Category: Thoughts

How PayPal and Google are laying out the red carpet for Apple

Image courtesy of ontask.caFrom Mike Issac at Wired, PayPal and Google have been making waves this year with the combination of NFC technology and innovations in the payments space. And to Mike’s point, “Silicon Valley wants you to do away with your old, beat-up leather wallet”. However, all of this tech is still reliant on your credit card as an intermediary to payment. This is where Apple comes in.
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No More Cash!?!

With Square’s Card Case announcement and today’s Google Wallet event, consider this moment to be the point when wallets will start disappearing. Practically speaking, cash itself is the thing that will go, when people will no longer rely on physical manifestations of fiat money and instead have it conveyed and managed in a single, summative, number.
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FUD versus Innovation

The recent events surrounding Square have illustrated a key question in business relationships in any market: is it better to work with others, or against others? Verifone didn’t endear itself to the geek community or even other business partners when it decided to launch a smear campaign about Square’s product on March 9th, 2011. Its assertions that Square facilitates card skimming, a technique to copy a person’s credit card number for nefarious purposes, are completely bunk! The reason: a scammer must physically possess the person’s card. You, the consumer, are at the same level of risk whether the scammer has a Square device, or a pencil and paper pad!

In contrast, Visa and Square jointly took the high road and continued to build their positive brand image while pushing innovation in the payments space. While Square seems to have capitulated to Verifone’s claims, it is far more likely that implementing encryption was a part of Visa’s terms to publicly back Square. The monetary contribution certainly seems to be far less significant than the potential reduction of Square’s barrier to entry to the payments market. After these events, Verifone may have been better off just ignoring Square!

Conclusion: Innovate with newcomers in your space, and you’re bound to get some halo effect and drive benefits to both companies!

The Road to Free Kindles

Image courtesy of Tom Krazit at
Image courtesy of Tom Krazit at

Based on John Walkenbach’s prophesyinglast year, it seemed like Amazon was really headed down the road of free Kindles. However, this new development makes far more sense; if the consumer’s perceived value of the device continues to fall, and Amazon’s more interested in selling the higher-margin e-books, then it could be conceivable that Amazon’s looking for a way to subsidize the continuing hardware costs with an advertising play.

While this play is sensible from Amazon’s standpoint, I do pine for the days when we weren’t inundated with ads. It seems that all sorts of mediums and devices are being saturated with them, when I actually crave a simple, straightfoward, elegant, and uninterrupted experience that’s free of them. Why can’t there be another way: to pay for no ads, no interruptions, no distractions?

Conclusion: Seems like the day when the Kindle (in its current form) is free isn’t too far off. But, does it have to come with the price of ever-increasing ads vying for our eyes?

Apple’s iOS subscription plan: nothing to do with subscriptions

From this Reuters article:

“We don’t want to lose our direct relationship with our subscribers. It’s at the core of our business model,” Rob Grimshaw told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

To give you, fair reader, some context: Apple’s 30% cut of subscription revenues is a decoy statement, not the real deal like John Gruber states. In fact, it masks the real reason why Apple’s instituting this policy (from this article):

“Customer data for in-app subscribers will remain with Apple, generally speaking, but customers will have the option to send their name, email address, and zip code to publishers. (Opt-in, not opt-out.)”

And the reason why this is important: it’s estimated that 35% of a high-quality content publisher’s revenues come from subscriptions, whereas 65% of revenues come from advertisers.1,2 If advertisers can’t rely on publishers for reliable demographic/ethnographic data, they won’t justify paying premiums to the publishers. Publishers in turn will get their 65% of revenues knocked down. And who wins? Definitely not the publishers.

Bottom line: Know your business model, quality publishers, because even the pundits get it wrong! Apple is threatening the very survival of curated content on their platform with this approach.

Google, go kill the URL bar!

From ConcievablyTech:

The idea is to eliminate the two line navigation layout which currently has tabs on top and the navigation buttons, menu and URL bar below. The compact navigation model would only have one line and place the navigation buttons, a search button, tabs and menus next to each other. The URL bar is gone and the URL of each tab is not visible at all times, but only displayed when a page is loading and when a tab is selected.

Go Google go!
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Who would have guessed: Spending incentives drive spending!

In the spirit of the holiday season here in the US, this article from the Wall Street Journal seems particularly appropriate:

In many cases, rewards enticed people whose cards were dormant to start spending…[and] even small rewards can prompt people to spend more.

This useful study backs up the old management consulting adage of “you get what you measure.” In this case, financial services companies measure a customer’s spending and show a clear link to a nominal reward. And voilĂ , we shouldn’t be surprised that customers then immediately think about what they can get, as opposed to saving the money in the first place. Rewards programs are an ingenious way to acquire customers and encourage spending, but this can be to the detriment of the customers themselves.

My point is that customers need to really question their spending habits in the first place, as opposed to jumping at offers no matter how lucrative they may seem. There are plenty of savvy product managers out there, and their sole job in cases like these are to get you to spend money. Instead of watching your checking account go down for “rewards,” how about watching your savings account go up for a change?

ProductCampNYC 2010

So following my earlier recommendation, I jumped out of bed on a crisp Saturday morning and headed over to the Microsoft offices in midtown Manhattan for the 2010 version of ProductCampNYC! There were great conversations, a ton of expertise, and an awesome raffle to close it out.

To give you a sample of the topics, I heard about:
  • entrepreneurship and its role in fostering great product managers
  • how difficult it is to really figure out what consumers really want
  • the key skills and attributes that make your career as a product manager stand out, and
  • how consumers and their behaviors need to be contextualized to realize the full value of the insights about your product (physical good, service, solution)

It got me really thinking about my own career and aspirations to do product management work. If you get the chance to go to a ProductCamp, don’t hesitate to sign up and contribute!

Selling Scrum to Skeptics: Budgets

Scrum and agile (note the lowercase!) development techniques have been around for a few years now, and prominent companies use it in some form or another. However, I’ve seen multiple instances where clients and management alike will derail the whole notion of Scrum! It pains me to see it, so here’s a Part 1 (of many more to come) to help convince skeptics that Scrum can be good for you (just like apples!). This post will focus on a common concern I’ve heard: “Scrum seems nice and all, but how do we manage budgets?”
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Why Fail Whales Can Make Great Teams

Twitter and Foursquare are two easy examples that come to mind for services that have failed very publicly. They get pretty bad press from people because of service outages. I myself have been on the receiving end too, but as someone who’s been in the application development side of the house, I know that these experiences are invaluable. There’s nothing like a few million users screaming at you, that’s for sure!

The thing is, teams are human and make mistakes. It’s easy for a team to fracture or start pointing fingers at each other; it’s much harder for the team to hold together, either collectively or with the help of a good manager. And once you’ve been through one ordeal and you pull through successfully, that trust and mutual respect go a heck of a long way. So the next time you have your own fail whale with a team, take a deep breath, scramble to fix the problem and the perception, and then have a strong drink with everyone. You’ve earned it.