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Is Video a Crock? It’s Certainly Not the New Holy Grail. Get Off the Screen, Dudes.

Many of you will recognize the title – borrowed from "Enterprise 2.0 a Crock" Dennis Howlett.

Needless to say I was quite interested in his discussion with David Terrar, who is more of an E20 fan.

Hm…hard to watch.  Dennis is too loud while David is barely audible.  I kept on turning the volume up and down, until I quit after a few minutes.  But it’s not just the technical issues.  It’s a long video for the message it delivers, and I hate to admit but it could not glue me to my chair for 8 minutes. 

His opinions and sometimes abrasive style aside Dennis is a great analytical thinker, but he is (as I suspect all of us are) simply more organized, more concise in writing.  Simply more convincing – or thought provoking – and definitely easier to "consume" in writing, than this video-torture.  So now you see where my title comes from.  If Dennis says E20 is a crock, then I say so is video. It’s simply not the best medium for a lot of messages.

But I am not picking on Dennis.  Here’s a video by Allen Stern of the CenterNetworks fame:

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Office Depot Deceptive Advertising

For being a netbook-fan I admit I am in the market for a super-slim lightweight laptop.  The market has evolved, the current slimbooks are only slightly more expensive than netbooks, and I find the 13.3” screen size an ideal compromise between portability and straining my eyes with the tiny screens.  So I was quite happy to see what I consider a good deal: a HP DM3 for $449 @ Office Depot.

office depot dm3

I found it on DealNews a few days ago, but it became impossible to purchase almost immediately. I tried it for a few days, most recently just minutes ago, but am always getting the same response: no inventory.

insuff stock

The other SKU is available though, for $150 more. It appears the be the same configuration, without the discount.  I tried to tweet up @OfficeDepot, but I guess they are busy handing out cookies.  Finally I had an online chat with Customer Service, which basically conformed my suspicion: the SKU that’s available is the same physical unit, just without the discount.  So here’s the beef (not cookie):

  • Office Depot is advertising a computer at $449
  • The price is listed as effective through Jan 30th, without mentioning any restriction on how many they are selling at this price
  • They do have available inventory
  • They refuse to sell it at the listed price

If this is not false advertising, I don’t know what is.

Finally, see the script of my Customer Service chat:

Office Depot Online Help

Chat Dialog

CSR Gary has entered the session.
Zoli: looking at item# 328626 – says no inventory. The same config available for $150 more under different SKU. But this one says price valid till Jan 30 – so how can I buy it?
CSR Gary: Thank you for contacting Office Depot , Please give me a moment, while I check that for you.
Zoli: thanks
CSR Gary: You are welcome
CSR Gary: Thank you for being on hold
CSR Gary: I am sorry item “328626” is no longer available for purchase
Zoli: Isn’t 808119 the same?
CSR Gary: yes it is the same
CSR Gary: may i have your zip code
Zoli: 94566
CSR Gary: item 808119 is available for purchase
CSR Gary: please do call our customer care
department @ 1-800-463-3768 and they will help you in
placing this order
Zoli: I see the availability online. but it is the identical product for $150 more then the other price, which claims to be valid till 1/30
CSR Gary: Yes
CSR Gary: We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused.
CSR Gary: Is there anything else I may assist you with?
Zoli: It’s not a matter of inconvenience. If your website claims it is avail for $449, and you do have inventory, then you should be sellign it for that price, not $599
Zoli: Otherwise this feels like deceptive advertising
CSR Gary: I am sorry the item is available until stocks last
CSR Gary: I will escalate this issue to the concerned department to remove the out of stock item from the website
Zoli: OK. Thanks.
Zoli: I’m blogging this as a case of deceptive advertising

Update – I guess I should not be surprised:  Office Depot Associates Routinely Lie about Notebook Stock – reported Laptop Magazine almost a year ago.

Update #2:  Did Office Depot really need this:

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Look Who’s Talking: ASUS, the Designer Brand

asusnx90 Brand vs. Quality. Which Would You Pay For? – I asked recently, making the case that “trusted old brands” like HP are producing inferior quality, while formerly “no-name cheapo” component maker ASUS is becoming a household name.  They are basically doing what Honda, Toyota (and now the Koreans)  did to the car business.

Sure, ASUS rode a good wave becoming the leading netbook-maker, but they are not stopping there. First it was price, then performance, reliability – now it’s design.

