A couple of points I wish to make about this:
- This water fountain features a good user experience. You know where the water bottle should go. You know how the water bottle will be filled once you stick the bottle where it should go. Good user experience isn't limited to software; you can find areas to apply good UX almost anywhere, if you look. Remember back in the day when the flow of water fountains was triggered by either a button on the spout, or a spring-loaded switch-like trigger that was connected to the spout? Elkay has always pushed the envelope in water fountain design, even from the comfortable market position that they currently enjoy. Nice work, Elkay.
- This type of innovation can only be described as Jobsian. Steve Jobs took old ideas and made them new again by making them more readily applicable through application of design principles a good UX to the product. The same thing is going on here. Jobs invaded the record company's turf, the cell phone makers, etc. The Jobs story is well-known. Elkay is moving in on the bottled-water companies. Jobs cannibalized his own product line, Elkay is doing the same. Jobs was extremely successful with this model; I will be interested to see if Elkay will as well. I will say that I would LOVE to see these become more common.
- As the WSJ article points out, people are consuming more water and less other stuff. Elkay is well-positioned the take advantage of this trend.
I saw this on the realtor.com iPhone app. After a user has viewed a real estate option on the basemap, a check mark appears next to the pop-up associated with the home that the user has recently viewed. This is great user experience. It enhances the usability of the app and provides great value. The other thing, though, is that it also made an emotional connection with me. You can go to conferences and they discuss usability, but presenters only ever tell you that you need to create an emptional connection; they never tell you HOW to create the connection. This is a great example of one that actually creates an emotional connection. In this case, it derives from the effective implementation of the other elements of user experience.
I wasn't going to post this, but the data is old, and when I agreed to receive the API key, they didn't have any rules against storing and using their API data for analysis. If I get a cease and desist, I will take this posting down.
A few years back, I wrote a small program that queried the Groupon API for all daily deals in a number of major metropolitan cities. The deals, the two classification descriptors, the depth of discount and the lat and long would all get recorded in a database. I was also going to calculate the number of days before a deal was "tipped," but the project never made it that far. Once the database got sufficiently large, I would build a statistical model to evaluate the variable combinations that produced the best results for the retailer and describe the output in space.
So I collected data for a number of months (I think this data went from probably August of 2010 through sometime in early Spring of 2011), before checking the API requirements before moving on to the second stage of the development project, when I noticed that they had placed additional language on the API terms of service, which stated that you could not in any way store the data. Which I had been doing for several months. So, I made a few interesting maps and destroyed the data. I could have sworn those terms weren't there when I signed up for the API key. I came across the maps the other day, which is what I am sharing below. See the captions for the relevant info. I should also note that I saw the same general trends across every city that I made maps for; below are only those maps that I did for the Kansas City metro area.
One of the reasons that I am so fascinated with the spatial agglomeration of firms is that the location of a company’s offices, warehouses, factories, retail centers-whatever, represents the physical manifestation of a company’s strategy. Whether a factory wants to minimize the costs of transporting supplies in a just-in-time manufacturing environment, an office wants to be near a “thick” labor market, or a retailer wants to locate at the median of its market, all of these locations are private information that the company reveals through its location choices. Simply analyzing a company’s location tells you a lot about the company. Here are some things I’ve seen lately in the news that caught my eye:
BBQ in KC
A recent news item from the Kansas City Star details how an upstart BBQ restaurant named SmokeShack is taking on the big gun in its North Kansas City neighborhood. How does the upstart differentiate itself from the top-dog “Smokin’ Guns”?
“Our meats are more smoky, more juicy, more better,” Glenn Yeager said. “Our brisket takes three days to process and then is smoked for 20 hours, so when you put a fork in it, it falls apart.”
Their rubs might be better and they might be worse than the competition, but one thing is clear: the company is following a commoditizing spatial strategy. From the same KC Star article:
SmokeShack is less than three blocks from the award-winning Smokin’ Guns, which more than quadrupled its size this year.
“I think he’s got his work cut out for him competing against us,” said Linda Hopkins, co-owner of Smokin’ Guns.
If your strategy is simply to copy another’s business model, this formula suggests that your best strategy is to locate right across the street from where your future competitor currently operates.
And then a few sentences later:
If, on the other hand, your offering is unique (e.g., Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Apple), your dominant strategy is to place your business in the exact middle of where your customer base is.
The natural conclusion to draw from the KC Star is that the upstart BBQ restaurant is following its dominant strategy and locating as close as possible to the award-winning company. This is particularly so as the number of participants in the market increases. BBQ, to put it mildly, is not rare in the Kansas City metro. There’s a BBQ stand on every major street corner.
