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Thursday, May 13, 2010

We Love Apple

I am not an Apple customer.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I do own 3 iPods. But for a variety of reasons I own a Motorola Droid smartphone and have used PCs since my days at IBM. I have nothing against Apple products per se, in fact, when I’ve encountered them I have found them easy to use and of the highest quality.

While I may not be an Apple customer, I do like the company. My kids attended school in Cupertino, where Apple is based, and benefited from the company’s tax dollars and generous gifts to local schools. And who can argue with the stock performance during the past few years!

So I am sympathetic when Apple finds itself being attacked. In the past two days, Apple has found itself being attacked on several on several fronts at once.

A few weeks ago I posted to this blog about the young Apple engineer who lost his prototype 4G iPhone in a bar in Redwood City. Believe it or not, it looks like it’s happened again.

On Wednesday, a Vietnamese web site posted pictures and a video of a prototype 4G iPhone, complete with Apple logo and 16 Gigabytes of storage written on it. The video shows the inside of the phone that includes the new A4 processor from Apple. The company has not yet responded to the incident, but it’s clear another prototype has been lost.

Back on this side of the Pacific, Apple wasn’t talking about its most recent lawsuit either. On Wednesday, Taiwanese cell phone maker HTC filled suit against Apple for the violation of five key technology patents. While the lawsuit wouldn’t block the sale of Apple’s iPhone, if the ITC rules in HTC’s favor, Apple might be required to pay millions in fines and licensing fees.

And if that weren’t enough, Adobe, Inc., maker of Flash, took out a full page ad in Thursday’s edition of the major newspapers including The Wall St. Journal and the San Jose Mercury News criticizing Apple for blocking application developers from using Flash for apps that run on Apple’s iPhone and iPad product lines. Part of the copy reads, “What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the web.”


Yes, it’s been tough couple of days for Apple. But with more than a million iPads already sold, 7.8 million expected to be sold by the end of the year, and more than double that number sold next year, Apple will probably do just fine.

Even if they don’t have me as a customer. Yet.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PR 2.0 - North Shore Style

Defining the North Shore of Massachusetts has been a subject of debate for as long as I can remember. My childhood summers, for example, were spent on Salisbury Beach -- a beautiful stretch of dunes and salty air lying just south of the New Hampshire border. To those of us who were fortunate enough to spend summers splashing in the waves on Salisbury Beach, the much more famous Cape Cod might as well have been on Mars. We knew where it was, generally, but we had no reason to go there. We had our own beach, and the Cape people had theirs. North Shore residents, by the way, also have their own cape -- the lesser known but still striking Cape Ann.

The North Shore used to be primarily defined by the coastal towns just north of Boston. Towns like Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich, Marblehead and Manchester-by-the-Sea, for example. But today, the North Shore is generally used to describe all of the coastal communities north of Boston and south of New Hampshire. So Newburyport, the towns of Rowley and West Newbury, Salisbury Beach (of course), and also the town of Beverly, which is located in the heart of the North Shore.

It is in this quaint, relatively quiet town of 40,000 people, where there's something peculiar brewing -- and it's not just the coffee at The Atomic Cafe on Cabot Street.

Mainly by chance, this home to the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre -- host to the longest running magician show in the U.S. -- is where PR 2.0 practitioners of the North Shore come to meet on a regular basis to talk shop, share best practices and new ideas, discuss trends in social media, the best ways to pitch a particular blogger, who's hot, who's not, newer technologies such as cloud computing and tablets, their best clients and their clients from hell. And all of this high octane conversation fueled by the delicious lattes, cappuccino and chai concoctions thoughtfully prepared by the baristas at The Atomic Cafe.

Participating in today's meeting of 3Point associates were several experienced PR pros whose careers span the broad spectrum that includes global PR agencies, smaller highly focused firms, the corporate side and on their own as solo PR practitioners.

The discussion touched on Twitter as a "news feed." "I don't even need to read the trades as religiously as I used to," said one associate. "I use Twitter to follow the writers and influencers important to my clients. The ideas and links they are posting are what's most important."

There was more discussion of Twitter. "It's not a competition," said another associate. "It's not about the number of followers. It's about having the right followers, the ones who influence the business of your clients."

"You know what's hurting our industry," chimed yet another. "It's the PR person as 'rock star.' It shouldn't be about us being the rock stars or about our number of followers. It should be about us helping our clients become the rock star. I like to tell the stories. But I'm not the story. I'm the broker."

And, finally, yet another seasoned pro said, "Some clients are so concerned about 'where' to have the 'conversation' with their customers and prospects -- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. -- that some are missing the opportunity to have the conversation at all."

Nearly two hours had elapsed since the group sat to sip their first cup of coffee and started to tackle the challenges and opportunities facing our clients and our trade.

It was time to get back to the office and to other work.

For Thursday is another day, when another group -- The North Shore PR Coffee Meetup -- comprised of North Shore-based communications professionals, will meet at the same spot and will refuel with that great java to take on -- once again -- the industry's hottest issues.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey, There's a Cloud in my Car!

Few things are as central to our daily lives as the automobile.  Yet car manufacturers have traditionally been slow to integrate new computing technology into vehicles.  That is changing rapidly -- due in large part to the power and potential of the cloud. 

Motor Trend magazine predicts passengers in cars will soon integrate with social media networks, streaming Pandora, YouTube and other content, play online games from the car and control home lighting and home heating and cooling systems. This can all be done today on a smart phone. So, even more interesting is the idea that the cars themselves will become sensors, passing on information via the cloud about traffic, weather conditions and potholes as the vehicle encounters these and other obstacles.  This is part of the the growing Internet of Things  we discussed in a recent post.

Intriguing as these applications are, there are more immediate applications of the cloud in our cars.  One of these is a combined development effort by Ford and Microsoft.

First introduced at the North American International Auto Show in 2007, Ford SYNC lets you use voice commands to control your Bluetooth mobile phone and digital media players.  Today, customers who own 2010 Ford vehicles with SYNC already also have been using hands-free, voice-activated cell phone and digital media player integration, 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report. 

The latest innovation offered on the SYNC platform is called TDI (Traffic, Directions and Information).  Considered by Ford to represent the integration of navigation systems and smart phones, TDI lets you download this latest app the same way you would download a song from an online media store such as Apple’s iTunes or App Store.

Using voice commands, SYNC TDI connects a customer’s Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to Ford’s Service Delivery Network voice portal delivering turn-by-turn driving directions, real-time traffic, business searches and news, sports and weather.  Similar to GM’s Onstar, a driver can ask for traffic information, turn-by-turn directions or information.  But, then magic happens behind the scenes through the interaction of several technologies in the cloud.

When you make a request, it is translated in the cloud by the Tellme voice portal.  Say “Traffic,” for example, and you receive a text message on your phone and a message broadcast over the vehicle’s audio system in real-time, with the location and severity of accidents or new road construction. This is produced by INRIX, a company that gathers real-time speeds, directions and locations from nearly 1 million commercial trucks and cars driving America’s roadways.

Say “Directions,” and a turn-by-turn route is downloaded from Telenav and  spoken to you, again, through the vehicle’s audio system and displayed on the central information display near the radio. Directions incorporate real-time traffic information thus offering the best route.

Airbiquity translates data for transmission over a voice channel, making sure that the coverage is widespread and the size of the transmission is limited to avoid delays.

Using an online location called,  customers can personalize sports, weather and news. And Ford can create its own app store to let customers download other SYNC applications and updates.

Ford's application of the cloud is ahead of the curve -- both in what it can do and in its integration of multiple cloud technology vendors. It is a vivid and practical illustration of what is here today and foreshadows how we all soon will be dealing with the cloud in our cars  -- hopefully with our eyes on the road.