Added On: Friday, September 03, 2010

Kleiner’s Laws

I found this piece on an interesting blog

Regarding Eugene Kleiner, one of the traitorous 8, the founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, an investor in Intel and one of the main founders of KPCB, a top VC firm. Basically this dude is the grand daddy of Silicon Valley.

He says some stuff that's worth contemplating for entrepreneurs.

Kleiner’s Laws

* Make sure the dog wants to eat the dog food. No matter how ground-breaking a new technology, how large a potential market, make certain customers actually want it.
* Build one business at a time. Most business plans are overly ambitious. Concentrate on being successful in one endeavor first.
* The time to take the tarts is when they’re being passed. If an environment is right for funding, go for it. Eugene, more than anyone, knew that venture capital goes in cycles.
* The problem with most companies is they don’t know what business they’re in.
* Even turkeys can fly in a high wind. In times of strong economies, even bad companies can look good.
* It’s easier to get a piece of an existing market than to create a new one.
* It’s difficult to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.
* After learning some of the tricks of the trade, some people think they know the trade. This reflected some of Eugene’s own humility; he recognized that many venture capitalists thought they were experts when they had just a bit of knowledge.
* Venture capitalists will stop at nothing to copy success.
* Invest in people, not just products. Eugene always respected founding entrepreneurs. He wanted to build companies with them not just with their ideas.

And, two others – frequently quoted:

* “There is a time when panic is the appropriate response.”
* “What tips me off that a business will be successful is that they have a narrow focus of what they want to do, and they plan a sufficient amount of effort and money to do it. Focus is essential.”

Added On: Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bored of this Blogger blog

Howdy folks .. Getting bored of this layout, I feel left behind not jumping on the Wordpress bandwagon. So expect a face lift real soon.

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

Outliers is a fantastic read. If Gladwell started out this book with the intention of changing one's perspective on how success is achieved, he has without a doubt succeeded.

He breaks down success with the 10,000 hour rule and the legacy of culture, all of which make perfect sense. If you have not realized yet, Gladwell has the uncanny ability to point out things that we overlook. He does it flawlessly here with stories of successful software billionaires, lawyers and doctors.

An interesting bit in this book is as personal as it gets, Gladwell's breakdown of his mother as an outlier. A set of perfectly timed events centuries ago that result in her ending up in Canada.

The word Interesting does not do justice to this book. I highly recommend it.


Added On: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Activate Simpati 3G dan GPRS for internet access with 3G modem

To activate 3G or GPRS for your Telkomsel Simpati sim card so you can use it on a 3G modem, do the following:

2 step process

'GPRS 62101118253*****' send to 6616 without quotes. The 16 digit number is written on your SIM Card. Registration takes 48 hours, but took 5 mins for me. Telkomsel will send you a confirmation sms.

'3G' TO 3636

Cost Rp. 5/kb, not cheap or as my medan friends would say 'Mahal Kali.'

Settings for modem:
apn telkomsel
username: wap
password: wap123
access number: *99#

Added On: Friday, January 22, 2010

Bring it on..

Greetings 2010, earlier this year people smsd and emailed wonderful greetings. They said this year would be better than the last. After 2009, anything would have been better. So far it feels the same. The psychics now say its going to be just as bad as last year. Haha, what do they know right..

I say bring it on, we're ready for anything... except for another natural disaster.

Added On: Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine

By Robert Capps

Photo: Kenji Aoki


Entire markets have been transformed by products that trade power or fidelity for low price, flexibility, and convenience.
Erin Biba

Net-based calls can be laggy, and they sometimes drop out in mid conversation. But they can also be free—even international calls—and it's easy to turn conversations into shareable MP3s. Skype now accounts for 8 percent of international calling minutes, and the service added nearly 38 million users in the second quarter of 2009, a 42 percent increase over the same period last year.

Amazon's Kindle can't display complex graphics, and paper still has much higher resolution. But the device does store hundreds of titles in a slim package, ensuring that you always have access to whichever Philip K. Dick tale you're in the mood for. The Kindle is expected to generate $310 million in revenue by the end of 2009. Barron's estimates that annual sales could reach $2 billion by 2012.

Its content may not be hi-def, and you're stuck watching it on a computer screen, but Hulu lets you catch recent television shows and popular movies whenever and wherever you want. For free. No wonder it has 40 million unique viewers—up from just 7 million a year ago.

In 2001, Jonathan Kaplan and Ariel Braunstein noticed a quirk in the camera market. All the growth was in expensive digital cameras, but the best-selling units by far were still cheap, disposable film models. That year, a whopping 181 million disposables were sold in the US, compared with around 7 million digital cameras. Spotting an opportunity, Kaplan and Braunstein formed a company called Pure Digital Technologies and set out to see if they could mix the rich chocolate of digital imaging with the mass-market peanut butter of throwaway point-and-shoots. They called their brainchild the Single Use Digital Camera and cobranded it with retailers, mostly pharmacies like CVS.

The concept looked promising, but it turned out to be fatally flawed. The problem, says Simon Fleming-Wood, a member of Pure Digital's founding management team, was that the business model relied on people returning the $20 cameras to stores in order to get prints and a CD. The retailers were supposed to send the used boxes back to Pure Digital, which would refurbish them, reducing the number of new units it had to manufacture. But customers didn't return the cameras fast enough. Some were content to view their pictures on the tiny 1.4-inch LCD and held on to the device, thinking they'd take it in later to get prints. Others figured out how to hack the camera so it would download to a PC, eliminating the need to return the thing altogether.

Brisk sales combined with a lack of speedy returns destroyed the company's thin margins, and the camera failed. But the experience taught Kaplan and Braunstein a lesson: Customers would sacrifice lots of quality for a cheap, convenient device. To keep the price down, Pure Digital had made significant trade-offs. It used inexpensive lenses and other components and limited the number of image-processing chips. The pictures were OK but not great. Yet Pure Digital sold 3 million cameras anyway.

Kaplan and Braunstein also learned something important about camera retailing in general. The market had long been split into two main segments: point-and-shoots (including disposables) and single-lens reflex cameras, which use interchangeable lenses and other high-end accessories. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of cameras sold then—as now—were the handy point-and-shoots; SLRs tended to attract only serious hobbyists and professionals.

Oddly, though, there was no point-and-shoot analogue in video cameras—and that's where the pair saw their next opportunity. Home videocams were almost without exception expensive, complicated devices loaded with features like image stabilization, night-vision mode, and onboard color correction. And even with tools like Apple's iMovie, it was a hassle to get footage off the cameras and onto a computer for editing and sharing. In terms of complexity and price, the camcorder market resembled the SLR market, but with no low-end alternative. Kaplan and Braunstein suspected that there might be a place for a much cheaper, simpler video camera. So they decided to make one.

