California till Saturday

Hanging out with family on the shores of Tomales Bay near Marshall, California on 800 acres of West Marin perfection. Some meetings in San Francisco then home to the Cape on Friday night. Photos to follow. I think this is my first San Franciscan summer visit since 1982 and all cliches about it being cold and foggy certainly do apply.

Internet is a function of a Hughes satellite dish, so connectivity is here, but cell coverage is not.

Bloatware Creeps Into Android Phones | Gadget Lab |

A true test of a consumer electronics brand’s strength and fidelity to the customer and not pure profit is their ability to withstand the siren call of junking up their products with crapware/bloatware. For some devices the bounties paid by second tier software providers is the difference between turning a PC or a phone from a loss leader to a profit engine. Does Apple do that? Or Google? Nope. But HTC and Sprint did with my EVO, junking it up with a foolish NASCAR and NFL widget more pernicious and tenacious than a toenail fungus. It is amazing how any app or widget on the phone associated with the handset maker (HTC) or the network provider (Sprint) is invariably a P.O.S.

“But bloatware isn’t a feature in all smartphones. AT&T hasn’t piled extraneous software onto Apple’s iPhone. Motorola’s Droid phone ships with just the core applications. Google and T-Mobile resisted the bloatware impulse with the Nexus One.”

But not the rest of the gang. Put the user first and at least make this stuff easy to remove. Forever. Please

via Bloatware Creeps Into Android Phones | Gadget Lab |

Of Device and Men

In the 1990s (when exactly I cannot say because the their archive has no search function) declared that the American cure for depression was the consumption of consumer electronics. Feel blue? Buy a Palm Pilot. Feeling stupid? Buy the folding external keyboard and the wireless data modem for that Palm Pilot. 3D televisions, gaming consoles, the latest Call of Duty, handheld weather stations, binnacle mounted GPS-Nav Chart Plotters with integrated radar and XM Satellite radio …. Then there is the whole Apple addiction, with something from Cupertino to pine for at least every six months. Add in all those iTunes downloads, Kindle books, Netflix, paid apps, online subscriptions to get through costwalls: I need to do a digital audit of my finances. Off the top of my head — from DSL to DirectTV to cell phone subscriptions, the big ticket recurring items, I’m spending $500 a month on digital services and easily $1000 a year family wide on new devices. I guess all those days picking through Garry Ray’s discards in the PC Week lab infected me with the need to try new stuff.

When will it end? I joke that in my retirement there will be no PCs. But what about cell phones? When my eyesight really goes and I start reading large-font books (thank god for the Kindle’s font sizer), will I own a large font cell phone like a Jitterbug? (note to self, burgeoning market in elderly CE devices).

It didn’t end today. I killed the Blackberry after four years of Lotus Notes/RIM BES mediocrity and embraced my inner Google ecosystem and bought my first real App phone, an HTC Evo running on Sprint’s 4G network. Why no iPhone? I get the iPhone experience and know full well the Apple ecosystem of iTunes, AppleTV, iPods, and now my iPad. Great experience, wonderful design …. but:

  • Android is going to pull away in terms of share very quickly.
  • I am a Google person: Chrome is my browser. Gmail is how I read my email. I use Gmail’s contact manager. I use Google calendar.  Google Docs. Google News ….pretty much everything except Google Talk and Google Voice. Android loves Google and Google loves Andy Ruben. It all works together, and had I lived on a Mac I’d probably a MobileMe person, or whatever it that Apple calls its cloud suite.
  • The iPhone 4 is on AT&T and I want to get off AT&T. AT&T’s Android offerings are weak compared to Verizon (Droid X) and Sprint (EVO)
  • Sprint’s 4G sounds cool but it will come to Cape Cod after I adopt a unicorn and teach it to fart glitter. For now, it’s an urban phenomenon.
  • Kindle for Android
  • No Skype. No ooVo. Guess I’ll wait for Adobe’s new “facetime” video call app.

