How Communication Technology Changes Things (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

July 24th 2015 in Blog

I remember my teenage cousin sitting on our living room floor with her huge laptop plugged into our phone modem. My 8-year-old self thought it was silly that she had to email her boyfriend three times a day “so he wouldn’t be worried about her.” And of course we couldn’t use the phone while she was on the internet. Still, I was amazed that her letter could travel over a thousand miles instantly—or at least instantly after the purple screen on her Juno account finished the four minutes it took to send her email. And she didn’t even have to pay for postage.

Eight years later, on June 29, 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone and changed communication forever.

Today, another eight years later, there are around 1.5 million apps in the App Store, 56% of web use is through mobile devices, and search engines favor mobile-friendly sites.

Communication technology changes things, and sometimes we aren’t so excited about those changes. I was frustrated that my cousin had to contact her boyfriend via email three times a day; today we get frustrated that middle schoolers sit at the dinner table and text instead of talking to the people in front of them. But this same technology enables us to use our smartphones to take videos and send them to Grandma and Grandpa across the country. It means that we can upload photos to Facebook for people across the world to see, and we can text friends across the country.

Communication technology changes things, and that’s a good thing. There was a time when people waited months to receive letters. And then finally when we had telephones, long-distance calls were so expensive that they had to be rationed. A friend of mine told me that when she moved across the country her newly-wed budget allowed for one hour-long call home every two weeks.

The thing is, technology is a tool, and tools have to be used well. And in order to use them well, we have to consider what tools we need to do our particular jobs. Smartphones may help us keep in touch with family members across the country, but they’re not very helpful when you need to talk to the people across the dinner table.

Over the past months as we’ve been working with real estate agents to develop the Wovax for Real Estate apps, we’ve been thinking a lot about their needs. What we’ve realized is just how perfect smartphones are for the real estate industry. In real estate, agents and clients spend most of their time moving around from house to house. A tool isn’t much help to Realtors unless it can travel—even if it’s a sweet website. While most businesses will find apps useful, apps are essential for real estate.

Mobility. Seamless integration with maps. Instant access to phone and messaging. Easy MLS searches. All your branding at their fingertips.

Communication technology and the change that it brings is a good thing, if we use it well. And for real estate, mobile technology is perfect.

This is the fourth installment of posts about our real estate apps that we will be launching August 10th. Check back next weekend for Part 5, and email us at info [at] wovax.com to set up a demo.

How Wovax Makes SEO Effortless

July 17th 2015 in Blog

Web searches return millions of results, but 94% of users don’t click past the first page. This is why SEO – search engine optimization – is such a big deal. Making sure that search engines like Google rank your site at the top is the only way to make having a website worthwhile. It doesn’t matter how great a website is if no one ever sees it.

So how does SEO work?

Search engines rank websites through programs called “spiders” that crawl your site to decide how important it is. There are many components the spiders look for, but two main things are increase in traffic to the website and fresh content. This is why inbound marketing strategists recommend blogging. It provides fresh content and natural traffic from readers.

It seems that real estate websites should have it easy. MLS data is refreshed multiple times a day, which should count as fresh content on the site. And when people search the listings, those searches should be counted as traffic on the site. It seems like real estate websites would have built-in SEO. It seems.

But it doesn’t actually work that way.

The problem is that when the MLS data appears to show up websites, it’s not actually on the website. Instead it’s hosted through a frame that appears to be part of the site, but which the spiders do not actually recognize as part of the website. This means that all that MLS content and traffic which appears on the site is doing nothing to help the Realtor’s visibility.

Wovax changes this.

We use no framing techniques — no middle man. Instead we feed the MLS data directly into the website, so that SEO is as easy as it ought to be. But it gets better. Because the website and app are directly connected, all traffic on the app counts as traffic to the website. So every time a buyer searches for listings and pulls up maps through the app, search engines recognize that as traffic on the website.

With Wovax, SEO for Real Estate is effortless – as it should be.

This is the third installment of posts about our real estate apps that we will be launching August 10th. Check back next weekend for Part 4, and feel free to contact us if you’d like to set up a demo. 

