Friday, February 27, 2004


No, it's not a swear word, at least not according to this article on Wired. It actually is a Japanese word that translates (probably very roughly) to "lucky bag." According to the article, the first 200 shoppers to the new Apple store in San Francisco will be able to purchase one of these lucky bags for $250.00 and the bag just might contain a new iPod mini. I guess if you didn't get your name on the pre-order list and you were standing in line long enough to be one of the first 200 people, why not buy the bag? It says in the article that the lucky bag will contain $600-$1000 worth of items -- maybe not such a bad deal (at least in my mind, I already have a 30gb iPod) regardless of whether or not there's an iPod mini in the bag.

Another interesting piece of the article is the link to a video of a near-riot in Japan at a store in Japan who was running the same kind of lucky bag promotion when they opened.

The most interesting piece of the article, this inventory of what was in the lucky bag in Japan:

". . . contained six items, including an iSight camera, a Bluetooth USB adaptor, Bluetooth mouse, Apple's Keynote presentation software, a package for the .Mac online services and a 10 percent discount card for the store."

I sure don't see iPod Mini in the list above, so, personally, if that's what you're buying the bag trying to get (and you're one of the first 200 in line), I would suggest that you just go buy one off the shelf.
Naked DSL

Here's a novel concept: take the line that is carrying a service that no one wants along with high-speed Internet that everyone wants, get rid of the part no one wants, and charge more for the Internet. Sound like broadband cable? Sure does. You probably get the advertisements from Comcast or your cable provider every month advertising cable Internet service for around $60 if you are a non-cable TV subscriber or around $40 if you also have cable tv.

According to an article on Business Week, Qwest will finally start selling what is termed "naked DSL," or DSL-only service over a phone line (i.e., no dial tone service required). The interesting thing is how long it took them to be willing to change their business model to be willing or able to do this -- I would think that the second it really started working for cable, DSL providers would have immediately copied it.

Now that cable is the more dominant force in high speed Internet service to the home, expect to see fairly aggressive introductory pricing from Qwest and other DSL providers who adopt the same philosophy. One thing that has to be a little scary for the DSL provider would be companies like Vonage (see my earlier post on Vonage. Imagine paying around $50 for your naked DSL service. You then sign up with Vonage for $15 per month and get a dial tone that operates over high-speed broadband. Effectively, you have just "cheated" the phone company out of $20 in monthly service fees (dial tone service from the phone company being estimated at $35 per month), not to mention the fact that your $15 to Vonage include 500 minutes of long distance service.

One edge for DSL companies in the high speed war is the fact that so many of them either have or are affiliated with a cellular phone company and/or a wireless hotspot company. The advantage, obviously, would be to bundle home high-speed with cellular and wireless (or at the very least provide % discounts on cellular and wireless services).

After all is said and done, what is voice really on a digital network? It's simply a bunch of ones and zeroes, same as any other piece of data. The new Qwest/Verizon/BellSouth = your local data (not phone) company . . . if they can manage to think of it that way.
"Export software, not jobs" and "Outsource CEOs"

Those were the chants outside a recent Washington Tech dinner according to an article in Wired. Protesters were, of course, protesting the export of software development outside of the United States.

I continue to watch this issue heat up.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Windows XP SP2 Preview

This seems like a pretty major upgrade based on the screenshots and information in the article at Ars Technica. Major focus of the upgrade seems to be security, which is becoming a critical feature of operating systems as more worms, viruses, etc. are designed and released.
Dobly spam reduction

An article on Wired details 2 open-source spam filters that claim to be more effective than many costly commercial spam filters. One of the products is Dspam, which includes a technique that the software author has dubbed "Dobly" in homage to the Dolby noise reduction system. Dobly cleans some of the "noise" that spammers put into their e-mails to fool spam filtering systems. Essentially, Dspam uses Dobly to suppress noise before the e-mail is run through other filters.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Fast Company's annual Fast 50

The list is on the Fast Company site or at your newsstand. It is important to note that all of the people nominated for and appearing in the list are based on reader input.

My favorite? Has to be Steve Ellis from Chipotle. Why? Simple, I'm a huge fan of the product. But beyond just my burrito consumption, Ellis has a very enviable business model -- gourmet burritos made to order with the strength of the McDonald's distribution system. McDonald's hamburgers you ask? You bet. McDonald's essentially is the banker and distribution logistician, while Ellis still provides the vision and shapes the culture of the company. "Good fast food" pretty well sums up Chipotle, even in the face of competitors like Baja Fresh (for some reason the Chipotle product just tastes better to me).

What is Ellis' vision? From the interview with Fast Company:

"Food with Integrity."
eBay scam . . . sort of

Ok, let me set this up:

I have a vehicle for sale on If you click through, you will see that I have paid for the best listing that a consumer can get -- I have multiple pictures of my vehicle, a full description, etc.

Yesterday I received a call from a potential buyer, who asked me if I also had my vehicle listed on EBay. I told the buyer I did not and asked him why he had asked. The buyer responded that he had seen the same VIN and exact same pictures of my vehicle on an EBay listing. According to the gentleman that called me, the EBay seller had copied all of my pictures, my description, and my VIN number from the AutoTrader site and was requesting a $3,500.00 deposit via Western Union. Searching EBay, I found out that it was no lie, there was someone attempting to sell my vehicle on EBay.

I immediately contacted EBay through their SafeHarbor fraud investigation service, which was a very unfulfilled experience. I had to go through several pre-populated fields to generate an e-mail that asked that I only enter the EBay item number that was fraudulent. After sending the e-mail to EBay, I was informed that EBay had received my e-mail, but there would be no further contact from EBay because of their fraud investigation process. Doesn't that seem a little odd? Why wouldn't EBay want to know why I thought the item was a fraud? By using my pictures, the seller was committing copyright infringement, and by requesting a Western Union transfer, the seller was attempting to commit wire fraud. I, of course, being the owner of this vehicle new all of this, but EBay didn't let me tell them in my fraud report e-mail, and didn't want to talk to me.

After my lack of satisfaction with EBay's fraud reporting, I immediately sent an e-mail to (still haven't received a response), asking them to contact EBay and stating that I would be more than willing to participate with them, EBay, law enforcement, etc. to bring charges against this seller.

Still unfulfilled, I searched the Internet for phone numbers for EBay and found them almost immediately (note that I could not find any phone numbers on the EBay site). Although there was no direct line or menu choice for SafeHarbor, I did get in touch with a customer service person. The customer service person told me that I had to report the fraud through SafeHarbor and that she couldn't help me, but she did at least walk me through the fraud report process so that I received a free-form e-mail entry window that allowed me to input the full story (I can't wait to see if I hear back from EBay -- they have another 22 hours to process the claim).

