Tag Archives: amazon

Boy Keeps Girl helps users carry that weight of "the perfect gift." 123rf.com, alphaspirit

Local website calculates the ‘perfect gift’

Lesley Morrison Midkiff’s husband always wanted to get her nice gifts for special occasions but found it difficult to think of the “perfect gift.” He didn’t want to ask Morrison Midkiff, because he didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

“He would end up having to ask me what I wanted, but hated that asking me what I wanted would ruin the surprise,” Morrison Midkiff said.

Then, Morrison Midkiff had the idea for Boy Keeps Girl, a website that would allow husbands, boyfriends, and whoever else a woman wanted to give her username and password to the holy grail of gift giving: a wish list that tells the users what the woman wants without having to ask, and still allows them to pick a gift from her wish list without her knowing exactly what it is.

Boy Keeps Girl differentiates itself from the wish lists on retail websites like Amazon in a few different ways. For one, boykeepsgirl.com stores a woman’s dress size, shoe size, ring size and all essential sizing information on file in case her significant other wants to surprise her. It also allows the person making the profile to create her wish list with items from any store or website and keep them all in the same place, rather than having several different wish lists on different sites.

Morrison Midkiff is planning on making a sister site, Girl Keeps Boy, for a woman to be able to do the same gift-giving for her significant other. The website has reminders set up for weeks in advance to send emails to remind a significant other about birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions that might require a gift.

The website is still undergoing improvements, making the format more readable and accessible to the users. Most users this far are friends or family to Morrison Midkiff and her husband, in order to give the site a test run and work out any remaining kinks in the system.

While the website is still in its beginning stages, Morrison Midkiff has high hopes for the future of Boy Keeps Girl, and believes the website will truly help to improve relationships between couples in the gift-giving season.

amazon

Amazon enhances same-day delivery in Phoenix

Starting today, Amazon.com introduces a new “Get It Today” search feature in Phoenix with more than a million eligible items now available for Same-Day Delivery. Customers can order as late as noon and get popular movies, video games and hot electronics, last-minute travel needs and family necessities delivered the same day. Amazon is also introducing a per-order shipping price for same-day deliveries, exclusively for Prime members, allowing them to pay one low, single price for all the Same-Day Delivery items they can order. These new delivery innovations are also available starting today in Seattle and San Francisco, and will extend to all Amazon’s same-day cities in the US this year. Learn more about Same-Day Delivery by visiting www.amazon.com/sameday.

“Customers have told us they’d love to be able to easily shop from the vast selection of items that we offer for Same-Day Delivery,” said Greg Greeley, Vice President, Amazon Prime, “With expanded same-day selection and new convenient pricing, Prime members can now take advantage of the “Get It Today” filter to fill up their shopping cart and have it delivered to their door in hours.”

Items eligible for Same-Day Delivery are clearly marked on the product detail page. Customers who search or browse the Amazon product selection will find the “Get It Today” filter on the left-hand navigation panel, just below the “Amazon Prime” filter. They can select “Get It Today” and see only those items eligible for Same-Day Delivery. A similar “Get It by Tomorrow” filter will allow customers to discover millions of items that can be delivered the next day. To add even greater shopping convenience, customers can browse popular Same-Day Delivery items by going to www.amazon.com/sameday.

Additional Same-Day Delivery Introductions:

  • Order as Late as Noon: Amazon allows customers to order as late as noon and receive orders before 9 p.m. the same day.
  • Per-Order Pricing for Prime Members: Amazon Prime members will pay a convenient $5.99 per-order shipping fee to have eligible items delivered same day, allowing them to add more and more to each order. Pricing for other customers remains unchanged, with a $9.98 fee for the first item and $0.99 for each additional item.

In an effort to make customer lives a little easier, Amazon will offer Same-Day Delivery for things like:

  • New Releases: Find popular movies or video games like Frozen, Wolf of Wall Street, Gravity, Minecraft or Titanfall, as well as many top electronics, gaming consoles and accessories.
  • Make it Work: Electronics accessories like HDMI cables and speakers will also be available.
  • Travel: Customers often hunt for last-minute travel needs including various Kindle devices, sunscreen, books and memory cards for a digital camera.
  • Family Needs: To prevent running low on essentials at home, Amazon will also offer items like baby wipes, diaper pail refills, infant formula, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, detergent, granola bars and more.
  • Projects: Completing projects for school or work will be easier with a selection of offices supplies, printer cartridges, paper and laptops.
  • Fix it: Often people just need a quick fix with help from super glue, tools and things like refrigerator filters.
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Amazon looks to fill jobs in Arizona

Amazon.com Inc. is looking to fill 7,000 jobs in 13 states.

The company says it will add 5,000 full-time jobs at its U.S. distribution centers, which currently employ about 20,000 workers who pack and ship customer orders.

The world’s largest online retailer has been spending heavily on order fulfillment, a strategy meant to help the business grow, but one that has also weighed on profits. Amazon said last week it lost money in the second quarter even as revenue increased.

