Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

Jott This Down

logo130×55.pngJust when Twittering seems to be all the rage, a new player hits the stage. It’s called Jott.com and its one of the coolest innovations I’ve seen in a while. Here is the basic idea:

You call Jott on your mobile phone. You speak the name of the person or group you want to send a message to. You speak for 30 seconds. Those sentences get transcribed and e-mailed. It could be a “note to self”, or a client, or an employee, or your team, or your spouse who never seems to have either of their two cell phones turned on (that’s another story).

Instant speech to text conversion with messaging. Kinda like a 30 second Twitter version of a podcast.

I often judge the coolness of something by using my 13-year old daughter as a barometer. She thinks Twitter is “totally geeky”, but when I showed Jott to her, she was instantly hooked. She immediately started playing with it; not for anything productive mind you, just wanted to see how much abuse it could take (singing, laughing, nonsensical jibberish). She also told her friends about it and they started Jotting each other. The hyper-connected youth have yet another way to communicate.

I have to agree with Drew McLellan who predicts that Jott “is going to be the breakout of 2007”. Drew suggests several ways he is going to use it:

  • Dictate notes from meetings and send them to myself for a record. Jott it.
  • I’m pulling out of a client’s parking lot and send a note to our Project Manager about opening a new job. Jott him.
  • Forget milk? Never again. Jott me.
  • Have a breakthrough idea while waiting to board a plane — jott my entire staff before I forget said idea. Jott the team.
  • Want to remind my daughter to do XYZ but she’s going to get home before I do. Jott her.
  • See someone across the way at Panera and want to remember to call them in a week or so. Jott me.
  • Have forgotten to grab a book from the office 3 times. Jott me.
  • All the stuff that I try to write down before I forget it. Jott me. Jott me. Jott me.

The other reason this may be big is that it is potentially disruptive to the wireless carriers. Think about it. Text Messaging is hot.  Over 80 Million US subscribers sent over 100 Billion text messages last year (Pew Research). Teenagers have made it a routine way to communicate. Most individual subscriber plans charge $.02 per message sent and received. With Jott, you never have to pay to send a message, so you can send more messages under you current plan, or reduce your monthly costs by switching to a plan that allows fewer messages.

Now if someone will just build a simple interface to allow me to Jott to my Twitter account, I’ll be in lifelogging heaven.


Customer’s Rock Blog: Costco’s Response to a Customer Need

Customers Rock is a new WordPress blog which is getting quite a boost due to being referenced on a number of popular marketing blogs.  The latest post on Customers Rock is about Costco and their new free technical support. 

Costco has been listening to the frustrations of their members and has entered the realm of providing technical support to help ease their pain.  According to a store supervisor that I spoke with, Costco will provide free technical support for televisions, cameras and camcorders, as well as desktop and notebook computers.  The service has been available for about one week now in the Southern California area.  It is part of their existing Concierge Services, which Costco started testing for high-tech TV installs this past summer.

The real reason that Costco is doing this is that the returns are killing them.  Costco has an amazingly liberal return policy.  They have expanded their Home Entertainment offering and a pretty good computer business, and all that new technology is difficult for customers to manage.  As a result, they have seen returns skyrocket and profits erode. 

Offering free support is a brilliant strategy, assuming that they can deliver a great experience.  They are well on the way to that by assuring members that when they call tech support, they will speak with someone in the US.  There is nothing more frustrating to me that to hear a thick accented CSR introduce themselves to me as “Bob” or “Mary” and then not be able to communicate with me.

In addition, Costco is offering the free tech support for the life of the product.  Now that’s an added value that’s easy to understand.

Costco intends to take on Circuit City and Best Buy for the Home Entertainment and Computer customers and they are coming out swinging by turning what was a problem for them into differentiated offering for their members.

Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com

Looks like the predictionfrom fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae was right on the mark as Microsoft announced today that it would rent movies and sell television shows through Internet downloads to its Xbox Live video game service.  

