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On November 20, 2016, AhmadMans commented on Bringing New York’s Fifth Avenue to China :

Nice article, Priscilla.

Virtual reality shopping experiences have their limitations: they are not as engaging as physical experiences, especially when it comes to products like apparel for example, where look, fit, and feel are very important. Moreover, VR shopping experience requires consumers to move in a physical space, which is not as convenient as e-commerce is right now, where consumers can shop from the comfort of their own beds.

Furthermore, whether VR is going to shape the future of retail is very questionable, especially at this time where hardware has a long way to catch up with software. There is a possibility that offering a sub-optimal VR experience with the current hardware on the market will actually destroy value for companies such as Alibaba.

For example, In 2007 Second Life, an online virtual community developed in the US, was the talk of the technology sector, and consumer brands including Dutch bank ABN AMRO, UK entertainment channel MTV and Japanese carmaker Toyota all set up shop in its 3D virtual world, hoping to capitalise on what many predicted would be an important new digital channel. However, the promised revolution never materialised and Second Life is now barely remembered, except as a cautionary tale for the new wave of virtual reality platforms. What went wrong? The platform’s clunky design was certainly a factor: tens of millions tried Second Life once, but most, daunted by the confusing user experience and steep hardware requirements, never returned. [1]

[1] https://www.eiuperspectives.economist.com/technology-innovation/virtual-reality%E2%80%94-it-really-future-retail

On November 20, 2016, AhmadMans commented on Is Barnes & Noble in the Border(s)line? :

Nice article, Dimitris.Two ideas I have are:

B&N might benefit from its physical stores and brand name, however, they have to look differently at how they are positioned in the market. While they view themselves as sales channel for content, I think they are much better positioned if they view themselves as the host of a loyal community that consumes and engages with content. For example, B&N might focus on creating a community of book readers that meet-up in their physical stores, and focus on ways to build a community around millennials by making content more engaging (e.g., live events, storytelling workshops, etc.). Savvy companies recognize the value of a strong community. Think of Nike and its community of runners, Nike+, and you’ll quickly understand that creating and fostering an online community around a product or brand is a powerful way to boost marketing efforts, gain valuable insight into consumers, increase revenue, improve consumer loyalty [1]

I think B&N should stop investing in hardware as the competition there is very difficult, and already most consumers have a plethora of devices to use for reading. Moreover, they are very late to this game, and they have also failed previously. Moreover, I think they should focus on developing a top notch digital distribution channel for mobile the same way Kindle did with their iOS apps.

[1] http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-community-managers-playbook-lauren-perkins/1120450729#productInfoTabs

On November 20, 2016, AhmadMans commented on 100 Paper Cases … 2 Online Challenges: HBS in the Digital Age? :

Interesting article, Angelo. I think one major risk here is for HBS to cannibalize its most profitable revenue streams via doubling down on digital. The cannibalization impact has to be compared with the true benefit of investing in digital. For example, companies that are today leading the MOOC revolution have shown sub-optimal results compared to the hyped up expectations that online education is the future. So, your suggesting HBS to invest in a risky bet that will not necessarily salvage the school from being bankrupt. Last winter, Thrun (from Udacity) himself expressed some doubts. “We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished,” [1]

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/moocs-failure-solutions

On November 20, 2016, AhmadMans commented on The New York Times is Not a Paper: The Face-off with Twit/Book :

Interesting article, NJG.

I would challenge your suggestion that NYT should make the article about ‘core issues’ free to the public, and then try to monetize through digital subscription to the other ‘business and sports’ sections. NYT’s core value proposition is the one that should be monetized because it provides the largest value to users. Most NYT readers are not there to read about sports because NYT is simply not the best/most specialized place to obtain that kind of news! I think this suggestion jeopardizes their up and coming business model, and would lead to a large number of their currently 1.4mn paying subscribers to switch to non-paying. If NYT salesman gave you a free copy of their core articles everyday, would you pay him to buy the sports section? Already, people are finding loopholes to read much more than the 10 free monthly article limit [1]

[1] http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/how-to-continue-reading-the-new-york-times-online-for-free.html

On November 20, 2016, AhmadMans commented on Under Armour: The Next Big Tech Company? :

Very interesting article, Zaradi.

Under Armour’s digital strategy seems very creative and it is obvious they think that innovation in technology might put them one step ahead of other competitors, and potentially positioning them as a market leader at some point. However, I would argue that the domination of Nike and Adidas is mainly due to 2 competitive advantages (1) high quality/innovative sportswear products they offer and (2) very strong brand image built through years of top notch marketing strategies. I think technology might be a nice add-on for the two main competitive advantages, and as it stands today is a big bet that the company has made to differentiate itself. Moreover, by adopting this approach, Under Armour has positioned itself more as a health and well-being company, and thereby is now competing not only with Adidas and Nike, but with hundreds of venture capital backed startups and big tech companies who are investing billions of dollars in the space. For example, The market for wearable technology — such as Google Glass, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch or FitBit, a wearable fitness device — is poised to explode over the next few years, according to a recent report from Swedish telecom market researcher Berg Insight. By 2017, companies will ship more than 64 million wearable technology devices. [1]

[1] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229347

Interesting read! Few thoughts:

– Don’t you think that the scarcity of clean water in a free market would attract competition that will all work to capture the value created, and hence margins will decrease and eventually price will be adjusted at equilibrium to satisfy all demand? In other words, why shouldn’t free market correct itself? (the intensity of the capital investment needed is not necessarily prohibitive for competition)

– I think what Suez is doing doesn’t necessarily contradict with what the Pope was preaching for. I agree, access to clean water should not be monopolized by large multinationals. Owning a desalination plant, however, doesn’t make it a monopoly, or grant it a huge control. What matters at the end of the day is the type of agreements that these companies strike with the respective governments. Hence, I think that the pope is saying that governments should keep the needs of their citizens at heart when they negotiate deals and set policies that regulate the private sector’s access to this universal right. What do you think?

On November 7, 2016, AhmadMans commented on The Future of Flight: Boeing’s Emissions Battle :

Interesting read. Few observations:

The aviation industry seems to be a major contributor to climate change, but is not affected itself by it by the same order of magnitude. Hence, the incentives for them to reduce their negative impact on climate change is not as strong. Don’t you think that in such a scenario that government should step in and offer heavy subsidies for such programs?

Moreover, Boeing and other major companies are asked to maximize value to their shareholders, and hence to take advantage of the current cheap oil. By asking Boeing to invest in such technologies that are more friendly to the environment, I am afraid we are asking them to sacrifice their share holders’ interest (at least in the short to mid-term). However, shareholders might have a short to mid view on the stock and might not be interested in such programs. What are your views on that?

Finally, I wonder: are there any other disruptive approaches to reduce emissions in aviation industry other than the ones you mentioned? For example, is there any experiments or ideas about nuclear powered airplanes?

On November 7, 2016, aam35 commented on Can the German auto industry catch up with Tesla? :

Interesting article!

I agree with your criticism of the german auto industry for lagging to respond for innovation in electric cars. However, I want to point out that this might not be necessarily a bad idea. While there are some very good developments in the electric car space, you are never certain that the electric car will be the future, and hence, we cannot with full confidence recommend that the German auto industry should go full force in electric cars. Given the pace of innovation in technology, the next technology that is going to transform transportation might be something else that is yet to be discovered, and that renders electric cars obsolete.

Hence, I think the lag that happened was very natural, and is potentially a good thing to wait before making such a large bet in order to assess whether this is a long term industry shift vs a short term hyped up trend.

Interesting article!

I agree with the premise that luxury electric car companies should not be the ones receiving the subsidy as demand is clearly inelastic for luxury electric car vehicles. Moreover, the subsidies can be more efficiently used to support electric car companies working on making electric cars available for the masses, not the few rich!

One can also make an argument that subsidies are not the most efficient way to change behavior. The most powerful tool to change behavior is to create an ecosystem that is able to develop innovative, efficient products for the masses at affordable prices. I would argue the government would be better-off investing in venture capital companies supporting startups that are innovating in this space.

On November 7, 2016, aam35 commented on The $10,000,000,000,000 Oil Company You’ve Never Heard Of :

Interesting post. I agree with the points suggested for Aramco to fight climate change, except for the idea that “Aramco should do everything it can to discourage others from investing in technologies competing with oil.” While such an activity might be beneficial for Aramco on the short run, I would argue that it hurts them on the long run. It is in the benefit of Aramco to encourage investment in alternative energy resources, as Aramco should view itself as an Energy company not just an oil and gas company. Hence, Aramco should invest in and create an ecosystem that supports innovation in alternative energy to enable them to generate high quality energy at competitive prices (the same way they are today with oil) and to focus on being the leader of the world’s energy companies.