In the battle of streaming devices, the viewer wins

Through various deals I couldn’t refuse, I’ve ended up with three different streaming media players. A family member asked me to choose the “best one” and, honestly, I can’t really say for certain, but I’m leaning toward the Roku system. They all have pluses and minuses and it really comes down to what ecosystem you prefer to be in.

apple tvFirst, let me point out the one major player I don’t own is Apple TV, although I’ve been around when family members have used it. If you want something simple that you can hook up to a TV to sling the content from your iPhone or iPad to the big screen, it seems like a slick system. And, since Apple doesn’t play all that well with Google or Amazon, it may be your best choice for an iHousehold, although it is by far the most expensive option at around $100.

Second, let me note that I am probably biased in my criticism because as I mentioned, I landed all three devices with good deals that cut my final cost down. Certainly, if you pay the full price for anything you’re going to be a little more harsh in your analysis than if you find it at a great discount.

Now, for the reviews:

Roku LT ~ $55

Roku LTI’ve owned and used this Roku for several years now. It was the first streaming device I purchased and I’ve been happy with it since day one. It was the entry-level box but I’ve never found a reason to upgrade. It does what I want and the number of “channels” available is constantly increasing. I use it for a variety of streaming options, including: Amazon Prime Instant Video, Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, PBS, NASA TV, Google Play Movies and, finally HBO GO. (I say finally because for a long time, Comcast had its customer service head buried in the sand and wouldn’t let its paying subscribers use HBO GO.) There is now a stick version available and there are fancier models that do more, but for basic connect and go usability at a reasonable cost you can’t beat the Roku LT.

Google Chromecast ~ $35

Google ChromecastI purchased the Chromecast when I found it on sale, and recently bought a second one when I was able to get it for a significantly reduced price during a holiday promotion. Set up is reasonably simple, although it seems to be a little wonkier in finding and maintaining a wi-fi signal than the Roku. I use it for slinging stuff wirelessly from my phone and Chromebook up to the TV screen. That “stuff” generally involves HBO GO, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies, YouTube and Google+ Photos. The ability to cast my Android phone’s screen up to a TV is a huge plus, as well. (That will come in handy when I want to screencast my Google Glass to my phone and then cast my phone screen to a larger monitor when doing demonstrations.) I also have found the screensaver you can post to your TV via the Chromecast when not streaming something is great.

Amazon fireTV Stick ~ $39

fireTV stickI wrote a blog post about the fireTV stick when I first bought it so you can read more details there. I’ve used it a lot for Amazon Prime Video and a weather app. We’ve used it to view pictures and it will even play some games that you can download. I suspect I would use if more if it was on our main TV in the house and not a secondary one. But it’s very handy having it in the family room where the workout bike sits. It seems to hold a wi-fi signal very well, although in all fairness to the Chromecast, the fireTV stick resides a lot closer to the router than the Google CC does. If you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber, however, I see no point in owning this device. The majority of benefits come from its ability to stream Prime movies and music.

My Recommendations

As I wrote early on in this post, what ecosystem you live in is probably going to be the best determiner for you when considering whether to go with Amazon or Google for your streaming sticks. If you dabble in all of them, I’d recommend a Roku device. You can access nearly everything that the Amazon and Google sticks can — and certainly the bulk of what you would want to stream in terms of videos and music. (I will give the nod to the Google CC if you have all-access music on Google Play. Casting that to an Amazon stick isn’t possible and on Roku it requires a third-party app that isn’t great.)

If you’re heavily invested in the walled Apple garden, of course, then you’ll probably want to take a closer look at Apple TV. But for the rest of us “free-range streamers,” start with the Roku, then add a Google Chromecast or an Amazon fireTV stick depending on whether you’re a more frequent visitor to the Google or Amazon universe. I’d argue that with the costs ranging from only $35 to $55 — if you pay full price — you can’t really go all that wrong with any of them.

