The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Business

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Book catch-up

Back in January I pledged to read one book a month, and write not a review but take-aways I got from the book. If you read regularly, you will only see that I have posted one take-away so far. Well, I am catching up, both on my reading and writing. I am one book behind on my reading and have several take-away posts swirling in my head - watch for more!


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/20/07 at 09:25 AM
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Next Likemind coffee on June 15

likemind.chi logoThe next likemind will be tomorrow Friday, June 15 in 25 cities around the world. In Chicago, it will be at Intelligentsia Coffee,, 53 E. Randolph, at the corner of Wabash.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/14/07 at 09:25 AM
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Monday, June 04, 2007

Palm Elevated to the Next Level

Bono on my TreoIs it getting better for Palm? Apparently so, as today it was announced that the mobile device manufacturer sold a 25% stake in itself to Elevation Partners, a private equity firm who counts as one of its partners Bono, the lead singer of U2.

This announcement makes it a beautiful day for Palm, as not only are they getting some star power, but some horsepower in management. Apple’s former top hardware engineer Jon Rubenstein, who ran the iPod division for 2 years, will walk on to the Palm board as Executive Chairman. My guess is he had nothing to do with last week's announcement of the already much maligned Palm Foleo which may be destined to be a lemon.

If you look at the corporate history of Palm, it seems like it still hasn’t found what it’s looking for. Take the spinoff of its software division, the manufacturer of the Palm operating system, then to only license it back from its new owners. You have to wonder with repeated moves like this over the years where did it all go wrong?

As a loyal Palm user until the end of the world, I take pride and welcome this move like a summer rain. Hopefully today’s announcement will be like New Year’s Day for Palm, and not a day too soon with the announcement of the Apple iPhone’s release on June 29. If Palm doesn’t act soon, it may be stuck in a moment that it can’t get out of.

Ok, now tell me how many U2 songs I referenced in this post!

(The accompanying photo is a picture of Bono I snapped from Google Images with my Treo 680, then I took a picture of the Treo with my digital camera.)


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/04/07 at 04:30 PM
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WiFi Time is Money

Last Friday I had 2 appointments, and like most entrepreneurs they were at coffee shops. Each shop offered WiFi, with their own access method and process – which is more of the norm than the exception today.

My first stop was Caribou Coffee who offers free WiFi, providing you buy something. The barista will give you a code upon request that you will need to enter into the default Web page that comes up when you log into your computer. The code is only good for one hour, but you can get another code upon request. My guess is that it is at the discretion of the staff, and buying more should help you get a new code.

Starbucks was my second stop, and they use T-Mobile’s HotSpot service. As I am a T-Mobile customer, I pay an extra $10 a month for HotSpot on top of the $20 I pay for data service for my Treo smartphone. If I didn’t have T-Mobile or its data service, I would have to pay a daily fee under $10 or a monthly fee around $30.

Before I left for my meetings I saw this article on the cost of unused WiFi service, and I could relate to it. Had my meetings been elsewhere, I may have had to pay a different way, or not at all if I went to a forward-thinking locale. There is certainly money to be made from Internet access, and it makes sense to be forward-thinking for how you yourself will use the Internet and plan ahead as to where you go and how you connect.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/04/07 at 10:59 AM
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

DJ Mix Academy appears in New York Times

DJ Mix Academy logoCongrats to my good friend and colleague Eric Patel and all of the team at the DJ Mix Academy in Boston for their mention in this Sunday’s New York Times! They were mentioned in the article, Mix, Scratch and Spin: You, Too, Can Become a D.J.

DJ Mix Academy is the only school in New England where you can, in an interactive classroom setting, learn to DJ. Most DJs out there learned in college or on their own. The instructors are all accomplished DJs who not only share techniques but their stories, which are usually worth more than the tuition price! They have extended their programs with the Global DJ Mix Academy, where you can receive CDs, DVDs and instructional manuals and self-study. To extend this virtual campus, I am proud to be still involved with DMA as “interactive media director” and consult them on the Internet, all the while listening in on those DJ stories.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/03/07 at 02:18 PM
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Auf Wiedersehen Dr. Z

Dr. ZWith the upcoming spin-off of Chrysler from DaimlerChrysler, we will surely see less of the chairman of the parent company, Dr. Dieter Zetsche. A brilliant engineer and executive in his own right, he led the merger and now divestiture of the German and American automakers.

Most Americans first saw the chairman in TV commercials, referred to as Dr. Z, as well as his own animated Web site, Ask Dr. Z. I have to admit, when I first saw this, I thought it was a joke – would you expect someone in his role to be doing sketch comedy, or be an animated character? But a little research found this to be true. The ad campaign did not prove to be that successful and was short-lived.

The Web site remains, however, as of this posting, so check it out while you can.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/24/07 at 09:02 AM
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Microsoft Minimized to Marketers

Microsoft Office CD and candy takeawaysEverybody has an opinion of Microsoft Corporation. Where you hear a lot of the negative comments, there are many positive ones as well. Myself, I have made a decent living working with Microsoft technology. That being said, I am "multilingual" and work with various Internet-based technologies, choosing the one best suited for my clients' needs.

Recently my wife, a marketing manager, attended a Microsoft event for the launch of Office 2007. The event was targeted to marketing professionals. The photo in this post shows the takeaways from the event, or what I like to call swag.

It wasn't clear by the design and wording on the CD packaging that this truly was a full-blown, free license of Office 2007, which was the impression my wife had. Well it is, but I had to install it first to find that out. As for the giant Hershey Kiss... yes, they simply used a label machine to print "Microsoft Office 2007" labels and slap them on the top of the box (click on the photo to see a larger photo). Apparently the candy was an afterthought, and that was about as much thought that went into it

Based on my years of experience with Microsoft, I always considered them a marketing company that happened to make software. These items have changed that opinion somewhat. I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but this gift will take some education for me to harness its features and power.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/23/07 at 06:48 AM
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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Macy’s Needs a Clue in Chicago

Marshall Field's logoAs The Hot Iron was not around when Federated Department Stores acquired the former parent of Marshall Field’s and proceeded to rebrand it and in the process drain the life out of the store, you my readers were spared quite a bit! Especially for someone like me, who hails from Western Massachusetts, first worked in Pittsfield, Mass. and moved to Chicago to start a business, I relate a little bit to the late Mr. Field. Add to that my appreciation for history and tradition, it is probably not surprising to you that I have not entered the State Street store since the red star was placed on the awnings of the building.

I don’t need to recant all of the negative press and poor performance numbers that Federated has experienced in the stores that were formerly Field’s, not to mention Macy's attempts to blame others for their own ills. Where Federated’s chairman Terry Lundgren said that it was a business decision to rebrand the stores and build a national brand, it doesn’t help if the people that you want to continue shopping in your stores don’t know anything about you. As for business decisions, since when does spending hundreds of dollars for a sweater constitute a business decision?

When the announcement was originally made, there was the promise Frango mint production returning to the Windy City, and many enhancements to the State Street store including a fresh foods market, recognizing the residential growth in the Loop. It’s been over a year since those announcements, and there is some chatter about Frangos (conveniently timed with chatter about closing Field’s old distribution center in the city) and no fresh food market in sight. Sure, the 28 Shop is back and valet parking have been added, which may account for the store's perception of being overpriced.

Unfortunately I have witnessed this corporate arrogance before. Back in the early 90’s Federated bought the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston and rebranded it. Small plaques were added to the exterior of the store mentioning its history, but nothing else. Two big things Federated did to irk Bostonians was to cancel Marsh’s Enchanted Village, a Christmas display setup every year, and run ads in Boston newspapers featuring New York Yankees player Derek Jeter. The Village is now owned by the city of Boston and fallen into disrepair, and it does not need to be mentioned how much Boston loathes the Bronx Bombers. Fortunately for Bostonians there was Filene’s department store chain… until last year when they were also acquired and rebranded as Macy’s.

In both cases Macy’s did what seems like all they know – to offer coupons and sales. As they have discovered in Chicago, this isn’t working. Sure, they may have wanted to be cautious as to not flaunt the fact that they killed Field’s, but there comes a point where you can’t just mail it in from corporate headquarters and expect people to shop. That isn’t working, and as much as Federated has reshuffled its Midwest management, they are doing the same thing they have always done. Prior to rebranding Field’s there were no Macy’s stores in Chicagoland – apparently Federated thought its sponsoring of a Thanksgiving Parade in New York was enough brand recognition?

Retail, brick and mortar shopping is being hit from all angles today, including the Internet and discounters. If Federated, which will soon be renaming itself to Macy’s, doesn’t create some buzz or mojo soon in Chicago, it may never be able to. And for those who are loyal to Field’s, they can take comfort that when Macy’s faces its demise, it will be their name and not Field’s on the awnings when the State Street store is shuttered.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/19/07 at 08:52 PM
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

What I Like About the Post Office

Forever StampHave you purchased your Forever Stamps yet? With next week’s postal increase, the post office came up with what I think is its best idea in years – a first-class postage stamp that once you buy it, you can use it at any time, even after the next postage increase. Where on the surface this may not make sense, factor in inflation, interest and the cost of distributing 2-cent stamps, and it is a wise move.

With all of the problems that the post office has in its customer service and mail delivery, especially in Chicago, I have decided to focus on the things that I do like about the postal service here in the US. In addition to the Forever Stamps, my other favorites include:

  • Automated Postal Center (APC) kiosks at many post offices allow you to weigh and ship packages without waiting in line, as well as purchasing books of stamps. In many post offices when there is a line at the windows, there is no line at the APC.
  • USPS.com allows you to track shipments and buy stamps with only a $1 surcharge, which is more efficient than waiting in line for either.

Come to think about it, what I like about the post office is related to new thinking and services that require little human intervention.


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/10/07 at 08:08 AM
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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Next likemind on May 18

likemind.chi logoI just got word that the next likemind will be on Friday, May 18. In Chicago, it will be at Intelligentsia Coffee, 53 E. Randolph, at the corner of Wabash.

What is likemind? It started with two people who decided to meet for coffee and invited others. There are now 22 likemind locations around the world... amazing!


Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/08/07 at 07:28 AM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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