Friday, June 27, 2008

Astonishingly Bad Best Buy Experience

So I live in Colorado and have a data center in Northern Virginia. I need to upgrade a Dell server to 8 GB of memory in a hurry - overnight shipping won't do. Dell provides me with the exact Kingston memory part number I need. All I need to do is find a store near the data center that has it and I can get it delivered to the facility - by courier if necessary.

I call the Best Buy in Sterling. Press "3" to talk to a Sales Associate. Wait about 10 rings and get an answer. I explain that I need Kingston part number KTD-WS667/2G. He checks the system and says we are sold out - I have nothing here for KVR-WT....

No, I say that is KTD-WS667/2G. He says we just had a sale on it and I think we are sold out. No I can't find that part number in the system. We have nothing matching KLS-66 etc.

Hmmm, I say, you keep mentioning the wrong number, maybe you have a different number in your system or something - why don't you Google it so you can see which one I am talking about - I am looking at the Google results for it right here.

Ok, he says...Google returns nothing. Well, I'm looking at results here, I say. Maybe it's my Proxy he says, I'll try the Kingston site.

Cool, so I repeat the part number. That's K as in Ken, T as in Tony, D as in Dave, etc.

Well I can't find anything under WLR-KS67 at all, he says.

By now I am sure that either:

a) He is a complete moron.
b) He is completely f***ing with me.
c) I somehow got lost in Idiocracy.

I politely say, well I guess you don't have it, I'll try one of the other Best Buy stores.

So I call each of the closest Best Buy stores in turn pressing "3" to speak to an associate each time. No answer whatsoever. One just goes click after 20 rings and leaves me in oblivion. At this point, I am convinced that this guy is answering the phone for all the local stores and won't even pick up the 303 area code he sees coming in on Caller ID.

Wow. I'm speechless. But as this post attests, not wordless...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Extra, Extra! Future Wireless Technology Promises Amazing Mobile Speeds!

This morning, the Denver Post picks up a Washington Post story and headlines - WiMax technology promises faster wireless service. Why is this important? The news about the Clearwire/Sprint/Intel/Google/Comcast/Time Warner/Bright House deal started its life last week in the Wall Street Journal and quickly moved to the tech blogs like GigaOm and TechCrunch. For the remainder of the week and through the weekend it bounced around the tech and policy blogs with everyone revising opinions and emphasizing different angles. On Monday morning it is now a headline in a big city daily, with the bulk of the tech and policy implications cleansed and the story promising users all the neat things they will be able to do within two years as the service rolls out.

Clearly, the fact that this story has such legs is a big win for the stakeholders. A few weeks ago, Sprint and Clearwire were getting the media raspberry for playing coy on the rollout of the then titled Xohm service at CTIA. LTE was all the news with ATT and Verizon promising LTE networks coming soon. Now with CTIA in the rearview mirror, WiMax is dominating the wireless news and garnering prominent mentions in the mainstream media. The goal for the WiMax Gang of Six of course, is to have people asking, "That's great, when can I get it?" That goal appears to be well on its way. While perhaps not the best technology available, WiMax now is off life support and breathing while LTE and other 4G tech is still riding around on Big Wheels. I'm guessing the gang planned their timing this way.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Brick and Byte Play

In comparison shopping land, we like to throw some big numbers around. Stuff like the market for online transactions reached $175 billion in 2007 and is expected to reach $335 billion by 2012. The shopping comparison game is simple - we provide a service that makes it easy for consumers to compare prices and decide where they want to buy. When they click through to the retailer after conducting the research on our site, they are more likely to buy from that retailer than the consumer who has not done the price research first, say by simply searching for the product in Google or Yahoo. The retailers gladly pay us back for sending these pre-qualified shoppers their direction and we earn our cut of the $175 billion.

How many of us, though, research online and purchase offline? Plenty according to an Accenture study. 67% in fact. In other words 2/3 of us are more likely to conduct research on sites like Pronto and then purchase the product in a retail store. So how to get a slice of that bigger pie and provide ever more useful searching for you? Start including local results in the search results.

Disclosure: I, of course, work for Pronto and yes, I know, local is the new global so we are not alone here. Dig around though, and see the future. Brick and mortar is becoming brick and byte.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ways to Limit Free Speech on the Web by Promoting Free Speech

Paul Kapustka formerly of GigaOm now with his own cutting blog, Sidecut Reports, has an excellent post up regarding some fake "news" created as a PR effort by internet providers to suggest that there is a grass roots movement against network neutrality on free speech grounds.

He was particularly bemused that mainstream media outlets picked up on it as news rather than the flogging it actually was. However, it is worth noting here that the free speech implications of the network neutrality debate are particularly pointed. At only one time in our history have we let our government restrict speech in public communications and that was for over the air broadcasting. In particular, the FCC believed that over the air broadcasting a) was in the public interest to promote and b) utilized a scarce resource (wireless spectrum). As such, they believed that they had to create strict rules on what broadcasters could and could not say in order to ensure that the scarce airwaves were used to their maximum public benefit. Without the scarcity of the airwaves, all things that wanted to get published to the airwaves, in theory, would have been.

Those who argue that P2P file sharing creates scarcity on the internet and thus limits the freedom of speech are playing right into the public interest/scarcity trap that gave the FCC the right to regulate speech in the 1940s to the present day. And that, my friends, would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Network Solutions Wants to Make Sure that Nothing Unfortunate Happens to Your Domain

Network Solutions has hit on an ingenious business strategy. If you ask them if a domain name is available and it is, they'll hold it for 4 days so you can only purchase it from them. No need for any pesky shopping around - you can't. If you want it, you need to fork over $34 instead of cruising over to GoDaddy or some other site and paying $10.

