Tag Archives: business

T-Mobile pulled the plug on their contacts backup server

Here’s evidence that some communications companies do a poor job of communicating not only with their customers, but internally, as well.

t-mobile contacts backup screenLast Friday, my trusty old Samsung SGH-T679 Android (Gingerbread) smartphone died. I purchased a replacement SGH-T399 from the T-Mobile store, and the salesperson wrote my subscriber data to its micro-SIM card. I merely needed to install my favorite apps and restore my contacts from T-Mobile’s contacts synchronization server:

  1. Install apps? Check.
  2. Restore contacts? Negative. Why? In July, T-Mobile pulled the plug on their contacts synchronization server. It, and my contacts list, has been taken off-line.

After a little hunting, I found this message on T-Mobile’s website:

Contacts was a free service that allowed you to backup up to 5,000 contacts on a secure T-Mobile server. Contacts has now been retired.

If you stored contacts on your phone, don’t worry, they are still there and will remain on your phone. But what happens if you lose your phone and haven’t backed up your contacts? Without a backup, your contacts will be lost forever . . .

I tested the T-Mobile contacts backup (or synchronization) system last year. It worked fine. When I needed it last week, it didn’t work. I cannot imagine a reason why T-Mobile would think that closing down the contacts backup service was a good idea.

Rachel, T-Mobile’s helpful second-level support person, reported that T-Mobile’s management told employees that third party email providers such as Google provide contacts backup services, gratis. The problem is that Google’s terms of service grant Google carte blanche to your contacts (and everything else that you store with Google). They’re free to reveal all your contacts to anyone, including your competitors.

  • An incomplete restoration
    Rachel had a subset of my contacts in the form of a comma-delimited file (.CSV) sent to me. It was very out of date — maybe a year old — and contained first name, last name, and phone number only. Email address, notes, company, etc. were missing. I imported this file into a spreadsheet, edited it, and imported the edited CSV file into my contacts.

I’m surprised that Rachel and her colleagues at T-mobile didn’t object when management proposed this dumb idea. Customers seem not to have been asked their opinions. It sounds like at T-Mobile, all communication is one way: from the top down.

This dumb move by T-mobile has annoyed other customers. My guess is that it’s a breach of my contract with them.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Use Glympse.com to share your location in real time

Are you ever late for appointments? When traveling to rendezvous with someone, you may now use Glympse.com to keep your friend or business contact apprised of your geographical progress. Portable apps for IOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones are available.

Glymse dot com

Your friend / business contact (and no one else) will be able to track you from any Internet-connected web browser as you approach your rendezvous point. You can also periodically securely share your location via email, SMS text messaging, Facebook, or Twitter.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Amazon as importer and distributor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon continues to disrupt traditional commerce models.

Recently I was in the market for a bright LED (light emitting diode) bicycle headlight. Top shelf LED headlights by Niterider and Baja Designs with outputs in the 2000 lumens range sell for $300 to $450. I searched Amazon and found a much cheaper alternative.

SecurityIng® 4 Modes Waterproof 2800 Lumens Cree XM-L U2 LED Bicycle Light
Lamp diameter 0.5 inch
The headlight that I bought is made by China-based Securitying, a company that I’d never heard of. It claimed to produce 2800 lumens, its reviews were favorable, and Amazon sells it for a mere $40. It’s tiny, good and bright, but not perfect. It arrived with no instructions or o-ring mounts, and its low-medium-high-off pushbutton switch isn’t ideal for vehicles. Its output is probably closer to 1200 lumens — not the claimed 2800 lumens. Still, it’s very bright with a nice broad beam.

The interesting part of this is that the Chinese manufacturer seems to have no US-based presence. They’re using Amazon as their importer, American warehouse, distributor, and warranty claims center. I wonder how many other off-shore manufacturers are doing the same?

P.S. I’m so happy with this light that I bought two more: a second to use together with the first one, plus a spare.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Innovation Act of 2013

The US House of Representatives has passed “The Innovation Act of 2013” (H.R. 3309) by a vote of 325 to 91. It’s expected to be passed by the Senate.