After some trial and error, Pure Digital released what it called the Flip Ultra in 2007. The stripped-down camcorder—like the Single Use Digital Camera—had lots of downsides. It captured relatively low-quality 640 x 480 footage at a time when Sony, Panasonic, and Canon were launching camcorders capable of recording in 1080 hi-def. It had a minuscule viewing screen, no color-adjustment features, and only the most rudimentary controls. It didn't even have an optical zoom. But it was small (slightly bigger than a pack of smokes), inexpensive ($150, compared with $800 for a midpriced Sony), and so simple to operate—from recording to uploading—that pretty much anyone could figure it out in roughly 6.7 seconds.

Within a few months, Pure Digital could barely keep up with orders. Customers found that the Flip was the perfect way to get homebrew videos onto the suddenly flourishing YouTube, and the camera became a megahit, selling more than 1 million units in its first year. Today—just two years later—the Flip Ultra and its subsequent revisions are the best-selling video cameras in the US, commanding 17 percent of the camcorder market. Sony and Canon are now scrambling to catch up.

The Flip's success stunned the industry, but it shouldn't have. It's just the latest triumph of what might be called Good Enough tech. Cheap, fast, simple tools are suddenly everywhere. We get our breaking news from blogs, we make spotty long-distance calls on Skype, we watch video on small computer screens rather than TVs, and more and more of us are carrying around dinky, low-power netbook computers that are just good enough to meet our surfing and emailing needs. The low end has never been riding higher.

Photo: Kenji Aoki, Lego sculpture: Nathan Sawaya

On paper, netbooks might seem like crappy toys. They have almost no storage, processing power, or graphics capability. What they do have, though, is accessibility: Cheap, small, and light, they let you connect to the Internet from almost anywhere. Netbook shipments were up sevenfold in the first quarter of 2009.

Trade Shows
It sounds lame, and it is: virtual trade shows inhabited by eager sales avatars and their potential clients. No, it's not the same as meeting face-to-face, but with the economy flatlining, digital confabs are a working alternative. Analysts expect 5,000 virtual events next year, an increase of 500 percent for the industry.

They're not high-concept, and they don't feature celebrities (or even pictures). But text-based ads are highly targeted, incredibly cheap to produce, and make up 90 percent of Google's net revenue (and 45 percent of all Internet ad sales in the US).

-D Modeling Software
Rendering software like AutoCAD is notoriously hard to use. Google's SketchUp is dead simple. The result: It has been embraced by architects, engineers, educators, and artists. The full version costs $500—a pittance compared to AutoCAD's $4,000 price tag. SketchUp has become so popular, in fact, that Autodesk has responded with its own lo-res app: Project Dragonfly.

Illustrations: Quickhoney

So what happened? Well, in short, technology happened. The world has sped up, become more connected and a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services they buy is fundamentally changing. We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they're actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as "high-quality."

And it's happening everywhere. As more sectors connect to the digital world, from medicine to the military, they too are seeing the rise of Good Enough tools like the Flip. Suddenly what seemed perfect is anything but, and products that appear mediocre at first glance are often the perfect fit.

The good news is that this trend is ideally suited to the times. As the worst recession in 75 years rolls on, it's the light and nimble products that are having all the impact—exactly the type of thing that lean startups and small-scale enterprises are best at. And from impact can come big sales. "When the economy went south before Christmas last year, we worried that sales would be affected," says Pure Digital's Fleming-Wood. "But we sold a ton of cameras. In fact, we exceeded the goals we had set before the economy soured." And this year? Sales, he says, are up 200 percent. (Another payoff: In May, networking giant Cisco acquired Pure Digital for $590 million.)

To some, it looks like the crapification of everything. But it's really an improvement. And businesses need to get used to it, because the Good Enough revolution has only just begun.

Speaking at an Online publishers conference in London last October, New York University new-media studies professor Clay Shirky had a mantra to offer the assembled producers and editors: "Don't believe the myth of quality." When it comes to the future of media on the Web, Shirky sternly warned, resist the reflex to focus on high production values. "We're getting to the point where the Internet can support high-quality content, and it's as if what we've had so far has all been nice—a kind of placeholder—but now the professionals are coming," Shirky said. "That's not true." To reinforce his point, he pointed to the MP3. The music industry initially laughed off the format, he explained, because compared with the CD it sounded terrible. What record labels and retailers failed to recognize was that although MP3 provided relatively low audio quality, it had a number of offsetting positive qualities.

Shirky's point is crucial. By reducing the size of audio files, MP3s allowed us to get music into our computers—and, more important, onto the Internet—at a manageable size. This in turn let us listen to, manage, and manipulate tracks on our PCs, carry thousands of songs in our pockets, purchase songs from our living rooms, and share tracks with friends and even strangers. And as it turned out, those benefits actually mattered a lot more to music lovers than the single measure of quality we had previously applied to recorded music—fidelity. It wasn't long before record labels were wringing their hands over declining CD sales.

"There comes a point at which improving upon the thing that was important in the past is a bad move," Shirky said in a recent interview. "It's actually feeding competitive advantage to outsiders by not recognizing the value of other qualit ies." In other words, companies that focus on traditional measures of quality—fidelity, resolution, features—can become myopic and fail to address other, now essential attributes like convenience and shareability. And that means someone else can come along and drink their milk shake.

To a degree, the MP3 follows the classic pattern of a disruptive technology, as outlined by Clayton Christensen in his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma. Disruptive technologies, Christensen explains, often enter at the bottom of the market, where they are ignored by established players. These technologies then grow in power and sophistication to the point where they eclipse the old systems.

That is certainly part of what happens with Good Enough tech: MP3s entered at the bottom of the market, were ignored, and then turned the music business upside down. But oddly, audio quality never really readjusted upward. Sure, software engineers have cooked up new encoding algorithms that produce fuller sound without drastically increasing file sizes. And with recent increases in bandwidth and the advent of giant hard drives, it's now even possible to maintain, share, and carry vast libraries of uncompressed files. But better-sounding options have hardly gained any ground on the lo-fi MP3. The big advance—the one that had all the impact—was the move to easier-to-manage bits. Compared with that, improved sound quality just doesn't move the needle.

Photo: Kenji Aoki, Lego sculpture: Nathan Sawaya

Of course, there are those who appreciate the richer sound of uncompressed files, CDs, or even vinyl records (regarded by some audiophiles as the highest-fi format available). But most of us don't give it a second thought. In fact, there's evidence that consumers are simply adapting to the MP3's thin sound. Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford University, recently completed a six-year study of his students. Every year he asked new arrivals in his class to listen to the same musical excerpts played in a variety of digital formats—from standard MP3s to high-fidelity uncompressed files—and rate their preferences. Every year, he reports, more and more students preferred the sound of MP3s, particularly for rock music. They've grown accustomed to what Berger calls the percussive sizzle—aka distortion—found in compressed music. To them, that's what music is supposed to sound like.

What has happened with the MP3 format and other Good Enough technologies is that the qualities we value have simply changed. And the change is so profound that the old measures have almost lost their meaning. Call it the MP3 effect.

