Friday, June 26, 2015

June Observations - Summer Reading: Farming and Hunting

Though it was a very warm spring where I live, I perhaps jumped the gun a bit with my “summer recipes” column. But as of a few days ago it is now finally, officially summer! And that means, it’s time for summer reading to begin in earnest. The typical “beach books” reading list is usually heavily weighted towards some breezy fiction (not to be confused with one of my favorite mobile printing firms, Breezy). But this summer I am recommending at the top of my list, Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas, by Jeremy Gutsche (@jeremygutsche), CEO of Trendhunter.com.

The title was published in mid-March of this year, when I received word of it through one of the world’s leading “recommendation engines”; the one at Amazon.com to be exact. And though Gutsche and Trendhunter were new to me at the time, and the “Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas” part of the title seemed a bit bombastic, I checked out a copy from my local library a few weeks later. From first indications, I was positively inclined to liking it (as well as puzzled by the fact of my late discovery of Gutsche and Trendhunter), including being strongly influenced by the blurb by friend and trusted advisor Guy Kawasaki on the back cover and their BetterandFaster.com website (see screenshot below) — complete with Kawasaki’s own brand of bombasticity, I might add!
Long-time friend and noted tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki likes the book
I have been doing an enjoyable “slow read” ever since, using library renewals and then finally buying the e-book version for my Kindle. And from the pages I have come up with some interesting applications to the printing and imaging industry I will expand upon in a bit.
The book’s format is simple and complete (sounds a bit Kawasaki-esque right there) — Gutsche’s contents include defining his basic definitions, starting with the metaphor using the differences between farming and hunting, and then describing six fundamental patterns which underlie most business and technology trends — convergence, divergence, cyclicality, redirection, reduction, and acceleration, which Gutsche explains through the remainder of the book.
Farming and Hunting as Applied to Imaging and Printing
I have found numerous examples of printing and imaging to apply to each of the six patterns, but it is enough for this space to apply a few of the farmer/hunter points to the industry I have been part of since the mid-1980s. The basic idea of avoiding the farmer mindset in favor of the hunter is a bit paradoxical, in that, human-evolution-wise, it was the shift from hunting-and-gathering to agrarian ways that catapulted our species into its grand success of the last 10,000 years or so. But Gautsche makes the point that in business, we usually approach problems with the determination of farmers, figuring out what works and then applying the same methods, over and over again — with a few tweaks of course — expecting and generally getting steadily improving results. But success is not guaranteed to continue forever into the future, and Better and Faster highlights three traps that farmers (and their analogous business leaders) find themselves in, including complacency, repetition, and protectiveness.
This graphic - a screenshot from BetterFaster.com - gives the basic structure of Gutsche's ideas, and the book offers many examples that bring each of them to life
The book includes many, many great examples, a few familiar, and many new to me, but one of the natural examples for inclusion in the section about farmers and the traps they get caught in is Kodak and its “miss” on digital photography, even when the initial technology was right in front of their noses. They were collectively missing the hunter instincts of curiosity and its related practices. According to Gutsche, instead of paying attention to experimentation and continually reassessing assumptions, eventually moving beyond their past and what had previously been successful, Kodak’s strong corporate culture stiff-armed the first digital camera prototypes a maverick Kodak scientist had developed in-house in the mid-1970s, and continued with their farming approach to the imaging and printing business.
Recently, I witnessed something firsthand that was less dramatic but indicative of this farming versus hunting mindset. An industry leader had gathered together the analyst committee to share, under embargo and prior to its official launch, a collection of new technologies the firm had developed. It had taken a huge investment in terms of years and dollars, with the end result being that they could now offer improvements in product price/performance, and in particular, through following the curve of efficiency and miniaturization, much smaller products in terms of mass and footprint, with corresponding improvements in energy usage. The executive in charge of the analyst briefing was excited by what he had to talk about, but clearly dejected by the lack of enthusiasm to match on the analyst side. Despite the investment and measurable improvements, I look back to that less-than-overwhelming reaction as a response to how a declining industry is coping, and in this case it was touting new seeds and fertilizer on the old farmland, when whole new fields need to be explored.
In that hunter mindset, I can point to no less than the subject of my last several columns on printing and IFTTT and the Internet of Things. Curiosity, “breaking the mold,” looking outside the normal sphere of success and influence - these are hunter characteristics which I greatly admire and will continue to report on. (At the end of last month’s Observations, I promised more on the subject, but wanted to get this “Summer Reading” out while it was seasonally appropriate.)
Conclusion
I highly recommend Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas, by Jeremy Gutsche, and for those who want a media alternative, there is also aBetter and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas video, a keynote address by the author, available via YouTube, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFshvhzcCVw

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Go figure - Apple making lots of profit on watchbands!