“Microsoft will begin on Nov. 22 to offer standard and high-definition films such as Warner Bros.’  “Superman Returns” and “Jackass: The Movie” from Paramount Pictures through its Xbox Live Marketplace.   Television shows will include Viacom Inc’s  “South Park” and “CSI: NY” from CBS Corp.  Viewers will need the current-generation Xbox 360 console with a hard drive to take advantage of the service.”

Under the rental model, which is reminiscent of the now defunct DivX Disk technology launched by Circuit City Stores back in 1997,  Microsoft customers have a two week window from when they download a movie to watch it, but once they begin watching it they have only 24 hours to keep it. 

With Netflix planning a download service,  Apple’s upcoming iTV,  Amazon’s movie store, On Demand services from cable providers, and Sony’s PS3 video download function (I’ll believe it when I see it), the customer really has a lot of choices.  Which models will survive this tech war?  What will this mean to businesses who sell or rent DVDs?  I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch.

Here are the specifics:

  • Microsoft has not yet disclosed pricing for downloads, but it will be in Microsoft points.
  • Movies will be “rental” only, TV for “purchase” only.
  • At launch there will be over 800 hours of SDTV, and 200 hours of HDTV.
  • Neither TV nor movies are streamed; they are only downloaded, although you can stream short preview clips from the Live interface.
  • You can only download content to your Xbox 360 drive — not to an external drive.
  • Your “purchased” TV programs can be downloaded an infinite amount of times to an infinite amount of consoles; you may also play them back on friends’ 360s with your removable drive.
  • Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded later; HDTV shows can be re-downloaded in either HDTV or SD.
  • Movies can be watched an unlimited number of times the first 24 hours. Plays after that period will cost the same as the initial download, although the movie data isn’t necessarily deleted. You can keep the movie data on your drive up to 14 days without re-downloading it.
  • Downloads are in VC-1 (aka WMVHD) at 720p, 6.8Mbps video with 5.1 surround.
    An average HD movie download should be between 4-5GB, and a two hour SD movie would be 1.6GB.
  • An average 1 hour (44 min) HDTV download should be about 2.2GB, and an average 1/2 hour (22 min) HDTV download should be about 1GB. A 1 hour SDTV download should be about 600MB, and a 1/2 hour SDTV download should be about 300MB.
  • This service will not be available for MSN TV users, Vongo subscribers, or any other Microsoft partners. It is Xbox Live only.
  • You cannot download programs through the Xbox Live web interface — they can only be transported to your 360’s removable drive.
  • There aren’t any drive announcements being made, but there is a rumor of a 80GB drive coming.  Of course, Microsoft rumors are never true, right?

Launch titles

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Batman Forever
Breaking Bonaduce
Carpocalypse
Chappelle’s Show
CSI
Hogan Knows Best
Jackass: The Movie
Jericho
The Matrix
M:i:III
Nacho Libre
Nicktoons Network Animation Festival
Numb3rs
Pimp My Ride
Race Rewind (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races)
Raising the Roofs
The Real World
Robot Chicken
Skyland
South Park
SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Trek (original)
Superman Returns
50 fights from Ultimate Fighting Championship, and some episodes from The Ultimate Fighter
Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com

Xbox Live to offer HD Movie Downloads????

Ok, I’m not one who tends to spread rumors, but this one is just too juicy to not pass on.  Fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae (who is no more credible than me), posted yesterday that over 1000+ hours of video will make its way onto Live for rental at about $4 a go, or for purchase (at an unstated price).  Some might find it hard to believe Mr Softee would bypass the PC for online movie downloads ,but then again Microsoft did start up with that Xbox Live music video download thing last year and have been doing HD movie trailers since April.  Moreover, they have said that the future of their business is in Services.

If Bill & Co could make the Xbox 360 the premier digital content hub — with or without HD DVD — right underneath Sony’s nose at the eve of their PlayStation 3 launch, it would be quite an achievement.  

