mobile media

first impressions & next steps : kindle and mobile RSS

Kindle_2 Update: This entire post was written before looking at the pay-as-you-read RSS pricing structure.  Click down to the end to see how Amazon's pricing has changed my point of view.

The Story: So Amazon launched Kindle, the first major US release of an ebook reader.  Sony has had e-readers for some time now with little US success.  However, given Amazon's US and global market positioning, they will probably gain far more traction than Sony from day one.  Amazon is our digital portal to reading.  Kindle is the digital solution to digital reading on-the-go.

The e-Reader Innovation: For those who may be unfamiliar with the technology, e-readers are digital displays with a basic amount of memory (equivalent to what you would find on an SD card) and a fairly low-end processor slapped on.  The real innovation in e-readers typically lies in their screens, which utilize a technology called e-ink.  E-ink is not a traditional "on or off" pixelated display, rather it is a set display where elements or "ink" can be reconstituted to display other content utilizing of a small shot of electricity.  Once the image is displayed, the screen is essentially "off" until new content needs to be displayed.  So rather than being a display that is always on when in use (such as the screen you are mostly likely reading this on), e-ink displays are always off - even while displaying information!  They only turn "on" to flip a page.

The Amazon Innovation: While seamless integration with the Amazon store is certainly welcome, the innovation here lies in the distribution platform.  Amazon has baked in connectivity with Sprint's EVDO network to provide "live" push updates of content - certainly a welcome and unexpected addition.  This device essentially removes the need for a computer and dedicated internet connection from the equation.  Bravo!

But I won't be buying one of these toys anytime soon, and here's why: there is no responsive RSS reader functionality.  Sure I read the NY Times daily - and am a paperback novel-phile -  and a serial magazine reader (I read over 2 dozen a month) - and an addicted RSS feed reader, all of which Kindle has.  But in order to serve as a true digital text-on-the-go solution, I need a true RSS interaction solution on the go, one that downloads my content so that it can be read and interacted with/socialized when not connected - such as on the NYC subway system.  I need a reader that can save my tags, marked as read reads, emailed articles and more - and then complete these tasks when synced with a data connection.  I need to be able to interact with my content much as I would online, on the go, from wherever I am.  This should be nothing more than a firmware upgrade, and once it hits, I'm in.

Once this hits, I'll be all over this bad boy.  And most of the world won't be... and here's why: there is a wonderful tactile interaction with books and magazines that most users value.  Magazines aren't going away anytime soon. 

I don't want to read a Kindle on the couch after a long day,

    I want my beautifully printed analog issue of Sports Illustrated. 

I don't want a Kindle in my bathroom for family or guests -

    I want a Readers Digest. 

I don't want a Kindle at my Sunday Morning breakfast table,

    I want the Sunday paper, complete with comics, circulars and sales. 

There is a place in our culture for the tactile, for the real, for the analog.  And it's not going away any time soon.

The Kindle features amazing capabilities.  It can bring the digital market to places we have never been before. The server side DRM solution is brilliant.  Users actually own a re-downloadable license, not a single download license!  The distribution deal with Sprint is brilliant, and this is a direction I would like to see other mobile device companies mirror (Zune 3?).  

As for me?  I'm going to wait for a digital text device that works seamlessly with my digital text media lifestyle.  Until then, I hope you all enjoy!

Update: I just did a bit more reading and realized there is a service/subscription fee for reading blogs.  AND you can ONLY read blogs that are registered with Amazon's system.  

This changes everything!  Why would I pay for free content?  (I know, I know, you're paying for access - but the whole principle of payment for RSS KILLS this device as an RSS reader and therefor as a viable e-text device - at least for me.)  So Amazon, come up with a better RSS solution, (like free WiFi syncing ala Zune2 AND integration with Google Reader via Google Gadgets) and I then I would go all out for this unit.

Until then, the pricing structure doesn't deliver sufficient value to make this a worthwhile purchase.

first impressions : Android (Google Mobile)

So how does Android stack up against the only other "innovative" mobile system - the iPhone?

