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Cell Phone Sommeliers on the Way? 159

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the aged-vintages-not-quite-so-popular-for-some-reason dept.
Japan is reportedly toying with the idea of educating and licensing "sommeliers" to help potential buyers wade through the vast sea of options available for a new cellphone purchase. "Japan's communication ministry is looking to the private sector to manage the potential nightmare exam and certification process, with children's online safety highlighted as an important part of the plan. Mobile sommelier sounds like a pretty sweet title, we can totally feel how an HTC TyTN II might be paired with an earthy unlimited plan followed by the soft nutty finish of a 200-minute a month daytime calling package."
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Cell Phone Sommeliers on the Way?

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  • Where's TFA? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kabloom (755503) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:14PM (#22129470) Homepage
    Where's the article for this story?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by operagost (62405)
      You might ask: where's the translation for the incomprehensible summary?
      • The answer to both of these questions was provided long ago by Wheeler: "Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection."
        This wisdom befits TFA, as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chris Mattern (191822)

          The answer to both of these questions was provided long ago by Wheeler: "Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection."


          "Except having too many layers of indirection."
    • Re:Where's TFA? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Malevolent Tester (1201209) * on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:16PM (#22129496) Journal
      Here. [yahoo.com]
    • Re:Where's TFA? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jhantin (252660) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:17PM (#22129500)
      TFA would be here [yahoo.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mike Rubits (818811)
      It's actually a trick. By seeing who posts here, we can tell who really DOES read the article!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        s/who really DOES read the article/who must be new here/
        • by dattaway (3088) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:33PM (#22129704) Homepage Journal
          I thought the whole point of slashdot was to heckle the people who DID read the article!
          • Which was the point of my comment.
            But, since your user ID beats mine by something like two orders of magnitude, I am clearly the one who is new here. ;)
            • by alta (1263)
              I got you both beat by ID, although I have no witty comment to go with it. And I don't have any idea WTF a sommiliaerreerr is, and no article to provide conextual clues.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by alta (1263)
                After the magic of copy/paste and wikipedia via google, I have learned that it's an overpaid and/or overeducated wine waiter. Reading the term in context would not have helped too terribly much as I would have never drawn the connection between CELL phones and wine CELLars.
              • Sommelier is a wine waiter, usually only found at fairly posh restaurants. They tend to provide advice on food/wine pairings, to the point of specific vintages and vineyards, and are supposed to be able to tell you what to expect in a particular wine. They tend to the cellaring and corking of the restaurant's collection, and head sommeliers are expected to be able to judge the demand for a particular wine on a particular day so that they open enough bottles at the correct times for each wine to have 'breath
              • I thought "huh? A mattress made out of cellphones?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by qortra (591818)
      Contrary to my siblings, I think the article that was quoted in the summary can be found at Engadget [engadget.com]
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Since when did Slashdotters read the article anyway?
    • by Jaruzel (804522)
      It seems to be over at Engadget [engadget.com]

      However, I'ver looked up this strange word 'sommeliers' and can't for the life of me, work out what cell phones and wine waiters have in common ?

      -Jar
  • Too many features (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:16PM (#22129490) Journal
    If you need a professional to pick out the features you need on a phone, chances are you don't need all those features in the first place. If you really needed them, you'd know enough to ask for them in the first place. These guys are just overblown salesmen trying to talk you into something you don't need. As for me, all I ask out of a phone is that it gives me a dial tone when I pick up the receiver.
    • by jhantin (252660)

      As for me, all I ask out of a phone is that it gives me a dial tone when I pick up the receiver.

      I don't remember a cell phone that actually produced a dial tone; my memory is fuzzy but perhaps some of the older Motorola "brick" analog phones did.

      • Re:Uh? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Hatta (162192) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:25PM (#22129624) Journal
        I don't remember a cell phone that actually produced a dial tone

        Yes, that was my point. Never had a cell phone, never care to have one.
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          Yes, that was my point. Never had a cell phone, never care to have one.

          I was exactly the same as you till a couple of weeks ago, when some 'concerned friends' bought me one for the first time. I'm wondering what would be an acceptable period of time to wait before 'losing' it. I'm leaning towards a month, two at the most.

