Let me just state it up front: I'm not a Blackberry user. And that's probably a good thing. I'm technoaddicted to enough devices already (my nano, my wi-fi Palm Tungsten C, my Motorola Razr...shall I go on?), and they don't call the Blackberry the "Crackberry" for nothin'. I can just imagine the physical rehabilitation I probably would have already undergone were I to have acquired a Blackberry when I first became familiar with them several years ago.
With the caveat that I'm not a Crackberry addict, however, I want my readers to know that I am extremely sympathetic to your plight and that I stand with you in thumb-numbing solidarity. The mere notion that, without warning, someone could just flip a switch and turn off your your Blackberry, forcing you to cease-and-desist all wireless email communications with your family, friends, your bond trader...well, the idea strikes me as absolutely absurd.
What century do they think we're living in? And all over a little patent dispute?? (Okay, maybe it's not so little, but hey, could all the patent attorneys pause long enough to acknowledge we've got some serious on-the-fly communicating to do here, people!).
While I will not get into the details of said dispute between NTP and Research in Motion (hereafter known as "RIM"), lest I find myself becoming entirely too familiar with my own legal community here at IBM, I will suggest that turning out the Blackberry lights is not necessarily going to be a very good thing for the American or global economy.
The Day the Thumbs Stopped Clicking
The brilliance behind the early marketing of the Blackberry was RIM's targeted focus on putting their device in the hands of Wall Street executives and CIOs, two key areas where early adoption could easily be justified, and, if successful, where word was sure to spread. And it did, like viral wildfire.
In the process, it has become part of our business, cultural, and historical lore. Twelve-step groups have had to be formed to help senior level executives deal with their Crackberry addictions. Shut it down, and I fear we may someday be talking about "Blackberry Monday" just as we do the beginning of the Great Depression or October 19, 1987.
I can see the headlines now:
"The Day the Thumbs Stopped Clicking"
"Wall Streeters Endure Wall of Silence, Market Crash, in Blackberry Crush"
"Traders Thumb Their Thumbs at RIM Patent Dispute: Bring Back Our Berry!"
Can We Use Smoke Signals?
I've already begun formulating my own Blackberry blackout hedge play, which reads like a Basic programming routine: If Blackberry goes dark, sell X shares of Y stock at (Stop-Loss) price.
But forget the stock market for a moment. What about the first responders? If the 9/11 Commission can't get the major broadcasters to give up radio frequency for cops and firefighters to communicate with one another, and their Blackberries are about to get sent back to the intellectual property dispute farm, how are they supposed to communicate with one another in case of emergency??
In some early Native American cultures, three puffs of smoke (or three fires in a row) signified DANGER, TROUBLE, or a CALL FOR HELP.
Puff. Puff. Puff.
Todd "Turbo" Watson -- IBM Corporation
Turbo's nano Comes Back to Life After Remarkable Coffee Spill Resuscitation, Life (and Music) Goes On
I was pulling into my local friendly Office Depot in search of some cartridges for my Epson printer last Saturday. My beloved Apple nano iPod was in the seat next to me, cranking out some tunes while plugged into my car stereo system. Life was good.
Then, in an ill-fated instant, I watched my nano's life flash (memory and all) before my very eyes. My coffee cup flew out of its cupholder, almost as if in slow motion, and a wave of Folder's Columbian blend brew (sweetened by some rich Irish Creme creme) folded down into the car seat in a highly-caffeinated tsunami.
The score: Folger's Coffee 1, Apple nano iPod 0
I slammed the car in park and immediately reached down on the car seat to rescue my nano from the Java sea, but it was to no avail...little nano had already become a tune-filled submersible, swimming in a sea of new underwater songs. Or, as the case ended up, not.
Think, I reminded myself. What to do, what to do...Okay, lift nano from coffee sea and shake diligently to try and get the java liquid out. Which I did, before walking sullenly into the Office Depot to get the printer cartridges.
Back at the ranch, I put the nano on my kitchen counter and figured it had to be dried out, at minimum, before I dared turn it back on. Hey, I didn't study electrical engineering at university, but that much seemed obvious.
Later that day, a good friend arrived in Austin and stopped by. I remorsefully explained the situation, and he told me to bathe the nano in some tap or, preferably, some distilled water...then give it a good drying. This is the same guy who told me to put my underwater soaked cell phone of many moons ago into the oven at 120 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Sure, that was a cell phone, I thought. But my nano??? I'm not putting my little nano in the oven!
By this time, all that appeared on the nano screen was some sort of test routine menu, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
The next day, I took a bowl, filled it with Austin's finest tap water, and hesitantly dropped it into the bowl, giving my nano about a 10 minute bath.
That was Sunday. This is Friday.
Yesterday, I plugged the Turbo nano into the charger yesterday and figured I would give it a nice long charge.
I unplugged it today...hit the power button......the color menu appeared -- the nano had resuscitated itself from its coffee-induced coma!
Sheryl Crow now wails in my earbuds, and me, I'm just sitting back in admiration, wondering how the engineers at Apple had planned for such coffee contingencies.
nano, you rock.....again.[Read More]
Last night in San Francisco, Yahoo introduced two new RSS products, integrating an RSS reader directly into the Yahoo Mail Beta and expanding their Alerts to include RSS feeds. You can read about the announcement on TechCrunch.
Yahoo has "gotten" RSS for some time, having introduced one of the first easy-to-integrate browser-based RSS feed readers (and certainly, one of the first that I used). Recently, Microsoft introduced its own RSS-on-the-glass play via Live beta site, which provided for some very cool drag-and-drop portal building capabilities using RSS feeds. I also recently got a sneek peak of the RSS capabilities in the Windows Vista preview, which seemed to make RSS even more idiot proof.
I have a meeting later today with my Web architecture team to discuss how we can ramp up our own RSS implementation, and it has become very clear very quickly in my early explorations that good RSS is as much a cultural and usability transformation as it is an architectural one.
What I think we're seeing with RSS is the transformation of the click-to-find Web experience that dominated in Web One-Point-Oh, where the "hunting and gathering" experience defined how people used the Web. You need something, you go out and find it, either navigating through search engines or laboriously traversing a series of links on a single site or across sites.
RSS is the Domino's Pizza Delivery model, where people can subscribe specifically to the information they seek using RSS and have it delivered to them at their convenience (some call it the "TiVo" of the Internet...I think that doesn't do credence to the real power of RSS, but if it'll help the cause, so be it). While RSS can provide for a more passive Web consuming experience, it can also be more empowering, as it provides for an intelligence that didn't quite exist in Web 1.0
For example, suppose I want to monitor the mentions of a particular competitor -- to be nice, I'll call them the "Idget Widget Corporation" -- but don't have time to go out and constantly surf the Web to keep up with them. Using Technorati Watchlists or keyword monitoring in my own RSS reader, FeedDemon, I'm able to keep a 50K foot view on any number of specific topics, letting the technology do the work by gathering the most appropriate bits out of the ether (in this case, mentions of "Idget Widget" mentioned anywhere on sites that are RSS-enabled), then presenting it to me in a summary, easy-to-consume fashion.
Extrapolate this idea to any variety of things you might need to monitor -- discount deals on Buy.Com...lowered airfares on Travelocity...bids on eBay -- and you can start to better understand why the RSS hype.
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The Wall Street Journal's Jason Fry recently penned an article about the various types of technology consumers.
You can read the full story here, but on this American Thanksgiving holiday a day when the newspaper is chock filled with shoppers sending us all off to the best deals at Best Buy, Circuit City, and a whole smorgasbord of other electronics specialty stores I thought it would be a good time to reflect on technology consumerism.
To summarize Fry's piece, he observes there are five primary types of tech consumers: Elite Tinker, Cutting-Edge Explorer, Faithful Mainstreamer, Bugs-Out-Please Latecomer, and the Disaster Magnet.
Use your imagination as to which one I am.
I was the first in my cubicle farm to buy a Handspring Treo (it quickly ended up making a nice addition in my junked technology closet). I had a wi-fi-enabled Palm Tungsten C well before there were ample hot spots in Austin to effectively use it. And I'll be the first to admit, I'm usually the first to buy any new piece of technology, especially if it's breaking new ground. So yes, I fit into the "Cutting-Edge Explorer" category.
Fry writes that the Cutting Edge Explorer "blows through cellphones like Kleenex" and "spends so much time on help-desk that you're upon the latest Bangalore gossip." Guilty as charged. In fact, I was speaking to one of my new colleagues in Bangalore for well over an hour the other day, trying to troubleshoot my VPN client problems so I could try and get to my work email. This as I'm supposed to be on vacation! Can you say "Loser?" Are you holding an "L" to your forehead so that I get the full impact of the universally accepted sign of "Loserdom"?
My most recent cell phone purchase was a Motorola Razr...I didn't buy it only because it was cool...I dropped my Samsung model while floating in a raft down the Guadalupe River over the summer (Did I think it was somehow waterproof??), and stupid me, I forgot to buy the replacement policy.
That's okay, I thought, as I watched my Samsung burble down into the near clear water (Do they make an underwater-capable cell phones yet??). This will give me a perfect opportunity to go phone shopping!
When it came to the Razr, I just couldn't help myself. It looked way cool, like something straight out of "Star Trek," the price was right, and hey, all the characters on "Alias" have one.
So, I just wanted to give thanks on this Thanksgiving holiday for the opportunity I've been given to be a techno-junkie. The turkey's been eaten, the Best Buy circulars are in full abundance, and the credit card is burning a hole in my pocket. Hello, my name's Todd, and I'm a technoholic.
Now, can you tell me if you have wi-fi in here?[Read More]
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If you're looking for an online "e-tail" bargain while doing your holiday shopping this year, you might want to keep your eyes peeled on the PC during business hours. According to data released this week from Coremetrics, a Web analytics provider, it seems that employees are both buying and browsing from their personal desktop shopping malls.
In a recent e-shopping study retail Web sites apparently received 40 percent more visits and 53 percent more purchasing visits on weekdays than they did on weekend days in September. A majority of those weekday visits and purchases occurred during daytime hours.
Shop 'Til You Drop (Or Can't Stop)
Coremetrics maintains the LIVEmark Index -- an ongoing benchmark for e-business performance to provide comparison data for site-wide performance indicators across more than 175 leading retail brands (including apparel, specialty retail, general merchandise, office and electronics, and numerous other categories) to help index participants better understand their business performance relative to peers and competitors. This information helps companies allocate marketing spend, anticipate threats and e-retailing trends, and make more strategic decisions about site, marketing, and merchandising efforts.
For this particular view into the LIVEmark Index, traffic data was collected during the month of September, 2005. It revealed that 62% of weekday visits to participating sites occurred during daytime hours, between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. Contrast that with the 26% of weekday visits which occurred in the evenings between 6:00 PM and midnight CST, and you can easily conclude there's a whole lot of shopping goin' on at the office.
What Happened to Good Old-Fashioned Office Romance?
Well, it seems that the traditional office romance has been jilted by e-visits to Nordstrom's and Wal-Mart Online.
So, you might ask, what in the world, Mr. Turbo, might I do with such information? You mean, aside from firing your entire workforce for shopping on the company dime?
As a former lead for IBM's interactive advertising efforts, I can tell you the answer is, for starters you need to be considering whether or not your advertising agency or media buyer can help you buy what are called "day-parts," the time slices of a day that were traditionally "bought" by agencies for different types of radio or TV programming -- depending on who the audience is or what they were doing.
For example, radio stations issue dayparts for rush hour, where traffic reports are critical. On TV, prime-time news broadcasts dominate the early evening day part. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are day-parted for sports broadcasts. Why shouldn't the same go for Internet advertising and marketing?
If the Coremetrics LIVEmark Index can provide ongoing evidence that Web site visits occurring during daytime hours on weekdays are 15% more likely to result in a purchase than visits during the evening (which the month of September suggested), then mid-day (read: lunchtime) day-parted ad space on the Internet just got itself a premium.
Meanwhile, be aware when you click on that banner ad during your lunchtime e-shopping excursion. It's not just your boss who's watching.[Read More]
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CNET has been running a special report entitled "Taking Back the Web." The latest dispatch in the 5-part series focuses on mapping "mashups," Web-based applications that are essentially hybrid tools which combine applications like Google Maps with applications such as Craig's List real estate listings (see HousingMaps.Com as a good example.)
While these tools are in their infancy, they're leading the charge to a new wave of innovation in Web 2.0 apps, and providing what I would term "geospatial context" to help find everything from apartments to the best priced gas station in your area. These new apps are, in turn, providing new opportunities for contextual and geo-targeted advertising, a segment of the local advertising market expected to grow to $3.4 billion U.S. by 2009, according to a forecast from The Kelsey Group.[Read More]
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I can't remember the last time I went to a bank. I'm not sure if banks in general think that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I just wanted to put that out there.
I'm not opposed to banks in general. I think they're kind of cool, especially those old ones I used to see growing up in north Texas, the ones that had the really big vaults with the huge crank spinwheels that you had to turn to open the vault door, and that were intended to keep out the likes of Bonnie and Clyde.
The rumor went that Bonnie and Clyde visited the small town I grew up in. I'm not sure exactly what it is they were doing there, although one would have to presume they were there to rob a bank. In an ironic twist of fate, the two people who played Bonnie and Clyde in the movie, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, apparently showed up in my hometown several years later as well...not to rob the bank, but to attend the movie premiere of the movie in which they were playing Bonnie and Clyde. Something strangely harmonically convergent about that.
I say all this because it reminds me of what banks used to be. They were very serious places (at least in Texas) where you kept all your money, and a place you had to actually go to get your money out. But like I said, I haven't been to one in years. My bank is a now a server located somewhere...well, I'm not sure where it's located. But I know I can't visit it, nor would I want to.
While all my friends and colleagues cooed about how dangerous Internet banking was, and how my money could be at risk, I threw all caution to the wind and put all my money online. It was kind of weird, because I couldn't really touch my money, and I couldn't go anywhere to access it, save for an ATM, because my Internet bank had no physical branches. It was just me, a Web site, and the ATM machine. Fortunately, far as I know, my Web site bank has never been held up.
I know my now deceased grandfather would have thought this whole idea very strange. He couldn't have related to the concept that his money could be somewhere in a virtual bank. I think he would have had a hard enough time with the concept of a real bank, of somebody else holding on to his money. But for it to exist in the ether...he'd probably rather chance it with Bonnie and Clyde.
Here's the thing about real banks that you don't get with virtual banks: The smell of the money. You might get a little whiff of it at an ATM, but at a Texas bank in the early 1970s, you could actually smell the money. There was also the wondrous sight of womens' bouffant hair-dos from bank tellers who smiled at you as you looked up at the counter and they asked you if you wanted a lollipop. Or better yet, the drive-through banks where you got to watch your money fly through the ground and pop out, all Jetsons-like, in one of those pneumatic tubes. I always wanted to shrink myself and ride in one of those tubes.
So here's the cool part about working at IBM: We have people who are helping reinvent banks as we know them. An article recently appeared in CMO Magazine entitled "Experience Preferred." In it, the author talks about how IBM and our experiential marketing partner, John Ryan, are using IBM technologies to create experiences and environments to help get people bank into banks (everyone, that is, except for Bonnie and Clyde.)
You can also get a sense of where banking is going by listening to our recent podcast entitled "The Future of Banking." In it, I discovered that many people often speed up when they walk past their bank branches...they apparently have a mental association with banks not unlike that of a visit to the dentist.
Me, I have a pretty positive impression of banks...except that one time in NYC when the ATM ripped me off, giving me $80 instead of the $100 I had asked for.
Where were Bonnie and Clyde then???[Read More]
The news broke today in the Wall Street Journal that Abby Kohnstamm, IBM's senior vice president of marketing -- in essence, if not title, IBM's "chief marketing officer" -- is leaving Big Blue after a 12-year reign.