It looks like the iPhone still has a leg up in overall, design, but there are some nice teaser shots in this video that I would like to see Apple build into their next firmware update, namely:

  • SMS alert previews
  • Google street view
  • 3G
  • True 3D capabilities
  • A 10 Million Dollar Developer Reward/Bounty

But I'm not an iPhone owner, yet.  Did I miss anything noteworthy here?

future visions : Google @ The Pump

Dresser_wayne_ovationix Google Maps @ The Pump was a product just waiting to happen.

Real world extensions of the digital experience can be amazingly powerful.  

Given this initiative, I had a couple of ideas as to how Google could enhance this experience.

  • How about a "send SMS directions to mobile" option?  It's far more environmentally friendly - and it could fit seamlessly within an Android (Google Mobile) platform.
  • If you're going to stick with paper printouts, how about putting a recycling slot underneath every printer so drivers can recycle their used directions?
  • Wouldn't Google Wallet @ The Pump be a logical real-world extension given the on-the-pump extension?
  • How about wireless - wifi or bluetooth based syncing with Android capable phones?
  • How about relevant brand sponsored local advertising and points of interest? 
    • This would be a great local play for their mobile advertisers.

And lastly, given Google's recent moves into video content...

  • How about offsetting some of those unholy gas prices by serving local ads on screens facing the car?  Passengers and people filling up their tanks are a captive audience. 
    • I can't wait for the rediculous headline calling this service The Drive-In Of The 21st Century.

What other services would you add to the gas station experience?

digital media jam

Just picked this up off Scobelizer.  This may be a very long video, but I found much of it to be a worthwhile listen.  Check it out below:

Key Takeaways:

  • Users want to control all their digital media in the same way they control their DVDs. 
    • I can watch watch my DVDs at a friend's house without leaving a copy there.
  • BitTorrent has been successful because it enables and empowers content portability.  It's not all about the piracy, it's about access and delivery.
  • Your content is yours.  You want it to live as such.

For previous coverage of free-flowing-DRM (or liquid DRM) click here.

On that note, this Media Master System looks promising and truly liquid (liquid?).  If the pricing, connectivity and user interface are there, this could be huge!


- PS - Can anyone out there please explain what happened to Orb?  They nearly had a similar system built out YEARS AGO and haven't yet taken off!

future visions: when empowerment IS annoyance marketing

Everyone but used car salesmen hate radio ads that yell at you.  They are obtrusive, they are annoying, they make you actively turn off the ad by switching stations, turning off the radio or at the very least turning down the volume.

As we transition through and beyond web 2.0, technology and connectivity will become part of and empower ever growing portions of our lives.  As our connectivity continues to grow, marketers will increasingly look to play a part of ever growing parts of consumer lives.   

And consumers will push back.

There is a line that we as an industry need to find.  I don't ever want Unilever playing an audio ad when I open my fridge.  I don't want my alarm clock projecting video ads from Folgers onto my bedroom ceiling when I wake up.  I don't want my cell phone getting bluetooth pop-ups asking me if I would like to view an ad from Macy's when I walk past their store in the local mall. 

At a certain point we need to learn to stop intruding (even if it is by empowering) and let consumers LIVE their lives.  The first brands to offer value or content normally associated with intrusive advertising FOR FREE with NO ADVERTISING OR INTRUSIVE BRAND INSERTIONS will be marked as innovative.  Mark my words.

So were do we draw this line?  I would work with three determining factors when drawing the line:

  • Personal Space
  • Interruption
  • Annoyance

If you are marketing in a place that consumer's consider "personal" you're the brand equivalent of a "close talker". It's uncomfortable, uninvited and makes people feel uneasy.  The same goes for interruptive and annoyance marketing.  The parameters that define these 3 criteria will differ by demographic, and some groups will be more open to intrusive branding than others, but I shudder when considering that my kids may grow up expecting and inviting ads and marketers into their lives in ever growing capacities. 

At a certain point, every individual will have to make this call for themselves and say - this is the place where I don't want brands.  This is MY SPACE!

And BTW (by the way) if anyone out there is in the mental health or personal development fields, this is sure to be a hot emerging market.  By the year 2020 there will be an entire professional counseling field devoted to teaching consumers to draw these lines in their own lives.  By 2025 this lesson will be part of state mandated health class curriculum's.  Remember, you heard it here first.

So how does the market evolve?  By embracing the consumer's desire to turn their marketing off.

Just as Dove stood out by anti-marketing to the beauty market, so too will the first brand who recognizes this emerging trend and markets the white space they provide for their customers, giving them room to live their lives relatively marketer free.  And that my friend's, is the ultimate empowerment.

more than one war may be decided by customer service

Hung_2 Isn't it a shame that one of the most innovative products of the year, the iPhone, is being talked about not for it's amazing features, but the many ways Apple has messed with their loyal customer base? Whether it be paper bills of encyclopedic proportions, refund-gate or most recently iBrick-gate, Apple's marketing engine seems to have lost their mojo.  Their sales will continue to climb because of their amazingly engineered products; but this growth is not due to their marketing efforts but despite them.

With the next generation of broadband connectivity (and all the IPTV goodness it brings) finally making it into our homes, it looks like customer centric marketing may very well determine the victor in what is already a fiercely competitive market.  While Comcast has driven an elderly woman to open a can on their merchandise at a retail store, Verizon is touting a new age of home connectivity that empowers customers by delivering a better, stronger consumer experience.   With Verizon it's all about the customer, and this is why they already have a leg up in my mind.

A few months of slow access with DSL and years of satisfactory experience with cable connectivity have created an affinity that is not easily erased.  However, the forgettable customer service I've encountered with cable companies to date may very well lead me to try out Verizon's latest offering in FiOS.

But that's just me, how about you?

the nerd tax

Dollars Bill Maher had a great line, succinctly summing up this entire iPhone refund fiasco:

"It's not a price cut, it's a repeal on the nerd tax"

As an admitted (at times) nerd, I recognize that we often pay "taxes" for being the first out of the gate.

iPhone buyers weren't upset over the tax, they were upset that Apple didn't play by the tax rules.  If you pay the tax, you expect something in return, notably - the recognition as someone who is first, who is leading, who is light years ahead of everyone else.  Jobs didn't play by the rules - he tried to reinvent them.

The 3 Principles of The Early Adopter/Nerd Tax Dynamic
- from the eyes of a nerd -

  1. The nerd will do ridiculous things (ie paying the nerd tax) to get his or her hands on something new and possibly shiny
    • ridiculous things may include:
      1. waiting in line for hours or even days
      2. paying a pre-order fee
      3. overpaying (a direct form of nerd tax)
      4. dealing with an unfinished product - the "first gen" glitches
        • note: the nerd 2.0 does not consider leaving their mother's basement a ridiculous thing because the new nerd is the alpha in the pack, often presenting as an industry leader and successful business person.  The new nerd does not live in his mother's basement, the new nerd isn't an outcast.  The new nerd is a leader.
  2. This thing will make you feel superior, cooler and/or better because
    • you have this
    • everybody else doesn't
    • this thing is awesome (in the eyes of the nerd)
    • you are now an elite member of a select club
  3. Brands will recognize this nerd tax by giving nerds sufficient time to enjoy part 2, such that it offsets the inconveniences and inequities of part 1.

The Jobs Amendment

  • As the king of all nerds, I will not deliver on part 3.  Rather, I will refund some of your money, thereby allowing you to save face (kinda).

Why This Wasn't So Smart
Money is only a small (if at times significant) part of the overall picture.  Early adopters often adopt early because it is a personality statement: I am a leader. By marking down the price so drastically, so quickly he made the leaders look like fools.  The only way he could have restored their status would be by offering them something additional of meaning well in advance of anyone else, something that would restore their stature as leaders - and he didn't.

Sure returning the money was a smart move, but I would have expected more out of one of the greatest marketing gurus of our generation.  There should have been something else up his sleeve, something truly special that rewarded his early adopters for adopting early.