Monday, July 23, 2007

Tuning My Run

Three months ago, I picked up a pair of Nike+ shoes at the local Nike store. They’re yellow and they’re radical. I quickly proceeded to buy the iPod+Nike kit and a shiny new iPod nano. These Apple guys are such prom queens: They’re hot and they know it. They’ll make you jump through hoops: iPod+Nike on your perfectly fine old iPod? Exchangeable batteries for the insole accelerometer? Dream on, boy.

It didn’t take long to get over that you’ve-just-been-ripped-off feeling. This stuff really works. Now that I can measure of my runs, I run more often and for longer distances. My favorite feature? Holding down the center button to jump straight to the Stanton Warriors. Runner-up? When you’ve just run your best mile so far, they have sound clips of famous athletes to congratulate your achievements.

Want to battle? Mail me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Timo's Podcasting Empire

I spent the last one-and-half weeks in Europe. "Europe? We have a perfectly good Europe at EPCOT Center. It's not good enough or something?" I forgot how modern this place looks. At least in some places. Quite a contrast to SF.

While in Munich, Germany, I visited my Timo and his fast-growing podcasting empire. Watch us talk about the iPhone in this vidcast (in German) and listen to us talking about Germany's copy-paste Web 2.0 innovation in this podcast (in German).

I also watched a great comedy about speed dating in Munich: Shoppen (German Trailer): The personalities of 16 Munich singles clash in encouters of 5 minutes each. That movie brought back many memories of dealing with German girls and their peculiarities. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Airport Shop Economics

Stroll through Zurich Airport and you’ll notice that, as in many airports these days, a vast amount of high-class shopping awaits past security: Burberry, Chopard, Hermès, Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss – they’re all there. If you want to spend $600 on a purse while waiting for your flight, you can.

The only things I’ve ever bought at airport shops are newspapers, magazines, food, drinks, coffee, and power plug adapters that I forgot to bring. I’ve seldom set my foot in one of the boutiques, much less bought something there. Almost everyone I know hasn’t either.

Consequently, it seems like a large percentage of airport floor space is wasted on shops that people don’t visit or buy goods from. Why are they still there?

Boutiques, in airports, as in downtown shopping areas, are high-margin, low-frequency businesses. Sure, they may not have as many visitors, but when someone buys that $600 purse, they’ve just paid for the entire morning’s rent and salary. The road to success is to charge a lot of money to a few people.

The reason why boutiques are omnipresent at airports is that they are especially well-frequented by people with lots of disposable income and a knack for lifestyle: The rich, the jeunesse dorée, executives, middle managers, consultants – these are people who can make that $600 impulse buy. For the other 80% of travelers, this floor space is wasted.

But there’s another reason for their presence: Airport managers love boutique shops. They pay the same rent as anyone else, but make the whole airport seem more upscale. The shops themselves are often beautifully designed and pleasing to the eyes of all travelers. Even if they never come inside.

Seven Things We Should Fix

It’s time to complain about the world’s imperfections.

7. Finding Parking: I’d rather have my car’s navigation system just tell my where the next parking spot is, instead of spending 20 minutes hunting for one.

6. Taxi Fleets: In Germany, your average taxi is a largish Mercedes. In the US, it’s a Crown Victoria. The city gas mileage for both is horrible. The incentives for cab operators to switch to hybrids are there: The cars cost the same, but the gas mileage is much better. Why aren’t we seeing faster adoption?

5. Different power plugs: Why does almost every country need to have a different type of power plug? Instead of carrying around an assortment of adapters, the countries of the world should sit together and agree on a global standard.

4. Power adapter bonanza: Why does each device need a different power adapter? If all electronics manufacturers sat down and agreed on a few common types, you’d never need to ask "does anyone else here own a Nokia"?

3. Power lines: Those huge masts are an ugly distraction in the landscape. Can't we dig holes and put it all underground?

2. Tickets: In the age of e-tickets, why do we still need physical tickets to concerts and public transportation?

1. Cash: Coins and bank notes? You have to carry them around and refill supplies when you run out. The fact that cash even exists creates opportunities for counterfeiting, money laundering, and other unwanted side-effects. We’re actually pretty far on this one, but some last rebel holdouts still refuse to take MasterCard or Visa.