Does Google care about Android?

The goal of business: Make Money

Let me take a step back …

How does Google make money off of the success and popularity of the Android Mobile Operating System?

- They sell ads in various google apps that are available (they don’t really do it … but it could happen)- They collect data from users (Google is all about turning data into money. More data = More money)- Brand benefits (You like “Droid” … then you like Google)- Strategic Partnerships (Want to work with Android … then you work with Google)

And there are probably a ton of other benefits that come from controlling what is now the fastest growing smatphone operating system, but no need to list all of them.  The main thing to note is:

Google doesn’t make money selling Android software or selling Android Phones.

I didn’t really think much about this for a long time.  Google gives away a lot of it’s products for free.  In some cases I feel it just grows the brand, in other cases it is an opportunity to sell more ads, and in other cases its just a hedge against waiting too long to get into a particular market.  But with Android, I wonder if things are a little … different.

Android came to Google through acquisition.  They bought the rights to the operating system, the code, and the staff before a product had actually been released.  The original plan of Android was of the classical open source business model.  Give away the software for free and make money in support, add-ons, consulting, and etc.  This doesn’t seem to be the pure goal of Google at the moment.

The problem this may cause for us Android devotees out there (I am a proud Android phone user and a fan of the operating system in large) is wondering whether Google has the proper incentives to ensure the best user experience for us Android phone owners.

Really … think about this …

Look at iOS.  Apple makes the software and the hardware.  They make money on every device that runs the operating system.  There is clear cut desire to make the best product available.  They control all aspects of the iPhone (maybe to a fault) and are very invested in delivering a good product that people will pay a premium for.

Google gives away Android.  In order to actually release a phone or device with Android on it, you don’t need any permission from Google (you do to use things like the Android Market though).  You can even strip the phone of any ties to Google and remove them from the equation entirely.  You can put your own GUI on it, you can brand it with Yahoo or Microsoft service, you can do whatever you want.  Me buying an Android phone may not impact or help Google’s bottom line at all (potentially).

So … that brings me back to the title?

What incentives does Google have to ensure a world-class user experience?  What incentive does my favorite search company have to invest money and time into polishing the bugs that may plague the system?  Where is the motivation to hire the best in class Human Computer Interaction people to make sure navigating Android is effortless?


Basically … good will.

So what am I saying? What is my point?  Am I advocating everyone to leave the Android operating system?  Should you run to a OS that is sold and licensed to ensure proper development?

Don’t leave Android.  It’s a great operating system with a lot of support from Google and the community.  It’s incredibly powerful, and because of it’s openness it is allowing better phones to be produced for cheaper.  There is a reason it is currently the best selling smartphone Operating System.

But … be weary.  I do believe we will see Google continue to focus on it’s mobile applications and revenue centers (Android Market).  Given the fact that it’s always hard to find good developers and Google has limited resources for their many many endeavors, they will prioritize.  And given that at the end of the day business is business … I do think Google as a company will focus on improvements that help further Google’s reach, brand, and revenue.

But … don’t be too concerned.  Device manufacturers looking to differentiate have come to the rescue.  HTC’s sense had been shown to address some of the shortcomings of Google’s stock look and feel.  Keyboard enhancement’s like Swype make the basic android typing experience more enjoyable.  Even Samsung, with their lackluster Touchwhiz interface, adds in a few enhancements that help with the overall experience.

In conclusion, does Google care about Android … sure.  They bought it and they benefit from it’s success.   They know that having such a successful product in the mobile space is very important for future success

- Damien Peters

Trekking Through Silicon Valley

One of the key reasons behind choosing MIT as the place to pay thousand upon thousands of dollars receive my MBA from is because of the expertise here in Entrepreneurship.  Not just in the business school, but all over the campus you will find people trying to start the next Google/Facebook/Twitter.  There are few better places to go to if you really want to start your own company.

One key part of my entrepreneurial dreams (besides this blog) is the Entrepreneurship and Innovations program at MIT Sloan.  Through additional classes, treks (just organized group trips with a business purpose), and team building, the goal is to create a cohort of like-minded entrepreneurial individuals.  Is that 100% accomplished … I’ll leave that for another post … maybe after graduation.

