Monday, May 31, 2010

Palm's Loss Is Google Android's Gain

The recent sale of Palm to HP was a disappointment to many Palm fans who rightly are concerned over the future development of webOS and smartphones.  Now, Palm's webOS UI designer, Matias Duarte has defected to Google. In his new post, he will be Director of User Experience for Android.  

There's no question that webOs and Palm smartphones are brilliant in design.  It's a shame that Palm's marketing strategy resulted in insufficient sales to keep the company independent.  The new webOs was late to market followed by Palm's exclusive distribution deal with Sprint which did not exactly help with market penetration, whereas a deal with one of the other major cellular networks (Verizon or AT&T), may have achieved a very different result today.  Indeed, the lack of a GSM version of the device precluded Palm sales worldwide for almost a year, and that in itself may be the single reason for Palm's demise as an independent company.  That said, with the departure of Duarte, where does that leave Palm (HP) for the future?  Probably stifled  innovation in the house of HP.  While HP may well have many talented designers, Duarte was and is the vision, and that is hard to replace.

The Future For Android
Duarte will team up with Andy Rubin (together they built Danger Sidekick in the earlier part of the decade), so the future for Android looks promising.  We have yet to see a cohesive strategy for Android - it seems everyday there is a new Android smartphone on the market, making it a confusing choice for consumers.  The Android user experience has yet to catch up with webOs and the iPhone in terms of usability and aesthetics, but with Duarte on board things are likely to change for the better.  The big question still remains: why did HP let him walk out the door? 

Friday, May 28, 2010

An iPhone 3GS For $97?

A surprising deal on the Apple iPhone 3GS has just been announced at Walmart.  The 16 GB version is currently available for $97.  It's interesting that this deal is announced just days before the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference on June 7th, indicating that new models will be announced hence the older models will be sold at reduced prices to clear inventory.  

But why is Apple doing a deal with Walmart and will a lower end retailer tarnish its image?  Quite simply, if you have an excess of inventory, a retailer the size of Walmart (bricks and mortar as well as online), has the capability to push lots of sales across the country.  And even though the next 4th Generation iPhone will be available soon, the price tag puts it out of most people's budgets.  However, at $97 there's a very big lower end market potential that will continue to feed Apple with more customers - call it a market seeding strategy that will pay off in the long term with upgrades and iPad and MacBook sales.  

It's no wonder that Apple surpassed Microsoft this week to become the world's biggest technology company in terms of market value.  Apple's value is now at $222 billion compared to Microsoft at $219 billion. Apple is about consumer, stylish products whereas Microsoft continues to be about Windows.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How Social Media Can Put Your Company On The Map

When the Roger Smith Hotel in New York began engaging in social media marketing because they felt they had to have a digital presence, they had no idea that they were about to create a whole new culture and brand.   Today, the Hotel has become the venue for social media events in New York.  

The Hotel's objectives were not focused on the traditional ROI, that is, to sell more rooms. (And that's the false expectations most businesses have when entering social media.)  Rather, it was focussed on connecting people and telling their stories, thus engaging the guests and creating an experience that would encourage them to return, which is a different concept to customer loyalty.  The Hotel's Director of Hospitality relies on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a Blog (all the social media marketing tools) to distribute and collect stories on guests, events and people connecting with the Hotel.  

Their first event in 2009 hosted a Social Media breakfast in the artsy environment, and soon it became a well known place for web developers, start-ups and others connected in the social media world to meet.  Suddenly, a new culture and identity was created at the Roger Smith Hotel, which now feeds on itself and has become the hotel to host social media events in New York.

This story shows how businesses should not be afraid to embark on a social media strategy that doesn't reqiure a big marketing budget.  It is almost impossible to predict what the ROI is going to be, but it is surely a missed opportunity to not engage just because the future is not predictable.  If you consider that the Roger Smith Hotel has ultimately re-branded itself into the new age without the expense of hiring a marketing agency, then surely it is worth the cost of hiring one person or a contractor for just a few hours a week!  

To get your business on the map, email me for a consultation or read Social Media Marketing For Small Business by Audrey Peters, published by

Monday, May 24, 2010

Social Media Should Be Part of Your Business Strategy

While social media can bring a great deal of benefit to a business, many small businesses make the mistake of jumping in without a strategy, hoping that at some point the momentum will build of its own accord.   While there is some truth to the 'viral' theory, it takes a concerted and well thought out plan to achieve success, otherwise your effort will consume your time, without significant results.

To achieve returns on your social media investment you need to make sure that you : 
- Define your strategy before you dive in;
- Define your goal. What are you trying to achieve - brand awareness or a special discount leading to immediate sales or improving customer relations? 
- Don't get distracted every time you go online. It is easy to get drawn into conversations, but is it achieving your goal? You need to stay focused on your goals as you engage with people, to ensure the conversation is driving towards your goal. 
 - Be responsive daily. A social media marketing effort means you have to stay in touch daily. This is not something you casually dip into once a week, because that might reflect a company that is not responsive to customers. 
 - If you don't have the time, then delegate internally or, better still outsource this function virtually. But make sure you hire the services of someone with a visible track record that you can check out online such as a Blog, Facebook account etc. 

Social Media accounts for about a quarter of time spent online, which means you have to engage as a business. If done well, it will be worth your while.  For more information, see 
Social Media Marketing For Small Business by Audrey Peters

Friday, May 21, 2010

OnStar Meets Google Android Smartphones

Google's location based apps have been around for a while, but now OnStar has incorporated some cool features of its service with Google Android smartphones.  In particular, Google's Android app targets owners of the Chevrolet Volt, providing a neat application that allows the car owner to remotely interact with the onboard navigation system from Onstar, in your car.  The voice activated commands  allow you to plan your journey on your Android phone and send or feed the directions to the car's on-board navigation system.  Once the driver is ready to go, the OnStar navigation system is already programmed and ready to go, thus saving you lots of time.

Other cool features include: unlocking the car if you've locked yourself out, monitoring the battery charge/range and getting a location of your car if you forget where you parked it - something everyone has experienced at least one time.  FIve years ago, who would have thought you could have so much technology in the palm of your hand!

HTC-Android Phone With KeyBoard Rumored

It is rumored that the new HTC 'Vision' is coming with a physical keyboard, suggesting it will have a larger screen and a slide out keyboard.   The picture here is a mock-up of an HTC Desire plus a keyboard.  The HTC new smartphone is expected to be running Android 2.2, have a 3.7 inch touchscreen, 1GHz Snapdragon processor along with a 5-8 megapixel camera.  A high resolution 800x480 screen gives this smartphone enough credibility to make it a good multi-media mobile device.  When it comes to GPS navigation and location based apps, the larger screen makes all the difference.

There have been many critics of the Palm Pre, but there is just something more convenient about a physical keyboard.  It looks like HTC has taken note in introducing this new model and, that Palm did something right!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Smartphones Reduce Patient Wait Times

The average adult American spends four hours per year waiting for medical or dental care, with each wait averaging around 45 minutes (according to an American Time Use Survey).  Well now there is a smartphone app from MedWaitTime that allows the patient  to better manage their time and get real-time updates as to how long that appointment wait time is.

Patients have long complained about the wait times at their doctors’ offices.  In fact, a Consumer Reports survey ranked patient wait times as the #1 complaint among patients. MedWaitTime's solution is a free app for the iPhone and most other smartphones.  You search for your doctor, you enter the appointment time and you receive a real-time wait notification in the form of a Green, Yellow or Red icon.  The app also offers the ability to check emergency rooms and what doctors in your area offer walk-ins.  

MedWaitTime provides a way for doctors and hospitals to inform their patients about the current wait time and reasons for the delay. Informed waiting reduces the stress on patients and can limit the amount of dissatisfaction experienced while waiting. The service costs a clinic $50 a month, and helps reduce congestion in the waiting room and stress on healthcare staff.  When healthcare costs are a concern, managing the daily operation more efficiently might mean a clinic can actually see more patients and immediately fill those cancellation spot.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Location Based Apps And Ads On the Rise

Mobile users in the 25-34 year age group use location based mobile services at least once a week according to a study by the Mobile Marketing Association.  The most common reasons are to find nearby stores, their own location on a map, other navigation services and to find family and friends who might be logged into location based apps.  

Location based Ads seem to be of less interest, but if it is more relevant and likely to be linked to a location, 38 percent of users said they would be more likely to click on a mobile Ad. 

So it's all about targeting to users!  

In this still relatively untapped market, there is significant potential for Advertisers to implement location based Apps that are relevant.  eMarketer predicts that the U.S. mobile ad market will reach $593 billion this year.   

Europe currently leads in smartphone mobile application downloads worldwide, with North America coming in second, trailed by Asia-Pacific. However, by the end of 2011, accelerating growth in North American mobile app downloads will push it ahead of Europe, whose growth curve is expected to flatten, according to ABI Research.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Location Based GPS Apps from CellFlare

CellFlare's mobile App for smartphones uses the GPS system to not only give you your location, but to link you to your friends while you are on the move, in real-time.  The App was previously available for Blackberry, iPhone and Palm but today, Cellflare has released the Android version. 

One of the unique features is 'Friends on the Map", a feature that allows you to email or SMS your contact and location to your friends. Users are able to follow and track all of their friends from their mobile devices using a photo or avatar of their contacts, their position and average speed in real-time.  A useful feature for friends to 'Meet-up".  

Location based Apps are likely to become mainstream.  Facebook is rolling out its location based features to 400 million plus users shortly, but only 7 percent of Americans are aware of location-based social network (according to Edison Research).  This is because not everyone yet has a smartphone. When you look at the iPhone market for example, this figure jumps to 63 percent.  

Geo-location Apps bring huge marketing opportunities for business targeting potential customers in their area.  Consumers do have control over their privacy by being able to opt-out.  However, the upside for a customer is many fold, from receiving relevant coupon codes to their shopping habits, to finding exactly what they want in their immediate location, thus saving them time and money.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sprint Rejects Nexus One - What Next For Google?

Google Nexus One is a serious contender in the smartphone market and arguably a challenger to the iPhone with its Android operating system. Nexus One offers free satnav capabilities, multitouch web-browsing and comprehensive integration of web and email with Google mail. 

So why has Sprint decided to drop its plans for Nexus One?  
Last month Verizon also announced it would not carry this phone.  The simple answer is that Google has challenged the traditional carrier/wireless store distribution model by selling the Nexus One unlocked, direct to consumers.  So the marketing war has started.  

The Android operating system has become very popular with consumers. All Google needs to do to break the wireless carriers stranglehold is simple: drop the price from the $500  plus price tag to around $250, unlocked.  If a company is serious about breaking a market or a dominant business model, profits have to be a secondary objective, market penetration is all that matters to establish a standard or a brand.  Google has clearly invested heavily in developing both the Nexus One and the Android OS.  If carriers are not interested in a deal unless they have exclusivity, then it's time for Google to carry through with what it's started by dropping the price and seeking retail distribution outlets such as BestBuy.  Consumers need to see, feel and play with the phone before purchase and no one is interested in $500 for a phone when you can buy an iPad for $499.  

While most opinions out there are calling for Google to drop Nexus One, I think this is a major opportunity for Google.  Technology has dropped significantly in price, so why haven't the phone devices?  It's time for the old business model to change and for consumers to be free of being tied to two year contracts!  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Roadside Assistance On Your Smartphone

Roadside assistance service is something every driver needs and many probably already have in the form of a telephone membership.  But, now there is App for that!  The service has been updated with GPS location capability.  Allstate Roadside Services in partnership with BMW have developed what appears to be the first personalized smartphone application. The Roadside Assistance smartphone App is free to download and works on iPhones, BlackBerries and Android phones.  In fact, it comes as a free service with new BMW’s but can also be purchased for an annual subscription on used BMW's.

For the consumer, this means an expedited handling of an inquiry, especially if in an emergency.  Unlike a regular phone call where you might be hanging on the line and have to explain the problem and your location, the smartphone App has an easy menu interface so the driver can immediately log the issue with a few keystrokes.  For example: “out of fuel”, “battery”, “flat tire”, “locked out”, “mechanical”, “accident”,  etc.

In addition, the GPS technology determines a callers location and connects to the nearest available service provider.  With VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) already registered into the system, it makes for quicker diagnosis by the service provider.  Once the inquiry is logged into the system, the driver even gets an ETA transmitted back. 

Other features of this App include concierge services as well as keeping the customer informed with service reminders from BMW.  Other roadside assistant providers such as AAA, also have a smartphone App but only available on the iPhone at present.

If you are reluctant to purchase a smartphone, this application alone makes it worth the consideration.  

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Geolocation Smartphone Apps Help Real Estate Sales

With GPS as standard on smartphones these days, it makes a lot of sense for househunters to be able to tap into this technology when searching for property in their neighborhood.  It's also a very efficient way for realtors to market property directly to their clients and find new clients who just happen to be in the neighborhood. 

Lets exclude the basic navigational advantages for a moment and look at something far more sophisticated.  Imagine you are going about your daily errands in your neighborhood and an alert pops up with a property to view within a few blocks of where you are.  This is called "geo-fencing" or  a predetermined block area as part of the specifications you will have given to your realtor, as your area of interest.  Within minutes, you have been notified of the property and arranged a viewing with your realtor.  This combination of geo-fencing, GPS and mobile marketing is a great tool for both home buyers and realtors who might otherwise have missed an opportunity.  

