Tag Archives: Motorola Inc.

The Bluetooth Gun

Bluetooth in the line of fire? New Scientist reports of a police gun invention that when fired will automatically send its position to fellow officers who can then, presumably, provide backup.

The idea is that when a police officer is holding his gun correctly — both hands on the weapon — he or she can’t easily reach for the radio. So inventor Kevin Sinha of Georgia, “has come up with a simple way around the problem and Motorola, which has made police radios for many years, has pitched in.” The invention involves a Bluetooth transmitter chip controlled by a sensor in the gun which detects when the firing pin is triggered. Whenever a shot is fired the gun sends out a signal to a GPS radio on the wearer’s belt which determines the wearer’s precise position and transmits a pre-recorded message along with the location.

An interesting use of Bluetooth (and GPS). Of course, knowing how hard it is to couple two Bluetooth devices, and their tendency to need “waking up” even if they are paired, I wouldn’t want to rely on it in hairy situations. Like being shot at, for example.

Markets May Be Conversations, But Weird Ones

My conversations with some quite senior PR people are often somewhat bizarre: stilted, me trying not to sound like I’m the ghost in their machine, the castle-wall destroyer, them so defensive about their product and brand they could easily be replaced by robots. Cluetrain Manifesto should be required reading for these guys. Or at least Micropersuasion.

Recently, inspired by Kate Fox’s observations about the role of SMS in her book Watching the English and recalling Motorola’s sponsorship of research a few years back of Sadie Plant (PDF only) I approached a major handset manufacturer to see whether they had anything similar on how people used SMS and whether it differed from country to country.
No, that sort of thing would be kept secret.
– So there is research but I can’t see it?
– I’m not sure. But this kind of thing would be important marketing information. Commercially sensitive.
– (Audible sigh admitted by columnist).
I see. (Thinks: There goes their chance to seem like a company bigger than merely the next dollar.)

Actually I knew I was in trouble when I complained earlier to this PR person about their company’s desktop software, which I’d found almost impossible to install on three different computers. I found myself being talked to as if I were a small child (which I am, but I was upset at being found out) and told that “focus groups and users have actually found it very easy to install. Maybe you’re doing something wrong.” Yes, believing that the 104th version of your software was going to be easier to work with that all the previous versions, I thought to myself, but didn’t say out loud. At least I don’t think I did.

Now I know we journalists have thin skin, but I’m not sure this is the best way to go about engaging in a meaningful dialog with someone who is about to review your product.

How To Plug PR Black Holes, Or Steal A Rival’s Customers

Why have I become a Nokia Care Center? Because I wrote a nasty blog post about them a year ago, that’s why. In October 2004 I was not happy with the response of my local Nokia centre, which seemed very cavalier and, well, careless about the data saved on a customer’s phone. Basically, there was no straightforward way for the customer to save their data before it was wiped off during a Care Centre repair. Several angry customers were belatedly waking up to the implications of losing all their phone numbers and other personal data. This struck me as dumb and I wrote about it.

Big mistake. Not because I heard back from Nokia (I never did, as I recall) but because I heard from other customers, all seeming to have some problem with their Nokia phone, and, increasingly, assuming I could do something about it. Nearly 40 so far, which is not a huge amount, but more attention than most of my posts receive. This once happened before, when I wrote about Coca Cola doing some online music venture. It ended up being colonised by semi-literate gamers confusing the post with some online game. I appreciated the traffic but after the posts crossed the lines of vulgarity and legality, I figured it was better to pull the post.

Of course, this kind of thing happens because the comments start figuring in the search engine results, not just the original post, and then the page starts climbing the rankings. A search for “Nokia Care Centres” on Google puts me 4th, way above many Nokia corporate sites, while the U.S. spelling puts me 8th: only one non Nokia site is above me there, a complaint from an expat site in Singapore. That, coupled with all the other hopeful requests added as comments (usually along the lines of “Can u send me Nokia Care Centers in Bangalore?”, the most recent comment of less than an hour ago) push it higher up the rankings and make readers assume such previous pleas for help have been answered. They haven’t, at least not by me, but I’m almost thinking of setting myself up as a Nokia Care Centre.

The bigger question here is: Why is Nokia not monitoring this kind of thing and helping out these customers by either approaching me to post something helpful on their behalf (folks looking for answers should go to this link, or call this number, or send an email here, or whatever) or post a comment themselves to reach these lost souls? Surely someone in Nokia has noticed that their own Nokia Care Centres are getting bypassed on Google, as dozens of unhappy customers cry for help or vent their frustration elsewhere online?