So, to Best Buy for the EVO. I asked the clerk about the memory, and she said 32 GB. Wrong, it has eight. The porting of my number off of AT&T and onto Sprint was the usual Kafka Samsa Cockroach dive into “wait while I transfer you to technical support” but eventually I was out the door and on my way. The phone is nice, more a handheld mobile internet device than a phone really. Portable Wifi (I am retiring my Verizon MiFi) hot spot so I can tether my ThinkPad and iPad off it; decent camera, and a hardware build about what you would expect. Not Apple level, but not too bad either. If one handset maker would try to hit Apple in the build-quality space they could carve a good segment out of the Android market. HTC is no Apple, but they are going great guns after famously being Google’s hardware partner for the first Android phone, the G1 and then the recently discontinued Nexus One. The Taiwanese company’s rise to the forefront (it helps to be a Tour de France fan as HTC is cosponsoring a pro bike team this summer) in handsets is pretty remarkable and due in large part to their position as Google’s favored nation for building reference platforms.

I configured the following apps on the Evo

  • Dropbox because Dropbox is still far and away the best “hard drive in the sky” that there is. I save ALL my files to my Dropbox folder and can get them from the iPad, the EVO, and via any browser on any device.
  • Doubletwist for music management. First to free my music from the tyranny of iTunes, second because it has the same slick synch integration that iTunes does, but with any device.
  • Evernote for being a packrat and saving notes, voice memos, snapshots, and URLs
  • Pandora internet radio because everyone raves about it and I didn’t have it on my Blackberry
  • “At Bat,” now the third time I have paid the only major league sport that  truly understands digital apps another stack for cash  get scores, watch highlights, and read stats
  • And several utilities, widgets, etc.

What else to say? In the end, it just something to deliver a little more noise and as the Fake Steve Jobs would say, a “little more shittiness” in our lives. But what am I complaining about? I dig little computers.

So with all of six hours on Android, let me make the comparisons to Apple  — at least the iPad experience which is needless to say a stupid basis to talk a slate form factor versus an app phone. But nevertheless — there is a lot of similarities and differences that have me persuaded that people will focus their online lives on three devices:  app phone, pad, and clamshell notebook/netbook. The three macro use-cases are obvious. Smartphone for rapid response communications and idle-moment-diversions; pad for consumption of film, book, newspaper, blog, and games; clamshell-keyboard notebook for writing long-winded blog posts and the Powerpoint Forced March. Right now Apple has the wide lead on seamlessly integrating all three. Heck, the non-Apple pad market is totally nascent and no Wintel hardware company has brought a successful tablet/pad to market. Yet. There will be a flood of Android tablets leading up to CES, some total clones of the iPad, others laden with proprietary skins and some with a nod to the commercial/enterprise market. The Linux variants and sideplayers like JoliCloud will fall to wayside as Android integration proceed across increasingly bigger screens, culminating with Chrome OS on netbooks.  If Google can control a seamless experience even with the code projects in the open domain, then every hardware manufacturer can dive in and do the “brown bananas” game of competing on price and driving average margins down to a brutal 1%.

Apple has a beautiful interface with rabid attention to detail that Android lacks. There’s something spare and elegant in Apple’s user interface. Android’s is … not as clean. Clean, and the usual gestures of swipe and pinch work well … but still.

Android is very Volkswagen to Apple’s BMW.

So, enough devices, my depression is lifted, my phone number is the same and … farewell Blackberry and onwards into standing astride the dominant mobile internet architectures, slightly schizo but always enlightened.

The Baseball Sermon: Cotuit Federated Church, 52 Churches

Yes, it has been a while since this church project has shown any progress. Trust me, there are two posts in the draft queue awaiting publication, but today I had to mark a significant event: the second annual baseball sermon at my village church here in Cotuit.

The Reverend Jeremy Nickel, my neighbor and friend and baseball buddy, pitched a gem of a sermon last summer at the Federated Church, preaching (to my ears at least) that Dave Roberts, the Red Sox pinch runner who sparked the greatest comeback in sporting history with his steal of second base against the evil Yankees in 2004, opening the door for the Red Sox’s first World Series championship in modern memory, should be canonized and given sainthood for his courage to step off of the bag and fly like the wind into the unknown and future greatness.

This morning Jeremy pitched his final baseball sermon, sadly on his way to California and a lucky congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area. The topic was, “The Imperfect Game”, and with artful elegance and insight the Reverend Nickel recounted the tale of Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galaragga’s tragic reminder that there is no perfection in the human pursuit, only the Daedalusian drive to try, always strive, to find perfection only to see it lost, robbed, by human fallability and fate.

Baseball is indeed a sport of awesome precision and regularity, yet also a pastime rife with errors and the capricious wiles of bad luck, misfortune, and emotion. The distance between the bases, the beautiful geometry of the lines, the time it takes for a catcher to throw a ball to second to try to catch a runner stealing the base …. it all fit beautifully, played out over a numeric routine of innings, outs, strikes, and plays that while tightly prescribed and timeless, is ultimately chaotic and as subject to entropy as anything can be.

The Church:

This is where Churbucks are married, where they are buried. I was married here. I have stood on the altar stairs twice — once as a sweating groom, then before that at my father’s funeral, stammering to choke back tears as I read these lines from Melville in memory of his imperfect but brief  larger-than-life life, and his unrealized dream of sailing around the world:

“”Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

“Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.”

Those were sad words to say, words I always think of when I see the little shingle chapel in my comings and goings from the post office. I am not a parishioner of the church, but it remains my church, and while I planned on saving it as the last and final church in my rounds of 52, it had to happen today, out of respect to Jeremy and his wife Nicole, who are leaving later this summer for their new parishes in California.

The Service:

Fortunately I checked the church website for the time of the service, having mistakenly assumed a 10 am service when in fact summer hours called for a 9 am start. I popped upstairs, put on my 2007 Mike Lowell Red Sox jersey (he was the World Series MVP that year and is to my mind the ultimate Red Sox for his abilities, his good humor in the face of injury, and his solid performance in the clutch), and my battered and sweat stained Red Sox cap.  The walk across the park takes all but three minutes, past the library and down the shady bower of Norwegian Maples where the hippies congregated in a noisy tribal mob during the late 1960s. Up the little hill and into the chapel, steamy in the July heat.

I took the back pew, in the corner under an open window and started to sweat. In the pew before me sat Cotuit Kettleers Michael Faulkner, the fantastic centerfielder from Arkansas State and his teammate Chad Wright who also stands in the outfield and is also batting over .300 so far this season. To my right, politely standing so the women and children filling the church could have a seat, was the Kettleer’s coach, Mike Roberts, father of Baltimore Oriole Brian Roberts. It felt good to be surrounded by talent.

The pastor, Nicole LaMarche, opened the service with announcements, a bell-choir rang the introit, and Reverend Jeremy (@PeaceNick) was given a Barnstable Bat and an old framed map of the village from the grateful congregation.

He began the call to worship with these words:

“To worship is to stand in awe under the hot sun in Fenway, to smell the fresh cut grass, the peanuts being freed from their shell …”

Then he and his wife read, one after the other, some poignant quotes about the religion of the game. Including my favorite from A. Bartlett Giamatti, president of Yale during my days in New Haven, and perhaps the best commissioner of Major League Baseball of all time:

“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

The sermon was the best retelling of the Galaragga incident I have heard.

Then we rose as one and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”


Random Thoughts:

  • We’re going to miss Jeremy and Nicole
  • Baseball is one of the last great things in the world, a  place where children can stand on the field with their heroes, where youth displays excellence, where men like me can exult in the timelessness of the form.

Schedule management

I’ve gone fully Google — gmail integration of my email, Google docs, Google Calendar — but when Buzz Bruggeman suggested we talk and I use his Tungle account, I decided, hey, what the heck, sign up for another service.

Anyway — I am on Tungle, syncing my Google calendar to it. If you want to talk and get on my sked, check it out.

