Touchscreen Macs are in the news today. Forbes.com has written about the possibility of the computer being 3 to 5 years away.
I'm not sure how I feel about that idea. I think it might be hard to give up scooting my finger along the touch pad. I have many questions about what a touchscreen Mac might look like. My guess is that it probably will be like a tablet computer offered by the PC makers.
Why hasn't Apple introduced such a machine already? I don't know the answer to that, but there's much speculation at Gizmodo as to why it hasn't and what it might look like when it finally does.
TiVo will sell advertisers demographic data about viewers. The information will include age, income, marital status and ethnicity, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
Also today, TiVo announced discounts in their montly fees. The deal is for new costumers only, please. They'll pay $12.95 a month, discounted from $16.95 a month.
TiVo is a digital recording device that lets users record television shows whenever they are on, provides a search engine that finds shows according to user's interests. The box and service also lets you download movies in minutes.
Google announced today a collaborative effort in making the development of mobile applications easier and cheaper.
The effort is called the Open Handset Alliance, an alliance of 33 members participating to develop a mobile phone platform that looks like what's on the Web.
Quentin Hardy of Forbes.com reported: "Once an alliance member has made the first phone available to the public, the intellectual property at the heart of the alliance will be openly available to any other company developing mobile technology."
Android-based phones should hit the market in the second half of 2008. Tmobile plans to release a T-Moblie device in 2008 also.
According to what happened at a phone conference about two hours ago, PC World blog reported that Google has a two point strategy:
POINT 1: Apps like Google Maps on phones through handset partnerships.
POINT 2: Thirty-three companies are announcing this open platform, with an OS, middleware, user interface, and apps.
What I want to know, though, is when will a simple GPS navigation tool come out on the phones. You think this alliance will do it? Please comment if you wish.
Wize.com's CEO Tom Patterson was recently interviewed on Vator.tv.
In the interview Patterson describes how Wize is trying to provide those answers to consumers questions around their purchasing decisions, by crawling the Web and allowing the best products to rise to the top based on a collective showing of virtual hands.
"Wize is the Web 2.0 equivalent of Consumer Reports. Rather than covering a couple thousand products each year (Tom estimates that Consumer Reports covers about 1,500 a year), Wize has the potential to cover an unlimited number. At Wize, we are already tracking around 50,000 individual products on the site, and continue to grow in size and scale.
While Consumer Reports employs a staff of 450 to perform product tests and comparisons, Wize takes a technological approach. It combs the Internet for product references among bloggers, commentators, and reviewers in the open-media community. Wize’s algorithm then interprets these online reviews and creates a single score between 1 and 100 for every product. Wize also aggregates consumer comments from other leading sites like CNET, Amazon, and Buy.com—which adds a nice qualitative touch to the quantitative scoring."
For more information on Wize.com please feel free to contact us.
... [W]ho actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?
The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.
It's always an event when Time announces its person of the year, and this year's announcement was met by more than a few slaps on the head. Of course! It's us! Brilliant! And so true. According to Jon Fine at BusinessWeek.com, "2006 was the year of YouTube". The year of Wikipedia and lonelygirl15. And 2007 promises to be more of the same, as internet businesses find new ways to wrangle true value from the enormous -- and rapidly growing -- amount of user generated content on the web. In this context, it's worth reviewing what New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki wrote in his book "The Wisdom of Crowds":
... in most [experiments] the members of the group were not talking to each other or working on a problem together. They were making individual guesses, which were aggregated and then averaged ... the group's guess will not be better than that of every single person in the group each time. In many (perhaps most) cases, there will be a few people who do better than the group.
In other words, in order for the wisdom of crowds to work, each member of the crowd has to think (or vote, write, review, rate, etc.) independently. It's independent and unique content that makes the web useful and compelling, not the law of averages. In her blog "The 'Dumbness of Crowds'", Kathy Sierra points out that:
By "crowd", [Surowiecki] was referring to a collection of individuals. Individuals whose independent knowledge (and "independent" is a key word in what makes the crowd "smart") is aggregated in some way, not smushed into one amorphous Consensus Result.
Which brings us to the year 2007 and Wize.com. By collecting more independent product reviews from more sources, Wize is committed to leveraging the wisdom -- not the dumbness -- of crowds. We are convinced that using these independent reviews to generate ratings is a better way to do product research. And while we're actively looking for ways to improve our Wize Rank algorithm -- and our customer experience -- We've already used the wisdom of crowds to make better purchase decisions fast. We'd love to hear what you think.
Do you hear what I hear? It's the sound of retail managers everywhere quietly closing their office doors and curling into the fetal position as "A Patsy Cline Christmas" plays on continuous loop. What's the cause of this ulcer-inducing holiday stress? Mandatory "family time" with the in-laws? Existential angst? Too much Patsy? Maybe, but the more likely cause is the growing number of savvy shoppers out there this holiday season.
American consumers expect, on average, to spend 17% more on gifts this year than last. So why are smarter, savvier, wealthier shoppers a cause for such angst among retailers? Consider the reasons that consumers dislike holiday shopping:
Waiting in lines (32%)
Finding the right selection of gifts for everyone on my list (26%)
Lack of time to get it all done (19%)
Trying to stay in budget (12%)
Finding parking at shopping centers (10%)
To avoid these hassles savvy holiday shoppers are turning to the Internet to research and purchase their gifts. Consumers find online shopping to be an attractive alternative to forging through the holiday scrum at retail outlets and malls. Shrewd shoppers see the advantages to shopping online as: lower prices (20%); better product selection (9%); more flexible (33%); and more convenient (34%) than shopping offline. Even the game of deal-chicken retailers habitually employ the week before Christmas can now be considered almost quaint as shoppers learn that they can find those deals (or even better ones) on the Internet. It's no wonder that the majority of Americans plan to purchase at least half of their holiday gifts online this year.
