Monday, November 28, 2011

T-Mobile USA is the same without AT&T

Things are getting tougher for AT&T and T-Mobile. Well, tougher for AT&T. Recently AT&T pulled their application to purchase T-Mobile USA due to increased resistance from the FCC and DOJ. Now that analysts are giving the deal only a 10% chance of being completed statements about T-Mobile's "dire situation" are beginning to surface. As the AT&T-Mobile deal falls apart I have to ask myself, what does the future look like for T-Mobile?

To start, what was really different for T-Mobile if AT&T successfully bought them? For T-Mobile it still meant they they would cease to exist as their own company. It's Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's current owner, that has the most to gain from the deal.

T-Mobile is the nation's fourth largest carrier with just over 30 million subscribers. While it's ranked as a nationwide provider it does not have any real growth options. There are plenty of regional carriers that T-Mobile could purchase to bolster their subscriber base and infrastructure, except there's one problem, most are CDMA based while T-Mobile is GSM based. It's not impossible for them to purchase a company with incompatible technology it just doesn't have the same benefits of a classic telco merger while being more expensive.

So there's no real turn around opportunity for T-Mobile which is why DT found a suitor to take the fledgeling company. AT&T has claimed that they are in desperate need of more spectrum to handle their increasing network traffic which is supposedly what prompted the deal to buy T-Mobile. On top of giving AT&T the spectrum it desired it would also allow them to take the title of "The Nation's Largest Carrier" from Verizon.

On top of paying a premium for T-Mobile, AT&T agreed to pay a 3 billion dollar fee if the deal didn't go through with close to 3 billion dollars worth of assets and roaming agreements to T-Mobile. The big winner was DT who was getting market value for what was losing them money.

Now as AT&T is scrambling to salvage the deal many are speculating what will happen to T-Mobile. It hasn't changed, T-Mobile will be sold. The only thing that has changed is what DT can get for the carrier that once sported Catherine Zeta Jones as it's spokesperson.

The termination fee (kind of ironic if you think about it) that AT&T has to pay won't really change things. There's no valuable regional GSM carrier for T-Mobile to buy. They could invest in their network or purchase/lease spectrum from another company but this would require time for them to turn things around. Granted the $3 billion gives them time but it doesn't hold off the inevitable.

The one option that's not likely is all out bankruptcy. What will probably happen if AT&T can't get approval is T-Mobile gets purchased by a private equity fund. The same happened to Alltel in 2007. TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners, a division of Goldman Sachs purchased Alltel for $27 billion. Valuable parts of Alltel were sold off and the remaining entity which still included an infrastructure and subscriber base were sold to Verizon Wireless.

It will be a while before something like this happen to T-Mobile especially after an injection of almost $6 billion. T-Mobile is in the twilight of it's existence with an end that will happen not with a bang but rather a whimper.

Best BlueTooths for Cyber Monday

If you're looking for some great stocking-stuffers this Cyber Monday let me help by suggesting a Bluetooth headset. Finding the right one can be difficult as I have experience over that past few years. Below is a list of Bluetooths I use personally and have come to love.

Jabra EXTREME2 Bluetooth Headset
This headset has become my all time favorite.

  • Noise Blackout 3.0 - Reduces ambient noise
  • HD Voice - Voice Guidance that helps you through setup, pairing, battery and connection status
  • Multiuse - Connect 2 devices at once
  • Ultimate-fit Eargels - 3 different eargels and one hook
  • A2DP - Listen to music or podcasts through headset
  • Up to 5.5 hours talk time and 10.5 days standby time
The Good
The performance of this device is incredible. One thing that really impressed me is that callers on the other end can hear me crystal clear. I have never had a bluetooth without a mic boom that allowed other people to hear me without issue.

Sound quality is also great. As much as I like my Plantronics Voyager Pro the Jabra Extreme beats it hands down on sound quality.

Rather than one multi-function button, the device has an on/off toggle switch and two volume buttons. This might not seem like a big deal but it definitely makes the device easier to use.

The Bad
The Ultimate-fit Eargels didn't do much for me. I think they're designed for a specific type of ear but that wasn't a big issue since it comes with a normal ear-piece and hook.

The Extreme2 did well in noisy environments but wind tended to give me issues. Just a breeze was able to hinder the other person's ability to hear me. That shouldn't be a big deterrent considering how small the device is.

Other than just a few hiccups the Extreme2 has become one of my all time favorite devices. A price tag of $60-$70 feels more than reasonable.

Plantronics Voyager PRO+ Bluetooth Headset
For when I absolutely have to be heard, this is best headset.

  • AudioIQ2 - Noise canceling technology
  • Vocalyst - Plantronic's voice and text services
  • A2DP
The Good
Because the mic actually comes down close to the mouth I never have issue with the other person hearing me. Additionally this bluetooth was able to handle moderate gusts of wind. Just when I was expecting to repeat myself I found that I had been heard.

While I never worry about battery life on a bluetooth since most last 3 times as long as my cell phone, this will last forever on a single charge.

The Bad
This is one of the largest bluetooths you can find. While some may not care about that there is no mistaking that you're wearing a bluetooth when its on. However the silver lining of this cloud is because of its over-the-ear design its one of the most secure fitting bluetooths.

Sound quality to the person on the other end was spectacular but the sound quality for myself wasn't. If you're in a noisy environment and turn up the volume, the sound becomes just the tiniest bit distorted. If not for this one issue this device would be at the top of my list.

LG Electronics HBM-235 Bluetooth Headset
This device won't blow your mind but its the best device for the money.

The Good
Its CHEAP! The $20 price-tag makes this a great headset to gift just don't let price scare you away. It still does better than some headsets I've payed more than triple for.

The Bad
The sound quality is ok. Again I can't stress enough that it does better than some higher priced bluetooths. However this is best for someone who will be using it in the car with windows up and radio off.

Hope this helps on Cyber Monday! Have you had any experiences with these? Let me know how they worked out for you!

And if you decide to buy one please support me by clicking on the device link.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apple's Black Friday Deals

If you're looking to purchase an Apple product then Black Friday is the day to do it. At a tipster has revealed the planned discounts.

In case you can't read some of the prices the ad lists the following prices.
     iPad 2 starts at $458
     iPod nano starts at $118
     iPod touch starts at $178
     MacBook Air starts at $898
     MacBook Pro starts at $1098
     iMac starts at $1098

Apple will also be discounting their accessories and gift cards. $50 iTunes/ App Store/ iBookstore gift cards can be purchased for only $45.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sprint's Terminal Problem

Four years ago Sprint was in serious trouble. Their stock was plummeting, subscribers were running to other carriers, and the acquisition of Nextel was being referred to as "the merger from hell." During this time mumblings began of Sprint's final days. Fortunately for Sprint they would put a man in charge who would be known as one of the best turnaround CEOs of all time.

Sprint is a completely different company today thanks to the efforts of Dan Hesse. Finding their footing in the wireless world as a value driven Tier 1 company, Sprint has not only survived the past four years but has had a bit of resurgence. However while Hesse has plenty to celebrate, Sprint's time is still running out.

