Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Fragile is Our Interconnected World?

Just as we expect to throw a switch and have the lights come on, or turn a tap and draw a glass of clean and clear drinking water, we expect to pick up the phone and make a call, or open a browser and access the Internet.

In this age of the early 21st Century we expect that the infrastructures on which we depend and take for granted will always be there.

Imagine, if you can, what happens when even one falls over.

Ok, water and power are basics; floods, famines, earthquakes and the like can knock them out in short order, without warning. But telecommunications? That's a bag of a different color.

Today, down under in New Zealand we have a 'deregulated' telecoms environment, where multiple providers hire space on lines maintained any an independent company and tout their services as better, more, cheaper etc.

It's when the mustard hits the fan that counts. How long does it take for them to recover from a severe outage that suddenly, without warning, plunges their customers into the void of no dial tone.

Of course at Nutshell we believe you can take steps to keep your own devices in good health. But sometimes stuff happens beyond our control.

It's moments like those that you realize just how truly fragile the world in which we live really is.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting IT right

Just posted a couple of segmented email messages out to our customer database in the past couple of about the cases we offer for the new iPhone 5 and the other a general release (to non-apple users) about Nutshell cases that we have matched to a slew of new mobile Smartphones that have hit, or are about to hit, the markets.

Unfortunately, while we got a lot of positive responses back for the new cases for the iPhone 5, we managed to get it quite wrong - and have had to go back to the drawing board. We assumed many folk would be putting their latest handheld into a security/protective cases as soon as they got it...only to be told, in no uncertain terms, that that was NOT always the case. And that there are lots and lots and lots of people out there who are so enamored with their latest Apple device there is NO WAY they are ever going to wrap it in some nondescript protective covering.

That really told us, and had us scrambling to get it RIGHT!

So right now we have three new knives in production specifically for the iPhone 5; one is for a case with a flap and one with the case with a tab - that can hold the "naked" phone snugly without any sort of protection in place.  And a third is for a new "sideways" pouch that is the same as the existing pouch we offer for the "naked" iPhone 4...only it is 10 mm longer - to cater for the increased length of the iPhone 5.

The new holsters will share the new case number of #268...while the new pouch for the iPhone 5 will be known as the #214.

(What are knives? They are the sharp steel forms that cut the leather that covers the Nutshell products.)

We expect to have these knives available 'any day now' - and look forward to getting lots and lots of positive feedback...and lots and lots of a result.

Well, you certainly cannot say we do not try.

What was that old saying?
" can please some of the people some of the time....but never all of the people all of the time."

Very true...and that means, from a marketing perspective...never taking anything for granted. Not even after 15 years of closely following the developing mobile handheld market and daring to think that maybe you know what it is people will want, before they know it themselves. A very dangerous assumption.  But we know our customers will, as always, forgive us.

Don't forget, Christmas is just around the corner...what are you going to get them this year?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New cases for new phones

It is a never ending box of birds around here sometimes.

We have settled on an existing case to Holster the latest iPhone. Known colloquially as the i5 it is about 10 mm longer than previous models. This undoubtedly delivers a better keyboard for tasks like writing blogs like this; although the screen will be longer I am unsure about how much more sideways real estate will be revealed.

In an deliberate move the i5 has a changed connector as well as a new location for the headphone jack - at the bottom of the device. Why there? Quite likely an logical answer will be forthcoming in the fullness of time.

Meanwhile we have been besieged by prospective customers wanting to find if we will be "putting a hole in the vase of the holster to accept the jack plug?"

Long answer short: NO!

Rationale being that if we did that we would have folk discovering that the headphones plugged on the phone through a hole in the case is nothing short of an invitation to chaos.

