Mark Williamson: "As much as I hate Microsoft, I have to admit that I think a tablet PC with the One Note application rocks."
Did Mark just join my hate club with a compliment? Dang that's good.
Thanks to the 47 or so people who came to the geek dinner last night. I wish I had two weeks to spend in New York with you all. There are too many stories to tell.
Even better was that Mendy himself was waiting on our tables. More to come over the weekend. I have to check out of my hotel.
I love New York. In the Taxi back here with Buzz I started up my Tablet and found three wireless networks. What a town!
If you wrote up the geek dinner on your blog, please leave your URL here in my comments. Thanks!
Yesterday Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords, asked me if I'd like to accompany him in a meeting with Esther Dyson. Of course I said yes. Actually, I might have said "hell yes" or something else unprintable.
For two reasons. One, Buzz has been pitching me on ActiveWords ever since I've been blogging and everytime I learn something new -- he uses dozens of pieces of software in an attempt to squeeze every bit of productivity out of his day (yesterday, for instance, he showed me Anagram, which lets you highlight text in an email that contains, say, schedule data, and have that automatically entered into Outlook's calendar). Out of everyone I've met in the industry he really is one of the best at pitching his product that I've ever met (this year he won a DemoGod award at Chris Shipley's Demo conference because of his abilities).
Second, Esther is in the top tier of most powerful people in the industry. You can read her resume here. Let's put it this way, she has the ability to make or break products and companies.
So, off to Esther's office we went. She works on the 20th floor of a New York City Office building. Walking in you see tons of evidence of someone who's been important in the industry since when I was in junior high in the 1970s: hundreds of books, a mound of badges from industry conferences, piles of newsletters.
She led us to a conference room where Buzz pulled out his IBM ThinkPad and started pitching.
Immediately Esther pushed back on the pitch: she didn't think people would be able to remember words for what they were trying to do. Buzz came back and answered her objections, trying several times.
"You aren't listening to me," she said. Buzz masterfully switched gears and said "what if I could show you that the same word could do several different things?" He then typed in a word, which brought up a list of several things that that word could do.
Masterful answer of objection. All through this, Buzz was asking questions about what Esther did on the computer, what apps she used, where were her pain points? He uses each piece of new information to tailor the product pitch to her needs. For instance, he scraps a demo of Outlook integration features because Esther uses Eudora (like I said, I've been pitched by Buzz dozens of times before -- I knew that he took out the Outlook part, but Esther didn't).
Finally Buzz hit on one pain point of hers: ActiveWords can be used to enter text blocks based on one word, which lets you build scripts to do email templates and other things. He typed in the word "email" and his email address magically appeared where his cursor used to be. "SIG" replaces with his signature tag, saving him hundreds of characters of keying. I explained how I used this feature to answer technical support questions at NEC (I used to get lots of the same type of question, which needed the same type of answer). I used to type "supportresponse" and a multi-hundred-word test block would be entered into the email. Saved me tons of time when answering the same kind of question (like, "where can I buy your Tablet PC?")
This was the hook. "Let me get my computer and load it up," she said. Buzz looked at me and smiled.
That's a magical moment in a product pitch where you've overcome the objections and gotten someone to take action. She still wasn't convinced this was a good thing, but loading new software based on a pitch is a huge move.
After getting a handful of lessons on how to use ActiveWords she turns to me and asks: "Why don't you put this in Longhorn?"