This past Sunday, Nintendo released Super Mario 3D Land, its first Mario game made for the 3DS. Rather than being a celebration of video gaming’s most successful franchise, it’s more likely an opportunity to mourn the demise of a company responsible for so many great products and games. Because if Nintendo doesn’t change its strategy soon, the company’s future will be very bleak indeed.
One of my favourite web forums happens to be redflagdeals.com, where bargain hunters unite and share where to get the best price on everything. One poster has put together a pretty thorough list of every tablet on sale in Canada, from popular ones like the iPad 2 to lesser known ones like all the others.
It’s an interesting resource. With the selling-like-hotcakes iPad standing pat at $519 in Canada, it’s interesting to see how low other manufacturers will go to undercut Apple’s tablet. Also, look for the HP TouchPad to drop in price further very soon, from $449 to $399 for the 16GB model, as HP has made last weekend’s sale pricing in the U.S. permanent.
The list can be found right here, at RedFlagDeals.com’s Hot Deals forum.
Obviously concerned with an impending barrage of customer service calls, Rogers Wireless has started sending out texts reminding customers not to blame them when they get an increased bill in the mail next month. The text even includes a link to the Quebec government’s website! How convenient!
Quebec’s sales tax will rise a full point to 8.5% on January 1st, which may not sound like much, but it’s another dollar a month if your wireless bill is already near the Robert Borden level, or $12 a year. That’s two beers at a bar, or a decent lunch, or an album on iTunes. But most importantly, it’s another reason for cross-border shopping. Come the New Year, buying iPads and laptops will be even more expensive in La Belle Province. Sigh.
I wanted to write a short entry about Videotron’s new “flagship” store downtown today, as I was at Tuesday’s press event, but quickly realized I couldn’t. After what happened over the weekend, I was in a lose-lose situation: Heap praise on the concept and appear like I’ve bent over for the company, or criticize and look like I’m holding a grudge. So for that reason, I’m writing this.
I was interviewed on CBC’s daybreak on Tuesday morning to discuss what happened and had the pleasure during that interview of hearing a clip of Marc Labelle, Videotron’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications. The clip features Mr. Labelle saying that “according to what they hear” I took a lot of pictures from the entrance of the store of the inside of the store with a flash. Patently absurd stuff.
Of course, no mention of the actions of their employees.
On Monday evening, however, I did have the chance to speak with Mr. Labelle personally. After sending an email to Videotron’s PR about attending their press event the next day, I was asked to call the company’s offices. They were concerned I’d pull a stunt the next day. Apparently, getting threatened by Videotron employees somehow gets you confused with Alan Funt, Ashton Kutcher, or Jamie Kennedy. Everyone who knows me is aware I’m about as controversial as 2% milk.
I won’t delve into much detail about the call, but I will say that’s it’s disheartening that they seem to be accepting the bald-face lies their employees have said following what happened. They went so far as to question whether the guy who threatened to punch me in the face even worked for Videotron. I’ve offered repeatedly to ID the culprits, but they are not interested. Mr. Labelle did express regrets that the incident happened, but there was no real apology.
Years back, I was watching a CNN interview with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who was ranting about some controversy and subsequent apology, and how offended he was by the apology. I’ve since forgotten what the controversy was, but I’ve never forgotten the analogy he used to describe an unapology-apology:
When you step on someone’s toe, you don’t say “I’m sorry your foot can feel pain.” You say “I’m sorry I stepped on your toe.”
So while I can’t say I expected much – it’s clear legalities on their end make having an honest conversation difficult, to say the least, I can say that the incident is entirely separate from what I think about Videotron’s products and services.
I don’t think two twenty-something thugs represent Videotron (although many of the people who’ve emailed, commented, tweeted, and talk to me do!) and my only real interest in the company is what they offer consumers, and its continuous battle for market share in Quebec. The actions of those employees was wrong, and as a lot of you have pointed out, assault under the Criminal Code, and they should be disciplined by their employer for their actions.
And that’s what I’ve got to say about that. Cool? Cool. Comments? Comment away.
Whoah. Adventures in retail this morning in Montreal. I ventured out in to the semi-suburbs this morning (LaSalle & Carrefour Agrignon) to buy a couple of video games, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, both for the Wii, which are getting pretty solid reviews. Little did I know just how much of a hassle this was going to turn into.
First, I stopped at GameStop. There, the employees tried to sell me opened games as new (A common practice for them well described here, here, and here). Having struck out once, I went to Zellers, since it was closest, and in typical Zellers fashion, they didn’t have them. Why I even tried Zellers, I don’t know. Strike Two. So I decided to go to Best Buy, knowing they’d most likely have the games in stock, and new to boot.
Here’s where the fun starts. Walking to the Best Buy, I noticed the Videotron store, which has recently been remodeled as the company focuses more and more on its new cell phone services. Not only was the store remodeled, but there was a ratio of about 6 employees per customer in the store. This was hilarious to me, and even more so when I think about how Videotron’s parent company, Quebecor, has locked out 253 Journal de Montreal employees for almost two years now. Apparently the company can’t pay for journalism but can afford an army of numbskulls selling cell phone contracts.
So I took out my phone and snapped one picture of the store from about 20 feet away. Put my phone back in my pocket and walked to Best Buy. About a minute later, I feel a hand on my back.
“Why did you take a picture of me?”
I was floored. “What?” I said, realizing that it was a Videotron employee from the store. He asked the same question again. I looked at him, flabbergasted that he even cared. He looked very nervous, like he knew he and his store was incompetent. He told me not to take pictures of his store, or else. I stared at him, realized I didn’t have to tell him a thing, and walked away, although not before I must have gave him the most confused look in my life.
I get to Best Buy, walk to the games section (major cutie working there today!) and found several new copies of both games. I was happy. I picked both games up. Then, out of nowhere, this guy approaches me.
“If you take another photo of my store, I’m going to punch you.”
“Another Videotron employee? Really?” I was thinking. This goon wasn’t wearing the familiar button-up black shirt that most Videotron employees wear. It was a brown shirt, so either this guy wasn’t on duty or was a manager of that same Videotron store. “Are you threatening me? In a Best Buy?” I asked. He repeated the threat, except this time he said “me” instead of “my store.”
Incredulous, I said “You realize if you do that, I will have you arrested?”
He began to ask why I was taking photos. I could have gone on and told him that it was just one photo, the reason, etc., but stunned that I had been threatened by two Videotron employees within 10 minutes, I simply shut my mouth and took out my phone. “If you don’t get away from me,” I said, “I will call the police.”
He heard that and took a b-line out of the store. Mr. Physical Threats was not a fan of the police, it appears. I went to the cash and paid for the video games. I was going to leave the mall, I really was, but I couldn’t believe I was just threatened twice by a couple of Videotron thugs. So, since I had to walk to my car anyways, I went back past the Videotron store to take one more picture, because intimidation isn’t cool.
Walking to my car, the first videotron thug starts following me again, talking on his cell phone. I look at him, and he shouts “I have the right to follow you!”
I keep walking to my car, but then I see him dart to go grab two mall security people. Again, not willing to be intimidated by punks who sell cell phones for a living (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I go right up to the security guards. Before Mr. Moron can start talking, I tell the guards what happened. The initial photo, the two threats, the next photo. I ask the guards if there’s a problem. They say I’m not allowed to take photos in Carrefour Agrignon, to which I respond, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”
The guards then ask me to DELETE the photos from my phone. Realizing I was in Canada and had rights, I ask “Have I done anything wrong, and are you holding me here?” By then, there’s several people watching this play out right in the middle of the mall.
Videotron’s thug yells “You took pictures! Of me! At work!” The security guards didn’t say anything, but ridiculously ask me again to delete the photos from my phone. I turn around, and start walking to my car. They just let me go, because they knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on.
So I walk to my car and go home. As they say in the military, it was a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot kind of morning. So if you find yourself at Carrefour Agrignon this holiday season, show some solidarity with me and take a picture of the Videotron store. Send any pics to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them up here in a future post.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play with a Mii version of Alex Trebek.
UPDATE: I’ve added my final thoughts about this debacle here.
Earlier this year, Apple finally reversed its long policy of not allowing iTunes gift cards to be used for app purchases, giving some weak excuse about Canadian tax codes. Whenever I pressed them to explain just what Canadian tax laws prohibited this, they could never give me an answer. Lame, I know.
Since the new policy, I’ve always been on the lookout for deals on iTunes gift cards. Thanks to a post from the awesome community at redflagdeals.com, I found one today. Until October 24th, you can get $60 worth of iTunes gift cards for just $48. That’s 20% off, turning your 99-cent apps into 80-cent apps.
Stock up this week. If you don’t have a Costco membership, ask a friend who does to buy you a cheap Costco gift card. The wholesaler allows anyone with a Costco gift card to shop at the store as if they had a membership, and will accept cash, debit or AMEX for your purchases. So even if you only have a $10 gift card, they’ll let you buy a $1,000 HDTV.
