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iPad or Kindle?
January 30th, 2010 by Rick

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.
January 28th, 2010 by Rick

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
January 23rd, 2010 by Rick

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!
January 3rd, 2010 by Rick

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?

Year-End Wrap-up - The Year of the Tiger!
December 18th, 2009 by Rick

credit photo to: swamibu

credit photo to: swamibu

I cannot believe it has been one year since I started this blog. It has truly been an eye-opening experience for me and has taken me to a world of social media that I had been little exposed to - from Twitter to LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google Reader, and commenting, tweeting, texting, google waving, and being introduced to the likes of so many social media marketing gurus like Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Tom Peters, Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Clark, Chris Anderson, and others. It has been helpful and inspiring.

I know this has been a difficult year for many with a troubled economy, continued job losses, foreclosures, Bernie Madoff, Earl Jones (Bernie’s Canadian counterpart), and now Tiger! As my wife says ‘2009 has been the year of disillusionment‘. But through all of this I have been lucky enough to have had an incredibly successful year and it all started with this blog!

Now, I am not saying that this blog has directly driven new sales to my business, nor has Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook for that matter. In fact, based on my actual web traffic, readership, and followers, I would guess it barely made a blip. But what this blog did, was give me focus. To blog means to think - think about what you know, think about what value you could bring to others, and think about how this could help grow your own community and business.

Over the past year, I worked on a variety of interesting consulting projects from best practice research, to system selection, to full blown data conversion and integration projects.   It is into the latter, more simply referred to as ‘Data Transformation Services’, that I decided focus my business development so that we can better serve retailers with this critical service.   Retail IT industry expert, and good friend Bill Robinson, likes to describe this as the ‘under-belly of IT projects’. It is often neglected, under-estimated, under-resourced and lacks the appropriate expertise required, which leads to delayed deliveries, missing data, lack of data integrity and could ultimately lead to failed projects!!  

And so it is with this in mind that I have re-focused my efforts and business development, to better serve a community of retailers and software vendors that understand the critical and difficult nature of this work. A well executed Data Transformation project is essential to project success.  With complete business plan in hand, some new business associates to help, and alliances with key vendors, we are already seeing the positive results of this endeavor.

In the coming year, I intend to further extend these services and continue focusing on my blog, sharing information and knowledge, that is pertinent to retailers of all size and types. So here’s to a new year of blogs, tweets, emails, and community-building.

I wish all my readers a happy, healthy and proserous new year!

What’s Your Multi-Channel Retail Strategy? Time To Connect….
November 3rd, 2009 by Rick

Why is multi-channel retailing the topic of so much discussion ?

credit iamge to Geoff...

credit image to Geoff...

Multi-channel retailing is far from new. Retailers have been selling in multiple channels for over a century, originally via mail order catalogs and then via the phone. The Sears catalog was first published in 1888. They understood the benefits of multi-channel retailing. From this point forward, retailing was more than simply brick & mortar. Providing additional channels for your customers, meant opportunity for increased revenues and better customer service

With the internet, e-commerce, and mobile phones; multi-channel retailing has exploded in ways never anticipated. Consumers now have bigger expectations and demand the flexibility multi-channel shopping can provide. For example, if I shop online and provide all of my personal information to a retailer, I should not have to give that information again when I visit an actual store, whether in my own town, across states/provinces, or even in another country. Multi-channel is all about flexibility and service; providing more options for how consumers can shop with you and simpler ways for them to get the products they want.

Seems fairly simple, but many retailers struggle to get this right. In the early days of multi-channel (pre-internet), these channels were largely treated as separate business entities, with its own inventory, and possibly its own distribution centers.  With the advent of the internet and the emerging e-commerce channel, retailers initially treated this new channel as a separate entity too, with its own inventory, prices, policies, and distribution methods. So much so, that product selection, prices, and availability could be vastly different between brick & mortar and online. Inventory was not even shared between these two channels. Lost sales ruled!!

As the e-commerce channel began to grow, customers expected a different shopping experience; with more consistency, more flexibility, and greater freedom. Retailers slowly started to adapt to this new on-line world and began to put greater focus on an overall multi-channel strategy. The benefits are clear. According to a recent RSR study, a consumer that shops in a multi-channel environment (unhindered), will spend more money with that retailer.  With new channels being added (e.g. mobile, facebook, etc.) and their rapid growth, operating with multiple channels is a requirement for almost every retailer. Having an overall multi-channel strategy is paramount.