If you've worked in the marketing discipline at IBM anytime over the past decade, or even in marketing in the technology industry at large, you know that Abby's name has become virtually synonymous with the dramatic impact in marketing that occurred at IBM under her watch.
It's no secret that, historically, IBM has been a very sales-focused culture, with marketing often an afterthought. But as the Big Blue ship teetered on the abyss in 1991-93, and after Lou Gerstner took the helm, Abby and her collective team -- along with our friends at Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide -- worked virtually around the clock to breath new life into the IBM brand as they helped redefine what we stood for as a company, one committed to helping our customers bring new value to their businesses around the globe, to articulate the key role the Internet would play in that transformation, and even to leverage that new medium as a key channel for delivering our e-business message where our audience lived and breathed.
From those early "Solutions to a Small Planet" commercials (the ones with the nuns and contemplative Frenchmen walking along the Seine?) to the recent "Help Desk" campaign, the ground-breaking advertising that Abby's global marketing team produced was an external reflection of the vast, hard fought organizational work going on behind the scenes to build and refine a professional marketing discipline inside IBM.
For those of us who have practiced in that discipline -- from market intelligence to interactive marketing (my own specialty) -- the instruction and experience that this transformation produced helped formulate not only a career path, but also a great deal of pride among its practitioners. We watched the emergence and evolution of both discipline and message -- ones which would reshape the consciousness of the company inside and out, something any effective marketing effort should aspire to accomplish.
So, Abby, we thank you for all your hard work, persistence, and leadership, and we wish you the very best in your new endeavors. You leave behind a legacy of marketing excellence that any successor would be hard pressed to follow.
More importantly, you leave behind the tools and expertise future marketers at IBM will need for marketing to a much smaller planet than the one you found when you first arrived.[Read More]
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This story appeared from the Associated Press this morning: Europe apparently has a digital divide. According to the article, the EU stats agency Eurostat gathered data from across the 25-nation EU bloc and found that there was a gap in Internet and computer usage between those over and under 50 years of age.
The study suggests the divide is more due to an educational gap than a cultural one: 85% of school or university students aged 16 to 24 use the Internet, while only 13% of people aged 55 to 74 did. And only 25% of those who had not completed high school used the Internet. That figure rose to 52% for those with a secondary school diploma, and to 77% for college or university graduates.
Internet use was highest in the Nordic countries (Denmark 76%), Finland (70%), Sweden (82%)...while the lowest rates were in Greece (20%). You know, the place where they hang out on the beaches of Santorini, kick back and drink Ouzo all day. Who needs the Internet when you have Ouzo???
Of course, you could take the Luddite contrarian view from Wired writer Tony Long, in which case less technology means more sanity, and we should all head out to Walden Pond for a little healthy binge of technowithdrawal.
I'm hip to that program...but, uh...is it okay if I bring along my Motorola Razr, just in case?[Read More]
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As disenfranchised youth run rioting in the streets of Paris, CNET reported on some other interesting news emerging out of France: That the Direction Generale des Impots, the French tax authority, plans to deploy the open-source office productivity application OpenOffice.Org on over 80,000 of its PCs.
Mon dieu! The move is expected to save the French government, which is also investigating a subsequent migration to Linux desktops, some 29.3M Euros (~$34.5M).
No wonder Microsoft announced a new Web software strategy in memos leaked to several major media earlier this week. In the memo penned by former Lotus Notes guru Ray Ozzie, he outlines, among other things, his vision for advertising-supported software.
Coming to a banner near you: Windows Office Live for the Web, Brought to You by Calvin Klein -- Between love and madness lies Obsession [with Google]
Finally, speaking of obsession, our very own Irving Wladawsky-Berger made his own announcement about what one journalist called our new "blog-spotting" software. It's officially-sanctioned IBM name is "Public Image Monitoring Solution" (our naming team at Big Blue is certifiably not the most creative outfit on the planet). The software allows companies to monitor and analyze blogs, wikis, news feeds, newsgroups, and other community-generated content in real-time.
As soon as I get my personally-signed CD copy from Irving, I plan to monitor the inactivity transpiring in my own blog in near real-time.[Read More]