John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Kindle is Your Paradise

Killer gadgets today are killer because they let us do everything. Is your newest latest Droid/Blackberry/iPhone a killer gadget? Maybe it is, but maybe not. What about the Kindle that only does one thing? Maybe a better question is, do you want more “killer gadgets?” Or do people need one device that does one thing?

From my perspective, the Kindle is better than a killer gadget. It is a paradise device and a paradise business model. The Kindle does only one thing, really well. That is the point. It is killer BECAUSE it does only one thing. It is paradise because it does only one thing. It can give YOU paradise if you have one, and it is paradise for Amazon. The proof is in this delightful, engaging, brilliant Kindle Ad. Please watch it because it explains everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGmRKSds9OY

On the surface, if you have $140 sunglasses and love sitting poolside reading your Kindle, it is an easy sell that your Kindle will work better than other multifunction book-type devices. (iPad) Depending on what statistic you pay the most attention to, Amazon is selling either 143 or 180 digital books for every 100 hardcovers sold.   Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos says it is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”  That is a tipping point!

Back to the Kindle Ad!  The great irony is that Amazon’s Kindle mirrors the most successful single purpose device in the last decade, in every meaningful way – the iPod. The iPod is a singular-purpose device created a billion-dollar digital download store for Apple. (Perhaps $15 billion) Amazon’s Kindle is another killer gadget, but it is better because it is a single purpose killer gadget. The single-price digital music pricing model has simultaneously destroyed and reformed the music industry and it might yet do the same thing to the motion picture industry. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is being pushed and perhaps dismantled by Amazon’s amazing digital sales… driving per-copy prices down way past where publishers want.

So – coming full circle, here is the situation: iTunes drives Apple revenues with a product to be used on Apple’s iPods. Amazon’s delightful advertisement with their Paradise Device is thoroughly brilliant. It takes Apple out of the black turtleneck cool and plops it down. Where? in a the gut of a man wearing a semi-yellowed white-ish t-shirt over wrinkly khakis (1) at a pool with an iPad (2), sitting side by side with a kindled-up bikini girl. Mr. Apple-man is without sunglasses and looking kind of uptight and stressed, but she finds every relaxed way to look simultaneously hot… and very cool. People might not notice in the commercial, but there is a subtle plate of apples in the background (3)   Back to the stress… in this commercial, this alternate vacation reality – it is the iPad that is stressing him. His iPad is not relaxing and is not helping his vacation one bit! It is not helping him find paradise and it sure didn’t help him select his poolside wardrobe.

When you look at these two people, you can tell neither is married. (4) You can tell that she is enjoying her vacation in paradise. She has the shades, the attitude, the smile, the perfect hair, the perfect black bikini, and the perfect device with which to download digital content… and reading. Why is it so great that she has a single purpose device?  Everyone wants the paradise that comes with no deadlines, no meetings, no emails, no texts, no web to browse, no pdf’s, no buzzers, no noise, no distractions, and nothing at all beyond reading. It is only one simple pure function. Yet, nothing is getting between her and her Kindle. It is almost an intimate connection. A bargain that cost less to her than her sunglasses.

In a cluttered world filled with multifunctional device Swiss army knives, the Kindle is a Katana – sharp, purposeful, effective and to enemies, it must seem splendidly frightening in its potential and its execution. In the advertisement, everything in the girl’s vacation is elegant, relaxing and perfect. She is lost in the Kindle, lost in her reading. She has reached that intimate Kindle-paradise and left the stresses of her life behind. It is exactly the moment in exactly the vacation that everyone could use – everyone with lives that are torn by a never ending assortment of multifunction devices that sing like canaries in a mine full of hyper stimulated under-satisfied stress.  Matt Richtel wrote a great piece in the New York Times about how “Digital devices deprive the brain of needed downtime.
So – she is cool… she is hot… she is on vacation… and she can read her Kindle in direct sunlight, with her high-end fashionable sunglasses on. Why didn’t he bring sunglasses? Was he too busy in is iPad world with stimuli hitting him everywhere? Was he really TRYING to read or was he hitting on her? Does he not know how to adjust the brightness and contrast on his iPad? It doesn’t matter at ALL to her. She doesn’t have a care in the world. She is on vacation in paradise. She can relax perfectly with her kindle on her vacation reading her book in her world without interruption. That is exactly what she wanted. She didn’t want the sunlight to blind her. She wanted to be fashionable. She wanted to relax, cool by the pool, and her Kindle is exactly what she needed. Suddenly the Kindle is black bikini cool in a world of drab white t-shirts. It is a single word, a single device with a single purpose, and it is simultaneously cool, hot, functional and inexpensive. Does he need a pair of $150 sunglasses to read his iPad? No, he needs to ditch the iPad for a Kindle. The Kindle is EVERYTHING he needs. The Kindle is singular in purpose and effect. It is the paradise that he seeks, even on a perfect day when he is actually IN paradise.
The Kindle is exactly what Amazon needed. It isn’t perfect, multifunctional, or multitasking. It doesn’t read all the formats. It doesn’t try to make nice with the Nook or other devices. It is a single-purpose device in a world of multipurpose devices that gives people a way to escape all those other intrusions on their lives. The Kindle is the device that wraps an ADHD world into a single stimulus that can draw you in and encompass you the way that an afternoon with a good book could in a world that has gone by, long ago, far away. And for every Kindle Amazon sells to turn your life into a paradise, it will sell, based on current averages, 24 digital books.

