Thursday, November 18, 2010

Should I Straight Up Short RIM Now?

This is becoming more and more sad.

As someone who owns and carries 2 blackberry, a proud Canadian, and someone that take pride in hiring from the same pool that RIM hires from (waterloo grads and coop students), this is really really sad.

I can't help but think I should take some money and short RIM.

With Win Mobile 7, Andriod, and iPhone -- how does a developer justify building anything for RIM?

Esp. since their "Playbook" is going to be running a different OS than the Berry.

Win Mobile 7 has some amazing features, Android is already getting escape velocity, and iPhone/iOS is well... it just rocks.

Heck, even Nokia and Palm/HP are hustling hard to fight for 3rd/4th place in the Smart Phone world.

Sure RIM has the playbook, but think of all the Andriod tablets that are going to be coming out from dozens of OEMs?

Not that even matters given that iOS/iPad has such a massive lead in terms of its operating system.

Here's kind of the kicker that got to me tonight. I was using my Berry, and lately I'm finding that my experieince with my iPhone -- "a consumer toy" -- seems to be hanging/stalling less and crashing less than my "enterprise grade BlackBerry."

I got the BlackBerry to get work done. But I can't get work done if its stalling and hanging and forcing me to reboot on a regular basis.

That and my US CDMA/GSM blackberry takes about 25 minutes to reboot!!!

RIM isn't going down the shitters because of the privacy/control debacle that is happening over seas, its not even that the Playbook faces an up hill challenge.

Its that its core devices aren't doing what they are suppose to do -- ROBUST ENTERPRISE GRADE EMAIL.

Ugh. RIM, I love your hardware, its awesome. BBM is awesome. Please fix these problems so we can continue to have an awesome business-oriented device that we can all use as an alternative to these crappy on screen keyboard phones?!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am a Start-Up Pirate.

This article posted by Arrington at TechCrunch, and the link to Glenn's blog maybe the best writing I've come across this year.

The timing of this article is almost perfect.

For the past week, I've been begging some very talented Waterloo undergraduate "Co-op Students" (Canadian term for interns) to join Kontagent. Our very own pirate ship. (Read the above linked article to understand the statement - but if you don't read it, here it is: Pirates = Risk Taking Entrepreneurs)

Begging. Yes. Begging.


Because these are the very best of the brightest students.

Almost in every case in this upcoming term, these students have multiple offers from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Mozilla, [insert elite brand name here].


Often paying WAY more than we could ever afford.

I personally fly+drive to Waterloo. Waterloo is 1.5 hours drive away from the closest international airport in Toronto.


Because students, Canadian students especially, and most people in general don't know what its like to be a Pirate.

That and because these students are f'ing amazingly talented -- and worth every hour that I volenteer to speak at Waterloo to hopefully (selfishly) inspire these students to do a startup, and hopefully join Kontagent one day.

But a pirate's life is a hard life. It means making sacrifices like less pay, longer hours, more stress.

But so many of us are condition in school to take the straight and narrow, easy way out -- of hard-work to guaranteed success.

But for Pirates, its about the risk -- and the love of risk. As Michael said in his article in TechCrunch -- the RISK IS THE REWARD. Its knowing that everything you do makes an immediate impact. Its the thrill of uncertainty of not knowing if you're going to crash and burn or if you'll change the world.

Everytime I go into battle for top co-op student talent at Waterloo, I sell the adventure. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose to the security blanket of working at Google.

But its worth it.

Because every student I rescue from the pits of the guaranteed "success" of working at a good big firm. I (selfishly) create an opportunity for a student to become an entrepreneur (that may one day graduate and come work for our company and not some generic super successful brand name tech company).

That and I often get some amazing talent that makes a huge difference in the company.

So there you have it. This is why I love my life. Its because I get to be a modern day pirate -- every single day.

If there was ever a formula to my "success" its this:

My Life = Pirates Life = A Hard Life = A Awesome Life = Eternal Happiness.

