Samsung takes on Apple’s IPod

Looks like Apple might finally have some serious competition in the MP3 player business: Samsung. The South Korean giant wants to take over the leadership in the business from Apple by 2007. If the MP3 players they plan to ship are anything like current Yepp models, well, Apple has nothing to worry. My bet is that in premium markets like Japan, US and Europe, you will see IPod do well. Price sensitive markets well, they might say Yepp, especially is they are cheap enough.

NewsFactor reports that MP3 sales are going through the roof, and by 2009 there will be 132 million devices sold, up from 36.8 million in 2004. IPod is currently the category leader even though available in a handful of markets in comparison with plain vanilla Mp3 players. In order to catch-up, folks are experimenting and cramming new features into these devices. Digital Cameras, Video Playback and even VoIP. In other words classic mistakes that made Mp3 players a disaster to use before IPod came along.

Still Samsung is a serious enough threat – they have crazy money to burn and can discount their products no end to take market share. These guys did it when pushing memory chips, televisions and will repeat the scorched earth tactics in Mp3 players. Samsung hopes to sell 5 million units this year, up from 1.7 million in 2004. 2006, it wants to ship 12 million. Given their whole position as a chip-and-cell phone giant, they might have something going for it. Still, makes me wonder when the cell-phone division which wants to put MP3 players in the handsets butt heads with the MP3 division.

I am so used to the bombastic predictions by these giants, except a few months later you see IPod doing its thing, and others have fallen flat on their face. Apparently, Rio’s Karma has fallen victim to bad Karma.

Silicon Valley’s buzzing with Vertical Search

You can’t go two steps on Sand Hill Road, the epicenter of venture capital without some money man espousing the virtues of vertical search. So often you is it repeated that it harks back to the bubble era euphemisms like “market places,” “new paradigms” and of course my favorite, B2B exchanges. Ah… sweet memories. Still, I can understand the fascination – as broadband usage grows we will end up looking for more and more information online. Google seems to becoming quite worthless everyday given that blog entries are dominating the top results. Enter vertical search.

So what is vertical search? It is a specialized search engine that mines data for one narrow niche of the market place. Say jobs or travel. Or even high end real estate. Because the data sources are so fragmented, there seems to be an opportunity to massage the data and present it in a manner that is simple to use and easy to consume. Sort of meta search for niches. The main reason this is supposed to work is that the two older advertising models – cost per thousand (aka banner ads) and cost per click are too inefficient and fraught with fraud-related risk. Vertical search can offer a more focused audience, and thus increase the efficiency of ads on the search engine. It also presents a new kind of advertising opportunity – lets call it cost per action. If you can generate leads, or say have some sign-up for an email newsletter or a RSS feed, you suddenly have created much higher value, and thus that click is more valuable.
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