Nokia, please pay one intern to trawl the web for this kind of black hole and the problem could be solved, and a PR blindspot fixed, in before it gets out of hand. (Then there are the rivals: Why has Motorola or Samsung not called me up and asked to advertise on this page, realising they could win over dozens of new customers frustrated by their Nokia experiences? No really, folks. I probably need to mull over the ethical aspects of dissing a company so I can woo advertising from rivals, but after that brief Mulling Period is over, I’m open to all offers.)  

The Poor Get Their Motorolas

I’m intrigued by this program to offer cheap handsets for the poor (from The Register), but I have my doubts. The Register says

Motorola has been selected by the GSM Association (GSMA) to supply the handsets for its programme to provide mobile telephony to people in developing countries. Motorola will commence delivery of these phones in the first quarter of 2006, as the second phase of the GSMA’s Emerging Market Handset (EMH) programme gets underway. The stated aims of the programme are to advance the social and economic development of emerging markets through mobile communications. It includes an initiative to provide mobile phones that cost less than USD30 apiece onto the market in poorer nations.

Where I live you can get a second-hand handset for less than that. Indeed, in Indonesia handsets are so cheap everyone, and I mean everyone, has at least one. Wouldn’t it make more sense to give developing countries (ok, ‘emerging markets’) second-hand phones from the developed countries (‘emerged markets’). Wouldn’t it be better just to give these things away?

How (Not) To Pitch A Blogger

I get a the growing feeling that we bloggers are being targeted more than we were by PR folk. Sure, there’s the Warner/Secret Machines/MP3 blog debacle, where a Warner employee used some hamfisted tactics to get some bloggers to write about a Warner act. But there are other tactics too, and some are more impressive than others.

I lead a double life as a technology columnist — indeed, that’s why this blog exists — so I get quite a lot of PR pitches, some of whom are hoping I’ll do a column on their client, some of whom are just looking for a blog entry. All of this is fair game, and assumes a degree of professionalism on both sides.

But I didn’t realise until today that there are media “lists” of bloggers out there who are now being targetted by PR types. I received a pitch from a US-based public relations company for the Motorola DCP600 Digital Video Home Entertainment System. The email began thus:

As a blogger focusing on news and trends within the technology sector, I thought that you would be interested in this innovative home entertainment system from Motorola. Please consider covering this new product in your blog. Feel free to contact me if you need further info, have any questions, etc.

Fair enough, except for a couple of things. First off, the email address used has never been posted on this blog, and has only been used for spam, phishing attacks and Nigerian email fraud for the past year. The only exception: A pitch by another PR guy, back in June 2003. So where did they get my email address?

A quick email later, and the PR company tells me: “I received your information through a media research database.” Fair enough. Bloggers, clearly, are being tracked, and that’s probably no great shakes. But why the out-of-date email address? And why no basic data which might shape the nature of the pitch, such as I also happen to be a technology columnist for Dow Jones?

What makes it all a tad weirder is that the pitch is for a product that was announced in January, seven months ago, and won’t be available in the stores until “either October or
November (in time for the holiday shopping season)” — another two or three months away. Not exactly a hot story, either way you look at it. If I was half-asleep (not that unusual, I admit) I might have just edited down the attached press release and bingo! Motorola would have had a bit of free publicity to keep their product bubbling away on the search engines until the product actually appears in the stores.

Bottom line: I don’t mind being pitched. And I don’t mind it that much if the product is actually either too old to really get excited about, or too far away from the stores to burden readers with it. But couldn’t these media research databases, and the people who use them, do a bit of basic research (it’s called ‘Googling’) before they fire off their pitches? We bloggers, just like journalists, are a sensitive lot and hate to feel we’re being taken for a ride by folk who haven’t done their homework first. Otherwise it looks dangerously like spam.

Logitech, the Bluetooth Hubster

I’m still playing with mine, but on the surface Logitech look like they may be the first to fashion a real Bluetooth hub for the PC. The problem has been to develop a dongle, or some other widget, that can easily turn a non-Bluetooth PC into one that can easily recognise and deal with other Bluetooth devices. I’ve tried a lot and have yet to find one that works seamlessly. (The word ‘seamlessly’ and ‘Bluetooth’ don’t usually appear in the same sentence.)

Meanwhile Logitech has announced that its own candidate, the Bluetooth Wireless Hub, now works with the latest Bluetooth phones from Sony Ericsson and Nokia; new PDAs from Toshiba, HP, and palmOne; as well as hands-free headsets from Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia. It’s worth checking out, although one word of warning: As far as I can work out, the hub will only work if you connect it directly to a USB port — and not to an external hub. If your PC only has one or two USB ports, and you’re using a lot of (non Bluetooth) USB gadgets, that can be a major no-no.