Time for a change

This is my 14th and final blog post on blogs.amdocs.com. After 7 fruitful and exciting years, I’ve decided to step down from my position at Amdocs as Chief Scientist in order to pursue new independent opportunities. Over these years, I’ve seen Amdocs become much more innovative and I’m proud of whatever contribution I may have had in bringing that about. I am confident the company will continue to improve its capacity and effectiveness for innovation. I believe the company, its leadership, and the employees are committed and engaged in innovation – both internal and open/collaborative. My wish for all the employees is that they all continue to push the envelope and become the enabler of transforming the communication and entertainment landscape. Each and every one of you can change the company and the world if you are passionate enough about doing so.

For the past 10 months I’ve taken up blogging and appreciated all the feedback from readers. I plan to continue, however I have migrated my blog to its new home at www.givoly.com. To learn about new posts, it’s best to subscribe – and it’s easy to do so on the new blog – you can do so via RSS or email. The upcoming blog post will be about Crowdfunding.

I’d like to thank the social media team at Amdocs that has done a terrific job at establishing Amdocs’ online and social media presence. Namely, Donna Rowlands, Jessica Zimet, Jonah Pransky, Naomi Weiser, and Dana Porter as well as my social media incubation team including Amit Braytenbaum, Oren Agassy, Miki Sabbah, and Oded Cnaan.

I’d also like to personally thank Jessica Zimet for helping me tidy up my various blog posts. I am not quite sure how I will cope without your help… (and my readers will suffer more of my rambling as a result).

Thanks again for all the terrific feedback and please join me in the new location – www.givoly.com.

I wish everybody to keep innovating and having fun while doing so!

Tal

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CES 2011 Wrap-up

Over 140,000 people attended CES 2011

It’s quite a challenge to add to the plethora of CES 2011 blogs. This post puts together some of my key observations. I didn’t touch on everything I saw and might have even missed key insights, so it’s not “the definitive” guide to anything CES. The show is huge and there were over 140,000 people there, so it wasn’t easy to catch all the action. But I did see a lot, and gain some insight along the way:

A Year in Review

Android tide rising

It’s interesting to see what has changed since CES 2010, which was also called “the second coming” for Android. Google Nexus One was just announced Jan 5, 2010, moments before CES 2010. While there were a few devices announced to support Android at CES 2010, relatively few were available for closer inspection. CES 2011 had tens of Android phones and quite a few Android tablets. 2010 was a terrific year for Android and towards the end of it, Android passed iOS in units sold. If CES 2011 is any predictor, this trend will continue into 2011.

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“Appcessories” are key ingredients to Apple’s success

Updated on January 7, 2011: Thanks to feedback, it has come to my attention that there were some errors in the original post, for which I apologize. I therefore updated the post to correct these errors. As always, this blog reflects my views and opinions and does not necessarily reflect opinions of anybody else. I am personally responsible for any errors I make, and therefore am glad to correct.

When people talk about Apple’s success with the iPhone, they attribute some of it to the huge success of the Apple App Store that has over 300,000 applications that were downloaded over 7 billion times (as of Oct 20, 2010).

Applications + Accessories = Appcessories!

Apple’s App Store is bigger, in terms of numbers, than any other mobile application store. But this provides only part of the picture. I think there are actually three key ingredients to Apple’s success with the iPhone – together they make up what I now call “appcessories“:

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Thinking outside the box at Management World Americas

I recently attended TM Forum’s Management World Americas in Orlando, the largest BSS/OSS event in the industry. The key theme of this year’s event was about how to unlock new monetization opportunities as carriers look to recoup network investments. One approach discussed was to leverage existing networks and service enablers. The other approach to monetization discussed was to create of new services—cloud services were probably the most talked about development at the event. I thought this poster I saw at the event was a poignant reminder of the vast untapped potential that many see in existing services.

Several of the keynotes and debates were around enabling the two-sided business model suggested by the Telco 2.0 initiative.

I agree that these are indeed great opportunities, yet the orthodoxies of the industry are clearly holding us all back from exploiting these and other opportunities.

Innovation Workshop – What happens when we let go of our preconceptions?

I always present, moderate a session track, or lead some other activity at Management World events that I attend. This time, the forum added a new format on the third day: “intensive debate”. Within this framework, I led an interactive workshop on “Digital Service Innovation – the new era of service provider innovation”. Here are a few pictures from the workshop as well as a short video. As you can see, it was very interactive.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4WjLdMq3z4

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Industry Standards – Thoughts from Management World Americas 2010

 

How TM Forum specifications can become as effective as industry leading standards

I’ve been involved in industry forums and standard bodies for many years. I’ve had experience in creating industry standards and getting them adopted. I’ve seen many successes and failures of these standardization efforts. It’s never easy to get agreement and even more difficult to get the right standards created and adopted.

Having just come back from Management World Americas in Orlando, the largest OSS/BSS (Operations Support Systems / Business Support systems) event in the industry, it’s gotten me thinking about the standards and frameworks set by TM Forum, and how they might be improved.