A big part of the program is the well known Silicon Valley Trek.  Everyone in the program heads out to the Bay Area and gets to visit and interact with several tech start-ups.  It’s one of those good bonding and learning experiences.

Here is the recap of the companies I visited.  I’ll focus on interesting things … you can go to their websites for info.

Blippy (www.blippy.com)

I started off my trip with Blippy, a new system to monitor your purchases and allow you to share them and provide reviews.  We were greeted by Ashvin, the co-founder and led to a relatively empty room littered with exercise balls (yes … those big rubber balls you work your back out on).  Still had that start-up smell.

What stuck out to me about Blippy’s creation is that it came about after Ashvin and a friend decided to stop working.  They took a full year, without salary, got some free office space, and basically started hacking.  They launched idea after idea, seeing what worked and what they liked.  At the end of the year, the experiment was over.  Blippy was born and soon funding followed.  History is just starting.

One thing I liked about Ashvin is he is focused on more than just reviews.  He understands at the core of the company is creating a product graph, a concept similar to the social graph but focused on purchases and products.

Getaround (www.getaround.com)

Born out of Singularity University’s inaugural class, Getaround is aimed at changing the way people think about car ownership.  The simple explanation is imagine a company that allowed any single person to become their own Zipcar.  But really, it’s so much more than that.  Car ownership actually accounts for a great percentage of a household’s income and isn’t really structured efficiently.  Every person driving their own car isn’t good for the environment or economical.  By allowing people to rent your car when you aren’t using it will bring money to the car owner, better utilize resources, and is also a boost for building communities.

There are a lot of things to watch out for, especially when it comes to insuring the car’s safety, making sure the renter doesn’t trash the car, and the classical principal-agent problem talked about in economics (the driver has no real incentive to treat the car correctly).  Right now, Getaround is growing well and hasn’t reached the mass to worry about some of the ills that can happen, but with a smart team and a goal to change the world, I really enjoyed my time with Getaround.

Facebook (www.facebook.com)

I was overly excited to see Facebook for a number of reasons, and this visit was well anticipated.  As a start-up that is finally hitting puberty, I am very interested to see how things work out as the company is forced to mature and face more scrutiny.  When structure has to be implemented … things change.

I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say and not say because of something I signed … but all I will say is that … I saw Mark Zuckerberg.  I’m not a celebrity groupie at all, but I am a high-tech CEO groupie … sue me.

VMware (www.vmware.com)

So this doesn’t count as a start-up, but I have always been interested in VMware and the B2B market.  Since it was an option as a company I could visit, I decided to jump on it.  You should know VMware, so I won’t go into details.

Two things surprised me about VMware.  First, how much growth they have been seeing as of late.  I have known of VMware for years in terms of virtualization and enterprise software, but didn’t realize that they have grown their headcount by about 25% in the past year.  Business is great!  Secondly, their headquarters is really nice and modern.  After having interned for IBM, a B2B focused tech company, I just didn’t expect much.  Very nice.

Bump (http://bu.mp/)

Take two iPhones and bump them together and what do you get … broken iPhones? NO! You just got someone’s number, name, and address transferred to your phone.  The simple app has reached great fame after being featured on several of Apple’s commercials.

Did you know it was started by two MBA dropouts?  Yes, the founders left the Chicago Booth MBA Program after one year, with their technical co-founder, and entered into Y-Combinator.  The rest is history.

Few things I learned: they are apologetic about the fact that their Android App isn’t up to par with their iOS app.  The power of networks is key in the Bay.  When things need to get done, it really really helps to have the right person on your roledex.  There is no actual transferring of information from one phone to another, it all goes back to BUMP’s servers and there is an elegant matchmaking process that occurs.


So … I enjoyed my time in Silicon Valley.  In addition to getting to meet great companies, I got to chill with my classmates (remember … I love em).  I got exposed to a lot more of the area that I may end up living in than I had before.  Also, since entrepreneurship is hard to just teach … the more exposure I get to people who are out there really doing it is really the best way.

