The New Zealand iPhone 3G network debacle

The iPhone will dominate the top end of phone sales

Even if you are a fan of other platforms, we can all appreciate that Apple has bought new levels of usability to the phone. It’s most obvious in the seamless connection with the App store on iTunes – a system that  makes building, selling and buying applications simple.

For me it’s  like 2003 and iTunes all over again – remember the plethora of MP3 players? They are still out there, but Apple grabs almost all of the revenue, and one imagines almost all of the profit as the others compete out any margin.

I sometimes see a future for Blackberrys, simply because of their installed user base and Apple’s unease with selling to giant corporates, but I also remember that everyone used to have Palm Pilots back in the day.

I am predicting that Apple’s iPhones will grab 40-70% of the top end of the phone market over the next 3 years.

Vodafone NZ iPhone data rates will always be lousy

It’s complicated [Geekzone], but worth going through. All of the network providers are upgrading their networks, and from about June everything will be different.

Vodafone are the sole sellers of the iPhone in New Zealand – they have a monopoly. Their 3G network is currently only in cities, and it is excruciatingly slow compared to, say, Telstra’s Next G service in Australia.

In the next 2 months:

  1. Vodafone are rolling out a new NZ 3G network – but it will not work at 3G speeds for (current) iPhones.
  2. Telecom are rolling out a new 3G network, which will work for iPhones. (similar to Telstra’s Next G)
  3. Telecom seem to indicate that they will not be selling iPhones.

Nobody seems to know anything about NZ Communications.

Buy an iPhone from Vodafone, use it on Telecom

Vodafone, to their credit, are selling the iPhone in unlocked state. You can buy it for about $1130, or for cheaper if you sign on a contract.

But you wouldn’t sign a contract – instead the logical move will be to transfer your iPhone and number to Telecom, grabbing a new SIM card and using it on their new 3G network.

If Vodafone starts locking phones then you will need to crack it – the Dev Team are on to that and I am sure there will be plenty of options for those not nerdy enough to do it themselves.

But for now – just wait

We don’t really know what is going to happen in June, and it gets quite fuzzy thereafter.

  • Telecom may launch with the iPhone in June.
  • Apple may emerge with a new iPhone that is compatible with Vodafone’s new network. They are due for a new one soon, and the timing is auspicious
  • NZ Communications may surprise us all by carrying the iPhone
  • Data rates will be in a state of rapid change as the carriers compete
  • I could have some of these facts wrong

Summary and implications

Apple doesn’t really care about New Zealand – as we are so tiny. But if they wake up then they will realize that either they need to give Vodafone a phone that works at high speeds here, or else they will have to sell the phones to Telecom as well.

Vodafone will fight to retain exclusive rights to sell iPhone in New Zealand, but the slow data rates will mean a much poorer experience versus overseas.

Telecom will try to add iPhone to their list of Phones – as not doing so would be a move equivalent to their decisions to go and then stay with the obsolete CDMA standard. Imagine leaving out 70% of the premium iPhone market.

Vodafone will be hoping that Apple deliver a phone that will work at 3G speeds on their new network. Unfortunately for Vodafone, hope is not a strategy. If they have delivered a high speed network that Apple has no intention of supporting, then I have to say that they have just commited equivilent of the CDMA blunder. If they know something that we don’t – then good on them.

The best answer for all of us consumers the iPhone working on all three networks, and sold by all three networks.

Posted in Internet Business, iphone, NZ Business | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Stealing content from bloggers

The latest blog to steal my – and others – content is jobs.org.nz.

They should know that they are in good company – the previous offender of note was a <redacted> site.

So I’ll do the google-ads-filled jobs.org.nz a favor and directly  link the two together: redacted

<update 2 – after a chat with a very polite domain owner I removed the link above. See comments at the end of the post>

Incidentally I saw ads for Starnow and Finda – guys you are wasting your money.

So along with that childish response I also did the adult things

First I complained to Google Adsense. They have a nice little set-up for receiving complaints – just click on the gooooogle link by the ads.

However I got an auto response which says Google’s policy is to respond to all alleged infringements under the DCMA – which is right. However in order to do so I need to send something in written form – which will not happen as bits of paper confound me.

