HMV, the 100+ year old UK high street retailer went into administration overnight, another big name casualty of a growing crisis that appears to beset many retailers today. Typically, the press coverage tends to oversimplify the problem as being about price competition from online competitors.
But it’s not as simple as that; it’s not like HMV’s management was recently ambushed by the threat of online music sales, and as in the cases of recent electronics retail casualties in the UK like Comet and Jessops, no business – retail or not – has immunity from the forces of disintermediation in today’s web era.
So, here’s my take on why certain kinds of high street retailers are probably done for, and in a follow up blog post I’ll list ten things that retailers can do to survive in the web era.
- Price competition from online competitors – undeniably a factor but not the whole story. If as a retailer the only value you bring is physical place and you then compete on price, guess what – you won’t be playing any long playing records let alone selling them.
- Innovation in modern manufacturing has resulted in greatly increased diversity of product ranges and categories. Physical retail is space constrained therefore can only carry limited lines which runs counter to the modern day consumer desire for more choice, not less. Continue reading ›
No doubt, you’ve heard endless mention of “the cloud” over the past couple years. The funny thing is, do you actually know what it means?
Take a minute right now and ask somebody what they think it is. Can they explain it? Is their explanation the same as yours?
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Our implementation of Office 365 also marks my conversion from cloud computing sceptic to evangelist. Ironically it was the day after my Xero one year anniversary that we moved to Office 365.
I came from a traditional server and infrastructure background and didn’t know much about cloud computing when I started at Xero (other than that syncing your photos via Picasa was really handy). I distinctly remember looking at our outsourced 3rd party mail system and thinking “we need to bring that in-house and manage the servers ourselves like you are supposed to.”
But as my first few weeks of Xero life rolled by I started to realise how cool and powerful cloud computing is and how well it fits Xero’s own use. I couldn’t believe it, but in a few short months I found myself fully endorsing a move to a cloud based email system and I couldn’t wait!
After the decision was made, Office 365 soon became the logical conclusion for us. It’s one of Microsoft’s more exciting products and it’s still running that familiar exchange platform that many of us know and love. It solves a lot of problems, especially in terms of infrastructure.
While on summer holiday I seem to become the local IT support desk – but at least we end up with lots of crayfish.
Twice already I’ve had to sort out email for grandmothers in business. They live on their iPhone but still using their first email address, often the one they got from their from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). One grandma just lost 6 months worth of contacts because she hardly ever connects her iPhone to her Mac (that’s when contacts are backed up) and just had a problem doing an iPhone upgrade.
As it’s a new year here here’s some help to upgrade your iPhone and email experience so you have continuous backups of your key information and you can access it from anywhere. This is ideal for any sole trader running off a generic ISP email like FirstLast@myISP.net
Now that the champagne’s done and the last party popper has popped its last I’m sorry to tell you that the time has come to face down another new year.
So, here are my top five tips for cleaning up what might have become for many a wreck of a digital lifestyle and in doing so, ensure you face the year fully defragged, optimized and with the kind of laser sharp focus that will ensure that you grab 2013 with both hands.
1. Tune-up Twitter
Be honest. Unless you enjoy hurting small animals, nobody likes unfollowing people on Twitter, particularly people you’ve actually met or know in meatspace. Unfollowing family members is a real toughie. Heaven forfend your follows discover that you unfollowed them never mind the the perma-dread of the crushing guilt that you’ll feel when you eventually bump into them again them and their first words to you are “You unfollowed me!” – this actually happened to me and awkward doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg infamously stated that using HTML5 in their mobile app was a mistake. While most developers in the mobile space understood Facebook’s problems with HTML5 to be one of poor implementation rather than a lacking in the technology, it set back the HTML5 movement across the wider IT community. How would CIO’s react when Zuck says HTML5 sucks? (He didn’t really say that – but that’s what a lot of people heard)
The last few years has seen lots of vigorous debate on web vs native (including internally at Xero). Unfortunately the debate tends to be just talk and for many on the HTML5 side they think the problem is that HTML5 doesn’t have a marketing department. Thankfully it doesn’t need one if developers start to showcase what’s possible rather than just talk about it. Which is why it’s fantastic to see Sencha (the company that builds the HTML5 development frameworks we use to help build out the Xero product suite) has built a demo app call Fastbook that replicates some of the more advanced features of Facebook’s re-imagined native app in pure HTML5 (built upon Sencha Touch).
The video below shows a side by side of the official native Facebook app versus Sencha’s HTML5 Fastbook app:
What’s great is that they’ve not only replicated some of the more advanced features of the native experience, but they’ve also added in some additional capabilities that the native app doesn’t even have. It’s especially impressive to see the Android version – the native app looks clumsy next to the HTML5 app – I’m sure that’s not supposed to happen
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Back at Xerocon London in September I was pleased to announce that Movemybooks was the deserving recipient of the UK’s first Add-on Partner award in the category of “Emerging Add-on Partner of the Year” for their groundbreaking data conversion tools.
