Data is Money. Not like money, or as good as money. It is money.

(reminder and disclaimer – I work for IBM, but these are personal comments)

Almost three years ago, in Febraury 2010 (yeah, I know – three years!) the Economist ran a supplement called “The Data Deluge“, about Big Data and how it was transforming businesses all over the world.  In the middle of the supplement was an article called ‘Clicking for Gold‘, in which there’s a quote from Tim O’Reilly, who says that companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook ‘…are uncomfortable bringing so much attention to this because it is at the heart of their competitive advantage. Data are the coin of the realm. They have a big lead over other companies that do not ‘get’ this.’  For the intervening time, I’ve been quoting this to telcos all over the world, and they nod their heads, and – for the most part – don’t do much about it.

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Reverse Innovation

Short piece in Newsweek talks about the concept of reverse innovation as being the next big driver of globalization.  In essence, it is innovation flowing from developing countries to developed countries .tata_nano_1

An example cited is the  Tata Nano out of India designed for that marketplace (very low price and cost of ownership) but as a product finding interest in the developed world.

This is also already happening somewhat in the Telecom world with the rise of low cost innovators like ZTE and Huawei. (it is not just about manufacturing costs anymore!!!).

Taken to its logical conclusion, companies will become global not just international. Leading the way is IBM with not only globally distributed manufacturing and research but also with administrative functions being managed and run on a world wide basis in places such as Brazil, China and India. Perhaps, in a few years the concept of a centrally managed company with home-country assignees managing foreign subsidiaries will disappear.

Google Voice – the next best thing

Announced last Thursday, Google Voice (based on the Grand Central acquisition) is yet another nail in the ‘core services’ coffin of the Telcos. It promises to not only allow easy consolidation of multiple phone numbers to quote the NY Times “one number to ring them all”  [link], but also provide easier management of voice mails and conference calling. The consumer cost appears to be very low and provides a real challenge to Telcos. Some observations (and I can’t wait to sign up !!)

  1. It provides a very cheap way of creating an additional dedicated ‘home’ business line (and being able to redirect calls coming into that number to multiple destinations).  Taking a personal example, rather than pay $27.86 per month ((including fees and taxes but without voicemail or other features) for a business line which I use occasionally – I can use Google Voice for a fraction of the cost.
  2. It is not a Skype-killer, there is no video feed and while switching costs are very low,  the ongoing cost is also low making the monetary benefit not compelling.
  3. It will become harder and harder for Telcos (and others) to justify charging for conference calling features (can Web conferencing be far behind?)
  4. What is in it for Google? My initial take is that there is little revenue in this for Google but it further strengthens the Google brand as the place to go for consumer innovation.