Archive for November, 2011

While city officials have actively communicated their positions about the Occupy movements, the response from the federal government has been muted, at best. But maybe the situation’s different online? Twitter is much more casual and conversational, and social media-savvy federal agencies often respond directly to queries and complaints from their followers. It’s possible that federal employees are addressing questions and concerns about Occupy on Twitter instead. I decided to find out.




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Facebook is settling government charges it “deceived” users that their information would be kept private, although it was “repeatedly” shared with the public, the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday.

The deal, which carries no financial penalties, demands that the social-networking site obtain “express consent” of their 850 million users before their information “is shared beyond the …




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American Airlines went bust this morning, which should have come as a surprise to no one who has followed the company and airline industry over the years. (The company recently denied bankruptcy rumors by stating that bankruptcy was “certainly not our goal or preference,” which is about as close as a corporation will ever come [...]

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Fiscal belt-tightening and deep austerity cuts are not just limited to debt-stricken European countries — small town America is also reeling from budget shortfalls and depleted resources. According to Dan Lagani, president of Reader’s Digest North America, there’s a budget crisis at both the state and local level. The Association recently conducted its second online [...]

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I think the next few years will see a massive increase in the consumer use of technology to monitor ourselves and maintain health and wellness.  We are seeing the first products come to market now, and despite their clunkiness they are getting good use from early adopters.

I’ve been using a service called Dailyburn to keep track of my calorie intake for two years now and I find it a more reliable guide to whether I need food than whether I’m hungry.  I like it, but calorie counting is too much effort for most people and as with most new product areas the break through will only come when the effort level required to get value and the price level get low enough – both compared with the value you get out.

Calorie counting services are free, but they haven’t taken off because manual entry of foods is too much hassle for most people given that they roughly know what they are eating anyway, but the proposed service from Belgian/US startup Scanadu has a proposition which offers much more value – quick diagnosis of your children’s health (and ultimately your own) using smartphone connected sensors.

Check out the video below for a glimpse of the future.  It is also a great example of an inspirational product introduction.

Other products in the market which offer body monitoring include:

  • The Jawbone Up – track your physical activity
  • The Fitbit – track your physical activity
  • Zeo – track your sleep
  • Various blood glucose monitors (not just for diabetics)
  • Body Media Fit – multiple sensors to track calorie burn
  • Runkeeper and other smart phone apps which use GPS to track runs, bike rides and other exercise

We will see a lot more services like this over the coming years.

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The play-anything-you-throw-at-it iPad movie app CineXPlayer has just been updated to version 2.5. But don’t let the incremental version number fool you: my favorite movie-playing app just got enough new features to make it my only movie-playing app.

CineXPlayer was one of the first decent iPad apps to play AVI movies files. The iPad’s native Videos …




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The play-anything-you-throw-at-it iPad movie app CineXPlayer has just been updated to version 2.5. But don’t let the incremental version number fool you: my favorite movie-playing app just got enough new features to make it my only movie-playing app.

CineXPlayer was one of the first decent iPad apps to play AVI movies files. The iPad’s native Videos …




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Congress: Establishment media are swooning over the unexpected departure of ultraliberal Barney Frank. But this “champion of the little guy” actually helped cause the mortgage disaster, then kept the system broken.
‘Congress will now be a little dumber,” was the kind of nonsense we heard from the mainstream liberal media after Frank, D-Mass., former chairman of the House Banking Committee, said no to running for re-election next year.
Formally reprimanded by a heavily Democratic House on a 408-to-18 vote in 1990 for ethics offenses regarding his financial relationship with…

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Facebook is considering dates in early 2012 to go public, the Wall Street Journal is reporting Monday. That much isn’t really news, since that approximate time frame as been speculated for many months now because of technical, financial disclosure requirements. What is interesting is the re-assertion of the trial balloon (let’s call it) that Facebook …




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In business school in the late ‘90s, like just about everyone else in my class I attended a speech given by Morgan Stanley’s then CEO. Thanks to a strong dollar and relatively low taxes at the time, Wall Street was booming and Morgan Stanley was seen by most as one of the premiere jobs for an MBA student to secure.
Of note, the Morgan Stanley head stressed that as seemingly everyone desired San Francisco as a place to work, that better hiring options existed in other locales. In particular, so desperate was Morgan Stanley for India hires that he told anyone interested to…

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As Italy teeters on insolvency and the euro on collapse, European leaders are desperately seeking amendments to EU treaties that would legally limit national budget deficits. However, a new fiscal discipline would not address fundamental flaws in the euro architecture that caused Mediterranean states to become uncompetitive and borrow too much.
In the last week, Germany could not sell a significant share of a new bond offering, France and other stronger governments saw interest rates on their bonds rise to alarming levels, and European banks are scrambling to hold onto deposits and raise…

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Last Friday was Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – which is traditionally a big shopping day in the US as most people take the day off and many go shopping in preparation for Xmas.  The following Monday, which is today, has recently become known as Cyber-Monday as it has become the biggest day of the year for online sales, driven by a combination of discounts and offers, and (once again) the imminent arrival of Xmas.

The good news is that In a period of widespread macro-economic gloom (the Euro crisis persists, warning signs in the US are mounting, and on Wednesday this week up to 2m public sector workers will be on strike) there are sub-sectors that are continuing to grow fast.  Data from IBM Coremetrics shows that:

  • US online sales last Friday were up 24.3% on Black Friday 2010
  • mobile market share rose rapidly – largely driven by the iPad sales rose from 3.8% of the total in 2010 to 9.2% this year, and browsing share grew from 5.6% to 14.3%
  • social media discussion volume increased 110% over 2010 – topics included out-of-stock concerns, waiting times, and parking

There is some significant growth in these statistics and it follows that there is good money to be made in the companies that are driving the sales directly – i.e. etailers, and also in the companies that provide them with technology and marketing/advertising services.

The existence of large pockets of growth like this are what has kept interest and valuations in the tech sector on a different trajectory to the rest of the economy.  Moreover, with the pace of innovation continuing to increase I think we will see more exciting new pockets of growth over time.  Given that the overall economy is not growing the quid pro quo is, of course, that other markets are being destroyed just as quickly.

The existence of pockets of growth like this is enough to build great businesses with strong profits.  It doesn’t necessarily follow that these businesses will command high valuations in the way that they have for most of this year.  On the subject of valuations I stand by my comments of the last couple of weeks – i.e. that the key driver will be public market sentiment towards technology, and that will be guided by the performance of recent tech IPOs, including Groupon (see While the exits keep coming the party will keep rolling and Groupon’s bull run is over).

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Five years after the market peaked, the housing market remains depressed. October new home sales, released this morning, totaled 307,000, slightly below estimates. Meanwhile, prices rose slightly. But, as your real estate broker will happily mention - ‘Now is a great time to buy!’ Unlike 2007, when that obviously was not the case for most, [...]

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The 2011 retail holiday season has started with a bang. Retail sales over Thanksgiving weekend totaled $52.4 billion, a 16.4% increase from 2010, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. Shoppers spent an average of $398.62 over the holiday weekend, a 9.1% increase from last year and the biggest gain since 2006, [...]

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In light of the erosion of?privacy online, we need to be careful to protect our privacy at home, according to?Michael Birnhack, law professor at Tel Aviv University, speaking at?Intelligence Squared’s If conference.

In direct contrast to Martin Blinder’s?argument in favour of personal analytics, Birnhack said: “Yes we can measure stuff, but do we want to measure …




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