Tuesday, March 15, 2011
As the hype heightened, I buckled and pre-ordered one. I have never eaten my words as quickly as the day that I met my iPad. Over the last year, it has become an indispensable part of my life, both at home and work. Competitors scrambled to come up with entrants to this revitalized, “new” tablet-computing category. Hold on, not so fast folks; Apple did the old leapfrog and introduced iPad 2. I believe that most really strong companies with a first mover hit such as the iPad, may have spent a little more time in development of the next gen. Clearly Apple appeared to be thinking several moves ahead. I wouldn’t call the iPad 2 a “forklift” upgrade, but certainly enough of an improvement to likely thwart competitors who thought they were going to chisel away at Apple’s dominant market share position.
I have had a number of people ask me why own a tablet. One point that I want to make very clear is that the iPad platform is truly open to users of all levels. It is easy to use regardless of the user’s level of sophistication. From my perspective, the iPad personalizes the technology experience to the users specific needs / wants. Email is with me, where I am, when I want it. It’s readable, easy to respond to, convenient. Web surfing for whatever piece of information I want whenever, wherever with the same general functionality as I have with my laptop is made possible with the iPad. Applications begin to round out the total experience. Whether it is stock quotes, news, publications, directions, weather, travel information, restaurants, playing games, or watching videos while I work out, I find myself relying on my iPad throughout the course of my day. Reading is another thing I do with my iPad, but I believe that Kindle owners will prefer the Kindle as a reader. That point aside, whatever my particular interest or need might be at various moments throughout the day, my iPad brings it to me. That’s why I own an iPad.
Turning back to the iPad 2, the improvements were noticeable, but my perspective is that this release was more about raining on the onslaught of competitive releases than executing the next vision of the iPad platform. The difference in size is extremely noticeable. There won’t be any photographic awards given for the side by side comparison below, but a close look, with really good eyes will show that the iPad 2 (on the left) is substantially thinner.
Size aside, the most notable improvement that I noticed is the increased speed. The new A5 dual processor is significantly quicker. I did a number of speed tests and the iPad 2 is clearly faster. Applications load faster, graphics load faster, overall performance is noticeably quicker. I haven’t yet had the chance to check out all of the new features in the OS changes offered in 4.3. I have certainly noticed the improved speed of Safari, which is a great improvement. I am adding Apple TV to my set up, because I think the concept of AirPlay is cool and I have wanted to check it out. The ITunes home sharing is the other feature in 4.3 that I think I will find myself using. I am also very excited about having the ability to use Skype, Facetime or other video chat applications now that the iPad has the front and rear facing cameras. I also really like the newly designed Apple cover. The magnetic hinge instantly snaps the cover in place. The automatic sleep / wake feature when the cover is opened and closed is also Apple cool!
There is clearly a fairly large universe of helpless geeks similar to myself that will buy the latest release because of our fanaticism. That factor aside, there likely isn’t a driving reason for original iPad owners to go out and buy the iPad 2. This release is more about building a fortress around their market share and really taking advantage of their first mover position. While Motarola’s Xoom, Samsung’s Galaxy and other emerging products are attractive; I believe there are few compelling reasons for a tablet buyer to buy those products. Is it coincidence that Apple made the iPad 2 announcement just a day or two after the Xoom launched? No, it is classic Apple. The keynote for the launch event left little doubt in my mind that the Apple team has been driven to accelerate the release of the iPad 2 ever since learning about planned entries into the market. Making the product available to ship just over a week after the introduction immediately put a blanket over any noise that Xoom might have created in the market, eliminated comparisons between the iPad and the Xoom, forcing the Xoom to compete against the iPad 2 and reaffirmed for application developers that they should continue to focus their resources on the iPad platform. In the smart phone segment, consumers have to be willing to pay the price to choose iPhone. That isn’t the case in the table segment. The iPad 2 is priced to market and from my perspective, unless you are an Apple hater, iPad is the platform of choice. It’s all about content and Apple is winning the content game by a huge margin!
