Vulkano: A Case Study in Bad Marketing


The Sept. 16 New York Times includes a review of the Vulkano by David Pogue.  Excerpts below are from that review — as well as my comments.

Vulkano (from Monsoon Multimedia) is “like a combination TiVo and Slingbox.”  Except that it doesn’t work. So why is a big-time technology reviewer like David Pogue picking on Monsoon Multimedia, a company so far below the radar that it’s like a stealth fighter?  Answer: “… the company asked me to review it. You would think that such a request implied a certain confidence in the product’s readiness for consumers”

Indeed. Problems identified by Mr. Pogue include:

  • the necessity to forward a port range on your router to the Vulkano box during setup, apparently with no documentation.
  • failure to play back some videos at all with no error message. (“The company’s tech rep says he gets this problem sometimes, too. ‘Some of [them] play, some of ’em won’t,’ he said.”) Let’s make sure we understand this — the company knew about this problem and still sent the unit to Pogue for review.  Somewhere Scott Adams must be LHAO (look it up).
  • Vulkano attempts to make the downloaded video available to a mobile device.  But when you schedule the recording you have to specify which device: “iPod Touch/iPhone, iPad, Droid, Mac, PC, TV and so on”  And you can’t change your mind later.

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Which leads to the inevitable question: why did Monsoon Multimedia submit the device for review?  I can think of two possibilities.  First, Monsoon is running out of money and needs more VC funding.  Or, far more likely, management was thinking with their collective egos rather than their brains.  Regular readers here can probably figure out which hypothesis I believe.  But feel free to leave your own alternatives as comments below.


About Tony Lima

Tony Lima has been working with technology, economic modeling, forecasting, and market research for 40 years. His background makes him uniquely qualified to navigate this varied landscape. Begin with his education: B.S. in chemical engineering from M.I.T. , M.B.A. from Harvard, Ph.D. in economics from Stanford. His day job was professor of economics at California State University, East Bay. He retired in 2016 to devote his time to consulting and writing. But he has found time to: write (eight books and over 100 articles ranging from wine economics to detailed analyses of meta-language code generators) consult with companies ranging from Microsoft to CEDEX keep his expertise up-to-date, constantly reading and sorting through the avalanche of information available daily maintain three blogs: Wine Research, Wine Economics, and Economic Policy Local policy analysis: Los Altos Politico.com

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