Part of the turnaround strategy included a focus on prepaid. Boost Mobile has become one of the most profitable segments at Sprint after igniting a price war with its $50 monthly unlimited plan. Betting more on prepaid, Sprint acquired Virgin Mobile USA and further segmented the market by introducing Assurance Wireless for low-income families. Prepaid remains one of the largest growth engines for Sprint.

October 14th, 2011 Sprint announced a seemingly great triumph, they would be getting the iPhone. The red flags were raised almost immediately when it was revealed that Sprint agreed to purchase 30.5 million iPhones in the next four years at a cost of $20 billion. Currently Sprint has just over 27 million postpaid subscribers so the number of iPhones purchased was surprisingly high and the $20 billion price tag is going to effect Sprint's financials for a while. One other concern however is how will Sprint's network handle the load of 30 million iPhones?

Network capacity is more of concern today with the amount of data being used over wireless towers. AT&T was on the receiving end of many articles complaining of poor network performance. As data usage increases from iPhones and Android devices the race to keep up with demand will speed up.

This is where the final nail-in-coffin will happen, the network. Sprint has been partnered with Clearwire who provides for most of Sprint's smartphone traffic. Clearwire has been slow in the rollout of 4G services which has become glaringly obvious as Verizon Wireless is in the midst of it's aggressive LTE deployment. This isn't the only cause for concern as Sprint and Clearwire are currently engaged in brutal negotiations that puts Sprint's network at risk.

Hesse revealed that he believes that Sprint would do just fine if Clearwire was pushed towards bankruptcy. It may not be however as Sprint's license to spectrum was transferred to Clearwire as part of a previous deal. Wireless spectrum is becoming more valuable amongst wireless carriers as the amount of traffic grows. Clearwire has $240 million in interest obligations due and payable on December 1st, 2011. The threat of default on the interest payment makes a point to Sprint stopping short of interrupting service to smartphone users.

While losing data services is a huge threat to Sprint there's even more at stake. Just as Sprint found profitability through it's prepaid services it looks to increase revenues through other areas. Most carriers sell services at wholesale to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO). Sprint recently said that it plans on putting a greater emphasis on MVNO partners but this was just after Cox Communications announced that it would be abandoning it's wireless services.

Cox leaving the wireless business isn't too surprising as the cable company launched in very limited markets and found it difficult competing with entrenched wireless carriers. One notable reason for the failure mentioned was the acceleration of competitive 4G networks. Cox recognized that 4G is going to a huge factor in the competitive landscape of the wireless industry.

For Sprint, network innovation is no longer just about luring subscribers from Verizon and AT&T. Sprint has positioned itself as a discount carrier through it's prepaid offerings and has had tremendous success. That success could be multiplied through it's offerings towards MVNO partners but that hope seems to be dwindling as current partners are leaving partly because of the network.

The problems with Clearwire put a lot at risk for Sprint. Even if a deal is reached, innovation at Clearwire will be stifled from their own financial issues. The possibility of Sprint building out their own network to where it needs to be is almost impossible now as $20 billion is tied up in iPhone orders. The Sprint network has gone from a competitive disadvantage to writing on the wall.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Password Fatigue

I hear a lot of complaining from people that they have to remember too many passwords. With computers becoming more integrated into our every day lives we are having to deal with passwords more. The problem is that out of a fear for security, people are getting too crazy with their passwords.

Most people are good about following the rule of not using the same password for everything. If your password is compromised then all of your accounts and password protected assets are vulnerable. But it's common to have so many passwords that you can never remember the rarely used ones. Life Hacker's Gina Tripani has the answer by having a base password modified by rules for each application.

Say your base password is "asdf." (See how easy those keys are to type?). Then your password for Yahoo would be ASDFYHAO, and your password for eBay would be ASDFBYEA.

Another tool that I have used in the past when passwords such as alarm codes have been given to me is a password keeper program. You can download these on most smart phones for free. You enter all your passwords in but the list is protected by one master password. The vulnerability of course is if the one password is breached then your entire list is in the open.

On Twitter today you can find one of the trending topics is worst passwords. There's some creative and funny ones like "KimsWedding", too short and not strong enough. Some that you really want to stay away from though include "admin," "password," and your name. Although Twitter user @aYokka has found that if you use a boyfriend's name you have to figure out a new password when the relationship's over.

Have any password stories? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


Monday, November 14, 2011

CNN Leaves Out Minor Detail on $1 CEO

Today I saw an article on CNN about Tech CEO's who were compensated $1 a year. At the top of the list was Steve Jobs. Normally something like this wouldn't grab my attention except that I'm almost done with Steve Job's biography.

As I was reading the piece in more detail it became clear that the focus was on the $1 a year salary. It went into mentioning that Jobs was also compensated with an airplane and was worth over 7 billion dollars. What it failed to mention was that before coming back officially to Apple, Jobs negotiated a surprisingly high amount of stock options.

There was a list of other CEO's who supposedly worked for a dollar but after not seeing all of the facts I had no interest in viewing the rest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

193,000 people stopped paying for cable. Sign of the times?

According to Giga Om, 193,000 people decided to stop paying for cable last quarter. That number comes from looking at the industry as a whole and mainly includes just the top tier providers. Losses could be even more if we had data on the smaller regional providers.

There are multiple things going on here to push people to "cut the cord." Providers are now focusing on get a larger average revenue per user (ARPU) instead of fighting to keep existing customers. Customers are now becoming more frugal,  cutting more and more things out of their lives. While these two situations make up most of the 193,000 there is still one other group they may not be represented in the stats.

I'm a student of disintermediation. The belief that the internet fosters peer to peer relationships, naturally cutting out the middle-men. In the television industry you have actors, directors, producers, cable executives, content distributors, and the list goes on. With so many hands in the proverbial cookie jar it's a wonder that we can get TV as cheap as we do.

What if though one man could get a few people together and record his own show and then directly deliver it to his viewers for free? It's already happened, go to and check it out. But an ecosystem like that is more cost effective and more efficient. Plus it's the viewers that provide feedback on whether the show is good or not, not executives in an ivory tower.

TWiT, which stands for This Week in Tech, is a professionally made show that blows some network TV shows out of the water. It's only a matter of time until more content creators of the same level start popping up. Netflix and Hulu are currently bridging the content gap on online viewing. It's possible to get a great TV viewing experience living on the web alone.

There are those that believe that web only TV viewing is the way to go. While most people cutting the cord are probably those who want to save some money, there are those that cut the cord out of principle.

The internet makes it possible to produce and create a show with very little investment. This is going to cause a huge paradigm shift over the next few years. Currently most principled cord cutters are also early adopters but there's a growing amount of people who aren't necessarily tech savvy but are going to online only viewing. That will become more common as more well produced shows start popping up on the internet and other technologies allow us to get more content easily over the web.

