About Jean-Louis Gassée

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Posts by Jean-Louis Gassée:

The Future of Netbooks

You the attentive reader might ask why VCs like yours truly are interested in netbooks. Hardware made in Taiwan, running Linux or Windows, low prices, even lower margins…Where are the opportunities for entrepreneurs, and for those of us who invest in their creations?

This is a different question from: Why are netbooks successful? We know the answer to the latter: price and, to a smaller degree (no pun intended), size. This picture and this list show how this new incarnation of the personal computer has proliferated. Because of the recession, yesterday’s manly “must-have” features are now suspect frills. Small has become virile. Users who wouldn’t be seen with less than a “plus-size” keyboard have now received cultural permission to travel with a 10” netbook, perfect for flying (the rediscovered) Coach class. More

Somber Sober Energy Thoughts

This is what happens with looooong conference calls: you’re sitting in front of your speakerphone, on mute so other participants can’t hear your typing or other asocial activities; your PC displays the PowerPoint under discussion.  You get bored, distracted, or, in the best cases, antsy.

So, as I was listening to one more paean to the electric car, I decided to do a little bit of math and googling. Specifically, I wanted to get an idea of the electric power required to recharge electric cars instead of pumping gas into today’s tanks.  This because, for years, I have harbored a vague, undocumented feeling that electric cars would create interesting problems for today’s antiquated, frail electric grid. (Europeans might not realize how often we experience brownouts or outright outages, even here, in the Vatican of high-tech – I used to write Mecca but, you know…) More

Google Voice: Did Carriers Miss An Opportunity?

Let’s start with what Google Voice is: Grand Unified Telephony, as in physics Grand Unified Theory. Imagine all your phones (home, mobile, work…) linked together to one number, and all data (calls, voicemail and SMS) also “webbed” together.  Add a few wrinkles such as transcribing your voicemail into text, personalized greetings for your mother or the boss, when different, conferencing, cheap international calls and you have a quick list of Google Voice’s features.  For more, see David Pogue, the NYT’s always articulate and fun gadget exper. More official: Google Voice’s “About” page with many example while we wait for the service to open to all comers “in the next few weeks”. More

Greening our houses

I’ll start with a gadget story but we’ll end up with saving energy, with greening our houses, I promise.To save another kind of energy, patience, I tried a Logitech Harmony One “universal” remote.  Again.  A few years back, two previous experiences with Harmony remotes had been frustrating and, ultimately,  abandoned.  It could be me, I am a certified klutz with a gift for pushing the wrong button at the wrong time.  Or my combination of devices couldn’t be “unified”, made to work together.  And/or the Mac version of the software was too painful to use.  Still, my Logitech friends kept insisting Harmony remotes were an extremely successful business of theirs.  I decided to try again three years after the second attempt. More

Enough with the cell carriers’ games

I write this both as a consumer and as a VC: Enough with the cell carriers’ games, we need a Carterfone decision. We need to connect what we want to today’s and, even more, to tomorrow’s wireless networks.  Carriers abuse the airwaves We The People licensed to them.  Or, perhaps more to the point, our elected representatives, instead of protecting our interests, let carriers pick our pockets and strangle innovation.  Speaking of Change We Can Believe In, transparency in government and respect for the citizen’s hard-earned and vanishing buck, how about the Obama administration getting carriers to open their wireless networks the way landlines are?  How about me, having the freedom to connect what I want and run whatever applications I want – as long as I respect rules similar to the ones for ordinary telephones, modems and fax machines? More

Convergence

Old word, at least in the Valley. The meaning has shifted over time; we no longer say digital convergence: everything is digital now, precisely the reason why the convergence concept arose in the first place.  Everything being reduced to zeroes and ones, to bits, all sorts of information, media, content (all much abused words) would now be stored, networked and rendered, played together.  As a result of this uniform digitization, content would be ‘repurposed’ thus providing ‘business model extensions’.  In a plainer English example, celluloid movie libraries are now be sold as DVD, on cable TV channels or iTunes downloads, Netflix rentals and streaming. More

Pen and Paper

We haven’t had a gadget story in a while, this is one and perhaps more than that. Not about Kindle 2, I haven’t tried it yet, but still somewhat related as we’re jumping again into the paper and screen topic.  Ebooks deal with one kind of electronic ink, the one used to display text.  Another kind is offered by Tablet PCs.  That PC sub-species has struggled for years and now enjoys a niche in vertical applications such as data collection/transmission/display in hospitals or for insurance adjusters.  The dream of writing on a computer tablet as pleasantly and flexibly as we write on paper and magically transcribing our scratches into machine text is still a dream. More

eBooks and Smartphones

Update: see a presentation of the Kindle2 here.

Another look at an old, but not aging, topic: eBooks. There is visible agitation ahead of Amazon’s expected announcement, probably as you read this note Monday February 9th.  Jeff Bezos is set to announce a new version of the Kindle eBook reader, let’s call it Kindle 2.0. [Since I first drafted this column, bloggers obliged with more details.  February 9th announcement, ships Feb 24th, price $359 (?!).  See here]. By “coincidence”, Google announces a neat eBook reader Web application (as opposed to a native one, to code running on the device) for Android and iPhone.  See it here, it’s almost perfect on the iPhone, with an option to place a neat dedicated icon on the Home screen.  I write almost perfect because, unlike Google Reader, another Google Web app, the top of the book reading app screen seems to be fighting with the always present top of the iPhone screen. FINR (Fixed In Next Revision). More

What Would Google Do?

This is the title of a new book by Jeff Jarvis, (his blog here) one that triggered a really good (I’m not always in love with the magazine’s writings) Business Week story.  Focusing on Detroit, the book and the story propose a revolution in automotive design: openness.  Don’t design everything yourself, open your engineering processes, let customers and suppliers participate in the design effort.  Google is used as the example of open design.  Look at how they open themselves to user input by launching a product, say Gmail, as an open beta.  Three opens in one sentence…  As a result, Google benefits from early customer feedback and uses suggestions and bug reports to improve subsequent revisions. More

What to invest in now?

So, awright, we have a real new president. Some in the kommentariat found his Inaugural Address “average”.  Others, such as the NYT’s editors, gave it carefully weighted yet eloquent praise.  I enjoyed the sobriety, the quality of the language, not too everyday, not too clerical or esoteric.  Above all, I like the call to collective responsibility and Obama’s view we don’t need to choose between our security and our principles.  In other words, no torture.  The Statue of Liberty can uncover her eyes, wipe her tears of shame.  And maybe join the crowd and cry for joy a little.

Back to work.
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