The bill, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is aimed at stopping the abuse of patents by “patent trolls”. The bill

  1. allows 3rd party companies to step into a patent infringement lawsuit
  2. allows discovery in a patent infringement case only after the judge examines the patent claim
  3. requires that a patent infringement lawsuit plaintiff pay the legal costs of a successful defendant

The Innovation Act is an improvement, but the Patent Office needs to overhaul the patent system. It must stop granting stupid weak patents for pre-existing art and somehow the federal courts of Eastern Texas need to quit being a haven for patent troll lawsuits. Maybe the average East Texas juror isn’t smart enough to understand the issues in tech patent cases?

National Law Review article: The Top Ten Things You Should Know About The Innovation Act of 2013 (For Now)

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google wins book scan rights

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Google’s ambitious book-scanning project doesn’t violate the copyrights of the books’ authors or publishers. Judge Denny Chin of the Southern New York US District Court ruled in favor of Google and against the Authors Guild. His ruling states that Google’s project conforms to “fair use” copyright exemption. Wired published a full report on the ruling. The Authors Guild had demanded $750 from Google for each scanned book, which could have resulted in a cost of over $3 billion if Google had lost.

ScannerlivreThis ruling ensures that long-forgotten books will be searchable. Google scans the books, but makes only snippets available for reading on-line. Apparently this restriction convinced the judge that Google’s project did not violate copyright.

The Authors Guild, which first filed their lawsuit in 2005, is expected to appeal the decision.

ballfourThe plaintiffs are “THE AUTHORS GUILD INC., and BETTY MILES, JOSEPH GOULDEN, and JIM BOUTON, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated”. Jim Bouton?! His insider’s look at baseball, Ball Four, was hilarious. It was first published in 1971. I have no idea why he was named as a plaintiff.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Benefit Corporations

In the last few years a new type of business corporation has appeared — the benefit corporation. The Wikipedia definition begins with,

A benefit corporation or B corporation is a corporate form in the United States designed for for-profit entities that want to consider society and the environment in addition to profit in their decision making process.

From www.benefitcorp.net/quick-faqs:

Benefit corporations:

  1. have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment;
  2. are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on workers, community, and the environment; and
  3. are required to make available to the public an annual benefit report that assesses their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard.

I like item 2. It seems to me that in addition to a responsibility to its shareholders, a corporation has a responsibility to its customers, employees, and society. Here is a partial list of Benefit corporations. Patagonia, Inc. is notable in this list.

B Corps

b corp logoBenefit corporations may, if they choose, become certified B Corps. In 2010, Maryland was the first state to officially recognize B Corps as a distinct legal entity. Last July, Delaware joined 13 other states that recognize the B Corp. B Corps must be certified by B Lab, an independent organization. According to Benefit Corp vs. Certified B Corp,

A certified B Corporation has achieved a verified minimum score on the B Impact Assessment (80/200). While benefit corporations are required to publish an annual report assessing their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard, that report is not required to be verified, certified, or audited by a third party standard organization. . . . Certified B Corporations have been certified as having met a high standard of overall social and environmental performance, and as a result have access to a portfolio of services and support that benefit corporations do not.

B Lab’s website, in Why B Corps Matter, states

Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders.

The Benefit Corporation is an interesting concept. Will it endure, or become just a footnote in the long history of business and commerce?

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

If this then that

A new site, If This Then That (https://ifttt.com), has begun to offer their beta version of an interesting service. IFTTT (pronounced “Gift” without the G) will do something (defined by you) when a web-based event (also defined by you) occurs. My first impression is that it’s a very high-level simple scripting language with hooks across the web and an easy-to-use graphical programming interface. The creator, Linden Tibbets, describes IFTTT.

ifttt-channelsIFTTT calls user-defined functions “Recipes”. The This part of a Recipe is a Trigger. Some example Triggers are “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “I check in on Foursquare.” Actions can be triggered by events within an impressive selection of domains (which IFTTT calls Channels): stocks, weather, ESPN, Craigslist, social networking sites, Twitter, Youtube . . . 44 in all.

In a few seconds I created a recipe that sends my cell phone a text message when it’s raining in my zip code. They suggest a recipe that will send me a text message when tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain, which is probably more sensible. Another recipe that interests me is “Email me when a new version of WordPress is released”.

