Goods AND Services –> AMAZON

Repair
Really like what I read yesterday…Amazon is expanding from selling goods to also adding services.

 
Amazon is the #1 stop for just about any daily purchase (except things like cars and houses, which I think Amazon will eventually consider for an acquisition in the future as well). 
 
With their nearly effortless shopping experience, free shipping (for “Prime” customers), and easy returns, it is eCommerce as it was meant to be!
 
Now according to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is adding local service providers from plumbers to electricians.
 
The cross-selling possibilities are luring–so that as you purchase a household item, up pops local services providers for someone to install or service the item–it’s all integrated.
 
Moreover, Amazon will do background checks on these service partners, determine if they have liability insurance, and offer a money-back guarantee on the services rendered (Oy vey to Craigslist and Angie’s List).
 
Amazon is a brilliant retailer, once they have holodeck like virtual reality experience where you can simulate actually being next the goods to look at them, feel them, even try them (on), then we will achieve shopping nirvana and will never have to enter a Best Buy or other then useless and obsolete bricks and mortar retailer again. 😉
 
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Yo Mostro)

Selfie Heaven

Selfie
So this lady found out how to take the best selfies.



She has an extendable stick with an adjustable ball head that attaches to her smartphone, and a separate remote control for snapping the photos.



Here she is with the camera snapping away.



I looked it up on Amazon and this device is only around $6.



For a completely ego-centric society without friends, why not get this doodad and you too can take selfish selfies all day long. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Pepper Spray to Champagne

From Pepper Spray to Champagne

Shhh! This is the story of drones.

Drones continue to go from battlefield to backyard.

Initially, developed for advanced persistent surveillance and later weaponized for targeting terrorists, we heard the like of Jeff Bezos promise drones for Amazon delivery.

Once again, the double-edge of drones continues…

This week we saw the introduction of scary, “Riot Control Drones” developed by Desert Wolf (a military contractor) that can shoot 4,000 rounds of pepper spray, paint balls, and non-lethal plastic projectiles, employs bright strobe lights and blinding lasers, and issues commands and warnings through loud speakers, and monitors crowds of protesters by high-definition and thermal vision cameras.

At the same time, we saw drones being used as Flying Bel Hops in the luxury Casa Madrona hotel and spa in California for delivering champagne, treats, toys, and even sunglasses to their $10,000 a night guests on their guest deck or even to a boat out on the bay.

And we are still only at the beginning, with drones, and robotics in general, moving to revolutionize our world.

Robots will surveil, they will attack and kill, and they will serve people everywhere from restaurants and retail to hospitals and homes.

You can’t shush the robots, they are on the march and they will have the means to help and hurt people–it won’t be simple, but it definitely will be completely invasive. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazing Amazon

Amazing Amazon

So Amazon should be renamed Amazing, because they are.

They are the best online retailer–love ’em!

SELECTION: Amazon has everything.

PRICE: Amazon is reasonably priced.

SPEED: Amazon Prime gets you your goodies delivered in under 48 hours.

RETURNS: Amazon takes returns easily; virtually no questions asked.

Amazon is so customer focused that you can even email Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO himself, at Jeff@Amazon.com.

Aside from their highly successful retail operation, they have the Kindle tablets, Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud computing, Kiva Robots for warehouse operations, and more.

So what’s the secret of their success?

One thing, according to the Wall Street Journal, is their tough hiring practices.

Amazon has “several hundred” interviewers called “Bar Raisers” that give candidates extremely thorough interviews.

Bar Raisers typically have conducted “dozens or hundreds of interviews and gained a reputation for asking tough questions and identifying candidates who go on to become stars.”

Typically, it “takes five or six employees at least two hours each” to evaluate and vet an applicant.

Amazon makes all this effort in recruiting to weed out people who are the wrong fit for the company.

They believe that it’s better to invest in a sophisticated recruiting process than to make costly hiring mistakes.

While this certainly sounds like a well thought out and vigorous hiring process, the article makes little to no mention of performance measures showing that their hires really are better matches, have superior performance, or stay with the company longer.

The one anecdote given was of a Bar Raiser who found a candidate for a programming job that “didn’t know much about the specific programming language.”

Barring some real statistics though, either you could conclude that Amazon’s hiring process is truly superior or perhaps question why it takes them 5 to 6 interviews to do what other successful companies do in 1 or 2.

Either way though, Amazon is a amazingly great company. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon Delivery – By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Amazon Delivery - By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is one very smart guy and when he announces that he is interested in drones delivering your next online order that makes for a lot of grandstanding.

But really how is a dumb drone delivering an order of diapers or a book so exciting.

Aside from putting a lot of delivery people at USPS, UPS, and FedEx out of work, what does the consumer get out of it?

Honestly, I don’t care if if the delivery comes by Zike-Bike, Crunk-Car, Zumble-Zay, Bumble-Boat, or a Gazoom, as Dr. Seuss would say–I just care that it gets here fast, safely, and cheaply.

