PDA vs Cell Phones

In the quarter ended June 30, 2.2 million PDAs were sold worldwide, slightly down from 2nd quarter 2003. Handheld market share leaders:

  • PalmOne (42%)
  • HP (39%)
  • Sony (7.8%)
  • Dell (4.6%)
  • Medion (4.1%)

Contrast that with the 164 million cell phones sold worldwide last quarter. Market share leaders:

  • Nokia (27.7%)
  • Motorola (14.7%)
  • Samsung (13.9%)
  • Siemens AG (6.4%)
  • Sony Ericsson (6.4%)
  • LG Electronics (6.1%)

Providing applications and content for PDAs may be a viable business for a few companies; but imagine the opportunities in the mobile phone space, especially as the versatility, bandwidth, and storage capabilities of these devices continue to increase!

Wiki Developer Wanted

If you have ever created a successful public Wiki before, or know someone who has, please let me know.

There is an interesting early American genealogy data collection that could come to life if it were used to seed a Wiki. The owners of the data were intrigued when I shared with them the amazing success of Wikipedia.org, the open source encyclopedia that is poised to eat Britannica’s lunch, and they wanted me to ask my readers: are there any volunteers who could help set up a Wiki for them?

Marketing/PR Exec Moving to Utah

A great friend of mine who was formerly Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Novell and who has a great track record spanning 15 years in high-tech (Dallin Smith White (DSW), WordPerfect, Novell, Brodeur Worldwide and Overland Storage)

Calling Old Infobases Customers

This is a shot in the dark, but here goes…

If you were once an avid user of the Infobases 1997 Collectors Library CD ROM and are willing to be involved in designing the 2005 edition, please let me know. (You can email me through the little email envelope icon on the left/bottom side of your screen)

Most Powerful Internet Marketing Tactic

The most powerful internet marketing tactic that I know (and I am an admitted lover of affiliate marketing, search engine marketing, and email marketing) is to disrupt the marketplace by giving away something that is valuable. Preferrably, something that your leading competitor is selling. Something that is selling well.

In 1996 when several companies were selling the Social Security Death Index on CD-ROM for about $39.95, and probably tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of copies had been sold, Dan Taggart and I decided to give it away for free online. (We didn’t even require registration to access it).

In June 1996, we launched the 50-million record SSDI database on Ancestry.com. We followed this valuable give-away up with many other free databases and even free online genealogy software and eventually free downloadable genealogy software. These free offerings resulted in millions of visitors to our web site, and eventually many of them became paying customers for our other services.

But Ancestry.com’s “give-something-away” approach was not new. Many of the most successful internet companies of all time used this same approach:

  • Blue Mountain Arts offered free e-greeting cards
  • Hotmail offered free email
  • Yahoo offered the first free web directory
  • Lifeminders grew to 14 million registered users by offer free email reminder services
  • Freeservers.com offered free web hosting (and generated millions of customers)
  • Netzero offered free ISP access

During the bubble, some companies got carried away by offering free computers with internet access, hoping to “monetize” the (cheap) customer base through advertising and e-commerce. Didn’t work.

But the overall strategy continues to prove successful in the online world (and offline–ever heard of Gillette?).

Our latest company to launch a give-away strategy is LDSAudio.com, which just announced it’s goal to give away 100,000 audio copies of the Book of Mormon by the end of this year. I’m guessing that several hundred thousand audio cassettes and CDs containing the 24 hours of audio in the Book of Mormon have been sold in the last few decades. More than 120 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been printed since it was first published in 1830. Doubleday will be the first commercial publisher to print the book later this year.

Since only about 2% of the US population is LDS (“Latter-day Saint”) and there are only about 12 million Mormons worldwide, chances are you are not one, and you may not be interested in downloading this audio book. But if you want to see what Mormons believe, why not listen to the audio Book of Mormon in your car sometime? I have studied the Koran and many religious texts from other religions in an effort to understand what others believe. I just finished “Back to Jerusalem” and am working on “Heavenly Man” right now–two excellent books about the Christian missionary movement developing in China. House church leaders in China want to send 100,000 or more missionaries from China to take Christianity to the 2.2 billion people west of China where there is virtually no Christianity–to the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim nations west of China. Fascinating books.

I think the world would be a better and more peaceful place if we would seek understanding of each others’ faiths, don’t you?

