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Weekend musings – BitCoin, PlayStation Network and Google IO

The now: outside Google IO with my new Droid baby!


I’ve spent the last few months researching BitCoin, which for those who don’t know is a p2p currency system that is (sort of) de-centralized and certainly delineated from any government control or intervention. There’s some pretty sophisticated technology behind it which ensures true scarcity (the fundamental issue for any economic model) but it also enjoys some impressive security features and seems to be incredibly solid on the privacy front.

What is particularly interesting is that you can essentially ‘mine’ BitCoins by running complicated algorithms on your computer (or servers) which is how new BitCoins are created (although that also creates an inflation factor in the market of course). If you are an economics wonk you’ll cream yourself over BitCoin. There’s already a ton of interesting thoughts on the cost of electricity to ‘mine’ a successful BitCoin chain vs the value of the unit of currency, plus numerous trading markets etc

Many wonder if BitCoin is legal – but that’s a superfluous question because it’s totally uncontrollable and the distributed nature means it doesn’t exist in any one jurisdiction. Certainly if it becomes a way for terrorists and organized crime to launder money then I guess we’ll really see governments stepping in.

Anyway, I’m seeing signs that BitCoin is about to move out from being an underground project and into mainstream focus over the next few weeks or so. It will be interesting to see some sunlight on it from existing financial world as I am still on the fence as to whether it is a folly or the early start of something significant.

PlayStation Network

Having (apparently) fixed their security problems, Sony have powered up the servers powering the PlayStation Network and reopened it to users. I asked on Twitter whether anyone would actually be jumping back in.

My guess is that kids who don’t care about the issues, and probably using their parent’s credit card anyway, will get straight back on there. As will die-hard gamers who prefer human-based competition as PSN is their only option.

But the growth and strategic opportunity for Sony Playstation Network is the ability to deliver services like Netflix, IPTV, games on demand, etc. The problem is consumers have many choices there, with competition not just from rival Microsoft XBox Live (and Nintendo’s next gen console) but Google TV (if they get their act together), Apple TV (ditto), Roku, Boxee, etc. While the same security problems could theoretically be faced by those vendors too, the bottom line is that they haven’t had those problems. And consumers are rightly worried about Sony’s security.

Google IO

Google IO happened on Tuesday and Wednesday this week – I’ve attended everyone since they began in 2007.

It costs ~$500 to attend Google IO (assuming you can get a ticket). The event takes place at the Moscone West conference center, where Google is required to use the conference center’s in-house catering company for all food and beverage. The rumor during the rounds at the event was that in order to meet Google’s own standards for quality of food, the ticket price for the event barely covered the cost per attendee for food (two lunches, evening reception and snacks). Frankly, those numbers add up to me. The food was the best I’d ever had a conference, and the logistics of feeding 5000 people is just insane.

But my point isn’t about the food. The point is that every year Google puts on one of the most slickest and highest quality conferences in the conference calendar, at one of the most expensive conference venues in the country. And it bankrolls with the ticket price being a mere drop in the budget. I’m guessing Google easily sinks $10m+ into those two days. It might even sink $50m for all I know – I have no idea what it costs to rent the Moscone West center for 2 days + setup and tear-down.

The announcements themselves were exciting and refreshing – like Google open sourcing all of its hardware accessory development unlike Apple which requires accessory makes to get their devices certified (ie pay $$$). But that’s for another post.

The point is I can’t think of another company that makes the level of investment into Developer Relations that Google makes. It’s really quite incredible.

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My weekend musings are based on things I observe and comment on during the week over on various social sites. If that interests you, make sure you follow me on Twitter and Quora, and keep across my Hacker News comments page.

Photo: my partner Violet outside of Google IO with the Android plushie Google gave me during my registration

Published in Thoughts and Rants


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