We've seen it again and again. Consider, for example, the rise of cloud computing. For years, software was something you bought and installed on your hard drive. A lot of it was made by Microsoft, which solidified its dominance by releasing ever more powerful, feature-laden updates. But with the advent of services like Gmail and Zoho Writer, many users are now turning to the Web for basic tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, and email. These cloud apps have inherent limits: They run through a browser window and can't directly access your local hard drive or processor. They lack features. Their performance depends on the strength of your Internet connection. Nevertheless, tens of millions of people use Gmail, while Zoho Writer boasts 1.8 million users and is growing at a rate of 100,000 subscribers a month. Microsoft, of course, is now jumping into the cloud as fast as it can. Redmond says that Office 2010 will be largely cloud-based. Not to be outdone, Google recently announced a mostly cloud-based operating system that will work in tandem with the company's Chrome browser.

Web tools are succeeding because they're Good Enough. They do most of what we need from a word processor or a spreadsheet or an email program or even an OS. But, like the MP3, they also offer other advantages. You can access them from any computer. If your hard drive crashes, you don't lose your work. And they are incredibly cheap—free in the case of simple tools or just a few dollars a month per user in the case of business apps.

Compare these qualities with those of the MP3 and the Flip, and a clear pattern emerges. The attributes that now matter most all fall under the rubric of accessibility. Thanks to the speed and connectivity of the digital age, we've stopped fussing over pixel counts, sample rates, and feature lists. Instead, we're now focused on three things: ease of use, continuous availability, and low price. Is it simple to get what we want out of the technology? Is it available everywhere, all the time—or as close to that ideal as possible? And is it so cheap that we don't have to think about price? Products that benefit from the MP3 effect capitalize on one or more of these qualities. And they'll happily sacrifice power and features to do so.

By traditional military standards, the MQ-1 Predator isn't much of a plane. Its top speed is a mere 135 miles per hour. It has an altitude ceiling of 25,000 feet. It carries only two 100-pound Hellfire missiles. It has a propeller. By comparison, an A-10 can travel 420 mph, cruise at 45,000 feet, and carry up to 16,000 pounds of bombs—not to mention a 30-mm gatling gun. An F-16 can reach a blistering 1,500 mph (Mach 2), climb to more than 50,000 feet, and back up its 20-mm multibarrel canon with six missiles.

All three of these aircraft are used for surveillance and close air support. But more and more, the military is relying on the unmanned Predator. In the past two years, it has logged more than 250,000 flight hours, nearly all of them in combat. It has been deployed to the Balkans, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Photo: Kenji Aoki, Lego sculpture: Michael Psiaski

Why, if manned planes are so superior, is the Predator saturating the combat market? Because military aircraft are experiencing their own version of the MP3 effect.

Over the past few decades, the armed services—like many industries—have been radically changed by the Internet and other modern communications technologies. Now that the military can digitize and share information quickly, engagements are conducted differently: Greater emphasis is being put on "situational awareness," the ability of remote commanders to know what's happening on a battlefield at all times. This in turn has altered what the military looks for in a plane, much the same way small digital files changed what music fans value in a recording.

There is at least one measure by which the Predator has piloted aircraft handily beat: the ability to maintain a constant presence in the air. That's because the drones are relatively cheap to build, can fly for more than 20 hours straight, and don't require pilots who need sleep, food, and bathroom breaks (and who might die if the plane is shot down). In Afghanistan and Iraq, a Predator is available pretty much anytime the military needs one. Accessibility, in other words, has become a dominant aircraft value—prized as much as, and sometimes more than, speed, altitude, and armament.

"Sustaining the sorts of operations we conduct with the Predator used to be virtually impossible," says Eric Mathewson, director of the Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force. "The idea of putting an aircraft over an area of interest 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, was simply unsustainable."

Piloted aircraft are still valuable, he's quick to add, but because the Predator can linger, it has enabled a new type of strategy—remotely guided surgical strikes with fewer troops and armaments. It's a lesson that surprised the Air Force and other services, Mathewson says, but one that has been learned definitively. "We're now looking at aircraft capabilities for the future that are even more persistent," he says. "We're exploring airships again, which could stay airborne for up to five years."

The impact of the Predator illustrates the potential of the MP3 effect to transform almost any market. In fact, Good Enough tech is already gaining a foothold in two other huge industries: the legal profession and health care.

Richard Granat is a pioneer in a field called elawyering. It shouldn't be confused with Web sites that merely offer legal documents for downloading, Granat explains. Elawyering involves actual lawyers, and clients who use these services get help sorting through legal issues.

Granat, who runs his own law firm and cochairs the American Bar Association's task force on elawyering, has designed and marketed a number of Web tools that walk people through common legal procedures. He created a child-support calculator, for example, which assists couples going through relatively amicable divorces. There's also a tool to help people decide whether they need Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. These widgets then generate legal forms, which may be reviewed by a licensed attorney who can make suggestions or offer advice over the phone.

It turns out to be a remarkably efficient way of offering what Granat calls legal transaction services—tasks that are document intensive. For everything from wills to adoptions to shareholder agreements, elawyering has numerous advantages. It's cheaper, for example; a no-fault divorce, Granat says, might run a fifth of what seeing an attorney would cost. It's also faster—customers can access the tools anytime and never have to interrupt their day to meet with someone in a distant office. Simply put, elawyering makes certain legal services more accessible.

There are trade-offs, of course. "The relationship has less richness than what you'd get from sitting in a lawyer's office," Granat says. "And if you have an issue that's more complex, then you still need to see a lawyer face-to-face." In other words, it's a lower-fidelity experience.

But for most simple legal interactions, elawyering is, well, Good Enough. It gets the job done, even if it doesn't let you ask every question or address every contingency. And not surprisingly, it's on the rise. "Elawyering will be mainstream in three years," Granat says. "I predict that in five years, if you're a small firm and don't offer this kind of Web service, you're not going to make it."

Photo: Kenji Aoki, Lego sculpture: Nathan Sawaya

In the case of health care, the Good Enough mindset can be seen in a new initiative by Kaiser Permanente. The largest not-for-profit medical organization in the country, Kaiser has long relied on a simple strategy of building complete, self-sustaining hospitals—employing 50 doctors or more—in each region it serves. "It's an efficient model," says Michele Flanagin, Kaiser's vice president of delivery systems strategy. "It offers one-stop shopping: pharmacy and radiology and everything you want from health care in one building." But that approach forces patients who don't live near a hospital to drive a long way for even the most routine doctor's appointment.

As it happens, though, Kaiser has become one of the most technologically advanced health care providers in the country, digitizing everything from patient records and doctors' notes to lab data and prescriptions and putting it all online. The system is networked, so patients can email their doctor, check lab results, and make appointments from their PC or mobile Web device. Getting a referral doesn't mean carrying medical records from one doctor to another, as it does at many hospitals.

