Microsoft Should Buy Nintendo

Microsoft has $60 billion in offshore cash that they aren’t likely to repatriate for tax reasons. They just spent $7 billion of it on Nokia. Now they should buy Nintendo. It might take $20 billion or more given Nintendo’s current market cap of about $14 billion. That’s a relative bargain given Nintendo’s library and it is a much better purchase than Gung Ho (Puzzles and Dragons) which has a higher market cap. The potential upside for Microsoft is enormous for its console and phone businesses.

Hear me out.

The take some of Nintendo’s hardware team and put them on the phone team. Their focus would be making the phone a better gaming device. It would still be a phone or tablet first though.

They then take all of Nintendo’s beloved titles and make them Microsoft exclusives on the next generation of Windows Phones and on the Xbox One. This will cause all the kids (and a significant number of adults) to want Windows Phones so they can play Mario games, Zelda, Metroid, and, of course, Pokemon. Since these games would only be on Windows Mobile it has the potential to drive significant adoption by the most influential audience – the young.

When Microsoft launched the Xbox, it bought Bungie to get Halo. Halo has continued to drive Xbox adoption. Nintendo would be an even bigger play with the potential to dramatically alter the phone wars by giving a large block of gamers a huge incentive to switch to a Windows Phone.

Not only would this purchase dramatically shift the balance of power in the smartphone wars, it would also dramatically alter the battlefield that is the living room. The next generation of consoles, generally framed as Xbox One vs. Sony’s PS4 but including Nintendo’s Wii U on its periphery, is not just about games. It is also about the future of television and video content.  Winning this battle is critical for Microsoft and Nintendo would be a game changer (pun intended).   The reason this generation of the console wars is even more critical to Microsoft is because of the looming war for the television with Apple, Google, Android (I mention them separately from Google because there will be other significant players in the ecosystem such as Samsung, Amazon, and things like Ouya), and others (Intel for example).

This iteration of the console war may also determine a big part of the future of tethered communications: video calls. Xbox One + Kinect should become a de facto video conferencing system. Imagine families connecting via room sized video conferences – this can be done right now with these consoles. Microsoft SHOULD own this space with the combination of Xbox One and Skype. Throw Nintendo into the mix and it would almost certainly win the next generation console wars, and hence the living room, for Microsoft.

Not to mention the synergy between Xbox One and Windows Phone:  games that cross over, games that use Windows Phone as a secondary control, deep second screen integration, and cross platform video conferencing, just to name a few.  A Microsoft acquisition of Nintendo would either accelerate the development or adoption of all of these things.


Twitter and RSS (Also diamonds in the rough)

I’ve been reading a lot about people bemoaning the death of Google Reader.  In the end, I don’t think Google really killed the Google Reader.  Twitter did.  Facebook probably helped.

Let me back up, I have quite a background in RSS.  I was the co-founder of a company called Pluck which, for a time, was a (the) thought leader on RSS.  There was a broader vision which was basically to allow users to customize the web.  This meant identifying things the user liked, finding those things, and constantly finding more of them (or similar things) and bringing them back.  RSS was an important part of that because at the time it was a powerful way to constantly monitor websites for new stuff.  It worked well.

While working on various product concepts, one idea that I sketched out and discussed with my other co-founder was a personal RSS publisher and reader (let’s call it RSSpr for easy typing).  At the time we already had a web-based RSS reader and a plug-in.  The idea of the RSSpr was as follows:

  1. I can enter small chunks of data, including links, that are new entries to my RSS stream.
  2. My RSS stream can be followed by other users either in the RSSpr or with any RSS reader.
  3. I could easily follow other users by adding their RSS streams to my RSSpr list.
  4. I could easily follow other RSS feeds by adding them to my RSSpr list.  (At the time we also had an RSS directory that was pretty deep.)
  5. So when I logged in I would see an integrated view of all the RSS feeds that I had subscribed to (either normal RSS or user created in RSSpr) or post to my personal RSS feed.

It seemed pretty cool.  I had two concerns:

  • User adoption.  RSS seemed technical, but had attracted a lot of attention in the “digerati”.  It was a great, open system for content syndication.  But could it go main stream and would users want to publish their own feeds?
  • How would we monetize it?  Advertising was not as evolved.  A small company called Feedburner had just started up to monetize RSS, so there was some potential.  (Side note:  Dick Costolo, one of the founders of Feedburner is now the CEO of Twitter.)