It should be really easy for Google to make this work automatically.

They just need to give me a form when I can put the copyrighted material (mine) including links to specific copied articles, along with a link to my feed. Similarly let me put a link to the stolen copyrighted material and a link to the culprit site’s feed. If the site is taking other site’s source information then give me the ability to put their feeds in as well.

Then it should be a trivial matter to automatically monitor the feeds of the source sites and check that the culprit site feed is appearing after the source. Automatically take the Google ads off that site – it is clearly of low quality anyway.

If the site wants to challenge Google to get the ads back, then so be it – but the onus is now on them to prove the content isn’t from the names sources.

I do recall when I first got Google ads for a site that it was actually quite tough (it was SmokeCDs or Snow.co.nz I think). Now it seems any man and dog combination can get the ads, and the results will vary for adsense buyers.

Next I did a whois search, and found that the owner of this shame is <edited> from Christchurch.

I’ve emailed him and also the hostmaster at 1stdomains to request that they stop. We shall see what happens next.

I am happy for people to grab content from this site with attribution and add commentary  – it’s all adding to the conversation. But to do so to a google ad filled site with no context is clearly wrong.

<update 1: I’ve received an email reply (2 actually) from the site domain owner who tells me “I did not set any feeds up personally” and offered to remove my content.

I also notice that right now there are no longer any Google ads on the site.>

<Update 2: As noted above I’ve now chatted to the domain owner Rob. While he owns the domain but the site is owned/operated  by a student out of India. He proactively removed the Adsense code from the site once he saw this post.

I’m struggling with this exchange. I think I was a bit heavy handed and perhaps wrong – and I give credit to Rob for being so proactive and polite. The jobs.org.nz site does after all link back to my site, and doesn’t take entire articles – both the right behaviour.

So I removed the references to a previous offender site that dabbled in pictures of unclad gentlemen engaged in mutually consensual activities.

And as Don asks below – what is the difference between jobs.org.nz and Google News? – aside from the site design, the number of ads (Google News has none) and so on. Shouldn’t sites be glad to have their content syndicated elsewhere?

My answer rested in the design of the site, the number of google ads and an over-riding sense that the purpose of the site is simply to harvest content and surround it by Google ads.

My determination was that is is a splog – a spam blog – something that Louise talks about in her post on Changememe. She links to an article on Techcrunch which talks about sharing the joy. Perhaps it would be ok for ad-laden sites to grab content if they do so with permission pay the content providers a commission. You could see a world where this is semi-automatic, but also one where there are lots of errors.

There is something else going on here – we are in New Zealand. I was able to find the domain owner, he was able to find me and we were able to have a nice conversation (and emails) about it all. Because we are a small country we can self-edit to an extent.

So I am going to let this rest as far as jobs.org.nz goes.

But what do you think? is the site (and it is more informative to see it with the ads turned on) adding value? Should I be upset or happy that my content is taken? I feel my response was pretty tough – was I clearly in the wrong?

>

Posted in media | 13 Comments

How to twitter if you are a corporation

Twitter, for members of my family and those other 4 people that read blogs and have not yet discovered it, is a microblogging service that has just hit the main stream media. By definition it is therefore passé, but in the meantime we may as well use it well.

Examples: How not to twitter.

@NZStuff (sorry) sends through groups of news, either at 530am or during the day. The 530am news is from when the news is posted to the Stuff.co.nz website in an overnight process. The news sits unreleased until the morning so that the newspapers are not scooped. I don’t agree with this approach as to me news fails to be news when I can read it somewhere else first.
The ones during the day are the ‘most popular’ (I think), and also released by a bot (I think). By definition they are already out of date when they are tweeted, and almost by definition the audience of active twitterers will have already read them.
@nzstuff

Rather than @nzstuff’s automatically redundant articles, instead follow @NZStuffEditor, who is not very prolific but at least sends out news that is timely – and timeliness is a vital component of the definition of “news”.

Examples: How to Twitter
While the Wall Street Journal (@wsj) also twitters articles, it does so very rarely in groups of three, and most often the tweets are through the day. Almost invariably their tweets are before anybody else’s, and are therefore news in the truest sense. @NYTimes is not quite as quick, and will sometimes deliver in clumps, but they tend to beat the local alternatives and like the WSJ also link to longer articles on interesting and topical things.
@wsj

What all so far are missing is the human element.

