12 June 2010

Ridding Digital Junk

I am an information junkie. But also tired of drinking from the firehose. In many cases I sign up for things on the belief that it will be valuable. But like most people if it doesn't survive of value after a year then it should go into the waste paper basket.

I am also a pack rat of the worst order I find it hard to throw things away.

So here is a plea for people who have signup sheets and encouragement to sign up. There should be another field added to the signup. An expiration date.

I am so tired of the hassle of dealing with things that need to just turned off... it should be the vendor's responsibility to enable me to turn it off easily and then to unsubscribe.

So I would like to see a code of conduct that says - the signup process needs to have an automatic renewal at 12 months. OR a date when the user can unsubscribe definitively.

Fat chance huh....

11 June 2010

Travel Recovery Stalled?

Last month I wrote that the recovery might be faltering. In the USA we are seeing mixed signs that the US economy might not be recovering as well as we had hoped. Jobless are stuck at near 10% and we are seeing consumers more cautious in their behavior but not necessarily what they tell survey takers.

For Travel we are seeing that the number of bookings is not growing that fast. They are back to almost regular levels from the terrible time of 2009. However yields are still on a healthy growth rate. Great for investors... not so sure about everyone else. This is not going to make US based legacy GDSs such as Sabre and Travelport's numbers look that much better because they need the volume.

So the airlines are very pleased with themselves because it seems we have a sellers' market. The hoteliers at this month's Hitec might not be quite so happy because hotel rates are still very low as are occupancy levels.

Markets like Las Vegas and Hawai'i are going to continue to suffer, IF all other things stay the same. But we are about to see some interesting dynamics in summer travel.

Let me list some of them:

1. Rates are high for Air Fares
2. Gulf Coast will become a dead zone for tourism another blow after Katrina but this time the recovery will take years if not decades.
3. Florida is on tenderhooks because those oil plumes are going to come ashore somewhere and Florida will take a hit - make no mistake about that.
4. It's predicted to be a bumper year for ... hurricanes so Caribbean and Mexico (eastern side) will be badly affected.
5. Transatlantic will suffer - the Euro is high so less east bound traffic and also while the US is very attractive the economies of Europe are not so healthy and people cannot afford to travel long distances. A lot of people who would normally have gone UK to Florida are now on their way to watch "The Beautiful Game" (Take your earplugs with you).
6. Brazil will continue to grow substantially and bring traffic northbound.

So a lot of confusing data which points in different directions.

Over the coming months I will try and handicap some of the players for you.


But Will It Play On Channel 9?

Several Airlines have installed exterior cameras for viewing onboard in the passenger cabins. Airbus has been offering this as a service for quite a while now. EK has all its pax aircraft configured with it. So do many others. United let's you listen into the cockpit/tower communications. (BTW its much more fun to leave it on and listen in half way through the flight when you hear the arrival airport chatter about how bad the delays are....

But what inside the cabin? Do we want to see who is taking a shower in First Class on EK.. YUK!

However it seems that since we now have VOD and in-flight wifi (which I hope is not an endangered species) that now we are about to get in-cabin surveillance. Courtesy of those nice people at Lufthansa Technik.

I will let you be the judge of the rectitude of this move.


EasyJet Leases 757s

Under the category of curious - U2 is leasing from several operators, aircraft that are not normally in their fleet. To be specific 2 757s and a 767. The latter wont be painted but here is a pic of the newly minted 757 in full U2 colors it will be wet leased from Air Finland. The second plane is coming from Astreus. The unpainted 767 will be from Titan. All 3 aircraft are being operated on long haul routes replacing the A321s that U2 is returning to lessors after their acquisition from the purchase of GB Air. Apparently they will be parted out by Airbus. Which seems to be strange unless you are trying to keep up the prices of your new A321s. They have to pay for the A380s somehow.


(c) Photo Keith Wignall

More iProblems For Steve - This Time The FTC

Be careful who you pick your fights with Steve... now it seems that the Feds have iPhone well and truly in their sights. According to the Wall Street Journal, The FTC - US Federal Trade Commission are investigating Apple's Advertising system for the iPhone.

And the Feds are not being slow about jumping into the fray. Within literally hours of the AT&T security breach involving iPads becoming public - the FBI jumps in and announces a criminal probe. I guess exposing the White House Chief of Staff's email address was not a particularly good thing to happen

But wait - there's more.

Apple's attempts at opening up a whole new avenue of cash cow milking machinery - iAd- (aka Apple forcing advertising into the iPhone infrastructure) only a few days old and Google coming out swinging on that front (because they can't stand competition) the FTC steps in.

What seems to be so weird about this is that it took a long time - literally years - before the Feds stepped into the whole bundling thing at Microsoft for bundling the OS with the web browser - is that this is about hard cash. Whereas the Microsoft Windows/IE battle was about harming potential competition (as in whose free product was disadvantaged) , this is about how fat the spigot should be. And boy do they move faster now.

These are definitely not your father's Feds. The government cash sniffer nose has become a little more sensitive.

Now who/what else could they investigate. Here are some examples:

Apple vs Adobe over Flash
Google vs Just about Everything

I could make some comments about certain companies in the travel distribution food chain but I am keeping this more focused on Apple at the moment.

Apple's normally vaunted reputation for "it just works" also seems to be coming in for some scrutiny.

Steve Job's WiFi troubles in announcing the iPhone are just one of a host of issues that apple's smaller (but wildly more profitable) services are having. The iPad has significant issues on WiFi - just troll the web for some of this. For example this one.

Those of you who were early iPhone adopters will recall that when it first came out - the device seemed to have a teensy weenie problem with making - phone calls!

So now the world's second most valuable tech company (after Google) is going to understand what it means to have a degree of scrutiny.

I bet Obama is laughing all the way home. His special Blackberry doesn't have to be called the Devil's Instrument...


10 June 2010

SkyFi An Endangered Species?

Onboard Internet has been a boon for people like me. I love it. Can't get enough of it. But hate the cost.

My travel is so varied - USA Domestic and long haul and to different places that I cannot get the same service. Also my ability to be loyal is very tough because of the variety.

So I was surprised to see the announcement today that CO is halting its deployment of OnBoard Internet.

With Row44 pretty much out of it (they lost the fight at Alaska who switched to GoGo) and GoGo struggling - there could be a chance that this will collapse just like Connexion by Boeing before it.

I so hope not.


The Real Dark Side?

At some point in our lives we are faced with moral dilemmas not the collective we but the real we - you and me.

Should you take advantage of someone or some situation that you didn't create but will continue to support a bad thing happening.

Boycotts of products from different repressive regimes are often the case.
Should we buy food that is a luxury coming from far places that contributes to global warming? Kiwis for example. Should we trade in blood diamonds? Should we support brands that employ sweatshop labour? The Fair Trade movement is founded on the principal that we can buy our coffee (and other products) from companies that are performing properly and responsibly.

We face the dilemma in travel of what comprises "Fair Trade". Because Travel is a very personal experience - we are exposed to the dilemma at least twice - who you buy from and where you go - Should we visit China or Myanmar?

For the past few months I have been following the issue of the suicides among China's industrial complex workers. There are some gut wrenching stories of workers throwing themselves out the window.

A good story appeared in Infoworld this week.

However scratching below the surface one has to examine why the suicide rate is rising among the workers (largely male) who are producing our gadgets. Its easy to point the finger at a corporation that is so large. But also consider the plight of the individuals. With a one child policy and China's cultural heritage favoring males over females - the chances of a young healthy average worker male to find his mate and live happily ever after is significantly less in China than just about anywhere else.

And let's not just think that its the worker bees in factories who are similarly either disadvantaged or where the corporation takes advantage of their workers in this manner. I cite the case of Expedia who owns eLong. This week they upp'd their ownership stake to 16.9%. That makes Expedia powerful enough to influence how the workers are treated. In eLong the delivery and financial fulfillment vehicle is often a bicycle and a human who gets minimum wages and sleeps in a huge dormitory complex. I am not picking on Expedia for being particularly bad. They are doing what is conventional in China.

So do we have a moral dilemma in travel? Should we support our fixes of iPhones and Expedia based travel?

I know that for sure I have to do this willingly. And from now on I will knowingly make those sort of decisions. Ignorance is no excuse for resolving the truly personal dilemma.


09 June 2010

It Is What It Is - Now Get Over It!

After two highly publicized and embarrassing security breaches - those wonderful people who brought you the TSA are happy to report that the TSA is now 100% responsible for domestic screening.

That means the government is now in control of our security after (let me see how long has it been since 9/11) what seems a very long time.

But wait it gets better.

According to the WSJ's "Middle Seat" it seems that there is a new form of profiling going on. Since the screeners are not allowed to screen for ethnicity or just about any other possible criteria - they have come up with a new one... "Cuteness".

I dont make this stuff up - read Scott's article.

Oh boy what a world we live in...

The Devil Strikes Again - Apple iProblems

Oh not a great day decidedly mixed for those of you who sniff the Apple glue, and a salutatory warning for those of you who don't.

First off - I have to tell my loyal readers that I purchased a Macbook today. It is for a family member. I felt like I had sold my sold to the devil..... and probably did. As a result I ended up with a 32GB iPod Touch. It came free with the Mac. As did the printer... they must really want to off load these things.

On the positive side - the iPhone OS will go out starting probably 21st of June and this includes the OS4 for the iPad. I suspect that even before that there will be hacks on bit torrent out there. But wait till its official. Trust me on this one - not a good idea to mess with this stuff.

On the iPhone upgrade - AT&T have loosely said they will expand the pool of people who are eligible for the upgrade. I foresee that Apple will bring its policy of full price upgrades rather than discounting upgrades to the iPhut market.

A further piece of good news yesterday is that those of you who signed up for unlimited data plans at AT&T will be grandfathered. The only downside is that ... you wont benefit from the cost reduction that everyone has. So you will have to navigate the byzantine rules for figuring it out. Ditto similar bizarre and complex rules for figuring out if you are eligible to upgrade.

Now the bad news...

Brace yourselves...

AT&T acknowledged Wednesday that a security hole had exposed iPad users' email addresses, a breach that highlights how corporations still have problems protecting private information.

Gawker Media, which reported the breach earlier Wednesday, said 114,000 email addresses were revealed.

AT&T said it had fixed the security problem by Tuesday. The company also said it would inform all the customers whose email addresses and iPad IDs may have been obtained. By my calculation that's about 5% of all the iPads sold out there. Hmmm that could be significant because it is probably a large number (read just about all of the 3G ones out there) who bought the 3G version.

Not a pretty sight!

Now for the worse news... Apple has decided to declare all out war on just about everyone. Not content to try and crush Adobe, and waving at Microsoft in its rear view mirror - now Apple wants to take on Google. At stake is the mobile ad market. Apple wants to add yet another revenue stream (on top of the 3 already it makes from its iPhones) advertising built into the OS. Well folks that's Google's purvey. They don't like competition for grand theft auto. Google is pushing back - hard.

So take that sniff now... might as well get used to it. You are officially addicted. The Apple a Day now becomes the Apple (kaching) multiple times a day. And you are not hallucinating... you will not be able to give it up either. With acknowledgment to the great Lloyd Bridges.


08 June 2010

OMG - 32 of the Buggers....

Excuse the use of the decidely Brit term... but I was gobsmacked by the news this morning...

32 A380s....

Heavens above


07 June 2010

Will They Or Wont They - Will QR One Up Them?

There is an interesting rumour doing the rounds - that Emirates will plonk down a chunk of cash and snap up 2 years worth of A380 production. Normally I dont harbour many rumours but this one is just interesting.

The one order is scheduled for Farnborough the other for Berlin.

There is another rumour floating around that QR will try and one up them by announcing a Major C Series order for their startup Regional LCC.

Now both of these are CLEARLY SPECULATIVE.... I have them from very mixed sources. I would put credence in the A380 order for a smaller number with some additional delivery positions.

As for the C Series. Well it would make sense - a 100 seater LCC plane in the GCC would be about right.

So we will see....


A New Instrument Of The Devil

Its now out... Lord Help us all

The Apple iPhone 4

I would give you more detail but the presentation crashed...


06 June 2010

Simplicity Drives Better Interaction

Ah so Gerry McGovern went back to topics I like this week. His focus was on the customer as a stranger and how to deal with them.

And this is where I think we need to do a lot more than we are today. If any of you have used the wayback machine you will know how useful it can be to look at the progression of different websites. One of my colleagues Professor David uses it a lot to illustrate the growth of websites. His specific example is to look at Expedia and as it went through each major home page redesign.

At each redesign the site gets to be lovely and clean and then slowly gets junked up with silly crud. Of course I am picking on Expedia but it applies to almost any site. Even my favorite "clean" site ClearTrip has developed some of this crud creep.

The argument is used that this Crud Creep is driven by the commercial needs of the site management. But Gerry's argument is that actually you can get better commercials by improving and simplifying the UE (User Experience).

He sites some great examples but sadly none in travel. And this is where I think we are just about ripe for a new wave of travel search and shopping sites with better interfaces. I still hanker for that Natural Search solution that does the heavy lifting for me.

I will continue to pursue this


Tech Based Bullies 2 - I Know Who You Are!

As a follow on from my piece yesterday on Technology Bullies, I want to have a stab at others who influence our lives and while purporting to be the underdog and our friend - in reality is that they are anything but...

The reasons for this are not always malevolent but that to me is no excuse. If you have a role in the world you must be straightforward and upfront about it. This means that you have a responsibility to fulfill your obligations of trust.

And so it must be with Facebook. If there was a company who has betrayed its core constituency - College Kids - it is Facebook.

I had a chat to some 2010 Graduates this past weekend. There were quite a few of them and while it was a social occasion the topic of Facebook was clearly one that animated them. There were a lot of Grad Parents in the group and the differences of opinion between the two sets - Parents and Grads was quite interesting. It does somewhat bear out the research I have previously published on the subject recently.

The parents were more concerned about the abuse of privacy as a distinct item. The Grads were bemoaning that for them the "there is no viable alternative" to the (evil - my word) Facebook. They needed Facebook because they depended on it for many things. The obvious thing was their social networks were anchored in FB. Yet one interesting issue emerged. The confederacy of the Grads to help themselves particular in getting jobs was highly dependent on their relationships and the tool for that was Facebook. With jobs for Grads a perennial problem this year - while better than last year - its still not great. But this lot of millenials who I have been associated with for a long time as a parent has always been a very caring lot. They are hardly selfish and are quite focused on helping others - particular their peers who have been less fortunate.

Frankly I was appalled at specific examples of how free and loose the new privacy (or lack thereof) tools and commercial motivations behind Facebook made the Grads feel betrayed by Facebook in abusing their trust and not protecting things such as privacy that they hold dear. As we all do. Several handy dandy smartphones and laptops were pulled out to illustrate the point.

Everyone agreed that the aggregate - "they try to do good" - was clearly not adequate for neither Grads nor their parents.

If I was working on University Drive in Palo Alto - this would be something that I should be paying attention to as opposed to paying lip service to.