I enjoyed seeing this article by Julia Love @byJuliaLove of Reuters, in Business Insider this morning. In addition to having sold 2.79 million watches, according to Slice Intelligence @SliceIntel, apparently Apple is selling, and making lots of profit from, the watchbands that go with them. It's the oldest business model in the books, or nearly so - the classic "razors and blades" model that I first remember learning about in college days, when a friend worked in a camera shop and was trained to never let a customer leave the store without a case and other accessories, after buying a camera body. Interesting that I remember the market leader of the day was the Canon AE-1.

Friday, May 29, 2015

May Observations - Mixing up some Summer Recipes - IFTTT and the HP Print Channel

Screenshot of some of the example HP Print Channel recipes on IFTTT


Jim Lyons Observations May 2015 Mixing up some Summer Recipes – IFTTT and the HP Print Channel

Last month, I reported on a very exciting development with our industry leader (and my former employer), Hewlett Packard, and their development of a “Print Channel” as part of the IFTTT web-based service. IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and is considered a key Internet of Things (IOT) solution, so much so that HP’s announcement of the initiative (via blog post rather than press release – so 2015!) included IOT in the headline.

What I didn’t include last month was some hands-on recipe work. (Recipes, as Wikipedia states, being the “chains of simple conditional statements…which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Craigslist.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IFTTT) Choosing from the multitude of existing recipes, registered IFTTT users can activate them as is, customize existing recipes, or create them from scratch – just like real recipes.

Bring on the hands-on!

Leaving out the IOT and other strategy for now, let’s bring on the hands-on! As my readers may recognize, I seem to have been born with an early-adopter gene. I don’t know how else to explain my love of experimenting with new things, even if it isn’t always the smoothest of roads! Of course, with so many new gadgets and solutions out there, I have to be selective, but IFTTT had first captured my attention a year ago, so I was even more engaged when HP added printing to the mix (via HP’s “Print Channel” – channels being the “basic building blocks of IFTTT”, again per Wikipedia.) Currently, HP has a number of recipes available (see illustration, top), with the capability to construct your own, as well.

Before HP Print Channel, my three favorite IFTTT recipes
   As mentioned, I already have a background in using IFTTT recipes on a daily basis, employing a small selection which fit nicely into my personal workflow. The screenshot below show three I found early on in my quest – moving favorited Tweets to Evernote, converting Instagram posts to Tweets, and simply emailing a recommended IFTTT recipe my way every morning. Each has been “run” hundreds of tim
So looking at the print-channel options available, I was quite comfortable with quickly trying out the Instagram-to-print recipe, which prints to my designated eprint-enabled HP Printer when posted with an included #print hashtag. So far, the recipe worked fine in terms of “running” but the prints were in a rectangular format, not the Instagram trademark square image. HP is working on this, advising that it is IFTTT which “doesn’t currently support square photos, but HP is researching how to make this possible (and to print captions as they appear in Instagram)”, according to a spokesperson. From a user benefit perspective, I really don’t want ALL my Instagram posts printed, but selected ones I surely do, and with the #print hashtag I have that control. Printing and collecting all my “Waterlogue” posts as prints (see example below), for example, has been a goal for some time, and while I need to go back to print my “backlog”, I could start knocking the new ones off in real time with this recipe and the right printer, right media, and right format, once that is corrected.

Implementation of the #Print Instagram recipe will be great for my Waterlogue collection

Do-It-Yourself and My “Sweet Spot” Recipes

Taking the next step in recipes, I went to the building blocks to build one all my own, and noticed the “Blogger” channel, the Google platform I have using for Jim LyonsObservations for nearly ten years. So in literally a handful of minutes, I had cooked up (sorry) a “print new post on your blog” recipe. When I tried it out with a new post, it also had some formatting issues – which I will be working on. But the ability to put together the blocks and have it running in virtually no time impressed me! It will be nice to have a properly formatted collection of my blog posts, again as they are published and not in some major batch print job.

My first "from scratch" recipe prints each new Jim Lyons Observations blog post, when it is published
And thinking about a bigger payoffs in my time and productivity, I thought at length about when I ALWAYS want a hardcopy, and it is usually at the last minute, when I am also thinking about a million other things. That would be my TripIt itineraries. Whether for work or pleasure, every trip I have taken, by land, sea or air, has been on TripIt for almost as long as I can remember, and I always stress about remembering to go online and take the steps necessary to print out one or several copies. Having a “day before” setting to automatically print my itinerary and have it waiting for me in the printer’s out-tray is my next IFTTT recipe objective, so stay tuned. I have already identified a “Mint report to Print” recipe I am considering modifying.

