Will Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft reach their 100th Anniversary, like IBM?

IBM 100 YearsIn 2011 IBM celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a bang. The company was a merger of three companies: the Tabulating Machine Company, the International Time Recording Company, and the Computing Scale Company, and since then it has gone through many changes from high tech product manufacturing to a service-based company. But despite all these ups and downs, company survived and now employs over 450k employees, has a 100bn turnover and operates in over 170 countries!

In hindsight, two reasons stand out for IBM’s success. First, their ability to reinvent themselves time and again, and that includes change in the business model, new products and services, geographical expansion and becoming a more agile firm by cutting resources or selling off their business units, such as selling their hardware business to Lenovo. Second, focusing more on the enterprise market than business to consumer, as the enterprise market is more long lasting and cash rich.

Now the question is, will tech giants from the current age such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft exist 100 years after their inception, like IBM?

And like IBM, the answer will lie in their ability to reinvent themselves and rebound at every tipping point they will have in their 100-year voyage. In fact, these giants have already gone through some rough patches and managed to negotiate them so far.

However competition is getting bigger and stiffer day by day, and the reduced price of infrastructure has levelled the playing field between big players and start-ups such as Dropbox and WhatsApp, which have recently disrupted and created their own space in the already established cloud and private messaging industries.

We have looked into some factors these companies are focusing on to survive longer.

Buy Start-ups with a huge user base or serious IPs

The big cash companies are not shying away from buying start-ups and already are on a spending spree. Microsoft bought Yammer, Skype and Nokia; Google bought Next, YouTube and Motorola ( which it then resold); Apple bought Topsy; Facebook bought Instagram, WhatsApp and Opus. However this is a very high-risk policy. Recently Google took a hit when it sold Motorola Mobility at half the buying price.

Keep innovating and launch new products and services

Another proven theory is innovate to keep going i.e. keep launching new products and services to remain ahead of the competition. Google and Apple are really ahead in this game and have huge future product pipelines ranging from wearable technology to renewable energy products to space programs. Microsoft and Facebook are more focused around mobile and cloud friendly technologies.

Expand aggressively into rapidly growing BRICS countries

Expanding business into emerging markets (Far East or BRICS countries) is a very popular option these days, as consumer spending is increasing in these markets and so is a craze for products and services from tech giants. This is therefore a great opportunity for these companies to leverage that market.

 

But there is problem with proven methods:

I am not sure if buyouts, geographical expansions and new products and services are enough to keep big companies going for another century, as product life cycles are shrinking. These days people discard their new phone in months, change cars in year or two, change jobs every three years and homes every five or six years. In this environment people don’t often remain loyal to one company’s products and services. Plus, in order to maintain cash flow sustainability, Google, Apple and Facebook, and to a certain extent Microsoft, have no serious products or services like CRM, ERP, DB servers or Cloud computing with which to break into the enterprise market. Finally, companies like Alibaba and Samsung from the Far East are also making inroads into the Western market and presenting very stiff competition.

Perhaps only the guardian of crowdsourcing might survive

I think, if Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft really want to survive that long, they have to create a worldwide cross platform ecosystem (not like their existing vertical App stores) to crowdsource any future product and service, so nothing slips under their radar. Otherwise they will perish simply because easy access to high speed internet, software infrastructure (e.g. cloud computing), and technical talent abundance far beyond their labs means new product and service creation won’t be limited to these giants.

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Kabir , Frank Underwood, Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp – hey ho 2014

Facebook and WhatsUp

I have finally managed to get a moment or two to spend writing a blog post. Following birth of our first baby, the last few days were as hectic as I have ever known in my life, with no respite from changing nappies, reorganizing furniture and looking after both mom and baby, however, during all this madness, I also watched house of cards series two, which like season one is full of Frank Underwood’s antics around Shakespearean emotions to gain ultimate power and made me rank this soap along with Thick of it, and Yes Minister!!

Let’s rewind the topic to kid again, we have called our new-born “Kabir”, a name that caused some disagreement with my other half, family and friends. Kabir being an ancient Indian saint, some find the name too dated and others question whether such a name is controversial because it could symbolise a certain section of society or religion. But luckily, with some deep convincing and back channelling (Frank Underwood, #HouseofCards), I managed to persuade everyone that Kabir was the right name for this kid;

My reasons were very simple. 1) It has a nice, simple, easy ring to it, unusual but easy for everyone to pronounce. 2) The original Kabir (The saint from India) did rise above cast, gender and religion and showed society that humanity is the best thing going forward, which always inspired me and influenced me to name my son after him!

