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May 26th, 2009

Desert Island Devices

Desert Island Devices

Mobile & Wireless Show, London Part 2
Back from this year’s show and It was interesting to see that despite the recession many starts-up attended, highlighting the importance of having a prescence at the event to generate sales leads.

In summary,

We Saw
The latest HTC devices and phones. The browsing speed and design were out to impress
Key note speeches from Phil Belanger, Extricom Ltd

We Came
We spoke to thought leaders around ranging from what they thought was exciting at this year’s show (hint WiMax, ultra fast connectivity and greater accessibility) and what mobile device they would bring to a desert island (lots of iPhone and ‘crackberry addicts’ and even one interviewee would take an Android fridge)

We Conquered
Check out the full video here to hear what attendees thought were the show highlights, future of wireless, and their must-have desert island device

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May 22nd, 2009

Have your Apple and eat it too

Have your Apple and eat it too

More evidence this week that Apple will pull even further away from the pack in the race to put intuitive, state-of-the-art computing into the pockets of consumers.

If it wasn’t exciting enough for Apple fanatics to hear Steve Jobs say that a new generation of iPhones is likely to appear in stores sometime in late June, there was agreement across the IT press this week that the long rumoured Apple Tablet is also now on its way.

TechCrunch wrapped up some nice insights and predictions for the device in its article ‘What we know about the Apple Tablet So Far’.

Google around for myriad other links and rumours.

Our knee-jerk reactions to the news so far included the following:
– If any firm can popularise the problematic 7-10-inch screen size, it’s going to be Apple
– What the heck will be the impact on the embryonic eReader market if the Apple Tablet really takes off
– Will the Tablet use the iPhone OS, or some version of OS X?
– How will Apple handle the ever-troublesome battery life / power / weight trade off?
– Will Intel get a look in?
– A predicted price bracket of $500 – $1000 is pretty vague and smats of several different models aimed at very different market segments. Do tell.
– Why doesn’t Apple leak and deny like a seasoned pro, such as rival Microsoft?
– Will we see these babies in Apple Stores before Christmas?
– In the UK? Really?
– If Apple staff are being taken off iPod and iPhone projects to get the Tablet readied, does that mean the iPhone 3.0 is ‘good to go’?
– Seriously, can we have a play with a new iPhone or two and worry about the Tablet later?

Let us know whether you’re more excited about the Apple Tablet, the Apple iPhone 3.0, or whether you shun anything with an Apple trademark on it on principle (in which case the best we can do is tell you that the Pre is still rolling down the Palm pipeline and will be in US stores on 6th June.)

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May 19th, 2009

Greylock leaves Beantown for the Valley

Greylock leaves Beantown for the Valley

Today, Greylock Venture Partners, a major early-stage VC firm, announced that it was moving its headquarters from Boston to the Bay Area. Its headquarters had been located in Waltham, MA, just a short (well, 30 minute without traffic) drive from Boston on 95. Being a former resident of Waltham myself, I can empathise with anyone wanting to move out. It’s not very convenient to the city: there are no T-stops, any morning commute there is painful and there just isn’t much around.

Microsoft even, who long dominated the skyline of Waltham’s office buildings overlooking the highway, decided to trade in their shimmering transparent Prospect Hill building for granola-and-geeky Cambridge. A surprising amount of tech start-ups are located in Boston, and the epicenter is here in Cambridge, at the intersection of Harvard and MIT, fueled by the people who come out of those institutions with big ideas.

Greylock’s new offices will be in Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, CA, and along with it, much of its back-office operations. The Valley has more enterprise software and consumer internet start-ups for them to fund, but the amount of VCs there is oversaturated. There are still plenty of big ideas lying around Boston. Perhaps Greylock didn’t need to move all the way out to Silicon Valley, just down the road a little bit.

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May 18th, 2009

What's next in enterprise mobile?

What's next in enterprise mobile?

This Wednesday, May 20th, Prompties will be interviewing and filming at this year’s Mobile and Wireless show at Olympia in London. With many technologies cutting back during the downturn, mobility is bucking this trend with strong predictions for growth over the next two years. In fact, mobile location settings, widgets and 802.11n have all been named as mobile technologies to watch in 2009 – 2010 by Gartner. We will be interested to hear how what companies such as HTC, RIM, and Microsoft think as important for enterprise decision-makers build seamless, reliable and cost-effective mobility strategies.

Stay tuned for our video, on-site tweets, and post event summary here on the Prompt blog!

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May 14th, 2009

Get off the hydrogen fence

Get off the hydrogen fence

Why doesn’t hydrogen powered transport receive more support from our governments? Is it a straightforward attempt to prolong the ring-fencing of fossil fuel revenues? Perhaps there are still concerns that the general public still harbors a collective ‘Hindenburg hangover’?

