Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Booksellers Embrace Amazon

While independent booksellers have long feared Amazon, they are now changing their view. Many of them are selling through the Amazon website and some of them are having some real success. It's a change that might have legs, and might point the way to a new business model for the industry.

People who sell books over the Internet are finding that Affiliate marketing seems to work the best. This method involves splitting the sales revenues with an affiliate, but in exchange gaining access to a wider market. Often, the split goes as high as 50%.

With Amazon, the split is normally 15%, which makes for a better deal. One downside, however, is that Amazon is so big that individual sellers can get lost in it. That means they still need to launch effective marketing campaigns. Nevertheless, some independent booksellers and making a success of it. Here's a write-up on this approach.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Google Crosses the Line

As the press has widely reported, Google has admitted to eavesdropping on the activities of thousands of WiFi users around the world and archiving the resultant information. To gather that information was an unrivaled display of moral turpitude, electronic recklessness and arrogance. The kind of activity by a large corporation that should raise our hackles and put us to full upright attention as to the state of morality and ethics in the e-world, in the corporate world or both. Fortunately, they (say that they) did not make use of the information, and have volunteered to delete it. However, in recognition of pending lawsuits, they are holding it until they gain legal permission to get rid of it.

Many have expressed concern about the potential of the information age to turn into a "Big Brother" world, where the activities of citizens are monitored and eventually controlled by superpower corporate/government overlords. Some of those expressing dire warnings have been derided as being paranoid. But there is no doubt that the potential is there and will only be avoided by the constant vigilance of all citizens - everyone. So pay attention to where your data is going. Pay attention to the laws that govern the collection and use of private information. Make sure that private information is kept private through clear and powerful legislation and diligent regulators. It's important!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Revolution is Coming

Google is going to introduce its new technology to create internet-capable television this week at the Google Developer Conference in San Francisco. Unless they botch it totally, this will be the biggest success that Google has ever undertaken. Even if they fail they will succeed, because the convergence of the internet and television has been inevitable since the World Wide Web got under way in the early 90s. Almost every internet observer in the world has predicted this to happen. The wonder is that it has taken so long.

But then a number of ducks had to be lined up. One was the availability of broadband to a critical mass of households. This is pretty much there. Another has been the availability of TVs that can handle the high density signals - we're there. Another has been the availability of television shows on the internet. Here there is work to do. Much television is now available on the internet, and some people have cancelled their cable subscriptions to watch their TV exclusively on their computers. But generally, so far, this has been a preserve of the more technically minded, since it takes some surfing dedication to find the shows, and many of them are archived rather than live.

But all this can change in a heartbeat if the public twigs to the tremendous flexibility and range of internet based TV.

Lets face it,. Television has played a huge role in shaping our culture. If we re-shape television, it will reshape out culture. Maybe make it more international, more inclusive. More understanding of other cultures. Maybe even lead to more convergence of global cultures.

We are heading into interesting times.

Oh, and if Google somehow drops the ball, someone else will pick it up. For a good overview article see the Times. For more on the Developer Conference, see its site.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Managing Risk in 2010

Ernst & Young issues reports from time to time on Risk Management - reports that are timely, well written and well researched. Their current reports include:

1.Top privacy issues for 2010
2.The top 10 strategic risks for business
3.Future of risk: Protecting and enabling performance
4.Manage risk in the current climate

All of these reports can be downloaded from their website.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moving to the Cloud

The big thing about cloud computing is that applications can be run from a remote server from everywhere as long as there is internet access. Also, data can be stored there, which may raise concerns about security, but does help in resolving many of the issues about data recovery, since the major cloud vendors have great back-up systems. On the other hand, many of the traditional desktop solutions, like Microsoft Office, still outperform the applications available on the cloud.

So moving a business to the cloud requires some careful planning, and the development of a good strategy. Most likely the strategy will involve leaving some apps on the desktop and moving others. Some good points about these considerations are in this linked article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Australian Broadband Model Worth a Look

The Australian government has committed some $43 Billion to building a fiber based network that will reach 93% of Australian homes. The initiative also provides for access by rural homes that can't be joined to the new fiber network.  Of course, the initiative treads on the toes of the ISPs in the country, who have developed the large network already in place.

The Australian initiative looks, on the face of it, like big government taking over business activities that are best left to business. However, there are good arguments for this approach. For example, the internet is becoming the core of communications in many advanced countries, and that trend is growing with the convergence of television  and the internet, the spread of VOIP for telephone and the use of social media for various communications in society.

This raises a question as to whether the whole system can safely be left to private business interests, who will pursue the development of the networks that will yield the highest profits, but will not necessarily ensure that most people in the country are connected to the means of communication. On the other hand, one can argue that private interests built the telephone system and most people in the country have access to telephones. The argument is weakened by the fact that the telephone industry has been heavily regulated.

Either way, the Australian model may not necessarily be the answer, but it is worth considering as a way to ensure that all (or virtually all) citizens have the means to communicate with each other. See a write-up about the Australian initiative in this article.  

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pearson Airport Announces Massive Outsourcing Deal

Toronto's Pearson airport has announced a $130 million deal under which it will outsource all its IT operations to IBM. This includes all the systems that the airlines use to service customers. Under the arrangement, IBM will bill the airlines directly as distinct from the current arrangement under which the airport bills the airlines through landing fees.

"The driver behind the partnership for GTAA," said an airport spokesperson, "stems from the organizations overall strategy to identify the business value of technology in various areas including data risk management and strategic outsourcing." An interesting question for discussion is " How does the outsourcing deal help to identify the business value of technology?" 

The answer centers around the fact that the value based strategy seeks to identify and rationalize IT usage on a business value basis, as billings will be based on business metrics. The arrangement will provide an incentive to the airlines to uitilize IT where it makes the most sense from a business viewpoint, such as the use of kiosks rather than staffed checkpoints.

One open question that arises, however, is whether the provision for flexibility in IT configuration between airlines is consistent with a need to achieve the degree of standardization that can ensure a secure system. No doubt IBM has worked through that issue.

For a write-up on this case, please click this link.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Real Time Collaboration

A new edition of Google Docs takes a new approach to collaboration on documents in process. Collaborative tools so far, like wiki's and Sharepoint have taken a traditional approach of locking out a document or the part that is being edited, so that the actual changes being made cannot be seen until they are completed. In Google Docs, however, this is changing and it is possible to see changes being made in real time. Google thinks this will result in more efficient document completion when groups are involved. They draw an analogy to personal productivity when word processing on computers was introduced, enabling real time editing. An article on Google Docs and Collaboration is in Informationweek. Here's the link.