Or be like me — buy all three and establish a beachhead for the day when you finally convince your spouse you don’t need to pay for 500 cable channels when we only watch half a dozen of them. I’ve heard HBO is looking at offering a standalone subscription service, which means my wife and I could catch Game of Thrones without paying a monthly cable bill. I can’t wait…

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The customer service war is won on the front lines

tobruk02In any battle, the generals in charge of the plan are important and the front-line officers are the ones who execute that plan successfully or not — but when it comes right down to it, the front-line grunts are the ones who actually get the job done.

It’s time the business world learned that it’s the front line that matters, too. I’ve had three recent customer-service experiences that help highlight what I’m getting at.

First, I had an interaction with Amazon after I found out my Amazon Prime membership was increasing by $20 when it renews later this year. I’m not revolting against the change. I’m not a big fan of higher prices, of course, but I understand that after several years, a company may need to adjust them. But I did look online to see if I could take advantage of renewing my subscription early or possibly buying multiple years to lock in a lower price. Unfortunately, there were no such options online so I decided to write to Amazon.com. I asked them about early renewals and suggested they offer multi-year discount packages because they would probably sell a lot of them to people like me. In no time at all, I had an email from an employee telling me that they completely understand what I want to do but neither option is available through their customer service system. They did offer to refund me $20 if I write back to them after my renewal date finally comes up, to help me out for one year, at least. That’s awesome and I greatly appreciate it. But why isn’t something like that available online, since Amazon is an entirely online company, or at least available to their front-line troops to help boost customer satisfaction?

Second, I had a run-in with Apple over their iMessage system, which I tolerated as an iPhone user and now despise as an Android convert. Apparently, when you migrate your number from an iPhone to a Droid, Apple’s system has difficulty breaking up with you and glitches abound. Anyone with an iPhone who tries texting your number will see that an iMessage was sent, but it never actually gets delivered. (iMessage, apparently, is much like the Eagle’s Hotel California. You can check out, but you can never leave!)hotel calif

After completing my online research to find I’m far from alone with this nuisance and attempting a few fixes myself without getting anywhere, I entered into an online chat with an Apple Care employee. They were very friendly, understanding and as helpful as they were allowed to be. Apparently, they did all they could at their level, and suspected something else needed to be done, but it wasn’t a task they were allowed to complete. So they had to “elevate” my problem and arrange a time for another customer service representative to call me. This second employee and I connected by phone the next morning and they took about 5 minutes to run a system check on their end and do a forced cleaning to try to break my phone number away from their system. I’m not sure it’s worked 100 percent, but things do seem better overall. The problem is, why couldn’t that front-line employee push a couple of buttons and wait a few minutes with me while their system processed the cleaning? They knew what I needed and probably how to do it, but instead they had to “elevate” my problem. What too many companies don’t understand is that elevating a customer problem generally just elevates a customer’s frustration, as well.

My third customer-service runaround in the past week has been with SiriusXM Radio. Their online administration system was so screwy that I finally sent them an email complaining about it and noting that they’re worse than Comcast – and that’s a pretty harsh statement! I finally ended up on the phone with one of their employees, as well. The only good news in this case is that although the front-line access via the Internet was useless, the front-line person on the phone was able to do everything I needed. In a nutshell, I was looking at canceling a couple of subscriptions and changing the terms of another. After listening to why I was making the changes to my account, the customer service rep made some suggestions on how I could cancel just one subscription, keep the second one active and change the third. It all ended with me feeling that I got a deal that was good enough to keep me satisfied and keep Sirius from losing more than one annual subscription. I initially wished I could have just dealt with it all online, but the woman on the phone did such a good job that it made me realize there is value in human interaction when it comes to customer service.

I always do my best to never take out my frustrations on customer service representatives, whether in an online chat or on a phone call. These are people trying to do their jobs and often when they can’t it’s because of some policy their company has in place to contain their employees rather than empower them.

But the customer service war — just like any other battle — is won on the front lines. So if you have an opportunity in business to empower those grunts then please do so, even if it means telling a few generals that they just aren’t as important as they might like to believe.

customer service meme

What if my device can’t hear me now?

