Tag Archives | RadioShack

Whatever Happened to Radios?

Everyone knows that certain technology products are endangered species. Film cameras, for instance. Turntables. Payphones. Odds are pretty good that you haven’t used any of them recently. If you’re young enough, you might never have used them.

I never thought of pocket-sized AM/FM radios–the sort with built-in radios and telescoping antennae–as falling into this category of obviously-doomed products. I assumed that any store that sold electronic gadgets of any sort still stocked them.

But last week, my mother, who I’ve been visiting in Boston, asked for one. And boy, was I surprised by how tough it was to find one for sale locally.

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Roku Hits Retail

For essentially just being available online, Roku’s been doing pretty darn good. The company says it has sold about one million of its media players this way, and now its ready for it’s next big move — retail. Beginning today the devices will be available from most Best Buy, BJs, Fry’s Electronics, and Radio Shack locations.

Different retailers will be stocking different models. Best Buy and Radio Shack will carry the XD, the company’s standard 1080p HD capable unit that retails for $79.99. BJ’s on the other hand will carry the XD|S, which adds dual-band wireless and retails for $99.99. Fry’s plans to carry both models. (The cheapest Roku, the $59.99 HD, remains an online-only item.)

Roku had kind-sorta been available through retail before, through a Netgear-branded box, which was available from Best Buy. The way Engadget words it seems to suggest that these devices would be phased out as the Roku branded units themselves are brought in and would become the defacto unit sold at retail.

I have to say I’ve had my eyes on one of these units for quite a while now, and with it easier than ever to get one, I just may end up breaking down and picking one up. After all, it would be nice to watch Al Jazeera on my HDTV versus my laptop.

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A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration

Computers: The Heart of the 1980s Home

Familiar holiday tales tell of a time in the late 19th century when loving families would gather around the hearth to give thanks for their many blessings, sing songs, read Dickens, and roast chestnuts. But by the early 1980s — if you believed computer ads of the day — the home computer had become the center of the traditional nuclear family. Chestnuts  were replaced by joysticks and computer manuals.

With the holidays just around the corner, let’s carefully peel back the fabric of time and examine ten vintage advertisements from a more civilized age when dazed, zombified android families found themselves irresistibly drawn to home PCs.

As you look through these ads, keep this in mind: When was the last time more than two people sat around your computer?


RadioShack’s 14-Foot Laptop: The Technologizer Review

The Shack's LaptopEarlier this week, I was worried about RadioShack’s apparent plan to rebrand itself as THE SHACK but intrigued by its announcement of Netogether, an event that involved giant laptops in New York and Times Square broadcasting live video between each other. I headed to San Francisco’s E mbarcadero today to check out the proceedings–and particular, to evaluate the humongous notebook computer. After the jump, everything you ever wanted to know about it–or at least as much as I could figure out–in handy FAQ form.

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Is RadioShack Changing Its Name? I Can’t Tell!

RadioShack CatalogLast night, I was fretting over the ugly rumor that RadioShack was about to change its name to The Shack. Today the company issued a 700-word press release announcing its plans, and…I still can’t tell whether it intends to change the names of its thousands of stores or not.

Some quotes from the release:

RadioShack Corporation (NYSE: RSH) will unveil its new brand creative platform, “THE SHACK,” on August 6, supported by an integrated television, print and digital media schedule, as well as a high-profile, three-day launch event taking place in New York City and San Francisco.

Remind me again what a brand creative platform is again?

Trust is a critical attribute of any successful retailer, and the reality is that most people trust friends, not corporations. When a brand becomes a friend, it often gets a nickname – take FedEx or Coke, for example.

Not terribly clarifying considering that Federal Express completely shucked its old name and is now FedEx Corporation, while the folks at the Coca-Cola Company are equally pleased if you call their product Coca-Cola or Coke.