While many retailers have come a long way in this area, many retailers still struggle implementing an effective multi-channel strategy. Here are a few things retailers must consider when building their own multi-channel strategy:

  1. Sharing Data – all data must be shared and consistent across all channels. Effective multi-channel strategies can no longer have the same data created in multiple places. Aside from the amount of extra work you will put on your resources, you will end up with discrepancies, inconsistencies, and missing information, which will in the end frustrate your customers. Items, customers, prices, locations, must all be shared. Data integration must be fluid and seamless across all channels.
  2. Integrated Systems/Processes – all business processes must appear as one operation to the customer. Shipping, selling, marketing, etc, must be a cohesive unit. A customer really does not want to hear a salesperson in the store say ‘I do not know about the sales on-line, that’s a different division and you will have to contact our online support desk ‘. This will, once again, only frustrate the customer. They are in your store and they want to have a total shopping experience between channels. A fully integrated system across all channels will improve your chance of success.
  3. BAFA – Buy Anywhere Fulfill Anywhere - This is the ultimate in any multi-channel/cross-channel operation. Customers want to shop where they want, when they want and have it delivered or picked up at a time and place of their choosing. No phone calls, no running from store to store and no sitting around waiting for a package to arrive.This is the ultimate in customer ease and flexibility. This will reduce lost sales. Rena Granofsky, President of RIT Experts, recently wrote an intriguing white paper on this very topic. I would also add one more ‘anywhere’ to this acronym BAFARA - Buy Anywhere Fulfill Anywhere Return Anywhere - and that would complete the cycle from the customer perspective.

It’s time for retailers to connect - connect data, connect systems, and align business processes across all channels. What do you think is important in a multi-channel strategy? Are there other things retailers should be considering/implementing?

Are You Greentailing Today?
September 14th, 2009 by Rick

credit photo: medialyte

credit photo: medialyte

We hear so much about consumers and businesses behaving responsibly and keeping things ‘green’, but are retailers doing enough in this area? I recently read the book Greentailing (affiliate link), by Neil Stern and Willard Ander, and they took a close look at what some retailers are doing to behave as a socially and environmentally conscious company.

Here is their definition of ‘Greentailing’:

“Greentailing is conscientious retailing built on environmentally profitable business practices which explicitly consider the impact of a retailer’s actions on the environment and community, customer perception and behavior, employees, suppliers, and ultimately shareholder returns.”

Here are a few suggestions/examples, cited in Greentailing and other sources, that retailers can be focusing on today to improve their ‘Green’ factor:

  1. Optimize energy efficiency in your stores - the U.S. LEED certification program has established guidelines and measurable standards for design, construction, and operation of your retail facilities. Companies like Target, Best Buy, and Office Depot have already started opening LEED certified stores.
  2. Packaging - eliminate any unnecessary packaging. Excessive packaging is wasteful and not very consumer friendly. Retailers can proactively buy merchandise that has no excess packaging or packaging that is made from recyclable products.
  3. Bagging - we have started to see the elimination of plastic bags in groceries and other retailers in major cities like San Francisco, Toronto, and others. In order to discourage consumers from choosing plastic bags rather than recyclable bags, Toronto has recently introduced the infamous ’5 cent bag‘ bylaw, forcing grocers to charge consumers 5 cents per bag if they still opt for plastic. While not everyone agrees with this approach of a ‘forced’ tax on their use of plastic bags, it is certainly one of many ways retailers can eliminate waste and use of products that are simply bad for the environment.
  4. Recycling - retailers can offer more products that are made out of recycled goods or even sell high quality used items. Buffalo Exchange has made a retail business out of buying/selling vintage high quality used clothing.
  5. Organic, Natural, Nontoxic - retailers can make an effort to buy environmentally preferable products. Retailers must pay attention to how products are being produced and are using the most natural, organic and nontoxic materials possible. Williams Sonoma has recently introduced a new line, ‘Pure & Green Collection’, using all natural products and recycled containers for a line of soaps, lotions, and cleaners.
  6. Supply Chain - retailers can do more to make sure suppliers themselves are producing, operating, and delivering products in an eco-friendly manner. Wal-Mart introduced a scorecard system that measures and evaluates their suppliers on all of these factors.
  7. Charity - Charity, philanthropy, and community services are all good for the environment. Giving something back to the local community with hands on services or charitable donations towards non-profit organizations that are improving the environment are other ways retailers can make a difference.
  8. IT Initiatives - There are many IT initiatives that can be undertaken to help improve the environment. Software applications that can reduce or eliminate paper outputs, use of digital/shelf tags instead of price labels and other such applications. A colleague of mine is involved in a company, Transaction Tree, that eliminates paper receipts and can have them all e-mailed directly to the customer. Stores like the Stanford Store (a Stanford University apparel shop) have eliminated paper receipts and handles them electronically, sending out customized and personalized e-receipts. There are also companies like Carbon Foresight who provide services along with their CarbonConnect software that can evaluate & measure your overall carbon footprint.

These are just a few suggestions/ideas that might help you look at some of your own business practices with a ‘greener’ eye. What greentailing steps are you taking that I may not have covered? Please share your stories/examples with us.

9 Things for Retailers to Tweet About
August 6th, 2009 by Rick

credit to: a godly maiden

credit to: a godly maiden

Last post I talked about what Retailers should be ‘listening’ for on twitter. Now the question is “what should they be tweeting about?”

This is the most important thing I will say in this post: ‘Tweeting is personal’.  If your tweets are robotic, timed, and impersonal, they will be ineffective. Using Twitter should be about sharing who you are, what you have to offer, and why it is important to you and others that are following. For what not to do and some basic Twitter etiquette, see Chris Brogan’s recent post -  A Brief and Informal Twitter Etiquette Guide. Another recent post describes Tweeting Your Corporate Culture. Based on all of this information, I have put together a few suggestions, and my list of:

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What Retailers Should Tweet About

  1. Company history, vision, & mission - Your company has a history, a story to tell. It’s a great way for people to connect with your brand to tell them your history, war stories, visions, and missions. Sharing these 140 character tidbits can go a long way with your customers.
  2. Customer success/feedback - Share customer stories. Positive feedback or customer stories about how a customer succeeded because of the use of your product or service.
  3. Employee recognition - Sharing employee accomplishments, personalities, and insights, tells a lot about the company culture and what the company is all about.
  4. Company news & events - Share any press releases, news stories, or special events.
  5. Product features/benefits - Describe product features and how the customer will benefit from these features. Share different ways customers can use the product/service or different purposes that others may not have thought of.
  6. Other relevant industry news - As an industry expert in your domain, you should share relevant  industry news with your customers. It is important to educate and inform your customer about the industry in general.
  7. Related topics of interest/importance to the company - What other things are of interest to your organization? What other passions does your company have. I think it is very important to tweet about this. Maybe there are special interests or charitable organizations you believe in. Share this with your customers.
  8. Product ideas/suggestions - Solicit feedback and ideas/suggestions for new products or how to improve on existing products.
  9. Upcoming promotions/sales - And lastly, tweeting about special promotions and upcoming sales. I left this for last, since it is the most obvious use and the most common type of tweets used by retailers. I think this should be very limited in its use and it should be done as creatively as possible. Offer special competitions/promotions and giveaways to twitter followers, as another way to not only promote your stuff, but also to engage your customers or potential customers.

As you can see there are lots of things to tweet about, but it should all follow a well-laid out plan. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when tweeting:

  • Do not tweet too much. While there is no hard and fast rules about quantity, I think a handful of tweets per day (maybe 3-10) is more then sufficient.
  • While you do not have to tweet about ALL of the above topics, do not limit your tweets to only a couple of topics. Try to mix it up and keep topics diverse and interesting. Also, test out different topics/approaches to see what works best.
  • Try to engage your customers. Ask questions, solicit feedback.
  • Try to @reply to as many questions/comments directed to you as possible. It is not required that you reply to every message, but try to as much as possible.
  • Any conversation that does not need to be shared with everyone should be moved to Direct Messages or E-mail.
  • HAVE FUN!! Tweeting is supposed to be fun, personal, casual, and impromptu. Sharing, engaging, and teaching is one of the most effective ways to market your products/services.

6 Ways Retailers Could Search Twitter
July 30th, 2009 by Rick

credit to: internetinfopreneur

credit to: internetinfopreneur

Everyone should be searching Twitter regularly. It is the new way to ‘listen’ to what you need to hear. I search Twitter regularly for things that are important to me.

Retailers can take great advantage of this and learn more about themselves and their competition. Here are a few things that Retailers should be searching for on Twitter:

  • Company Name
  • Banners
  • Brands
  • Specific products
  • Specific areas of interest related to your business (e.g. yoga for Lululemon, marathons/races for The Running Room, etc).
  • The competition and their specific competitive brands.
  • Anything that is of interest to your organization at a particular point in time - this can be very dynamic and very powerful.

Searching for this can be informative and insightful, and it will also give you an opportunity to engage your customers or prospective customers. If someone says something negative about your brand, you can jump in and offer some help. If someone is tweeting something negative (or positive) about your competitor’s brand, it is once again an opportunity to swoon in and offer some help or alternative suggestions (i.e. your product or service).

Here are 6 useful ways I have found useful to search Twitter:

  1. Search.twitter.com - This is the simplest and quickest way to enter any search criteria and get immediate results.
  2. Twitter Desktop Tools - Tools like Tweetdeck or Seismic help manage all of your twitter accounts/timelines. These tools provide great ways to organize your followers into groups and create your own ’search’ groups in an organized fashion, that can be saved and viewed on a regular basis.
  3. Monitter - This is a great tool that provides you the ability to view 3 panes of keyword searches simultaneously. I prefer this tool when trying to ‘monitor’ something that is current. By typing in 3 keywords or phrases about that current event you can watch all twitter activity about that particular topic.
  4. Twitscoop - Twitscoop is another great tool to view your own timeline, create your own searches, and keep on top of current twitter activity and the hottest topics being discussed.
  5. Google Twitter Search - This is a nifty little search tool built on Google Search. It scans the Twitter database for your search criteria but displays it in the standard Google search results display.
  6. RSS Feed - This is my favorite tool of all. You create very specific and unique searches in search.twitter.com and then add them to your RSS Feed. Using your favorite RSS reader you will always be aware of any new tweets that meet your criteria. You can sometimes ‘miss’ key tweets using some of the Twitter tools/feeds above, since timelines only show the most recent tweets. Using an RSS feed you will never miss an important tweet, since it will remain ‘unread’ until you have seen it within your reader.

Regardless of the tool being used, it is imperative that you start searching Twitter on a regular basis. It is a great way to stay on top of current events, trends, and what others are saying about your brand, your competition or other areas of interest. This will give you an opportunity to engage directly with your customers or prospective customers.

If you have used other tools/ways of searching Twitter or found other uses for this, then please share it with us.

Time to Throw MS Office out the Door?
July 13th, 2009 by Rick

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Is it time to move away from Microsoft Office and Outlook? And if so, is NOW the right time? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Microsoft or its software. I have come to rely and depend on these products for over 15 years now. I have created, saved, and filed thousands and thousands of documents and emails over the year. A perfectly organized folder structure six deep, so that my brain could attempt to navigate back to that important email message I may have filed over 6 years ago. In fact, I am so entrenched in its use that I get the shivers when I think of switching. And therein lies my problem, why should I be so locked into one product, one comany? The world of software seems to be moving in a different direction.

I have already started to move more and more towards Google, using Google Search, Google Reader, Google Web Analytics, and Google’s FeedBurner. So if I now switch to Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, will I just be throwing out one software dynasty for another?

I don’t think so and I will explain why:

  1. In the clouds - Google applications and many others now run in the clouds. Gone are the days of installing software from CDs, with registration keys and special drivers. These apps are either free or require a small monthly fee. Setup is as simple as starting your browser. All data and documents are stored on central servers and managed in the clouds. If your computer crashes, if you use a different computer in Taiwan, just navigate to the web-site of your favorite application, login and then everything is there. For example, I use Dropbox, where you can store and share files in the cloud, no more need for timely backups, as documents/files are instantly updated in the clouds and all shared computers. (n.b. you still must back up your computer and all of your own data for complete security).
  2. Open and Flexibile - These applications are open, meaning I can run a different front-end built from different software vendors without losing anything. Twitter is a great example of this. While all tweets go through Twitter, I have already tried a handful of different applications that can access, display, and add functionality to the Twitter environment. Right now I am using Tweetdeck as my preferred front-end to Twitter, but if something comes along better tomorrow, I can switch with little pain and little lost. All the real core information is kept on Twitter, everyone else is just adding functionality around this.
  3. Organization/Search - Organization and search capabilities just seem to be a whole lot better and faster in Google. Tag or label your documents and email mesages. No more need for complex folder structures to save your important docs and email messages. Other web applications such as Twitter and Delicious also have great tagging and search capabilities.
  4. New Applications - New applications are built everyday that you can easily try and plug into. No upfront charge, no lengthy setup, but all the benefit to catch on to the latest application, all without losing your data or requiring some major migration.

So this should shed some light on why I feel ready to throw out MS Office & Outlook and jump into the world of Google and Cloud Computing. BUT….maybe I’ll wait until next week :)

Next post - Should Retailers be Moving to Cloud Computing?

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