As Holiday Shopping Approaches, Let’s Look At Extended Warranties

It’s the part of the big CE purchase that you dread; the pitch to buy the Extended Warranty. It’s a big business ($15 Million in 2004).  Many of you have learned to “just say no”, but should you always do that?

The Washington Post took a very in-depth look at extended warranties, the numbers, and what they mean for the consumer.  Well worth the read if you have ever bought one, or think you may be making a big CE purchase in the future.  Not to be outdone, the NYTimes has also done a story on warranties.  The link is here.  Their take: “Don’t Bother”.

In the interest of being “Fair and Balanced”, you should also read two posts that Gizmodo has published on the subject.  This one reports the WP article and contains an insightful poll.  This one reports on the NYT article and argues in favor of extended warranties on big ticket purchases.

Image via Washington Post

How’s Tivo Doing….

Over at Gizmodo, Brian L Clark writes an in- depth piece on the fate and fortunes of the video-recorder Tivo. He suggests that Tivo hasn’t been able to maintain its growth and now needs to look to advertisers to ensure that the technology is not consigned to history:

Frankly, TiVo’s 4.5 million subscribers can only take it so far. And the cost of acquiring new subs has increased by nearly 50 percent in the last year. Not good, particularly since the vast majority of its current subscribers came from the recently ended partnership with DirecTV. As a result, analyst Michael Kelman of Susquehanna Financial says TiVo’s best long-term prospects are in advertising. Ah, sweet irony–the service that allowed you to skip ads now needs advertising to survive. All that remains is to convince media buyers TiVo really has found the religion.

Point: How is TiVo Doing After Launching Series 3? – Gizmodo:

 

Cisco patents the “Triple Play”

Filed under: Home Entertainment, Networking

If you haven’t heard of a Triple Play yet — you know, where some service provider tries to shove TV, internet and phone service onto one pretty little contract for supposed cost savings and convenience to you — then we applaud you for your apparent skill at avoiding the incessant advertising of such services from the major media companies. Unfortunately, it seems the US Patent Office possesses just such a skill, since they’ve granted a patent to Cisco Technology for the concept of “providing integrated voice, video, and data content in an integrated service.” Now, Cisco did apply for this patent way back in 2000, before the idea had quite gotten so pervasive, but we’re still a bit miffed that something this common-sensical can be patented at all. No word yet on what Cisco plans to do with the patent, but there are a whole lot of “infringing” services out there that they could potentially go after if the mood strikes. Luckily, Cisco has some pretty neat ideas of their own for a Triple Play network offering listed in the patent, so we’ll remain cautiously optimistic — safe underground, of course, in our tin-foil shielded bunker.

[Via Slashdot]

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.

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.”

SpiralFrog, Universal in free music download deal

SPoral Frog

The BBC is reporting that Universal Music, the world’s largest music company, has agreed to back a new venture that will allow consumers to download songs for free and instead rely on advertising for its revenues.

Available from a new music site called SpiralFrog, the deal will allow users in the USA and Canada to listen to Universal’s music, which Reuters’ news site reveals is paid for by targeted advertising, but no details of possible community or playlist sharing features of the SpiralFrog service.

The clueless, digital music business has been going through lots of growing pains over the last few years, but in the end, moving from closed, proprietery models, controlled by the supplier, to a free and open system where the consumer is in control is inevitable.  As with virtually everthing these days, the power has shifted to the consumer.  Digital piracy continues to flourish, despite high profile prosecutions from the RIAA, and the Russian music site AllofMP3.com continues to operate providing anything you want, DRM-free, at a fraction of iTunes costs. 

As Ryan Block over at Engadget said in his blog,

“It’s a step in the right direction, but what do you think the odds are that Universal is still going to require DRM even on free downloads? Now, DRM-free costless downloads with ads, that’s fine, but when is someone just going to offer what we really want: straight up DRM-free media downloads? We’re willing to freaking pay for it, you know? And we’re sure a lot of other people out there are willing to, as well.”

The iTunes model was a great innovation, bringing simplicity and legitimacy to the digital music business; however, the restrictions it imposes are not what the customer wants and, in the end, the customer always wins! 