Warehouse jobs are available in Arizona, Delaware, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The company is also adding 2,000 customer service jobs, including full-time, part-time and seasonal, in Kentucky, North Dakota, Washington and West Virginia. Work from home positions are available in Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

SkySong

SkySong hosts part of Innovation Summit

SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center will host one of the largest events in its history on Tuesday night as more than 900 people dine under the project’s iconic shade structure as part of ASU’s Education Innovation Summit.

The dinner at SkySong will feature two prominent speakers:

• “Above the Crowd with Bill Gurley,” a venture capital investor who was responsible for the launch of companies such as Amazon, OpenTable and Uber

• “Play It Smart, A Conversation About Making a Difference” with Former 49er & Super Bowl champ Ronnie Lott

More than 6,000 people visit SkySong every month for special events and to experience the project’s vibrancy and focus on innovation and technology. However, this dinner will be one of the largest events ever hosted at SkySong and the first time a large dinner has been hosted under the shade structure.

The dinner starts at 6 p.m., and is preceded by a reception and several other activities at SkySong related to the conference.

Sharon Harper, President & CEO of Plaza Companies, said the event is truly a showcase of how SkySong is having an extraordinary influence in the Valley’s business environment.

“This is an example of how SkySong can showcase the synergy of technology and innovation it provides through a major event celebrating those principles,” Harper said. “SkySong is a true destination for entrepreneurship and advanced thinking when it comes to business, and we are proud to be able to host this exceptional event for the ASU Education Innovation Summit attendees.”

Plaza Companies is the master developer of the project in partnership with the Arizona State University Foundation and the City of Scottsdale.

Along with the vibrant activity by the more than 1,000 employees and 50 companies on the SkySong property, work continues on pre-leasing SkySong III and SkySong IV, the next two office towers to be built at the project. The two buildings would include approximately 300,000 square feet of new development, and combined with SkySong I and II and the apartments, would bring the total square footage of development at SkySong to more than 900,000 square feet.

SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center is a home to a global business community that links technology, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education to position ASU and Greater Phoenix as global leaders of the knowledge economy.

SkySong is a 42-acre mixed use development designed to:

•    Create an ecology of collaboration and innovation among high-profile technology enterprises and related researchers;
•    Advance global business objectives of on-site enterprises;
•    Raise Arizona’s profile as a global center of innovation through co-location of ASU’s strategic global partners; and
•    Create a unique regional economic and social asset.

Companies located at SkySong enjoy a special relationship with Arizona State University, which has more than 70,000 students at four metropolitan Phoenix campuses. Its campus in Tempe is the single largest campus in the U.S., and is located less than three miles from SkySong. More than 16,000 students are pursuing degrees in engineering, science and mathematics fields, and ASU made $343 million in research expenditures in FY10, placing it among the top 20 research universities that do not have a medical school.

In addition to locating its own innovative research units at the center, ASU provides tenants with direct access to relevant research, educational opportunities and cultural events on its campuses. Through ASU’s on-site operations, tenant companies have a single point of contract for introductions to researchers, faculty and programs to address their specific needs.

For more information on SkySong, visit www.skysongcenter.com or www.facebook.com/skysongcenter.

Sassy Golf Fashion Tips

Golf Fashion Tips From Sassy Golf: Traditional & Modern

When you think of the sport “golf,” I’m going to bet that you are thinking about older, stuffy rich men rocking bland, ill-fitted khakis and polo shirts. And the women are worse ― fit the same profile but with an attitude. But, as every intelligent individual learns in life, stereotypes don’t always fit the bill. Take my league for example: Sassy Golf.

Sassy Golf is all about fun, friendship and stress-free competition. We’re a league of our own, so it’s only natural to assume that we are making a statement on the course as well ― a fashion statement, that is. Who says you have to look like frumpy, old women to respect the traditional dress code? I’m going to show you how to look fashionable and fabulous on the course, instead of fugly and frumpy.

Now don’t get me wrong here; I’m not suggesting you show up looking like Lady Gaga. I’m just encouraging you to have fun with it. Let your outfit match your experience. That can be anything from a small twist on the traditional to really standing out and sassing it up.

Below are golf fashion tips and tricks to creating a look that accentuates your personal style.

Traditional with a twist

First, it is not in my intention to bash on traditional golf wear. Traditional is fashionable but just needs a bit of a facelift. The key to pulling off the traditional look successfully is making sure all of the pieces fit correctly. Some of you may be thinking, “well, duh,” but you would be amazed how many people fall victim to this fashion “don’t” ― the No. 1 fashion “don’t,” in my opinion.

As David Meister, celebrity fashion designer and dress guru, says: “I always tell people that you can take a $10 dress, and if it’s altered beautifully to your body, it can look amazing. And you can take a $10,000 gown, and if it doesn’t fit, it looks like 10 bucks.”

Below are some examples for the updated traditional. To the left, we have we have a pair of Old Navy khaki shorts for $19.94 paired with a 3/4-sleeve argyle sweater from Lacoste for $119.99. And to the right, we have black-and-white plaid Bermuda shorts found on eBay for $27.99 paired with a pink, Johnny-collared polo found on Amazon.com for $10.95.

sassy golf, old navysassy golf, lacostesassy golf, ebaysassy golf, amazon

Also, color is always a safe way to add a twist, and I know most pieces come in a variety of colors ― so play all you want.

