The Starbucks Age Dilemma

Right now, it only lists limited kids’ items, such as milk and hot chocolate, in a smaller size, while teenagers have the choice of adult-sized, and often heavily caffeinated, beverages. A 16-ounce Caramel Frappucino coffee drink, for example, has nearly three times the caffeine as a 12-ounce can of regular Coke or Pepsi.

Quite honestly, I think Starbucks is a greater risk to the health of teenagers than McDonalds. The fact that the company targets teenagers should not surprise anyone, but what should shock you is the nutritional data on their products.

We’ve all probably noticed many parents do bring their young children into Starbucks when they’re seeking their own caffeine fix. And I’m pretty sure that anybody who frequents a Starbucks near a high school has seen their local cafe jam-packed with teens at certain times of the day. I’ve definitely experienced the high-volume chatter and rapid rate at which baristas must sling Frappuccinos when a whole bunch of high school kids alight on a Starbucks all at once.
- Motley Fool

I think Starbucks is at risk of a mid-life crisis where all the small decisions they have made along the path to building a huge retail company costs them in the marketplace. This business about marketing to kids is troubling, what’s next… playgrounds and movie toy promotions? In Howard Schultz’s own words, the company needs to find it’s soul again.

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Plaxo is Redeemed

A while back, at Mashup Camp, I saw a Plaxo Pulse demo and thought it was pretty cool. I have been meaning to get back on Plaxo since then but for whatever reason never got that to-do done. Until this weekend and now I can say that whatever past spamming sins Plaxo is guilty of are fully forgiven.

The address book is rich and features a update function courtesy of the Plaxo network, and offers a number of sync points. I synced from my local OSX Address Book application and really appreciated that they deliver the sync tool as a control panel extension.

The calendar and task list, which also sync locally, are more than freebie apps, they are actually pretty decent in terms of functions offered and UI. The overall user experience is very positive and at a number of points you are prompted with privacy details. The acceptance of their dubious past when it comes to privacy and the deliberate effort to overcome privacy concerns are appreciated.

Plaxo Pulse continues to interest me, although it has quite a way to go before being as useful as a Facebook feed, although speaking of feeds, I do appreciate that the Plaxo feed is delivered, optionally, as a RSS feed. Cool. As I was browsing through the feed and related functions I couldn’t help but think that Linkedin is looking really weak by comparison.

I am going to continue to play around with the Plaxo feed to see how rich the content is, but I am definitely going to use the address book feature as a central point for managing contacts, syncing out to my various apps in a hub-and-spoke manner.

Plaxo deserves a lot of credit for turning their service from a primary occupational spam engine to something that offers a great amount of utility. Also not forgotten is a business model that offers plenty of value – free – for most people while layering in premium services that cater to high volume users for a mere $50 a year.

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Opinions Vary on CapGemini

Cap Gemini’s announcement of support for Google Apps is getting a lot of positive coverage, probably more aspirational than reasoned in many cases. What I mean for that is a significant portion of the market really wants Google to be successful with office apps in order to provide a lever to use against Microsoft. Whether or not Google is successful is secondary.

Even Microsoft did something unexpected in responding to the announcement rather forcefully, which of course indicates that they are going to the mattresses. Read the full response, it’s lengthy.

For a more sober look at the Cap Gemini announcement, read the following posts:

Vinnie Mirchandani:

Cap briefed a few Enterprise Irregulars today, and I was eager to see how a major outsourcer has embraced utility/SaaS concepts. But I heard little of that. They emphasized it was less of a cost play, more of a collaboration play especially to bring "disenfranchised" employees on the shop floor and elsewhere for who no one licensed MS Office tools for.

Dennis Howlett:

But the real problem is with Cap itself. The US is the market of opportunity but it doesn’t figure as a top 10 outsourcing player. Worse still, it’s missing a trick by not signaling a fundamental change in the consulting model. On the other hand, this move makes it look cool in the eyes of Web/Office/Enterprise 2.0 aficionados. How long that lasts remains to be seen.

Michael Krigsman:

Given these arguments, perhaps Google and Cap Gemini are not strange bedfellows at all. However, calling this a marriage of convenience is probably close to the truth.

Josh Greenbaum:

So it’s not clear to me how this deal really changes the game for Microsoft, or for Google either. One thing that will happen for sure is that Cap’s sales force will be reporting back to Google, with considerable authority, on how inadequate Google Apps are for the needs of major enterprises.

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Defrag Approaching

Defrag is approaching, November 3-6 in Denver. The agenda is filling out impressively, as is the roster of speakers.

I’m recommending this conference for a couple of reasons, the first and most important being that I know Eric Norlin, the organizer, puts on good events, and in the case of Defrag I like the focus on end user interests. The attendee and speaker list also features a good number of prominent, and candid, investors in the space, which always brings a different perspective to the topic.

Use code "defrag3" and get $300 off the registration fee!

As a bonus, if you attend you will have the opportunity to see Adam Gross from Salesforce.com and myself on stage together again after our last experience which inspired one of my most read posts… maybe the panel should be a cage match instead.

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Office OpenXML Formats… GGRRR

Honest to god I don’t know why Microsoft thought it would be kosher to release a new version of Office with completely new file formats and then not support them on all their platforms. I use a Mac and can deal with .DOCX files with a converter that Microsoft put out, even though it is an extra step that pisses me off every time I have to do it. However, for reasons only known to Microsoft their Mac file converter supports Word and Powerpoint OpenXML file formats but not Excel (XLSX).

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