I’d really like to see @NZStuff reply to people’s twitters, and to give a bit of extra juice that we don’t get from the website. Stuff and others need to remember that their customers are not just people that read the news, but people that evanglise their services and want some inside scoop, people that want to send them news (but need to know it will be looked at) and, most of all in these times, people that are thinking about buying advertising,

Rather surprisingly the best corporations at Twittering in New Zealand are the telcos. I’ve had conversations in public and private with @TelecomNZ, @VodafoneNZ and ISP @orcon. They reach out to customers and help them – often walking down to the customer service folk and asking them to resolve an issue. Indeed they have each helped solve (or at least help me understand) a personal customer service issue, and their corporate reputations with me are all a lot better for it. Here they are earlier today each helping someone out:

@telecomnz
@orcon
Vodafone

I’d like to see them extend this beyond the corporate communication people – especially to Customer Service and also to the real tech-heads.

Air New Zealand’s  @flyairnz does well – sending out specials, but also being a human – replying to questions and making comments – such as welcoming @johnkeypm to Twitter.

Trade Me has  unleashed a few people – with twitter names like  TradeMe_Ross , TradeMe_Jay, TradeMe_Jobs along with Trademe_NZ and Travelbug. The latter has a combination of background tweets and specials. Kudos for this topical tweet:
@travelbug

This stream from TradeMe_Jay is an exemplary example of how Twitter can extend your corporate PR reach well beyond what a PR team can do. In four tweets Jay helps a member (and ex Trade Me employee admittedly), personalizes the continuous development work that Trade Me does and links to an ‘expose’ video that most corporations would cringe to see appear on YouTube.

However Trade Me’s main twitter account is dormant, and we have yet to see Motors, Property or Customer Service make an appearance.

Google allows their staff (it seems) to twitter as they like – here’s Webstock speaker Pamela Fox announcing the release of Google’s new analytics Data Export API – something that I think has tremendous potential to change the advertising scene in NZ and elsewhere.
pamelafox

I’ll point to @powershop and @lingopal as two other examples, but to be fair I am involved as a supplier to the first and shareholder with the second. That shouldn’t stop you following them though :-).

Enough of the examples – what should you do if you are thinking of twittering?

How to take advantage of Twitter

The real power of Twitter is the 1-1 interactions, and yet there are only so many people that sit in corporate relations units. Moreover their job should not be to look after every tech nerd’s customer complaint, nor to understand every bizarre happening on the internet.

To me a great corporation would have three things on Twitter:

  1. A corporate voice – run by the corporate relations unit and staffed by a person. They would tweet press releases, reply to tweets that discuss the bigger picture (investor, employee relations, big stories) and generally have a slower beat but positive and official response.
  2. An active Customer Service voice – this would be staffed 24/7 but owned overall by a single person. That means that while a number of people will answer the tweets, the owner would make sure that there is consistency, speed and humanity behind it. The CS twitterer would continuously search for good and bad experiences from the organisation’s products and give thanks or help accordingly. They are the front line and so would have a very quick response time. They would deal with problems in public, take them to Twitter direct messages and ultimately call the customer directly.
  3. Unleashed individuals. Great companies would unleash everybody inside their organization to tweet about what they are doing, engage in conversations and show a genuine human face (warts and all) to the company’s customers and the public.This last one is scary.

    However if you are concerned that some employees will somehow destroy your company and brand then perhaps instead you need to do some serous internal navel gazing – and ask yourself “why would they do that?”. Even if some employees do tweet negative things, then see it as a fine way to take the pulse of your staff – and also fix the underlying problems.

    While I would put in place simple guidelines, most of those would already be in any employee contract. The main things not to tweet would be things like investor-level commercially sensitive information, competitively sensitive pricing and Apple product development news.

The progress made by the companies above is pleasing – and I hope we will see more of this as the use of Twitter and other tools expands.

Posted in Business, Internet Business, media, NZ Business, telecom, Trade Me | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Flirting 2.0

Via Jesspiration is a simple look at how flirting works these days.

