Archive for January, 2011

Jan 27

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Smart TV

Netflix Passes 20 Million Subscribers

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Netflix has surpassed 20 million subscribers, capping off a growth spurt so strong that it has surprised even the company’s top management while providing more cash to satisfy the hunger for increasingly expensive streaming content.

Netflix on Wednesday posted fourth-quarter net income that increased 52% to $47 million on revenue that grew 34% to $596 million.

Their growth points to consumer demand for streaming video and the evolving nature of digital media.

Jan 26

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Gadgets, Stage Two, UI/UX

Fortune: How Steve Jobs Gets Things Done

We ran across this interesting Fortune article today that examines how Apple CEO Steve Jobs gets things done.

He doesn’t just develop new products; he changes games. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad, along with iTunes, have created massive disruptions, forcing players in the music and telecom industries—among others—to change their business models.

The piece is well worth a read. It examines how Jobs is able to create successful consumer tech again and again during his “second act” at Apple. While there are a number of factors at play here, the article pays particular attention to how Jobs focuses on product design and User Experience.

He views a product as an experience, not just an object. He can visualize what it will look and feel like, and can then execute it to near perfection. He makes advanced technology friendly to consumers based on his uncommon talent for connecting it to user experience. He has an innate feel for design, convenience, simplicity, and elegance in the product.

Fortune also points to his ability to manage people, make critical decisions and identify new opportunities as contributing factors to Apple’s meteoric rise in the past 12 years.

Steve Jobs didn’t invent phones, MP3 Players or Tablet PCs; he made them simple to use and desirable by focusing on how hardware and software design relate to the user experience. Steve Jobs gets things done by demanding the best from his people and building technologies that people desire.

Jan 26

Posted by Meghan

Posted in Stage Two

Google Calendar Gets Even Better – NudgeMail Adds gCal Integration

Lots of people use Google Calendar to manage their schedules. They enjoy the simple, powerful organizational tools it provides. Well, gCal just got even more useful.

Stage Two is pleased to announce full Google Calendar integration with NudgeMail, the email based reminder system. Starting today, you can set up appointments and reminders in Google Calendar with NudgeMail. Draft an email, send that email, see it in your gCal. It’s that easy.

NudgeMail users are drawn to the simplicity and ease of our reminder system. It uses plain language, works in any email client and doesn’t have anything to download or install. Now we’re providing more robust tools for setting reminders and managing your schedule from your inbox.

The Google Calendar integration also adds more functionality to your NudgeMail. For example, now you can get NudgeMail reminders via SMS just by turning on the gCal integration. If a service talks to gCal, it now talks to NudgeMail too.

To set up your gCal and NudgeMail together, go to www.nudgemail.com/gcal Not using NudgeMail yet? Just send a blank email to welcome@nudgemail.com (it’s that easy). NudgeMail was founded to help people manage their inbox. Now it helps people manage their calendar too.

The word is out and people are excited! See links below. If we’ve missed something, don’t worry, we will continue to add throughout the day:

All Things D

CNET

Geek.com

LifeHacker

SiliconANGLE

TechRepublic

The Next Web

VentureBeat

ZD Net

Jan 20

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Products

Windows and Android Tablets are Coming- But For Who?

Apple recently released their sales numbers for the iPad, and the device seems to be catching on.

Apple shipped 14.8 million iPads last year, generating $9.6 billion in revenue. Last quarter alone, it shipped 7.3 million iPads for $4.6 billion in sales.

And, as Tech Crunch noted, no one saw this coming. Both industry analysts and tech bloggers failed to predict the success of Apple’s tablet. Jeremy Toeman even thought the iPad could be a technological bread machine; a device that starts out with a “hey this is kind of cool factor” and then loses its appeal and usability over time.

Before the iPad, no one was buying tablets. Now, everyone is buying them.

So other computer makers have jumped on the Tablet bandwagon. CES was full of Windows tablets and also a few Android Tablets. (This is not the place to argue whether or not Android will make a great tablet. They won’t. Apple COO Tim Cook has even dismissed Android tablets as “bizarre” and vaporous.) This article points to a serious question for the consumer electronics industry: Who are the target users for these non-Apple tablets?

If hardware manufacturers are shipping $500 tablets, who do they expect to purchase them?

No consumer will want to spend more than $500 for a Windows or Android tablet. At that price point, they will simply purchase the iPad. It is desirable, it is stable, it is fun and has a cultural allure attached to it thanks to Apple’s brilliant design and marketing. If you went to the store and wanted to buy your Aunt Mable a tablet, would you get her an Acer tablet or an iPad? Exactly.

Even pricing below $500 is problematic for Apple competitors. A $300 tablet is just close enough to the iPad’s price that people will probably wind up mowing a few extra lawns or clocking some overtime to get their hands on the genuine article from Cupertino.

At $250 people may simply opt for an iPod touch.

I hate to give the entire touch market to Apple, but it is hard to imagine a scenario where non-Apple tablets show similar growth in such a short time. So where do Windows Tablets thrive? Here are a few sectors that present real opportunities for non-Apple tablets.

Apple Haters

There is a small, dedicated group of Apple haters who will support non-iPad tablets. They do so for mainly ideological reasons and although they have a vocal presence in some corners of cyber-space, they make up a negligible portion of the total tablet market.

Medicine

We are quickly approaching a world where medical records and information will be displayed on tablets. Windows and Android devices could thrive in this vertical.

The Military

Someone is going to sell the Pentagon a lot of secure, battle ready tablets. Smart manufacturers should keep an eye on this space.

Kids

A “cheap,” sturdy tablet for kids is a no-brainer. Part coloring book, part media player, part game center- think Leap Pad on steroids.

To conclude, there are a number of specific verticals where Windows tablets and Android devices can grow rapidly in the coming months. But for average consumers, the iPad remains a desirable, functional device that people seem to enjoy.

Jan 17

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Outreach, Press, Social Media, Stage Two

The 10 Commandments of Tech PR

It seems like only yesterday that Moses came down from the mountain with 15 10 Commandments for righteous living.

Like Moses, we have received 10 unbreakable laws. Unlike Moses, our list only covers Tech PR and Social Media Best Practices. These rules will give you moral clarity whether you are working with enterprise level technologies or lifestyle electronics; cloud computing or home networking; gadgets or accessories.

Without further preamble, we present the 10 Commandments of Tech PR.

1. Thou Shalt Not Spam

If your “pitches” are mass emails to outdated and/or irrelevant media lists then they are not outreach. They are spam. Be sure to keep your media lists current and tailor them to best meet the needs of your client. Unless you are pitching a maritime gadget, you probably shouldn’t contact Sport Fishing Magazine.

2. Thou Shall Only Pitch News

Don’t pitch a story because your client said to. Don’t pitch a story in order to tell the client you pitched a story. Don’t pitch a story you know is forgettable. Don’t pitch a story that looks like an ad. Don’t pitch a story that looks like the intern wrote it. It sounds simple, but many tech PR professionals forget this Commandment. Only Pitch News.

3. Thou Shalt Be Aware of Current Trends

Read everything you can get your hands on. Understand how your client relates to current media and technology trends and pitch accordingly.

4. Thou Shalt Not Pitch Products You Don’t Believe In.

It is best to work for companies whose work you believe in. When you represent amazing products, you can speak with integrity and authority.

Great products make great PR.

When Tech PR people are passionate about the products and services they pitch, the result is usually better outreach, more coverage and increased buzz.

If you are pitching a bad product that you don’t care about, it will probably show in your work. Even if you create “professional” releases for sub-par products, word will get out that you and your firm work with second tier clients. That is a reputation no PR professional wants to have.

5. Honor the Exclusive and Embargoed Release

Never leak your own rumors anonymously to the internet just to drum up interest in your client. If you ensure your pitches are newsworthy, relevant, interesting and aligned with current trends, the buzz will take care of itself.

6. Thou Shalt Not Pitch Products You Don’t Understand

If you don’t know how the gadget works or what the device does you should not be pitching it. If you look at the specs and can’t grok what they mean, then you should not be pitching that product. If you don’t have a deep understanding of the technology you are pitching, you need to stop pitching that technology.

7. Thou Shalt Not Guarantee Coverage

It’s impossible to guarantee coverage. Don’t do it.

8. Thou Shall Speak English

You would think that speaking in technical jargon would only occur in the enterprise space. You would be wrong. Speak English. Avoid Specs and Jargon at all costs. No one cares that the processing power of your pocket popcorn popper increased 20%. People care about benefits, not features. Do not blog like a calculator. Be sure to use spell check and make sure your work has perfect punctuation.

9. Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Client

Never lie to the press. Ever. Not even a little bit. It is immoral. It is also bad for your clients and your own reputation. When people know that your word is your bond, they will grow to trust and respect your  pitches. Ethical business is good business.

10. Thou Shall Be Creative

Most tech press releases go unread. Don’t be afraid to get creative when reaching out to the media. Instead of a press release, how about hosting an event? The secret to coverage isn’t free booze – it’s positioning great technology in creative and relevant ways.

If you have any more Tech PR Commandments, be sure to inscribe them in the comments section below.

Jan 13

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Clients, Events, Gadgets, Marketing, Outreach, Press, Products, Smart TV, Stage Two

CES By The Numbers

The following numbers were compiled during Stage Two’s journey to CES this year.

Number of Clients Named Finalists for iLounge’s Best of Show CES 2011: 1

Broadcast Interviews Held: 7

Number of Clubs We Talked Our Way In: 6

Number of S2 Clients Named Mashable Awards Finalists: 1

Number of Articles Published Mentioning S2 Clients: 199 (and counting)

Number of Stage Two Clients Featured in this Wall Street Journal Article: 2

Alcoholic Beverages Consumed: 94

Times Clients Appeared Live on G4 TV: 1

Press Briefings Conducted: 343

International Articles Posted: 7

USA Today Video Interviews Delivered: 2

Number of Cigars Smoked: 4

Number of Tweets Sent: 296

Total Hours of Media Training Provided To Clients: 53

Client Mentions in Rolling Stone: 1

Impressions Delivered: Millions

Number of Miles Walked: 129

Times We Ate Reese’s instead of Dinner: 3

Number of Colds Caught: 1.5

Ars Technica Articles Published: 1

Number of Business Cards Collected: 384

Number of Filets ordered: 1

Jan 12

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Stage Two

80% of TV Viewers Still Watching Live Television

Home Media Magazine cites a recent report from Centris Research that one out of five viewers are now watching time shifted TV. Quoting from the article:

A 52% increase in household use of the digital video recorder (DVR) in the past three years has contributed to 20% of viewers watching recorded programming, according to a new report.

A 52% increase sounds remarkable until you consider the fact that 80% of television viewers consume live television.

With one out of five viewers opting for time-shifted content, the report suggests consumers are warming to on-demand functionality, including the concept of “TV Everywhere,” whereby pay-TV subscribers have the ability to watch recorded programming from myriad devices.

The report should not be suggesting anything of the sort. While it is true that the time shifted numbers are trending upward, when 80% of TV viewers are still watching live broadcast television, the DVR is the exception and not the norm.

That means that for the 6 hours and 47 minutes the TV is on per day in an average American household, only 81 minutes of that content is time shifted. Put another way, of the 35.6 hours the average American watches TV per week, only a little more than 7 hours are content from a DVR.

Industry professionals and media analysts all understand that the future of TV is time shifted DVR content. The future of television includes place shifting and mobile solutions and smart screens and Ten Foot Apps and a slew of new solutions. What this study clearly shows is that cord has not yet been cut and that these dramatic changes will emerge slowly over the next few years.

Jan 10

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Stage Two

Smart TVs, Ten Foot Apps On The Rise

Richard Kastelein has a great Connected Home, Smart TVarticle up at App Market that makes a strong case for the growth of Smart TVs. He cites data from Park Associates that points to rapid market adoption of Connected Televisions and Ten Foot Apps in the coming years:

Consumer desire for on-demand and online video content will drive sales of Internet-connectable TV devices to reach nearly 350 million units worldwide by 2015, setting the stage for intense competition in app development.

Kastelein’s post comes in response to a recent Gizmodo Australia article that argues for less Smart TVs and more dumb monitors in the living room. The Australian tech blog argues that the high price point and uncertain future of television apps require consumers to purchase a set top box like Apple TV to take care of downloading content.

The App Market article takes on a couple of straw men arguments that detractors of Smart TV use to deride the rise of connected televisions. The first is price. Again quoting from the App Market article.

A TV is a huge purchase.

No it’s not.

TV replacement cycles are sinking as fast as the pricing. I paid more for my desktop than my Samsung Connected TV.

Not to mention as they continue to come down in price (and they will as the CE manufacturers generate more revenue via connected TV) we will simply put more of them in our houses. Hell, why not put one in the bathroom? Or in every room in the house.

MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte was right. TV Everywhere includes the idea that all kinds of surfaces are likely to become screens in the future. I imagine, like in Europe and the US, the average Australian household had close to three TVs already. All easily replaceable.

Kastelein then points to the staying power of 10′ Apps, arguing that content providers and hardware manufacturers are invested in the interactive home theater for the long haul. He concludes by stating that Smart TVs reduce wires, cords and clutter that additional boxes introduce to the living room.

Smart TVs are coming, despite negative tech reviews to the contrary. How the connected home will look is still a bit hazy, but it will certainly include interactive, social and streaming content- in addition to Apps and one or two over the top set top boxes.

Jan 07

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Clients, Events, Gadgets, Press, Products, Stage Two

Wall Street Journal Covers Orbotix, Pogoplug at CES

Special shout outs to two Stage Two clients – Orbotix and Pogoplug – who feature prominently in a new Wall Street Journal article from CES.  Lizette Chapman writes a strong piece that focuses on tech start ups showcasing their products at the Las Vegas trade show. Quoting at length from the article:

[Orbotix] like so many of the 3,000 others exhibiting here, is launching – at no small expense to his company or his investors.

“This is the show. Everyone’s here,” said Paul Berberian, CEO of Orbotix Inc., a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes a robotic orb that you control with your iPhone.

[SNIP]

Not too far away, Cloud Engines Inc. CEO Daniel Putterman also had chosen CES to launch his company’s new product. Founded in 2007 and employing 40, the San Francisco-based company is exhibiting its personal cloud device, Pogoplug, at Sony’s booth and at ShowStoppers, a press and analyst schmoozefest.

“We could have spent millions of dollars to have a booth here, depending on size and location,” he said, barely audible amid the noise emanating from the blogger’s lounge in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall. Putterman said his company, which raised a $15 million Series B round from the Foundry Group, Softbank Capital and Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners in December, will ultimately spend in the tens of thousands.

“We’re a small company, so when we spend money on marketing and education, we want to make sure it’s worth it.”

Congrats to Orbotix and Pogoplug for rising above the noise at CES this year!

Jan 06

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Stage Two, UI/UX

5 Technologies That Have Impeccable Taste

As we wrote in an earlier blog post, consumers care less about the technological muscle “under the hood” of new gadgets than they do about functionality and simplicity of those products. Added bells and whistles do not make the difference between winning and losing technologies. Rich feature sets are not the deciding factor between amazing products that consumers love to use and sub-par products that users abandon quickly.

Taste is the difference between great products and disposable, disappointing tech.

Anyone can grab a bunch of parts from an overseas warehouse and deliver a functional product. Given enough resources, they can even deliver cutting edge technology to the masses. Lifestyle technology is easily made: a new phone, a cool gadget, a computing device.

The winners of the consumer electronics industry really differentiate themselves from the herd of also-rans in the taste department. Tasteful tech is beautiful. It is functional. It is simple design that delivers an intuitive, meaningful experience to the user.

Taste is not useless innovation (does my phone really need a kickstand? Answer: No!). Taste is, well . . . tasteful.

Here are 5 examples of our favorite tasteful technologies.

5 – XBOX 360

The XBOX represents one of the most successful convergence devices produced to date. Heck, it might be the only successful convergence device produced to date. Microsoft’s second take at home gaming fuses internet, music, TV and movies. The thing plays DVDs and also streams online content. Never mind the red ring of death (although I’m still bitter about spending $99 bucks on that), this machine is gorgeous. It is beautiful to look at and the user interface is clean and simple. I mean, even the box is beautiful. The new Kinect opens new, interactive experiences for living room entertainment. When form and function combine in a simple to use package, there is a clear level of taste present behind the technology.

4 – RED by Virgin America

Virgin America delivers tasteful technology before, during and after the flight.

Even before they board the plane, passengers can check in to their flight and print their boarding passes online- no more waiting in a ticketing line before waiting in a security line before waiting at the gate. Eliminating redundancies is elegant and appreciated.

Once on board, travelers experience RED, a state of the art media environment embedded into the seat. Every passenger has an individual media remote (complete with QWERTY inputs) and a personal viewing screen (that responds to touch). Passengers order in flight meals, watch live satellite television, chat online and purchase media from their seats. Google maps display the position of the flight in real time. Even the safety video is entertaining. The overall experience is personalized, novel and fun.

3 – Bose

Bose has a reputation for delivering great product design with their quality speakers (we know there are those who would pooh pooh Bose and say you need to have X Brand to have good sound. We are not getting into that debate right now). There is no doubt that the company understands consumer audio. But they also understand that taste, not tech, can be the difference maker when consumers decide what to purchase. Just look at their QuietComfort 3 Accoustic Noise Canceling Headphones.

They look more like ICBM launch keys than headphones. From the refined finishes to the museum-like presentation, the taste level that Bose brings to the headphone space is one of the reasons these headphones command a $350 price point in a space where people can purchase ear buds for around ten dollars. You can’t walk through a first class cabin without seeing at least one person wearing these things.

2 – Jawbone

Ever since its launch in 2006, Jawbone has set the standard for design excellence in the Bluetooth headset arena. Their earpieces are gorgeous. Their packaging sparks an emotional reaction in individuals. Even their website is beautiful.

Great tech and tasteful design attract sophisticated customers who don’t want a Plantronics headset for less than the cost of a sandwich.

1 – Sonos

For full disclosure, Sonos has – at multiple times – been a Stage Two client.

Sonos delivers multi-room music wirelessly. Did you catch that? A complete music solution that is scalable, customizable, beautiful and wireless. Sonos delivers ease of use, simple set up and controls – and – oh yeah, no wires harshing your feng shui. You might think this is a small thing, but when I was remodeling my house, I designed it with Sonos in mind. (Sonos is also the only technology in my house that my wife appreciates and uses on a regular basis).

Sonos has garnered many positive write-ups from tech reviewers. That is expected. What is amazing is that the simplicity and functionality also hooked one reviewer’s wife:

I find it very hard to send the Sonos review units back.  Even my wife, who normally doesn’t get sucked in by tech has said she wants to buy a Sonos system…so we’ll be whipping out our credit card soon, I imagine.

And that is probably the best example of why it is important to craft tasteful technologies. Technophiles will appreciate robust technical solutions because they love technology. When gadgets display taste, however, average users and non-users take notice, become believers and adopt these products into their lives.

What are some of your examples of tasteful technology? Let us know in the comments.

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