The 360 degree solution

this was previously published in March 2008 in Dealerscope Magazine:

Ten years ago, consumers bought consumer electronics devices largely independent of the services and content they would eventually use in conjunction with those devices. Those times are gone.

As opposed to piecing together an a la carte experience by coupling hardware, software and services, today’s consumer is in search of a more robust, 360 experience. This 360 experience focuses less on what the devices, services and content can do in isolation and more on how they come together to provide the consumer with the experience they are seeking straight out of the box. This change is driving an important shift within the consumer electronics industry, as content owners, service providers and hardware manufacturers come together to create and provide a 360 solution.

Organizing Information

The most successful companies – especially in the digital world – will be built around organizing dispersed information (something I said I would expound upon).  Name a successful company in the digital space, and you will see data organization at its core.  AOL for example – while best known for its ISP business in the 1980s…

The Value of Advertising on the Kindle

Amazon recently announced they would sell a new Kindle with “Special Offers”version.  Kindle with “Special Offers” has the same specs as their WiFi-only Kindle but will include advertisements as the screen saver and on the home screen bar.  In exchange, Amazon will only change $114. 

In all likelihood Kindle hardware will one day be free (or close to free) because of cross subsidization (give away the hardware and monetize the content). The Kindle app for other devices is logically already free.  And of course, this go-to-market approach is common for other technology categories like gaming.  Gaming hardware doesn’t drop to zero likely in part because of the retail relationships that must be maintained by the OEM, but it isn’t uncommon to see it sold below cost at different times. With Amazon’s Kindle in other retail channels, this might be the approach Kindle takes.  You also don’t want consumers taking more than they’ll use.  With a registered Kindle account this becomes less of a concern.  I won’t be surprised if the Kindle with “Special Offers” remains exclusively available through Amazon because of the confusion it might cause in other retail chains which might help drive volume back through Amazon. 

Decision Curbs: How the Miracle on the Hudson will Impact You

Over the weekend I read William Langewiesche’s recent book Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudsonwhich chronicles the role electronic control systems play in avionic safety generally and US AIR flight 1549’s miraculous landing on the Hudson river specifically. A fly-by-wire approach is something we will begin to see with more frequency.

In avionic application, the fly-by-wire approach establishes certain parameters that guide the actions of pilots – for example making it impossible to stall the airplane, or obtain more than 2.5Gs which could impact the integrity of the aircraft. Creating bounded ranges and cementing curbs allows for quick, decisive decision-making in times of distress.  Bernand Ziegler – the former head of Airbus, and champion of the fly-by-wire approach explains, “we give you guarantees so you can react as fast as you want without having to worry about breaking the plane.”…

Using Events to Drive Retail Traffic

BestBuy is apparently holding iPad supply so they will presumably have enough supply on stock and in the stores for an “upcoming event.” This highlights the delicate nature of retailing today.  Physical media is no longer the traffic driver it once was, but today’s traffic drivers aren’t providing the margin that retailers need so events have become the focus to drive…

The Future of Data (and the Death of Surveys)

The demand for “metrics” is increasing. At the same time, data availability is accelerating. More, the availability of survey software like SurveyMonkey has driven down both the cost and accessibility to survey tools. In economic parlance, we’ve seen both supply and demand shift out. As the chart shows, the end result is a lower price and a much higher quantity.  

This is in everywhere evident. Political and social issue polling has increased with a 24 hour news cycle, cable news channels, more independent research institutions, and think tanks. Surveys have become commonplace. I receive a survey invite each time I stay in a hotel, attend an event, close an account or any number of a host of activities. These invites enter my inbox with subject lines like “your opinion counts,” “please share your feedback with us,” “your recent stay at Renaissance,” or “would you recommend Hertz?”…

On Privacy

I’ve written about Xobni for Outlook in the past, but a recent experience illustrated the role data will play in the future and ultimate implications for privacy.  When it first launched I tried freecycle and several months ago I signed-up again to see how the service had evolved and was progressing.  Because I knew this…

The Future of Postal Service 2020

Last week I had an extended conversation on the future of postal service and wanted to share some of my thoughts on potential scenarios 10 years from today. These are clearly quick sketches. The future – as is often the case – will likely be an amalgamation of these scenarios.  

Scenario 1: Traditional Mail Ceases to Exist, Small Parcel the Only Thing Delivered

Small parcel post is escalating.  I seem to recall a statistic recently from Fred Smith of FedEx, suggesting small parcels represent some 15% of their total shipment volume. This category of mail is driven by online retail sales and consumer-to-consumer transactions – both of which continue to increase.  Consumer-to-consumer transactions are on the rise as sites like eBay continue to gain in popular and are used more frequently for a wider assortment of goods. Online sales represent only about 5% of retail sales today, but this is clearly growing as well. It won’t be surprising to find online sales representing a quarter of all retail sales within five or six years. As these transactions increase, small parcel post naturally follows.

There are a few trends playing out in the technology sector which will also impact the rate at which small parcel post increases. First, as the retail sector has become more challenging, manufacturers are increasingly looking at selling directly to consumers.  This isn’t unique to technology companies, but is playing out across a host of categories. A second element I see evident in technology is the rapid acceleration of product launches, the speed at which companies are attempting to bring these products to market, and the swiftness at which information about new products is disseminated to potential consumers.  Manufacturers are building less inventory over a shorter period time before bringing a given product to market. Seeking to fill a broad supply chain in a shorter window will force manufacturers to increasingly rely on expedited, small parcel post – regardless if they are going directly to consumers or through more traditional retail channels.

Scenario 2: The Death of Direct Mail

Today, direct mail represents roughly half of all mail sent. According to a report from advertising and marketing consulting firm Winterberry …

Making the Social Graph Linear

John Battelle writes about Color, a new social photo app. Color creates a visual (user-generated photos) public (anyone sharing photos through Color) timeline of any given location (using a proximity algorithm). (It is worth noting Dave Winer suggested the need of a “social camera” four years ago.)  Battelle suggests color matters because of location (“colors has the opportunity to be the first breakout application…