You heard it here first!

Now I don’t normally get into the whole joke forwarding Internet meme thing, but this has got to be one of the slickest viral campaigns I’ve seen in a while.

PalTalk, the ancient video IM platform that has been around in some shape or form for the last 7 years is responsible for this one. Looking to cash in on a topical event and some cheap laughs to get some much needed eyeballs onto the site.

Starbucks Sundays – Netbooks & the incredible shrinking man

This post isn’t going to be hugely competitive in nature, but bear with my little rant and we’ll get there in the end… I promise!

Last Saturday I had to venture down to that little Aladdin’s cave of technology treasures, Sim Lim Square, to pick up a coaxial cable. For any of you who have visited Singapore, it’s easily a geek’s wet dream. Dozens of IT and gadget shops all crammed together in one hell of a fire-trap. PCs, GPSs, MP3 players, you name it.

One growing trend as we’ve seen from the recently held Computex is the growth of the “Netbook” or Ultra Mobile PC market. Driven by one part Linux, one part XP, and a huge dose of affordability, these little gems are starting to pop up faster than a field of wild mushrooms after a storm. I’m very interested in getting on of these to replace my aging desktop (which is still running amazingly well on XP after 5 years), primarily to do some blogging and downtime webwork at the local Starbucks.

I ventured around the nooks and crannies of Sim Lim and managed to spend quite a lot of quality time with several models, namely:

  • Asus eee PC, both the eee PC 8G and the new eee PC 900 (with the spanky 8.9 inch display) in both XP and Linux flavours.
  • HP Mini-Note (Vista version).
  • Everex Cloudbook (XP version)

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Now all of these have one thing in common, diminutive size. Small enough to be crammed into a school backpack, handbag or dare I say, manbag (I’d state for the record that if and when that happens to me it will be referred to as a “courier bag”, thank you for asking). Apart from that they all hit the web through WiFi and all have keyboards and screens, but that’s about where the similarities end.

There is a lot of noise around the blogosphere regarding what Operating System is being installed on these machines. Will this be a wedge for pushing Linux into the mass-market? Microsoft’s announcements around extending XP’s life on “netbooks” is another market consideration.

While this is all interesting from a software perspective, and don’t get me wrong, I think price and OS will play a big part in what machine people buy, but I firmly believe there’s a missing factor in the vast majority of estimates about how well these machines will perform.

THE KEYBOARD!

I wouldn’t say that my hands are the world’s largest (9 years of soccer goal keeping made we aware that I have a size 10.5 hand). Despite that, I brought up the notepad or word processor on each machine I found vastly differing levels of usability for typing out anything longer than a sentence.

Currently the competitive differentiators for these machines are price, screen size, battery and physical size. In reality this means a cheaper price is better, a bigger screen is better (with respect to the machines footprint) and the smaller the machine is (thickness, weight and dimensions) the better. In none of the reviews I have read does the keyboard become key differentiator. This strikes me as being a bit strange. Like saying you could buy the fastest, best handling car, but you can only drive it in a straight line because the steering is so poor.  I don’t see HP pushing the keyboard as a differentiator (and I think the Mini-Note’s keyboard is better than an iBooks).

This raises the question of how do you change people’s perceptions to focus on non-traditional differentiators?

  • HP could focus the power of blog reviews to get more and more people talking about the keyboard first and foremost.
  • Advertising could focus on usability rather than just being a “toy”.
  • Good old fashioned benchmarking with the audiences that matter (students) on ease of use. (Try going to University and banging out that final assessment on tiny keys).

These are just a couple. I’m sure HP could think of dozens more. Shifting the game away from speeds and feeds and onto usability. On the other hand, if you were Asus or Everex you’d be inclined to continue to push the lower cost – however, that lower cost may come at the expense of future users or repeat buyers. However, at that stage they’d have the money and customer base to focus on other aspects of the UMPC market.

UPDATE:

I’d like to be able to claim full responsibility for the latest ASUS annoucnement, but I’m guessing they have seen this as an area of potential customer negativity. HP – gotta be faster!

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I’m on Twitter!

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In an effort to try a few more communication tools, I’ve created a Twitter account. You can find me at https://twitter.com/dan_mchugh.

Be great to hear from any of you who are using it, or let me know what your twitter ID so I can stalk you in the nicest possible way 🙂

 

So what cave have I been hiding in for the past five months?

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So I’ve been a little quiet over the past few months.

Why?   Well my new role at Microsoft has been kicking me around a lot, challenging a lot of the pre-conceived notions I’ve had about bringing market research and competitive intelligence to an IT audience. 

Some of those pre-conceived  notions include how people consume research, helping to provide research and intelligence, rather than creating it myself (working with research vendors and data providers) and selling (and reselling) the value of the research that’s been bought to a fairly wide audience, both from a product and regional perspective.

I do have 101 ideas for this blog, so the remit still remains. How to leverage Competitive Intelligence for maximum impact, especially if you’re doing it on a very limited budget.

Some of the posts coming up include:

  • The Sponsorship Triangle
  • Knowing your business planning process
  • The first 90 days at Microsoft and how I’ve used some of my own tools

I’m really looking forward to getting back in the swing of things. To my current readers, thank you for sticking with me during this absence. To new readers, welcome to the blog!

The 1,000 mark and news

Things have been quiet on the blog, but not in the McHugh household!

Firstly, this humble little blog has just gone over the 1,000 page view mark. I wanted to say a big thank you for taking time out of your day to read and comment on some of the posts here.

Secondly, I’m preparing to change companies and roles somewhat.  I have accepted a role at Microsoft here in Singapore, working within their Market Intelligence group.  This is certainly going to be a challenging role and one that I’m looking forward to.

The nature of this blog will remain the same as what I set out in my very first post. How CI is being used, or misused in Technology companies as well as advice for lone-wolf CI practitioners.

Starbucks Sunday

One of the things I’ve manage to keep hidden on this blog (so far) is the fact that I am a bit of a gadget freak. So when the opportunity to combine my love of gadgets with my blossoming enjoyment of blogging presented itself, I jumped!

So every Sunday, this blog will be coming to you from my local Starbucks (yes there is one of every street corner here too), being written on my Nokia n800. I’m going to use these posts to cover some of the other things I’m passionate about. Living and working in Asia, mobile devices and anything else that’s topical.

Living in Singapore certainly has it’s benefits for mobile blogging. This post is being brought to you by the Singapore Government and SingTel’s Wireless@SG network. An island wide WiFi network that’s accessible from Starbucks, other coffee shops and shopping malls (and there are a LOT of those). Did I mention it’s free? 

Sitting here banging away on the n800, I’m surrounded by school and university students on laptops doing group work, a couple of teachers catching up on marking papers and one or two travelers catching up on their email and facebook. Pretty amazing stuff when compared to the cramped experiences I had at university, where 4-5 of us would huddle around a single desktop PC in a lab room trying to get some research done. 

Get off my lawn kids!

I had a good friend forward me this exceptionally funny, albeit scarily accurate poke at the friction between Generation Y and Baby Boomers.

Now I’m a crusty, old Gen X guy, but I would be interested to hear from any Gen Y’s out there who are beginning their careers in CI or Market Intelligence. Promise not to get too jaded or talk about the good ‘ol days!