In 2007, Flanagin and her colleagues wondered what would happen if, instead of building a hospital in a new area, Kaiser just leased space in a strip mall, set up a high tech office, and hired two doctors to staff it. Thanks to the digitization of records, patients could go to this "microclinic" for most of their needs and seamlessly transition to a hospital farther away when necessary. So Flanagin and her team began a series of trials to see what such an office could do. They cut everything they could out of the clinics: no pharmacy, no radiology. They even explored cutting the receptionist in favor of an ATM-like kiosk where patients would check in with their Kaiser card.

What they found is that the system performed very well. Two doctors working out of a microclinic could meet 80 percent of a typical patient's needs. With a hi-def video conferencing add-on, members could even link to a nearby hospital for a quick consult with a specialist. Patients would still need to travel to a full-size facility for major trauma, surgery, or access to expensive diagnostic equipment, but those are situations that arise infrequently.

If that 80 percent number rings a bell, it's because of the famous Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. And it happens to be a recurring theme in Good Enough products. You can think of it this way: 20 percent of the effort, features, or investment often delivers 80 percent of the value to consumers. That means you can drastically simplify a product or service in order to make it more accessible and still keep 80 percent of what users want—making it Good Enough—which is exactly what Kaiser did.

Flanagin believes these clinics will enable Kaiser to add thousands of new members. And they'll do it for less. The per-member cost at a microclinic is roughly half that of a full Kaiser hospital. The first microclinic is set to open in Hawaii early next year. Medical care is now poised for its own manifestation of the MP3 effect.

The phenomenon certainly won't stop with hospitals, lawyers, and military campaigns. As more and more industries move their business online, they too will find success in Good Enough tools that focus on maximizing accessibility. It's a reflection of our new value system. We've changed. To benefit from the MP3 effect, companies will have to change as well.

No one understands this better than the folks at Pure Digital Technologies. Two years ago, the Flip Ultra nailed all three of those accessibility traits: It was significantly less expensive than other digital video cameras—so much so, it almost seemed an impulse buy in comparison. It was much easier to use, not only for shooting video but also for uploading clips to the Internet. And its pocketable size and Web-sharing abilities made video available anytime, anywhere. The Flip hit the Good Enough trifecta.

When asked why he thinks the Flip has succeeded where more powerful videocams—and even new Flip knockoffs from the likes of Sony—have failed, Pure Digital's Fleming-Wood has an interesting answer: "I think it's because we have a better product." What's odd is that executives at Sony and Canon would likely say the same thing—after all, their models have far more features and often produce sharper images. But Fleming-Wood is using a different definition of "better." He now defines quality entirely in terms of ease of use—how easy it is to shoot and share the video. "The one thing everyone wants to do with their footage is show it to someone else," he says.

Even so, it's easy to imagine that feature creep will one day seep into the Flip. After all, the company recently released models that record in HD, so why not image stabilization or a bigger LCD—or hey, how about a touchscreen! "We will always prioritize accessibility over features," Fleming-Wood insists. The increase in pixel count, he says, is simply the result of Moore's law advances in chip speed and storage capacity, not a signal that Pure Digital is changing its focus. Once HD components became available that would not drastically raise the price of the camera or make it harder to use, "it made no sense not to go HD," Fleming-Wood says. He points out that Pure Digital has yet to include other features like an optical zoom or image stabilization, adding that he knows people love the Flip because of how simple it makes recording and sharing video. "We will never sacrifice that."

When he thinks about how the Flip line will improve in the future, Fleming-Wood envisions adding features that will make the video even easier to share. "Well, we could add Wi-Fi or cell connectivity, so if you were filming your kid's soccer game, you could be uploading the footage to the Web in real time so Grandma could watch from home," he says with a daydreamer's enthusiasm. To do something that ambitious, of course, might require sacrificing some of that HD image quality. No problem, as long as it's Good Enough.

Senior editor Robert Capps ( wrote about Judd Apatow in issue 15.06.

Added On: Monday, December 07, 2009

Apple’s Game Changer, Downloading No

IAN LYNCH SMITH, a shaggy-haired ball of energy in his late 30s, beams as he ticks off some of the games that Freeverse, his little Brooklyn software company, has landed on the iPhone App Store’s coveted (and ever-changing) list of best-selling downloads: Moto Chaser, Flick Fishing, Flick Bowling and Skee-ball.

Skee-ball, Mr. Smith says, took about two months to develop and deploy and then raked in $181,000 for Freeverse in one month. The company’s latest bid for App Store fame? A game featuring a Jane Austen character in a lacy dress who karate-chops her way through hordes of advancing zombies.

“There’s never been anything like this experience for mobile software,” Mr. Smith says of the App Store boom. “This is the future of digital distribution for everything: software, games, entertainment, all kinds of content.”

As the App Store evolves from a kitschy catalog of novelty applications into what analysts and aficionados describe as a platform that is rapidly transforming mobile computing and telephony, it is changing the goals and testing the patience of developers, bolstering sales of the Apple motherships the applications ride upon — the iPhone and iPod Touch — and causing Apple’s competitors to overhaul their product lines and business models. It even threatens to open chinks in Apple’s own corporate armor.

Thanks in large part to the iPhone, introduced in 2007, and the App Store, which opened its doors last year, smartphones have become the Swiss Army knives of the digital age.

They provide a staggering arsenal of functions and tools at the swipe of a finger: e-mail and text messaging, video and photography, maps and turn-by-turn navigation, media and books, music and games, mobile shopping, and even wireless keys that remotely unlock cars.

“Apple changed the view of what you can do with that small phone in your back pocket,” says Katy Huberty, a Morgan Stanley analyst. “Applications make the smartphone trend a revolutionary trend — one we haven’t seen in consumer technology for many years.”

Ms. Huberty likens the advent of the App Store and the iPhone to AOL’s pioneering role in driving broad-based consumer adoption of the Internet in the 1990s. She also draws comparisons to ways in which laptops have upended industry assumptions about consumer preferences and desktop computing. But, she notes, something even more profound may now be afoot.

“The iPhone is something different. It’s changing our behavior,” she says. “The game that Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.”

The popularity of Apple’s app model has reached a fever pitch. Tens of thousands of independent developers are clamoring to write programs for it, and the App Store’s virtual shelves are stocked with more than 100,000 applications. Apple recently said that consumers had downloaded more than two billion applications from its store.

Major players like Research in Motion (maker of the BlackBerry), Palm (maker of the Pre), Google (maker of the Android mobile operating system) and Microsoft (maker of Windows Mobile) are taking note and scrambling to replicate the App Store frenzy.

App fever has even prompted cities like New York and San Francisco to open reservoirs of city data to the public to spur software developers to create hyperlocal applications for computers and phones.

One need not look further than the lobby of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., to see that the iPhone and applications that run on it are centerpieces of the company’s mobile strategy. Planted squarely in the lobby of the main office, at 1 Infinite Loop, is an impressive, 24-foot-wide array built out of 20 LED screens populated with 20,000 tiny, brightly colored icons.

As Philip W. Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing at Apple, describes how the wall works — each time an application is purchased, the corresponding icon on the electronic billboard jiggles, causing its neighbors to ripple in unison — he, too, becomes animated.