Some of the evidence that this change is gaining momentum includes the fact that cable internet providers (who also provide content) are thinking about blocking or charging extra to access Netflix. Online only viewing has become a large enough of a movement to get the attention of the cable providers. Let's hope that their response isn't litigation which was the response of radio stations who didn't like satellite radio.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back it up! Even on your phone

I see it everyday, someone's phone dies and there's no way to get back the pictures they have taken. It's sad especially when some really important pictures are gone forever. That's why it's important to back up everything, even your cell phone.

There many services that back up your phone's information wirelessly. Verizon Wireless now provides Backup Assistant for free but it only backs up your contact list. For Android, iPhone and Blackberry, users can turn to an app or platform specific software to backup all of their phone's data.

For your average flip phone though it take a little more work to make sure your data is safely backed up. You should make yourself aware of your phone's features, such as if it has a place for a memory card or not.
As you're setting up a process to back up your phone's it will be necessary to know it's limitations.

A good rule of thumb to follow in backing up data is "3, 2, 1." There should be 3 total copies and that includes the original. 2 of those copies need to be on different forms of media and 1 copy should be off site (ie a wireless backup service).

Due to the limitations of your phone you may not be able to complete all aspects of these strategies. But the closer you can get to it the better.

If your camera phone does not have a place for a microSD memory card you can send your pictures to your email address through text messaging. Double check your cell phone plan as certain charges apply.

Most carriers offer data transfer and you can have your contacts and pictures saved to a USB thumb drive. They may charge for the service but it's a quick and simple process.

Data backup is important, especially now that phones take place of our address books and photo albums. Don't think backing up, do it before it's too late.

How Android can save Blackberry

It has come to the point that even Blackberry enthusiasts can't deny the trouble that RIM is in. Originally losing ground to the iPhone, the loss of market share has increased with the Android onslaught. The flop of the PlayBook, a quarter filled with poor results, and now the cutting of 2,000 jobs makes the future of Blackberry look even more grim.

Take a look at a Blackberry today and it's almost exactly the same as it was three years ago. In that time they've released Blackberry OS 5.0, and 6.0 with 7.0 on the way. But the user interface hasn't changed that much and Blackberry App World feels sparce compared to the Apple Store and Android Market.

There's such a mixed bag of news coming out of Waterloo, I won't make any predictions about the future of RIM. There are signs pointing to the possibility of change but there are also omens of a lingering head-in-sand mentality. RIM has plenty of cash to keep them on life-support for a while but they do need to turn things around fast before it turns into an unstoppable avalanche.

Recently an annonymous high-level RIM employee sent an open letter to the founders, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. In it he/ she addresses the problem causing the pain at RIM, much attributed to a lack of concern for the end-user experience. The anonymous writer cites plenty of other issues that need to fixed, such as creating a brand people can relate to and not allowing carriers and lawyers to make all the decisions.

While the official response to the letter was vague at best, there are other things coming out of RIM that give me hope for their future. The PlayBook didn't have a fighting since RIM foolishly released it without native email support but the QNX PlayBook OS shows promise. It's in the new OS's developer centric benfits that points towards a new shift in strategies at RIM.

There are two key points that suggest that Blackberry will someday be more appealing to developers. The first made a big splash when originally announced, the PlayBook will support Android application compatibility. The other, which was a little more obscure, is a soon to be released native development kit that allows developers to take advantage of C and C++ to write performance-sensitive parts of the QNX applications.

Enticing developers to be excited about their platform is a huge step in the right direction. If they are then willing to improve upon the user experience then Blackberry has a shot of being market competitor again.

But is this too little, too late? That's where Android steps in. The "app player" gives thrid-part Android apps the ability to run on the QNX OS. If that system can be put in place on the new touch-screen capable phones coming from Blackberry then the instant increase in apps would make consumers rethink the Blackberry platform.

Being able to run Android apps on the BB OS isn't going to guarantee a successful future for RIM but what it would do is prevent the snowball effect that's threatening RIM. There a dangerously dismissive attitude towards Blackberry these days. They need to quickly show that they're making the right decisions for the future.

The move to quickly add to it's app base would be similar to the strategy Google employed with Android in the early days. Google's focus was to make the platform open and foster a community of developers. Blackberry needs to do the same to keep from running out of steam for good, instantly benefitting from making more apps available via Android.

These days I don't know many people opting for Blackberry. I still have a nostalgic love for the platform therefore I hope it makes a comeback. If Android apps were made available on the handheld I would be intrigued enough to give it a try.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Google+ will soon suck

I absolutely love Google+, in fact I'm starting to devote an unhealthy amount of time to it. Google's incorporation of Circles, Huddle and Hangouts has made for an awesome social experience. I also love the people on there, we all have common interests such as our love for Google, tech industry experience, and understanding of social. Above all else, what I love about Google+ is that it's not Facebook.

That last point may lose it's validity as Google+ is set to copy one of the most annoying aspects of Facebook, social games. Before I go on I want to say I understand it's a cash cow and that users spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook because of it. Since I'm not into the gaming side though the hundreds of game requests I receive is just annoying spam.

But that's just part of the inevitable. The new social network is rapidly growing, just passing the 20 million mark. As it grows the noise is going to get louder, filled with spammers and trolls. My disappointment with Google though is it's apparent hurriedness to monetize the site.

The move to usher in a gaming platform that fosters spam seems so uncharacteristic of Google. The passion of Google comes from the founder's obsessive search of data. Larry and Sergey have said they want to connect everybody to all the world's knowledge. How does adding a gaming platform to it's social site work towards bringing together the world's data?

It's like moving into a new neighborhood that's in the early stages of being built. There's not a lot of people around so it's a nice and quiet area. You had to be invited so you do have a feeling of achievement getting accepted. You understand that it won't stay that way forever though because it is developing at a fast pace but you decide to just enjoy the laid back feel while you have it. But then instead of building the school down the street as planned, the developers put in a nightclub. Your peaceful neighborhood Has been ruined by the undesirable crowd that pours in. You now wake in the mornings to trash lining the streets from the night before.

Last month, Kara Swisher from All Things D reported that a games network was likely coming next on Google+.

At the time, a spokesperson issued this statement: “It’s important to keep in mind this is an ongoing project and this is just the beginning. We plan to add a lot of features and functionality to Google+ over time. We’re just excited to get started.”

I would like to say that if Google ends up realizing that it's a horrible mistake they can just take it away. But once it's implemented the damage will be done. The spamming crowd will be ushered in and our news feed will be graffitied by inordinate amounts of game invites.

The one saving grace is that grouping has been done right through Google Circles. Those that I follow that think it's ok to ask me ten times a day to milk their cow will be put in the circle that's ignored.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Google now checks your computer for malware.

Head to Google and you may be greeted with a warning stating that your computer is infected by malware. 

