Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Recently, SpaceX announced its intention to catch a rocket booster on a barge. That plan didn’t exactly work as expected … well, as everyone at SpaceX said they expected. But it certainly gained the company huge PR points, priceless media exposure, and name recognition. Now Elon Musk wants to build the Internet in space.
No, not satellites capable of storing web data or transmitting the ‘net to earth. A second Internet. In space. Why? Well, the idea is that, eventually, we will have colonies on Mars. At that point, those folks will want WiFi. But, at this point, we can’t even get the Internet to three billion plus people currently living on earth.
Musk made the announcement at an event in Seattle, where SpaceX is opening a new office. While, for the most part, the content of the meeting was relegated to hiring aerospace engineers and software gurus for his current missions—those involving bigger, better, faster and more accurate rockets—conversation also included chatter about Musk’s latest brainstorm.
Step one is to launch a massive new network of communication satellites into orbit. The purpose would be to “speed up the general Internet data flow” and deliver high-speed Internet service to nearly half the world’s population who still can’t access the web with reliability or anything close to the speed billions take for granted. The idea is based on a relatively simple physical fact: the speed of light is faster in space than the speed of cable on earth. 40% faster according to Musk.
To this end, Musk is putting out an all points bulletin for top engineers of all kinds to join his team in Seattle. And, once everyone on earth is plugged into the ‘net, SpaceX can expand on that technology too.
With so much on his plate – Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and Hyperloop – it’s easy to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this is another PR “gotcha” from Musk. Then again, given the man’s history of following through on outrageous claims and audacious goals, you have to ask yourself if he’s serious again this time. Smart money certainly would not bet against him.
Monday, January 05, 2015
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Exploration has always been about the right combination of guts and money. In many cases, at least historically speaking, governments have pulled off this combination better than private interest. Government sailed to the Americas. Government funded Lewis Clark, and government put men on the moon over and over again. Sure, most of the organizations involved were, at least on paper, private industries. But in nearly every case, government support kept them humming. SpaceX begs to differ.
Almost from the moment the US government announced it would be scrapping the shuttle program and, at least eventually, aiming for Mars, speculation swirled about the future of America in space. Several upstart private companies took turns grabbing the banner and promoting themselves as the ones who would tame the Final Frontier. Results have been mixed, but no one has done better than SpaceX. Particularly from a PR perspective.
Now Elon Musk’s company is once again making news, and not just for what they are doing. This time, they are making waves by HOW they plan to do it. For the past half century humans have done space flight one way. Send it up with massive boosters and then let those boosters crash into the sea. Well, for profit companies hate waste, and that’s exactly how Musk and his team view this practice. Recently, SpaceX announced that, on their next trip up, they will try to land their rocket booster on a barge floating in the ocean. Yes. Land. Their. Rocket. Booster.
The logistics of that attempt alone have them in the news. Think about it. First, they have a 14-story rocket traveling around one mile PER SECOND. Next, they have it falling back to earth…and they will try to not only control that descent, but also to land the rocket – upright – on the barge. That’s a small target in a very big ocean.
How small exactly? Well, they’ve been doing tests with a 10 kilometer wide target. Now they are aiming at a target that is 10 METERS wide. Right…and it’s a moving target. No matter what happens next, one thing is certain…there will be plenty of media coverage. And that translates into visions, hopes, dreams…and cash.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Q3 2014 was not kind to BlackBerry, once again. The company expected a drop in quarter 3, but a larger than projected drop has stock prices falling and management searching for answers. Worse, the missed sales projections included a month in which the BlackBerry Passport, the company’s latest moon shot to regain market control, was released.
Part of the issue comes from an outdated model that doesn’t fly in the current smartphone marketplace. For some time now, BlackBerry has brought in funds by charging fees for things like system access and other services mostly considered “basic.” However, that model simply doesn’t work in the current marketplace. Newer BlackBerry models don’t come with that built-in revenue source, so the company has to make up that lost income somewhere. They’re trying to do that in hardware sales.
And while losing the system fees and other outdated surcharges will help BlackBerry drop the “so yesterday” stigma in the current consumer marketplace, it may be too little too late. In a head to head contest with top smartphone brands, BlackBerry barely registers. iPhone is the clear leader, with Android phones standing strong at number two. Everyone else is an also-ran.
That’s a tough position for BlackBerry, once the undisputed leader of the smartphone revolution. Unfortunately for the brand, it now stands as a modern day object lesson in what happens when your brand fails to keep up with market trends. Not too long ago the BlackBerry was a legitimate status symbol. Now it’s widely seen as an industry dinosaur. Unfair? Probably. The phone still has a tremendous up side. But the company has largely failed to compete. Mainly because it ignored and then misjudged the changing marketplace.
The only way back for BlackBerry is a new form of PR. They need to change in a big way. Clinging to past glory and refusing to try anything new might slow their decline, but they are already living on borrowed time. The brand must do more than rebound. They must re-energize and re-attract consumers in order to make a real play for market relevance.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Monday, December 08, 2014
Social media can lead to PR disasters. That’s not exactly breaking news. But until now it’s been tough to measure just how easy it is to allow brain flatulence on the web to wreck your day. Ronn Torossian has thestory of a guy who Should Have Known Better more than anyone.
Twitter CFO Anthony No to obviously tweets a good little bit. But what he sent out publicly recently was definitely not meant for public consumption. His missive about a potential business acquisition got the Twitterverse all churned up. Here’s what the message said: “I still think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 – we will need to sell him. I have a plan.”
Oops. Talk about tipping your hand. While the deal may not have exactly been a secret to either party directly involved, knowledge is power in business. And having PRIOR knowledge works in favor of everyone BUT the person who needs to keep the secret. So, what’s the lesson here? Well, obviously, look before you tweet. Don’t hit send unless you’re sure. And be careful, with the way screens are jumping around these days, moving and reshaping at random, it’s easy to click the wrong button. Better be sure. But there’s more here too.
What happens when you really screw up? Well, depending on the situation and the players, you could just shrug it off … or it could mean the end of your career. That’s the biggest thing to remember – you can’t really measure the risk BEFORE you experience it. The web is a bottomless pit, a black hole of potential good and possible ill.
You can’t guesstimate what might happen. So, in this case, prevention really is the ONLY cure. Backtracking might stop the bleeding … but probably not. Nothing really stops the bleeding until someone else of equal stature makes a similar bungle. Don’t let that be you.