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Amazon Apple Automation google Management Productivity Small Business Software Technology

MobileMe becomes ImmobileMe

Call me old fashioned, but when someone says they’re gonna host all of my email somewhere else and Im just supposed to trust them and not keep a copy here where I can protect it, I think I’ll pass.

Doesn’t matter to me if it’s Google, Apple’s MobileMe, Amazon S3 or whoever. All of them have had email downtimes or lost data.

As have I. At least if I lose it under those circumstances, it’s my fault and I have control over the backup processes.

Are you trusting your critical business email to (immobile) MobileMe?

Think hard about what happens to your business if you lose access to MobileMe, Gmail or Amazon S3 data for an hour.

Or…

  • A day.
  • A week.
  • A month.
  • Permanently (as occurred last week for some MobileMe users).

Does your stomach hurt yet? It should.

And if you’re using MobileMe or any of these services without a local backup of your critical business data, it’s no one’s fault but your own when you have to shut the doors.

Outlook (or your email program of choice) may be annoying as crud compared to that cool web interface, but I control how many backups I have and where they are, and I can get to them ASAP without having to drive to Cupertino (or wherever) to beg for a restore disk cuz I once golfed with Kevin Bacon and he knows someone who is only 7 levels of separation from Steve Jobs.

Heck, I could probably find Kevin on LinkedIn 🙂

Seriously though, where is your critical path data?

Think about what happens to your data, and thus, your business, if the internet goes down for a few days – or at least, your access to the net.

Think about what happens to your data, and thus, your business, if you can’t access invoices, contact info, and so on.

Think about covering your backside a little better.

And make sure you have a few candles in the closet.

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Apple Automation Competition Management Marketing Positioning Productivity Real Estate Restaurants Retail Rotary Small Business Software Strategy Technology The Slight Edge Web 2.0

Small business + iPhone app = opportunity

Disclaimer: I simply have to admit that it’s unlikely that I would buy an iPhone until Apple decides to discard AT&T, or Steve Jobs’ gang adds a better cell carrier to the mix. I’m simply not willing to deal with those guys if I don’t have to.

And yes, I’d probably get over it if the right opportunity (or idea) came to me.

My AT&T issues aside, your business could benefit a great deal from taking advantage of the fact that there will be even more iPhone users out there – with what appears to be the best mobile application platform built to date.

Let’s talk about a few possibilities.

Let’s say you own a restaurant. Imagine if an iPhone owner, their spouse and another couple are driving around deciding where to go for dinner.

They call up an app called TonightsSpecial on their phone. Because the iPhone has a GPS in it, it knows where you are. It displays the current specials at restaurants within a 15 minute drive (or 5 or whatever the iPhone owner decides) of their current location.

It shows the wait time for seating (if you so choose), price range, cuisine, and how to get there from the iPhone’s current location – again, since your phone knows where you are and where the restaurant is.

And with a touch, it tells the restaurant to hold a table for 4 for seating 15 minutes from now, because you’ll be right over.

Or maybe you own a motel. And some poor, tired traveler has been driving all day to get to Mount Rushmore, the kids are tired, their spouse is after them to find a motel and everything is full because it just happens to be the first weekend in August – ie: the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Except that this traveler’s iPhone has an app on it called EmptyRoom that tells them where all the empty hotel room inventory is within 30 miles of their current location. And since you registered your hotel with EmptyRoom’s service, it knows when you have a vacancy.

Instead of that family driving past Rapid City because every hotel they checked was full, they turn left just past the airbase and follow the directions on a phone to a room that cancelled 23 minutes earlier because a biker got held up by some rain (ok, ok, that wouldnt happen with a REAL biker, but I digress).

Rather than having a room-night go up in smoke, you just did 2 things: Rented a room for the night that was probably going to go to waste and 2, pulled a tired driver off the road and made their spouse and kids a lot happier and safer.

Or, you’re a Realtor. And you have built an iPhone app that automatically notifies a client on their phone when a home that matches their needs comes on the market.

You’re busy, out making a sale, or at a closing – yet your iPhone app is telling the client where the newly-listed home is, how to get there, what the price is, and if they tap a button in the app, it’ll make an appointment using the open times in your shared Google calendar (or me.com, or whatever) to tour the place.