The move from Google to start notifying it's users malware began when it's engineers noticed unusual activity coming in while doing routine maintenance at one of it's data centers. Damian Menscher, a security engineer at Google, wrote in a blog post, "After collaborating with security engineers at several companies that were sending this modified traffic, we determined that the computers exhibiting this behavior were infected with a particular strain of malicious software, or 'malware,'" 

The nature of the malware sends traffic to Google from infected computers through multiple proxies. "We hope that by taking steps to notify users whose traffic is coming through these proxies, we can help them update their antivirus software and remove the infections," says Menscher.

If you don't see the alert from Google, it doesn't mean that your computer is completely clean. Google is currently targeting this specific piece of malware. If you do get the notice though, Google does provide a link instructing how to remove it.

Google already announced plans to start notifying users of it's Chrome browser with warnings about malicious downloads.

Google states that they make money when people use the internet, therefore they have a vested interest in the health of the net. Providing "healthcare" to the online community ensures it's continuing success.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Got a question? Is Quora and Yahoo Answers the best resource?

Everyday I'm asked questions and depending on the question I may not readily have it available. For the most part I am able to answer them all without much delay. The reason is, as Leo Laporte puts it, I've outsourced my brain. Where as on his radio and netcast shows he utilizes a chatroom full of knowledgeable listeners, I ask the all knowing Google.

It's not that Google itself is the source for answers but a directory of where to find what I'm looking for. And since Google focuses on relevance and speed, I normally find what I need without spending much time resubmitting a search query or searching via alternate methods. So do I need a specialized site of questions & answers?

Picture from Digital Trends
There was a lot of buzz (no that's not a Google pun), around when it first launched. The site boasts itself as a crowd-sourced Q&A community. The debate from it's launch was how could it be different than Yahoo Answers. Yahoo Answers allowed you to post a question and have a community answer it for you. The problem however was a lack of a community so questions could go without being answered or answers weren't properly being crowd-sourced.

Quora was suppose to be different. He was being hyped up by the tech community and the site looked promising. Today was the first time in two months that I had logged in. I had been highly active in the beginning answering questions multiple times a day and even asking a few myself. It's not that anything turned me off to the site but it started being neglected as I prioritized it less and less.

I didn't have a shortage of questions though. However when I needed a question answered I would turn my browser to Google and type the question into the search box, question mark and all. Most of the time I get the answer instantaneously. So why is there a need for specialized Q&A sites?

The answer for Quora at least may not be to grow a huge community to hit critical mass but rather create a platform to be integrated into other sites and organizations. On July 19th, three reporters from the New York Times answered questions on Quora by it's members. The Quora platform is great for a forum like this because even if you don't have a question to ask you can still watch the conversation unfold from Quora's real-time commenting ability.

This may be the next big thing to hit the social world. With Facebook, Google+, and Twitter essentially becoming large silos hording users it's going to be extremely difficult if not flat out impossible to dethrone any of them. Even at the latest Facebook announcement, Zuckerberg stated that their focus was less on gaining subscribers and more on increasing content shared and being a platform for developers to create on top of.

Where Facebook wants to be a new the next platform people develop for what if a site like Quora focused on being a specific Q&A platform to be integrated into blogs, sites, and other web applications. To clarify having users and members join the site is still important but Facebook is so big that it's growth will naturally slow down and a site like Quora isn't going to "steal" users from anywhere.

But if Quora changed it's focus to being a full Q&A solution that could be easily integrated on a site then it would have a different business strategy that would be easier to succeed at. As Facebook's subscriber growth slows, the social behemoth has diversified itself. Now sites can integrate Facebook to handle comments and posts by readers, all they need to do is enter in their Facebook login.

In a web environment where communities and social networks are easily reached to find help, a niche Q&A site like Quora may not gain momentum for it's intended purpose. Most startups though do go through quite a bit of change as they grow and I believe that Quora shows much promise, just not in the Q&A world.

I made some pretty bold predictions with this posting, please let me know if you agree or disagree! And for the record, I love Quora. I just think it needs to be adaptive to be truly successful. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Invites to Spotify, Google+, music beta, and the list goes on...

It seems here lately that we are  being bombarded by beta invites. New services are launching left and right from not only startups but established tech giants as well. Even Pandora is preparing for the launch of their new HTML5 site beginning with a slow rollout to it's users.

The highlight for me was just two short weeks ago when I set up my profile on Google+ just a day after it launched. I felt like I was part of the tech industry elite. There was hardly anyone on there when you compared it to Facebook's 750 million users. When I posted on very well known tech celeb's page I would sometimes get a response, good luck that happening on Twitter or Facebook!

But just like a trendy new club it filled up fast and suddenly I found it harder to virtually rub elbows with the likes of Brian Brushwood and Iyaz Akhtar. What had happened? Now on their profiles there were upwards of fifty to a hundred comments! They'll never here me now! It was Google offering more and more invites and the lack of access had made the service even more in demand.

As the luster of Google+ wore off a new service was coming in to take it's place in the technology headlines. Spotify, the popular UK based music streaming service, was coming to the US. Where my social streams were once filled with good internet samaritans displaying offers of Google invites, now they're filled with ways of signing up for Spotify without signing up for an invite.

I have to wonder with so many services offering invites, it it because they truly need beta testers or is it because slowly offering a service drives up demand? For the larger companies there could be the need to do a slow rollout to make sure their servers can handle the traffic. Google is after all notorious for keeping their services in beta for extremely long periods.

Maybe I'm just looking at this with a cynical point of view. There has been a recent internet boom that has ushered in a new wave of great products, which statistically would increase the amount of services giving out beta invites (Google+ and Spotify are not in beta).

There is a rush that comes with getting in on a service that isn't open to everybody. It's human nature to get such a response from exclusivity regardless of which side you're own. Those on the inside feel great about being part of the "in-crowd" and those left out are still staring in. I'm guilty of this myself but if every company adopts this strategy then it could quickly lose it's effectiveness.

After signing up for four invites (and quickly receiving) in the past month, I 'm starting to lose the rush from getting in. If invites are given out for technical reasons then there's a good reason to do so. But if companies plan on using invites as a strategy to drum up excitement then their customers may start feeling invite fatigue.

In case you still need a Spotify invite head over to Giga Om and fill out the form.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More devices than people on the net

This is an interesting infographic created by Cisco Systems and recently posted on Giga Om. In 2008 more devices than people were connected to the internet. This is a trend that is only going to grow, as displayed in the infographic.

Recently one of my contacts in corporate Verizon Wireless was describing their plan. Currently in the area I live Verizon Wireless has over 60% penetration rate and I asked how can they expect to grow past that. His answer was that they expect to someday be at 500% penetration.

Instead of just connecting phones to your wireless service Big Red wants to connect everything such as your home's thermostat so that you can control the temperature in your house remotely. Forgot to out the lights? No problem, just pull out your phone and hit the switch.

He also went into describing how Verizon Wireless will be switching to family share data. Instead of data being billed on each individual line it will be billed on the account level as a whole. Account level billing is expected to take effect at the end of 2011 and this may usher in the data share ability. This all ties together with Verizon Wireless hoping to someday bill you $80 for 10gbs of data and have 5 appliances on your wireless account sending/ receiveing data.