Does this spell the end of traditional retail? Hardly, but it does force offline retailers to rethink their approach to the holiday shopping season. Shopping online gives consumers the ability and the information they need to choose the store that's cheapest, easiest, provides the widest selection, and is the most convenient. With the help of comparison-shopping, or product review sites like Wize, consumers save themselves energy, time and money. It's time for offline retailers to realize that a "successful" holiday shopping experience is more than ensuring a customer goes home with a purchase. It's about creating an environment and an experience that gives customers the personal satisfaction of knowing they didn't have to elbow a senior citizen in the ribs to find the best gift at the best possible price.
According to Forrester research from October 2006, more active web shoppers have used “consumer ratings and reviews” than any other content. This is closely followed by “for-sale listings with seller ratings,” most likely found on eBay. According to our own research, active web shoppers tend to start their product research at Google or eBay, filtering results until they feel that they’ve found the right product, price, and store.
With the vast amount of content available online, it’s fascinating to think of consumer ratings and reviews as being the most critical. There are multiple reasons for this, including:
Consumer ratings and reviews humanize our purchases, and are more easily understood than product specifications. Endless lists of product features can be mind-numbingly boring, and difficult to understand. Consumer reviews and ratings help people understand how a product works in the context of real life. They are often filled with emotional responses to products, which are both helpful and compelling. I bought the Canon PowerShot not because of its 6.2 megapixels, but because of what those megapixels help me to do.
Active web shoppers are distrustful of ads and corporate messaging. Want to find the best flat panel TV? Don’t ask Sony – they’ll probably recommend their own without doing a whole lot of competitive analysis. Customers have become increasingly distrustful of ads and sponsored product reviews and ratings. When making a purchase decision, they’re more likely to trust each other – in the form of user ratings and reviews – than any single source.
Many services are popping up online to help customers understand and use customer reviews to help make purchases decisions. Wize is uniquely positioned because of the way we factor user ratings and reviews into our Wize Rank rating system.
Last night I got a call from my father. He was calling from the electronics section of a major retailer asking for shopping advice. With the exception his vintage late-nineties cell phone, most technology conceived after 1970 plays a small part in my Dad’s day-to-day life. He went into the store planning to purchase an MP3 player for my 17 year-old brother’s birthday; not knowing that an “MP3 player” is not a product in its own right, but is instead a category of products comprised of a slew of shapes, sizes, brands and prices. After a brief over-the-phone run down with him on MP3 players he ended up going with an Ipod Nano.
The phone call got me thinking about product selection as it applies to gift buying. Buying a gift often means shopping outside ones realm of product knowledge and experience. If you’re buying a gift for someone who has interests and a lifestyle different from your own, how do you decide which product to buy? Having no knowledge of rice cookers, baby strollers or calculators makes it difficult, if not impossible, to make the right purchase without conducting a ton of product research.
It occurred to me that the Wize Rank is a great tool for gift buying when a person is shopping outside of their normal purchasing patterns. Wize takes into consideration everything from product warranty to usability when calculating a product’s Wize Rank, so you don’t have to be Julia Child to find the right mixer for someone who loves to cook. The Wize Rank can also compile a list of the best products based upon criterion that the user sets, providing easy access to the best products within a price range, feature set, or a brand. The strength of the Wize experience is you don’t have to be a product expert to make a good purchase; you only have to know what you’re looking for.
Wal-Mart’s impact is not simply to grind brands that try to please them into dust. It also seeks to claim the higher ground of “consumer friend” through its “everyday low pricing,” all the while searching the globe for the cheapest, okay merchandise, regardless of how or where or by whom it was made.
We respond to their logic. Why? Because we allow ourselves one bargain at a time to lose our ability to evaluate the relative merits of a gallon of pickles at whatever price. We have become addicts, based on genuine changes of biochemistry. We no longer search for the perfect “thing.” We’re trolling for “the best deal.”
Using Wal-Mart to define all that is currently wrong with retail shopping is nothing new—it could almost be considered trendy. But Shopportunity! does more than take shots at the retail giant. Shopportunity! is about our endless quest for savings and about what it’s cost us individually and culturally. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll return to.
It’s scary to read the excerpt above in the context of online shopping, where Wal-Mart is just one of the many businesses competing for your shopping basket. What happens to customer loyalty when your competitors are a single click—instead of a parking lot—away? The service industry looks more and more like something from “the good old days”; our kids will use our stories about the local hardware store to prove that we’re old and out of touch.
The Shopportunity! excerpt above also speaks to something that feels a lot less anachronistic, but is often conspicuously missing in action—the desire for great, lasting things that we love and enjoy, things that say more about us than “we got the best deal”. And that’s our goal at Wize, to help people find the best products fast. Not the cheapest products, and not the best deals, although customers who submit reviews certainly have overall product value in mind. We use Wize Rank and the Wize100s to find products that inspire us, and products that will last. Because we’re buying MP3 players and baby strollers, not pickles.