Imagine comfortably listening to your phone when it rings. You reach to extract it from your Nutshell, only to discover it is tethered by a cord plugged into the bottom of the phone through a hole in the case base. Ouch! One stuffed cord later and you discover it works just as well if you plug the cord into the i5 then turn the phone down-side up and insert it head first into your Nutshell.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

There's a cost to everything

A wise man once said "it's a fool who doesn't know his limits. Either that, or he's a wise man." Actually I made that up.

But in the Mobile world, poised as it is on the brink of exploding into the next generation of computing, there's a very real possibility of self implosion; that the kitchen sink really may be included; that the baby will get thrown out with the bath-water.

I mean..let me see; Apple and the Google Empire at at each other's throats...well Samsung et all actually. Microsoft has nailed Motorola in Germany...and won  a battle to get Moto phones off the German retail scene...can this be true?

Meanwhile...newer faster processors, larger screens and more memory abounds...although battery life is still abysmal when you start to kick the bejaysus out of the processing for intense tasks like video, audio or image processing.

And why can't I automatically log a call made on my phone into my calendar? What is that all about? Or even capture the audio in the call for storage and later retrieval. I can with Skype (but only on my workstation)! I still can't on a cellphone - no matter how smart it may claim to be.

Of course...what I really hope is someone will read this and tell me I can ....dare ya!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New iPhone 5 - Jingle Tills?

Nutshell stands poised to supply users when Apple eventually releases its latest iPhone to a more than willing and totally expectant market.

The only thing missing is knowing the size of the new device.

Will Apple provide protection for the millions of current iPhone users with legacy covers and accessories by keeping the same size, as they did with the last two iterations of the iPhone 4...or will they force consumers to dig even deeper into their wallets to buy new protection to fit a new size format?

If the new phone follows suit and keeps the same size that's a fine, and some would say, very responsible thing to do.

If not, then the worldwide accessory market will be rubbing its collective hands together in gleeful anticipation of a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Some Days are Diamonds.

In the words of the song.

"Some days are diamonds, some days are stone."

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things just never go according to plan.

So it was with our new case for the Motorola RAZR, RAZR MAXX and like-sized HTC Titan and Titan II.

We managed to craft a case for the Samsung Galaxy Note like falling off a log. Easy peasey.

But for some reason it took 3 goes to get what we now call our series 295 out the starting gate.

The problem was tightness. That's when the case is just too tight to be of any use.

The surprising things is that the 295 is, apart from the fact that it is less than 10 mm taller, almost identical to our tried and true workhorse case, the 208.

But eventually we got there.

The 295 may well be the first case we make that actually makes another case redundant. Time will tell, but for now it's all hands to the pumps as we work to fill the back orders.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Wait is Over. New Cases for Galaxy Note and Droid RAZR are here

It's taken some time but we have finally completed creation of two new custom belt cases for both the Samsung Galaxy Note and its music player derivatives (#290) and Motorola's Droid RAZR and longer battery life Droid RAZR MAXX (#295).

Belt Loop lets you angle the case on your belt,
to avoid covering a pocket.

We became aware of these larger than usual devices during attendance at CES mid January and immediately set about getting our hands on a couple of 'dummies' or replica non-working examples. We've been doing this long enough to know how easy it is to simply take published information and run with it. We may be right 98% of the time, but it is the 2% fail that worries me.

However the stars were obviously not correctly aligned for this to be a simple process.

CES afforded me the opportunity to meet with many Asian component manufacturers.

There were hundreds in attendance; one day I wandered through an unremarkable door off the main LVCC - Las Vegas Convention Center - and found them clustered in the basement of the next door and interconnected Las Vegas Hilton hotel.

This fortuitous stumble opened my eyes to the many, many opportunities available, as well as introducing me to several companies specializing in spare parts...and the aforementioned dummies.

So far, so good.

What was not so good was the fact that following close on the heels of CES was the annual Chinese Spring Festival or New Year. And until then I had never realized that during this celebration time China shuts shop completely for two weeks. During this time nothing, and I mean nothing, gets done.