Make them look twice

This section is for those of you who want to wear something that will draw a little attention, but nothing too extreme. The best way to achieve this look is with bold colors/patterns and accessories.

sassy golf, old navysassy golf, Forever 21To the left, we have those same Old Navy shorts with a bright, canary-yellow cardigan from Forever 21 for $19.80. You could either pair this with a form-fitting tank-top underneath, or go a more traditional route with a polo. Choose what matches your style most.
Another optional piece for this outfit is adding a skinny belt around your waist, like the one on the right from Nordstrom for $38. These could not be more trendy right now, and it’s a great way to accentuate your shape. Or, check out the fun pattern on this tennis-like skirt from Lululemon for $68. It has shorts underneath, but if you still feel like it’s a little too short and tight, try getting it a size or two larger.Nordstrom-$38Lululemon-$68

Sass it up!

This section is dedicated to all my bold fashionistas out there that like to have fun, stand out and be different. My advice is this: Mix and match, and find different pieces that speak to you.

AmazonSomething that speaks to me is this unique, asymmetrical, cutout turtleneck from Amazon.com for $34.99. I could not be more excited to show you this. It’s sexy and conservative at the same time, and it respects the traditional dress code. Just remember, if you have your shoulders covered, you do not need a collar. So a sporty tank top isn’t appropriate, while a sleeveless polo is completely fine. The best thing to do with a statement piece like that turtleneck is to pair it with something simple, like those Old Navy shorts or a plain tennis skirt.

Or, try something like I have below. I love this cropped, hot-pink cardigan from Forever 21 for $13.80. It’s a bold/traditional fusion. The color allows you to stand out, and the fact that it’s cropped helps you show off your body. I’ve paired it with Lululemon’s groove pants for $98. I have to rave about these. Not only are they comfortable and make anyone’s legs and butt look amazing, but you can also dress them up. I wear them everywhere. A longer tank top under the cardigan would be my suggestion because then you can take the sass a step further with a hip-slung, chain-link belt like the one below from Nordstrom for $225.

sassy golf, Forever 21sassy golf, lululemonsassy golf, Nordstrom

Following these fail-safe tips, you’re sure to look fashionable and fantastic. It’s all about fun and feeling great while having it. Until next time, Sassanistas.

Be strong, be smart, be sassy!

nancy-signature-001

kindle

How to Use Kindle to Generate Free Business Leads

Imagine Amazon sending you business leads regularly and even paying you to do so. Why would they do it?

“Amazon is desperate for reading material and you can publish your content for free as Kindle books,” says V. Michael Santoro, a managing partner with John S. Rizzo of Globe On-Demand, an internet technology company. The two are also the co-authors of, “Niche Dominance: Creating Order out of your Digital Marketing Chaos,” (www.NicheDominance.com).

“The twist is to use them as a generation system for sales leads.”

The audience is huge – Kindle is no longer just for people who purchase Kindle tablets. Amazon has also written Kindle Reader applications for every major smartphone, tablet, and computer including the Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7, Santoro says.

“Most businesses hesitate to use Kindle to generate sales leads because they think they need to write an actual book,” says Rizzo, “But that’s not true. You can write and publish short reports — as long as the content is original, of high quality and does not violate its Terms of Service (TOS), Amazon will publish your material.”

The key is to include a compelling free offer with a strong call to action and a link to a lead capture page – the page on your website where people can sign up for more information, special offers, your newsletter, etc.

And Amazon will even help market your book – for free!

When a new Kindle book is approved and published, Amazon will:

• Feature it in their new releases section.

• Email their customer base announcing it to those who have previously purchased a Kindle book in that genre.

• Offer the Kindle KDP Select Program for ongoing free promotion.

• Allow customers to highlight, make notes, and share your book’s content via Twitter and other social networks.

“By enrolling in the free Kindle KDP Select Program, you give Amazon exclusivity on a renewable 90-day basis,” Santoro says. “This program allows their readers to borrow your book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and when they do, Amazon pays you a royalty, as well as for book sales. However, the real benefit is that Amazon provides five days per quarter to give your book away for free.”

Why give your Kindle book away for free?

“Because, as a lead generation system, you want as many individuals as possible to download your Kindle book and visit your lead capture page, Santoro explains. Additionally, Amazon views each book download as a vote and rewards your book with higher page ranking. The more downloads, the better the chance of an Amazon Page 1 placement.

To create your Kindle report:

• Use Amazon to determine what current Kindle books or paperbacks are published about your topic.

• Decide what information will be helpful to your potential customers. Make sure it is original and offers value. Avoid information that is easily found on the Internet.

• Create your report in Microsoft Word and include images if appropriate.

• Include your call to action – a message that prompts readers to visit your website — and link to your website’s lead capture page.

• Create a cover graphic.

Publishing on Kindle is fairly simple:

• Go to http://kdp.amazon.com and sign up for a free Kindle account.

