Robert Scoble and the secret Microsoft killer product

We know that Microsoft is going to unveil a revolutionary product. We think it is coming out March 3rd. We don’t know what it is. We know a lot about what it isn’t.

The hoopla started when Scobleizer Robert Scoble broke the story that he was shown a Microsoft product which was so moving that it made him cry.

Microsoft researchers make me cry

It’s not often that I see software that really changes my world. It’s even rarer that I see software that I know will change the world my sons live in. I can count those times pretty easily. The first time I saw an Apple II in 1977. When Richard Cameron showed me Apple’s Hypercard. And something called Photoshop, all in his West Valley Community College classroom. Later when I saw Marc Andreessen’s Netscape running the WWW.

I think we have all been there. Seen an invention that you knew was going to change the world.

So it was when I saw the first web browser. It was Mosaic (the mother of all browsers), beautiful, even in its first version. I tried to tell others what I had beheld. "It had graphics, hot links that you click on to go to yet another page, you book mark things you like….". But it was like speaking a language no one understood. If all you had encountered were Bitnet, Decnet and ATDT (remember?) there is no way you would have the vocabulary to understand how revolutionary the first graphic web browser experience is.

So I understand Robert Scoble, and his need to write about what he had seen, even if he cannot divulge the details yet.

Techcrunch has spent some time speculating about what this is. Scoble has replied on his blog with what the new product isn’t - ie everything that Techcrunch is speculating about. According to Robert it is not operating systems, productivity apps, data centers or databases, video game consoles. And no, it is not the touch table top pc either. What is seems to be is a clever, small application that two (presumably very smart) people built.

So then Valleywag gets into the fray. They scold Scoble for starting hype about a product before he is released from an embargo regarding divulging information!

From Valleywag: Unsolicited advice, Robby: If you have an embargoed piece of information, don’t talk about it until you can talk about it. You’re not building buzz, you’re killing it in advance by sending people’s imaginations soaring in the wrong directions

Excuse me! There is no great product that has needed buzz before it was released, to be successful (think Facebook, Google, Ebay). Nor has any product been killed simply by hype.

image For those who are pointing to the Segue as a prime example of high expectations generated due to too much buzz, lets just be honest. The product did not get killed because of buzz. It faded away because it looked dorky! Steve Jobs thought so, and a focus group of a few teenagers would have come to the same conclusion if the designers had let anyone have a peek at the product while it was being built!

Meanwhile - yay for Microsoft! We are all ready for them to totally wow us with their next app!

Intrade: Fantasy markets making real money

intrade fantasy market According to the WSJ’s fantasy political market, today’s top pick for president is Barrack Obama (trading at the highest price), followed John McCain and Hillary Clinton. The most active trading is for Mike Huckabee (largest volume of shares traded).





























































Fantasy betting has risen considerably in popularity in recent times, with web sites devoted to picking winners in every sport from football to fly fishing. The built in social network of most sites allows users to participate in fantasy betting with friends and family.

 BetFair as the front runners in the prediction markets game. 

BetFair is aimed at the European market and charges commissions on winnings (there is no charge for a net loss). Betfair was founded in 1999 and claims to process 15 million trades a day.

Intrade powers WSJs fantasy political market. Trading on the prediction market is simple. For example, if you think the likelihood of Hillary Clinton becoming president is more than 17% (see table above for Ask price) you buy contracts. If you think the probability is less, you sell a contract. The site charges 5c per trade. Members buy and sell contracts against each other. Intrade charges 5c per matched trade.

The big question is - other than being quite entertaining, are fantasy markets able to predict the outcome of events in a reliable fashion? Given that the betting is probability based, one can infer that with a suitable, unbiased population size, the predictions should be at least as good as those of the experts - similar to the financial markets where the success of the expert predictions of, say, the level of the S&P index in the future, has been no higher than those of the lay person. In a market where the collective thought process actually influence the outcome, it is very likely that the aggregate forecasting ability of the masses will actually provide a more accurate representation of reality.

