Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2010

I’ve neglected telling my readers  about life at the GSB, with a lot of my recent posts focusing on technology.  This is an attempt to tell you what life at the GSB is like on an average day.

6:30 AM: Wake-up, scramble to read case for e-commerce class and if there’s time left, read some Accounting too. No reading for marketing today because it’s Industrat day (I’ll explain below). hmm probably no time for accounting.

7:55 AM: Bike like crazy towards the business school, EV Studio where I live is just about 5 minutes away, if you bike fast enough.

8:01 AM: Arrive in accounting. Prof. Jagolinzer is amazing. The first accounting class that I have truly enjoyed. He starts by putting up the name of a student in class who is apparently getting married soon. Interspersed between the discussion of new accounting standards are funny videos and blurbs designed to keep students engaged and awake. Believe it or not, this accounting prof. spent 10 years in the US air force as a T-37B Instructor, Spin Demonstration Pilot and as an E-3 AWACS Aircraft Commander, BEFORE, he decided to study accounting, wow!  The material is about accounting for stock grants to management, a topic that many students have strong opinions about: class debate heats up and gets very interesting.

9:45 AM: Run through Arbuckle cafe for a quick breakfast. Yes, they have more of the breakfast burritos left!  Say hi to friends and classmates as they scurry through the cafe as well.

10:00 AM: Arrive at a room inside the Jackson Library for marketing. The class has two components. One is a case driven lecture and the second day is a competition of sorts. We use a simulator (Industrat) to compete as teams and test out our marketing learning and make our companies the most profitable. Let’s look at the stock chart: wow, our team is doing well and investors like our companies stock! Screen shot of that to look at it later? 🙂

Negotiate with other team that we have formed a joint venture with, discussing the use of research facilities to develop new products. Looks like we got the better end of this JV agreement that I helped craft last week. Scramble during the last few minutes of session to submit our decisions for processing through the Industrat system. Next week’s report will be an interesting read (we receive a company and market report some time over the week telling us home our company and our competitors performed).

12:00 Noon: Go into a classroom to hear founders of two interesting consumer oriented start-ups talk about their experiences. Recent grads who have built successful entrepreneurial ventures, they talk about how they approached initial vendors, how funding was obtained and what made their businesses successful. I have an interesting chat with a classmate about how it would be great to hear from failed businesses as well, but I can see how that’s hard to do!

1:00 PM: Arrive for advanced IT (e-commerce) with prof. Haim Mendelson. Wow, I’ve never been this early to class. Prof. Mendelson really cares about attendance and after seeing him ask a student to put down his name on the seating chart for being a minute or so late, I have not been late to class!

This is my favorite class at the GSB so far. Prof. Mendelson knows the e-commerce world like the back of his hand. What’s most amazing is that he manages to know the most recent developments as well and every case we read has been written by him and edited with the most recent happenings in that area. On some weeks he also brings successful leaders to class to talk about their businesses (including the president of paypal last week). Today is a case discussion on the gaming space: again a topic that I love. We talk about the evolution of the gaming industry, the battle for supremacy in the living room and Nintendo’s unique strategy. Class discussion is lively and interesting. Prof. Mendelson maneuvers the discussion expertly. Next week we will be talking about mobile gaming world and the future, nice!

4:00 PM: I have a bit of a breather. Check email, going to Tahoe this weekend?, hmm probably can’t make it, too many company meetings on Monday :(, maybe next weekend. Can I swap one of my interview slots with a friend who has a conflict? sure. Company A would like to interview me: great, accept interview invite. Any resumes due soon? Not for a couple of days: procrastinate.

5:30 PM: Meet Stanford GSB admit to talk about the school and answer questions. The alumni center is a great place for this type of meeting. Grab a coffee and tell the admit just how much I love the experience.

6:30 PM: Head to a small group dinner: an excellent system put in place at Stanford where students can meet up for dinner and have the school reimburse them for the cost of dinner, as long as the dinner is publicly announced and the same group has not had a small group dinner before. An excellent way to make new friends and learn more about classmates. A good way to meet MBA2’s as well since the small groups include members of both classes.

8:00 PM: Excuse myself to run home, I just remembered that I have an assignment due at midnight for the iPhone application development class that I’m taking: I love the class but weekly assignments are getting harder to get done on time.

An episode of Caprica to calm myself? I convince myself that it will probably make me more productive as I tackle the assignment! Wow, Caprica is getting really interesting, love this show.

8:30 PM: Can’t watch any more Caprica, get to work coding in xCode. I think it was really nice of my classmate to lend me the Mac that I’m using for the class (since iPhone app development can only be done on a Mac).