Normally reserved and on message, Mr. Schiller waves his hands back and forth and allows his voice to ascend into giddy registers as he speaks about the potential unleashed by the App Store.

“I absolutely think this is the future of great software development and distribution,” Mr. Schiller says. “The idea that anyone, all the way from an individual to a large company, can create software that is innovative and be carried around in a customer’s pocket is just exploding. It’s a breakthrough, and that is the future, and every software developer sees it.”

APPLE cloaks most of its inner workings in a shroud of secrecy — a tactic that has helped preserve the company’s mystique and generate intense interest in its product rollouts.

But the App Store relies on vast cadres of outside developers to populate its virtual shelves with products, leaving Apple in the unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable position of having to collaborate with folks who haven’t drunk the company’s corporate Kool-Aid.

This has led Apple to be deeply supportive of developers once shunned by big telecommunications companies, while also frustrating many of them more recently with what developers see as the company’s inscrutable and arbitrary process for accepting programs into the App Store.

Apple frames the issue differently.

“I think, by and large, we do a very good job there,” Mr. Schiller said. “Sometimes we make a judgment call both ways, that people give us feedback on, either rejecting something that perhaps on second consideration shouldn’t be, or accepting something that on second consideration shouldn’t be.”

For Apple, the review process is a necessary evil. The company places high value on what it describes as “customer trust,” or the idea that users have faith that an application distributed on the iPhone won’t crash the platform, steal personal information or contain illegal content.

Mr. Schiller says the majority of applications sail through the review with no difficulty, and those that do require greater scrutiny are largely those that are slowed down by bugs or glitches in the coding.

“We care deeply about the feedback, both good and bad,” he says. “While there are some complaints, they are just a small fraction of what happens in the process.”

Apple says it receives more than 10,000 application submissions each week. Most become available in the App Store within two weeks (creating yet another problem: the difficulty consumers have in efficiently and effectively trolling through 100,000 apps to find hidden gems they hadn’t known about).

Still, the App Store is markedly better than the alternative, says Peter Farago, a marketing executive at Flurry, a mobile analytics company in San Francisco. Gone are the days when mobile developers had to negotiate with major telecommunications companies if they had any hopes of publishing their applications on a mobile phone.

“It took six to nine months to build a relationship with a carrier, maybe a quarter-million to get the infrastructure built, and the company took 50 percent or more from each dollar,” Mr. Farago says, a process that limited access to mobile platforms. “Apple has helped create a much healthier middle class of developers and expanded the pie for everyone.”

Apple pockets 30 percent of the revenue earned by any App Store program, with developers keeping the balance. Although barriers to entry for software developers have dropped considerably, Mr. Farago acknowledges that “friction points have changed.”

Developers now cite instances in which applications have been held in approval limbo, neither accepted nor rejected for months. And as bigger companies begin churning out programs, the smaller, garage-size outfits worry that they will be squeezed out.

FreedomVoice Systems, a company in San Diego, couldn’t wait to roll out a mobile version of its telephone software for the iPhone. The company submitted an application to the App Store last year and excitedly waited. And waited. And kept waiting.

“We’re facing 396 days with no contact from Apple,” says Eric Thomas, chief executive of FreedomVoice. “The app has been ‘pending’ in the App Store for a year.”

Mr. Thomas says he understands that it is Apple’s decision whether to accept his app. “But the idea they wouldn’t tell us it was a no — or even why — so we could try to do something about it,” he said, “is a very strange and unneighborly approach.”

Freeverse, which Mr. Smith founded in 1994, also creates games and desktop programs for computers. But like legions of other software developers, the company shifted its focus to the iPhone as the popularity of the device skyrocketed. But that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy road to riches.

“For our size and seriousness, we are still treated like a college freshman who is doing this as a side project,” Mr. Smith says. “The trade-off being that there is a much lower barrier to entry for developers. Anyone can have a shot.”

No one knows that better than Cerulean Studios, a software firm in Brookfield, Conn. After e-mail generated only automated responses from Apple for three months, Cerulean got a call in November from an Apple employee.

“He didn’t say much, just that our app would be going live in the App Store that afternoon,” recalls Scott Werndorfer, a co-founder of Cerulean. “We knew what we were getting into with Apple. They want everything to be pixel perfect, and you have to play ball by their rules.”

Some Apple developers are willing to go to greater lengths — underground — to avoid dealing with Apple’s policies and to get their software out quickly and on their own terms. To do that, they create programs for “jailbroken” iPhones and iPod Touches. Such devices are modified to allow anyone to upload a program onto them, which Apple says is illegal.

“Developers are just tired of the review process and navigating opaque hurdles,” says Mario Ciabarra, who operates Rock Your Phone, an online storefront containing a small catalog of applications for jailbroken iPhones. “They’ve been defecting to the jailbroken community or other platforms, such as Android. That demand has created the marketplace for our products and attracted developers.”

Mr. Ciabarra says about 1.5 million iPhones have visited his storefront, an impressive figure though still a small fraction of the 50 million iPhones and iPod Touches that Apple says it has sold.

As the App Store has matured, so has the need to come up with more sophisticated ways to profit from it. Simply having a great application is not enough. Bart Decrem, chief executive of Tapulous, a start-up company that publishes musical rhythm games, recalls the early days when it was enough to develop a shiny application that used the iPhone.

The company’s first game, Tap Tap Revenge, was available in the App Store when it opened in 2008. It quickly climbed the store’s charts, and Apple eventually ranked it as the most popular free iPhone game that year.

These days, Mr. Decrem says, that kind of instant and relatively easy success is much rarer because more companies are competing in the App Store. They include giant game publishers like Electronic Arts, which recently released a version of its popular video game Rock Band for the iPhone.

“It’s still the Wild West, but the stakes are higher,” Mr. Decrem says.

Tapulous has begun working with record labels and musicians to introduce paid special editions of Tap Tap Revenge featuring big-name artists. “Simply selling applications is ultimately not a scalable model,” he says.

IT’S unclear how concerned Apple is about some of the tensions swirling around the App Store. The company’s App Store policies have faced criticism — and even prompted a Federal Communications Commission investigation of Apple’s decision to reject an iPhone application developed by Google, which is still under way. Critics say they wonder whether the company can be trusted to maintain a fair marketplace, especially when developers release products that could compete with Apple’s current or future line of products.

Apple runs the App Store under the aegis of its iTunes unit (the operation that, wedded to the iPod, transformed music downloading in a way that analysts say the App Store, wedded to the iPhone, is now transforming mobile computing).

“A rocket ship is even too small of an analogy,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president for iTunes, of the App Store’s popularity. “We’ve been able to leverage a lot of our iTunes technology for the App Store. But it’s completely different. We’re reviewing all of those apps. We really don’t have to review each and every song.”

Apple executives are quick to point out the importance of ensuring that third-party applications run smoothly and provide a high-quality experience for users.

