Monthly Archives: November 2014

Apple-Pay-700

Affluent Apple Users Out-Spend Android Users But What Do The Numbers Really Mean?

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

A new report emerging from IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark and offered by the company’s Smarter Commerce group, suggests that mobile shoppers on iOS out spent Android shoppers by 25 percent over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Specifically, Android shoppers spent an average of $97.25 per order, while iOS shoppers racked up $118.57 on average per order.  The key metric to remember here is that this is average spend per user, not total US or global mobile spending for each platform. However, additional data revealed that iOS accounted for 21.9 percent of online sales compared to 5.8 percent attributed to Android users. Further, the report notes that Apple users are three times more likely to purchase goods and services on their mobile devices, versus Android users, and that’s despite the fact that Android has a commanding overall market share advantage over Apple currently.

But what’s driving this major merchandising gap between the two platforms? Jay Henderson, director of IBM Smarter Commerce stuck his foot in his mouth I think, when he noted,  “iPhone and iPad buyers tend to be slightly more affluent and more comfortable with technology.”  The former statement I think could very well ring true; the latter made my blood boil and bit, since it was spoken like a true numbers guy that spits out data.  No, Mr. Henderson, it’s not because iOS users are more comfortable with technology; it’s because Apple, like they do with much of their operating system, has made it blindingly-stupid easy to purchase products and services on their devices. Oh, and then there’s this other thing that has been on Android for a while via NFC technology, but now has been legitimized by Apple, called Apple Pay.

Apple-Pay-700

To suggest that Android users are less comfortable with technology than iOS users is pure rubbish, or a complete misinterpretation of the numbers.  In fact, it’s likely the opposite in reality.  The average iPhone and iPad user likely uses an Apple product because it’s familiar, just works and is dead simple. It’s a huge strength of the platform and that strength carriers over to mobile e-commerce as well.

You want to make a sale?  Make it so easy to do, that you couldn’t throw dollar bills at the screen faster than pushing the buy button. Amazon anyone? It’s a lesson for Google and its Android partner ecosystem. Apple Pay is just a trademark with ecosystem backing. The technology that enables the feature has been around for a while on both platforms. Android needs to get with the program and it goes well beyond just NFC swipe-and-wave shopping.

Sure, there are a lot of cheap Android handsets and tablets out there and Apple certainly doesn’t make many cheap devices, (other than the iPhone 5c maybe), so it stands to reason that Apple users, as a demographic are more affluent with money to burn.  However, when  you’ve got the kind of market share advantage Android has over Apple currently, you’re doing something wrong if you can’t beat them at e-commerce.

It’s time to wake up and smell the dollars, Android.  Where’s Mr. Wonderful when I need him?






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Is Zappos Leading Its Parent Amazon Into The Real World?

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

As those of interest in the world of retailing wait with bated breath for the opening of Amazon’s first brick and mortar store, reportedly to open on Manhattan’s West 34th Street across from the Empire State Building in time for the 2014 Holiday period, one of its children, Zappos, has already opened its first free-standing store in Las Vegas. Said to be a pop-up store, open 24/7 between November 21 and December 31, it sounds to me like it has the kind of compelling experience that could lure shoppers year round. Its various experience-augmenting uses of technology might also preview some ideas for adoption by Amazon in its new space.

In 20,000 square feet of space, they’ve merchandised different areas to accommodate varied categories of apparel and accessories, including a shoe room. The experience is also showroom-like, without deep assortments, a shopper can scan an item at a kiosk or on their mobile device, to see all available colors and sizes, which when selected, can be shipped “Fast & Free” as promised by Zappos. The blended offline/online experience is then topped off by offering food, drinks and entertainment, a huge Christmas tree and fake snow in the parking lot.

