Saturday, April 10, 2010

Apple and Bose- Love At First Site

Apple and Bose are two of the most elite sought after hardware companies in the world.  The should get married.

Apple is known for making outstanding computer products with a quality user interface.  Bose is known for next generation audio hardware and some of the best speakers in the world.  With such align business models, Bose Speakers would be a great addition to every Apple computer on the markets.  Why don't bother companies join together to create the most ultimate, highest quality consumer technological products.  This could really be a benefit to both companies.

If Bose were to supply Apple with their speakers and headphones, this would be one less thing Apple would have to worry about creating.  They could focus on production the more visual equipment such as monitors, computers, laptops, T.V's, Ipods, Ipads and so on-Without loosing any value in their audio quality.  If anything, Bose speakers on an Apple product would be an upgrade from traditional Apple speakers.  Apple can focus on creating the user interface while Bose can supply and research how to better sound quality on Apple products.

This partnership would also benefit Bose.  To be quite honest and blunt- Bose stinks at marketing.  Everytime I open a magazine, I am sure to see one of those bland Bose Ad's filled with mumbo jumbo.  Like This:


Who wants to read all of that and call some 1800 number?

Look at this Apple commercial:

This is called Marketing.  With Bose providing Apple with high end sound products, and Apple helping Bose market their sound products, this could be a dream team.

Both companies are super innovative in their own specialties.  This partnership would allow both of them to focus in on their specialities.  But who knows? Why not my way?  Steve Jobs only picks partnerships that don't make any sense (cough cough AT&T).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hello Apple! Can you hear me?

Almost everyone knows of or has heard of the Ipad that Apple released last week; if you don't know about it, here it is.  
Now I realize that there have been many articles and blogs reporting how terrible this product is and all the horrible features and let downs-but I intend on this post to be more constructive than critical.  I have been tracking the Ipad for weeks now and as I'm sure Apple has picked up on some major flaws, there are some flaws that I just don't understand.  In one of my marketing classes today we were discussing new product development and my brain sidetrack into thinking about the new product development (NPD) of the Ipad and what does not fit in this NPD strategy.

Wireless Wireless Wireless

People like Wireless.  I like wireless.  Wireless is in and cool.  Wires are a nuisance: They are too short, too long, get tangled, stop working, don't connect so on so fourth.  I was at the Verizon store this weekend and I saw the Palm Pre.  This phone made me give my Droid a second look.  The phone charged without wires- That is cool.  You put the phone on some cool looking stand, and without having to plug i any wires, the phone charged.  This is innovative and something we could expect from and Apple product-what happened?

Not only wireless charging how about wireless syncing?  We have to plug the Ipad with our USB connector to sync it with Itunes. How is that cool or innovative?  I would put money on the line to say there are technologies available that you can wirelessly sync a mobile device- over the internet, over wifi, or bluetooth.  To make matters worse, Apple is still using its annoying Ipod dock connector.  Note to Apple: NOBODY likes them.  The whole world is running mini and micro USB-try being a bit more compatible.  The Ipad should have a feature such that it syncs everything I do on it, with my computer.  If you want this to be a secondary device, this feature should be as versatile as possible.  Companies such as "Sugar Sync" do this.  Come to thing of it apple has a horrible and horribly overpriced service called "mobile me" that aims to do this.  Unfortunately they missed the nail way off the head.

The Ipad is an ultra-portable versatile wireless hand-held device- keyword: WIRELESS.

Apple is known for coming up with creative innovative hardware products that consumers want.  Apple focused on what the consumer was looking for-something Microsoft totally missed.  (We will come back to Microsoft later).  This standard kept the bar for Apples tablet higher due to these expectations.  There was not a single piece of innovative hardware on the Ipad.  I have  a list of features that could have easily set the Ipad apart that consumers are looking for.

Micro USB port.  If you are going to have wires, at least make it convenient.  As mentioned before, Apple should start using the industry standard USB.  Part of the reason Apple's costs are so high is because they provide non essential hardware parts like the Ipod/Iphone connector.  Use Micro USB ports, lower costs for consumers, lower costs for Apple, and have more accessories readily available.