Wovax + Real Estate: How We Met

July 10th 2015 in Blog

Just like WordPress, we originally designed our product with bloggers in mind. And, just like WordPress, we quickly realized that we could serve a much broader audience than just bloggers. Yes, bloggers can use Wovax apps—but so can anyone else with a WordPress site. Which, by the way, includes over 24% of websites.

So why real estate?

As I mentioned in my last post, we already had some clients in real estate, and they were very excited about our apps. This got us thinking and researching. And as we researched, we realized how perfect the concept of a custom-branded app is for the real estate world.

Even before we created the real estate specific version of the app, the basic app was already a great tool for Realtors. Here are three reasons why:

  • 1. Image. Realtors aren’t just marketing a product: they are marketing themselves. This is why Realtors are known for being so well-dressed, why their faces are on all their marketing materials, and why their websites are so stunning. In the real estate market, image is key. In contrast with generic or corporate agency apps, custom apps preserve the image that realtors work so hard to establish on their websites by pulling the websites directly into the apps. Custom apps establish personal branding and personal loyalty, distinguishing one agent from another.
  • 2. Mobility. In real estate, customers are constantly on the go, moving around from house to house. It’s not surprising that the number one thing Realtors are interested in in 2015 is mobile technology. Wovax mobile apps keep not only the agent’s contact info but also their entire custom-branded website in the buyers’ hands at all times. It’s like having an interactive business card that people can take with them everywhere they go, but better.
  • 3. Communication. Real estate websites showcase contact info because convenient communication with clients is essential. Having an app that enables you to send push notifications to clients means that not only do you have a presence on their phone (which they carry with them everywhere), but you can also remind them that you are there by sending links to new blog posts or listings. And rather than getting lost in email inboxes, these show up directly on their phones.

Clearly even Wovax basic apps fill a need for Realtors. But as I mentioned before, we’ve added to the basic app to make it an even better fit for realtors. Wovax for Real Estate is not only the Realtor’s website in a custom native app. It’s more like having Zillow and the realtor’s website all in a single app, which are all managed from a single dashboard. And because Wovax brings MLS listings directly into the Realtor’s website and app, it transforms their SEO.

So there’s a little history lesson for you. Why Wovax + real estate? Because it just seemed a perfect fit.

Over the next few weeks we will be covering the features specific to the real estate version of the app. Check back next weekend for part 3, where we’ll discuss how Wovax transforms SEO.

Update This was the second installment of posts about our real estate apps that launched August 10, 2015. 

Wovax for Real Estate Set to Launch August 10, 2015

July 3rd 2015 in Blog

One of the great things about Wovax apps is their flexibility: anyone who has a WordPress site can use our apps. But we are always trying to figure out how to modify our products to better fit our customers’ needs. That is where the idea for our real estate products was born. We already have several real estate agents using our basic products, but they thought we could make it an even better fit. We agreed.

On August 10, 2015 Wovax will launch a new version of our product specifically designed for real estate.

Just like our basic products, these apps are custom native apps designed for WordPress sites and compatible with iOS and Android phones. But in addition to this, the real estate apps have several features that are specifically designed to meet realtors’ needs, such as bringing MLS data directly into the app and website and enabling home buyers to search for homes through the app. We are thrilled about this product, as we believe it is perfectly designed and coming at the perfect time to meet a need in real estate. What we’re doing has never been done before, and we believe it will be game-changing in the real estate world.

Over the next several weeks we will be publishing a series of articles as we anticipate the launch. Some of the topics we’ll cover include:

– inbound marketing
– how Wovax real estate apps revolutionize SEO
– personal branding and image
– building customer loyalty
– communication technology + smartphones

In the meantime, you can join us here in counting down to the launch date.

Paid Sales Internship Opportunity Starting June 22

June 11th 2015 in Blog

Wovax is looking for several capable and motivated people to join our team for a paid two-week sales internship that could become a full-time position.

