Salesforce.com — no software?

Am I the only one that finds it ironic that, on the one hand, Salesforce.com’s marketing rallies against installed software (examples: their toll-free number is 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE, the banner on their frontpage has a big “NO SOFTWARE” image in it) but on the other hand, the only way to realistically use the Salesforce.com service on a mobile device is through a piece of… installed software?

Hey Salesforce, Marc Benioff — where’s the skinny/thin client? Everyone else has one.

Dear Photojojo

Dear Photojojo,

I love your newsletter and, in particular, I loved your recent 2007 photography gift guide. I got that prime lense that I’ve been meaning to buy at a great price ($70 for a 50mm f1.8!) plus I picked up one of the accordion albums you guys wrote about too. I’m wishing I had bought the prime lense sooner and my 3 year old daughter had a blast putting together the album (with some assistance) and filling it with photographs for her Dadi’s birthday. Thanks Photojojo! Keep up the good work. Some photographs of gratitude (taken with my new prime lense) below.

Sincerely,
Rakesh

My daughter and her dadi (and some freshly baked mini blueberry muffins):

The accordion photo album:

(P.S. The accordion photo album was great. My only wish is that they include the necessary glue with the kit. It was kind of a hassle to find the right kind of glue and it was the only ingredient not included.)

Lifehack: simple call list “app” on your cell phone

I’m someone who spends a fair amount of time on my cell phone. And for those times when I have a battery of calls to make, I’ve often wished I had a way to build a simple phone call “to do” list on my phone and then go through them one by one. Maybe Google’s Android or the new iPhone SDK will help with this, but in the meanwhile I’ve started using this nifty hack:

1. Compose an e-mail with a list of the names and numbers I want to call:

my call list being sent to my phone as an sms

2. Send the e-mail to my cell phone as an SMS (if you don’t know how to do this, find the e-mail to sms gateway for your carrier).

3. Now, on my phone (which happens to be an iPhone) I have all the numbers I need to call — I just tap on the number and it dials! And when I’m done with a phone call, it takes me back to my call list.

my call list on my iphone

Whether this works for you or not might depend on whether your phone converts phone numbers in an SMS into something that can be clicked and dialed. My recollection is that Windows Mobile does this and that Palm does this as well.

Ditching Yahoo Hosting for this WordPress blog

I’ve decided to cut loose from Yahoo Hosting for this blog — it’s just too slow! When I’d go to make a posting on my Yahoo Hosted WordPress blog, loading the wordpress admin interface would typically take 30 seconds and sometimes even more! So let’s see if my blogging behavior changes any with the switchover. I’m thinking of making wordpress.com my new home. I’ve met Matt and like him plus I figure they probably know a thing or two about hosting wordpress.

First signs of Facebook Beacon

Facebook's new ad thingie on my Facebook page

I can see how someone would be pissed if this automatically showed up in their facebook feed without the request for permission that I got. With the request for permission and without thinking about it *too* much, I don’t really have a problem with this.

My 3-year old’s idea: iPhone TV on the refrigerator

I got home from a 3 mile run this evening to find my 3 year old daughter playing with a yo-yo she got trick-or-treating on Halloween. My wife, my running buddy (Sachin) and I sat around takling and when the conversation turned to yo-yo’s and I said, “Wait there’s this video you guys have to see of people doing incredible things with yo-yos” and I went looking for one of the first episodes of Mahalo Daily on my iPhone. I found it and started playing back the video. My 3 year old daughter was instantly interested: she climbed onto a chair at the table, started watching it and said, “I have to learn how to yo-yo too.” But having it on the table just didn’t make it easy enough to watch and practice at the same time… so the next thing I see is she’s holding the iPhone against the refrigerator, trying to get it to sit on top of some magnets she has there. “Very cool idea!” I thought and I completed the concept for her with some extra magnets. The final product was a delightful prototype of a portable tablet TV (ie my iPhone) loosely coupled with our kitchen refrigerator… further evidence, I say, that a slate computer with iPhone-like touch and web-browsing capabilities is bound to be very successful and disruptive.

IMG_6853
My 3-year old daughter tries to learn to yo-yo from Veronica Belmont and Mahalo Daily on an iPhone she mounted (with some help from me) on the refrigerator in our kitchen.

