Search Engine

Monday, June 30, 2014

The World is Changing June 2014 Edition

The world is changing especially in North America where the first medical marijuana advertisement is appearing on TV. There will be 800 ad playing over a period of 2 weeks in New Jersey

Apple is now venturing into the in-car OS system with what is called “CarPlay”. I guess they couldn’t find some called iCar. The system will allow iPhone users to Bluetooth into the mobile system and make calls, receive calls, use Siri and be misguided by the Apple maps program. Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo customers now have a reason to get rid of their Vertu luxury cellphones.
3UK is doing this right now in the UK markets

Bell and Rogers continues its push into the traditional TV and radio media space and TELUS pushes forward into eHealth. A recent TELUS acquisition adds another 12,500 doctors who uses its electronic medical records technology. Interesting how new business streams are added to offset declining POTS and long distance revenues.
The recent bad weather and ice storms seems to have made customers switch from VOIP and Cableco based landlines (which need AC  power) to traditional POTS copper lines from Bell. Seems the Voice router batteries only last a few hours which is not enough when the power is out for days.

The Canada post office has seen declining revenues as many do not mail letters anymore because of email and social media networks providing practically real time communication. They are seeing some revenue increases due to the birth of on-line shopping. In the 1980s they released the Super Mailboxes which is on my street and has two lock boxes but the individual mailbox will not take magazines. Many times the Do Not Bend items actually get bent. The new Community Mailboxes are undergoing a Pilot in Oakville and will have individual mailboxes that can take magazines laid flat, can accommodate many parcel sizes and will feature larger lock boxes for oversize parcels. The outgoing mail slot is wider as well and new security key enhancements. Looks like CP did some homework in designing a mailbox system that meets today’s needs not those from 1981. This is an example of innovation where new ideas are taken to design an existing product into a better product. How about adding a solar panel and a smartphone charging station? Now when you walk the dog you can also charge your phone if need be.

Super Mailbox Community Mailbox (smart canadian thinking)

Radio Shack in the USA is in trouble and its closing over 1000 stores out of their 4000 store footprint. The demise of CB radio, DIY electronics, Home Computing has let Rat Shack slim down their inventory and focus on toys and Cellular. Too bad the margins on electronics were huge but I think the Best Buy, Frys and Amazons (and local Computer shops) have kind of disrupted their business. I was in 3 Radio Shacks on a recent business trip and they were all empty. You can see the reduction in items in the different categories. Too bad there is a long history of Radio Shack that has given birth to innovation.

In Canada, Radio Shack was bought by Circuit City (which became Tiger Direct) and renamed The Source. In 2009, Bell Canada purchased them and in a brilliant move has now become the Bell Cellular location in many retail locations across Canada. Bell did not renew the Rogers reseller agreement and its focus is on selling bell Mobility products. In fact, in many stores there is a sales person standing right in front of the store at many busy malls pushing cellphones. So now you can go to Vaughan Mills and buy a Bell Mobility device from a Bell Corporate store, The Source, Bell Kiosk and also the Wireless Wave reseller.


The Source is actually growing its revenues by its specialty retailer niche and customer service values.
TELUS bounced back and bought Black’s Camera which gave them a broader retail footprint overnight and a new revenue stream. I don’t think the thought of printing photos off your cellphone was too important and it was just recently they offered some apps to do this. Regardless, the retail footprint was very important and it did beat out Rogers.

Wind Mobile did a partnership with Blockbuster who then went out of business. This was an excellent idea to place WIND kisoks rapidly across many locations. Red Box has taken the DVD rental space and at $1.99 a rental the self-serve vending machine is profitable.

Plastic in Fast Food Bread Products

Azodicarbonamide is a food additive that is added to bread in order to make it soft, light and resilient. It is also used in yoga mats and shoe soles to make them soft, light and resilient. It is banned in Europe but not in North America. Subway uses it in their bread and has pledged to stop using it. Where else can it be found?

Tim Horton doughnuts and buns
McDonalds: Buns, English Muffins,
Pizza Hut: Pizza Dough and Garlic bread
KFC: Buns
Starbucks: Sandwich breads and Apple Fritter

European studies show this additive to be somewhat carcoginetic but Health Canada states it is completely safe. In the USA it has been found in over 500 bread and pastry products and may be the case in Canada as well.

Next time you are eating some bread or pastry, you may wish to take a look at the ingredients and see if you are eating any Azodicarbonamide.
Remember PepsiCo said it would remove an ingredient that had been linked to a flame retardant from its Gatorade drinks last year.

Beware Glaceau Vitamin Water in the 591mL bottle has 32 grams of sugar which is 8 teaspoons worth. 

Target Canada and its Quest to Change Canadian retail is failing

Target bought out all the valuable Zeller stores from The Bay (at a purchase price of $18 Billion in 2011) and launched itself last year. A launch that has failed miserably. I queried 10 of my friends and many seemed indifferent to the store and those that did visit complained about lack of inventory and product selection. This is obviously a supply chain issue. In 2013 they lost $941 Million dollars. WOW! That is a big loss to the balance sheet.

The good news is that many Canadian target shoppers continue to buy product in the USA. Why? Better selection, lots of inventory and better size selection of clothing.

The other dilemma is that pricing in Canada is higher than its US locations and at times is perceived to be higher than Zellers.

