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News & Views Jan 17

Companies would be so much smarter for using Smart Cards. The Merc has a cover story on the use of Smart Cards by the military – all very similar to my days at Sun (the Smart Cards – not the military). The overall solution was so much better than the conventional badge access used by many corporations. My Java Card – as Sun calls them – allowed me access to the building and also served as my primary security log-on for computing. I just slid it in my Sun Ray and bingo, there was my compute session just like I left it. The WSJ also covers this in today’s Technology Report with a story on the savings resulting from Sun Ray-like technologies. These devices are as much a productivity boon as they are a cost saver.

Looking Back At Apple Week. It’s amazing to me how effective Apple’s PR machine has become. Or maybe how wrapped-up in Apple the media and public is these days. Apple is locked in a seemingly unstoppable positive news cycle.

First, let me say that I’m a die-hard Apple fan and Powerbook user – and I’m nothing like these guys – and I’m not about to switch Skyler! But I found last week’s announcements underwhelming. The new cheap desktop seemed to be a refresh on the Cube – albeit tipped on it’s side, encased in metal and much cheaper (the Cube started at around $1800). This isn’t a cheap desktop though. This is a cheap desktop. Or this. While not many Journalists picked-up on this, the Merc did take a look at iLife and the new iPod shuffle. Neither particularly innovative products. I do like and recommend iPhoto and iTunes but have little interest in the rest of the package and wonder why I am forced to buy them.

It also bugs me that there is still no specific launch date for Tiger and that none of these new products were on display at the Apple Stores over the weekend. From my POV this is a massive marketing oversight. I get the whole “building buzz” thing but believe we’ve moved to an increasingly real-time marketing environment. No one but the die-hard fan (that’s me) is going to keep coming back for second looks. The rest of the market simply moves on. Tip For Communicators #1 – Make Sure People Can (At Least) Experience The Products You Launch! Apple has done a good job of this on the Web, but what’s the point of the Apple store if I can’t experience new products there with all the evangelizing power of the best trained retail team in the business.

Tip For Communicators #2 – Build An Awesome Demo Foundry! Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs’ demo crashes also continue to be a talking point. One thing I will be eternally grateful of at Sun was the quality of the demo team – they were simply the best. All communications teams should be investing in a ‘demo foundry’ that brings cool technology to life. An in between keynotes they can produce stunning content based on their technical smarts and insight – take a look at Sun’s Science Notes

Hi-Tech Marketing Confuses Marketers – No Kidding! I’m on a bit of a Merc roll. Great story via AP on how Tech marketing confuses customers.

High-tech companies don’t release products anymore, they provide solutions. And those solutions don’t simply run a program or play a song. Instead, they enable experiences, optimize agility or make people’s passions come alive.

Say what?

Here are some of the worst offending buzzwords highlighted by AP:

Solution: Instead of making a product or offering a service, technology companies “provide solutions.” Whether the solutions solve actual problems is a different matter.
Bandwidth: Technically refers to the capacity of a communications line, but is now used much more broadly. For example, people might say they don’t have enough “personal bandwidth” (translation: time) to do a project.
Paradigm: An example or model.
Scalable: The ability of a computer or system to get bigger, typically as more users are added.
Synergy: Usually means that combining forces produces a better product – although that’s not always the case in the software world. Also seen in reference to corporate mergers.
Robust: Implies that a product is bug-free and will work under rigorous circumstances. In many products, this claim can be debated.
World-class, best-of-breed, bleeding-edge, state-of-the-art: Variations on the claim that this is a unique and superior product.
E-anything: Something that is now being done online or in another electronic space, such as e-commerce or e-mail.
Win-win: A deal where everyone allegedly benefits.

Tip For Communicators #3 – Scan For Hollow Words and Phrases. Take five or so of you most recent press releases, web articles, brochures and scan for the repeat offenders. Circulate the list and get them out of your materials.

The Naked Corporation & Communicator. Interesting opinion piece by Gordon Crovitz of Dow Jones in the WSJ this morning looking at new proposed rules from the SEC that will allow Internet broadcasts of IPO roadshows. Well about time! Technology will continue to drive transparency, leveling the playing field just as it has done before.

In the mid-1800s, James Rothschild foretold the impact of the Internet. His family had become the world’s leading banking institution by setting up offices throughout Europe, gathering intelligence and delivering it in private letters by courier and sometimes by pigeon, tipping one another off to the latest news. They used this confidential information to move local markets. But Rothschild began in the 1850s to complain, “The telegraph is ruining our business.”

Crovitz also makes some interesting points on the nature of financial markets as early adopters:

Technology changes tend to revolutionize the financial industry first because it’s early adapters in the markets who can most easily justify the effort and expense of embracing innovations. Wall Street was the first neighborhood to be “electrified” by Edison, and after the lighting of offices, an early commercial use of electricity was to power ticker machines that sped financial information (often originally transmitted by the telegraph) to traders and brokers…. It may take some time before our culture can adjust to always-on information. James Rothschild called it “a crying shame that the telegraph had been established,” delivering market news even as he took the waters on his summer vacation. “One has too much to think about when bathing, which is not good,” he wrote. Our wired, 24/7 world gives us the unprecedented privilege of limitless access. It also imposes new obligations on us to become more informed and, as regulators yield to the tide of information, to make the most of our new knowledge.

Citizen Journalism Site To Debut. Via Steve, TakeBacktheNews.Com will debut next week.

And then there is this little doozy… My faith has been restored in the media…

Have a great week!

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