Today is a good day to code

How Google Can Save Retail and Give Amazon a Black Eye in the Process

Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Amazon, android, Apple, artificial intelligence, Companies, Google, iPhone, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »
Closed down retailer

Montgomery ward closed down

Looking at Google’s new maps inside view, it brings to mind a general problem with physical shopping vs online shopping.  With online shopping, I know exactly who has the item that I wish to buy, and I know what the price of that item is.  I can instantly perform comparison shopping without leaving the comfort of my home.  This convenience has a down side as well, when I do not know exactly what I want to buy and am just shopping for entertainment the online experience lacks substance.  It is much more fun to peruse best buy than it is to scroll down a page of picture of gadgets.  This is where Google can help.

One of the things that Google has done that has no clear immediate value to the company is to map the world in extreme detail, this has come to include the inside of stores.  Amazon does not have this capability.  In addition, Google has its hangout technology which, when leveraged with this inside indexing gives Google both a search index of the real world, and the ability to have a high-fidelity experience with an actual salesperson.

Imagine, Google indexes all of the shops in the world, coffee shops, hot dog stands, I mean everything along with real-time inventory of the items in search results.  Then they index those images using OpenCV or some other image recognition technology.  Alongside that, every retailer in the world assigns one or more salespeople inside of the shop to carry a tablet capable of performing a hangout.  Again this represents a giant biz-dev nightmare, but keep bearing with me.

Now comes the beautiful part, I, at home am surfing the web on my tablet when I get the itch to go shopping.  Instead of hopping into my car, I allow Google to suggest stuff that I might be interested in ( Amazon has a huge lead here, but Google will likely catch up due to their having more signals ).  While I’m looking through the suggestions, I see a watch that I am very interested in, so I click into it and it shows me a map of all of the places around me that have that watch.  I click again and ask for a horizontally swipable, inside view of the top 5 locations that have the watch.

I can actually browse the inside of the store, see the display with the watch in high resolution.  There will be a little place that I can click inside the store if I need help as in the watch is not on display, or the shop keeper will be notified that I am browsing.  At this point, the shop keeper can signal that they want to have a hangout with me in g+, or I can swipe to the next place at any time and browse that place.  If I do want to discuss the item in a hangout, I can either initiate or respond to an invitation from the shop keeper.  While on the hangout, the salesperson can express their craft, showing me alternate items, asking me to send data over, such as measurements, we could exchange documents, etc…

This future would be tremendous, and it is something that only Google can do.  But wait, there’s more!  Imagine that at this point with my Google Glasses, now I can have a full AR view with the details of each item coming up in my heads up display along with other shops’ more aggressive deals ( read ads ).  It would be ridiculously awesome!

Ultimately this will level the playing field with online as well as brick-and-mortar retailers, with the brick-and-mortar guys having a slight advantage until the online retailers start hiring sales reps for g+ hangouts or an equivalent technology.  I believe that this will bring a pretty large increase in the number of sales people employed and reverse the current employment drain that retail is experiencing.  It makes perfect sense as to why Amazon is trying to build out its mapping technology as quickly as possible.  It will be interesting to see who wins.


The Biggest Trick that Jeff Bezos Ever Pulled

Posted: April 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Amazon, Apple, Companies, Facebook, Google | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Boa Constrictor

For reasons unknown, it seems that the tech media completely fails to give Jeff Bezos and Amazon the recognition that they deserve.  I believe that this is due to a deliberate strategy executed by Amazon to quietly grab as much mind and market share as they can.  If they continue on their trajectory, they may become unassailable, in fact, they may be already.

There are blogs and podcasts called things like Apple Insider, This Week In Google, Mac Break Weekly, etc… I have yet to hear about any blogs or podcasts about what Amazon is doing week-in and week-out, but in many ways it is much more interesting.  Amazon now handles 1% of consumer internet traffic, pushing all of through its near ubiquitous compute cloud infrastructure.  They are rapidly and efficiently dismantling existing retail.  Amazon is probably on their way to completely owning web commerce.  Amazon has mass amounts of data on what people have, want, and will want based on what they own and buy.  Through their mobile applications they are gathering pricing signals from competitors so that they can use their own cluster computing prowess to spot change pricing.

What is shocking about this is, despite their proficiency, no one discusses how absurdly dominant Amazon has become.  Everyone just treats Amazon running all internet commerce and large swaths of its infrastructure as “the way it is.”  Amazon is more a force of nature at this point than a company.

