Category Archives: Retail

I was checking into a new book on Champagne on Amazon this afternoon when I noticed a new button – “Add to Collection.”  Imagine my surprise when I realized that Amazon is launching their own version of Pinterest.


This makes sense. After all, why have people posting Amazon things on Pinterest when they could be pinning to Amazon directly, sharing with others and shopping right at that moment. One of the annoying things for me about Pinterest is that I don’t always know where to get the things that are pinned. But if it’s pinned on Amazon, I can get it at Amazon. Brilliant.

Basically, the concept is the same as Pinterest. You can create collections, customizing each name and adding as many things as you want. You can browse other people’s collections as well, pinning their finds to your own collections.

Not all products have the “Add to Collection” button yet. But if you click that little “Learn More” link in the dialog, you’ll find you can add a “Collect” button to your browser, allowing you to pin anything on Amazon’s site. Right now, this feature seems to be limited both in scope (you’re confined to Amazon’s site and not the rest of the web) and in release (not all products have the magic button). We’ll see how well it takes off and what Amazon does with the data.

bitcoinsThe Winklevoss twins have ventured into the bitcoin controversy with their recent request that bitcoins be regulated so any investor could trade them, just like stocks.

What are bitcoins? Bitcoins are digital currency — there is no physical bitcoin to put in your pocket. Bitcoins are de-centralized — meaning the network of bitcoin users control how they are used. There are only 21 million bitcoins available, with about 11 million currently in circulation. A few online stores and websites are accepting them, but mostly the currency is being traded within the community of users.

The Winklevi are trying to up the ante by fast-tracking bitcoins to higher levels of scrutiny and regulation. Since bitcoins are volatile at this point, increased regulatory oversight may stabilize them and make them less of an investment risk. And at this point, you should consider bitcoins very risky.

There is an ongoing fight to capitalize on the “about-to-boom” world of mobile payments. Bitcoins promise to offer Electronic Cigarettes instant, mobile transactions by making payments easier and more secure in both the physical and virtual world. Other companies are trying to position their mobile payment solutions as well. The mobile payments market, or the “digital wallet” as its commonly referred, is a soon-to-explode industry valued at over $90 billion by 2017. It’s inevitable that we will use our mobile devices to make payments and fulfill transactions in the future — diminishing the need and value of printed currency.

The key to the future of bitcoins, however, is to convince a broader audience than geeks and hackers that the digital currency is safe and stable enough to invest in and use.

Historically, humans have used almost anything as currency: flowers, chickens, paper, metal and other material. The big question is: If you trade with digital currency and receive goods or services from using it, does it matter that its anything more than a mathematical sequence or a virtual algorithm?

The tech community has been mostly unified in semi-harsh criticism of Microsoft’s Surface hardware. It’s like schoolyard bullies going after the geeky kid that stands by himself on the playground, thick glasses, and button-down shirt, twiddling his thumbs as everyone else plays sports (I know what it’s like — I was a geeky kid like that). Bloggers have been commenting about the seemingly deficient battery life, the weight, the size, and the cognitive dissonance of going back and forth from the Modern UI to the classic desktop. On top of that, many have been bloviating about how the “Surface is no iPad killer.”

Let me stand apart from the fray and discuss why I think the Surface devices are forging a completely new paradigm shift for computing.

When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, they ushered in the “tablet era” and revolutionized mobile computing. Although people have been moving to laptops and away from desktop computers for quite some time, in one fell swoop the iPad sped up the move away from being tethered to a desktop. Combined with the App Store, Apple made mobile computing and the cloud real for the masses. In my opinion, the iPad represented the first real example of how mobile computing and cloud technology combine to provide an experience of how people really want to connect with devices and each other. I knew something big was afoot when I was in a mall watching an older gentleman swiping through screens on his iPad. In one device, Apple captured how most people want to interact with technology.

Humans are funny creatures, however. They will naturally try to evolve their own perceptions of what a device means to them and try to make it adapt to their environment, needs and desires. People love the “lean-back” experience of consuming content on the iPad. But many wanted it to do more — they want productivity apps. They want to work with it. They want to always BE with it and make it an integral part of their lives. Many already do this with their smartphones. Inevitably, developers starting building apps to unleash the power of productivity on the iPad.

The app world has moved fast. Developers are innovating at lightning speed. Much faster than Apple’s UI and OS developers can keep up. Supporting two devices that are selling faster than  Chinese kids can screw them together, combined with updating the OS and the built-in apps to keep up with how people are using them, has kept Apple on the edge of its capabilities. Compromises are made. The fragmentation of its operating systems are starting to show. The rough edges are exposed. The “old-school” textured backgrounds in iOS, the debacle of Maps, the bandwidth leaks, and so on show a company splitting at the seams with its strategy as it tries to stay the dominant player in the market.

Along comes Microsoft with a different perspective of how Buy Viagra an operating system should support its users. Instead of two OS’s and a fragmentation between devices, Microsoft builds a new OS to blend the lean-back experience with the desktop experience and give the user control over how to interact with their device. They decide to build their own hardware to control the experience. They fundamentally provide a different perspective on what a “tablet” computing experience represents. Enabling the lean-back (what I call the “entertainment mode”) with the “productivity mode” in a form factor that supports both touch and input devices tells the world they’re not going to dictate how their users should interact with the device. In one operating system, Microsoft is saying, “you can traverse between your tablet, your laptop and the Xbox and determine how you want to interact with the device in a seamless fashion, picking up where you left off.” A completely different approach than Apple, which has a disturbingly complex and confusing cloud strategy, a stretched-to-the-max hardware strategy. It seems like Apple’s current strategy is to tack on a few “blingies” to the existing line and host a new launch party. (See the convoluted iPad product family as an example.)

The Surface Pro sold out at Microsoft's Palo Alto retail store today.

Then there is the contrast between the user interfaces. Microsoft’s Modern UI is nimble, flexible, and approachable. iOS is still trying to shake off the legacy of the Jobsian look-and-feel, which is to try and be cute and clever with “real-world” textures and metaphors to physical objects. Firing Forstall was necessary, but Apple is years away from where Microsoft is already. Windows 8 begs you to touch. It wants you to interact with it. I’m tired of fumbling around iOS, falling into holes where the way I use my device is just not well thought out.

Having said all this: The Surface devices, in my opinion, represent how I will interact with my mobile device. When I want to consume content, it provides me a quick, snappy way to engage. It supports an app store experience like any other device. When I need to be productive and “get things done” I have the perfect interface in which to focus on work. I don’t have to try and make the OS work for me and accept compromises (I mean, just try to get Pages to really WORK on iOS — and many features on iPad’s version of Pages are different than OS X’s version).

Bloggers are beating Microsoft up, but history will show it has the right strategy. The Surface devices are representative of how humans want to interact. Sure, battery life will get better, the devices will get thinner. This is version 1, folks. Right now, Apple is the schoolyard bully, throwing it’s punches — but I’d rather be Microsoft right now: the geeky kid with the pocket protector, holding the key to “getting the girl”.



Many of us accept friend requests from people we don’t know on social networks for different reasons. We may want to grow our network, connect to influencers, or simply find new people to share with. However, you may want to be a bit more careful who you accept those friend requests from. Especially if you owe money.

It seems like those pesky debt collectors have turned to friending people on social networks to electronic cigarette demo publicly shame them into paying their bills. So if you get a friend request from a complete stranger that also happens to be a hottie in a bikini, be sure to second guess the request.

Federal regulators are weighing new restrictions on how debt collectors can use social networks as they work to impose federal oversight over the debt collection industry for the first time. Read more about this at Bloomberg.

Found this terrific post on the emerging “peer-to-peer” economy and its potential problems. A lot has been circulating recently about Uber‘s service and others like it. Tom Slee has taken the time to uncover some of the issues that unregulated services bring with them:

In Peer-to-Peer Hucksterism Slee contrasts what the founders of AirBnB and who makes electronic cigarettes Uber are saying about “community” versus what they’re doing as a “business”. As P2P becomes more prevalent and becomes funded and backed by billionaire venture capitalists, it begs the question about how much regulation is needed. Especially in light of the tragic rape of the young Indian woman who was traveling on an unregulated bus.

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