IMG_6861
A close-up of “The Elevator” yo-yo move as demonstrated in an episode of Mahalo Daily

Extending web experiences into retail

Something that’s been on my mind recently is the merger of technologies and experiences that exist on the web and retail locations. Here are some examples to illustrate what I’m talking about:

  • Most hotels maintain a list of nearby restaurants and other stores — to get this list, I have to call someone up on the phone and get them to read the information to me or I have to walk downstairs and get a print copy of it. And then, I’m left with a paper copy of the information and it’s hard for me to make comparisons from there of, say, the hotel’s rating of those restaurants to the ratings of those restaurants on Yelp or Citysearch. Why doesn’t the hotel publish all this information on a hotel intranet all of the listings displayed on a map? Even better, why don’t they make this information available to prospective guests?
  • And the hotel concierge has all kinds of other information — directions to nearby attractions, directions to the airport, guides to the city’s public transport, train schedules, etc. Same as above — this stuff should be on a hotel intranet that’s searchable.
  • Any place where I spend a lot of time talking to a human being answering questions and making choices, there should be a web-like experience that can be brought in. Kiosks have already completely changed the way we check-in for flights here in the U.S. Car rental companies need to take note here — they still typically require you to talk to someone and answer various questions. However, on a recent trip, I rented from Alamo and I went through the whole process of “filling out my car rental paperwork” without talking to a human being — I did everything on a kiosk. It included all the steps in the process from “do you want to upgrade your rental?” to “do you want to pay for insurance?”. I loved it. Hotels should do the same thing — I used an automatic check-in once at the Hyatt Grand Central and I loved it too. I could go on and on with examples here — this particular line of thinking might hold the most opportunities. Just yesterday, I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the lines were way too long (I should have guessed it, but when it rains in Houston, the museums do mad business). They should have a bunch of kiosks that sell everything from yearly memberships to exhibit tickets.
  • One of the simplest but coolest things that Apple does in their retail stores is they give you unfettered web access (well mostly unfettered — I bet they were blocking access to http://jailbreakme.com/ 🙂 ). Apart from attracting people to Apple Stores to use Macs to check their e-mail and surf the web, it means shoppers can search for product reviews and more product information. It effectively brings search technology into the retail experience (though in a non-integrated way). I was recently looking for a bag that my wife could use to carry her Macbook so I parked myself at a Mac in an Apple store where I searched for laptop bag reviews, browsed through the Apple Store’s inventory of laptop bags (figuring that the Apple Store was a good filter on the domain of available laptop bags out there), and got exact dimensions for the Macbook (so I could figure out which bags would fit the Macbook and which wouldn’t). Retail stores should recognize the role that the web plays in people’s buying decisions and do a better job of making it available within their stores.
  • Why do I have to walk up to a store clerk and have them tell me whether they have inventory on a particular item? I’d like to be able to search the store’s inventory myself to see what they do or don’t have in-stock. Yeah, I understand that inventory counts are typically plus or minus a few units. If I could search the inventory sitting at home, all the better. And I don’t just want to search — it would be nice to be able to browse as well, like I can browse departments and categories on amazon.com, except I just want to see stuff that’s in the store. I read this article in the New York Times about EveryScape, a company that’s doing 3D tours of storefronts. The example they give in the article is the Harvard Coop (a bookstore). But looking at photographs of bookstore shelves is the last way I, personally, want to browse a bookstore’s inventory. I want more of an online search and browse interface (like what amazon.com offers).
  • When I walk into a store, it would be useful and cool to see what the top-selling items in that store are and for larger stores (e.g. Target) it would be nice to see this information by department. What was the top-selling DVD at the Target near my house in Houston, TX? Retailers should be harnessing this data to enhance the shopping experience for their customers.

I don’t think there’s a name for this trend, but I basically want the experiences that I have when I’m not using my computer (or my phone) to be more web-like.

Experience the awesomeness?

Sandisk’s ads for their new TakeTV are starting to annoy me:

TakeTV™
The next obvious step in human evolution.
Take video from your PC and play it on your TV, the way Nature intended.
Experience the Awesomeness

Actually…

…my brother-in-law did just get a Mac (a pretty good deal actually — $1300 for one of the almost-latest gen 24″ iMacs with Leopard) and so far he does love it. After fielding lots of phone calls from my sister about how her Windows PCs (all three of them) had become malware/spyware cesspools, how she was worried about her data, most of all her years of photographs, I recommended they make the switch to Apple. So far so good, but watch this space, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes for them. (I still use Windows as my primary PC, though I feel inclined more towards Apple everyday thanks to my latest new Vista PC)

(New Mac ad: “Actually, my brother-in-law just got a Mac and loves it.”)