This global powerhouse and it's 1.5 billion strong population goes into shutdown mode from the last week of January through to the end of the first week of February. And when they do return to work and crank up the volume for the new year, obviously the first thing they do - is clear the backlog - and that takes about another fortnight.

Eventually, six weeks later, at the end of February, we finally got our samples.

Then we had to design the patterns, make the knives to prove the design actually worked and assemble  sample cases that had to be approved.

Finally all the design hurdles were cleared and the two new cases are now listed in our catalog.

In a deliberate design change, neither the #290 or #295 has a tab top option; pouch or full flap version only. This is because sales analysis shows these two by far outsell the tab version of our other products. While the pouch gives easy access - and can be easily stowed in a handbag, satchel or briefcase - the full flap affords both total protection and (for those uncomfortable about displaying their device publicly) a measure of security by hiding it from view when not in use.

We have also removed the D-ring from the clip. Nobody ever asked specifically for it, and it was one of those small legacy design accoutrements that somehow managed to find its way into the mainstream. I am sure if it's passing offends too many people we'll soon be told.

There's been very strong interest in the Galaxy Note case in particular. We have just shipped about a dozen cases that were pre-ordered by customers. To those folk who have waited so patiently we say "thank you". We believe you will agree the wait has been worthwhile.

In addition to offering these new products in a variety of leather finishes in our online catalog we are in the process of delivering the first of the Galaxy Note full flap cases in both Black and natural Russet to Amazon.

As a vendor in Amazon's 'wireless accessories' division we are very keen to see how well they are received and to ramping up production to meet what we hope is extreme demand.

But that's another topic that demands an entry like this, all of its own.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Grand Design

We are likely best known for our holsters, but it is not all we do. Over the years we have added value for many, many individual customers. It's part of being a bespoke merchant and creating products that people actually want.

It's also how we come to create new products. The options we offer on our holsters and belt cases are the results of customers' requests.

The previous post extolled the virtues of our smartphone folder/holder wallet-like leather cover for almost any smartphone under 5.5" long.

This post shows off two of our bespoke belt pouches...larger than a holster...not as big as a tablet case, and certainly larger than the two horizontal holsters we offer for the iPhone and similar sized smartphones with "medium" sized accessories.

The smaller one was originally developed for the HTC X7510 Advantage handheld that came out several years ago. Next we responded to user requests and created a second case to hold that device wrapped in a leather book-like cover.

The result?
Two leather belt pouches.

Similar in design, side seams, great leather, lined with our ultra-suede...but maybe they can be improved?

Larger Size: 6" L x 5" W x 1.25" D
SKU: WN76512
Smaller Size: 5" L x 3.5" W x 1" D
SKU WN75351
The smaller sample also has an inside-the-back business card holder, which is nice.

It means we have the patterns, so we don't have to walk through the lengthy and time consuming and costly development process.

Now all we have to do is revisit the pricing models, arrange the supplier, create the GTIN wholesale barcode and our NUTCC ASIN, fine tune the descriptions and work out the true costs and benefits; make sure the packaging is acceptable, think about the rich text HTML and the high quality studio images that we'll need to bring the product to the consumer...make sure the rebates and affiliate structures are in place and acceptable, and work on suitable wholesale pricing (with enough margin for all concerned).

No worries...

to be continued...

We Don't Make the Rules

It's one thing to come up with an idea. It is totally something else to make it real.

This is a sneak-peek at a development based on the Walnut, our all-in-one combination phone wallet/credit-card/note carrier covered in genuine leather with a protective phone platform built right in.

But we don't make the rules. You do.
And sometimes you tell us what you want and give us another idea.
Like this.

So - unlike the Walnut this folder has nothing inside...except for not one but two protective phone platforms and a lining that accepts a pad and lets you place the phone/accessory combination inside the folder which ever way works best - for you.

