Monday, November 10, 2008

Marketing and the elections

There are a number of things that the Obama campaign did well. But I thought one of the coolest ones was advertizing on video games. While the ads themselves were probably seen by a small number of people (and a smaller number of people who could vote...), the buzz created by those ads probably helped more. Plenty of news feeds about the ads. Fed the impression that Obama was more tech savy, and current...
Says something about doing things that are news worthy! Marketing lesson worth remembering.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bay area - list of things to do

A colleague at work was kind enough to send me a list of things we might be interested in doing in the bay area. Thanks Linas!
As you can see, the world is centered around Santa Cruz for him ;-)

Around Santa Cruz:

Boardwalk (amusement park - may not be operational in winter)
The main street - Pacific Ave
There are wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains
The concrete ship in Aptos
Big Basin Redwoods Park (camping)

South of Santa Cruz:

Caramel - art & shopping - may want to spend the night
17 mile drive - ends at Pebble Beach - nice drive - good golfing
Drive down Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle - its a long, beautiful drive

Monterey Aquarium in Monterey
If you like US literature, the John Steinbeck museum is in Salinas

Point Lobos State Park – 5 minutes south of Caramel– directly off of Highway #1

San Francisco (North of Santa Cruz):

Bank of America - top of a tall building - good view - Montgomery & California - financial district -need to buy a drink at their bar
Lombard St - near Leavenworth - crookedest street in USA
row houses - Alamo square - Fulton and Steiner - classical famous SF view of houses with city in the background
Alcatraz tours - You need to order tickets days in advance – they sell out early in the summer.
Fisherman's Wharf is totally a tourist trap. Enjoy it for that.
Alcatraz tour start at Fisherman's wharf (Pier 39?).

Ghiardelli - Chocolate - need we say more?
Chinatown is cool - go into the places which have live fish flopping around in baskets at the curb - talk about fresh fish.

In/around the Bay area:
Aircraft carrier in Oakland - USS Hornet - on Alameda island
Nike missile Facility north of San Francisco - in Marin county. Open some Saturdays
Winchester house in San Jose
On Wednesday, Friday afternoons, from 1-3pm, you might be interested in seeing the Computer History Museum.

A little further out:

Napa/Sonoma 1 hour north of San Francisco (2.5 hours from Santa Cruz)

Driving Hwy 1 north of Santa Cruz

Driving all the little roads in the mountains

Yosemite – 4-5 hours away

Mono Lake, Bode, Mammoth Lakes – 6-7 hours away

Sequoia – King's Canyon – 6 hours away

Reno – Tahoe –5-6 hours away

Enterprise vs Consumer plays

Article: Moving From Enterprise To Consumer.
Posted on Silicon Valley Product Group Newsletter – October 6, 2008. I couldn't find a link online.

Another good article on the topic -

Article: Moving From Enterprise To Consumer.
Occasionally a company starts its life as one type of business but then finds that they need to change into another type of business. The most common such transition I see is to start by building products for very large companies (enterprises), but then decide you need to switch (or expand) to sell to consumers and/or small businesses.

Even before the recent turmoil in the financial services industry, I was often asked by enterprise CEO’s how can they change course to a consumer company. Or, I would be asked by product managers how to make the move from product management in an enterprise company to product management in a consumer internet company.

There are many potential reasons for this.

It may be because the company has saturated the enterprise market. Or because they determine that there simply aren’t enough companies out there with pockets deep enough to pay what they would need to survive. Or because their investors point to the dramatically larger market of consumers and small businesses and say that’s the new objective. Or sometimes companies simply tire of their fate being driven more by deals on the golf course, rather than the fruits of their product efforts.

For whatever reason, if your company decides it must evolve from an enterprise business to a consumer business, then I’ve learned that there are several things that you can do to increase your chances of success.

I will warn you however that changing your company like this might sound easy but let me assure you it’s not. In fact, most companies don’t survive the transition. Unfortunately, often this transition is necessary, so the business may not have any choice but to try to change.

Note that much of this also applies to product managers that wish to transition from working in an enterprise software company to a consumer software company.

Corporate DNA

First, realize that whether intentional or unintentional, your company is surely populated by many people that have spent their career in enterprise businesses, and that’s the world they know.

There are clues to this all over the office. Do you see anyone with ties on? Do you have a direct sales organization? Does the company have a box at the local arena to entertain clients? Do you have a customer briefing center? Is your company name along the side of some race car or sailboat? Is the role of marketing at your company to support the sales force? Do you see a lot of specials? Are there a handful of very big customers that cause the entire company to bend over backwards?

At a superficial level all of these things may seem easy to change, but they stem from deep down beliefs about how to run a business and how to attract and retain customers.

Start at the Top

The CEO must tackle this DNA issue head on and take a hard look at the culture and the organization and consciously set the new tone. This will almost certainly require some new blood on his or her staff with the new DNA.

But it’s also almost certain that there will be people in the company that will resist these changes, and push back hard. Many of them see the writing on the wall and know they are fighting for their jobs. Fortunately, many of them have long wanted to make the switch to consumer but with their enterprise experience have had trouble finding a company to take them. If your company is willing to teach them what they need to learn then they can often become strong supporters. But honestly those that don’t want to move will need to be moved out of the way.

Consumer Companies

I’ve written earlier about what makes a great consumer internet service (see so I won’t repeat that here, but I will emphasize a few key points:

- You only survive if you create a product that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people want to use.

- With consumer products, every customer is a user, and as such, every user makes the decision to purchase or use.

- It’s all about scale – the ability to scale the software, to scale the marketing/customer acquisition, and scale the customer support processes.

- In an enterprise company, it’s really mostly about sales and the sales organization. In a consumer company, it’s all about product, with a good dose of online marketing challenges as well.

- Because you can’t depend on training classes, online tutorials, or an SE to hold the hands of the new users, the product has to be dramatically easier to learn and use. This means building out a user experience team that knows how to design this type of software, and a product organization that knows how to work with this team to define, design, build and run this software.

- In an enterprise sale, you may have charged on average say $100K in license fees with $25K in yearly maintenance, and of course the marginal cost of the software is essentially zero, so there’s plenty of room for the sales rep, the SE, the big dinners with the client, the time required for custom RFP responses, the special visit the engineer makes to customer to help get the software working, etc. But for a consumer or small business sale, for say $25/month/user (and realize that most consumer or small business revenue is actually significantly less per customer), you obviously have no room for such luxuries on a per customer basis. Even at $250/month per small business you have no such room.

- In consumer products, the software absolutely has to actually work. No more leaning on professional services or SE’s or integration partners to glue things together for the customer. It has to work, work well, and work immediately. Exceptions to this will destroy your customer service costs and erode your margins.

Back to the Culture

Much of what I’m describing above has to do with skills and best practices, but a lot of this is really about the culture, and I think that not enough companies attempting to make this transition pay enough attention to the cultural aspects.

Remember that in the consumer software company culture, it’s not about ties or sales or big customers, it’s about how many people are loving the product, how do you make the product even better, how do you get people to engage even more with the site, and how do you continue to get the message out to others that will love the product.

Once companies truly get this, they usually end up significantly reducing the size of the sales and sales support organization, and significantly increasing the size of the product and marketing organizations.

Changing jobs smoothly

Never an easy job. Especially complicated when you are moving to another company in the same domain.

Couple of tenets to go by -
1. Inform your current company as soon as you have made any concrete plans. Be completely up front on your move. I had some people suggest that I do not need to tell my company where I am going - and they were right from a strict legal standpoint. But you do not want to be involved in any kind of conversations that could be deemed competitive during the transition out of the company, so I decided to inform them immediately. In my case, my manager was working late, so I went and told him as soon as I had faxed my acceptance letter to my new company...

2. Do _not_ try to copy or save any material - confidential or not. On a side note, I would refrain from keeping any personal material on your work laptop. Gets tricky when you need to decide whether you should move it off the laptop or not. I decided to leave it all, except for some personal pictures. And I did that a while before leaving.

3. Meet and talk to as many people as you can. Unless you are a slimeball, they will understand that you had good reasons to leave. A boss once told me that the only loyalty anyone should have is to people - not to companies. It is a good idea to ensure that you don't burn those bridges as much as possible.

4. Finally, remember that you _have_ to take care of yourself. If you are like me, you probably have pretty much given your life to work, and feel bad about leaving. But by the same token, you have no obligations - you have given more than enough. You have to take the decision that is best for you, and you need to take it now.

Move to California

After 10 years in Austin (6 for my wife), we recently moved to the bay area. It was certainly a difficult choice given the number of close friends we have in Austin, but we decided that it was essential for our career growth. While the silicon hills - as some call Austin - is pretty good in terms of opportunities, it still pales in comparison to the silicon valley, and we decided to make this change now since it was time for a job change anyway.

So, good bye Austin! We will certainly miss you. Actually we will miss the folks we know there more than the place itself.
I am sure we will be making the SJC-AUS circuit quite regularly...

And from now on, I will be posting about the different things we try out here in the bay area! Lots and lots of things to do around here!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Amazing what you can find on the internet! I can't find the link any more, but check this out.

If you are buying something from Pottery Barn which is worth putting in some work to save some money (it was for us :-) ) here is something you can do -
-Create a registry for an event dated the next day
-Add what you want to get to it.
-Wait for a day. You will get an email about your registry list, giving you 10% off for all the things left on the registry _after_ the "day of your event"... (Now you know why I said date it only 1-2 days away)
-Buy what you need for a 10% discount...

Simple! And worth it when you are buying a king size bed, drawers, etc etc............

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Remember the milk

I had seen this before, but now that I have a little time on my hands, I finally got a chance to try out, and I have to say I am impressed!
  1. Easy to use - all kinds of actions like postponing, multiple task updates etc have been thought
  2. Lets you use a GTD process (folders for different types, list of items to be done today/tomorrow etc, a good workflow with an inbox and other folders...) I am not a strong GTD person, and am still trying to implement it in my daily life, but for what I know, this looked good.
  3. Integrates with google calendar - this looks simplistic at first, but then you realize it really is powerful and useful.
  4. Lets you add task(s!) by email - and then you process the inbox.
  5. Lets you create custom queries (for example all tasks without an end date)
  6. Has great plugins/widgets on the mac (yes, I am playing with macs now) and also on windows

Great stuff on the whole!

Now I need to stop spending so much time playing with it and getting things done... :-)

Update -
First thing my wife noticed was that I listed out the option to postpone before anything else...:-)

Monday, August 11, 2008

GTD advice

I have been a fan of "Getting Things Done" for a while even though I really need to get more disciplined in applying the principles. Just read a few good posts on 43 folders, and thought I would share some highlights I really liked...


Seven things - If you’re too overwhelmed to even think about a big system, try this. Get to work early and make a list of exactly seven things that you can do by the end of the day. Each one should take no more than 30 minutes to complete, but try to make it just 10 or 20. Break one big project into seven little ones or just prioritize your clutter. Do the four you least want to do by 11:00, and I promise the remaining three will topple like fat kids.

Honor thy 2-minute rule - GTD tip. The 2-minute rule is critical going both ways; don’t get so caught up in all your sorting and list making that you overlook the fastest way to actually accomplish something. By the same token, always maintain the focus you need to stay in processing mode when you need to.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The king is dead...long live the king?

I finally start blogging (somewhat) seriously this month and look what happens - one of the (supposedly) biggest names on the blogosphere "retires".

This could be the "Death of the A-list bloggers" or it could be a complete and utter hoax.

I just think that he just got scared that I was going to take over! ;-)

To kindle or not...

I have been flip-flopping on buying a Kindle (ostensibly for the wife...). So I figured I would write my thoughts down.