- Damien Peters

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

I am currently attending my first CES conference in Las Vegas.  I have been anxious to go for years.  I read every year after the conference as blogs like Engadget and TechCrunch fill me in with the details of what was announced and what wasn’t.  Now … I don’t need them (although I am still reading because they get a LOT better access than me)!  I am here.  Mama … I made it.

The first thing I have to say … CES is daunting.  The halls are huge, the keynotes start early, and the fact that I love craps and will play into the wee hours of the morning doesn’t make things any easier.  Also, there are an immense amount of people in the city and that makes any type of transportation a horrible affair.  With all that being said … I’m loving it.

If you want to follow my thoughts … follow me on Twitter: @TheRealMrPeters

I’ll keep this short as I am preparing to go out for the night and win some tuition money at the craps table, but here are my thoughts so far.

  • They Love, Love, Love 3D! 3D phones, 3D TVs, 3D Tablets … it’s all here and all being pushed hard.
  • There hasn’t been as much bleeding edge stuff as I expected.  A lot of better, faster, and stronger … but I haven’t seen a whole lot of game changing.
  • Motorola really impressed me with their Atrix.  It’s an Android Cell Phone that can be attached to a laptop dock or monitor and keyboard, and then it acts as practically a full sized laptop with 4G and 3G.  Would be great for travel and a way to ditch the real laptop, but still have everything in one device.
  • I’m not that big a fan of 3D.  It still feels gimmicky to me, and given that HDTV adoption isn’t universal yet, I’m not sure that people are ready for the new new thing.
  • Everyone is rushing to make a tablet, but nothing seems that interesting.  Even the Motorola’s offering, that I was really looking forward to, wasn’t that impressive.
  • Several companies think it’s ok to have someone hold a controller or touch a screen while a video is playing and pretend that the GUI is working … stop it!
  • Having a press pass doesn’t really mean anything …
  • There is still a lot more for me to see, so I’ll hold off some of my other thoughts for later.
That is all for now … I’ll try and get some pics or something interesting up ASAP.

Location … Location … Location: The potential future of location based services

I want to know where you are … right?

You want to know where I am … right?

So now we know where each other is. Now what?

I am having a hard time trying to think about the future of location based services.  With the inclusion of GPS in most major cell phones, in addition to a significant improvement in cellular triangulation, we are now able to have a lot better idea of where we are at any given time.

There is no doubt that this new sense of location awareness has a lot of real benefits.  Want to see a movie nearby … done.  Want to figure out where the nearest fast food place to eat is and get some ratings on it … done.  Need directions to pick up your friend who is at a new store you have never heard of … done.  There are a slew of use cases where knowing where I am and what is around me is useful and helpful to me.

But now you have these push based location services (I haven’t thought of a good name to call them yet … so we’ll stick with push based since regular location services includes Google Maps).  I’m talking about Facebook Places, Foursquare, SCVNGR, Gowalla, Loopt, Twitter location (kind of …), etc.  I’m talking about services that allow you to “check-in” at a place and inform some central service or other people that you are somewhere.

But then what …

Really, I am trying to think of the true game changing value added benefit.  I am trying to think of what new thing I can do now that I can publish or share my location with others that wasn’t possible before … and will change my life.  There are some easy ones that come up.  Now I know that me and a friend are at the same mall and can meet for food.  I can see that out of all the bars in Adam’s Morgan in DC, that Tryst is trending because there are a lot of people there.  I can keep track of how often I go to the same coffee shop.

But is this a game changer?  Is this something that I will one day think “I couldn’t have lived without it”?  Will location services start to intertwine with other services to make more aware and unique offerings?

I don’t know …

I remain a bit skeptical of the current models out there.  The novelty of being mayor of your coffee shop wears off.  Announcing to all your friends that you are at a particular location is something that social networks alone can handle pretty well.  The act of checking in still remains kind of annoying in my opinion.  Companies are starting to think of location based services as a way to drum up some traffic and make some sales, but I don’t think the current offerings are super compelling.

I hate to criticize without having a solid way forward or a way to fix things, but not sure I have the magic solution just yet.  I do have some suggestions that hopefully pan out to be correct.  Ideally, I want:

Effortless Check-ins

Maybe I am just lazy, but I don’t want to check in everywhere I go.  I may purchase foods or goods from several places in a given day.  While I am buying my food from a lunch truck, it may not cross my mind to check-in and let everyone know that I am there at the current moment.  It would be great if I could just be checked-in there so any nearby friends could coordinate (I know Google Latitude offers this).

Better Control of Who Sees my location

This is a very basic issue with almost all social networks … right.  My mom and my frat brothers are both connected to me.  Some stuff mom can see … and some she shouldn’t.  It doesn’t seem that this is a major concern for location services at the moment, but I dare say it is more important that wall postings.  I don’t mind sharing my whereabouts with people, but not everyone that is a “friend” (all 800+ of my facebook friends aren’t real friends … right?).

Do something useful with the aggregate data

So Foursquare now has trending, which I like.  The scale isn’t there to make it super useful, but sometimes it does help to see that  a bunch of people are in one place.  But lets do more with it.  What restaurants are consistently packed, and what does that say about how good it is?  Are there trends in lines and business that I can use to minimize the amount of time I take to get lunch?  Isn’t there aggregate information that can be used to improve my life?

Clean it up

I can only speak on this for Foursquare, but I hate when there are two entries for the same place, or when I see places called “my house”.  I want some rhyme and reason in the list of locations around me … please.

Stop thinking so small

When I travel, sometimes I just want to check into a city, but I can’t.  There is utility in making things a little more vague.  Google allows this with latitude, but most of the major location services are specific to particular bars, restaurants, etc.

I am not saying this is an exhaustive list, and I can’t say that this list speaks about anyone besides me … but this is more of what I would like to see.  Maybe … one day …

- Damien Peters

MBA Thoughts: I Love My Classmates

The first question you get from everyone (family, friends, recommenders, people on the streets, your old kindergarten teacher) the first time they see you after you have left for school is:

How is school?

A very interesting question for two reasons:

Firstly, there is a good chance that you don’t have a good answer for them.  I can’t speak for other programs as I only know the great MIT Sloan School of Management, but the general feeling is that the first semester of an MBA is an extremely intense exercise in how few hours you can sleep and how many times over can you multiply your old level of productivity.  It’s a difficult juggling act of clubs, classes, and job searching that  drains you and  leaves you tired, sleep deprived, and walking around in some odd half-awake state.  Yet, for some odd reason, you find that you are having the time of your life.  You love it, despite your hatred.  So it becomes hard to express both of these conflicting emotions in one answer.

Secondly, you are forced to think about what you like.  It could just be me, but I hate vagueness.  I don’t like to answer questions with “good” or “OK” without some solid examples and details that I can elaborate on.  As a result, I need to think about why I am actually enjoying myself and why I love my program, so I don’t give the basic “well … it’s going aight”.

So, I sat and I thought.  I closed my eyes real real tight and pondered over what X factor existed to make a seemingly hard and draining situation so enjoyable.

If the title didn’t give it away … it was my classmates.

Simply stated, MIT has accumulated about 400 of the most interesting, smart, and diverse individuals in the world and put them into class with me.  I know it sounds rather “soft”, but I actually look forward to finding out about each one of my classmates, as their stories are always a bit eye opening.

From the banker who wants to work in health care in Africa, the New Yorker who spent 4 years in Hong Kong, to the Russian who still holds dear the USSR, its been fun.  The varied interests of people always opens me up to new things.  You can hear the passion of some people and the things they want to do in life, and it’s infectious.

I had heard about this many times over before starting school.  Schools go through a lot of trouble to assemble a diverse class mix that allows students to feed off each other in addition to their professors.  But … you hear stuff like this all the time.  Schools always claim about some unique trick they do to eek that extra bit of learning and education out of you.

Well for once … they backed it up.

So, I will end this with a simple “I appreciate my classmates.”  I appreciate all they have taught me, all the entertainment they have provided, and the stories they have given me.

