Retailers, consumers and prices
You’ve got the hottest new gadget in town. Now where do you put it?
Inside an iPAD-compatible vest, of course.
Ketchum, Idaho-based Scottevest, which debuted a line of clothing in 2005 that was compatible with the smaller iPod, has introduced “outerwear” with a large interior pocket that holds Apple‘s latest device securely without damaging the screen.
“If you’re going to carry it around all the time, you don’t want to carry it in a purse,” said Chief Executive and Founder Scott Jordan. “I don’t think men want to carry around a purse.”
The jackets and vests, which cost about $100 and are based on the humble yet practical fly-fisherman’s vest, can also tote Kindles, magazines, or legal pads.
Making apparel compatible with technology is nothing new. In 2005, companies like Scottevest and Kenpo in New York introduced jackets that hid unsightly iPod wires and allowed users to access the device’s controls.
Despite what Jordan called a $1 billion market for iPod accessories, he saw greater opportunity in travel goods, where travelers need extra pockets for books, cameras and other items.
All eyes are on China this week as Google watchers assess its potential risk in that fast-growing market. But across the globe in Europe, the world’s most-used search engine is grappling also with the possible fallout from a spat over its advertising model.
The company scored a victory in Europe’s top court on Tuesday over the legitimacy of its Adwords system, with a ruling that found Google does not infringe trademark law by selling to advertisers keywords that trigger paid ads.
The case, in which one plaintiff was luxury brand LVMH, was seen as a major challenge to Google’s business model. LVMH — the purveyors of all things Louis Vuitton – argued it sought to protect brand holders’ trademarks in the digital age.
Yet despite the victory, as Reuters pointed out last week, the world’s largest search engine is still not out of the woods. Some warn that Google could see its ad revenue slide if advertisers pull out of Adwords, concerned they could be found liable in future for trademark violations.
That’s because brand owners can now take up claims against advertisers who use their trademarks to confuse consumers, according to the court, which said Google too may be liable if the company actively manipulates keywords or fails to act on legitimate complaints.
“Google’s legal victory may prove to be a little hollow,” wrote Eric Goldman, an associate professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law in a blog this week. “It could still see revenue contraction if advertisers are dissuaded by their legal exposure.”
Will advertisers, who depend on the exposure from Google’s powerful search engine, balk? Goldman points out that trademark owners still have an arsenal of legal options to throw at advertisers, from legislative changes to going after advertisers one by one.
Google on Thursday announced plans to offer its own online electronic bookstore, joining a battlefield currently dominated by Amazon.com.
The company plans to sell ebooks for any device with a web browser and its library is expected to start at about half a million books when it is launched in 2010.
(Refiles to correct Donahoe’s first name to John.)
To sell Skype, or not to sell Skype. That is the question for eBay, and Wall Street has diverging opinions on whether the San Jose company will or won’t unload its Internet telephone service.
Skype was acquired under the reign of former CEO Meg Whitman (now a California gubernatorial hopeful) and touted as a nifty way for eBay’s millions of sellers and buyers to connect. That reality never materialized, and current CEO John Donahoe has acknowledged that synergies between eBay and Skype are nonexistent.
Still, Skype is on a tear, growing at double digits and adding 350,000 global users a day. The five-year-old company logged $551 million in revenue in 2008 — that number is expected to double by 2011 — and is now a subject of great speculation by analysts, who wonder whether eBay plans to spin it off, or hold it close.
Cowan and Co’s Jim Friedland, for one, thinks it’s for sale. Writing in a note the day after eBay held an analyst presentation to outline the company’s three-year plan, Friedland said it appeared “eBay was using the Skype discussion to trigger a bidding war between Google and Microsoft.”
“We believe the asset would be attractive to both Google and Microsoft to enhance their web-based enterprise application services. In addition, Skype’s user base of 405 million, which is particularly strong internationally, would likely strengthen Google’s dominant position in the consumer web app market.”
But Bernstein Research’s Jeffrey Lindsay did not see it that way: “We think the dearth of buyers such as Google or Microsoft will mean that eBay is more likely to spin out part of Skype to the public (like Time Warner did initially with Time Warner Cable).”
Huh. Donahoe, incidentally, has said only that eBay will do what’s best “to maximize Skype’s potential and value.”
Deutsche Bank’s Jeetil Patel opined that, since Skype is performing well, “Management should hold on to this business model” and Credit Suisse’s Spencer Wang said he did not see eBay rushing to sell.
“While we think the company would be open to parting with Skype at the right price (currently valued at $1.8 billion on eBay’s balance sheet), a divestiture of Skype does not appear imminent,” Wang wrote.
Just how “wonderful” consumers think your brand is can help your stock price, especially in a recession, according to a study by market research agencies Kadence, Brand Care and So What Research.
The study looked at consumer perceptions of 650 leading U.S. brands and found there is a link between the affection consumers hold for a brand — or the “wonderfulness” of the brand – and its stock performance.
Worried about the safety of your personal information? On second thought, maybe you’re not — if you shop with your American Express card, surf eBay or use an IBM system.
Those three companies are consumers’ picks for the top most trusted when it comes to protecting their customers’ privacy, according to a survey by TRUSTe, a consumer privacy protection organization, and the Ponemon Institute, an independent research group.
Consumers reported that identity theft is the No. 1 factor influencing their view of how companies handle privacy concerns, with only 45 percent of respondents saying they felt they had control over how their personal information was used or shared. That’s down from 56 percent two years ago.
The worries over data security are real — companies from discount retailer TJX Cos to Bank of New York Mellon Corp have had major data breaches compromising the personal information of millions of consumers.
The top ten list is rounded out by Amazon.com, Johnson & Johnson, the U.S. Postal Service (which shares the No. 6 spot with Hewlett Packard), Procter & Gamble, Apple, Nationwide, and Charles Schwab.
The survey, now in its fifth year, polled nearly 6,500 U.S. adults to determine their view of the most trustworthy companies and brands when it comes to protecting personal information.
Companies including Disney, AOL and Dell made it to the top 20 list, with Yahoo, FedEx, Facebook and Verizon joining that group for the first time since 2004, when the Ponemon Institute began conducting research on the topic. It was also the first time for Apple, at No 8.