With a platform size of 5 1/2" tall x 3" wide this folder will hold an amazing number of current Smartphones.  And because we have deliberately made the folder with a generous 1" spine, it will easily fold over and close on a heavy duty and large sized accessory -  like a battery or rugged protection cover - no problems at all.

Take a look at our Picasa images on the project.

Tell us what you think.
Better still, tell us you want one.

This little beauty will retail for USD$39.95.
We consider that's an attractive MSRP - for a slice of genuine leather and some sharp Kiwi protective innovation. And we'll sharpen the pencil.

We have given it an internal SKU: WN53750.
But that's not really a name - is it? 
So...what on earth are we going to call it?
Any ideas?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Post Vegas...scoping out the Amazon and Other Tales of Discovery

You can read my CES/Las Vegas Blog here. It's where I do my best to provide a day-by-day oversight of my travels through CES - the International Consumer Electronics Show and through Las Vegas.

Nutshell Update #1
Nutshell has a new manufacturer. Well, what I really mean it that our manufacturer has a new owner.

The old one had some major problems with his house and family and the stress finally got to him; he bailed just before Christmas. The new owner is a get-go gung-ho chap with a degree in business and marketing who is hot-to-trot when it comes to growing his business; and that includes the Nutshell.

We make up a very sizable portion of his annual revenue and obviously we are comfortable with the existing arrangement, the folk who make Nutshell every day are still engaged (although their terms of employment may have changed).

But as an immediate result some of our order processes have been thrown into a bit of a muddle; not only the annual down-under Christmas holiday shutdown and go-slow, but also new processes and new ideas running over old and established procedures do not always make for comfortable bed fellows - as we all know too well.

The result is that some orders are getting delivered later than we would wish. We are communicating these delays to our affected customers, and most all are comfortable enough to give us wiggle room to move and let the new system settle down. If you haven't been contacted and you feel we are dragging the chain, please send us a note and let us know.

Nutshell Update #2
We are having to design a new range of product to meet the newer, taller design of smartphones coming from most all the major manufacturers. 

Samsung, Motorola, HTC and even Casio have all recently released new product that is as wide as our existing mainstream range of #208 belt cases, but taller. The #208 works best with devices up to about 125 mm in length, and these new devices extend out to 130 mm and more in length (to cater for wider more panoramic screens), which  means that while the #208 cases will still contain these new 'phones, it also means the #208 cases do not provide as total coverage as we would like.

One problem has always been getting our hands on the latest designs to enable us to make absolutely sure our cases will fit. One result of visiting CES was that contacts made within the Chinese manufacturing community have led us to several outlets for dummy phones. Viola! No more hassles and worries about making the correct connections. Or that is what we though initially.

However, the best laid plans etc...
Currently it is the Chinese New Year/Spring annual event that basically shuts China down from Mid January through until early February. As a result we are still waiting on a lineup of several dummy phones that will give us a leg-up on our design process. Once we get those we will be back in the race with a vengeance, but until then we are in a holding pattern not of our own making.

These are the sort of errors and omissions that always pop up when you least expect them. Waiting, waiting, waiting is not a game we play well, but it is one we are used to.

Nutshell Update #3
We have commenced shipping a range of product into Amazon's supply chain. Currently we are limiting these to our popular #258, #260 and #208 belt case range with the magnetic tab or flap and either the steel belt clip or the multiway belt loop - as well as the smartphone wallet. According to the sales reports all the products are gradually gaining some momentum.

If you need a case for a phone that fits into one of the above case sizes, and you don't want to wait for it to be delivered from down under, then you should go to Amazon's wireless accessory category and hunt for Nutshell. I know there is product there, because we keep shipping it. In small quantities. For now. They will grow.

And you can help us make them grow.

While you are on Amazon hunting for Nutshells, you may care to put in a good word about Nutshell in the places where you can add product reviews. Not that I would ever be exhorting you to do anything that you may not naturally do, but every little bit helps. Right?