“Our goal is very simple: We want to have the best platform for applications that there has ever been on any product,” notes Mr. Schiller, the marketing executive. “We know we’re not perfect, but we know we’re better than anything else that has been and we want to keep improving it.”

Apple says it has increased the number of product reviewers working on the App Store and has tried to improve and streamline the way it communicates with developers.

The App Store’s success — as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors — has given rise to a new digital ecosystem. Today, hundreds of software aspirants, from individuals tinkering in their bedrooms late at night to established companies looking for lucrative new revenue streams, are jumping into the App Store fray.

And smartphone manufacturers across the board are trying to make their platforms more attractive and lucrative to bring in the kind of creativity and enthusiasm that Apple has.

It’s easy to see why: Although Apple doesn’t release specific financial figures for the App Store, analysts estimate that it generates as much as a billion dollars a year in revenue for Apple and its developers.

At a recent conference in San Francisco organized by Research in Motion for BlackBerry developers, the company said it would make several changes to its mobile operating system to increase the kinds of applications developers can create for its devices, including allowing advertising and e-commerce within applications. Jim Balsillie, a co-chief executive of Research in Motion, says he isn’t focusing on the sheer number of apps available on a BlackBerry (3,000) but on their utility.

“Is it about 20,000 apps or 200,000 apps or is it about changing those 20,000 apps and their deep integration and how they interrelate to one another?” asks Mr. Balsillie. “We’re much more interested in changing the applications and changing the user experience and really unlocking the promise and the money and revenue opportunity for the ecosystem.”

Regardless, says Mr. Balsillie, apps and smartphones have created a new playing field.

“It’s inevitable that all cellphones will be smartphones,” he says. “There will be more services and new ways to monetize and more consumption. Growth is a given; it’s just a question of who is going to innovate in the right way to drive that value proposition to capture that growth.”

ALTHOUGH Palm is still rolling out the e-commerce portion of its own app store, called the App Catalog, the company hopes to draw developers to write for Palm devices like the Pre because Palm’s operating system, called webOS, is based largely on the same programming languages used to create Web sites — meaning developers are already familiar with the tools they will need to create mobile apps.

So far, however, Palm offers 500 applications, a relatively slim selection compared with the iPhone, and many analysts believe that this has made the device less attractive to consumers. Palm, like Research in Motion, says it doesn’t need an avalanche of applications to compete.

“Two years ago, the iPhone blew away expectations for what mobile devices are capable of. And mobile devices and applications are the future of the computing industry,” says Ben Galbraith, co-director of Palm’s developer relations team. “But the market is becoming saturated with a large volume of applications. When you’re number 50,000 out of 200,000, how do you survive?”

Palm says it is offering a breezier review process to developers — including allowing them the option of submitting their programs as candidates for Palm’s App Catalog or immediately publishing their applications in a third-party, online storefront — which may help it avoid some of the conflicts plaguing Apple’s relationship with developers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, which analysts have criticized for its sluggish approach to the smartphone market, also says it is emphasizing quality for the application store it introduced in October, Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

“Our strategy is to look holistically at how we can provide the best all-around user experience,” says Victoria Grady, director of mobile strategy at Microsoft. The Marketplace now has more than 800 apps.

Many developers and analysts think Google’s mobile operating system, most recently placed in the Motorola Droid, may evolve into the fiercest competitor to the iPhone. Unlike Apple, Google has eschewed a review process, allowing any developer to publish an application to the Android Marketplace, its version of the App Store, instantly. About 14,000 applications are available for Android-powered smartphones.

“We’re doing everything we can to open the device to both developers and consumers,” says Eric Chu, group manager of the Android platform at Google. “That is a critical part of what we think makes Android unique: applications are no longer limited to a single device.”

Mr. Chu said the growing number of Android-powered phones available on multiple wireless carriers increases the financial opportunity for developers. “Last year at this time, we only had one device,” he says. “The volume is going up at a tremendous pace, and the developer ecosystem is seeing that.”

Besides being a business opportunity for all of these companies, apps offerings may also be a matter of survival in a make-or-break market. Apple has another strong advantage: the iPhone offers developers a uniform, standard platform.

“When we create an application for the iPhone, you know it’s going to run exactly as you tested it on every single model,” says David Lieb, co-founder of Bump Technologies, which creates software that lets users share contact information by tapping two phones together. “The same isn’t true for the rest of the smartphones, which have varying screen sizes, processor speeds and form factors.”

HOWEVER the competitive landscape shapes up, the App Store phenomenon shows no signs of slowing. IDC, a technology research firm, predicts that the number of iPhone apps will triple next year, fueled by the growing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices. Along the way, analysts say, the App Store will continue to upend the architecture of the smartphone business and threaten competitors that don’t have vibrant and extensive offerings.

The way the industry once operated, “Each handset company would come up with its latest iterations and maybe have the hottest device of the season or not,” says Ms. Huberty, the Morgan Stanley analyst. “Enter apps into the equation, and that changes. It goes from being a product cycle game to a platform game.”

“People will look back on the iPhone as a turning point in the industry,” says Craig Moffett, a telecom analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein. “The iPhone will be remembered as the first true handheld computer.”

Added On: Saturday, November 28, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 smashes industry records

November 27, 2009 | Tom Slater

The latest in a parade of hits, Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has sold an estimated $550 million in the first five days of its release, bringing the entire The Call of Duty series $3 billion in sales between its six titles.

Modern Warfare 2 officially smashed opening-day sales records with 4.7 million copies sold in its first day in the U.S. and U.K. alone. To put that in perspective, James Bond has been a franchise for 47 years and grossed just over $5 billion.

Activision isn’t the only company growing fat on Modern Warfare’s success. GameStop, an online gaming retailer, sold 2.5 million copies of MW2 within three days of its release. Not coincidentally, GameStop’s Q3 sales rose to $1.82 billion, up from $1.7 billion in Q2. Activision ended the day’s trading up 0.09 percent, closing at $11.57.

“If you consider the number of hours our audiences are engaged in playing Call of Duty games, it is likely to be one of the most viewed of all entertainment experiences in modern history,” says Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision.

MW2 includes over 40 types of weapon and presents the player with the option of participating in a civilian massacre — a controversial move that VentureBeat reporter Dean Takahashi examined in his review of the game. This scene has inspired some outcry: There were early reports that it was banned in Russia. In fact, the game was released there, but without the massacre scene. To help offset some of the outrage over the massacre concept, Activision has donated $1 million to veteran’s groups in the U.S.

MW2’s launch beat every previous-best first and five-day launch in the entertainment industry: box office, book releases and video games launches alike have been humbled by its sales. Previously, the five-day sales of Grand Theft Auto IV held the record at 6 million units and $500 million dollars. MW2 has been so successful, in fact, that a special edition of the game is being offered with full functioning night vision goggles. So far, no handgun edition has been announced.

Added On: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inside Google's Advertising Empire

Google's announced plans to buy display-ad company Teracent. Here's a look at how the purchase fits into Google's advertising empire and your online life.