Speaking of content, I am interested in how you’re using your iPad. What’s your favorite app? Post them or email them!
As I wrap this post, I would like to thank all of you that have emailed and called following my last post. I really enjoyed reconnecting with those of you that I hadn’t communicated with in a while. I continue to vet various investment, mentoring, coaching and advisory opportunities and have enjoyed being introduced to these opportunities. Please keep them coming. I am really excited that winter is almost over. I am super excited for March Madness and even more excited that golf season is just around the corner.
Until the next time – Be Well! Mike
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Certainly it is bitter sweet as our children grow and move on with their lives. As parents, we spend so many years occupied with raising our children and then almost without warning, poof, they’re gone. It is an interesting exercise in change management and provides a great opportunity to assess our goals and develop a vision for the next stage of our lives. At least, that is what this time in my life represents for me.
Last spring, I read a book that really transformed my perspective from a number of points of view. Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow by Chip Conley. Chip Conley is a well known entrepreneur from the hospitality industry and the CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, operator of a group of very popular, eclectic, unique and extraordinary hotels primarily located in the San Francisco area.
The leader of CEO Project (www.ceoproject.com), Mark Helow, a friend and mentor of mine, introduced me to the book shortly after the onset of the Lehman Storm. The timing couldn’t have been better. Chip’s introspection that inspired the book began in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that rocked the economy with the travel industry serving as the epicenter. Anyone that managed through those turbulent waters is likely able to recall the stress and anxiety that accompanied the uncertain business climate. When the Lehman Storm erupted, the environment from a business perspective was eerie in its similarities, so it was easy to relate to the state of mind of the author.
Chip became enthralled with the writings of twentieth-century psychologist, Abraham Maslow, specifically his theories relating to the Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization, and peak experiences. When I first started reading this book, I felt that I was intellectually WAAAAY over my head, but Chip was able to create such relevant and thought provoking dialogue that I later went back and read the book again.
The first thing I needed to understand was what on earth is ‘Self-Actualization’? I had a general understanding, but to my sensibilities, this was a multiple syllable, hyphenated phrase that had ‘egg head’ written all over it! Chip did a great job of defining ‘self-actualization’. As an example, Conley used the following quote as a descriptive definition of self-actualization: “A musician must make music, an artist must pain, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization….It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything one is capable of becoming.” I was able to understand this. Chip went on to provide very well written and diagrammed explanations of the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid.
Conley uses examples from of how the Hierarchy of Needs applies to the workplace from his career full of experience of creating an environment of self-actualization for his team members. In the midst of reading this book, I learned that our company had been named one of Dayton’s ‘Great Places to Work’. While I considered this an honor, a ‘Peak’ moment, I questioned the recognition. We work very hard as an organization to provide an environment that is conducive to having our team members grow, develop, and achieve career goals in the support of our business needs. We invest significantly to create this environment with a true belief that we create strong returns from that investment. At the same time, I question that we have achieved ‘Great Place to Work’ status.
In a meeting with Bill Diederich, Lastar President, during which we were discussing the award and the upcoming celebration that would accompany the recognition I posed the question – ‘Great Place to Work – Really?’ I challenged Bill with the question; “Bill, are we really a great place to work?” While I appreciate the gesture that our team made by nominating the company and recognizing us a Great Place To Work, I feel that the designation was premature. We have a long way to go to be considered ‘Great Place To Work’.
What I was describing to Bill was an environment, a vision for our company that would provide a fertile environment of ‘self-actualization’ for our team members. We have done a great job of building the foundation, but in terms of the environment that Chip describes, we are far from being a ‘Great Place To Work’. Chip inspired me! While there are a number of ways that I self-actualize through our company, one of the greatest pursuits of organizational actualization will occur when we are recognized nationally as a ‘Great Place To Work’. That has become a long-term goal of mine for our company – not so much the recognition, but furthering the platform that we have developed to creating an environment where members of our team are able to self-actualize and reach their career and life goals. While we have been pursuing and investing in development and growth for a number of years, Peak has really helped me to define a deeper interpretation of what I am pursuing.
As our organization has grown and developed, we have realized that our focus on talent is increasingly critical. For us, it goes well beyond hiring great talent. It is about developing team members at all levels, helping people to develop to be ready to accept growing responsibilities. Creating that environment of development, reward, recognition and retention requires constant attention. Peak provides inspiration for creating that environment.
We all have life goals and different ways of thinking about those goals and developing road maps to achieving progress towards those goals. Chip Connelly’s Peak has helped me to crystallize ‘Peak Zones’. If you are interested in introspective inspiration, I suggest reading Peak!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Referring to me as a ‘gadget’ guy may be an understatement. I had a pretty early release of the ‘Newton’. I owned a number of different mp3 players BEFORE buying one of the very early production releases of the first iPod. Gadgets are a big part of my life, but over time I have become much more selective about new adoptions. When my wife asked if I had thought of getting an electronic reader, I interpreted that akin to divine intervention. My friend at the meeting and then my wife making independent and unrelated suggestions equals ‘MUST ACT’ to me. I almost immediately went online to order my Kindle.
Unfortunately, they were out of stock and indicated that it was going to be several weeks until the unit would be shipping. Shortly thereafter, Amazon announced ‘The Kindle2’ – a new and improved model. I was informed that my Kindle back-order would be converted to the Kindle2. This strongly reinforced my ‘divine intervention’ theory – falling on a backlog that turns out to be a new and improved model – ‘YES’! After watching the online video tour of the new release – I couldn’t wait. I started anticipating the release about a week before the scheduled shipping date. Finally, it arrived!
Over the years, I have been introduced to the term ‘out of package experience’ or OPE by our marketing team. Personally, I don’t feel that OPE can make a product, but bad OPE can certainly tarnish the experience. I thought the ‘OPE’ for the Kindle2 was very strong. The inner carton for the device is secured by a very sharply designed sleeve. The sleeve is black on black with subtle, yet quite noticeable combination of glossy and matt finished floating letters, very in sync with the Kindle2 branding. The environmentally friendly inner package opens well and is ‘Applesque’ in its smart design! The Quick Start instructions are extremely easy and well written. The units come pre-registered to your Amazon account, requiring enough of a charge to operate. Of course, the manual suggests that you charge the device before use – right! I am guilty of never doing that unless absolutely required and I give Kudos to companies that are smart enough to have the unit charged enough to immediately play with. Who wants to wait to charge something?!?
The screen is way cool. The ‘electronic ink’ looks like a books print – very impressive. The device is light enough that you can hold it forever, but carries enough weight that it feels sturdy. As I referenced above, the unit is pre-configured to your Amazon account and they instruct you what to do if you are giving the Kindle as a gift. The 275 page book that I ordered downloaded fast – no more than 90 seconds. Amazon claims that the device can hold about 1,500 BOOKS – WOW. For my use – being able to replace the several books that I might lug around when traveling – I am satisfied, but for the fervid reader – having virtually an unlimited library available on this device might be attractive.
There are several different font sizes to accommodate those of us that need reading glasses. The battery life is impressive – especially when you remember to turn off the wireless function. For that matter, the battery life is impressive when the wireless function remains on. I have not tested the battery for length of life, but I have gone a few of days without a charge and have yet to challenge battery availability. The unit puts itself to sleep after sitting idle. When it goes to sleep, a portrait of an author and other literary figurines populate the display giving the unit an always changing ‘cover’. Sliding the conveniently located power switch awakes the unit returning you to where you left off.
