Monday, December 21, 2009

QuickBase PowerTools

Reliable Response is proud to release a groundbreaking new tool for users of the QuickBase platform. QuickBase PowerTools is an extension to your Firefox and Chrome browsers which add exciting new capabilities, including

  • Currency Conversion

  • Company lookup with Dunn & Bradstreet

  • One-click access to Google Maps for all addresses

  • Click-to-Conference using Twilio conferencing

Click-to-Conference is a tool for sales professionals who need quick and easy telephone conferences with their prospects and customers. It allows users o add customers to a conference with a simple click of the button. Click-to-Conference is free with advertising or ad-free with a small monthly subscription.

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Because of its innovative design, QuickBase PowerTools works with any QuickBase application or table with no changes to your QuickBase. It seamlessly adds new capabilities on the fly with no setup or maintenance costs.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Windows?

Dave Cohen said, via Twitter,
People who complain about Apple products running poorly on Windows crack me up. It's Like saying "This Rolex looks bad on my ankle."

It got me thinking about why Apple and Linux are not doing as well as Windows. There's the typical answers, ranging from boring to trite:
  • Windows is the market leader and has done a good job of maintaining their established dominance
  • Windows uses its dominance in a way similar to monopolies; it uses dominance in one market to maintain or establish dominance in another
  • Windows has better support for office applications
  • Windows is cheaper
  • etc.

None of these hold water for me.
  • Market domination is important, but the numbers haven't budged in decades, indicating it's more than simple momentum.
  • The number of markets in which Microsoft dominates is shrinking or losing importance. Example; dominance in graphics processing (DirectX) doesn't really matter much, since OpenGL is good enough for most games.
  • Mac and Linux both support great office applications.
  • Linux is cheaper.

Despite all this, Microsoft is still by far the most dominant player with market share staying more or less steady. So, let's look closer at Apple. I'll dissect Linux later.

For me, it comes down to a misunderstanding on what is a true qualitative comparison and what is a threshold metric. "Qualitative" means more is better. "Threshold" means that the platform merely has to meet a certain level (the "threshold"). Anything more than meeting the threshold doesn't matter.

In the 2008 primary elections, I read an NYTimes article about Obama's foreign policy experience. The author claimed that Obama will never prove to the country that he's better at foreign policy than Hillary Clinton. But, all he had to do was prove he was good enough, not better, then he can win on the truely qualitative metrics. I believe a lot of Apple's problem is that they're competing on quality when all the market needs is a minimum threshold.

Apple is easier to use
Yes, but this is a threshold issue. If people find Windows easy enough, easier doesn't really matter. It's Windows which has to be so bad that people look for something new.

Apple breaks less
Fewer viruses, fewer blue screens, etc. Again, this is a threshold issue. As long as people are happy to reboot, run a virus scanner, whatever, people won't feel compelled to leave

Apple has better integration
iPhone, iPod, iTunes, etc. Apple has some great web products. But, most run on Windows and none are really compelling enough for people to buy a new computer.

Apple has better user interface design
People love to point out how much friendlier Mac OSX is than Windows. No doubt it's true. But, Windows is good enough for most users. Again, it's a threshold issue and not a qualitative one.

So, how do you beat Microsoft? 1) Attack threshold issues where they fail and 2) Attach truly qualitative issues. Unfortunately, MS has done an excellent job of "good enough" and both approaches will yield limited results. Microsoft has a history of meeting these issues slowly.

So, you can see, most of the people who have attacked MS successfully have done so by attacking new features/requirements before MS had the chance to establish dominance. Like, Google's search, SalesForce's SaaS, Amazon's cloud deployments, etc.

Where is Reliable Response attacking Microsoft? Mass mobile marketing. MS doesn't have a strong mobile play, and where they do it's focused on the Windows Mobile OS. RR plays in the mobile integration for feature and plain phones...those without a smartphone OS. By the time MS wakes up to this as a viable market, we hope to be entrenched.

Unless I advertise my plans on :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Federated Payment Services

This is something that's probably already been thought of. I think we're probably already moving in this direction...

One of the reasons the Apple App Store is so successful is the ease of which you can make micro-payments. Once you set up your billing info once, you can buy apps quickly. If the app's only a buck or two, it's easy to buy the ones you like. The seller can sell the app to a couple millions users and make some real money.

Other phones, like the Google Phone, and sites like Scrib are mimicking this model with their own micro-payment sites. They're all good ideas, and I think the micro-payment concept can be extended to a lot of products.

But, having many different micro-payment sites means having to trust each site with your credit card, and to take the time to fill in the information. If it's just for a magazine or a spur-of-the-moment purchase, I probably won't bother. Without there being a critical mass of products I'd like to purchase on any particular site, there's no point to signing up.

That's why I think it's important to federate the micro-payment services. Let me choose any particular payment service; paypal, google,, amazon, visa, mastercard, whoever. When I go to Scribd/Google's Market/Apple's App Store, have it log me in automatically. Let PayPal/Google/Amex/Whoever take it's 2.whatever percent, Scribd take 10% and the rest go to the author. Have me sign up once and never bother me again.

Then, I'd be happy to blow $5/day downloading my newpaper, KenKen, weekly gossip rag and every Larry Niven book they'll sell me.

Case in point. I love the New York Times, but I won't sign up for their service. It's $50/year, which is too much for me to pay for a newspaper. And, I don't want to have to sign up with another e-commerce server. However, I'd happily pay 50c every weekday to download it to my Google Phone, if it was easy and secure. 260 weekdays == $140, $123 bucks of which goes to NYTimes.