Archive for the ‘General’ Category

What has happened to Dell’s online shopping experience?

I tried to buy a Dell laptop in Malaysia. The old way was such that I would place the order online, and checkout with my credit card. A process that would take 10-15 minutes.

The new way? Configure it, and call up someone at Dell. They then send you an email within a few hours. You are meant to then go pick it up at a distributor, and pay them via cheque or cash. No more credit cards. 

So I walked to the Lenovo store in MidValley. Plonked down my credit card (an Amex was accepted; and there was no extra 2% charge like you may get at Low Yat), and walked away with a Lenovo laptop, with the same 3-year next day on-site business warranty. I think I even saved some money compared to the Dell that I was speccing out.

I have to admit that this is a step back for Dell in Malaysia. The contrast to Apple? It takes about 5 minutes to configure everything and just make payment online. It’s that easy. Even many of the monitors I used to enjoy buying now basically say “call dell”. This can’t be a good way to move the company forward, eh?

Recapping rounds

I read with great interest (including the comments thread) about recapping seed rounds by both Brad Feld and Joanne Wilson. Reprehensible beahviour. Also in general angels don’t go in more than the first round.

Which brings me to a general worry/concern – companies where early employees become minority shareholders (not option holders, shareholders). Where they pay their first few salaries in exchange for shares. Or if after some M&A activity, folk become shareholders. One can easily own 1% or more of a company this way.

When the going gets tough, vultures do come along.

Minimum Viable Blogging

I’m not a huge fan of the marketing surrounding the “lean startup” or the idea of a “minimum viable product”. There’s merit to all these ideas, but the hype is what kills it (for me).

I have realised something recently — I spend a lot of time & energy writing emails and creating documents within Google Docs or Keynote. Its just the nature of how things work. When it comes to chatting, there’s IRC and lately even Slack. All this bashing on the keyboard means that I very rarely have time to blog and talk about the things that are going on via mail/docs.

So I’m going to try something new. If an email or doc I write isn’t private, and I’m having wide distribution to it anyway and it could be of interest to others, I will also blog it. The hardest part of that is adding links so far!

After all, if you’ve read the ESR guide on How To Become A Hacker, it clearly states that the world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved and most importantly no problem should ever have to be solved twice.

So maybe I don’t read things over to ‘edit’ them, but this is a blog, not a publication. And the byline does say ‘rough notes on…’

Do you need the .com?

Conventional wisdom says you need to have the .com in a domain name. Nowadays its backed by the fact that you have the .com easily available on your mobile phone’s popup keyboard as well.

But lately I’ve seen some quality sites launch and they don’t have the .com’s to go with it. AppleWorld.Today. In the past, let’s not forger <re/code> from the AllThingsD folk at Wall Street Journal (also, .net). You’ve always had John Gruber’s Daring Fireball in the .net-namespace.

So maybe you don’t need the .com and you’ll do just fine.

It’s interesting to travel to places like Iceland where its common to see domains with .is. They’re happy using their country code top level domains (TLDs). It parts of Barcelona, its quite common to see .cat. 

Here, and defending your trademarks

I read: Nokia threatens London start-up over ‘HERE”.

It’s all about Lowdownapp (I’ve not heard about it before this), made by David J Senior & crew. I think the crux of the problem is that they have also released an app called HERE and Nokia is obviously pissed because of HERE Maps.

Apparently Nokia has spent USD$12m on creating the HERE brand and are now defending it.

I’m not surprised this startup hadn’t heard of it. I’m also not surprised that unless you’ve used a Windows phone, you’ve probably not heard about HERE Maps either. There was a release of HERE Maps on iOS, but I’m sure it never got the attention that Apple Maps or Google Maps got (I’m including Apple here because laugh as much as you want, being a default, really helps).

A few months back, I spoke to an entrepreneur doing indoor mapping, and mentioned to him that Google Maps is starting to encroach on that space as possible competition (he knew that). I then said that the best indoor maps I’d seen so far had come from HERE Maps. He had never heard about it, and he’s deep into mobile and mapping. 

It’s a sad fact of life that $12m is money not well spent, because no one at the moment really cares about the Windows phone platform; so if that is your app showcase, you’ve screwed the pooch. To make matters worse, you can’t even find HERE Maps on the Apple App Store today (it was pulled down in 2013, but apparently will make a comeback in early 2015). It is still available as a beta in the Android Play Store. I liked this thread between Benedict Evans and David Senior, because while its clear that Nokia does have a trademark, and its clear to Benedict Evans since he watches this market, its definitely unclear to the masses that Nokia has anything to do with Here.

Should all startups perform a trademark search before naming their companies? I’m not sure — its already hard to get a good name with domain/social media presence these days. Plus its time consuming (not to mention costly) to do a trademark search in multiple jurisdictions that you care about (or maybe you can use a service like this?). Not something the average startup wants to spend costs on.

Heck, even established companies like Microsoft end up doing a rename of SkyDrive to OneDrive to please BSkyB. So it’s not a startup rookie mistake either.

What happens next is likely that the folks at Lowdownapp will rename their Here app; the functionality I’m guessing will remain the same, it will just be called something different. Do I like it? Absolutely not. However as a bonus, it looks like the app only launched in Dec 2014 so maybe it will be easier giving in to this battle.

Samsung should learn to take care of their customers

My first Samsung mobile phone was a Samsung Galaxy S3. I still use it as my roaming phone, though mainly all it does now is serve as a device that I plug into a battery pack and let it act as a tethered modem.

The main reason is that its slow. Its old. The software on it is outdated. Keep in mind this was a phone released in May 2012 (I must have gotten it in June 2012). The equivalent iPhone that came out in 2012? The iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 still runs iOS 8 without issue. Samsung is notoriously delayed when it comes to updating software; in fact they rather you buy a new device. No, the average user isn’t going to go around hackery to get the latest Android on it.

So when I see articles like Samsung profits down as smartphone division feels squeeze, I can only chuckle. Knocking off iPhone was a good model, but then you see Xiaomi come into play and do the same thing at 1/3 or 1/4th the price. Updating software – Xiaomi does it every Friday. Samsung requires you to heavily pray for an update, or pay to get a new phone. 

High-end smartphones in Malaysia cost an average of RM2,000. You can buy a computer at this price. Computers typically have a 3-year warranty, and get software updates for 3-5 years. Mobile phones come with a meagre 1-year warranty, if you buy it on plan, it is a 2-year lock-in, and by the time your lock-in is over, you’re buying the next phone (very unlike a computer, eh?). This is why its smart that Apple does iOS updates for years on end (I reckon they focus on 4 generations at any given time).

It’s also interesting to watch the secondhand market. See what last year’s model of an iPhone sells versus a Samsung. 

Samsung needs innovation. It needs leadership. It needs to learn to be more open. 

Will I buy another Samsung phone based on my S3 experience? No. Have I seen any Samsung Note users migrate to the Apple iPhone 6+ yet? No. But again, it is still early days in 2015.