Monthly Archives: January 2011

Back to the future – airlines looking to cut out the middleman

I was looking to book a flight recently and of course went to my preferred carrier – American Airlines. As some of you might know, American has pulled its tickets from the large airfare brokers – Expedia and Orbitz. Now you can only go via AA.com to purchase tickets on American. Back to the future? Why do I say this?

Back when Orbitz and Expedia burst on the scene a decade ago, they shook up the travel market. Traditional travel agents were no longer necessary when it came to planning a simple trip to San Francisco or putting together a more complex month long European tour. Consumers now had the ability to book flights, hotels and rental cars via a few clicks of the mouse. These online travel aggragators put many travel agents out of business and allowed for consumers to secure low prices and increased options for their travel needs. Now we are seeing the next step of this evolution – the airlines looking to cut out the likes of Expedia and simply drive transactions and clients to their own web sites. What a novel idea.

With the strength of Bing and Google to search airfare and send you to the appropriate sites, why do you need to add a Expedia “layer” to our travel needs? Southwest, Delta and now American Airlines are not listing their airfares on these sites, feels like it might be the beginning of the end for some of the travel sites…consumers will be driven to the airline sites rather than a travel consolidator. Add to this the efforts the airlines are making in social media, such as Twitter only specials, and you can see how the airlines are looking to drive the consumer to AA.com or delta.com, rather than Orbitz.

What Orbitz did to travel agents is being done to them now by the airlines…back to the future.

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Steve Jobs leave of absence – raises question about Apple’s long term

The iconic leader of Apple will be taking another leave of absence due to medical reason.

I realize that we are all replaceable. Jack Welsh left GE, they seem to be doing fairly well. Bill Gates slowly diminished himself in the world of Microsoft and they still churn out massive amounts of cash every quarter. Bill Clinton could not run for a 3rd term and…never mind. Companies, countries and organizations can survive and do thrive after an iconic leader moves on. However, no company embodies its leader as does Apple. Jobs’ influence on the direction and strategy of Apple is legendary. The iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple TV and all the other products that Apple has churned out have Jobs’ fingerprints all over them. One might argue that Apple has developed its own momentum and could finally be able to thrive without their founder leading the charge.

I am not so certain. I think that Apple, while enjoying incredible success recently, might be heading into some rough waters ahead. Google and the Droid operating system are a real threat in the smart phone world. The Droid operating system is device agnostic so unlike the iPhone can be sold via a wide host of handsets. The aforementioned Microsoft seems to want to reassert themselves in the mobile game with their new Windows 7 phone. On the tablet side there are a number of manufacturers looking to take a piece of iPad pie: Blackberry, Toshiba, Dell as well as the Kindle and Nook are all looking to own a part of the tablet market. No doubt iPad is the clear leader, but there are some serious challengers on the horizon. Finally the battle for the home is only beginning. With Apple TV and iTunes, clearly Apple wants to own the content that goes to you shiny new 50inch LED HDTV. Then again so does Google – Google TV, Sony with their TVs and the PS3 system, Microsoft with the XBox and Kinect, as well as all the set top manufacturers with their DVRs.

Steve Jobs has been able to keep Apple ahead of these competitors, nothing short of amazing. Without him at the helm will Apple keep up this momentum? Not sure. This next year will be vital for Apple – ver 2 of the iPad, iPhone 5 and the push for Apple TV. Without a strong, visionary leader in place Apple might not be able to enjoy the success they have come to expect under Jobs.

I would hope that Apple has put in place a plan of succession for leadership, groomed or identified who will keep Apple going. Time will tell.

We are all replaceable, but when it comes to Apple, Jobs might be more difficult to find a replacement than in other organizations.

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Groupon to IPO…for Billions!!!

According to Mashable – Goldman Sachs has approached Groupon to take the social coupon company public for a whopping  $15 to $20 billion valuation…WOW. I guess the offer from Google was a drop in the bucket according to this story…seems like we are back in the world of go-go day valuations. With the rumors of Facebook being valued at $50billion, now another social media company with irrational exuberant valuations it does feel like 1999 all over again.

Let us hope that NASDAQ 10,000 and free sushi for employees also comes with this latest insanity.

 

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iPhone on Verizon could be a silver lining for AT&T

The worst kept secret was finally unveiled earlier this year, that Apple will be selling the iPhone via Verizon in addition to their long standing relationship with AT&T. This has unleashed a deluge of commentary and mockery of AT&T’s network ability to handle the iPhone and the data overload the smartphone has unleashed.

As has been pointed out, AT&T stands to lose disgruntled customers to Verizon. There is not doubt this news will give Verizon a boost – they are already seen as the carrier with superior coverage to AT&T, the addition of the popular iPhone coupled with their stable of other smartphones will make for 2011 to be a good year for Verizon. Yet might this move be a silver lining for AT&T?

The iPhone has clearly given AT&T a big boost in terms of sales and customers, being the only provider of the Apple product has made those of us who want an iPhone entrenched with the carrier. As the Jon Stewart piece points out, it also created a back lash from those customers. AT&T has never been able to catch up to the data demand the iPhone has created. Could losing some of these clients from the network actually make the service for those of us still on AT&T actually better? If, as some report, we could see close to 4 million users gravitate to Verizon that would remove that kind of strain on the AT&T network that we have all groan accustomed to and had to deal with grudgingly. In addition, the arrival of another competitor being able to sell the popular device will force AT&T to make some investments and decisions to ensure they keep and attract iPhone users.

In the short term AT&T will take a hit and Verizon will leverage the ability to sell the iPhone 4 to build on their market position. I hope in the long term this move will make the AT&T experience better for those of us still using the iPhone on their network. Otherwise once my contract expires I might port my number and iPhone to Verizon.

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Happy New Year

Happy belated new year to all. May 2011 be happy, prosperous and safe.

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