BBC Radio 1 demo now available online

May 24th, 2007

BBC made a very interesting demo during the MIX event in Vegas. It is now available here so that you can have a feel for what this UX thing is all about.

Their business issue is really interesting as they badly need to change their image, especially to the young audience. As a state-owned company they have strong constraints on what they can and cannot do. BBC Radio 1 is the music radio of the BBC Group, they take part in many activities people do not associate with the BBC brand. So how do you change perception and convince techno-savvy kids that your brand rocks (literally that is)? Check this link to find out more (Silverlight plugin required).

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Web & Breakfast Rapp Collins - Microsoft: Paris, June 7th

May 24th, 2007

Web&Breakfast

The next Rapp Collins - Microsoft “Web & Breakfast” will take place on June, 7th in Paris at the DDB offices.
It will be focused on user experience and how technology affects the interactions between brands and consumers. The idea is not to go into hyperspace but rather show how visionary companies have leveraged technology to deliver more value to their customers.

Those of you planning to be there will be lucky enough to listen to me (and a bunch of others ;-) 

Deepfish: iPhone’s silver bullet?

May 24th, 2007

Deepfish

You may not know about it, but the Live Labs are working on quite a few interesting bits and pieces.

One of them is the Deepfish browser for mobile phones. I have just installed the beta version on my HTC S620 Smartphone and the result is amazing. There has been a lot of buzz when the iPhone was first introduced based on its ability to browse the web in a user friendly fashion. Well, the Deepfish experience so far is simply amazing. Basically you get the whole web page in a reduced form so that it fits on your screen and you can zoom in and out as you see fit to access whatever content is relevant for you.

It seems to be a limited beta right now, but I encourage you to check here and join as it is definitely worth it.

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MIX’07: LE blog for Paris and sessions from Vegas

May 23rd, 2007

Mix'07 Sessions Now Online

You happen to be in Paris on June, 21st, are remotely interested in the web, online services / media, interactive marketing, etc.?

Then you definitely need to come to MIX’07. I already told you about it, but forgot to mention the blog you should subscribe to in order to get the latest news on the program which will simply knock you down ;-)

Also, I strongly invite you to check the past MIX sessions as they are available online. If you only need to watch one, please consider this one from Lou Carbone; not only is this guy brilliant (he is a teacher at HBS, not that it means much but it often helps), he focuses on subjects that I feel are considered as secondary when they are in fact crucial to the success of any sustainable competitive advantage.

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Go Popfly young (wo)man!

May 22nd, 2007

My Flickr photos rotating sphere

Guys, in a previous post I talked about our upcoming Popfly service… It so happens that I had a chance to play with it today (remember, I know zip all about dev stuff, believe me and if not ask Clauer, he knows!) It is another nice example of initiatives aimed at making technology pervasive and accessible to all. Still a long way to go, but we are getting there somehow!
Anyway, take a look at the rotating sphere I just created of my Flickr photostream. It took me less than 5 minutes and the result is just stunning. It can even be imported as a Vista gadget in a flicker (see below).

My Flickr Sphere Vista gadget 

Just register and get yourself an account now; my Popfly page can be found there.

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Even a chimp can write code

May 22nd, 2007

BeginnerDeveloperLearningCenter

Another post to share a blog I came across the other day whose title tales the tale: “Even a chimp can write code”.
It is full of interesting links and pointers to resources for those of you interested in software development but who are not technically savvy (like I know what I am talking about… I take pride in being completely useless at developers’ stuff… makes it easier to live among them weird creatures).

One especially interesting initiative is the Beginner Developer Learning Center where you can find self-paced tracks and resources to help you climb the learning curve. It may not be perfect and those of you savvy enough might even laugh at what’s available, yet I have a strong feeling it is a clear step towards the many wannabes with good ideas willing to see their “software ideas” come true.

Popfly, create your mashup applications in a fly

May 21st, 2007

popfly

Those of you interested in mashup development and gadgets should take a look at our forthcoming Popfly initiative.

