Tag Archives: jeremy toeman

Jun 17

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Stage Two

Stage Two Names Jim Schaff Managing Partner

I am pleased to announce that starting today Jim Schaff is the new Managing Partner of Stage Two. Jim will oversee all of the firm’s day-to-day operations and work output going forward as Adam and I transition into an advisory role with the company we founded almost five years ago. Jim is one of the most knowledgeable marketing executives I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I am proud to hand him the keys to the Stage Two kingdom.

It’s a very, very challenging thing to do, to be honest.  We’ve had an amazing run since the company was founded, and have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented entrepreneurs and executives from around the world.  With Jim on board we’ve put some very cool companies and products on the map, including Boxee, Bug Labs, Pogoplug, Sphero, Face.com, TuneUp Media, Splashtop, and more.  We’ve also had the chance to work for amazing companies like Clicker.com (now part of CBS), Electronic Arts, VUDU (acquired by Wal-Mart), BOKU, Worldmate, and others.  I know it’s a rarity to have your cake and eat it too, but we’ve been doing it for almost five years now.  And that’s a lot of cake.

I’ve affectionately joked about Jim’s long history in marketing and technology. He was a key person to help launch the typewriter, and his crisis PR management for black and white TV when “full color” became all the rage is legendary. In reality Jim has over two decades of experience in marketing, advertising, consumer technology and managing marketing teams. He is a branding expert with deep knowledge of launching consumer technology products. On a more personal level, he is also an incredible human being. He loves hockey (go Sharks Habs), poker (although “Poker Jim” is not welcome at all tables), scuba diving and his dog. I’ve learned many things from Jim over the past few years, and have respect for him as a person and as a businessman.

As for Adam and me?  Yes we are leaving day-to-day roles, but let’s face it, even when your baby grows up, goes to college, then moves abroad, you still follow him on Twitter and do his laundry sometimes, right?  We will remain connected to the firm and several clients in a strategic advisory capacity, though we have every bit of confidence that things are being left in extremely capable hands.  Regarding what we’ll be spending our time on moving forward?  Well, the first rule of show business is, ” . . .”

May 11

Posted by TeamS2

Posted in Stage Two

Stage Two Moves To SOMA, New Offices

The Stage Two team recently moved into our new offices on Townsend Street, right across from the ball park in San Francisco.

We are still in the process of settling in and unpacking, but we managed to get the coffee machine working, so are calling the entire process a win. As you might expect, a company that works with consumer technology collects quite a few gadgets over the years. During the move we uncovered 2 XBOXes, 1 3D0, several tablets, laptops and netbooks and an ergonomic mouse. It was interesting to see how far technology has come in the last few years.

We really enjoyed working on Montgomery Street and will miss our friends and neighbors in Jackson Square (specifically the breakfast at Bocadillos and the everything at Naked Lunch). But we also look forward to exploring the SOMA district in the coming weeks, making new friends and finding new places to hang out.

Our phone number and email are still the same, and we still have our “open door” policy. If you are in the neighborhood, come by and say hi – we’d love to show you around Stage Two and our new neighborhood.

Mar 25

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Marketing, Products, Stage Two, UI/UX

Why Usability Matters: A Nokia Post Mortem

Andrew Orlowski has a detailed article in The Register that looks at why Nokia’s mobile ecosystem failed. It wasn’t because their Symbian software was faulty (the article states that Symbian devices actually performed better than others in terms of signal strength and battery life). According to the article, Symbian died because it lacked usability. Quoting from the page:

Nokia’s phones were considered uncompetitive in the marketplace, because new products from Apple and Android had raised the bar for ease of use, particularly for new data applications, and Nokia’s user experience was awful.

The UX matters: it’s the first thing potential customers see when a friend passes them their new phone in the pub. A well-designed UX is consistent, forgiving and rewarding; Nokia’s user experience was inconsistent, unforgiving and hostile.

This last point is especially salient. Apple’s focus on usability and user experience is one of the reasons they have been so successful with devices like the iPad 2. In order to succeed, device makers must deliver well designed products with great UX.

GigaOm delivered their own Symbian autopsy in which ex-Nokia designer Adam Greenfield stated that the cause of death was lack of taste. “There’s nobody with any taste in the decision-making echelons at Nokia,” he writes. Steve Jobs has made similar comments about a lack of taste in the tech sector in the past. Tasteful design and desirable user experiences matter more to consumers than hardware specs and processing power.

While UX is certainly a critical component of successful product development, we see another key factor that led to Nokia abandoning their mobile ecosystem – the rise of 3G and constantly connected devices. In our opinion, Nokia (and Palm, for that matter) got into trouble early in the 3G adoption curve. The company built a bevy of brilliant feature phones up until the 3G paradigm shift, but once technologies like email and mobile web arrived, Nokia failed to adapt in the ways consumers wanted. Its operating system could not handle these newer features and the entire platform stagnated. Eventually, the OS fell too far behind the rest of the market to save it. When people examine the end of the Symbian ecosystem, usability issues will certainly come up.

Great usability must work in concert with a nimble, adaptive corporation that can respond to (and hopefully initiate) tech trends. And this – by the way – is how Apple could one day fail. If a paradigm shift occurs outside Cupertino and Apple fails to pay attention to it, they could move quickly from market leader to tech laggard. As a final aside, placing widgets on homescreens is not something we consider a paradigm shift (hint, hint, Android). When a real computing sea change happens, the winners will be the companies that recognize it and react swiftly.

Mar 25

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Products, UI/UX

Why the HP TouchPad, BlackBerry PlayBook and Motorola Xoom are DOA

I was recently asked to do a Xoom review and I have to say that I am pained just picking up the device. And apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. The Motorola Xoom recently launched to tepid reviews and slow sales. Engadget said “there isn’t much here for consumers right now,” and there are already rumors that Motorola is cutting production of their Android tablet.

When the HP TouchPad and BlackBerry PlayBook are released, there is no doubt in my mind that they will suffer the same fate as the Xoom: lackluster sales, middling reviews and generally regarded as also-rans in the tablet kingdom.

Since the iPad 2 came out (and sold a million units over a single weekend), the writing is officially on the wall. The tablet space is Apple’s game to lose.

So here is the message for HP, RIM and every other company developing a tablet computer right now: stop the presses. There is nothing to be gained by releasing these devices as they are now. Unless these firms have extremely small unit goals for their devices (which they don’t), they need to reevaluate how they can compete in the tablet space. And they won’t compete by launching tablets that look kind of like the iPad that are aimed at current iPad owners. Apple competitors need to innovate and differentiate themselves if they want to win.

Let’s be clear. There are markets for these products – I outlined a few of them in this earlier tablet post:

Here are a few sectors that present real opportunities for non-Apple tablets.

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 LeapPad on steroids.

It’s time that the consumer electronics industry takes a hard look at the iPad’s strengths and comes up with a few interesting alternatives for these specific market segments.

Instapaper founder Marco Arment has a post that talks about the iPad abandoning office productivity apps and moving more toward “casual media creation.” Since the iPad’s role “doesn’t include office productivity for most of us,” there is an opportunity for an enterprise tablet built for business needs. If someone other than Apple made an amazing office tablet, people would love it- they would just love it differently than they love the iPad. HP could own this enterprise tablet market. It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where people absolutely adore their HP work tablet. In order to thrive, though, these devices must be inspiring, not merely functional. There is an opportunity here to connect with people and improve their working lives (and maybe surprise and delight them in the process). HP (and others) just need to seize it.

RIM, HP, Motorola and others can’t deliver products that are a little better than the iPad. Their offerings need to be far superior or far different to the iPad in order to succeed. They need to create a user experience that people love. The fact is that the PlayBook and TouchPad – as they are designed and marketed now – won’t capture people’s emotions the way the iPad has. Which is why they should not be brought to market.

Mar 24

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Stage Two

The End of The Internet

Oliver Burkeman’s recent Guardian article traces his journey through this year’s SXSW festival and explores the rapidly eroding line that defines what happens “online” and what takes place in the “real world.” More than mere mobile computing, the next internet epoch is ubiquitous and self aware. The end of the internet as we know it occurs:

When the GPS system in your phone or iPad can relay your location to any site or device you like, when Facebook uses facial recognition on photographs posted there, when your financial transactions are tracked, and when the location of your car can influence a constantly changing, sensor-driven congestion-charging scheme, all in real time.

The article details some fascinating tech trends such as gamification, biomimicry and augmented reality. Exactly how all of these ideas will impact our lives still remains to be seen, but the time when the internet was thing that you “logged on to” from a desktop is long gone. Burkeman quotes the writing of Tim O’Reilly (the man who coined the phrase Web 2.0) to declare that – now – “the web is the world.”

Mar 22

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Apps, Gadgets, Smart TV, Stage Two, UI/UX

10 Rules for Connected TV App Development

We recently ran across the following presentation that covers “10 Rules for Connected TV App Development.

Javier Lasa’s deck inspired us to post our own 10 rules for building Smart TV Apps (we will get it done by the end of next week). For more good reading, check out Stage Two’s ten essential tips for making a great Google TV site, and ten commandments for building an amazing Boxee Box App.

Mar 16

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Gadgets, Products, Stage Two

The Ultimate Xoom Ad

After seeing this commercial for the Motorola Xoom (in which a man picks up a tablet and literally takes off in a space ship), I was struck by a number of thoughts.

The first was, “Man, I love spaceships.”

The second thought was, “They seem to be targeting young men.”

The third thought was, “And they are doing a rather poor job.”

My last thought was more of a daydream that I will share with you all here – to the best of my ability. It was something along the lines of “How could Motorola make the ultimate Xoom ad? What other cool things could they put in a Xoom commercial to attract the coveted 18 – 34 year old male demographic? ” Here is what I came up with.

- Beer

Cold, refreshing Motorola Xoom.

- These Shoes

Those are shoes. That's right, shoes.

- A Fairy Princess Wedding

Err . . . no.

- Explosions (The Bigger The Better)

KAPOW!

- Bacon Wrapped Bacon

It's BACON!

- Robocop on a Unicorn

Nothing screams "buy a tablet" like the robotic energy of this image.

- Dinosaurs with Lasers

Armored, laser-fighting dinos would be ultimate.

The above Xoom video focuses too much attention on the tablet’s technical specifications. Motorola should be telling people less about spaceships and more about the benefits of the device. Outside of the tech world (where most tablet customers live) users don’t really care about the Xoom’s dual-core “gyroscope” or one-point-twenty-one gigawatts of processing power. They want to know what the device does that helps them in real world situations. Look at Apple’s iPad commercial. There isn’t a single spec in it- not one. The entire video shows different applications for the tablet that people can imagine themselves doing. So, Motorola – either deliver a Xoom ad that shows people all the interesting and fun things your tablet does, or make with the Dino-lasers.

If you have any ideas for Ultimate Xoom ads, let us know in the comments.

Mar 14

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Marketing, Products

iPad 2 Sells 1 Million Units – Over the Weekend

It took the first iPad 28 days to sell a million units. It took the Verizon iPhone two weeks. The iPad 2 sold around one million units in a single weekend.

Reuters is reporting that some stores ran out of Apple tablets in 10 minutes. Quoting from the piece:

Wedbush Securities analyst Scott Sutherland said: “We would not be surprised to see Apple sell closer to 1 million iPad 2’s in the opening weekend.”

The article also mentions the impending tablet bubble that we blogged about recently. “The iPad 2’s early success is a warning sign of a global tablet bubble, where supply could outpace demand for tablets,” says Wall Street analyst Mark Moscowitz.

PC makers need to innovate – and quickly – if they want to compete in the tablet space.

Mar 11

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

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

Only Apple Could Make The iPad 2

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Apple iPad 2Country, Spock recalls an old Vulcan proverb that says, “Only Nixon could go to China.

I firmly believe that only Apple could deliver a device like the iPad 2. Their focus on usability and user experiences ushered in a post-PC paradigm in computing. The Cupertino company defined the tablet space and is expected to ship 30 million tablets in 2011. There is a reason other tablet makers don’t have Apple’s market share- their tablets just don’t measure up at this time.

I recently reviewed the Motorola Xoom, and in the first few seconds of interacting with it, it became clear that it was not an iPad. From the moment I picked it up, it just felt wrong. The first time use feels cumbersome and even languid. Motorola’s tablet asks me for account information – user names and passwords – before I can do anything with the device. When I pick up the iPad, it works – quickly and effortlessly. There are other differences, as well. Stability, for one. As the venerable Walt Mossberg puts it in his iPad 2 review: “[The iPad] never crashed in my tests, unlike every Android tablet I’ve tested.” Then, of course, there is the price point ($800? Really?). And finally, the news that Xoom owners will have to send their devices back to the manufacturer for a 4G upgrade. Quoting Dvice:

Poor Motorola Xoom. We all wanted to love you, but you may have popped out of the oven a bit too soon. If you want 4G LTE on your shiny new Xoom (goes on sale today), you’ll have to return it back to Motorola for the upgrade.

This debacle is more Motorola’s fault than Android’s. Someone at Motorola said that this tablet was ready to ship when it clearly wasn’t. Who is that guy? What motivated his decision making? At what point did making customers return their product for an upgrade seem like a good idea?

Hardware makers must innovate tablet technology while delivering fun, functional user experiences. The reviewers and consumers have weighed in and at this point only Apple can deliver a tablet worth waiting in line for.

Mar 10

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Stage Two

How Apple’s Focus on UX Created the Post-PC Paradigm

We recently blogged about how Apple’s commitment to amazing user experiences is ushering in a new Post-PC paradigm in computing.

Determining the best tech products was easy in the old PC era. The best devices were the ones with the best hardware. A 5 megapixel camera was better than a 2 megapixel camera. Specs settled all debates. End of discussion.

But in this new, post-PC world, usability dictates which device “wins.” ZDNet picked up on this theme in a post that claims “user experience is everything, hardware not so much.” Quoting from their article:

Apple has proven time and again that the user experience is the primary thing on any product that will get millions of mainstream consumers to purchase and enjoy using the gadget . . . The user experience is everything, from the way a device handles users’ common tasks to how pleasant that experience is perceived by the device owner.

The best device is no longer the one with the biggest chip inside. The best device – in this post-PC world – is the one that users enjoy interacting with the most. And with that definition of success, Apple products (including the iPad 2) will continue to outsell their competitors.

Engadget smartly highlights how specs are diminished in the new post-PC era of usability.

In a post-PC world, the experience of the product is central and significant above all else. It’s not the RAM or CPU speed, screen resolution or number of ports which dictate whether a product is valuable; it becomes purely about the experience of using the device. What that means is that while Motorola and Verizon will spend millions of dollars advertising the Xoom’s 4G upgrade options, CPU speed, and high-resolution cameras, Apple need only delight consumers and tell them that specs and and speed are the domain of a dinosaur called the PC.

Apple’s iPad defined the tablet space just as the iPhone changed the very nature of the telephone. But it wasn’t the hardware that made Apple the second largest publicly traded company on the planet. Their dedication to usability and creating simple, stable products that people love to use drove their growth.

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