OK, that all was personal. It’s rare for me to post personal stuff but emotion is pouring out from me. Everyone says life takes different turn after a child and it may be that that is forcing me to show personal emotion on my tech blog!!Probably this is the first and last time I will talk about things other than tech and product development here!

Let’s get back to business. Looking back to when I last blogged, the main stub was that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) bought WhatsApp for $19bn. Looking at the stats, WhatsApp has 450m active users with over 1bn of messages exchanged every day. Facebook is valued at almost $42/user despite the fact that per user revenue is just under a buck – as a result many questioned if WhatsApp was really worth that much. At MWC14 Mark replied to that question with some hesitant affirmation i.e. he thinks it is but he might be wrong for the first time!

So what does this mean for Facebook and especially for Mark Zuckerberg?

He Continues to Lead from the Front
I think Zuckerberg continues to show his astute foresight and strong leadership skills when it comes to social media or new age communication tools, because first he managed to buy Instagram and then WhatsApp, despite both Google and Apple (far more cash riche than Facebook) being on the lookout for new generation tools!

Most Respected Among 21st Century Entrepreneurs
It also show that Zuckerberg enjoys high respect among start-ups or 1st generation entrepreneurs because, if rumours are to be believed, Larry Page from Google tried to offer a higher price to WhatsApp before Facebook bought it. The same is believed to be true for Instagram, which Zuckerberg managed to grab despite Jack Dorsey (Twitter co-founder) being on the Instagram board!

Facebook won’t be vanishing in 4/5 years’ time
Despite promising that WhatsApp will remain as independent as Instagram after buyout, Zuckerberg has managed to expand the Facebook product inventory, especially when some reports suggest that Facebook has already reached maturity and a downhill path might now be inevitable.

But what does this mean for the product development industry?

The Cross-platform Subscription Model has Legs!
WhatsApp is a cross-platform subscription-based messaging service which is not a new phenomenon. Similar services existed from the inception of dot com in the shape of Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL chat and then BBM brought that in on the mobile platform, but WhatsApp made the money. i.e. a lesson can be learned that a product which is better than anyone else’s and accessible from any device can leverage its success!

Is Google (not Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn) poised to win the Graph war?

Recently we have had big announcements from Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn around improving or extending their search technologies! Facebook announced a social graph to leverage social relationship data, and then Twitter introduced human-aided search results to cut the noise and deliver more precise and interest-driven data via search results; The LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, claims that LinkedIn will be the home of a world economic graph to consolidate the human resources and skills market, and Google has its eyes on a knowledge graph with more holistic data to enrich consumer searches with complete information. So what exactly is this graph war; why are these companies insisting so much on graphs to leverage their platforms; and who will come out as the eventual winner?

We have looked at all these graphs and analysed the pros and cons to reach a verdict on who might be going in the right direction.

Facebook joined the search bandwagon by introducing the Graph Search beta version. No doubt the Graph Search premise is founded on very lucrative logic, which promises to enable the Facebook user to search things within their extended social circle, and as studies suggests that 73% of the time we do, or buy, things based on friends’ references or recommendations, we might end up using Facebook search more often than even accessing the newsfeed or timeline or Google!
In addition, Facebook will, at some point, release this whole functionality to developers via APIs to integrate to their apps and/or websites, which means, like Facebook Connect, the site can now integrate Graph Search to enrich their customers’ journeys with recommendations, reviews and so on i.e. higher conversion!

Pros:
• People can find relevant information based on their interests, activity and location within their social circle e.g. “best pizza restaurants in west London area” and “SkyFall”.
• Businesses can now weave in their ads to search results, similar to Google AdWords i.e. higher conversion.
• Facebook Connect with Graph Search enables websites and apps to integrate customers’ social circle’s sentiments for corresponding products, to help them in decision making.
• Graph Search analytics will enable businesses to have better customer insight, as they would now know exactly what people are looking for through search keywords, locations etc.