I ordered my three favorite newspapers for daily delivery and they are delivered and ready to read each morning. I love the live dictionary – simply move the cursor to the unfamiliar word and the definition appears at the bottom of the page – sweet! Moving from page to page is easy, quick and intuitive – in fact the navigation in general, whether while reading or when moving from different books or publications is great! The center of the navigation tools is the 5-way toggle button which is very intuitive and perfectly located. Turning pages is also extremely intuitive with the ‘Next Page’ buttons also in the perfect location.
You can download files to the device – either by moving them to the device as ‘txt’ files when connected directly to a PC, or by emailing them to your ‘Kindle’ account. There is a small fee applied when emailing documents via your Kindle account to your device to cover the wireless cost – I believe that fee is 10 cents per attachment. Regardless, when I emailed myself a file, it appeared very quickly! I think I will find this function particularly useful when traveling. Transferring files to the Kindle – whether via direct transfer or email will allow me to remain productive while sitting at the gate, waiting for take-off, and while in air without having to pull my PC out – leaving PC battery life for other use. The other day, I was sitting in a meeting and the presenter had a Kindle. He was tracking his presentation notes to assure that he was covering the additional points that weren’t included in the on-screen PowerPoint – a use that I will certainly copy for speeches or presentations in the future.
Another feature that I really like is the ability to highlight and makes notes while reading. Most of my reading is business related and I love to mark pages. There have been a few times over the years that I have actually converted those marked pages into a ‘key message’ note cards in an attempt to reinforce key thoughts over time. The process of moving the clippings to your PC is a snap. Simply connect the provided USB Cable (as you might expect, I really like products that need cables) and your computer will recognize the Kindle. You can move documents and music (you can listen to your favorite MP3 files while reading) to and from the Kindle the same way you move files between folders on your computer. Documents need to be saved in the .txt format in order for the Kindle to be able to read them, but the transfer of files is easy and fast.
The Audio feature works really well, although Amazon has run into some well publicized licensing challenges that they quickly addressed and appeared to either have resolved or be in the process of resolving. I haven’t used the audio reading feature extensively, but I expect that there will be situations where it will come in handy –when driving, poolside times where I want to lounge listening to a book instead of music, and long cardio sessions are a few opportunities I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure that others will come up over time.
I have not had the opportunity to test reading the device in the sunlight at the beach – hope to have that chance in the not too distant future. I understand that it is supposed to perform great out in the sun. The single, biggest disappointment I have with the device is the lack of backlighting. As a nighttime reader, the fact that you need to use a book light on a device that otherwise posts extraordinary features and functionality is really disappointing. My guess – Kindle3 will solve that complaint! I imagine that I will be quick to purchase that updated model when the time comes. Another issue that may impact adoption rates is the price point - $ 359. At that price point, I believe that they should include a protective cover and provide some content credits.
In terms of content, there is a broad range of books available – I believe that Amazon boasts of over 240,000 books with a lot of great books available for $ 9.99. In addition, there is a wide selection of newspapers and periodicals along with some of the more popular blogs available from Amazon. It’s easy to shop right on the Kindle device anytime the user is looking for something new to read. Arrival is fast – varying a little depending on the strength of the 3G signal, but a minute or slightly longer to download a book is amazing to me.
If you own an iPhone, there is a free Kindle App and you have the ability to read your books on the phone, syncing your stopping point with your Kindle2 – pretty slick! This was very easy to install and begin to use. It doesn’t appear from my brief use that the audio feature works on the iPhone, but it is pretty cool how the devices are able to keep your place in the book you are reading up to date.
All in all – I have been extremely satisfied with the purchase and am happy to be a Kindle2 owner. If you like to read and love great gadgets, I recommend the Kindle2 from Amazon.com!
Friday, January 16, 2009
I recently read Flawless Execution (Flawless Execution: Use the Techniques and Systems of America's Fighter Pilots to Perform at Your Peak and Win the Battles of the Business World - by James D. Murphy).
Mr. Murphy is a former fighter pilot and the CEO of Afterburners (http://www.afterburnerseminars.com/flawless-execution.php).
