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Business Concept: Device Subscription Service


Here’s a “why isn’t somebody doing this” business concept: a device subscription service wherein you no longer need to buy a PC and/or tablet but can pay a monthly subscription fee to have full use and possession of a computing device of your choice and configuration.

Think Netflix meets Dell: for fifty dollars a month or so, you get a membership that allows you to log on, choose a PC or Mac laptop and/or tablet, in one of several pre-loaded software or feature configurations, and it’s shipped to you for your use, as long as you want to use it. Plus, you get a cloud storage solution that allows you to back up your personal files. When you’re done with the machine, or want something new, just send it back (prepaid) and you’ll get another one. All you have to do is keep making payments and you’re always in the latest gear.

Of course, if you wanted to build a business like this, you’d have to work out the various terms and conditions. For instance, you’d want to hold customers liable for failing to return a device or failing to pay their subscription fee (at which point, you charge them for the device and freeze their storage account). You’d also need to validate the business model to make sure you can do it all profitably and effectively deliver on the value proposition of providing customers with the latest gear without them having to pony up the full purchase price in one lump sum to own it.

It would be great for students. Heck, for everyone. The company owns servicing the machine too, so if something fails naturally on it or it gets overrun with malware, the consumer just sends it back, gets a new one, and the company fixes and cleans up the old to put it back in circulation.

A successful business like this would disrupt the ugly low-margin PC sales industry that most consumers don’t care much for anyway. Plus, it would totally remove the maintenance problem that most consumers have never really enjoyed dealing with ever. As a service to humanity, it would be great to get a better solution going here.

If this service already exists, I’d love to hear about it. I couldn’t find it, so it must not be to national scale yet, or else I’m bad at finding things. Which is entirely possible. Either way, this one seems so obvious; I’m sure it’s occurred to others before.

Honestly, this is what Dell should try next, but they probably won’t, so if you got a big chunk of investment money burning a hole in your pocket …

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Currency Space Race: PayPal Fires the First Shot

Today, PayPal announced its PayPal Galactic initiative, an effort to open up awareness and discussion of issues related to finance, commerce and currency in an interplanetary economy. The initiative is a partnership with the SETI Institute and “others in the scientific community.”

According to the press release, PayPal Galactic “aims to bring together leaders in the space industry to work on the big questions around the commercialization of space. These include:

• What will our standard currency look like in a truly cash-free interplanetary society?
• How will the banking systems have to adapt?
• How will risk and fraud management systems need to evolve?
• What regulations will we have to conform with?
• How will our customer support need to develop?”

Here’s the video of the launch event.

A future of space travel, tourism, commerce and colonization needs a currency, sure. PayPal’s assumption is that this interplanetary future will likely be cash-free and unified into one society. While everything is forecastable, nothing is foregone. All kinds of futures are possible, however, right?

At present, on Earth, our monetary systems are tied to the global network of sovereign states and financial institutions, and space finance may be extended from this framework, but it may not necessarily be so. Like the seasteading movement, where parties seek out international waters in order to liberate themselves from the laws and regulations of sovereign states, humans in space may have their own ideas.

Personally, I have always imagined that we might see something like corporate scrip in space. Space ventures, especially private ones, are likely to be focused entities unto themselves, and historically on Earth, many self-contained corporate entities such as mining camps or factory complexes (even in such places as the Soviet Union) have issued their own currency/scrip for purchases in a self-contained company economy.

Maybe it won’t happen that way. Or maybe it will in some instances, but not for long. You could argue that eventually the need to exchange will standardize a fragmented currency situation, yet Earth itself does not have one currency. Perhaps space will offer currency exchange opportunities that we cannot at present predict.

But other configurations are possible. Look at recent alternative money movements (such as Bitcoin). Could there be space currency or currencies that are stateless, unpegged, freed from any corresponding collateral or institution? Could it be wild and fragmented and disconnected from nation states and other terrestrial economic constructs? If so, what would be the basis of value? I think there’s innovation space here, worth billions of dollars.

Anyway, space finance is wide open at this point (which makes it fun to speculate, pun intended).

It’s great that PayPal would like to get in front of the situation, and I salute PayPal Galactic for their effort.

[Full disclosure: I am an eBay employee. eBay owns PayPal. But I have no involvement whatsoever in PayPal Galactic. Unfortunately.]

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McKinsey Piece on The Internet of Things

Interesting McKinsey & Company piece on The Internet of Things:

The Internet of Things and the Future of Manufacturing

“Executives at Robert Bosch and McKinsey experts discuss the technology-driven changes that promise to trigger a new industrial revolution.”

The view here may be through a traditional manufacturing and logistic lens, but that’s where the first order impact is likely to be.