“We are looking forward to leading the PC industry into a new era of thought behind computer design,” said ASUS chairman Jonney Shih, after unveiling four new computers at the event. At one point, Shih seemed to allude to Apple as a role model, saying that an overriding focus on design has been the domain of one company in the industry.   (Source: TechFlash)

Now, who’s “the Brand”?

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SaaS CEO on Improving Website Visitor to Trial User to Paying Customer Conversion

I don’t claim to be an expert in the area, so this is more a quick pointer then a real post. Well, too short for a post, too long for a tweet:-)

Duane Jackson, CEO of SaaS accounting provider Kashflow writes up his experience of using Google Analytics and Website Optimizer to fine-tune his site to increase conversion:

It turned out that of everyone that visited our registration page, only 45% of them actually went on to complete it. So over half of everyone that looked at our registration page sailed off into the sunset never to be seen again.
We’ve managed to gradually improve that to almost 70% by trying a few different things…

His conclusion:

I’m really pleased we’ve found the time and tools to do this. What really irks me is that we didn’t do this ages ago. I could sit down and calculate what our revenues and customer numbers would look like if we improved conversions like this years ago – but I’m scared to.

Every day that you’re not actively working on improving your conversion ratios is a day of lost opportunities.

You can do it, too at zero cost:-) Or if you want to turn pro level, you may want to check out HubSpot, the inbound marketing gurus.

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Dubious SaaS Awards

SaaS Directory has announced September’s most popular SaaS companies.  The top 5 are:

September’s top 5 US winners are:
#1 – Gogrid
#2 – WebECS
#3 – CariNet
#4 – Rackspace
#5 – American Data Technology

That’s a strange list..or perhaps SaaS Directory has a strange definition of “SaaS companies” since the top 5 are all in the web hosting business. (ASP, anyone?).  Well, it triggered my curiosity enough to dig deeper and look at the full list.  I’m not picking on any business here, simply stating my own ignorance, but I have to admit I haven’t heard of Robson Communications, Younicycle, Apptix or Yuba, just to name a few.   But perhaps it’s just me, so I asked around on Twitter:

How many “SaaS” companies do you recognize in this so-called “most popular” list?

Here are a few responses:

list1

Hm.. you tell me:-)

list2

6 from former Industry Analyst and current SaaS Exec Chris Selland – should say something about the list

list3

Ben makes a living writing about this stuff, and he only recognizes a third of these companies…

There’s one on the list I know by pure co-incidence: Vembu Technologies, whose CEO I happened to meet at his brother Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu’s office (disclosure: Zoho is Cloudave’s exclusive Sponsor).  I guess it proves it’s an entrepreneurial family: but wouldn’t Zoho be a more recognizable SaaS brand than Vembu?

The more I look at the SaaS Directory, the more confused I am.  Or perhaps they are the ones quite confused?  Here’s their definition of SaaS Project Management:

SaaS is an effective project management tool which enables teams to work together towards achieving common objectives dramatically improving the overall user experience while offering increased flexibility

“SaaS is an effective tool”… LOL.  (By the way, for SaaS PM discussions you may want to read this thread, or Andrew Filev’s PM 2.0 Blog)

Clicking further I’ve discovered the SaaS Directory Forums – they all seem to be overrun by commercial  spam:

saasforum

I rest my case.  Awards are a great way to recognize effort, success – but some awards can only harm a company’s reputation. As for the SaaS Directory – well, it’s a directory sans the SaaS part.

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Salesforce.com: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Is Salesforce.com’s glass for SMBs half full (of lemonade)  or half empty?  I borrowed the lemonade metaphor from Venturebeat’s post announcing Salesforce.com’s new Contact Manager offering for (very) small businesses.

On second thought we should use orange juice as a metaphor – as in disappearing orange juice, by Tropicana which offers less juice in a redesigned pitcher for the same price, and even tries to sell it as a benefit to consumerssmile_angry

Salesforce.com “pulled a Tropicana” with the announcement of their $9 Contact Management edition, and the funny thing is, nobody seems to have noticed it. No, the media duly buys what Salesforce.com PR sells, welcoming the new edition as “giving something back to the little guy” , “breaking through a price barrier”, “making it affordable for SMBs to get in the Cloud”.