If you are LDS and want to help promote this free offer, please copy this link and place it on your web site:

Free Audio Book of Mormon

And feel free to email your friends and family.

Largest IPO in Utah History?

I heard today that Extra Space Storage, based in Salt Lake City, UT may have had the largest IPO in Utah history. It apparently sold 20.2 million shares at $12.50 per share, raising more than $240 million. If Yahoo Finance is correct, it’s market cap today was $400 million, which means that it sold more than half of its outstanding shares in the IPO. Does anyone know what the largest IPOs were prior to this one?

Internet Applications: Rethinking Web Business Models

If I were starting a “web company” today, I wouldn’t do it until I had read Andy Jedynak’s speech from the latest MarketingSherpa subscription summit. Andy is VP and GM of WeatherBug.

WeatherBug.com has a web site, of course. But it’s mainly a marketing brochure for something far more powerful than a web site: a free downloadable Internet Application.

Launched in 2000, WeatherBug has had more than 43 million downloads, and earlier this month, during the hurricanes, more than 7 million people were daily accessing the WeatherBug desktop app. Media Metrix said 24 million people used the site in July.

Jednyak said that back in 2000 Forrester Research was predicting that by 2004 internet applications would “eclipse the web.” So they build a downloadable app. Last December, Nielsen NetRatings said that 76% of web users were also accessing the internet through a desktop application (such as iTunes, Skype, media players, WeatherBug, and instant messaging apps). He reminded his listeners that another prediction back in 2000 was that by 2006 more people will be accessing services using portable devices (or “internet appliances”) than desktops.

Whether (or weather) these predictions are accurate or not is not the point. The point is that internet applications can be incredibly sticky, once you get them on the desktop (more sticky than just a bookmarked web site), and that they are feature rich, and that you can build successful business models on them easier than by launching just another web site.

In mid-2001, Ancestry.com got into the internet application game when we introduced the Ancestry Family Tree software download, a free download that had a nice interface to our nearly 2-billion genealogy records. Within the first year, there were approximately 1 million downloads of this full-featured genealogy software application with an integrated online search tool.

The Ancestry Family Tree started taking away market share from Family Tree Maker and Personal Ancestral File. It has the potential to generate many subscriptions to Ancestry.com. But MyFamily.com acquired Genealogy.com and Family Tree Maker (the leading genealogy software program) in 2003, and I’m not sure whether they will focus on selling software or on given away an application in the hopes of selling subscriptions to the content. Maybe they can accomplish both, using a multiple brand strategy.

LDSAudio.com (one of our portfolio companies) is about to introduce an audio download manager. Next year we intend to greatly enhance the functionality of this download manager and turn it into a full-blown desktop application for helping our customers interact with content that they find valuable.

Napster and KazAa were applications; Google’s soon-to-launch download app will allow you to search every file on your hard-drive without a browser. Their browser plug-in already searches the web without running a browser.

The potential exists for many web sites to develop compelling applications which utilize the internet for content and communications, but don’t necessarily depend on a browser’s limited feature set.

I’m rethinking some of my online strategies in view of the compelling presentation from WeatherBug.com. Perhaps you should too?

Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.

I just filled out a Zoomerang.com survey to tell the future governor of Utah what I think should be done to create a good business environment in the state of Utah. I’m glad politicians are using the internet to get feedback. I hope it becomes an essential part of governing.

I wish Utah didn’t treat capital gains as normal income, for taxation purposes. Utah shouldn’t make it tempting to move to Nevada before selling one’s company.

But for the record, my major concern about Utah is not economic–it’s education. According to the 2001 Manhattan Institute report, Utah is in 49th place — trailing Hawaii only — in education freedom. The report explains:

Utah‚ which offers no assistance for private school choice, closely regulates home-schooling, and has large school districts and weak charter-school offerings‚ slipped to second-to-last place. Rhode Island, because of similar restrictions, comes in 48th.

I think charter schools are gaining momentum in Utah, so maybe we are moving up in the rankings, but we have a long ways to go before parents really have choice in this state. Schools really need to be accountable to parents, and parents must have choice in choosing schools and teachers for their children. Schools need to compete for the best teachers (wages should go up if there is more competition for good teachers) so that we can provide our children with the best education possible.