Microsoft Invites You to Create XBOX Games

Microsoft To Enable User-Created Xbox 360 Games<via Gamasutra>

Perhaps its because it costs nearly $40Million to produce a game for Xbox or maybe they are finally understanding the power of Social Media, but Microsoft has made a very interesting announcement about game content creation.  Starting on August 20, Microsoft are making available the tools for people to create videogames for the Xbox 360

XNA Game Studio Express will be available for free to anyone with a Windows XP-based PC, and will provide them with what’s described as “Microsoft’s next-generation platform for game development.” In addition, by joining a “creators club” for an annual subscription fee of $99, users will be able to build, test and share their games on Xbox 360, as well as access a wealth of materials to help speed the game development progress.
Microsoft already has 10 US universities, including the University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University, who will include XNA Game Studio Express and Xbox 360 development in their curriculum.

Microsoft executive Peter Moore said “It’s our first step of creating a YouTube for videogames.”

In an official statement related to this major announcement, Microsoft suggested that the new product “…will democratize game development by delivering the necessary tools to hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to help them bring their creative game ideas to life while nurturing game development talent, collaboration and sharing that will benefit the entire industry.”

More details on the pregram can be found here

Telecom Wars: Sprint Nextel Launches first WiMax salvo

Sprint Nextel Corp will use WiMax technology to build a broadband wireless network in the United States. Sprint will work with Motorola and Samsung according to the announcement (webcast and news release), as well as with chipmaker Intel. The network will be built from 2007 to 2009.

At Monday’s press conference, Sprint said it will invest $1 billion in 2007 and $1.5-$2 billion, in 2008 (not including investments by its partners). The Sprint Nextel 4G mobility network will use the company’s extensive 2.5GHz spectrum holdings, which cover 85 percent of the households in the top 100 U.S. markets.

Implementation of this network will introduce some significant competition markets that are currently dominated by Cable (ISP, Video). Look’s like cable’s free ride may be over.

Many more details on this story at dailywireless.org

Voice Chat Comes to Online Games

Voice communication is coming to massive online worlds, and may bring big changes in how people use them.  There a lot you can do in World of Warcraft or SecondLife, but talk is not one of them.  To address this limitation, many users are turning to third-party solutions like Skype and TeamSpeak.

Now, a new company, Vivox, is readying an in-game voice service that may help draw players into games and keep them engaged, rather than serving as an open door to other worlds. 

This opens up a whole new set of possible virtual applications.  By this winter, Languagelab.com students will be able to attend an immersive language school in an online world. 

Languagelab.com hopes students from all over the world will enjoy classes in interactive spaces like a holodeck-style area, where the virtual weather keeps changing to aid vocabulary practice.

Read the whole story at Wired.com

TiVo To Offer Downloads

tivo-ppv.jpg

Tivo has filed a patent application that will let subscribers download TV shows for a charge, Gizmodo reports.

TiVo Applies For Content-On-Demand Download Service – Gizmodo
TiVo is planning to let you download a show/movie on demand, kind of like pay-per-view. The different types of content are going to be free, subscription or pay-per-view, and are going to be priced accordingly.

T-Mobile kidConnect

 [via Gizmodo]

kidconnect.gif

Following up on the youth cellphone program introduced earlier this year by Disney, looks like T-Mobile is junping on the bandwagon.

To help parents keep their kids’ cellphone bills under control, T-Mobile has released the kidConnect service that’s now available for $19.99. The plan includes 50 minutes of anytime calls plus unlimited calling between parent and child and other T-Mobile subscribers. There’s a also unlimited weekend calling and SMS/MMS, which deducts from the 50 minutes of anytime talk minutes.

Plans like these are pretty neat for parents who don’t want their kids using the phone excessively, but still want to keep track and have their children be able to reach them at any time. We hear Michael Douglas gave one to CZJ. – Jason Chen

T-Mobile KidConnect [T-Mobile via Slashphone]

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