Earlier we looked at crowdcasting and polling as ways of harvesting collective wisdom. Predictive markets are like 4 dimensional polls in that they have a time component folded in. Like true financial markets, they reflect the quicksilver nature of changing sentiments.

By the way, is the US in recession in 2008? According to Intrade, 65% think so!

Intrade us economy recession

Do you spend time on the Fantasy betting or Predictive markets sites? Take our poll on the sidebar.

I support the Microsoft-Yahoo merger because Google is my frenemy

microsoft Yahoo combined

I fully support the Microsoft and Yahoo merger; mainly because I consider Google to be my frenemy.

Frenemy is defined as:

Someone who is both friend and enemy, a relationship that is both mutually beneficial or dependent while being competitive, fraught with risk and mistrust.


And without a doubt, Google is my number one Frenemy. I love some of their products, but I worry that they have so much information about ever body and it is just a matter of time before their privacy policy crumbles.

As I said a while ago, Google is so much ahead of the competitors that Google is skewing the market and tilting the playing field for innovations. If you ever cross Google, Google is the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner. Google is stronger than God, and I don’t like any entity wielding so much power over me.

And as the old adage goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I want to see a real alterative to Google for online ads, web search and online office applications.

google_ballsYahoo couldn’t compete with Google and I was concerned that they have essentially conceded to Google in the field of web search. Microsoft couldn’t compete with Google, because well, they are Microsoft and they have their own ways of doing things. But combined Microsoft and Yahoo, Microshoo, might provide real competition to Google in some important fields.

Microshoo might not be able to catch up with Google in search technology, but there is a real chance that Yahoo and Microsoft combined will provide a viable alternative to ad-sense and online advertisement market. Online office application could go either way, but I do expect Microsoft+yahoo to put up a robust defense before they concede that domain.

ImageIn some of the websites I maintain, 80% of the traffic comes from Google. I think that is just wrong - it means that I am not in control of my website, Google is. Anything that can be done to bring that ratio down, to reduce my reliance on Google, is a good thing.

NewYork Times is reporting that CEO of Google placed a call to Yahoo chief, offering the company’s help in fending off Microsoft’s offer. One of the ways that Google can help is by having Yahoo outsource the web search to Google. NO, NO, I don’t want to see that happen and believe me, you don’t want to have Google the only provider of web search - if that happens, you might as well wear shackles with Google logo on it.

I am convinced that the Microsoft and Yahoo merger is good for Microsoft, good for Yahoo and most importantly, it is good for the internet community; both in the short term and in the long run.

Go Microshoo, Go!

Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule for presentation




Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule for presentation:

  • 10 slides
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 point font

I don’t think I agree with rule as a blanket statement, but I do agree with the concept that one should have fewer slides and leave some room for questions and not use too small a font on the slide.

The number of slides and the font size is dependent on the audience. Angel investors like to see a lot of details - they are funding the “idea” and want to see it flushed out a bit more. So for that audience 10 slides in 30 point font won’t work.

Also, I have noticed that the power point presentation at a VC firm get circulated to a lot of people who weren’t there at the presentation. For their benefit, the slides need to have enough content to provide context.

I tend to use 30 points font for the basic ideas but also include small font text in a bulleted list form. So if any member of the audience has a specific question, I can point to the small text.

If you have already established yourself as an “authority” in the subject that you are going to talk about; you can get away with 10-20-30 rule but if you are pitching the idea to angel investor group, you need to show that you have thought about various elements in your presentation and that, unfortunately, requires use of small fonts on the slide.

This is especially true now when the power point presentation has taken the place of a business plan. It is not uncommon to hear from a VC “send me your power point and a one pager”. I am not suggesting that you try to cram the business plan in to the power point, but you need to be cognizant of the fact that VCs very often don’t read the business plan and may rely on the power point presentation. So use the fewest number of slides you can get away with and make sure that all the core concepts are in size 30 font.

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