In a market that is that crowded, an upstart needs every edge it can get, a place where a trip to one can easily be replaced for a trip to another. Would you want potential consumers to swap out a trip for a bad BBQ place for a trip to your establishment? Or would you rather swap out a trip for good BBQ place to your establishment? There are a couple of ways we could slice this.
- If your BBQ is average or below average (i.e. Rosedale BBQ in KCK), you would want to bias your location strategy towards the worst available competing BBQ place. Swapping out a trip for bad BBQ for average BBQ is a winning proposition.
- If, on the other hand, your BBQ is above average, you would want to locate as near to the best BBQ available.
My guess is that this particular outfit is more in line with #2 than #1. It seems clear to me that they believe that their BBQ is a competitor, what with the 20 hour smoking process. An essential ingredient for any entrepreneur is a belief in ones own skills and abilities, as well as the product of the business project. They believe that they are selling premium meats, which in turn means that a trip for a award-winning BBQ can be easily swapped out for a trip to get good-but-not-yet-awarded BBQ. This in turn means that they believe that they are in a great location for BBQ.
The underlying dynamics of the spatial strategy governing site selection is driven by what I call “accessibility,” or, the ability to optimize the probability of sales driven by the randomness intrinsic to consumer decision-making is called “accessibility” and it governs most of the spatial decision-making across firms.
Best of luck to them, but I wouldn’t count on overflow traffic to build a business around when it comes to BBQ in Kansas City. The best BBQ I’ve ever had (and the only one I’d drive out of my way and wait a long time to get) is Oklahoma Joe’s. Man, if I still lived in Kansas City I could go for some Oklahoma Joe’s right now.
When I was an MBA student at Rockhurst University, in one of our marketing classes, one of our team projects was to locate the optimal location for a Whole Foods in the Kansas City Metro area. Some of the teams said “let’s place it next to the KU hospital” and some said “how about in the wealthy suburbs?” I drove my team in a different direction, and said “let’s place it in the same location as (what was then) a new Trader Joe’s on State Line Rd.” Of course, everybody scoffed, and all of my colleagues said that you wouldn’t want to place next to a direct competitor. But that was precisely my point--according to standard spatial strategy, they WOULD want to co-locate with Trader Joe’s as close as possible.
Well, guess who had the last laugh. My wife received an email today from Whole Foods announcing a new location in the Minneapolis metro-area, where we currently live (we are in the process of moving South, back to my native St. Louis, Missouri). Guess where the new Maple Grove, Minnesota Whole Foods is going in? Right in the same parking lot as the Trader Joe’s in Maple Grove. In fact, my wife and I were at the Trader Joe’s last week and saw them renovating an old “Ultimate Electronics” store, wondering what they were going to put in there. Well, now we know. It’s a great place for a Whole Foods, Austin really did a great job of picking the spot. My wife’s two favorite stores are now going to be only one trip instead of two. Unfortunately, she will never get to shop there; like I said, we are moving south and the nearest Whole Foods in St. Louis is 30 minutes away.
The parking lot for this Trader Joe’s is never a good time; I can only imagine that it will only get worse once the Whole Foods opens. Buying your groceries isn’t like buying a new pair of pants; you don’t want to walk to the other side of the shopping complex with your milk in your canvas tote bag. One of the problems that agglomeration of this nature presents is that even though the benefits of the location are real, the logistics for the shopper can get “messy.” For example, my wife and I have found ourselves “timing” our trips to Whole Foods around when we are able to get in and out with the least complication. This in turn leads to other problems, i.e. items out-of-stock.
As my wife pointed out, Whole Foods must be pretty confident in their pricing strategy; co-locating with a Trader Joe’s means that stuff that I could buy at Whole Foods I could also buy at Trader Joe’s with a minimal effort; I wouldn’t even have to start the engine on my car. There was an article in the WSJ from early February, discussing how Whole Foods attempts to enhance affordability and to reach new customers has (and will continue to) negatively affect earnings.
As my wife also pointed out, it is much easier for folks to make the jump from being a Trader Joe’s customer to a Whole Foods customer than it is for a typical grocery store shopper. A Trader Joe’s customer is already in search of a higher grade of product than what is found at a typical grocer; they just want it at rock bottom prices. Once the value-conscience customer is identified, the battle is half over. In a similar way to how Natural Grocers co-located with Whole Foods to win value-conscience customers in Overland Park, Kansas, Whole Foods is co-locating with a Trader Joe’s in Maple Grove, Minnesota to win grade-conscience customers that might be surprised at the value offered by Whole Foods.
