Wii – a platform for innovative product development …a Cool Idea with Loads of Microbusiness Potential

The Nintendo Wii and it’s accessories represent a new platform with a lot of new opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop derivative products from.  

A case in point, Johny Lee at Carnegie Mellon University has developed and posted working designs and software for a low-cost interactive whiteboard based on the WiiRemote and a PC.   You have to see it to believe it –

Software for the Wiimote Whiteboard is freely available

Links to this and other Wii related projects he is working on is available at this location.


Wireless M2M – Machine to Machine Networking …a Cool Idea with Loads of Microbusiness Potential

Wireless M2M networking enables the monitoring and control of devices that have historically been difficult to access and were previously un-managed.   Standards are becoming more common and stable.  Further, the implementation and production cost of wirelessly enabling and managing devices continues to drop.  This opens up a broad range of potential new applications and business opportunies.

Some examples of companies that provide development platforms and system building blocks for Wireless M2M include:

MagCloud – Do It Yourself Magazine Publishing …a Cool Idea with Loads of Microbusiness Potential

HP is currently running a beta of a new online service called “MagCloud“.  The service allows anyone to produce a magazine and print it – on demand – for $0.20 a page.  The service also offers an online store to allow publishers to sell their magazines.  The service will take care of printing, mailing, subscription management, and more.

HP’s longer-term plan is to sell their specialized printers and inks to businesses who will offer regional on-demand printing services.

This ability to do on-demand printing of magazines can allow smaller operations and professional service organizations to offer new services to businesses which need to quickly and cheaply produce magazines.  One of the benefits offered by the service is the ability to do tweaks to the magazine master document much more quickly and with less cost then traditional methods of producing magazines.

Making Technology Happen

I have the first and second edition of this book on my bookshelf.  It is concise, practical advice for starting and running a technology/knowledge-based company… and it is written by a local tech leader – Denzil Doyle!   For those trying to figure out where to start and what to do I recommend this book as a good place to start reading.

Making Technology Happen describes in detail the techniques used to identify and exploit technology and how to build and manage a technology-intensive company around that technology. It covers such activities as ‘go-to market’ strategy development, general management, investment analysis, organizational development, and competitive market analysis – all from the perspective of a technology-intensive enterprise. It is used by governments and technology transfer professionals across North America, as well as by entrepreneurs and business executives

Project Sun Spot… a Cool Idea with Loads of Microbusiness Potential

Sun has developed Sun Small Programable Object Technology (SPOT).  It’s an experimental platform to inspire developers to build the next great toy, sensor, communication device — who knows — using Sun technology.  The Sun SPOT devices make include a flexible hardware platform as well as the software and tools to make it easy to innovate, experiment, and prototype whatever a developer can imagine.

The Sun SPOT Device is a small, wireless, battery powered experimental platform. It is programmed almost entirely in Java to allow regular programmers to create projects that used to require specialized embedded system development skills. The hardware platform includes a range of built-in sensors as well as the ability to easily interface to external devices.

This little platform is full of potential for “Creative Class” people to base a microbusiness on.

SheevaPlug… a “Plug Computer”…a Cool Idea with Loads of Microbusiness Potential

A small computer in a wall-plug, running Linux.

Marvell is selling this “development platform”, targeted at the following applications:

  • Network Control Plane Applications
  • High-performance Storage
  • Single Board Computers
  • Enterprise Printers
  • DVRs, NVRs, Video Surveillance
  • High-volume SMB Gateways

For those of the “Creative Class” looking for new microbusiness ideas, it might be something worth looking at.

Emerging New Channels to Market for “Creative Class” Microbusinesses

For a start-up, one of the biggest challenge is gaining access to customers and being able to transact business with them as easily and quickly as possible.  In the last 5 years,  new business models have been emerging that help reduce that challenge, referred to as Ecosystem business models.

These new business models are providing knowledge workers (aka the “Creative Class“) access to ready-made delivery platforms and selling channels to a well-defined market.

These emerging channels to market typically provide a means to connect suppliers with consumers, usually handling the transaction between the two as a trusted mediator (taking a percentage in return for the channel services, e.g. selling platform, marketing, customer management, fulfillment, transaction handling):

  • Apple Apps Store – sells applications to Apple iPhone phone users, handles delivery and payment, payment is via iTunes account
  • Google Android Market – sells applications to Android mobile phone users, handles  delivery and payment using Paypal
  • Amazon Webstore – sell your wares online, access Amazon shoppers and Amazon store tools, handles payment using Amazon account
  • 99Designs –  companies/individuals post requests for graphics designs and designated “prize money”, companies/individuals post responses, the winning design selected gets the “prize money”
  • oDesk – teams or individuals post skills/availability, companies/individuals post jobs with desired fee for completion (fixed rate or hourly)
  • Shutterstock – royalty-free photographs, individuals/companies provide photos and get paid based on sales
  • Innovation Exchange – companies/individuals post challenges and cash, suppliers post responses
  • Mechanical Turk – people post questions/tasks, suppliers post answers/accept task
  • Cafepress – individuals/companies generate graphic content, Cafepress puts it on mugs, shirts, etc and handles all fulfillment for the supplier
  • Amazon Kindle – sell eBooks via Amazon and their new eBook reader
  • uTest – on-demand software testing
  • Crowd Spring – similar to 99Designs
  • Lulu – sells self-published books
  • Beta Test – links beta-testers with software publishers (e.g. iPhone)
  • Eclipse Foundation – links Eclipse IDE consumers with suppliers who build on top of the Eclipse open source IDE platform
  • Just Parts – links consumers of auto parts with suppliers
  • Top Coder – links software designers with companies who respond to contest proposals
  • Article One Partners – offers rewards for finding prior art against posted patents
  • Spot Us – allows journalists to post story ideas and solicit funding from public

One channel which can be very significant for Microbusinesses is Paypal –

  • Paypal – “one-click” purchasing between suppliers and consumers.  Many niche sellers, e.g. 3rd party add-on suppliers for Joomla! use Paypal as their transaction vehicle.  Most eCommerce solutions provide a gateway to Paypal as the payment means.  Paypal itself also can accept credit cards on behalf of a seller.  Paypal by itself provides access to a group of consumers who are comfortable transacting business online.  Paypal provides a trusted supplier relationship between the buyer and the supplier.  I have to confess I never thought Paypal would amount to anything when I first heard about the business many years ago…