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A Decade in Software

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

When 2010 rolls in it will mark the end of a decade that truly welcomed internet technology.  Think back to the turn of the millennium  and the software tools that you primarily utilized online:   things sure have changed.  Whether it be the advent of ‘the cloud,’ the rise of mobile devices, or a change in philosophy to ‘simpler is better,’ this decade has truly changed the way that people interact with the internet.

I’d like to take a walk down memory lane and look at internet software at the start of the millennium, and then survey where we are now in three distinct yet intertwined arenas.

Email

Email was one of the original hallmarks of the internet – a simple yet efficient way to demonstrate the power of the web by digitizing the long-standing concept of mail service.

During the last decade, free email services like gmail and yahoo mail have perpetually dominated the arena – providing large amounts of data storage for free to the masses and proving that ‘online only’ applications can be a viable alternative to local email software like MS outlook.

As we head into a new decade, email seems yet again ready to morph, as inboxes are perpetually fill with spam and people clamor for new modes of communication.  Google Wave claims to have an answer, but can it really replace email?

Online Media

The last decade has been a Topsy-Turvy roller coaster for online media – from the tiny startups that became media moguls to the media conglomerates that desperately sought out new models of business.  The year 2000 marked the height of Napster- a new breed of P2P network that allowed people to download pirated MP3 music files.  Since then, illegal networks like Napster have both flourished and fallen, eventually paving the way for legitimate music hubs like itunes.

Online video also has gone on quite a ride, highlighted by the creation of YouTube in 2005.  The viral video boom has not only changed the way that people consume and publish video, but also has disoriented the TV and film industries.

As the decade comes to a close, we are still seeing  industry experimenting with new models of business that can adapt to online video culture. Although some methods of providing free, high quality, syndicated content online (ala Hulu) have garnered popular approval, a stable revenue source still remains elusive.

Business Software

The way that businesses, both small and large, interact with one another and an online consumer base has drastically changed due to various facets of evolving business software technology.

Sales departments can now more efficiently give online presentations through Webinar technology like Dim Dim.   Salesforce has pushed the boundaries of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, allowing companies to improve their communication with customers and sales prospects.  Hiring managers and recruiters can now efficiently track and manage job applicants online through solutions like Newton Software. Paypal has revolutionized online payments, allowing web stores and companies with Software as a Service (SaaS) business models to easily install a revenue stream.

All in all, this past decade of software has enabled tech savvy businesses to perform their functions more efficiently, honing in on niche models that add value for both consumers and other businesses.


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The Art of the Free Trial

August 4, 2009 Leave a comment

free trialAh, the free trial.  We see those enticing words, ‘free trial,’ plastered across various mediums in our everyday lives, from medication commercials to pop-up ads to highway billboards.   The concept of the free trial is simple.  A customer gains free access to a company’s product or service for a specific amount of time, and during this time they are exposed to the possibility of paying for continued use.   In theory, the free trial makes perfect sense for both buyer and seller.  The buyer has a chance to try out a product without making a monetary commitment.   The seller is given the opportunity to ‘showcase’ their product and demonstrate why the customer could simply not live without it.

Unfortunately, there are a mixture of good free trials and bad free trials out there.   Some trials are simply there to ‘net as many fish in the sea’ as possible and depend on a small percentage of people who forget to click ‘unsubscribe.’   Some  trials are built on the placebo effect, leaving customers unsure of whether the product actually is working or not.

There are good ones out there too though.  Some trials efficiently and effectively allow a customer to try out a product and provide the tools to evaluate performance.  These are the businesses that have confidence in their product winning over users.   The following is  a list of both bad and good, with a concentration on (but not limited to) software technology trials.  Feel free to add your own free trial experience to the list, as I’m sure everyone has attempted the art of the free trial.

The Bad

Jeff Paul’s Shortcut to Internet Millions:

I’m sure we’ve all seen Jeff Paul’s stupefyingly horrendous infomercial, narrated by two bikini clad women and wrought with accounts of how users instantly became millionaires .    It’s almost mesmerizing to watch the stuff, although after a few minutes it becomes difficult to stifle your gag reflex.  The product claims to generate huge profits for its users in a matter of weeks.  In reality, you simply will be given the ability creates several link-farm websites and then be placed on a call list so the company can attempt to scam you out of more money.

Worlds of Warcraft:

The current king of massive multi-player online role playing games, Worlds of Warcraft (WoW), offers a 10 day free trial to experience an immersive online fantasy world.  This is certainly a great opportunity to play WoW for free and have a incredible amount of fun.  The problem with this one is WoW’s level of addictiveness – once you try it out for ten days straight, you may experience depression, fatigue, and mild nausea upon quitting.  I recommend this one only for the strong willed (or those willing to give up their girlfriend/job).

Enzyte:

The ‘once a day tablet for natural male enhancement’ is by no means a piece of software, but I thought I’d place it on the list anyways as a prime example of a bad free trial.  Enzyte gives men the free chance to ‘enhance’ themselves with a thirty day trial.  The clear goal of this is to take advantage of the placebo effect among men with low self esteem.

The founder of Enzyte, Steve Warshak, got what was coming to him in 2008, convicted to 25 years in prison for conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.  Unfortunately, the product still exists and seems to be advertising more than ever.

The Good

GoToMeeting.com

Go to Meeting is an online web conferencing tools that allows a business to easily organize and attend online meetings.  The 30 day free trial provides real exposure to the product, with most the of the main features available for use right away.  Using this trial will let you know whether GoToMeeting is something your business could viably use as an ongoing conference tool.

Adobe Software Trials

Adobe allows all of it’s cutting edge software to be trialed before purchase.  Whether you are looking to design, edit, cut or clip, Adobe’s various software has long stood as the industry standard.  Because the software can run pretty high in price, it’s a great policy to try it out before making the purchase.

NewtonSoftware.com

Newton provides smart online software for a business’s hiring, recruiting, applicant management and applicant tracking needs.   They provide a 30 day free trial for a company to immediately get started with announcing job openings, reviewing resumes as well as tracking and analyzing hiring programs.  This is a great opportunity for a business to test out a no-hassle recruiting software solution and gain an edge in talent acquisition.

Salesforce.com CRM

Saleforce’s customer relationship management software (CRM) is a reliable and proven technology that lets a business manage their customer information, activities and conversations. The company offers a 30 day free trial that offers full access to the software’s many features.  This free trial is a perfect way for a business to test drive the most popular CRM out there.

It’s always better online – industry playing catch-up

July 16, 2009 Leave a comment

iphone newspaperIts amazing to see what people are doing online nowadays.  Cut out any cross-section of modern day society and you will find it’s cyber-doppelganger, often making a process more efficient and accessible. From online dating to religious ritual, the Internet has provided an invaluable outlet for expressing the many facets of human culture.

Despite the proven power of the internet, there are still bastions of old-thinking that grumble about the pitfalls the online world can expose us to.  They will eventually come around. Take the political world. It wasn’t until the recent ‘Obama-fi-cation’ of politics that candidates began to expound their views via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and dozens of other cyber-stages. For the most part, pre-Obama politicians stuck to their nightly news pundits and caucus speeches to get the message out.  Other recent Goliaths to fall include the TV, film, and music industries (although I still question their web dedication).

There is still a major fraction of industry that refuses to accept the full efficiency and economy of the Internet.  Sure, they might be using email and Google search, but that’s about it. I’d like to create a list that spans various cross-sections of industries that are still missing the big picture. Feel free to chirp in with any other examples.

Newspapers:

I know.  Many of us still like to get that Sunday New York Times on the doorstep, crisp in our hands as we sip our morning coffee.  Is it really worth it though? It is estimated that nearly 500,000 trees are cut down to produce every Sunday’s newspaper. New digital ink formats like the Amazon Kindles’ make it possible to nearly replicate your old newspaper experience with a completely digital one. Not only that, but you will be able to access a wider variety of articles from various sources, rather than being trapped by the opinions of a handful of writers and media execs. We need to stop postponing the inevitable and bring the axe down on paper newspapers, rather than reading their slow, wordy obituaries.

Paper Receipts:

Sure, there appear to be a ton of technologies and solutions that can digitize receipts, but none of them have quite caught on yet. Most consumers still make a purchase from WalMart, BestBuy or McDonalds and still receive paper receipts that they either throw away or stow in some musty file cabinet. One notable company that hopes to digitize all receipts is AllEtronic, which creates an easy way to divert and organize all your receipts online with participating retailers. We need more retailers to jump on the bandwagon though. Not only does a world with no paper receipts prove more eco-friendly, but it also saves us all the hassle of dealing with crumpled up balls of trash.

Human Resources and Hiring:

Although we all know about online job sites like Monster.com to search for job openings, there still is a notable lack of enterprise hiring solutions that are fully online. Many businesses are still dealing with clunky installation CDs when it comes their recruiting, applicant tracking and applicant management needs. Hiring is something that becomes twenty times more efficient online because it can take on a more effective mode of collaboration, analytics and management.  Newton Software is one web accessible solution that is ahead of the curve.  Newton Software touts easy online access, a seamless hiring process and affordable pricing options.

Cars:

You’re thinking I’m a bit ahead of myself on this one. I’m actually speaking of the business model that manufacturers use to sell cars and how it may benefit from a Web 2.0 makeover.  Online advertising is now a multi-billion dollar business with Google leading the way through their innovative AdWords solution.  The auto-industry is desperately looking for new ways to market and sell their cars.

What if all of our modern day GPS-aware cars were able to serve us advertisements that were location relevant? Did dad forget to stop by Home Depot on his way home? Not if his car lets him know a few miles before the exit.   Sure, it may get annoying (or dangerous) if you are flocked by a swarm of flying Dunkin Donuts’ across your windshield, but it may be well worth the price break on your car.   Manufacturers could sell their cars at more affordable prices with some incoming ad-revenue from big brands across the country.   Perhaps you might have the choice to turn ‘annoying’ advertisements off by paying for the car at full price.