Feeling frustrated with the whole process, I tried to see if my vehicle was still for sale by searching the item number, and EBay could not find the auction. I then searched EBay for my vehicle VIN and again EBay could not find the auction. Finally I searched for information on the seller and EBay displayed a message that the seller had been suspended.

Suspended? I had to assume that the seller had been suspended because of my fraud complaint, which made me happy. However, after I had a minute to think about it, I realized that there wasn't really any way that EBay could have substantiated my fraud complaint because they didn't specifically know why I was reporting the item as fraudulent. EBay never contacted me to find out why I thought the item was fraudulent, although I guess AutoTrader may have contacted them to let them know what was going on.

So here's the big question: If you take the time to report an item as fraudulent on EBay, does EBay immediately suspend your status as a seller?
America's 20 Hotest Job Markets

At least according to this aritcle in Business 2.0.
On the IPod

Wired has a great article and interview with Dr. Michael Bull, who is doing a comprehensive study on the effect of the IPod on people's lives. From the article:

One of the interesting things is that with vinyl, the aesthetic was in the cover of the record. You had the sleeve, the artwork, the liner notes. With the rise of digital, the aesthetic has left the object -- the record sleeve -- and now the aesthetic is in the artifact: the iPod, not the music. The aesthetic has moved from the disc to what you play it on ... and the iPod mini will appeal to those who want an artifact for style....

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Who cares what they sell . . .

. . . when they choose the URL Ok, the name of the company is Technology Associates and they seem to sell all kinds of flashlights (and a disposable camera BB gun). The point is: did they do this as some kind of joke? It really doesn't make me want to buy a product from them, and certainly doesn't inspire confidence in them as a web company. I have little tolerance for this -- if the domain you wanted was taken, choose a different domain.

Can you imagine these people's e-mail addresses? Seems like that should be the e-mail address for a maltempered tech support site.
Hottest IPO of the year?

A Wired Magazine article has a very comprehensive guide to Google as it sits in its quiet period. Probably the best part of this article is page 4, where Google "superusers" give quotes regarding their use of Google. Probably the best quote (in my humble opinion) from a most unlikely source:

"It's not my homepage, but it might as well be. I use it to ego-surf. I use it to read the news. Anytime I want to find out anything, I use it."

Who's the quote from? (for those of you that didn't click through the link above) It's from matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons.

I would agree with Groening in my personal use of Google. And just like him, Google is not my homepage, but it probably should be. I suppose that it is the convenience of the ever-present Google toolbar in my browser that makes me feel comfortable to assign my homepage elsewhere, knowing that any time I want, I can search the web, Google news, Froogle, images, anything I want. As an added bonus, I can go to a site I want to blog about and simply click the Blogger button, which automatically puts the site URL into the blogging window.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Google is the fact that it has transcended the brand and turned into a word in common usage for a product; that product, of course being Internet searching. Ever heard anyone say "Google it," or "I Googled it" as if everyone should understand what that means? Of course you have. And the surprising part? Everyone does know what that means!
RFID blockers?

Radio Frequency ID (RFID) is being hailed as the replacement for barcodes. Essentially, RFID tags that are embedded in products or product packaging pass information to a RFID reader when in proximity to the reader. One of the big concerns regarding RFID has been security, but RSA, according to an article at has developed RSA security technology. When I read the title of the article, I thought that RSA had done something absolutely extraordinary with RFID technology, but as I read, I realized that they had, for all intents and purposes, simply created a RFID disrupter. The example given in the article of the RSA product is that a RFID-enabled bottle of pills is placed in a bag that has the RSA disrupter embedded in it. The disrupter in the bad will prevent RFID readers from reading RFID data from the pill bottle until the bottle is removed from the bag. While admirable that RSA has come up with this security device, it sort of reminds me of the lead bags that they used to sell to protect your film when sending it through x-ray machines at the airport.
Sixteen hard truths of off-shoring

Tom Peters has just posted the following 16 hard truths of Offshoring on his Observations site. I think it's important to point out that Tom has been predicting that 90% white collar jobs are going to be moved overseas since March of 2000. Expect to see more and more information on this topic as it becomes a bigger and bigger hotpoint in political elections.

1. "Off-shoring" will continue; the tide cannot be reversed.

2. Service jobs are a bigger issue than manufacturing jobs, by an order of magnitude.

3. The automation of business processes is as big a phenomenon in job shrinkage as off-shoring.

4. We are in the middle of a once every hundred years' (or so) productivity burst -- which is good for us in the long haul.

5. Job churn is normal and necessary: The more the better ... long haul.

6. Americans' "unearned wage advantage" could be erased permanently. ("There is no job which is America's God-given right anymore." -- Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard)

7. The wholesale, upscale entry of 2.5 billion people (China, India) into the global economy at an accelerating rate is almost unfathomable.

8. Big Companies are off-shoring/automating almost exclusively in pursuit of efficiency and shareholder value enhancement. (This is not new or news.)

9. Big companies do not create jobs, and historically have not. (Big companies are not "built to last;" they almost inexorably are "built to decline.")

10. Job creation is entrepreneurially led, especially by a small number of "start-ups" that become growth companies (Microsoft, Amgen et al.); hence entrepreneurial incentives including low capital gains taxes, high R&D supports are a top priority.

11. Primary and secondary education must be reformed, in particular to underscore creativity and innovation -- the mainstays of high-value added products and services. Children should be nurtured on risk-taking, with a low expectation of corporate cosseting.

12. Research universities must be vigorously supported.

13. National/global protection of intellectual capital is imperative.

14. All economic progression is a matter of moving up the "value-added chain." (This is not "management speak": Think farm to factory to R&D lab.)

15. Worker benefits (health care, re-training credits, pensions) should be portable, to induce rather than impede labor mobility.

16. Workers have the ultimate stake. They must "re-imagine" themselves -- take the initiative to create useful global skills, not imagine that large employers or powerful nations will protect them from the current (and future!) labor market upheavals.

Monday, February 23, 2004

On the importance of blogs

Good article from Business 2.0 on why blogs will become increasingly more important in the business world. Rather than a static book (or in complement with a static book), blogs allow dynamic, real-time information flow. Currently blogs, like this one, tend to be outward-facing to the general public. I, as a blog author, hope that you continue to read my blog because you like my opinions (or don't like them, but continue to read to see what I'll say next). Do I do this because I make money from it? Not at all. I like to share my opinions and provide information sources about things that you may not have found or thought about. Additionally, there is the benefit of writing daily -- ask any English teacher, the best way to improve writing (like anything else) is to practice, practice, practice.