          In this short time Its already irritated me, going off and distracting me all the time. I prefer email.
          • I hope they paid for your cellphone plan, too, or that's a kinda crappy gift. Anyways, most phones have some sort of privacy mode where it won't ring but will show you if someone's called (if you're interested). Or you could just leave it off and only turn it on if you need to make a call.
            • by rucs_hack (784150)
              I hope they paid for your cellphone plan, too, or that's a kinda crappy gift.

              Nope, its a pay as you go thing, and yes, its a crappy gift.

              I have no idea what possessed them to think I want one. I've been into computers and technology for years (being a scientist and all), but, and this is the important part, not all of it. TV also holds no interest more me, but I wouldn't go a day without the internet willingly.

              I had an inkling this phone was a gift they intended a while back, and said absolutely no. Then it
              • by rubycodez (864176)
                at least my voicemail has e-mail notification with audio file as attachment, that's all you really need instead of cell phone if you're online most of the time
      • Re:Uh? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by squiggleslash (241428) * on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:28PM (#22129666) Homepage Journal
        He means he wants one of these [jitterbug.com], 'cos he's elderly and kind of stuck in his ways.
    • by daeg (828071)
      It's hard to find carriers/phones these days that are simple. It took me four separate calls to AT&T to get text messaging turned off on my phone. I was sick of paying for text messages from friends and from people I've never heard of. 10 for "hey dude whats up u want to grab coffee lmn" is ridiculous and a complete distraction.

      I'd give up my cell phone completely if my work permitted it.
      • by jamar0303 (896820)
        Japan [kddi.com] leads the world in simplicity too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you need a professional to pick out the features you need on a phone, chances are you don't need all those features in the first place. If you really needed them, you'd know enough to ask for them in the first place.

      You know, there are things that you don't know about that you might find useful. You might be aware that blackberries let you send/receive email with strong encryption. You might not know that a blackberry can get google maps, instant messaging, GPS turn-by-turn navigation, tethered internet
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AngryNick (891056)

      If you need a professional to pick out the features you need on a phone, chances are you don't need all those features in the first place.

      Ahhh...but would you notice the subtle differences in one phone's clever UI for navigating photo storage vs. that employed by another, lesser vintage? Or how about the conditions in which the device was manufactured...would you expect Joe Smo to know the values imparted by the region and year of its birth? I think not! Surely you see the need to protect the uninformed so that they too can feel the joy of an expertly paired bluetooth accessory connecting on the first try.

      Then again, it does seem kind

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you need a professional to pick out the features you need on a phone, chances are you don't need all those features in the first place. If you really needed them, you'd know enough to ask for them in the first place.

      This is not as 'insightful' as it sounds. There's a difference between features and needs. If you're not up to date on cell phone technology, then you won't know what features are out there that actually address a need you have. That's where advice in general helps. You may not know that something exists, that doesn't mean it's not useful to you.

  • by paulthomas (685756) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:18PM (#22129520) Journal
    Here I am, thinking that someone in Japan had come up with a cellphone that could recommend wine pairings.
  • how long (Score:2, Insightful)

    by loafula (1080631)
    till a phone goes back to being just a phone? seems to me that if you need someone's help choosing cell phone features, then there are way too many features available.
    • I take it you've never bought anything more complex than a brick? Well, even that's a bad example because bricks come in a wide variety of styles and colors.
       
      Seriously - even with a simple menu of features, not all phone will be alike. This one might have a slightly better screen, this one a keypad that's easier for you to use, etc... etc...
    • by Bob-taro (996889) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:34PM (#22129716)

      ... the voice plans themselves can be confusing. If you just had a fixed rate per minute, or even a number of included minutes plus a fixed rate per minute thereafter, it wouldn't be that bad, but there are so many kinds of minutes: peak, off-peak, evening (and when does "evening" start?), weekend, same carrier, same account, "friends/family", rollover, etc.