“Our customers, associates and even the investor community have long referred to RadioShack as ‘THE SHACK,’ so we decided to embrace that fact and share it with the world,” said Lee Applbaum, RadioShack’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Fair enough. But will your embracing and sharing involve the changing of signage? How will you answer the phone? Also, does the fact you call RadioShack “RadioShack” but spell the new name “THE SHACK” mean that your customers, associates, and the investor community have long bellowed that nickname at the top of their lungs?

This creative is not about changing our name. Rather, we’re contemporizing the way we want people to think about our brand.

Semantics question: Does the fact it’s not about changing your name mean that you aren’t changing your name?

We have tremendous equity in consumers’ minds around cables, parts and batteries, but it’s critically important that we help them to understand the role that we play in keeping people connected in this highly mobile world.

Okay, that makes sense–if I were RadioShack, I’d emphasize mobile stuff over batteries and cables, too. But how does calling yourself THE SHACK help achieve that goal?

“We’ve partnered with RadioShack to develop a creative platform that will cause people to take another look at THE SHACK. Everything about the advertising – the media, format, style, music and tone – will contribute to a new interpretation of the brand,” said Greg Stern, [CEO of THE SHACK’s ad agency. “Everyone knows RadioShack. Our job is to communicate what THE SHACK stands for today.”

I’ve been in my local Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK recently, and the biggest difference I noticed over Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK of the past is that they no longer badger you for your home address. Can I get some clarification on how changing the music in the commercials will make me a happier, healther customer of Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK?

To bring the new creative strategy to life, RadioShack will host Netogether, a three-day event taking place in New York City’s Times Square and San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza on August 6, 7 and 8. The event will connect the cities with two, massive, 17-foot laptop computers with webcams that allow live video and audio exchanges. Netogether will feature live music, celebrity appearances and unique contests to demonstrate how technology can keep people connected – even 3,000 miles apart. Consumers are invited to visit the event and chat with friends or family via the laptops, or to join in the conversation online at www.radioshack.com/theshack, where they can offer real-time comments on the live video feeds.

Now you’re talking! I’ll try to visit the 17-foot laptop in San Francisco later this week and report on it here.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Lewis Kornfeld, former president of Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK, published a column called “Flyerside Chat” in the company’s weekly circular. It was remarkably earnest and direct, and bizarrely free of marketingese–a sort of a corporate blog decades before anyone knew what a corporate blog was. Now the company’s trying to tell me news in wording so laden with buzzwords that I can’t figure out whether it plans to take down the RadioShack sign at the location a mile from here and replace it with one that says THE SHACK or not. Wouldn’t a friend who was changing his or her name tell you so rather than tapdancing around the question? Can anyone help me out here?

Possible clue: www.theshack.com is taking me to RadioShack.com…


Nine Reasons RadioShack Shouldn’t Change Its Name

Radio Shack Catalog

[UPDATE: RadioShack has released a press release about all this, and I still can’t tell if it’s changing its name or not.]

Funny thing about RadioShack: I’m not sure if I’ve been inside its stores more than a dozen times over the past seven or eight years…and yet I still feel proprietary about it. The company’s TRS-80 microcomputers were what got me interested in technology in the first place. In college, I was a frequent customer of the location on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, the oldest remaining store in the chain. I live about a mile from a RadioShack, and as I think about it, I believe I’ve either worked or lived within a mile of a RadioShack for the majority of my life. Which is nothing exceptional; the company is as omnipresent as any business that doesn’t sell hamburgers, chicken, donuts, or coffee.

Tonight, rumor has it that RadioShack is planning to change its branding to The Shack. I dunno if it’s true–the scuttlebutt that Pizza Hut was going to become The Hut turned out to be overblown–but there’s already a page on RadioShack.com with the slogan “Our friends call us The Shack.” If the 88-year-old electronics retailer is indeed dumping its name, I think it’s a bad idea, and I’m pretty sure I’m not just being resistant to change. After the jump, nine arguments against the new identity.

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Not the Way to Start Your Palm Pre Launch

Palm PreThe Boy Genius Report claims that Best Buy will only receive about 4,250 Palm Pres for its launch on June 6–a pittance considering the retailer has at least 1,000 retail locations set to offer the device. If these initial shipment numbers are true, each store would receive four units, far less that what you’d think would be required for a successful launch. RadioShack is fairing no better–721 stores are slated to receive an average of two Pres.

It gets worse. Best Buy’s launch is supposedly scheduled to actually be in two phases: the first of which lasts about two months after the launch, and the company is specifically warning stores that replenishment may not happen once stores sell out–which they certainly will.

I’m sure hoping Sprint stores are getting much more than four devices per store. If they aren’t, I question whether the Pre is ready for prime time. Why hogtie your launch like this?

We have a request out for comment from Sprint to see if they will shed some light on the planned availability from company stores. Typically, companies will not disclose that information so we’re not holding our collective breath on that one.

If the rumors are true, it’s a shame no company can get its act together enough to both produce and market a device that can match the iPhone.


Wal-Mart to Sell the iPhone: Nothing to See Here

walmartiphoneIt’s felt all but official for weeks, but now it’s officially official: Wal-Mart will begin selling iPhones on Sunday. The one thing that was intriguing about the rumor version of this news was the theory that it would offer a 4GB version for $99. But as I suspected, the retailing behemoth will sell the same 8GB and 16GB models as everyone else. (At a tiny discount–the 8GB will be $197 and the $16GB will be $297.)

As of Sunday, iPhones will now available at Apple Stores, AT&T stores, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart. And I hope that this marks the end of it being worth of note when Apple lines up additional retailers. (It does feel inevitable that RadioShack will join the lineup eventually, given that it currently sells both iPods and phones.)


RadioShack’s $99.99 (Kinda! Sorta!) Netbook

trs80model1001There’s something (mildly) magical about the idea of a computer that sells for $100. It captured the imagination back in 1982, when Timex introduced this one. People still call the OLPC XO a “$100 laptop” (plug: we’re giving one away) even though OLPC hasn’t yet ground the price down to $100. And now RadioShack–who some of us former still TRS-80 groupies think of as “The Biggest Name in Little Computers”–is selling Acer’s Aspire One netbook for $99.99.

Yes, there’s a catch. It’s the same one that every cell phone carrier uses to drive down the alleged price of most of their phones:  The ‘Shack is offering the Aspire at $99.99 only if you sign up for a two-year contract for AT&T 3G wireless service at a minimum of $60 a month. (The netbook has 3G capability built in.) In other words, you’re commiting to a total expenditure of $1539.99 (before taxes) over two years to get a computer for a penny under a hundred bucks.

Just how much do you save on the Aspire by signing that two year contract? RadioShack is selling the netbook at an unsubsidized price of $499.99. That seems a tad pricey given that a similarly-equipped Aspire (except without 3G) goes for $380 elsewhere.

My instinctive reaction to the ‘Shack’s deal is the same one I have to almost all ones that involve subsidizing an immediate purchase with a long-term contractual obligation to pay a fixed monthly service price: Don’t do it. The price of 3G service will likely fall, and relationships with wireless carriers tend to be better when you can cheerfully call them up and tell them you’re planning to dump them immediately for a competitor. (In addition, AT&T 3G coverage remains spotty–going online with the Aspire won’t be much fun at all if you happen to be in a neighborhood where you can only connect at EDGE speed.)

Of course, the utter universality of two-year contract pricing in the phone world proves without a doubt that the average American is willing to do the deal, rightly or wrongly. So I think it’s possible that these Aspires will fly off of RadioShack’s shelves. And I’m curious to see if other electronics merchants will roll out their own “$100 netbook” offers.

Would you take the bait?

(Image of TRS-80 Model 100 from OldComputers.net)