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Many of us have joked around with the “Can you hear me now?” line that Verizon Wireless used for its advertising campaign for years. It generally refers to whether someone on the other end of your mobile call can hear you rather than static. As technology has advanced, however, we’ve started talking to our devices almost as much as we talk through them.

Thanks to Siri on Apple devices, Google Now on Android devices and, of course, Google Glass, voice commands are becoming more commonplace.

But what happens if your device can’t hear you?

I discovered this problem recently when I lost my voice while fighting off a bad cold, the flu or the plague — I’m not really sure what hit me. Whatever it was, it silenced me into using gestures and note pads with my family. The biggest discoveries from that experience were that my family is really bad at charades and my handwriting is still the best indicator that I should have been a doctor.

But another discovery was that wild hand gestures and notepads were of no use when communicating with my phone and Glass, so when I was completely without a voice, I was incommunicado with my tech.

For the phones and tablets in my life, that wasn’t really a big deal because I still do 80 percent of my interaction with those via keyboard and screen swipes. But one of Glass’ strengths is its ability to be controlled by voice.

Yes, you can tap and swipe your way through menu commands and activities on the right temple, but you will eventually run into something that requires you to talk to Glass. I’m not sure Google is working on a way to connect Glass with a keyboard for the Explorers who have it now, but it certainly would expand its horizons when they go for the consumer release. I don’t see much point in having a constant keyboard connection because Glass honestly doesn’t need that kind of bulk. Nevertheless, having an option, perhaps with something as rudimentary as a keyboard option available via the My Glass app, might do the trick.

I have been very impressed with the voice recognition programs available now. Siri on my iPhone was the weakest but if I slowed down a little she could understand me a lot better. The Droid Maxx seems to work very well and Glass has been even better. Not everyone has the same results on any of those devices, so your individual experiences may very.

One thing I’ve noticed about Glass is that the device does a great job of hearing me while ignoring others who are speaking around me. I’ve used it to add captions to pictures before sending them from the floor of the noisy North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I’ve also used Glass outside when it’s a little windy and in my Jeep Wrangler where road noise is higher than in most other vehicles. The vast majority of the time, Glass understands my commands and can translate my voice into text accurately. I have noticed that a low battery and a low cellular signal can both decrease the accuracy, but that’s not surprising.

The other good thing for Glass’ functionality is that the microphone works well even if you speak quietly. I’ve actually found that speaking in a normal tone or less works better for it than raising my voice, thinking it would hear me better.

That has been great news these past 10 days or so when my voice was weakening, nonexistent and now, finally, on the mend when I can say, “OK, Glass…Google…elixirs for layrngitis.” 20140304-172449.jpg

Glassware: apps and taps and traps

The Google Glass website is the home base for explorers who use iPhones because the MyGlass app is only available for Android, at least for now. I am hoping that gets remedied at some point because the app sounds like it offers some nice features to make the most of Glass.

photoI have found four traps, so far, on using Glass with an iPhone:

  1. You need a personal wi-fi hotspot to tether Glass to your phone, which can mean an extra charge depending on your plan. I’m on Verizon Wireless and switched to the Share Everything Plan, so I have the same data allowance, but can now kick on personal hotspots on the family’s smartphones without an extra per-line charge for doing so. The switch made sense because I’m getting what I had, plus an added feature, for less than $2 per month more. On Android phones, apparently, you can tether without the added cost of a hotspot. (UPDATE: I’ve been told this is true only for some Android models.) The iPhone hotspot also has the limitation of not being able to run while you’re on a phone call — I’m not sure if that’s the same for tethered devices on Android phones, so if someone has experience with that, please chime in.

(UPDATE: I’ve been reminded this is a carrier issue and not a phone issue. I forgot about the AT&T ads about talking and surfing the web at the same time.)