• Watch the “How To” Kindle publishing video.

• Fill out the Amazon Author Page to track your statistics.

• Reference the book on your website and link to your Amazon book page.

• Announce it on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

“The goal is not to sell books, but rather to generate leads from Amazon’s huge customer base,” Rizzo says. An additional benefit is that you will differentiate yourself from the competition by being a published author. If your content is excellent and helpful, you will also build trust which will help to increase sales from these new leads.

veterans

Advancing Arizona’s Heroes

This week, our nation took time to celebrate the enormous contributions and sacrifices of those who have served in our Armed Forces. Just in time for Veterans Day, the Arizona Chamber Foundation released its latest policy brief, Economic Opportunity for Arizona Veterans. This new report highlights the importance of veteran employment and outlines specific policy recommendations for Arizona.

Arizona is home to an estimated 76,000 Second Gulf War veterans. According to national unemployment numbers for August 2012, these veterans face an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent, compared to the national rate of 8.1 percent. These veterans serve as an untapped resource for Arizona employers – one that has the ability to significantly grow and help diversify Arizona’s economy.

Military service prepares veterans with work ethic, teamwork and leadership skills. There are clear economic opportunities and synergies between the talents veterans bring to the workforce and the needs of private industry. Yet many veterans continue to face obstacles when transitioning to civilian employment. As the report recognizes, it’s incumbent on business and elected leaders to harness this talent by:

1) Adopting best practices for hiring and retaining veterans

2) Implementing policies to  facilitate the transition from military to civilian life

3) Streamlining and clarifying the wealth of public, private and non-profit resources that are available

To that end, the Arizona Chamber has established the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee with a vision of making Arizona one of the most attractive states for veterans to live and work. The committee serves as a resource and connector for employers that are interested in helping veterans transition from military service to civilian employment. The committee also works to support public policies that aid in this transition.

The committee has created a resource toolkit to help veterans and employers navigate the wide array of resources available. Additional next steps in addressing this issue include:

1) Finalizing a specific policy proposal to allow relevant military experience to count toward the certification requirements for occupations requiring a professional license.

2) Developing a strategy for disseminating company best practices for hiring and retaining veterans, reservists and National Guardsmen.

3) Partnering with like-minded organizations and interested elected officials to provide meaningful connections between employers and veterans.

Media response to these efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. Yesterday’s edition of Arizona Illustrated featured Suzanne Kinney, executive director of the Foundation and Captain Craig Doyle, chairman of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, in a discussion on the report’s findings and the importance of this topic. The issue is gaining traction and the efforts of Arizona businesses are being recognized.

It’s important to acknowledge the cross-section of Arizona Chamber member companies that were interviewed for the Foundation’s report: Amazon, Intel, Magellan Health Services, Northern Arizona University, Raytheon, Swift Transportation, University of Phoenix, USAA, and Wells Fargo. These companies along with the Arizona Department of Veterans Services provided valuable insight regarding best practices for recruiting and retaining vets. Many other chamber member companies, such as US Airways with their nationally-recognized Honor Flight Network, are taking action to support veterans as well. A key goal of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is to help other interested employers adopt proven strategies that will lead to more veterans successfully transitioning to civilian employment.

The Chamber also owes many thanks to Captain Craig Doyle for his leadership and continued service.
An Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, Captain Doyle recently returned from the Asian Pacific Theater, his third activation since September 11, 2001. While there, he was the first Naval Reserve Officer to serve as Commanding Officer of the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka.  His mission included all operational, planning and logistical support for the Far East region. With both business and military leadership experience, Captain Doyle brings indispensable personal experience to this important endeavor.

We look forward to further advancing the mission of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee during the 2012 legislative session and continuing the recognition of this issue throughout the state. We will be working diligently to help more Arizona businesses implement proven programs to recruit, promote and retain veterans and to advance public policies that support veteran employment and entrepreneurship.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/

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Amazon agrees to collect Arizona sales taxes

Online retailer Amazon has agreed to settle a sales tax dispute with the state of Arizona and will begin collecting the state’s 6.6 percent tax on product sales in the state on Feb. 1 and on digital sales beginning in July.

Amazon disclosed the settlement in a note contained in its quarterly earnings report filed with securities regulators on Friday.

Arizona sent the Seattle-based company a $53 million bill in November 2011 for taxes and interest on sales that it did not collect between March 2006 and Jan. 1, 2011. The company disputed that it was required to collect the tax on behalf of the state and cities.

Its filing said it will pay an undisclosed but “immaterial” amount to settle that claim as part of a settlement it says it signed with the state last month.

A spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer, Matthew Benson, said Saturday that she was pleased with the settlement.

“This agreement allows the State of Arizona to settle its dispute with Amazon without resorting to litigation, while securing partial payment and establishing that Amazon will collect and remit this tax going forward,” Benson said in an email to The Associated Press. “Amazon is a quality employer that has invested more than $150 million in Arizona and created thousands of good jobs, and Governor Brewer is proud to have them here.”

online sales tax issue

Arizona Panel To Consider Online Sales Tax Issue

Online sales tax is supposed to be charged by companies that have an actual brick and mortar building located in Arizona. What about those that don’t have a physical presence in Arizona.

The issue of whether Amazon.com should be required to collect tax on online sales to Arizonans isn’t going away.

State legislators during their 2012 regular session considered but ultimately shelved proposals to force the Seattle-based online retailer to collect tax on its sales in Arizona.

But the issue is expected to resurface publicly in coming months when a newly appointed state task force considers making recommendations for legislative action on improving Arizona’s sales-tax system.

Gov. Jan Brewer didn’t specify online purchases as a topic for the task force to consider, but a senior Brewer aide who will lead the panel said the issue will be taken up under its charge to recommend ways to simplify the state’s sales-tax system.

“We’re likely to dedicate some significant time and resources to it,” said Michael Hunter, Brewer’s tax policy adviser and her chief legislative lobbyist.

Because of the simplification mandate and brick-and-mortar retailers’ complaints about no-tax competition from Amazon.com, “it’s going to have to come up,” agreed Kevin McCarthy, a task force member and head of a business-backed taxpayer advocacy group.

Meanwhile, the state apparently still has a $53 million tax assessment pending against the online retailer in confidential proceedings.

Arizonans are legally supposed to pay sales tax on purchases of goods bought from retailers that don’t collect tax, but few do.

Amazon contends it doesn’t have to collect sales tax from Arizonans because it doesn’t have a “physical presence,” such as stores, in the state. The company contends its so-called “fulfillment centers” — distribution warehouses that ship goods to customers — don’t count because they’re owned by a subsidiary.

The Arizona Senate on March 8 soundly rejected a bill that would have classified Amazon as an in-state retailer for tax purposes because the subsidiary has facilities in Arizona.

In some other states, fulfillment centers have led to Amazon agreeing to begin collecting sales tax. A recently announced agreement calls for Amazon to collect tax on sales in New Jersey starting next summer, the same time the company plans to begin building two new centers that will be its first in that state.

Michelle Ahlmer, Arizona Retailers Association executive director, said her group will push the task force to recommend that legislators pass a law next year requiring Amazon to collect sales tax by July 2013 at the latest.

“We don’t want a quick glossing over,” Ahlmer said. “There’s no way we can let this stay the way it is.”

Hunter said Brewer’s office didn’t take a yes-or-no position on the 2012 legislation but questioned whether a $53 million assessment against Amazon by the state Department of Revenue could be undermined.

Because the department contends Amazon already must collect tax, the task force needs to consider the impact of changing state law, he said.

It’s too early to discuss what the task force might recommend, Hunter added. “The message I want to deliver is we need to let the process unfold.”

Citing confidentiality requirements regarding taxpayers, Revenue Department spokesman Anthony Forschino declined to comment on the assessment.

Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to inquiries about the assessment. Amazon reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission have disclosed only the assessment’s existence, not a resolution.

In considering the defeated legislation, some Arizona legislators sided with retailers who argued Amazon’s no-tax status jeopardizes thousands of jobs at brick-and-mortar businesses.

One senator who opposed the bill said it could make recruiting businesses difficult if they worry they could be hurt by future changes in tax policy.

Other senators echoed an Amazon lobbyist’s testimony that the legislation would violate the Arizona Constitution’s prohibition on bills targeting specific individuals or companies.

After signing the May 11 order creating the tax force, Brewer said the online sales tax issue “is probably something we need to look into and determine what Arizona can do.” But she said it requires a national solution by the federal government.

“That’s where the buck stops on that issue,” Brewer said.

Find out more about Arizona state tax laws and online sales tax requirements at the State of Arizona Department of Revenue’s website aztaxes.gov.

Streaming Devices

Add Streaming Devices As Inexpensive Additions To The Office

Streaming media has become a regular part of many home entertainment choices, with folks (myself included), choosing Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Go instead of scheduled programming or even On Demand. And now many streaming devices have gaming channels, music, and the ability to run personal apps like Facebook and Picasa.

Streaming media devices can also be an inexpensive and cool addition to the office. Most businesses are setting up flat panel screens in their conference rooms and lobbies for better presentation viewing, adding visual elements during meetings, and entertainment for clients as they wait. In open office environments, which house many start ups, screens are usually set to news channels all day long. Connecting an inexpensive streaming media device can break up the monotony with music, pictures from the last office happy hour, and the occasional stress busting game of Angry Birds.

How to choose? Here are some of the best streaming devices for your money:

Roku

Roku wasn’t the original but it appears to be innovating the fastest in the streaming industry and currently has the most choices. Roku has four models, ranging from $49 to $100. Every Roku device gives you access to over 400 channels and growing, with the more expensive models featuring HD video support, a remote for motion control with games, and USB port. Just last month Roku announced a streaming “stick” that will deliver all the joy of streaming from something the size of a jump drive. It’s a solid bet, and you can’t beat the price tag.