On the one hand the the positives seem to be
1. Save paper
2. Access to newspapers
3. Quick and easy wireless download
4. Ability to quickly reference stuff on Wikipedia!!
5. Ability to view free books from multiple locations (though I need to dig more into formats supported)
5. a. Support for multiple file formats (Supposedly can use MobiPocket Creator for HTML, MS Word, Text, PDF, etc) means I can transfer many of my docs over to the kindle and read them there rather than my laptop!
6. Good battery life (because it isn't backlit?)
7. Music and audiobook support (time to use all those books I bought from Audible)
8. Heard good things about usability - buying, search, page flip etc (need to buy and validate)
9. Size(again, need to buy?)
10. Shared library (err... assuming I steal my wife's kindle all the time)
11. Free first chapter (seems like a good idea)

1. No image support
2. Charges for RSS Support - whats up with charging for free content? I understand about wireless costs, but at least provide the option to sync locally via USB!
3. Can't buy books at half price any more? That sucks

Hmmm... Who am I kidding? This might be a no-brainer!
Oh wait...
4. $359 (I am cheap...)

So, it looks like all the negatives are monetary - and they really aren't too bad! I think it is time to get one!

I don't think that this news -
( makes a difference. Nothing worth waiting for from the looks of it...

Some other thoughts -
- I don't buy the idea of using your smartphone (WM or iPhone whatever) to read books. The screen is simply too small for sustained reading.

- I also have to admire the business plan where Amazon gets to tie you in by providing a complete ecosystem for buying and reading books (iTunes anyone?).

- I think that Amazon will do well to take advantage of the fact that they have a device that is used for viewing information and provide an add-on package for browsing data. ie, paid internet access.
- At that point, support for WiFi will become important too...
- At that point they _really_ have to provide free access to blogs.

Update :
Bought it, and it is a big hit with the wife!
- The screen is really cool. Not being backlit makes a difference!
- The process of buying books and reading them is really easy. Amazon got that right.
- I didn't realize that you can also use it to browse the web. Basic browser.
- Tried a couple of file conversions (pdf to .lit) and it worked pretty good.

I might have to buy one for myself too!

Agile Product Management

This was a great post, so am pasting this word to word :

Source :

Agile Product Management - The Rosetta Stone

What should you do differently to become an Agile Product Manager? Not much, as it turns out -- but you may do some things more frequently than you’re used to. Let’s take a look at how Agile development methodologies impact the five main areas of Product Management: Planning, Building, Launching, Maintaining, and Retirement.

Overall, the organization still needs good methods, such as Robert Cooper’s Stage-Gate™, to help prioritize product ideas and projects. Agile methods promise to deliver higher productivity for the same cost, but you still need to choose the projects with the best strategic fit.

The planning cycle includes building a business case, determining a market and product strategy, positioning the product for success, and setting a long-term product roadmap. To create these deliverables, you’ll still need to do a thorough market analysis. Can you do it in an “agile” way? It depends on your organization’s tolerance for risk, and the size of the project. Some organizations can move forward on smaller projects and do their analysis in parallel. For larger investments, most organizations want to have a more complete picture of the opportunity before they start development.

As you complete your analysis, the deliverables you create may be labeled differently in an Agile organization. What we think of as product positioning, Agile teams call their “vision.” Your near-term roadmap becomes a “release plan.” And “sprint plans” may roll up into a Product Plan that details how the organization will execute on the next market release.

Along the way, you’ll begin collecting requirements and tracking them in an Agile backlog. Today you probably refer to that as your “enhancement list.” Individual requirements get written as “user stories,” which put the requirements in context. You’ll still need to gather non-functional requirements; you’ll still need to prioritize; and you’ll still negotiate what’s in each sprint. You’ll still supply some product specifications, in the form of acceptance criteria.

But what we really like about Agile is that it embodies what we’ve taught for the last nine years – that a good requirements process is collaborative. What’s hard for Agile Product Managers, and for Agile developers too, is to trust this new collaborative process. To not write every single detail down in advance and then toss it back and forth across the wall – but instead, to write some user stories and then talk about them. Together. At the same time, preferably face to face. Every day!

That’s the real revolution of Agile – not the two-to-four week sprints, not pair programming or test driven development (TDD) – but the conversation between the people who hold the product vision and the people who are executing on the product vision. The revolution of trust within the team – no more finger-pointing, no more scape-goating.

(Here’s a secret: Any development methodology can be successful when this collaboration and trust exist between Development and Product Management!)

Product Launch
So in Agile, you won’t know exactly which features will make the release until just a few weeks before the release. Doesn’t that pose some problems for getting launch collateral ready? Come on… get real. You don’t know that information with much certainty today!