JR Raphael, PC World
Monday, November 23, 2009 03:00 PM PST

Google's gobbling up another advertising company, the search giant has announced. Google will acquire Teracent, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in "intelligent display advertising." Yep -- that means more online ads customized specifically for your visit.
Teracent, of course, is far from Google's first foray into the online advertising world; as most people who use the Web can't help but know, Google-served ads are practically everywhere these days. Here's an overall look at Google's ad-related acquisitions and how they play into your online life.

Teracent: Google's Display-Advertising Acquisition

Reading the way Google describes Teracent, it's not hard to understand how it'll fit into the company's advertising ecosystem.

"Teracent's technology can pick and choose from literally thousands of creative elements of a display ad in real-time -- tweaking images, products, messages or colors," Google's official blog posting explains. "These elements can be optimized depending on factors like geographic location, language, the content of the website, the time of day or the past performance of different ads."

Teracent's technology is expected to become available to advertisers using Google's Content Network and DoubleClick program. Yahoo, incidentally, announced an advertising partnership with Teracent earlier this year. There's no word yet how the Google acquisition could affect that relationship (though "badly" might be a logical guess).

Google's Past Ad Acquisitions

The Teracent acquisition comes just two weeks after Google announced it was buying mobile advertising provider AdMob -- a deal worth a whopping $750 million in stock. AdMob focuses primarily on display ads and mobile application ads. Translation: Get ready to see a whole lot of Google-powered advertising on your mobile phone.

Prior to AdMob, Google's ad-related acquisitions had revolved around the Web and even the airwaves. (Some say the G-gang is also aiming for in-brain advertising, though I'm pretty sure those rumors are unfounded.) So what are some of the other noteworthy purchases, and how have they affected you? Time for the quick tour:

• DoubleClick: Bought for $3.1 billion in 2007, DoubleClick delivered a massive network of advertisers into Google's already-strong advertising system. You can thank DoubleClick for all the Google-run display and rich-media ads around the Net -- prior to DC's entry, those had been a relatively small part of Google's advertising empire.

• AdScape: In-game advertising firm AdScape entered the Google domain in March of 2007, drawing speculation of massive Google-led virtual worlds on the way. To its credit, Google did launch Lively last summer. It took only a matter of months, however, for the service -- which, by some accounts, had turned largely into a virtual teenage groping ground -- to get shut down.

What's AdScape doing now? Good question. It's somewhere in Google's advertising empire, just presumably in a quiet corner. One day, though, the big G's targeted advertising may pop up in a game near you.

• dMarc Broadcasting: Even further down on the list of not-quite-so-successful ad attempts is dMarc Broadcasting, bought by Google in January of 2006. The company was meant to help Google get into radio advertising, and it did -- for a short while.

Earlier this year, the Google radio ad idea died, effectively sending dMarc to the gDump and Google ads off of America's airwaves.

• Applied Semantics: Ah, the one that started it all. Google grabbed Applied Semantics in 2003, marking the beginning of the AdSense program and Google's status as a serious advertising player. You know all those little text ads that pop up on Google searches and on countless other Web sites? You can thank Applied Semantics for getting that ball rolling and providing the foundation for the various Google ads we see today.

Google Acquisitions: The Next Steps

So who's next on Google's acquisition wish list? Possibly Microsoft or Digg, if you buy into these satirical suggestions (I wouldn't advise it).

In reality, though, the one safe prediction to make is that we'll see plenty more Google purchases soon, and odds are, it won't be long before one of them brings another new twist to the company's massive ad network. If you want anything more specific, well, you can try Googling it -- but I somehow doubt you'll find the answer.

JR Raphael is co-founder of geek-humor site eSarcasm. You can keep up with him on Twitter: @jr_raphael.

Added On: Friday, November 20, 2009

Colum McCann wins major US fiction prize

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Colum McCann's September 11 novel Let the Great World Spin picked up the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction, one of the most significant literary awards in the US next to the Pulitzer Prize. Winners were announced November 18 during a ceremony in New York City.

National Book Awards are given in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature. Other 2009 awards went to T.J. Stiles's The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbuilt for nonfiction; Keith Waldrop's Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy for poetry; and Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice for young people's literature. Hoose was joined onstage by the early civil rights heroine who inspired his novel.

The Best of the National Book Awards, a special prize celebrating the awards' 60th anniversary, was based on public online voting after finalists were selected. Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories won; finalists included books by John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Thomas Pynchon and Eudora Welty.

Dave Eggers won the 2009 Literarian Award, recognizing "outstanding literary service to the American literary community." His 2006 work What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, won France's Medicis literary prize in November; his other novels include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. An author, editor, journalist, publisher, screenwriter, Eggers is co-founder of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth, and of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house.

Author and activist Gore Vidal accepted a lifetime achievement award honoring Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The National Book Awards have recognized excellence in American literature since 1950. The winners, who are selected by a jury, each receive a $10,000 cash prize and a bronze sculpture; finalists each receive $1,000, a medal, and a citation from the panel jury.

Added On: Monday, November 16, 2009


When Oscar De La Hoya hung up his gloves for good this past February, it prompted the immediate question to fight fans - "Who will be the next Oscar?" The answer may be not as obvious as it seems.
November 2, 2009 - by Dave Larzelere

For nearly a decade, Oscar De La Hoya ruled the fight game as its marquee pay-per-view attraction. Every time he fought, it was an event guaranteed to generate huge amounts of cash and crossover interest. After Mike Tyson exited the stage, De La Hoya was the only fighter left standing who could regularly put boxing on the front of America's sports pages.

When Oscar announced in February that he was hanging up the gloves, the news provoked considerable angst among dedicated sweet scientists. They envisioned a period of waning interest and malaise similar to what the NBA suffered in the post-Jordan years.

Eight months after De La Hoya's farewell, the battle lines of the post-Oscar era have begun to take shape. Two fighters stand poised to inherit the 'crown, both with such compelling (and contrasting) claims on the throne that they may as well represent the houses of Lancaster and York. But as Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather jostle to become the sport's new reigning king, there's reason to suspect that the next generation of boxing will not be dominated by a single, over-arching superstar, but rather by a talented group of worthy contenders all vying for top-dog status.

To hear Floyd Mayweather tell it, however, those contenders are all pretenders. "I'm the cash cow," he says regularly. "All roads lead to me."

Mayweather certainly made a strong case for that claim in his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in September. In a virtuosic performance, he showed not a trace of ring rust after a near two-year absence from boxing, pitching a virtual shutout on the scorecards against a man deemed among the top two or three pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

At the box office, the event was a blockbuster success, doing a million pay-per-view buys and confounding the predictions of many boxing insiders who thought it would struggle with sales due to the pronounced size difference between the welterweight Mayweather and the lightweight Marquez.

"Floyd proved himself as the A-side of an event-type fight," says HBO boxing analyst, Max Kellerman. "He proved that he is now an event-maker like Oscar was."
The fight was a mismatch, as it turned out, but fans tuned in anyway. For Floyd Mayweather, the star of the show, that success was almost as satisfying as his victory in the ring. "Floyd proved himself as the A-side of an event-type fight," says HBO boxing analyst, Max Kellerman. "He proved that he is now an event-maker like Oscar was."