Apple TV

I recommend this with reservations because I think the real Apple TV, predicted to debut this fall (or winter, or next spring), will come with streaming technology built inside. But just in case I’m wrong, or if your business has a bonified Apple ecosystem going, then Apple TV is the streaming device for you. Apple TV is the only streaming box compatible with iTunes and AirPlay, which lets you stream content from your iPad and iPhone – both of which are often used as business tools. Apple TV doesn’t have as many channels a Roku, and sits at the high end at $99. But it’s a reliable, great device that will complete your hipster system.

Boxee

Boxee might be the original streaming device, and possibly ahead of its time. I first saw Boxee a few years ago at a Wired party at CES. It was one of 10 or so gadgets on display and everyone who saw it couldn’t lift their jaw off the floor. As is often the case with first-on-the-scene gadgets, Boxee got a little overshadowed by other streaming devices with bigger marketing budgets than this start up. It’s still holding it’s own though, and is actually a great device from a company that continues to innovate. The company just announced Boxee LiveTV, which lets you stream live sports, local news, special events, and shows from your local broadcast stations via an HD antenna. Like other streaming devices you can get all of the great Internet channels such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and apps like Facebook. Boxee costs $167, making it the most expensive of these options.

There are several more options enterting the market, and it’s probable that in the next few years the TVs we buy (not just from Apple) will contain this tech inside and we’ll order streaming services from cable. But until then, $100 or less to widen your media capability in the office is a good buy.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Black Friday Deals And Cyber Monday Madness

It’s all about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals this Thanksgiving, but what about deals before Black Friday?

Plenty of retailers, such as Target, Toys ‘R’ Us and Amazon.com, have already kicked off the holiday season with incredibly low prices on high-end items with online-only specials.

Pre-Black Friday Sales

Here are two retailers holding pre-Black Friday sales:

Target

Target has pre-Black Friday deals online and in-store until Wednesday, Nov. 23.

In addition to the great deals, Target is also supplying coupons for the items on sale on its website. Sale items include electronics, toys and household items.

But Black Friday sales are what it’s all about, and Target has a slew of hot items at great prices. In the electronics department, you can find hot buys on the Kindle 3G, a PS3 bundle and a TOMTOM GPS system. Then there are the toys, clothes and household items with door buster prices. And for those deals, you have to wait until Friday.

Toys ‘R’ Us

Toys ‘R’ Us has special deals on Leapfrog books and Leapster learning games, select LEGO games and Radio Flyer Scooters. Additional promotions include, buy one, get one 40 percent off for DS and 3DS video games, and an Olympus 12 mpx digital camera for $69.99, as well as saving up to 50 percent on board games. Customers get free shipping for an order of $49 or more. But hurry, you only have until Nov. 23 to pick up the savings.


Pre-Black Friday Online Retailers

Here are a couple online retailers holding pre-Black Friday sales:

Overstock.com

Overstock.com is overflowing with great pre-Black Friday red line deals. From cameras to televisions, some of these red line items are already sold out. There is also an extra 10 percent savings on select outerwear and boots, and don’t forget to stay cozy with some new winter bedding. Overstock.com also offers some great steals on jewelry and designer frocks.

Amazon.com

Another pre-Black Friday, retailer is Amazon.com. Amazon has started their time-released lightning deals on Monday, Nov. 21, and they will run all week long. Amazon.com did this last year to entice online holiday sales, and this year it’s taken off in force; in less than an hour from its 4 p.m. release time, a Haurex Italy Men’s Red Arrow U.C. Sampdoria Chronograph Tachymeter Rubber Watch that retails for $800, sold out for $99. The same goes for the Blu-Ray Pulp Fiction DVD for $3.99 from its $19.99 list price — and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Deals are released approximately every hour with only a clue as to what the product might be.


Black Friday Deals

Many, many retailers are boasting great Black Friday deals, but here are a few:

Apple

Apple is known for set prices on its products and accessories, but this Black Friday Mac products will be 10 to 15 percent off. Mac’s will be approximately $101 off the regular price and iPad’s will be $41 – 61 off depending on storage size. The biggest savings will be the base level Macbook Air starting at $898. Apple is also discounting its accessories such as the iPad 2 Smart Cover, the Apple Wireless Keyboard and the Apple Wireless Magic Trackpad.

Macy’s

Macy’s is known for its historic Thanksgiving Day Parade (that airs 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET Thanksgiving Day), but they also have some incredible deals, such as ladies cashmere sweaters for $40 (regular retail value $109), as well as men’s Oscar de la Renta sweaters starting at $30. Men’s and women’s winter boots are up to 50 percent off and select kitchen appliances starting at $9.99.

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has some of the best deals on the market, according to its Black Friday sale paper. Select movies regular DVD and Blu-Ray are being advertised for $1.96 – $10.

A selection of Blu-Ray movies under 15 dollars? Only on Black Friday.

Wal-Mart is also attempting to one-up all the other retailers by starting Black Friday sales two hours earlier. While most retailers are starting sales at midnight following Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart is honoring some of their sale prices starting at 10 p.m.

Local Deals

Blissful Yoga Studio

Blissful Yoga, locally owned and operated with locations in Arrowhead, North Phoenix and Scottsdale Quarter, is offering an exclusive, online Black Friday special starting this Friday at midnight.

