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Rich Tehrani
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Consumer Electronics

Costco Tightens Return Policy

February 28, 2007





A New Electronics Return Policy Spells a Terrible Day for CRM   I frequently hear people talking about Costco’s amazing return policy and how they only purchase their electronics from the warehouse club. In addition I usually hear these comments as people simultaneously complain about terrible experiences they have had at other retailers. Usually these stories revolve around a product that quickly becomes defective and is subsequently unable to be returned.   Apparently many people were taking advantage of the extremely generous return policy and were subsequently returning products to buy a newer or cheaper version of the same product.   This is unfortunate as a few people have now ruined it for the rest of us. Costco has a new return policy.   Costco has until now allowed customers to return items at any time for a full refund, except for personal computers, where returns were limited to six months.   The new policy will give customers only 90 days to return televisions, computers, cameras, camcorders, portable music players and cell phones.   To put a silver lining in this consumer electronics cloud, Costco plans to extend the warranties on televisions and PCs for a total of two years.



A Breakthrough Month in IP Communications

February 26, 2007

Skype, Google, Verizon, Vonage and Other Happenings   Please enjoy the March 2007 Publisher’s Outlook from Internet Telephony Magazine:   The last few weeks have been among the most newsworthy in IP communications since this magazine’s first issue in February 1998. If you have any doubts about the VoIP market’s strength and power, consider that Skype has recently petitioned the FCC for something amazing. They want to apply the Carterphone rules to the wireless industry. These are the same rules that were applied to break up the AT&T monopoly on devices, allowing anyone to make products for the AT&T network — as long as these products did not harm the network.   Innovations like the fax machine and vibrant competition in the handset market ensued.

Skype, FCC and Carterphone

February 23, 2007

The Carterphone ruling is what is responsible for opening up AT&T’s original phone networks to competition. Prior to this ruling AT&T had a monopoly on the devices attached to what it considered its network. AT&T even charged an electricity fee as I recall to light the lights on phones that hard plastic buttons representing phone lines.   In the US some think wireless providers are acting like monopolies as well by restricting access to their mobile networks to devices sanctioned only by the wireless provider. Verizon is famous for crippling devices – bluetooth for example -- and thereby driving revenue from services which require subscribers to rely on Verizon’s network.   Skype for its part is not happy with this situation and is subsequently asking the FCC to apply Carterphone principles to wireless networks allowing any device to be used on these networks.

Skype Pro: The Ultimate European VoIP Bundle

February 20, 2007

A few weeks back at ITEXPO there was a lot of buzz about Skype Pro and as it turns out the service goes live on Tuesday, February 19. I had a chance to speak with Skype’s Imogen Bailey and Stefan Oberg's the VP and General Manager of Skype Telecoms about the announcement and much more.   What is Skype Pro?   Skype Pro is basically a bundled package of services at a fixed price. The reason for this offering is to eliminate the one by one marketing of services customers would have to buy to receive similar functionality. In much the same way a cell phone provider gives voicemail, some SMS messages and a certain number of calling minutes, so too has Skype decided to make it easier for customers to buy a package of services.   Skype Pro’s subscription package costs €2 per month and includes:


  • Zero cents per minute calling to domestic (European) landlines in (country) previously €0.017* per minute
  • Free Skype Voicemail (normally €15 per year)
  • €30 discount on SkypeIn numbers
  • €5 Skype Credit included as part of the introductory offer
  • A €30 discount on a Philips VoIP 841 cordless phone.



Apple, iPhone and the AT&T Power Struggle

February 18, 2007

Apple’s ability to open the music industry up and now the mobile phone market is amazing. Steve Jobs has more control over the iPhone than any other recent domestic equipment provider has had over their devices. In fact few people at Cingular Wireless – now AT&T Wireless even saw the device before it was announced at MacWorld.   AT&T Wireless put up with Jobs and Apple but Verizon Wireless balked at some of the terms of the agreement such as where the phones would be sold. Apparently none of the wireless carriers are happy with comments made by Steve Jobs in the past – specifically, that telecom operators as "orifices" that other companies, including phone makers, must go through to reach consumers.   Obviously AT&T has high hopes for this device to put up with these comments and to lose so much control of the device.   But there is more at play here worth mentioning.

iPhone, AT&T U-verse, Blackberry and Hosted Communications

February 14, 2007

Edgar Bronfman Jr. a record company exec speaking at CTIA is right on when he says the interface on cell phones can use drastic improvement. On average, Bronfman said, it can take a person 20 clicks to buy a ringtone, depending on the carrier network the consumer is using. He also complained about the fact that ringtones, full-track songs, music videos and album art are all sold in separate virtual stores.   I believe Apple has and will continue to change the mobile phone industry and if the industry doesn’t get its act together soon, Apple will steamroll it. Somehow Apple does everything design-wise better than any other company.

iPods, Blackberrys Banned

February 7, 2007

Today the government banned the automobile arguing that by doing so hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved. The logical argument presented by our leaders was that the government needs to protect citizens from themselves.   Could you imagine if such a thing were true? There would be panic in the streets and the stock market would tank. People wouldn’t be able to get to work, enjoy themselves by driving away on vacations.

TMCnet Mobile

February 2, 2007

If you are looking for the best communications and technology news on the go be sure to check out TMCnet Mobile which will display very well on most mobile devices. The service is in alpha at the moment but seems pretty stable based on my brief experience.   Any web browser can see this page by the way. Check it out now if you like.   One thing it does that I consider great about this new service but others may not like is that it allows you access to parts of TMCnet that are formatted for the mobile device.   In other words if a link exists in an article that is not formatted for the mobile device you can still get there. This is great depending ion your web device.   What is very frustrating to me about other sites is that when you click on a link in an article that is not formatted for a mobile device you get redirected to a page that is a mobile home page.

ITEXPO Comments on Video

February 1, 2007

Since Internet Telephony Conference & Expo last week – TMC has received a steady stream of testimonials unlike I have ever seen for any tech show ever. So many people have told me that ITEXPO in Ft. Lauderdale was the best show they have ever attended that I don’t know what to say. It has been quite amazing. Our marketing department has been scrambling just to keep up with all the testimonials that have been steadily arriving.   A few of the testimonials are up in video format already.

Toshiba Brian Metherell Interview

January 31, 2007

Toshiba is a company you think about in just about every area of tech. In fact I recently ditched my old laptop from another manufacturer for a Toshiba laptop and so far so good. When you think of this Japanese electronics giant you may not think about VoIP or even communications.   But Toshiba is in fact taking the communications space very seriously and in fact they have had business communications systems for a long while. Generally the company has kept a low profile on their communications products in the US but perhaps that will change going forward.
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