16 Jun

BBC News – Capital One to buy ING online bank

Capital One says it plans to buy the US internet banking arm of ING in a move that will make it the seventh largest US bank by assets.

Capital One, best known for its credit cards, will pay $9bn (£5.5bn) in cash and shares – $6.2bn of that in cash.

The deal will also leave the Dutch banking and insurance giant with a 9.9% stake in Capital.

The move is the latest step in Capital One’s plan to branch out from its credit card lending roots.

It will raise $2bn in new capital and $3.7bn in new debt in order to finance the transaction.

via BBC News – Capital One to buy ING online bank. I’m a huge fan of ING Direct, been using them for years so I hope this doesn’t hurt them in any way.

07 Jun

NYTimes.com – Financial Times Introduces Web App in Effort to Bypass Apple

The Financial Times on Tuesday introduced a mobile Web application aimed at luring readers away from Apple’s iTunes App Store, throwing down the gauntlet over new business conditions that Apple is set to impose on publishers who sell digital subscriptions via iTunes.

A number of publishers have expressed their displeasure with Apple’s plan to retain 30 percent of the revenue from subscriptions sold on iTunes, and to keep customer data from such sales, beginning at the end of June. At the same time, mobile applications are a fast-growing source of new readers and revenue, so publishers have been reluctant to pull their applications from the iTunes store.

via NYTimes.com – Financial Times Introduces Web App in Effort to Bypass Apple. The first big name publisher to switch to a web app for publishing and not deal with Apple’s 30% cut.

13 May

The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web

Today at Google I/O, we launched the developer API of Google In-App Payments for the web. In-App Payments enables any web application to receive payments from users and keep them engaged in your application. It is available to all US developers in sandbox today and will be followed by a consumer launch and an international rollout over the summer.

via The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web. The most interesting part of this is the 5% fee, most payment services charge 2-3%, so double that for Google to cover their hosting costs and such and it seems pretty reasonable. Here is where it gets interesting this puts Apple at a distinct dis-advantage. Apple charges 30% on everything (purchase an app, music, in-app purchases, etc). For ebook readers this creates a non-existent business model due to the agency model that publishers now require all books sold to recieve 70% of the purchase price (ie not wholesale price but what the customer actually paid). So 30% to Apple and 70% to the publisher means nothing get’s left over for the middle-person. That 70% cut could be argued as a problem, but the publisher is one paying for the advertising, development and writing of the book itself, 70% seems like an acceptable cut.

Google is really demonstrating what seems like the fairer margin for the service that serves, stores, builds the store, etc. Apples cut feels too high. Apple does valuable work and important work and it’s a fair argument that without all of Apple’s work there wouldn’t even be this store or platform for developers and publishers to sell their content. But the margin that Apple takes doesn’t seem right, especially when looking at e-books. Etsy is a great example of where the fees seem much more realistic, 20 cents per item listed and 3.5% sales fee. There is a business model that is working and doing much the same as Apple currently is with their App Store. Apple’s cut is so out of portion to everything else comparable is the real problem.

I’ll agree that this is defiantly a subjective claim as it’s hard to state what is and isn’t a viable or reasonable business model, and certainly Apple can charge a 30% or 5% or 90% fee and they are within their rights to do so. The argument can also be made, that a business shouldn’t bet their model on Apple treating them fairly cause that’s never a good idea, Apple defiantly does what is right for Apple. However if Apple doesn’t change their stance I can defiantly see Amazon just pulling out of the App Store and launching their service as a web app. It’s not the best solution for them, but it’s better than Apple taking every penny they make on e-books, especially when the competing smartphone platform takes only 5%.

20 Apr

Neon Tommy – Benton Harbor Public Workers Forced Into Concessions

On March 16, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that would allow the state to appoint an “Emergency Financial Manager” (EFM) to essentially take over a city within the state when it is deemed that the city is in a state of “financial crisis.”

This state-appointed official has the power to void union contracts, remove elected officials, and can dissolve local authority completely, replacing it with the authority of the governor through the EFM.

The first city has fallen — Benton Harbor, Michigan. A few days ago, the powers of the local, elected government were dissolved, and elected officials were replaced by a state-appointed EFM, Joseph Harris. Public workers are being forced into concessions on their unionizing rights.

The locals no longer have a voice in their own government. Despite numerous protests held by locals indicating that they do not, in fact, wish for their rights to a democratically elected government to be impeded, the policy has not changed.

via Neon Tommy – Benton Harbor Public Workers Forced Into Concessions. This is insane, to read about. It feels like something that shouldn’t, couldn’t happen in the US. Imagine if the President just fired all of the state governors, remove state legislatures, break state contracts, literally just crazy.

10 Apr

Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again

The U.S. House of Representatives resumed its flight from reality earlier today (April 8th) when it voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to mandate an open and non-discriminatory Internet.

What was remarkable about the vote was how the Republicans pushing the legislation managed to at once speak in favor of the legislation as helping small business and innovation, while ignoring the testimony and other advocacy from those very businesses that opposed it.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), for example, cited the success of companies from Apple to Zipcar because of the absence of government regulation. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) questioned the future of startups in an environment without government regulation.

