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Google and competition

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 09/17/10 02:40 PM

On Thursday, a House subcommittee heard testimony about Google and the issues of competition and dominance in the digital marketplace.

One witness, Scott Cleland - a noted Google critic - said “Google is a vastly more serious antitrust threat than Microsoft ever was.”

But it doesn’t sound like the folks in Congress are convinced.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said at the hearing “Just because competitors complain about a practice does not mean it is anti-competitive.”

For an in-depth look at competition in the Internet age, check out this podcast by the good people at the Berkman Center.  It’s a conversation between Jonathan Zittrain, law professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society  and Lawrence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and law professor at Harvard Law School. 

The two talk about the 12-year old battle between Microsoft and the Department of Justice as well as Google, Facebook and other tech giants.

Comments | Filed Under: law government business

New marketing: getting it right, getting it wrong

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 11:16 AM

Right:
McDonald’s increased foot traffic in its stores by 33% in one day by using FourSquare. This according to the company’s head of social media Rick Wion, talking at a conference yesterday. It was a pretty simple trick, really. They placed 100 gift cards for $5 or $10 on FourSquare as check in bait. So if you checked in at McDonald’s, you have a chance to eat for free. And if you don’t win the gift card, hey, might as well grab something to eat. Check in McNuggets! You were also eligible for the cards if you followed/fanned the company on social media sites, which 600,000 people did. Total cost of the operation? $1000. Wion said that several people in the company’s marketing department had never heard of FourSquare. They have now.

Update: Read Write Web says that, contrary to the Mashable report linked to above, it was a 33% increase in FourSquare check ins, not in feet at the restaurants.

Wrong:

But then there’s the case of Posie’s Café in Portland, Oregon. The proprietor, Jessie Burke, wanted to drive a little traffic to her place by using a Groupon discount. She offered a $13 credit for $6, intending to keep the $6. But Groupon wanted a big cut, 50%, so she was left with the $3, which didn’t allow her to break even. The Groupon was a hit but that just made things worse as she would lose money on each sale until she was $8000 in the hole, unable to make payroll or rent, and dipping into personal savings.

Over the six months that the Groupon is valid, we met many, many wonderful new customers, and were so happy to have them join the Posies family. At the same time we met many, many terrible Groupon customers… customers that didn’t follow the Groupon rules and used multiple Groupons for single transactions, and argued with you about it with disgusted looks on their faces or who tipped based on what they owed.

Most of the customers never came back once they had their discount.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying that the success of the McDonald’s campaign is good for society. I’m merely saying that in terms of people accomplishing a goal in a given area, in this case marketing, they were very successful.

Comments | Filed Under: Web Culture Business mobile

Microsoft and political repression in Russia

Posted: 09/15/10 06:00 AM

The New York Times recently reported that Russian authorities were raiding the offices of protest groups under the premise of checking for unlicensed Windows software. They’d seize computers, haul them away, attempting to silence those groups.

Microsoft has been fighting software piracy for some time. They say 41 percent of software worldwide is pirated, resulting in 750 Billion dollars of lost revenue for the software industry.

But Microsoft was quick to issue a response to these Russian raids, announcing Monday that non-governmental organizations or NGOs in Russia would be issued a blanket license, making all the software they run legal. It’s a variation of their software donation program.

Microsoft’s move raises some new questions. If a dissident group in Russia can stake a claim to free software, can a group in France or Libya or Mexico or the United States do the same? And more broadly, what kind of political position taking might Microsoft be forced to take going forward?

We talk to Sharon Pian Chan, who covers the northwest-based Microsoft for the Seattle Times. And we check in with James Lewis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

We contacted Microsoft for this story. They declined to be interviewed but they pointed us to a blog post from their chief counsel outlining their position and their plans.

Plus, comedian Paul F. Tompkins joins us to talk about a new way to cheat in Angry Birds. He’s angry about it. He is not a bird.

Comments | Filed Under: law government policy business microsoft

Walmart gets into wireless business

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 05:34 PM

Walmart will begin offering their own branded wireless service (partnered through T-Mobile) starting next Monday. The retailer already offers cell plans through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. This will add a service option for a plan under its own name.

You’ll have to pay for the phone, but they’re relatively cheaper - you can get a Nokia for $35. And it’ll cost $45 each month for unlimited calling and texting. But data is insanely expensive. $40 for 1gb, which compares to AT&T’s $25 for 2gb or T-Mobile’s own $30 for unlimited. The data can be shared among multiple phones in the same family but still that’s a ton of cash.

Comments | Filed Under: walmart phones mobile business

Angry Birds will let you cheat…for a price

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 12:12 PM

Angry Birds is probably the most popular mobile phone game of the last year (read comedian Paul F. Tompkins’ take on it). In the game you launch a variety of birds at a variety of buildings in order to destroy these green pigs and reclaim your eggs. Or something. It’s strange but it’s a lot of fun, in part because it’s so challenging. But now players can get an extra advantage in the game by purchasing a new character, the ultra-powerful Mighty Eagle, for an additional fee. We’ve seen this in games before: the game is cheap or free (Angry Birds costs $3) but upgrades cost extra. They hook you, then they reel you in.

Here’s the video that previews Mighty Eagle:

Comments | Filed Under: mobile games angry birds Web Culture business

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