Note that if I start following you on twitter it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am flirting with you.

Flirting 2.0

Flirting 2.0

Posted in Internet Business, Life | 3 Comments

Amazon is failing to be the iTunes of book world – so far

I’m warming on the idea of the Kindle – Amazon’s ebook reader.

  • I like it for mass reduction, especially when travelling – it sharply reduces mass that you need to cart around on an airplane or  motorcycle.
  • I like it for convenience – You’ll get books that you purchase instantly, rather than waiting for days or weeks for them to be delivered.
  • and finally I like it for price – books are US$9.99, which is a lot cheaper than their paper equivalents, and a heck of a lot cheaper than buying in New Zealand.

It’s clearly the path to the future – a single device that removes the print and distribution industry from the Author-Reader flow. (There is still, and I believe always will be, a role for (book and news) publishers, to raise and represent quality of their branded products.)

So while the Kindle is not perfect, it is certainly a vital step to the end game. That’s an endgame where we stop using so many trees, we stop manufacturing so much paper and ink, and that’s good for our ecosystems.

But sadly I cannot buy a Kindle.

Amazon, apparently hamstrung by publishers, will only allow those with US issued credit cards and addresses to buy the Kindle, and only those with US issued credit cards can buy the books.

This is transparently protectionist – and stupid – as Amazon has always allowed me to purchase US published books in paper form with my NZ credit card and NZ address. There is no real difference – save that I don’t have to pay 25-100% of the price in shipping costs, and that I don’t have to wait 14 to 40 days to receive the books.

Amazon’s international sales could explode if they released the Kindle offshore – and the future of local rivals such as Fishpond and Whitcoulls would be doomed in the long term. To be blunt, Amazon has the ability to be the iTunes of the book publishing world, to move books sles from stores to online, to move book selling power from bookchains to Amazon. Hoewver by constraining sales to the USA they are blowing it, and risking being like Sony, who released beautiful yet DRM crippled music playing devices that left the market wide open for Apple iPod and iTunes.

At this stage I should be able to turn to Shipbuktu, a promising Kiwi startup that provided US addresses and also wanted to provide US credit cards to Kiwis. However their forwarding service is on hold, and has been since Christmas:

Meanwhile their US credit card service never emerged. That’s sad for all of us.

So Amazon just continues to piss me off. Their US-centric approach means that I can actually buy less and less from their store, while locals like Fishpond and MightyApe just get better and better. Still-  they have enormous critical mass and they have the Kindle – so if they can get their act together quickly enough then they will be hard to beat.

On the other hand Apple, while US-centric themselves, now have 80 countrybased iTunes stores, and must be learning quickly. What if their next product, as some rumopurs have noted, is a kindle-sized device with the iPhone software? Kindle reader is available for iPhone, and if Amazon opens up their service then it is game over.

Meanwhile I’m searching for someone in the business of providing US-based credit cards to foreigners (cash up front, clip the ticket on each transaction). I’m guessing there is nothing there – so does anyone want to have some fun?

Posted in Broadband, Business, Internet Business, NZ Business | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Understanding our animal spirits

Prof Shiller (remember him from “Irrational Exuberance) has partnered with George A Akerlof in a strangely titled new book: Animal Spirits. I’m recommending it even before reading it.

It’s basically about why we don’t behave as rational consumers when faced with economic choices.

If you don’t want to wait, then there’s an excerpt from the book – the first chapter, which you can read over at Yale MBA’s Financial Crisis website.

Here are the five animal spirits – emotive things that often dictate our economic behaviour.

  • The cornerstone of our theory is confidence and the feedback mech­anisms between it and the economy that amplify disturbances.
  • The setting of wages and prices depends largely on concerns about fairness.
  • We acknowledge the temptation toward corrupt and antisocial behavior and their role in the economy.
  • Money illusion is another cornerstone of our theory. The public is confused by inflation or deflation and does not reason through its effects.
  • Finally, our sense of reality, of who we are and what we are doing, is intertwined with the story of our lives and of the lives of others. The aggregate of such stories is a national or international story, which itself plays an important role in the economy.