The special? Sign up for a membership, pay two months and receive two months FREE. This is valued at $270 and is only offered to the first 100-150 memberships. You can cancel after the four months if you wish; no penalties.

For more information about Blissful Yoga, visit blissfulyoga.net.

Phoenix Art Museum

The Phoenix Art Museum is having a Black Friday deal for art lovers. Only on Friday Nov. 25 can you purchase a museum membership for 20 percent off. You can purchase the membership online and enter the code: BLACKFRIDAY or you can visit the museum between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to get this great offer.

For more information about the Phoenix Art Museum, visit phxart.org.

Desert Ridge Marketplace

Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix is also offering tons of coupons from its restaurants on locations and retailers, including Aeropostale, Barnes & Noble, DSW and many more. Although you cannot use these coupons on Black Friday, they are valid through December 31, 2011 — perfect for holiday shopping post-Black Friday.

Browse the list of coupons on Desert Ridge Marketplace’s website.


Cyber Monday

Many of the businesses mentioned above will be holding a Cyber Monday sale. Many of the items won’t be disclosed until the night before. But, you can get the inside scoop if you follow your favorite store on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Here are some Cyber Monday links:

Twitter: Cybermonday_fm
Facebook: Cyber Monday FM


Don’t Forget Small Business Saturday

There are incredible deals out there, but don’t forget to shop small businesses on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26.

Small businesses support the economy and create jobs in your community. Arizona has a plethora of local artisans, jewelers and boutiques. If you can complete even a portion of your holiday shopping at a local business, you’ll be doing something great for your community and yourself.

If you’d like to shop local, calculate your impact and find a local business by visiting shiftarizona.com.

Online browsing

Websites That Keep Track Of Some Of Your Information Aren’t All Bad

This weekend my wife and I went shopping for lighting — fixtures and lamps for some redecorating we’re doing. There’s a particular style we like and we found some things in different stores in town, but not a huge selection in that style. So, of course, the next thing I did was go online to see what else is available. I found options at quite a number of online sites and “stores.”

The next day I was online doing research at various sites, many of which are ad-supported. While browsing about I noticed an ad in the banner at the right of the page. It was for a terrific table lamp in just exactly the style we’re looking for. It was even at a good price!

I think most of us are at least vaguely aware of that type of thing. On at least some level we recognize that when we’re browsing online we’re constantly being shown products and services that our past browsing behavior indicates might interest us. And I’m guessing that most of us view that as a real service. After all, if we’re going to be marketed to — and by browsing ad-supported content we’ve “opted in” to being marketed to — it’s a whole lot better if it’s something we might be interested in than if it’s just more commercial noise, isn’t it?

It’s called “behavioral marketing” and I can remember when it was a scary concept. The idea that our browsing behavior might be tracked and the information collected might be somehow used without our knowledge was chilling. It sounded vaguely Big Brother-ish. We had to keep those “cookies” off our computer!

But over time our attitudes changed. Browsers have settings that allow us to control cookies, or even keep them off our computer altogether, but most of us don’t use those settings. Perhaps for some that’s because they don’t even know they can, but I think most people wouldn’t regardless. And I think that’s because we recognize the value we receive in return.

It happens in varying degrees. The example above is pretty innocuous. Consider what happens when you log onto a site? Now the connection becomes even more intimate and the information shown even more targeted. For example, as soon as I log onto Amazon, I see any number of “Recommendations for You.” These recommendations are based on my previous buying and browsing behavior, and how it compares to others with similar tastes and behaviors. Another example is when you see things like “People who bought this also bought …” Or music services that suggest things I might like based upon what I already listen to. All these are examples of things that are only possible because the computer collected some information about myself and millions of others, and then drew inferences.

And do you know what? I think this is great! I find it very valuable. I think it improves my life in subtle but significant ways.

How about you?

Holiday gift guide

Holiday Gift Guide: Find High-Tech Stocking Stuffers That Won’t Break The Bank

The iPhone 4 or iPad (or both) might be on everyone’s Christmas list this year, but if you’re in the same boat as so many Americans, they probably aren’t in your budget. Here are some non-Apple stocking stuffers that won’t break the bank.

Flip videoFlip gets blingy

If you haven’t been to Flip Video’s website recently, you really should. You can now customize the Flip Video camera in a hundred different ways. The company offers tons of pattern and design choices, or you can upload your own image. Flip Video also has teamed up with several consumer electronic companies to offer a line of accessories that makes the Flip experience better. Accessories include a wide-angle lens, two different types of enhanced external microphones, waterproof cases, battery chargers and a pocket projector. iGo, an Arizona-based company, also is offering a battery extender that doubles the Flip Video battery life. $150 – $250, www.theflip.com.

Pa-pa-pa-paparazzi

We all wish we were one of those hipsters at the holiday party with the fancy camera around their necks taking impossibly beautiful shots. Sigh. For the rest of us, a really good point-and-shoot is in order. Canon PowerShotThe Canon PowerShot A495 does the trick and delivers high-quality features usually reserved for much more expensive cameras. For less than $100 it also has some creative modes that will get any photographer on your list excited. Some stores had it for as low as $89.

