Excitement in the Air!Saturday, September 22, 2007
One of the best parts of what we do is have meetings, in person or via phone, with startup companies. These are usually conducted under non-disclosure agreements, and while some startups seem to be reinventing what has come before, there are more interesting companies in startup mode than I have seen in a long time. This is great for the industry. Some of these startups, even ones with good or great ideas, might not survive, some will and some will be bought by larger companies that will make use of their invention or technology. Unfortunately, sometimes large companies end up investing in and then buying smaller companies and the technology never makes it to market because the small company is lost in the noise of the larger company. Other times there is a better ending with the smaller company's products or services becoming part of the larger company's own product offerings.
Having seen many of these products and services, although under NDA, we can talk about concepts and ideas in our speeches, courses and writing. A few times this has resulted in our receiving credit for predicting the future when we are only passing on a general idea or concept we have been briefed on and, in all honesty, sometimes a product or service we think is a real winner ends up not being something in which the industry or its customers have any interest.
After having written a blog post or Commentary, or an article for another publication in which I mention something I would like to see, I often get a call or email from a company that says it is working on that and asks if I would like to see a preview. So, having led into this discussion this way, let me gaze into my crystal ball and talk about some things I think might show up in the market fairly soon.
For example, in my Blog, I wrote about the idea of being able to buy a phone at a store, come home, turn on my computer, go to a Website, type in the phone model number, my phone number and name of the wireless provider. On my computer screen I would see a display of the phone and a list of all of the menus and settings. I can set my ringtones, pictures to pop up when specific people call, download my address book sorted the way I want, assign speed-dial numbers and go through all of the menus setting my preferences and learning about my phone's capabilities I might not be familiar with. If my phone has a navigation feature, I can enter my home address, perhaps my work address and a few other addresses and store them on the phone for future reference. Once I am finished setting up my phone on the desktop, I will push a button and everything I have pre-selected is sent to my phone over the air. I think this is a winner. That's about all I can say here, so stand by!
Another startup we have been talking and working with is Vmedia and these people really understand how to bring a product to market. The founders were responsible for both the 2.5 and 1.8-inch hard drives and now they have invented a product I believe will begin showing up on phones in the near future. The new drive is small enough to fit on the back of a wireless phone, in an ultra-mobile device or even in a set-top box. The optical disk is very small and thin, and a single disk, today, can store an entire movie in DVD quality. The first phone with this disk drive will be released in Q2 of 2008 and has the capability to drive a standard HD TV screen so you can show an HD-quality video using your phone as the player.
The invention of this new drive, by itself, is a big step forward, but Vmedia understood that getting a new media type into the market would not be easy. Therefore, while it was developing the drive and the disks, it started working with movie studios, a manufacturer for the drive (Panasonic) and a disk manufacturing and duplication company (Cinram). The plan is to have content delivered on these disks the same day as the DVD movie hits the stores. To date they have signed up a number of the major studios who are whole heartedly supporting this new technology.
The importance of all of this pre-planning and the agreements with the studios and manufacturers is key to their success. When they sit down with a handset vendor or a network operator, they already have an ecosystem up and ready to go. Not only can they deliver the drive, they can deliver first release movies and other content. The business model is sound and the estimated price for a disk with a full-length HD DVD-quality movie is less than $20.The lesson here is that even small companies can develop an idea and then build an ecosystem around it so it has more value to their potential customers.
There are a number of other companies out there with great ideas in the works and this is the time of year when we will be seeing many of them before or during the CTIA show. It is great to see new startups entering the marketplace with new concepts, new ideas and solutions to problems. Some will fade away, others will be gobbled up by larger companies interested in the technology and some will become successful in their own right.
A Parting Comment
A few weeks ago, I wrote a Commentary based on some press reports about muni-Wi-Fi delays and problems. Last week, there was a front page story in USA Today with the headline, "Cities turning off plans for Wi-Fi," which is also worth a read. I received a number of emails from readers thanking me for not standing up and saying "I told you so," which is not my nature. However, I would like all the bloggers and muni-Wi-Fi sites that posted my comments and doubts and then trashed them as being unfounded, basically saying I had no vision or understanding of why these systems were going to be successful, to at least acknowledge that the rush to muni-Wi-Fi was not well thought-out and the issues that I and others pointed out are valid and should have been considered prior to moving ahead with so many systems so quickly.
Usually, when something appears to be too good to be true, it is!