Saturday, October 31, 2009

My First Half Marathon

I am not really sure why I have always wanted to run a marathon. It’s probably the desire to accomplish something that is pretty difficult to do. 10 years ago, after training months for the Marine Corps marathon in D.C., I backed out with a few weeks to go as I could no longer make the time commitment to the long weekly run. After coming so close, I never thought I would try again. But the day after getting the shock news that my brother had suffered a stroke, I decided it was time to finally do this.

It was a chilly and dark start to the day in downtown Detroit as I waited patiently in the corral at the start line. After running week in week out all alone, it was a strange feeling to be surrounded by thousands of other runners. And this was combined with a sense of excitement for being a part of something big. OK I was only doing the half marathon, but as someone had said to me the day before “hey, that’s half more than I am running”.

Running a course that spans from the US into Canada and back to the US (it even sounds like a long distance) was a truly cool experience. As the sun came up behind the city as we crossed the Ambassador Bridge, the view was truly inspiring. Despite the hard times that have hit the city, Detroit put on her best face for the day.

A little bit after coming out of the tunnel that took us back to the US side, we came upon the biggest raccoon I have ever seen - dead as a doornail - right smack in the middle of the street. It was bizarre that nobody had felt the need to move it from the course. Only in Detroit can 20,000 people step over fresh road kill without blinking an eyelid.

At the 10mile marker I felt very strong and fresh and picked up my pace considerably. I overtook the 9.10min/mile pace team and felt comfortable that I would easily finish under 2 hours. It was a bit of a disappointment to later learn that I had missed my goal by 36 seconds. I am kicking myself for downing a Gatorade before the start. Because of that I ended up waiting in line for a port-o-john for several minutes midway through the race.

Close to the end I passed the sobering scene of medical staff giving CPR to one of my fellow runners with great urgency. It was with great sadness that I learned later that he had passed away. (Daniel Langdon RIP aged 36).

Overall it was a day full of emotion and excitement topped with a pretty good sense of accomplishment. So onward we go with training for the full marathon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Microsoft Virtual Video Drive

Interesting video from Microsoft. But I can't help thinking it is missing the mark.

As cool as this is, I can't help thinking that this is not going to be the future of driving directions. It assumes that you will get your directions before you get in the car – and the Virtual Video Drive tool then helps you remember the route. (I already have too much stuff to cram in my limited short-term memory). It seems like a real high tech approach to the old fashioned way of getting directions.

I think the future is clearly going to be a connected nav experience - whether it's on your phone or embedded in your vehicle. Accordingly, the focus should be more on leveraging technology like this to provide the most appropriate audio guidance and visual cues at the exact time you need them while you are driving.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Developments in the World of Mobile Phones

This week brought some big developments to the world of mobile phones - developments that will have impact on the landscape in the coming years.

Dell announced a smartphone that use Google's Android op system on the AT&T network. This marks a big win for Google as they will now have phones with their software on all 4 major US cellular networks. (Verizon also announced its first Android phone this week).

Google is well on its was to extending its reach from search on PCs to enabling applications and devices in the growing smartphone area (estimated to be 90% of all phones sold in the US in 5 years). The return for Google is still unclear, but it now looks like Android is the next-best platform to iPhone for phone app developers.

Verizon is still waiting for Apple to decide if it will make iPhone available on Verizon. Verizon has held its own even without the iPhone, but would do much better with it. Verizon's 3G network is significantly better than AT&T and a Verizon option would hurt AT&T. (The new ads comparing Verizon’s 3G coverage against AT&T’s finally bring some real-world data to the debate about whose network is the better).

So where is Microsoft in all of this? Well they too unveiled the Windows Phone software. Improvements have been made for web browsing and touch gesturing, but analysts think this may not be enough to compete with Apple and Google. And the Windows Marketplace' hundreds of apps pales in comparison with iTunes' 85k.

And on the VoIP front; AT&T has finally approved Skype usage over it's 3G network (not just when in a wifi hotspot). VoIP on 3G networks could have big implications on wireless carriers’ voice business and it will be interesting to see how this evolves. Apple still has not approved the Google Voice app – although they say it has not been rejected.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Volunteering at Sinae-Grace Health Screening Event

My wife and I volunteered at Sinae-Grace Hospital's free health screening in Southfield, MI today. Well over 200 people availed of the comprehensive health screen that offered free eye, foot, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose checks to the public.

With all of the energy that is being expended in the debate around whether we should reform our health care reform and provide coverage to our fellow citizens who desperately need treatment, it felt good to be a part of this worthy community event. It was a pleasure to interact with all of the folks who attended. They were so appreciative of the complimentary service and showed great patience as they waited to for tests and their doctor consultations.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jim Farley Luncheon at Detroit Athletic

Had the pleasure to attend a luncheon with Jim Farley (Ford’s Group VP of Marketing). (Is it just me or is it hard for not to think of his cousin Chris when you see him?). What a down-to-earth guy who has fantastic insight into the customer. And you got to love his passion for the product.

Jim admitted that Ford had to make some big bets to turnaround the business, but based on the upward swing in market share - for the first time in 15 years - and their increased pricing power, it looks like the wagers might be paying off.

Here are some of his more notable insights;
- The future global players will be Toyota, VW and Ford.
- Ford’s success is hinged on vehicles that will sell globally. While this has been tried in the past, Jim believes that shift towards smaller vehicles in the US, brings the consumer needs more in line with Europe and China.
- The youth buyer today is very different than previous generations. They prefer turbo charging over displacement, they are open to diesel unlike their parents, and aspire to Mini’s and BMW 3 series instead of Mustangs. The challenge is to build to this new demand.
- Sync and Eco Boost are great examples of Ford’s goal to “democratize technology to the mainstream”.

You really get the impression that Ford has the right guy in place to put the shine back on the Ford blue oval.