- [from steve_portigal] End Of An Era: Sony Stops Manufacturing Cassette Walkmans [Crunchgear] – [I share the author's surprise that this product was still being manufactured! The CD Walkman - its successor - has long been quaintly outdated, so cassettes? Perhaps there was a retro market, or perhaps other countries discarded formats differently than we have here] Sony announced it will stop manufacturing and selling these devices in Japan – after 30 years. Sony says the final lot was shipped to retailers in April this year, and once the last units are sold, there will be no cassette Walkmans from big S anymore. The first Walkman was produced in 1979. The TPS-L2, the world’s first portable (mass-produced) stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1 that year and was later exported to the US, Europe and other places. Sony says that they managed to sell over 400 million Walkmans worldwide until March 2010, and exactly 200,020,000 of those were cassette-based models.
- [from steve_portigal] PlumWillow Is Making the Customer Part of Its Culture [NYTimes.com] – [Employment criteria: do you represent our target customer? Hiring for insight as an internship strategy] They’re part of a team of 15- and 16-year-old interns who are being tapped for their own special brand of expertise and insight: a bird’s-eye view into the life and mind of high school teenagers, exactly the audience that PlumWillow is seeking. “They definitely aren’t shy about telling us what they like and don’t like,” says Lindsay Anvik, director of marketing at PlumWillow, who helps oversee the internship program at its offices in Manhattan. The interns are also emblematic of how Web-based businesses are doing more than merely shaping their products and services around customer preferences. The companies are corralling those customers in the workplace and making them part of the design and marketing process, according to Susan Etlinger, a consultant at the Altimeter Group, which researches Web technologies and advises companies on how to use them.
- The Air Force is just the latest organization to adopt the PS3 as a cheaper cluster computer – Talk about unintended usage! "The PS3s offer some outstanding performance for the price," said Richard Linderman, senior scientist for advanced computing architectures at the Air Force Research Laboratory. "It's an opportunity to leverage the large gaming market and get those kinds of cost efficiencies which are more along the lines of high-performance computing."
- Russia considers the functional and cultural impacts of changing their 11 time zones – The time zones, set up by the Soviets to showcase the country’s size, have long been a source of national pride, but the government is now viewing them as a liability and is considering shedding some. In today’s economy of constant communication, it is hard to manage businesses and other affairs when one region is waking up and another is thinking about dinner. The issue has blossomed in recent days into an intense debate across the country about how Russians see themselves, about how the regions should relate to the center, about how to address the age-old problem of creating a sense of unity in this land.
- Digital whiteboard for the Kindle – [This is a good example of the "ecosystem" we identified as an opportunity area in our Reading Ahead research] Luidia, the maker of an interactive whiteboard technology called eBeam, is extending its reach onto another screen: Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. The start-up is launching a system that automatically zaps a copy of notes and scribbles left on whiteboards into people’s Kindle or Kindle DX. It works by turning the notes (captured digitally by the eBeam system) into an image file, and then emailing that file to a Kindle. The notes capability could help improve the ways students use the Kindle in classrooms, says Luidia. Nearly 90% of Luidia’s customers are K-12 schools, some of which have been experimenting with using Kindles and e-reading technology to lighten the load of students. In theory, a teacher could present a whole lesson and then zap the notes to students or parents.
- Storylistening for consumer insight – There are many ways of collecting stories but here are three that may be new to you:
* Anecdote circles
* Naive interviewers
* Mass narrative capture
Collecting stories is not about finding the one perfect story that describes a brand or a consumer experience. Rather it is about gathering a broad spread of qualitative data. Individually a story may be seen to be banal but their power lies in the cumulative effect of many stories.
Story interpretation is best done by a range of groups (e.g. consumers themselves, a marketing department) that may have differing perspectives on the same situation. The most appropriate techniques often avoid direct analysis initially and allow different groups to immerse themselves in the stories to produce nuanced interpretations of the consumers' world.
- Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners – Boing Boing recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader, named the "Daily Edition." "Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. … We're obligated to have DRM but we don't pull content back."
- OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. – Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, we endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.
- What design researchers can learn from hostage negotiators – Interesting to look at various collaboration and communication scenarios and unpack what's going on to define some principles that can be reused. Not sure how much new about design research is brought to light here, but the framing may make it more memorable or understandable. Always glad to see the emphasis on rapport, but I don't agree with their hostage-rapport approach as a one-size-fits-all method for design research rapport building. I also think they underplay the emotional levels that good design research can uncover. Beyond frustration with products, we hear stories about cancer, divorce, infertility, hopes, dreams, and beyond. All very charged stuff.
- If you outlaw meep, only outlaws will say meep – Tthe nonsense word started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker. Bob Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, said he first heard students meep about a year ago during a class screening of a television show.
"Something happened and one of them said 'Meep,'" he said. "And then they all started doing it."
The meeps, he said, came from all of the students in the class in rapid-fire succession. When he asked them what that meant, they said it didn't really mean anything.
But meeping doesn't seem to be funny to Danvers High School Principal Thomas Murray, who threatened to suspend students caught meeping in school.
In an interview with the Salem News, Murray said automated calls were made to parents, warning them of the possible punishment after administrators learned that students were conspiring online to mass-meep in one part of the school building.
(Updated to include slideshow with synchronized audio track)
We’re very excited today to be posting our findings from the Reading Ahead research project.
Lots more in the deck below, but here’s the executive summary
- Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity
- The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words
- Digital reading privileges access to content while neglecting other essential aspects of this complete reading experience
- There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading
We sat down yesterday in the office and recorded ourselves delivering these findings, very much the way we would deliver them to one of our clients.
Usually, we deliver findings like these to a client team in a half day session, and there’s lots of dialogue, but we tried to keep it brief here to help you get through it. (The presentation lasts an hour and twenty minutes.)
It’s been a great project, and we’ve really appreciated hearing from people along the way. We welcome further comments and questions, and look forward to continuing the dialogue around this work.
Use the green play arrow at the bottom of the slides to play the show with audio.
(If the slideshow won’t load, check it out here)
To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)
Words Move Me – Sony adds social networking around reading (but doesn’t seem you can *buy*)– "Words move me" was created by Sony to celebrate the words that move us and to share our reading experiences with others. Connecting with readers around literary moments enables us to express our individuality, share our own stories, and find commonalities with others.
- Sony’s Daily Reader – Kindle Competition: Touchscreen Plus AT&T, for $399 – Includes software to link with local libraries and check out a library-based electronic book. Also has portrait reading mode (showing two pages), touchscreen, and broadband wireless access to add books without a PC.
- IKEA as destination retail, in Beijing – Although the store is designed similarly to Western IKEAs, the meaning and usage has changed. In Beijing, It's a place to rest and eat, more theme park than shopping emporium.
- The lost art of reading: David Ulin on the challenge of focus in an era of distraction – Who do we want to be, she asks, and how do we go about that process of becoming in a world of endless options, distractions, possibilities? These are elementary questions, and for me, they cycle back to reading, to the focus it requires. When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13, my grandmother used to get mad at me for attending family functions with a book. Back then, if I'd had the language for it, I might have argued that the world within the pages was more compelling than the world without; I was reading both to escape and to be engaged. All these years later, I find myself in a not-dissimilar position, in which reading has become an act of meditation, with all of meditation's attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It's harder than it used to be, but still, I read. (via Putting People First)
In 2000, prior to Portigal Consulting, we conducted an ethnographic study with Sony to “provide awareness of unarticulated consumer perceptions about digital imaging on which to base future product development decisions…generating a range of new product and service concepts.”
Over the years we’ve seen Sony launch products that are similar to ones we proposed (see example here). We identify opportunities for our clients; the path they take to develop (or not) can be complex and fraught, and many opportunities are not addressed in the marketplace (although we find our clients value how our work helps them make that decision).
Here’s the latest:
Sony today introduced the Party-shot personal photographer —an innovative camera dock that pans 360 degrees and tilts 24 degrees, automatically detects faces, adjusts composition and takes photos for you.
This device makes it easy to capture more natural expressions and fun, candid moments of you, your family and friends without having to hire a photographer.
“With the Party-shot personal photographer, you no longer have to worry about taking photos when you are with your family or friends,” said Shigehiko Nakayama, digital imaging accessories product manager at Sony Electronics. “Party-shot captures candid moments that tell natural life stories and also offers a new style of photography that enriches time with your family and friends.
From our 2000 presentation to Sony
Market Opportunity: Freedom to Participate
Defined set of occasions where
- camera visibility/ interference is possible and accepted
- cameraman takes on an assumed role
Opportunity to Increase Usage
- Design cameras that are less bulky, obtrusive, “precious”
- Enable experiences to be preserved without requiring someone to operate a camera
Our concept (to illustrate the opportunity) emphasized video over still
Product Feature: Full Remote Control
- Gives capturer full control over video camera while away from device
- Includes viewfinder, volume, zoom/pan/tilt, battery/tape indicator
- Capturer is not “tethered” to camera and can participate
Sony isn’t the only one to launch products that we identified. As we identified needs and proposed solutions, it’s inevitable that as time goes by, competitors will identify those needs and develop products. For example, three years ago I blogged about Granny’s Inbox where HP launched something similar to one of our Sony concepts.
Elsewhere, we see other products that have been developed by competitors since our work for Sony in 2000:
Digital Blue’s Tony Hawk Helmetcam
and our X-treme Cam concept
- Rugged, mountable video camera that captures short clips from the user’s point of view
- Sharable, relivable document of exciting experiences
- Appeals to teens and/or sports participants
- Must be made inexpensive enough to justify its very specific (and thus limited) functionality
Hasbro’s VuGo Multimedia System
and our MPEG-Man concept
- Plays short clips of digital video
- Like a photo album, device can be passed around for sharing in a larger group
- Connect to TV, PC, or projector
- Better group interactions for sharing video
- Position as everyday, casual, social device rather than hi-tech or novelty
Casio EXILIM (and other models of still and video cameras from other manufacturers) feature Pre-Record Mode where
photos are not only taken at the moment the shutter release is pressed – they’re also taken before that! With continuous recording of up to 30 photos per second, a maximum of 25 photos can be saved in the camera’s buffer memory – even before the shutter release is pressed. The 25th image then corresponds to the photo that was taken when the shutter release button was pressed. This means that, in addition to the photo that you took at the moment the shutter release button was pressed, you can choose from a further 24 images that occurred just before that moment.
and our Capture Buffer concept (video but could be used for still as well)
- Video camera is always capturing and discarding footage
- When user initiates recording, option of saving the contents of the buffer
- People will no longer miss the beginning of what they want to film
- Slightly more skill required by users – where was the camera pointing before the button is pressed?
Buffalo TeraStation Home Server
and our Digital Memory Vault concept
- Permanent digital storage for stills and video
- Indexing, organizing, online publishing
- Random access retrieval
- Simplifies organization and retrieval of images (and video)
- Leverages familiar (to PC users) activity of searching (i.e., web search)
- Appeals to customers who are already invested in digital imaging, or in legacy imaging (i.e., family albums)
- Challenge to deliver expected bullet-proof reliability at an acceptable price point
Samsung TL225 with front LCD to prompt subject to smile, etc.
and our Teleprompter Cam concept (video but could be applied to still)
- Image on screen prompts subject to pose for video
- Helps people feel comfortable in front of a video camera
- Positioning challenge: though most images are posed and theatrical, our culture privileges the capture of candid and “natural”
Lisa Carparelli, a spokeswoman for Sony, said the company pulled out as Metreon’s original owner upon reviewing its corporate strategy and deciding to focus it on electronics, entertainment and games.
‘We had success in Metreon,’ Carparelli said. ‘We attracted an average of 6 million people a year, but the decision is based on corporate resources.’
Sony will continue to operate the Sony Style Store and the PlayStation store inside the Metreon. ‘We’ll be in essence a tenant,’ Carparelli said.
Visitors panned an exhibit based on the book ‘The Way Things Work’ as boring, and it closed in summer 2001. An anchor Microsoft store closed later that year. An exhibit based on Maurice Sendak’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ was scaled back to four days a week and later closed. The Discovery Channel store closed in 2003.
The movie theaters flourished. But Sony didn’t receive any revenue from the theaters and in 2002 rebuffed a quiet proposal by the theaters to expand into the by-then-vacant fourth floor.
One industry observer said the complex ended up with a mostly teenage clientele that alienated the upscale families whom Sony had intended to attract.
‘Sony envisioned a much higher-end customer than ultimately wanted to be there,’ Taylor said.
‘The tenants they put in originally were very unique and esoteric. The Discovery Channel had unique things, but they were for affluent people with lots of disposable income for cute knick-knacks. The most successful tenants were ones who catered to the teenage moviegoing crowd, like the pinball arcades. They intimidated the more affluent crowds looking for a more museumlike experience.’
I guess hindsight is 20-20 in situations like these. Sony in Japan offers pretty much every sort of service you can think of; in the US their attempt at a mall mostly failed (despite their positive spin). It never really had any meaning – there was little Sony about it, and the Metreon brand never seemed to grow into anything. And the place itself always lacked coherence as an experience. Let’s see if it’ll become anything I care about now, though.
Also from this story:
I was shown around the building by a Metreon staffer as workers scurried to finish the project in time. Everyone I’d spoken with had gushed about how Metreon was going to reinvent retailing and serve as a model for similar ventures worldwide.
I said to my guide: “So the mall … ”
“It’s not a mall,” she interrupted. “It’s an urban entertainment destination.”
“It’s an urban entertainment destination.”
I dutifully described the place as such in the article I’d been hired to write. But I had no clue what Sony meant. Metreon was a mix of stores, eating places and a movie theater.
It was a mall.
Sony never understood this. Nor did it grasp Bryant’s notion of a seamless entertainment-retail experience. Instead, it attempted to package Metreon as a mini-Disneyland, with a handful of attractions and a bunch of ways to spend money.
SF Chron revisits this story yet again, taking the unfortunate thrust (backed up by lots of examples) that designing for women specifically means making it a pretty color, like pink.
Technology companies say they’re getting the message. Kodak, which has introduced a line of fashionable digital cameras in black, silver, red and — you guessed it — pink, also plays up the camera’s ability to take high-resolution pictures and record up to 80 minutes of video.
Likewise, Sony, whose products include a red digital camera, red laptop and pink digital music player, said it has studied not just appealing colors, but also how easy it is to use once the customer takes it home. Features such as the ability to charge the digital music player in three minutes and get three hours of use appeals to women, especially mothers on the go, said Kelly Davis, a Sony senior product manager.
‘Women are not just making the purchasing decisions, but making the purchases themselves,’ she said. ‘I think it’s definitely increased dramatically over the years.’
Nearly half of Sony’s digital music player customers are female, up from around 30 to 35 percent several years ago. Pink has been the No. 1 color sold among its Walkman Bean digital music players.
Cingular said it added the pink Motorola Razr to expand its line of popular black and silver models, which are super-slim camera phones. ‘We looked at it and said, ‘Can we expand our demographic and offer a different color?’ ‘ said Jennifer Bowcock, director of consumer media relations for products. ‘We want to hone in on the female audience.’
Is it the color? Or is it ease-of-use? It doesn’t seem anyone has any good (and non-insulting) ideas about designing for women.