Netflix – Again

The Netflix topic is like the gift that keeps on giving.  Last month I was working on a post with three take-away lessons from their summer price change fiasco.  In the middle of drafting that post, Update One to that post became necessary – Netflix said they were sorry for handling it so badly, and now they were splitting into two companies.

So much chatter ensued as a result of that move by Netflix that I put out Update Two about some of the reasons which may have been behind it.

Update Three noted that none other than Roger Ebert had weighed in on the topic.  And Update Four posted a great Saturday Night Live skit on the subject.  A skit I should point out, that now looks hopelessly out of date.

Which brings me to Update Five:…

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Amazon Ups the Ante On Publishers Again

Back in August, I noted that Amazon was stepping up its nascent publishing efforts to allow authors to sell directly to its customers without going through a traditional publishing house.   Yesterday’s New York Times points out in an article entitled Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal, that Amazon is dramatically accelerating its efforts.  Should be interesting to watch.  Below are a few key pull-outs from the article:

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Godspeed, Steve

The world lost a great mind today.   Although I had warning, I am still more deeply affected than I would have expected.  I have admired and respected Steve Jobs and adored his products for almost 30 years. Apple is almost entirely responsible for two of the most abiding passions of my life – a fascination with technology and what it makes possible, and a love of excellent design.  When well executed, computers are, as Jobs called them, “a bicycle for the mind.”  There is no business figure I have read more books and articles about, watched more of, or followed with greater interest.  Watching him get sicker and sicker over these last years has been truly awful, and, as odd as it is to say about the CEO of a for-profit company making consumer electronic devices, I feel like a little piece of me died today as well.  I truly will miss him.  I can think of no better way to mark his passing than to dig up the following note I wrote him right after his liver transplant, a month after the iPad debut, when he had begun to make regular headlines for answering the occasional private email, and Apple was taking a lot of heat for refusing to support flash on the iPhone.

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10 Best Things About Apple’s iOS 5 [Updated]

[Originally Published on July 10; Updated on October 3].  In honor of Apple’s big iPhone announcement tomorrow, I thought it was worth republishing this list of the best things about Apple’s iOS 5.  It will be awesome.  Most of the focus will be on the new hardware, but the fact is that it is really the software that will make a bigger difference to most people.  There is something for everyone to look forward to amongst the 200+ new features headed our way.  Here’s the list of the top 10 things I am most psyched about:

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Why Google+ Will be a Big Win for Google (and the rest of us) [UPDATED]

[Originally Published July 19, 2011.  See current updates at end.]

Its always dangerous to make predictions, especially with Google, which tends to (1) garner an inordinate amount of breathless coverage for its every initiative and (2) reveal its true plans slowly while it plays for the long, long, term.  But I’ve been thinking about, reading about and messing about with Google+ quite a bit since getting my invitation a little over a week ago, and based on my observations so far, I am willing to venture that this one is going to be a biggie.  Here’s a baker’s dozen reasons why:

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NFC? NFW! (Near Field Communications is Total Hype) [Updated]

The buzz about near field communications (NFC) is totally missing the point.  NFC is just a contactless (or nearly contactless) replacement for swiping a credit card. But who cares?  The swipe really doesn’t need replacing.  It is no more trouble to swipe a credit card than it is to tap a smartphone on a pad.  20 credit cards stacked up in your pocket is still a tenth the size and weight of your smartphone.  Saving that weight or hassle when you are headed to the gym is hardly a compelling vision.  It is just not valuable to consumers or merchants, especially when you consider the hassles one has to go to in order to manage the security risks.

The excitement is misplaced.  The things to get excited about are systems which handle the payment for you by tapping into the smarts of a mobile device and your identity and your context to create a relationship between you and the vendor, to the potential benefit of both.  Currently an NFC tap is every bit as anonymous and devoid of context as the tried & true credit card swipe.  What you want is a system that knows it is you and allows the merchant to relate to you in the form of loyalty awards, discounts and relevant offers.

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Netflix: 3 Lessons From the Pricing Fiasco [UPDATED]

It is by now fairly well known that Netflix had a little bit of a boo-boo recently in switching its pricing plans to force people to pay separately for physical DVDs and streaming.  Customers left the service in droves.  They tried to distract/counteract with an announcement about launching in Latin America, but to no avail.  More customers left than expected, they had to revise their guidance downward and they took a beating on NASDAQ.

Now, I like Netflix very much, and I don’t want to pick on them unfairly – according to their records, I have been a loyal customer since May of 2000, which is a lot of years for those keeping score at home.  But we cannot pass up this chance to purse our lips, grab our chins and shake our heads sagely.  Lest this excellent case study go to waste, let’s ponder what we can learn from this.  Three primary lessons leap to mind:

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Something From Nothing – Bringing the Store to the Customer

Grocery giant Tesco has launched a mind-boggling new experiment in South Korea.  Ranked at Number 2 in the country’s market, Tesco had fewer stores than its number one competitor, EMart.  Yet it wanted to move into number 1 without adding any stores.  The solution they came up with was nothing short of brilliant, but it wasn’t just a lucky guess; it came from thorough and thoughtful study of the customer.

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Amazon Moves Up the Food Chain

I guess this is the week for partner conflict.  With Samsung, and HTC still reeling from Google’s announcement that they are getting into the mobile phone manufacturing business (discussion here), Amazon has now announced it is stepping up its nascent publishing efforts and going to war with the traditional publishers who have feed its business for so long.  Amazon has signed on to be the direct publisher of Timothy Ferriss, author famous for his series of “4 Hour” titles. The NYT had a great article on this and my four favorite quotes are set out below.

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Why Did LogMeIn Buy Pachube?

A couple weeks ago newly IPO’ed Boston area company LogMeIn announced it had acquired one of the cooler companies in the “internet of things” space, Pachube.   I’ve long followed the space and continue to find it fascinating (for some great articles, check out ReadWriteWeb’s internet of things topic archive here).  I agree with Cisco that the number of devices on the internet is undoubtedly going to be huge, and I think Pachube is a really cool project to help drive people in that direction with their API and community.

I am a LogMeIn user – it’s a great service.  In particular, I like the ability to totally control a computer from an iPad while on the beach, using their Ignition iOS app.  For those large desktop programs you cannot, and generally would not want to, have running on a tablet or smartphone, it can be just the ticket for taking care of that one desktop chore that would have otherwise forced you back into the office.

So I am clear that they are both great companies.  But where I get a little fuzzy is exactly what LogMeIn, which focuses on human interaction with remote computers wants with Pachube which is focused exclusively on device interaction with remote computers.

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