Small Business in the Pandemic
I am sure you got e-mails from just about every company you deal with over the past week regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus that is currently impacting our world. I will not go on a long spiel about how much I care because you know I do. If you would like me to wipe your keyboard, phone, or tablet with a disinfecting wipe when I am there, I certainly will. Thank you for your continued support of my small business. I really appreciate the appointments we’ve had whether they’ve been in person or virtual. While most of my appointments are close to the Hartford area, my travels took me to the CT Shoreline this weekend. ( I do charge a travel surcharge, but I definitely will take on clients in the New Haven or Springfield areas, for example). As the situation has intensified and fears have grown, I have definitely noticed a drop in business. I predict that March will be 40 to 60% less in terms of revenues than this January. I wanted to provide that as a real “Main Street” report. It may be logical to expect a decline for a period of time. This business is really all I have. If there comes a point when I need to supplement this income stream, I could not easily be an I.T. professional for a large company or government entity. I often joke with myself and say, if I wasn’t doing this business, I would be a cashier at WalMart – maybe – if they would take me 🙂 I will say that every traditional “job” I have ever had has been a failure. If I do have to diversify in the future, it would be something entrepreneurial and likely outside the field of I.T. Given the run on toilet paper lately, if I had any plumbing skills whatsoever, I’m sure I could make a killing installing home bidets right now. Unfortunately, that is outside my skill set. Humor aside, I appreciate your continued business and referrals. The VIP Computer Care family has plenty of room for growth.
Skype on Mac
I shared previously that the ability for me to do remote assistance sessions is already baked in to Windows 10, however on the Mac you will need Skype (or another application) installed for you to share your screen with me. I don’t need to do video chat. Installing Skype is quite easy for Mac users. If you don’t have it in your Finder >> Applications (folder) already, you just need to go to skype.com in your browser and download it. Double click on the file that downloads (you will either see it on the screen or you can go to your Finder >> Downloads folder). And then just follow the prompt to install Skype. You can then open it from the Applications folder by going to your Finder (remedial step: Finder is the “face” icon in the lower left of your screen). Sign in with your Microsoft account. If you don’t have one you can create it, no cost involved. You will then be ready for a future Mac remote session.
Technology Built with Slave Labor?
I only read this one story by the Associated Press so far and I am looking to confirm this against other sources. However, if it is really true that gadgets made by Lenovo, Apple and other companies are being made with forced Muslim slave labor — I think we need to change how we shop for technology. It’s a sickening feeling. Do we really know what it takes to make our high tech gadgets? I will report back when I know more.
There are some products relevant to many of you — such as a low cost iPhone and new Mac Books with the GOOD 2015-style keyboards — that were expected to come out as early as the end of this month. Given the disruption to the Chinese supply chain, it is now expected that you will have to wait a little bit longer. If you wanted one of these items, try to hold out a little bit longer. If your tech goes kaput before then, you will just have to choose from a product currently available.
Carrier Cell Phone Stores – Shopping Advice
I think I may have shared on this before, but I promised to touch on it again. There is nothing wrong with shopping at an ATT or Verizon store to buy your new smartphone. However, if you choose to go this route as opposed to buying online or buying at the Apple store, make sure you buy a couple of accessories from your salesperson. Some customers will go into the store and be insistent on just buying the phone only. Also, they may “shop” in store, buy online and then come into the store and expect the salesperson to set up the phone. I used to think it was no big deal, but then I heard from some real in-store sales staff. If a customer comes in a store and buys a phone without accessories, the sales rep can get fired for that. It’s a reality. These sales jobs are good middle class jobs. With this said, I offer you the option of buying your online with me and let me set up your phone for you. However, I know that you may ultimately want that in-store, hands on experience. If so, try to make it a sustainable transaction for all parties involved.
As we come to the end of the year, we also come to the end of the 2010’s. (Whether or not it’s truly the end of the decade, may be a technicality. Some of my elementary school teachers would have said that the decade is 2011-2020), but for all intents and purposes many in the technology community are looking at how far we have come in the last 10 years.
I will just give you a few of my thoughts. I will also ask you, how has your use of technology changed in 10 years?