KindleKindle is still king

The iPad is hot, but as far as e-readers go, the Kindle is still killing the competition and the third generation of Kindle does not disappoint. If you know a bookworm, this is the gift to give this year. It now has an improved screen for higher contrast (oy my eyes), faster page turning, built-in 3G, superior battery life, and a slimmer weight and price tag. $139 at www.amazon.com.

 

Find your way and then some

Yes, there are some people who still want a stand-alone GPS unit despite just about every phone on the market now being GPS enabled. I personally didn’t understand this until I checked out the line of Garmin nuvi devices.  GarminThese little guys do so much more than map. The slick and affordable Garmin’s nuvi 295W is a nice package of best-in-class navigation, plus some fun features. I’m talking about a built-in 3 megapixel camera, WiFi that let’s you e-mail, and a super easy user interface. Even your mom could figure this one out and ENJOY using it.  Staring at $100, www.amazon.com.

CyberShoppers

Attention Cyber Shoppers: Do Your Homework Before Entering The E-commerce Arena

Here’s advice for any business giving serious consideration to selling goods and services online: Before diving into electronic commerce, make sure to get your feet wet in such critical areas as marketing, networking, branding, fulfillment and customer service.

Novices can hone these skills by selling on eBay or placing products on Amazon Marketplace. But even well-established businesses must realize that an online presence involves venturing into such new territories as the blogosphere and social media.

None of this is any reason to shy away. The upside is too great. In March, Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger said his company is on track to generate $1 billion in online revenue this year. Those expectations are too lofty for most, but consider recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau: Total e-commerce sales for 2007 reached about $136.4 billion, a 19 percent increase from the year before.

Amanda Vega is a former AOL employee who now operates Amanda Vega Consulting, an integrated marketing firm currently headquartered in Phoenix. A big part of her business is Web site development and related services. She sees e-commerce as a viable option for two kinds of entrepreneurs.

“People should consider it if they think that there’s a place in the market that isn’t being serviced by someone else or isn’t being serviced adequately,” she says. “Or (it offers) a natural extension to their brick-and-mortar store to help give them a national or international presence instead of just going the traditional route and building store No. 2 and store No. 3, which can cost a lot more than doing it online.”

The nice part about operating an effective e-commerce Web site is there are more ways to make money than just selling your own products or services. One method, according to Vega, is through affiliate deals with complementary companies.

“Even if it’s, let’s say, $300 a month that you’re making somehow behind the scenes for referring to other products or vendors, it’s still more income than the business owner had coming in through the traditional door,” she says.

Mark Sharkey, the owner of Mesa-based PrecisionPros.com Network and such related companies as DynamicPros.com, which provides Web programming services, says there are a variety of opportunities for those with content-rich sites that generate frequent repeat visits.

“If there’s a reason for people to keep coming back all the time,” Sharkey says, “then those types of sites will easily generate money from selling banner advertisements or doing a link-exchange kind of setup where they get paid based on the number of people that see an advertisement on the Web site, click through and go to another Web site.

“The great thing about an e-commerce Web site is that it can make money for you 24 hours a day,” he continues. “You don’t have to be in your office for it to make money for you. You don’t have to restrict your business to the local market. You have a worldwide market that’s available to you now.”

Deciding whether to enter the e-commerce arena won’t be your biggest decision. Deciding how to go about it the right way will be. More times than not, this means involving people like Vega or Sharkey to help with such things as research, development, design and marketing.

There are many crucial elements that contribute to a successful site, and not just from a visual standpoint.

Create a user-friendly site that enhances the customer’s shopping experience. Provide good information and make it easy to navigate. Make sure the customer feels safe when placing an order and providing personal information.

“The Internet is an open forum and if we don’t encrypt that data, it’s easy to see and steal that information,” Sharkey says. “You want to make sure the Web site itself is set up or the Web server is set up to handle secure transactions.”

There’s also the issue of real-time credit card processing. If you go this route, make sure you have a reputable company processing transactions.

You need to be on a server with a fast response time or risk losing impatient visitors. And don’t forget product availability and production times. This is not the old mail-order business. No one’s willing to wait six to eight weeks. Customers expect prompt delivery. If you promise to ship within 24 hours, Vega says, customers start counting from the time of purchase, not from the time you arrive at your office the next day.

“Those are the questions that I think people don’t think about,” she says. It may be less expensive to operate an online business than a brick-and-mortar store, “but there are extra costs associated with the fact that now your business is 24/7.”

Vega points out that if you mess up, online shoppers can quickly spread the word through blogs, forums, message boards and other social-media means.

Also, there are numerous marketing considerations, some costly and others that require hard work and smart decisions. This includes optimizing your Web site for search engines through the proper use of keywords and by generating inbound links from relevant sites. It may mean creating a blog and establishing yourself as an industry expert to help drive customers to your site. You might experiment with online advertising in some of its various forms. There’s also traditional advertising and public relations.

As Vega says, “You can’t just throw the store online and say, ‘OK, go.’ ”