Digital

Martin Varsavsky introducing Gramofon in Berlin

Martin Varsavsky is not only everybody’s best friend on Twitter, he is also an entrepreneurs’ wet dream. And not only is Varsavsky a hugely successful entrepreneur himself, he also mentors and invests in other entrepreneurs as well as teaching entrepreneurship on Columbia University in New York. And he has four homes (that I know of) and six children (that he knows of)!

Yesterday, he was back in Berlin for the first of a series of global launch parties for his latest venture. Gramofon is an offshoot of his already popular Fon wifi service. It is a wifi router with embedded music services that connects your smartphone or other device with your stereo system.

And he flies his own airplane, which has become a milestone in tech entrepreneurship. I noticed he cringed a little when the moderator spent the first part of the introduction being totally in awe of the private jet status, but Varsavsky calmly explained that it is simply a result of fear of getting lost in airports. That does not happen when you fly your own plane. He also shared his classic, entertaining and intelligent stories about his professor father, the scientist Carlos Varsavsky, who is famous for inventing the six day week.

https://twitter.com/travlR/status/456448109740953603/photo/1

Before the actual introduction of the new product, Varsavsky also shared some other interesting news. He is about to join the board of Axel Springer, one of the biggest media companies in Germany based in Berlin (not Hamburg, like most of the others). This information obviously lit up the room full of young tech entrepreneurs since the possibility of a pitch session with him would be much more likely as he will now visit Berlin more frequently in the future. Varsavsky also revealed that he is an investor in The Copenhagen Wheel, an electric bike add on for bicycles. You can follow the project on Tumblr here. Incidentally, Martin Varsavsky was also an early investor in Tumblr.

Asked about which companies he prefers to invest in, he mentioned three rules. It has to be a product that he wants to use himself. He has to like the entrepreneur on a personal level. The pricing must be attractive.



The reference to the Copenhagen Wheel was the perfect introduction to the Gramofon unveiling. Martin began by explaining that Gramofon was not intended to be alternative to Sonos. It is not a stereo system. He compared today’s entertainment systems to the television sets and the stereo systems of the eighties. Today, nobody would dream of watching television on a TV from the eighties. But some stereo systems from the eighties are really excellent and a lot of people prefer to listen to their vintage music equipment. Except me, nobody in the room had a clue what he was talking about. They were all born in the eighties.

Gramofon is intended to bridge the old school joy of music with new technology and providing you with wifi at the same time. You log in with Facebook and the system automatically detects your friends on Facebook, too. This enables them not only to play music but also to share your wifi. You will no longer have to answer the annoying question of ‘what is the password to your wifi?’. Gramofon logically presumes that you want to share your wifi with the Facebook friends that you actually invite to tour private home. There is a master setting for the owner of the house and a queue function for collaborative play.

Only rich people can afford a cool DJ at home, but with Gramofon, we can all be cool DJ’s, argues Vasavsky, namedropping Thievery Corporation, and with the hotel bar DJ’s looking on with their CD’s and vinyl records.

The Gramofon is for sale now. Unlike Chromecast, it is not sold through a webshop. You order it as a Kickstarter supporter. That is a brilliant move. To use Kickstarter as a pure sales channel.

The price of the Gramofon unit is low. This is partly because the chip where the music services are embedded on is manufactured by Qualcomm, the huge CPU supplier to the mobile industry famous for their Snapdragon processors. Qualcomm is an investor in Gramofon.

This year, my home entertainment set ups will totally change. There will be a Chromecast HDMI connected to my television set. And there will be a Gramofon Ethernet connected to my stereo system.

Read more about Gramofon on Engadget here and on Techcrunch here.

Here is an Instagram of the moment before the launch of the new product:

Here is a short clip I recorded from the launch party at the Amano Hotel Bar:

The free bar menu:

The after party dinner at the Korean burger joint next door:

You can follow ME on Google+ here and on Twitter here.

Standard
Digital

Facebook, Twitter and Google are the new ‘major record labels’

twittermusic

Back in the old days, the big record labels were ruling the music business. BMG, CBS/Columbia, EMI, Polygram and Warner have since consolidated into new companies like Sony Music, but most people don’t know who is owning who anymore after a series of buyouts and mergers. Actually, besides the indie scene, music fans probably have no idea which record label released the music they are listening to anymore. Do you know which record label Pharrell Williams is signed to? I thought so.

What people do know, however, is which streaming service they prefer. And they have a lot to choose from. Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, Deezer, Slacker, SoundCloud, GooglePlay, iTunes Radio, YouTube, Vevo, XBox Music, Rhapsody and Music Unlimited are some of the big international players who are joined by various local streaming services around the world. If you go behind the scenes and view the streaming services with a social media and tech perspective, there is bound to be consolidation here as well.

audiostreaming

The big five in music is now represented by the big five in tech: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Add to that one player that – quite uniquely – is represented in both: Sony.

Amazon and Apple are expected to launch their own streaming services soon. Microsoft has the XBox service and Sony has the Music Unlimited service. Google is playing on two horses with GooglePlay and YouTube. Which leaves Facebook and that other mega social network fresh with massive IPO cash at hand, Twitter.