Can you make money from blogging? Sure, check out Gizmodo and look at all the ads. The author of Gizmodo, Peter Rojas, was one of the pioneers of blogging and he gets ridiculous numbers of viewers per day. In fact, the publisher of Gizmodo, Nick Denton, is working on a new service called Kinja that will aggregate blogs under topics and allow folks to rate blogs they visit (much akin to the book rating system on -- in fact, doesn't it seem like Amazon could implement customer blog rating tomorrow?).

I like to think of the strategic implications of blogs for companies. Think of the HR department of a company publishing a daily blog of relevant HR information for people looking to get a job with that company on the Internet. Take the thought a step further, and have a HR blog on the intranet that posts updates to HR processes, open enrollment dates, health care changes, etc. Imagine if every department in the company had an internal and (maybe) even an externally-facing blog. Would this enable employees in a company to know what other departments are doing? You bet! Would it do more than that? I guarantee it! And the thing is that companies have servers with capacity to run blog software -- yes, there is free, open-source blog software. Free seems like an extremely low cost of entry for something that could drastically improve business.

UPDATE 2/25/04: My sincere apologies to Peter Rojas at Gizmodo for mixing up his and Nick Denton's roles with the blog. I read Gizmodo every day and see his name on the site every day, but somehow messed the roles. Once again, my apologies.
Itunes hack update

I previously reported on the low-tech Itunes music hack. For more detailed instruction on how to perform the hack visit How to never lose Pepsi's iTunes giveaway. I've seen less technical instructions for picking locks.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Korean language pack required

Ever gotten the warning in the title when you've tried to go to a web page? Worry no more, just go to the AltaVista Babel Fish Translation Service site. Simply enter in the website you are trying to translate and the languages you are translating to and from, and the Babelfish service does a passable job of translating the web page. Additionally, Babelfish has a service that allows you to translate sections of text (up to 150 words). Best part about the service? It's free!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Did you go look at it after you saw the Mitsubishi commercial where they were throwing bowling balls and other assorted items out of the back of a truck at the cars? I sure did, and that's exactly what the advertising firm wanted. According to a Business 2.0 article online spending for 2003 was about $7.2 Billion. A lot of the money was spent in search word advertising (you know, sponsored results based on keywords), so a lot of money went to the big search engines like Yahoo!, Google, and AltaVista. Traditional online advertisers like Doubleclick also go their fair share of the money, meaning that companies are trending towards online advertising as their new or expanding medium. According to the article, many of the Yellow Pages online companies expect sponsored results for local business category searches to be big business this year.

Personally, I like the fusion of traditional advertising methods (i.e., tv) with online (see the link in the title of this story). What were the advantages for Mitsubishi? I'm sure there are more than I can come up with, but one obvious one (to me) is that Mitsubishi only had to pay for a 30 second advertising spot (high cost of entry) at tv rates and was able to run the rest of commercial (length not being an option) on the Internet (low cost of entry). Additionally, becomes a destination site; I even clicked through some of the car specs after the commercial was over (not that I'm in the market for a car).

Another fusion advertising device that I have seen is soda can advertising that drives you to a website. Instead of the old way of can advertising, "Bring in this can any time between this date range and get $5 your admission to Six Flags," some cans are now simply providing a code that you enter in a site to see what you've won. The advantage to this method (not that the Six Flags method is a bad one if you are in that type of business) is that you can produce the cans, get them in the market, advertise the grand prize, and have other prizes come along later. Additionally, you can dynamically add "prizes" to businesses that need help. In the Six Flags example, if Thursdays in 2004 tend to trend to lower attendance than 2003, Six Flags could offer a better website discount for Thursdays, and more specifically if the third Thursday of every month was especially bad, Six Flags could offer a 2 for 1 or 4 for 1 discount that the code "unlocks" specifically for that date.
The lowest tech hack

Want to hack Apple's Itunes service to receive free songs? It's as easy as simply picking up a Pepsi bottle in a store and taking the time to look under the cap. According to an article on, a little effort on your part, and you can not only see if the bottle is a winner, but you can also see the actual redemption code. Basically, at the very least, consumers can pick a winner to purchase, at the most they can rip off the full code.

Here's my idea of a low-tech solution for the Pepsi side (of course I am not a bottler and can't speak to the economic impacts of this idea, nor can I speak to how many bottles have been shipped or how hard it is to change the production lines): extend the length of the wrapper up the neck of the bottle.

As a side note: I wonder how many people would not have figured out this hack if it hadn't been reported?
Using your laptop as a phone

In an article on, manufacturers are talking about using laptops as phones. Intel, among others, is talking about integrating Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and even cell provider access in its chipset. The term for these kinds of laptops is "Extended Mobile Access" (EMA). When the laptop is in a sleep state, a small EMA screen on the outer lid will still function as a phone, voice messaging system, display incoming e-mails, allow access to calendar, contacts, etc. (this sounds a lot like the Paul Allen computer I reported on earlier this week with its LID technology).

So who would really use this? The article says it is aimed at international travelers as a base market to help reduce the costs of calling, which I understand. However, having used a Blackberry phone (like holding a brick to your head), I really can't imagine using my laptop as a phone -- yes, I understand that I wouldn't be holding a laptop to my head; it still doesn't feel right.

How about this -- just build VOIP into my phone. The way smart devices are going, I'd love to just be able to leave my laptop at home. I could certainly conceive of a Treo 600 form factor that intelligently switched between GSM and VOIP to save me money.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Pretty cool

For me at least. This blog has made it on to the Fast Company Reads list -- just click the link and look on the left side of the page under "FC Reads." Nice to know that someone reads my blog.

If you read my blog and want to get in touch with me (agree with me, disagree with me, refer something to me, etc.), feel free to e-mail me by clicking here.
The new leadership model?

Perhaps. In this MSNBC article, the relationship between Michael Dell and his COO, Kevin Rollins are examined. The interesting thing about this article is how much sense it makes. You have Michael Dell, the young, aggressive visionary paired with Kevin Rollins, the older, more experienced operator. In most situations neither of these personalities would be able to tolerate each other, but at Dell, it is the mesh of these personalities that makes the company work so well.

In many companies (unfortunately), the amount of infighting and political maneuvering between a Michael Dell and a Kevin Rollins would probably make it impossible for the 2 to work together. However, in the case of Dell, Michael Dell realized that he couldn't and didn't know how to do everything. Michael swallowed his pride and surrounded himself with Kevin Rollins. That's not to say that there wasn't/isn't cultural clash and infighting, but the article does point out Michael and Kevin always present a united front to the employees and the public by presenting everything courtesy (always) of "Michael and Kevin."