With Agile, you’ll likely know with greater certainty which features are really finished and ready for release, because they were completed in a prior sprint. All that remains is the functionality included in the final sprint, and as each story is completed, you can make sure it’s included in the collateral.

The potential exists for functionality to be released to users in smaller chunks. Marketing communication strategies need to be discussed early in the planning process to take into account potential interim releases and their impact on the competitive landscape, customer adoption, and market timing.

The real change is that the Development team may need to get used to the product “sitting on the shelf” after it’s complete, so that Marketing can time the release for the greatest impact, and adequately prepare the market, the users, and the sales teams for the launch.

This phase comes in two flavors: maintenance on the product itself and, in commercial software, sustaining marketing activities over the life cycle of the product.

Product maintenance is simply another pass at the backlog. But, just like today, there needs to be resource allocated to emergency bug-fixing, and enhancement projects must be authorized from a business perspective.

Sustaining marketing continues to be part of the Product Manager’s or Product Marketer’s role, to whatever extent it is today. Agile development doesn’t have a lot of impact here, but we can learn from the Agile process and apply it to how we develop, field, and test our marketing programs. (More on this in a future newsletter.)

You still need to create the business case for removing a product from the market. Agile methodologies can’t impact this directly. But if the Agile team’s job is done well over the lifetime of the product, you may find that fewer products need to be taken off the market due to lack of sales. The successful ones should last longer in the marketplace because the team can be more responsive to market needs and changes.

In summary, the tasks that product managers do over the lifecycle of the product don’t change. Their name, form, or frequency may change, but executives still need the same solid data on which to make good business decisions, and it still takes a collaborative team (product management, marketing, sales, support, and development) to produce great products.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Power of Google ads!

This is a little mean, but take a look at the advertisements that came up on this story on Khloe Kardashian. How on earth did they focus on teeth (yellow or not) and weight?
The ads are "She has yellow teeth", "Lose 15 pounds" "2008 diet of the year"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Probably the best image viewer - and the most innovative UI representation I have seen! Completely changed the way I imagined images could be viewed.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A quick analysis of Android

I recently spent some time looking at Android and thought I would make my first product/technical post about it.

Architectural details.
This is not an extensive review - just a quick, high level overview/notes on what I saw
- Android is built on a Linux kernel and uses Linux drivers. The stack has a clear demarcation of functionality, and each part is modular and replaceable.
- The Architecture is built to handle the memory management issues and the interrupt driven activities on a mobile phone.
- Applications are split into
o Activities (for UI)
o Intent receivers (to register for external events)
o Services (for background tasks), and
o Content provider (to share data with other apps - for example access the contact information...)
- Android supports the ability for each piece/application to interact with each other and share data. i.e., the framework is pretty much built for mashups.
- Android is open to the extent that it is possible to replace major components (like messaging/phone…). Goes back to Google’s mantra of “Trust the user”.
o This means that replacing components is easy and is system wide. For example, replacing the photo gallery means that all the applications will now use the new photo gallery.

Some interesting services provided by Android -
- Location manager
o Provides location information. Can build apps such as register to be notified when close to friend.
- XMPP service
o Contact users on other android phones
o Build peer to peer functionality
o I found some indication that Google was planning to replace the XMPP service with a higher level “GTalkService”. Hopefully that is not the case.
- UI
o Built in views - Date view, Image view, Map view, etc
o Open GL ES support for advanced graphics
o Ability to embed browser using the WebKit browser widget
- There was no mention of any software distribution mechanism, which kind of makes sense considering it is supposed to be an open system. But that will end up being a need that would be filled by either Google or Carriers or some 3rd party vendor. We need to watch that development so that we partner with the right folks.

The powerful SDK and architecture seems to make the process of building for this platform surprisingly easy. In spite of being early stage, Android seemed to have a reasonably mature SDK, with a decent emulator. The fact that it is Java based, has a number of useful libraries, as well as the ability to access core capabilities of the phone should make it attractive for developers to build on the platform.