A recent visit to buy a $100 tea kettle led to frustration as the selection was slim with a limited stock selection. WalMart was no better they only offered 2 models but had lots of stock. The kettle was purchased from The Bay with 25% off and they had 6 models to choose from.

The other missed detail is that there is no weekly flyer in the local newspaper. WalMart and The Bay do weekly flyers, Target in my neighborhood does not. That’s a big marketing problem that is easy to fix. Target will bounce back but it will take more effort to win back the trust from the early shopping adopters.

Their website is horrible compared to the U version. With Canadians being high internet users and doing about half their shopping on-line is a serious omission.

Consumers need Target to work as competition will make the other retailers like WalMart work harder. Meanwhile, Dollarama is keeping its stores full and the no return policy on a dollar item makes it so much easier. If your overseas made product is not the quality you enjoy then throw it out.

Too bad Sears has taken it on the chin for not being relevant beyond lawn mowers and dishwashers because the fashion offerings really suffered and over time consumers shopped elsewhere. They really seemed to push their Jessica, Logan Hill and Nevada brand labels which doesn’t seem to hit the demographics of those who buy fashion.

Staples as well have focused heavily on big box stores where a medium format store would suffice but they do get on-line and it works very well. My wife bought several items that arrived the next day. Free Shipping was her motivator.

So we really need department store competition and hopefully Target gets a Canadian bulls eye sooner than later. Come on Target get better for us consumers...we love you!

French ACD Queues

I have been struggling with Dell Canada of late trying to resolve a major issue with the travel keyboard not working with the Venue 11 Pro tablet. I have 9 different 1-800 numbers and what appear to be the ones for Canada have the following “For French press 1 and for English press 2”…I now know my call is being answered in Quebec.

My experience with the offshore agent support has been excellent, although they have not fixed the problem after 2 hours, a supervisor jumps on to ensure everything is well and a follow up email happens as well. For the first time in my life, they called me out of the blue to see how my life was going? Not good I replied and another 3 hours trying to make it work. We have finally agreed to an RMA so let’s see what happens after the depot repair. I give Dell a high rating in Tech Support and Customer Service and they offer a better experience than my Apple Store headaches. I hope Dell can fix the keyboard disconnect issue, if not my fix is using the Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

Update: DELL pulled through and fixed the problem. I shipped the bundle to the repair depot and it came back the next day. Thats fast service and a supervisor called me to ensure everything was good. 

Shaw bets big on Wi-Fi

Shaw is focusing on internet services and not so much on cable. Naturally, the internet is the growth platform for the Cablecos. This value add is access to over 30,000 hot spots on the Shaw GO Wi-Fi Network across the serving areas that Shaw has local presence. This allows the user to have access through Wi-Fi outside of the home and it does not count against your data bill. So if you watch a Netflix movie on your tablet through Wi-Fi then there is no charge if it was on the Shaw 4G networks. When they add the Shaw GO phone app the home line can be extended to the smartphone through Wi-Fi. Interesting, your at the local Shaw powered coffee shop watching Breaking Bad and your Samsung tablet and your mom calls your home number and you answer it on your Blackberry Q10 and chat away. No charges against your data bucket as its all on the Shaw Wi-Fi network.

The average user uses about 1GB of data on their smartphone or tablet so this kind of offering could be a retainer tool for Shaw customers.

Shaw can easily monetize this for special events like the Calgary Stampede, or local festivals and guest use by tourists. Could this become the Canadian version of Boingo? I hope so as there really isn’t any national Wi-Fi provider in Canada unless you consider Starbucks a player in that space and more recently McDonalds.

WIND Mobile has the chance to compete against Shaw with a similar offering.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Road Warrior Travel Tips May 2014

OK here are a few more tips gleaned from recent travel adventures

How do you fight jet lag?

I try to match my sleep somewhat to my destination a few days before hand. When I get to my destination I wake up at the local time and try to get lots of sunshine as its this that resets your internal clock. Worked to help combat the 13 hour flip flop while on Japan.

Travel Essentials?

A single carry on and pack clothes that are easy to wash with some mild detergent if travelling longer than a few days. The new cotton like shirts that are made from high tech materials are a charm to wear and clean.


Data plans can be very expensive considering a Google map download is 1 MB so use map apps that allow you to download the map.  Also a small compass is invaluable in locating North. I was so frustrated in Akihabara that the map I was using was upside down, incorrect and even the locals could not figure it out how to get to my destination. If I knew where North was then it would have been simpler and faster to get to the location. I use several location specific or city guides and Google maps. If you can get to a free WiFi spot then Google maps is very handy with directions. The Tokyo subway map was handy but once you figure out the system its not really that useful and the paper based map is better.


Check before hand what access will be available. Starbucks are everywhere and some cities have municipal based access or sponsor driven access. Tokyo has free access for tourists but you need to get a passcard first. I was able to actually get one at a Tourist Info Center where English was spoken.

Large Plastic Zip Lock bags

Packing dirty clothes, a change of underwear for overnight flights, saving food doggie bags, and a impromptu trash bag. Tokyo has a lack of streetside garbage bins and citizens are encouraged to take their trash home, so when enjoying a banana you may have to bring that peel back to your hotel and the zip lock bag is your best friend.


Travel can mean long lines, delays, confusion and locals giving wrong directions.