Michael and Kevin seem to have figured out the perfect formula for sharing power and very well could be the single key to Dell's continued success and the very reason that Dell did not go belly-up when the PC market very abruptly stopped growing.

Does the Dell model work for everyone? Instead of saying no, consider why it might not. I would argue that the answer is because: (1) there is a feeling in a lot of corporations (still) that young people are too aggressive, aren't seasoned, enough, etc. and therefore not given enough responsibility, and; (2) there is always so much of a power struggle (whether between young and old or otherwise) in corporations, that there is never a chance that 2 people (or more than 2) could cooperate in the way Michael and Kevin have been able to.
From 3 billion to 4+ billion indexed pages

Does it really matter? An Article in CNN today reports that Google has indexed an additional billion pages for its web search engine. This news comes as Google and Yahoo! prepare to split ways -- Yahoo! had been sourcing web searching out to Google, but with purchases of search technology providers like Inktomi, Yahoo! is poised to roll out its own search technology.

The real question is whether or not the number of pages indexed really matters to people performing searches. My answer, no, not really. What I care about as an Internet searcher is how relevant the results that I receive are. I don't want to have to click through multiple pages of search results; I do want the first 10 results on the page to be the most relevant to what I asked the search engine to search for.

The people that benefit in the greatest way from increased competition in the search industry are the consumers. Increased competition will lead to increased innovation and, hopefully, more relevant search results. The best part is that the consumers get to use the product for free.

Don't believe me on the relevancy of indexed pages? Ok, here's a quote from the article above (person quoted is Chris Winfield, an expert on the Internet search industry):

"'Having all those extra pages in the index really isn't going to make much difference for average users, but it cements in their minds that Google has the best search engine out there and the company isn't just resting on its laurels,' Winfield said. "
Solving the last-mile problem

The last-mile problem is what all broadband providers face -- how to get high-speed Internet into people's homes. The biggest provider methods of broadband right now are Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), which travels over existing phone lines (but requires you to be within a minimum distance of the telephone company's central office); high-speed cable, which travels over existing cable tv lines (but requires you to live in an area where cable is available and the cable network has been upgraded); Direcway, which travels over satellite (but the upload transmission speeds are about the same as dial-up and the equipment is very expensive); wireless (but the networks are being built slowly and coverage can be spotty). Companies like Level 3 and Qwest laid fiber along the nation's rail lines to form the backbone of their networks, but there is a larger and more pervasive infrastructure in the U.S. that not only will support a backbone, but also solves the last mile problem. The infrastructure is the nation's power infrastructure, and according to an article in, there is now technology to provide Internet over powerlines.

The question is whether or not this technology is too late. As companies like Verizon and Nextel bring wireless broadband networks online that run at or above the speeds of cable and DSL, it's possible that it's just taken too long for Internet over power lines to come to be. The core market for broadband services is really the densely populated areas, but those areas are the source of the most competition between competing service providers, so does the cost of installing expensive equipment to provide Internet service make sense for the power companies? Only time will tell.
Is it possible that Outkast is wrong?

"Hey Ya!" is the name of the popular Outkast song, but the chorus of "shake it like a Polaroid picture" is probably what most people identify with the song. In anarticle on, it is pointed out that Polaroid actually recommends that users not shake their Polaroid pictures. I actually went to the Polaroid site to verify this information (it's not that I don't trust CNN, but I had to see for myself. Indeed, in the support area on the site (I don't know if this link will work because the site uses Flash, so I have included the specific click-through instructions), if you click on "Image Trouble" and "Damaged Image," they list the "Cause" as "Picture was fanned or bent after being ejected from the camera." Further, under "Solution," it says "Hold the print by the wide, white border. Handle the print gently. Do not fan, wave or bend the print as it is developing."

Pretty funny because I (and everyone else I know) grew up shaking the Polaroid picture to get the picture to develop faster. My parents taught me to do it. To be honest, I never really thought about the fact that the film didn't really touch the air and so shaking it did not really aid in the development (I don't really remember totally destroying an image by shaking it either). Makes you wonder where the whole idea of shaking came from. Obviously someone was the cause of this phenomenon. I wonder if it wasn't Polaroid (not that I have any proof). Sort of reminds me of the mirrors that they put in elevators; it's not that the mirror makes the elevator ride any faster, it just seems like it when the mirrors are there (i.e., it gives you something to do while riding up the elevator).

As a side note, where did Polaroid use to advise consumers that "fanning" pictures could cause damage? I don't ever remember reading that on the side of a box of Polaroid film (not that I spent a tremendous amount of time reading film boxes).

UPDATE 2/21/04 -- Seems Seth Godin wrote abou this same issue in his blog same time as I did. He also wonders where the shaking came from. Based on the fact that he posted on 2/17, I certainly have to give him credit for reporting on the story first.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Real mobile computing

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has a new mobile computing toy he plans to target to business users. Allen has created a relatively small form factor full-fledged computer that runs Microsoft XP, the full version. The computer has a full (though not full-sized) keyboard, pointing device, and a small, wide screen. The cool and differentiating thing about the machine is the Low-power Interactive Display (LID) on the exterior of the screen that operates when the clamshell computer is closed. The LID allows access to e-mail, contacts, and all the other stuff that you don't want to have to open your laptop for. Allen plans to have the device selling by next Christmas.

Can't wait for Allen's machine to come out? Click to check out the Sony U3 direct from Japan. The U3 has roughly the same form factor as Allen's, but with no LID.
Porter's 5 Forces

Those of you with MBA's (or just overachievers with undergraduate degrees) know exactly what I am talking about -- Barriers to Entry, Bargaining Power of Buyers, Bargaining Power of Suppliers, Availability of Substitutes, and Rivalry Among Firms. Anyone involved in MBA schools or in strategic processes is probably very familiar with Michael Porter's 5 Forces and can probably rattle them off from their memory. I just had the chance to read an excellent Fast Company article with some of Porter's more modern view on the world and how strategy is still important in warp speed economies.

The sad thing about the article is the number of truths. Agree with Porter's model or not, he is correct in saying that many companies have abandoned strategy all together for a myriad of reasons. Porter acknowledges that strategy is not easy, and I would certainly agree. In the strategic process, you set up your goals and objectives, formulate your strategy, implement your strategy, and control your strategy. The process is, of course, continuous, but more importantly, the process can yield 95% of the usefulness; the Strategy itself (content), really is only the resulting 5% of the process.

