Is a cord free mp3 player and a klout perk enough to save Walkman?

If you were alive in the 80s, then you probably rocked the Walkman at some point, in some fashion before the end of the 90s. My most recent Sony Walkman was a “waterproof” CD

“vintage”

player that looked something like this. It lasted me through high school and into college; through snowboarding, wrestling meets, dorm rooms, and the general precocity that plagues teenagers and the tech they own. Since the death of that CD player I’ve owned one mp3 player after another and haven’t looked back. Looking back now, I realize that I left Walkman behind like a forgotten child’s toy. They were a good brand, I loved the product, and they had a huge market share… so what happened? I’m not a historian, and my profession has nothing to do with sales or marketing, but if I had to guess, I would say “the iPod happened”. Apple did an amazing job of crushing every company that tried to compete in the mp3 game for a long time.

Sony Walkman W Series MP3 Headphone

Sony has recently release the W Series, which could optimistically be seen as a “comeback”. While I know a good bit about economics, marketing, and R&D costs, I really don’t want to get into economic forecasting about whether or not a single product could “save” a brand. Particularly considering that Walkman never officially went away, and Sony is definitely not going anywhere. What I do think is very interesting is the product itself, and how they are using Klout Perks to garner support for it.

If you are interested in the product and my assessment of it, you can read my review here. Bottom line: 2GB, water-resistant, 8hr battery life, NO CORDS, & I’ll probably use it tell the day it stops working.

For those who don’t know, Klout is a site that monitors your activity on various social media sites to gauge the level of interaction to your content, and how influential you are. There are a few sites that do this, but Klout seems to be the most prevalent. Again, first to market has something to do with it, but their Perks also have something to do with it.  If you’re unfamiliar with Klout Perks, it’s a lot like it sounds (unless you are thinking of something sexual &/or illegal); they give you free stuff.  The Sony Walkman W perk isn’t my first Klout perk.

Though I actually really like the Packers gear, the Sony Walkman perk is on a different level than any perk I’ve received, and most that I’ve seen for a couple of reasons:

  1. 5,000 is a lot of freaking devices to give away. If I were a full time tech blogger I’d bother to look up what is normal, and what they most given away is… but I don’t have time for that, sorry :/
  2. This perk is actually a contest. Five of the 5,000 people who claimed the water-resistant Meb Keflezighi edition W series will be selected to receive the waterproof W series that hasn’t hit the market yet. “Klout will be tracking entrant’s Tweets and ReTweets of the Message on Twitter, Facebook comments, likes, and shares. Five potential winners will be determined based on the content created” (more official rules here)

Maybe this is a common thing, but it is new to me, and dances around an interesting issue with giving away free product; how to get people talking about it as much as possible without them coming across as car salesman? At first it may seem like generating copious amounts of content and berating your followers would be the way to win, but since Klout is based on influence, getting the most engagement is probably the best way to win. Sure a lot of people might not reach that conclusion, but if they were selected (hopefully) they understand how Klout works and try to generate engaging content focused around the perk and the #FitnessWalkman hashtag. The easiest way to ensure that people generate sincere content based on giveaways is to not ask anything in return, but that doesn’t always ensure that said content will be engaging, or happen at all.

Merry Christmas for @GE #industrialinternet

For the record I’ve received a Google chromebook from a TechCrunch giveaway, and GE occasionally gives gifts to their followers who contribute to the community. Neither of which asked that I generate content, but it’d be rude not to say thank you 😉

In my product review I said earlier that there is nothing in it for me to say nice things about the Sony Walkman; I still mean it. The winners will (most likely) be those who generate the most influential content. I would laugh until I cried bitter tears of irony if Dr. Poinsett won one of the five sets. She is one of the only who is outspoken against the headphones, and any troll will tell you that the fastest way to get engagement from other users is to swim against the current. For the record she is not a troll, just a concerned MD who thinks “distracted walkers endanger teens”. Also given that there are 5,000 people out there, a good portion of them with higher Klout scores and more followers. I find my odds of winning very slim, whether my comments are good or bad shouldn’t affect if I win or not. So why write what is probably my longest blog to date? Because I really want to answer, “is this going to save Walkman?” I really find all of this interesting.