Probably the best person to talk about it is the program manager himself, and you may find the top 10 reasons why he believes Popfly rocks. He also lists posts around Popfly that you may find useful.

Last, but not least, should you want to join (it’s free but you need to register) and have a look for yourself, go there and fill the blanks. 

MIX’07 in Paris

May 16th, 2007

MIX07FR

After an outstanding MIX’07 event in Las Vegas at the end of the month (just check Flickr using the MIX07 tag MIX07 on Flickr to convince yourself it was worth every minute of your time), I am delighted to let you know that we will have a similar event here in Paris.

The MIX’07 France went live earlier this week and I strongly urge you to Register for MIX’07 Paris as we have a limited number of seats available.

More to come soon on the speakers… see you there!

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Elements of a sustainable company

May 16th, 2007

First, let me begin by saying that I am back in the blogging business after quite a long black out period (excuse my 6-month old son for keeping me awake at night and a zombie during the day ;-)

Then, to the point. I was surfing on the sites of two of the best VC firms ever, Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers and Sequoia Capital when I came across this list of what makes a sustainable company. It is just too great not to be shared, so here you are:

Elements of Sustainable Companies

Start-ups with these characteristics often foretells the success of a business and the likelihood of it becoming a sustainable, enduring company. We like to partner with companies that have:
  • Clarity of Purpose
    Summarize the company’s business on the back of a business card.
  • Large Markets
    Address existing markets poised for rapid growth or change. A market on the path to a $1B potential allows for error and time for real margins to develop.
  • Rich Customers
    Target customers who will move fast and pay a premium for a unique offering.
  • Focus
    Customers will only buy a simple product with a singular value proposition.
  • Pain Killers
    Pick the one thing that is of burning importance to the customer then delight them with a compelling solution.
  • Think Differently
    Constantly challenge conventional wisdom. Take the contrarian route. Create novel solutions. Outwit the competition.
  • Team DNA
    A company’s DNA is set in the first 90 days. All team members are the smartest or most clever in their domain. “A” level founders attract an “A” level team.
  • Agility
    Stealth and speed will usually help beat-out large companies.
  • Frugality
    Focus spending on what’s critical. Spend only on the priorities and maximize profitability.
  • Inferno
    Start with only a little money. It forces discipline and focus. A huge market with customers yearning for a product developed by great engineers requires very little firepower.

Looking for the “un-Vista”: say hello to J. Allard!

December 1st, 2006

So today we are launching our next wave of “core” products (Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007) and for all I know it may well be the last one to be released as such. In a world where software seems to be increasingly moving online and new entrants keep on disrupting the traditional “packaged” approach, a company with 64% of its bottom-line depending on the operating system, a ”traditional” product if there ever was one, looks like game. Or does it?

True, Windows Vista, as a project, has probably gone over the limit of what is humanly possible. Think for a second that there are over 65 million lines of code… an 86% increase compared to Windows XP the previous version! It is commonly accepted that even good programs cannot have less than 1 bug in every 10,000 lines… so regardless of the zillions tests done there may well be over 6,500 bugs hidden somewhere in Windows Vista.
True, Office faces tough competition from cheaper (hell, some even look like they are for free!) alternatives and most users do not use more than 5% of the 1,000+ functions of the productivity suite.
True, Google has a market cap of over 155 billion dollars and a net margin close to that of drug dealers.

Yet, for some reason I strongly believe things are changing for the better and what lays in front of us is not as bad as what the wisdom of crowds does claim. Take a look at this very good article from Business Week and tell me what you think!

