Saturday, July 29, 2006

CoolHints - today for Ricoh, Archos and even Apple!

OK, today I am inaugurating a new feature of this blog - I am calling it CoolHints since it's simply about suggestions for great products that should be done (very soon) by simply changing or adding something very simple to an existing product - but since it is 'directed' to an existing product it's not a generic wish in search of a company but instead a very specific HINT for a specific company - they can take it with no strings attached (at most I would like from time to time to get my hands on the new product for a review) ... or they can spend huge amounts of money on overpaid managers and marketing 'experts' and then just ask why nobody buys their latest products that have failed so pathetic :)

I got the original CoolHint idea when reading some posts on the dpreview Ricoh forum - one of my web friends is now a regular visitor and big R4 fan - and in quite a few threads here, here and here a lot of great photography-related suggestions were made about how Ricoh should improve R4 and the next models - and while I am also a fan I can't stop thinking that I only got the R4 as an 'all time in my pocket camera' and while I would certainly want some (most?) of those suggested photography-related features the one function that might actually dramatically raise Ricoh sales would be a new mode - the R4 has a photo mode, a video mode and a voice memo mode but a GREAT NEW FEATURE (that would actually sell it to many NEW customers) would be a new MP3 PLAYER mode !!!

It makes a lot of sense - the R4 is very small and many of the owners are taking it everywhere and today a 2 GB decent SD card is about 50 US$ so you can EASILY dedicate 1 GB from it to your favorite MP3 (or OGG) songs or audio books, you can attach the case to your belt and just listen to them when you have nothing better to do !!! And in the first version Ricoh should TOTALLY forget about DRM models - just support MP3, nothing fancy, don't "overdo it" (but USB2 high speed is needed; also use decent headphones and a standard connector). Obviously such a mode is only usable on very, very small cameras and if the R5 will not have it I can bet that the next generation Panasonic FX (or Casio) will have it and steal Ricoh sales! (actually I believe that I have already seen a Benq with something like that - but the size was too big and the photo part was awful). Also recording to WAV files (in voice-memo mode on the R4) is sooo last century - why not recording to a more decent format ?

The second CoolHint in this post is also related to MP3 players and goes to Archos - almost two years ago they had a major hit with their Gmini XS200 - a 20 GB HDD-based MP3 player that was then extended to XS202 - a 20 GB MP3 player with better battery life, and then XS202S - a 20 GB MP3 player about 2 mm thinner - can you see a pattern here ? :)

Now, two years ago 20 GB was HUGE (at that time the size was the same as the iPod mini - which only had 4-5 GB, and HALF the size/weight of the 20 GB normal iPod) - but today that is nothing to write home about - so my very strong suggestion to the nice people from Archos is to have a look on the net - Seagate, Toshiba and their old-time partner Hitachi have ALL launched (or at least announced) single-platter 1.8'' disks using the new "perpendicular recording" technology with AT LEAST 40 GB in capacity (I believe Seagate is saying something about 60 GB, and all have models with 80 GB or more in two-platters configurations).

So now is the moment for a new Gmini XS240 (or even XS260/280 if you go for the 60/80 GB model) - since it will be a "drop-in extension" of the old model it will need NO NEW research or technology - AND SHOULD BE DONE BEFORE OCTOBER !!! (only if you want to keep any market away from Apple and soon Microsoft, if you don't and some moron upper manager believes that only the AV series can save you then you should just tell that to your investors!) A new color screen might also be a good idea but is not a must and should actually be avoided if it will not be perfectly visible in both low-light and strong direct sun or if it will delay the product!

The final CoolHint goes to Apple, is also about a MP3 player and I even had another post on this matter here - the entire idea is that everybody thinks it will be cool so why does it take so long to make an all-screen iPod ?

My only extra suggestion is that iTunes could still be the default option but just for a change make it an USB standard mass storage device on which people can just copy a bunch of MP3 files - Apple is maybe the market leader today but that is changing much faster than people might think so now it might be a good time to actually LISTEN to your customers ... I can even remember a time when Apple was the market leader in personal computers and today some people are 'proud' with a market increase from 3.3% to 3.4% :)


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