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Name: Julian Matthews
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Hi. I'm a former journalist and Malaysian correspondent to CNet, ZDnet, Newsbytes (Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive wire agency), Nikkei Electronics Asia and I also previously contributed to The Star, The Edge, The New Straits Times, The New Zealand Herald and various magazines. Currently, I train and advise managers and executives on strategies to optimize their use of social media and online channels to reach customers. My company, Trinetizen Media, runs media training workshops on social media, media relations, investor relations, corporate blogging, podcasting, multimedia marketing, online advertising, multimedia journalism and crisis communications. You can connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A new buzz in tech?

The heady days of tech for me was between 1998-2001. Everything you could dream of could happen. And the geek ruled the earth.

The skepticism that swept in like a tsunami after the dotcom fallout ended all that. Many websites just blipped of the net. Left with pinkslips, worthless shares and post-traumatic stock disorders, we tumbled from euphoric middle age to dysfunctional cold storage.

But now there seems to be new buzz. Perhaps it was the Google Juggernaut that brought this all on. Perhaps it's just blogging-mania and gadget-frenzy. Perhaps it's the sizable mergers and acquisitions. Maybe it's the emergence of the wireless masses and acceleration of broadband. Need I say that dirty word again "convergence".

Let's re-cap:

1. Microsoft re-enters browser war, bolsters anti-virus/search flanks

Why would the No 1 software-maker upgrade a free browser when it all but won the war? Surely, the alternatives, Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, Safari,etc are just too niche to make a difference. I suspect if Google goes the way of Netscape and starts giving away a "gbrowser" there-in lies the real threat. An adword-ready free browser with a Gig of gmail, RSS reader, desktop search, tabbed browsing, anti-popup, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, taggable, bloggable, voice-enabled and super-customizable should set some alarm bells off at Redmond. But the real war starts when Google unfurls an OS, something Netscape failed to get to in time. That strikes at the core of the Gatesian Empire. No way is MS going to let that cookie crumble.

2. M & As are on the march
SBC buys AT & T. Verizon buys MCI. IBM hives off its PC biz. Oracle raids Peoplesoft.

Microsoft buys Sybari. Juniper buys Netscreen. Cisco buys Linksys.

NYT buys Ask Jeeves buys Bloglines. eBay buys into Craigslist. Six Apart buys LiveJournal. WSJ buys Marketwatch. Washington Post buys Slate.

The landgrab is on. The momentum is just building. But to what ends?

3. VCs are getting cocky again
The amount of venture money raised by U.S. firms in 2004 increased to $17.6 billion, up 67 percent compared with 2003, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

There seems to be pent-up demand. Has the dotcom mania returned? Have the dreaded technopreneurs re-emerged from their foxholes?

What's the hot new deal? Nanotech, Fuelcells, Blogging, Social Software, VoIP, anything out of India or China?

Biotech was so 90s. And already some have declared the death of WiFi and even WiMax and that signs of the apocalypse are here. There doesn't seem to be a Google Junior on the horizon.

Fred Hickey, editor of The High-Tech Strategist newsletter in Nashua, N.H., sums it up best.
The crucial number for those analysts in awe of Google was its advertising revenue, up 122 percent from the previous year's fourth quarter. The bulk of that is from Google's AdWords program, in which it lets advertisers bid on key words--"asbestos" for lawyers, say--with the highest bidders having their ads appear whenever someone performs Web searches using those words. The bidding can run from 5 cents to $100 a click, according to Google.

"Basically what we're seeing is a temporary land rush going on where legal firms are paying something like $35 a click for words they see as valuable," Hickey said. "Whether that's economical or not, we don't know. But I suspect it's not because I hear lawyers say it's not worth it at that price.

"What happens when Microsoft is ready to really push its search engine?" Hickey asked. "It's basic supply and demand. When supply increases, prices fall."

To Hickey, the result will be 1999 all over again. "Everyone was crazy over banner ads," he said. "Banner ads, banner ads, banner ads. But guess what? It turns out banner ads weren't worth as much as people thought, and the result was that companies like Yahoo saw their share prices fall by 70 or 80 percent."