-The iPhone was not Apple’s bread and butter in 2010. In the USA, it was still an AT&T exclusive. Verizon users were being pushed to get a DROID, which was special branding put on Android phones made specifically for Verizon. Big iPhone competitors that year were the Motorola DROID, the DROID X, and the HTC DROID Incredible. As a Verizon customer, I could not get an iPhone. My first smartphone was the Incredible. Everything opened up in early 2011 when Verizon came to an agreement to sell the iPhone on their network. I got my first iPhone in the fall of 2013 and haven’t looked back.
-The 2010’s were also the decade of the iPad. I acquired my first iPad in 2010. To be honest, I didn’t see much use for it in the beginning and I sold it in about 6 months. Today, we see the iPad as the tablet done right. It does not run a full, traditional computer operating system (now called iPad OS) but it gets the job done well enough for quite a few folks as a primary computing device and nearly everyone else as a “secondary screen”. Want to use it in the hand? You can check email, shop, bank, read books, and watch TV / video. Want to use it with a keyboard? It is a near laptop. When Apple came out with the iPad Pro a few years back — they really blurred the lines between Mac and iPad. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though I would still prefer a full Mac / Windows computer as my #1 device. There was a lull in the iPad market in 2015 and 2016. It seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere. But then, Apple lowered the price of the “standard iPad” (9.7 inch, now 10.2) to $329 in 2017 and sales have gone up like wild flowers.
-10 years ago — many people thought the PC (personal computer) would soon be dead. Remember when netbooks were a big thing? These were small – 9 or 10 inch — very underpowered Windows laptops that were meant for travel and quick browsing or e-mail. I fondly remember — hacking a Dell netbook and putting the Mac OS on it. It ran well for a while. The keyboard on that netbook was excellent, though cramped. Fast forward to 2019 and the PC is not dead. The industry has innovated. In late 2010, Apple released a timeless design with its 2nd generation Mac Book Air. This Ultrabook design helped change Windows PC’s for the better. No longer did a powerful machine have to be a big clunker. Microsoft also got into the market in 2012 by releasing its own line of tablet computers called Sufrace. The original Surface concept (which ran a limited version of Windows RT) was a flop, but the Surface Pro (which runs full Windows) has been a huge success. This 12 inch tablet, with keyboard has aged with conservative design changes and is really the gold standard for small, sub-13 inch computers. Consumers with simpler needs have moved to the smartphone and the iPad, in some instances – exclusively, but the PC market is still here. The premium PC market is strong.
-During the past 10 years — especially 2016-19 — Apple lost its perch in the laptop market. Beginning in 2016, they wanted to get so thin and light in order to shave a couple of millimeters that they released a horrible keyboard design. Many claims of defects were made and lots of warranty work had to be done. The problem became so bad that in 2018, Apple decided to give all owners of the new Mac Book Pros a 4 year warranty on the keyboards. This special warranty now covers the late 2016 to 2019 13 and 15 inch Mac Book Pros and the 2018 and 2019 Mac Book Airs. Good news! Apple has seen the error of its ways and recently came out with a new 16 inch laptop with the old 2015 style keyboard. Hallelujah! We can only hope that Apple will revise the 13 inch Mac Books (models my clients would be most likely to buy) accordingly next year.
-On a personal note, I just want to say that I have learned over the course of 10 years that not everything online is better. 10 years ago, I was actively pursuing my Bachelor’s degree online (with a few on campus courses mixed in). That evolved into an exclusively online Master’s for the academic portion, with some in-person internship or practicum experiences. It was a colossal $60,000 mistake. Some day, I should write an article or short guide about online college studies. Ultimately, what I learned is that online education is not appropriate for all learners and career objectives. Just because it’s more convenient or you are a technologically savvy person or you can express yourself more freely by typing — does not mean an online degree is appropriate. Online education would be appropriate for someone who is already established in an industry, even in an entry level way, and they are aiming for their degree (hopefully with the encouragement of management) in order to advance in that field. Online degrees are right for someone with an established network that is using that degree to get a bump in pay due to that accomplishment (ie. a teacher getting a salary increase for a Master’s). Online coursework would not be appropriate for someone looking to blaze a new path in a field where they have no relationships. That is where I got lost in the maze. I also believe formal college education is not right for everyone and that trade schools and apprenticeships are a very sustainable path for our young workers. It makes me think of a picture that you have problem seen passed around in chain e-mails depicting two “learners.” Jim — 4 year degree in Philosophy – $100K in debt, no job. Joe — 4 year paid apprenticeship. No debt. $80K a year salary. Today, Joe works for the electric company and cut off Jim’s lights for non-payment. Sad, but could be very true.
This event has already been reported in the mainstream media, usually in snippets and soundbites. Clients have already asked me to clarify the confusion. I wanted to break their “state of the state” address into a very specific focus for you — 1) What it means for your Macs, 2) What it means for your iPhones / iPads, and 3) What it means for iTunes. Feel free to print this out or save this e-mail or share with your Mac / iOS using friends. This info will still be valid in the fall and ongoing.
Apple held their WWDC keynote address on Monday. Aside from a new Mac Pro desktop (which is intended for designers, people in video production, and engineers — users outside my typical client demographic), this event was all about software. Like clockwork, Apple is coming out with a brand new version of iOS and macOS. These are the BIG annual upgrades that I often tell you about. They will be available in the late summer / early fall. These will be known as iOS 13 and macOS 10.15. Apple is essentially “forking off” the software for the iPad and calling it iPadOS. This will be coming out in the fall for existing, compatible iPads as well. As I told one client today, ALL OF THE NEW SOFTWARE WILL BE FREE. These new editions of the respective operating systems offer guidance as to which Macs and iOS devices will no longer be supported.
New Year – New You
What would you like to improve in your technology picture this year? How can I help you get more out of your devices and services? What would you like to learn? Some areas that clients have mentioned to me already include:
-Using a password manager (finally)
-Breaking free of cable TV
-Learning how to use streaming video services (ie. Netflix + Amazon Prime)
-Upgrading the 4 or 5 year old iPhone / iPad to a newer model
-Upgrading to a new Mac now that Apple has released new consumer level models for the first time in years
Please let me know how I can partner with you on this journey. I am ready and willing to be deployed.
Cord Cutting Intro – Wrap Up
We had some substantial discussions about cord cutting over the past two weeks as a result of my Parts 1 and 2 e-mails on this topic. Don’t hesitate to ask me about your situation. I think the cord cutting movement will experience major growth in 2019. One of our local talk radio shows, which usually has a political focus, devoted 3 hours to the idea of breaking free from these $200+ bills last week. The bottom line is, I think it is possible to get down to an Internet + cord cutting TV service combination for about $110 a month (approx $70 + $40). As for home phone — you may choose to go without, you can move it to a service like Magic Jack (as I have done $40 / year), or even move that number to the phone company. And just remember, if you are not ready to be a cord cutter yet — you can always be a streamer. Trying to drive a hard bargain and cutting features to save money on your existing cable package is another option. Contact me for a cord cutting assessment.
And on to this week’s feature —
The Ethics of Cell Phone Buying
You can buy your new smart phone from the Apple Store. You could go direct through Android device manufacturers like One Plus, Google, or Motorola. Buying an unlocked phone on Amazon may be an option too. Best Buy sells a handful of unlocked phones and also ones connected with carriers like Verizon and ATT. However, a significant percentage of customers (my clients included) go to one of their carrier’s stores. If you might want to change your plan or take advantage of carrier specific promotions, shopping at an ATT Store, Verizon store, or T Mobile store may be the way to go. I’m not telling you that you should or shouldn’t. One thing I can say in their favor is that the salesperson jobs there are career positions. These are not traditional retail (ie. Apple) or big box store jobs that pay at a level where the worker needs to work 2 or 3 jobs to possibly survive in the community where the store is located. The sales professionals in carrier stores are commissioned. You may have never known this, but if you purchase your phone there the salesperson will not make much of a commission unless you buy a few accessories with your phone. It seems weird to me, because the acquisition of a customer who will pay bills month after month has to have value to the company. However, this is the way compensation works. Very often, we do purchase accessories with our new phones. A case, car charger, and screen protector can be very helpful add-ons. On the other hand, you may be like me. You might be the type to buy your phone accessories from Amazon that they don’t have in carrier stores. That’s ok too. All I am saying is that this is food for thought. If you shop for phones in your carrier’s store, it is a good idea to consider buying your accessories there. You won’t have to wait for them either.