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’ve been comparing the VOD services offered by Amazon and Netflix. Both services definitely have value but for someone comparing them, its important to know the key differences.

I used my PS3’s Netflix Streaming disc to check out the Netflix service and used Panasonic’s Vieracast on my TV for Amazon’s VOD: both using the same network connection via wired ethernet.

Interface: Netflix has really figured out a great way to show your queue (on the PS3 streaming disc) and show selected movies available for viewing. This looks almost like the cover flow on an iPod. As long as what you want to watch is in the selection Netflix shows, the interface works well. However, I couldn’t find any way to easily search for movies or go beyond the few shown on screen. Way around this is to add to your queue on a PC before starting things up on the PS3 disc.

Amazon’s interface is not that smooth. Buying a new episode required getting an additional “key” from amazon. But once you had the material on your list, Amazon interface was a breeze, easily utilizing the remote for pausing, forwarding etc. However, I preferred netflix’s approach of showing where you are forwarding to rather than going back or forward by minutes without knowing where you would jump to on Amazon.

Content:

Amazon is a clear winner on this. Netflix has a lot of older, less popular titles and some badly encoded (low quality) starz streams while Amazon has the latest available content and typically what you really want to watch is on Amazon.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the cost difference is HUGE. Netflix charges as little as $9 a month for unlimited access to their database of streamed content, while Amazon charges individually. $1.99 for a TV episode, $2.99 in HD, $3.99+ for a movie etc. These can add up very quickly. So as I said before, both services have a place in the overall value landscape.

Video Quality:

Amazon at least during my tests came out as clear winner. There was almost no buffering and the experience was just like watching HD TV. Netflix buffered and the actual content seemed to be more compressed, coming out slightly grainy. I’ve tested out Netflix before using a laptop connected to a TV with Heroes and been very impressed with the quality. But high quality content like Heroes or Dexter is few and far between. Starz where you will find most of the things you want to watch on netflix seems to deliberately lower the quality making the content grainy.

Panasonic has still not incorporated Netflix into Vieracast for 2009 model TVs, which is unfortunate. They do have a box labeled “coming soon” but no indication of when Netflix will actually make that transition. Panasonic, get on it!

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on either of these services or any other alternative VOD services you use (except Comcast: long story but Comcast has so many billing errors [some might even be deliberate] that the user experience is miserable).

Read Full Post »

Amazon recently acquired the New York based start-up Touchco, which was working on a revolutionary new touch screen technology at the time. Coming right on the heels of the iPad announcement, it’s easy to assume what this means for the Kindle: potentially color and a touch screen.  If Touchco’s technology is what it was promised to be, this could also come at a relatively low-cost (apparently the touch screen technology only costs about $10 a square foot and is remarkably power efficient as well). In addition the technology can distinguish between finger touches and pen marks, which may lead to a device that incorporates handwriting recognition as well as gestures.

There’s one catch. As of last year Touchco was a small company with a technology that seemed promising but not quite commercial yet. So, how soon can the benefits of the acquisition be realized? The iPad as we know will be in the hands of consumers in about 60 days.  It’s important that Amazon not give up the momentum that it has built-in the e-reader space and allow the iPad’s ebook marketplace to take market share.

This depends on how Amazon plans to use the acquisition and Touchco’s technology. If Amazon was already working on the next generation Kindle at its Cupertino based Lab126, and is really looking for some final touches and people from Touchco, we could see a new product relatively soon. Lab126 which introduced us to the Kindle and has played a significant role in revolutionizing the e-reader market, has been recruiting aggressively over the last few months. This suggests that something big is definitely in process.

If I were to make a guess though, I would guess that Amazon was not working on the touch aspect and this is an attempt to get up the curve quickly there. Unfortunately, that would put the development of a touch screen based Kindle at least an year away (likely longer).

I think from Amazon’s perspective, it’s important to get this right. We’ve seen what poorly implemented touch screens can do to the reading experience with the Sony reader. I for one am interested to see what the new device looks like. Lab126 has several former Palm and Apple executives in its ranks, so they should be able to come up with something that competes with Apple’s world class industrial engineering and user experience focus.

Amazon is probably also working hard to improve its Kindle for iPhone app to work on the iPad. Although the app should work as is, almost with no changes at all, it’s important that the company focus on the demands of a big screen. Users are unlikely to be happy with the current blog, magazine and newspaper reading layouts when they have flashy competing apps on the iPad. Amazon must come up with something like what the New York Times did with the great Times Reader app which is an amazingly cool way to show newspaper content on a computer screen.

Read Full Post »