Nobody bothered to do some fact-checking, which would have unveiled that in the new Edition is in fact offering less for the same price, a’la Tropicana.  Salesforce.com has pulled off a price increase and it went largely unnoticed.

sforce1Prior to this announcement the lowest-priced edition of Salesforce CRM, the Group Edition was priced at $9 per user per month, and it is now increased to $35.   The few media outlets that noticed this refer to it as temporary promotion for August, that has now expired.   Let’s see just how temporary it was: the “promo” started not in August but in June, and not in 2009, but 2008.

sforce2

This promotion was supposed to expire in July of last year, but it did not – and I correctly predicted it would transition into a permanent price-cut, without much fanfare.  Indeed the $9 pricing lasted over a year.  And just for the record, prior to dropping the price to $9, CRM Group Edition had cost $20 – so the $35 new price is definitely not just ending a promotion, it’s a price hike of several notches.

But forget history, let’s look at value: having a Contact Manager functionality is certainly useful, although I suspect Google Apps (which is integrated with this Salesforce.com offering) will also offer enhanced Contacts functions.   Still, nice – for 2 users only, as that’s the maximum number  allowed for this edition.  Talk about 2-person companies, let’s remember that Salesforce.com used to offer a free single-user Personal Edition CRM.  I’ve just checked my dormant account, it’s still working – but the offering is no longer available for new users.

So let’s see: from free CRM for one user, later $9 CRM up to five users, we’ve gone to $9 Contact Manager for two users.  Quite an improvement.smile_sad

Now if you have 3 users, the lowest entry point to Salesforce.com is now Group Edition at $35 per person = $105 vs. the previous price of $27.   And if you have 6 users, you no longer qualify for Group Edition, your entry point now is Professional Edition at $65 per user.

Oh, well.  Math lesson over, it’s a nice sunny morning, time for my glass of OJ ( not half full, not half empty – just full.smile_tongue)

(Disclosure: I’m Editor of CloudAve, a group blog sponsored by Zoho.  This article is cross-posted there.)

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Southern Comfort Goes All Digital – Hopefully Smarter, Too…

Southern Comfort dumps old media, and pours (pun intended) their entire $8 million media budget on the Net.  Let’s hope they’ll spend it smarter then they did on this ad four years ago.

What’s wrong with this banner?  Nothing – unless you place it in context. It appeared just days after Hurricane Katrina almost wiped out New Orleans… which gives the words “where anything can happen” a special meaning.  And if you think it was just an innocent mistake, read the details here.

Related posts:

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Fiber One. Cardboard No (?) Deceptive Yes. Do They Think We’re Stupid?

Fiber One has a risky tagline: Cardboard no. Delicious yes.

Why risky?  Because ..well, cardboard is indeed the first word that comes to mind when I taste it.  Oh, well, my Dad likes it.  Lucky for him, since he needs it for health: it’s hard to find this much fiber in half a cup of breakfast cereal elsewhere.  I assume that’s the reason for this product’s popularity, not taste…but wait, building on the base product’s success, there is now a whole range of Fiber One products, cereals, breakfast bars..etc.

They went mainstream. Translation: sweet, tasty, sugary, less healthy.  From 57% of your recommended daily fiber intake down to 20% in some cases.  But wait.. there’s one cereal likely a lot tastier and not that far from the original fiber content:

Forget the standard industry trick that the new box contains only 14.25 ounces instead of the original 16.2 for the same price… it’s almost as healthy and likely tastes better. Let’s check the small print:

Capture Capture1

At first glance the two products are close: 14g vs. 13g fiber.  But how come the tastier version is listed with 42g Carbs while the original had only 25?   And 160 Calories vs. 60?

Oh, there’s the trick: the ingredients are listed as per serving. However, the original serving size was half a cup, while the tastier Honey Clusters’ serving size is 1 cup.   I repeat:

General Mills, makers of Fiber One is using (almost) double the serving size to compare fiber content.  The true comparison would be on the same serving basis, which would show  a drop from 51% fiber content to roughly 25%.

This is an outrage: while technically correct, it gives false impression, especially since these products are typically placed right next to each other on supermarket shelves – and on the company’s website, for that matter.

Shame on you, General Mills for treating us as if we were stupid.

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Brits, the Masters of the Universe… the Facebook Universe

University of Salford

Image via Wikipedia

The University of Salford in Manchaster will offer a Masters degree in Social Media, focusing on Facebook and Twitter.

Salford claims to be the world’s first to offer a Masters course in social media, but they are not.  That title goes to Birmingham City University which announced their one-year course in Social Media in March. For a cool £4,400 ($7,200) you get a Master’s Degree of … well, let’s just say questionable value. 

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Accessorize Your Algorithm, Amazon :-)

I think this email promo I’ve just received from Amazon after purchasing the replacement filters (first item shown) speaks for itself.  I guess if I had bought a kitchen sink or some furniture, they would offer a house as accessory.smile_regular