Thursday, September 16, 2010

SSID as an advertising tool

Wireless SSIDs can be a controversial topic. Recently there has been discussion as to whether hiding your SSID is really more secure. I know a lot of people who have their home networks named after favorite sports teams, or more cheeky expressions warning people not to steal their connection.


One thing I never really have much thought to was using a broadcast SSID as a form of advertising. My office sits above a small courtyard filled with shops and caf├ęs, most of which are broadcasting SSIDs. Most are forgettable (multiple "Netgear", "BigPond…", etc.). However, one I see every day when I connect named "Gallery Flowers".


My wife's birthday rolled around late last month and I decided to send her flowers at work. Even though I walk by several florists every day on my way to work, the first place I thought of when I went to buy flowers was Gallery Flowers. I have still never seen the inside of their shop, but seeing the SSID every day prompted me to search for their website and order flowers to be delivered to my wife.


Anyone had a similar experience? Do any business owners consciously name their wireless networks to increase visibility of their business?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Thoughts on the iPad/Tablet Hype

During a round of job interviews, I had an opportunity to be interviewed by Dr. Hugh Bradlow, CTO of Telstra.  During the interview he asked for my thoughts on pads (slates).  Here is an expansion of the three areas of my answer.

In the Enterprise

I think there will be some adoption of slate tablets in the commercial space.  Since Compaq introduced the t1000 several years ago, there has been a steady niche demand for slate tablets in areas such as healthcare, hospitality, logistics, etc.  In the absence of true slate products, many companies have been using convertible tablets, handhelds, or custom devices.  I think Windows- or possibly Android-based devices will work well in this space, but the volume will be small.  The trend for cheaper tablets may also open up some new opportunities that convertible tablets have been too pricey to fill.  This view has been somewhat validated by HPs recent decision to introduce their Windows 7 tablet as an enterprise product

In the Home

I think the most clear use case for slates is in the home.  For the past 10 years tech companies have been pushing users (and users the entertainment industries) to digitize their media.  In terms of user-generated media (photos, home movies, etc.), we’re there.  Thanks to Napster, iTunes, Amazon, Blu-Ray digital copy and others, commercial media is progressing as well.  However, the PC is not the ideal consumption device.  Media Center PCs have been tried and have largely failed.  DLNA holds some promise for delivering media to your TV without putting a PC on the entertainment center shelf.  But there is something to be said for a new form factor for content consumption.  Tablets are a good form factor for a three-foot experience. 

This isn’t the first attempt at slates in this scenario.  However, it was still early in the days of digitization of media and there was also a larger problem in those early tablets – Windows.  The minute you place Windows on a device, a user expects the full Windows experience.  Not just from a performance standpoint, but from a use case standpoint.  This is where Apple got it right.  By putting the iPhone OS (or iOS now), Apple clearly positioned the iPad as a new device type aimed primarily at content consumption.  Forrester has labeled this “Curated Computing.”  The irony may prove to be that “curating” the user experience may allow the tablet market to form, but it also may limit it to no more than a niche market.

In essence, a slate would be an additional form factor, not replacing either a laptop or a phone, but an incremental device for media consumption.  What the Amazon Kindle has done for ebooks, the iPad or other tablets could become for movies and other entertainment-focused media.  It can also rationalize some of the form factors that have been rampant at the last several CES and Comdex shows – namely mobile internet devices (MIDs), portable media players (PMPs) and even portable gaming devices.

Devil’s Advocate Theory

Everything I’ve said thus far is all well and good.  And gives my opinion on how the iPad (and possibly other slates) could succeed.  But in the back of my mind I have another what-if theory.  It all relates to Gartner’s Hype Cycle.  I’ll let you read the link and not go into too much of it here.  In general, with a hardware device you don’t see a major product release (from an OEM rather than an ODM) until the Slope of Enlightenment phase of the hype cycle.  That is when customers truly understand (if not yet embrace) the product.  My conspiracy theory around the iPad is this:  What if Apple recognized the hype cycle and launched the iPad at or near the Peak of Inflated expectations?  It would provide them the opportunity to push a lot of product in a short timeframe (this has clearly happened).  It also puts them in a good place competitively in that, by the time competitors get products to market, slates will be entering the Trough of Disillusionment.  By the time people realize that slates don’t live up to the hype, Apple will have made their money and will be reinvesting it in the next iPhone or some offshoot.  Time will tell.

In Summary

Apple clearly has the lead in the space.  While not the first mover in tablets or even the slate form factor, they are definitely the first mover in this new round.  This is a rare place for Apple, which usually lets others go first then they make it better, faster, and more expensive (strange twist there).  If they truly gain a first mover advantage, I think it will be due to people realizing that slates don’t live up to the promise and the market will stop growing after Apple has captured the majority.

There is, however, a dark horse in this race that could shake it up – HP.  HP was an early contender (actually announced a slate before  Apple announced the iPad).  Later they acquired Palm and WebOS has been the talk of late.  Any OEM can push out a me-too Windows-based (or even Android-based) slate.  WebOS gives HP a chance to differentiate; but, at best it can theoretically bring HP at parity with Apple.  In reality, WebOS alone probably won’t bring HP close.  There is another acquisition that I see as being more important to HP in this space and that’s their purchase of Phoenix’s HyperSpace and HyperCore technologies.  I’ll go into the reasons why in another post, but in essence they could use the technology to create a curated mobile experience and a traditional Windows experience when “docked”.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Downside of Higher Minimum Wage

Since arriving, I’ve been astonished at the higher cost of living in Australia.  But it’s not across the board.  Electronics manufactured in China aren’t unreasonably more expensive than they would be in the States.  In some cases they cost the same.  But things like cars (that are locally manufactured even though they are foreign companies), food (grocery and restaurant) and other services can be three or four times as expensive as they are in the States.  What’s the link?  It’s probably a good thesis for some economics student (if it hasn’t already been done), but my speculation is that this is caused by a higher minimum wage.  Australia’s minimum wage is about AU$15 (about $13.90 US).  As you look at things that are significantly higher, they also tend to be more dependent on minimum wage workers.

At what point does the cost of living impact of minimum wage increases zero-out the income gains?  And if cost of living is impacted by minimum wage increases, at what point is it affecting the population and economy at large to a worse extent than it is benefitting minimum wage workers?

I don’t have answers or even ideas.  Just observations at this point.  Maybe it will be in Super Duper Freakenomics???

That’s what I get for not saving as draft

I have been working on a long post that didn’t get saved at some point.  I’m guessing I lost it on a patch Tuesday reboot.  At any rate, I’ll just post several small thoughts as they come back to me.

For now:

Global Economy”
Someone forgot to tell the banks and cell (“mobile” here) that the world is flat.  My US credit cards are hit-or-miss, and there’s the wonderful foreign transaction fee when it does work.

Getting a cell phone here (AT&T no worky;  then again that’s not too different from home) is more difficult than getting US government security clearance.  I once held a sword over then Governor Bush’s head during his inauguration, but Telstra won’t give me a post-paid plan.  Then again, thanks to Apple and AT&T, my iPhone won’t work on Telstra’s network anyway.  Waiting on that iPhone OS 4.0 and subsequent DevTeam jailbreak/unlock before I try again with Telstra.

Socialized Healthcare
Beware America, this is coming soon if the Dems get their way.  Like many things, this sounds good in theory – medical care costs are out of control, everyone should have access to medical care, our system is flawed.  But inserting the government into the value chain of any industry is never the answer.  For example, schools in the US and Australia require immunization records.  In the US that entails calling your pediatrician and having them fax the records to the school.  In the socialized Australian system, it involves going to your doctor and getting a signed government form (not valid if it’s not on the government paper), taking that form to a local council which will then submit the form to a national registry.  One month later, you will have a certificate that is functionally equivalent to what took 5 minutes in a privatized healthcare system. 

I’m not going to get into my beliefs about how to fix the medical system, but here’s a hint to where I believe the fixes should start – legal system, education system.

Driving on the left, sitting on the right
No, that’s not a clever political turn of phrase.  Literally driving on the left side of the road and sitting on the right side of the car.  It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be.  But why did they have to move the blinker to the right side of the steering column!  I hope everyone realizes that when I turn my windshield wipers on it means I’m turning left.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Adventures of an Unemployed Expat

OK, so my two blog readers have told me to post more.  Some other folks have told me to start a blog.  So to satisfy both requests, I have created a new category entitled “Adventures of an Unemployed Expat”.  I will post about my time in Australia with the intent on being more observational about business, culture, challenges, unsuccessful attempts at humor, etc. (see my posts from Russia).  If you want to see what the family is up to, friend me on Facebook.

Wait.  Australia?  Unemployed?  I guess I should begin with a little back story.  In January, my wife was offered a three year assignment in Melbourne, Australia.  It’s not often that you get to live in the “most livable city in the world”, much less be paid a premium plus expenses to do so.  In the end, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.  I attempted to arrange remote work arrangements or find a job with HP Australia, but things didn’t pan out.  So after twelve years, three business units (enterprise servers, business desktops and thin clients, business notebooks), and three jobs (software engineering, technical program management, and strategic marketing), I left HP.

So that’s where I stand.  I’m talking to a few companies here in Melbourne including some of the usual industry suspects – HP, IMB, Apple, etc.  I’m also working on establishing my own “company” of sorts, basically me doing business strategy and market/industry research consulting work and software development with a focus on Windows Embedded Standard 2009 and 2011.

In the meantime I’m being Mr. Mom for my two girls and living the life of a kept man.  My traditional blocker blogging more often has been time.  While a three year old and an eight month old don’t exactly provide superfluous free time, I should have a few more minutes a day to post.  So stay tuned…