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Mon Dieu ! Apple Store Coming the Louvre

Malin comme tout !
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There’s a price for everything, even in the Louvre: Tomorrow, Apple will be opening up their very first Parisian Apple Store, and it’ll sit in the concourse right below I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid.

According to Bloomberg, this’ll be Apple’s 277th store, worldwide. It’s set to be slightly smaller than the one on Oxford Circus in London. But it’s not tiny: The bilevel store will employ 150 people. You can expect the place to be mobbed. The Louvre concourse is one of the most heavily trafficked places in Paris. It links all of the wings of the Louvre, and visitors to the museum have to pass by before entering the museum.

For Microsoft, it comes at a particularly irksome time. Last month they opened a very sad looking cafe to coincide with the launch of Windows 7.

By next summer, Apple will open two more stores in France–one near Opera, a major hub on the Left Bank, and another in Montpellier, the economic powerhouse of southern France.

You’ve gotta wonder just how many records the Louvre location is set to smash. The 5th Avenue store in New York, which isn’t very big at all or even particularly pleasant as Apple stores go, is thought to earn far more than any of its neighbors, with yearly receipts of around $350 million.

Come to think of it, design wise, coming to the Louvre actually makes a lot of sense–the glass cube of the 5th Avenue store was basically a straight-up theft of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, and his widely celebrated idea of turning the entrance to a dark, underground space into a dramatic point of pride:

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[Via Bloomberg; picture by Al Ianni]

Porn and music: two industries fighting with free

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In a documentary called Porn: Business of Pleasure, Wired’s Nick Thompson points out the similarities between adult filmmakers and record companies.

“We’ve seen the music industry transformed by people uploading music, by file shares, by people thinking that albums should only be available for free, and we’re seeing similar things happen to the adult industry.”

The following voice-over claims that, “what Napster was to music, tube sites are to porn,” which is something that porn filmmakers are gunning to change. Many are taking control of sites like YouPorn and XTube, posting snippets from feature length films with ads at the end to buy the whole movie. Even if a very low percentage of the 15 million monthly viewers (according to a 2007 Portfolio article) actually click, companies will still turn a profit.

Buy to Last

Ellen Ruppel Shell in the Atlantic:

But put down your 59-cent Färgrik coffee mug and ask yourself: Can we afford to keep shopping at places where an item’s price reflects only a fraction of its societal costs?

IKEA designs to price, challenging its talented European team to create ever-cheaper objects, and its suppliers—most of them in low-wage countries in Asia and eastern Europe—to squeeze out the lowest possible price. By some measures the world’s third-largest wood consumer, IKEA proudly employs 15 “forestry monitors.” Eight of them work in China and Russia, but illegal logging is widespread in those vast countries, making it impossible to guarantee that all wood is legally harvested. (The company declines to pay a premium to ensure that all timber is legally harvested, citing costs that would be passed along to the consumer.) IKEA furniture made of particleboard and pine is not meant to last a lifetime; indeed, some professional movers decline to guarantee its safe transport. But to be fair, creating heirlooms is not IKEA’s goal. Nor, despite a lot of self-serving hoopla, is energy conservation: the company boasts of illuminating its stores with low-wattage lightbulbs but positions outlets far from city centers, where taxes are low and commuting costs high—the average IKEA customer drives 50 miles round-trip. Cleverly, IKEA transfers transport and energy costs onto consumers, who are then handed the additional burden of assembling their purchases. Designed but not crafted, IKEA bookcases and chairs, like most cheap objects, resist involvement: when they break or malfunction, we tend not to fix them. Rather, we buy new ones. Wig Zamore, a Massachusetts environmental activist who was recently recognized for his work by the Environmental Protection Agency, is working with IKEA and supports some of the company’s regional green initiatives. But as he put it, “IKEA is the least sustainable retailer on the planet.” And in real costs—the kind that will burden our grandchildren—that also makes it among the most expensive.

* Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (Hardcover) by Ellen Ruppel Shell

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50 Years of IKEA

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At a first glance, you might wonder how the product of a established company with a final consumer porpuse can delved into art or well, where is the divisor line between marketing event and an art exhibition. What the museum, directed by Mårten Castenfors, and exhibition curator Staffan Bengtsson wish to relate is a story about IKEA – the phenomenon, its innovations and designers – a story about the birth of the Folkhemmet. A generous presentation of the company that has furnished Sweden after the Second World War. The exhibition also works out as a recreation of memories of various stages within the average Swedish life. ()

Charging for Online Content Gets Closer

Good luck!

Expect the ecosystem of the Web to start feeling a little different once the summer slips away. Publishers, stung by an economic downturn and ongoing disappointment with online ad revenues, will begin charging for at least some of their Web content. Eager to help make this happen are two proposed e-commerce systems, Journalism Online and ViewPass, which are developing technologies to enable publishers to sell their wares. Gordon Crovitz, a co-founder of Journalism Online, says “we expect a very large number of news sites will have some elements of paid content beginning in the fall.” Crovitz, a former Wall Street Journal publisher, says that a number of companies have already signed on with his service. He won’t identify them, but one executive familiar with the situation says some may be announced by early July.

A key point, one that is often overlooked when people react to the prospect of such changes, is that hardly anyone has serious plans to wall off the entirety of their free sites. The preferred terms du jour describe “premium” offerings, or even, forgive them, “freemium,” given the blend of free and paid. The dream dancing through some executives’ heads involves a hybrid model: maintaining much or all existing free traffic while charging some subscribers fees for certain offerings, then using data from these users’ browsing habits to help sell ultra-targeted—and thus higher-priced—advertising.

Too good to be true? Quite possibly.

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Swedish software firm buys The Pirate Bay for £4.7m

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Wow! Steal from others, get bought out, make $7+m. All while dabbling in neo-nazism to keep from getting too bored.

The Swedish software firm, Global Gaming Factory X, has bought the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay for almost £4.7m.

GCF CEO Hans Pandeya said that to continue, The Pirate Bay would have to develop a new business model. “We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid.”

In April, the founders of The Pirate Bay were sentenced to one year in jail and fined £2.4m.

Toothbrushes, TiVo, and Twitter: Designing Great Relationships

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In olden days, way back before the Industrial Revolution, stuff was created in an intimate setting. There was someone who needed something and there was someone who made it for them. In every case, there existed a relationship between maker and customer.

Today the practice of design is spreading virulently, infecting the business management world among other things. And of course it should. Our modern era of mass production requires enormous organizations to replicate the relationship of a designer artisan with her customer. If that organization doesn’t know how to listen to or inspire the customer, the relationship will die.

Tivo LogoUnderstanding the actions, anatomies and aspirations of humans is foundational for creating better products, better relationships.

Case in point is the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush. It’s a manual toothbrush that was born out of intense observation of how people hold a brush and resulted in a game changer: a brush that people love because of its comfort and effectiveness, used to perform a job that is about taking care of oneself. Home run.

TiVo came into being with a similar focus on the customer. The product was a revolution when it arrived because it resisted the Silicon Valley urge to be a technology product. It focused instead on television viewing as an experience and delivered my TV on my schedule. More importantly, because the relationship that TiVo designed for customers is about fetching entertainment easily, they are quickly becoming a platform for delivering internet-based content on my terms.

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