Monday, July 16, 2007

Internet Speeds: The big illusion

As consumers, there are few things we can accept and others we will not bend over for. When we decide to accept a cheap product, we have to inevitably accept that it may be inferior in quality. Similarly, when we pay for service, we should expect to get a certain level of service.

No matter the scenario, we should never accept being fooled. We must insist getting what we paid for. However, in reality, there are many occasions when this does not happen, especially when we are not in control of the situation.

A very common situation, where many can relate to – car maintenance. Many workshops attempt to take advantage of vulnerable car owners by advising them to change parts that really never needed to be replaced. Many of us have blind faith that “if the mechanic says so…then it should be right”. The question then is - Should we take the risk? Should we be so trusting?

Yet another common experience is internet connectivity. Many service providers proudly claim to offer significantly high internet speeds. We, in turn, get excited with their various promotions offering 30Mpbs or even 100Mbps. I am sure this is prevalent in most countries.

Unfortunately, many fail to realize that these speeds are rarely reached. There are many elements that will effectively bring the internet speed down. On average, you will probably hit speeds of 1-2Mbps. Elements such as distance from your terminal (if you are on wireless), number of simultaneous connections, type of modem and type of wireless device….all have an impact on the internet speed you can attain. Those on ‘shared’ broadband services (such as Starhub), also have to contend with the fact that if there are more subscribers in their area, they may have lower speeds.

In such cases, you have a right to be upset. These elements are usually never explained to you explicitly. We can probably accept if those speeds cannot be attained due to technical limitations. However, when we are not informed of the other elements, we are effectively being fooled!

If you are already concerned about what speeds you are getting, I invite you to check out Speedtest . It’s a fantastic tool to measure your internet speed at different times of the day. Try it and please share your experiences with me.

On my system, based on the time and, I do not know what other parameters (maybe even the weather!), my speed kept fluctuating between 1Mbps to 13Mbps. The same system, the same network, the same measurement tools got me a swing of 13x!!! That is ridiculous.

Imagine driving your car and you realize that your speed varies from 10 mph up to 130 mph.... Of course, traffic congestion influences your speed. It is the same on internet.

As a consumer, we have the right to know. Mister providers, Singtel, Starhub of this world (for singapore), please be honest and treat your customers with respect.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mobility and connectivity kills creativity?

An interesting read, along similar lines, which I recommend you check out – “The world was our office” from FT. Its about mobility and communication.

It relates about the challenge put forth to two managers from a digital company, Enable. They were supposed to work entirely off their mobile devices for 1 week. I am not going to summarize Matt Connolly and Darius Pocha’s experience but instead extend an invitation for you to share your thoughts with me (so please read the article).

We all claim to be ‘mobile’, connected and reachable anytime whether to a client, your company or even friends. But is being mobile, really the way to effectively run a business? Strangely, similar to what the two faced in their 1 week challenge, the main issues people faced were battery life and preparation time. Have you noticed whenever you go on a holiday or business trip, you spend a considerable amount of time packing cables, batteries and chargers for all your devices. When you forget 1 cable, it can drive you insane! Let’s hope our prayer for a all-in-one charger or cable solution comes along soon.

The second take away for me is the relation between productivity and connectivity. We tend to mistake quality with quantity, urgent with important. Focus on quality not quantity, deliver what is important, not urgent. It’s simple as that!

Is it the same with connectivity? Are we really more productive when we are reachable 24 by 7? During my fight back from Beijing in a plane, I was so glad not have any internet or mobile phone connections. That gave me some precious space and time to think, to plan, to clear my minds on what I wanted to do next.

I think we should start a new campaign called ‘get unwired’. We are fast becoming prisoners of technology and connectivity. Just like drug addicts, we go through withdrawal symptoms without these devices. 

Let's not sacrifice the level of service we deliver to our clients, let's take the time to think.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tell me honestly….how many iPods do you need ?

Apple is close to proclaiming that an amazing 100,000,000 iPods sold.

That’s why I bring up that question “how many iPods do you own?”. You probably say they are mad….but I know some people with more than 5 iPods..

Well, if you are not a techno freak, chances are you will be contended with one iPod most probably selected on your needs based on form factor and capacity storage.

If you like to watch movies (lucky Americans can even purchase movies through iTunes Music Store) or require large capacity storage for insane amounts of music, you will go for the iPod Video.

Most probably, you own less than 100 CDs , and therefore do not require a large capacity storage. Chances are that you may purchase the sleek iPod Nano should you have fewer songs to keep it mobile.

Finally, if you are looking for a 'Press and Play' MP3 player, you will probably go for the iPod Shuffle. Hang it it to your jean, your jacket, shuffle your library randomly, this is the easiest way to tune your life.

Evaluating Consumer needs only give you part of the total picture. It is interesting to understand Consumer's usage behavior to complete the picture.

Some people like to have music at Home, in different rooms. There are currently several way to do it. The Old School method would be to get multiple HiFi systems in each room. For the advanced users, they might stream from a central location like iTV, or a Mac/Pc using Airport or any other streaming device. Finaly, some other people will plug multiple iPods in multiple rooms to stand alone speaker sets. In such a case, there is an high chance you run for multiple iPods, one especially in the bedroom to wake up to the sweet crisp music from iPod.

Should you have a car and carry your favorite tunes, you can plug and unplug your iPod to dedicated car stereo system or even stream it through radio waves (which I will not recommend unless you do not care about music quality). The easiest would be to have a fixed iPod in the car. This saves the hassles of commuting your iPod back and forth from home and forget it sometimes in one or the other location while you need it in the other one.

Should you jog or go to gym , you can definitively use the iPod Video or Nano.However, you wont probably take the risk to damage the hard disk of the video iPod and avoid to get sweat on the sleek designed Nano. For such a reason, you might be tempted to go for your cute little iPod shuffle and even have a matching colored one carrier to hang it on your tee shirt or short.