While I’m neither psychic, nor a tech/econ expert, but I think that it might work. If it does succeed I honestly think that it will predominantly hinge on the product itself. It is a good product, priced under $100, and I think there is a demand for it. How many people would drop $20 on a pair of headphones because they forgot/lost theirs and another $40-60 on an mp3 player if they thought they would use it? Again, I don’t have the market research to back it up, but I’m sure Sony does.

As for the perk, I think it is a fantastic approach to get people engaged. I think that within a few months my father-in-law and my wife are both going to get one (because I’m not sharing mine). Unfortunately, despite giving away 5,000 devices I’m not sure that it generated the buzz they were hoping for. According to Hashtags.org there were less than 100 tweets using the hashtag over the last 24 hours (estimate). I did my own estimate (average number of tweets per page, number of pages in twitter search over the last 24 hours), and I come up with 320 tweets. Take that back further to Monday, when the perks started arriving in people’s mailboxes, and there are approximately 650 tweets. In either case, if each of those tweets belonged to a single user (which they don’t), barely one tenth of those who received a free product even tweeted about getting it. According to Statigr.am 160 photos were posted to Instagram with the #FitnessWalkman hastag. Hardly a viral campaign. Note: These numbers were as of the afternoon of April 4th. According to the rules of the perk the cut off for generating content is midnight of April 4th. It seems as though many people are still receiving their headphones today. It seems like a shipping/coordinating problem on their end. It’s hard to generate a buzz in 2-3 days, especially if most of your product testers don’t even have the product until after the contest is over. Update: these numbers were compiled in the middle of the day on the 4th (the last day of the contest), as of midnight on the 4th the numbers had changed (slightly). A total of approximately 826 tweets were generated with the hasthag #FtinessWalkman. 294 of those were on the last day, since the end of the contest only 91 tweets have used the hashtag. If their goal was to try and make the hashtag trend then making the delivery coincide with the last day of the contest might have made sense, but it doesn’t look as though it worked out for them. It would have been more productive IMO to let people review the product for a full week or a month before the end of the contest. That may have very well been there intention, with early production volumes of this kind (for product giveaways) there can often be delays.

If I had access to better analytic tools I could probably come up with more relevant and interesting statistics (not to mention prettier looking), but I don’t believe it would change the outcome much :/

P.S. If I do win the waterproof headphones they are going to my wife 🙂

too good to tinker with (right now)

Product Review: Sony Walkman W series. A cord free mp3/headphone combo

klout perk sony walkman mp3

Sony Walkman W Series MP3 Headphone

The Sony Walkman W series is an mp3 player that essentially looks like two blue tooth headsets connected by a cord behind your head. If you’ve even worn headphone that wrap around the back of your head for biking, running, etc. then imagine that is all you are wearing… I mean, imagine that the headphones don’t have a cord, you aren’t carrying an mp3 player, or a phone. The headphones ARE the mp3 player (“the files are IN the computer”).

the music is in the headphones…

If you have read MAKERS by Cory Doctorow (Amazon or Free download from Craphound), then you are familiar with the in-ear mp3 players that he describes in a not too distant future world.  The Sony Walkman W series is the closest thing I’ve seen to these, and to be perfectly honest I am a little surprised that Walkman was the first one to market on these.

Cory Doctorow signing a copy of Makers for me during his “Homeland” tour

That Sony made it happen, I guess isn’t that surprising; but the idea, and the ability, have both been available for at least a couple years. It was just a matter of pioneering the development and production. Ok, maybe first to market is an exaggeration, but at their price point ($69) and the production level they are producing it doesn’t seem horribly comparable to the other in-ear mp3 players out there.