16 GB? Is that a joke?  I have a flash drive with 16 GB.  the Micro SD card in my Droid has 16 GB.  My netbook had 160GB.  If you want more you can get 32GB (+$100) and 64GB (+$100).  $200 dollars for 48GB of additional memory.  I bought a 1.5TB hard drive for $120.  I have 16GB of music, letting my movies alone.  This is a horribly sad issue/disappointment for a company that boosts amazing hardware.     

Video conferencing.  Netbooks have webcams on the front of them.  I use Skype, Oovoo, Google chat, and many other IM clients to webchat and video conference.  It blows my mind how no company has released cameras on the front of any handheld mobile devices.  Why don't Cell phones or Smartphones have the camera on the front of them?  Apple should have jumped on this.  Netbooks have it, people want it, Apple didn't give it.  In fact, Apple took off the camera.  The Ipod touch does not have a camera.  The Ipad doesn't have a camera either just to show how similar the Ipod Touch and Ipad are.  The Ipad would have been exponentially cooler if it had a camera on the front so I could sit there and talk to someone face to face on my tablet.  Sure, it would have hogged up mobile networks, but we already do it on laptops through wifi.  and if Network Capacity is an issue: Don't rely on At&t.

Focus on the Customer
Why has Google been so successful?  They focus on the customer and do anything and everything to build trust with the customer.  They do exactly what I want, how I want it done.  Apple until now has been fairly good with this, but the partnership with AT&T has been bothering me.  I don't have an Iphone but people who have the Iphone have complained about AT&T's network.  Now why Apple isn't reaching out and working with Verizon after 5 years puzzles me.  I have had T-Mobile(Voice Stream), Sprint, AT&T (Cingular) and Verizon all as my carriers and so far Verizon is the best.  I would not sacrifice having a solid network for an Iphone.  Dropped calls are just not an issue with Verizon.  I would much rather have a regular smart phone that is not an Iphone and not have to worry about a lost connection.  Once again, just focusing of things that work.  At&t has a really slow and behind network.  If the Iphone came to Verizon I would buy it, but I am not going to go chasing after Apple.

Today Steve Jobs called Adobe Lazy-I think Apple is Lazy; Why? because after 5 years if you still don't have an Iphone for Verizon you have redefined lazy.  He attacked Google.  People love Google , I love Google.  Google gives us a lot of stuff from free.  Don't criticize their "Don't be Evil" slogan-work on yours.  The fact that after 5 years, Apple is still not working with other carriers tells me that they are not listening to their customer.  Apple does not realize that keeping such secrecy can bring a lot of hype, but it can also annoy the customer.  Why after 5 years there is no Iphone for Verizon
and Apple not telling anyone why that is- is flat out annoying.

I have an idea Apple: Survey Me! (or just read this blog because I could not find a survey on Apple's website.)
New Product Perception
As mentioned before, the reason people have flew towards Apple is because of Microsoft resentment.  People were willing to pay more money for a better product.  Microsoft overcharged its customers for operating systems that did not do what the customers were looking for.  Not only did Microsoft's Operating systems cost a lot of money, the cost users a ton of time when they would freeze and crash, and a lot of stress when it just didn't work.  People just wanted a simple easy to use computer that did what they needed it to do.  Microsoft did not listen to it's customers.  Apple is Dangerously on the same road.  Look out fast and easy people left and deserted Microsoft, Apple is not immune from this situation.

Apple heavily overcharges for its products and services.  Granted they provide quality products, other companies like HP and Dell are beginning to shell out cool looking gadgets.  Steve Jobs apparently wanted to lower the price so that people could afford the product.  The Ipod Touch cost from $199(8GB) to $399(64GB).  I personally never really wanted an Ipod Touch, my desire for an Ipad is about the same.