For a beta product, IFTTT looks very polished. Its account creation process was painless and creating a recipe was easy. Give it a try.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Whither Microsoft, v 2.0

It appears that Steve Ballmer’s impending exit from his Microsoft CEO position was initiated by the board of directors — not Steve. In 2011’s Whither Microsoft? article, I proposed that Microsoft’s board split its CEO into a triumvirate, since it was obvious that Steve was in over his head. He’s been a great sales manager, but that’s where his strengths end.

Steve Ballmer presents keynote at  2010 CES.
Steve Ballmer presents keynote at 2010 CES.
photo: Microsoft Sweden
Today, it might make more sense to split the company into market segments — maybe an enterprise products division and a consumer products division. Its enterprise business has marched from victory (MS-Exchange) to victory (Sharepoint, Office 365) throughout the last decade. Microsoft’s other product areas (except Xbox) have stumbled from flop (Vista) to mis-step (Windows 8).

Reports are that Bill Gates, still chairman and Microsoft’s largest shareholder, has been spending more time on campus lately. Don’t be surprised to see a breakup of some sort at Microsoft. Either they’ll break up the company, or the CEO’s position.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Acxiom: Heard of them? They’ve heard of you.

A low-profile Arkansas company named Acxiom probably knows more about you than any other entity, including the FBI, IRS, Facebook, and Google — and that’s saying something. Chances are, you’ve never heard of them. I’ve run into them while doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization): they store (and presumably sell) lots of information about my corporate clients.

Acxiom logoAcxiom is an information broker. For over forty years, it has quietly collected consumer data and organized them so that marketers can target particular demographics. If you receive commercial offers that seem spooky because they so closely conform to your interests or needs, chances are Acxiom is pulling the levers behind the curtain.

The New York Times ran a thorough story about Acxiom last year. It’s titled You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome “Acxiom: The quiet giant of consumer database marketing”. Read it and weep.

Good luck getting U.S. lawmakers to protect citizens’ privacy with laws that require consumers to opt in before their data is collected. Not gonna happen in this corporatocracy.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Clear Business English

Cliché-drenched confused writing is so common in corporate communications that I must take note when I find someone who writes clearly.

I was pleased to discover a blog that’s maintained by a U.K.-based copywriting firm that shares my communication values. The blog is Good Copy, Bad Copy. Its owner, Doris & Bertie, describes it as A blog about good business writing and bad. Especially the bad. Because there’s so much more of the bad. Their writing contains

No “leveraged synergies” or “integrative frameworks”. No “holistic solutions” or “ideating roadmaps”.

Apple Inc.

In their article titled Are jargon-weary investors ditching Apple?, Doris & Bertie point out that Apple’s investor relations webpage has recently become jargon-cluttered:

It’s hard to be sure, but this text appears to be saying: “we’ve jigged a few columns around to make the figures look better”. Hardly instils confidence, does it?

They point out that

JJB Sports, Clinton Cards and Kodak are all examples of ailing firms that have hidden a poor performance behind the kind of pretentious, highly abstract biz-blather Apple now seems to be adopting.

Incidentally, we’ve also noticed that, post-Jobs, Apple has begun talking to its customers in the kind of mealy-mouthed corpspeak that was previously the preserve of its competitors.

Biz-blather! What a perfect expression. Elsewhere, David Pollack writes

Whatever you think of Jobs – he was a great communicator. Another of the small details that made Apple so different, so successful. Now they’re beginning to appear like just another corporate megalith.

The Good Copy, Bad Copy blog makes good reading. I wish that more business people would follow their suggestions.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A tale of two AT&Ts

Colin Berkshire’s excellent three-part article titled A Brief History of AT&T begins by asking

How did it happen that the AT&T network became so poor, their prices so high, and how did the company become one so universally despised?

Within his article’s three parts (part 1, part 2, part 3) he explains,

The reason that AT&T service sucks is the same reason that Microsoft missed being the next Google, and why they missed the smartphone market and the tablet market and every other market this decade. It’s the same reason that HP has failed. It is the “MBA Manager Syndrome” of managers that don’t know their business and whose main skill is finance and politics.

450px-At&tPhoneSeeming vs Being

To begin with, the entity that calls itself AT&T is not your father’s American Telephone and Telegraph. It’s Southwestern Bell, renamed SBC for a while and merged with BellSouth, which in 2005 decided that the “AT&T” moniker had more je ne sais quoi than “SBC”. It’s headquartered in Dallas and is populated with corporate parasites: public relations people, lawyers, MBAs, and union workers. It is not a technical leader.