Speaking of Whole Foods, they need more St. Louis, Missouri locations. They currently have only two: the Brentwood location, and one in Town & Country. While I’ve never been in the Town & Country Whole Foods (it will be our new standard Whole Foods destination; it is (ugh) a 30 minute drive. And they had better have good pizza), I have had occasion to enter the Brentwood location. I found it cramped, difficult to get into and out of, and generally suffering from over-crowding. I know that Whole Foods is opening a new store in a mixed-use area near the Central West End, similar to what they are doing in Kansas City, but I wonder how well a CWE location ties in with the broader strategy of reaching out and winning new customers. Branching out, going into “smaller suburban areas” isn’t necessarily going into a mixed-use center in the Central West End. They should be looking at St. Charles County or places that are more accessible to people that live in St. Charles County (e.g. Hazelwood, Bridgeton). There is a Trader Joe’s off of Olive near interstate 270; why not try the same spatial strategy there? If pulling in people from St. Cloud is one of the goals behind the Maple Grove location in Minnesota, it also follows that locating in Bridgeton, Hazelwood, or the Northern part of West County will pull people in from all over, including St. Charles County.
I was at a mobile development conference local to the Minneapolis-area this past week. The keynote speaker was the head of the mobile development unit at a very large and well-known media and information group. At one point during the talk, he said that he had personally “vetoed” two apps since he started with the company, even though they were finished products and that the business units were screaming in his ear to ship. He said that the apps that he had rejected didn’t meet with his rigorous design specifications, and that he didn’t want those apps to be representative of his firm’s efforts in the mobile space.
How does a major corporate entity dedicate many and expensive resources to a mobile development effort, and then scuttle the product after development ends? On the surface, wasting scarce and valuable resources on a failed development effort represents an expensive setback. If you dig deeper, though, at its core, problems like this are a failure on the “agile” organization’s part to develop and successfully design for quality in and for the products they are developing.
After the talk I went up to the front of the room, introduced myself, verified that they are using some form of agile development methodology (of course they are), and asked how they manage quality. The keynote really didn’t have an answer; he more-or-less said some things like it was a problem with the design that one of their partners did, and that ideally they would have found the problem sooner.
I don’t have a problem with agile, but I think that quality is the one glaring hole in it. There is no “quality” plan for the development project; “planning” is antithetic to the agile methodology. So where does quality allegedly come from, in an agile environment? Agile advocates claim that quality gets “built into” the product through implementation of techniques like pair programming, and frequent scope checks.
If this is true, then why is their so much garbage being produced? Do you remember about a year ago, when EA produced that shamefully-bad version of Scrabble? EA’s face should blush from that garbage-version of Scrabble (all the bugs still haven’t been fixed, btw) that they affixed their name to. Scrabble is one of the two games for my iPhone that I actually play; when they put out that horrendous version of the game, not only did EA’s numbers suffer, but the brand suffered as well. When they released the latest SimCity (a product I have written extensively of on this blog here, here and here) a few weeks ago, the quality of the product was downright terrible. People were unable to download the product. From a SimCity review on Business Insider:
Unfortunately, the reality did not quite live up to expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, the game itself is great. When it works, that is. And oh boy, does it hate working.
At the time of writing this piece, SimCity 5 has been active for almost 62 hours. Of those 62 hours, I’ve been able to log in for around ten. Of those ten, four consisted of massive latency issues and corrupted games, so (quick calculation here), I’ve had access to the actual game for maybe 10 percent of the time I’ve had it. EA’s servers are, to put it bluntly, utterly bug[redacted], and there’s no option to play the game offline.
This sounds like a quality problem, to me. And guess what? EA undoubtedly uses agile development methodologies. (Aside: free advice for the next CEO of EA: bring a focus back to quality. You’ve got some good ideas and you’re doing some innovative things; but if you don’t have quality, you aren’t going to be successful. The brand will suffer even more if you don't; guess what? Quality IS important after all!).
Imreh and Raisinghani (2011) identify the core tenets of agile development, and make an interesting point, when they write:
From a quality perspective, based on the above four core values it is self evident that at a first – superficial - glance Agile is a major threat to quality.
Specifically, based on the four core values, Juran’s concept of quality improvement through “planning and control” is greatly violated (Foster, 2010, p. 41).
Therefore, the big question is, how can IT organizations take advantage of the benefits of becoming agile and adopt and implement agile methodologies without deteriorating quality.
