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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Net Records Revealed

(Written on Friday 7th December on the train down to London — wobbly 3G connection and poor memory = delayed posting)

Last night was the first Manchester event for Mashup Demo, an opportunity for tech start-ups and entrepreneurs to present their ideas to a crowd of fellow entrepreneurs, consultants, facilitators, and investors. It provided further evidence that the web and tech industries in Manchester are booming. Not only was there an abundance of good ideas and interesting companies, there was also a good showing from the highly sought-after money men.

This has been true for a number of the Mashup, NW Startup 2.0, and OpenCoffee events over the last year. But this was the first event designed explicitly as a pitching opportunity, so it was pleasing to see a London-based VC there.

I was originally meant to be presenting Net Records in one of the three minute slots at Mashup Demo, but a late drop out meant that I was handed a longer slot further down the agenda during the subsequent NW Startup event. Ten minutes flies by when you’re in front of a crowd and talking about something in which you have a passionate belief.

Though we’re not actually seeking funding for the company, it was great to get some external feedback. The consensus seemed to be that the idea is sound — which is reassuring — though one person questioned why we hadn’t built the site with Web 2.0 tech from scratch. My answer was that we had turned an idea (almost) in to a business in three months and that was the next stage. But I could equally have answered — a little more rudely — that a pretty interface does not make a business.

My explanation of the site was a new one, originally written based on the belief that I only had three minutes. But it’s one I think I will use increasingly.

Net Records is the long tail record label. Those familiar with the long tail will know that it describes one part of a curve plotting products against the volume they are likely to sell. Most businesses are built around selling high volumes of just the few most popular products. Record labels are the same: their cost base means that they can only afford to focus on the most popular acts. Net Records takes the opposite approach. Because of the web infrastructure we have only a marginal cost for each additional band that signs up for the site. We can be the record label for all those bands that might never have more than 20 fans. Or be a proving ground for those who might one day have a million fans. The cost is the same to us.

The site is now at a usable stage. Though it may not say so, it remains very much in beta, and beta means testing. So if you’d like to go to http://www.netrecords.co.uk, sign up and give me some feedback, that would be great. Just don’t tell me the band sign-up pages are clunky. We know, and it’s a priority.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

iPhone: The Three Day Verdict

Just back from my second ever TV slot. Much less nervous than the first time around, and though I’ve yet to see the evidence, it feels like it went well. Totally forgot to set Sky Plus so will have to wait for the DVD. Should be able to post it here at some point soon.

I was reviewing the iPhone, alongside a selection of alternative devices — the SonyEricsson W910i Walkman phoneNokia N95, and LG Viewty — kindly supplied by Expansys.com. I’ve now had the iPhone for three days. In that time I’ve had my official briefing on it at Apple’s very swish executive briefing centre, and I’ve shown it to loads of friends and let them play with it. And I have changed my mind about it repeatedly.

My first thought after playing with it for a while was that I was horribly wrong in ever criticising it. There’s no denying that the interface is fabulous, intuitive and beautiful. But a few hours down the line I realised I had just been seduced by the cheerleader. Outside a WiFi hotspot the browsing experience slows dramatically; the virtual keyboard is no match for the qwerty of a Treo, or even for a quick T9er; and I had quickly explored — and exhausted — all of the features. Perhaps I was right after all?

As ever, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I found that when I needed to use the web, I reached for the iPhone over my P1i every time. The wide screen and slick zooming is great for maps and browsing news sites. The special Facebook integration is simple and effective. Even at EDGE speeds I found I was finding information faster on the iPhone than on the P1. The iPhone is what the industry has been crying out for: a device that drives users towards rich data services. But for calls, texts, photos and even email, I went for the P1. Yes, I’m a little more familiar with it but I’ve only had it a couple of weeks. I typed faster and made less mistakes on its tiny keyboard than I did on the iPhone.

I came to the conclusion that the phone you choose comes down to who you are. If you are under 25, love music and text constantly, then something like the SonyEricsson is ideal: free on contract, fast for downloading tunes, and familiar for texting. Over 25, earning decent cash, want to look slick and well in to your Facebook? Go for the iPhone — nothing on the market looks or performs like it. Complete geek who actually knows and uses all the features of your phone? Want to use it as a 3G modem? Get yourself a P1 or an N95.

The iPhone is revolutionary, and will seriously shake up the market. It’s not yet a device that will dominate the market but it is an incredible step forward in intuitive interface design for mobile phones. Expect to see every new device between now and next Christmas copying some or all of its industrial design and cool features.

I confess, I want one. But as a geek, I still wouldn’t choose it as my primary phone — I’m still pleased I chose the P1i. But I recognise that I am in the minority. Most of the people who receive an iPhone in their stocking this Christmas will be very, very happy with it.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Hello Apple PRs!

I gave my Book of the Future email address to Apple’s PR team this afternoon, and if they’re anything like me they will be checking this site out for background information. Hello there!

Thought I’d best post something quickly because they are sending me an iPhone to review on Channel M on Monday morning. And given my sceptical comments in the past about the iPhone, if I was them reading my blog, I’d be a bit concerned.

This is just to say, don’t worry. I have a whole weekend to fall in love with it, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I might. But whatever happens, it will get an honest review, and one that is appropriate to the Channel M audience not just cynical techies like me.

Big thanks go to Expansys.com for supplying the other phones to review alongside the iPhone. Will be looking at the LG Viewty, a SonyEricsson Walkman phone, and a Nokia N95 8Gb, if you’re interested. Channel M seem more open to me re-using content from my little spots there than the BBC, so there may be some video content up here at some point in the future. If I can endure the embarassment — they say that the camera adds ten pounds but in may case it seems to add ten inches…to my nose.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Multiple Personality Syndrome

There’s one big problem with having a portfolio career, operating with multiple identities at once. Sometimes all of those identities are trying to pull you in different directions. Today I have mostly been a PR person; a TV gadget expert; managing director of a Web 2.0 startup; head of a marketing consultancy; and a blogger. Now I’m off to be a husband and have a well earned drink. More on this topic to come when I have time to spend on just being a blogger for more than two minutes.

Tom Cheesewright