Finally, the best companion for a daily usage is still the iPod nano. Take it with you, carry it in your pocket, bring it at work and it will supply you with enough music for the day.

Well, If you are anything like people who focus on usage, yes there is a chance you would carry multiple iPods and at same time contribute to the Apple Stock raise.

Oh, I forgot to add one important point. You need to have an iPhone as well....

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Meebo weds iPhone

Couple of the year, wedding of year…look at it any way you want. It is a match made in heaven.

One of the best applications is now available on the best phones in the market. More specifically, Meebo with iPhone. In my earlier contribution, I talked about Netvibes. Meebo is successful in the same area – aggregation of content.

iPhone is already regarded as the ultimate revolutionary phone. Meebo, on the other hand, is just as revolutionary. It allows you centrally manage all your various messaging applications such as Yahoo, MSN, AOL, etc. The takes away the pain of not only keeping track of difference chat windows but also multiple applications loading each time you start your computer. Not only that, you can even post it as a widget on your website. This will allow you to have live chats with people who visit your site. That’s the fantastic Meebo for you

You can read more about Meebo on iPhone on many other sites. You can try :

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Die Hard 4.0 meets Transformers | Grandpa meets Grandson

Think I have been on the subject of Apple and its products abit too much lately. I could not help it. Anyways, let us move over to yet another interesting subject: Die Hard 4.0 and Transformers. There has been so much hype and publicity around both these movies.

I am not referring to the movie, storyline, cast, etc. Feel free to find out more about that from IMDb (Transformers | Die Hard 4.0) . You can even read on an interesting comparison between the two movies here.

I am more interested in exploring the spirit of the movie from both a consumer and marketing point of view.

Die Hard still rides on its old age successful formula, a very traditional ‘good guy saves the day’ approach. It very likely that the director, Wiseman or even Bruce will tell you that they wanted to capitalize on past success while injecting more zest in the form of action and humor. But you know, it doesn’t impress the consumer anymore. We have been flooded with so many action movies since Die Hard 1 that it will take a lot more to get us to the edge of our seat!

Transformers, on the other hand, got it right. Not only were the action scenes unique, you can literally feel the ‘physics’ involved in those incredible action scenes. I can go on and on about all the aspects they got right, the awesome stunts, the appropriate slow motion sequences, etc. Even the robots were executed to perfection making it seem almost real, that is if you can accept robots being able to be transformed into cars.
Hey! There was even fresh new humor thrown in as opposed to the recycled tacky jokes in Die Hard 4.0.

Launching a campaign or a product is the same. There is a common saying, “Do what you used to do and you only get what you used to get”. At most, you take the risk element out. The best recipe for success is ‘change, adapt and be reactive and innovative”. This applies in movies as well. This is probably why Transformers will shoot through the global box offices.

Monday, July 2, 2007

iPhone, i-you, i-me

(copyright REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky)
As described in a recent Reuters article, the much hyped and talked about iPhone finally hits the stores. The American stores for now. Hundreds of eager people queued days ahead of the launch, many even paying others to queue for them.

The iPhone is not just a mobile phone but MP3 player, camera and web browser all rolled into a ‘sexy’ looking device. Then again, there are many other similar devices already in the market, all vying to be your ultimate all-in-one gadget.

The question that begs to be answered: Will Apple succeed where many other brands failed?

Let’s look and the iPhone feature by feature and see if we can predict the outcome.

Music Player
The iPhone offers one of the best integrated music player as it rides on the same iPod interface. It behaves like a real iPod and has a seamless synchronization with your computer. However, unlike the iPod, its storage capacity is currently limited to 8GB. We can probably expect Apple to introduce higher capacity iPhones closer to the holiday seasons when the Flash memory capacity storage will increase.

This alone will draw many Apple and iPod fans alike to purchase an iPhone.

Being in control of its own ecosystem, Apple enable users to transfer pictures from their phone to a computer with relative ease. The built-in iTunes will serve as a multimedia manager not just for songs but digital pictures as well.

The iPhone has been hailed as revolutionary and rightly so. Though many of its advanced features are currently tailor-made to work between Apple and AT&T, it is only a matter of time before other operators both in US and internationally join in the game!

Internet Browser
Its not only the in-built Safari browser that allows you surf via wireless or GPRS connections which is amazing but its automatic screen rotation. You can even zoom in and out using Minority Report’s gesture control. Unfortunately, websites are becoming more sophisticated and require a lot of resources. A majority of these websites are not designed for surfing through mobile phones yet.

As with other devices, the iPhone allows you to check emails. We probably need to see how the security system works is compatible with major professional emailing and VPN systems.

As mentioned earlier, the all-in-one concept is not new. PIMs (Personal Information Manager), as it is commonly known, has been around for some time. New technologies continue to be embedded or some would claim invade mobile phones. Does this mean one will stop using dedicated devices? I highly doubt so.

Both the all-in-one and dedicated devices serve specific needs of consumers and will continue to do just that. The market is large enough for it to flourish. Business users, who rely on a WM5 or Blackberry device, may still own the iPhone as a multimedia companion. For the Mac user, the iPhone helps complete the digital hub. For students, it probably will be the ultimate ‘cool’ or in thing to own an iPhone despite costing over US$1500 for a 2-year contract.

The iPhone goes beyond its claimed list of features. After the PSX (PlayStation 1), after the iPod, after the PSP, after the Wii…the iPhone is the new product in the list of ‘must haves’. Forget any rationale on whether you should or should not get the iPhone. .

At the end it does not really It doesn’t really matter. After all, the only difference between men and boys is the price of their ‘toys’