Many, many books during the dotcom boom were written regarding the insane speed of the economy and how agile businesses have to be; that big battleship-size companies were bound to be defeated by the speedboats. What seems to have conveniently slipped from many peoples' minds is that, speedboat or battleship, you still need someone to steer the boat.

Porter points out that many consider technology to be one of the main reasons that strategy has fallen by the wayside -- technology is improving and changing so quickly that strategy cannot keep up. While he acknowledges that technological advance and change is astoundingly quick, strategy endures. When I was consulting back in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) boom, there was an overwhelming temptation by many companies to simply automate processes, to purchase expensive software. The simple fact of the matter is that technology is just that, automation. If the business processes or, at a higher level, the business strategy is not in place, you simply wind up with an automated bad process and bad strategy.

Perhaps, Porters article is best summed up in this quote:

"So companies have to be very schizophrenic. On one hand, they have to maintain continuity of strategy. But they also have to be good at continuously improving."

There's some powerful language about the purpose a leader in an organization at the end of the article. If you are a leader I encourage you to read it (several times, in fact maybe even print it out and hang it on your wall). There is nothing new in what he says in the last section, but maybe it needs to be said again, and again, and again . . . because so many leaders get their jobs so wrong. Don't believe that? I suggest you check out the past few monthly editions of Fast Company regarding the continuing theme of CEO's that should be fired. I'll even start you off with this article to aid you in search
IPod Mini out Friday

I thought this was joke when I first read this story. Based on all the articles I had read and the hoopla surrounding the release of the IPod Mini, I thought that this device had already come out. Turns out, as the title of the article says, the Minis will begin shipping on Friday -- first orders filled will be the 100,000 pre-orders. I do have to say that I am quite surprised that there are that many pre-orders for this device. Cost of the mini is $249.00, whereas the cost of the 15gb full-size is $299. The Mini holds about 1,000 songs and the 15gb full-size holds about 3,700 songs. In my mind, I would hands-down pay the extra $50.00 for the extra 2,700 songs; of course, I wouldn't get a smaller device in cool fashion colors.

Interesting, about the delay, although not too surprising overall. After all, I got my 30gb IPod when it first came out and have been waiting for certain accessories ever since. It's interesting, when I think back about my accessory buying -- I have bought several accessories just to make due until the next cooler accessory came out; maybe it does work to advertise, withhold, get pre-orders, and then ship.
HD TiVo later this year

TiVo and other DVR manufacturers will be releasing high-definition-capable recording devices later this year according to this article on Wired. What does this mean? For those that just want regular TiVo functionality, it means that the price on regular (i.e., non-HD) TiVo hardware should drop considerably; expect to see more package deals that include free TiVo hardware. For those that have been waiting to record shows in HD (and skip the commercials), it means you will be doing it by the end of the year.

One of the big concerns for television stations and Hollywood is content protection (although, as with all TiVo-type products, the television stations are very concerned about the ability to skip commercials). According to the article above, TiVo systems will employ a Digital Visual Interface (DVI)-driven protection scheme, which actually checks to see if an HD device is authorized to play the content. The DVI works with High-bandwidth Digital Content encryption, which encrypts the recorded information until the DVI check has been authorized. I give it about 1-2 months following the release of the TiVo HD device before there is some sort of "black-box" that will break this DVI protection.

Let's see how quickly some hacker breaks this protection scheme. Following that, let's see how quickly HD video extraction from these boxes end up on Kazaa and drive the next revolution in digital downloading . . . video.
The next time you look at your ATT Wireless bill . . .

. . . it could have a Cingular logo on the top of it. Cingular just won a bidding war for AT&T Wireless, paying $15 per share or $41 billion. Read more details here.

By purchasing AT&T Wireless, Cingular has now become the biggest cellular carrier in the U.S., surpassing Verizon who formerly held that spot. Does this mean that more mergers are imminent? Maybe. Cingular, according to the article above, estimates $1 billion in savings in 2006 and $2 billion in annual savings starting in 2007.

If the economics were to work out similarly for other companies if they merged, it would be likely to see more mergers taking place. Looking at the networks, Cingular and AT&T Wireless both use the same kind of network -- GSM/GPRS, meaning that, in addition to operational synergies and savings, customers should benefit by an increased coverage area. Verizon and Sprint use the same kind of network -- CDMA, so there may be a benefit to those companies exploring financial and operational benefits. T-Mobile operates GSM just like the new Cingular/AT&T network, so maybe there will be plans for a merger there. Nextel operates on a proprietary IDEN network, which is not really compatible with with GSM or CDMA, however, were Nextel to merge with any of these companies, I would not be surprised if new Nextel hardware had the ability to hop between IDEN and GSM or CDMA networks.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Office politics can suck

Especially if you don't know how to navigate the political landscape. A great book that I just finished reading entitled Don't Sabotage your Success! by Karen Wood is a great guide to navigating the complicated political environment that is found in many businesses.

I must admit that although I may, on subconscious level, been aware that I was sabotaging my own success in my organization by not meshing with the politics in my office, it took reading this book to really coherently bring together all of the "rules" of office politics.

This books is very well-written and very easy to read. Important topics in politics are introduced and then driven home through the use of real-life examples and stories.

I shared many of the same frustrations and frames of mind that Ms. Wood expresses in her book, and now I have a roadmap to help work through complicated office politics. As with all change in life, I certainly expect my change to be more in tune with office politics to be extraordinarily painful, however, it is nice to have a reference to refer to.

As Ms. Wood says in her book:
"Make no mistake -- the road to happiness and success in most business cultures is not obvious to most of us. This is not well laid out for us in any education we might have received in school. What you may find in this book is some . . . "lessons" contradict everything you have understood up to this point to be valid on how to be successful.
I fought the law and the law won

One of the better promotions going right now is the Pepsi/Itunes promotion. It's super-simple . . . buy a Pepsi and have a one in three chance of winning free music.

Why would Pepsi want to get involved in what some may say is an effort to stop illegal downloading? Why not? Think of the target demographic of people downloading music -- is it really any surprise that it is the same target demographic that Pepsi wants to sell to (quite frankly, it also happens to be the same demographic that beer companies want to sell to -- rumor has it that Heineken will be running a similar promotion in 12 packs of its beer)?

The television commercial is quite ingenious -- it features the 12 year old girl that was sued by the RIAA for illegally downloading music. In fact, what comes to mind many of the times I hear about new RIAA action is the Pepsi promotion.

