Essential apps and services

I am commonly asked which iPhone apps and tools I use for various functions in my businesses (as well as for personal enjoyment). Given that I enumerated the hardware which I use in my portable office, it seems appropriate that I incorporate the softer side of things here. In formulating the list of applications which I rely on daily, I realized that in addition to native programs running on my iPhone and Mac, there are a significant number of services (what is hiply called “the cloud” these days) which I have been using for years and have included below, as well.

To the talented visionaries and meticulous implementers who have made possible all of these services and products: you have my appreciation, gratitude, and loyal patronage. Thank you for enabling such a deliciously seamless and omnipresent access to data, media, and overall connectivity which I had dreamed about in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Such access makes doing business (and life) easier, more efficient, and ironically more “untethered” than ever. Continue reading

The new iPad: an experiment, at best

I’m an Apple fan and self-admitted power user/rationalizing Apple-aholic, but it took the iPhone development a full two years of maturity (in both hardware and OS design) to make me a buyer. It appears the iPad is taking a similar path. I would expect more innovation in the software on its release, building on nearly 3 years’ knowledge base following the initial release of the iPhone, but even in its current state (an iPod Touch with a larger physical form factor) with little change to the software, the device could prove useful in a number of niche applications.

Perhaps its original target as a high-end “Kindle killer” with multimedia capability holds sufficient promise to launch the product. In this limited view, there is at least an existing e-reader market, though the iPad is far outside the current market in terms of pricing. By comparison, the iPhone was not a BlackBerry killer when it first launched, and Steve Jobs clearly stated it was not trying to compete in this arena (implying–yet). While sorely lacking in basic smartphone (and even some basic plain-phone) utility at the time, the iPhone was revolutionary as a portable gaming and media device. As such, it flew out the door to the tune of millions of units worldwide.

As an oversized iPod Touch, the iPad is actually better suited than its smaller brother for a number of potential uses: ideal car-computer for telematics and entertainment as a center console and back-of-headrest display, interactive home theater/control remote, countless commercial and industrial custom applications, etc. What surprises me most about the specs of the device is the oversight of the hardware/industrial design which compromises the expansion of use as applications follow on its release. This is particularly surprising since Apple usually nails this aspect and is often regarded, even among its critics, as creating beautifully elegant and minimalistic though functional hardware. Maybe Apple excluded its normal set of “out of the box” thinkers when defining interfaces and constraints at its early high-level design meetings on this one. Continue reading

Name your price

While many factors determine the long-term success of a business, one important element of a business plan is setting the price for the products or services offered to customers. At a minimum, the revenue derived must cover fixed and variable expenses for overhead, cost of goods sold (if applicable), and in the case of a sole proprietorship, generate a sufficient net income from which to earn a living. Similarly for a corporation, revenues must allow for paying sufficiently skilled people who are able to support themselves by working as employees for this business rather than finding work elsewhere.

While these criteria are relevant to the entrepreneur, they have absolutely no bearing on the interests of the customer. The customer’s sole interest lies in whether his or her purchase yields good value.
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BlackBerry Bold versus iPhone 3GS/v3.0: which is the winner?

Short answer: it depends.

Perhaps this verdict not surprising, since each device has its pros and cons and the widespread adoption of each are evidenced by the significant market share captured by each vendor. What requires a bit more under-the-hood analysis, however, is an evaluation of how well the devices actually perform as business tools and communication devices, more than simply comparing aesthetic preferences or brand loyalty.

Using any tool or technology requires some learning curve to master, and since both devices are currently available in the U.S. only through AT&T, a network performance/availability and pricing plan discussion between the two is a non-issue. What matters most to a small business owner (and admitted technophile) is practicality, features, and performance. Continue reading

My portable office

While packing for a recent business trip, it occurred to me that a post inventorying my favorite tech tools for daily life and work is long overdue. While I have extolled the virtues of the MacBook Air, a litany of other items round out my portable toolbox which may useful to others who use and enjoy a similar workflow in life and business.

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Too busy to brush your teeth?

Have you ever heard some mention that they are too busy to brush their teeth? Have you ever thought this to yourself at one time or another? Why are you brushing our teeth at all in the first place? For some, this is an unconscious habit developed from childhood to spend 5 minutes (or less) performing this routine once or twice daily. For others, it is a conscious part of preventive maintenance to avoid future more costly, painful, or otherwise undesirable outcomes for dental health (i.e. gingivitis, gum recession, loss of teeth, etc.). Some may simply view it as a social “must-do” to have clean-smelling breath when interacting with others.