Sadly, Adrian Pearson was unable to attend Xerocon in person to pick up their award so we arranged for him to stop by our UK office and collect it in person, which I’m pleased to say he did this afternoon.
Movemybooks is going from strength to strength as the demand for automated data conversion from Sage and Quickbooks accelerates in the UK, and it was great to hear from Adrian that they’re on the verge of adding the capability to automatically convert complete financial histories from Sage & Quickbooks straight into Xero in a single shot.
I’m bored with my iPhone. Bored, bored, bored.
The new iPhone 5 is a lovely bit of hardware, but the app centric view feels old to me. The dream of information at your fingertips is not a screen full of application icons. I’ve been growing less comfortable with Apple’s view of the world and feeling like they have too much control.
The iPhone 5 and iOS 6 launch was a big disappointment for me. The screen was not much bigger. We got a 5th row of pretty but dumb icons.
Over the last few years Android has taken off, with rich information-centric widgets that allow you to see bite-size chunks of information at a glance. I’ve looked longingly at those giant screens but after a few minutes of playing with Android I can’t get over the lack of polish and style. Android doesn’t get me excited I’m afraid.
Windows Phone is the new kid on the block. The Windows Phone keynote resonated for me. A people-centric phone operating system with some great new features like Rooms.
Today the Nokia Lumia 920 launched. I happened to be driving past Telecom’s main retail store so I grabbed one.
I am the gadget king, right from the first iPAQ Pocket PCs, I was a Microsoft early adopter of everything in the 90s and early 2000s but made the change to Mac 6 years ago. Currently my set up for home and work is:
- Mac Book Pro
- iPhone 5
- Multiple iPads in the house
- Apple TV
- Microsoft Exchange for Email, Calendar, Contacts
- OSX Mail, iCal, Contacts
- Notes in the iCloud across devices
- MacMini at home for shared content – photos, music, movies
I’m going to share my impressions of the Windows Phone from an iPhone and Apple users perspective. My starting point is I desperately want this to be good, but I also know I might not like it and this could be a big waste of money. If I do use it for more than a few days, or even for the next year, I’ll update this post to let you know if my impressions change.
As Gary mentioned in a post the other day, a new version of Windows has just been launched by Microsoft, one the many pundits see as the biggest launch of any Microsoft product in its history: Windows 8. Right now in Redmond Microsoft are in the middle of a massive Windows 8 launch conference for Windows developers called Build. The reason it’s so massive is because this is the first Windows that has been specifically designed to operate in the Post-PC era (even though they refuse to admit that’s the world we now live in) – a Windows not just for your desktop – but also for your tablet or your phone – a unified experience, glued together by Microsoft’s cloud offering (SkyDrive), consistent in user interface through Metro (Windows UI) and an experience that’s designed to flow seamlessly between home and work and back again.
For anyone upgrading to Windows 8 it’s very obvious what the biggest change is as you are greeted with it when you log in – the Start screen, an evolution from what Microsoft invented with Windows Phone 7, is colorful and unique, fully utilizing the Metro design language (I don’t care what Microsoft want me to call it – it’s Metro). There is no Start button – just rows of colorful, “live” tiles. Definitely this interface is the most controversial aspect of Windows 8 – it’s a complete change, however one that will be familiar to the 2 Windows Phone 7 owners out there (sorry – couldn’t resist). The tiles are cool though, and were the best part of WP7. It actually makes Android and iOS look extremely dated – instead of rows of static icons, Windows 8 offers users glanceable, personalized, dynamic information from your favorite apps, even when they’re not running.
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There was a time when the phrase ‘Windows Compatible’ would keep software developers awake at night while they slavishly adapted and jimmied their ageing applications – applications is what we used to call apps, ask your grandparents – so that they didn’t crash every eight seconds on Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system.
The last big platform shift happened in August 1995 when Microsoft shipped the now legendary Windows 95. While there had been iterations of Windows prior to Windows 95, they had been mostly wheezy attempts amounting to no more than experimentation with graphical user interface concepts. And so no serious software business worth its weight in take-out pizza could bring itself to cast aside its MS-DOS codebases and start over again just for Windows.
That all changed with Windows 95 which over the course of 2-3 years killed off the MS-DOS generation – such was the Microsoft world we all lived in.
The world in 1995
- In 1995 there were around 39.5 million people online which is roughly equivalent to less than 4% of the user population of Facebook.
- There were around 20 million cell phones in use; that’s fewer than the total number of Android and iPhone devices activated in the last two weeks.
- Back in ’95 there were around 5,000 commercial software applications compared to more than a
billionmillion apps sitting inside the Apple and Google app stores today.