Microsoft: I want my TWO DOLLARS….

In the never-ending saga of Xbox 360 hardware maintenance agreements, I recently received three refund checks for the one extra maintenance agreement they accidentally charged to my credit card. The backstory can be found here, but I’ll just say “wanted ONE, got TWO due to their double entry” and it’s been almost half a year since I spotted the problem.

I called the team at Xbox support to inform them:

  • I have received three checks
  • I will cash one and shred the other two
  • I still want the first contract I purchased

..and I was told:

  • Hey, you might get full coverage until 2010, we don’t really know. [shh] don’t say anything
  • That department’s kind of weird to work with (you think!?)
  • Call back in a month to find out if you still have a service contract (great, this will never end!)

I have such high hopes for Microsoft’s in this business, but occasionally you see a sign they still have work to do handling hardware. Sometimes that sign haunts you like the paperboy in Better off Dead. Wait, I think in this case I’m the paperboy and Microsoft is John Cusack. At least in this case, “I got my two dollars.”

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How Bill Gates Works

I recently read an article describing ten leaders of business and non-profit organizations and how they use technology (look for link on same page as this article). I was amazed at the number of leaders still not using even email or relying purely on a team of admins (read as “very smart human based filtering systems”) to organize their time and information. A few were using technology on a daily basis, but like many of us they understood the 20% of a tools functionality that allowed them to accomplish 80% of what they wanted to get done. I recall one company executive that never quite figured out how to initiate an email from her Blackberry, but could respond to ones that came in.

CNNMoney recently published a good article on Bill Gates and how he deals with these issues.

Things Bill does:

  • Minimizes paper
  • Uses a multi-monitor rig on the desktop to spread work out (see photo)
  • Uses filtering and only receives email from parties he already knows or communicates with (has administrative support to filter others)
  • Mostly ignores “the toaster”, i.e. the Outlook notification that messages have just arrived
  • Uses desktop search to find data on his local machines
  • Uses project focused collaboration sites/tools like SharePoint
  • Synchronizes mobile devices with his office PC

Staying focused is one issue; that’s the problem of information overload. The other problem is information underload. Being flooded with information doesn’t mean we have the right information or that we’re in touch with the right people.

While I do have a multi-display approach, I haven’t managed to get the adminstrative staff to filter my requests. Regardless, it’s great to see how a modern executive of a technology company manages the same issues we all face.

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Console Price Drops

dollar sign In recent years the big three console makers are pretty consistent in their pricing strategies with Playstation 2 taking an early lead and launching at $299, Xbox (original) following at the same price a year later, and Nintendo GC coming in as the value player. Price drops seem to occur during the first half of the year around the time of E3.


Console Prices at Launch and Drop Points







2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
PlayStation 2 $299 $299 $199 $179 $149
Xbox n/a $299 $199 $179 $149
GameCube n/a $199 $199 $99 $99

In the last generation of consoles, the PS2 launched at a higher price point than the SEGA Dreamcast the year before but brought superiour technology to the table and got away with it. SEGA found themselves shown the door quickly and exited the business. At the time everyone was fighting the 900 lb gorilla known as Nintendo.
Since then, Microsoft followed Sony’s PS2 price with [slightly] better technology in 2001. Each price drop for either MS or Sony has been matched by the other while Nintendo stays below them both in the value category (possibly due to the GC being ONLY a game platform and not playing DVDs).

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