The Soul Of A New Microsoft
Edgy thinkers like J Allard are looking far beyond Windows for the next big thing
By Jay Greene, with Peter Burrows in San Mateo, Calif.
December, 4th 2006
(c) 2006 BusinessWeek

At 3:32 p.m. on Oct. 19 an e-mail flashed across the screens of the 230 Microsoft employees working slavishly to bring the Zune music player to market. The sender was their brash team leader, J Allard, 37. The message included a link to an old video of Steve Jobs on YouTube, mocking Microsoft’s creativity. “The only problem with Microsoft is that they have no taste,” the Apple Computer boss says. “They have absolutely no taste.”
Allard was using one of the oldest motivational tricks in the book–his version of a football coach posting an opponent’s quote on the locker room wall. “I for one…want to see this guy eat his words,” Allard wrote. “Those are fighting words. He is speaking to every one of us and saying that we don’t get it.”

Zune hit store shelves on Nov. 14–a mere eight months after Allard’s team got the go-ahead for the seemingly impossible task of toppling Apple’s iPod music player. Contrast that with the five years and some 10,000 Microsoft Corp. workers it took to give birth to the latest version of the company’s Windows operating system, Vista, which begins selling to corporate customers on Nov. 30 (and to consumers in January). From the start, Vista has seemed like an anachronism–packaged software in a Web 2.0 era where ever more applications are moving off the PC and onto the Internet, some springing forth in a matter of weeks. Microsoft Chief Executive Steven A. Ballmer vows that this time-consuming process of cranking out code, which created complexity and bogged down development, will never be repeated.

No one’s suggesting that Zune will have anywhere near the impact of Vista. In its early form, it is clearly no iPod killer. It’s bulkier and more of a battery hog, and the Zune Marketplace doesn’t offer as many songs or videos as Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes does. Plus, you pay for them with a confusing point system instead of dollars and cents. Zune will be lucky to sell 3 million units its first year and is sure to lose money for the foreseeable future. Vista, on the other hand, should run on about 76 million PCs by the end of 2007, says Roger Kay, founder of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. Vista sales should help fuel an $11.5 billion contribution to operating profits from Windows in the current fiscal year, says Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Jason Maynard.

But maybe the point is that Microsoft needs to find its un-Vista. Several of them, in fact. The software giant is entering perhaps the greatest upheaval in its 30-year history. New business models are emerging–from low-cost “open-source” software to advertising-supported Web services–that threaten Microsoft’s core business like never before. For investors to care about the company, it needs to find new growth markets. Its $44.3 billion in annual sales are puttering along at an 11% growth pace. Its shares, which soared 9,560% throughout the 1990s, sunk 63% in 2000 when the Internet bubble burst, and they have yet to fully recover.

Reigniting growth will require a cultural shift at a company that has long shaped its strategy around maintaining its Windows operating system and Office word-processing and spreadsheet monopolies. That calls for a new breed of leaders who can push the company in directions it hasn’t gone before. “Things are different from the desktop world that most of the Microsoft guys grew up in,” says Michael A. Cusumano, a management professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has written extensively about the company.
No one leader will replace William H. Gates III, the iconic software geek who came to define an era and plans to leave the company in June, 2008. But a cadre of execs is positioned to step up. Steven Sinofsky, the longtime head of the Office unit and onetime Gates technical assistant, has been put in charge of speeding up the Windows product cycle. Ray Ozzie, a relative Microsoft newbie and computing industry icon, is working to Web-ify many of Microsoft’s products.

The soul of the new Microsoft, though–its Geek 2.0–may just be Allard, the vice-president for design and development at its Entertainment & Devices unit. Allard looks and acts nothing like the prototypical Microsofty. Over the years he’s swapped his plaid shirt and khakis–something of a Microsoft uniform–for edgy jackets made by Mark Ecko and other designer wear. He loads up his nine iPods, and now his Zune, with songs from hardcore bands like A.R.E. Weapons. And he’s a downhill mountain biking maniac who has broken several bones after flying off his bike.
More important than his cool quotient, though, is that Allard gets things done–fast. Zune is only the latest example. At the turn of the decade, he led the software giant into the video game business with Xbox, a risky gambit that’s just starting to pay off. Xbox is now a solid No. 2 to Sony Corp.’s PlayStation, and analysts expect it to turn its first profit in the next fiscal year.
Allard is one of more than 100 Microsoft vice-presidents, but he has played an outsized role in shifting perceptions about whether the company can innovate in areas other than packaged software. In June, when Gates announced his plan to focus full time on his charitable foundation, he anointed Allard, along with a handful of others, as the leaders he expects to clear new paths.