Cons:
• Privacy and Data Protection is still a huge concern for Facebook and Graph Search
• Processing 2.5bn likes, 1 bn comments and 3bn pictures upload every day to produce an accurate search graph is not easy.
• Facebook Mobile integration is running behind.
• The data war between Twitter and Facebook is leading to a decoupling, so social data is incomplete.
• Facebook uses Bing as default search engine, which may be a liability rather than an asset.
• Facebook is often used to show off i.e. we don’t share everything we buy on Facebook!

Twitter Interest Graph and Human-Aided Search Results
Initially Twitter started to sell their advertising products based on an interest graph, but it has also recently enhanced its search algorithm by introducing human element (using Amazon Mechanical Turk) to ensure people get the best results when they search live events based on hashtags, keywords, pictures and/or with certain linguistic emotions. Personally, I am the biggest fan of the Twitter platform for finding information, and if they manage to fix their search it could really be a game changer, as the amount of information from various sources they have is unmatchable!

Pros:
• Business can tap into the latest trends to promote their products and services.
• Businesses can use Twitter sentiments analytics to build their products and services. Twitter sentiments are used by the stock market and TV industry.
• Most of Twitter data is consumed on mobile clients, meaning businesses can tap both mobile growth and crowdsourcing!

https://twitter.com/alexhisaka/status/291312770064986112

Cons:
• Despite introducing human intervention, the processing of 1bn 140 chars tweets with free text, emotions, images and videos every two days for accurate search results is still a humongous tasks for Twitter.
• Twitter are reluctant to share profit with the community, which means businesses who are banking on customers to share their services on Twitter, in order to get maximum traction, won’t see much sharing as there is no benefit to the consumer.
• Interest and commerce don’t go hand in hand.

LinkedIn’s vision to produce an economic graph in the next 10 years

LinkedIn’s vision to produce a world economic graph sounds like one of the most realistic and promising approaches. Over the years professionals have already built up their profiles, using the LinkedIn platform for both professional and personal development, and Now LinkedIn is aiming to weave profession, location, and skill sets together to create an economic graph of the business world, which means they can map out human resources and skills supply and demand stats by location, industry, job description etc.

Pros:
• Business development executives are using, and will continue to use, the LinkedIn network for lead generation.
• The recruitment industry is using, and will continue to use, LinkedIn to find best candidates, and vice versa.

Cons:
• Like other crowdsourcing tools, it has data quality issues.
• LinkedIn doesn’t link with Facebook and Twitter data, which would allow a more complete economic graph.
• How will they cover tacit knowledge and skills to complete the economic graph?

Google Knowledge graph (with top search algorithm, G+ , YouTube, Google Place, Android)
Despite all the noise around Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn graphs, Google has also recently enhanced their search result displays with the introduction of a knowledge graph concept, to give a holistic view to site visitors. For their knowledge graph, Google uses its top quality search algorithm to pull data from various sources including Youtube, Google Images, Wikipedia, Google News, Google Maps and various blog platforms to ensure users have all the relevant information in one place. However, Google still faces severe criticism for its inability to show more recent (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) data in its knowledge graph. To combat this issue, Google is rigorously trying to collect current trending data on G+, which will eventually feed into the knowledge graph. And all kudos to Google, in no time G+ has already become the second most sought-after social networking site!

Pros:
• The knowledge graph with the best search algorithm, YouTube, Google Images, Google Maps, Google News, and G+ data, gives far wider reach to businesses for both promoting their products and understanding their customers.
• Surely behind the scenes Google is feeding Android and DoubleClick experiences into knowledge graph to let businesses and consumers leverage graph features on the mobile platform?

Cons:
• The knowledge graph is missing Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and Instagram data , which have become part of consumers’ online profiles.
• Businesses perceive G+ to be more or less an SEO tool.

Conclusion

Overall, we know Facebook’s social graph and Twitter’s interest search graph have huge potential to benefit both consumers and businesses, but data privacy, quality of search results, reluctance to link to each other’s data and, let’s get real, how many times we really like to talk about our shopping, apart from when we are knowingly or unknowingly showing off, means all these social networks, despite their claims to breaking the code, have a long way to go before becoming forces to be reckoned with when it comes to understanding consumers.

However, LinkedIn has so far managed to make its niche and is heading in the right direction to become a B2B lead generation and job search engine, by focusing only on professionals and their working relationships!