Just those five statements make for interesting pondering – so here is my quick take.

Confidence is everything – it is the difference between buying something (on credit even) and choosing to hunker down and not spend. When a depressed or optimistic feeling rolls out to entire populations then it causes and exacerbates busts and booms.

It’s true that we care most about parity and fairness when setting wages and paying prices. This is particularly evident in New Zealand where we tend to look down at those with unhealthily large incomes and spending habits and where we have a nationally loved TV program called Fair Go that goes after companies that rip people off. Interestingly the feeling of fairness to members was the overriding thing that governed our thinking in the days when I was involved in setting prices at Trade Me.

We also score pretty well as a country on corrupt and anti-social behaviour – scoring at of near the top of the list in the annual Transparency International surveys as a result. On the other hand we are a little divergent on our strong norms about what is anti-social behaviour – though we tend not to shoot each other and mostly we don’t rip each other off.

It’s true that we all tend to compare our income now to our income years ago, and fail to understand that $1m now is worth a whole lot more than $1m at retirement. This is the money illusion – where we look at the dollar figures and not at the real worth, the nominal not the real. Having grown up through inflationary times it did improve my own approach to this versus, say, my grandparents generation who often didn’t change the dollar value of their Christmas presents to grandkids (mine were a bit different). The trick is to constantly reset the current value of everything.

Finally I am guessing “stories” refers to the formal and informal coverage of things like bubbles and busts. Everyone was talking up dot coms in 2000, real estate in 2007/8 and stocks in 1929.  Fast forward a couple of years and the picture was (and will be) diametrically opposed – the media coming down hard on what were correctly seen in hindsight as speculative investments. I try to be contraian, using taxi drivers and ultimately my mother as the unfailing barometer – if Mum says buy, then I go ahead and sell.

They use these five animal spirits in the rest of the book to answer eight questions – such as why do economies fall into depression and why do real estate markets go through cycles?

Interesting stuff to be sure – I recommend just reading the first chapter and having a ponder – the answers may not be that difficult to work out, and if we can be internally aware of those “animal spirits” then perhaps we will make better decisions.

Now I need to decide where to buy it from. Fishpond don’t have it but Amazon who do. However I am really annoyed with them as most of the things I want (electronics, accessories) are not shipped to New Zealand.

Posted in Business, Investing, media, Trade Me | Tagged , | 2 Comments

ANZ’s tragic teller system

First you dub an application as “Platinum” – critical to your business. That’s a good idea, so you now know you need to get the system and support absolutely right.

You choose to run a trial before rolling it out to all branches – another good idea.

However that’s where things started going wrong for ANZ.

You chose also to run it on Windows, which not exactly secure nor stable in a banking sense, and attracts licensing payments for each installation. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing if done right.

However it seems that it takes 30 to 45 people to support the application at the 20 pilot branches – which implies that it really doesn’t sound like you are “providing tools to make banking easier” for your branch staff.

You next announce to staff that you will outsource support for this application to India, which means the 30-45 people that are currently supporting the trial are going to be out of a job or very nervous about being so. Their personal inclination to professionally support the pilot will be challenged as concern about job stability preys on their minds. This does not bode well for the roll-out.

Finally it all gets leaked to the media, and as a kicker it appears that the Reserve bank may need to approve outsourcing these jobs supporting a core system. Meanwhile an Australian bank gettting rid of New Zealand jobs will not play well in the media or with customers contemplating the (currently) better mortgage rates over at Kiwibank.

The application is MyTell, the new teller application for ANZ and National Bank. It is, I guess, only used when tellers and back office staff are actually in banks, which is during normal working hours, and the jobs to be lost are in Wellington.

From the short article my guess is that ANZ was overwhelmed with the budget required for the amount of support demanded by this application, and are seeking to do everything they can to reduce costs.

I would humbly submit that either fixing the system so that it needs essentially nobody to help, or abandoning it and trying again are the more viable medium and long term options.

This is of course my analysis from a scant 7 sentence article – not doubt there are nuances large and small.

However I’m guessing that this saga will bring a smile to the faces of the folk at Kiwibank.

Posted in Business, media, NZ Business, wellington | Tagged , , | 2 Comments