From Clicks to Bricks: No Surprise

Zappos’ Vegas launch and parent Amazon’s announcement of its first physical store opening in Manhattan is not a surprise to me, as it was predicted in the book I co-authored with Michael Dart, The New Rules of Retail—first published back in 2010. The logic was the same then as it is now. Amazon (and by inheritance, Zappos), has a “big data” base, guessed to be larger than the Pentagon’s, and they know how to use it. It provides them with razor-sharp knowledge such as what Jane Doe, who is married with two kids and a dog, living in the East Side of Manhattan (or anywhere), is eating for breakfast, what brand of jeans she wears, the charities she gives to, the music she likes, and so forth. Therefore, Amazon has the capability of assorting any location across the country with precisely those items that are locally preferred. Yet, they will also have screens for downloading and selecting from Amazon’s total inventory.

The personalized knowledge that Amazon continues to build on, and that all retailers are pursuing, is collected over time across all accessible consumer browsing and transactional points. It tracks consumer shopping behavior and can be drilled down to individual profiles. This is the “big deal” part of the buzz concept of “Big Data,” because it tells the retailer not only what brands the Jane Does on the East Side prefer, it can also indicate what kind of shopping experience, environment and service they expect. Most retailers have not yet scratched the surface on big data analytics and its laser-like ability to localize, even personalize the shopping experience. It will be interesting to see how Amazon uses its supposed advantage in this area.

If Amazon demonstrates this pinpointing capability of merchandising the store with a localized assortment, as well as personalizing the shopping experience, they will have raised the competitive bar and sent a message to all retailers that understanding, analyzing and using big data to personally engage customers had better be moved to the top of their priority list.

Another motivation for Amazon’s decision might very well have been the unprecedented success of Apple’s stores. Of course, this also raises the question of how Amazon will create some kind of neurologically compelling experience within their stores. Another factor favoring Amazon’s decision are the research findings that consumers who have the option of shopping both online and off are spending three to four times as much as those shopping just one channel.

So what might a neurologically compelling experience look like in an Amazon store? Given the range of products they sell, I would speculate they will select two or three product categories, probably those that consumers prefer to touch, feel, smell and try on. This would suggest apparel, accessories, beauty products and as with Zappos, footwear. It also might include locally preferred books and electronics. The merchandise would be narrowly assorted, again based on neighborhood preferences. And, the physical layout might be “showroom-like” as opposed to more traditional stores. Of course there should be Internet screens throughout so that customers can download and view the full line of products if those on display are not to their liking, or like the Zappos store, be able to order sizes and colors that may not be in stock. And, for apparel, they might even have virtual fashion mirrors through which customers can download items, using hand gestures, that they can view superimposed on their bodies for an idea of what the outfit will look like, and how it might fit.

In the beauty category they might copy Macy’s interactive touch-screen beauty kiosk that educates the customer about which products would best fit their persona. Amazon could also borrow from Burberry’s high-tech, higher touch in-store experience. One such example is the customer’s ability to scan a displayed product’s bar code with their smartphone, which then triggers a storytelling video of the designer describing the fabric used, where it was made and what inspired the design. And Burberry’s audiovisual extravaganza of LED screens streaming videos and cool music throughout the store could add to the experience—to say nothing of providing food and refreshment stations.

Taken to an imaginative extreme, but highly possible for Amazon to pull off, given their big data capability, they could take a page out of Apple’s playbook and have “yellow-shirted” genius assistants who engage customers on a personal level and educate them on the new “Amazon Way” of satisfying customers (I can’t imagine what that might be, but I’m sure Jeff Bezos can figure it out. It is a great idea).

Another reason for Amazon’s brick and mortar strategy is that they had to be all ears when global e-commerce CEO of their Nemesis Walmart, Neil Ashe, said in an interview at the World Economic Forum that the company was continuing to build out new warehouses across the country used to distribute online orders. Additionally, their 4500 retail stores could double as distribution centers. The big “Aha!” about that statement was that these locations are now a place from which to distribute goods as well as a place to shop. How smart is that?

A final point, and another of the “new rules” in our book, is that all retailers and brands must adopt the strategy of what we coined ‘preemptive distribution.’ Simply put, since the POS is the consumer, wherever they may be, and since they demand (because they can) that whatever it is they desire be in front of them either digitally or physically, whenever they want it, then retailers must operate on a matrix of all possible distribution platforms, all seamlessly integrated and interchangeable, for shopping, ordering, purchasing, paying, pickup, delivery and returns. The buzzword, of course, is omnichannel.

