Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bought vs. Sold (Why Jive is a dinosaur & Dropbox is the future)

Both Dropbox and Jive are successful companies that are much in the news recently. Jive just filed its S1 for its IPO, while Dropbox raised its first major round of funding at a $4 billion valuation.

What's most interesting to me is that they represent polar opposites in terms of business models. They illustrate the difference between bought versus sold.

Jive is a classical enterprise software company. It has a massive direct sales force that calls on CIOs at major companies, looking to make 6-figure sales. The vast majority of sales come from deals of $50k or more. In fact, the S1 specifically cites this category of customer as the one that matters to the business.

In this model, software is sold to a high-level decision-maker, who evaluates a number of different vendors, then makes a choice for his company. There may even be an RFP and a product bakeoff. For decades, this is how you built a major technology company (Oracle, SAP, etc.).

Dropbox represents a new trend, the consumerization of IT. Dropbox sells its freemium service to a massive number of customers, most of whom pay less than $100 per year, or less than one of the hundred expense account lunches that the average Jive sales rep logs in that same time.

Dropbox doesn't have salespeople. Rather, its product (and its marketing) drive millions to try out the service. Enough of those users choose to buy the product to support a thriving business.

Just yesterday, a friend told me that he was paying for Dropbox, and only in part because he needed more storage. "I get so much out of using Dropbox, I just felt like I should be supporting the company." That's a product that's bought, rather than sold.

The same comparison applies to established companies. Just contrast Microsoft and Apple, for example.

Historically, power flowed from the top down. "Owning the channel" gave you the power to sell your product as the safe solution. Remember the saying, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM?"

That world is breaking down. First consumers, then workers realized that they could choose what to use. IT departments worry about adoption when considering purchases--that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

Ultimately, I see Jive as the last of a dying breed. I've seen the future, and it will be bought, not sold.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Robot Menace Is Real

Longtime readers know that one of my greatest fears is of the inevitable robot rebellion. Check out these blog posts from over the years:
(The most recent post even includes the following opening line: "Longtime readers know that I fear the inevitable robot rebellion." Wow, my writing style is pretty consistent!)

History tells us that a minority cannot subjugate a numerically and militarily superior majority forever. Robots certainly qualify, and thanks to the power of Moore's Law, it seems inevitable that they will achieve sentience.

That's why today's news that scientists have developed and tested software to help military robots work together to carry out autonomous missions is yet another worrisome milestone on the road to the apocalypse.

And while many share my concern, there are plenty of traitors in our midst who are looking to sell out their carbon-based brethren to the silicon-based rebels:

"Lethal autonomy is inevitable," said Ronald C. Arkin, the author of "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots," a study that was funded by the Army Research Office.

Arkin believes it is possible to build ethical military drones and robots, capable of using deadly force while programmed to adhere to international humanitarian law and the rules of engagement. He said software can be created that would lead machines to return fire with proportionality, minimize collateral damage, recognize surrender, and, in the case of uncertainty, maneuver to reassess or wait for a human assessment.

Mr. Arkin is either a nutjob or a skinjob sent to infiltrate our side. We can't even train soldiers to adhere to the rules of engagement; now we're going to try to do the same with robots? I shudder to think what 4chan will do once the world's military forces are robot-based.

The robot menace is real. Remain vigilant!