Friday, July 15, 2011

If you break the rules on Google+, you may lose all Google services

Google requires it's users to be at 13 years of age to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. In the Netherlands last week, a 10 year old boy who already uses Gmail, signed up for Google+. Alex, the young Google user, was kicked off all Google services for breaching the Terms and Services (TOS). Not only was he kicked off but he is required to show proof of age within 29 days to prevent all of his Google accounts from being deleted. Of course he can't.

My gut reaction to this is disgust with Google and it's for a couple of reasons. I'm not a fan any site restricting access to anyone, except in cases of adult content; but even that can sometimes be misconstrued into something it's not such as in the early days of adult content blocking when information on breast cancer was being restricted.

The other aspect that caught me off guard was how did they find out? Normal TOS asks you your age as you are signing up for the service. Even if it doesn't ask that question where did the information come from that said Alex was under 13? The algorithm at Google looks at everything but what human eyes are also looking at everything?

Again these were gut reactions but why is Google, in my opinion, overreacting? Lately the Plex has been under intense scrutiny from the Government. Therefore I can understand them wanting to make sure that the TOS is being followed, especially the part of it that pertains to young children.

Just because I understand though doesn't mean that I agree. The problem is that entities who have no business policing the net are trying to do just that. The reason our government is unqualified to police the net is because they don't understand it and show no signs of ever making an effort to embrace it. In this situation it should be left up to the parents to decide whether or not allow their child on Google+.

I still have a problem with all services and accounts under Alex's profile being deleted. Unfortunately though that has to happen if Google shines the light on him at all. It's a simple all-or-none call in a program like policy process. Google's TOS applies to all Google services therefore it has to carry out all aspects of their terms in all areas that it refers to.

Do you agree or disagree with me? Please, I would love to hear your take on this. Leave your response in the comment fields below.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Amazon, Kindle and a new love for ads!?!?

Amazon is now offering an ad supported Kindle 3G for $139 and a WiFi version for only $114. The device which comes with a corporate sponsorship from AT&T prompted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to thank the wireless carrier.

“A big thank you to AT&T for helping to make the new $139 price possible.” -Jeff Bezos

One form of the device's ads comes as sponsored screensavers. Early sponsors include Buick, Chase, Olay, and Visa. Amazon which normally stays silent on specific numbers hasn't released any information on sales of the new device. Looking at the best seller list where the device is now showing up suggests that consumers are willing to tolerate ads in favor of lower prices.

This may be an indication of where other industries are headed. As middle men are removed from the content creator to consumer chain it will be more of a direct benefit to the creator to include ads and sponsorships. As long as it's helping to reduce the price for the consumer then the inclusion of ads may be welcomed. It's still can be a narrow road to traverse. Include ads in an annoying spot or feature them in an intrusive way and your product may be tarnished.

The new way to present commercials is best shown by today's netcasters, especially by Leo Laporte and his netcast, This Week in Tech (TWiT). The shows include the traditional ad spots but it's done in a unique fashion. Advertisers are always relevant to the audience and the spot is always spoken by Leo or the host of the program. Not only is relevant but it's very conversational and is almost always transitioned to by a well played segue. As an avid listener I hear about Square Space everyday but it has yet to get old since it just feels like part of the conversation.

The video game industry has been using in game ads for a while in the mobile realm but it's starting to take hold in the console market. It's been around in terms of product placement just as the movie industry has done but now TV style commercials are showing up during load times. This doesn't bother me too bad except that load screens are annoying in the first place and generally breaks the feeling of immersion.

One example though of how not to do it is in the game Wipeout HD for PS3 which plays a current Honda Civic commercial during load screens. I downloaded the game for free as an apology from Sony for getting hacked and not having their network up for almost a month. It may not have been planned by Sony, or it may have, but having ads to pay for a product that was suppose to be a loss for the company is frustrating. If it wasn't a "gift" and I was thinking about buying the game I would choose a $4.99 ad supported version of a $14.99 non ad supported game.

As technology gives us the ability to include new features such as this new business models will form and prices will come down. During these new economically driven tech revolutions we will feel the pain of trial and error. Some companies will get it right while others will horrifically get it wrong. I'm all about using ads to lower the price of goods, that is until it feels like the old days of broadcast TV.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sorry Mark, I shouldn't have killed the messenger

I will admit that I have been over critical of Mark Zuckerberg. There have been times that he has messed, such as changing privacy settings on everyone's Facebook account. But this mistake has left a sour taste in my mouth and every new Facebook feature has felt like an attack on privacy.

It hasn't even been a month since I wrote the post blasting Facebook for their newest feature that uses facial recognition software to add tags of people you know in pictures. There was definitely a sensation of fear that went through me that made me worry about my online privacy.

What has changed in the past month? I was one of the lucky few that got into Google+, the new Google property that has been called a Facebook clone. I've been a fan since day one. It's easy to share things that I want to share and it has a very open feel. Right from the start I had no preconceived notion that I had an privacy on the site and I was fine with that!

Once I came to the realization that I was fine with Google not trying to protect privacy it hit me that I should be fine with Facebook not respecting it either. I don't mean that as a backhanded compliment. Facebook started before we even new what social meant so there has been changes and there has been growing pains. We have been hurt by Facebook but then again it would be naive to think any company or platform could be perfect.

The biggest thing that is hurting Facebook from a perception standpoint is that most people joined with an expectation to privacy. Social isn't about privacy but about being open.

The thing that everyone needs to remember is that you shouldn't put anything on the internet that you don't want everyone to see. The internet never forgets and once some thing is on the net it can never truly be removed.

I'm not saying that Facebook doesn't have transgressions against it's users, far from it. Part of the reason I've been so critical of Facebook in the past comes from it's mishandling of user's trust and information. At the same time though we can't expect any entity on the net to be the protector of our privacy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Apple wants you to think you're missing something

Apple's latest TV spots are a continuation on "if you don't have an iPhone then you don't have an iPhone." This time however they would like you to believe that Facetime and Airplay are two features you can't live without or even find replacements for.

Facetime is the service embedded in iOS devices that allow you to video call with another Facetime user. I was very excited about this when I first saw it but then the luster quickly went away when I felt the constraints of being tied to WiFi to use the service.

Fortunately a friend of mine pointed out Tango. Tango is a similar service that not only lets you make video calls on cellular data but it's also available on multiple platforms. Now I can make video calls from my iPhone to my Android friends. The service works so well that I prefer it over Facetime on iPhone to iPhone calls.

The Airplay ad showcases streaming music to your stereo and video to your TV. It's not until the very end that you see the fine print that both WiFi and Airplay enabled devices are required in addition to your iPhone to utilize this feature.

Both Blackberry and Android users have products and apps available to them to stream content as well. Most Android devices include a mini-HDMI out port on them that allows you to not only stream HD video to your TV but gives you the ability to play games on a bigger screen as well. I also have a small BlueTooth adapter that allows me  to stream audio to any stereo that has a 3.5mm input port, no WiFi required. I can also easily hook my Android up to friend's TV or stereo, I don't think it would be practical to do the same with Airplay.