And despite many critiques and predictions of Google’s demise, it continues to grow year by year at very healthy rates, which demonstrates that when it comes to buying or taking any decision, people still go at Google to find information and Google’s strong grip on the mobile platform via Android and DoubleClick is helping to shape Google’s knowledge graph, to make sure search results now comprise all-round information via Google Maps, Google News, Google Images, Google+ and YouTube, so that consumers can find all they need to make a decision.

All in all, I don’t see any feasible threat to Google in the near future and in fact if they can pull together worldwide content including ecommerce site content, location data, YouTube, Google News, Google Images, Google Maps and Google+ content and process and render this via the knowledge graph in the way they have done for web search, they have a clear winner and are likely to remain on top of the game for a long-long time to come, even in the graph war!

Facebook SWOT Analysis via Twitter Timeline!

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One Billion Facebook users not enough to make $100bn company

Congratulations to Facebook on reaching one billion users milestone, this is undoubtedly an huge achievement and must be accoladed whole heartedly!

But I might be wrong, it seems to me that Zuckerberg has carried away with sheer number of users and good words from a stalwart like Steve Jobs about his stubbornness to remain product focussed and not interest based revenue-centric, and although he ended up building the best social network platform, so far he has failed to leverage it for shareholders (shares are already down by 40+%).


And when he really tried to please them by launching various FB apps and bombarding users with ads, sponsored status and promoted stories, users become disgruntled about a timeline so full of commercial page links that they have become more listener than participant, and are confused as to why they need so many apps to manage their accounts!



So what exactly went wrong with Facebook? I think, they followed Apple theory too religiously; they built beautiful product (like all iProducts) and then tried to control their ecosystem (Like App Store) in order to monetise it – but can Facebook really follow a purely Apple model?
I don’t think so. Why? Firstly, they don’t have ‘must have’ products for users – social engagement can be substituted or complimented by email, SMS, phone, or via rival networks. Users of iPhones and iPads have no choice but to use Apple by-products, only be available on their devices, including the highly deprecated iMap on IOS6! Whereas they have many choices and no compulsion when it comes to using Facebook and its applications.

In other words, Facebook can’t really push things on their users; it should try to build on what is already working, like Zynga games, Spotify music sharing, or the recently launched Facebook Gift!



I think Facebook Gifts are a great idea and can replace the way we do transactions, specially buying products for family, friends and loved ones – because stats suggests 80+% of us like to buy things from word of mouth recommendations or friends’ suggestions – and there is no better place than Facebook to get recommendations from friends.

In summary Facebook needs to build products with tightly coupled commerce ability not push advertising like pages you may like, sponsored posts or sponsored stories. Along with Facebook gifts (i.e. currency, or credit) let’s build a more open ecosystem for developers so that Zynga- and Spotify-like companies can build really lucrative communities to pour some money in and make Facebook a $100bn company!

Is the voucher codes industry overcrowded?

There’s no question that voucher codes have long been a valued means of saving money for a wide range of people around the world, whether they are struggling to make ends meet or simply love to save money on essentials and luxuries alike. Nonetheless, with SRK Com having recently launched its own @YumGo tweet-2-discount service, making use of the open source technology offered by Twitter, it seems an appropriate time to assess the state of play in the market, as well as one of its key questions: has the voucher codes industry become overcrowded?

At first inspection, it certainly appears that those who are looking for the latest online offers have no shortage of choice. On the one hand, there are the location based services from top players that take advantage of the huge numbers of people who access the Internet through mobile phones and tablets in search of the latest local offers. These include Google Offers and Google Wallet, with the latter being a mobile application that makes use of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology to enable users to conveniently pay for goods using their phone. Other such services include Facebook Deals and Foursquare Deals, which reward customers who check in at a vendor’s place of business.

Other sources of offers include technology and affiliate network players such as myvouchercodes.co.uk, vouchercodes.co.uk and moneysupermarket.com. Then, there are the rapidly growing daily deal providers to consider, such as Groupon and Living Social. Indeed, the overall voucher codes market is now worth some $4.5bn, having grown by 155%. As a matter of fact, with the present economic climate leaving more people than ever in need of a effective means of saving money for a wide range of goods and services, it only looks set to continue its exponential growth.

Now, all of this competition would at first seem to place @YumGo in a difficult position. Nonetheless, whilst the market is certainly competitive, it is also close, and given the way that Twitter appears to be overpowering other social mediums, it seems that a small startup such as @YumGo may yet emerge a winner in this most hotly contested of races