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Our response to Ofcom and the European Commission regarding Net Neutrality

This blog post was co-authored with John Oswald. John is a consulting manager out of our consulting division and is based in the UK. He also blogs. Recently, John and I worked together on responding on behalf of Amdocs to Ofcom’s public consultation on Net Neutrality and the European Commission’s consultation on the Open Internet and Net Neutrality. Attached you can find our formal detailed responses (Amdocs Response to Ofcom inquiry regarding Net Neutrality and Amdocs Response to European Commission’s Net Neutrality Consultation). Here’s a slightly more personal perspective:  

Why I’d love Net Neutrality

Speaking as a consumer I would instinctively love the idea of net neutrality. I’d love everything I do on the Internet to be treated equally. No different from that experienced by any other person. I would like to be able to access every site with the same speed and the same quality of experience. I’d like to be able to share stuff with peers. I’d like to be able to serve any content from my own servers or web site, and do so at the same speeds and latency that Google does. I’d love to be able to do all that. It would also mean that I could access any file, any file type, any type of data, from any server and any peer – using any service, unencumbered and unfettered by the network provider I just happen to be connected to in order to have access to it all. 

Basically, wouldn’t it be great if internet access was a human right, a little bit like access to the oxygen we need in order to breathe? Although the quality is not uniform, just about every living person on the planet has unrestricted access to oxygen. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Age of Consent

Post co-authored with Oded Cnaan, Director Innovation Business Development.

As I said in a previous post, the topic of social media is one I’ll be returning to often.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.”

George Orwell from “1984″

In the “old days”, before social media sites governed the earth, people were passive spectators in the great “WWW” show. Surfing the Web was about searching and consuming content with very little personal exposure. Back then, passionate discussions were held about the potential danger of cookies as they could reveal your IP address, and most people did not even consider disclosing their email address in public sites.

But this is all water under the bridge. Today, with more than 500 million Facebook registered users and 105 million Twitter users and 370,000 added daily, the rules of the game have definitely changed: most social network sites require users to provide personal profiles. Some sites, like Twitter, ask for only basic information while other, like LinkedIn and Facebook, offer a very detailed profile that includes personal details, employment and education history, likes and interests and more.

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About Innovation: Why we hung movie posters on our office walls

Click to enlarge

A key part of my day job is looking at how Amdocs, as a company, continuously improves its innovation capabilities and becomes an innovation powerhouse. So, I’m going to start a series of “About Innovation” posts talking about this—welcome to the first installment! I have so many things to tell you about what we do at Amdocs to nurture a culture of innovation and to become an effective innovator. So in order to help me choose which topics to discuss, I’ll rely on your feedback to help guide me.

So why did we hang a bunch of movie posters across the company?

We wanted to make sure everybody in the company, and beyond, understands that “innovation works” at Amdocs. Not only that we are seeing the results of our innovation activities, but also that it is really worth it for all the various stakeholders, and in particular, one community was most of interest to me – the innovators themselves. As a large company, we have many processes to help weed out variability in our day-to-day operations, in order to consistently recreate our successes, consistently produce quality products, and consistently deliver massive transformation projects for the world’s largest service providers. You cannot do these things consistently without good established processes and best practices—so we have many of these. But that can make innovation, challenging, as it requires trying something that’s new and different, and not part of the established process. Some might think that innovators might not fit in this culture. Well, they are wrong. Innovators can fit in, and we need them. But it takes some adjusting and encouragement to make this happen.

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The Impact of Social Communications on Communication Service Providers

This blog post is going to be a little bit different than the past few posts. This time, I really need your ideas about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while. I’m just going to tee up the discussion and ask you all to help with ideas.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the tsunami of social media, and in particular, that of social communications, and its impact on communication service providers – in particular, on fixed line and mobile operators. Social communications are the communications facilitated by social media, especially in the form of Facebook and Twitter, but also LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs and talkbacks. While social media impacts all businesses – which I’ll touch on briefly – the sector which is most affected by social media is the communication service providers whose core business is providing means of communications and connectivity, mostly paid services. Social communications are obviously competing with and are possibly disruptive to the business of communication service providers. With this in mind, I pose the following question:

What should communication service providers do in order to mitigate the impact or even benefit from the evolution of social communications?

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How Apple Can Still Beat Android

Last week – what most predicted – has finally happened: Android passed Apple iPhone in global units sold. This was no surprise. Google’s Android has a much more effective distribution mechanism than Apple’s iPhone. Apple’s iPhone is made by one manufacturer, Apple, and in the US, is only distributed by one service provider – AT&T. On the other hand, Google’s mobile operating system, Android, runs on many hardware manufacturers’ devices (HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others) and is distributed by many service providers in almost every region. It was just a matter of time until this strategy paid off for Google.

This raises the question: Will Android do to the iPhone what Windows has done to the Macintosh? More specifically, will Android make iPhone a niche solution? Even though the Mac was the first successful computer to have a graphical user interface and a mouse, Microsoft came from behind with Windows and reduced the Apple Macintosh computer to about 4% market share. It did so by making Windows practically ubiquitous – distributed by practically all other PC manufacturers.

Is Google Android going to do the same to the iPhone? All early indications are that it will.

So what might Apple do in order to prevent history from repeating itself?

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Why OTT Video Might Not Be So Disruptive After All

Earlier this year, I presented at OTTcon. This was the first major conference about OTT (video) ever, and was attended by a few hundred people and many industry players. Coming into this conference, I was under the distinct impression that OTT is a significant disruption to traditional service provider business and that it would have a significant and negative long-term impact on that marketplace. The common wizdom is that service providers who have the most to lose will be the least motivated to support OTT, and will therefore be the last to embrace it, if ever, will ultimately face the disruptive impact most of all, possibly losing their video distribution business over time.

But—I came out of the conference with the opposite conclusion! It’s not that OTT won’t be disruptive – it will, but not “as” disruptive as one might expect. And most of the market players will probably remain in place and not be sidelined by OTT. If it were truly disruptive, it would harm the existing service providers more than I expect it actually will.

Why? Because I think the current service providers themselves will ultimately be the ones that enable OTT content, thus avoiding a major disruption – whether they know it right now or not! In fact, right now, they’re doing very little, and most OTT is being enabled by others. So why do I think they’ll wake up in time? Read on to find out.

How OTT might get to the viewers

Some background

In case you’re wondering, OTT means “over the top” and it refers to all traffic that flows “on top” of broadband access, typically provided by someone else. For the service provider who provides the access to the Internet, this is just “data”, but for the consumer, this is “video”. While there are many other types of OTT content, this conference was only about video. When I’ll use of the term and “OTT” here, I’m referring only to over-the-top video content.

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Why some people THINK they will NEVER get an iPhone

The iPhone is now more than 3 years old. I love my iPhone (and my iPad). I’m still on my 3GS, after going through the original iPhone (2G) and the iPhone 3G, and awaiting an opportunity to get the iPhone 4. I seemed to think almost anybody could benefit from an iPhone as their main mobile communication and computing device. So while I understand why all people don’t have one quite YET, it surprises me from time to time when people tell me it’s simply not for them. It’s not that they are waiting for a particular feature – they claim that they will not want an iPhone EVER.

That got me thinking: why are these (otherwise intelligent) people so dead set on NEVER having an iPhone? So I asked them about their reasons. It turns out some of them are due to misunderstanding. They are unaware that the iPhone can do what they want or has a perfectly usable alternative way to do the job. But some reasons are more real and permanent.

So here are the dozen explanations I got for why these people claim they will NEVER have an iPhone (in no particular order), along with whether I see this reason as real or imagined, and why. While it might seem like I invented some of these reasons, I assure you that all of these are actual responses I’ve gotten from people I’ve asked.

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The Kindle is Dead, Long Live the Kindle!

Since the iPad was announced on January 27, people immediately started asking (and answering) the question: “what will happen to Kindle and eReaders?” And since the iPad became available in April 2010, many have been putting those questions to the test. Most recently, Amazon completed porting their Kindle application to a wide variety of popular devices, now including Android, and came out with the new Kindle DX.

So here’s what I think about iPad/Tablets vs. Kindle/eReaders:

  • It’s not going to be a slam dunk – eReaders are not going to completely vacate the scene for the iPad to replace them. They will coexist. Dedicated eReaders, with their E Ink are still best for reading outside during the day – the iPad’s screen makes this very difficult. Since reading outside is an important reading environment, eReaders cannot completely disappear (here is a photo comparison).
  • Dedicated eReaders will be priced between $50 and $200, and few, if any, will survive at prices higher than this. This will allow them to exist as a separate category, and it will take a few years for Apple to reduce price of the iPad to this price range.
  • Android-powered tablets (from LG, Nvidia, and others), iPad competitors, will likely battle head-to-head with eReaders in the lower price range. That’s why, the recently announced Kindle DX is practically DOA (dead on arrival). Even though its price dropped immediately, it is still too expensive (at $379).
  • iBookstore will not succeed like iTunes has. Kindle will win the book distribution business. This is actually much more important to Amazon than the Kindle device itself. Amazon and its Kindle application ultimately win. Kindle app might not be quite as”pretty” as iBooks app, but overall, it does provide a better book reading experience.
  • Applications like Zinio and PressReader will make the iPad a terrific device for reading magazines and newspapers – something neither the Kindle device nor app nor ecosystem are particularly good for.

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A dozen reasons why 3D TV will not take off as planned

(…and two reasons I might be wrong)

Since the Consumer Electronics Show back in January 2010 we’ve all been inundated with announcements suggesting 3D will quickly move from the cinema to our TV at home. 3D viewing isn’t new – stereoscopy was patented as early as 1838, and 3D has hyped time and time again, most notably in the 1950’s. The consumer electronics industry is trying to recreate the success of HD, now for 3D, based on the cinematic revival of 3D of recent years.

And indeed, since January, many 3D TVs were brought to market, TV networks and programs in 3D are about to be broadcast, and most notably, the world cup is now broadcast in 3D, and there’s still more to come. Some consider 3D much more important to consumers than the HD transition. So why, despite all these rosy predictions, do I believe that 3D TV will not take off nearly as quickly, if at all? Why am I betting against the experts on this one?

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