Pepsi could not have picked a better company to partner with on this promotion, Apple, the undisputed leader in digital music downloading. What's in it for Apple? Apple's business model is running its Itunes music service as a loss-leader; Apple is in business to sell IPods. If there are 100 million free songs being given away by Pepsi, Apple has a very good chance of converting Pepsi drinkers into IPod owner's.

Economically, what do 100 million songs cost Apple and Pepsi? Strictly speaking, it has been estimated that Apple gives $0.60 of every $0.99 song to the record company. Using that formula, the cost of the hard give-away product, songs, is $60 million. Seems like a large sum, but then again, how much of an advertising budget does Pepsi have in a year? I personally have no idea what Pepsi's advertising budget is, but you can bet that it is well in excess of $60 million (especially with contributions from Apple). As mentioned above, one of the ancillary benefits of the promotion is that Pepsi consumers are being steered toward legal downloading rather than peer-to-peer file sharing. It stands to reason that the record companies, either independently or through the RIAA would want to help subsidize this promotion.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see promotions that mimic this promotion become more and more common. And in 2-5 years? I would certainly expect to see promotions like this one that involve downloading movies rather than downloading music. Personally, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Pepsi and the movie downloading powerhouse (whoever that winds up being) running the first co-branded movie downloading promotion.

Motion Picture Association . . . are you paying attention? Try not to make exactly the same mistakes and find yourself in the exact same place the RIAA is now.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Coolest job in the world?

Ram Charan is a homeless problem solver . . . specifically he doesn't own a home and he helps some of the biggest businesses in the world solve their strategic problems. In fact, Charan has 2 assistants that FedEx clothes to him because he has no home to return to. Charan has consulted for people like Jeffrey Immelt, the successor to Jack Welch at GE. Read in-depth about Charan in this Fast Company Story.
Patrick Lencioni's new book

For those of you that have never read his books, Patrick Lencioni has a remarkable series of leadership, management, teambuilding books that illustrate important lessons and learnings by telling fables of real-life examples. It's interesting to read a story about a company or executive that may be similar in some ways to you or your company (or dramatically different) and end up learning some critical skills (in case you miss the major points, there is a review at the end and an expounding on the ideas introduced in the fable). Lencioni's newest book Death by Meeting : A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business is available for pre-order from now and I strongly suggest picking up a copy.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Seth Godin's new book

I write enough about him and shamelessly steal topics from his blog, so now I'm going to offer you a chance to get a copy of his new book in its first production run. The last book of Seth's that I bought in first production was A Purple Cow and it came in a very cool milk carton package. Seth's next book promises to come in some sort of cool packaging, but just like the last book, I'm sure the packaging will only be available for the first production run. Click here to figure out how to get your copy.
Reward your customers in real time

Earning points and redeeming them is pretty good for customer loyalty, but real-time, instantaneous reward for loyalty is the gold standard. Enter Harrah's Casinos. Harrah's is currently working to develop software rules that will reward its Total Rewards-carrying members in real time. Imagine being on a losing streak and the casino gives you an extra $20 worth of credit on your slot machine to help recoup some losses. Read more about the program here.

What's the upside for Harrah's? Beside the obvious fact of getting more Total Rewards cards into people's hands and therefore tracking the consumer behavior, instant gratification will potentially make consumers not want to leave the Harrah's casinos when gambling and may make consumers specifically travel to Harrah's casinos as opposed to competitors.
Ad-hoc peer-to-peer routing technology

At least that's what MeshNetworks calls it. The title of this post is the technical definition of what is known as a "mesh network." Mesh networks are currently used by public service agencies and the military.

Essentially mesh networks allow each wireless user to also act as a wireless repeater. What exactly does that mean? Here's a simple example: You are using a wireless device in your car to connect to the Internet wirelessly via a fixed wireless hotspot. Another person that's close to you in their car, but is not close enough to the wireless hotspot can use you as a bridge to connect to the hotspot.

In the case of MeshNetworks (the company), their technology allows not only connections such as the example listed above, but also connections directly between clients (i.e., the 2 cars in the example above could connect to each other even if there was no hotspot available.

Still a little hazy on how this works? Ok, MeshNetworks has provided a picture here.

The benefits for public safety and military are quite obvious: for public safety agencies it ensures continuity of connection between units, and for the military it allows them to instantaneously set up a data-sharing network in a battlefield that maintains continuity of connection.

For the public sector (i.e., end consumer), assuming that the security could be sufficiently programmed, imagine that everyone using wireless smart phones, wireless PDA's, and wireless laptops could all act as repeaters as well as receivers.
Supplement your vocabulary

Think you have a pretty up-to-date vocabulary already? Think again. Check out WordSpy. WordSpy, according to the site, is a site that's ". . .devoted to lexpionage, the sleuthing of new words and phrases."

Paul McFedries, the site creator, searches for words that have appeared multiple numbers of times in printed media, the web, and other sources and then posts the definition(s) along with citations of the appearances.

One of the top words of 2003 was "metrosexual." Know what it means? No? Click here for the definition.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

What's next for Instant Messaging?

First, let's examine what Instant Messaging, regardless of the provider, really is: Instant Messaging is a simplex (i.e., 2 people cannot "talk" at precisely the same time -- you may experience this on old speakerphones at your office) connection between 2 users with compatible software clients installed (doesn't matter if the software is installed on your phone, computer, PDA, etc., the software has to be compatible with the service provider).

Current enhancements to IM clients include video conferencing, which enables duplex (i.e., both people can talk at precisely the same time and they can both hear what the other is saying) audio (forget about the video component for the moment). Now, the Apple iChat client actually has a connection mode that does forget about the video component, called "voice connection." Imagine if all your friends used iChat compatible software (iChat software, by the way, is available for free from Apple for Apple users and is compatible with free AOL Instant Messenger software for Windows).

Do you know a lot of people that use AIM on their Windows machine? I sure do. Voice Over IP? Why not Voice Over IM? Imagine if AOL Instant Messenger was able to route calls to people in your Buddy List via IM and route calls to people you don't know via IP. Then add the video component back in. Suddenly you have a very powerful product. And the best way to get people to use it (and maybe pay a monthly service charge for IP calling)? Give it away for free (if you give it away for free and keep adding features, you work your way towards becoming the defacto standard).
Comcast and Disney sitting in a tree . . .

Comcast has made public their offer to purchase Disney as can be read
here in Business Week.