You’ll note in that feature list the basics of Twitter.  In fact if it was designed correctly, it would basically be Twitter.  (I’m not saying I invented Twitter.  We didn’t pursue it and even if we had it probably is unlikely we would have ended up at something as streamlined and clean as Twitter.)

The core of Twitter is basically a walled garden of RSS.  Companies now publish many things to Twitter in a way that is almost identical to the way RSS was used.  Twitter makes it very easy to both publish and subscribe to what are effectively personal RSS feeds.

So in the end, I believe Twitter created a better, closed version of RSS.  Because it was better and easier to use it beat the open RSS – which lead to the slow death of RSS over time.  So again we see an example of closed beating open on the basis of ease-of-use.


Ramifications of the New Facebook – Zynga Deal

There were four major points in the deal:

1. It looked to me like Facebook was going to let Zynga run real money gambling games on Facebook. -> THIS IS HUGE. <- This is open to some interpretation though: "If Facebook allows real money gambling games on the Facebook web site in countries where Zynga has real money gambling games, Zynga will subsequently launch such games on the Facebook web site, if certain conditions are met by Facebook." 2. In general, this agreement was net positive for Zynga. It greatly increased their degrees of freedom in developing and mobile by eliminating covenants that prohibited them from doing certain things and requiring them to do others (like using FB ads and payments). Removing these restrictions is very important for Zynga as it becomes more independent from FB. For example: "In addition, the Addendum No. 1 Amendment provides that Zynga’s right to cross-promote any games that are off of the Facebook web site from Zynga services that use Facebook data and to use e-mail addresses obtained from Facebook, will be limited by Facebook’s standard terms of service, subject to certain exceptions." This seems to allow Zynga to point all their Facebook users to their mobile games and - this is a HUGE marketing opportunity and could dramatically increase Zynga's traffic on those platforms. 3. Facebook is unlikely to develop its own games. Zuckerberg is not a gamer and the culture probably would not work for developing games. Plus it makes no strategic sense. 4. Parity with other game companies is not going to be bad for Zynga. Most of the "special treatment" stuff didn't seem to be doing much anyway. ZNGA should have gone up not down based on this announcement.

If I were the CEO of Adobe…

We develop a lot of stuff in Flash. All of our games, in fact. I was pretty excited about using the new CS5 to build versions for the iPhone and iPad. Then Apple gave the finger to Adobe and screwed all the developers out there. Because we so love to re-write everything for 14 different platforms. Flashback: That’s why Windows won.

Anyway, more to the point: what should Adobe do?

If I were the CEO I would take one simple action that would solve all of these issues. I would make Flash open source. Adobe makes most of their money from development tools, not from the plug-ins or the language, so it probably wouldn’t have a meaningful revenue impact. It would mean that all the “open” vs. “proprietary” discussions would immediately end – Flash would be open. It would mean all the optimization issues would go away, since Apple would have the code and could optimize it for their devices. It would win Adobe a lot of friends in the open source community and among web developers in general.

So that’s my free advice to Adobe: open source Flash and win!

A Simple Lesson on Tax and Redistribution of Wealth

THIS IS AWESOME (It was one of those random forward things):

I recently asked my friend’s little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, ‘If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?

She replied, ‘I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.’ Her parents beamed.

‘Wow…what a worthy goal.’ I told her, ‘But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I’ll pay you $100. Then I’ll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $100 to use toward food and a new house.’

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, ‘Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $100?’

I said, ‘Welcome to the Republican Party.’

Why the iPhone 3GS upgrade approach is stupid.

This post is focused on the (large) group of strong iphone supporters: mainly people that bought an initial iphone at launch and immediately upgraded to the iphone 3G when it came out.

Here is what it says on the AT&T site when I check for an upgrade:

iPhone Upgrade
As a valued AT&T customer, we can offer you a discounted iPhone upgrade at a higher price, along with a 2-year commitment and an $18 upgrade fee. Please proceed with the online upgrade process for pricing details. You may qualify for a full discount on a standard iPhone upgrade on 07/13/2009

I can currently get the iphone 3GS for $499 – which is apparently the midrange of available prices. So it is sort of an upgrade price. But I can get the full upgrade price ($299) on 7/13 (which I’m guessing is the 1 year anniversary of my purchase of the iphone 3G.)

The annoying thing here is that the iphone 3GS will be released on 6/19 – so I can wait 24 days to upgrade and, presumably, save $200 or I can upgrade now. This is where it gets stupid.

