September 5, 2009

Work, life and technology

Saturday morning and I am working at home. Nothing too urgent but the kind of boring and administrative stuff (a global IT project for the firm) that you never find the time to do... So, since I have been provided with the technology (an encrypted "token"), I can connect from home as if I was in the office. This is step 2. Step 1 is obviously the corporate Blackberry from work. Both are supposed to help us be in the loop and to enable us to work from anywhere. But does technology help or is this just a burden that we must carry on our shoulders?  There was an interesting article today on El Pais about this.

On the one hand, it is obvious that I'm doing my work from home today, which is way better than going to the office. Likewise, having the opportunity to follow up on things during working hours while outside of your office is pretty good and improves productivity and the handling of things

On the other hand, as I am growing older I increasingly tend to think that the negative aspect of "company-sponsored" technology outranks the positive one. I remember that in 2002 I got my first Blackberry from work at the firm I used to work for. Believe it or not, not many people had one of these devices at the time and people commented how lucky I was too have it. Wrong. I worked under a lot of pressure and it was literally impossible to disconnect, the worst aspect being the possibility of being reached by clients anywhere, anytime (I remember myself having a 1-hour call with a client as I walked along the Lanzada beach, in Galicia in the middle of my August holiday). Having perks such as free calls from my corporate cell was not enough to keep the balance.

My current job involves far less pressure (and calls from clients in my free time are less likely) but I still see myself checking emails after work, during lunch times or during vacation days. Plus, as I was saying, I end up working on a Saturday. And all this work time is not in my contract and, consequently,  I am not getting paid for this. Maybe I should just not do it, but I'm the kind of guy who likes to get things done.

I'm planning a great three-week trip for Xmas and I'm already hoping that I have no reception there... however, I cant help thinking about the the first day after my vacation if I am completely absent for such a long time... It is kind of a catch.

September 3, 2009

Ebay sells stake in Skype

Just a few words about eBay's - the worldwide leading auction marketplace - sale of a 65% stake in Skype to a number of VC firms and private investors for around $1.9bn (which values the company at around $2.75bn, slightly less from the $3.1bn that eBay paid in 2005. So, not a great investment for eBay.

I do love Skype, it is an amazing tool. It helps me keep in touch with my friends overseas (mostly in the US and beyond) at a very reasonable price. Yeap, I am a premium user and I have my monthly plan with which I can make unlimited calls to cells and home lines in the US.

But I have never seen much fit between eBay and Skype. It is a kind of obvious statement, I guess. I love eBay too but what is the point? I am sure that the money that comes in will be useful in improving the current service and, who knows, maybe  in taking Paypal (eBay's payment platform, which is becoming increasingly relevant for eBay) to a new level, which makes much more sense to me.

Business models inciertos

Ayer hablaba con un amigo sobre Spotify , la ultima sensacion del negocio musical en internet. Spotify es un servicio que, tras descargarte un pequenho programa , te permite acceder ilimitadamente en streaming a multitud de canciones y albums de gran cantidad de artistas, de ahora y de antes.

El modelo de negocio tiene tres niveles, por decirlo de alguna manera. En el nivel basico, el usuario puede escuchar las canciones integras gratuitamente, si bien cada cierto tiempo hay un anuncio obligatorio de unos 30 segundos. El nivel "day-pass"permite acceder al usuario, tras el pago de 0.99 euros,  acceder a las canciones sin tener que "padecer" anuncio alguno durante 24 horas. El nivel "premium", por 9.99 euros al mes, permite igualmente escuchar canciones sin anuncios indefinidamente.

No tengo ni idea si Spotify gana dinero al dia de hoy. Si me preguntaran, diria que no, o que si lo hace no es demasiado. Por un lado, dudo que los ingresos sean muy altos (yo soy usuario y la verdad es que me va bien la opcion basica, no siento necesidad alguna de hacer un upgrade, y creo que ese debe de ser el caso de la mayoria). Por otro lado, estan los royalties que Spotify paga a las discograficas, que seguro que son un buen pico. La verdad es que no me salen las cuentas asumiendo un mini-anuncio aqui y alla.

Pero Spotify es un ejemplo mas. Otras empresas, iconos del mundo internet actual, como Facebook , Twitter , Youtube ... o negocios de toda la vida como los relacionados con la industria editorial, que no han sabido como adaptarse a los nuevos tiempos (periodicos, revistas, etc.), no tienen un modelo de negocio claro y confian en encontrar la formula magica que les permita monetizar las en muchos casos ingentes audiencias con las que cuentan. Parece claro que el modelo del "todo gratis" financiado con publicidad no resulta sostenible ni rentable, al menos para organizaciones que alcanzan un tamanho considerable y cuyos gastos estructurales aumentan continuamente. Encontrara alguien esa piedra filosofal?