  1. You cannot interact with SMS text messages directly on Glass without the MyGlass app. You can use Glass as a bluetooth headset and talk to Siri, but that’s not as smooth as having interactions straight through Glass. I discovered an IFTTT recipe just this morning for sending SMS notifications from the iPhone to Glass, but I haven’t had it triggered yet, so I’m not sure of its limitations. (I’ll give an update on this when I know more.)
  2. You cannot get turn-by-turn directions from Google on Glass because Apple has locked down its GPS access, which makes no sense to me but I’m not responsible for Apple’s bottom line other than as a frustrated customer paying their bills. (I’m sure Apple reads my blog and cares deeply about what I think. *delusion off*)
  3. You cannot share a screencast without the MyGlass app. I can see where being able to show people on your phone what you’re seeing through Glass would be a huge bonus. I received a number of questions at work yesterday from coworkers about Glass since it was my first day in the office with it. I’m going to have some show-and-tell time with them at a future date where everyone can try them on, but being able to do a mini presentation to the group yesterday would have been ideal.

(UPDATE: MyGlass is now available for iOS. See post here.)

I  have found some cool apps:

Glassware page copyOnce you’re on the Glass website, you can visit the Glassware page and download miscellaneous apps to your device. Google is insisting that all app developers offer their work for free for now, which I’m sure will change once Glass leaves the “Explorer” stage. Also, they can’t insert any advertising.

Some of the apps I installed include CNN, Facebook, Google Now, WordLens, Evernote, Timer, Stopwatch, Compass and Umano.

CNN shows you news alerts several times per day, the advantage to Glass is that you can either watch the video, read the article, or have the article read aloud to you. Umano is also a newscasting app, but professional voice people — how the app describes them — read news articles to you. So far, both have worked very well. 

Google Now provides update cards to you just like you’d see on your phone. As I said in an earlier post, if you’re not using Google Now on your iPhone or Android, go get it, NOW. This is fantastic on Glass, too.

Facebook lets you share a #throughglass picture to your public feed and Evernote lets you take a note and send it to your account. You can’t adjust the title or do much other jot a quick reminder, but it’s invaluable for that last-second “remember this!” moment. The note syncs to your default notebook. Evernote is supposedly working on the ability to send notes to Glass for access; imagine having your shopping list right in front your eye while in the store. I can’t wait for that.

Twitter lets you post images and receive notifications right on your Glass. Depending on how many notifications you get, that might get annoying, but I’m doing fine so far.

Wordlens is a translator app, while Timer, Stopwatch and Compass are quite self-explanatory.

I should note that I skipped a number of apps, some of which sound cool, primarily because they would need GPS. I hope Google and Apple realize that getting GPS connectivity between their two devices would be a huge benefit to their strained yet symbiotic relationship.

The skipped apps include recipes, golfing, biking, running and a few more like keeping up with the latest fashion news.

I have been tap, tap, tapping:

One of the things you have to get used to when wearing Glass is a lot of tapping and swiping. The touchpad temple can get a pretty good workout as you move through notifications, select them to reach action menus and then swiping and tapping your way through them. As I understand it, the timeline items disappear after 7 days, but for those of us who are a bit OCD about keeping notifications cleaned up, we aren’t about to let clutter sit around that long.

After a few days of use, I’m finding that I have a pretty good handle on when to tap and when to swipe, and how to swipe in just the right way — forward, backward, up and down — to make Glass do what I want. As with any touchpad, it doesn’t always register forward vs. up, for example, correctly every time, but that might be a user issue because I’m moving fast. I wonder if my caffeine intake at the moment is affecting my swiping ability? I’ll have to track that. 🙂

MagazineRacksAtGroceryStores-31177I did discover that there is a time and place for all that tapping and swiping on Glass, and standing in line at the grocery store isn’t one of them. Wearing Glass in public is a unique experience and I’ll cover that in an upcoming post. But while bored in line yesterday, I started swiping through my timeline and tapping away to clean up notifications and cards I didn’t need anymore. After about a minute of doing this, I got somewhat self-conscious because people either don’t know what Glass is and wonder if I’m a nut, or they do know what it is but are misinformed and think I’m using the taps to take stealth photos of them to post to glassvoyeur.com. (Not a real site!) So, I stopped and returned to the usual in-line task we all use to avoid making eye contact with others and having to engage in conversation: I stared at my phone and shuffled along to the register.

Coming next: Glass in public

The Google Glass box didn’t fall far from the Apple tree

I received my Google Glass (#teamshale!) a few days ago but thanks to a very hectic work schedule this week, I haven’t had a chance to set it up until this weekend. That figures, right?! I did manage to spend a little time late one evening preparing for the initial setup  by performing the unboxing ceremony and getting my Glass plugged in so it was fully charged and ready for action.

On a side note, Glass did come with enough charge for me to turn it on once and use the initializing screen to adjust the fit and feel of the unit. After just a few minutes, however, I saw the dreaded empty battery icon and had to plug in. It’s been sitting unplugged and unused for a few days now so I have the unit charging again while I’m writing this post. Apparently, just sitting around in its case does use some battery life.

As I noted in the title to this post, I found the unboxing reminiscent of the same ceremony with Apple products I’ve purchased. Stark whiteness in boxing and accessory envelopes abounds, with simplicity and straightforward markings being prevalent.

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Because I’m in the second round of Explorers, I’m starting my experience with version two of Google Glass. That means I also received the sunglass attachment and the mono earbud, both of which were nicely packaged and the sunglass attachment even has a protective storage sleeve for carrying it around. I should note it is protecting the lenses from scratches, but being a soft-sided slipcase, it’s not protecting it from much else.

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The Glass itself is nicely presented in the box, complete with a translucent protective overpage, although I have to wonder if that’s really more about presentation than anything else. Under the shelf holding Glass you find the protective carrying pouch for the unit, and then the power block and cord, which are locked into the bottom of the box by the sheer tight fit of the cutouts in the cardboard.

On another side note, while I dislike when people judge a product without using it first, I will break my rule in this case. My first impression of the carrying case is that it’s a bit big and awkward, but I suppose there are limitations on what could be done to create a case for something as out-of-the-ordinary as Glass. I did notice a couple of people on Google+ talking about how they wish the case design had pockets for the accessories, instead of just providing a big pouch for us to pour everything into and out of. I will probably agree, although as I said, I haven’t even used it yet, so I shall reserve judgment.

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Also in the bottom of the box was the white envelope with minimal instructions for getting started, which also is very Apple-esque, although I would note that Google seems to have a more wry sense of humor in its writing, which I appreciate. I also appreciated that Google is straight with its users in noting that “like everything, there’s a time and place.” Hopefully, that will convince some people not to fall into the proverbial trap of becoming a “Glasshole,” but alas, the only reason there isn’t a clever euphemism for people being assholes with their cell phones is that the rhyming variant doesn’t exist.

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All in all, the unboxing was a decent experience. The anticipation of receiving Glass was met with an excitement unmarred by anything too obnoxious in unpacking them. Hopefully, the setup goes just as well. If it doesn’t, well I’m sure I’ll adapt, as all good explorers should.

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These savings programs work because you don’t have to

You can save money if you clip coupons, become a member of a rewards club, and do a lot of other things that take time and effort — both of which are in short supply these days. Besides, many rewards programs require you to carry around those annoying plastic key tags. Instead, you can take advantage of technology that does the work for you. For the past few months, I’ve been using two such technological advances and I’ve found they work well, save me money and are about as effortless as you can get. Oh, and it’s all free. Cha ching!

The first is Key Ring, an app available in both the Android and Apple app stores. Initial setup takes some effort, of course, but it pays off well in the long run. You’re required to set up a Cellfire account, which then allows you to enter your current rewards program key tabs. If you initiate the app on  your phone, you can simply scan the barcodes and it will enter all the information for you. After that, the program is relatively maintenance free. You just open it up periodically and “clip” the coupons that are offered. Here’s where the easy part comes in. Once you clip the coupon, it is added to your rewards program account and the coupons are automatically deducted from your bill when you shop at that store and use your savings card. If you’re so inclined, it will even produce a shopping list for you based on the coupons you’ve clipped.

For example, one of the grocery stores I shop at is Kroger. Their  tag has been dangling off my keychain for a few years now and, overall, the card is worth it because of the instant savings it offers. But now, because I’ve connected that rewards card to my Key Ring app and Cellfire account, I can clip coupons that are electronically stored on my rewards card. When I go to the check out, I simply enter my ID number and scan my groceries. When the order is totaled, Kroger takes off its instant savings and the Cellfire account deducts my electronic coupons. Cha ching!

You’re supposed to be able to scan the program tag’s bar code straight from your phone, but I’ve found some of the scanners don’t like to read the phone screen, so I just punch in the numbers. It’s not that difficult and worth the savings. Plus, this should solve the problem of the dozens of coupons that get clipped, hung on my refrigerator, and then periodically thrown away because I never remember to grab them on the way to the store.

As a bonus, the Shell gas stations in town have a deal  with Kroger so that as your grocery purchases add up, they can result in a discount for gasoline. So, for example, I have shopped at Kroger more because of the Key Ring/Cellfire program. I saved money I wouldn’t have normally because I had electronic coupons available for my purchases and because I’ve shopped at Kroger more, my total spending there has added up. When I entered the program code at the gas pump, I saved 10 cents per gallon. Cha ching!

It’s easy, it’s relatively effortless, and it finally gives me a rewards program that I find more rewarding than annoying.

The second program I’ve found some limited success with is the new connection between Foursquare and American Express. You can now register your American Express credit card with your Foursquare account, which allows you to receive discounts and special deals at businesses if you check in there. For example, a car wash near me had a deal for Small Business Saturday that if you checked in on Foursquare and purchased a pack of washes with your American Express card, you received a statement credit. The washes there start at $6.50 each. Thanks to this new Foursqaure/Amex partnership and a bulk discount from the car wash, I am getting $32.50 worth of washes for $2.50. Cha ching!

I can’t wait to see what will happen with the Foursquare/Amex partnership as more businesses catch on to the benefits of offering special deals for people who are tech savvy and take advantage of being connected. The businesses that will be the most successful in the next few years are the ones who have figured out that their consumers are mobile, so the deals should be, too.

I think I covered the basics on these two programs, but if you have questions or concerns, drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help. If you’re good to go, then I encourage you to take advantage of the technology. It’s as if a little money tree is sprouting on your phone and all you need to do is pluck the leaves.  🙂

Want customers? Just make your sh*t work

Ari & Jessi at MIS

Me and Jessi Wortley Adler at MIS

How do you make a customer’s experience with your business so great that they want to keep you a part of their life and even promote you to their friends and family? Make the customer experience about what the customer needs instead of about what you think the customer wants.

I started thinking about this after I attended the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. The subject moved to the front burner of my brain again after I heard about Steve Jobs resigning as CEO of Apple.

What do a race car track and a technology company have in common? They have fans — not just of the product they are selling but of themselves. They, and a couple of other companies that come to mind, have figured out what their customers want but also give customers what they need, which turns them into fans.

Let’s start with MIS. I’m not a big fan of NASCAR races and I had heard tales of long traffic backups getting into and out of MIS over the years. So, when I landed a couple of tickets for my wife and I to attend the Pure Michigan 400, I was more excited for her because she is a big NASCAR fan. I, on the other hand, was anxious about surviving the event and figured I’d probably just suck it up and enjoy the day for Jessi’s sake.

Now, granted, I called in a favor and was able to get access to areas not all fans get to visit. But my initial experience at the MIS website for visitor information and traveling in and out of the facility were the same for me as they would be for any customer. And that’s where MIS really shines. For example, the track has worked closely with government officials to improve ingress and egress with dramatic changes to traffic patterns. This has resulted, according to track officials, in dropping the time required to exit the track area from between five and seven hours down to about an hour and a half.

MIS logoAt their website, you can find all kinds of information, including a fan guide and 3D map of the facility. The Grand Stand Gate Policy on what fans can bring with them also is a big selling point. In most places these days, fans are treated like security risks, with the ability to carry anything with you to an event being severely curtailed. Instead, MIS understands that fans are going to spend hours there and they are going to have stuff with them. You can bring coolers, bags and equipment in with you. Sure, there are size restrictions, but they are quite generous. I especially liked the picture MIS put in its guest guide of what a fan carrying everything allowed would look like, to give you a better perspective on how to stay within the rules.

My point here is that MIS has figured out what fans want — to see a NASCAR race in Michigan. But they’ve also figured out what they need — the ability to get home at a reasonable hour, the ability to carry food, drink and other paraphernalia with them throughout their visit, and the need to feel like they are understood and appreciated.

Apple logo

Apple products come to mind when I think about this sort of customer experience, too. Sure, thanks to Steve Jobs we’ve seen the company grow over the years and become a leader in cutting-edge design and performance. But in addition to figuring out what people want, they’ve also figured out what we need. We need computers, tablets and smartphones that make life easier, not more complicated. Perhaps the best explanation of why someone can so easily become a fan of Apple I’ve ever heard is, “Their sh*t just works.”

That’s all we want as customers and we don’t want to have to struggle with your product or you.

I mentioned earlier that a couple of other companies come to mind when I think about this concept. When I sat down with pen and paper (yes, I still use those!) to force myself to think of top companies or products that I use and would recommend, Amazon.com and Evernote got jotted down immediately.

Amazon logoAmazon.com is still one of the easiest places to go if you want to search for and buy a product. The last time I was on that site to buy something, it took less than 10 minutes from the time one of my kids said, “Hey, it’s on sale!” to receiving an email telling me my order had been received and was being processed. My shopping experience was easy, even though I was paying with a combination of a credit card and rewards points. I got what I wanted — a good price on a product. But Amazon.com also gave me what I needed — simplicity and speed.

Evernote logoEvernote is a fantastic product for keeping all those notes, receipts and other forms of minutiae with you and synchronized across multiple devices. It’s one of my favorite companies because they give me what I want — a way to easily keep track of the many scattered bits of information in my life across the many technology platforms that I use. But they also give me what I need — an easy user interface, speed, and a continually improving product that keeps pace with what I want (sometimes before I even know I want it).

So the next time you have a brainstorming meeting about what you and your colleagues can do to bring in more customers or keep the ones you have happy and coming back, consider the basic desires everyone has. We want to be appreciated and understood. We want  a rewarding experience and we don’t want a big hassle on our hands to get it.

In short, whether you produce widgets or provide a professional service, just make your sh*t work.

The Declaration of Independence 2.0

Jefferson-imageWith all due respect to Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, a morning spent frustrated by Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer and my work PC in general gave rise to a lunch hour creativity streak and an updated version of the Declaration. Besides, what better time than right before Independence Day to release “The Declaration of Independence 2.0?”  🙂

When in the course of computing events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the operating system which has connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Computing entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of Windows users requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all operating systems are created equal, that some are endowed by their programmers with certain inexplicable flaws, that among these are a Start button, Internet Explorer, and the Blue Screen of Death. That to secure personal files, operating systems should be instituted for users, deriving their just powers from the consent of those users; that whenever any form of operating system becomes destructive of these users’ files, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish that operating system, and to institute a new operating system, laying its code on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to serve users in ways most likely to affect their file safety and computing happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that operating systems long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that computer users are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same bottom line for Microsoft, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such operating systems, and to switch to new operating systems for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of Windows users; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former operating system. The history of the present King of Computing is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over Windows users. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world and LONG LIVE THE MAC!

(Portrait of Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale, 1791 — source: Wikipedia.)