The next exciting thing

In late May, 2015, when HP announced its quarterly earnings for one of the last times as the company is currently defined, pre-split, CEO Meg Whitman addressed the future. Looking ahead to PCs and Printers making up the HP Inc. portion of the split, Whitman offered, “At  HP Inc., we will continue engineering multi-OS devices and immersive computing experiences for business and consumer, and ink and laser-based solutions that provide a faster, more affordable, exciting way to print, manage and deliver content, all while continuing to invest in strategic areas like 3D Printing.” (See http://h30261.www3.hp.com/~/media/Files/H/HP-IR/documents/results/2015/transcript/q2-2015-results-transcript20150522.pdf.) As I heard this, I thought, at least I know what the “exciting” is – even with those inevitable bumps in the road!

On to Part Three

I promised when completing my April Observations that I would come back in Part Two on the topic and discuss, among other things, the “Hyper-Integration that HP included in their original blog post. Well, having covered details and hands-on experiences (and leaving a few) with a number of IFTTT recipes, it looks like that will have to be in Part Three. With HP Discover and its accompanying multi-day Analyst Briefing in Las Vegas coming soon, I should have ample opportunity to probe the strategic depths (along implementation details) with key HP execs, and then report back here with my summary. And now we will see if I have my automated printing of TripIt itineraries working by then, too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A sneak peek at my May Observations - fun with If This Then That and the HP Print Channel



I am in the final stages of completing a very fun and interesting Observations - following up from last month. (See http://jimlyonsobservations.blogspot.com/2015/04/april-observations-printers-and.html.)

This is just a short teaser and a test - stay tuned for the full May 2015 Observations, at the end of the week!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Observations - Printers and the Internet of Things Revisited





April 2015 Observations – Printing and the “Internet of Things” revisited

Just a year ago, for my April 2014 Observations, I wrote about printers and their potential role in the future of the much-talked-about “Internet of Things” (IoT). In “Printers as Things? Do printers fit as part of the Internet-of-things?” I explored a bit of what I had picked up, knowledge-wise, regarding the IoT and reported on some exploration I had been doing on whether or not printers qualified as “things” and thus had a future as part of a far-flung concept.

Prior to writing the story, in floating the question around with colleagues in the printing and imaging industry I had found a bit of push-back. My perception at least was that “printers as things” was a demotion of sorts in some peoples’ minds, and that while the IoT might be great for things like thermostats and toasters (and a multitude of other more industrial objects), printers were “better” than that. But then I consulted with my former Lyra Research colleague Steve Hoffenberg, who was then and now Director of IoT & Embedded Technology at VDC Research. For those wanting to go deeper, please refer back to last April’s Observations, but in summary, Steve concurred with me that printers were “things” but more than that, through the successful creation and implementation of Managed Print Services, our industry had provided a “proof point” for the developing IoT movement.

Last April's Observations explored the connection between the Internet of Things and Printers

With wind in my sails as provided by Hoffenberg’s thoughts, I went on to assert that HP’s noted “Instant Ink” program (see above) was another current industry example of IoT. But again, read the details from the post if interested.

Which brings us to the past year. I have been keeping an eye (and ear) and the IoT field and the growing buzz about it. And one of my developing interests in the hands-on area – and frankly without immediately associating it with IoT – has been the web service, “If This Then That”. The current version of the Wikipedia article introduces the service as follows:

“IFTTT is a web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called "recipes", which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Craigslist. IFTTT is an abbreviation of "If This Then That" (pronounced like "gift" without the "g").”


I was directly exposed to IFTTT for the first time via a recipe involving organizing various contributors’ photos from a family wedding, but soon I had implemented a few now successfully operating recipes of my own. I use it to this day to, for example, store my “favorited” tweets as notes in Evernote, and to convert my Instagram photos into tweets. But I needed a little push to make the connection to printing and the Internet of Things!

As far as the IoT, I found out the company, IFTTT, as ranked by one “scorekeeper”, is the fourth highest valued firm in the IoT ecosystem, as of February of this year. This seemed obvious, following a little reflection on my sorting through all the available recipes on multiple occasions – including the email I get which recommends one each day – I have noticed a great number of them relating to objects like the Nest smart thermostat, which we have installed in our home, and of course a prime example in the IoT. So while my chosen recipes so far have revolved around Web platforms/programs such as Evernote, Instagram, and Twitter, interaction with IoT-enabled devices in the physical world is a natural part of If This Then That.