Narasu Rebbapragada writes about people who pursue “any machine that does as many things as possible, that’s what I want”  but also talks how  the Kindle “retains the fundamental characteristics of the printed page, (and) encourages deep attention to story.”   Deep attention to a paradise where one device does one thing and doesn’t interrupt itself and you.

Books are to the Kindle as music was to the iPod, and anything more is unnecessary and detracts. You might say that with Amazon’s paradise device, Apple just got Kindled.

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September 21, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Environment, Life, Marketing, People, Technology | 1 Comment

Green Online Banking

Dreamhost has been my webhost since I sold my webhosting company in 2000. Last year they inspired me to *try* to lead a green initiave at my company when they went carbon neutral.   I have great respect for what they did.  It was significant because they did it in an all-encompassing way. They analyzed everything from the servers and power used for the meat of their hosting business to the coffee cups and commuting transportation. After they They purchased renewable energy credits and emission reduction credits.

Green Hosting at Dreamhost.com

I think that effort is beneficial in two ways. It is obviously responsible corporate behavior, and it also gives them competitive advantage. If you want a green web presence, but you’re not interested in doing the heavy lifing to make your own infrastructure green – host with them. That is simple added value that makes everyone a winner.

Considering the size of the bank I work at, I believe it would be impractical to do that across the business. But I’m not just another banker, I work in online banking and I wanted to make a change in online banking. I thought it would be possible to green our web presence, and by doing so, create a competitive advantage at a fairly reasonable cost. No other large bank has done anything like this.

The strategy would be to analyze servers, buildings, energy use, water use, and waste for the entire online effort, the space, the servers and the people in the online group. Of course this strategy also avoids the thousands of other servers and mainframes, and the many thousands of employees, branches and ATMs.  Despite the omissions, it would be an important step, and well worth the effort.
I thought it would provide significant competitive advantage to be the only major bank to provide green online banking.

It is a challenge to do the heavy lifting, and more of a challenge to do the organizational prodding. Every journey begins with a step and wherever my journey ends, I’m taking the steps.

Are you?

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Environment, Other Stuff | Leave a comment

Greening – Part 2

The strategy would be to analyze servers, buildings, energy use, water use, and waste for the entire online effort, the space, the servers and the people in the online group. How did I go about that?

I started by contacting the manager of our corporate responsibility office. I let him know that I had a significant effort, but didn’t outline specifics.

I itemized all of the servers involved in online banking. I got the models, listed the power supplies in each, and documented average operating loads for those power supplies.

I itemized people – developers, project managers, web managers, online security, administrators, and application engineers. I got a fairly comprehensive overview of the business, and I contacted The Green Office to get an estimate of cost. They don’t really have any templates that account for geographically distributed efforts, but I still tried to compute a combination of emission reduction credits and renewable energy credits (green tags) that would neutralize our online banking carbon footprint.

It was important to account for buildings, technology, furniture, janitorial, commuting, electricity, water, and waste.

The aggregate was surprising, and extremely significant. It was also economically difficult to justify in a period of expense management. (expense reduction)

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Environment | Leave a comment

Greening

Harvard business, like everyone else, is trying to find value, to find competitive advantage in all things green. They have an online section that covers enough topics to make it very very worthwhile.

Dreamhost already has competitive advantage in its hosting. If nothing else, they get it from the “trust and confidence” accorded to companies that find the “relationship between eco-orientation and company performance.”  They also get it from customers and potential customers.  Customers find the eco-orientation as a point for retention. Potential customers see it as a simple way to make a difference.

These two principles, building better retention with current customers and providing potential customers reasons to choose a company – these principles drive economic decisions. They are worthy goals and admirable accomplishments.

Replicating that would require various focus areas:

1) Committment – is there sufficient executive and leadership committment to do it properly?
2) Segmentation – what pieces of the business can be greened in a cost-effective manner?
3) Timing – when can it be done, when should it be done.
4) Benefits – how can benefits be smart? (i.e. specific, measurable attainable, relevant, timely)
5) A stream of continuous improvement, a philosophy of continuous involvement.

How can a company do that?
The key is finding money and environmental syngergy.  Find ways in which business objectives and environmental objectives align, and ways in which they can be encouraged or forced to align.

The key is the same as any other accomplishment – it is simply in deciding to do it, planning to do it, doing it, and monitoring how it is done.

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Environment, Other Stuff, Technology | Leave a comment