Huddle (for organising Twestival) and Basecamp (for DEFCON). Unfortunately, Huddle doesn’t work well on the iPad. I moaned about this on Twitter (as one does) and Huddle responded, saying that they were working on it. So far, so good.

Fast-forward six weeks and today, over lunch, I’m asked for advice on what project management collaboration service is the best. I duly pull out my iPad and discover that Huddle still doesn’t work on it.

So guess who has a new 40-user client?

Obviously, you don’t want to be falling over yourself to cater to every whim of every user but support for a platform like the iPad is a fairly basic piece of functionality.

Written by jackgavigan

April 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Innovation