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Gmail: An Exercise in Exclusivity

December 12, 2012 Leave a comment

And now it’s time for a blast from the past.

I remember the day that I got my invite to try this new thing called Gmail in 2004.  Nothing like its current iteration, it was still a breakthrough in terms of service.  Built on the idea that the user would never have to delete email with the initial offering of 1Gb of storage space, it also promised less spam than its competitors.  1 Gb was unheard in any online service back in 2004, a perk that only added to Gmail’s mystique.  The novelty of being able to see the every-increasing amount of storage space every time a user signed in was at the time unique.  The primary driver behind the popularity of Gmail was exclusivity.  Initially, 1000 invites were sent to opinion leaders that allowed them access to the Beta version of Gmail.  These opinion leaders could then extend invites to friends and family.  They became so sought after that invites could be found on Ebay for $150+. The product is a free ad based email system, and yet people were willing to pay for it, what more could a developer hope for for a product roll out.  What this proves is that exclusivity still works.  Even as we move to democratize communication, the power of exclusivity cannot be denied, even in the digital age.  Why did people want to switch to Gmail?  The product itself played a big role in getting and keeping its customers.  Of course there was also that fact that at launch not everyone could have it.

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Can Technology Save Us…From Technology?

December 12, 2012 Leave a comment

It dings, it rings, it chirps, it beeps, and sometimes it vibrates.  It’s your phone.  Much like Pavlov’s experiments with behavioral modification, the second our mobile devices do anything we as consumers have a trained response.  Whether driving, working, walking, dining, or having a face to face conversation with an actual human being, our mobile devices are a tolerated interruption.

Companies like Microsoft have noticed this trend and have attempted to solve the issue through the use of technology with their Windows Phone and its clever tagline “A phone to save us from our phone”.  Although unsuccessful at saving us from our phones, and consequently failing in the mobile market, the intentions of the Windows Phone were good, but good intentions don’t solve problems.

A popular trend now with hotel and resort vacations is literal vacation from technology.  Some hotels have even asked that consumers sign a contract prior to handing over their smart devices that states that they agree to go without for the duration of their stay.  When did our mobile devices become the digital equivalent to cigarettes?

Perhaps it due to the fact that never in the history of mankind have we had so much power at fingertips, anywhere we want, anytime we want to use it.  The challenge going forward will be for developers and communicators to create products and services that will truly free us from our devices and break our addiction.  Rather than our lives being digital, digital would tailored as a tool to enhance our analog lives.  Clear and no nonsense apps such as Clear from Realmac Software aims is a step in the right direction.  It rethinks the classic to do list and simplifies it down to its bare essentials.  It’s beautiful.  More and more, we will see this simplification present itself in our digital communications with consumers as they seek out simplicity in their lives.  Let’s face it, who really wants to spend their day reading emails and checking every 15 minutes for new messages.

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And Now the Pope Will Tweet…

December 12, 2012 Leave a comment

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This was the announcement made to his holiness’ general audience shortly before being presented with and iPad and sending out his very first tweet to his followers worldwide.

“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,”

This is first tweet from Pope Benedict XVI, which was retweeted 24,000 times so far.  With 911,914 followers for the English account (he has different accounts i.e. @pontifex-it for Italian and @pontifex-es for Spanish) he has managed to generate a great deal of buzz.  So, does this mean that Catholicism is now cool?  Has it become modern?  Certainly, through the use of the most immediate and modern means of communicating, the age-old institution has taken a major leap forward when it comes to communicating with its followers.  Still, one must wonder if perhaps it removes some of the mystery and romanticism from the religion.  No doubt, followers having this immediate connection with the Pope is a great tool for the Vatican.  Only time will tell as to its effectiveness in filling the pews.

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