I Think I Am Falling In Love With Delta
If you fly United or American, switch to Delta. You’ll thank me later.
I decided to switch airlines after a difficult year of travel and when I heard about the Sky Medallion Status Match Challenge where Delta will match your status on another airline, I jumped at the change. I’m thrilled. So far, Delta has gotten me home from my trips with nary a hiccup—something United couldn’t do on a clear day much less in winter.
Anyone who flies a lot (and I fly far less than most) knows that overall service has gone downhill. Flights are fuller, the seats are getting smaller, there’s less chance of getting overhead storage, and on most airlines, there are fewer amenities. Customer service is generally deplorable.
Imagine my surprise when I get to the gate on my first Delta flight and the gate agents were smiling. SMILING! One was even walking around the waiting area asking, gasp, if anyone needed assistance but here’s the kicker. That day there was a storm working its way up the east coast and the airports in NYC, NJ, PA were all closed or on delay. That caused flights out of Syracuse to be delayed or cancelled. What did Delta do? Brought in pizza, soda, and candy for those waiting for clearance or getting re-routed. What did other airlines do for it’s delayed flights? Nothing, nada, zip.
It gets better though. The planes I’ve been on with Delta were clean and if at least not new, they were in great shape. The pre-flight video is full of site gags that keep flyers entertained (at least those who don’t fly much and pay attention to the safety videos). The two ladies next to me were in hysterics at the 70’s themed safety film (there is another with slapstick in it as well). In the air, we were given drinks and snacks. SNACKS! OMFG! And of course, the flight attendants were smiling and friendly. One even helped a fellow flyer get on-line to check his gate and change flight plans. They are helpful and knowledgeable.
Then the unthinkable happened. I canceled a Delta flight due to an illness and Delta gave me a credit for the entire purchase price. That’s right, no change fee. Holy cow. I didn’t even ask for the credit. I just assumed that I’d eat the change fee.
I hope this trend continues with Delta. The other airlines I have been on have been at best tolerable experiences and at worst, well, just bad. It was so bad on United last year that I cancelled two flights that had been paid for (one in frequent flyer miles, the other cash). I ate the cost and then bought new tickets on Delta.
Yahoo! Soon Will Require Yahoo! Accounts. Company Disingenuous About Why
"Yahoo is continually working on improving the user experience," the company said in a statement, noting that the new process "will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone".
Yahoo! should at least have the courage of their convictions and be forthright. The move is to centralize Yahoo! users onto Yahoo! services and increase stickiness to Yahoo!.
Don’t get your shorts in a bunch thinking I am haranguing Yahoo! for doing what other services did. I’m not. I am haranguing for their stated motivations. It’s as if they are saying that they can’t provide the same “personalized experience to everyone” unless you create a Yahoo! account. They can, they just don’t want to.
Auto Makers, Apple, And The Missed Opportunity
I’m sadly amazed at the lack of foresight otherwise successful companies have. A number of manufacturers have decided to implement Apple technology into their cars. Granted, auto makers suck at electronic UI’s and Apple is very good at making them so partnering with Apple is, in a limited way, a smart move. Auto makers excel at making cars. Apple excels at making devices and UI’s. My issue is that there are far more device makers in the world than Apple and the auto makers have tied their success to the success of the union of “people who own Apple iPhones (the latest ones, in fact)” and “people buying cars willing to pay for electronic integration.” I bet that’s a smaller union than it appears.
Auto makers could have gotten together and developed a set of mutually agreed upon standard interfaces for device integration and then forced device makers to implement it. Device makers want that integration and, dare I say desperately need it, because they need to constantly reduce friction in using phones, increase the utility of phones, and increase customer stickiness. In other words, the more value consumers get out of their phones, the more likely consumers are to continue buying them from the same maker. That puts auto makers as a whole in the driver seat. Too bad the tossed the keys to Apple like a pack of drunken bumpkins.
You see, siding with any single device vendor is self-limiting whether it’s Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, whoever. I, and many others, don’t have an Apple iPhone (or Microsoft, or Samsung—it’s not about Apple). Hell, there are many iPhone owners that don’t have the newest version supporting the Lighting interface though they will likely be upgrading eventually. The point is that Apple integrated features have zero value consumers who don’t own Apple devices. Worse, CarPlay will likely cost non Apple users more while providing zero value because it will likely be sold as part of an upgrade package (upgrade packages are designed to offer minimum utility while maximizing profit. It’s why you see sun roofs which no one uses paired with better sound systems or heated seats), which means there’s a huge swath of the car buying population that will think twice about that upgrade package or bite the bullet and overpay for features they not only don’t need but can’t use.
While I don’t think many people would decide to buy a car from a manufacturer solely on the presence or lack of CarPlay support (though some might), they might make a decision to buy a car based on the total cost including upgrade packages. There’s a lot that goes into buying cars, but cost and perceived value are pretty important ones.
Then there is the on-going experience in the car for those who don’t have Apple devices but do have CarPlay. Every time I get in my Subaru, for instance, I have that little annoyed feeling because the in-dash GPS sucks and I wish I could replace it. It’s a constant negative emotion that I associate with the car and with Subaru because I know that it doesn’t have to be that way, but it is. I bet if you bought a car, got CarPlay as part of a package and could not use it, that would be a constant annoyance. That’s not something I think auto makers want for a purchase that is very expensive and relatively short term.
What the auto makers should have done was get together as a group, define a standard set of interfaces for controlling parts of a phone like answering calls, playing media, etc, and then told device makers if they want to get into the car, they have to implement these standards. No exceptions. Doing so would open up the market for the upgrade packages to a far wider audience (more supported devices), would have reduced R&D and acquisition costs (commoditization) because more units sold would reduce manufacturing costs, and promoted consumer good will (positive customer experience) because we can use our devices in the car.
I fear that CarPlay will reach some level of success and auto makers around the world will declare victory blissfully ignorant of the potential market that they could have had.
How do you like them apples?
Shortsightedness In Home Automation
If you make a home automation product but don’t provide an API, then you have lost my business and I will encourage others to not buy your products either. The idea that anyone buys all of their gear from one manufacturer is misguided and by making your products difficult to integrate with other products I own is limiting.
Let me be painfully clear, if you publish API’s allowing others to integrate with your products, your consumer base becomes much larger than the consumer base that only buys your products.
After reading this story about LED lights at Popular Mechanics, I started to look into two companies and products mentioned, Phillips HUE and Connected by TCP. I’d like to have a system that allows me to turn on lights from anywhere such as when I am travelling so that I can use webcams throughout my home to see what is going on (hopefully nothing).
Phillips has a nice developer site dedicated to integrating HUE with other products with complete documentation and examples. Anyone—companies and consumers—can write to HUE which extends the value of Phillips products because consumers can use the lights in their own home automation systems. Phillips encourages an ecosystem. Simon Wardley approaches the value of ecosystems in this post Understanding Ecosystems - Part I of II.
Connected by TCP, on the other hand, has no publicly available integration API available. I asked the company and received this reply “We are not releasing any API information at this time.” They may in the future, but not right now. Connected by TCP is clearly reducing its reach by not supporting integration with others.
What does this mean? In either case, these lighting systems use a controller that translates commands over IP into RF (HUE uses Zigbee, not sure what Connected uses) so the integration point is at the controller. In Phillip’s case, the interface is a RestFUL interface which means easy to implement in code. At least it looks easy, I read some of the documentation but haven’t tried yet. That means Phillip’s products are more likely to be supported across a broader spectrum of home automation products which will, in turn, increase sales of Hue. Granted, having a publicly accessible API doesn’t guarantee success (Hue is quite expensive compared to regular lights which is an inhibitor), but not having an accessible API will most assuredly result in failure.
For me, the presence of an publicly accessible API for any home electronics will become a priority and I am less likely to buy products lacking one. I encourage you to do that same.
Oh You Tricksey Yahoo! You Won’t Get Me With Your Bait & Switch
I use Yahoo! mail as my throwaway account. Nearly anything I register for gets this account email and I rarely check it. It helps keep the deluge of email out my regular accounts. I noticed recently that when I go to access email, I get a roadblock page saying Firefox is out of date.
That ain’t right. Firefox is current.
And what does optimized for Yahoo mean? So I click on the Upgrade button and I see.
Yahoo bundled Firefox with their crapware, I mean tools. No, I really mean crapware. What bugs me about this is the underhandedness. Yahoo is trying to take advantage of unsuspecting users and get them to download their bundled version of Firefox as an upgrade.
Oh, I know, Yahoo! does state that it is Integrated with Yahoo! tools, but then why tell users their browser needs an upgrade? They can say with a straight face they are doing nothing wrong, but what they are saying and what they are doing are different. See, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most people think an Upgrade means going from one version to another. It doesn’t mean adding crapware to an existing product by a third party.
Hey Yahoo!, here’s a thought. Why not try to convince people on the value of your tools rather than trying to trick them into a false “Upgrade”?
By the way, Google does the same thing when you use Docs with anything by Chrome.
Make Chrome on Android to Open a Blank Page
One of the things that bugs me about Chrome for Android is that you can’t set it to open to a blank page via the Settings. I rarely want to visit the last site I looked at when I launch the browser and neither do I want to see book marks. More often than not, I am doing something new, but the way Android starts, I have to wait anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds when I launch Chrome to proceed because the browser has to refresh the page and launch the keyboard.
The problem can be solved by doing the following:
- Start Chrome
- In the address bar, type “about:blank” (no quotes)
- Make it a Favorite (bookmark)
- On the Bookmarks tab, long press the bookmark and select “Add to Home Screen”
Now when you click the shortcut, Chrome will launch with a blank page. If the last page you launched was blank, it will open to it and you won’t get multiple blank pages. All the other pages you had open will still be in other tabs.
That new shortcut looks ugly though, don’t it? I use Nova Launcher, so I can edit the short cut and replace the icon with the Chrome icon. If you are using the stock launcher, you can search for an app that will replace the icon such as Icon Changer Free (I have never used it, it’s just an example). Or you can use a home screen replacement and you don’t need root to do so.