They say this practice combats folks who capitalize on Domain Name Front Running or finding lists of domains that were recently queried and buying them in advance, so they can extract a higher cost in resale. In an extraordinary act of Chutzpah, Network Solutions insists that its practice prevents such front running by keeping a customer's recent query from being purchased by another party who could then charge them a premium or otherwise keep them from purchasing the name.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, people, but Network Solutions is holding the name so that they can charge a premium over other providers. That is the definition of Domain Name Front Running. Thank goodness they are protecting me from the bad guys.

Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one who's noticed and they are subject to a class action suit. Now to wait four days to register our wedding site with GoDaddy. Glad I didn't just order all the Save the Date cards with the domain name printed on them after checking first on Network Solutions to see if it was available or anything and then getting the bright idea to shop somewhere else. Really that would have been quite foolish.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

All Along It Really Has Been All About the Eyeballs

When I moved from working in the internet B2B space to the internet B2C space in the summer of 2006, I quickly grasped what I had only partially comprehended previously - that the "free" consumer internet economy is entirely based on people clicking through sponsored search listings, banner ads and other paid placements. I quickly concluded that were two types of people in the world - those that clicked on sponsored listings and those that didn't. Recent market research directly illustrates that point. 6% of internet users generate 50% of the ad clicks. Furthermore, those clickers constitute the demographic least likely to complete an online purchase.

The more finally honed this research becomes over time, the more internet advertisers will learn that the inputs don't equal the outputs in the click ad model. In fact, the whole business is much like the greater fool theory in which the existing players profit off the willingness of new players to enter and profit themselves. If ever, new entrants start to decline or find new and inventive ways to drive traffic to their sites and capitalize on their presence, then the click market as a whole will begin to dry up and the master click arbitrager at the top will need to innovate or die.

All this brings me to the idea of internet advertising as a whole and its relationship to television advertising. Why has television advertising been wildly successful and internet advertising not so much as reported above? For instance, an advertiser will pay a lot more for 30 seconds on network television, while relying on old fashioned methods to determine the impact they've had on the viewer and the subsequent return on investment, where as web ads come a lot cheaper but offer far more information regarding their actual utility to the advertiser. What web advertisers are coming to realize as television advertisers did as well generations ago is that it is all about the eyeballs after all, which is of course what we all said at the dawn of the internet anyway. As clicks come to be devalued as junk, the cost of spot based advertising will rise. Thus companies with something to sell online will compete to have their ads displayed in as many prominent locations on the web as possible and not be nearly as concerned as making sure that the click through is monetized. In fact, they may not even pay for the click at all.

Spot based advertising on the web of course has a much higher value than it does in old media, as we know so much more about you from the scripts running on the site while you are there. The effectiveness of the campaign will be far more easy to characterize for the advertiser then it ever was on TV. And as old and new media inevitably converge, web ads are becoming more and more like their television predecessors. The circle is complete.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Smokin' Third Pipe

GigaOm reports today that Stelera Wireless is offering high speed rural broadband services over the AWS-1 spectrum it picked up at auction in 2006.

Rural Texas Gets Superfast Wireless Broadband - GigaOM

Stelera currently owns all the AWS-1 rural licenses here in Colorado, so we are particularly interested to see how their rollout progresses. The success of offerings such as these will go a long way toward delivering the long promised third broadband pipe.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Stick a Fork in the 700 MHz C Block Bidding

It looks like the bidding for the national C Block is complete and the regional bidders have won. Round 34 is complete and no new bids were entered for any of the crucial regions encompassing the 50 states since round 30 meaning that any bidders three waivers were used up. Whether one bidder won them all or they were split is unknown, but the Open Access rules for which Google and others heavily lobbied will go into effect as the block did crest its 4.6 billion dollar minimum.

There is a small chance given the complex auction rules that another bidder in the A or B blocks has bid enough since round 30 to qualify to enter another bid for one of the C Block regions but that possibility seems far fetched. Saul Hansell of the NY Times Bits Blog, Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch and Tim Farrar of TMF Associates have all offered expert analysis leading up to this point.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

700 MHz Auction Drama

Saul Hansell of the NY Times Bits Technology Blog offers an insightful take on the current status of the 700 MHz auction - Spectrum Auction Teeters on the Brink of Success - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog. Someone is sitting on a 4.3 billion dollar bid for the nationwide C Block and they need to bid tomorrow or they risk being out of the auction. If the total doesn't hit 4.6 billion by the end of the auction, then the FCC will have to re-auction this block off in the future.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

73 Bids Sail Out

FCC auction #73 for the 700 MHz Spectrum to be vacated by the broadcasters in 2009 opened today. The days two opening rounds of bids netted 2.4 billion of an estimated 10 billion bound for the US Treasury. Notably, there was a 472 million dollar bid on the D Block, which any provider must give over to the government for use as public safety frequency during an emergency. With Frontline Wireless bowing out, many had speculated that this spectrum would go unbid.

The largest bid of the day was over 1 billion for 8 combined areas of the C Block covering all 50 states. Google led a coalition of organizations who lobbied for open device access in this band. The auction could last weeks. Stay tuned for further updates.
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