I have both Android and iPhone so I don't want to sound like I'm just dogging Apple. I think the iPhone is a great piece of hardware but I really prefer the openess of Android. Unfortunately the only thing Apple's willing to be open about is their arrogance.

It's not that these features are sub-par, by no means is that what I'm trying to point out. What I can't stand is this elitist attitude around Apple products. Of course if you don't have an iPhone, you don't have an iPhone! Come on Apple, tone down your ads.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Surprisingly Barnes & Noble gets it

Currently there is a change happening in our paradigms towards brick and mortar shops and online retailers. The best way of viewing a tangible expression of this change is by looking at the relationship between the physical Barnes & Noble and the online version.

Most understand the gist of roles that brick and mortar and online fill. Brick and mortar has a building, electricity, employees and physical goods that it has to pay for. Online has no physical space and very little employees; what it sells can have an inventory cost of nothing therefore the online channel can charge much less for it's goods. In the past this has caused tension between the physical retail channel and the online channel as they compete for the same customers.

The decision a customer has to make is do I want it now at a higher price or can I wait a few days to have it shipped and save money. A change in tide has happened and now the online channel can provide these same goods instantaneously in certain markets such as the publishing industry. Now that we can get books instantly from online at a much lower cost then two aspects of eBooks will be the only downside of going online. The first is resistance to adopting new technology, the eReaders are very simple to operate but there will still be those that will not want to pick up something that's different. The second is personal preference, which some people just love the feel and nostalgia of a physical book.

While there are still stores out there battling internal civil wars between online and retail, Barnes & Noble seems to have embraced the whole concept of marrying the two channels. Walk into any B&N store and you will be greeted by a Nook eReader demo station, normally manned by someone more than willing to show how the device operates. Take a look at the best seller list and now you will also be shown what the eReader price is.

Is any one channel cannibalizing the other? There may come a time when the retail channel is sending more profits towards the way of online but both channels will be needed to ensure the success of the company as a whole. Even though I have almost completely switch to reading eBooks I still prefer going to the store, browsing the shelves to find my next read. I'll buy one of their ridiculously priced coffees and spend an hour in the store shifting through the assortment of books. There is a lot of money being spent on me to visit a physical space but it is required for B&N to secure their brand as my eBook reading platform.

I am an anomaly and you may be one too if you're reading a blog about IT. You know that there are multiple places to purchase eBooks and can quickly do a simple price check between B&N's eBook store and Amazon's Kindle store but a majority of new eBook adopters may not know of all of the options out there. That's where B&N's retail locations are giving them an upper-hand  in the online battle. Joe Schmoe who is in a B&N retail location sees that the eBook price is $7 cheaper than the physical edition. With interest piqued he heads over to the eReader display and an associate then sells him a Nook. From now on Mr. Schmoe will be purchasing eBooks from B&N's online bookstore rather than the Kindle store.

The retail landscape is changing drastically but at the same time it's not becoming completely irrelevant. What if decided to open up a retail space? There would be a significant amount of buzz around it but the real focu would to be getting the potential eBook customer in and finding a way of putting a Kindle in their hands.

Most of the tech community probably favors Amazon since it's been so prominent in our online lives. But the retail focus is what will make B&N online a sleeper competitior.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Droid 3 released today from Verizon Wireless

The summer is upon us and while Christmas is the big release season for the wireless industry we do have a few summer blockbusters arriving.

The Motorola Droid 3 comes out today and will be in stores July 14th. The device sports a larger screen than the two previous iterations coming in at 4" which is the same as the Incredible 2. Now there is an extra row of keys on the keyboard much like a desktop qwerty keyboard with the numbers on a dedicated row. The screen is a qHD with a resolution of 960x540, that's 26% more pixels than the Droid 2. Other features include a front facing camera and an HDMI out port. An 8mp camera on the back will be able to record 1080p.

The most talked about feature is that the processor which is not the Dual-Core Tegra 2 but instead  Texas Instruments OMAP 4 dual-core processor still clocked in at 1gh. This is a very fast processor that has many fans. The Tegra2 was marketed well but this may be a better processor. (Tell us what you think about it in the comments)

There's only a few issues that I have with the device. When I first saw the spec sheet I noticed that it didn't include a microSD card. No big deal, I have a ton. But then I saw the device and the truth comes out, there is no longer a place for expandable memory! Android is following the lead of it's creator which is pushing the cloud. With services like Netflix, Google Music and such I can see why they would make this decision. However Android has a very geeky community and this may upset it's most loyal base.

Most customers are now expecting all of the new high-end Android phones to be LTE. This personally doesn't bother me, to be fair though I do get to play with all of the phones whenever I want. I'm also not lucky enough to live in an area that LTE. Sure I may go into an LTE area once a month but that's not enough to outweigh the current disadvantages. The main one being that battery life is almost non-existent on the LTE devices.

Now that Verizon no longer offers an annual upgrade this may be a tough decision for those on the fence. Verizon does have a very aggressive roll-out planned for LTE but that plan still goes through late 2013. For me I would wait on LTE.

Don't forget if you already have the unlimited data package you can stay on it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Facebook's Awesome New Announcement

At 1 pm EST Facebook will be announcing a new product. Stay tuned for updates.

There's lots of speculation around Facebook copying some sort of Google+ service such as video chat in a Hangout like service.

Google+ has caused a tsunami of buzz, no pun intended, in the social media world. The Google platform is not being being called a closed beta but rather a project. Invites to the service have been given sporadically and currently you cannot join even if you have an invite code.

The closing of invites has come from Google needing to deploy more servers to handle traffic to the service.

Watch the feed of the announcement at

Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned Season 2.7
Projects that have taken 6 months of development will be rolling out soon.

Mark Zuckerburg is giving narrative of social networking from the past 5 years.

Social will be everywhere. It's only a matter of time until it's billions of people on social whether its Facebook or someone else that they're using.

The next five years isn't about wiring up the world but what type of apps and services can you build out on top the existing network.

Social apps are going to be the focus of future development. The internet has hit its maturitys and now social is at that pivot.

What metrics do you use? It's not just about active users. Although they are looking forward to the billion mark.

You measure it by the value users are getting, how much time they spend and so forth.

The rate at which they're sharing is growing at an exponential rate. The amount of stuff they share today is twice as much as they did a year previously. In a year they will be sharing twice as more as they did today.

Humans are really bad at understanding exponential growth. Think of folding a napkin 50 times, how tall will it be? Most people say a few feet but it actually reaches the moon and back.

The amount of sharing per person is growing at a much faster rate than the 750 million users they have.

There wasn't that much to do on Facebook in 2004. As the site went on more features allowed more sharing such as photo albums and news feed.

Skype and Facebook are teaming up! Reported from a link inside | Not from Zuckerberg speech

Group chat, new design and video calling are the three announced services today.

Mark is stating that groups has been very important to Facebook. Now you can do ad hoc chat which is important to its users.

Group Chat, New Design, and Video Calling are pictured on a slide behind Mark.

Video calling is with Skype!!! Mark just said it.

Even if user you're calling hasn't downloaded a skype plug in they can still see that you're calling and then given the option to install plugin.

Mark says that independent developers are best in class in designing apps on top of social networks. This is better than one company doing everything.

Mark has said that they want to be the new ecosystem.

Mark has just walked off stage.

Go to to try the service now!

Video calling is currently unavailable with the Chrome browser.

The most exciting part is over. Now the developers are now demoing each product. Later I will post an in depth review about the services.

Group video chat is currently unavailable but don't count it out. The one to one aspect is the most important for of a relationship standpoint.

Mark is commenting on Google+. There are lots of imitators but now that Facebook is the social ecosystem your're going to start seeing apps built on top of the Facebook platform.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

LinkedIn, my favorite place for tech news

It has been a few months since I originally noticed that LinkedIn Today appeared above my news feed. For a while I was completely ignoring it but then I started noticing that there were some news stories there that I hadn't seen any where else.

What's really cool about LinkedIn Today is that it's tailored to you based on your connections. It's what your "industry peers" are reading and sharing the most. Since I most of my connections are in the tech field most of my news feed is infused with tech related stories. It's also rarely repetitive, some of my other feeds I will see the same story multiple times just from different channels rehashing the story from the same source.

LinkedIn is often referred to as the site you go to when looking for either a new job or new employee. Here I have to say that they have done a surprisingly good job of making themselves more relevant.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's like Facebook and Twitter got together and had a sexy baby

In Facebook you can group your contacts into lists such as your family list, friend list, or work list. The reason I never got into this was because it became available when I already had 400 friends. I definitely did not want to sit down at the computer for an hour organizing everybody.

The feature never really took off and even Facebook admitted defeat. Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that "people don't like making lists." I will agree that they don't like making lists but I do think that like things to be grouped and organized. Sink or swim Google+ has solved the problem to getting your connections into their groupings. To add someone to your network you simply move their name into the respective circle (group). 

One of the Achilles's heel of lists on Facebook was that there were too many steps. I had to friend someone and then I was able to go back in and put them in their correct list. Google circles takes care of that automatically not in the sense that it's picking the group for you, although I'm sure Google's working on that, but the action of adding a connection and grouping are one in the same.

Going against Facebook is no easy task though and Google has failed at social before. What puts Google in a good position however is number one they have multiple web properties to add customers from. Secondly it's helpful that there is differentiation between Google+ and Facebook. Rather than being just a direct competitor Google has done something different and it may pay of in the end.

The Diaspera project is proof that just being a Facebook alternative is not enough to hit "critical mass." Critical mass is the point in which enough users have adopted a social network to sustain it. Diaspera received millions of dollars in funding simply because it wasn't Facebook. Google+'s immediate popularity has been attributed to the fact that it's not Facebook but one of my favorite quotes is "It's like Facebook and Twitter got together and had a sexy baby."

God made men and women but Samuel Colt made them equal

In case you don't know this about me, I live on the internet. I have a whole network of friends that I feel close to yet have never met in real life or even have talked to over the phone. I've also made money on the net through web related projects albeit not as much as I would like to make.

Some of you may be saying "what's so special about that?" What's so special is how easy it is now! The internet is an exponentially growing force. Not only is it changing different aspects of how we live and communicate but it's accelerating in the rate of change.

I've started ventures that have made money without needing any startup capital, try doing that outside of the internet. The process produced by the net is called disintermediation, or getting rid of the middle-man. This inevitably reduces or in some cases removes the cost-for-entry.

The book industry perfectly displays how disintermediation has changed an industry. Before the internet if you wanted to write a book then you had to be noticed by a publisher. It was then the publisher who produced and marketed your book. They were the ones who had the relationships with the stores that then had the relationship with the end customer.

The internet has completely changed the publishing model allowing the writer to have an almost direct relationship with his or hers readers. Using Amazon John Loche was able to write his book and then immediately publish it on the Kindle eBook store. He then marketed it himself, I don't have the data but it is possible that he was able to market with little or no cost using social media. Now he is the first independent author to sell over 1,000,000 eBooks.

Yes Amazon is a third party but their role is limited to only providing tools. They were passive through the process of John Loche becoming a best selling author. Now he has a direct link to his readers using Kindle's Direct Publishing program.

The point I'm trying to make here is that circumstances become less relevant as a result of disintermediation. Most writers before came from writing backgrounds such as journalists with a few breakouts here and there. I am another example, I love to write but I didn't really discover that until after school. Instead of applying to hundreds of media outlets with almost certainly hundreds of rejection letters, I used Blogger to setup my own platform to write. I write about anything and almost everything, without the fear of an editor dictating what I write about.

Disintermediation isn't just effecting the publishing industry but it is the one industry where the affects are so clear. As disintermediation spreads it will shape more and more industries faster and faster. The cost-for-entry will be reduced to little or nothing at all and the limitations preventing entry will be lifted.

The record label's greatest concern right now is piracy of their music. Did you see what I said there? Is it the record label's music or is it the artist's music? It's not there yet but as disintermediation continues to work through the music industry, label's may need to someday figure out how to remain relevant. 

Who's music is it really? It's the musician's and the artist's of course. What if they had a way to record their own music and get it directly to their listeners? If I was a record label with foresight, the worry of pirated music would be diminished in view of what's to come.

What this all means is that there is less of a need for facilitators to provide the ability to people to write books, make music, or produce media content. All you need is the passion and the willingness to learn as you go. You don't need to move to Hollywood to strike it big. Get a webcam and put yourself before the world on youtube. 

The internet has made us all equals no longer relying on our dispositions in life to put us in shot of succeeding. We are all equally responsible for our own achievements. With the power of the internet the possibility of what we can achieve has no limitations.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You know you've been thinking about phones too much when....

This list comes in courtesy of Phone Arena, enjoy! check out every person with a cell phone to see what model they have, overhear two strangers taking about smartphones and you interject your opinion, ask your wife or SO to rewind the DVR so you can watch the commercial for the latest handset again,

...your girlfriend gets jealous because you subscribed to tweets from the LG Girl, have a smile on your face all day because your carrier is getting the Samsung Galaxy S II, know who Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are,

...whenever you see someone sporting a Motorola Razr, you pull them aside for a 30 minute lecture on updating to a new phone, walk into Best Buy just to play with all of the dummy models, walk into a Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile store and know more about upcoming models than the reps do, walk into a Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile store and know more about current models than the reps do,

...your wife asks you to bring home some blackberries and you ask her which model she wants, mark a big "X" on your calendar to remind you when your two year contract with a carrier expires,

...NFC no longer stands for the National Football Conference, can rattle off specs on lesser known handsets, but can't remember your kids names, would rather shop at the Android Market than at the Supermarket.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Xobni is more than just inbox spelled backwards

Head over to and you'll immediately be greeted with the company's tagline. Your Inbox is full of messages People!