We’ve heard rumours and denials and then more rumours about Facebook developing its own smartphone in recent weeks. So when a friend forwarded me this screen cap of a survey Rogers asked them to fill out, I was more than a little interested. The survey this question appeared in was centered on mobile operating systems, first quizzing customers about what an operating system is before asking them which mobile OS they preferred.
While Rogers used the term “Facebook centric phone,” I think its clear that Mark Zuckerberg’s company wants more control of the mobile future, and won’t be content with simply piggybacking apps onto other smartphones. Even the current contact syncing available on some platforms doesn’t seem to be enough. A true Facebook phone would be able to leverage status updates, wall posts, and the company’s location service, Places, into a veritable advertising machine.
While the last thing in the world I’d want is a Facebook phone, I’m sure there is a very specific group of people who love the idea. Also teenagers.
I love Android. The Google-created mobile operating system for smartphones is a breath of fresh air when compared to the polished & regulated iPhone and its iOS. Android devices are selling well, particularly in the U.S., where the iPhone is stuck in an awkward monogamous relationship with AT&T. It has become very clear that the iPhone will break free from AT&T’s shackles within the next year, and when that happens, Verizon and T-Mobile customers will also be clamoring for Apple’s handset.
In Canada, where the iPhone is available on the big three major carriers, the iconic Apple device is simply crushing the competition, and Android appears to be an afterthought for most consumers after deciding on an iPhone or a homegrown BlackBerry.
For Android to stave off a multi-carrier American iPhone assault and to become competition for Apple in Canada and other countries, it has to start taking some steps to make Android more mainstream. There’s no reason they can’t do this without changing their exceptional operating system much. Here’s my suggestions to made “Android” as well-known as “iPhone.”
- Take control of updates: Google needs to cut carriers out of the update equation. Eric Schmidt recently said that one thing Google has learned about the smartphone business is how much power the carriers have. Google needs to leverage some of its power to take control of updating devices. The fact that a new version of Android, with tons of new features including flash playback, exists but isn’t widely available is tragic.
- Police the app marketplace, at least a little bit: I’m not asking for Apple-like behaviour here, but rather some common sense principles to guide what is and isn’t acceptable. Custom Nazi themes and games involving upskirt pics shouldn’t even see the light of day in the Marketplace. It’s simply not good enough to have a system that allows this stuff to been seen by kids, even if it’s removed after an uproar.
- Update responsibly: The fact that I can go out and buy a brand new Android phone today that runs an 18-month-old version of the OS is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Android should give its OS options firm expiration dates. Once the date is passed, phones can’t be sold without an updated OS. Right now, every single Google phone should be shipping with Android 2.2, period.
- Reduce the number of models: Up against the most iconic brand in the world (Apple) and the most iconic product in the world (The iPhone), Google needs to take more control over the number of products and how they are named. Here’s an idea: Call all of your smartphones Androids. There’d be an HTC Android, a Samsung Android, a Motorola Android, A Sony-Ericsson Android. No Galaxy S Vibrants, no Desires, no Xperias. One name for all Google phones, with only the manufacturer differentiating models. Keep new models from each maker to a minimum, let’s say one every 6 to 12 months. You’d end up with more focus and branding that can go up against the iPhone marketing machine.
- Pay off Nokia: While part of me laughs at how clueless Nokia has been since the iPhone launch three years ago, failing to see clear trends and falling behind even the most lethargic of companies, Microsoft, the other part of me still sees a company with a lot of value. Google should do whatever it takes to get Nokia to abandon its current Symbian/Meebo disaster and start churning out millions of Android phones to its loyal fan base, especially in Europe.
Yes, the iPhone is still the best smartphone overall. Apple has a knack at staying ahead of the competition in hardware and software, but if there’s anyone who can take them on right now, it’s Google. What else should Google do with Android? Let me know by posting a comment.
If you read my review a couple of weeks back on the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant, you’ll know that I predicted this. Samsung’s best-in-class Android phone can now be yours for just $25, if you take into account the gift card Future Shop is throwing in upon purchase in one of their stores.
The smartphone is solid and probably your best alternative in Canada if you hate the iPhone. As we all know however, Canadians just love the iPhone 4, so much so that lineups continue across the country, some six weeks after launch. That’s probably why we’re seeing this promotion, as the Galaxy has failed to attract much attention north of the border, where the iPhone is available across the entire Big 3 – Rogers, Bell, & Telus.