The internship will involve traveling to sell Wovax website and app services to public schools districts, and our new real estate version of the app services to realtors. We will also have some positions for a local internship that will focus on phone-based sales. All interns will be provided with several hours of training on the products being sold and given materials to support with the sales. No prior sales experience necessary, but applicants must be characterized by excellent communication skills, self-motivation, and professionalism. The training will be held June 20th from 9am-1pm. Anyone is welcome to come to the training, but we will let you know by that evening (Saturday) after the training if you have been accepted for the internship.

• When: June 22-July 3, with training Saturday morning, June 20th

• Compensation: $640 total for the two weeks plus commission, and all trip expenses paid

• Other Requirements: Have your own car to use for traveling (unless applying for phone-based sales). Preferably own a smartphone.

Please contact Courtney Skeen at courtney@wovax.com with a resume to secure your spot at the training.

Paid Sales Internship Opportunity Starting Immediately

June 3rd 2015 in Jobs

Wovax is looking for several capable and motivated people to join our team beginning this Saturday for a paid two-week sales internship that could become a full-time position.

The internship will involve traveling throughout Idaho to sell Wovax website and app services to public schools.

All interns will be provided with several hours of training on the products being sold and given materials to support with the sales. No prior sales experience necessary, but applicants must be characterized by excellent communication skills, self-motivation, and professionalism.

• When: June 6-19
• Compensation: $640 total for the two weeks plus commission, and all trip expenses paid
• Other Requirements: Have your own car to use for traveling. Preferably own a smartphone

Please contact Courtney Skeen at courtney@wovax.com to secure your spot.

Mobilegeddon: A Chapter from The Book of Google

May 20th 2015 in Blog

About a month ago, Google made a pretty big search algorithm change. (Yeah, get your coke-bottle glasses and pocket calculator ready; this is one of those posts). Mobile traffic is where the greatest amount of search engine traffic arrives from but most website owners have (either through ignorance or stubbornness) refused to get with the times and launch a mobile-friendly website, much less a mobile app. You know how many small businesses are without a mobile friendly website? 90% percent. Now factor the 60% of adults who use a mobile device when researching a potential purchase. Getting your online presence optimized for mobile is not a luxury – if you want your business to survive online, you need to get on this right away.

And here’s why it matters now, more than ever. Here comes the mobilegeddon!

Google realized that not only are most websites are not optimized for mobile access, more than half of their searches were coming from a mobile device. This was beginning to result in a number of frustrated (and therefore unhappy) Google users. And as a heavy mobile user, I can relate to the frustration of trying to find some kind of information and being impeded by Flash or a cascade of jumbled HTML. Google is by far the largest online search engine in operation and you can bet they want to keep it that way. And if their largest user demographic (mobile users) keeps getting the top of their search results flooded with junky websites that can’t work on a smartphone, that top status could eventually be put in jeopardy. Something had to be done.

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“Hold my calls this afternoon, Lloyd. I gotta rest up in my creepy sleeping pod before I go start Mobilegeddon.”

That something was what bloggers have dubbed Mobilegeddon, a name presumably concocted during a 3AM Red Bull-and-vodka-fueled brainstorming session. Mobilegeddon would completely change the way Google returns search results entered on mobile devices by preventing any site that wasn’t mobile friendly to become excluded from mobile search queries. Now, this is obviously a drastic measure to take. This would be like a shopping mall building a wall around stores that weren’t revamped to better serve shoppers. If those people want to continue getting hits, they have no choice but to listen to Google and do the work necessary to stay in the top listings.

Google’s reason for doing this is twofold. One is the aforementioned; to keep Google users happy with their results. But it also is a way to force website owners to take the plunge (which isn’t actually a very difficult thing to do) and make a mobile option available. The other is this: to get everyone on the same page and up to speed, mobile-wise. By unleashing Mobilegeddon, Google has been able to send a powerful message. If you aren’t willing to change with the technology, then you are going to be left behind. And lest you think this is just big bad Google picking on small business owners, the Fortune 500 guys aren’t exactly keeping up with the times either as 44% of their sites fail to be mobile friendly.