Does this really make sense? It does in my mind. It's really quite simple and very old -- vertical integration. Comcast (i.e., distributor) is trying to buy Disney (i.e., supplier). Basically, if Comcast gets control of Disney, they get control of all the Disney holdings, which include the Disney back library (video-on-demand is the direction cable and satellite companies are going . . . what if you could only see the movies that were "locked in the Disney vault" by being a Comcast subscriber), ABC, and ESPN. Many analysts seem to think that ESPN is the key to the deal, I would say that the Disney library is as, if not more, important.
Lots of news about Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

What does a new telephone technology cause the need for? Guarantee you didn't think of this one . . . the ability to apply wiretaps. Read the article.

Interestingly enough, carriers that currently provide VOIP services, according to the article, are fully cooperating with police and FBI wiretap requests. Further, Vonage who I have mentioned before in this blog already has the ability to perform the wiretap service for police.

So if everyone's willing to cooperate, what are the police and FBI worried about? If I were them, the question that would keep me up all night would be how hard it is for some kid in his garage to start up his own VOIP provider . . .
How long did we really think this would take?

Welcome to the world of Anonx. In the spirit of anonymous re-mailers and Anonymizer(the anonymous web surfing tool), there is a new player on the block that hides your identity when using P2P programs. Basically, the Anonx software creates a virtual network between your computer and the Anonx server and you use P2P programs on the Anonx machines rather than on your own machine. Sound confusing? It's actually really simple -- pay $5.95 a month to Anonx and download all you want using software from companies like Kazaa.

Why did the person who created Anonx actually create it? He was pissed off at the RIAA suing people and he firmly believes that the RIAA will NOT be able to receive a judgement to get access to the Anonx servers. Read more from SecurityFocus.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The RIAA needs to figure out a way to embrace the P2P technology.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Nothing to Powerseller in less time than it takes you to read this post

Ever sold an item on Ebay? Ok, more importantly, have you ever bought an item on Ebay? Who do you trust when you are buying something you want? Ebay has a rating system that allows people that purchase items from sellers to rate sellers, and for people that sell high volume on Ebay to make that fact known to the public. High-volume sellers on Ebay are called "Powersellers."

One of the daunting tasks of starting as a seller on Ebay is knowing that you may be competing for bids on a similar item with a Powerseller or that people will not buy from you because you are not a Powerseller (the irony, of course, being that you have to make sales to become Powerseller, but it's hard to make sales until you are a Powerseller).

Enter a very elegant solution known as AuctionDrop. Auction Drop's motto is very simple -- "You drop it off, we sell it on Ebay." And that is exactly what Auction Drop does. There are certain restrictions on value, weight, etc., but Auction Drop enjoys an Ebay Titanium Powerseller. Auction Drop charges a premium percentage based on the cost of the item (the higher the cost, the lower the percentage). Auction Drop is currently opening stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles to allow people to walk in with items to be auctioned.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Yellow Pages

Do you use the online Yellow Pages? I do. My favorite yellow page site is Dex Online (used to be known as Qwest Dex, but I think this was one of the assets Qwest had to sell off). In any event, I read an interesting post by Seth Godin in his Blog regarding the Yellow Pages online. Seems Seth was searching for a magic store near his house and the couple of sites that he searched and couldn't find the magic store that he knew was there, which shows a weakness in the whole online yellow page system.

I would think that it wouldn't be too hard for Amazon to use its search inside the book technology for the yellow pages. Think about it, Amazon ships all the yellow pages over to India, have the spines ripped off, and scan in all the pages. Then Amazon programs some very basic code to recognize the categories (they could use the pre-existing yellow pages category classification), and suddenly you have the perfect blend between the printed and online yellow pages. Classification and drill-down to the level of the printed version, but instant online access. Currently Amazon doesn't allow you to page through an entire book that they have scanned in because of copyright concerns (i.e., a person being able to pring out an entire scanned book), but they do let you scan through several pages past your search term. Similarly, Amazon could let you page through the number of pages that contain the category you are searching under.

By the way, this isn't something that only Amazon could do. One has to imagine that the yellow pages exist in some sort of digital fashion before they are typeset . . . Let's see, if you were a yellow pages company you could license the Amazon search technology (like Apple licensed the Amazon One-Click technology) and only produce your yellow pages digitally (or at least print less copies or give the consumer the choice of how to view the yellow pages). Imagine the possibilities . . . dynamic ads rather than static ads in a printed book, real-time updating (if it hasn't been scanned, then it's still digital, which means it can be updated) . . .
"This record label pays radio stations to keep independent music off the air"

At least that's what the stickers say that they put on CD covers. Check out Downhill Battle, a music activism site that reminds me of the Truth anti-smoking website (ok, Downhill Battle is not as well-funded and the site isn't as slick, but same in basic principle). The interesting thing is the multi-faceted approach that Downhill Battle is using to get their point across -- flyer campaigns, sticker campaigns, and a large web presence.
In the vein of data collection . . .

. . . every had your ID scanned to "verify your age" in a club or restaurant? I'm sure you have or know someone that has. As with anything else with a magnetic stripe, the mag stripe contains more information than just your birthday (that's why you can check in at airline kiosks with your credit card or your driver's license). Imagine the potential information that could be captured from a mag card swipe at a restaurant or bar -- demographic, consumer behavior, direct marketing (i.e., address), etc. Wired had an article today regarding this new trend. The Wired article also directs you to a website called Swipe, which provides a toolkit that allows you to decode barcodes, calculate data, etc.
TiVo tracking update is carrying an article today entitledTiVo watchers uneasy after post-Super Bowl reports. Text of the article is very similar to the content of my blog on this topic yesterday.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Party line phones. . .

. . .not quite, but how about party line searching? (For those that have never heard the term "party line" phones, it refers to phone calls/lines that allowed multiple people to listen in on and participate in single phone conversations). Seth Godin's blog lists a site called Eurekster. Eurekster is interesting in that it allows you to see what your friends (assuming that you and your friends have signed up for free) are searching for. Imagine the possibilities of collaboration between business professionals on cross-functional teams (how cool would it be to see what people were searching for on your company's Intranet? think of your company as a big group of "friends"). Beyond the company application, I don't know if I necessarily care what my friends are searching for (what I really care about is that when I searched under my name, there were no responses, whereas with Google I at least feel validated that I have some sort of presence on the web with the minimum of 1 result that I receive). By the way, you can also see what other people have been searching for recently under the "everyone else" tab. - TiVo: Jackson stunt most replayed moment ever - Feb. 3, 2004

I normally don't start my posts with links, but it seemed appropriate this time. I strongly suggest you read the article before reading the rest of this post, but assuming that you won't, here are the key quotes from the article I want to talk about:

TiVo said it used its technology to measure audience behavior among 20,000 users during the Super Bowl.

Not only did users pause and replay the infamous portion of the halftime show more than any moment during the game, but they also did the same for some commercials.