Facebook already has a close partnership with Spotify and I am pretty sure that Daniel Elk and his investors (the record companies) are scratching their heads every day: should they go for an IPO as a stand alone company or should they sell to Facebook. Either way, they will end up will billions of dollars. The questions is whether their company will be more successful under the ownership of Facebook as part of the family with Instagram and WhatsApp and their combined monster assets of users or if they are better off as a company that can partner more freely.

Twitter has also dipped its toes in music with their Twitter Music initiative, that is currently collaborating with iTunes, Spotify and Rdio.

My prediction is this: Facebook will buy Spotify in the biggest tech deal the world has ever seen in a complex arrangement at a price up to a staggering 50 billion dollars. Twitter will buy Rdio for a much smaller number. Google will react with a more focused music strategy and all three will have so much social media power that they will control the music market in the future.

Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony will struggle because they missed the social boat. Unless they begin doing something serious about it now. Microsoft could finally buy Yahoo! and tap into Tumblr. Sony could buy Pinterest as a social platform. But what Sony should really do is spearhead an Asian powerhouse based on the LINE social app.

Samsung should do the same with KakaoTalk.

The big question is what the Chinese biggies QQ, Weibo and not least WeChat will do.

In the next phase the battle for music will probably be on WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, LINE and WeChat.

I wrote this article while listening to this song:

You can follow me on Twitter here and on Google+ here.

Standard
Digital

An Open Letter to Microsoft – Part 1: Kill Your Darlings

Bing1_0

By Ronnie Rocket

I have been using Microsoft products since the MS-DOS days. And apart from two odd, but, ahem, interesting ventures with Indy machines from Silicon Graphics and the ‘bomb exploding’ PowerPC’s from Apple (that bomb is even on Wikipedia!), I have been using their OS ever since. Currently, I am researching which Windows 8.1 laptop to get next and which WindowsPhone is a possible replacement for my Google Phone. (I will write about WP in an upcoming blog post).

My first browser experience was with Netscape. They were built in the SGI workstations that we happened to use at my first mover web agency in the nineties. But gradually, we realized that we were seeing something completely different in our browsers than our clients were on their Windows desktops. Our graphic department preferred Apple, so we invested in a handful of PowerPC’s thinking that the dual boot machines would give us the best of both worlds.

As it turned out, this generation of Apple PC’s were the worst they ever made. They kept crashing with the infamous ‘bomb’ graphic on the screen and the whole experience almost made us bankrupt because our work was so often disrupted and many man hours were lost in the turmoil. Thus, it left a negative imprint of the brand inside me that never allowed me the pleasure of their products in the golden age where everybody turned into fans.

Eventually, we settled for a machine park with new Windows boxes for the business and production department and ‘clean’ Apple machines for the graphic department. Everyone seemed to be happy and the ‘us’ against ‘them’ OS war could begin and facilitated many fun arguments by the water cooler. Today, it seems that no one in the creative industries uses Windows anymore. We all know the eye popping photographs of auditoriums packed with MacBooks.

Usually, there is one guy standing out with his ThinkPad or Toshiba laptop. That guy is me. I stuck with Windows. Through thick and thin. I also migrated from Netscape to Explorer when Microsoft suddenly took over the browser market. Netscape was left in the dust and eventually faded away. Some Explorer versions were quite good, but something strange happened. They became really bad and the Explorer became hell on earth for web designers.

Today, most people use either Chrome (because it’s fast), Firefox (because it’s good) or Safari (because it’s already installed on Apple products). Explorer still claims a relatively big market share as well, but it is not because users want it. It is because their IT departments tell them to or because some applications only work on IE or runs better on IE. Recent versions have been decent but the Explorer brand has been tainted too much.

Microsoft should kill the Explorer brand entirely.

Under the new management, they should launch a brand new browser built on four cornerstones. It should be a browser that works on all screens, from smartphone over tablet and laptop to big screen TV’s. It should have an integrated high quality search engine. It should offer state-of-the-art translation services. It should be the fastest on the market.

Microsoft should launch the Bing Browser.

A brand new Bing browser would eliminate all the bad reputation from the Explorer and be a fresh start both brand wise and technologically. Also, it would spotlight the Bing search engine as the excellent alternative to Google that it is (it even offers Bitcoin conversion!) as well as the splendid Bing translation service (that is better than Google Translate with Asian languages). The MS R&D department should hire some smart Russians to make it lightning fast and super secure.

Two controversial add ons could be an adblocker and VPN functionality. As far as I know, they are not illegal. So why shouldn’t Microsoft be able to offer these popular services?

Once the Bing browser is built and ready to launch, they should not call their advertising agency. We do not need television commercials with happy people telling us how wonderful their new product is. That approach does not work anymore. We need real people to tell us that. Microsoft should make the project open source and crowdsource the entire branding process. Engaging an army of bloggers and using crowdbranding can make this idea a huge success.

My next Open Letter to Microsoft – Part 2: How WindowsPhone can be bigger than Android and iPhone…combined!