Afterburners is a consulting firm that is all about helping companies execute strategic initiatives using the cornerstones that Murphy describes in ‘Flawless Execution’. As a former fighter pilot, Murphy shares the methodology that the Air Force uses when training pilots as well as when flying live missions. I like the fighter pilot lingo, flash backs to ‘Top Gun’ – a ‘classic’ regardless of what you think about Tom Cruise. I am still on the fence as to whether I am buying the concept of using ‘air force mission’ lingo in a business environment, although not dismissing the potential benefits, but I am not certain that it fits the culture at our company. Regardless, the references to the fighter lingo helps to keep the book interesting at times when it gets a little slow. I don’t penalize books too much for padding – I believe that authors by nature feel that they owe the readers 200 pages. My preference; give me the messages – give me one or two meaningful examples of each message and then be done. If the message or related messages need 300 pages – give me 300 pages, but don’t waste my time with countless pages of repetitive messaging.
The central message in Flawless Execution is about the ‘Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief – Win’ cycle that is used by the Air Force. It is a very solid process enhancement. Hard to argue with any of the underlying philosophies – just solid, solid process – especially for the constantly moving pieces of a business – which obviously offer the greatest potential to improve. Murphy does a great job of bringing the benefits of using these disciplined steps to life. Just like anything, the real potential impact lies in how these cycles are implemented.
The other day I read an article that indicated that 2008 represented the 2nd straight year of fatality free flights by U.S. Airlines. According to the article, the airlines transported 1.5 Billion passengers during that time period without a casualty. I heard a blurb on CNBC that suggested that a child has a better likelihood of becoming President of The United States than of dying in an airplane accident on a U.S. airline. WOW! That caused an immediate reference to ‘Flawless Execution’. The airlines continuously improve because they use a process that must mirror in some fashion the ‘Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief – Win’ model. Airlines can’t afford failure – ever. When they fail, lives are lost. When we fall short of expectations, our earnings are impacted or we don’t land an important account. When airlines fail – people die. I get that message and have added these cycles as a resource to my tool kit – thinking about ways that our planning and execution processes might benefit. Again yesterday, ‘Flawless Execution’ appeared again in the real world when the U.S. Airways flight made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. The decisions that pilot made appeared to be clear examples of the incremental learning that comes from ‘lessons learned’ in ‘Flawless’. ‘Lessons Learned’ as Murphy explained, is the outcome of having a great plan, brief, execute, debrief process. That U.S. Airways flight experience would be a great chapter in a future release of his book. The pilot had been trained for water landings. The pilot was very aware of the factors that were putting his mission at risk (keeping his passengers safe) and was programmed to quickly pursue the water landing alternative and executed flawlessly. What a great story – what a great example for ‘Flawless Execution’.
I also really liked Murphy’s section on ‘Standards’. There are so many places in our company where ‘standards’ can be applied. Previously when I thought of ‘standards’, I thought of production, job-costing, and manufacturing process. Murphy brings standards to life for practical application in the business environment. Back in the day, when I ran a computer retail store, circa 1982…, one of my customers – turned advisor tried to impress upon me the need for Standard Operating Procedures – which is a very close cousin, if not synonym for Standards; but Murphy was able to get me to see how standards can be a useful tool.
If you have read ‘Flawless’, please feel free to share your thoughts. I rate Flawless Execution as a ‘GREAT BUSINESS BOOK – MUST READ’. Let me know if you read it and what you think!
I am in the middle of a really interesting book and look forward to sharing my thoughts soon.
Until then – Be Well! Mike
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
o Engineering qualities, based on technical specs and the material composition
o Aesthetic and design qualities
o Intended use / function and user benefit / value
o Product specific factors including its unique / novel features and features that consumers will find beneficial or attractive
The product will be on display at the Innovations Showcase at the Sands Convention Center during the upcoming International CES Show in Las Vegas, January 8th – 11th, 2009. For more information about the CES Show – visit their website at – www.cesweb.org.
Both the award and the product will be on display at the Cables To Go booth during the show. Our booth will be located in the South convention Hall – booth number 20947. We would love to have you stop by and visit if you are going to be attending the show!
Our TruLink Wireless VGA Adapter kit allows a user to transmit VGA signals wirelessly up to 30ft from a PC through the USB port using ultra wide band (UWB) wireless technology. The product supports PC video resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 and streams video with resolutions up to 720p.
This is a great solution for classroom or conference room retrofits where in wall cabling may be expensive or challenging to install.
To learn more about the TruLink Wireless VGA Adapter Kit – click the link below:
Congratulations to our great product development team, both domestically and in our Taiwan operation that has been diligently working on this product for over a year along with our design team and our product marketing team. This was clearly a great team effort that involved engineering resources from our Hickory based engineering team along with a host of our sales and marketing team members. Another great example of cross functional teamwork that has become a part of the culture at Cables To Go.
I hope that you take a moment and join my personal distribution list by clicking the link on the side bar. I will be sending out emails from time to time covering technology, business and the business of technology. Please feel free to leave your comments or to send me an email sharing your thoughts.
Happy New Year - Best wishes to all for a great 2009!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Hi – thank you for visiting Cables To Go and welcome to my blog. First – allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mike Shane and I am one of the founders of Cables To Go (www.cablestogo.com) and serve as our Chairman and CEO. The company’s roots started over 25 years ago in a computer store that I owned and operated shortly after I graduated from college – The Indiana University. After closing the store in early 1984, I, along with my co-founding partners; Geoff Hyman and Jeff Fourman, formed Cables To Go. Twenty-five years later, we’re still partners, although our operating capacities have changed quite a bit over the years. Our corporate entity is now referred to as Lastar, Inc. (www.lastar.com) and serves somewhat as a holding company for our global connectivity based businesses. I decided to start this blog to share my thoughts about business. While I love our products and services, I have found over the years that my passion has been more about building a really awesome company where customers can clearly understand our value proposition –providing an extraordinary customer experience and where our team members really buy into what we’re trying to accomplish, feel connected and really love being a part of the company. The term ‘providing an extraordinary customer experience’ may sound a little cliché, but it really is what our mission is all about. In the early days when Geoff, Jeff and I were building this company, we tried to ‘create fans’ out of our customers. There were no limits in terms of the lengths that we would go to in order to satisfy our customers and attempt to exceed their expectations. There were countless circumstances where one of us would go chasing down the UPS driver to get a late shipment out – situations where we did ‘counter to counter’ air delivery because one of our resellers was in the field doing a system implementation and needed product immediately. There were numerous circumstances where the customer provided the wrong specifications and we simply made it right because it was the right thing to do. We still strive to keep these values alive. Just recently, our warehouse supervisor at our Hickory, NC facility, Amanda Fleissner, realized that FedEx had missed a box on their pickup the previous evening. She hopped in her car and drove 4 hours to the customer site to make sure they received their delivery that day as promised! When your warehouse supervisor at a remote site ‘gets it’ – that is really cool – seeing that Geoff, Jeff and I set those roots – that is icing on the cake!
We have been fortunate to build an organization around that culture and that culture extends into the way that we treat our people too! We’ve grown to over 400 domestic team members located at facilities located in Salt Lake City, UT; Albia, IA; Hickory, NC along with our headquarter facility in Moraine, OH and our primary distribution center located in Dayton, OH. In addition, we have a new sales and distribution center located in Telford, UK; manufacturing facilities located in Guangdong, China and a purchasing operative in Taipei, Taiwan.
Starting a company and then leading through the various levels of growth and change that we have experienced over the years forced me to become a student of business and that is where I found my true passion. I love business - not just this business, but business in general and have certainly learned a lot of lessons over the years – most of them the hard way! As I start making entries into this blog, I hope to create a dialogue that readers will find of interest.
Please feel free to share your thoughts!