Lose $6B for your employer.
Take home $21 million.

Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, at the 2008 World Economic Forum. photo: Robert Scoble
Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, at the 2008 World Economic Forum. photo: Robert Scoble
All of their lawyers and all of their MBAs goofed in 2011 when AT&T’s attempt to buy T-Mobile was blocked by the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. As a result, AT&T had to pay $4 billion in compensatory fees to T-Mobile and lost another $2 billion in associated costs. In most corporations such losses would result in an overhaul of management, if not its board of directors. Not at AT&T ( Southwestern Bell). Its CEO not only kept his job, he took home $21 million last year. Nice work if you can get it.

I enjoy reading Mr. Berkshire’s articles. They reveal the inner workings and hidden mechanisms that only someone who’s worked within the Bell System would know.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google as hardware manufacturer

With today’s introduction of the Motorola Moto X smartphone, Google has hit three consecutive hardware home runs:

  1. Nexus 7 tablet $230
  2. Chromecast video streamer $35
  3. Moto X phone $200 with cellular contract




Nexus 7 smartphone
Nexus 7 tablet

Chromecast video streamer
Chromecast video streamer

Moto X smartphone
Moto X smartphone

All three products set new price / performance benchmarks.

Ten years ago, who would have guessed that Google would not only be manufacturing hardware, but would be setting the pace in hardware? Kudos to Google.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Tim Wu discusses the Internet and telecoms in the US

Tim Wu, who first coined the phrase “net neutrality”, can be seen and heard discussing the Internet in context with information market history in a recent speech titled The Rise And Fall Of Information Empires on YouTube.

masterswitch-160wTim is author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

ListenYou can also listen to his information market observations during an audio interview with WABC radio host John Batchelor.

ListenTim again speaks in more detail during an interview with KERA’s Krys Boyd.

One message is that information markets — movies, telephone, radio, data — seem to devolve from open to closed. This leads to

  • lack of innovation
  • inflated prices

He points out that Bell Labs invented a (steel) tape recorder – based telephone answering machine in 1931 but didn’t develop it because they feared that it would reduce revenue from Bell’s operating companies. (Sounds like Kodak: they hid their invention of the digital camera because they feared that it would kill their photographic film business.)

According to Mr. Wu, “People are all the same: when they’re not in charge, they favor competition. When they’re in charge, they hate competition.”

Another message is that ownership of content and transport medium (“the pipes” that deliver content) should be kept separated.

empire of the airIf you’re interested in the history of American radio broadcasting, there’s no finer book than Tom Lewis’ Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio. I loved learning about the giants: David Sarnoff, Lee De Forest, and Edwin Armstrong.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Come on down to Crazy Barry’s car lot!

Are you lusting for a brand-new Chevy Volt? Come on down to crazybarrys.com‘s car lot! You’ll find a late-night TV car salesman whose pitch is that it made sense to bail out General Motors, “saving countless union jobs”. “Crazy Barry is America’s bailout specialist! And once he’s done dealing cars, he’s ready to bring you other great bailout offers!”

Crazy Barry proclaims,

And now I want to do the same thing not just in the auto industry but in every industry!

This is first-class political satire on YouTube by a group or individual called PolitiZoid. I don’t know who they are or how these videos are produced. Do you?

Adobe, like Microsoft, is moving to a subscription model.

Adobe Systems’ May 6 press release announced that they are killing their popular Creative Suite and replacing it with the subscription-based $50 to $70 per month Creative Cloud. A bean counter at Adobe must have calculated that they can quadruple their annual revenue if they discontinue selling their market-leading Photoshop image editing application, part of Creative Suite, and instead charge a monthly rental fee. Microsoft is moving toward the same subscription model.

I’d like it, too. It guarantees an annuity. It’s gotta be a financial controller’s dream: more or less predictable revenue makes cash flow predictions easy. There’s just one problem: user backlash. After all, there are good Photoshop alternatives.

I don’t use Photoshop; I use the open-source GIMP image editor. Its user interface differs from Photoshop, but there’s a plugin that makes GIMP behave like Photoshop. For simple image cropping, resizing, and single-layer effects I use Irfanview. I don’t use Microsoft Office, either; I use the open-source OpenOffice.

Here’s my Photoshop alternatives article.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695