And this is why I think my life is awesome, and why I love every day of my life since I started being a baseball card pirate when I was 13 years old selling baseball cards to my friends in the school yard. :)


Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why "Social Commerce" and "The Viral Economy" Matters

So I was asked by an analyst to put into words something that I've been espousing for sometime in presentations and panels for sometime about this topic.  So I thought I might as well throw it up here as well:

My fundamental thinking as it related to "social-commerce" and the "viral economy" as it relates to the Suppliers/Distribution in Porter Five Forces model is this:

We have moved from physical goods to digital goods, from physical delivery to digital delivery.  Whats MOST interesting about whats happening now is the disruption in discovery and distribution of information and services, esp. in online entertainment and games.  The same disruption that happened to physical entertainment to digital delivery (i.e. CDs to iTunes, DVDs to Netflix) is happening to digital distribution.  We are no longer reliant on going to a "portal" -- in essence a "trusted aggregator" of digital goods and services to find and discovery quality games and entertainment that we once did with portals like Yahoo Games, because of the proliferation of social networks and virality, people discover and adopt more and more games because of invitations and notifications from friends.   Distribution is now baked into the game mechanic, in essence, your distribution channel effectiveness and scale is correlated to how well you are able to acquire customers -- and in turn amplify their voices though systematic viral engineering to spread your services/goods across the network.  

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Sad Day: Why I sold RIM and Traded it For Microsoft.

So today I sold all my RIM stock & traded it for Microsoft. I feel quite sad about it. Not only because I lost a boat load on RIM, but because RIM is one of my favorite companies.

I have used RIM devices since its very first interactive pager system that I won at a TED conference ages ago, and while I'm still a fan of its current devices, it has IMHO lost this round of the mobile wars.

How things have changed in just a couple of years. Just 2 years ago, I would have been caught saying that MSFT had to have tried REALLY hard to make their UX on WindowsMobile as bad as it is, and I would have started this posting as a blog post. Now this posting is a result of a tweet that I made, that was syndicated to facebook and is inspired by a reply from a professional analyst where I made a reply to in the thread which I am now cross posting into this blog.

That and I'm now I'm voting for Microsoft and ditching RIM. 2 years.

Its not every day I get asked by a real analyst why I make certain trades as an arm chair, small time, armature investor. So here's my 2 cents worth rant as a long time observer of the space mobile market:

There are several reasons why I dumped RIM for MSFT:

1) I've already loaded up on Apple at some great prices, and have some Google.

2) Unlike Google, Microsoft directly profits from WinMo7 phone sales. Which is actually a pretty good platform for game devs. The devices and UI is pretty good. (I just saw a prototype in person for the first time recently).

3) MSFT has great distribution and OEMs. They will take share from RIM for sure -- as RIM is peaking out. I'm seeing switches from RIM users to Android on a regular basis.

4) MSFT will get some good OEMs that will create win7 phones with keyboards+touch that will compete well with RIM.

5) RIM's OS6 (and torch w/ its lowrez LCD screen) is lipstick on a pig. Plus RIM didn't ever take advantage of so many opportunities that I thought they would with their leadership and M&A with their LBS deal w/ Dash.

6) As a 3rd party developer your options are: #1/#2: Apple/Andriod (andriod is picking up as a good alternative to apple due to clutter and BS w/ apple and momentum of Android), #3 *WILL* be WinMo7 -- esp -- for hardcore XBox Devs. The WinMo7 platform is tightly spec-ed and is less prone to fragmentation over the long run vs. Andriod, which even with its potential for hassles as a non-completely open platform, has its advantages.

7) Nokia is welll, out. At least for "this round." Just as it is for RIM. (this round = this generation or so of phones) I'm sad that Nokia, which was one of my fav companies in the past just can't seem to get their UX out of the the 90s to win new and now much more savvy smartphone customers.

8) While sadly, I can't buy Windows as a pure play mobile company -- but even so, Win7 on the desktop is SOLID, the company's P/E is at 11.5 (vs. almost 2x that w/ Goog and Aapl), the company has a big ass warchest, Bing is gaining some ground, and while office is probably going to die a painful death -- my hope/guess is that they can't be entirely stupid about migration to the cloud (or will they?).