It appears that Upton, Scalise and their colleagues missed the article published earlier in the week by Robin Chase, who founded Zipcar. She wrote a well-received article for Politico on how that company wouldn’t exist without an open Internet. None of it mattered to those on an ideological mission to protect the large Internet providers. Other companies have said much the same thing. They similarly ignored the experience of their colleague, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who made his fortune as an Internet entrepreneur, and who earlier in the week opposed the GOP bill during debate on a procedural motion.

And when Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said that the FCC had taken control over business plans of big Internet Service Providers, he was partially right. If the business plan’s goal was to drive competitors out of business, he was right. Terry, ironically, said it was the open Internet that allowed Netflix to develop.

His statement was ironic because Netflix sent one of the strongest letters ever seen from the corporate sector to the Congress opposing what Terry wanted to do. As senior Commerce Committee Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, a cable or telephone company could stop Netflix simply for competitive reasons without it being an antitrust violation. Without Net Neutrality, there would be no stopping phone companies from controlling Netflix’s access to its customers.

Through it all, the Republicans argued that the FCC wanted to take control of the Internet, much as totalitarian governments wanted to do. That argument is so tiresome. The purpose of Net Neutrality is to make sure no one can take control of what’s online — not the government, not the big businesses that control Internet traffic on a day-to-day basis and have the incentive and opportunity to harm competition.

via Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again. If it wasn’t so frustrating you have to almost admire Republicans ability to ignore their own experts or examples when legislating.

24 Mar

NYTimes.com – The Austerity Delusion

What do these events have in common? They’re all evidence that slashing spending in the face of high unemployment is a mistake. Austerity advocates predicted that spending cuts would bring quick dividends in the form of rising confidence, and that there would be few, if any, adverse effects on growth and jobs; but they were wrong.

It’s too bad, then, that these days you’re not considered serious in Washington unless you profess allegiance to the same doctrine that’s failing so dismally in Europe.

via NYTimes.com – The Austerity Delusion. We have to avoid being like Europe so we’ll do what Europe did but it’ll turn out differently for us.

19 Feb

NYTimes.com – From Sputnik to SunShot

Just as President Kennedy pledged in 1961 that the United States would land an astronaut on the moon by the end of that decade — a moonshot — Dr. Chu said the United States should attempt a “sunshot” by aiming to cut the cost of solar power by about three-quarters by the end of this decade, to $1 a watt for utility-scale projects. That would translate to an end-user price of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, he said. “That would make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,” he said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

The department said it had spent $1 billion on solar in the last 10 years, and it took partial credit for the price of solar power falling 60 percent since 1995.

via NYTimes.com – From Sputnik to SunShot. 60% drop in about 15 years, another 75% percent drop over next decade with more emphasis on renewable energy sources seems totally doable.

10 Feb

NYTimes.com – American Medical Response Settles Facebook Firing Case

An ambulance company that fired an employee after she criticized her supervisor on Facebook agreed on Monday to settle a case brought by the National Labor Relations Board.

The plan resolves an Oct. 27 complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut that said the employee, Dawnmarie Souza, had been illegally fired and denied union representation.

Among the issues was whether a worker has the right to criticize a supervisor on a site like Facebook if co-workers add comments. The case was the first by the National Labor Relations Board to assert that employers break the law by disciplining workers who post criticisms on social-networking Web sites.

via NYTimes.com – American Medical Response Settles Facebook Firing Case. Good decision employees should be able to comment in their private off time as publicly as they wish about their company (minus releasing trade secrets and such).

14 Oct

Cognition – Bloodhounding Budgets

We always ask prospects to share their budget with us. It can be as uncomfortable as asking someone to the prom. It’s especially squirmy when it’s the first question you ask, and I believe it should be. Why? Sharing budget information upfront can save inordinate amounts of time. It short-circuits the potential to get mired down in minute project details, meaningless tangents, and back-and-forth emails that don’t lead very far. Time is money. Ask the budget question first and then ask the other questions. When you meet with a Realtor®, they ask what your budget is right up front. You can want all the three car garages, swimming pools, and gourmet kitchens in the world, but if you don’t have the budget for it, the conversations you had getting there are totally moot. They waste energy. We’ve been bitten by the spend-eight-hours-on-a-proposal-to-find-out-they-only-have-two-grand too many times. We don’t stick our finger in that outlet anymore

via Cognition – Bloodhounding Budgets. It’s a waste of time coming up with ideas that a customer can’t or won’t pay for.

24 Jun

Dustin Curtis – The Clear War by Kevin Mattice

Right or wrong, companies who care little about the design of a customer’s experience are often thought to care little about its customers. Poor design encourages people to believe in a brand’s ham-handedness, in its cloth-eared reluctance to listen and respond. If openness, communication, and accountability are the bellwethers of clarity, then poor design is a smudge—a flaw that seems to hide rather than reveal. That was the problem with my breakage scenario: The marketing guy preferred to hide from people, withholding information and feigning incompetence rather than fulfilling what seemed to be a sincere obligation.

via Dustin Curtis – The Clear War by Kevin Mattice. A designer’s job is provide a seamless experience not to trick customers.