Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Rawlings S100: They Should Have Listened to Miles Davis

I remember once seeing an interview with Miles Davis in the 1980s. The interviewer asked Miles what was the most important thing he thought about when he was on stage. Miles chewed his gum and thought for a bit while wearing his big sunglasses. As a musician, I leaned forward and anticipated what musical tidbit I could learn from his genius. Finally, he stopped chewing and said, "You got ta look cool."

Fast Forward to 2009, where Rawlings is about to unveil its latest batting helmet. Current batting helmets only protect players up to 70 m.p.h. The goal they had was to create a helmet that could withstand the impact of a fastball thrown at 100 m.p.h. They succeeded in meeting that goal. Then they showed it to the players. Here are some quotes:

Jeff Francoeur, NY Mets: "No, I am absolutely not wearing that. I could care less what they say, I’m not wearing it. There’s got to be a way to have a more protective helmet without all that padding. It’s brutal. We’re going to look like a bunch of clowns out there."

Nomar Garciaparra, Oakland A's: "I want a helmet that’s comfortable and that doesn’t look bad."

Mark Teixeira, NY Yankees: "I'd feel like I'm wearing a football helmet in the batter's Box"

Rawlings themselves thinks that the helmet it a "very nice cosmetically looking helmet" as you can see in the video below. Clearly there is a disconnect somewhere, and it looks like it is in the product lifecycle at Rawlings. It seems silly that these players would let aesthetics factor in here when their health is on the line, but they do. How much of a percentage of "cool" goes into the product design process at Apple? How do you measure or track this? Not simple to answer, but we should remember Miles the next time we embark on a new product design.

Direct link to Rawlings video:

UPDATE #1: 3 days after the New York Times has a story on this new helmet, David Wright was hit flush on the temple area of his old helmet with a 95 m.p.h. fastball.

UPDATE #2: Upon David Wright's return after being on the disabled list, he wore the Rawlings S100. He was made fun of by both teams because of the size of the helmet and said it needed "tweaking" because it fell over his face while he ran the bases. Innovation is imperfect strikes again!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What is Taobao? It's Big.

I had never heard of Taobao before. Then I read that this year they will sell more than Amazon will (about $19 billion). They have 120 million users. Wow.

Here is a definition of Taobao I found online:

Taobao is a shopping marketplace for consumers in China. Founded by parent Alibaba Group, it facilitates transactions between individual consumers and a wide range of sellers such as retailers, wholesalers, and other individuals. Similar to eBay, sellers are able to post new and used goods for sale on the Taobao marketplace either through a fixed price or negotiated sale or by auction.

A key difference between Taobao and eBay is that they make no money from the transactions. They make all their money from advertising.

I wonder if the Taobao experience and business model will begin to wag eBay and Amazon as Google and the iPhone have in their markets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Have Your Daily Routines Changed Because of Technology?

The New York Times has a technology article that focuses more on the people instead of the technologies they use. As we engage more of ourselves online socially, we are losing some of our reality relationships and routines. Twitter, Facebook and Email have these magnetic draws that pull us away from our family and friends at times. As the devices we use to consume these things become smaller and more usable, these issues will become more and more pronounced. Here is a bit from the article about a NJ teenager, Moriah:

In May, Gabrielle Glaser of Montclair, N.J., bought her 14-year-old daughter, Moriah, an Apple laptop for her birthday. In the weeks after, Moriah missed the school bus three times and went from walking the family Labradoodle for 20 minutes each morning to only briefly letting the dog outside.

Moriah concedes that she neglected the bus and dog, and blames Facebook, where the possibility that crucial updates from friends might be waiting draws her online as soon as she wakes. "I have some friends that are up early and chatting," she said. "There is definitely a pull to check it."

Read the entire article here: Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online.