I look back at Apple about 2 years ago when they came out with the MacBook Air.  The Macbook Air by general consensus among the people I know was the coolest thing ever.  And to this day, I still think its pretty damn cool.  I remember when Steve Jobs pulled it out of that envelope and shocked everyone.  I would have bought it at the time if it didn't cost $2000.  I would buy it today if it didn't cost $1500.  More so, regardless of how cool I thought the product was, I can count on my fingers the number of MacBook Air's I have seen outside of retail stores in the last 2 years.

Now the Iphone was a huge success but it does not mean that model and name will work for everything.  Apple has expanded the Ipod line from the Ipod Shuffle to the Ipad.  Its getting too broad.  The Macbook Air was a much viable platform that Apple could have built off of.  The computer was simple, thin, compact, and sexy.  It had a webcam, it was light, and had the bare necessities: a Power Adapter and  a USB port.  If Apple wants something between a Macbook and an Ipod, they should have the product between a Macbook Air and an Iphone.  Running The same OS run on Iphones and Ipods just makes the Ipad seem all the more like an Ipod.  If Apple is developing a new product, they should not have that product seem like EITHER.  This even goes by the name.  The "Ipad" gives it the connotation that it is an extension of the Ipod line.  Not only that, the name is a bit funny, Islate may have been a better choice of words.

Mr. Jobs mentioned that Netbooks don't accomplish anything: they are just cheap laptops.  Indeed he is correct, but what he failed to realize is that the Ipad does the same thing in reverse, it is just a more expensive Ipod.  My Asus Netbook cost me 300 dollars.  It came with Windows XP (which I upgraded to Windows 7, Jolicloud, and soon Chrome OS).  It has 160 GB of hard drive, 9 inch screen, VGA port, 2 USB ports, Power adapter, built in webcam, microphone, keyboard, and removable batter.  Oh yes, and an SD card reader.  Now Apple needs to see how much value added benefit are they providing for the extra $200-500.  Sure its a cool looking sexy device, but will it do what I want it to? Up until this point, consumers were willing to shell out the extra couple hundred dollars for a product that did something new and worked.  Its a bad economy and in today's day and age, a lot of new products work.     
The fact that the Ipad can't multitask to me is simply a joke-At least I hope it is. 

Now this blog post may seem like a rant about how much I hate Apple however it is not aimed to be such.  In fact, I am a huge fan of Apple and the products the come up with.  From the way I see it, Apple is not on the right road and is not utilizing the markets the way it should be.  Apple's market share was built up by listening to the consumer which is exactly what they are not doing.  Over the last 3 months I purchased 2 new Macs (Mac Mini and Macbook) and love both of them.  I only wish success for the company and do not mean to demise it which is the reason I sat down to compile my view of the direction they are headed.  I would love to hear what other people have to say about this issue.  I am no industry expert my objective is to simply look at the situation from a practical point of view.    

Steve Jobs is brilliant-Maybe he just needs a vacation.

In the meanwhile please entertain yourself with this hilarious IPad Video. 

P.S. I am currently a student an unemployed if anyone at Apple is looking for an innovative person

Just kidding. 


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Online Banks-Fate of Brokers

As a finance student, who has worked in the banking industry, I have seen a trend that not many people seem to follow or agree with and that is the future of retail banking is unclear. To explain more about what I mean I will use the example of stock brokers.

During the 1990's if one would want to purchase stocks of a company or invest money in the stock market, they would have to discuss the matter with their stock broker. Stock Brokers were known to be fat money eating traders who constantly gave their clients bad advice. Individuals or corporations would have to either call their broker or go into their office to purchase shares of (ex) Microsoft. There would be a lot of paperwork involved and stock brokers would take a heavy commission for performing the trade. The job of a stock broker is pretty simple: they are a middleman. The customer comes to them to purchase stocks, they fill out the paperwork and contact the company to purchase the stock. In doing so they would charge terribly high prices.

Over the past decade since 2000, we have seen a shift from having to go to a stock broker to facilitate a stock trade to being able to directly going online and trade shares yourself. Online stock brokers charge commissions ranging anywhere from $3 to $20 for the most involved trades. In todays day an age, someone maybe laughed at for using a personal broker charging exuberant commissions. More so, major online brokers provide research and analysis that allows individuals to easily research their own stocks and not have to rely on the advice of anyone else.

