Turning Predictions into Opportunities

The view from the eye of a recession isn’t great. When companies are going bust, unemployment growing, and everyone’s scouring their budgets for costs to cut, it can be hard to see opportunities. However, when Tim pointed to Stephen O’Grady’s fine set of 2010 predictions I found myself popping with “oh, so naturally this will happen next …” thoughts. Think of this as a glimpse of the blue sky after the economic funnelspout that’s demolished our economy. (Continuations of the tornado metaphor with “being sucked into the cloud”, or “trailer park economics”, or “we’re not in Kansas any more, Tantek” left as an exercise to the reader)

  1. As every cloud provider creates their own “open API” (itself a fraught term), look to see the rise of brokers who can migrate you from one cloud to another. Deltacloud is an early free project here from RedHat, but there are many business opportunities waiting. It’s possible that companies will pay for assurance (you’ve tested your migration tool, you know it works on corner cases), service vs product (they don’t want tools to run, they want to pay you to install and maintain the tools accessible through a web console), or premium services so that you’re a partner helping them get the most from the cloud and not simply a vendor.
  2. We’re a long way from sated in the world of collaboration tools. The current rage is mail learning, applying machine learning techniques to email so as to better understand social networks and prioritise incoming email messages and these are largely server-based solutions because it’s so hard to get access to the desktop/web clients. Should Google Mail create an app store environment with hooks into the backend, the game could be on for consumer plays around email analytics, prediction, and simply smarter behaviour (why does my email client still not tell me when I say “see attached” yet don’t have an attachment in the message?).
  3. Beyond email, many interesting tools have sprung up around the Gov 2.0 space that have applicability within organisations. Yammer has done well to bring Twitter to large companies, but there are still opportunities around simple document markup and suggestion gathering and filtering. Solve a real problem and there’s money waiting.
  4. Google’s low overhead management is made possible by its automated intranet and the visibility into projects from public code repositories, public smoke builds, and public status blogs. The opportunities to sell this into large companies looking to be “more like Google” are huge.
  5. If Stephen’s right that datasets are increasingly viewed as “serious, balance sheet-worthy assets” then the world is going to need some serious balance sheet-worthy help in valuing those assets.
  6. Big data is being democratised, but there’s a lot of unmet need in businesses around data warehousing. The typical solution is to build a data warehouse team around a product like Oracle, but I’ve heard plenty of business people grizzling about the result. They want answers, they don’t want the headaches and lag that a data warehouse involve. Big Data (or Cloud Analytics or whatever) may be the opportunity to figure out a new minimum viable product for these folks, and offer it without the “data warehouse” baggage. This might be back end, might be UIs, might be visualisation, but all of these have a lot of room for improvement.
  7. The proliferation of developer targets immediately makes me think of the early PC era. It makes sense to proliferate: let the most useful (“successful”) bubble to the top and survive naturally. At this point in the evolution of the scaleout of massively multiplayer online programming languages, we don’t know exactly what winning looks like: it’s a big feedback loop between the people who build the programming languages and the people with problems to solve (there are always more of the latter than former) and each time we go around it we know more about what is and isn’t useful in this brave new world of coding for other people’s data centres. Opportunity? Join the mob and write your own programming language, or simply take your commercial opportunity for a spin around the many different languages out there and be the first in your niche to find a good fit between problem space and solution tool.
  8. Stephen’s throwaway comment “I’ve never subscribed to the idea that only what can be measured can be managed – open source, in particular, belies that claim” seems like a thrown gauntlet on open source analytics. In particular, I suspect there’s a tools opportunity around the nebulous “community manager” role that every company seems to need. It’s part CRM, it’s part developer tool, it’s part tech support, and part camp mother. Usefully quantify aspects of open source development and help companies that are doing it to know how they’re doing and what they could do better.
  9. Marketplaces are big in mobile, but I look to other areas as ripe for the picking. For example, if Google Apps are catching on in many companies then a plugin marketplace is a natural extension. It would build out the Apps suite faster than Google can, would enable the tight loop between demand and supply that will drive the product along, and make Google’s offering very different from other parties. This is also true of Microsoft and others, but I feel like momentum is more with Google’s product than the others. (A feature can push a leader further in front, but rarely helps a laggard leapfrog to the lead)
  10. Every marketplace thus far has been flawed. Apple’s famously annoys many developers and blocks huge categories of product (the “don’t be better than we are” rule, which is hard to justify as being in the customer’s interest), but don’t forget Palm’s impedance mismatch with jwz’s open source code. I think the final chapter on how marketplaces work is far from written.
  11. NoSQL tools remain in their infancy and so there are huge opportunities here. Identify a niche (“fast accurate and timely web metrics for decision-making”), a tool that can solve it (MongoDB), and build the deployment, scaling, administration, reporting tools so you can sell a complete package into that niche. Rinse, lather, repeat.
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  • Antonio

    Gmail already does what you mention in point number two, through their “Forgotten Attachment Detector” (see Settings>Labs). Interesting article.

  • Ric

    Good follow-up on Stephen’s post, adding some practical steps as a logical progression from the exploration of possibilities …

  • Hi Nat,

    Great blue sky projections – particularly the cloud computing example. I’ve got a related idea I’d love to get your thoughts on.

    Looking beyond cloud migration services – how long do you think it will be before we see cloud exchanges? Researching online advertising exchanges recently, the parallels between commoditized media and decentralized hosting are really pretty interesting.

    Cloud hosting has ditched specifics (processor type, number of processors, RAM) in favor of abstract functional properties (computing cycles, bandwidth, storage) making cloud hosting already fairly commodity-like; ie: equal and interchangable.

    Could you see a market for exchange-traded cloud hosting resources? I’m imagining something where large chunks of resources are still sold at premium rates, but remnant resources are tossed to the exchange for short-term leasing at discounted rates. A key piece would be a way to make these resources easily transferable between buyers and sellers – could something like Deltacloud help facilitate this?

    As a marketing guy, this is definitely not my field – but thought I’d throw it over the wall regardless. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  • I’m not sure how many companies are going to want to be more “Google like” when Google itself is busy trying to tack the tanker on a course towards “less Google like”.

  • If the first casualty of war is truth then the first casualty in this recession has been truth. Whoever can measure, convey, increase or project trust will win.

    The technology sector (and all the factions covered above) faces the timeless challenge of having their customers understand, accept, invest and embrace whatever their vendors are offering. Gaining and regaining trust is where it all begins again.

    To throw some cliches around, this is where the rubber hits the road, the buck stops, and the fat lady sings.

    Here are some ways to win back customers http://profitablegrowth.com/10-winning-ways-to-win-back-wayward-customers/

  • Nat: if you’re using Thunderbird, you of all people should have tried 3.0 Beta 4 or nightlies, which _does_ include an attachment reminder ;-)

  • Christopher

    Very good, timely insights. A lot of the raw tools to make most of this happen exist but aren’t “packaged”. I think 2010 is going to be very interesting.

  • opportunities

    This is a great post. I’m glad it was bumped. Otherwise I would’ve missed these very useful information.