 And as far as the physical devices called printers? That connection came by way of a communication from my friends at printer-industry-leader HP, alerting me to a mid-February post on the blog of Shane Wall, currently Chief Technology Officer of HP’s Personal and Printing Systems organization. The guest blogger was Phil McCoog, Chief Technologist and HP Fellow, and also a frequent source for me when I am writing about mobile printing and other future-oriented printing and imaging developments. In his post, entitled, "HP Launches the HP Print Channel on IFTTT Creating Over40M IoT Printers”, McCoog not only declares 40 million HP printers as IoT “things”, he also explains how the HP/IFTTT Connection has been implemented (by the creation of an “HP Print” channel), and also expands into the strategy around “Hyper-Integration”.

Next month, I will start with a little more on HP’s view on “Hyper-Integration” and some of my thoughts, define a few of those key IFTTT terms like recipes and channels, and offer an interpretation of the mystery graphic at the top. I will also pass along some of my recent hands-on experiences. Of late, I have been implementing some of the recipes using the HP Channel and IFTTT, and have discovered a few other printing and imaging-related recipes which I look forward to sharing. So stay tuned!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HP sells Snapfish - cites "focus"

My three-year-old post comparing Facebook/Instagram to HP/Snapfish
In one of the more anticlimactic business stories of recent times, today the long-rumored disposition by HP of its Snapfish "global photo storage and merchandising business", was made official, via press release. With HP set to separate into two entities later this year, the intent to divest Snapfish bubbled up last fall and Julie Bort of Business Insider (see "After years of trying to sell Snapfish, HP finally finds a buyer"points as far back as early 2013 and indications of interests then in unloading the unit, originally acquired for $300 million in 2005. Bort also describes Snapfish as "an oddball unit" as no doubt many in the industry would see it, in the light of the tech world as we know it in 2015. Even HP, in its own release, cites the sale to District Photo as "consistent with HP’s strategy to focus the organization following HP’s previously announced separation" -- in other words, it was an oddball unit.

Three years ago, the big acquisition news was Facebook and its $1-Billion buy of Instagram (later dwarfed by its much-larger acquisition of WhatsApp.) I penned a post comparing that digital-imaging deal to another digital-imaging deal, in 2005, i.e. HP-Snapfish, where an established but somewhat aging tech titan buys a much younger upstart in an effort to "get into the game" as being played by the new kids on the block. (See graphic above.) That post was "What a Difference Seven Years Makes! Facebook Acquires Instagram – a $1 Billion Imaging-Related Transaction" and to follow up that headline with today's news, one might state that given three more years, there's even more of a difference!

While at one time Snapfish was an HP "darling", leading to some serious feather-ruffling of huge Indigo-press customer and Snapfish rival Shutterfly, its status has certainly diminished rather steadily, compared to, as Bort points out, a time back when "people really printed a lot of photos."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy Tax Day, as technology rolls along...

Source: http://www.cmo.com/articles/2015/4/6/adi-financial-services-companies-that-fully-digitize-tax-preparation-will-win.html

I woke up this morning with the Beatle's Taxman playing in my head, which helped remind me I still have a couple of tax-related tasks to do today, April 15th - call it tradition.

But it also made me curious about the rate of e-filing, and this blog post, "First Time Tax Filers: 8 Quick & Easy Tips You Should Know", carried by The Huffington Post and penned by @TTaxLisa, TurboTax Blog Editor and CPA. In addition to the basic tips included in the post, the statistic that "about 84 percent of tax returns were e-filed".

Printed tax forms and supporting documents seemed at one time like one of the last bastions of hard-copy domination, but the climbing rate of e-filing shows the world's ever-growing preference for electronic documents. Pretty obvious, right? So what's next?

I found a tidbit that did startle me, I must say, but once again, it shouldn't come as a surprise. "Filing taxes is the next frontier for mobile" according to conclusions from Adobe Digital Index and reported in "ADI: Full Digitization Would Make Filing Less Taxing For Most Americans" by Giselle Abramovich, Senior & Strategic Editor for CMO.com. (The Adobe-sponsored website, by the way, is one of my most-recommended websites to my graduate marketing students.)

The graphic borrowed from the article which I've included at the beginning of this post requires some attention to the "fine print", as the 20+% of "visitors by device type" using smartphones and tablets includes not only tax filing, but also financial management, so I play in all the categories. But call me old-fashioned if you would like, but it is hard to imagine doing my taxes on anything less than a full-size keyboard and not one but two full-sized monitors!