Thursday, July 27, 2017

Amazon Buys Whole Foods ... Why?

$13.7 billion buys a lot of organic free-range semi-seasoned fair-trade fresh-squeezed coffee beans

Image Credit TechCrunch
I honestly don’t know anything at all about the grocery business. If none of my thinking here makes sense, please leave comments and help me to learn. But having watched Amazon for many years as they go from simple online book seller to purveyor of all things, to behemoth back-end web-services provider, I’m not sure that Amazon simply wants to be in the supermarket business. Of course, they might be, so I’ll list that first in my list of possible reasons why Amazon is willing to spend $13.7 billion on Whole Foods.

Which of these rings most true to you? Amazon will...
  1. seriously enter the traditional supermarket business
  2. use the Whole Foods locations as retail store fronts for Amazon products
  3. leverage Whole Foods’ supply chain and locations to super-charge their own Amazon Fresh delivery business
  4. operate Whole Foods and significantly drop prices in order to start a supermarket price war. Weaken at least some of the competition and push others out, after which Amazon Fresh and traditional Amazon dry goods grocery items can gain market share
  5. do something I haven’t thought of yet
I find #4 to be the most interesting.

Amazon seems particularly focused on Walmart and Target (big retailers who also sell groceries) and would love to deal them a serious blow. If along the way Amazon can damage some of the big supermarket chains while simultaneously boosting their own multi-faceted food business (Amazon Fresh, traditional Amazon food sales, and the rumored Amazon competitor to Blue Apron), that would be a very savvy business move.

Does this sound improbable to you? Not to me. Just think back on Amazon’s history and the way they have aggressively moved into other business areas (AWS), acquired great businesses (Zappos), and destroyed businesses they perceived to be in their way ( I think anything is possible.

What do you think?


Friday, June 30, 2017

The iPhone Turns 10

My bet is that if you are reading this blog, you own and use a smartphone. Very likely either an Apple iPhone or a phone running the Google Android mobile operating system and made by one of a few other smartphone makers. 

Your phone has a rectangular capacitive touch screen of 4” or larger. It’s “home” screen is populated with square icons for “apps” that you run and that you downloaded from an app store.

I also feel safe in saying that 11 years ago, none of the above was true and your mobile phone was something very different. And if I can bottom-line that difference, 11 years ago you carried a mobile phone while today you carry a pocket-sized computer with advanced multimedia capabilities that could also be used for phone calls if you decided you ever wanted to do that.

Like so many of Apple's great achievements, the iPhone was not the introduction of any great technology inventions. We had already seen smartphones of one type or another, some of which were incredibly popular email readers. We had seen some limited capacitive touch. We had handheld media players, including the iPod, another Apple success story. What Apple did so well with the iPhone was to combine technologies well into a highly functional and reliable product, make exceptional design and user interface choices, and then convince us that we couldn't live without it. They certainly convinced me.

The result was a redefinition of the mobile phone (now smartphone) market, and the other phone makers followed. I believe that Blackberry's days of relevance were numbered when they decided not to follow.

At first, the iPhone supported only apps that Apple provided. But once the iPhone was established, there was a community of developers ready to take advantage of a new platform and so the App Store was born. This in turn meant that users had more choices, and developers could cash in if their app was popular. Apple got their cut of the sale, too, whether the developer wrote an app that sold 3 copies or 3 million.

Now, at 10 years old, Apple continues to ride the tsunami that is the iPhone. With iOS 11 coming out later this year, along with the expectation of an iPhone 8 with some interesting changes, as well as the prospect of augmented reality on Apple's iPhones and iPads, excitement continues. Who knows what comes after that?

Are you looking forward to a next generation iPhone? To using augmented reality? Leave a comment and let us know.


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Monday, May 29, 2017

West Chester University’s RECAP Conference

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join about 150 faculty and staff colleagues participating in West Chester University’s RECAP conference. RECAP is an annual conference held each May at West Chester University, showcasing “the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning in higher education.” The conference dates back to 1996, when the acronym for the conference was coined (Resources for the Electronic Classroom: A Partnership). Our conference this May was the 21st RECAP – a pretty impressive run!
Over the years RECAP has grown to involve faculty from Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education and regional higher education institutions, and to reflect advances in technology related to teaching and learning in higher education.
There are many wonderful things about RECAP, starting with the enthusiasm of all of the organizers and the participants. I also truly appreciate how it takes place right after WCU’s spring commencement, which means we attend the conference while still in the afterglow of watching another group of students achieving a major life milestone and knowing that we played our part in that success. Commencement is always such a great reminder of why we teach and why we apply our technology and course design expertise to the teaching and learning goals of our universities.

The thing that I love the most about RECAP, though, is the way that the typical walls between faculty members and technical staff members fall away for a day. We share thinking on course design, on technology tools, and on ways to make online or hybrid courses as personal and interactive as face-to-face courses. We all come together with common purpose, in the belief that when we combine students who want to learn, an expert faculty member who is passionate about his or her subject, and the right mix of course design and learning tools, we bring out the best in all involved in the learning process. The result really is greater than the sum of the parts.

At this year’s conference, we were fortunate to have an invited keynote by Marc Andonian of Gartner to open the day. Marc, who is a Gartner Vice President and Executive Partner, has decades of strategic IT experience, much of it involving higher education. Marc used two of the Gartner frameworks, the Hype Cycle and the Market Clock, to put the conference session talks into a useful context, encouraging attendees to think about the maturity of the ideas and technologies. With that helpful context, attendees might be better able to decide which ideas and technologies warrant their attention and investment.

When the day’s sessions were done, I got the chance to close out the conference with a Recap of RECAP. We looked back on the day and the comments heard from attendees via Twitter and other feedback mechanisms, and in an interactive session attempted to tie it all together with observations from all sixteen sessions.

I very much hope that all RECAP attendees came away feeling as inspired as I did, ready to try some new ideas and technologies and to grow as educators and educational technologists. New students continue to arrive at our campuses each year and it’s exciting to think that we can bring great new ideas to help them on their college and life journey.


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Sunday, April 30, 2017

When Cars Fly

(Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons)
The idea of flying cars has been part of the human imagination for as long as we've had cars -- maybe longer (flying carpet, anyone?). It isn't hard to imagine why. We dream of getting to places faster, avoiding busy intersections, having more freedom to travel over unpaved areas, and of course having a wonderful birds-eye view of our world.

(Image Credit: Back To The Future 2)

Flying cars play starring roles in movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Back to the Future and cartoons like the Jetsons. Many videos can be found on YouTube with related vehicles, and Uber seems ready to work with potential partners creating flying taxi-vehicles. Some "flying cars" seem to be fold-up airplanes, others seem more like dune buggies with hang glider attachments. Still others borrows from military helicopters and are designed for vertical take-off.

 (Image Credit: Hanna-Barbera Productions)
Lately, we've been hearing about ways in which inventors might be getting closer to something practical. Another design getting lots of attention lately is the the Kitty Hawk from Google co-founder Larry Page, which seems to be a large octo-copter drone with a seat strapped on top.

Kitty Hawk Test Flight

This video is fun to watch, but it certainly prompts many questions. How safe is this vehicle? Who would regulate (or insure) it? How close is it to production-readiness, and what would it cost? Where should such a vehicle be permitted to operate?

Would you drive (or fly) this vehicle? How much would you be willing to pay for it?
Please leave a comment and let us know.


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