Finally, regarding Amazon’s 34th Street location, in the (perhaps) distant future, Macy’s might have invited Amazon to physically set up within their flagship store on Herald Square. Just as Topshop, Bonobos and Brooks Brothers set up in Nordstrom’s store and Sun Glass Hut and many others in Macy’s, it has been proven that there is a huge synergistic benefit to be gained by this strategy. For example, a Brooks Brothers-loyal customer learns they’re located in a Nordstrom store across the street, as opposed to having to make a long trip across town. The consumer goes to Nordstrom for Brooks Brothers, and while there, notices something across the aisle they love. Thus a purchase is made of another Nordstrom product; likewise for a Nordstrom customer discovering Brooks Brothers and purchasing the brand while there.

This arrangement or collaboration or whatever you want to call it, is the future. Retailers and brands do not decide where or how consumers will seek their products or services. The consumer will decide, and the retailer had better be there: wherever, whenever, how, and however they desire the retailer to be present… or else! Period!

Thus, Amazon is still breathing as it makes itself accessible “offline” on 34th Street in Manhattan, and likely soon to be rolled out across the country. Between Amazon and Zappos, it will be interesting to see how these masters of Online will transform the Offline shopping world, too.






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Samsung ‘s mobile chief keeps his job

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

Samsung said Monday the head of its faltering mobile business would keep his job despite an alarming decline in profits, as the electronics giant announced a year-end personnel reshuffle.

A number of leading executives were moved or promoted, but the three co-CEOs of Samsung Electronics all retained their posts, including J.K. Shin, components unit chief Kwon Oh-Hyun and the head of the consumer electronics division B.K. Yoon.

Shin’s position had been seen as particularly vulnerable, as the mobile unit that was responsible for Samsung’s extraordinary run of record profits in recent years was also behind the slump in the past two quarters.

Shin “made many contributions in making Samsung Electronics the world’s top mobile handset maker”, Samsung Group spokesman Lee June told reporters.

“We believe he would have a chance to help (Samsung) make another jump in this changing environment in the future,” Lee said.

Shin, 58, has led Samsung Electronics’ mobile unit since 2012 and played a key role in the South Korean giant’s rise to become the world’s top smartphone maker.

But the firm recently saw profits squeezed by escalating competition with Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPLnews) ‘s iPhones in the high-end market and cheap handsets of Chinese rivals like Xiaomi in the low-end segment.

Samsung posted a 50-percent drop in third-quarter net profit, following a 20 percent drop in the previous quarter.

The net profit for the July-September period was the lowest for nearly three years.

Samsung produces a range of products from handsets to memory chips and TVs but the mobile business comprises the lion’s share of its overall sales.

The family-run company is currently embarking on a major restructuring programme ahead of a generational ownership succession.

Last week it announced the $1.7 billion sale of stakes in four affiliates and a $2.0 billion share buyback.

Samsung’s share price has tumbled more than 10 percent this year as growth in the key smartphone business begins to lose steam.






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iCracked-co-founder-AJ-Forsythe

How To Compete With Apple In The iPhone And iPad Market

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

When the screen on AJ Forsythe’s beloved iPhone cracked for the fifth time, the California Polytechnic State University student learned how fix it himself. Word spread and Forsythe was soon such a busy fixer that he co-founded iCracked with his friend Anthony Martin, pitching the business in the Apple repair market that is estimated to be worth $5bn a year.

It wasn’t much of a match-up: first-time student against a technology behemoth now valued at $700billion. However, four years on, iCracked now has an army of 1,100 “iTech” licensed contractors fixing Apple, Samsung and HTC phones across the US and 10 other countries.

Fixing thousands of smartphones and tablets a week, its turnover is expected to hit $30m this year. Funded with less than $1m of seed financing, the company is aims to grow this three to four-fold per year and has ambitious plans to expand its global empire of contractors to up to 25,000 within five years.