Well, if we are to believe the latest statements coming from Barack Obama’s Administration, the reason that the US government is willing to risk damage to its fledgling green credentials, is because it regards hydrogen power as too embryonic to receive major funding at this stage. Others might argue that a huge round of early capital is precisely what potentially world-changing innovations such as hydrogen power require to ensure they mature as rapidly as possible and start earning their own keep.

Sadly, the plain fact is that federal funding for hydrogen fuel-cell cars has been slashed dramatically. According to the Daily Green, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has now cut more than $100 million previously earmarked for hydrogen research in his 2010 budget, leaving just $68 million for fuel cell development. Chu simply believes a hydrogen energy economy is too bleeding edge to be worthy of investment in 2009. “We asked ourselves, ‘Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?’ The answer, we felt, was no.'”

This news comes as another major blow for financially-hit car manufacturers like General Motors, Honda and Toyota who each took the new administration’s green agenda seriously and have been diligently investing in cleaner hydrogen technologies. GM spokesman Alan Adler is now pinning his hopes on the House and Senate taking a closer look at Chu’s cuts. “We have to wait and see what Congress will do,” he said.

The National Hydrogen Association, a national body spearheading the campaign for hydrogen commercialization, is extremely unhappy, and told the New York Times so this week. “We certainly disagree with the administration’s decision,” said Patrick Serfass, a spokesman for the NHA. “And like a lot of other players, we’re not sure why it was made. From the hydrogen industry perspective, we don’t think we have been ineffective at all. We’ve had a lot of success over the last couple of years and are continuing to show progress.”

Although I’m certainly no expert in clean fuel research, I think it’s important that we all climb off the fence and back our instincts. Ideally I’d like to see several strands of progressive fuels researched simultaneously. Biofuels and refined electrical drives have obvious potential to unlock alongside hydrogen fuel cells, while there are plenty of hybrid avenues left to explore more fully. Wasn’t it only a month ago that Chu promised to provide over £40 million funding for fuel cells “to expand the use of clean and renewable energy sources and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.”

A month, it seems, remains a very long time in politics.

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May 11th, 2009

Storm Brewing for Cloud Computing?

Storm Brewing for Cloud Computing?

Storm Brewing for Cloud Computing?

I’m new to Prompt, and have to quickly learn about our current clients, their messaging, their technology and the solutions they deliver. I have come up with a shortlist of topical technology subjects that matter to a number of our clients and will be embarking on a voyage of discovery to help me better understand this brave new tech world.

So, onto the business of my first blog. Cloud Computing is the IT industry’s favourite new buzz word. But what is Cloud Computing and why should we care? Wikipedia calls it a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet. That is just one of 22+ different definitions of cloud computing. Clearly, this is a blog post that could spiral out of control it’s supposed to be pithy and blithe, not 72 pages of confusing techno-babble. Wikipedia continues: Cloud computing services usually provide common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers.

That does make it a little clearer, but why is it important to business? According to some analysts, cloud computing has the potential to save companies millions of misspent dollars on antiquated and unnecessary software, severs, storage and manpower because companies will no longer need to own or manage their own severs. It will also securely store all their data. Great so cloud computing will reduce costs and will result in significant internal efficiency improvements. Well, no, not yet it won’t.

According to a report from management consultancy McKinsey, cloud computing could actually cost companies more. Start-ups and small-to-medium sized business should be able to take advantage and actually see gains by ‘going cloud’, but the firm cautions that outsourcing all their computing to a cloud service would currently be a costly mistake for many large corporations.

Because lists are what the internet is all about, here are six of the most popular clouds.

SaaS (software as a service)

Probably the most well known cloud computing variation is SaaS, this is a type of cloud computing that delivers a single application through a web browser to customers. For customers, it means no upfront investment in servers or software licensing. For providers, with just one app to maintain, costs are low compared to conventional hosting.

Utility computing

Utility computing is not a new idea, but this form of cloud computing is getting new lease of life from major companies such as Amazon, IBM, and others who now offer storage and virtual servers that IT departments can access on demand. This is effectively a pay as you go solution for sever usage.

Web services in the cloud

Similar to SaaS, Web service providers offer APIs that enable developers to exploit functionality over the Internet, rather than delivering full-blown applications.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Another SaaS variation, PaaS is a form of cloud computing that delivers development environments as a service. You build your own applications that run on the provider’s infrastructure and are delivered to your users via the Internet.

MSP (managed service providers)

One of the oldest forms of cloud computing, a managed service is basically an application exposed to IT rather than to end-users, such as a virus scanning service for email or an application monitoring service.

Service commerce platforms

A hybrid of SaaS and MSP, service commerce platforms offer a service hub that users interact with. This is most common in trading environments, such as expense management systems that allow users to order travel or secretarial services from a common platform, which then coordinates the service delivery and pricing within the specifications set by the user. Think of it as an automated service bureau.

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May 7th, 2009

Twitter – the great debate

Twitter – the great debate

Internet World 2009 has been and gone. This year, the show featured a debate between Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein, Kai Turner of Agency.com and Guy Stephens of Carphone Warehouse. The topic? Twitter.

Twitter newcomers and fanatics, all congregated in one room to discuss the internet sensation of 2009. Former Revolution editor Philip Buxton hosted the debate and quickly found out the audiences’ twitter knowledge by asking who loved, wasn’t sure about, or didn’t use Twitter. The results were as mixed, as were the topics discussed.

The first question asked who at a company should be micro-blogging? Unanimously, the panel said that it didn’t matter who the person in the company was, so long as they showed a passion and talent for Twittering. A good idea may be to look at who in the company already does this, assess the blogs and tweets they’ve written and, if they’re up to scratch, ask them to take over this role.

Next, someone dared to ask if they could see Twitter in live action – unfortunately Internet World didn’t actually have Internet access! Luckily a dongle was found later in the session and those who knew nothing of Twitter, got to see the site live.

Later in the debate, the question of how Twitter could survive with its simplicity and focus on one function was brought up. The panel were all united in saying that this was the main pull of Twitter – its simplicity is what makes it stand out.

A newbie to the world of Twitter plucked up the courage to ask what Twitter is actually for? Twitter is a platform to express whatever you want, came the reply. It is a great way to of finding out what people are saying about your company and gives you real insight public feeling. People will often Tweet in a much more open and honest way than they would speak in real life, and this gives companies an opportunity to pick up on some very valuable feedback.

Another audience member wanted to know if companies could stop negative feedback spiralling out of control. The consensus was, basically, no. Companies will never be able to control what people are saying about their brand. You can improve a situation by reacting quickly to problems, but ultimately your service needs to be up to scratch. Twitter provides a brilliant platform to really listen to customers and companies should embrace this and take full advantage.

The panel also covered how Twitter can drive traffic to a site. A clear point picked up was that a company must be clear on what their Twitter site is about. Some companies use their Twitter page to promote special offers. If this is the case, it should be consistently about special offers. You can have as many Twitter pages as you want, so it may be worth having separate pages that target different people, making sure that the content is written with them in mind.

When discussing how a business could build a following on Twitter, the answers came rolling in. It’s important to engage with conversations that are relevant to your brand. Make sure that your Twitter search tools and alerts are turned on, with key phrases and competitors, so it’s easy to get involved with conversations and answer questions.

Building a presence on Twitter is something that can take time. As a business, you should already have access to hundreds of email addresses – customers, potential customers and more. Add them all into your Twitter account to give you an initial following, and then build on this by sharing relevant news with them.

Finally, the question of how Twitter can help with SEO was asked. Everyone agreed that this is something that Twitter really excels in and if you’re not interested in having a page for any other reason, this could be it. Often a company’s Twitter page ranks almost as highly as their own website after a quick generic search on Google. Sadly, this has meant that the Twitter equivalent of domain squatting has started. It’s important that companies register their Twitter names quickly, including their brands and services, to make sure that someone else doesn’t nab them first.

All in all, the debate proved how brands and companies can really make Twitter worth their while. In fact, no one had a bad word to say about the site and there were many success stories mentioned. Conclusions? Twitter really does have the ability to make a difference to the business world – it’s just a case of putting the time in and making the most out of the site.

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May 4th, 2009

Crystal ball murky for Globe

Crystal ball murky for Globe

I grew up with a general exposure to/appreciation of local newspapers. For a while I wrote for one in South Wales – as a junior reporter I got to cover cake competitions, Christmas lights, and write doublepage spreads about the local dogs’ home (note: there’s an amazing number of ways you can rewrite ‘abandoned’ and ‘cute’ across two pages).
Despite the web and the accessibility of information I still like local papers (emphasis on the word ‘paper’). But one of my staples here on the East Coast, The Boston Globe, is in trouble. This is not new news, as The Globe’s future has been hanging in the balance for a while (since 2007 its ad revenue has dropped by 40 percent). Like many newspapers it faces declining circulation, stumbling revenues, and now the fallout of a recession.

Finally it’s all come to a head as the paper, published and owned by The New York Times Co., is under threat of closure. To stay open it needs to get the unions on its side. Fast.

Reporting on its own predicament this morning, under the headline Agree or else, Globe tells unions, the paper outlines how Globe management was still negotiating with unions over cuts needed for its survival – past a deadline of midnight last night – but would go ahead and file a closure notice today if there was no agreement reached. I have my fingers crossed that common sense prevails.
Whatever the outcome, this week the Prompt team based out of our Boston offices will be hitting the street and asking local people what they think of The Globe, and the value they place on printed local news. Watch this space.
Update (May 5): After all-night negotiations, the threat to file an official notice to close has been withdrawn. For how long – well, as I said the crystal ball is murky…
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