Mayweather, however, is not the only man to anchor a major boxing event in 2009. In May, Manny Pacquiao generated rave reviews and media buzz when he knocked out Ricky Hatton in front of a packed house at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight did 850,000 pay-per-view buys, announcing to everyone that the Filipino sensation known as Pac Man had officially crossed over to mainstream stardom in the U.S.

Most expect Pacquaio's November 14th bout with Miguel Cotto to equal or exceed the Hatton numbers, and though Cotto is acknowledged as perhaps the toughest opponent of his career, Pacquiao remains a heavy favorite to win the fight. If Pacquaio does get past Cotto, and the event matches the PPV success of Mayweather/Marquez, it sets up a natural super-fight for 2010 in which the winner could immediately inherit De La Hoya's place atop the sport. A Pacquiao-Mayweather fight could be the best thing to happen to boxing in a long time, even better than the attention-grabbing mega-fights of the De La Hoya era.

"Sports are at their strongest," says Kellerman, "when their No. 1 box office attraction is also their best participant. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali. The problem with De La Hoya was that during the period where he was the number one box office attraction, he was never the best guy. What's interesting about a potential Pacquiao vs. Mayweather situation is that the winner of that fight would certainly be viewed as the best fighter in the sport and the biggest box office attraction."

Of course, doubts linger about either Pacquiao or Mayweather possessing enough star power to carry boxing in the fashion of De La Hoya. With Mayweather, there's the issue of his fighting identity as a consummately skilled boxer whose bouts are often less than exhilarating to watch. Then there is the simple question of casting. Floyd has played the villain for years now, and though "bad guys" often have been huge stars in boxing, Mayweather may find it hard to reach a De La Hoya-level of universal appeal while working the Darth Vader angle.

For his part, Pacquiao has the good guy role down pat. He's humble, eminently likable, and thrill-a-minute in the ring. His electrifying style has won him a devoted cult of fans among professional athletes—Kevin Garnett, Derek Jeter, and Kobe Bryant among them.

But is he a true Golden Boy? Will the American sports audience ever completely give itself over to a small Filipino fighter who speaks very little English? And will Pacquiao stick around long enough to see it happen? Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, has said that his charge will fight only once more after Cotto, and he's even gone so far as to suggest that Cotto might be his last bout.

There are, of course, many more fighters on the scene today who could become breakout stars—Cotto, Andre Berto, Chad Dawson, Paul Williams. There's a former pound-for-pound king, Shane Mosley, still at the top of his game and holding a major belt at 147 pounds, and a young welterweight in Mexico, Saul Alvarez, is already being anointed the heir to Julio Cesar Chavez.

De La Hoya's retirement ended a chain of dominant superstars in boxing that can be traced back to the 1960's, from Oscar to Tyson to Sugar Ray Leonard to Muhammad Ali. But the baton was not passed seamlessly among that quartet. In the pre-Tyson period from about 1982 to 1986, when Ali had retired and Ray Leonard fought only twice, the sport was dominated not by one gigantic superstar, but a handful of big names, names like Larry Holmes, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Ray Mancini.

This is a period remembered by boxing fans as a golden era for the sport. Today, the fight game has the same potential for a group of thrilling and talented fighters, many occupying the same general weight penumbra, to fill the De La Hoya vacuum with a cutthroat struggle for supremacy in which boxing fans are the definitive winners. It's good to keep this in mind as we sit and wonder whether Pacquiao or Mayweather will be the next monarch of boxing's unruly kingdom. Maybe it will be neither, and maybe, the kingdom will be all the better for it.


In the lead-up to their fight, many wondered whether Manny Pacquiao could handle the power of a hard-punching welterweight like Miguel Cotto. Tonight Pacquiao answered with a resounding yes, taking Cotto's best shots and breaking down the Puerto Rican with speed and precision to take his welterweight crown.
November 14, 2009 - by Dave Larzelere | Photos by Will Hart & Ed Mulholland

With utter fighting mastery, Manny Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto with a TKO in the 12th round at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas tonight, taking Cotto's WBO welterweight belt in a sensational performance that left no question that Pacquiao is not only one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of his generation, but one of the best of all time.

It's a record seventh world title for Pacquiao in seven different weight classes, proving himself perhaps a more complete and explosive fighting machine as a welterweight than he was when he won his first world title eleven years ago as a 112-pound flyweight. For Cotto, meanwhile, though it was only the second loss of his great career, it was a nevertheless a devastating evening, as he found himself on the receiving end of a thorough beating that had him retreating so dramatically at the end of the bout that boos were heard throughout the sold-out arena.

It was a much different story early in the fight, however, when a confident Cotto went on the attack. In the first four rounds, it appeared the showdown was going to follow the script set out for it by many boxing pundits as a memorable war between Cotto's considerable power and Pacquiao's electrifying speed. Cotto's well-timed jab seemed to neutralize Pacquiao'shandspeed in the first frame, and using his own underrated speed, he was able to land heavier shots onPacquiao than the Filipino sensation has absorbed in recent memory.

In fact, tonight's major story may be just how well Pacquiao took those shots. Going into the fight, the public knew how fast Pacquiao was, and also knew that he had knockdown power in both hands. But one thing the world learned tonight about Manny Pacquiao was that he can walk through gigantic punches from a bruising welterweight on the order of Cotto, a man long known for breaking down his opponents with the ferocity of his attack.

Despite Cotto's landing head-snapping jabs and hooks, the speed differential started to show in Pacquiao's favor in the second round, and in the third, he drew first blood with a sneaky-fast right hand that sent Cotto stumbling and then bracing himself with a glove on the canvas - the first knockdown of the fight. The second, a much more convincing knockdown, came in the very next round, as Pacquiao, having languished on the ropes for much of the round, exploded with a roundhouse left that caught Cotto lunging and sent him sprawling to the canvas, clearly injured.

It's arguable that Cotto never quite recovered from that knockdown. He fought a cagey fifth round and may have tipped the frame in his favor, but after that it was all Pacquiao in a frightening onslaught. By the seventh, Cotto had begun to circle the ring relentlessly to stay out Pacquiao wheelhouse, and by the ninth, swollen and bloodied, he was merely in survival mode, desperately trying to end the fight on his feet.

It was not to be, as referee Kenny Bayless stepped in to stop the carnage at 55 seconds of the final round. Now a seven-time champion, all that seems left for Pacquiao to accomplish in boxing is to solidify his claim on being the world's top pound-for-pound fighter by facing the other current aspirant to the pound-for-pound throne, Floyd Mayweather. After tonight's performance, and after Mayweather's commanding victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in September, the way is cleared for a Pacquiao/Mayweather extravaganza that, if it happens, is set to become the biggest, most anticipated, and most hotly debated boxing match of the young millennium.