One feature that I think is smart, both in functionality and target audience, is making them water resistant and the upcoming waterproof model. My wife has the lifeproof case for her iPhone, specifically because she wanted to go swimming with it… She hasn’t invested in waterproof headphones yet, but it has saved her at the MGM lazy river in Vegas, and when she listens to audio books while playing Candy Crush in the tub. For people who swim and want to listen to music while they do it, there are a variety of products out there, but it seems like the biggest problem is where to put an mp3 player/phone in a swim suit? Having an all in one unit seems like it would be a necessity for swimmers, but it is also convenient for…. everyone.

The most common feature that I’ve heard people mention online during the review process is that there are no cords.

Whether you are running, biking, swimming, or fighting your way through the cubicle jungle, being cord free is so convenient. It’s liberating really. Music is what fuels me through the day whether I’m working, working out, or whatever. When I’m at my desk I have over-ear headphones plugged into my speakers, and even with an extension I have to take my headphones off before reaching for the far drawers (yes I work in an industry that still uses paper documents). When I worked at GE and I spent most of my days back and forth between the lab and meetings, I would run my headphones through my shirt so that when I took them out of my ears they would hang there (rather than constantly wadding them up and shoving them hastily in my pocket). I was never a huge fan of that because I think that headphones hanging out of my collar looked unprofessional (unless I was wearing a lab coat), but there is more to a good mp3 player than just being cord free.

Uploading is fairly simple, just connect the device and drag-and-drop; or you can install the .exe that is on the headset. The device charges (like most) through the same connection, a common micro usb. I haven’t tried it, but you could probably charge it with an android phone charger. A full charge gives you 8 hours of play time. 3 minutes of charging gives you 60 minutes of play-time. If you run for longer than an hour at a time (active wear seems to be their primary target audience) then you will just have to be patient. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you’re willing to spend over an hour putting one foot in front of the other with no particular destination, you’d also be willing to let your headphones charge for another minute or two.

I guess when you win marathons and Olympic races you need an 8 hour battery life

I haven’t tested the 3 minute charge claim yet, but I did test the full charge yesterday, and mine clocked out at 9.5 hours of play time. Granted that was the first charge and perhaps I don’t listen to my music as loudly as you do. I did use pause a lot, so total time on yesterday was closer to 11-12 hours, but it seems as though if you pause them for more than a few seconds they go into a sleep mode.

The play, pause, volume, skip, shuffle, etc. features are all simple and easy to use. There are six buttons, and an on/off switch. Overall the device is simple, without being so minimalist as to require cheat-code like button combinations.

The sound is surprisingly good (considering the price). The best comparison I personally have are the Heavy Medal ($80) or Titan ($50) by Skull Candy. I’ve tried several other brands, but can’t remember the model names, and I have found that per price point Skull Candy is as good or better than everything else I’ve tried. This is of course excluding headphones over $100, and only talking about sound quality. So these headphones are as good as the Titans IMO. They don’t have the range, but the general quality would be indistinguishable to most people. Considering that the entire Sony headset is only $10 more than the Skull Candy headphone this is pretty impressive. They obviously have to have lower quality sound components in order to come in at the same price. I think that the sound quality for this device largely comes from the lack of cord. Anyone who has used a DJ cord knows that the longer the cord the more the sound degrades. This is usually negligible with short distances, but by connecting the headphones directly to the device they eliminate any loss caused by the headphone jack and the cord. This means that down the road a higher quality speaker could seriously increase the sound quality.

All of the above is my honest opinion and simple facts. I’m not trying to build up the product, because there is nothing in it for me. I got a free headphone/mp3 player that I could afford to purchase (but probably wouldn’t have), and I’m grateful to Sony for the opportunity to review them, but my integrity costs more than that.  Most of the improvements are technological that could be said of any tech device: smaller, longer batter, more storage, etc. etc. but for the price, I think Sony hit a great balance between cost and function. I didn’t find much ‘wrong’ with them, besides the fact that if you don’t know what they are, it kind of looks like I’m wearing two Bluetooth headsets. I don’t own a single Bluetooth headset, and depending on your opinion of them, seeing a guy wearing TWO would either make him x2 busier/cooler, or x2 more of a tool.  I wasn’t the only one to test these (5,000 people claimed the perk), but of all of the tweets I read (most people used the Sony supplied hastag #FitnessWalkman) I only came across one naysayer.

