Thursday, August 31, 2006

Today's Telecom is a Chicken Fried Steak

by alec on August 31, 2006

“Ever had a chicken-fried steak?”, I asked the boys.

“No, what’s that?”

I described chicken-fried steak, in all its glory — crispy batter wrapped around a steak, smothered in white sausage gravy. They were sold.  Worse than the steak, even, was that they both ordered onion rings (battered and fried), and country fried potatoes (battered and fried again).  So, there we sat, enroute to Waterloo, at Denny’s, confronted by impossibly large piles of golden brown food smothered in gravy. It’s a heart attack on a platter, which is the reason I only eat it when the boys’ mother isn’t along.

Chicken friend steak is one of those meals that has great profit margins.  Take a relatively poor cut of meat (or a chopped steak, in the case of Denny’s), add seasoning and batter, fry it, serve piping hot, and smother in gravy.  It can’t cost more than $1 for the ingredients, and it commands $9 on the menu. 

Today’s telecom is a chicken fried steak.  It’s familiar, high margin, soul food. 

You know, I grew up eating breaded meat.  Breaded chicken, fried.  Breaded pork chops, fried.  Chicken fried steak was a later bad habit I acquired, but it’s of the same genre.  The problem is that, just as consumers tastes have shifted away from this classic of Americana, so have telecom tastes started to fragment.  I’d like some vegetable with my steak, instead of those fried onion rings! Heaven forbid, I’ve even eaten, and liked, tofu!

When AOL decided to close down TotalTalk, they were recognizing that there isn’t any money in being another chicken-fried steak restaurant.  That’s fabulous.  Trends are created when ideas pushed by little restaurants are adopted by the mainstream.  AOL’s decision to focus on AIM Phoneline, and dump the TotalTalk business is a great validation of the concepts many of us, including myself, have been pushing for some time using names like Purple Minutes, and Voice 2.0.

I agree with Andy’s view that we should all see this as a positive sign of growth for AOL and our industry.  In fact, I’ll go even further than Andy.  The use model for VoIP in the future is, in fact, the VoIM model.  Your buddy list will be on your phone, along with presence, voice and IM, and you’ll interact with them via a network/handset based platform that can support all kinds of new applications.  By focusing on AIM Phonline on the PC today, AOL is setting the stage for staking out their turf on the future of the handset. 

Isn’t that a welcome change from chicken fried steak?

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Leaks: Two Maxims to Follow

by alec on August 31, 2006

I’ve been following a small dialog between Jon Arnold and Garrett Smith on blogger ethics, arising from a Globe story about how an individual going by the pseudonym Boy Genius has been gleefully revealing secrets about RIM’s upcoming Blackberry Pearl on enGadget.

I guarantee that RIM isn’t happy.  A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to see one of the Pearl prototypes, up close, hold it in my hand, play with it and so on, and security was tight.  Rumour had it that RIM employees had been instructed not to use the devices outside buildings in case an enterprising photographer from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record happened to be stationed nearby with a long lens.

And, equally, I am sure that Boy Genius, whoever he is, is in violation of an NDA.  NDAs, however, aren’t worth much and most people signing them know that.  Maxim 1: an NDA is only as good as the relationship you have with the signer.  If you trust the person with your confidential information, then an NDA will hold.  If you don’t… well, sit down with a lawyer and try to figure out what the damage you suffered due to to violation was, and then figure out whether you want to go to the expense of prosecuting.

Is this really an issue of ethics? Some blogs, including enGadget, have an investigative journalism focus.  A while back, for instance, Andy Abramson obtained a copy of a lawsuit filed against Skype.  He broke the news.  Should he have done that? Sure. That’s why people read him.  Now, Andy’s case was a little different because the information was public, having been filed at a courthouse, but nobody had broken the story yet.   To me, enGadget is doing what readers of enGadget expect — finding the news about the latest hot gadgets, and reporting it.

Having lived through many leaks during my time at Microsoft, my opinion is that they’re rarely harmful, most certainly never fatal.  If that leak is widely reported, it shows real interest in your product.  Many times a leak can actually increase interest in the product, creating pent-up demand prior to launch. Both are good things. 

Leaks are a pain, especially to those orderly marketing types who now to have to revise their plans. By now, they’ve had three weeks of running around with their hair on fire trying to figure out how to shut this guy up. I say, suck it up guys — that’s what management pays you for! Your challenge now is to find ways to convert those “Boy Genius” leaks into value. That’s what I would do. 

The lesson for all marketers is simple. Maxim 2: Leaks happen.  Plan accordingly.

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Asterisk at Fall VON

August 31, 2006

I just got this note from Carl Ford at Pulver.  It looks like VON Fall is going to have a pretty heavy Asterisk presence, including a repeat of the Asterisk user group meeting we held in Toronto at VON Canada.  ——————————————————– The most ASTERISK activities at Fall VON ever.    This VON is going to show […]

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