All posts by Wouter

Xbox 360 launch in Utrecht

Just returned from a pre-launch party organized by the Sandfire team. Sandfire brought the city of Utrecht and Microsoft together, culminating in a green spotlight for the Dom of Utrecht symbolizing the Xbox 360 launch on December 2. In Utrecht you can get a bachelor in games design, the city is now even positioning itself as "the gaming city of the Netherlands". Combined with the national games days currently taking place in Utrecht, Microsoft could have picked a worse place for its long awaited launch. At the party in gallery De Kunstsalon, painter Adri Dijkhorst put his version of the Xbox 360 on display, which quickly became a collector’s item at Microsoft NL offices – he was asked to produce a second one. There were two Xbox 360 machines present at the gallery and I tried the  Project Gotham Racing 3 game for a few minutes, crashing every 10 seconds (my car, not the Xbox) despite the amazing graphics quality and advanced remote control. Spoke with 22-year old John Jonk, who is a professional game player. Professional means crossing the world to participate in game matches and making thousands of dollars per event. Some gamers make a living out of it, earning even more dollars. My kids at home have been complaining that "its about time we get a PlayStation 2 at home, everyone else has one". I have set a milestone before we go and buy one. When they heard about my invitation for the pre-launch party, there expectations rose. However, as there are a lot more (kids-friendly) games available for the PS 2, we won’t opt for the Xbox 360 (yet).

MP: “award 23% of procurement to SME”

It looks like the Dutch parliament is putting its arms around a Dutch Small Business Act now, a discussion I ignited with my June 21 press conference and the subsequent reaction from the Dutch Minister of International Trade. Today I received an email from Dutch member of parliament (MP) Mr. Jan ten Hoopen (CDA) that he now submitted a formal request to the Dutch government through a "motion". In his motion (click here to download as a PDF in Dutch) he requests "to develop a facility similar to the Small Business Act in the United States" "…with a government target of 23% of all procurement of products and technologies…" requesting a response before January 1, 2006. Taking into account the support earlier expressed by the political parties PvdA and VVD, this is likely to become a serious debate in Dutch parliament.

Starring: Yahoo mobile phone

Yahoo seems to make the first move in the mobile race with Google I blogged about earlier. Today news leaked (?) out through the Wall Street Journal that a Yahoo branded mobile phone is underway to the market, apparently for the US only initially: "SBC executives said the SBC-Yahoo phone, which will be manufactured by Nokia Corp., is expected to be available as soon as early next year and will cost $200 to $300. Operating on the Cingular Wireless network, which is co-owned by SBC and BellSouth Corp., the phone will also be an MP3 player, a 1.3 megapixel camera and will have a removable memory card." So let’s see now how long it takes for Google to announce a counter attack. If they want to outperform Yahoo, their phone should be manufactured in Taiwan by HTC based on Google’s specifications, support WiFi (enabling surfing on the San Francisco city network Google is bidding for), have a QWERTY keyboard like the Treo 650, cost less than $200 and become available in Europe simultaneously… Looking at Yahoo’s product announcements lately (widgets, RSS etc.) it almost looks as if they spot Google’s next move and then ensure they come with a product announcement earlier. I can imagine Yahoo nor Google wants to be portrayed as a follower in the current combat.

Update: goes without saying that both phones would sport new mobile advertising functions of course! Like a SIM-lock for Google AdSense ;-)

Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach…

…through innovation. Thursday I attended Joris Craandijk’s seminar "Innovation, the new Passion in Business", where he looked back as project leader of the now highly successful Heineken BeerTender product. For his seminar Joris had lined up a number of interesting speakers. Some were able to refresh parts of our mind that other speakers cannot reach. Herman Wijffels, chairman of the SER (social economic advisory council) when he spoke about the economic innovation needed in the Netherlands: "Our current leaders are system managers of institutions that were effective in the past decades, but no longer are in today’s economy" and "The western world is in a state of confusion currently, it will take time for a new direction and new leadership to emerge". Or Eddie Obeng, Founder of the Virtual Business School while jumping around the room: "The pace of change is outperforming our speed of learning". Joris Craandijk closed the session presenting his BeerTender case, which convinced him that the beer industry "…cannot live for another fourty years on what’s been there for fourty years". About the Netherlands and innovation "We cannot compete on price with India and China in the Netherlands, it should be our country’s cutting edge to mobilize expertise available here and elsewhere". Thanks a lot for the invitation Joris, unfortunately I had to miss the final and most refreshing part of the agenda: Biertje?
(the headline of this post refers to Heineken’s successful marketing campaign in the UK)