Besides personally finding them uncomfortable, Dr. Poinsett thought they were distracting, and implored us to think of the children. While her point is completely valid; distractedness causes accidents and that teen death isn’t a joking matter. I personally don’t think that tech kills people, stupidity does. If someone gets into a car wreck because they were texting and driving, the phone didn’t cause the accident; It is stupid to text and drive. Whether or not it is stupid to run while you listen to music…. I guess that depends on the person.

To sum up. I love them, I will wear them until they wear out or another gen comes out that is substantially better. At which point I will most likely buy them and dismantle the pair I was given to see if I can somehow “improve” upon them, but as of right now I can’t think of any improvements that I could make.

too good to tinker with (right now)

NASA Asks Universities For Early Stage Innovation Tech Proposals

April 02, 2013

David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington

202-358-1730

david.steitz@nasa.gov

RELEASE: 13-095

NASA ASKS UNIVERSITIES FOR EARLY STAGE INNOVATION TECH PROPOSALS

WASHINGTON — NASA is seeking innovative, early-stage space technology proposals from accredited U.S. universities that will enable NASA’s future missions and America’s leadership in space.

Proposals are sought for science instruments, cryogenic propellant storage for long-duration space exploration, optical coatings for astrophysical pursuits, oxygen recovery for life support systems, and to improve our understanding of and protection from near-Earth asteroids.

Each of these space technology areas requires dramatic improvements over existing capabilities. New early stage, or low technology readiness-level, technologies could mature into tools that solve the hard challenges facing NASA’s future scientific and human spaceflight missions. Researchers should propose unique, transformational space technologies that address specific topics found in this solicitation.

“Space technology is the underpinning of all of NASA’s future missions,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA’s collaboration with the National Research Council and the agency’s recent Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan have helped us identify areas where new, cross-cutting space technologies are needed to enable our future missions. Now we’re reaching out to American universities to tap into the nation’s best and brightest minds to help solve these tough technology problems.”

This solicitation requests proposals on five topic areas. The first topic area seeks new instrument technologies for the exploration of planetary bodies within our solar system. Innovative technology advances are needed to support the instruments that scientists will need to better understand the history, climates, evidence of past life and future potential habitability of planets and moons within the solar system.

Spaceflight architectures for future human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit will require technologies and capabilities not available today, such as long duration storage of cryogenic propellants in a zero gravity environment. Under a second topic area for this solicitation, NASA is particularly interested in proposals regarding how to mature fundamental experimental and computational solutions to address the challenges of cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen.

Through a third topic area for this solicitation, NASA is seeking advances in optics technologies to enable the challenging science measurements that may contribute to the understanding of the first moments of the universe, the characterization of galaxy evolution over time and the characterization of newly found exoplanets.

As future exploration missions extend beyond low-Earth orbit, vehicles and extraterrestrial surface habitats housing astronauts will need to be highly reliable and self-sufficient; the opportunity for resupply of consumables diminishes the farther from home you go. The fourth topic area of this solicitation seeks novel technologies that will help close the atmosphere revitalization loop aboard spaceships and surface habitats during long duration space missions. New technologies must have the potential to significantly increase the oxygen recovery rate beyond the current state of the art.

Under a final topic area, NASA is seeking proposals for new technologies to better understand and protect our planet from near-Earth asteroids. Early stage technologies that will help with characterizing, understanding, and planning how to mitigate the threat of near-Earth asteroids are of great interest. These efforts are important for the sustainability and future of our home planet.

NASA expects to make approximately 10 awards this fall, based on the merit of proposals received. Each award will be made for one year with an additional year of research possible. The typical annual award value is expected to be approximately $250,000. Second-year funding will be contingent on the availability of appropriated funds and technical progress. Only accredited U.S. universities may submit proposals to this solicitation. Notices of intent are due by April 29 with proposals due May 21.

To view the Early Stage Innovation NASA Research Announcement and information for submitting proposals, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/25De

The solicitation is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s investment in space technology, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech