September 4th, 2011

other speculation about Malone

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2011/05/john_malone_bets_on_the_nook_w.html

In this version, the B&N stores become the Nook equivalent of an Apple store, and QVC (also part of the Malone portfolio) integrates with the Nook (along with movies, books, etc.). This coverage dates from May. I had not thought about the QVC aspect. At all. I never really intended to download the Amazon shopping app, but once I did, I got mildly hooked on using the camera to scan a barcode and order an item (only mildly -- I still mostly use the laptop for shopping, but I will occasionally use an iPad). One could imagine a Nook app that you could point at QVC on the TV and have it pull up the detail screen for that item so you could put in things like size and color. That's not interesting to me, but it might be interesting to someone.

http://money.msn.com/market-news/post.aspx?post=d2961023-bef1-448f-a0f4-224f1f7ebf2b

This one points out that Malone owns 40% of Expedia (I hadn't realized HSN and QVC were essentially the same thing -- R. knew, tho). And Expedia has a bunch of apps, not all of which are currently available for the Android but are expected to be soon. This one sounds especially cool:

http://thenextweb.com/apps/2011/07/28/expedia-founders-app-trover-lets-you-share-the-joy-of-discovery/

(Altho I think that's not actually an Expedia branded app, there are a bunch of apps that are expedia branded to help you make and manage travel plans.)

http://www.hdtvmagazine.com/columns/2011/05/hdtv-expert-the-times-they-are-achangin.php

Kinda silly, but focused on the TV/movies in your pocket aspect of a media reader, and that Malone could make money turning the Nook into that.

As I read more and more of these, my belief in this general idea (Malone will cobble sew together his portfolio of companies to turn the Nook into a general purpose media tablet. For cheap.) is fading, partly because of Malone's long history as a value player and partly because B&N did device first and is only backing into an ecosystem, whereas Amazon has put all of the elements of an ecosystem (an app store, a video streaming service, online library management and a cloud that they own to back the whole mess up) out. Apple did sort of 6 of one half a dozen of another approach: the cloud came later, and their online library management is a weird mix of deal-with-it-yourself through iTunes and no-we'll-do-that-for-you for the apps -- I haven't bought books through them for multiple devices so I have no mortal clue how books work through Apple). I'm not saying Malone can't or won't do some variation on what we're all speculating about; I just think the B&N purchase made sense to a value investor, independent of all this speculation. The cold hard truth is that a lot of people still buy paper books and they are _going_ to be buying paper books for a long, long time, and some significant fraction of those people want to do it in person. With Borders definitively out of the picture, B&N owns that space nationally and only has to share it in some areas with independents (yes, Target and Wal-Mart and so forth will sell bestsellers, but only B&N is going to have a deep list on the shelves).

developers and small towns

I've been trying to understand why national developers putting together projects on the 300 unit + scale seem to drop in more projects (and, obviously, more units) than regionals, at least in Metrowest. (Hey, if you can prove me long, I'd _love_ to see the data.) And I think I'm on to something.

Moss Development has been working on a 120 unit development in Sudbury for over a year, and the interaction with the town is not improving, at least not judging by this:

http://sudbury.patch.com/articles/residents-upset-at-housing-development-prospect

It's the usual complaints: I moved here because I like quiet/rural, this will change the town, etc.

"Kirsten Roopenian summed up the views of many in the crowd when she told Bob Moss, "You are an unwelcome invasion to our town. Nobody wants you here." She left the microphone to roaring applause."

And if you think that's unpleasant, here's the clarification:

""This project is far too dense for this town," she said. "We are a rural community that takes pride in a quieter way of life. Nobody wants a monstrosity like this development in their backyard. We are a community that doesn't like a lot of change.""

Wow.

!20 units is a _monstrosity_? I get concerns about traffic and impact on the schools. I really do. But 120 units on that site works out to .3 acres per unit. You _cannot_ convince me that that is scary dense, and while I haven't seen a site plan, the indications are that it is tightly clustered leaving substantial open space and tree screening. As for the schools, Moss prefers building 1- and 2- bedroom complexes because he knows perfectly well that 3- bedroom units impact school systems and that pisses people off. Moss has done a bunch of projects of this sort (Shrewsbury is done; Southborough and Sudbury are in progress) and in at least some cases, he's picking up stuff that got approved for much bigger Avalon projects that died when the bust happened.

And yet people complain.

I've commented before that if I were a developer, I'd come in high because I knew I'd be knocked down. Moss is local. You would think people would treat a local developer (who is really looking out for many of their concerns) a little better. You would be wrong. People really really really do believe that they are Special Butterflies and the Law Does Not Apply to Them and when they moved out to the country, the country was going to stay that way.

Well, unfortunately for people in Sudbury, all those leapfrogged rural areas are looking really tempting right now to people who'd like to reduce their commute length.

The seller had some perspective: "Many of you people came to town when I was here, and we welcomed you. Never once did I think that not everybody was welcome.""

I suppose Moss must be used to bad treatment by now, judging by this:

http://www.telegram.com/article/20110201/NEWS/102010380

Short form: Moss bought some forest land zoned for housing. Because it had been forest, it was taxed at current use (at the rate for what it was used at rather than what it was zoned for). Because it was taxed current use, town got a window to buy it for whatever was offered on it (first refusal). Moss and the seller told the town twice and twice the town declined -- and now, they've changed their mind and are complaining that it wasn't a valid offer to purchase and therefore their 120 day clock hasn't started. Interesting theory. I don't know how it turned out.