RIM Blackberry Could do Extremely Well

I remember a time when Apple was such a loser company I actually hoped they would go under.  The story was tiring.  Just one newly designed cheapo Mac after another, always at a premium to market prices.  Unless you were a hardcore graphics artist who already knew the Mac there was no reason for its existence.  Slowly, as they began to embrace the PC world of business and allow Windows compatibility, the Mac began to have a place in the world.  Re-enter Steve Jobs.

iPod.  Need I say more?  It just was the right product at the right time, bringing branding to the marketplace, something Apple needed badly.  But the iPod wasn’t enough and the iPhone came into being, which is the true success story of Apple after all these years.  It is still to be seen whether they will fully capitalize on the platform and become a true power in the computer world.  At this point, lets take a step back in time to the days leading up to the iPhone and its impact on Apple’s earnings, since this is a clue as to why Blackberry could do much better than expected.

Most people won’t remember the condition Apple was in when they launched the iPhone.  Prior to the iPhone’s intro Apple had been relegated to the pasture of PC wannabes and one-off fad products (iPod).  The company had struggled back from the brink of collapse and built a new future because of the continuing use of the Mac, meaning sales, and the sudden influx of earnings from the iPod.  Jobs and the crew did a smart thing, they took the quick hop in financial strength and capitalized on it by investing in what they envisioned as the future, portable computing via smart phones.

The iPhone had the effect of taking Apple from a $40 Billion company to a $324 Billion company today.  I remember vividly prior to the launch of the iPhone that a report using percentage market share data showed that Apple would probably double if they only captured about 2% of the marketplace.  What nobody was paying attention to was Apple already had enough installed hardware with passionate users to easily obtain that goal.  It happened very quickly.  The lesson learned here is that a key product launched into a current user group can have a geometric impact on economies of scale for the company.  Apple sprang to life and became a world power through the application of technology now taken for granted by nearly everyone.

RIM’s Blackberry has a similar story in play right now.  But there are some key differences as well.  The first thing to understand is that Blackberrys are everywhere and not hidden in graphic art closets like the Macs were.  The Blackberry phones are very strongly embraced by corporations around the world for several key reasons.  First, they are about as lock-tight safe for communications as you can get, even causing some third-world countries to attempt to ban them, because the governments couldn’t hack into the phones.  Second, Blackberrys are fantastic for productive communication of documents, texts, and other attachments, and especially with multiple email accounts.  Few smartphones can match the productivity of the Blackberry.  And third, the server platform offered by RIM is second to none in allowing companies to truly control use and abuse of their prized communication systems.  That’s a strong position to be in.

Often a company will introduce a new product only to see someone else provide a better version later and potentially knock them out of the business.  Although I don’t feel Apple could be knocked out of the business with the new iPad, I do feel that RIM could do them one better with the new Playbook they are introducing.  The new aspect for the Blackberry is the design of the Playbook incorporates it as a tethered device to the Blackberry.  Some have criticized this move, stating that the Playbook needs to be open rather than strapped to the Blackberry.  I say RIM made a good move in first taking care of their installed base.  The Playbook will likely have a wi-fi version as well, but in truth it seems the best utilization of the Playbook is with a Blackberry smart phone.

Doesn’t make sense?  Imagine that you own an iPhone and an iPad.  If you want cellular service and not just wi-fi for the pad, then you need to cellular plans.  The Playbook requires only one plan.  The Playbook isn’t a laptop replacement like the iPad, but instead is seen best as an enhancement of the Blackberry, allowing you to be on the phone and surfing freely with the pad.  Whatever you do with the Playbook is also instantly synced into your phone… email, web pages and tabs, contacts, content and more.  The Playbook pad is a leap forward for the Blackberry phone and is likely to be sold very quickly to a high percentage of the installed customer base.  It will likely be seen as an essential business productivity device, which will likely be purchased by companies.  The iPad is really a different product with a different consumer in mind and does not have nearly the potential for business.  If you could calculate the numbers regarding the potential impact of the Playbook, the answers could be astonishing.

This is a great lesson to business owners and entrepreneurs.  If you have an installed base of happy customers, focus on launching a new product which will enhance service and productivity.  You may find your business booming!

Which Browser is Best? Not I.E.

Internet Explorer really leaves a lot to be desired these days.  It is very slow compared to Firefox, seems to freeze up a lot, and leaves one feeling that it spends too much time acquiring data from your experience with it and not enough time focusing on the experience of browsing.  I have no idea where MS is going with this and it’s a mystery since they do so well in other areas.

Firefox is great.  I have very few problems with it and each upgrade seems to be a real advance in the business of browsing.  Chrome is definitely fast!  The downside being the intuitive nature of it is odd and they put too much design effort into hiding commands and features, to the point that it can be difficult to manage.  I keep falling back to Firefox because it is so reliable, easy to control, and the extensions allow it to be completely customized.

Two add-on features I feel I can’t live without are NoScript and Adblock Plus.  Both are extremely effective.  I like knowing that scripts just can’t run unless I approve them, almost like running in Linux.  AdBlock Plus completely removes ads, pop-ups, and maybe more, I don’t know since I don’t see them.  I do place ads on my web page and yes, they don’t show up in Firefox with AdBlock Plus unless the user approves them.  That’s okay, since I have the same and can truly allow ads I want to see.

The only issue I’ve had so far is that Yahoo! Toolbar doesn’t work quite as well in Firefox.  The search portion of the toolbar is glitchy.  It’s easy to work around since the standard search bar is still in the regular Firefox toolbar anyway.  I’m not surprised about Yahoo! acting up since they have long preferred to optimize for I.E.

Although I prefer to use Firefox for most things I have a tendency to use I.E. and Firefox at the same time.  It’s good practice if you want to log into the same service with several different user IDs.   For instance, I have multiple user IDs for WordPress and it’s much easier to set Firefox to remember one account and I.E. to remember the other.  Then, if I need to I can always pop open a Chrome window to do something else.

Facebook – A Singular Bubble

Let’s go back in time.  Back in time to the 1990’s.  It’s late in the decade and the stock markets are going nuts about something called “Dotcoms”.  Everyone wants in, they see it as the thing to buy and make money on.  Some did, and some just lost it all.  Now it is just known as the Dotcom Bubble. 

In the 1990’s I was working for a large Wall Street firm and many of my clients came in asking for the latest greatest Dotcom story and wanted to invest in it.  We did not.  Again, we did not.  Why?  I believed that anything of value that could be put on the web would not be free.  Most dotcom stories were really about little technology designs, widgets, and software tweeks that couldn’t turn into a real product line.  There was very little that had the “going concern” aptitude of a Xerox copier, Intel chip, or a new oil field.  So we just stayed out of it and yes, we were right to do so. 

Roll forward to today and take a look at Facebook.  They have been able to absorb a lot of the web’s personal communication.  It uniquely allowed a platform to instantly update a site with photos and other chit-chat to go with.  Facebook had a great opportunity to advance web communication to a more personal platform so everyone can see what’s going on with everyone else.  Yes, it has some interest and the ability to attach some ads.  So far though, if you ask the question, “What value does it bring to the table for business?” the answer is, “Nearly nothing”. 

Yes, I can write something about my business, but if nobody connects to my other page or they don’t go to my website and then click on it, how will they see it?  If my only option is to then buy ad space on Facebook, then who will click on it if they don’t know me?  Isn’t it redundant for someone on my web site to then click and see my business Facebook so they can then click again to go back to my web site?  It really makes no sense when, as a web designer, I see that it can’t increase “clicks” that are meaningful.  I wish it could.  Maybe they will roll out a new platform and fix this, somehow.  I can’t help but believe that Google or even WordPress is ahead of them on this.  Also, eventually everything will be “liked” by someone and then nobody will “like” anything anymore.

Facebook built a huge momentum of audience, customers if you will, who have subscribed, added their photos, and connected to their high school buddies.  What’s next with this?  The momentum says and feels like there should be more.  I doubt that gaming will last, and I don’t think Facebook has any business muscle currently in place to help business owners develop their online platforms.  I want to see more.  Will it be video?  Will it be customization (ala WordPress and others)?  Will Google or some other storm in with a new platform and blow Facebook out of history?

Sometimes an idea is a good business idea, and other times it’s just a one-off item that makes some money for a bit and then becomes stamped out as a feature on a different device.  A great example is TiVo which many people wanted to own because they could see that it would be great to record shows and watch them when they have time.  It made lots of sense to users.  In reality TiVo is like a light switch in your house, just another feature of convenience.  The stock fell and has been flat-lined for a decade.

Will Facebook become all we hear it hyped up to be, or will it become just another light switch, just a bubble, one of many, in the effervescence of the ether?

Planning Business for 2011? Upgrade Your Tech!

Really, upgrade your technology.  It’s important.  If you are still running XP or anything older, you need to get off your wagon and make the change.  Windows 7, the latest Apple operating system, and Linux (Ubuntu version is best) run circles around the old platforms.

The reason it makes a big difference, even if you can’t upgrade your hardware right away, is new platforms include many portals to online communications which were not previously as easily utilized.  Now don’t sit there reading this and think to yourself that you don’t need online communication!  That is crazy thinking!  Of course you do!  Realize that newspapers, magazines, and other print materials are slowly going away.  This forces advertising to change to the online platform, no matter what! In fact, we are now halfway there, and the second half of a major change is usually quicker than the first half. 

Now you are thinking that you don’t know how to use this new online stuff.  If you are thinking that, then you don’t know how to hire expertise.  As a business owner you should be hiring people who know how to use the internet, social networking, and online advertising.  They can be employees or they can be retained through service companies or hired free-lance.  Whatever it takes, get it done.  And then learn from them. 

The big upgrade is this: These new platforms run the latest software on either an XP rated hardware platform or on the latest and greatest multi-processor system.  The new software includes, sometimes for free, Cloud Computing, Social Networking, advanced Ad design software, and many more features which the older versions of Office and other suites did not include.  If you like spreadsheets, databases, and word processing, then why not have them in an environment where they are easily loaded up to your web site and transmitted more safely than before?  (If you don’t have a web site then call me, we need to have a personal chat; something about the century you live in.)  Did you know that new scanners and most software can now convert or print directly into Adobe Acrobat .pdf format?  The time savings in this one simple thing is dramatic to any business trying to communicate their products and services.  Most new office suites, like OpenOffice can convert almost any document, photo, or graphic to almost any other document.  The computing world finally has software standards which are easily shared.

Don’t waste time, upgrade.  The learning curve is shorter with the new platforms and your employees will get more work done, and so will you. 

While you are at it, expand your business by doing much more online.  You should be able to just about double your business by doing the right things on the internet.