Will a drone be able to accomplish those things, likely–so great, send the drone over with my next order, but this doesn’t represent the next big technological leap.

It doesn’t give us what the real world of robotics in the future is offering: artificial intelligence, natural language processing, augmentation of humans, or substitution by robots altogether, to do things stronger, faster, and more precisely, and even perhaps companionship to people.

Turning surveillance and attack drones into delivery agents is perhaps a nice gesture to make a weapon into an everyday service provider.

And maybe the Octocopters even help get products to customers within that holy grail, one day timeframe, that all the retailers are scampering for.

It’s certainly a great marketing tool–because it’s got our attention and we’re talking about it.

But I’ll take a humanoid robot sporting a metallic smile that can actually interact with people, solve problems, and perform a multitude of useful everyday functions–whether a caregiver, a bodyguard, or even a virtual friend (e.g. Data from Star Trek)–over a moving thingamajig that Dr. Seuss foresaw for Marvin K. Mooney. 😉

Amazon Will Bury Walmart

Walmart_mess

I’ve never seen the great allure of Walmart. Actually before I moved from NYC to the DC area more than a decade ago, I had never even seen a Walmart–and that was just fine. 

But I had heard these amazing tales of how they were superstores with everything you could ever want and at low prices and the shopping experience was supposed to be, oh what a delight!

So I cannot tell you my utter disappointment the first time I went to Walmart–shabby storefronts, elderly door greeters handing out store circulars and stickers, messy aisles and shelves, with low price tags on a swirling everything, and sort of the image of crummy leftover merchanidse throughout, and top that off with pushing crowds trying to save a couple of bucks on the junk. 

Let’s just say, I’m not running back to Walmart, especially when we have online shopping experiences like Amazon–now that is much closer to nirvana. 

No drive, no crowds, no wait, no up and down the aisles looking for what you want, no shlepping, and no in your face “everyday low prices” image and we won’t let you forget it–instead easy to find, interesting, varied, and quality merchandise of all types, at reasonable prices, with an easy checkout process, home delivery, free shipping, and easy returns. 

And as opposed to Walmart which is stuck in costly and inconvenient large brick and mortar stores, Amazon is investing in infrastructure of the future with convenient warehouse and delivery centers throughout the country, and more recently with their purchase of Kiva Systems in March 2012 for implementing robotics in their fulfillment centers. 

On top of it, Walmart (with nearly 2.2 million employees worldwide) in its endeavor to keep prices low, have spun up their workforce with jobs–that are often part time and unpredictable, low wage, lacking proper benefits, unsafe working conditions, and with questionable advancement opportunties (especially for women). Throw on top of that bribery allegations for which they’ve hired a new complaince officer. Yet, Walmart has also somehow managed to keep their workforce from unionizing to improve things. 

So how should we say this: how about straight out–Amazon gets it and Walmart does not!

And while Walmart has their own .com site–which coincidentally looks very much like Amazon’s–Amazon is eating Walmart’s lunch online, with according to NBC News a 41% revenue increase for Amazon’s online sales versus just 3.4% for Walmart’s. Moreover, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 March 2012) reports that Walmart’s 2011 online sales amounted to less than 2% of their U.S. sales–they just can’t seem to make the digital transformation!

So While overall Amazon sales at $48 billion are still only about 1/9 of Walmart colossal $419 billion, Amazon with it’s high-tech approach (including their successful Kindle eReaders, cloud computing, and more) is anticipated to reach $100 billion in online sales by 2015

Like the other big box retailers of yore, Kmart, Sears, JC Penny, Circuit City, Best Buy, and more, Walmart will decline–it will just take a little longer and with a little more thrashing, because of the size of their checkbooks.  

Perhaps, as the New York Times implied years ago (17 July 2005) only stores like Costco (and throw in Nordstroms as well) with their tall aisles stocked neatly with quality goods, at low prices, and with better human capital ethos, will survive the big box retailer Armageddon.

My prediction is that within a generation Amazon will bury Walmart, if not literally so they are out of business, then figuratively with the best and most lucrative online shopping experience around–and as for the matchup betweent them, it won’t even be close.  😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fuschia Foot)

Bye Bye Old Kindle

I had to get rid of an old Kindle e-Reader from my daughter today.

She’s looking forward instead to the next generation Kindle Fire HD.

So, out with the old and in with the new.

Note: No children were present during this filming.

Warning: The manufacturer cautions against “disassemble, punture, crush, heat, or burn,” so please don’t try this.

Anyway now the device is a goner! 😉

(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)

>The Editable Society

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If you’re using a book reader like the Kindle or iPad and are downloading books to read, they are just like real paper books, except that the written word is now dynamic and the text can be changed out.

Wired Magazine, May 2010, has an article by Steven Levy called “Every Day They Rewrite the Book.”

“When you are connected to an e-reading device, the seller does have the capability to mess with the content on your device, whether you ask it to or not.”

