Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple iPad and iBooks

No one does a product launch like Apple.

Today, Steve Jobs strolled out on stage at the Yerba Beuna Center for the Arts, and unveiled the most anticipated technology product since ummm....the Ipod! Weighing in at under 2 pounds, and less than an inch thick, the Apple iPad is essentially a bigger, macho, new era version of the iPhone.

High Definition YouTube, Built in itunes service, and a bigger and brighter screen. The iPad opens the door for a new era of reading text and managing information in a portable, user friendly format.

Besides all the hype, the device is touted as a new era in portable reader devices. Apple may steal a great deal of thunder from the Kindles and E-Book readers of 2009. Jobs showed off the crystal clear imaging, the "swiping and touching" modes, and the new, very clever, iBook site. All work together within the device for downloading and reading text. From the new Steven King opus to intro to accounting textbooks, the clarity and definition makes reading on screen a very real possibility.

What does this all mean for the tweed coated glitterati of the publishing world? A change of seismic proportions. The marketing cache of iTunes, attached to boring books, along with the user friendly interface of Apple, means that content publishers are facing a similar tectonic shift of their business model that music companies have experienced in the past 8 or 9 years.

Publishers are on the bandwagon, and ready to embrace Job's new product. The five largest publishers, including McGraw Hill and Simon and Schuster, are ready to provide content to the new device. Interestingly, was Job's showing the New York Times on the new iPad to illustrate newspaper and magazine reading through the ibook site. Wasn't it last week that NYT was planning to charge for content for regular readers?

Will this change the way we acquire content? Will the iPad and iBook sites change the book selling and publishing worlds? Will newsprint newspapers become a thing of the past? All questions that need answers, along with the most important; What will it cost.

For now though, Jobs and Co have thrown down the E Reader gauntlet, leaving Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble to scramble and keep up.

As the great philosopher John Lennon said:

"strange days indeed"
"Most Peculiar Mama!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A thought about Haiti

As "The Muse:" thinks about his nephew, Andrew, a UN Peacekeeper, lost in Haiti, a few things stand out in the last week.

First, How can you not notice the power of text messaging right now? Check out this story from the New York Times. Reporting on the $20 million in donations raised last weekend, all from texting donations.

Isn't it amazing? That $20 million plus can be raised just by people texting their financial support for a disaster? Finally a "good" reason for text messages. A defensible rationale for the ubiquitous text message. If it is convenient, and easy, to text your friends about what pub you've settled into, or the concert you're seeing, then obviously the ability to text donations for a disaster like Haiti is a step ahead of the mobile text curve.

To raise so much money, and to offer so much support, in such an easy fashion, is a good example of the power of mobile devices. No longer does the moment of existential angst and emotional resonance pass unnoticed. Now the moment is there, right at your fat fingertips, a quick few seconds to text a word and there it is. Your commitment is done. Your support is finalized. A text to save the world, or at least to help a nation.

Thanks to all those who spent a minute or so to support the survivors of Haiti. Thanks, to those who think of the peacekeepers, the UN Troops, and the ground personnel, like doctors and nurses. Giving their time so willingly. Because of you, we can move beyond this tragedy, fix the problems, and above all, move back to thinking about events and trends that don't hurt and scare.


the retail muse

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ten4Ten - The Muse predicts 2010

"The Retail Muse" has hauled out the crystal ball, blown off the dust from January 2009, and peeked through the haze to predict the future. In the murky depths, "The Muse" complies a list of predictions for 2010. Covering retail, culture, society and ephemera. A veritable "10 four" of thoughts for the coming months, as we name 2010 the year of:

RATIONALIZATION. Mainstream retail will focus on rationalization and retrenchment. After 18 months, battled by the economy, retailers are running out of gas. Major chains will look at their business models. Close unprofitable locations, reduce expenses and keep inventory levels low. To combat consumer unrest, look for retailers to cautiously discount, preserving profit margins into 2011.

AUTHENTICITY. Consumers will only part with hard earned dollars when the product and the store provides an authentic, and new experience. Look for specialty retailers (like campus stores), to provide new products and services, that are just a little bit outside the norm. This gives customers an authentic, newer than new experience. Customer service will also play a role in the authenticity arena, as those that provide compelling levels of service, will stand out in the customer's eyes, from those that just go through the motions.

ECOCENTRICITY. If the environment and global warming seem to be endlessly cliche, this is the year for retailers to pounce on environmental and eco issues. 2010 brings about the death of the plastic shopping bag. By the end of the year, reusable totes will be the norm as Americans embrace the tote as the bag of choice for most trips to the store. Eco friendly products will continue to grow, and the 100 mile diet will gain traction into the general public. The electric car will be the big story for automakers in 2010, as they recover from the Annubis Horribus of '09. Everyone will want an electric car. Save for Al Gore, no one can get one.

SIMPLICITY. Forget the Dubai infused glimmer of last year. Urban and industrial design will focus on simplicity. But not the cold hard edges of the past. Simple design with an encouraging warmth. A sense of home, evoking the spirit of Bauhaus architecture. Look for less emphasis on the bling, but a greater spartan design aesthetic on everything from clothes, to general merchandise, to urban development.

ECOMMERCE-CATION. Six weeks ago, and the news was full of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While Friday was a bit of a sales yawn, Monday was a surprise. Double digit sales growth from many major merchants on Cyber Monday, says that something big is going on. Look forward to the final quarter of 2010, and check out the major retailers re-acquainting themselves with the possibilities of E-commerce. Customers have finally grasped buying on-line as a safe, simple and secure way to buy. It's not the same E-commerce of the past. Now retailers are embracing like products and industries, driving the trend of E-Commerce shopping plazas. A trend that should send Campus Stores scurrying to their IT developers to capitalize on.

REVIEW-A-NATION. If you are a retailer suffering from out of stock situations, bad customer service or restrictive operating polices, then Review-A-Nation is the trend for you. With the ubiquitous build up of social networking sites like Twitter, and the power of instant good and bad reviews, retailer operation assessment is now in the hands of your customers. Deny a refund? Confusing and anachronistic sales policies? Crabby and angry cashiers? Don't worry, your customers will tell everybody, before you have a chance to even notice the drawbacks in your business. Use January to review your polices and operations. By the fall of 2010, your customers will have your number, and will be letting everybody (and their dog) know.

EREADING. 2010 will be the year of the E-Reader. By September, every major news source will see the E-Reader as the next big product development. Time will name the new Apple "itablet" as the Man of the Year. Everyone company, from Amazon and Apple, to Microsoft and Zoom will have an E-Reader. Talk of sales figures will be all the rage. Battles will ensue on which reader is the best. Consumers, including Universities, will be confused and leery. By the end of the year, E-Readers will be all the next big thing. Of course the question will not be who is buying, but rather, who's reading?

EIGHTIES-CATION. With Pantone naming turquoise as the color of the year, expect more than a few manufacturers to jump on the color bandwagon. Turquoise was one of "THE" colors for the eighties, so look for designers to capitalize on this color flavor with a bevy of Eighties infused fashion and design statements. It must be time for narrow ties, big hair and Santa-Fe Prairie skirts to make their way down the runway.

PINK FATIGUE. There is something admirable about raising money for breast cancer, and supporting a worthy cause. What is not admirable, and even a little cynical, is the products brought to market simply to capitalize on what seemed like a nice colorful cause. Now everything in pink for breast cancer month. From hammers and Handi-Wraps to Monopoly and Triscuits. Enough already! it's all so cliche now, and customers must be tired of it. If "The Muse" is seeing pink products sitting sadly on the dollar store shelves, well then the fatigue has set in and the trend is over. Better just send your money directly to breast cancer research than wasting your time on the pink fruit juice carton.

AVATARNATION. James Cameron might not win an Oscar for his ground breaking, multi-million dollar film, AVATAR, but he single handily has created the biggest entertainment trend for the year. 3D Televisions will be available by springtime. Cable networks are planning to offer 3D programming. Even wine makers are offering 3D bottles of wine. With 60 plus films being released in 3D format, it's the 1950's all over again.

Will Oprah be in 3D? Will we need to don glasses to watch 3D-CNN? The winner will be the creator of the first 3D Ebook reader, made from reclaimed materials, and endorsed by Al Gore.

We guarantee it.