Growth5 Blog

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Google Voice For All

From the Google Blog:
"A little over a year ago, we released an early preview of Google Voice, our web-based platform for managing your communications. We introduced one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like email, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls and more—the only catch was you had to request and receive an invite to try it out. Today, after lots of testing and tweaking, we’re excited to open up Google Voice to the public, no invitation required."
What does Google Voice have to offer?

From ars technica:
"For those just now getting acquainted with Google Voice, it essentially lets you set up a new phone number that can ring multiple phones. You can also set up personalized greetings per-caller or per-group, screen your calls, listen in on voicemails as they're being left, access your voicemails (and their text transcripts) online, and more. You can also block individual numbers on your own—no more begging your phone company to block your crazy ex—send free SMSs, make cheap international calls, and even port your existing number if you don't want to sign up for a new one. (It should be noted that if you're going to use Google Voice to make calls on your cell phone, you're still using cell minutes.)"
We covered the features of Google Voice awhile back.
Google number - One number for all your calls and SMS
  • Call screening - Announce and screen callers
  • Listen in - Listen before taking a call
  • Block calls - Keep unwanted callers at bay
  • SMS - Send, receive, and store SMS
  • Place calls - Call US numbers for free
  • Taking calls - Answer on any of your phones
  • Phone routing - Phones ring based on who calls
  • Forwarding phones - Add phones and decide which ring
Google voicemail - Voicemail as easy as email, with transcripts
  • Voicemail transcripts - Read what your voicemail says
  • Listen to voicemail - Check online or from your phone
  • Notifications - Receive voicemails via email or SMS
  • Personalize greeting - Vary greetings by caller
  • Share voicemail - Forward or download voicemails
Voice features - More cool things you can do with Google Voice
  • Conference calling - Join people into a single call
  • Call record - Record calls and store them online
  • Call switch - Switch phones during a call
  • Mobile site - View your inbox from your mobile
  • GOOG-411 - Check directory assistance
  • Manage groups - Set preferences by group
Here's a short video from Google about Google Voice. Also embedded just below.

Currently, I have a system that uses "twinning" so my office phone will simultaneously ring my Vonage numbers that then "simulring" my cell phone. I may try Google Voice just to clean up the daisy chain mess of my current system. For example, if I'm not at any of the primary office/house phones I have to answer my cell phone on the first ring because it is actually ring five or six of total rings the caller has waited through.

I also like the voicemail functionality and will be interested to see how switching phones during a call works. I often wish I had started calls on my mobile phone so I can leave the office / my house without being tied to those phones.

Will let you know how it goes!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Future of UI (User Interface)

Remember the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report? The technology/science adviser for the film, John Underkoffler spoke at this year's TED Conference, TED2010.

In this video of his speech at TED (also embedded below), Underkoffler displays his G-Speak Gestural Technology System - the system Cruise used in the film.

The clip is just under 16 minutes. If you can find the time, I recommend checking it out.

The topic of "gestural technology" has been in the news lately with the annual convention for the video game industry, the Electronic Entertainment Expo ("E3") taking place in Los Angeles this week. Sony is promoting Playstion Move, while Microsoft has Kinect for the Xbox 360. You've undoubtedly used or have seen the Nintendo Wii technology by now. All of the above in one way or another rely on gestural technology.

Underkloffer has been working on gestural technology for more than a decade and predicts that the ability to control your computer without a keyboard or mouse will be standard technology in all computers within five years.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why Amazon Supports the iPad & Bing Can't Beat Google

Sean recently sent me this excellent post from Futurelab. The post is short and to the point – Amazon is fine with the iPad because Amazon is in the book seller and publisher business (along with you know, selling every product in the universe), so what do they care what medium people choose to buy and read their books; iPad, Kindle, e-readers... they're selling books.

As the author points out, "By the same logic, Microsoft will never win with Bing because it cannot afford to give away as much software functionality as Google does. Google can radically subsidize their Google Docs platform, GMail, and other functionality even at the enterprise level because the advertising model is so lucrative. Like the NYTimes before it, Microsoft will not be able to answer the upstart in the search market because to give away the core product, is too painful — it would be like asking Gillette to give away the razors."

Or asking Microsoft to give away Windows. With their market share, why would they? Of course, over time Microsoft will lose that market share to someone else or more likely something else. They are just hoping they can come up with replacement revenue by the time that happens.

By comparison, who would've thought good 'ol Microsoft Excel could be left in the dust by a product like Google Docs in the short period of time Google Docs has been in development. The functionality of Google Docs sprinted by Excel like it was standing still.

To be fair, Google has a one trick pony right now with advertising revenue (99 percent of all revenue), and everything else seems to be supporting that pretty fantastic trick. At least Google seems to have realized that no matter how great the trick, they can't stand still. And they're not.

Thanks Sean!

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Netflix Business Opportunity

Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, posted the following strategy deck here. It is also embedded below.

The piece is titled, "Netflix Business Opportunity" and has some great info on where Netflix is currently vs. its competition and where it wants to be. Some highlights:
1. Netflix is focused on gaining and maintaining leadership in one segment: consumer-paid subscription for tv shows and movies.
2. In 2000 they had 290k subscribers, as of the end of 2009 they had 12.27 million.
3. They hit profitability in 2003 ($7mm) – in 2009 they made $116 million.
4. Between 2008 and 2009 they added just under 3mm subscribers. With improved streaming capabilities, they expect to add 5mm new subscribers in 2010.
5. Netflix is banking on the Internet getting bigger, faster and cheaper for "many decades," thus the focus on streaming technology. They aim for ubiquitous streaming: game consoles, Blu-ray, wifi-tvs, laptops, and eventually mobile.
6. Netflix realizes they are only a supplemental video service and sees Cable, Satellite & Telco ("CST") as their biggest competitor. "We offer only a fraction of the content of CST, and no sports, so almost no consumers leave CST for Netflix."
7. Sees Hulu and Redbox as a significant competitors as well.
8. The better ad targeting gets online, users may be willing to sit thru some ads for their content to remain free.
9. "It's pretty simple: if subscribers keep raving about Netflix, we will prosper."
If I were running Netflix, #8 would scare me the most (slide 33 in the presentation). Why? It's not like that model hasn't already been around for half a century with regards to tv, it's not hard to imagine. Will people put up with four ads in a movie? Probably. It certainly hasn't slowed viewers down for movie-like tv presentations (Fringe, 24, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc...).

So far, the major limitation has been bandwidth. Throw Google into the mix with their advanced ad targeting and their 100x faster fiber optic Internet connection speed project, there's a decent chance free ad-based content will thrive.