Recentralizing Digital Marketing

The design of a global organization would appear to be a dreary exercise in org charts and bureaucracy. The rise of the multi-national conglomerate in the 1970s in a pre-fax era, made decentralization a necessity. But does decentralization lead to chaos, redundancy, and loss of control?  Bear with me, as I believe it does for the simple reason that the very nature of digital marketing is its capability to be managed, executed, measured and optimized from a single point, a function that revels in the fact that technology destroys distance and time zones. What remains is localization and translation and little else.

In the lobby of International Data Group, Pat McGovern’s global IT publishing operation, Pat’s ten guiding principles included a bullet point about putting control out in the countries, a necessity when he realized his own travels and capacity made him a bottleneck to getting things done in a company, that among other things, was one of the first to establish an operation in China prior to the Deng Xiaoping economic reforms. McGovern drastically decentralized a company focused on information technology, putting P&L and operational control in the hands of his country managers. The results spoke for themselves in the 1980s when IDG was a publishing giant. But by the time I arrived in 2005 it was evident to me that the strategy exposed some flaws, flaws that the current CEO Bob Carrigan took steps to merge through a “federation” project to combine the company’s massive customer databases into a single monolith.

Carrigan’s insight was that IDG’s customers — the marketers seeking to leverage its insights into corporate information technology buyers — really didn’t care if the country manager of ComputerWorld Russia was sharing his circulation database with the country manager in India. Hence IDG Connect was created, a merger of those databases into a coherent single powerhouse.
Database and lead generation consolidation is only one part of the process of bringing the disconnected back to the center. As publishers made the transition from print to digital, their production systems moved from mechanical presses located closest to the reader, to content management systems, feed managers, and metrics capabilities that could, thanks to the world-is-flat phenomenon of TCP/IP standardization to a single set of standards. Publications running WebTrends vs. SiteCatalyst vs Interwoven vs. Vignette under one corporate umbrella is a recipe for utter chaos. Indeed, as any management consultant will tell you, the most difficult part of post-merger integration in finance, media, what have you is the bridging of incompatible technologies into one cost effective solution.

The centralization of technical systems to provide a unified customer experience is a given, but after more than four years inside of a Fortune Global 100 brand, I have come to conclude that the customer/client has the same ugly issues to confront is a post-decentralized world.

A few anecdotes on client side centralization, random, but in my mind linked:
  • Singing from the same page: Lou Gerstner, the former chairman of IBM, tells the story in Elephants can Dance about bringing in Chief Marketing Officer Abby Kohnstamm. She gathered the giant’s marketing executives in Armonk in a conference room ringed with examples of the chaos the company was inflicting on the world with out of sync advertising campaigns. She knocked heads together, revoked the right for anyone with a bright or “better idea” to execute it, and got the company singing on the same page with Ogilvy & Mather’s brilliant eBusiness campaign.
  • Where is it written?: Marketers may have certain “unalienable” rights, but as one very smart marketer at Coca-Cola told me at a Google Marketing Advisory board meeting, where in hell is it written that a country manager in Uzbekistan has the right to her own 30 second spot? Consistency is everything, this is not to say that localization is needed and warranted, but permitting the edges of a brand to dictate what their web presence looks like on any given day, other than to reflect some sensitivity to local culture and mores is insane in my mind.
  • Web: to quote Tolkien: “ One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” That ring, being of course, the most Precious of all brand assets, the corporate web site. Here is where the brand begins and launches the customer — existing or prospective — into the brand experience. Operating a global brand web infrastructure makes centralization mandatory. From content management to translation and verification, the notion that a brand would not present the same digital face globally is insane, yet …. I think (fodder for another post) that large corporate brand sites are hopelessly screwed for the most part. Done in by internal politics until they are link fests satisfying internal owners, but doing little in terms of supporting a unified customer experience.
  • Microsites: where brands go to die. This is the classic manifestation of marketing going off the rails and into the weeds of inconsistency. First off,the behavior to acknowledge is every one is a web designer and everyone is a creative director. Everyone wants to take lunch with the rep from Google and feel part of the cool-kid club. The local agency proposes a “Twist” on the new campaign and next thing you know you’re sending traffic to a microsite with no tagging, no metrics, nothing but the latest Flash bling and a check mark in the campaign cookbook. Sure, it’s a bitch to get the temple priests running the corporate Web Vatican to build custom pages. Templates and corporate style guides are the anti-Viagra of innovation, but do you really want to find out that the brand is being lit up on some disconnected set of pages dictated by the aesthetics of a junior marketing manager in Moscow.
  • Outposts: Facebook to Twitter, Orkut to Flickr — brands are falling over themselves to establish a presence on the highest populated social networks and sharing services. First: you can’t be everywhere, second, this is where the real chaos is occurring. Some bright young marketing professional in a far flung country is just dying to practice his social networking chops, so up goes a Facebook fan page, a country Twitter account — and the brand has yet another outpost to manage and keep consistent with the messaging emanating from headquarters.

