bitcoinsThe Winklevoss twins have ventured into the bitcoin controversy with their recent request that bitcoins be regulated so any investor could trade them, just like stocks.

What are bitcoins? Bitcoins are digital currency — there is no physical bitcoin to put in your pocket. Bitcoins are de-centralized — meaning the network of bitcoin users control how they are used. There are only 21 million bitcoins available, with about 11 million currently in circulation. A few online stores and websites are accepting them, but mostly the currency is being traded within the community of users.

The Winklevi are trying to up the ante by fast-tracking bitcoins to higher levels of scrutiny and regulation. Since bitcoins are volatile at this point, increased regulatory oversight may stabilize them and make them less of an investment risk. And at this point, you should consider bitcoins very risky.

There is an ongoing fight to capitalize on the “about-to-boom” world of mobile payments. Bitcoins promise to offer Electronic Cigarettes instant, mobile transactions by making payments easier and more secure in both the physical and virtual world. Other companies are trying to position their mobile payment solutions as well. The mobile payments market, or the “digital wallet” as its commonly referred, is a soon-to-explode industry valued at over $90 billion by 2017. It’s inevitable that we will use our mobile devices to make payments and fulfill transactions in the future — diminishing the need and value of printed currency.

The key to the future of bitcoins, however, is to convince a broader audience than geeks and hackers that the digital currency is safe and stable enough to invest in and use.

Historically, humans have used almost anything as currency: flowers, chickens, paper, metal and other material. The big question is: If you trade with digital currency and receive goods or services from using it, does it matter that its anything more than a mathematical sequence or a virtual algorithm?

The US Constitution doesn’t say anything about an implicit “right to privacy” although the Supremes have been quite vocal since the 70′s trying to figure it out for us. As we begin to rely on our mobile devices for more and more of our everyday living, both privacy and security become more and more important. How much of your financial data is easily accessible to anyone that can hack your 4-digit unlock code? With the ubiquity of social networking, what you disclose to others is also becoming hard to control. It’s hard now not to disclose what you’re doing, photos of where you’ve been and chats with your friends. All of that info is now in the cloud, just one Anonymous hack away. Your digital past is also your digital future.

To your rescue is a series of apps and services that promise to keep everything you do under wraps — if you want. Some services like Snapchat promise to eviscerate your status updates the moment they’re viewed. If only Anthony Weiner had this app before he tweeted away his Electronic Cigarette political future! With Snapchat you can take photos or short videos and then decide how long your friends can view them. After 10 seconds or less, they disappear forever (at least we think they do). Snapchat has exploded over the last year with 100 million photos and videos exchanged every day. Facebook even jumped on the bandwagon for a bit with their own app, Poke, which failed to take off.

Other apps like Gryphn, Wickr and Burn Note also promise to give you more control over what you share and for how long. They all promise deeper levels of security and privacy. Temporary social media allows users to be more spontaneous and authentic. Think of it as the hallway conversations you have with your friends, or the “in-passing” remarks you make to your neighbors… dialoge that’s important, but doesn’t need to be part of your digital record for all eternity. Now, you can potentially breathe a little easier knowing there’s a way to control some of what you’re broadcasting. Or, you could just log off, I guess.

Why does a company that started by selling books continue to disrupt so many industries they’re not first considered to be experts in? Amazon has evolved from being an online bookseller to becoming not only “the world’s marketplace” but one of the world’s largest providers of cloud services — creating an entirely new service offering that just a few years ago didn’t even exist. And, in the meantime, becoming a high-tech company that rivals the ones expected to innovate in this area.

That may be the primary reason Amazon has been able to take-off in new markets. First, its CEO, Jeff Bezos is not concerned with short-term profits. His vision is what more CEOs need to reflect on: “We like to invent and do new things, and I know for sure that long term orientation is essential for invention because you’re going to have a lot of failures along the way.” Too many American companies seek just short-term profit, and don’t focus on more than 3 or 4 quarters. If Kindle, Amazon Web Services and Amazon Prime were required to show profits in their first 3 or 4 quarters, they would have never even gone to market.