      That's in the U.S. I've never looked at a Japanese cell plan. For all I know, they might be even more complicated

      • by techpawn (969834)
        I know! IT would be SO much easier if we had ONE company that set the rules for EVERYONE. Like a mother almost. That all phones would behave in a certain way and you'd know what coverage you'd have with (let's call her "Ma Bell") no matter where you go because it all the same company! Wouldn't that be nice? And "Ma Bell" could just set these rates and services as she wants to make things easier for us... /sarcasm
      • by jamar0303 (896820)
        They are. You get a "free communications allowance" which is a set fraction of your monthly fee. Calls/text/web is counted against that allowance. That's not the hard part. The hard part is figuring out which of the myriad discounts you qualify for (50% off for signing a 2-year contract, additional 5% off for each year you stay with the company, disability discounts, senior discounts, stuff like that). However, unlimited M2M is a plan of its own.
  • by Urger (817972) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:24PM (#22129610) Homepage
    Though the original stock comes from Scandinavia the terroir of this particular batch came from Shanghai. You can smell the rich, earthy aroma of circuits left on the assembly line until they were perfectly ripe. Taste high-impact plastic exterior, make sure you taste it on the back of your tongue. As you can tell it's quite a balanced flavor. Quite correct sir, vintage 2002. It takes time to bring a phone to that level of complexity.
  • I took French in high school, but I've always been confused by the term "Sommelier". I remember that "Sommeil" means "sleep", as in J'ai sommeil, maman! ("I'm sleepy, mama!"). So a "sommelier", it would seem, would be an expert in helping you go to sleep.

    Of course, in the US, there would be no difference. Any discussion of cellphone features would be so boring, thanks to our provider-mandated crippled (but free) hardware, that it would put the most tragic insomniac into a deep slumber. "CallerTunes lets
    • by wcbarksdale (621327) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:38PM (#22129748)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sommelier [wikipedia.org]:

      A sommelier (pronounced /smlje/ or suh-mal-'yAy), or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, commonly working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all facets of wine service. The role is more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter. French, from Middle French, court official charged with transportation of supplies, pack animal driver, from Old Provençal saumalier pack animal driver, from sauma pack animal, load of a pack animal, from Late Latin sagma packsaddle.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by plague3106 (71849)
        Ahh. So they get you drunk with wine before having you sign a cell phone plan. Genius!
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:38PM (#22129752) Homepage

      I took French in high school, but I've always been confused by the term "Sommelier". I remember that "Sommeil" means "sleep", as in J'ai sommeil, maman! ("I'm sleepy, mama!"). So a "sommelier", it would seem, would be an expert in helping you go to sleep.

      Well, if we trust the results of a google search, it comes from a coarser latin a very long time ago. No idea if it's true, but here's a link [alphadictionary.com]. From the linked article:

      the title doesn't reflect the inattentiveness of some sommeliers (sommeil means "sleepy" in French), it is an alteration of sommerier "packhorse driver", a noun derived from sommier "beast of burden". French inherited sommier from Vulgar (street) Latin *saumarius, itself a corruption of sagmarius "packhorse", based on Greek sagma "packsaddle". Sumpter "packhorse driver" is a variant of the same word.


      Cheers
    • by kidgenius (704962)
      From Wikipedia: French, from Middle French, court official charged with transportation of supplies, pack animal driver, from Old Provençal saumalier pack animal driver, from sauma pack animal, load of a pack animal, from Late Latin sagma packsaddle.
    • Or maybe our workforce isn't so culturally conditioned to work themselves to death for the corporation that they get so hopped up on "power" drinks containing a heart mugging mix of nicotine, caffeine and so much sugar it spontaneously crystallizes when you open the can. Therefore, we can generally get through a day without a portable uber-entertainment minicomplex strapped to our bodies to feed a stress addled attention span.

      Or not. Who cares?

      Seriously, what mystical amazing powers does your cell phone nee
      • by jamar0303 (896820)
        I'd rather carry one cellphone than a bunch of stuff separately, to be honest. And at this point it's feasible- look at what DoCoMo's putting out.
  • by celest (100606) <mekki@@@mekki...ca> on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:35PM (#22129734) Homepage
    It's far more likely that this will just result in more used car salesmen-types in the cell phone sales market. The sommelier analogy is almost offensive to real sommeliers. Certified or not. You are not going to get people who truly understand the intricacies of cell phone technology, features, software, services, plans to take a retail sales job. It just doesn't work that way. Sommeliers are a respected profession that requires years of apprenticeship. It is about culture and tradition.

