First thought on the iPhone 3G: Only for some


The new iPhone 3G was announced June 9, and it comes out July 11. The wow factor is not so great. The new phone does in fact use 3G, which means you can get near-wi-fi speed data almost anywhere you are on the AT&T 3G network. You can read some of Robert Scoble’s thoughts on it as well.

New and improved with 3G?
Sort of. If you watch a lot of YouTube or other Web videos on your phone, it will be cool. If you snap and send a lot of picture emails from your iPhone (rapid Flickr dumping), you could use it. But for basic email, or pulling up a Google search? Not a huge benefit.

New Case?
The iPhone 3G has a slightly thicker, but more contoured case, that “feels even better in your hand” according to Steve Jobs. It’s pretty cool looking in all-black plastic (or a white option for the 16GB version) with metal buttons. It also has a flush-mounted headphone jack – so you can use any headphones with it, or plug your iPhone into a stereo just like any other iPod without using a jack adapter.

Price Drop?
Be aware: this is a subsidized price drop – which means AT&T is paying for the part of the phone that you’re not paying for — and they’ll be getting the extra money out of you over time. Here’s how:

The current $399/$499 iPhone requires AT&T voice plan + $20 for unlimited email/data ($59.99/month minimum)

The new $199/$299 iPhone 3G requires AT&T voice plan + $30 for unlimited email/data.

You have to sign a new 2-year contract for the iPhone. So that extra $10 per month over 2 more years adds up to an extra $240 to AT&T. That means the $199/$299 price is really $439/$539 compared with the current phone + plan cost. If the plan price isn’t as important to you as the purchase price, well then, yes, you can tell yourself it’s cheaper.

Existing iPhone users will get the software 2.0 upgrade for free, with Exchange mail, games, the iPhone App Store, and the other improvements. 

Bottom line?
Yes, it’s cool. But if you don’t need 3G speed or a flush-mounted headphone jack, you won’t be saving money with the iPhone 3G. Except for 3G speed, all the software improvements to the iPhone are coming to the first generation as well.


Backpack grows into a good small-business intranet

We’ve been using Backpack from 37signals for personal organization and page-sharing with small groups since last year, but we’ve kept most multi-user projects in Basecamp because it’s the more robust system for lots of users.

However, Basecamp is often too cumbersome for simpler projects, or projects with fewer than four or five users.  So 37signals just rolled out a major upgrade to Backpack and changed its pricing plans to make it more of a group tool, rather than an individual tool.

Read their blog about the philosophy behind the switch. It’s clear that Backpack is moving into the project management space that Basecamp has clearly owned for so long, but Backpack does have more of the small-business intranet features, as they state.

We’re going to try it out with a couple of group projects and see how it works. It does feel like 37signals products are creating more overlap with one another, between Basecamp, Backpack and Highrise, but they are all cool, and we have yet to be disappointed with their simplicity of design and clarity of purpose. 

How to refresh the stale org chart

Constellation org chartI was challenged recently with finding a way to represent a departmental organization chart in a way that didn’t force people into traditional parent-child hierarchical “tree.”Ever since reading Gordon MacKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of creating healthier, more collaborative workplace cultures by fostering “group-based” thinking and team environments. 

MacKenzie asks why we expect people to collaborate when we build metaphorical and physical “silos” throughout our companies? “Departments,” “divisions,” and similar terms get people thinking about separation, subconsciously at first, and then consciously later, when they relocate entire “divisions” to separate floors, buildings or states. What if we instead term people as “teams” “groups,” or “pods?” Would that semantic shift possibly foster other collaborative action?

Today’s organizations however, often have people in roles that are far too fluid to keep in a traditional org tree: dotted-line relationships up-down-and-across would keep a couple of full-time HR people busy in Visio just trying to maintain current org charts.

Group bubbles, on the other hand, allow people and teams to morph freely, assembling and disassembling as needed for special projects or new jobs. Putting the “head” of the organization at the center also creates a “nucleus” for the group, with team supervisors in an inner circle, and as many individual contributors as needed attaching to the team bubbles. Individuals in any role can be renamed, detached, and floated over to other groups easily without creating the “hole” that would happen in a traditional tree chart.

This image is too small to see the lines very clearly that connect the bubbles, but they’re there. Last but not least, it looks cooler and might inspire your people to think differently about your organization. “Magnet” connections in OmniGraffle and Visio can make the assembly and connections easy. Web tools like Flex could animate this for quick motion rendering. What else could you do with it? 

Bee lets you WordPress offline using Adobe AIR

Here’s an interesting thing we ran across today on the Adobe Labs site. Bee is a new offline blog editor compatible with WordPress that lets you access and sync with your blog from offline. More below:Bee is a desktop blog editor built on AIR in HTML/JavaScript. Bee integrates WordPress blogging platform and Flickr photo sharing support and offers simple unified workflows for photo blogging. This application integrates a number of javascript frameworks and libraries including Prototype,, Spry, TinyMCE, and Walter Zorn’s Tooltips for Javascript.

Your brand is not your logo

It’s been said before, but it bears saying again: Your brand is not your logo. It’s not your color scheme, or your tagline, or even your principles or your market segments or your penetration. Your brand is the gut feeling regular people get when they think of your company.

This includes your customers, suppliers, partners, employees, investors, enemies, and general public. It is shaped by the way you interact with them, in every phone conversation, transaction, and problem escalation.

These are the only things that matter. The other stuff people normally call “branding” is just window dressing that clarifies and can enhance your brand value. But the real branding is done in your day-to-day operations, not in the marketing, PR or design department.

People love Amazon because you can get just about any piece of media or media equipment you want at the best price anywhere, and it’s easy and fast – despite how bad the logo and Web site look.

People love Netflix because it emancipated millions of us from video-store slavery with its free mailing system, easy online queues, and no late fees. Its “branding” people think of is nothing more than a reminder (in the form of a red envelope) of the joy of escaping from video store hell.

People love Macs because they don’t ask you to tell the computer when you connect a camera. It just knows. And they don’t make you hunt and search for drivers with every new printer or piece of software. They just install automatically. Compared with people’s traditional experiences, that’s a welcome relief. The fact that they’re prettier is just window dressing on that key benefit.

To really stand out, you need to deliver your product or service like no one has ever done before. It’s not enough to be a “leading provider of ___ solutions.” You need to change their expectations of the entire market.

Why do people love your company? Do they know? Do they have a reason? 

Microsoft PR Waggener Edstrom portrayed in new Apple ad

I laughed when I saw this Apple ad, not that it’s especially clever, but because the “PR lady” in the ad so closely resembles some of the Portland PR people I know, some of whom work for Microsoft.It’s too bad that PR people have such a nailable persona, because they are usually quite smart and do some really good work.

Leaving the McMansion for the Small Life

Moving from a big house to smaller apartment-type accommodations might actually add to your quality of life. I realize that a large family does require more space but for the rest of us, small just might do. Here are some benefits to owning a smaller home…read more | digg story