True disruption comes from those that jump into a market not worried about cost. They usually go in with the lowest cost and quality offering and build from there. Ultimately, becoming a market Online Blackjack leader means that you have to continue to innovate and disrupt, or you become less a disruptor and just a profit-making machine. Consider the fate of Polaroid, Atari, RIM and Digital Equipment Corporation: all were once disruptors in their respective industries. Once they reached the top, they stumbled. They stumbled because they stopped innovating and disrupting. Amazon continues to discover new markets, innovate products and services, and is restless once they begin to make inroads into a new market. Apple and Google are the obvious candidates for finding it difficult to create market breakthroughs while servicing the markets they currently dominate.

Disruption is based on creating new and valuable products and services in an uncertain market. Once a company gets too comfortable in their market, they will eventually find it difficult to innovate and disrupt. The challenge is to foster a culture that values creativity and innovation and offers a process that encourages its people to ask questions, uncover new possibilities, and explore without being driven by profit only. Amazon has shown it’s willing and able to enter any market it thinks it can add value to. And then it works from within and continually innovates and disrupts. Companies like Apple, Google and even Microsoft should never forget what happened to the companies that lost their hunger for innovation. Maybe they should listen to Jeff a little more.

"Boston Skyline" by Flickr user brentdanley, cc-nc-sa license

Our hearts go out to those in Boston right now.

If you need to find someone, find a runner, or find someplace to stay, social media has you covered in the aftermath of today’s horrible events.

Google PeopleFinder: Boston Maraton Explosions: Enter information if you’re looking for someone or if you have information about someone (or yourself).

Red Cross Safe and Well: Like Google’s people finder, this lets you enter information about someone – whether you are in search of them or you have information about anyone.

The Boston Globe is working to make sure everyone has a safe Pokies place to sleep tonite. If you’re a runner in need of a place to stay, enter your information on this Google Doc. You can also check this spreadsheet for possibilities of a place to lay your head.
If you have a place to offer stranded runners, you can enter your information on a separate Google doc.

Finally, you can check on the status of a runner, and see their last check-in from the race, that option is now at the top of the Boston Marathon site.

If you know of any other social aids for those in Boston today, please list them in the comments.

Stay safe.

 

With smartphones and gadgets like Google Glass grabbing all the headlines, what some of us realize is the vast wasteland of bad reality shows, over-hyped sports events, and sensational specials we call TV is about to undergo a transformation that will forever end the viewing experience as you know it. And although tech companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft have been fiddling around with their idea of how to change TV for a few years now, it’s the big networks and pay television providers that are finally making some decisions to move TV land forward. What’s driving this change? Three biggies:

1. Viewers’ increasing multi-screen behavior — now their TV is just one screen in a world of many. People often watch TV while multi-tasking with their tablet or smartphone. More and more, people want to carry their TV shows with them, and continue watching from different locations.

2. TV execs have realized that you will actually pay for digital content. Paywalls on some online news sites such as the New York Times and revenue on iTunes and other digital marketplaces have shown the money guys that you will actually hand over your hard-earned dough for content. So, they will soon end free broadcast TV. You can start the death countdown now. Viewership on broadcast TV is at its lowest ever Pokies, down from 69% in 1993 to 42% this year, according to Nielsen.

3. Small startups like Aereo have begun to offer free access to broadcast TV over the Internet, and are winning court cases to stay alive.

After Aereo got a reprieve from a federal judge, News Corp is now considering going to cable only. And now, Intel is trying to design a new online TV service that will let you control more of your viewing experience.

The coming transformation of TV promises to offer you:

–De-bundling so you don’t have to pay huge monthly fees for just the few channels you actually watch.

–Easier discoverability through better interfaces

–Smarter content relevant to your viewing history

–Easier and more affordable subscription options

Of course, everyone is waiting for what Apple will do with its rumored TV. Will they just make hardware, or are they going full-on with hardware and content?

What all this says is there is no business model for TV right now. Programmers are unwilling to hand-over rights for online TV because they don’t know what to charge for it. But they know they don’t want to end up like the music industry when Napster came along, so they’re scrambling. Either way, you win. TV will transform based on the way you want to consume it. Stay tuned!