You can follow me on Google+ here and on Twitter here. And, yes, I am on so.cl, but not fully active yet. (Actually, I would also rebrand so.cl as Bing Social. I will write more about that in an upcoming blog article).

Standard
Life

How much Black Sabbath can I get for this?

Today marks the 40th anniversary of at least two important musical events. On television, your parents were likely watching ABBA win the Eurovision Song Contest with their campy hit song Waterloo. In California, kids were going bananas to Black Sabbath at the California Jam festival.

Both bands were wearing outrageous costumes. Ozzy Osbourne chose to take his off, though. Later, when Björn from ABBA was asked about the ridiculous costumes he honestly admitted that they were simply for tax reasons. They had to make sure that they were not wearable as normal street clothes to be able to deduct them according to Swedish tax regulations.

I love ABBA. They make wonderful pop music (this is the most popular blog single on one of my many music blogs). And I really liked their legendary recording studio in Stockholm, Polar Studios. That’s where Led Zeppelin recorded my favourite album, In Through The Out Door, and favourite Zep song, In The Evening. I always gave credit to Sweden for that record.

I mostly listened to glam rock like T. Rex, David Bowie and Slade as a teenager. But when I discovered Black Sabbath and Kiss (you have to read this) everything got a little more dangerous. I still listen to them all, but Black Sabbath has a special place in my heart. I must have bought the first 6-7 albums at least five times over. I just listened to Technical Ecstacy (full album here) again last night!

This is my favourite Black Sabbath song:

Here is a photo of Tony Iommi and me with Geezer Butler in the background backstage at Roskilde Festival in Denmark. I must have posted that photo 50 times over on social media. But it was a very special evening for me. I have seen Black Sabbath several times. But it was the first time on stage. Real close. Next to Geezer. He is such an awesome bass player.

tonyronnie

There is a funny anecdote connected to my headline. Back in 1996, I traveled with an entourage of people from the Carlsberg Breweries and the European MTV office during the UEFA football championships in Holland and Belgium. We had to change our local Danish currency (incredibly and extremely annoyingly, we still do!) to Dutch guilders. When we ended our insane (and believe me, it was as crazy as any Led Zeppelin party!) ride through Benelux, we ended up in Amsterdam ready to drive home to Copenhagen. I knew there was a cool record store near where we were parked. Still holding my beer in hand, I jumped out of the bus and ran to the store.

I pulled out whatever Dutch guilders I had left in my pockets, put them on the counter and asked:

“How much Black Sabbath can I get for this?”

You can follow me on Twitter here and on Google+ here.

PS. There is a Black Sabbath reddit.

Standard
Business

Say hello to my little friend

I have worked in the Internet business and with (digital) communication for 20 years. I have owned numerous servers, workstations, laptops and smartphones. But nothing is as important for me as my Pentel and my Post-it‘s.

They are my most important work tools. I love this pen. I have fancy Mont Blanc’s. I just don’t use them. I prefer this classic Pentel Fine Point R50 ball pen. Made in Japan.

Former Secret Intelligence Service officer Richard Tomlinson alleges that Pentel Rolling Writer rollerball pens were extensively used by agents to produce secret writing (invisible messages) while on missions.

My office is a huge white room in an old apartment building in West Berlin. All the walls are covered with handwritten Post-It notes. Big ones for client and project names and the small, regular ones for ideas and content.

I just found some old advertisements for Pentel in Japan in the early nineties.

548402_298636940208438_1738704270_n

306210_300860073319458_1020919489_n

523942_303334883071977_1704738573_n

And this is what their promo videos on YouTube look like:

I love my little friend.

Standard
Social Media

Here is how Google+ could be bigger than Facebook

youtubevision

When Google+ was launched it was an exact facsimile of the Diaspora* social network. It was an elegant light weight product that played well on mobile from day one. Log in was easy since most people have a Gmail account. The interest based and theme based circles opened up for new connections and friends around the world without x degrees of seperation to Kevin Bacon and the need for previous friendships. And Google Hangouts is a killer app. Still, it does not have the traction that Facebook and Twitter have.

It could easily, though. Since Google already own another massive social property, YouTube, that are already slowly being integrated into Google+, they could make a clean play. Dump the Google+ brand with its geeky URLs and make youtube.com the alternative to facebook.com and twitter.com. Not everybody is on Facebook or Twitter, but everybody is on YouTube. They could eliminate Facebook (but should collaborate with Twitter and WordPress) and be number one.

Here is how Google could kill Facebook. Dump the Google+ brand and go all out YouTube. Make ad free subscription models optional. Partner with Twitter and WordPress for smooth embedding and cross sharing.

Personally, I don’t want to have my Google+ and YouTube streams on two different destinations. I want them on one screen with my personal subscriptions in the left column and my social feeds in the right column. Cross commenting would also be much more logical as opposed to now where it is a mess. The branding of YouTube would also be less Google pushy and if they would offer a $30 payed version without advertising, smart omnisearch and Creative Commons functionality for original content we have a winner.

See you on youtube.com listening to Julians Moon together.

Standard