    Cell phones have always been about fads and over-hyped widgets. It's all about pushing out the current model and signing people up as fast as possible. The market is too cutthroat to allow for anything else. For this same reason, sommeliers don't stand around selling wine at your local grocery store.

    I walked into a supposedly high-end cell phone store a few months back. They had towering signs that said things like "Ask our experts anything! They will help you figure everything out!". I walked up to one of the reps who wore a big badge saying "I'm a cell phone expert, ask me anything!". I asked a simple question: "Which devices do you have that run Symbian OS?". I received a blank stare and "What's a simmian?" in response. Followed by "We have lots of phones with cameras and MP3 players. Do you want one of those?"

    I'm not holding my breath that this program will make any difference.
    • by DDLKermit007 (911046) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:49PM (#22129874)
      I understand your annoyance, but this kind of stuff is old news. Sommeliers, or people who act like them for technology usually service high end clientel...Just like the traditional ones. I know because I do this day in, and day out. It's just not my entire line of work. I deal with mid to high end real estate agents, small to midsize business owners, and the like usually. Anyone below that line usually can't afford someone who's intelligent enough to understand technology, and how it will fit with a client. These people don't care about price, what makes it work, or where they can get it. Just that it works, it can be a status icon (first on the block with one) and will make their life as easy as possible. Anyone who goes into a retail cellphone store would love that kind of service, but they are in a retail store for a reason. Price matters way too much for them.
    • My father is a so-called wine guru. In reality he's just an alcoholic who has a way with words. Around him you can't use straight forward terms like sweet, dry, fruity etc and just enjoy the taste. Nope, it's hazelnuts, apple, ....

      While the wine snobs might think this is all great, it is just wankery that does not help the average Joe enjoy their wine. In fact it often detracts from Joe's enjoyment because he's stressing as to whether that's blackberry or raspberry he's tasting.

      Doing the same for phones wil

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by celest (100606)
        To be fair, sommelier != "wine guru".

        Sommeliers train for a long time to understand the entire wine-making process from beginning to end, and all the factors that contribute to a good wine.

        A true sommelier isn't someone who nitpicks about whether it is "sweet" or "honeydew" favour in the wine. A true sommelier can tell you how much rain fell in 1968 in a particular region of Western France and how it affected the acidity of the soil in which the grapes grew.

        That being said, I agree with the parent that suc
        • So the guy can tell you which factory your phone was built in, how much the people in the factory get paid and the value or resistor R607?

          I think more likely they're going to be like trained line wine stewards: trying to upsell customers to get them to to spend more than they would normally.

          "Ah, I see sir has chosen the black briefcase, may I recommend the Nokia 7745 to go with that."

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      "We have lots of phones with cameras and MP3 players. Do you want one of those?"
      There is some annoying commercial on U.S. Tv right now with a similar setup to your story. A guy comes in to get a cell phone and she asks him about his interests. He says something about liking to jog, to which she offers him a phone that has a built-in mp3 player. I don't know what jogging has to do with music, but I would assume if he likes music then he probably has a playback device with much better quality. Then he says
      • by jamar0303 (896820)
        I suggest you free yourself from the US's limited selection. Get yourself a Sharp 904. Optical zoom, anti-shake, autofocus, it's all the point-and-shoot you'll need. You'll have a whole new outlook on cameraphones after that one.
  • Curious analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starfishsystems (834319) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:51PM (#22129888) Homepage
    The analogy between cell phones and wine seems rather strained to me.

    The reason that individuals can offer credentialed expertise in wine as a restaurant service is because they can base it on a body of knowledge which goes back some 9000 years. Yes, wines are complex, tasting is subjective. To that extent, the analogy holds. But unlike the cell phone market, the characteristics of wine, and the particular requirements of fine wine, are stable and well understood. Therefore, both the somellier and the patron gain an enduring advantage through cultivating their wine expertise over time, and the dialogue between them can be efficient and meaningful.

    Cell phone capabilities and services, on the other hand, are so extremely volatile that there can be no ground for consensus. It's still possible to go through the exercise of gathering requirements and outlining solutions, an activity which has already been given the name System Analysis. Let's call it what it is, because that tells us what we can reasonably expect from it.