Lets take a look at retail banks and where the trends have been going. Before we look at where banking is going in the future it is important to take a minute to understand how banking works and the simplicity. Banking is a very very simple idea that has grown exponentially. The basics idea of banking is that similar to stock brokers. If an individual has $10,000 that they do not plan on using immediately, they can go to a bank and deposit that money into an account. Bankers are essentially the middlemen; They take in deposits and reinvest and loan out money charging a higher interest rate. So the bank may take your $10,000 and loan it to someone looking to buy a car. The person may promise to pay the bank 6% interest or 10,600 after one year. Traditionally a bank should take a small portion of the interest for facilitating the trade (maybe 1%) and give the depositor the rest of the interest (5%), as an incentive to deposit more money. Now this concept is pretty basic and easy to understand, the part I do not understand is: How come the bank his charging 10%+ to loan out money and depositors are getting >1% interest. This to me is a major flaw and will backfire on the banks.

Just like stock brokers, I have begun to see a transition in which most banking will be done online. Because more people have been using traditional retail banks for longer time period than stock brokers, this online banking transition will be gradual and slower. I will give an example of how online banking can be implemented. I recently opened an online account with a bank named Etrade (FDIC insured). You may have heard of them as the stock brokers. I have never set foot in an Etrade bank nor have I seen one. I filled out my application online and received a call confirming my identity and that I am the one who actually opened the account. The process took less than 30 minutes and I was able to open the account from the comfort of my own home.  Within 2 days, I received my account opening information and my Visa Check Card.   I have been using Etrade for over a year and have yet to encounter a problem with them. Once again, I would like to emphasize I have never gone to an Etrade bank since I opened the account.

Many people may question this concept as it seems a bit far stretched. First question that comes to mind is "how do you know your money is safe?" Well as i mentioned before, Etrade is actually a bank and is FDIC insured. I did my research. If you don't believe me, here it is.  Another question someone may have is "how do you deposit money?"  There are many different ways.  The three most popular are:
1) Transfer money from another bank account
2) Mail them a check
3) Direct deposit from your employer.
Now depositing may be a little more involved, but withdrawing is as can be.  Etrade refunds any ATM withdrawal fees at any atm.  Because they do not have to incur the high cost of stand alone branches, they can  afford to refund your fees.  As you may or may not already know, you can use your visa check card anywhere like a regular credit card.  Getting your money from the bank is not an issue.

Etrade also offers a higher interest rate than most of the other banks right now.  This is probably because, like I said before, they do not have to pay for big branches with lots of tellers.  Their major costs may be ATM fees, customer service centers in one or two locations, and any additional government fees or costs.  As a result, Etrade is able to loan out money an give me more interest due to lower costs.

Credit Unions have also become popular but I do not feel they will kick off anytime soon.  I like the concept of Credit Unions but unfortunately they have fallen behind banks. Credit Unions are groups in which institutions can enlist their members in.  They have less costs and as the members run the Union, all profits are returned to them therefor offering higher interest rates.  They still require lots of tellers, buildings and other additional costs.

Bank of America has recently added unique advance features to their ATM's.  I use Bank of America ATM's on a regular basis.  The ATM has the ability to scan checks and detect the amount on the check.  More so, I can put up to 40 currency bills at once and it will accurately count the money and deposit.  If an ATM has the ability to do all of these tasks, the stand alone job of a teller has essentially been eliminated.  I love not having to wait in long lines, or deal with annoying customer services representatives.  (No offense to tellers, as I was one myself).  Disclaimer: I do not mean to sound like a salesman for Bank of America and Etrade-rather they are meant to be examples.  No one pays me to write these blog posts.  

There have also been a rise for online "peer to peer lending."  This may also be a new trending in banking.  Peer to Peer lending is a system in which depositors can pick people or groups that they would like to lend their money too. These sites gives people the ability to post pages to request loans and allow investors to read their request and invest as the like.  People can earn very high interest rates by doing this.  Such sites have already started to creep up such as Prosper and Lending Club.

