Ready, Fire, Aim! - Mihail's Public Blog

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Google Email ramps up

I'm a little behind on the news since I was back at my college Reunion. I just signed up for a Gmail account myself and love it. According to this Wired News story.

The bottom has fallen out of the market for Gmail invitations.

On Monday morning, invitations to join the testing of Google's Gmail Web e-mail service were still fetching as much as $100 on eBay closed auctions. By Wednesday afternoon, sellers were lucky to crack the $20 mark.

Increased supply is the likely cause. Until now, Google has been relatively stingy with new invitations. But the company seems to have opened the floodgates. Several Gmail users reported that they had received six invitations over the past two days.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Finally, a few more HDTV channels

Was just talking to Om Malik about this last weekend when he was over since we have a plasma and nothing to watch on it (unless one's watching a movie on DVD). In fact, I hope Netflix is doing tons of marketing with the plasma TV companies.

As for Om, he is one of the top technology journalists (as San Francisco Chronicle put it yesterday!) focusing on the telecom industry. According to this New York Times story (registration required):

But however cool the screens, as the nine million people who have bought HDTV's have quickly discovered, the high-definition age is not yet fully upon us. If you buy an HDTV receiver connected to an antenna on your roof, you can enjoy a few hours of prime-time HDTV broadcasts each night on ABC, CBS and so on - if you're within about 50 miles of a big city. If you have cable or satellite, you can upgrade your plan to include a handful of high-def channels, like HBO HDTV and ESPN HD.

...The executives at Voom, a new satellite service controlled by Cablevision and offered throughout the continental United States, don't think you can wait that long. Started in January, Voom already offers 39 HDTV channels, many more than you can get from any other source.

 

Peerflix.com

Netflix meets Napster meets eBay according to this New York Times snippet (registration required):

Dan Robinson, however, thinks trading movies with other DVD owners on the Web is better than hoarding them. Mr. Robinson is the founder and chief executive of peerflix.com, a new site that seeks to blend two trends: online DVD rental sites like Netflix and music-file-sharing services like Kazaa.

Peerflix users maintain a list of DVD's they want and post a list of movies they own that they are willing to trade. Once a member makes a commitment to send a disc to a fellow user in a Peerflix prepaid shipping envelope, that member will receive a disc or discs from other members. (Some DVD's are worth more than others, based on factors like popularity and retail price.) As in a file-sharing network, Peerflix manages the flow of content; traders do not select their partners.

What do you use? Yellow Pages or the Web?

I still use the Yellow pages for local listings since Google still doesn't deliver all the information I need, and services like Citysearch are lacking in thoroughness when it comes to restaurants. According to this survey by the Kelsey Group and ConStat as reported in this New York Times story (registration required):

The online survey found that 67 percent of small businesses that have been in operation for over 20 years still rely on Yellow Pages. The figure drops to 52 percent for companies less than 10 years old, which are also more likely to spend money on online directories and services that promise higher placement in Web searches.

Just what we need: even higher definition TV

Now that we finally have Comcast delivering high-definition television to our house (on a mere 8 or 10 channels since most channels haven't switched over to it yet), there's a new even higher definition TV being developed! According to this New York Times story (registration required):

High-definition television may be only just beginning to catch on, but researchers at the Japanese national broadcaster NHK are already working on a successor. The format, called Ultra High Definition Video, or UHDV, has a resolution 16 times greater than plain-old HDTV, and its stated goal is to achieve a level of sensory immersion that approximates actually being there.

At a picture size of 7,680 by 4,320 pixels - that works out to 32 million pixels - UHDV's resolution trounces even high-end digital still cameras. HDTV, by comparison, has about two million pixels, and normal TV about 200,000 (and only 480 lines of horizontal resolution versus 4,000 with UHDV).

DidTheyReadIt.com?

I saw a brief CNN story on this earlier this week. This New York Times story (registration required) gives more details on how the service works. I already hate it when people set the Outlook feature that asks me if it is OK to let them know that I've read their email. They'll know I've read their email when I respond, y'know!

DidTheyReadIt depends on what are known as Web bugs, graphic files so tiny that they cannot be seen that can be embedded in an e-mail message or downloaded from a Web site. In the case of DidThey- ReadIt, a Web bug is embedded in each e-mail message sent through the service. When the recipient opens that message, the Web bug is downloaded and the DidTheyReadIt server records the circumstances of that exchange. But some e-mail programs do not automatically download Web bugs, and many can be configured so that they do not.

Mr. Rampell likened his service to caller ID, which can be disabled by users. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to throw away my caller ID," he said.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Media goes crazy over closely-held Google

The best way to read all the hoopla surrounding the Google IPO announcement is by using Google itself. More exactly Google News.

Google is setting itself up to remain very closely held both in terms of shareholders and board members. According to this Forbes.com story:

Google's board now includes Arthur Levinson, 54, chairman and chief executive of Genentech Inc. (nyse: DNA - news - people); Paul Otellini, 53, Intel Corp. (nasdaq: INTC - news - people) president and COO; and Stanford University President John Hennessy, 50.

...As for Google's executives, Schmidt's title in the filing is chairman of the executive committee, chief executive and director. Brin and Page are both directors and assistant secretaries. Brin is also president of technology and Page is president of products.

...Other directors are John Doerr, 52, and Michael Mortiz, 49, -- two of Silicon Valley's premier venture capitalist, and K. Ram Shriram, 47, an early Netscape employee.

Shriram also served as the former VP of Business Development at Amazon when he sold his company Junglee to Amazon, and active Valley angel investor in companies such as Plaxo and Friendster who recently ousted their founder/enterpreneur CEOs. He gets around. You can read his bio here.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Google picks bankers for IPO

Google has supposedly picked Credit Suisse First Boston and Morgan Stanley according to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

Google's selection of the two big securities firms ends months of intense speculation over who on Wall Street would snag an assignment that is expected to generate investment-banking fees of nearly $100 million and huge bragging rights. An IPO of Google likely will be one of the biggest U.S. public offerings ever and, if successful, could trigger a new wave of IPO filings among other technology companies.

The deal has all of the hoopla of the biggest IPOs of the 1990s, when Netscape Communications sold shares publicly and helped set off a frenzy that sent the stock market soaring. As in some 1990s deals, this public offering stands to make some computer-science whiz kids wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, while also benefiting a cast of well-known venture capitalists. With nearly insatiable investor interest, it could put a price tag of $25 billion on a company that didn't exist a decade ago, making it more valuable than retailer Sears, Roebuck & Co. and hotel operator Marriott International Inc.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Ride over for Friendster, Plaxo CEOs

CEOs of two prominent VC-backed companies in the social networking were axed recently. No? Horror! Would VCs actually do that to inexperienced CEOs?! :)

Jonathan Abrams of Friendster (formerly employed at Netscape) and Sean Parker of Plaxo (formerly co-founder of Napster) According to Matt Marshall in the San Jose Mercury News (registration required):

Over the past few weeks, VCs dropped the blade on two young entrepreneurs of local companies Friendster and Plaxo. They apparently did so for similar reasons: The companies are not making money fast enough.

...Abrams, it seems, is faring better than Parker. He apparently did not fight the guillotine, agreeing immediately with the change.

He'll remain founder at the company, working with interim Chief Executive Tim Koogle to find a full-time replacement, according to Friendster spokeswoman Lisa Kopp.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Print Spanish language market heating up

The print Spanish language market is heating up with two former Wall Street Journal journalists starting a series of tabloid-size newspapers according to this New York Times story (registration required):

Driving all this maneuvering, in large part, is the lure of advertising revenue. According to the Latino Print Network, the more than 650 Spanish-language newspapers in this country - including 40 that publish daily and 304 that publish weekly - earned an estimated $854 million in combined advertising revenue in 2003. That represents an industrywide increase of $743 million, or 670 percent, since 1990, and $258 million, or 43 percent, since 2000.

Over the same period, the readership of Spanish-language daily newspapers has grown - from 440,000 in 1990 (when there were 14 such publications) to 1.4 million in 2000 (when there were 34) to 1.8 million last year, according to the Latino Print Network.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Yahoo meets Kelkoo in Europe

Watch out Froogle/Google, here comes Yahoo -- at least in Europe as of a couple of weeks back -- according to this WSJ story (subscription required) last month:

Yahoo Inc. agreed to buy European comparison-shopping service Kelkoo SA for €475 million, or $576 million, underscoring the big Internet portal's renewed focus abroad.

The acquisition also furthers Yahoo's push to beef up its search-and-advertising activities, already anchored by about $2 billion of acquisitions in those areas last year. Kelkoo, of Paris, allows users to look up prices for products ranging from lingerie to airline tickets, and pockets a fee from online merchants when the users click through to their sites.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Bush's "No cash left behind" program misses $50M

As Letterman joked about George W. Bush raising yet another $1.5M at a Washington fundraiser...that it was his "No cash left behind" program. Well, it appears, he did leave about $50M behind for John Kerry to pick up over the last three months according to this New York Times story (registration required):

Three-quarters of Mr. Kerry's money came in last month as major fund-raisers and organizations who supported other Democratic candidates early on shifted their loyalties to his campaign. Mr. Kerry set a single-quarter fund-raising record for a presidential challenger and gained substantially on his goal to raise $80 million by this summer, according to the campaign.