Anyone looking into or considering an MBA program, get a feel for the people.  It’s only 2 years, but you will be surprised how much time you will spend interacting with your classmates.  While you can’t peer into the future to see how your classmates will be, every school has a “feel”.  Make sure it feels right …

What’s the deal with search?

I recently found out at TechCrunch the at the third place leader in online search has officially called it quits and is exiting the search market.  According to the Alexia at TC, “Search is an almost impossible business to get into, with Google controlling around 66% of the market and Microsoft controlling another 27.9%”.


First and foremost, I really don’t think any market is impossible to break into when it comes to tech.  How many times have we seen deeply entrenched market leaders fall to the wayside and replaced with a young and agile start-up that is simply better at addressing user concerns?  You remember Lotus Notes?  You remember Hotmail?  Remember the original Macintosh?  And maybe this is my blind optimism as I one day hope to make it big with my own start-up, but there is no industry or market (in high tech) that is impenetrable to new entrants.

But … there are companies that make it hard.

As much crap as I and many many others give Microsoft, you can’t help but admire them.  They have managed to keep their hold on the operating system market.  Even with the beautifully engineered and well hyped Mac OS X, and the 100% free (as in Free Beer) Linux operating system, Microsoft hasn’t gone down yet.  They have maintained a significant market share (well above 50%) for decades.  And it’s not that the market place is so hard to break into … there are plenty of new entrants.  And these new entrants of often successes in their own rights.  They dominate an industry, are profitable, and provide significant utility.  But at the end of the day … it’s not the market that is so hard to break into … it’s that it’s hard to usurp Microsoft.  And while a lot of people (myself included for many years) will simply say that Microsoft just bullies everyone else out the market, that argument only holds up for so longs.  As much as I hate to admit it (kind of), Microsoft is very capable as a software company.  They have several major missteps, could use a lot more innovation, and sometimes feel stale … but Windows 7 isn’t bad.  People loved XP.  They actually aren’t making bad stuff.

Back to search …

The problem here isn’t the search marketplace.  There is a lot of innovation and advancements that can and will be made in the search marketplace.  There are still opportunities for a company (whether a new start-up or an established player) to come and change things in a big way.  But … that might not be happening.  Simply stated, the one reason search is so hard is because … Google is too good.

Yes … Google is really just that good.

Google still amazes me by the fact they have remained to keep their innovativeness and “weirdness” although they are starting to mature into “Old Tech”.  I got my first chance to visit the Googleplex this weekend, and I must say that I was impressed.  It wasn’t the crazy circus that I expected, but it seems to be a whole culture of innovation, of experimentation, and of racing forward to some goal that no one actually can see.  Basically, they are obsessed with staying at the edge of what is new and good.  They also are very good at focusing on the user, which is clutch nowadays.

Even with all that said, Microsoft and Bing has been grabbing market share.  And as we all know, competition is healthy.  I don’t think Google is giving up the crown, but if they ever start getting lazy then someone will come up quickly to grab it.

So … What is the deal with search?

Google has it covered.  They continue to outpace and out innovate the competition, and until someone comes along with some significant improvement to the core search experience that Google can’t respond to, then I don’t see things changing.  I am sad to see ask.com go, because lack of competition is the easiest way to convince Google they can get lazy, but I think there are enough smart and ambitious people trying to carve out their chunk of the $20 Billion industry that is search to keep the big G on their toes.

- Damien Peters

Do you really need to care about tablets?

Do you remember what kind of computer you had about 10 years ago?

As young as I am, I’ve been the same nerdy (and lovable) person for some time now.  I learned how to build computers back in high school and I’ve been keeping track of tech since then.  I didn’t have the sophisticated RSS reader with all the major tech blogs pumping me info 24/7 that I do now … but there were enough magazines and random stuff on AOL (don’t you remember AOL) to keep me interested.

The Story Up Until Now

I used to crank away on my desktop computer.  It didn’t fit in a backpack and couldn’t move around the house unless there was another desk and another plug to use.  When I needed to use the computer, I went into the computer room and used it.

