Posts about Gadgets

Gadget of the Month Club

Hey, Verizon (& Google & Apple & Dell & BestBuy….).

I want to try the Droid but I am already in indentured servitude to AT&T for my iPhone (and have no particular desire to lose it). As much of a gadget geek as I am (I’m no Leo Laporte – my wife would’t let me be – but I do love the darned things), it’s still just not worth the $2,600 commitment to get another phone, even if Michael Arrington is having orgasms over it.

I’ve been arguing on This Week in Google that what I want is a Gadget (or Phone) of the Month Club. Let me try it. It’s worth it for the phone and device companies because they just might seduce me into buying. They’d get more press from the folks who matter – early adopters. They’d sell more gadgets and service plans. They could even use it to try out new gadgets (who wouldn’t pay to be a beta tester for the coolest gadgets?).

I wish someone (are you listening, Best Buy? is there an entrepreneur out there looking for something new to do?) would start a club that would rotate gadgets among freaks every month (or two). Obviously, it won’t work if we all expect to get the Droid as soon as it’s out without paying full freight. So charge more for that privilege. Every month, the one-month fee for a particular device goes down. I’m willing to pay a premium to try the Droid the first month or a Chrome-powered netbook. But I’ll wait three or four months to get my hands on a Nokia N900. The market will determine the demand: let us bid up the premium for the first-month Droid. Mind you, I’ll also pay an entrance fee to be a member of the club (maybe a dozen of us can do it on our own).

If I fall in love with a gadget I try, I can buy it. If I don’t, Netflix-like, I send it back and then get the next one. If I break it, I pay for it. Whoever runs this club doesn’t have to put up all the capital to get the hardware; our fees and deposits will create good cash flow.

What’s not to love?

: LATER: Surely Dave Winer would join the club. He just bought two new gadgets and already stopped using one.

No gadget savior

My Guardian column this week reports on my weeks’ experiment of reading The New York Times and Wall Street Journal only on my Kindle. I’m still reading The Times that way, though I think I prefer the iPhone for that and will likely switch. When the Journal raised its price from $9.99 to $14.99, I canceled. Snippet:

…The reader works wonderfully for books. But it also tries to turn a newspaper into a book, starting us on the first page of the first story and nudging us through its awkward user interface to proceed a page-turn at a time through the entire product, as we used to on paper. The digital among us, however, no longer read news in this way. Online, we search and link and flit and explore. We are in control of the experience, not some editor somewhere.

Online, news has been freed from its packaging. Indeed, that is a key architectural underpinning of the web itself: content is separated from presentation. The same text and media can be fed into a web page, or into an iPhone app or an RSS feed. Substance parts company with style. . . .

We care less about the form of news and more about the information it imparts. That is the key strategic problem for editors and publishers hoping to charge us online: once news is known, it is knowledge that can be spread through conversation, which means it can no longer be controlled behind a pay wall. News is spread in the speed of a tweet. The half-life of a scoop’s value is lessened but the value of links grows. . . .

But in news, neither the device nor the form matters nearly as much as the information and its timing. This requires that publishers unleash their news on every device possible. But no single gadget will be their saviour. None will bring back the good old days – if they were that – of news and the world delivered in neat little packages we paid for.

Subscribing to gadgets

I wish I could preorder the new iPhone without having to worry about hype, wait, lines, and whether it’s in stock.

But here’s another idea, one I’m toying with for the book: What if I could subscribe to the iPhone as I subscribe to a magazine or newspaper? When the new edition is out, I get it. Perhaps one of the benefits of being a subscriber is that I’m guaranteed to get it before everyone else. Nya-nya. And unlike magazines, my old iPhone has value: I can trade it in like a car or sell it on eBay and in either case be assured that it will be used or will be disposed of properly. Apple can be guaranteed a loyal customer base for new products (saving on customer acquisition costs for them). These customers are also a built-in focus group; they can tell you what they want next. Publishers will tell you that subscriptions are also nice for cash flow. Meanwhile as a customer I can be assure I will always be up-to-the-minute. With technical and mechanical goods, I could also be assured of getting updates as I can get with software purchases: new software for the phone, a new radio for the car.

Perhaps the model here is not that I buy the gadgets. Maybe I lease them. This model is being pioneered, believe it or not, in office carpeting.