While some Democrats say Mr. Kerry can raise more, few say he will reach parity with the more than $180 million raised so far by Mr. Bush, who had no need to spend it in unopposed primaries. Mr. Kerry brought in almost $79 million, including a $6.4 million personal loan to the campaign, but had to spend heavily to reach the general election. Neither campaign has announced totals for what they now have on hand.

Guerrilla marketing on Broadway

With Benjamin Brooks Cohen in his first Broadway play, Gypsy, starring Bernadette Peters -- a play that has been teetering at the brink of closing -- so Cohen decided to help with his own guerrilla marketing efforts by organizing the cast members to work the crowds outside the TKTS booth that sells discounted tickets to the show according to this New York Times story (registration required):

"Most people have no idea what they want to see," explained Mr. Cohen, who plays one of the dancers in Rose's vaudeville act. "So if you give them a reason to come, like 'I'm in the show,' they'll usually come."

It is a grass-roots effort that might be working. Since March 10, the cast's first day on the TKTS line, the show has been averaging sales of more than 300 half-price tickets a day. Prior to the campaign the show rarely broke 200 at the booth.

..."We have a young cast, and for a lot of them this is their first Broadway show," Ms. Peters said. "The kids come back and say, `We sold all the tickets at TKTS,' and they're just thrilled. It's infectious."

So much for Lou Dobbs' efforts...

I've been seeing this trend all around me in Silicon Valley. VCs and angel investors are pushing startups to move much of their development abroad to places like India and Pakistan. The reality is this. These startups cannot afford to get their products developed in the amount of money invested in them by investors...as smaller amounts are invested and more expected of them, they have to go abroad.

While I understand the concern that we're shipping jobs abroad when so many Americans (including many good friends of mine) are unemployed, I also realize this fact: many startups may not be in business were they not able to outsource development and thus build a product with the limited financial resources they have. And while many of their jobs are abroad, just by the fact that these companies are in business they are employing people in the US as well. So is a few jobs better than none. I would say so.

But let's face it. The primary reason why jobs are going abroad for big companies and small ones alike is the fact that you can increasingly hire competent people abroad for a fraction of the cost. According to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

The Valley's ideal start-up business these days is the "micro-multinational," a company that from its inception is based in the U.S. but maintains a less-costly skilled work force abroad. Venture capitalists also are prodding young companies in which they already own stakes to turn themselves into micro-multinationals.

One recently funded start-up business, Solidcore Systems Inc., is a case in point. The company, which makes security software, is based in Palo Alto, Calif., and has a U.S. staff of 16, including its chief executive, chief technology officer, engineers and sales-and-marketing executives. It also has 15 employees in Delhi, India, including a top financial officer and engineers, and six contract employees in Pune, India.

"It was set up that way from the beginning," says Nick Sturiale, a general partner at Sevin Rosen Funds of Palo Alto, which put $5.5 million into Solidcore along with venture firm Matrix Partners. "The key is not just labor costs, it's productivity." When engineers in the Valley are going to sleep, those in India are waking up, he says.

I'll gmail you...Google email coming soon

Oh oh. This spells trouble for Yahoo Mail and Microsoft's Hotmail who've put increasing number of restrictions on users. My Hotmail account keeps getting canceled when I don't use it for a few months and my mom's email account always fills up. They want users to upgrade to a premium account by paying an annual fee but most consumers like myself will just head to "gmail" now.

And Google doesn't have to deal with the burden of monetizing its endusers by offering premium services. It benefits when more and more content is created and it can serve ads that it sells to businesses. According to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

Google (www.google.com) said Wednesday it is testing a free e-mail service with huge message-storage capacity and advanced search capabilities, dubbed "Gmail." Both the storage and search elements of Gmail represent big new challenges to Yahoo Mail and MSN's Hotmail services, which charge fees for comparatively modest storage capacity and offer users more limited search and mail-organizing features.

...But in the face of Google's service, they may be forced to slash or abandon these fees, or else overhaul their offerings. That's because Gmail will offer a gigabyte -- 1,000 megabytes -- of storage, which the company said is enough to store 500,000 pages of e-mail. Currently, the service is available only to test users, but Google's Mr. Rosing said Gmail will be available to the public sometime in the "next weeks to months," depending on the success of the test period and the extent of product refining necessary.

I'll gmail you...Google email coming soon

Oh oh. This spells trouble for Yahoo Mail and Microsoft's Hotmail who've put increasing number of restrictions on users. My Hotmail account keeps getting canceled when I don't use it for a few months and my mom's email account always fills up. They want users to upgrade to a premium account by paying an annual fee but most consumers like myself will just head to "gmail" now.

And Google doesn't have to deal with the burden of monetizing its endusers by offering premium services. It benefits when more and more content is created and it can serve ads that it sells to businesses. According to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

Google (www.google.com) said Wednesday it is testing a free e-mail service with huge message-storage capacity and advanced search capabilities, dubbed "Gmail." Both the storage and search elements of Gmail represent big new challenges to Yahoo Mail and MSN's Hotmail services, which charge fees for comparatively modest storage capacity and offer users more limited search and mail-organizing features.

...But in the face of Google's service, they may be forced to slash or abandon these fees, or else overhaul their offerings. That's because Gmail will offer a gigabyte -- 1,000 megabytes -- of storage, which the company said is enough to store 500,000 pages of e-mail. Currently, the service is available only to test users, but Google's Mr. Rosing said Gmail will be available to the public sometime in the "next weeks to months," depending on the success of the test period and the extent of product refining necessary.

New jobs, unemployment both edge up

The fact that we've seen, finally, some job growth no thanks to the Bush administration and the unemployment rate also rose just shows that not everyone who is without a job is always counted in the unemployment numbers. Many people have just given up and are consulting or are employed well below the salaries they expect and/or need: I remember a story a year ago (maybe in the New York Times?) of the professional with two degrees working at the Gap folding sweaters. According to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

The Labor Department said Friday that nonfarm payrolls soared by 308,000 in March from February, the biggest monthly gain since April 2000, at the height of the stock-market bubble. It also revised upward the tally for January and February, showing total job creation in those months of 205,000 instead of the previously reported 118,000.

The unemployment rate, which is derived from a different survey than payrolls, rose a tenth of a percentage point to 5.7% as 179,000 people re-entered the labor force in search of jobs.

...Mr. Kerry released a statement after the report was released, saying that "After three years of punishing job losses, the one-month job creation announced today is welcome news for America's workers. I hope it continues."

Better late...American made joke

The John Kerry campaign gets the last laugh according to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

The Kerry campaign continues to attack President Bush on outsourcing, linking it to the flat U.S. job market. An April 1 mock e-mail release announces that the president is sending legislation to Congress to outsource the deficit. "Outsourcing is the solution to all of America's problems," the phony e-mail quotes President Bush as saying. "If it worked for Andersen and McKinsey, it works for me."

Monday, March 29, 2004

Two-thirds of Internet users shop online!

Two-thirds of Internet users are shopping online according to this New York Times story (registration required) on a the Pew Internet and American Life Project study:

"What's striking about this is that the percentage of Internet users who do shopping has been growing, even as the Internet population continues to grow,'' Mr. Rainie said. "So the increase is doubly important because it's a bigger slice of a bigger pie."

The data provide context for the maturation of the online retail industry, which is expected to sell roughly $120 billion worth of goods this year, according to Forrester Research. The data also indicate that lofty expectations of broad e-commerce by the late 1990's were not unrealistic, just premature. Four years ago, 47 percent of online users at the time, or 36 million people, had bought something online. The new Pew research puts the current number at 83 million people.

An entrepreneur resurfaces on soda lids

Jeffrey Arnold, founder of WebMD which merged with Healtheon, and had many problems because of the crazy pace of acquisitions it went thru, is now back with CDs that are included on the lids of soda drinks at movie theaters according to this New York Times story (registration required):

By early 2003, Mr. Arnold had formed LidRock to make and distribute the tops. He purchased the exclusive rights to 19 patents which, he said, guaranteed that LidRock solely owned the rights to place whatever it wants in the lids. Then, Mr. Arnold swept into music industry boardrooms in New York and Los Angeles with a proposition: promote new and established artists by putting promotional three- and five-inch CD's in soda lids to be sold in movies, fast-food chains and sporting events.

...LidRock, a privately held company, said it would start earning a profit this year on $50 million in revenue. According to the current business plan, the retail venue, such as the film or fast-food chain, pays LidRock 80 cents for each lid. LidRock uses the money for the manufacturing and content costs of the lid - that is, payments to make the lid as well as payouts to record companies. There are added revenue opportunities because the lid may also contain details about concert tours and information on purchasing the CD's and DVD's of the artists involved.

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