Till next time.
Take care.
And thanks for being a valued Nutshell customer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Let Us All Take the High Road

Recently I went to CES in Las Vegas to both look at developments in the world of mobile, and to learn how to be a good Amazon Vendor.

Abandon Hope All Ye Who enter Here?
Anything but...
Nutshell has started shipping products into several of Amazon's US fulfillment centers and is still working out exactly what being an Amazon partner really meant.

There are some who say I should count my fingers every night before I go to sleep; others say my achievement is something very special and to be applauded.

Me? I say it really is a learning game. It is like nothing I have ever been involved with before and, like a gaping maw, Amazon is there to be filled with product; over 157 million online members and counting.

Vegas itself, and CES, was an amazing experience. I may have problems equating it to its unofficial title of Sin City, but as a Disneyland for Adults, there is little doubts it would be difficult to find an comparison.

In the light of day the Strip is a place of wonderment, and at light it comes alive with a riotous display of neon and animation that surely beggars belief.

Vegas is a Fairytale world where dreams may come true.
To follow my tour to Vegas, and get a glimpse inside CES and Amazon, read this blog

As I expected there was a plethora of leather cases for mobiles. In abundance. Every colour, and style you could think of.

Well, not quite. Nothing in the lineup that I saw could hold a candle to the Nutshell. Where our products are made from generous cuts of natural hide leather, most every case I saw at CES was constructed from leather than has been finely split (almost to ciggies paper thin) and then lacquered over to present a brightly colored face to the world.

Sure...they did look good hanging on the racks, but as sure as eggs is eggs, they would last but a short time in the real world before starting to look tarnished and worn and frayed an unloved. Unlike the Nutshell, which just keeps getting better with age.

There really is something about being the creator of a product that continues to win accolades from its users. Those who give us feed back don't just like their Nutshell. They LOVE their Nutshell.

How many other manufacturers can honestly hold that claim up to the light?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Now is the Time for All Good Folk...

The Nutshell story is possibly quite typical of many innovative businesses; starting small, pursuing the dream and somehow making it through the myriad pitfalls and landmines of being a developmental caterpillar to eventually emerge from its chrysalis as a fully formed butterfly. Hopefully not as short lived as many of that species, and certainly not in the same 'insect' category, but with every intention of spreading its wings and soaring, onwards and upwards toward the light.

Over the past twelve years we have experienced just about every sort of catastrophe that can befall any modern business; website and shopping cart hassles, the untimely death of a business partner - is there ever such a thing as a 'timely' death? - cash flow problems, business BS, product failures and recalls and customer interactivity. In all a plethora of situations that have tested the group and led to the winnowing-out of those unable to cope with the continual stress and uncertainty.

But it has not all been gloom and doom; our customers are the most fantastic folk we could ever wish for. Caring and understanding to a fault; the expressions of sympathy and concern following the personal calamities were heartwarming and provided the impetus for those of us who remain to continue. After all, with over twenty thousand loyal customers, how could we just roll over, wave our legs in the air and give up without a fight?


But the most heartening development was a totally unexpected invitation from Seattle. Out of the blue the online retail giant Amazon invited us to become a vendor in its fledgling wireless accessory space. More interestingly, from a business development point of view, the invitation is the only one ever offered, according to Amazon, to any organisation from within the Australasian area. Surely an honor to be welcomed, and warmly accepted with approbation.

This invite would take another two years to mature and Nutshell is now shipping small amounts of select product across the Pacific into two of Amazon's fulfillment centers. In the initial product list we've included the smartphone wallet and a small, carefully selected range of regular belt cases, all in black leather with either mag-tab or mag-flap and the choice of clip or loop, or just as a plain no frills pouch. Initially we are offering Amazonian smartphone users these product options in three sizes, #258, #260 and #208, to accommodate today's most popular smartphones and the growing range of accessory covers.