If the leasing/subscription model can work for carpeting and iPhones, what else could it work for? Clothes? Latter-day Johnny Cashes like Michael Rosenblum could get regular shipments of black shirts and pants. Computers? Sure but you don’t need to replace the whole box; you could send me a new hard drive when larger ones come out, stocked with new versions of my software. Kitchen cabinets? My wife is ready to replace ours.

Oh, I know you’ll argue that this defeats the planned obsolescence that is, admit it or not, at the heart of business models for manufacturers. But if we argue that in today’s ecology of links, relationships are more important than mass, loyalty is more valuable than turnover, and customer service is the new marketing, then there are new economics at work. Magazines try desperately to get you to auto-renew subscriptions through credit cards. Microsoft has been dying to switch to subscriptions for years. HP has long wanted to see you are low on ink via the internet and ship you new ink cartridges before you even know you need them. Why shouldn’t a brand built on loyalty like Apple be able to build a subscription business? Thoughts?


I’m forever in search of that thing that lets me come back to things later but doesn’t become a mess. Bookmarks quickly became a mess. Email is a mess. My tabs are a mess — I keep opening up new ones vowing to read that thing later, only to come back a week later and say nevermind. Instapaper (no apparent relation) is a very easy way to save something with one click, which I found via David Weinberger on Twitter.

Webcameo on Microsoft-Yahoo

The Guardian started up a new feature they call Webcameos: comment from people via webcams. They had me throw in two cents (which over there is worth less than one) on Yahoo-Microsoft. To make it, I used my Reuters/Nokia mojo camera-phone. Easy as pie.

International phone tricks

Dave Winer has questions about using mobile phones in Europe. My answer (which I learned from Ken Rutkowski):

1. Get a local SIM card for GSM phone.*
2. Forward your US number to your Skype number.
3. Forward your Skype number to your European GSM number.
This way, people can call your local number and you can talk to them without paying international roaming. Calling the US won’t be cheaper on your mobile phone; for that, use Skype on your laptop while online.

* This requires that you have an unlocked GSM phone. Many GSM phones can be unlocked; just Google for those services or pay your provider for the privilege. I used a really old Nokia phone for years but got a web-ready PDA-phone in January so I can also get email on my phone — a godsend. Also, most providers in Europe sell pay-as-you-go SIM cards that don’t expire; that’s just reason No. 476 why their phone system is better than ours. The EU is also limiting roaming rates within Europe.

Also, Dave, find out whether you need an adapter on the plane for your laptop power. If you’re taking your MacBook, you have to buy that adapter from Apple and only Apple because it has the proprietary magnetic plug.

Plugged out

So I went to a large breakfast this morning thrown by the Newhouse School at Syracuse and The New Yorker (much more on that in a minute). Most of us were assigned tables and so I put down my briefcase and went off to schmooze, which is what one does at these things. I came back and my case was moved and chair occupied. I looked miffed — and various folks later hovered around to throw themselves on swords for this — but I was embarrassed to say why the chair mattered to me. It wasn’t because this was Table 8 and that enabled me to look down my nose at the poor sods at Table 10. It wasn’t because I was going to sit next to some media mogul and make a deal that would change my life and finances. It was because the chair was near an electric plug. We bloggers arrange our lives around wi-fi and plugs. To make my thought process even more pathetic, I then had to rearrange my route to the airport today so I could find someplace to recharge — because, you see, I didn’t want to be out one watt for the plane ride — or I contemplated going to the airport quite early to scope and stage out a precious plug there. Sad, isn’t it?

Smoking my Treo

It has been hell being without my beloved Treo for a week.

I realized that my Treo is my new cigarette. I smoke the thing. It’s not crack. It’s nicotine: a sneaker, day-to-day addiction. I use Treo at all the times I used to smoke: while eating, while walking, while driving (only at stop lights), while talking on the phone (but not to you), while in the bathroom (I admit it). No, Treoing after sex is not oddly satisfying.

In London, my Sprint Treo won’t work, so I used an HP Ipaq. It’s just not the same. The Windows interface is like smoking an unfiltered; it hurts. I couldn’t get the email to work sending my email; thank goodness I could grab all my mail with Gmail and use that instead. I was going nuts having to lift its lid and use that damned stylus. And it just doesn’t look good; it’s like a man smoking a Virginia Slim.

I’m glad to get back home to my Treo. And my family.