Dot.com meets dot.net

We did not meet in cyberspace, but in zoo Dierenpark Amersfoort this Sunday, sort of in the middle between the villages where we each live. We met through the Internet since we are both holding a domain containing our last name: www.deelman.net (Bert) and www.deelman.com (me). It was quite funny to meet another Deelman as it’s quite a small family and we do did not have any direct ties. Sort of like the excitement of an Internet date I guess? Well, we each brought our kids to the zoo as ice breakers. We both share an interest in blogging, anything related to technology and Internet, we both measure approximately 2 meters and we are both interested in acquiring www.deelman.nl which is still unused. Perhaps we should create a Deelman foundation (or business ;-) for that domain, offering each Deelman in the Netherlands to have his or her own email address and blog space…

Launching customer

While I was in London Friday and Saturday for a number of Qelp business meetings, I selected these days in particular to be able to join Andrew Snoad and Tony Bicknell in celebrating the 10th anniversary of their firm Decision Tree Consulting (DTC). They invited all those who worked with DTC in the first 2 years of starting their company for a dinner tour on the Thames. Andrew refreshed my mind telling me that in fact I was their first large customer. I had them conduct a survey in 24 countries about the decision making process for videoconferencing equipment in multinational companies. I was working for Sony in those days, setting up their European business for videoconferencing systems and combatting with PictureTel who was the market leader. Sony had spotted videoconferencing as a potential mass market( it’s still a niche unfortunately), but had little experience in the telecoms market which is why I was brought in. DTC won the assignment for the survey while in competition with Anderson Consulting and Coopers who should have been able to leverage their international presence but didn’t.

Earlier that Friday I met for lunch with Osman Mardin, who supported me while I was conducting a tough financing round for ThreeFive Photonics in early 2003. Guess what? He reminded me that I was his launching customer after he left investment bank Robertson Stephens and started Sardis Capital, his current financing firm. Do I have a preference for selecting start-ups? Not necessarily –although I sympathize greatly with them- but if you award them the business you are more likely to get the undivided attention of the entrepreneur which can lead to more value for money. You don’t forget your first date, you don’t forget your first customer – it does create a special bond.

MMS-Email football match: 0-2

Last night I took my son Koen to the Champions League match AJAX – Arsenal. It was a birthday present we still owed him. After we had settled ourselves in the ArenA stadium for the match to start, SMS messages started to come in, from daughters Merel and Fleur and good friend Ronald. In fact Ronald was the one who introduced me to this mass hysteria last year for the first time, when he kindly invited me to the annual AJAX – Feyenoord match. It was fun watching the game with Koen, while at the same time exchanging SMSs with 3 people. By messages going back and forth, we actually found out more about players since we lacked the technology couch-potato-watchers at home have. So halfway the match I thought it would be fun to send a MMS of Koen with his live comments from my Treo. Shooting the picture and preparing the MMS went well, sending it not quite. After several attempts I got error messages saying that delivery could not be completed ("but we’ll continue trying"), I guess due to either missing handset settings of the receiving phones or compatibility issues between the different mobile networks. So I decided to send the picture as an email attachment from my phone. It took several minutes before it arrived with Merel and Ronald, but it worked fine. MMS-Email: 0-2. Despite all the camera phones, MMS has not come off the ground. I think mobile operators are probably better off investing money in getting email accepted as a mobile application than MMS. The Blackberry success illustrates the potential market. True, the tariffs are not at a premium like MMS. Here in the Netherlands MMS is offered at something like 40 Euro cents per message, while email is billed per KB. However, faster end-user adoption of email is quite likely to make up for the lower tariffs. Uhh…and what about AJAX – Arsenal? AJAX was defeated with 1-2, due to sleepy players in the first two minutes of the match, an unfair penalty and last but not least an arbiter who needs some basic football education This last piece of opinion comes from still famous Johan Cruyff, who watched the game instead of his mobile phone.

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