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“Yes we could go mobile, or we could go without cocaine for a week. Do I really have to explain this to you again?”

Google saw itself getting into a position where, as the messenger, it would start to get shot by people unhappy with the results they were getting using the search service. As the top search engine in the world, they also saw it as a chance to give everyone that one last push. Google is doing everyone a favor. Smartphone sales are rising every year. 2014 saw 1.3 billion smartphones being shipped, up from just 1 billion in 2013. People aren’t going to ditch their smartphones because websites aren’t keeping up with them. They’re going to ditch the websites that don’t work with their smartphones and find newer, better ones.

Disney Got Cool While You Weren’t Looking

May 13th 2015 in Blog, Technology

When you think about Disney, you probably think Mickey Mouse and fairy dust. But Disney has been doing pretty well for themselves lately, and that’s partially because they’ve been reinventing themselves not only as a brand, but as a business. A very tech-savvy business.

Disney’s current technology kick can be traced back to the 1980s, when computer generated imagery (CGI) was just taking off. One of the biggest supporters of CG in filmmaking was George Lucas himself, the creator of Star Wars. His company Lucasfilm had a small computer division called the Graphics Group (later Pixar) that mostly justified its existence by selling high-end graphics software and computers to medical imaging companies. Lucas was supportive of the team and could see the future of CGI but in 1983 he and his wife Marcia went through a particularly disastrous divorce. The same year also saw the original Star Wars trilogy come to a close (and thus the merchandising sales drying up). Lucas no longer had the financial stability to support Pixar, so he began looking for a buyer. Specifically, someone who could afford to let them keep working away until good things came about.

Pixar’s savior came in the form of Steve Jobs, who had just gone through a divorce of the corporate kind that saw him ousted from the company he created, Apple. Jobs had money to invest and saw a kindred spirit in John Lassetter, the leader of the Pixar crew. For almost ten years, Jobs funded the Pixar team as they honed their technology on corporate commercials as well as short films.  He was surprisingly hands-off, realizing that animation wasn’t his forte. He knew the Pixar team was passionate and didn’t need his infamous micromanagement. Jobs was always willing to back Pixar with his vicious boardroom manner whenever Disney, who was producing Pixar’s first film Toy Story, wanted to pull the plug on the seemingly doomed project. Pixar prevailed and Toy Story became the first fully computer animated feature film in cinema history which led to a film distribution deal at Disney.

Jobs also found something of a Bill Gates equivalent in hotheaded Disney chairman Jeffery Katzenberg. Katzenberg is often credited with leading the studio out of its 80s slump into what has been dubbed the “Disney Renaissance” (he was responsible for hits such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King). Katezenberg left Disney in a rage just when Pixar was getting its footing; he was passed over for a top position after Disney’s president Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter crash. Shortly thereafter Katzenberg rushed his newly-minted Dreamworks (co-founded alongside Steven Spielberg and record mogul David Geffen) to their first CG film. This project was Antz, a none too subtle effort in undermining A Bug’s Life, which Disney and Pixar were developing when he made his loud exit.

Throughout the next decade, Pixar grew unhappy with Disney. Though Katzenberg had often been frustrating to deal with, there was no denying that he was an animation guru. Under CEO Michael Eisner, Disney was not only unable replicate the string of hits that Katzenberg had produced, they also began to focus heavily on low-rent sequels to hits from decades prior. Eisner became so unpopular that Roy Disney (Walt’s nephew) began a shareholder revolt to have Eisner ousted from the Mouse House. Pixar and Jobs were also frustrated with the new Disney and made it known that they would be seeking out a new distributor for their productions once their contract was up.

This was when Bob Iger showed up. Iger, who had been the president and COO at Disney for a few years at this point, was a problem-fixer who had great aspirations. Iger and Jobs became such fast friends that when he eventually sold Pixar to Disney, Jobs gave Iger a chance to back out of the $7.4 billion deal by confiding something that not even his family knew of – his cancer had returned and he only had five years left.