Mr. Levy tells how “people were shocked to discover this last summer when Amazon, realizing that it had mistakenly sold some bootlegged copies of George Orwell’s 1984, deleted all of them from customers’ Kindles.”

Since them, Amazon “notifies customers of an update to the book they purchased; if a buyer wants the changes made, the company will replace the old file with the new one. In other words, the edition you buy remains fixed unless you agree otherwise.”

Changes on the fly—with the owner’s consent—is a positive thing when for example, publishing mistakes get corrected and new developments are updated, as Levy points out.

I guess what is amazing to me is that things that we take for granted as always being there…like a book, a song, a document, a video, a photo are not static anymore. As bits and bytes on our computers, e-readers, iPods, smartphones, and so on, they are every bit as dynamic as the first day they were created—just go in and edit it, hit save, and voila!

Documents and books can be edited and replaced. Songs, videos, and photos can be cropped, spliced, touched up and so on. There is no single timeless reality anymore, because all the material things that is being digitized or virtualized are subject to editing—or even deletion.

On the one hand, it is exciting to know that we live in a dynamic high-tech society, where nothing is “written in stone” and we can change and adapt relatively easily, by just logging on and making changes.

On the other hand, living in such a malleable electronic wonderworld means that with some pretty unsophisticated and common tools these days, pictures can be doctored, books can revised, and history can be literally rewritten. For example, just think about how anyone can go on Wikipedia and make changes to entries; if others don’t cry foul and undo the revisions, they stick.

It seems to be that with the technology to quickly and easily make changes electronically, comes the responsibility to protect what is true and historically valuable. No one person should decide what is fact or fiction, a valid change or a distortion of reality—rather it is a mandate on all of us.

I think this is where the importance of democracy and things like crowdsourcing comes into play—where as a society we together direct the changes that affect us all.

It is a frightening world where files can erased or doctored, not just because your own work can be changed, deleted, or destroyed, but because everyone’s work can be—and nothing is long-lasting or stable anymore.

I may be particularly sensitive to this being the child of Holocaust survivors, where the notion of a world where holocaust deniers can just “edit” history and pretend that the holocaust never happened is a scary world indeed.

But also a world, where malevolent people like hackers and cyber terrorists or dangerous devices like e-bombs (electromagetic pulses or EMPs) can damage systems and storage devices, means that electronic files are not secure from change or erasure.

We’ve become a society where everything is temporary—our marriages, our jobs, our stock portfolios, our homes, and so on—everything is disposable, changeable, and editable. We have truly become an editable society.

We need to balance our ability to edit with the necessity to create order and stability, and like Amazon learned, not change out files at random (without notifying and getting permission).

In IT, this is the essence of good governance, where you plan a structure that can breathe and adapt as times change, but that is also stable and secure for the organization to perform its mission.

>Cognitive Styles and Enterprise Architecture

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We are all familiar with personalizing websites like Yahoo.com to make them more appealing, functional, and easy to navigate.

Now, according to MIT Technology Review, 9 June 2008, websites are being personalized not by the person, but rather by systems “that detect a user’s cognitive style” and changes the website accordingly

What is cognitive style?

Cognitive style is how a person thinks. Some people are more simplistic, others more detail-oriented, some like charts and graphs, and some like to be able to see and get to peer advice.

Why is cognitive style important?

Well, if we can figure out a person’s way of thinking and what appeals to them, then we can tailor websites to them and make them more useful, useable, and more effective at selling to them.

“Initial studies show that morphing a website to suit different types of visitors could increase the site’s sales by about 20 percent.”

So what’s new about this, haven’t sites like Amazon been tailoring their offering to users for quite some time?

Amazon and other sites “offer personalized features…drawing from user profiles, stored cookies, or long questionnaires.” The new method is based instead on system adaptation “within the first few clicks on the website by analyzing each user’s patterns of clicks.”

With cognitive style adaptation, “suddenly, you’re finding the website is easy to navigate, more comfortable, and it gives you the information you need.” Yet, the user may not even realize the website has been personalized to him.

“In addition to guessing each user’s cognitive style by analyzing that person’s pattern of clicks, the system would track data over time to see which versions of the website work most effectively for which cognitive style.” So there is learning going on by the system and the system gets better at matching sites to user types over time!

If we overlay the psychological dimension such as personality types and cognitive styles to web design and web adaptation, then we can individuate and improve websites for the end-user and for the site owner who is trying to get information or services out there.

Using cognitive styles to enhance website effectiveness is right in line with User-centric Enterprise Architecture that seeks to provide useful and usable EA products and services. Moreover, EA must learn to appreciate and recognize different cognitive styles of its users, and adapt its information presentation accordingly. This is done, for example, in providing three levels of EA detail for different types of end-users, such as profiles for executives, models for mid-level managers, and inventories for analysts. This concept could be further developed to actually modify EA products for the specific end-user cognitive styles. While this could be considerable work and must be balanced against the expected return, it really comes down to tailoring your product to your audience and that is nothing new.