As we accept our second restock, at ten pieces per item, we are facing a whole new set of challenges associated with the management of the ordering, logistic and payment cycles.

So far the exercise has caused us to appreciate the process of creating industry standard product listings and definitions, along with their attendant identifications. A set of code for each and every variation - internal SKU begets GTIN barcodes, which in turn beget Amazon ASIN product codes - enable us to offer a growing range to consumers through one of the world's major sales portals.


We recognize the extreme need for accuracy, in both product specification and descriptions. Even so, it is still very much a case of "not knowing what you don't know you need to know," until you've screwed it up at least once. And that learning takes time. And patience. And money.

One thing we do now know for certain; the need for professionalism and deep pockets to meet the start-up costs of product and people-power has never been more important. As we stand poised on the brink of the very real prospect of having to satisfy a customer with an insatiable appetite it's global business learnt the hard way. No how-to manuals here. No shortcuts.

To learn how to be an Amazon Vendor also means I'll be climbing on a jet plane and heading, like Mohamed, to the mountain that is Las Vegas and the annual International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) next Monday, January 9. While Amazon Services is conducting a series of midweek induction seminars that will be an invaluable experience, as a fully paid up International affiliate member of the Consumer Electronics Association, I'm thinking there will be lots of potential allies and business partners to assist Nutshell be the best it can in a very competitive global marketplace.

Export Potential

We know that, even as a proven 'cottage industry' exporter with a very real potential for rapid growth, we cannot achieve this on our own.

If Nutshell is to 'cross the chasm' to become a successful Australasian exporter into one of the world's largest retailers with a huge and disparate customer base, the company needs, more than ever, strategic manufacturing and financial partnerships and, above all, support.

At a time when business needs more co-operation and less antagonism to overcome the significant global hurdles that face us all, it would surely be a crying shame to stumble and fall.


Touch Base
PS:: If you are planning to be in Vegas and want to say hi, enter the friend code: 699-829 in the CES app and drop me a note. I'd love to meet up..

A Mobile Game of Swings and Roundabouts

Welcome to 2012.

There is nothing as scary as an industry caught in the grip of innovative improvements.

That, in a Nutshell, is the mobile phone industry; an industry that is relentlessly devoted to continual improvement, innovation and the adoption of the latest in form factors and presentation techniques.

In the past twelve years we have watched as technologies have merged and blurred the lines between mobile phones and hand held computers.

The iPhone has a lot to answer for; Steve Jobs and his visions guided (some would say led by the nose) the industry through yet another set of birthing pangs and entranced users with advanced technologies that swiftly became 'old hat' as their replacements and upgrades roll out on a regular basis. A schedule that will never cease to amaze, astound and, sometimes even bewilder the user.

And as the technologies embodied in today's latest mobile devices get smarter, faster and lighter, thinner and 'bigger' (in storage terms) the physical attributes of phones continues to alter. Where once handheld devices were almost 'brick' sized, today's latest devices are fast becoming wafer thin, yet embody developments that many would have considered impossible only a few short years ago.

Moore's Law dictates that processing power doubles every 18 months, and the mobile phone industry is an embodiment of this; there are no signs of slow-down, and none of any zenith or pinnacle being reached any time soon.

And just as the horsepower inside continues to relentlessly increase processing power, network inter-connectivity and storage, external formats continue to change and morph; where once device designers were intent on making their creations as small as possible, it would appear that the pendulum has once again swung in favour of larger displays, resulting in larger overall dimensions. Although thinner than their predecessors, new phones have grown to emulate their ancestors' overall larger physical properties.

Of course this would throw a lesser manufacturer of cases into a tizz of indecision. But not Nutshell; as a company that has developed along with the industry we serve, we have already crafted larger format cases for earlier generations of handhelds and mobile phones. These cases, which we once thought would never again see the light of day, are being dusted off and re-presented to accommodate the next generations of smartphones.

It really is a game of swings and roundabouts.