Under Iger’s drive, Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm (for a cool $4 billion each) which gave him access to some of pop culture’s most iconic characters. The acquisition-based business model of the tech world that Jobs hailed from was undoubtedly rubbing off on him. (The two would have meetings to talk about who they could buy and revamp into something greater. Yahoo was in their sights at one point).

Now Iger is looking a little smaller, but with just as much enthusiasm and potential for growth. Last year saw Disney jump into the startup incubator pool with the Accelerator Program. Each year, ten startups from around the world are selected to come spend three months working with entrepreneurs and tech-minded Disney executives to bring their ideas to full potential. The ideas that Disney has shown interest in are ideas are those driven by technology or software that has interactive and entertainment capabilities. The companies still own their intellectual property when they leave the accelerator in three months and are free to continue on their own, usually wiser and richer with the experience and spotlight. Disney seems to see this as an opportunity to have the first crack at new and emerging technologies before other competitors, as well as a way to encourage growth beyond the typical startup avenues. There’s very little fine print.

The Walt Disney Company seems to be taking a leaf out of Apple’s book. Like Apple, they have had a very successful run after a period of less than desirable results, and a good portion of that has been in smart buying (they also own ESPN and ABC in addition to Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm). Since the earliest days when Walt himself was crafting the first animated feature with color and sound, the Disney mission has remained the same: explore the bleeding edge of new technology with the ultimate purpose of creating compelling characters and telling a satisfying story.

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Pixar President Ed Catmull, former Pixar CEO Steve Jobs, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter

Ron Johnson: Apple Veteran and Bane of JCPenney

May 6th 2015 in Apple, Blog

The tech world is full of movers and shakers, but most of them are behind the scenes. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have long been household names but mostly as nebulous icons known for warring personalities. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good “Amadeus” style rivalry? Beyond that you’ll still find quite a few people who know about Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg. But once you get past half a dozen or so of these names, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who knows that there’s a guy named Michael Dell who started building PCs in his dorm room. For the most part, these guys are invisible. That makes sense; they’re busy working, and if something is functioning well, why peel back that curtain?

Most people who are out accomplishing great things don’t care as much about recognition as the general public assumes. At the end of the day, Steve Wozniak doesn’t actually care as much about the fact that most people assume Steve Jobs did all the work because he knows that’s not really the case. There’s also the fact that any smart person knows that anything worth building on huge scale isn’t going to just blossom because a goofy nerd had a neat idea. There’s so many components to making a viable product and turning it into a profitable business that anyone going to it alone is going to faily miserably. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak both freely admitted that without the other, there would be no Apple. Jobs wouldn’t have been able to build the computer infrastructure he dreamed up on his own; Woz wanted to give it away for free.

Today, one of those men behind the curtain announced a new startup. And he’s interesting. Let’s meet this guy.

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This guy. Hi Ron!

You’ve never heard of him, but if you’re reading this blog it’s probably a given that you’ve been inside a building he is responsible for. This man’s name is Ron Johnson and for ten years, he was the senior vice president of retail operations at Apple. The close ties between Apple and Disney led to Apple taking a cue from the Mouse House and taking the leap of creating its own retail stores. Apple Stores were a hit, and in two years, they had made a cool billion dollars, ousting GAP as the king of retail records. The CEO of GAP and Apple shareholder Mickey Drexler was also responsible for much of Apple’s retail success by insisting to the hotheaded Johnson/Jobs duo that they needed to test their unproven idea before blindly launching it.

Not only did the addition of a retail arm add another money hose directly into Apple’s seemingly infinite coffers, the wildly popular retail presence injected life into the dull sterility of computer showrooms everywhere. And the Apple Stores themselves became a must-see destination for any cool kid’s trip to the mall. With their soft bright lights, smooth wood tables, and lots of open spaces, the stores themselves are just plain fun to just be in. You could argue that certain OS X programs, like Photo Booth, were partially intended as a means of in-store entertainment and a way to get some good word-of-mouth advertistment going.

With Apple as his most obvious success, Ron Johnson has had an intriguing career with only one major hiccup. His first career highlight was as the vice president of merchandising for Target and as you’ll see, things here were already paving the way for Apple. Ron Johnson became intrigued by clean design, and the mark he left on Target was major; he successfully secured famed postmodern and New Urbanist architect Michael Graves’ revolutionary brain to design low-cost, pleasant, and even elegant household wares. Graves, who passed away in March, was one of the original superstar designers whose name was respected outside of the architecture community he dominated. (After health issues left him wheelchair bound as well as a frequent hosiptal guest, he became an advocate for less austere design in medical facilities). With Johnson’s direction and Graves’ design, Target has consquently become established as something of a Braun in the world of boring-ass grocery stores, always aiming just a bit higher than its Wal-Mart and K-Mart siblings.

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“The Michael Graves Target kitchen set is the prettiest thing I have ever owned.” – Michelangelo

Then came Johnson’s Apple years. Leading a team that had experience with the Disney Stores, Johnson worked thrived under Steve Jobs’ high standards of efficiency and design to create a model so successful that other tech brands like Micrsoft and Sony tried to emulate it, albeit unsuccessfully. Johnson doesn’t seem like a guy who coasts on success. With his successful impact at Target and Apple, he decided to go for the impossible. Remember JCPenney? (Ya’know, your mom’s favorite place to buy all your school clothes?) JCPenney was stagnating at best and wanted to change. So Johnson, eager for another challenge, and JCP, expecting the most fabulous makeover that retail money can buy, decided to make some CEO magic happen. It….uh…didn’t go well.

You’ve probably noticed that every time you go to a department store that there is always a sale and there are coupons everywhere. If you’re like me, you think it’s messy, confusing, and redundant. The way the pricing model works in a store like JCP is designed around overpricing the merchandise and always offering deals and sales so that people feel like they’re getting a great bargain. One of Johnson’s changes was to do away with coupons and sales, and approach pricing the same way Apple does. One price everywhere. But instead of testing in a few stores as retail giants usually do, the change was instant and wide. Johnson’s leadership style had been developed and honed for over a decade at Apple. Like many tech companies, Apple never really left startup mode. As a tech startup that hit big, Apple is able to veer in new directions much faster than a 110-year old mall fixture that’s known for khakis and bedsheets.

Going from working at one of the world’s most successful companies to one of the most fastest-sinking was likely a bit of a shock for Johnson and his 14-month stint as Penney’s CEO would make John Sculley blush. Twenty-one thousand people lost their jobs, sales fell 25%, stock prices plummeted, and a billion dollars was lost (half of it in the final quarter). While many think that Johnson at worst may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, some have harsher words. Columbia professor and former Sears Canada CEO Mark Cohen told The New Yorker, “There is nothing good to say about what he’s done. Penney had been run into a ditch when he took it over. But, rather than getting it back on the road, he’s essentially set it on fire.”

Retail is a different beast than a billion dollar Silicon Valley empire, and Johnson’s hindsight shows that he understands that now. Johnson is now combining his more successful retail and tech experience, one that caters to the rising instant/mobile-influenced generation of shoppers. The company is Enjoy Technology. When a purchase is made, an expert will deliver your item and show you how to use it. Aspects of the business are reminiscent of the Apple Store experience. Just as Mac owners can visit the Genius Bar for friendly tech support, Enjoy customers can hire an expert for $99 to visit them for approximately an hour and give them a hands-on lesson regarding a product. Conceptually, Enjoy seems like a much better fit for Ron Johnson. Instead of trying to fit a radical new idea into a hardened out-of-date mold, Johnson will have the freedom he did at Apple to experiment radically with less repercussion. And with potential competitors like Amazon trying to get consumers excited about a freaking button, Johnson’s blend of instant gratification and human interaction may prove to be the start of an entirely different shopping experience.

John Deere Doesn’t Want You To Own Stuff

April 29th 2015 in Blog

Wovax is a mobile app developer, so it makes sense that we all like technology. That’s why we use our blog to talk about it every week. We’ve enjoyed doing that so much that I was given the task of starting a weekly podcast. Now we’ve got Tech Blitz up and running to bring you even more tech news every week. One of the major topics I discussed yesterday was John Deere’s recent copyright fiasco.

Because of the computer software so prevalent in their equipment – and just about any piece of automotive machinery these days – it’s become nearly impossible for the people who bought these machines to fix problems when things break down. Farmers are some of the most industrious and hard-working people around (they kinda help everyone stay well-fed and alive) so these guys are gonna roll up their sleeves and do it anyway. This article’s author talks about his friend Dave who was prevented from working his field – his cash crop – for two days because he had to wait for John Deere’s Official Part And Technician to get to him. Now imagine this happening every time you every time your car battery or tires needed to be replaced. Because if these companies could figure out how to prevent you from replacing those without their paid assistance, they most certainly would. GM has taken the same stance, arguing that people shouldn’t be able to modify their cars or make them faster, which is something that kind of defines the word “car” for most people.

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And the word “fun.”

Computer software integrated into products should make life easier for the consumers who purchase them, not make their lives more frustrating and expensive. These aren’t new startups trying to change the rules that people are switching over to, either. These are established and trusted brands. John Deere is the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment and at this point their yellow and green is classic Americana.

Here’s why this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed now instead of later. The Internet of Things – a world with “smart” computerized appliances everywhere – is the hot new tech trend at the moment. But if all that’s accomplished is loading everyday objects down with so much unfixable code then things will be a mess. Let’s use houses as an example. For most people, a house will be their main asset. And unlike a car, the value of a home has great potential to increase greatly with repairs and remodels over time. But if, in the near future, the components of your smart house are for all intents and purposes DRM-locked, then the simplest of repairs are going to spiral out of control cost-wise.

Spinning off of this, it is interesting to look at how much in the way of tech is based in the cloud now. I personally have mixed feelings about it. I have a Kindle Touch and I really dig it. I’m admittedly part of a generation that processes information quickly over a screen, and I can actually read a book faster that way. (No shame!) I also like the fact that it’s less clutter in my house. I don’t like having a lot of stuff to deal with. But what happens if Amazon ever goes out of business? Sure, it’s unlikely at this point, but no one lasts forever. It’s a question I wonder whenever I download another e-book.

When your media collection is comprised of digital files then backing up your books, music, and movies is a necessary safeguard. That takes time and money for hard drives. I’m more comfortable with e-books than e-movies primarily because of the quality difference that still exists between a digitally downloaded file and a Blu-ray disc in true 1080p HD as well as the fact that it’s physically on my shelf and not in danger of being zapped if something goes wrong. And if I do ever feel a weirdly strong need to watch them on my iPhone there are, uh, ways to do that.

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“That bastard just put ‘Ferris Bueller’ on his iPad. Time to go save America!”

There’s also the subscription model that’s been taking hold over the software industry, including two very popular titles; Microsoft and Adobe’s respective suites of productive and creative software. With Microsoft’s Office 365 and Amazon’s Creative Cloud, you no longer buy the software outright; instead you pay a monthly fee to access as little or as much as you like. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand, updates are included in this fee, so you always have the newest software. For professionals who have a budget for these expenses, that’s great. On the other hand, when your needs are basic, paying for somewhat updated software over and over isn’t ideal for most. Ramen-feasting college students don’t want or even need to plunk down an extra hundred bucks every year to keep Word working.

A fairly common bit of advice is to buy rather than rent. This is because at some point, the amount of money that you’ve spent on something large, like a house, is equal to what you would have spent in buying it outright. There are some great advantages to be had in cloud-based software. A few inconveniences, but nothing too terrible. Personally, I love having Adobe Creative Cloud and use a variety of the programs on a daily basis. But when the restrictions are applied to physical real-world products like cars and farm equipment, it gets impossible to defend. John Deere is already losing customers over its new way of dealing with things. People are more aware of copyright law than ever before, and it’s going to make it harder for these companies to pull crap like this in the future. And for those of you who don’t want to wait three days to change a lightbulb, that’s a good thing.