Originally posted on 3.04.2009

The iPhone’s impact–the way it has completely revolutionized how the world thinks about mobile–can no longer be challenged. If you are still trying to debate this, you’re an idiot. Period. So, with that in mind, this story in the WSJ struck me as a bit nutty…

Basically, a few small interest groups and mobile providers are bummed they weren’t invited to the “Mobile 2.0-Party” and feel like they might never be able to hang out with the cool kids and the movement they’ve created as a result. In order to “promote competition” these smaller companies and interest groups want Apple to lift its exclusive agreement with AT&T so they can have the option of offering the device too. Although the primary target is Apple, the case for banning exclusivity would extend to other major providers who have done the same, such as: Verizon with Blackberry’s “Storm,” T-Mobile with Google’sG1,” and Sprint with Palm’s upcoming “Pre.” Business Week says,

“The Consumers Union, the New America Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as software provider Mozilla and small wireless carriers MetroPCS (PCS) and Leap Wireless International (LEAP), are lining up in opposition not only to the Apple-AT&T partnership, but to all manner of arrangements whereby mobile phones are tethered exclusively to a single wireless service provider.”

Now, I completely understand how not being one of the “pioneers” shaping Mobile 2.0 would leave you feeling pretty helpless, but, to me, fighting technological exclusivity is contradictory to the shift that the mobile market (phone manufacturers, service providers and consumers) is currently undergoing. The way I see it, AT&T’s brand and the iPhone are synonymous. If you bought-in to the iPhone and Apple’s AppStore platform, you’ve bought-in to the AT&T brand, too. If you’re a Blackberry guy or girl, and have started to sync up to their marketplace, you’ve bought-in to Verizon. G1 users? You’ve bought-in to the Google brand, but you’ve become a T-Mobile follower as well. These unique phones and their corresponding web-based platforms have become an essential element of the service provider’s brand.

More and more, individuals are choosing their mobile device based on the phone’s interface and the “marketplace” or platform it is tethered to. Every “platform” has its own unique features and functions (the technical pluses and minus), but they also have their own unique personality that the consumer associates with. This is a good thing and will eventually be the basis for competition.

If you are one of the smaller service providers that “wants in,” why don’t you start by creating your own? Don’t fight it, embrace it. Carve out your own niche in the already established, increasingly solidified, Mobile 2.0 market. Tech companies all over the world are developing their own “iPhone” or “G1” and are finding ways of tethering them to proprietary, web-based platforms. Find one of ’em! Choose a device and platform you want to represent your brand and start competing.

AT&T, who is obviously in the most fortunate position of the bunch, says…

“Exclusive arrangements are an important form of competition…The popularity of the iPhone and its innovative features and applications have provoked a strong competitive response, accelerating not only handset innovation but also the pace of wireless broadband investment and applications development.”

I couldn’t agree more. Get on board. Stop whining about not being invited to their party, create your own and invite your own friends.

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Originally posted on 12.9.08

I entered my local Starbucks the other day (@ the corner of Sheffield and Diversey) to grab a coffee and, for the first time, actually spend my afternoon there.

In a way, it was exciting. It had probably been since college that I’d had the time to spend the afternoon with my computer, some good beats, my headphones and the “online-freedom” my Mac allows me to enjoy at these Wi-Fi hotspots.

Or, so I thought…

Things have changed at Starbucks. They have apparently struck a deal with AT&T to be the sole provider of “subscription-based” Wi-Fi access. Yeah, news to me, too.

Now, I’m sure that AT&T is paying Starbucks a whole mess of money for the rights to pillage their Wi-Fi seeking customers, but doesn’t this cannibalize a huge part of the Starbucks brand experience? At a time when Starbucks is trying to revert back to its roots–great coffee, a great, social atmosphere, with no smelly sandwiches wafting through the air? From what I gather, a HUGE part of “coffee shop” experience is being able to hangout–grab a coffee (maybe one, maybe three) and enjoy access to FREE internet. It is, in essence, about the CUSTOMER.

By charging customers $3-4 for each three hour period, or monthly subscriptions (with a 12 month agreement!) doesn’t this piss off the customers? Customers who used to be able to go get a coffee and enjoy themselves, now feel like they are being squeezed at every angle. Sounds like a relaxing experience…

Now, I realize that Starbucks offers customers the option of registering their “Starbucks Cards” (which I had always thought were simply gift cards), and somehow accruing “frequent-buyer points,” but that potential is so poorly communicated, that I wouldn’t imagine more than 5% of Starbuck’s regular customers even know about it–last month was the first I had heard.

Secondly, the process of actually registering a card (I did) and then having to continually reload it with money (I didn’t) so you can use it, made the whole thing seem like more trouble than it was worth. Was it too normal or easy for Starbucks to just make the cards function like regular frequent-buyer/club card that have been around for decades? I’d have no problem going online ONCE to register something like that.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but Starbucks is slowly losing my business, especially in the afternoon. There are plenty of alternatives offering better coffee, an absence of cheese and bacon smells, and FREE Wi-Fi…FREE!

Any thoughts?

UPDATE: Kevin Coupe, recently shared his thoughts on Starbucks and their lack of vision/leadership. Coup argues CEO, Howard Schultz’s failure to fully understand and embrace the customer experience and the brand’s true essence, is the primary reason for their continued decline and their recent subpar financial performance.