It isn’t just the tech media that doesn’t give them the credit they deserve, major tech companies aren’t either.  Google and Apple seem ready to laugh off the Kindle Fire while Amazon soaks up more signals.  Microsoft doesn’t even try to match them.  Google’s commerce efforts look half-baked compared to what Amazon does, and they show no signs of trying to do better.

It is absurd to think that with the bitter rivalries we constantly hear about between Apple and Google, Microsoft and Google, Microsoft and Apple, etc… that someone would start a podcast about Amazon.  Fifty years from now technology changes will have toppled Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, but I’d bet that Amazon would still be around.

Jeff Bezos and his company wield algorithms and data more effectively than anyone else in the industry, despite all the credit we give Google for search.  Their suggestion and comment filtering algorithms are bar none, the best around.  Amazon is integrated into the fabric of our lives and that is something that no other tech company has done to that level.

Amazon will keep doing what Amazon does best, being ruthless, being efficient, executing better than anyone else, and staying ahead of the curve.  As long as we keep ignoring them they are doing their job.  The greatest trick Amazon ever pulled was convincing the world that they didn’t exist.  They have convinced the world that they are just retail.


Amazon Kindle 2 Review

Posted: March 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Amazon, Companies | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Kindle 2 is vastly improved over the first Kindle, I said some pretty harsh things about the first version of the Kindle, but really I saw that as a prototype, not a real production device.  It is amazing that Amazon sold 300,000 versions of that device.  The second one is much better than the first, but it still isn’t worth $360 dollars.  That being said, I do love it.  The longest reading session I have had with it has been about 6 hours, without any eye fatigue.

By contrast, I can hardly read for more than 30 minutes on my laptop, or my iPhone without my eyes becoming tired.  The device isn’t perfect however.  The buttons while better as far as accidental page turns, are still somewhat prone to accidental page turns, however with the faster screen refresh the penalty for an accidental page turn is less.  The screen flash is annoying, especially for how often you have to change pages, and the click of the button could be aggravating for anyone near you at night when reading.

The wireless is good, I have great signal wherever I go, and do get most books within a minute.  I wish I could send annotated sections of books to other people, but that functionality is missing, I did send over some feedback, requesting that feature, and I got back what appears to be an actual email from a person, not a form letter, although it is hard to tell.

The Kindle 2 experience is definitely premium, and Amazon is targeting a certain class of people, anyone else would just question why in the world anyone would pay $360 for a book, even with all of the features that the Kindle has.  The packaging was very well done, with little waste, they took a page from Apple’s playbook on that.

The main reason I wanted the Kindle 2 was because of the sheer waste involved in getting programming books.  Not only is the cost ridiculous as far as the shipping and transport of the books, the fact that they are obsolete so quickly makes them very wasteful and heavy.  With the Kindle, I can just load up the device with the books, and instead of carrying 10 pounds of books, I can carry 10 ounces.  It is a vast improvement.  With access to wikipedia, and the ability to search within the book, it makes finding specific reference material a breeze.  I would recommend it to any programmer.

The Kindle has come a long way since the first version.  If it weren’t for this recession I’m sure that Amazon would sell a lot more of them.  Unfortunately, the only way to really sell this device is in person.  It is difficult to appreciate how nice reading on it is when looking at a picture or reading a description.  I don’t know of any service that will allow you to rent Kindles, but Amazon should do this at airports if they really want to sell them.

Back to the price.  Is it really worth $360?  The question isn’t easy to answer.  It really depends on how you use your Kindle.  If you use it mainly as a recreational device, to read your average new york times best sellers, and you are looking for a way to save money on books, then you will be waiting for a long time to recoup your investment.

If you, however are the same sort of individual, except that you have a very strong green bent, then yes, it is worth it.  If you normally buy books right when they come out and are their most expensive, or you are a software or other professional engineer, and you buy very expensive and large books, as I said above, it is definitely worth the money.

Other people to whom I believe it would be worth it are business and legal professionals, since you can send various electronic formatted documents to your Kindle, including Microsoft’s DOC format, then some of those lengthy documents can be sent to your Kindle for you to peruse at your leisure.  Actually, for those sorts, I see it as being somewhat indispensable, since they travel and read so much.

The bottom line is its complicated.  My reasons for buying it were for the weight savings, as I am frequently mobile, in that I don’t have to carry the books any more, and I can search the books.  I do indeed have a slight green bent, at least on the side of conservation, so I see a benefit in the lack of world destroying transport and logging around the Kindle experience, so for me as an early adopter, I see it as subsidizing a better future.  I don’t think it will become mainstream until they get the price down around $149.  I think that would be the sweet spot for the Kindle.  For me, it is indeed worth the $360.