Archive for September, 2006|Monthly archive page

Battery Recalls Up; Sony Reputation Down

A recalled notebook battery made by Sony Corp. is displayed in an undated file photo. Sony Corp.'s battery problems deepened on Friday after Toshiba Corp. joined the list of PC makers recalling its batteries including Dell Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and Lenovo. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission/Handout/Reuters)

Just when you think you’ve heard the last bad news for Sony, out pops another disaster.   According to Reuters, Toshiba Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. joined a growing list of computer makers recalling Sony Corp (NYSE:SNEnews). batteries in the latest blow to consumer confidence in Sony’s reputation as a manufacturer.  This follows an announcement from IBM/Lenovo yesterday that they were recalling more than half a million notebook PC batteries made by Sony after a computer caught fire at Los Angeles International Airport

 Toshiba is recalling 83,000 batteries,  bringing the total number of Sony batteries recalled to more than 7 million since mid-August.

The August recalls for Dell and Apple  will cost Sony between $170 million-$255 million.  The higher figure equals about one-fourth of Sony’s net profit for the current business year to March.

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New technology could nip DVD format war in the bud

According to an article in Computer World, the format war around next-generation DVDs may be over before it has begun, thanks to a breakthrough from a British media technology company.  London-based New Medium Enterprises (NME)  has developed a technology which allows multi-layer hybrid DVDs have Blu-ray on one layer and HD DVD on another, and have lowered the cost of production to just 1.5x the price of regular DVDs.

By putting the same film on a single disc in the two competing formats, movie studios can save money, and consumers do not have to worry if they are buying the right disc for their player.This announcement come just a few weeks after after three employees at movie studio Warner Bros. filed a patent for the application of multiple formats on a single DVD.   NME says there is no patent collision between the two.  The Warner guys patented the idea and MNE is patenting the technology to make it work.

Multiple format DVDs can solve the emerging war between the two new high-capacity DVD formats: Blu-ray, which is backed by Sony Corp. and Toshiba-supported HD-DVD.   Hollywood studios have been choosing sides in the DVD format war, each supporting one of the two formats. Some have said they will produce films in both, in addition to the standard DVD format.

How Apple Will Change the Rules (Again)

While most of the tech bloggers were going gaga last week over Apple’s announcement of new iPod devices and wondering when the iPhone is going to debut, a few guys with much more insight than me were writing about the real stories behind the “iTV” headline. 

I highly recommend both of these outstanding posts.

Carl Howe over at Blackfriars’ Marketing writes a great commentary predicting Apple’s entry in the flat panel TV market.  Lots of big boxers like Home Depot and Office Depot are announcing their entry into this rapidly growing market, following robust profit reports from Circuit City and Best Buy.  While the success of these Johnnies-come-lately is dubious, Howe makes a great case for Apple’s winning in the TV business.

Apple has design icon Jonathan Ive (among many other great designers), one of the best and most powerful brands in the world, incredible differentiation, and is repeatedly ranked number one for product support. It has a chain of 161 stores that generate 67% of the revenue of Best Buy with 10% of the floor space. And most importantly, Apple sells experiences, not low-priced hardware. They’ll offer two or three choices to avoid the tyranny of too much — and amaze everyone again by making more profits on fewer products.

Over at the Mac Observer, John Martellaro’s take on the “iTV” story is that Apple’s strategy:

  • Leverages 4 key competencies (customer inertia , the power of “the culture to influence”, large software development capability, & technical leadership),
  • Will lead to success, and
  • Will simultaneously confuses competitors and the analysts.

The result, Martellaro predicts, is that Apple has a strong chance of owning the game in home video entertainment.

Today, the home entertainment industry is confusing. Customers muddle through. Some dare to ask questions; some just plug it all in and hope things work. Issues linger: Is my 1080i HDTV already obsolete? What is HDCP, HDMI, de-interlacing, scaling, 802.11n? Should I go with cable or satellite? Will Blu-ray finally win? No one company has stood up, with courage, and said: “We have a vision. This is how to do it. Follow us.”

Now, Apple is starting to provide that leadership in home theater. They’re defining an architecture, putting the product pieces into place, and developing leading edge products.

But most importantly, Apple is inserting this orchestrated scheme of pre-planned and well defined technology into a massive technology consumption machine fueled by the consensus thinking on the Internet. If it sucks, it’s history. If it’s cool, it’ll be embraced, and any company that tries to force the issue against this massive thinking machine will fail.

The platform dubbed “iTV” will be revolutionary.  Apple has demonstrated the ability to bring simplicity to complicated things and they appear to be poised to do it again for home theater.  What’s more, iTV will bring video iChat and the internet to the living room.  When they introduce a flat panel display, you can bet it will have an “iSight” camera built into the top bezel just as their computers do now.  iChat, along with inevitable higher bandwidth connections could revolutionize home-based communications and the “internet from the sofa” will certainly bring increased impulse buying online, including of course, movies and more from Apple’s iTunes store.