Then I got a laptop when I started undergrad.  It was great.  I kept my desktop for games and things that needed “real computing power”, but I used my laptop on a regular basis.  I thought it was great that I could have this device, in addition to my desktop, that I would take notes on or do some work in the library with.  The chain to the desk had been broken.

Jump forward a few more years, and my laptop is my life.  I still have a desktop … kind of.  It sits under my TV and really is only used when I need to download Bittorrents legal movies.  It’s connected to my Xbox and laptop and mainly acts as a big network storage.

I assume by now you have heard of that little iPad thing.  According to Mr. Jobs and Apple, it has single handily revolutionized computing as we know it.  It has given us this beautiful, fun, and entertaining device that can also deliver real business need to people.  Not only can you watch netflix on it, but you can also put together a powerpoint for your meeting in an hour or redo a document that your coworker sent you.

But … tablets aren’t new.  Microsoft and windows have been here before.  They put out these touch based computers that allowed us to use our fingers or pens instead of a mouse.  At the time, they were the future of computing.  Who wouldn’t want to control their computer with their hand?  Sadly … we all know how that played out.  It just didn’t work.  The user experience wasn’t great, it didn’t add a lot of benefit, and they didn’t sell well.

The Future (Maybe)

Why are tablets different now?  Why is their a slew of manufacturers running to make the same device that flopped a few years ago?  Why is it that the iPad is selling like crazy, when you couldn’t give away those Windows Tablet PCs a few years ago?  Why is it that companies like HP are going back to making tablets with Windows on them?

Tablets today are a different beast.  I see a few solid reasons why the tablet of today can succeed where it’s ancestor failed:

Why Tablets Work!

Tablets today aren’t just PCs

If you think back to those old Windows tables, they were just laptops with touchscreens.  A lot of them had convertible keyboards, and the smallest ones were 13 inches (I think … don’t quote me on that).  But more important, they ran a full fledged operating system with minimal enhancements.  The idea we see now is, less is more.  Since smartphones, we are comfortable with a device that does less, but gives us what we really need well.  The popularity of smartphones is helping drive this move to tablets.

Tablets are cheaper than PCs

After the netbook craze (which just gave us small and cheap laptops), tablets make sense now.  The original set of tablets that came out were more expensive than laptops.  It was very hard to justify the added benefit of a tablet PC over a regular laptop given their premium.  By getting tablets down to 50% of a laptop and lower, the case becomes a lot more compelling.

Tablets don’t run full operating systems

I know this isn’t completely true given HP’s and others plans to put Windows on tablets, but their technically called something else.  But, by putting simpler Operating Systems on these machines that are optimized for the subset of operations that a tablet is good for, you are going to get a better experience.

My prediction on tablets

I think tablets have potential, but I don’t think they are truly going to be the revolutionary game changer that people are claiming.  I don’t think I will replace my laptop with a tablet.  My laptop is my main computer and I am a heavy computer user.  Would my mom, sure … she currently doesn’t have any computer at all.  But call … me skeptical of the revolution.

Tablets are good.  I want one … and YES … you should care about tablets!

What Verizon Did for the Android Operating System

There is a huge problem in the high-tech industry … marketing.

Yeah … marketing.

Think of it this way: A lot of the products and services that are billed as “high-tech” are created by “tech” people.  These are nerdy individuals (like myself) that actually appreciate the fact their processor can address a 64-bit memory address instead of the old 32-bit.  But … we must convey this improvement into something that an average person actually cares about.  How do you convey this extreme technological feat to your average consumer who still asks “how many gigabytes do I need for my processor?”

This has been a problem for the Android operating system.  Simply stated … Google sucks at marketing.  I know it seems crazy, right.  They have all these users, they have all this market share, and their brand is worth billions.

But wait … think about it.

Google is great because they make great products.  I mean … look at Gmail.  You didn’t see any Gmail commercials.  You didn’t see any witty ads with white backgrounds and Apple inspired intellect.  What you heard was “I love Gmail” or “Gmail is great”.  Google puts out good products and people like them.  They don’t need to convince you it’s part of a revolution, that you are part of something great, or anything else.  They just make really good products and innovate like it’s going out of style.