In today's world on the net we are communicating with each other in more and more channels. I have friends that I talk to only on Facebook, only on Twitter, only on LinkedIn and through email. What Xobni looks to do is not only reinvigorate your email but also make it more the center of your communication channels.

Xobni combines all of the information from all of your social networks and integrates it into your email so you have more information on those you're communicating with through email.

Xobni has been out for both outlook and Blackberry but now it's on it's way to AndroidiPhone, and Gmail. Click on the respective keyword to signup for the beta.

It took me about two weeks to get my invite and I have had the chance to play around with it.

After signing in and installing the plug-in I was asked to link my other social networks. Authorizing each one was simple since I was signed in to all of them and it only required that I click "accept."

When connecting it gave me a message saying that it was indexing all of my contacts. I have 800 on Facebook, 500 on Twitter, and 600 on Linked In. With all these contacts it still took only a minute to complete the process. Normally I'm hesitant about linking up all of my networks but the more you connect with Xobni the more powerful it becomes.

When I click on an email I now get a ton of information about the user who sent it on the right-hand side of gmail. I get their profile picture, their company and title. Below are four tabs, social network updates, relationship history, recent emails, and frequently emailed with. While self-explanatory and seemingly simple, these are wanted features. When communicating through email it is very helpful having this information at your fingertips without having to enter a search query.

Additional features, labeled as gadgets, are available for download on their site and most are free. Evernote, DropBox, WebEx, and Chatter are just a few of the gadgets.

Before I mention any complaint I do want to point out that I am reviewing the Gmail Beta version.

The one very small complaint that I have is that it tries to pick profile information for email lists. Maybe it's that I've been ruined by Google's ability to know what is and isn't relevant but I do find it annoying when a profile pic is listed beside a list address.

Other than that it's an amazing tool! I highly recommend that you try it out.

Have you been using Xobni? Let us know what your thoughts are on it!

Verizon and the pain of capped data

As of July 7 of this year Verizon Wireless will no longer offer unlimited data plans for smartphone users. Instead users will receive 2GB of data for the same price they were previously able to get unlimited. The change doesn't come as a surprise since AT&T made the same move 1 year and 1 month ago to the day.

AT&T customers have learned to cope with the plans but Verizon customers won't have the same offerings to help ease the pain. AT&T's offering gave 2GB at $25 and for those that truly used less data could go as low as $15 a month. Verizon starts at $30 and goes up from there.

Data plans:
2GB - $30/month
5GB - $50/month
10GB - $80/month
Tethering can be added to any plan, you can purchase 2GB of data at an additional cost of $20 per month.

Data plans w/ tethering:
4GB - $50/month
7GB - $70/month
12GB - $100/month
If you go over your purchased amount of data, it will cost you $10 per 1GB.

The one saving grace which has yet to be revealed (also yet to be confirmed) is the ability to share data. In my own personal situation this would help out greatly since I am the data hog and my wife does very little billable with hers coming in over the home wifi. I would come out ahead since currently I'm paying $60 in data, together we may total 5GB a month, in sharing I would only pay $50.

Verizon's approach to new family share plans is interesting. Rather than putting each line on a plan such as a $60 Primary Share and $9.99 Secondary Share, the new process will be separating the two. It's called Account Level billing and just as the name suggests the price plan will be associated with the account and not each line. If the data package is also on the account level then two lines would have the ability to share one 2GB plan.

Regardless of whether it's better or not, the transition will be confusing and annoying to the customer. Trying to talk about amounts of data on a broad band access card to a customer is already challenging since it's so objective. AT&T however has proved in a year that boxing in customers into restrictive plans won't be enough to make them leave.

Friday, June 24, 2011

RadioShack gives Verizon another go

RadioShack is changing things up as it struggles to see positive growth. Today it was announced that "The Shack" will once again carry Verizon Wireless at it's 1,100 independent Radio Shacks.

2005 was the year that RadioShack stopped selling Verizon Wireless but now wireless has become more of what makes up RadioShack's revenue forcing the electronics store to focus more mobile. RadioShack already carries AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. However when RadioShack reported a 30 percent drop in net profit on their first quarter earnings report the fingers pointed at T-Mobile because of sluggish sales.

In 2008 RadioShack reported that 29 percent of sales came from mobile, but last year that number quickly went to 47 percent. With mobile counting for almost half of RadioShack's profits it's no wonder why they would want to add the nation's largest wireless carrier to their line. Verizon Wireless added 1.8 million customers in it's first quarter while T-Mobile lost 99,000.

RadioShack is being dropped from the S&P500 index.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The New York Post commits Internet discrimination

The publication is now blocking mobile users using Safari for iPad. Trying to access the site, users will be redirected and forced to download the New York Post application.

Industry leaders in the dead tree business have been scrambling to find ways to become profitable separate from the traditional publication distribution model. They have finally come to terms that they are stricken with a terminal illness but is it too late for them to find a cure?

In their pursuit of new revenue streams however the Post has committed discrimination on the net. If you are an iPad user you have lost the right to access a part of the internet that any other average computer or mobile phone user would. A part of the web has just been blocked off for a very unlucky subset of users.

I understand what they're trying to do, their app that makes them money is available on the iPad where it's not on other platforms. Why would they block other users from their site without an alternative to get there? This is part of the side-effects from waiting so long to adopt innovation. They have a long hard road ahead of them of trial and mostly error.

The reason this is such a hot topic for me is that the internet is under threat of inequality. Those that control the pipelines of the net, the cable companies, are exploring their own business models of increasing revenues.

Netflix which is eating into cable's profits by winning over their cable tv subscribers may have to deal with internet discrimination. One model the cable companies have talked about is charging their internet subscribers a premium to have the ability to access Netflix. One more example how these old dying companies don't know how to deal with up and coming technology.

So while blocking access to a website from a certain device may seem small it is the foreshadowing of things to come. Fight internet discrimination today!

Familiarize yourself with Net Neutrality which is the principle that ISP's and governments put no restrictions on those participating on the internet.

Also call your representatives and tell them not to support the disingenuously named Protect IP law going through congress. This is one of the worst attacks on freedom of speech. Don't be silent!

Independent Author Sells Over 1 Million eBooks on Kindle

I found this story on Mashable and it's one that I just love. This is disintermediation at work and proof that the internet will consistently lower the price for entry.
Crime novelist John Locke has become the first independent author to sell more than 1 million ebooks through Kindle’s Direct Publishing program, Amazon announced Monday.
The author, a self-described “niche marketer” who attributes much of his success to his $0.99 pricing model, has self-published nine novels through the Kindle Store, including New York Times bestselling ebookSaving Rachel, as well as his first non-fiction title, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.
Locke pockets 35 cents for every ebook he sells through Kindle. He has never had a traditional agent or publisher. He joins seven other authors, including Stieg Larsson and Nora Roberts, in the “Kindle Million Club.”

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If you want to know how John Locke sold 1 million eBooks in 5 months then check out his book of the same name.