22 October 2014

Microsoft needs "Nokia" not "Lumia".

If you spent 7.2 billion buckeroos to purchase the most recognizable name in cell phones ever, what would you name the new phones you were going to create? Would you use that immediately brand name or opt for their little-known and poorly selling product moniker?

Nokia 1020
or
Microsoft Lumia 1020

To be fair, in the Seattle area the Microsoft Lumia might sell slightly better. Everywhere else in the world would lean toward the Nokia product. If for no other reason, the name is shorter.

It is obvious that Microsoft decided on "Lumia" because their own names ("Microsoft" and "Windows Phone") would be lost behind the successful Nokia brand. But - that is the whole point. That is the main reason they were worth 7.2 BILLION. From a marketing perspective, it is idiotic to dustbin a product name that sells itself in some markets for something that only has the history of losing money and sales to the competition.

A lot of smart decisions have been made at Microsoft recently. Just not this one.

19 October 2014

Refurb me, baby.

If you are looking for computer technology, I highly recommend checking for a refurbished version first. Manufacturers either sell them directly through a special refurbished web site or they sell them through eBay, sometimes through a third party. Not only will you save a significant percentage off the price but you will get a device that got thoroughly checked (again - if they really check their systems the first time) before you receive it.

While you can rest assured that your tech will be certified Ebola free, it is true that sometimes your newish equipment will have a minor blemish. Typically the officially refurbished devices, even sold by a third party, will have any plastic pieces replaced that show any use. They always full check the hardware before shipping it out, despite a shorter warranted period, so you can typically expect the product to last longer.

I tip my propeller hat to Apple (or "Apple Computer", since they started this ages ago) for having raised the whole refurb experience. When you purchase previously owned hardware from Cupertino you are essentially getting something that is brand new - not a blemish, fully warranted and in beautiful packaging. You simply cannot go wrong. The rest of the industry had to raise their game to match the quality - best they were able.

So save yourself a few bucks this holiday season and head to the land or refurb. Your family and friends will not know the different and will likely have a longer lasting device.

Here are a few links to get you started:
Apple Refurbished
Dell Refurbished
Chromebook Refurbished

15 October 2014

Google and the Nexus Deep 6.

Google was changing the face of the cellular industry long before the "uncarrier movement" came along. Whether it was the introduction of the Android G1 or their forcing concessions on Verizon regarding their 4G spectrum - they have been pushing the industry in new directions. Back in 2013, T-Mobile didn't need to convince the Google Nexus fans that moving to a no-contract world was better because we were already there. Why lease a phone for $200 and pay it off $100 a month in a two year prison sentence when you could own a Nexus 4 for $200 and pay $30 a month with no shackles? Google made the math so easy that even simple arithmetic was unnecessary.

But the days of buying a high end phone for one third the price was 2013. Fast forward to today with the announcement of the next generation of Google Nexus hardware. It's big. It's beautiful. And it's just as expensive as that big and beautiful competition. All hail the $400 Nexus 9 while ignoring the Kindle Fire 9" for $379. The Nexus 6 marches in at $650 when a (arguably) better Samsung Note 4 can be had for $50 more.

In the famous words of Beavis and Butthead, "you gotta have stuff that sucks to have stuff that's cool", and Google decided to give us super cool hardware with a standard suck price. But ignore the cost for a moment. How is Google improving the industry for all of us with these devices? New Guido-sized "me too" options in our already crowded phone and tablet landscape. Wasn't that Samsung's gig?

I never subscribed to the "do no evil" philosophy in Mountain View. Every company has their nasty side and perhaps Google's villainy is worse because they think their lack of baddies skit don't stink. But at least we could see how they were making things better in the hardware landscape by helping the people afford the best. If it were not for Google's Android landscape we would all be using 3.5" iPhone's that cannot copy and paste. Competition! Progress!

Someone will come along and fill that low cost and high quality smart phone without a contract niche that Nexus has decided to exit. Maybe Microsoft. Maybe BlackBerry. Heck, are you paying attention, Bezos? Maybe there is even an opening for your freaky Fire Phone after all.

10 October 2014

Back In 8 with old hardware.

Windows 8.1 is a very capable operating system hiding behind a touchscreen requirement. Yes, the user interface requires more corner moves than an elementary school four corners game. Yes, they did wholesale theft of the Sony PlayStation 3 menu system which is, arguably, the worst thing about Sony's device. But if you can get your brain past the stupidity then most everything else is better than 7. And, frankly, it is refreshing to know that Windows 9/10 is on the horizon.

One area that many complain about is lack of compatibility with Windows 7 drivers. Understandable given the manufacturers not so subtle approach of asking us to purchase new equipment. (Those sales do not benefit them financially in the slightest, of course.) However, you can connect even your oldest hardware with a little extra effort.

We have an old Fujisu SnapScan workhorse that the manufacturer says will grind to a stop on Windows 8. Nonsense. Download the drivers that will get it up and running on Windows 7 and run the software in Windows 7 compatibility mode. It is surprising how many pieces of software that supposedly will never work on the latest version that suddenly snap to life with this approach.

Printer drivers are more tricky, of course. We have an HP LaserJet 8550 color printer that, again, is completely incompatible with Windows 8. What they will not tell you is that HP has a Universal Printer Driver that is compatible with nearly every HP printer out there. Admittedly, it is not the prettiest driver and it sometimes requires you to go into sub-settings to get features (like color printing?!) to start up, but I have not found an HP printer manufactured in the last two decades that will not spring to life with the driver. And, it is Windows 8 compatible.

Sure. For old hardware you might have to work a little harder to get it working perfectly again, but it is usually possible to do. If you do not mind hunting down a solution to these vexing devices then the transition to 8, while we await a true upgrade. can seem almost acceptable.

09 October 2014

Too big for your breaches.

I received an email from the Reflect Digital Online Marketing Agency this morning (thanks, folks!) with a link to a lovely little image explaining the disaster of security breaches. My gut feeling is that it seems to go both too far (the joy of cyber liability policies) and not far enough. The unfortunate fact of life is that nearly every company has had a security breach, so it is not truly the end of the world. However, the problem is that most do their best to cover it up.

Every business wants to present their best side. If they are doing something or had something happen that does not look particularly flattering then they will toss a cloak of invisibility over it and pray for the best. California has some of the strongest laws forcing notification following a security breach and, as a result, some organizations will do only what the law requires for identification and action to minimize the impact and/or never really learn from the mistake.  Knowledge is bliss but to never know is perhaps even blissier.

The naughty people looking to infect your systems are communication gurus and share every piece of knowledge they can. When companies have their head in the sand the bad guys are welcome to rape and pillage the electronic ports for whatever they want. Seemingly every day we learn about another company that had a major hack, whether it is the one third of the United States taken down by Target or another third banking at Chase. If the largest bank in the capital of the free world cannot keep your data safe then it is time to step back and acknowledge the truth about where we are today: Every network has holes and will be breached. The question is whether we are going to stop hiding from the truth and finally start doing something substantial about it.

Everyone needs to stop worrying about their reputation and communicate honestly about the problem. Consumers (and the media) need to stop making breaches seem like the worst thing in the world when they are actually happening to all of us. When someone discovers a breach then dig in and let the world know how it happened so we can all learn from it and keep it from happening to anyone else. Better yet - the government needs to stop penalizing companies for having breaches and, instead, help everyone find out the source and how to stop it in the future.

It should go without saying, but I will type it anyway .. The only way to truly protect consumers is for everyone to work together and stop a problem from repeating.