27 julio 2008

La informática, un medio o un fin?

Supongo que no es la primera vez que asistís a esta "discusión", ya que genera bastante controversia, sobre todo en el sector informático, aunque según yo lo veo no es un tema tan opinable sino que depende mas bien del entorno, me explico.

La informática es un área mas de la tecnología, un área que se ha desarrollado vertiginosamente en los últimos, digamos, 30 años y que tiene una presencia social muy importante, pero es tecnología al fin y al cabo.

La informática es un fin? En determinadas ocasiones si, por ejemplo, las empresas o universidades, sobre todo, que se dedican a investigar avances tecnológicos, tienen como fin el desarrollo del sector tecnológico en el que estén especializados, por tanto para estas entidades de investigación e innovación, la informática es un fin. También las empresas que comercializan esa tecnología, como empresas de software, empresas de consultoría, centros de desarrollo de software, etc, tienen como fin vender, implantar o desarrollar la informática respectivamente.

La informática es un medio? En muchos otros casos si, como los sistemas de información empresariales, los sistemas que dan soporte al negocio, como los ERP, CRM, etc, no son mas que un medio para que el engranaje de la empresa funcione lo mas engrasado posible, cualquiera que sea el sector y el negocio de la empresa. En estos casos, las innovaciones informáticas solo tienen sentido si sirven a un propósito del negocio al que dan soporte. En este entorno, no hay cabida para muchos virtuosos de la programación o de arquitecturas de sistemas complejas, aunque alguno siempre hace falta. En este entorno, el mejor informático es aquel que sabe aplicar los medios a su alcance, de la manera que mejor den soporte al negocio de la empresa.

En este contexto es donde cobra importancia el concepto de proyecto informático orientado a negocio. Estos proyectos son los que tienen como principal - o incluso único - objetivo la cobertura de los requisitos solicitados por las áreas de negocio, a la vez que se minimiza el coste. De poco valen, aquí, las innovaciones no solicitadas. Por supuesto, es de mucha utilidad hacer una planificación de sistemas a largo plazo, alineada con las necesidades de las áreas de negocio y seleccionar las tecnologías que mejor encajen en esa planificación. Es decir, no hay que mirar solo a las necesidades inmediatas, pero eso no debe servir de excusa para las áreas de informática y sistemas adopten soluciones que, aunque excelentes técnicamente, no aporten valor al negocio de la empresa de la que forman parte.

En resumen, la informática es un fin, algunas veces, pero una inmensa mayoría, no es mas que un medio al servicio de otros fines.

24 julio 2008

P2P, bigchampagne and top of the pops

People has never comsume so many media (music, film, tv, etc) on the internet. However old business models around media are declining sharply.

This paradox has a short explanation: P2P.

More exactly, wherever you find a digital content, people will share it(legally or not) with thousands of people.

Lets imagine in the 70's a law which prohibits using the same software in more than one company/client (it means all the different companies should have tailor made software), and imagine that a new disruptive technology (floppy disks) would arrive. Now copying files was so easy as to copy a floppy disk. And the temptation (or the common sense) of copying software emerges. What should be done, passing new laws for making copying (even paying) software harder or regulating new business models.

Tailor made software industry could argue in that situation that creating off-the-self software would impact on the economy, could result on lots of unemployed people and the innovation and creativity would be flattened, isn't it?.

In the real world we have found the solution for this dilemma on hypothetic software model. There are a tailor made software industry and a off-the self software industry and some other models. all of them compete freely on the market.

But today we lack of the same solution for digital contents.

Current regulations come from from the analogue era. But a new technology generation has passed, and the industry based on analogue business models claim against P2P the same points as the previous example.

"Culture would be destroyed, lots of unemployed people would result for not forbidding it, some taxes should be imposed for preserving present industry, etc, etc", everything against P2P.

On one hand (software example) we live in the real world where tailor made, off-the-self software and other approaches compete for the market.

On the other hand media industry is living the same paradox and is 'claiming for their rights!!'
But other people are facing changes by saying."hey guy!, lets look what people is sharing on P2P networks. Maybe it could be interesting, or profitable indeed!"

Exactly, this is bigchampagne. They provide insight information about what people is sharing on P2P networks, including, video, music, software, TV and games.

itunes demostrated that new business models are emerging for the digital content industry. Bigchampagne is currently the 'equivalent' (or just similar) to the top of the pops in the P2P networks.

Lots of new business models are coming for sure because of P2P. In a place where millions of people are, (P2P networks), I am definitely sure that business models will emerge.

But you have to look for them!.

11 julio 2008

Yahoo - Microsoft marriage

As most of you might already know, Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo! some months ago without success, at that point Yahoo's CEO, namely Jerry Yang, considered bid too low for the value of the company. It was said negotiations were closed but, honestly, everybody thought tale was not finished at all. After a short while, Microsoft changed its offer to bid only for search and advertisement businesses where its weaknesses are more apparent and more value can be added to Microsoft. There is guy, Carl Icanh, who is trying to facilitate negotiations and would possibly take a good position in the after-deal-with-Microsoft Yahoo company.