While MLS (multiple listings) have been available from Redfin and Zillow for some time, Smarter Agent has been specifically designed for viewing on a smartphone, incorporating GPS location with other search facilities to help buyers find just the right property in their desired neighborhood.    Agents and brokers can create their own Branded application for as little as $49 a month subscription.  Smarter Agent is compatible with all smartphones including, Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Palm, Samsung, Nokia, LG and more.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Google Enters e-Books/e-Reader Market

Google announced today it will start selling e-Books through its Google Editions, putting Google squarely in competition against Amazon.  Google's digital book store will not be device specific, giving it even greater competitive advantage to Amazon and the Kindle.  In fact, any web enabled computer, e-reader or smartphone will be able to access digital books from the Google store.  

The Google e-book store will launch sometime this summer and will have around 500,000 titles.  The deal with publishers is not as competitive as self-publisher  Google will keep 37 percent of sales per book,  far higher than Lulu's 20 or Amazon's 30 percent.  But one of the greatest advantages of publishing through Google will be the searchable aspect on the web, based upon Google's indexing search.  (Choice is good for the consumer.)

The e-reader market has exploded in terms of number of devices and sales. Just take a look at Apple and the iPad, which sold 1 million units in just about one month.  Apple cannot manufacture these devices fast enough.   As for downloads of e-books, Apple reports 1.5 million e-books were downloaded through iTunes.   Google is also rumored to be launching its own e-reader device this year.  

2010 is going to be the year of the e-reader!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Google Nexus One Rivals iPhone

The Google Nexus One phone (HTC), runs the Android system and is packed with features.  Although Google announced earlier this year that it would release this smartphone unlocked, the price, $525 for the unlocked phone has not persuaded customers to purchase.  A two year contract however, makes this phone worth considering in the U.S. (T-Mobile) and now available on Vodafone in Europe.  Among the many cool features, the  location based Apps and Voice Search are  probably the most useful for users who are on the move. 

Since Palm has now been sold to HP, it may well be time to consider other smartphones like the Nexus.  Indeed, it is probably due to Palm's exclusivity with Sprint that hindered market penetration and thus hastened the demise of its independence, so hopefully Google does not fall into the same trap.  However, as the competition continues to march on, there's plenty to consider about the Nexus One, especially when compared to the current iPhone.

- A 5 MP camera with built in flash - a feature hard to find on smartphones. 
- A Media Gallery to view your photos that has the ease of use reminiscent of an iPhone.
- Touchscreen technology with the latest Sense interface that rivals an iPhone or Palm Pre.
Sync your contacts, Facebook and email accounts with QuickContact.
- Tons of integrated social media applications at a touch, including easy to upload video interface direct to YouTube.  
- The Snapdragon 1GHz processor easily handles the multiple applications and 3D graphics. 
- GPS and Wi-Fi are all included, but what gives  the Nexus One the edge is the Voice Search feature which can be really useful for location based searching.  For example, just say the restaurant name you are looking for and Google will locate it, show  you a map, and turn by turn directions.  
- Google Voice is also highly integrated and the Voice Search feature works with every text feature on this phone i.e converts speech to text. 
- And finally, an  SD card and removable battery are also serious considerations against the iPhone, which has neither.

If you're looking for a really good smartphone, with the size feel and usability of an iPhone, and don't want to pay a premium price, then the Nexus One is a good choice global phone.    

Apple Buys Siri - Personal Assistant App

I reported about Siri's  "PA in your pocket" in Feb. 2010 and now Apple has acquired the company.   Siri's core technology is based on artificial intelligence: a sophisticated voice command search, location based search and advertising for mobile smartphone devices.  The practical aspect of this technology means a user can easily interrogate or ask simple questions by speaking into their smartphone.   Siri  allows the command to connect to the service requested and even book a restaurant table via the web.  Clearly Siri's technology requires back-end partners, such as Open Table, to complete a restaurant reservation but to the user it is as seamless as calling your very own assistant and making a reservation.  

Details of the deal were not disclosed however, Siri raised $24 million from investors, including Menlo Ventures and Li Ka-Shing, a Chinese billionaire who has also invested in Facebook. 

Siri's technology was first launched for the iPhone but it remains to be seen whether Apple will restrict it's future development or allow versions for Android.  Either way, such intelligent technology is finally here and will begin to appear in many other consumer applications including cars and homes. This acquisition also evens the playing field between Apple and Google Android, as well as striking a direct hit against Google search on the iPhone, in favor of Safari.  
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