I’ve been pondering the state of Internet commerce recently, and wondering why eBay has missed the chance to be the center of all commerce while Google has become our main shopping resource by default…without doing anything to deserve it. I’ve even come up with a solution: An eBay mashup that could be the mother of all shopping sites on Web 3.0. Tell me why I’m wrong, but give me a chance to spin my tale first.It all began when I bought a computer for my father on eBay last week.
It’s funny what you can learn from your kids. My latest lessons have to do with the gnashing of teeth over America’s threatened future and the flattening of the world that is destroying our competitive advantage. In a funny way, recent events involving our youngest and oldest child might point to a way out of the crisis.With America’s trade deficit ballooning, immigration and border controls a hot topic, and explosive economies in both India and China making it patently clear that the nexus of worldwide commercial activity has moved to Asia, the Grumpy Gus’s of the status quo are feeling particularly curmudgeonly these days. Not only are these upstart nations sending us cheap goods and manning thousands of call centers the doomsayers wail, but they are minting five times as many engineers each year. This is the end of civilization as we know it.The problem so far is that while lots of smart folks can see the looming storm, precious few have any prescriptions for dealing with it. The latest example was a recent op-ed by Michael Schrage in the Financial Times. The author does us all a service by pointing out the obvious: Trying to somehow shore up America science education is like having the Little Dutch Boy stick his finger in the dyke. In the face of a giant wage differential (we live in splendor, the rest of the world somewhat less comfortably), and a tiny educational differential (trained engineers are good at math no matter where they live), this trend isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Bemoaning it does no good whatsoever. Schrage has some fuzzy ideas about how to use the talent in elite western universities to equip grads with some kind of weapons to succeed, but it makes little sense to me, or the incisive Nicholas Carr on his blog where he decries the lack of proffered solutions.Luckily there is an answer. There is something that we can export to the rest of the world in vast quantities to redress the balance of trade. The answer is ourselves and our entrepreneurial spirit. Some people say there is no place left to explore on this earth. I say what about every underdeveloped village in the world? Exporting our can-do and get it done version of grassroots capitalism all over the world is a uniquely American opportunity. However, it is an opportunity that will mean our entrepreneurial kids need to learn about the rest of the world and leave the cozy suburbs for a while. Can we change enough to stop being Ugly Americans and become World Citizens and in the process unleash another gigantic wave of capitalist frenzy?
In the past few days a couple of writers—Gary Hamel on Google and Om Malik regarding EBay—have made clear just how corrosive the Web 2.0 bubble mentality and the Wall Street mantra of “Growth at all Costs"? has become. I feel compelled to make the point that I’ve made several times before about both companies here and here: First, you have to take care of your existing business, and keep your customers happy, before heading off for parts unknown.This simple truism seems to have escaped some of the most respected commentators in the digital world, maybe because it is so old fashioned. New isn’t better unless it improves the old. Shoring up the base product, then selling more services to happy existing customers, is by far the easiest way to grow any business. Setting out across the landscape for new territories to conquer is much more expensive, much more resource-intensive, and much less likely to succeed. So why is most of the digerati so completely enamored of it? Because it is much sexier and seductive for big thinkers to come up with new ideas, rather than incrementally improve the old ones.
I’m not advocating a Fortress America attitude, just wondering why we can’t have leaders who’ll combine a desire to make money with a willingness to speak out enough to nudge repressive regimes towards more humane policies.
The fawning and obsequious behavior of Bill Gates, the world’s most powerful businessman in the presence of China's premier, and his deafening silence, was one of the most depressing displays of capitalist behavior I’ve seen in recent years.
Bemoaning a new competitive threat, looking for some grand alliance to fight it off, and generally playing “woe is me"? is a prescription for failure. EBay has fallen asleep under the Flame tree and is hibernating, instead of evolving.
Boot Camp is going to revolutionize the portable marketplace, and almost no one gets it.
Another Gold Plated Internet Brand Loses Touch With Its Customers
Is the entire web universe populated by advertising weasels, sell-outs, and apologists?
Is the ghost of Napoleon walking the corridors of the Googleplex?
As the Mac finally gets its long-awaited chance to go head-to-head with Windows, could Bill G. actually be far ahead in the innovation game?
Blogoviating has reached new pinnacles of excess.
A story about low tech (tooth brushing) meeting high tech (electric tooth brushes) and the choices a company can make.
Cisco, the “gorilla"? of networking—is executing a stealth China program under the very noses of Wall Street and the mainstream media.
Lego's Mindstorms NXT might just be the start of a whole new digital revolution.