Android's success

I think there are a number of reasons why we can expect high adoption of Android in the marketplace -

1. Android opens up the traditionally tight control on the client placed by Carriers. In many cases developers have to fork over a large percentage (20-30) of their revenue to Carriers (or Apple in the case of the iPhone). They also have to meet difficult platform/device specific security restrictions. Android eases these restrictions. Users can install anything they want. It banks on users being intelligent in their selection of the software they choose to run on their phones.
2. More manufacturers (compared to iPhone) will build phones using Android, so a larger number of phones on Android should be out in the market once it is released.
3. Software costs are around 20% of the handset costs. The fact that Android is free could convince Carriers to select Android in the hopes of delivering cheaper SmartPhones and increasing data usage.
4. There already are signs that Carriers are moving away from locked networks - consumers can already buy unlocked phones, as well as phones that have Wi-Fi capabilities.
5. The formation of the Open Handset Alliance, and the set of companies that are a part of it, is a good sign that Android has a chance for success.

While there are reasons for advocating caution (next section) the above indicators seem to show that the market will have a good number of Android phones by this time next year. Even though it is a different platform, the iPhone has contributed to this buzz by releasing a developer SDK. All of which indicate that the number of developers building mobile applications might be reaching a critical mass. In any case, the buzz that Google has generated with their announcements, the SDK’s availability, the developer contest, and the formation of the OHA is very significant.

Reasons Android might not be successful -

1. This could be because of Carriers continuing to push closed ecosystems & vertically integrated services rather than an open system. The biggest US Carriers (AT&T and Verizon) are not a part of the Open Handset Alliance, and are in fact throwing their weight behind other platforms (iPhone and LiMo).
- However, these Carriers aren’t discounting the use of Android.

2. Android is not an answer for existing phones

3. The usability of the UI over the long term is an unknown because it since it is not tied to any hardware. Very easy to go the patch of Windows Mobile. One of the reasons why the iPhone is a success is that Apple could focus on and build for only one hardware platform.

4. While it is a very nicely architected SDK, it still is something new. Developers need to ramp up to using it.

In addition to the above, there has been a lot of activity recently on the other (competing) platforms.

Alternate Platforms -

1. LiMo (and now LiPS merged with it) already has a number of phones out in the market. LiMo also has with DoCoMo, Vodafone, Motorola, and Samsung among its members)
2. Others platforms include OpenMoko, Gnome Mobile, and Embedded (another initiative from within the open source community).
3. iPhone – the platform is getting some good reviews, and the phone is already out in the market. Apple recently announced the SDK for the iPhone.
4. Symbian – Nokia recently announced that they were going to own Symbian completely and open it up.
5. WM – Microsoft is coming out with WM 7
6. Blackberry/RIM – probably one of the most closed platforms, but owns a substantial market share of Smart Phones. They are showing clear signs of trying to increase penetration in the consumer market, which requires a lot more applications.

In spite of the above, I think that for anyone looking into it (depends on your situation of course), it might be worth investing in Android because of the "Open" aspects and the buzz.

Links -
My Android bookmarks on

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friends I am most jealous of!

1. Mark Bryan
2. Troy Pfeifer
3. Matt Roberts

Why you ask? Quite simple - they have managed to do what I have been dreaming of doing for a long time. Take time off and travel. And to boot, they have managed to exceed even my wildest of dreams - they have taken substantial time off (read more than the 3 months I am dreaming of) and traveled at a much larger scale!

Here's what they did -

So, here's to you guys! You suck!

PS - Archana and I think that our blog would look a little different. Instead of the mountains climbed or the places dived - we probably will have a list of different cities and the 4/5 star hotels we stayed at, the shops and the restaurants we visited.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Problems creating blog with a "creative" name

Have you ever come to blogger with a number of ideas on what your blog should be named - only to find every one of those are taken? Everyone of those have 1 single posting on it "Hello World - hope I post more often this time"? Just like ever other blog you own?

Exactly what happened to me.

Well, Hello World! Hope I post on this blog a lot more often than the previous experiments!

I plan to post on personal topics (travel, cars, etc) as well as on technology, product management/marketing related stuff. A log of all things. (Hopefully this will not end up being a bunch of bookmarks!)

And yes, the name is extremely geeky. What can I say? All the good names were taken...