Already, Allard and those like him are having an impact. They’re showing that strategies to move the company beyond Windows can emerge and be accepted by top brass as nonthreatening. A key moment came six years ago, when Allard insisted that the new Xbox video game console be developed without using Windows. In one meeting, Gates berated him for suggesting that the operating system wasn’t up to snuff. But Allard argued that it wasn’t specialized enough to handle video gaming. Gates eventually relented, in a decision that is widely seen today as a key to the console’s success.
Even Ballmer, once pigeonholed as a micromanager, seems increasingly willing to distribute power and let those underneath him try new approaches. “I would have been hell-bent and determined six years ago to call Xbox the Windows Game Machine,” he says. “My natural tendency would have been to call Zune something that was related to Xbox, since we had some consumer franchise. And yet we’re really building consumer marketing muscle, and those guys are really teaching and educating us on new ways to do things.”

Never afraid to speak his mind, Allard started pushing buttons way back in 1994, when, as an eager 25-year-old programmer only three years on Microsoft’s payroll, he penned a sea-changing memo titled “Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet,” which found its way to Gates. The note, now part of Microsoft lore, helped awaken Gates to the potential and threat of the Web. “I’m a pain-in-the-ass change agent,” Allard says.
That’s exactly what Microsoft needs if it hopes to again set the tech agenda. Windows and Office will deliver more revenues in coming years than the exports of many small nations. But Web spitfires such as Google Inc. and Salesforce.com have the wind at their backs. And while Microsoft continues to recruit top talent, it also continues to see key leaders move on: executives such as Vic Gundotra, a top evangelist in its developer division, who will soon join Google, and Brian Valentine, the longtime leader of the Windows server business, who now works for Amazon.com Inc.

[…] The giant of Redmond is starting to take an Allard-like fresh look at many of its older product lines, as well. Webification can be seen seeping into all corners of Redmond (Wash.) headquarters. Its leading proponent is Ozzie, who developed Lotus Notes in the 1980s, then joined Microsoft in 2005 when it acquired his Groove Networks. Ozzie quickly emerged as heir to Gates’s role as technology sage. Under the year-old “Live” strategy, Microsoft is blending services it launches on the Web with programs consumers run on their PCs. That way, Netizens get a better experience using Web services when they harness Windows and the processing power of PCs. Take Windows Live Mail, a small software program that lets users view various e-mail accounts–even Google’s Gmail–in the same window. Because it runs on a PC desktop, it’s easy to include zippy features such as automatically completing an e-mail address after you type in a few keystrokes. Microsoft will give away services such as e-mail, limited Web hosting, and perhaps one day that portable jukebox in the sky Allard dreams of, making money from advertising and subscriptions.

Challenging Google on the Web and Apple in music are stretches for a company that critics say lacks a culture of innovation. But while nearly all the profits are from the old products, the growth opportunities are in the businesses Allard and Ozzie are igniting. Xbox, for example, should ring up $4.6 billion in sales in the fiscal year that ends next June, says Goldman Sachs & Co. analyst Rick Sherlund. That number should climb 67%, to $7.6 billion, in fiscal 2009. He estimates that Zune sales will climb from $250 million to $575 million over the same period. By that time he expects the Home & Entertainment unit, which includes Xbox and Zune, to kick in $1.2 billion in operating profits.
Lately, some outsiders who work with Microsoft detect signs that the culture is slowly shifting as well. “They’re definitely in the middle of a strategy re-look,” says Hewlett-Packard Co. chief strategy and technical officer Shane V. Robison, who chats with Microsoft brass. “It will be a fairly orderly evolution, but there’s a lot of new discussion that I’m seeing.”