How did chief executive Forsythe get away with this against a company that has become the world’s largest corporation by being fiercely competitive and protective of its intellectual property and naming rights? That’s not difficult to answer for the 26-year-old to answer. “We have never spoken to Apple,” he replies. “

Plenty of companies are making money in the “i-sphere” that Apple has created, from software and app developers to resellers, distributors and network and security specialists. Yet many of these operate within platform offering a degree of control or at least collaboration with Apple, which has also been protective of the” i” prefix attached to the names of its most familiar products.

Competition

Forsythe doesn’t see this as necessary for iCracked, which employs120 staff in Redwood City offices in California and about ten at a new UK operation.

“I don’t see us having legal issues because I don’t think they want their customers walking around with broken devices,” he says. “If I was looking at it through their eyes, I wouldn’t want to have a bad customer experience. We look at ourselves as being a service that can help that customers and solve that customer’s problems. It’s more valuable to the customers than to anyone else because it saves a trip to a mall store. At the click of a button, you can get a service.”

That may not be how Apple might see iCracked’s service. Isn’t the start-up in direct competition with the repair services offered at Apple Stores?

Forsythe disagrees. “Apple has sold just over 1 billion iOS devices and has just over 400 retail stores,” he says. “I don’t think they want to be in the business of repairing devices. I think they would rather be selling new devices. “The repair process to them is not even repair. They swap devices over for new and refurbished ones and then  send them out to get repaired in big facilities.

“We have never looked at ourselves as a competitor with them, given that we would not exist or would be much smaller without them. I think Apple is probably the best in the world at repairing them {iPhones and iPads}, given that they create them. We’re very rarely able to fix things that Apple can’t. It comes down more to things like convenience and price, as we’re generally less expensive and you don’t have to go to a store.”

Did iCracked never feel that it should get in touch with its much larger rival? It seems not. “I don’t think we’re a big enough deal for them to spend time on,” says Forsythe. “We’re all Apple fanatics but I don’t think it’s a game of who can get more customers.”

Expansion

Apple’s devices still account for more just over 50% of iCracked’s repair volumes, though the start-up firm’s service covers seven of the top ten best-selling smartphones and tablets, including Samsung and HTC models. Forsythe expects iCracked to add another 300 iTechs in the US in 2014 and has just opened a new UK operation, with 30 iTech contractors and plans for an additional 400.

The company receives about 5,000 applications a month to be on its iTech roster and takes on 5%-10% of them, putting them through remote training, sending them start-up kits and starting to send them customers in their area who contact the company wanting iPhones and iPads fixed.

Customers pay the iTechs directly, shelling out an average of £60-£70 for a repair, while iCracked makes its money from supplying screens and other parts to the contractors and makes no commission from customers. The firm also buys, refurbishes and resells iPads and iPhones in the US. Forsythe says the firm buys nothing from Apple directly, working instead with a number of manufacturers.

“It’s a crazy service but we’re seeing a pretty crazy demand,”  says Forsythe. “It’s a very cool model for our ITechs. We have iTechs in the US who will do more than $100.000 in income this year with our system and we expect it will be a £25,000-£50,000-a year job. These are very well-paid jobs.”

How big can iCracked get without Apple paying more attention? Forsythe sees few limits. “We’re in 250 cities in the US right now,” he says. “We’re probably going to be adding another 4,000 iTechs in the US next year and another 1,000 internationally across the European Union and the UK. We are probably going to need to have 20,000-25,000 iTechs globally over the next two to three years.”

Cracked it? AJ Forsythe

Cracked it? AJ Forsythe

Forsythe, who believes the “Bendgate” controversy over bent iPhone 6 models was “wildly overblown,” also sees iCracked moving beyond phones.

“We didn’t start out to be just a repair company,” he says. “We want to have a highly-technical trained workforce that can service customers.  I think in a couple of years we won’t be servicing iPhones but we will still have that network that we can offer services through. I think the value in our company is in having this network, rather than just being able to repair or buy devices.”