But this doesn’t always work.  When it came to Android smartphones, it was a little harder than usual.  They had this product with a lot of good features, proper integration with the “cloud”, a marketplace, apps, great web browser, a keyboard, all that good stuff.  But still … it didn’t sell that well.

I had a G1.  The first Android cell phone.  I bought it about a week after it was released.  I personally had a lot invested in this new operating system.  Not only did I spend several hundred dollars on the phone, but I was also teaching myself how to make Android applications.  The iPhone marketplace was already overrun with apps and there were a million and one developers already trying to make it rich.  I knew this fledgling system with the backing of Google had the potential to really be big.  So, I started to follow Android.  The releases, the new devices, the future of the platform, and who around me was buying it.  I would tell everyone about the greatness of Android and why they should buy a G1.

If you were a developer, if you were a lover of phones, if you knew your gadgets, you knew what Android was.  I was able to quickly jump into my anti-iPhone speech and soon I was deep into discussion.

But supposed you didn’t fall into one of these categories.  The first question I would get as soon as I tried to jump on my soapbox was “What is an Android phone?  Is that the Google Phone? Isn’t it like an iPhone?”

And that was the problem with Android phones for a long time.  The only way people could judge them was in comparison to an iPhone.  There wasn’t a lot of information outside the tech community about it.  T-mobile wasn’t exactly the best at conveying to consumers the power of Android. Sure, they could tell you about the “cool phone”, but it’s a lot easier to sell a Google phone than it is to sell an Android device.  So what you had was the “Android” brand being worthless.  People didn’t understand what the Android operating system was, what it had to offer, and what the deal was.

Oh yeah … I’m supposed to be talking about Verizon …

In comes Verizon.

Life is bad.  The iPhone is getting all this buzz.  People are running to AT&T as a result of the little device.  Subscribers are actually willing to give up your “superior” service as a result of this touch based phone.  And it SUCKS.  It really really sucked for Verizon.  What were they to do?

They created “The Droid”.  They took the Android operating system, finally focused on the advantages that it had, got some great devices on a great network, and finally made a brand to fight the iPhone.  Not only did they take shots at the iPhone (remember the iDon’t commercials), telling people the truth about their “magical” device, and they did it with visually engaging ads.  Oddly enough, desperation forced them to do what Google couldn’t do.  They took the power that was Android, and they actually found a way to communicate that to consumers.

They marketed … and damn well.

So … thank you Verizon.  As a result, there are a lot of people that still call every Android phone a “Droid”.  They know what it can do, they often have some idea it’s running Google software, and they realize it poses stiff competition to an iPhone.

And you know how the story went after that.  Android devices outsell iPhones every month, and the battle rages on.  And I think … Google has a lot to thank Verizon for … a lot.

- Damien Peters

Why you MUST join the MIT 100K Elevator Pitch Competition!

I am on the organizing committee for the MIT 100K Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC) and I am here to preach to you the greatness that is the MIT 100K EPC.

You can register at http://register.mit100k.org/

For those who don’t know, the MIT 100K Defines the Elevator Pitch Competition as:
The Elevator Pitch Contest is the first of three contests hosted by the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

It’s about idea generation, connecting with others who have similar interests, and learning how to present your pitch to a potential investor in a moment’s notice.

60 seconds for a chance to win $5,000!

Preliminary Rounds – October 25 & 26, 2010, 6PM Bldg. E51Finale Round – October 27, 2010, 7PM Kirsch Auditorium, Stata Center
So here you go with the Top 10 Reasons you should Register and join the MIT 100K EPC:  I will be updating the list throughout the day, so check back for more:

#10: Where else can you win $5,000 for 60 seconds of work?!?!

#9: Learning how to convince an entire group of people in 60 seconds is a life skill.  Think about the next time you get a speeding ticket!

#8: In 5 years, you’ll be able to tell people you were part of the $100K, even though at that point it will be called the $1,000,000K.

#7: Finally, a chance to participate in a cross-school and cross-campus event … YES!

#6: You kinda, sorta, almost want to be an entrepreneur, but you already have an in with McKinsey.  Try it out for 60 seconds … McKinsey isn’t going anywhere!

