Archive for December, 2007

Buy Daniel Lyon’s “oPtion$”: A Review

December 27, 2007

Basically: two thumbs up. Buy it and read it. Now.

You’re still here? Fine, I’ll expound… but first, a short story:

Recently Daniel Lyons, aka “Fake Steve Jobs,” noted that ThinkSecret.com has gone away. This was a popular site that leaked Apple product info, and it appears the author shut it down for a presumably generous sum of money. So what did Fake Steve do? Soon he posted that he received a similar offer from Apple, which then prompted a series of posts about being in trouble with Apple lawyers for even mentioning the offer. Subsequent posts were coined the great FSJ shutdown drama.

And then came a little Christmas Day note. A “Ha, ha, just kidding, folks” post. Which served an incredible point: through a very personal narrative Mr. Lyons demonstrated how scary it must have been for Nick Ciarelli of Think Secret, and how a company that touts itself as “Think Different,” and even used Ghandi (i.e., “truth”) in their ads, is actively censoring people who love their products. Do you see the extreme inanity of such actions? “You love our stuff? Great, now shut the hell up.”

The stunt that Mr. Lyons pulled is small example of the incredibly incisive, bitterly sarcastic, laugh-your-ass-off comedy that fills “oPtion$” from cover to cover. Not only is he able to deliver a story that makes you laugh at almost every turn of page, he also takes Washington, the media, and Silicon Valley CEO’s to task, while throwing in erudite business lessons concerning the rapidly-changing field of content distribution.

Set around the recent options scandal in which Steve Jobs is currently embroiled, the author examines a (parody of) one of America’s beloved execs. Lyons is adept at creating a complex character that you love, laugh at, and thoroughly hate, all at the same time.

My only disappointment was that although the book is new material and not a collection of blog posts, as constantly mentioned on the Fake Steve blog, some (very short) chapters are directly from the FSJ archive (such as the great Hillary Clinton shakedown, as well as a reworking of the Brad Grey aka “Do we have a problem here?” post).

Otherwise, this was a great Christmas present to myself, and it should be the same for you… er, well, even if it is late. Whatever.

Where can you get it? Go here to the FSJ blog and scroll down; on the sidebar to the right is the “Achieve Enlightenment – Order My Friggin’ Book” section. I’m sure Mr. Lyons will be happy to show the publishers that people are going from his blog directly to the Amazon checkout register. And it’ll help a great author have a little extra cha-ching! in his pocket (assuming he’s using the affiliate program…). 

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FCC Airwaves Auction and Google Redux

December 27, 2007

So, per usual, I was wrong in my assertion that Google is cooking up something really special for the wireless world and, as such, was aiming to win the upcoming FCC auction. Here’s the pertinent part of a Bloomberg story that changed my mind:  

Google may choose merely to bid the $4.6 billion reserve price as a ‘token gesture’ to the FCC for imposing the open-access rule, Jason Armstrong of Goldman, Sachs & Co. said in a Nov. 28 research note. In that case, Google would probably lose the auction, the New York-based analyst said.  

Meaning, Google flexed its industry muscle to get some policies changed for the ways in which the airwaves can be used, but all they’re going to do is put up the minimum (losing) bid as a little thank you letter to the FCC. How polite.

What puzzles me though is that Google has only produced an under-whelming Android SDK (one developer said “Functionality is not there, is poorly documented or just doesn’t work”). Meanwhile, Google has been doing its research about wireless… literally: papers from their employees include A Large Scale Study of Wireless Search BehaviorBrowsing on Small Screens: Recasting Web Segmentation Into an Efficient Machine Learning Framework, and another paper that suggests a new model for testing wireless call reliability outside of the current “fewer dropped calls” method (A Statistical View of Transient Signals).

In other words, they’re spending a lot of time and money (research, software development, lobbying) to be ahead in the wireless game, but really have nothing yet to show for it. Sigh. 

FCC Airwaves Auction and Google

December 4, 2007

I love a good conspiracy theory.

Therefore, I want to know what Google is up to concerning their go-it-alone bid in the FCC auction for a piece of the wireless spectrum. Google may have to go as far as financing their bid because, despite their success, they don’t have the flow of hard cash needed to win. Moreover, a writer from the National Post mentioned that a Goldman Sachs analyst viewed “negatively a scenario in which Google wins the auction and decides to build and run a wireless network on its own.” I agree; I highly doubt they would want to take on the cost of maintaining the spectrum, and would most likely partner with someone to take over the nitty-gritty details. So what is there motive?

It seems many are parroting this section of the press release by Google:

Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.  

Eric Schmidt is correct in stating consumers want more innovation. Thing is, besides the AdWords gold mine, this company has yet to make a successful foray into, well, anything else. So far search advertising is their one trump card (although that is a damn valuable card to be holding). I think the second card they hold is their staff. Google allows their engineers time to work on their own side-projects (read: you have free time, but we own anything you think up…) and works hard to keep their people happy (have you been to the NYC headquarters? Their cafeteria has an incredible view of Manhattan, and some kick-ass sushi). Thus Google has a great stronghold on housing the potential for innovation.

What’s ironic about the press release is that Google is trying to position themselves as an advocate for openness. I about died laughing when I read that line.

But then again, Elizabeth Woyke noted that others agree: Amol Sarva argues that “simply publicizing its involvement [in the auction] should help achieve Google’s goal of liberalizing the wireless industry.” Google is the starting point of more than 70% of internet searches, and now they are bidding to control another key access point to the Internet. In addition, they are developing Android to further control that access point (assuming they win the bid). They are working hard to ensure the wireless industry is liberalized in their favor; any company would do the same, but for a company that has yet to produce any solid wireless gizmo (be it software, hardware, etc.), the question becomes, “Are they simply building structures to be ready for the future, or do they already have something up their sleeve?”

John Fine put it thus: “The eternal story line in media is ‘Google is moving into [fill in the blank].'” True. His byline reads that Google “sticks ads all over. But to maintain growth, it may need to own the places it puts them.” Are they really betting that expanding the reach of their advertising program onto the mobile phone is worth two years of their earnings? Does that much growth potential exist in that sector? I doubt it. For example, Woyke and another writer pointed ou that “Google lobbied hard to change rules governing use of the spectrum and was able to get lawmakers to ensure an open standard for part of the spectrum.”

They’re up to something. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s there.