Monday, November 30, 2009

Mobile payments part 2 - a tale of princes, laws and treasures

In the previous post we've looked at mobile payments in a glance, why there's a huge chance today and what are the biggest challenges. In this post I will start diving deeper into them, and suggest a few ideas.

There's a group of very talented guys I know, who used to work at this IT Company in Israel that was a part of the mobile industry. They basically made some peripherals, a few applications and other mobile related products. One of these products was a relay to transfer contacts from one cell phone to another, in case the owner wanted to upgrade or downgrade (yes, there are people who do not have smart phones and Outlook sync). When, at some point, they started their own company to manufacture and sell a similar relay, they found a very interesting (well, in a sense) thing: a huge chunk of their dev and QA time was not spent on improving the product; instead, it was spent on porting - making sure that the software matched all cell phones out there.

This is the time when industry experts read and think: "what else is new?" (And also: “we don’t have this problem now with the iPhone!” Yes, you do. But that’s for the next post).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why you should love (and fear) mobile payments [part 1]

A month and a half ago I discussed the mobile payments opportunity in India, a country where the mobile phone is often the consumer's sole financial entity (no banks, credit cards or anything else but cash). Boku's press release is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the US mobile payments market (see a previous post), and tell you why I think that it has great potential, but should also look out for a few obvious challenges.

You're all busy people, so I'll save you the time reading through my first paragraph and give you the bottom line: mobile payments are here, are growing, and have the potential to kill all other payment services. BUT it won't happen the way you'd imagine, and there are many pitfalls along the way, yet there are many chances for success.

Phew! Now that I got this off my chest, I can start explaining.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The A-Team: building the best risk management teams

WWII basically ended unemployment in the US. Increased wartime production and the drafting of millions of men had created so many new opportunities, that the effect of the great depression was finally countered. It was a time when millions of women would join the work force. They filled traditionally "female" jobs but also opened up many previously "male" jobs, from operating heavy machinery to traveling sales people. In a sense, it was a revolution stemming from necessity, which is often the case even when the necessity doesn't arise because of a world war; someone's next promotion might occur with the same dynamic.

It was in this atmosphere that Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, started working on a personality type test that would help new female workers find the right job for them, where they could be more effective. More than 60 years later, MBTI is a commonly used test to assess personality types and help people of various preferences understand each other's perspective of ideas, data, decision making and planning, among others.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where is my mind? Way out, in the water

(As I'm writing this, EA has announced it has bought PlayFish. All the more reason for a call to the industry to stop panicking and start taking responsibility for its own faith with big fish coming to play. But read on...)

One of the many highly useful skills I learned in Officers' course was artillery aiming. There was a lot more fun stuff I could imagine doing in any given afternoon, but there's definitely nothing like it. And when you just don't have an option (and believe me, in officers' course you don't have an option), you just give it your best shot. Pun intended.

So there I was, trying to get 155 mm cannon to hit a barrel. I don't know if you know how these things go, but artillery aiming is some simple arithmetic and a lot of art. You aim the cannon one way, then course correct the other, then again - in shrinking intervals, until you hit the target (or 50m away from it, which is considered good enough). It must have taken me 5 or 6 attempts to hit the goddamn thing - the gun crew was not a group of happy campers, nor was I. But all in all, it was a good drill, and I passed the test, and got my rank of deputy lieutenant, and mom was happy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Offer walls and marketplaces: the real alternative to "scamville"

Let me just say one thing up front: well done, Mr. Arrington! From the first clash with Offerpal (former, it seems) CEO Anu Shukla, through this post and others, there's been quite a stir around offer walls and the big question of the legitimacy of their offers (some news sites in Israel literally copied the post's words. But that's another type of scam). Beyond the provocation, there are a few actual issues here, that I think are left out since "scamville" and CEOs being replaced are much more sexy.

Here's the thing: if the social gaming industry is a viable industry (which I think it is) it should, at one point, start to mature as one. Maturing doesn't mean moving slower or becoming less appealing to users, on the contrary, there's still huge potential and a momentum so strong can't just be stopped by a few posts. But what it does mean is that you start getting attention for your mishaps and you need to start addressing this attention in a tone that is way, WAY milder and more responsible than just saying "this is sh*t and bullshi*t" (look here for some current thoughts of industry leaders and how I'd respond to them).