Monday, March 24, 2014

Do you have an emergency alternative communications plan

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Severe weather, natural and man made disasters that knock out electricity can and often knock out communications networks as well.  We have all heard the warnings to have a 72 hour supply of non perishable food and fresh water on hand as well as a battery operated radio to stay informed.  In the event of a failure of traditional telecommunications systems most could be caught unprepared.  

The natural instinctive inclination for just about everyone if wireline telephone service isn't available is to pull out the cell phone and make a call.  In an emergency situation that knocks telephone service out of commission the people flooding the cellular networks making calls to check on relatives and friends would potentially overload cell towers, even entire cellular networks could get crippled.

The first thing it to limit the number and length of cellular calls.  Use cell phone calls to check in with family members affected by emergency conditions and/or communications network outages.  Secondly use text messaging as much as possible.  Text messages may get delayed a few minutes depending on congestion on the cellular networks.  

Anybody in the role of caregiver to family members who are elderly, disabled or have long term health conditions may need to consider a communications solution that works independently from the traditional telephone and cellular networks.  FRS and GMRS two way radios that use UHF frequencies that have 20 km or more of range can be purchased for well under 100 dollars.  

One of the essential needs for survival in an emergency is access to communications, having a plan to communicate with relatives and friends when telecommunications networks fail in an emergency situation could save your life that of someone you are about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Netflix Doesn't Have Prepaid Cards (But Should)

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For most online products sold and downloaded by customers and digital services delivered online give people the option to pay with their credit cards or prepaid cards available through most major retailers.

Despite the increasing popularity of prepaying for digital products and services distributed online, one of the Internet's most popular video services, Netflix is still holding on to the requirement that customers put it on plastic to get their movies and tv shows delivered on demand.  

Requiring payment by credit card comes from the founding days of Netflix back in the late 1990's when Netflix was in the mail order DVD rental business when the replacement cost of a DVD that was damaged or reported lost was simply charged on a customer's credit card.

Since Netflix only does streaming outside of the United States and within the US very few Netflix customers still rent discs by mail keeping credit card only payment system is outdated and antiquated.  

Initally it may seem that offering prepaid service would only benefit people who don't have a credit card could get access to Netflix and potentially retailers who would sell Netflix prepaid cards.  The number of existing Netflix subscribers who would switch from credit card billing to prepaid if they had the option would number in the millions.  

For Netflix itself would see a benefit in cost savings from not having to pay processing fees to the credit card companies.  To take a credit card payment the merchant pays anywhere between 1.5 to 5 percent to the credit card companies. Using 3 percent as an average processing fee Netflix pays twenty four cents per subscriber per month to Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.  If a conservative estimate of ten million current subscribers  switch to prepaid billing Netflix would save 2.4 million dollars per month.  

Another benefit to Netflix would be building a lump sum of money that they could use to secure better access to content.  If the ten million subscribers prepay 96 dollars for a year of Netflix, Netflix would soon have 960 million dollars at their disposal to buy or produce content or buy bandwidth to improve the service.

Services sold thorough prepaid may still have a lower class reputation of customers who have been unable to qualify for credit, but that is starting to change due to security breaches in merchants both online only and in the physical world, many are now apprehensive about handing over credit card information.  Providing the prepaid option will help Netflix grow their subscriber base by providing these potential new customers with an alternative to credit cards.  

Prepaid service can help Netflix achieve subscriber through the gift giving market. Giving a six months or a year of Netflix would be a perfect compliment to a Apple TV or Roku box given as a gift as a gift for a birthday or for Christmas would give recipients many of which probably would not become Netflix subscribers.  

What I've mentioned are just a few of the compelling reasons for Netflix to add prepaid as a payment method and get out of the dot-com bubble era world of credit card only. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Nintendo Shouldn't Give Up On Hardware

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If you believe the video game press, pundits, and analysts Nintendo's poor sales of WiiU systems is leading the video game company that the world Donkey Kong, Mario and multitude of Pokemon towards an apocalypse.  Financial analysts observing the state of affairs at Nintendo are calling the big N to do what Sega did over a decade ago after the failure of the Dreamcast, pull out of manufacturing consoles an publishing game software for other systems exclusively.

While Nintendo may have detractors among hard core gamers, outside of hard core gamers the casual gamers would much worse off in a future without Nintendo making game consoles.  Who would cater to the family and casual gaming markets? Sony maybe, Microsoft unlikely.  For video games that don't require shooting everything moves (on the screen) Nintendo is the biggest name out there.

Third place may seem like an apocalyptic place for Nintendo to be but no unfamiliar territory.  During the early to mid 2000's Nintendo's game cube trailed way behind  the Playstation 2 and the original Xbox.  Nintendo made it through that generation with a stable of original first party franchises that their devoted fan base kept on buying.  

Even a decade before the GameCube Nintendo engineered to turn around the erosion of market share after the emergence of the Sega Genesis.  After expanding their own roster of first party games and reaching agreements with third party publishers Nintendo was able to overtake Sega in market share and finished the 16 bit era on top of the video game industry.  

To turn around the big N a few things can be and need to be done firstly, kill off the Wii Mini.  Nintendo has a large install base with the original Wii, when many of those units reach the end of life and those units stop functioning the owners have two options replace with a Wii mini or upgrade to a WiiU.  Building in backwards compatibility was the best thing Nintendo did building the WiiU.  Giving customers the option of a 99 dollar replacement lets current Wii users downgrade rather than upgrade which hurts Nintendo's business.

Secondly Nintendo needs new game franchises to keep current and attract new gamers to the WiiU.  Sure Nintendo has long running not to mention very popular franchises that keep many gamers loyal the big N.  Super Mario Brothers has been around just about 30 years, Kirby over 20 years and Pokemon is going to hit the big 20 soon.  Nintendo needed something new and fresh a couple of generations ago.  While Nintendo strongly maintains a reputation of being the big seller of video games for kids and families.  If Nintendo brings forward IP one thing they need to make sure to bring out something for the big kid in all of us so that Nintendo can he'd the image that has been dogging them for the past decade being the system that one grows out of before moving to a Playstation or Xbox. 

Despite what the naysayers want, Nintendo has a huge potential to make a huge comeback to dominate the home video game market with the WiiU, thy know how to do it, they just have to do it.