#5: It’s 60 seconds! You can spare 60 seconds.

#4: Imagine Toastmaster’s and the Sales Club having a baby.  Then give that baby $5,000 to hand out.  That’s what the EPC is like.

#3: Look at the music video … let’s not let Rahul’s hard acting skills go to waste!

#2: I know you want a job in finance.  Well, don’t you think Goldman will be impressed at the ROI of 60 seconds and no capital into $5,000?!  That’s an ROI of INFINITE percent!

And the #1 Reason to immediately go and sign up for the MIT $100K Elevator Pitch Competition …

#1: Do it for me … Please …

As you go to http://register.mit100k.org/ and sign up right now … enjoy this video made for the $100K.


- Damien Peters

The Need for Beauty in Technology

I admire Apple.

As much as I badmouth some of their decisions to remain exclusionary and the blind exuberance of Apple fanboys, I really do admire them as a company (besides the fact that they are single handily carrying my stock portfolio right now).

I don’t admire Apple as a tech company.  They’re hardware rarely has bleeding edge specs,  I actually do not consider them early adopters for the most part, and from a sheer numbers standpoint most of their products are … OK.

I will admit, I do admire them some as a business.  Instead of running to get market share and diluting the brand in the process, they are perfectly happy focusing on being highly profitable and having great margins.  If there is one thing that being in business school has taught me and something that 75% of the general population often doesn’t get is that … you don’t always have to win on market share.

But, this post isn’t about sound business principles … it’s about beauty.

Yes … beauty.

I admire Apple because they strive dearly to uphold the beauty of technology.  They do it at a great cost of openness and extensibility, but it does seem (according to their market cap) that sometimes it’s worth it.

For us “techies”, it’s easy for us to get lost in the world of technical specs.  I care about how many GB’s of storage I’m getting, how much RAM I can play with, and how many clocks per second I can compute, whether a cellphone, MP3 player, or computer.

But does it really matter?

I own a MacBook Pro.  And I must admit … it is beautifully usable.

The beauty of the system isn’t simple a matter of lines and edges, or slick little animations, but there is often added usability behind the beauty.

My keyboard lights up, which looks really nice, but also helps me to see the keys in dimly lit environments.  I didn’t realize how many dimly lit environments I worked in until I got a keyboard that pointed it out.  The trackpad is one piece.  It’s nice to see no buttons and a relatively flush surface, but it is also the only usable trackpad in the laptop market (the gestures have a lot do with this also).  I was afraid not having buttons would get annoying, but this is the first laptop where I don’t feel the need to use a physical mouse.  The dock in Mac OS X is very … pretty.  But it is also a very good implementation of an application taskbar.  So good that windows decided to take it.  And then there is the unibody case.  It really does look nice and is great to behold.  It also seems to have a smaller footprint than similarly sized notebooks, and actually feels pretty good to carry.  The lack of a latch with the case lid is actually an extremely good system.

Now don’t get me wrong, things aren’t perfect.  The lack of USB, HDMI, VGA, etc ports is utterly infuriating. The fact that I have to carry around a separate adapter to use a monitor is annoying.  The adapter that is meant to save my computer from being pulled off a table (it’s never save me) also falls out a little to easily.  And I have noticed a drop in the radio reception of my wi-fi antenna, which is apparently a result of all this aluminum.

So, while I will continue on my anti-iPhone warpath.  While I continue to admire Apple with one part of me and look on with disdain with the other, I do admire the beauty of their hardware and software.

More importantly, why hasn’t this caught on?  Why do I often find many software and hardware products still in need of a good usability engineer.  Why is it that other places refuse to take some of the time and care in releasing products?  When I truly think of companies that place a premium on good looking electronics, I am hard pressed to find one.

Maybe it is all a pipe dream.  Maybe I should be happy with cheap hardware that is effective and works well.  Maybe if I want elegance I should stick with high-end products that sell at a noticeable premium (*cough* Apple & Sony *cough*).

Is there a need in the tech industry to focus more on beauty?  Is having beautiful gadgetry an necessity or a nice to have?

- Damien Peters