Free

Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail has an interesting article on how “free” will change the marketplace.

And if you are one of the first 10,000 people to sign up (US only), you get a free copy of Wired magazine delivered to your home.

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Building a better error message

While trying to plan a family vacation, I came across the following error page on the homepage of a movie theater:

error_small.jpg
(Click to enlarge image)

If I were the hosting company, I would make a few changes:

  1. Attitude – Come back tomorrow? What about the hosting company being proactive and calling the website owner when this shows up on their site.
  2. Contact – E-mail support. There is no e-mail address on the error message. How do I contact them?
  3. Audience – This message was written for the website owner. This is okay, but the majority of the visitors to the website will be surfers. What can I do as a visitor to the website to take action?

Bonus: Go have fun for a moment and create your own customized Windows error message here.

AT&T ‘s vision of the future (circa 1993)

I ran across these 1993 AT&T TV commercials on YouTube. This series of ads was called “You Will”. Maybe you remember them (like I do). Take a look:

According to AT&T (circa 1993), in the future “you will” be able to:

  • Borrow a book from thousands of miles away
  • Cross the country without stopping for directions
  • Send someone a fax from the beach
  • Pay a toll without slowing down
  • Buy concert tickets from a cash machine
  • Tuck your baby in from a phone booth
  • Open doors with the sound of your voice
  • Carry your medical history in your wallet
  • Attend a meeting in your bare feet
  • Watch a movie you wanted to the minute you wanted to
  • Learn special things from far away places

In 2007, I believe that all of these technologies are either available or could be done. However, and correct me if I am wrong, I don’t believe that AT&T brought us any of these ideas. Why is that? Why did AT&T have the vision of the future and yet was unable create any of it?

Here’s my take. First, I believe that no single company (or at least one single brand) could have developed all of these future current technologies. Consumers want brands that stand for something unique and not one company to deliver everything. Today, consumers look to TomTom for GPS navigation systems, Tivo to watch a movie the minute they want to, and TicketMaster for their concert tickets.

So, why isn’t AT&T a leader in any of these technologies? I think Mack Collier from The Viral Garden said it best:

When you think of AT&T, you think of landlines, rotary dials, and the Reagan administration.

In other words, the “future” can not come from an old, tired brand like AT&T. The future can only come from brands that bring to mind innovation, differentiation and pushing the limits (think Apple).

Why do you think AT&T (or any company for that matter) can have a clear vision of the future but not play a part in it?

Seth Godin’s vision of the web

Seth Godin has an awesome post about his vision of the web. He calls it Web4. What is Web4 you ask? Seth says it’s “about making connections, about serendipity and about the network taking initiative”. A few of my favorite ideas from Seth about how Web4 could be are:

I’m late for a dinner. My GPS phone knows this (because it has my calendar, my location, and the traffic status). So, it tells me, and then it alerts the people who are waiting for me.

My PDA knows I’m going to a convention. Based on my email logs, it recommends who I ought to see while I’m there–because my friends have opted in to our network and we’re in sync.

I’m about to buy something from a vendor (in a store with a smart card or online). At the last minute, Web4 jumps in and asks if I want it cheaper, or if I want it from a vendor with a better reputation. Not based on some gamed system, but based on what a small trusted circle believes.

Another idea I would add is:

Its Friday night. I am bored. My GPS phone knows that a few of my friends are available because it knows their schedules as well. My phone recommends a place to meet based on our GPS location, hang out wait times and our previous chat conversations, and sends out the invites to my friends. Once we decide where to go, my phone sends out a reservation alerting the club/restaurant/hang-out spot that we are coming.

What are your ideas for Web4?

Automatic car stereo clock updates

questionmark1.jpgConfession: I still have not reset my car stereo clock since day light savings in October. This particular car stereo clock is very difficult to remember the button sequence in order to change the time. I have pull out the car manual each time and try and figure it out. So basically for half the year my clock is correct and the other half of the year I just remember to subtract an hour (I know, I am lazy).

But this got me thinking. Why doesn’t a company invent a car stereo clock that automatically sets itself to the US Atomic Clock? I mean, some wristwatches and alarm clocks are automatically set to the US Atomic Clock. So why not in the clock in our cars? I hope this is only a matter of time before we start seeing this.

The iPhone and AT&T?

Today in a PR release, AT&T announced that beginning Monday of next week it will start to transition “the Cingular brand to AT&T in advertising and customer communications, throughout Web sites and nationwide retail stores, and on company buildings and vehicles.” This re-branding effort should take place over the next several months.

This begs the question. Now that Steve Jobs has showcased the new Apple iPhone and announced that Cingular will provide the cell phone service, how will the “debranding” of Cingular and the emergence of AT&T affect the relationship with the iPhone? Will the AT&T brand be able to keep pace with the iPhone? I think the most telling part of this story may come from the AT&T PR release itself:

AT&T, the standard bearer of communications excellence for more than a century, is getting younger on Monday, when the company folds the six year-old Cingular wireless name into the iconic AT&T brand.

So in other words, the iPhone is a sexy, sleek phone that is well ahead of it’s time and it will be coupled with a tired, century old brand instead of the younger, hipper brand. I don’t think the century old brand image of AT&T meshes with the sexy brand image of Apple. I mean, even my grandma dressed in sexy black dress is still my grandma!

What are your thoughts?

Taking a picture of the inside of my pocket

pocketpicture.pngNo, this isn’t the punch line of an adult-content joke. This is more of a plea to cell phone companies.

I have had a couple of different camera flip cell phone over the last year. The problem is I can’t stand to wear my cell phone on a belt clip so I just drop my phone into my pocket. I cannot tell you how many times I have bumped the camera button and taken a picture of the inside of my pocket (not too impressive during a business meeting might I add). Why can’t cell phone companies make a way to disable the camera button (and the volume button while we’re at it) when the phone is in the closed position? Maybe I just have a cheap phone.