Friday, March 21, 2008

GrandCentral - not the commuter hub.

About 8 or 9 years ago, my company had switched one of our clients to a new ISP, and we were given a 1-800 support number. Well, the first support issue came up, and I dialed the number - only to be greeted by a pleasant female voice that assured me it was looking for a support technician. After our issue had been resolved, I asked the support tech what was with the digital secretary - mind you this was well before the age of taking to IVR systems and voice mail hell. He explained to me that he was using a service called Wildfire. Wildfire and other similar services would offer people a single number that would route all of their incoming calls using pre-defined rules. It could send calls during business hours to your desk phone, calls after hours to your cell, etc. It could also consecutively ring different phones until it found you.

Unfortunately, a lot of these services didn't quite make it, primarily because they were before their time. However, lately I've been playing with a similar service from GrandCentral (now owned by Google) GrandCentral offers me a lot of the services of Wildfire and company for free! (Okay, in classic Google fashion, its a beta, and will be free during the beta period, and I am not so sure how much it will cost when it goes 'live' but I will milk it for now).

With GrandCentral, I get to pick a phone number, and give it out to friends and family. I then can re-direct my incoming calls based on who's calling me. I can also switch phones in middle of a call - for example, if you call me on my GrandCentral #, and I pick up on my cell phone. I can switch it to my home or desk phone seemlessly!

I can also record calls, screen calls, and even screen voicemails - i.e. I can listen to a caller while they're leaving me a voicemail and jump into the call if I need to.

Want to try it - there is a button on the side of this page that will let you give me a call using GrandCentral, try it and leave me a message!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Long time no post

Unfortunately this is my most neglected blog. I think I want to get posting here regularly so I will promise 1 post every two weeks (time permitting) thanks again to all of my loyal readers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why the Internet can be a scary place

Hey Everyone, I am sorry for not posting in a while. I wanted to share a strange experience with you guys. A few days ago, I typed in what I thought was a valid URL. It turns out, it wasn't. But instead of getting the IE 'Can't connect to server' error message, or a Google Search for the domain name, I wound up getting redirected to my ISP's search Page!

So I guess all of the money that I and others pay our ISP each month isn't nearly enough for them - that's why they need to hijack my browser and suggest alternative search results so I click on their advertising links. Yes, I can disable it, but that's not the point. It's just another way that the big ISPs can stick it to the little guy, with the ignorant not knowing that they're being watched.

What makes this really scary is that this can easily be done on their servers without our knowledge. Imagine if you will, a wi-fi network operator does this very thing - i.e. they force a redirect for not found pages and domains to their search engine. Yes, it's a nice way to generate some revenue to support a free network, but at the same time, as a consumer of that service, you need to wonder aloud if there are other things that they can be doing with your network traffic that you don't know about?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Finally the World Has Caught Up

A couple of years ago, I made a comment to the effect of how I was unimpressed with Ajax, to the extent that I had been working with some of the technologies that helped spawn AJAX as early as 1998. In those days (1997-2001) I was jaded, because I worked for a company called Knowledge Strategies Group, and one of my key responsibilities was to live on the cutting edge of technology and how to apply it to both the emerging e-commerce world, but also finding synergies that would tie the e-commerce world to traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. We had all kinds of crazy ideas - some which were ultimately realized, and some which were not, but the bottom line was that all of us working there, from the founders all the way down the totem pole, that it was only a matter of time before companies would create a viable business model to unite the two.


Fast forward 6 years later. I walked into Starbucks this morning, just like I do on many other occasions, but something was very different today. With my overpriced cup of coffee, I also received a little card. The card was good for a download on iTunes. Apparently as part of the new deal between Starbucks and Apple, each purchase at Starbucks will come with a free download from now until November. In addition, Starbucks is opening up its wireless access points to offer free access to the iTunes music store for Computers as well as the iPod Touch and iPhone. The premise of course is to use in-store displays to drive traffic and sales to iTunes. Starbucks has been selling music for quite some time, but can now do so with less production costs, and better support. In fact, I also noticed today that the in-store CD's that Starbucks has been selling for years, have now been replaced with cards to redeem those albums online. Yes, this is reflective of the paradigm shift in music listening patterns, but still, it is an amazing extension of the retail store to the online world, and a brand-booster for both Apple and Starbucks!

What's even more interesting, it seems that the service offered is location-aware too! In the sense that you can see what song is currently playing in-store, and/or purchase recently played songs using iTunes.


I hope that this program proves successful, as I know that it will be the first of many similar ventures coming our way.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

And while we're on the topic of Video Convergence

Alienware (one of my favorite computer companies! - if anyone from Alienware is reading this, feel free to send me a laptop!) released it's Hangar 18 media center today. Granted, it is a lot more expensive than an Apple TV, but it is also a lot more full-featured.

Regardless of the flavor of your video, or TV-connected peripheral, it all points to convergence.