As for Apple, Forsythe doesn’t expect to hear from it any time soon. “They’re selling about 500,000 iPhones a day right now,” he says. “We’re not even touching a tenth of 1 per cent of this market.”

Can start-ups “Davids” compete with the goliath that is Apple? What do you think? Do let me know your views.

 






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Evergreen Lessons From Buffett And Munger

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My 2014 Best Performers, Looking Ahead To 2015

5 Value Growth Stocks I Am Buying Now

Evergreen Lessons From Buffett And Munger

Whether you’re just beginning to invest, or you’re structuring derivates, The Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America by Lawrence Cunningham is required reading. Below are some of my favorite thoughts that I’ve plucked out. If you can find the time, I highly recommend you read the whole book. 

On Nailing It

“It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong”

On Chasing

“What the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end”

On Accounting Shenanigans (1/10,000)

“If options aren’t a form of compensation, what are they? If compensation isn’t an expense, what is it? And, if expenses shouldn’t go into the calculation of earnings, where in the world should they go?”

On  Declining Share Prices

“Overall, Berkshire and its long-term shareholders benefit from a sinking stock market as much as a regular purchaser of food benefits from declining food prices.  So when the market plummets- as it will from time to time- neither panic nor mourn. It’s good news for Berkshire.”

On Management

“Managements that say or imply during a public offering that their stock is undervalued are usually being economical with the truth or uneconomical with their existing shareholders’ money”

“We want our managers to think about what counts, not how it will be counted”

On Executive Compensation

Getting fired can produce a particularly bountiful payday for a CEO. Indeed he can “earn” more in that single day, while cleaning out his desk, than an American worker earns in a lifetime of cleaning toilets. Forget the old maxim about nothing succeeding like success: Today, in the executive suite, the all-too prevalent rule is that nothing succeeds like failure.

On Efficient Markets

“Most institutional investors in the early 1970s, on the other hand, regarded business value as of only minor relevance when they were deciding prices at which they would buy or sell. This now seems hard to believe. However, these institutions were then under the spell of academics at prestigious business schools who were preaching a newly-fashioned theory: the stock market was totally efficient, and therefore calculations of business value- and even thought, itself- were of no more importance in investment activities. (We are enormously indebted to those academics: what could be more advantageous in an intellectual contest- whether it be bridge, chess, or stock selection- then to have opponents who have been taught that thinking is a waste of energy?) 

On EBITDA

“Trumpeting EBITDA is a particularly pernicious practice. Doing so implies that depreciation is not truly an expense, given that it is a “non-cash” charge.  That’s nonsense. In truth, depreciation is a particularly unattractive expense because the cash outlay it represents is paid upfront, before the asset acquired has delivered any benefits to the business. Imagine, if you will, that at the beginning of this year a company paid all of its employees for the next ten years of their service. In the following nine years, compensation would be a “non-cash” expense- a reduction of a pre paid compensation asset established this year. Would anyone care to argue that the recording of the expense in years two through ten would be simply a bookkeeping formality?”

On Reading

“Charlie and I love newspapers- we each read five a day.






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[$$] Overheard: Wall Street’s Apple Polishers

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

The iPhone 6 may have helped make


Apple

the world’s most valuable company, but a little help has also come from Wall Street’s echo chamber.

Apple’s stock is up 11% in the past month. In that time, at least 14 brokers have raised their price targets on the stock, by an average of 10%, according to data from Thomson Reuters. Most have cited rising expectations for the iPhone’s current upgrade cycle, though some are also starting to add in estimates for next year’s launch of the Apple Watch.

It will be interesting to see if analysts keep giving the shares more room. Apple’s stock now roughly equals the Street’s mean target price. That wasn’t the case the last time the stock ran up big gains. In late 2012, Apple’s shares hit a record ahead of the iPhone 5 launch and were still nearly 15% below the mean target price, according to FactSet. Brokers, it seems, want to stay more grounded this time around.






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Regan: Stock rally not done because it’s ‘game on’ for the Fed

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

No one likes this rally. No one trusts this rally. Most of America doesn’t feel connected to this rally. And yet, as we near the final weeks of 2014, it’s time to face reality: Despite its many flaws, the rally is here for the foreseeable future. Or, at least, for as long as the Fed continues its push for higher wages.

While the economy has shown recent signs of improvement (GDP, for example, logging 3.9% growth in the most recent quarter and unemployment falling to 5.8% in October) the Fed is still waiting on what has become the holy grail of central bankers — wage growth. Simply put: The Fed isn’t going to budge on rates until it sees an increase in wages.

Theoretically, companies should need to raise wages in order to land better talent. After all, the labor market, like everything else, is most influenced by simple supply and demand. We’re also living through a period of historically low labor participation rates and it seems a lot of Americans just aren’t motivated to go back to work. One would think companies would therefore offer higher paychecks to lure more workers.

That hasn’t happened. Here’s why: Companies don’t need to hire workers. Yet.

Sure, corporate earnings are growing, though not thanks to top-line sales growth. Instead, companies are aggressively putting their balance sheets to work by repurchasing shares (thereby reducing the supply of their own stock in the marketplace, which, in turn, drives up the value of their share price), by making earnings-boosting acquisitions (in part thanks to low rates; after all, what else do you do when money is this cheap?) and by cutting costs, which typically translates into fewer workers.

With all this in mind, there’s little expectation of meaningful wage inflation in the near future. That’s bad news for workers and ultimately for our consumer-driven economy. The good news, at least for investors, is that low wages mean it’s “game on” for the Fed and the market should continue its climb fueled by cheap money.

So, as the market marches higher, Apple becomes the most valuable company the world has ever seen, and tech start-ups like Uber land themselves $40 billion market valuations — shouldn’t that be good news?

Not necessarily.

Low rates for the foreseeable future may be good for the stock market, but there are other challenges lurking ahead. How long, for example, can the U.S. economy isolate itself from the downturn in Europe and Asia? America is the largest player in an increasingly interconnected global economy and, as the rest of the world weakens, our goods become increasingly expensive and less attainable to overseas buyers — and that translates to fewer sales and lower profits at U.S. multinationals.

Surging stock markets often get ahead of the economy. But at some point the market has to be supported by economic fundamentals. Without revenue growth, there’s a danger we’re witnessing Fed-inspired valuations rather than true, intrinsic value for companies. If that danger does exist, investors seem to be whistling past the graveyard — their complacency evident in the so-called fear gauge, the VIX index, which has fallen from 30 to 12 in the last two months.

Worst-case scenario? An asset bubble bursts and the Fed, which has maintained zero rates for a record six years, has no policies left to influence the economy. Though, perhaps it’s best to stop worrying and follow the age-old wisdom that if you can’t beat (the Fed) you might as well join it. At least for now.

Regan is the anchor ofStreet Smart with Trish Regandaily at 3 p.m. ET on Bloomberg Television. Follow her on Twitter @Trish_Regan.

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Microsoft Outlook Can Learn A Thing Or Two From Google Inbox And Apple Mail

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My 2014 Best Performers, Looking Ahead To 2015

I’m a fan of Microsoft Outlook. I’ve used Outlook as my primary email, contacts, and calendar application almost exclusively for as long as it has existed. Even as a diehard Outlook user, though, I still recognize that there are some key features that are missing. As Microsoft developers work on the next iteration of Microsoft Office for Windows and Mac, there are a number of elements of Apple’s Mail and Google new Inbox app that should be incorporated into Outlook.

Be More Inclusive

In the actual Outlook program on either Windows or Mac OS X, you can add a variety of accounts—Exchange, Office 365, Gmail, or virtually any other IMAP or POP3 email account you have. You can also add multiple accounts when using the Web-based Outlook.com. However, if you’re using the Outlook Web App (OWA) site associated with an Office 365 account, or the OWA app for iOS, you can only connect to the primary email account.