TiVo's top two commercials, based on user behavior, are both from Bud Light: a romantic sleigh ride interrupted by a flatulent horse and a sharp-toothed dog demonstrating his unusual way of scoring a beer for his master.

The focus of most articles on this topic is not really the TiVo technology, but it should be. One of the main draws of TiVo technology, aside from the ability to watch your shows later is the ability to skip commercials. Increasingly, people are proposing more and more ways to use TiVo to get around commercials and even get around product positioning in reality shows (see my earlier post here). TiVo has the collects the kind of data that is invaluable to marketers. Why is it invaluable? Because it tells marketers how to market to get around TiVo.

Not convinced? Ok, read the article (or at least the quotes above). TiVo was able to tell how many people viewed the halftime show. Normally, when you talk about "view," you are talking about the television being set to a particular channel (ala Nielson). In terms of TiVo, TiVo, apparently, knows when you reviewed/played that particular piece of footage from the halftime show. They even tell you as much in the article by referencing their ability to track what is replayed ("top 2 commercials based on consumer behavior" -- i.e., based on the number of times it was replayed).

So, TiVo owner's: Do you care that they can track your "consumer behavior" down to such a minute level and with such precision? Did you read the service agreement that you agreed to before you started using TiVo? Chances are that somewhere in your service agreement you gave TiVo the right to track you.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Are you passionate about your computer?

Chances are that if you are a Windows user, your answer would be "no." However, people that own Macintosh computers might very well answer in the extreme affirmative. Why is that? What is it about Macintosh that promotes such an emotional response? Macintosh spends a lot of money on design (their products look really cool), their software is extremely user-friendly and updated constantly . . . the list goes on and on. recently posted a article regarding the turning of a G5 Macintosh into a PC. The article goes through how a user that wanted a PC for Christmas (but instead received a G5) pulled the guts out of the Macintosh G5 box and replaced the guts with PC components. This morning Wired posted anarticle about all of the e-mail death-threats (yes, I did say "death threats," and, no, I am not kidding) the author of the G5 article has received. Some might say that sending death threats about a computer is a little sick (and I would agree), but what is really, really important is how passionate and emotional the Macintosh users are about their product. You see beyond the reasons I listed above about why Macintosh is cool, Macintosh purchasers/users feel like they are part of an exclusive club. Don't believe me? Tell me about the Windows club you belong to. Tell me about the last time you had a strong emotional response to Windows software. Explain to me why, after year of iterations of the software, you still go to the "Start" menu to turn the computer off.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Lost your phone?

Good thing you don't have to lose your addresses anymore. If you have a cell phone running Symbian or Microsoft Smartphone software, CPP has a new service that will automatically replicate your address book information so that when you get a replacement for your lost phone, you won't have lost any of your contacts. Read the full article from MSMobiles.

Here's something interesting to consider though -- both Symbian and MS Smartphone phones allow you to sync with a data cable to Microsoft Outlook. In fact, one of the big selling points of the MS Smartphone software is its integration with Outlook via ActiveSync. Would I pay for this service from CPP? Probably not. I'd just sync my phone everyday (and if I was using a Smartphone, regardless of operating system, I would want to sync everday to capture any changes to any of my conacts).
Outsourcing in the news again

Apparently Sprint PCS is losing Sprint money, according to this article on
Capitalize on your cable modem

Or your DSL line, or whatever other broadband you might be using in your house. One of the big hotpoints in telephony these days is Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Essentially, without getting ridiculously technical, a VOIP user uses the Internet to make phone calls. This is a really big deal and a really scary thing for regular phone line providers.

A big player in the VOIP market right now is Vonage. Vonage is one of the few VOIP companies that is connected to the Local Exchange Carriers in various cities, meaning that you can call anyone and are not restricted to only calling other VOIP users that have the same service. Vonage provides you with a black box -- plug in an Ethernet cable and plug in a phone. Their basic service costs $14.95 a month for 500 minutes anytime in the U.S. and Canada. On top of that, every plan includes for free the laundry list of what phone companies call "optional features": voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, call transfer, 3-way calling, and free calling to other Vonage users.

Looking simply at the math: If you are already paying $40-$60 per month (or less) for your high-speed Internet service and have one phone line with some services at $30-$40 per month (not counting long distance), you are paying $70-$100 per month for Internet and voice service. Alternatively, in the Vonage model, you would pay $40-$60 per month (or less) for your high-speed Internet service and $15 per month for your phone service, leaving a total monthly of $55-$75. Approximate yearly savings is $180-$300 per year (not counting long distance).

Even more interesting is that, regardless of where you live, you can choose a local number anywhere in the country. For example, if you live in LA, and your parents live in New York, you could choose a local New York number so that all of your parents calls to you are local calls and they pay no long distance charges.

Expect to see similar offerings from the likes of Comcast, Time Warner, and other high-speed Internet providers.

Monday, February 02, 2004

How many Personal Folders Files do you have?

Most people that use Outlook as their mail client know exactly what I'm talking about (especially those people that used to delete their e-mails until a colleague burned them by claiming to never receive an e-mail that you know you sent, but deleted). For the uninitiated, Personal Folders Files (PFF) are a Microsoft Outlook file (note that on ealier versions of Outlook, these are referred to as ".pst" files -- somebody explain that one) that allow you to store messages (primarily messages, but also contacts, notes, etc.) on your hard drive rather than on your company's server (ever gotten the message from your Administrator that tells you your mailbox has "exceeded its quota" and you can no longer send e-mails?) -- within each PFF, you can set up multiple sub-folders to help you organize your e-mails. The longer you use an e-mail client, the more ridiculous the amount of PFF and sub-folders within each PFF gets. Most people come up with some sort of scheme to organize messages, but this can result in bloated PFF files that may become corrupted (statistically, PFF files in excess of 1GB are bound to become corrupted).

What if there was a search application that could search within all of your e-mails, regardless of what PFF they're in -- you could search not only the subject line, but also all of the text inside the message? What if the program did this at near-real-time, so that as you typed in a word, it was automatically providing results? What if this program also indexed and allowed you to search in all your e-mail attachments and files? Though the point of his article is something else, Seth Godin makes reference to a company called X1 that provides just such a piece of software.

I just installed the software. It's been indexing my har drive while I've been working on this blog and talking on the phone. The free download lets me use the software for 15 days before I have to buy it. Cost to purchase the software is $99 and includes 1 year of updates. Think I'll pay for this software? You bet!
UPS will repair your DVD player . . .

. . . unless you dropped it in your pool. This month's issue of Fast Company has anarticle about