Whatever the reason, those who brush their teeth daily do so consciously or unconsciously and typically do not offer this activity as an excuse for why they could not complete some other task (i.e. “I could not complete my homework because I had to brush my teeth last night”). Are there any other disciplines which, like brushing your teeth, may be keeping you from accomplishing anything else of great meaning in your life? Continue reading

iPhone 3G/v2.0 update: STILL not a basic smartphone

The announcement of v2.0 software and a 3G-capable iPhone at Apple’s recent Worldwide Developer’s Conference was highly anticipated by those of us monitoring the development of this device. From my earlier post comparing the iPhone to Blackberry and Palm Treo devices, I am pleased to see that a number of smartphone capabilities (and even a few wish list items) are being included into the latest hardware and software:

  • MobileMe (WAN sync), carrying Apple’s clever tag line of being “Exchange for the rest of us”
  • Attachment view of iWork & Office ’97 docs
  • Integrated GPS

While I give kudos to Apple for these most welcome additions (especially offering WAN sync to MobileMe), I am still quite disappointed by the lack of a removable battery and some form of expandable storage (via either MMC or microSD card) in the hardware, particularly as the latter would allow for doubling the available memory. Minimally, one would expect the iPhone 3G to match the highest memory capacity of the current iPod Touch (32 GB), but alas, the initial offering will only provide up to 16 GB. As disappointing as these shortcomings are, I have even greater concerns regarding what was not mentioned by Mr. Jobs’s keynote address in terms of software support available in v2.0. Continue reading

MLM: Pyramid scheme, or free business coaching with performance-based compensation?

In the course of either promoting my business or describing to others what I do as a professional networker, I find that many individuals have little understanding about how the industry of network marketing, or multi-level marketing (MLM), actually works.

For those who have some exposure to the industry either directly or indirectly, perception tends to fall on one of two opposite ends of the spectrum: they either know someone who is making more money than seems rationally feasible/legal, or they know someone who has racked up a garage full of product and never made a dime from their business. In reality, there are people in each category, as well as a significant, nondescript middle-class segment which comprises the “full-time” established networkers that earn, on average, nearly twice the national median annual household income (at least for those affiliated with my corporate partner).

If only I had been properly approached with the concept of network marketing while I was an undergraduate student, I may have reconsidered my choice of profession at an earlier age. After all, the average full-time compensation of network marketers cited above is far greater than that of electrical engineers, even while EEs command among the highest salaries of new graduates with either Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees. Of course, compensation is not the sole determining factor in selecting a career, but it was a significant consideration for a pragmatic student such as myself (and a widely touted selling point for the curriculum by faculty in the EE department).
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iPhone v2.0: What it needs to actually compete with a Blackberry

As the second version of the iPhone is anticipated to ship within the next few months, I am compelled to weigh in with what I would like to see in this new model. It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Apple products, noting my recent review of the MacBook Air, being 1 of 6 Macintosh computers which I use at home and in my businesses. I also own two of the latest generation iPods (the 160-GB Classic and video-capable Nano). So naturally, an Apple zealot such as myself would have an iPhone as part of my business (and toy) arsenal, right?

Wrong. In fact, spending a few minutes online reading about its features (or the lack thereof) along with 5 minutes of hands-on experience in an Apple retail store last summer was more than enough to convince me that the iPhone was not even close to serving my needs. Perhaps my needs are different than others who would buy an iPhone over an iPod Touch. I can understand the appeal of the latter: a wide-screen, multitouch, gorgeous multimedia appliance with Wi-Fi which further extends an already popular (and profitable) product line.

If the iPhone is to be an iPod Touch plus a revolutionary phone, I would expect it to incorporate (at a minimum) the standard set of basic cellphone features which have been commonplace for years in much less expensive, low-end devices. In fact, as a high-end phone (as determined by its price point) coupled with a revolutionary user interface, I would also expect it to incorporate all of the basic Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or smartphone capabilities which have been around for more than 10 years. After all, PDA functions are just software, an aspect of which the iPhone has claimed to be king. Continue reading

Omega-3 fatty acids preserve life better than statin drugs

I am continually amazed by the degree to which statin drugs continue to be pushed by physicians as the best solution for preventing death by heart disease. It is understandable that the pharmaceutical companies who supply the drugs would naturally promote their products as the best solution for heart health, but one would hope that a personal physician would not pass this commercial bias onto his/her patients. The study below cited from the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that supplementing with an optimal amount of omega-3 fatty acids has greater impact on reducing mortality risk due to heart disease than statin drugs, all for less cost and no harmful side effects. Continue reading