That last point, the chaos caused by third-party services and over-eager local teams is where brands are feuding internally. Unless there are consequences and an iron-fisted CMO like IBM’s Kohnstamm, global brands will continue to kill themselves from within trying to defer to the edges in the belief that there is where the creativity lies. Sorry, in digital your brand crosses country sites. That killer product you only sell through one channel? Well good luck concealing it from a Chinese consumer who wants to know why they can’t get it at their local dealer. The very fact that everything is a click away from everything else makes the artificial silos and pigeon holes of marketing management an utter and complete fiction.

Next up: a modest proposal on how to, in the words of McKinsey’s Dick Foster, “Loosen control without losing control” in a global digital marketing world.

Apple’s iPad Is Going To Destroy The Netbook Market, Says Goldman (Sorry, Microsoft)

Blodget and Goldman dig a grave for the netbook segment. Cause of death: iPad.

This chart from Morgan Stanley says it all. A year ago the netbook category was the hottest thing in PCs. Today …. I don’t imagine anyone is going to weep tears for Atom based netbooks. They may have been little and cute, but their 3G wireless contracts are a millstone around their necks, and they are, in the end, still Windows PCs.

Only slower. Read through to Blodget’s summary of Goldman’s 5 C’s on why the iPad has gutted netbooks.

Remember a year ago, when netbooks were the fastest growing segment of the PC market?

Not anymore.

And not ever again, as far as Goldman Sachs is concerned.

Because Apple’s iPad is going to wipe the netbook market out, says Goldman.  (Sorry about that, Microsoft. Netbooks were a headache for you, too, because of the lower software price-points and Linux threat, but now even those low price points are going to zero).

via Apple’s iPad Is Going To Destroy The Netbook Market, Says Goldman (Sorry, Microsoft).

Yahoo Could Be A Big Winner In The Battle For Developers

Interesting analysis of Yahoo’s potential in the mounting battle for developer mindshare. Yahoo has a strong history of popular APIs for devs, but can they seriously regain the momentum now being consumed by iPhone/Pad, Android, and the plethora of other attractive platforms. This observation strikes a chord:

“Last year Bartz vented to me about Yahoo’s infrastructure problems – the company, she explained, was a compilation of fundamentally disconnected vertical silos, each with its own P&L, codebase, infrastructure, and culture. It was nearly impossible to roll out products that cut across, say, Mail, Homepage, Finance, IM, Search, and Flickr, because each instance required custom integration and coding. Yahoo was literally broken underneath, even as it looked consistent at the UI layer.”

via Yahoo Could Be A Big Winner In The Battle For Developers.

Jelly Donut Hamburger

I’m dieting, done in by the Florentine mime, so my ballpark fare has been restricted to a paltry bag of unbuttered popcorn this summer. Go to Yarmouth-Dennis and get your Lipitor on with a “Hurler” — a cheeseburger on a jelly donut topped “with the finest canned cheese on the market.” Eric Williams and CapeCast explains:

%d bloggers like this: