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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Innovaticus: Great Idea, Crap Name

I should perhaps be a little more polite since I am seeing one of the co-founders of this company on Thursday night. But as a marketing man I have to say that the name Innovaticus could only have been dreamt up by a group of academics. Fair play to them though, it is a very simple concept that requires some very complex execution.

The idea behind the product is to make gadgets work together more intuitively. If you have an MP3 player and a PC in a room, you should be able to get the tunes from one to the other relatively simply. If this sounds familiar then that’s because you read the last post. But while doubleTwist is all about a PC software solution, Innovaticus is all about putting intelligence in to wireless networks.

Imagine that intelligence in all the gadgets in your home, all communicating wirelessly and sharing their resources with one another — be they files, processing power, or the ability to capture information, display it or print it. Imagine sharing those resources with the people around you. It’s no coincidence that the test bed for this software was university dorms where everyone is constantly looking to borrow music, information, internet access, or printing.

So what would I call it? Well, in all those personality type tests I always come out as the ‘resource investigator’, someone who networks well with others to gather and distribute useful information and skills. Of course ‘resource investigator’ is a bit of a mouthful for a product name, but my colleagues found a suitably short alternative: Del Boy.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Mobile World Congress: Conclusions

I didn’t get to post as much as I had hoped over the course of the week in Barcelona. It was busy, to say the least, and only today have I really caught up on the lost sleep. However, I learned a fair amount and saw some interesting developments.

This year the closest thing there was to a unifying theme for the event was the realities of delivering data services. One company told me that everywhere that operators had turned on High Speed Packet Access services — effectively mobile broadband or 3.5G — they had been left in shock at the amount of data consumed by users. There will be a frantic effort over the next couple of years to ensure the rest of the network can cope with these sexy new services.

The applications that will drive such data usage are just now beginning to appear. The iPhone is the one garnering all the headlines — and its impact is significant — but the reality of what is driving mobile data is a lot more mundane. Take the train in our out of London from any major UK city and you will see a mobile army of workers equipped with Blackberries, laptops, and 3G mobile data cards. I’m willing to bet these people consume vastly more data than the few hundred thousand iPhone owners.

Finally my own little hobby horse — the mobile interface — is widely accepted as being a problem to be addressed. Most of the journalists, analysts and industry players I spoke to concurred that it is a big issue and one that will take time to solve. I’m looking forward to seeing more innovations on this front. I don’t think the trend for context-sensitive mini touch screens is much of a leap forward though.

Overall the event was great and in a time of global financial slowdown, the industry seemed remarkably upbeat (apart from Motorola whose presence was noticeably scaled down from last year — Samsung had taken over much of its ad space from the previous year). If the optimism persists unchecked, we may be heading for another dotcom-style boom in mobile applications.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Organic Marketing

I am a victim of globalisation. A big global company has displaced me from a customer because they can operate in multiple countries cheaper and with a lower management overhead than the customer’s current network of boutique European suppliers, of which I was part.

The question is not one of quality. I have experienced the work of the new global company only recently and learned first hand the trade-off they have made between price and quality. Given that I have no intention of competing on price, nor of opening offices all over the world, there is little I can do retain this customer.

This is in direct contrast to the consumer trend highlighted in previous posts. At least in the monied middle classes — which could be considered a good analogy for my well-funded business customer — the move is towards suppliers offering higher quality and local goods. Unfortunately it seems price and convenience remain more important in the business world.

If nothing else though, I have decided that I should henceforth position my marketing services as of the ‘organic’ variety as opposed the battery-farmed output of some global competitors…

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Broad(ish) Band

Is your broadband service worse than it was twelve months ago? For all this talk about multi-megabit speeds, I have seen very little improvement in real-world performance over the last year. If anything, things seem to be worse now. As usual I have no empirical evidence for this and I can’t find any news stories to support the assertion. I’d be interested to know if people’s own experiences concur with this theory, but it seems that the more performance we try to wring from our ageing telecoms infrastructure, the worse things become.

If it is proven to be true, it is understandable. The copper line infrastructure that delivers broadband for the majority of us (as well as our phone lines) is positively geriatric these days, and subject to any number of failings. It was never designed to carry the volumes of data we seem intent on pushing over it. Given the nation’s reliance on data traffic for much of modern business — and many social and governmental services — you would think a good argument could be made to let the copper network retire and replace it with a true broadband network. Perhaps one based on optical fibre.

As Peter Cochrane points out in one of his excellent blogs on, the technical and economic arguments to deploy fibre in the access network have been understood since the mid 1980s. Fibre networks would provide an incredible platform for new business models in the UK — not just the obvious internet, communications, and media triumvirate proferred by BT, Virgin and Sky, but completely revolutionary ways of home working, shopping, gaming, exercising, health and security monitoring, teaching and more.

The argument for deploying fibre is strongest in metro areas, where the largest number of people and businesses can be reached in the least radius. The argument could be made particularly forcefully for such a deployment in Manchester, a city that is pushing to be recognised as the UK home of the media and creative industries. With MediaCity:UK due for completion in 2010, creating 15,500 jobs in the media and creative industries, perhaps now would be a good time to start pushing for a scheme to roll out such a network. Today the RFI for the ‘IP-City Network’, created by the Manchester Digital Development Agency effectively specifies a wireless network, and one that will only provide most people with 1Mbps. This is a specification to meet yesterday’s requirements rather than tomorrow’s. If Manchester is going to claim a place on the World stage as a centre for media and the creative industries, we will have to be a little more ambitious.

Tom Cheesewright