Microsoft has been adding new features and enhancing the capabilities of the Web-based email service, but being shackled to just one email account makes it somewhat useless. The same is true for OWA on iOS. I’d like to rely solely on OWA, but I have a couple different Microsoft accounts, and a couple different Gmail accounts, and I need an email app that can show me all of the above in one place.

Unify The Inbox

Speaking of accessing all of the above in one place, Microsoft needs to take a hint from Apple’s Mail, or even from the Outlook for Mac application and provide a single, unified Inbox view. I have six email accounts configured in Microsoft Outlook, but I have to check them each separately.

I can create a Search folder for Unread Mail for each account, and put those folders in my Favorites so I can see at-a-glance when there are new messages, but that is still tedious, and results in having six different folders in my Favorites that are called Unread Mail. There are also hacks using VBA that will allow you to accomplish the goal of a unified inbox view, but that is still more effort than users should have to go through.

It’s simple, really. The master inbox should be a unified Inbox that displays all email from every account configured in Outlook. Microsoft could also include a toggle to opt out specific email accounts in case users have designated email accounts they would rather not have cluttering up the Inbox.

Get Smarter

Google Inbox doesn’t just display your email messages. There is an underlying intelligence that acts as a sort of email concierge. For example, Inbox will automatically detect certain types of messages like package delivery notifications, and travel reservations and show you the relevant data at-a-glance. Inbox will also put reminders and to-dos right at the top of your Inbox where you can’t miss them.

Outlook is smart enough to figure out when you meant to send a file attachment, but forgot to attach the file, so Microsoft should be able to expand on that, and take it to the next level. It would be nice if Outlook had some automated intelligence that enabled it to sift through messages, and highlight relevant information like Google Inbox.

Be Consistent

As I mentioned above, Microsoft has been working hard to add new features and capabilities to Outlook, and pushing to ensure customers continue to use Microsoft products and services no matter which platform or device they choose. One big factor in building and maintaining that sort of cross-platform experience is consistency.

To the extent that it’s possible, the features, capabilities, and conventions should be the same regardless of whether you’re using OWA for iPhone, Microsoft Outlook on a Windows PC, Outlook for Mac, or any other version. When there is a disparity, it’s confusing and frustrating for users who are comfortable with one version of Outlook when they try to use Outlook on a different platform or device, and discover that key features they depend on aren’t available.

I’m optimistic that Microsoft will include at least some of these elements in upcoming updates to Outlook. In particular, I’m hopeful for the unified Inbox in Outlook for Windows, and the ability to add multiple email accounts to the OWA for iOS apps.

Read more of my writing at TechSpective.net, and follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact me directly at tony@techspective.net.






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Israel to stagger purchase of second F-35 batch

This post was originally published on this site



My 2014 Best Performers, Looking Ahead To 2015

JERUSALEM, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Israel will stagger the purchase of its second batch of 31 U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets over the next three years, an Israeli defence official said on Sunday after budget wrangling among Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top cabinet colleagues.

Under a compromise plan approved by the ministerial committee, Israel will buy 14 of the aircraft now and another 17 in 2017, the official said without providing price details. The second stage of the purchase will be subject to another vote of approval nearer the time, the official added.

Israel bought 19 of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s for $2.75 billion in 2010, with delivery scheduled between 2016 and 2018. The new purchase will bring the number of the planes in Israel’s inventory to 50, or two squadrons. Under the 2010 deal, it has an option to order an additional squadron’s worth.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon reached a preliminary agreement on the 31 F-35s during a visit to Washington last month, but met opposition from some Israeli ministers who voiced misgivings about the jet’s high cost and untested capabilities.

The resulting hold-up, Yaalon told Israel’s Army Radio earlier on Sunday, frayed ties with the United States, which have already been strained by disputes over how to tackle Iran’s nuclear programme and stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

A reduced Israeli purchase could have dented international confidence in the plane, which is being developed and built by Lockheed for the U.S. military and allies — a $399 billion endeavour that is the world’s most expensive weapons program.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

  • Politics & Government
  • Foreign Policy
  • Israel
  • Lockheed Martin Corp






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