And of course, it’ll only do that for people you have under contract, if that’s how you want it to work.

Or, you belong to a network of independent coffee shops. Starbucks is your arch enemy, other than the nice thing they did to sell everyone on how cool it is to buy $4 cups of coffee:) So when you join the independent coffee shop network, your shop appears on someone’s iPhone when they open that app.

Again, since a GPS is built-in, it can show me the closest independent coffee shops to the iPhone’s current location. This one can be cloned for just about any independent business. Bike retailers. Pizza shops. Dry cleaners, etc.

No matter what business you’re in – and especially with service, retail, restaurants and lodging, there are a pile of iPhone application possibilities here to make your business even more personal, to deliver even more value and to take advantage of an opportunity that most competitors wont even recognize.

Sure, all of this can be done now, from a web page, or the Yellow pages. You have a chance to bring it into their hand, without extra effort, so you can draw them specifically to your business – and that’s exactly what they want, otherwise they wouldnt be using that iPhone app in the first place.

Pre-sold buyers. Everyone likes them.

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Apple Automation Competition Corporate America Creativity Customer service Media Positioning Productivity Small Business Software Strategy Technology

Who cares about the iPhone?

If you own a small business, you just might start to care.

First of all, set aside some time to watch the video of Steve Jobs’ iPhone keynote yesterday morning at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference. Apple QuickTime (a free download) is required to view it.

Pay close attention to how well Apple appears to have listened about when people asked for REAL business support. In the video, the discussion is “enterprise”.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this only means big business.

Even if you don’t watch the entire video, watch the first 5-6 minutes until they show the cover of Fortune magazine and share who participated in the beta testing for iPhone 2.0.

Between March 6th and June 9th 2008, 250,000 people joined the free iPhone 2.0 developer program. In that same period, 25,000+ applied to the paid beta program. 4000 of those were accepted.

Included in these 4000 testers are:

  • the top 5 commercial banks
  • the top 5 securities firms
  • 6 of the 7 top airlines
  • 8 of the 10 top entertainment firms
  • 8 of 10 top pharmaceutical firms
  • the U.S. Military
  • and the Who’s Who in higher education (Duke, Harvard, Stanford, etc)

All told, 35% of the Fortune 500 participated in the beta.

Remember, this is an Apple beta. Why is that a big deal?

Mostly because Apple has never been known a friend of business, much less small business.

Their response to the enterprise’s demands of the first iPhone is a very clear sign that things have changed at Apple. They’re not just for elementary schools and artists anymore.

Even Mister Spock would be impressed with the example applications they showcased. If you watch the video, the musician app was particularly interesting – though not from a business perspective. Also represented were the medical industry, music, Major League Baseball, blogging, education and others.

I’m sitting here watching these demos and the ideas are flying through my mind for clients, much less for friends who are in medicine, forestry, retail, hydrology, you name it.

Take another look at that list of markets above that were in the paid beta program. Do you compete with or work within those fields?

No doubt, one of thoughts going through your mind is “How does he expect me to do this too, when I can’t keep up as it is?”

Look, I’m simply bringing it up, thinking it might spark an idea that generates your next great way to serve your clientèle. That’s not keeping up, it’s staying ahead. You’re either staying ahead or you’re falling behind.

Speaking of keeping up… In an unrelated geeky conversation, a friend of mine said “boy, does it ever illustrate how hard it is to keep up”.

My reply to him: “Its even harder to stay behind.”

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how you might consider using the iPhone to make your small business more personal to your clients.

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Amazon Apple ECommerce Retail Technology Wal-Mart

David Apple wastes no time, passes Goliath Wal-Mart in music sales

Just a few days ago, I was talking about iTunes passing Amazon and Best Buy in 2007 total music sales.

That’s all kinds – CD and downloaded music.

Didn’t take long for that to become old news. On Tuesday, a leaked Apple memo shows that January 2008 music industry numbers from NPD indicates that Apple has now passed Wal-Mart in total music sales (and remember, this includes Walmart.com’s music store).

Goliath has an Achilles heel. You simply have to look a little harder to find it.

Woolworth had one. Sears had one. K-Mart had one. Now, it’s become clear that Wal-Mart has one as well.

How closely have you looked for cracks in the armor of your market’s Goliath?

If YOU are the Goliath in your market – what would you attack, if you were David?