Apple’s Minority Report

Okay.  Three days in and I have already dropped the ball.  I knew it was hard and highly likely to happen – I just hadn’t expected it to be this early, I missed my first daily post.  No matter.

Picking up on one of my themes from My Predictions for 2012, I (like many) are intrigued by the notional idea of what Apple’s iTV may look like.  Thankfully, the press and blogging community have established that the real issue holding back Apple’s iTV (or any interactive television) is not technology but how a user relates to the content on the television, i.e. the human interface/experience.

As someone who has spent too much money over the last few years on a multiple of devices in an attempt to create an interactive television experience, I have to sadly admit failure.  At one extreme I have hooked up a mini PC and attempted to use a keyboard and a touchpad.  Maybe I am just getting old but trying to use a touchpad with a cursor on a screen 20 feet away is becoming more challenging (may be I should get my eyes tested more often).

My most recent acquisition is an Apple TV which has many great things going for it – particularly the ability of a three year child to use it on a Saturday morning to watch Bob the Builder as often as they like without any assistance.  The simplicity of the interface and the remote is a joy – but it feels very limited in the same way the original iPhone was when it was first released – do you remember the iPhone before the Apps Store.  I truly believe that the full potential of Apple TV will be realised when third party developers are allowed to create apps for this device (and am greatly encouraged by the recent hack that has been developed).  I mean I can’t be the only person in the world who is massively frustrated by the inability to use the BBC iPlayer on Apple TV!!

Whilst I do not underestimate the innovation and creativity of developers to find novel ways to use the current Apple TV remote to interact with third party apps, we have to admit that it is somewhat limiting.  But the solution to the problem is readily available – the iPad – the second screen experience.  If we consider what lies at the heart of the problem – it is how to address the differences between a “lean back” experience of television and the “lean forward” experience of computers.  Maybe there isn’t a single solution to the problem.  Maybe it is a hybrid solution that combines the best of both worlds.

The current chatter on the blogs about the Steve Jobs moment – “I’ve cracked it” being the use of Siri to control Apple’s iTV.  I believe that this might work in a closed ecosystem where Apple controls all over the various applications – however assuming an apps store will eventually appear I find this approach pretty restrictive.

I take the view that iTV requires a second screen – the iPhone and iTouch might be adequate but the iPad is perfect.  The simplicity of the design allows the “blank canvas” to be whatever is needed.  Sometimes it can be a keyboard, sometimes a giant touchpad, sometimes voice activated and sometimes an accelerometer. The iPad would be the ultimate “remote control”.

But obviously the iPad can be a second screen.  At times, you may need to look at something in greater detail, so having the content at arms length is important – but equally sometimes it may be better suited for a bigger screen at a distance.  What I am describing is something similar to the Minority Report – without  holographic displays.  Imagine being able to work with some content at your fingertips to be able to flick it away to another larger screen and/or pull it back to your fingertips.

This exists in its infancy on airplay where you can mirror your actions and screen both on the iPad and also Apple TV.  What I am describing is a dual screen experience – but recognising the differences between the two screens – one lean forward, the other lean back.

So there you have it, the Apple iTV does exist today but it is not one but two devices – Apple TV and the iPad.  Do I seriously think that this is what iTV will be? No.  Apple have no track record of selling two products together to create a solution, that would not be elegant enough – but we can dream and I do hold out hope for an Apps Store for Apple TV very soon.

My Predictions for 2012

It is going to be busy.  Very busy.

This is by no stretch of the imagination comprehensive nor complete but a list of my predictions for 2012.

1. Second Generation Social Networks.  Facebook and Google+ will go on to dominate the first generation of social networks – but a second generation of social networks will appear – in large niches.  These networks already exist, such as Stack Exchange and SoundCloud – but more will appear.  The primary social networks are not be able to service all the needs of these niche users – but the second generation social networks will deliver greater value will be more engaging.

2. Apple TV Apps. Apple will create an Apps Store for Apple TV and the sales of Apple TV will take off.  A new generation of apps will be developed that will combine smart TVs and the tablets/smartphones that will work as the “second screen” and someone will create an app that combines X Factor and a Twitter stream and everyone will go nuts about it and Simon Cowell will make even more money.

3. Internet of Things.  People will start to understand the real potential of smart devices and the social impact it will have.  We will see the first “Internet of Things” Hackathons and web developers will fall in love with the new ideas and opportunities that come from it.

4. Big Data.  It will get a lot bigger, a lot faster than people expect.  With the proliferation of smart devices (as above), we will have more data than we really know what to do with it.  People will have to come up with novel technical solutions to capture, distribute, share and draw conclusions from the data being collected.

5. Android versus IOS.  Only a very small minority of the world will care or understand the difference between Android and IOS devices – this will give Windows Phone a fighting chance when everyone realises that it is not possible to install all 500k apps from the Apps Store on your iPhone/Android and that in reality people don’t use more than 6 apps.

Knowledge is the new Start-up Capital

The following is an article that I authored and was recently published in The Kernel.  I am planning to going into more detail around a number of the topics raised in the article later in the year.


Times are changing. Over the last ten years, the cost of starting a consumer internet business has fallen dramatically. Equally, the cost of distribution is approaching zero. There has never been a better time to start a business. Sensing this is so, many people are now turning their backs on corporate jobs, helping to fuel an unprecedented rise of start-ups in hubs, including London and Berlin.

This new class of business relies a lot less on early-stage investment capital. The competitive advantage for these firms now comes from their experience, know-how, creativity and contacts. In other words, they are living on their wits and intellect.

At the earliest stages of a business, investment and intellectual capital are necessary to create critical momentum. They start the ball rolling. As a prominent venture capitalist once put it, investment capital is like rocket fuel: it gets you there faster.

But you have to make sure your rocket is pointing in the right direction, and it is the intellectual capital that serves as the navigation system, ensuring that you know where you are going before you start the count-down.

There are, however, some profound differences between the two asset classes of investment and intellectual capital.

Investment capital is controlled and distributed by a very small number of people, and it comes with a series of terms and conditions. Intellectual capital, on the other hand, is widely distributed, and individuals can choose the terms on which it is shared. It can be given away freely, or charged for.

In our fast-moving society, the free exchange of information creates more value to both the provider of the information and the recipient than a proprietary approach. We are moving from a time when knowledge distribution was restricted and proprietary to an open source, collaborative future.

This is the fuel on which Silicon Valley has operated for decades. Now, others are cottoning on.

Unlike conventional investment, intellectual capital can be redistributed again and again. The advice continually evolves: it becomes more refined, crafted and useful, based on feedback.

Similarly, the recipient of knowledge can now choose to pass it on to others, creating a network effect of expertise, strengthening the ecosystem and accelerating idea generation.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, the cornerstone of an innovative and entrepreneurial culture is failure. It can’t be repeated enough that failure must be embraced and accepted as natural consequence of innovation. A culture which shuns failure is a culture that shuns entrepreneurship, and, ultimately, wealth creation.

This is where the most significant difference between venture capital and intellectual capital exists. Failure leads to the loss of investment capital. That is accepted by venture capitalists and angel investors alike, who encourage businesses to take risks with the potential of a big pay-out on a few of their bets.

But intellectual capital is different, because entrepreneurs arguably learn more from their failures than from their successes. Heads you win, tails you win – at least, in respect of your intellectual capital.

The knowledge and know-how generated from success and failure builds a stronger ecosystem. Imagine it as a pruning of ideas; the creation of a fertile “entrepreneurial compost heap” and the recycling of expertise being dug back into new ideas, helping them to germinate, take root and grow back stronger.

The latent potential of any ecosystem to generate and strengthen its intellectual capital is a valuable and rich resource, but on that remains largely forgotten and overlooked. This is a tragedy, because it is largely controlled by the entrepreneurs themselves.

A considered approach to the sharing of knowledge and expertise by entrepreneurs will create a vibrant and stimulating envirnoment. This does not require permission. Give it freely, pass it on and finish every meeting with: “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Mass adoption of this strategy by the wider start-up communities outside Silicon Valley will create a stronger and more transparent ecosystem that supports heroes and highlights bad practices. It is a crowdsourced, peer-to-peer support network that comes from the community .

Perhaps best of all, unlocking the latent potential of intellectual capital will reduce the reliance of the start-up community on investment capital and its owners – nudging the balance even further in the direction of what – and, yes, who – you know.

Hello world

Hello and welcome.

Here’s to a very quiet relaunch of my personal blog. Prior to this I previously blogged at Jay Eye Sea with a close personal friend Ian Leader and as both of us have got progressively busier it has gone unloved for sometime.

I have a massive admiration and respect for Brad Feld, Fred Wilson and Nic Brisbourne – all of whom have full time jobs as VCs but find the time to do a daily blog – often very insightful and providing transparency in world where decisions are often made behind closed doors without explanation. I can’t promise anything this spectacular but you have to start somewhere.

My personal rationale is to “write myself smarter”. From my own experience I know that writing forces me to think harder, research my topics and try to draw conclusions. The process of writing helps my day job, where I often have to explain myself but it makes me smarter creates more value to myself and everyone around me.

I ask for your patience. The blogging will improve and I might yet prove my English teacher wrong.


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