With the recent economic crisis people have started really hating banks.  Banks essentially took in depositors money, charged bogus service fees on their accounts and started playing poker with their money.  People are beginning to loose trust in banks and wonder why they are getting a quarter for every $100 saved-why save in the first place?  Retail banks need to drastically change to stay in the game.  They can not afford to have huge bank buildings and employee dozens of tellers.  Maybe this may take decades to fully change, but we saw how fast people began using online stock brokers.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Postal Service Sundays

One of the biggest issues that has puzzled me for months if not years is: Why dont we get mail on Sundays? In today's digital age with the rise of e-commerce why is there a one day break every week in our mail. Not many people seem to complain about it, yet everyone I discuss this with agree with me. I already paid my taxes-how much more will it cost me to get mail on Sunday?

Let me start out with an example. One of my favorite websites is Crammer yesterday on Mad Money called it "the Walmart of the Internet" which to a certain extent is true. Amazon has mastered and perfected a system of housing large inventories around the country and shipping it to the customer with almost no delay. When people want to buy something, they do not want to have to wait and longer than they have to. I can't remember a single item I have purchased on Amazon within the last year that took longer than 2-3 days to arrive to me-in many cases, it was the next day. Amazon has done everything it could to get the product to the customer as fast as possible, the Postal Services not delivering on Sunday is out of Amazon's hands.

Many stores have started an "in store pickup" feature where customers can buy products and pick them up in the stores. This is great considering it is faster for people who want the product and cheaper that you don't have to pay for gas. However it is still an inconvenience to go to the store to pick up the item, it defeats the purpose of buying it online-why waste the time online?

If the postal service were to deliver on Sunday, would it really hurt them? I understand USPS is a government service so they are closed for government holidays, but buses and trains still run on Sunday; Police still operate on Sunday; Almost every retailer having an online store is open on Sundays-Whats wrong with Postal People. From my knowledge, UPS, FedEX or DHL do not have deliveries on Sundays, and if they do it probably costs more than the item being purchased. This issue is not just limited to USPS. I read a report that USPS has had a decrease in profits and have had to shut down Post Offices and relieve workers. Is it really that hard to figure out why they are loosing business? It doesn't take a genius to tell their rates are high and their services is slow. Staying open on Sundays may even help postal services increase business.

In my view with more and more people buying products online, this is a serious problem! As a business student, this situation appears to be a complete economic inefficiency as slow shipping can discourage people to buy products online and hurt online retailers. Now the issue that bothers me the most is that online retailers try so hard to increase online sales and sell as much as they can, but the biggest issue people (including myself) find with buying things online is slow shipping and terribly high costs. Of course, transport of so many items is no easy task however if the Postal services made deliveries faster and on Sunday, there would not be a one day break in 24 hours online retailing and more people would buy more products online. E-commerce is a huge portion of the United States economy, this simple change could drive increase productivity and profitability off the charts.

Maybe I'm just mad my speakers are in the mail and taking forever.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Google Has Got it Right-For The Most Part

People who know me well know that I am a big fan of Google.  I felt it would be nice to dedicate one post to Google as I have a feeling many posts will be referencing them.  The way I see it Google is Good.  People see some hidden agenda behind closed doors, but that may just  be fear of the past.  Many times in the past corporations have tricked people and as a result they had not read the "fine print."  Here is Google's catch-The more you use Google, the more money the make.  Not from you but from advertisers.

Google is a search engine, but they make money from online advertisements.  In short, Google is an advertising company.  If you preform a Google search, your page is filled with relevant advertisements to the search query you made.  These advertisements are by corporations and individuals who want you to come to their website.  For example, if you search "headphones" the first link that should appear is "SkullCandy" headphones in a shaded text box.  In the top right corner there are these little words written "Sponsored Links."  How many times did you notice that before you clicked on the ad.  If you dont believe me, here it is:

To me, that ad is just as relative as the next link in the list and I loose nothing by clicking on it.  Every time you, me, or anybody clicks on that link, Skullcandy pays Google a "Pay Per Click"  This could be $.01 or $20.  The more obscure the search the higher the value.  if a Pay Per Click is $.05 per click, The Advertiser will pay Google $.05 per click on the ad.  Google then keeps a cut-maybe $.01 and gives the website owner the rest- $.04.  Everyone is happy:

Marketters get a lot of people to see their product for cheap
Google takes a cut
Website owners get a cut
Viewers see something relevant and have nothing to loose (except time)

Hopefully soon I intend on having Ads by Google on this page for relevant advertisements to appear and to generate revenue.  If I have thousands of people coming and reading my blog and them clicking on the links, I make money-Therefore Please Click the links/Ads on the side of this page.

Just Kidding

If you are still with me, you will come to see that the more people use Google, the more money it makes.       Essentially all the free products Google releases is to get you to use their search more.  That this the catch.  They are not forcing you to use the products, search anything, or do anything different.  If Google makes you happy, you will keep using the search engine and they will keep making money every time you click on a search Ad.  Now in my opinion - this is brilliant.

People have been complaining that Google has too much information stored online about them.  They are not the only ones.  Almost everyone uses email in todays world-Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, Company Mail, or any other Domain Mail.  All of the information is saved on a server located elsewhere that is accessible anywhere there is internet.  Email is just one aspect of Google's product line.  Google also has Voice, Calendar, Talk, Docs, Reader, and a lot more.  Now Google is providing us with all of these free services so that we use Google more.  We sometimes (ab)use these new innovative products to the max that help us in our day to day lives, now inevitably Google is going to have a huge amount of data about use stored on their servers.  I know almost everything I do (including this blog post) is on Google.  This is the key question-How is this Google's fault?

I'll give you an example.  When I go to get a haircut (cost cutters),  I go into the salon and they ask for my name.  I give it to them and they pull out a little card which tells them exactly how to cut my hair.  I like this especially because I can never remember what clipper number I usually get.  Now my barber has no other use for the card other than providing me fast good service when I come in.  It makes it easier and faster for them, and it makes me happier and satisfied.  Now one day I come in and don't like the fact that they write down how they cut my hair last time.  Its an invasion of my privacy right?  What are they going to do-sell the card to my neighbor?

Google provides use with great services so as a result, they have to store all the information that we provide them with.  Whose fault is that?  What is the solution?  I wouldn't know to do if I were the CEO of Google-how does one explain this situation to an ordinary person aside of reading this blog post.  They tried to make it as transparent as possible by creating The Data Liberation Front, but that just made people even more mad after seeing how much information THEY gave google.  This comes to a key point in this blog:  I don't know if I am missing something here- please let me know if I am.  Like I mentioned in my first post, I ask myself this question many times a day.

Please leave me comments if you agree or disagree with me.

My First Blog-Who Am I?

I will dedicate my first blogpost to describing myself. I have nothing to hide-My name is Sapan and I attend Lehigh University as a Business student. Currently I am in my third year and was born and brought up in Allentown, PA. I wanted to go somewhere fun, exciting and different so I decided to attend Lehigh University all the way in Bethlehem, PA. (sarcasm noted) My parents are from Indian-thereby classify my nationality as Indian and I have 1 sister.

That sums up who I am now I will explain the intent of this blog. Ever since I was a young boy, I have had this talent of identifying inefficiencies in many of the things we do. Somethings in my opinion do not make much sense and are not very practical. Many times a day I find myself asking questions like am I really that stupid or have people not thought this through? I know there are millions of bloggers out there who may or may not have similar discussions about the matters I want to address, but I really want to see if I am the only one who sees the world in a different light. Many times when I explain something to my friends, they tend to agree with what I have to say which means:
1) I am always right
2) They just don't feel like arguing with me
3) They don't know what I am talking about

Speaking of not knowing what I am talking about, you as the reader, probably have no idea what my intent of writing in this blog. I wish to provide daily accounts of something that I have found that is not practical, inefficient, or plain just doesn't make much sense. I wish to see the views of other people to see if they agree or disagree with me-and why.

I tend to be particularly interested in the Tech and Finance sectors but the topics I write about will go past these 2 topics and should describe general issues.