First of all, I must admit I am not aware of the details of the negotiations so take my opinion as the one of an internet user, probably an experienced and thoughtful user but an anonymous user at the end of the day ... anyway, take this as you prefer.

Why Microsoft and Yahoo are negotiating ?
Microsoft is leader in PC licensed software and Yahoo is relatively well positioned as a content broker portal and at first sight, they both are huge corporations with an enormous value in stock markets and with quite healthy businesses in the software and internet markets so, why don't they simply try to stay where they are? Answer is very simple, answer is Google, they are "afraid" of Google.

Google moved the battle field where they are the strongest, that is the most likely successful strategy when competitors are, overall, stronger than you but you have some niche where you would defeat them. If you are smart enough and have such ability, you must move the fight to your niche. Google did it, or more precisely, all of us did it along with them.

At the moment, not many of us think the future is on building faster and better performing PCs, computing process power has been displaced from your PC or laptop to some remote locations where thousand of computers serve million of users. This morning, I read Samsung is about to launch a laptop without hard disk at all. In that scenario local computing devices are becoming a just commodity, no more than a paired keyboard and screen with internet access capabilities.
On the other hand, open source software is moving fast and competing evenly to proprietary software ... but I will leave it to a good friend and also author of this blog, who will elaborate that further.

Question is, how do you think Microsoft sees itself in the long term, let's say in 3 or 4 years time?
My take is they see worse than now, they are leaders in PCs but focus of users is moving where they are weak, to the internet and remote processing. General perception, sorry if you thing differently, is that Microsoft keeps trying to make us pay for a bad product, keeps trying to make money out of something Linux can offer for free and so son. And I think perception of users is everything in a fast growing market like internet.

Advertisement business of Google.

Advertisement is the other market where Google is defeating competition. And here, Google Guys thought again there is a different, a probably better, way of managing business, and they launched AdWords with a huge success. The so called "sponsored links" on the right hand side of the search results page are linked to the keywords the user entered in the search field, if you search for flight, you will get sponsored links of some important airlines. But, what are airlines appearing in that box and which will the one on top of the side box? Well, here is when the innovation of Google kicked twice.
Firstly, for every keyword, like "flight", there is an on-going auction for all customers /advertisers, if Iberia thinks "flight" keyword is worth one dollar per click and they are within the best bidders, their website will be shown at the side box every time a user searches for the mentioned keyword.
So far, Google would look like any other company concerned on making as much money as possible, which wouldn't be surprising, but here is where second innovation comes. There is room for more than one advertiser in the side box and the criteria to select who is on top of the sponsored links box is just popularity, the one that is clicked most often by the users will be shown on top, meaning it has higher probability to be clicked by the next user.

They are thinking on making money as any other private company but they always leave some space for letting the user to be on command. They could have also opened auction for the first, second, third and so on places of the sponsored links box with greater benefits but they didn't do that way.
User's perception is Google search is reliable and even advertisers are sorted based on user's preferences and Google Guys become, again, the Good Guys.

06 julio 2008

El principio de las ondas de Elliott

Hace unos años que me documenté y que utilice este principio, pero entonces no tenia blog y no pude escribir mis impresiones, así que ahí voy, que lo tenia pendiente.

Esta teoría o, mas bien este principio, establece que la psicología de la masa pasa del optimismo al pesimismo de una manera constante, pero también de una manera estructurada y, por tanto, previsible en ciertos aspectos.

Si se considera como masa al conjunto de los inversores bursátiles, entonces el optimismo, es la tendencia de compra o alcista y el pesimismo, es la tendencia de venta o bajista. Por tanto, el comportamiento de los mercados bursátiles se puede modelar mediante el principio de las ondas de Elliott.
El patrón básico esta ilustrado aquí consta de cinco fases a favor de tendencia y tres fases de corrección en contra de tendencia (si te esta pareciendo un poco duro, no te rindas, te aseguro que es apasionante)
Como se puede ver en el gráfico, cada una de las ondas, contiene el patrón completo de cinco a favor de tendencia y tres en contra, y cada una de ellas lo vuelve a contener a su vez y así, recursivamente, al modo de los fractales. Esto da lugar a ciclos desde muy cortos, en el rango de los minutos, a ciclos muy largos, abarcando varios siglos, pero manteniendo siempre la misma estructura, cinco a favor de tendencia y 3 de corrección.

Además de establecerse un modelo de comportamiento, las ondas guardan una proporcionalidad entre ellas, marcada por la serie de Fibonacci, por ejemplo, el recorrido de A en el gráfico, esta limitado por la onda 3 anterior, en una proporción del 66% aproximadamente, detalles matemáticos.

Pero si conocemos el modelo de comportamiento y, además, las reglas cuantitativas que relacionan la duración de las ondas, por que no estamos todos ganando una fortuna en bolsa? Pues porque todo esto es relativamente sencillo, "a toro pasado", pero en un momento determinado no es obvio saber si estamos al final de una onda 3 o al final de una 5, si ya termino la corrección de la 2 o estas en una A, etc ...

Las personas que dominan este modelo, llamados "contadores de ondas de Elliott", pueden realizar previsiones relativamente buenas, siempre combinado con otros modelos de análisis técnico.

Lo que me gusta de este principio, aquí viene lo apasionante, es que conjuga modelos matemáticos complejos, como las series de Fibonacci, con las formas geométricas de los fractales y, que todo eso, junto con la psicología de masas se puede aplicar a una gran variedad de situaciones, entre otras, a las cotizaciones bursátiles (en su momento, lo aplique ahí con buenos resultados)

05 julio 2008

Why is Google so successful?

I have been in the software and internet world since the very beginning, I bought a Spectrum 8K when I was 13 (that was ages ago), I was already browsing the web when all content was for free - even without the need of using P2P - and I had never seen a company so successful, powerful, attractive and interesting like Google, of course, it is still not perfect.

Some, but not all, of the reason are described in this post.

Product superiority - Search engine is clearly superior compared the competitor's

Algorithm used to show search results is to do with relevance and popularity of the website and nothing else. Such algorithm, called PageRank, what comes from Larry's surname, one of the founders and owners of Google, has been the vehicle Google has used to grow so fast in the last ten years

Attract and retain talented people

It is the most valued company by technology professionals as a result of a sustained policy of motivating employees to innovate, research and feel part of the company. An example can be the 80-20 rule, meaning every employee can use 20% of their time in personal projects, things they like rather than things their boss likes. When one of that projects or ideas takes shape, it is reviewed by their colleagues and, eventually, by a steering committee where Schmidt (CEO), Page and Brin (founders) sit. Evaluation criteria for promoting an idea to become a funded project are never to do with profitability but with alignment with other products and with the global strategy of the company. One of the most "successful" Google services is news.google.com and no money is made out of it and, even though, it is consider a success. Most of the products they launched were conceived by people who had a need, one who needed a better mail tool, conceived Gmail, one who wanted to structure published information designed GNews and so on.

Don't be Evil

Google's strategy is mostly based in this principle "Don't be Evil" it is a very basic principle, far from the complex and not always clear mission, vision and values of some corporations. If Google had a mission, it is an idealistic one: "to make all of the world's information freely accessible and useful". For a Googler (Google's employee) "don't be Evil" means put the user first and put yourself in their shoes before writing a single line of code. If there is a conflict or doubt about the meaning of that principle, in words of Schmidt, "Evil is whatever Sergei says is evil" and Sergei sometimes is not so rational, as an example, type "wine" in google search and look at the right hand side of the search results page, you will see ads related to wine. Now, type "beer" in the search box and look at the ads area, you will see ... nothing, Sergei thinks beer is evil.

Google Guys stick in managing their company applying their criteria at any expense

When Google went public back in summer of 2004, they managed it on the way they wanted, at the expense of confronting the Wall Street establishment as broker firms profited with this IPO less than with others of same size. Unlike other technology companies, investors don't have decision power, they have, of course, influence but the trio Brin-Page-Schmidt (probably in that order) retain the decision making power.

Worldwide marketing and massive brand awareness for free

Word of mouth is the primary marketing tool Google has used, you think of how you discovered Google, was it because of any TV commercial? was it because of any website banner you clicked in? ... I bet it was because somebody told you how effective and easy to use it is.

Beside word of mouth, they use indirect marketing, what competitors and media say about them, about what they do and, most importantly, about how they do things, building around their brand a success and appealing halo. At the same time, they force all partners and collaborators to sign unusually strict non-disclosure agreement. Interesting enough was the digitisation of 50 million library books project, which will be completed by 2011 and where a few Universities were obliged to keep the project in secret until Google decide when and how it was going to be unveiled. That kind of secrecy was unusual in the educational environment and even put the project on risk but Google Guys always do things on their way, like Frank Sinatra.

In 2004 Google Mail was launched with great and unexpected (?) controversy on whether privacy rights of users were at risk. As you might be aware, but most of the users don't, there is an ads box (called sidebar link) on the right hand side of the screen when an email is opened. Ads are not selected randomly but, on the contrary, they are the result of a text scan operation and, then, a related "sponsored link" is shown to the user. This clearly means all your private information of your emails is known by the system. Google Guys listened to the arguments against such approach, consulted respected professionals and they decided not to move a letter or a line of code of the GMail product. That implied extending discussion and controversy about privacy what gave them more brand awareness and marketing for free rather than harmed them. We all know, even if you are not completely aware, that Google is not Evil, so they manage our privacy respectfully. They are the nice guys.