Archive for January, 2010

iPad or Kindle?
Saturday, January 30th, 2010

photo by: jurassicboy

photo by: jurassicboy

I have wanted the Kindle for quite some time now. It only recently became available in Canada. I was ready to purchase it, when I got wind of the iPad. And now the iPad has been introduced. The 2 products are really not comparable. The Kindle lets you read books, newspapers, and blogs. The iPad lets you read books, newspapers, and blogs…and watch movies, play games, listen to music, look at photos, do your email, use your agenda, get directions, multi-touch screen, on-screen keyboard….oh yeah, the iPad is a computer not an e-reader! Actually the iPad is basically the iPod Touch with a bigger screen (and a bunch of updated apps that takes advantage of the larger screen).

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But all I REALLY want is to be able to read books more conveniently.

I already have a laptop for computing, I already have an iPod for music, I already have a Blackberry for cell phone, but I do NOT have an E-reader. Do I really need another computer? I have not yet purchased an iPod Touch or iPhone, not because I don’t think they are really cool devices, but I just don’ t have a strong need for another whole set of new applications. I’m not into games much and I already have an iPod Video for music and photos.

So now the iPad comes along and changes everything….or does it? Can this replace my laptop? Will it eventually replace all of our computing devices - music devices, cell phones, laptops, desktops, e-readers, etc, for one small tablet? Yes it can, and one day, I have no doubt it will. But today all I need is an E-reader. I checked out the iPad (watch this video), it’s awesomely cool, incredible, and powerful. But for now I just want to read books more conveniently (and not have to schlep 5 books on every business trip), so I picked the Kindle. These are just a few of the reasons I decided on the Kindle:

  • Incredibly simple device - one might even call it low-tech, which is really quite ironic, because it basically has single-handedly revolutionized the book just this year, setting us on a course where books will eventually go the way of the CD.
  • Less expensive.
  • Full 3G support (no charge) - download anywhere, anytime. (note: iPad will charge $30/month for G3 support.)
  • No cables - I really do not need or want any more cables in my life.
  • Much longer battery life - days not hours.
  • Lighter, thinner - that’s really important for travel. Comparing the Kindle DX, which has basically the same screen size as the iPad, is almost half as thin, and weighs less (18 oz vs 24 oz). The regular Kindle even smaller and lighter.
  • Better controls for reading - No need to touch screen. The iPad actually looks a bit cumbersome to hold with one hand and use the other hand to touch screen and turn pages. With the Kindle, there is no need to move hands to screen area - just click where your hands are already holding the device on the side.
  • And most importantly, better display for reading - Kindle’s e-ink technology is more conducive to reading than iPad’s LCD display. E-ink has less strain on the eye and can be read in any light; outside, in the sun, etc.

Click here for full spec comparison

One day the tablet will surpass all, but for now the Kindle looks like a pretty good e-reader! Now I am going outside to read an e-book….. (ok, not really, as its 20 below Celsius)

Zappos Made Me Smile, When I Really Needed It.
Thursday, January 28th, 2010

credit photo: kenn wilson

credit photo: kenn wilson

A recent trip through New York’s Laguardia airport, had me pass through security on a late evening trip back home. I had been up since 4:00 AM, worked throughout the day, and was heading back home on a late evening flight. After waiting in the security line for about 20 minutes, I approached the always painful step of removing everything I possess. Exhausted, I emptied my pockets (pens, keys, coins, etc), took out my laptop from my briefcase, removed my winter coat and suit coat,  removed my belt, and then the always humiliating task of removing my shoes. As I placed my shoes into the security bin, I was faced with this Zappos ad staring back at me - it brought a smile to my face and a warm chuckle. What a creative ad!!

For those of you who do not know, Zappos is one of the world’s leading online e-commerce sites that sells SHOES. That’s all, just shoes. And they generated over $1 Billion in revenue last year…selling shoes, online. It is an incredible success story with a unique culture. Zappos was recently purchased by Amazon, but have remained a fully independent operating unit. Based on their continued success, I am not sure why that would change.

I don’t know who came up with this idea, but I think it is brilliant. I expect there will be a loud chorus of negative and grumpy individuals who will say how inappropriate this is - “how can you take advantage of this dreadful security situation”, “this is not the place for a flippant insensitive advertisement”, yada, yada. Well, I beg to differ. It’s got a real ironic humor to it and it made me smile - what else can I ask for. Aside from the fact that it is likely to be a great marketing campaign for Zappos.

Zappos has always done things their own way, and I am sure they understood the risks and rewards from such a campaign, and then made their own decision. Kudos to Zappos and whoever thought of this one!

What do you think? Thumbs up or down?

NRF 2010…A Personal Note
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

credit photo to: scansource

credit photo to: scansource

Another NRF has come and gone. Each year, I arrive at NRF with the same anticipation and excitement. I am eager to see new trends, updated solutions, seek out new opportunities, and re-connect with long-time colleagues. This year was no different and it did not disappoint. Retailers came back! Traffic was high and it was obvious that there was a lot more activity as compared to last year. Booths were noticeably bigger and busier than last year. This was not a year with many flashy new products and ground-breaking technologies, it was more about the continued establishment of a strong core of intelligent applications that have been slowly building interest and IT dollars over the past number of years - Business Intelligence, Price Optimization, Planning, etc. Retailers are turning to these applications to ensure they are maximizing their IT dollars and executing better on their business strategies. And then of course there was Mobile - mobile, mobile, mobile. Everyone is trying to get into the game. I think it will still take a few years to flesh out where the real strengths will lie in this arena.

I should also mention the many great sessions that included a slew of great speakers from leading retailers like Tesco (Sir Terry Leahy’s 10 lessons for success and 6 drivers for growth) , Tory Burch, Saks (5 luxury lessons from Tory Burch and Saks, Steve Sadove), Life Is Good (5 lessons from owner Bert Jacobs), just to mention a few. These speakers shared some great insight and inspiring messages on how to succeed in this new era.

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But truly it’s all about relationships….

For me, NRF is much more. Its the start of a new year, it’s a time to re-connect with long time friends and colleagues, and it’s a time to build new relationships and opportunities. You see, I worked at STS Systems (which became NSB and is now Epicor Retail) for almost 20 years. I grew up there and made many strong friendships. Many of us ‘old-timers’ have since left and gone our own ways. Many of us have remained in the Retail IT business and continue to work independently or at a variety of different software companies. It is at NRF where we all have a chance to re-connect. It is an incredible network of talented and trusted resources. We help each other, without a single threat of competition. Opportunities, referrals, and information is shared between us and each of us would do whatever is needed to help the other. As NRF drew to an end, I was again touched by the amount of energy and trust that is shared among us. It makes me feel proud and grateful to be part of such a strong network.

So, I would like to wish a year of success for everyone in my network and to all the other new relationships I formed at this year’s show. And for all of you that mentioned that they were actually reading this blog - THANKS!

New Year’s Day: Shopping at the Mall…STILL!
Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Stores are closed in Quebec on New Year’s day, so what do we do? Like many other loyal Quebecers, we head to the United States to do some New Year’s day bargain shopping. For our family, we choose nearby Burlington, Vermont for this indulgence.  So, we drag the entire family off for this expedition. Problem is, my oldest son (12 years old) hates shopping and we have to bribe him with special treatment, special treats, and special conditions in order to lure him along. As we are driving to our destination, the following conversation ensued:

SON: Why do we have to go shopping at all?

WIFE: To buy stuff we need. If we didn’t shop, how do you think you would have the clothes we wear. Its something we have to do.

SON: Yeah, but you enjoy shopping.

WIFE: No! We do not like shopping either, but there are things we need and we have to shop for them. We are not just shopping for pleasure, we are looking for the specific things we need.

SON: Then why does it take so long? If you know exactly what we need, why not just walk into the store and buy it?

WIFE: Its not that simple. We have to browse, compare prices, try it on?

SON: Why not do all of that online?

WIFE: Er, um, er, um….because we still have to try on stuff, compare prices, checkout the clearance racks, and I did do all my research online first, but we still need to go and check it out.

End of conversation.

As we arrived at the mall, and I saw a near full parking lot, crowds in the stores, and people bustling through the mall, and that conversation really got me thinking….

We, and a few other Quebec families, that went together on this expedition consider ourselves quite tech savvy, as we were texting, pinning, and IM’ing each other back and forth about where we were, where the best bargains could be found, and where we should meet up for lunch. Yet, with all this technical ability we were all still out shopping in physical stores rather than online!

Why do we still shop in stores? Why can’t we do ALL of our shopping online.

As we shopped through the day, I noticed a few things that still lack from the online shopping expereince:

  1. Clearance racks - rummaging through clearance racks and tables to find those single items left over in your size at a bare bone price is an experience that is difficult to duplicate. There is a real pleasure in finding that real bargain item, and then later bragging to your friends about the wonderful treasures found.
  2. Trying stuff on - Grab 10 items, try them all on quickly, discard the items that do not fit or look good, and purchase the rest. It is difficult to do this online. Sure, you can return stuff that you don’t like or doesn’t fit, but it is a lot simpler to just leave those items in the store.
  3. Experience - Some stores still have an experience worth visiting.
  4. Social - People shop, walk, browse, and TALK together.
  5. Enjoyable - PSSST, don’t tell my son, we actually still like to shop. Its an activity, its an outing, and there are still some small parts we find enjoyable.

Until the online experience can duplicate all of the above, I think we will still see malls, stores, and people shopping for a long time to come. What is your experience regarding online shopping vs store shopping? Do you have different reasons for shopping in one channel vs the other?

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