There’s no plan for quality in agile; the emphasis is given on responding to change and being “agile.” The whole point of agile is to not have a plan. But I think that the cost of focusing on change is to neglect quality, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be. Let me put it another way: if you were the CEO of EA, would you be willing to risk the company’s reputation on whether or not some junior-level programmer was paying attention during pair programming? That a code review would be thorough enough to catch potential problems with network servers? If you were the director of a the mobile development efforts for the large media company, would you be pleased that you invested so much in mobile products, only to find out that, upon project completion, that they didn’t meet the design (i.e. quality) standards of the company?
Unit tests don't capture problems with network servers, or problems with the data content. And don't forget: brand values don't recover all that well from a product that has poor quality. Look at Apple Maps. The software works fine, but Apple's fundamental failure was its inability to accurately capture what "quality" meant in a mapping application. The result, is that they lost ground to Google and the brand took a hit. I mean, there's a reason that Apple proudly displays "Data provided by TomTom" right above the "Report a Problem" button on the latest "maps" iteration. My point is that there is value to managing quality at a higher-level, one that requires dedicated resources and planning that are focused on ensuring that products released are developed with quality in mind.
I know it's been a while since I've posted; I've been doing some stuff with PMI and a few other items that have kept me incredibly busy these past 2 months. My brother forwarded me something that is too good to pass up.
Let me start off with a self-quote:
I've said it before, and I will say it again: If EA would let me import actual geospatial data (vectors, rasters and terrain models) and to let me specify the rules that the agents follow, this would make the most advanced geospatial ABM modeleling engine I've seen.
Apparently, there's a guy who has been modeling his real-life town with the primitive mapping tools available in the latest SimCity. From the blog post:
I began by sticking Google Maps on my second screen, and then building Northenden in SimCity as best as I could.
Hmmm. So this guy recreated his hometown by eyeballing the town's dimensions from google maps. Wonder if that couldn't be streamlined somehow. You know, by actually letting us import vector, raster and elevation data directly into the game. As I suggested.
This is actually a pretty decent blog post; I recommend reading the whole thing, but here's my favorite part:
That being said, this little project definitely gave me a sense for what could be accomplished with SimCity if put in the right hands. I noticed plenty of other little interesting takeaways from my hour of play, including the fact that once I'd built East Didsbury, the strip of shops in Northenden stopped making as much money as they once were, and some were even beginning to close down as my time ran out. Walk along Northenden high street, and you'll know that feeling.
For me personally, I can't wait to see what happens when the game is released, and people with real scientific experiments give it a run for its money.
In Dr. Seuss’ children’s classic “Green Eggs and Ham,” the antagonist (a Who-ish looking fellow by the name of “Sam-I-Am”) continually harasses the book’s protagonist, in his quest to get him to try a taste of the book’s eponymous offering: Green Eggs and Ham.
If you’ve never read it, Sam-I-Am follows an irritated guy around for the first 2/3 of the book, attaching particular, variable contexts to his goal of getting the protagonist to eat the apparently delectable food:
Would you eat them in a box?
Would you eat them with a fox?
The protagonist, in turn, never manages to elude Sam-I-Am, and in total exhaustion finally caves. He spends the final 1/3 of the book rehashing all the contextual scenarios; this time eating (and thoroughly enjoying) Green Eggs and Ham.
I am reminded of a Forbes article from June of 2012:
Persistence is a vital characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Driven by an indomitable spirit, successful entrepreneurs never give up on their dreams of building a viable business. There is no impediment too great. This unflagging attribute is a key characteristic of triumphant business builders.
Sam-I-Am would have made a great entrepreneur. How doe the entrepreneur know, though, when to stick with the existing business model, or to try a pivot? Where should Sam-I-Am have realized that his Green Eggs and Ham line wasn’t going to take off the way he initially hoped? Business is filled with examples of successful companies that stuck with it, and also ones that swung the pivot. How do you know?
I am starting to think that the whole concept of an entrepreneurial pivot is false. It’s just a special case of the larger concept of business expansion. Successful business models spawn market entry by other businesses, some of which were not successful prior to market entry. These businesses that enter the market are those firms that are performing the pivot. This pivot, though, is simply business expansion for unsuccessful businesses.
Look at Twitter, one of the most famous cases for the idea of pivot. They were sitting around one day, trying to figure out how to make money after they discovered that their first business model wasn’t working. They dreamed up the concept for twitter, got a working prototype together and the rest is history. They renamed the company and are still in business making money.
Even Twitter, though, isn’t a classic case of the pivot. They stumbled upon the idea while trying to devise new products for their existing business. In reality, explicit options to make a pivot almost never occur and when they do, they are in the context of business expansion. Twitter never set out to rename the company Twitter. They just wanted to elaborate and expand upon their market. Rather than think about making entrepreneurial pivots, then, I would suggest thinking more about business expansion. Every successful business expands, regardless of whether the business is considered a “pivot” or not.
All (well, most) businesses compete in markets for goods and services. But I also think that it’s true that businesses have to establish and elaborate upon their own market in order to become successful. This is where the ideas of innovation and commoditization come into play. If Sam-I-Am doesn’t want to get eaten alive by Green Eggs and Ham imitators, he either needs to make large contribution to Senator X’s re-election fund, or he needs to elaborate upon his market and to deliver innovative new ideas (blue cheese and brown sugar?).
The fake Santa Claus from Tim Allen's "The Santa Clause 2" looks exactly like Kenny Rogers.
I'll tell you what I told a 911 ops center manager a few years back: this is a bad idea. Well, it's not a bad idea, just not the best that can be done. For the lazy, let me give you a synopsis: some states are toying with the concept of allowing people to text 911 for help. If I'm in a pinch, I'm not going to stand there with my phone and thumb out "M-A-N I-N S-K-I-M-A-S-K I-S A-P-P-R-O-A-C-H-I-N-G W-I-T-H G-U-N. While the situations they cite are valid scenarios, they could easily accomplish the same thing without using text. How about a "panic button" app, which if you simply touch the app's icon, it will send your coordinates through a web service to the authorities with your emergency message? Jurisdictions could get sorted based on location, and even filtered to the the nearest responder who is alerted to the issue via geonotification. If the victim can keep his or her phone on them, they can provide route information to authorities to provide a new level of evidence in the eventual criminal proceedings, or even help authorities get to the place that the criminal is going with the victim. All with the same silent benefits cited with the 911 text systems.
Another keen concept is an idea that Scott Adams (an investor) plugged on his blog a while back. The idea is that a ring is paired with a device via bluetooth, and if the victim touches the ring, it immediately sends the info out to a designated emergency contact. Well, here's an even better idea: make the emergency contact 911. Of course, these sorts of things take money (lots of money), but maybe they can build a similar system to the "Medical Alert" concept done years ago. Just with smartphones.
According to this wikipedia page, Chrome usage accounted for 35.68% of all web traffic in November 2012. According to the stats for this blog, 94.49% of all views in the month from November 13, 2012 through December 13, 2012 were from the Chrome browser.
Google maps is now available for devices running iOS6. This map app scratches me right where I itch. More on that in a minute. For now, let's talk about how this year played out in the mobile mapping segment:
- Several years ago, Apple presumably had a conversation with Google, in which Apple announced their plan to make turn-by-turn directions available on the iPhone product line.
- EIther Google had already started working on turn-by-turn directions for the android's mapping app, or they ripped the idea off Apple. At any rate, Google said "no, you can't do that, we're going to keep the competitive advantage for us."
- Apple took some of their ample earnings from the iOS line and started buying up companies that focused on mapping technology in the mobile sphere. Companies purchased included those that used de-classified algorithms to render buildings in exquisite 3d. We also know that they filed for a bunch of patents.
- Google saw the writing on the wall, and decided to force Apple's hand. So they hiked the charge for using google maps to something like $2.50 for every 1000 queries of Google Maps API over the standard baseline of 20,000 a day.
- Apple moved forward with plans for their own mapping platform, probably earlier than they would have liked. So they hinted at their own platform with tantalizing peaks at non-Google mapping services integrated with the latest iteration of iPhoto at the iPad 3 (er, "New" iPad) at the press event in March.
- Things came to a head in the middle of 2012, when it was leaked that Apple was going to unveil their awaited Apple maps platform. Google pre-empted Apple's WWDC event with a "here's what it will take to be on top in the mapping game" press event.
- Apple finally unveiled iOS maps at WWDC (along with iPhone 5). It was discovered that Apple had partnered with Tom Tom for its data (mistake #1). Other than that, it looked good in the demo.
- Their competitive advantage secure, Google announced it was scaling back the fees associated with using the Google API to something like $0.25 per 1000 requests over 20,000 per/day.
- Apple rolled out iOS maps as part of iOS6. The release was, shall we say, not well-received. directions were bad, locations were off, we all remember the details. In short, the quality was not there.
- When quality is missing from a premium brand associated with, above all else, quality, a backlash would inevitably grow. And as it grew, Apple knew it had to do something. CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology (textbook crisis management), vowed to work on getting it right, and suggested some alternatives. He fired a few execs, including iOS chief Scott Forstall (mistake #2) and a few middle managers associated with the product, and Apple went back to the drawing board. They issued a few quick bug fixes, but nothing major.
- Google, finally sensing an opportunity, got on the horse and fast-tracked a Google Maps for iOS project. Timely leaks to the media ensured that Apple's back would be put in a corner. By announcing that they were testing the app, Apple couldn't not allow the app onto the app store. Failing to do so would incense their customer base and risk the premium brand they've built. The premium brand allows Apple to make a significant profit margin on each phone sold, above and beyond the normal profit margins for smartphone makers.
- Earlier today (December 13, 2012), Google's map app was approved for distribution through Apple's app store. It was instantly downloaded by many iOS users. Others (myself included) finally upgraded their iOS devices to iOS6. I'd be curious to hear the number of folks that have either already updated or will in the next, 3 or 4 days.
- Should Google claim (and hold) the top mapping spot on iOS, they will have a strong foothold to gain a big chunk of the $625M annual ad revenue dollars that Business Insider claimed was at stake in the mobile mapping wars.
Here are a few comments about both Apple and Google's mapping products:
- Polylines draw faster in iOS6 MapKit. Pins drop faster. Both are welcome changes.
- My wife and I recently moved to the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. I can't tell you how many times she's said "I HATE THIS MAP!" when she follows directions to some place, only to find out that it isn't there. This was the essence of how Apple's map product let people down. The essential elements, those functions that people trust, just didn't get the job done. The focus was on delivering 3d buildings and not making sure that people can find route the nearest Trader's Joe's with their phone.
- The 3d buildings are cool, though. It would be awesome if Apple could expand the 3d to include more cities and even into some of the suburbs. There would be real value for many, many people in that. Remember, cities look impressive, but most of America (and a big chunk of Apple's user base) lives in the suburbs. I don't understand why companies don't get that. Take a look at Google maps. Notice how they have 3d-rendered buildings on their basemap for many suburbs? Well guess what: many, MANY users live in the suburbs. I know, I know. Everybody that works at Google and Apple live in downtown San Francisco and takes the company bus to Mountain View or Cupertino every morning. Just because the educated, urbanite folks who comprise the work forces at these companies live in and value the downtown areas doesn't mean that people who get use out of technology are the uber-geek types who are still "checking in" with 4square (does anybody still do that? Are they even still in business?).
- I was once critical of Google's product development competency. I believe I said that some of Google's products (this was in particular reference to Google Wave, but could easily be applied to others) were developed by engineers with MBAs from Stanford. And they were appealing only to engineers with MBAs from Stanford. Well, they've really turned their act around. The new Google Maps app for iOS is a veritable triumph. I won't go over all the details, but Mashable posted a serviceable comparison piece earlier today.
- Two problems with it: One, it took me a while to figure out how to access streetview. Two, the icon seems a bit "busy." I know, I know. You want to ensure everybody knows that you've got a mapping app. I mean, hey, Apple uses (and has copyrighted) the Interstate 280 shield. It's only natural that you'd also want to do the very same thing that Apple does. And, without the roads, there'd be no way to tell that it's a map app! Except for, of course, the fact that it's named "Google Maps." Earlier today, Eric Schmidt favorably compared Google today to Microsoft of the 1990s when he said:
“This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago -- Microsoft versus Apple,” he said. “We’re winning that war pretty clearly now.”
- Well, those Google/Microsoft comparisons can go another way, too.
- Google should try to build a unified marketing strategy for icons on the phone's desktop. That's smart branding. The way they have it now is pretty scattershot.
- Now that there's a Google Maps app, there's no need for the "Google Local" app, right? This leads to interesting questions, about how companies (and organizations) deprecate apps. They either need to have unusually strong foresight, or have a strategy in place for app consolidation and deprecation.
Next week (or possibly this weekend, we'll see what it's looking like) I'll write up some predictions and expectations about where mobile mapping will go in 2013, and whether we'll see an encore of 2012.
I don't know where I've been lately, but apparently, Google is now streetview-ing the interior of local businesses. See below for some examples. The rise of Streetview "interior" does lead to some interesting questions, particularly as it pertains to strategy for small businesses such as these. On the one hand, I have to question the soundness of a business strategy that allows anybody to broadcast the exact configuration of their establishment over the internet. Any business that has found success for a period of time has some kind of competitive advantage. The business might compete over price, quality, service, etc. The problem is, any kind of competitive advantage in business is fleeting; earnings in excess of the competitive equilibrium will inspire competitive copycats (i.e. Microsoft), who pursue a strategy of commoditization. To put it another way, if I was so bent on opening, oh, a restaurant, I wouldn't have to do my own creative thinking any more about how to arrange the interior. I could fire up my nearest PC, hit http://maps.google.com and scan the world's streetview restaurants for concepts to rip off. Once I've ripped the ideas off, the ideas aren't so novel anymore. Because I ripped the concept off, the competitive advantage disappears.
On the other hand, it's not like the information is hard to acquire. A competitor could get the relevant data by simply taking a meal at the successful establishment. A restaurant that earns higher-than-average returns is likely to generate word-of-mouth, which would in turn inform a would-be competitor of the opportunity to rip said restaurant off. Procter and Gamble assign a shelf life to their product lines before they commoditize it themselves, selling the formula for their products within a few years. They do this because:
- They don't want to become reliant on cash cows,
- It wil keep their people sharp, coming up with new ideas, and
- Commoditization would happen anyway.
So here's the question: Are businesses who allow Google to streetview the exact configuration of the interiors of their businesses following the Procter and Gamble "it will happen anyway" approach, or are they going to regret allowing such easy access to proprietary information?
Years ago, I worked at a large home improvement retailer. Frequently, the store manager and his staff would "walk" the competitor's store just across the street (remember our lessons on spatial clustering), and the manager from the other store would walk ours. Both knew that they did it, and they did it only because the other one let them. So now i am thinking that maybe this has less to do with commoditization strategies and safeguarding proprietary, intellectual property than it has to do with formal game theory.
In the world of formal game theory, a number of players (it's usually simplified to just two) choose to play a strategy. The player first chooses to cooperate with the other player, and then replicate what the other player did on the previous turn. The players cooperate because it's in their best interests to do so, given the best available information. This observation is frequently used as an abstraction for how cooperation and order evolves in the anarchic world of international politics. For example, we have our spys, the Russians have theirs and the Chinese have theirs. Why don't they throw each other out of the other country? Because doing so would almost certainly cause our own assets to be expelled from one of the other ones. We'd rather know who the other agents are, where they're at and keep our assets in place then to not have any assets for anybody. The only time you hear about expelling the other guy's agents, is if one party did so first. Maybe by having google streetview the interior configurations of their business, small business owners are saying to one another "I'll show you mine if you show me yours." Hopefully this would inspire greater innovation in the services-related game than what already exists. That or it will make the experience of doing anything exactly the same.
On the other hand, small businesses are famously myopic. I have never met one small business person whom I considered to be a strategy savant; if they were, they wouldn't be small business. Small business usually has to compete over things like service and quality, which makes me again wonder why they would broadcast out the proprietary details of a service-related experience over the internet.
I suppose, now that I think about it, it's probably an "all of the above" type of answer. Small businesses know and understand that they can't do anything about a competitor ripping off their ideas. They lack the scale to change configurations regularly, and they lack the resources to walk the stores of every potential competitor. They probably figure that including their retail interiors in google streetview might inspire new business to walk through the door in the short-run, and provide valuable field intelligence in the long-run. So, I guess I think that there's a little of everything going on here.
There was an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal last week, about tailoring the functioning of elevators to the specifics of a given market. The story, featuring a mathematician at Otis Elevator Company, focuses exclusively on the mechanics of how the companies program the elevators. There's another angle that I think Otis (or any other) elevator manufacturer should consider: the user interface. Now that I think about it, the UI on a typical elevator hasn't changed in at least my lifetime. How would you spruce up the UI for the typical elevator? For starters, the backlit yellow could use something a bit more modern. The buttons could also be arranged in a way so as minimize the probability you will punch the wrong button by mistake. Another option would be an "undo" button.
Poetry if I ever saw it. The last three musketeers at the bottom of a candy bowl. Like an extistential candy bar tragicomedy, I guarantee these last three musketeers will still be waiting for godot when I get back to the office on Monday. The Hershey's products and other more attractive mars products (i.e. Snickers) always go fast, but like the equally-terrible Baby Ruth, these three musketeers will only be called to duty once somebody really, really needs a sugar fix late on a weekday afternoon.
I was talking with a guy at the Minnesota GIS Conference this morning. He is, let us say, a passionate advocate for open-source technology. I was relating a story to some other people (a conversation this particular gentlemen inserted himself into) about how a mentor professor of mine used to say that the innovative software development is still predominantly being done in the United States. This guy comes across as the type that goes around looking for conflict. The stuff that's getting outsourced is the generic programming tasks that can largely be done with a good round of rote learning. Anyway, he said that it all depended on how people were incentivized to behave. He said that the open-source movement that he in particular represents was started on the other side of the world. We carried the conversation for a little bit longer, spoke about a few other issues and then said "adieu."
I have no problem with the incentives argument. That's actually a good argument; one that I embrace. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Douglass North put it, "institutions matter."
The problem I have, is the suggestion that open source projects are innovative. To be clear, I am on the record in this blog numerous times saying that I think open-source projects make it easier to be innovative, but the projects themselves are frequently not all that innovative. OpenOffice, for example, suspiciously lets you build open source text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Hmmm. Nobody can deny that GIMP borrows from Photoshop, and you'd have to look hard not to see the UNIX in Linux.
On the other hand, some open-source projects are VERY innovative. jQuery and Dojo (backed by major corporate donors) have been both wildly popular and amazingly productive. Nobody can doubt the passion or the abilities of the folks that contribute to those projects. Also, nobody can doubt the ancillary benefits they receive from being known as the developers of those projects. But this is not new territory.
In short, I don't deny that open-source projects can be innovative, I just don't think that their default state is innovative. The truly innovative projects usually come through the traditional methods of venture capital and good old entrepreneurship, a concept that this particular gentleman found to be crude and objectionable. The sad part is that he probably doesn't understand that the incentives argument and the entrepreneurship argument are not mutually exclusive., but rather essential ingredients in creating a dynamic and powerful economic base.
You meet all kinds at these things.
Google is (very publicly) exploring options for marketing self-driving vehicle (SDV?) technology. From the WSJ:
Among the options, he said, are partnerships with auto makers, offering systems as aftermarket installations, or possibly giving self driving technology away free as a way to drive use of other Google services. "I'm not suggesting we're going to do that," he added.
This combined with the public plea to help them figure out the market for Google Glass makes me think that Google is developing a crowd-sourced strategy. I wonder how smart it is to manage by crowd.
This is by far the busiest Microsoft store I have seen. The reason should be obvious...
If you haven't heard, Kansas City landed an IKEA. This is huge for KC and huge for Merriam. Actually, I used to live in the neighborhood where they are going to be building it. I do, however, disagree with the mayor of Merriam. From the article in the Kansas City Star:
“They (Ikea) are going to be bringing thousands and thousands of people to this region who are going to be staying in our hotels and eating at our restaurants,” said Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom. “They are going to want to get gas. They are going to want to do some more shopping. We are going to have the busiest QuikTrip in the world right down the hill.”
Yes, many people will visit IKEA KC, but few will probably build vacations around it. I don't see folks from Salina planning a family trip to the Merriam IKEA. I also disagree with that bit about "doing more shopping." After a trip to IKEA, the only thing I can think about is going home. I do agree with that bit about the QuikTrip, though. It will be busy! The shopping strip on the other side of Johnson (Hen House, Petsmart and Home Depot are the big anchors there) is in for a big bump too.
The most interesting part of the article is this:
“...their studies showed they needed to be in Johnson County,” he said.
Buckley added it was clear that Ikea wanted to be close to an interstate highway and preferred a central location in the area.
“I think the location they picked is very good,” he said. “It’s somewhat close to our urban core, and it’s good for infill development and northern Johnson County.
This is very interesting. IKEA is one of the world's biggest retailers; a town like Kansas City will get just one IKEA; the one in Merriam is it. Being in Johnson County should be largely irrelevant. If their database says that a big chunk of their customers come from Johnson County, and if IKEA does in fact have a cult-like following, then they shouldn't worry too much about building near the convinced. They should worry about those that need convincing. The dominant strategy, I think, should be to locate next to the interstate and in a central location.
A while back I thought about writing up a strategy blog about where IKEA should locate if they ever go into Kansas City. My thoughts were either Johnson County near I-35 or up near Zona Rosa on the North Side. In my original analysis, I gave the edge to Zona Rosa because it would allow them to locate near young professionals that live closer to the airport and downtown. Johnson County can feel kind of "old" in places. My original thoughts were that the people that live in (most) of Johnson County are going to be the types that favor the older, more upper-crust styles you see featured in Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM). People in Johnson County are more interested in deluxe kitchen accommodations than in stackable wardrobes. IKEA feels more like it belongs with a younger crowd.
Johnson County could turn out to be a great move, though, and we can look to standard spatial strategy to see why: If, for the sake of argument, 60% of Nebraska Furniture Mart's customers come from Johnson County, those people all have to drive north on I-35 to either take I-635 to I-435, or I-35 to I-70W and then to I-435. The new IKEA location is right before the I-635 cutoff, so just about any customer going to NFM from Johnson County will have to drive by the IKEA first.