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Amazon.com’s Resolution

January 22, 2006

Filed under: future,Internet — Terry Wohlers @ 07:12

On January 4, 2006, CNNMoney.com published a thought-provoking article titled “Tech’s New Resolutions: What Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others should shoot for this year.” Author Erick Schonfeld, Business 2.0’s editor at large, subtitled one part of the article “Amazon.com’s resolution: Let customers design their own products.” In five paragraphs, he explained why Amazon should offer part fabrication services to anyone with an Internet connection.

Schonfeld explained how Amazon could give customers the opportunity to use web-based tools to design custom products, such as kitchen cabinet hardware, cell phone cases, and action figures. He said that “tight design parameters would ensure a basic floor of quality.” He went on to say that Amazon could set up CNC machines, 3D printers, and other rapid prototyping tools, or could outsource the production of the parts to machine shops and service providers.

I agree that the idea could work. Amazon would not want to offer a blank screen from which to conceive a new product. Instead, it could provide basic shapes of new designs—a starting point—with specific dimensions that could be changed to a point. These limits would prevent amateur designers from making features of a design too large or too small. The design experience could be somewhat analogous to piecing together a new computer configuration at dell.com. You are offered many combinations of options, but limits are built into the system so that you configure a computer that is manufacturable. The same is true at nikeid.com where you can very easily and quickly produce a semi-custom pair of shoes.

Schonfeld continues by explaining how Amazon could expand the service to include a design marketplace where customers, and even engineers and designers, could trade and sell designs. I believe that all of this will probably occur in the future. However, a small start-up will likely pioneer the idea. After lots of trial ‘n error by the small company, an established corporation, such as Amazon.com, will then enter the business. And it could grow into something very big.

Favorite Products of 2005

January 8, 2006

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:17

Over the years, I have developed a strong appreciation for products of high quality. Many companies deliver, but some do not. The following products, listed at random, are a few of those that have met or exceeded my expectations over the past 12 months.

1) SyncToy … for its impressive ease and speed of synchronizing file folders between two computers. Sure wish all software products worked this well. See the December 11, 2005 commentary titled Syncing Between Computers for my experiences with it.

2) Qurb … for making the 60-80 spam emails that I receive daily a bit more tolerable. Qurb does an excellent job of isolating junk mail. Instead of trying to determine what’s spam—as most spam filters do—it uses another approach. Qurb considers all incoming email to be spam unless the sender’s email address is in the approved senders list. Qurb creates this list from the addresses in your Outlook or Outlook Express address book, as well as from all email that you’ve saved. It’s accurate, reliable, simple, and inexpensive.

3) Palm Treo 650 handheld … for its easy and powerful all-in-one capabilities. It’s a great phone and organizer and I especially like it for retrieving email when I’m away from the office. See the October 11, 2005 commentary titled Best All-in-One Handheld for details.

4) Plantronics CS50 wireless office headset … for its light weight, comfortable fit, clear audio, and reliability. Its list price is $300, so it’s not cheap, but buy.com offers it for $188 and it’s worth every penny. Not being tethered to your desk and being able to easily use my computer as I talk on the phone makes office work much easier. You can expect about eight hours of talk time on a single charge and you can be up to 300 feet away from the office phone.

5) K2 Axis snow skis … for their excellent performance and handling. I’ve skied for nearly 30 years, but it wasn’t until I purchased them that I’ve felt really good about skiing. I don’t consider myself a great skier, but this product has helped make a day of skiing about the best it can be.

So there you have it. Five products from five companies that stood out and helped improve life in and out of the office last year. Check back at this time next year to see which products and companies make the list for 2006.