PS3 price cut by 20%*, now includes HDMI 1.3


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found this over at Engadget:

Looks like all the bellyaching over the price of Sony’s PlayStation 3 has done some good. Sony exec Ken Kutaragi just sent jaws to the floor over at Tokyo Game Show with an announced price cut of the 20GB PS3 base unit from ¥62,790 to ¥49,980 in Japan. Closer to home, we’d be looking at a move from about $538 to $428 (looking at current exchange rates) representing a drop of some 20% when the PS3 hits later this year, or uh, early next if the cut applies across the board. Not exactly cheap when looking at the Wii or Xbox 360, but that Cell processor, Blu-ray Disc player, and HDMI 1.3 output supporting Deep Color will certainly draw a premium. Yeah, you read that correctly, Ken announced HDMI support too, making the 20GB PS3 one fine Hi-Def movie machine on the cheap. Hoozah!

Update: Price reduction confirmed for Japan only. Waiting on rest-of-world price cuts, if any.

HP launches skinny cam. Get slim at the press of a button

<via Backinskinnyjeans Blog>

Hpskinnycam

A pretexting spy on their board and some lovely accomodations reserved for some members at the local federal camp hasn’t stopped HP from innovating.  Was the big leak about the new HP digital cameras with “Slimming feature” ?

Back in Skinny Jeans blog notes:

On top of Madison Avenue and plastic surgery fueling our beauty obsession, let’s not forget the tech industry. We already have the fabulous Photoshop diet. But hey, there’s big bucks in beauty so why shouldn’t HP get a piece of the action?

With the new feature, absolutely anyone can get skinny-fied by the press of a button. In our lovely example above, this young lady is back in her skinny jeans in less than a minute. You can decide how dramatic an effect you would like, and then skinny cam will show you before and after pics so you can decide which to save.  Hmmm, I wonder which picture will get saved???

Motorola Cell Phone Vending Machines

<via thedailyjournal.com

Motorola is installing “Instantmoto” vending machines in nearly two dozen malls and airports nationwide.  According to Bob Many, Motorola’s director of automated retailing, the machines will sell 12 kinds of phones and 18 accessories. 

The products are delivered to consumers by a robotic arm and are run from a central location, similar to the way automated teller machines are operated.  Shoppers will be able to use credit cards to purchase mid- to high-end models, including the Razr and the Q, and can buy with or without a service plan for T-Mobile, Verizon and Cingular service. Using a touch-screen, customers can pick a phone’s style, color and accessories, such as car adapters and chargers.  Shoppers starting a new service plan must go online to sign up for service with their carrier.

Motorola is trying to bring retail closer to the customer through what they call “convenience purchasing” and this is clearly an innovation test that could be rolled out if successful. 

The stores are operated by San Francisco-based Zoom Systems.  You may remember them as the developer of the innovation vending model for iPods, digi-cams, and other CE products.

The Music Store in Your Pocket

Seems that I am on a Zune kick lately, but I am not alone. Wired has an insightful story on the new content models that are emerging from Microsoft and the satellite radio guys. The big deal is that these models allow you to bypass the centralized store to get content wirelessly from other users (in the case of Zune) and from hundreds of channels of programming over satellite. The article discusses the Sirius Stiletto model, but XM has a similar offering. Regarding Zune, the article points out that it…

gives you another way to discover music without hunting and pecking through a multimillion-song, computer-based catalog on your lonesome. Users can beam songs directly to each other using the devices’ ad hoc wireless connections, significantly reducing the friction between a friend recommending something to you and you acquiring it. The beamed song will play three times before asking you to buy it — or, if you’re a Zune subscriber, you can keep it without paying an extra dime.

All of these new approaches are attempting to gain traction in the Apple-dominated digital music market through simplicity. An MP3 player with a music store and hundreds of music channels built-in could make the iPod seem unconnected, which is rarely a good thing to be.

Zune Coming Soon…. to Wal-Mart??

Wal-Mart is prominently displaying the new Microsoft Zune on its website, announcing that you will be able to get it at Walmart.com as soon as it is released. Interestingly, I cannot find any reference to Zune on the major CE players sites (Circuit City and Best Buy), or even on Target.com. Those three are heavily touting the new “remastered” Apple products while Wal-Mart appears to care less. Perhaps that says something about supplier/retailer relationships. It also speaks volumes about Wal-Mart who is stepping up to the plate with what looks to be a very cool item from Microsoft. It is clear from their latest marketing, that Wal-Mart wants to dominate the CE business and taking the lead on new products like Zune helps to establish credibility in that arena. CE retailers would be well advised to remember what happened to Toys’R’Us when Wal-Mart set their sights on the toy business.

MS Vista to create 50,000 jobs in Europe

<via Slashdot>

A Microsoft-sponsored study found that Vista will be a boon to European economy, as it ‘will create more than 50,000 technology jobs in six large European countries and will lead to a flood of economic benefits for companies there,’ News.com reports.  Europe will see a total of 1.2 mln paychecks thanks to the new operating system: ‘In the six countries studied, more than 150,000 IT companies will produce, sell or distribute products or services running on Windows Vista in 2007 and will employ 400,000 people, IDC said.  Another 650,000 will be employed in the IT departments of businesses that rely on Vista.

It’s Offical, Microsoft Zune is Announced

zuneofficial.jpg

If Tivo3, Apple Movie Store, iTV, and Wii weren’t enought this week, Microsoft ham made official what most of us have known for a while by announcing their new “Zune” multifunction thingy (more pictures at the bottom of the post).  The player will have a 30GB hard drive, built-in FM tuner, 3.0-inch screen, and 802.11 wireless. It will also come in three colors, black, brown and white. 

You can share content with other Zunes across the wireless network.  You can listen to a track from another person for up to three days, after which you’ll have to buy it from the Zune Marketplace store—their official name for the store.  Zune Marketplace has two purchase options:  per song like iTunes, and unlimited download subscription like Napster.

And while the Apple fanboys have been speculating for months about an iPhone, it looks like Microsoft is serious about it.  At a press conference yesterday, Chris Stephenson, GM for Zune, told the press, “A Zune phone is definitely part of the future of this brand.”

zune2.jpg
zune4.jpg
zune5.jpg
zune6.jpg

Nintendo Wii Coming To America November 19th for $250

 

<via Gizmodo & GenDigital>

Expect to play Nintendo Wii in time for Turkey Day. The Date? November 19th. The price? $250.

To come with Wii Sports, which includes golf, bowling, baseball and tennis games controlled by swinging the wii-mote. 25 titles available by end of year. 30 classic games, including Zelda, Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong.

The info was accidentally leaked by the Seattle PI by some trigger happy web admin, likely. Your party foul, our news.

At $250, the new system is about half the cost of a juiced up Xbox 360 and less than half the cost of the yet-to-be-released Sony PlayStation3 (who just announced another delay this week which will effect European customers).  The unique selling point of the Wii will be its intuitive wireless “Wii-mote” that, when tilted by the user will produce movement and actions on screen.  If the media campaign promoting the Wii comes off flawlessly Nintendo will have positioned a less costly “fun” and “easy” alternative to the technologically advanced, considerably more expensive Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

I think Nintendo will be more successful than most people think.  Here’s why:

  • Sony PS3s are going to be extremely hard to get unless you pay outrageous prices on e-bay. 
  • Early indications have teens and college students pushing for upgraded portable digital music players (the $300 video iPod), premium jeans (Seven for All Mankinds can cost more than $200), and other luxury goods (i.e. competition for limited dollars)
  • Gift-givers might not be willing to spend $500+ on a console system.
  • Wii will come pre-loaded with a series of sports games touting the functionality of the wireless controller.  Games typically do not come bundled with the consoles, so this represents a real “value add”. 

Given these points, I think Nintendo’s Wii will be the sleeper hit of this year’s holiday season.

Wii Dated And Priced For North America [Kotaku]

Love & Respect Your Customers

issue coverThere are lots of Customer Experience evangelists out there spreading the gospel.  Unfortunately, most companies are just not listening.  Earlier this year, my company had Jeanne Bliss give a customer experience presentation at a large corporate event.  Last week, she was the guest blogger at Fast Company.  Her “Ten Ways to Love (and Respect) Your Customers” serves as a “Ten Commandments” for the heathens.

Via Fast Company’s blog – Jeanne Bliss: guest blogger 

10 Ways to Love (and respect) Your Customers

“1.Eliminate the customer obstacle course. If you asked customers they’d say that the obstacle course for figuring out who to talk to and how and when to get service is over-complicated, conflicting and just plain out of whack

2.Stop customer hot potato. He who speaks to the customer first should “own” the customer. There’s nothing worse that sends a signal of disrespect faster than an impatient person on the other end of the line trying to pass a customer off to “someone who can better help you with your problem.” Yeah, right.

3.Give customers a choice. Do not bind your customer into the fake choice of letting them “opt out” of something. Let them know up front that they can decide to get emails, offers or whatever from you and give them the choice.

4.De-silo your website. Our websites are often the cobbled together parts created separately by each company division. The terminology is different from area to area, as are the menu structures and logic for getting around the site. What’s accessible online is frequently inconsistent, as is the contact information provided.

5.Consolidate phone numbers. Even in this advanced age of telephony companies still have a labyrinth of numbers customers need to navigate to talk to someone. All of these grew out of the separate operations deciding on their own that they needed a number to “serve” their customers. Get people together to skinny-down this list and then let customers know about it. There’s no big red button to push to make this happen. It requires the gnarly hard work of collaborating and collective decision making – but get it done already! Customers are fed up.

6.FIX (really) the top ten issues bugging customers. We have created a kind of hysterical customer feedback muscle in the marketplace by over-surveying our customers and asking (ever so thoughtfully) “how can we improve?” Customers have told us what to do and we haven’t moved on the information.

7.Help the front line to LISTEN. We’ve robotized our frontline to the customer all over the world. Let them be human, give them the skills for listening and understanding and help the frontline deliver to the customer based on their needs.

8.Deliver what you promise.  There is a growing case of corporate memory loss that annoys and aggravates customers every day The customer has to strong-arm his/her way through the corporate maize just to get basic things accomplished. They’re exhausted from the wrestling match, they’re annoyed and they’re telling everyone they know. And, oh, by the way, when they get the chance they’re walking.

9.When you make a mistake – right the wrong. If you’ve got egg on your face, for whatever the reason, admit it. Then right the wrong. There’s nothing more grossly frustrating to customers than a company who does something wrong then is either clueless about what they did or won’t admit that they faltered.

10.Work to believe. Very little shreds of respect remain, if any, after we’ve put customers through the third degree that many experience when they encounter a glitch in our products and services and actually need to return a product, put in a claim or use the warranty service. As tempting as it is to debate customers to uphold a policy to the letter of the law, suspend the cynicism and work to believe your customers.”

It’s Showtime….

As usual, Engadget  provided great, real-time coverage of Steve Job’s announcments yesterday.  Lot’s of amazing stuff including a new smaller iPod, playing games Games like Pac Man on your ipod, and the sneak peek at the very exciting “iTV” product.  Apple is everywhere:  In your car, at the gym, at work.  Now they are aiming at dominating your living room.

10:54AM – “It looks like this [a flatter Mini]. It’s called iTV. That’s a codeword. we need to come up with a better name.”


10:55AM – No power brick
802.11
USB2
Ehternet
HDMI connector for all new big-screen flat panel TVs
Component video (RGB)
analog audio RCA jacks
Optical audio
Controled with the familiar white remote
Hooks directly to your screen or to your set-top box as another input, or to your receiver.

[Steve brings one out.] “This is it. More importantly I have a WORKING one plugged in right here … [he flips through iTV super-FrontRow app]”

10:56AM – [Steve finds and plays The Incredibles.]


11:04AM – [Still demoing!]

11:07AM – “You can do movie trailers form Apple.com right from your couch. This is big screen over the internet, live as we watch.”
[Trailer for All the King’s Men with Sean Penn]
[“Casino Night” episode of The Office]

[Album art scrolls by … Steve chooses Dylan, than Highway 61, which plays through the home theater setup]
“A lot of us have our stereos hooked up to our new TV’s, it’s the best stereo in the house now.”

Bud.tv – Budweiser To Launch Social Video Entertainment Network (bud tube)

Bud Tv225Karl Long over at Experience Curve has an excellent piece on the Launch of Bud.TV, a major effort by Budweiser to capitalize on the shift away from traditional Television to digital channels which foster social interaction.  Bud commercials have long been a huge draw (singing frogs, Bud Bowl, etc).  With Bud.TV they are really extending the entertainment component of their brand.

From the piece:

“In another nail in the coffin of network television Anheuser-Busch has just announced it will be launching Bud.tv in February ‘07. Bud.tv will be an online entertainment channel that will blend professionally produced content, news, sports and consumer generated content.”

“Bud.TV will engage contemporary adult consumers with a wide array of entertainment options in branded and original proprietary content including new humorous webisodes, sporting events, consumer-generated content, field news reports, celebrity interviews, music downloads and comedian vignettes. The first-of-its-kind initiative is slated to launch in February 2007, and more content providers will be announced in the coming months.”

What Will Jobs Do??

Sticky Fingers

On Tuesday Apple fans the world over will be on Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, when he is expected to announce the most ambitious iPod service yet – the sale of feature-length films via the internet for viewing on the devices, which may receive an expanded ‘widescreen’ and improved storage capacity.  Wired has a nice piece containing a number of creative mock-ups depicting what the new iPod design might be.  Interestingly, Amazon jumped into the video download business last week, trumping this weeks Apple announcement.

There are rumors that Jobs will also announce a long expected ‘iPhone’, combining the music function and sleek style of an iPod with a mobile phone.

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