9) Lastly Xbox rocks PS3. And its new motion capture thingamabob looks really promising.

As a Canadian, and as someone who carry's *2* RIM devices (one for US phone number and one for Canadian) -- and a huge BBM addict, today is a sad sad day for me. I hope RIM makes a come back in the "next round" of mobile wars. But right now, I have no choice but to let it go.

RIM please get it together and put up a better fight!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Innovative Thinking in… Teaching Math.

This video rocked.

I wish I was taught math and problem solving this way.

I actually did have a really good teacher that did something similar for me in high school for problem solving.

But I wish I had Dan as my math teacher.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why the iPad will Win

[Types yesterday originally as an internal email]

$500 bucks a pop isn't going to make apple a ton of money on the iPad on margins.

But they are buying themselves into ubiquity via volume production and critical mass for media consumption on the device.

The app store is going to make them more money than the device itself -- easy.

I've been tracking the usage patterns of a few friends with Kindle.  Microtransactions on these devices are crazy impulsive and lucrative.

The print/newsprint folks are going to be all over this as their digital content delivery savior. 

The text book companies are going to see this as another interesting value add platform for schools.

The other reason the iPad will win is because its the ultimate gaming device.  Hands down.  Digital software delivery + Multi-touch + massive screen compared to the Nintendo DS + "subsidized" by productive uses of the device = a DS and PSP killer.

Pricing this thing at $500 bucks right out of the gates was the killer move.  Establishing ubiquity and a price point that the PC knockoffs can't really compete too much on a price basis brilliant.  IMHO: network effects and custom apps for this new form factor is the key to winning and creating a brand new category of usage and demand.

This is as important as the iPhone.  What the iPhone did to cell phones, is what the iPad will do for print, games and media consumption.

Steve Jobs just pwned Kindle, Nintendo DS, and any/all tablet PCs.

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Awesome Upcoming Sony Android Phone -- Looks Slicker than Nexus One

Interesting to see that Rogers that dibs on it.

The videos look very very slick.

Plus device has a 8.1MP camera, totally custom UI / skin, very slick 3D capabilities:

Tried the phone. It sucks. It doesn't have anything close to the newest version of Android, the UI is sluggish, and the Phone is built on now relatively modest hardware. Sigh.

Where is the RIM/BlackBerry Nexus One? (or: some random mobile thoughts & open letter to RIM)

This is a great article from Bill Gurley on iPhone vs. Android.  Which is similar to much of my thinking.

Boils down to this:
iPhone = Apple of the PC Era = Control Platform for Superior UX (user experience)
Android = Microsoft of the PC Era = Open Platform and Cater to Customizations

But also inspired this rant what I think of the Berry

But what about RIM/BerryOS, Palm/PalmOS, Microsoft/WinOS and Nokia/Symbian?

- Nokia, Palm: too far behind to be a part of the real "super smart phone/OS" race.  Nokia still stuck in feature phone land, PalmOS/PalmPre is so slow, i could make coffee between switching apps sometimes.
- Microsoft: has a decent shot at being #3.  Windows Mobile v7 is way late.  Some devices like the HD2 look awesome, but too little too late IMO.
- RIM: Will sadly, likely go from a platform that should have stayed at the #1 spot, to going to fight MS for the #3 position

RIM's BlackBerry keyboard based smart phones are still the best PHONES of any smartphone on the market for a business user.  I've seen even consumers fall in love with the Berry without an email or data plan simply because of how functional it is, and how responsive the entire user experience is.

The issue is their OS and their lack of innovative consumer product DNA is killing them.  

Issues w/ the Berry:
1) BlackBerryOS Looks like Ass: The OS and UX still feels like Windows 3.1 in an era of Aero powered 3D desktops.  The icons used even in the latest version look like they are from the 80s (that said Nokia and Google both don't seem to have done a lot better and looks as if they keep hiring design school rejects to create most of their icons)

2) BlackBerryOS 3rd Party Dev  Platform Suck Balls: The platform is difficult for developers to build on.

3) RIM Has No Critical Mass Usage of Touch Screen: There are too few touch screen devices shipped from RIM to get game developers remotely excited about the platform.

So why do I still own RIM stock?   Besides the fact that my most favorite productivity device of all time is still the BlackBerry...

RIM does 3 things awesome well:
1) Great / Fast Email Experience (important to enterprise market)

2) Great IM/BlackBerry Messenger Ecosystem/Experience (important to consumer) 

3) Knows how to Build the Best Mobile Hardware Keyboard (important to everyone)

None of this matters however if they don't continue to innovate.  Here's a 3 areas that I think they should innovate on to help them stay competitive in 2010:

1) Own Location Messaging: They bought Dash Networks, put some of the Nav/GPS experience/IP to work and make BB Messenger even more addictive with great geo features.  If they can get this rolled out in an interesting way, the install base that they have will far exceed that of the tiny installation of Gowalla or FourSquare.  That said, I think those companies are all very innovative, and I don't think RIM should be focused so much on the fun element, but rather the P2P aspect of friend-finding.

2) Own Social Messaging: Invest and build the BEST Facebook Integration experience: you guys built the best email experience on mobile devices, now build the best social-messaging platform on top of the best mobile device with a hardware keyboard in the industry.  There's no better way to update your status than to use a Berry keyboard.  Just as Google allows you to sync all your data with your gmail account and gcal.  Look to Palm Pre as a starting point of making Facebook Connect as the basis for building a social messaging phone form the ground up.  Log-in w/ FBconnect, sync your contacts, integrate messaging and contacts with Facebook.  Be THE social phone that the Palm was suppose to be (but is way too slow to actually work, and not as integrated as it could/should have been)  

3) Own Flash: Get the best damn implementation of Flash on your devices -- which seems like ages ago since it was announced, and get a real browser working, and you'll have a shot at competing.  I don't think people care if you re-write the OS or not, or if you lose the existing applications that work in the legacy OS -- the thing that matters most is: will your 2010 phones with with Flash better than the other guys?  And will it have a competitive/fast browser experience.  Get flash right, and the Berry can immediate attract a massive number of developers that can contribute to its platform.

4) Own Style + Personalization: Bonus - Hire a good Sr. UI design director that has some real authority and influence: seriously, it wouldn't take that much to make your device icons and skins looks much better than the default AndroidOS.  The only people I've seen that come close to being decent are the Palm folks.  I mean, you could probably spend 1/10,000th of your engineering budget and get 10x better design than the Corel Draw clip art pack styled icons and look and feel.  Ok, that's a bit mean, but seriously -- give user experience design, and polish some thought.  You may never be Apple, but at least you could be competitive with Palm.

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Burj Dubai Tower Is Insane.

The Burj Dubai, the massive buildings below looked just puny in comparison in the video from above.  The thing is more than 50% taller than the next tallest building (Taipei 101 -- see below) and also 50% taller than the CN Tower.  Another crazy thing is that the elevators hit 64km/hour.  Then again, when you consider that the tower is 8/10ths of a kilometer high -- I can see why you'd want that kind of speed.

I had the opportunity to visit Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat/Oman, and Fujairah not long ago, visiting the region was a real eye opener.

What I found most interesting was the amount of interest and investment that were being made not just in real estate, but what seemed like a real desire to build up a technology hub as well.

That said, Dubai still felt quite unfinished and seemed even at that time when things were going full steam ahead, perhaps 5-10 years away from being a real "finished" city.

What I also found interesting was the fact that it was build by Samsung C&T of South Korea (Samsung is insanely big -- turns out they have 276K employees with revenues of $170B a year), the same primary contractors as the Taipei 101 building (which I got to visit with, of all people, on a unforgettable trip with Stewart Butterfield and Mike Arrington as guests of the Taiwan government for a Web2 conference).

Totally random... I know.  Now back to our original programming.

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog