Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Welcoming Fabrice to Blogland

Fabrice Grinda is a new blogger that I plan to watch closely. I have known Fabrice for about 10 years, and he's a very unusual entrepreneur in that he readily admits he lacks "the creativity to come up with brilliant new ideas." He appreciates that ideas are cheap, and execution is what really counts. Fortunately for Fabrice, he has executed well on a few occasions.

Most recently, he founded and ran Zingy, which pioneered ringtones and other content for cell phones in the US. While living in France five years ago, he observed the growth of this new media category in Europe and Asia, so he packed his bags for NY and in about three years had created a $100 million mobile media company in America. He sold Zingy to Forside (a public Japanese company) last year and resigned as CEO this week.

Before Zingy, he immitated eBay's early success by founding Aucland in several European countries and Deremate in Latin America. Aucland was acquired by QXL (a publicly traded UK company), and eBay purchased Deremate just recently.

I'm curious to see how Fabrice settles on his next entrepreneurial endeavor, and I plan to read his new blog to watch his thoughts evolve.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ptooey: Spam and Spit

Several folks have asked me why I have deleted so many user-posted comments from various blog entries. I wish there were an exciting or scandalous reason I could blog about, but the explanation is disappointing: link spam (aka blog spam).

When I set up my Blogger account, I erred in selecting the setting that allows for anonymous comments. I wanted to encourage anyone to disagree (even violently) with my blog entries, and I thought anonymous comments would allow for maximum openness. Unfortunately, it seems too much openness is a bad thing as the setting simply invited blog spam.

Virtually every one of the deleted comments went something like this:

You have a really great blog here. If you're interested in
digital cameras, check out my site.

At first, I was actually impressed with the ingenuity of the 'bot' that automatically posts these lame ads on blogs. But after about a dozen of the annoying intrusions, I got tired of manually removing them, so I tooled around with Blogger and figured how to turn off anonymous commenting. Lo and behold, the blog spam ceased.

Sadly, though, I fully expect the blog spam will return when more sophisticated 'bots' are developed to log on to Blogger with bogus user accounts. When that time comes, expect to see another flurry of deleted comments.

Of even greater concern, though, is the impending invasion of spit, which I recently learned is the spam equivalent for voice-over-IP. Over the last several months, the percentage of my phone calls involving Skype has steadily increased to the point where it probably represents 10% of my conversations. What a nightmare it will be when Skype starts ringing randomly throughout the day because some spammer figures out how to program a 'bot' to make a VOIP call.

I just hope anti-spam leaders like Postini and Ciphertrust are already working hard on solutions to the next round of spam wars.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Apple's biggest threat may be a wireless carrier

KDDI was once a distant also-ran in the Japanese wireless telephone market. It still trails leader NTT DoCoMo, but the gap is narrowing quickly because KDDI has been taking bold steps. I wish Cingular, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile would take notice, but I fear they have been too busy consolidating power to worry about anything else.

To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, KDDI operates the only all-IP cellular network on earth. Skype helped prove that for terrestrial networks, voice is just an application, and KDDI is taking this concept to the wireless world. This is a big deal.

Why? When wireless carriers embrace the idea that their cellular networks are just IP connections to the small computers we call mobile phones, endless possibilities will spring forth. The first post-voice, breakout application seems to be music.

In the US, today's "MP3 phones" are tethered to a PC. There's no way to load music onto these devices without connecting them to a computer. In Japan, KDDI users download music directly to their phone, which means music is a real impulse purchase. KDDI sold its first million tracks in January, just 48 days after launch. This is particularly impressive because only 410,000 KDDI subscribers had phones with music capabilities. That's more than 2 songs per subscriber in less than two months.

KDDI has since surpassed 20 million downloads, and customers are defecting from DoCoMo in droves. The key is flat rate, high speed service. It takes under 20 seconds to download a full MP3-quality track on the KDDI network.

Apple's iPod product line is fantastic, and the iTunes experience clearly works well for most consumers (1 billion served is obvious evidence). But when some company figures out how to replicate KDDI's offering the US, it could take a serious bite out of Apple's music dominance and capture cell phone share faster than by, say, acquiring T-Mobile. I won't hold my breadth for it to happen, but when it does I'll be ready to sign up.