Or I could game the system by buying an iphone 3GS on launch day, return it on 7/13, pay the 10% restocking fee ($49) and then buy a new one for $299. That saves me $150 on the get it now price (or I rent it for $50, depending on how I look at it) and creates a giant hassle for me and a lot of waste for Apple and AT&T. (The iphone has a 30 day return policy with a 10% restocking fee if it is used.)

I understand why AT&T doesn’t give everyone an upgrade all the time, that’s not good business. But sometimes a company should apply common sense, which they have clearly not done. Apple is partly at fault for this – the 24 day gap was created because the iphone 3G shipped a month after its announcement and the 3GS is shipping 2 weeks after its announcement. Apple could have avoided this whole brouhaha by just shipping the 3GS on the 1 year anniversary of the iphone 3G. Sure, some people would have whined about having to wait that long, but no one would be pissed that they aren’t able to upgrade to it.

Or, even more easily, AT&T could say “we’re going to let anyone who is less than 30 days away from their upgrade date” to upgrade on launch day. This would have won a ton of fans and some positive feedback for AT&T being good sports and rewarding the people who buy the upgrade every year and who are presumably great AT&T customers. The cost of letting these users upgrade 30 days in advance is insignificant and it does not set a significant precedent that would damage how phone upgrades are sold in the future. It’s a one time thing to resolve a timing anomaly.

The other benefit is it would likely reset upgrade dates in such a way that there is a lower probability of an 30-day upgrade gap next year assuming Apple continues to release iphone upgrades at the WWDC.

AT&T: if you’re listening (and you’re probably not for a myriad of reasons):

Create some goodwill among your most rabid consumers! It’s 24 freaking days!

Now on Twitter

I’m not wildly enthusiastic about Twitter, but it seems I’ve got to join the cool kids. I’m kind of hoping it goes away, since now I’ll have to switch over to Twitter and link this blog post. Of course, I will also link to Twitter from here – creating the potential of an infinite loop that destroys the universe. Oh and I’ll also link them from Facebook so that it perhaps gets tangled into a gordian knot.

I’m starting to think Twitter is the new Second Life though. You know how it was everywhere and every business had to be in it? And then it just kind of faded out to a couple of nutty academics that still talk about it, but there isn’t much in the mainstream news? I guess Oprah never made it into Second Life and it’s not like Twitter’s graphics are ever going to get compared to World of Warcraft.

Anyway, head on over and follow me on twitter!

What is a CDS? Hint: Credit Default Swap

This is quite a horrifying article from Fortune: The $55 trillion question

It’s pretty relevant to my previous post where I compared these instruments to gambling. This is from the article:

So what started out as a vehicle for hedging ended up giving investors a cheap, easy way to wager on almost any event in the credit markets. In effect, credit default swaps became the world’s largest casino. As Christopher Whalen, a managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, observes, “To be generous, you could call it an unregulated, uncapitalized insurance market. But really, you would call it a gaming contract.”

There is at least one key difference between casino gambling and CDS trading: Gambling has strict government regulation. When you put $10 on black 22, you’re pretty sure the casino will pay off if you win.


Read this article, it’s very interesting. It makes me why no one has gotten up in arms screaming:

Make Credit Default Swaps (CDS) illegal!

It sounds like they are pretty shady to begin with. If some trader has the ability to write a contract via IM or over the phone that has millions or more of potential payouts in the event something happens that would seem to me to be a very substantial breakdown in corporate controls that would trickle all the way up to the CEO – via the Sarbanes-Oxley. Risk of this magnitude should be disclosed to shareholders and ignoring it seems pretty stupid – even if you think bad things are unlikely.

Another great quote from the article:

The CDS market offers no such assurance. One reason the market grew so quickly was that hedge funds poured in, sensing easy money. And not just big, well-established hedge funds but a lot of upstarts. So in some cases, giant financial institutions were counting on collecting money from institutions only slightly more solvent than your average minimart. The danger, of course, is that if a hedge fund suddenly has to pay off on a lot of CDS, it will simply go out of business. “People have been insuring risks that they can’t insure,” says Peter Schiff, the president of Euro Pacific Capital and author of Crash Proof, which predicted doom for Fannie and Freddie, among other things. “Let’s say you’re writing fire insurance policies, and every time you get the [premium], you spend it. You just assume that no houses are going to burn down. And all of a sudden there’s a huge fire and they all burn down. What do you do? You just close up shop.” (Emphasis added.)