  • I had issues looking for a cell phone with at least as long of talk time as what I currently have, specifically _without_ a camera, due to security requirements with places I occasionally travel to. Here are a couple that I found. (note -- I got different results with them, so they might not all know about all currently available phones):

    • http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/finder.php
    • http://myrateplan.com/cellphones/
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:55PM (#22129924)
    we can totally feel how an HTC TyTN II might be paired with an earthy unlimited plan followed by the soft nutty finish of a 200-minute a month daytime calling package."

    What the fu-

    What is this?

    WHAT LANGUAGE IS THIS?
  • Maybe I'm stereotyping, but perhaps the /. crowd doesn't get out and live in the 'real world' often enough. I think most people will know what a sommelier is. Perhaps not your 'Joe Six-Pack' shopping at Wal-Mart, but most folks who are in the market for a higher-end cell phone probably will. Perhaps sommelier isn't the best term, but it's the right idea. A sommelier at a winery will tell you how this wine has a hint of peach, or that wine has lingering chocolate flavor, etc. Some of it is kind of smoke
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday January 21, 2008 @03:22PM (#22130170) Homepage

    What we need is not used-car salesmen with delusions of grandeur. What we need is better truth-in-advertising regulation. Like this:

    • The use of the phrase "up to" or synonym thereof in connection with any service quantity is per se deceptive, unless an "at least" guaranteed value is also provided and given equal or greater prominence.
    • The advertisement of an introductory rate is per se deceptive, unless the highest rate after the introductory period is also provided and given equal or greater prominence.
    • Advertised rates must include all charges and taxes except for state and local sales taxes.
    • Advertisements mentioning "rebates" must mention the non-rebate price more prominently than the price after rebate, unless absolutely no conditions are attached to the rebate offer and the rebate offer does not require the consumer to pay, at the time of sale, a price higher than the after-rebate price.
    • Any customer contract which allows the carrier to change the terms of the contract during the period of the agreement is void as against public policy.
    • Advertisements must use generic terms for features, rather than proprietary terms, to allow comparisons between vendors. (For example, "World Wide Web access" rather than "Sprint PCS Vision", and "Push to talk intercom" instead of "ReadyLink")
    • by swb (14022)
      I'm with you.

      The situation is bad now not because the carriers have deliberately made the plans and features so complex, both in terms of choices AND in the density and ambiguity of marketing terminology.

      Of course we know they do this on purpose, so you either pick a plan too limited and eat a bunch of overage charges, or pick one too broad and pay way more than you need to on a monthly basis.

      It probably would have too many unintentional consequences, but I'd almost like to see Congress create an affirmativ
  • by writerjosh (862522) * on Monday January 21, 2008 @03:23PM (#22130174) Homepage
    We have to remember a couple things:

    1. Japan is very far ahead of us as far as cell-phone technology is concerned. They've had fully-functional video phones for at least a year or two, for example (as in, you can communicate via real-time video).

    2. Japanese retail is much more about service than most US retail. We just want to get in and get the product, but the Japanese are all about greeting you at the door, pleasant smiles, and all of that.

    Therefore, a sommelier isn't all that strange in the context of Japanese retail. It's strange to Americans, but to the Japanese, it must make sense, otherwise they wouldn't bother.
    • It doesn't make sense from the perspective that the Japanese customers should already be getting that kind of service if what you say is true.
    • to the Japanese, it must make sense, otherwise they wouldn't bother.

      While a salient point, I politely refer the gentlemen to this. [kanojotoys.com]

    • by pcgabe (712924)

      1. Japan is very far ahead of us as far as cell-phone technology is concerned. They've had fully-functional video phones for at least a year or two, for example (as in, you can communicate via real-time video).
      For the record, my first Japanese cell phone could do this. That was in 2004. They may be further ahead of us than you think.
    • by jrumney (197329)

      1. Japan is very far ahead of us as far as cell-phone technology is concerned. They've had fully-functional video phones for at least a year or two, for example (as in, you can communicate via real-time video).

      I'm in the UK, and my first video phone just wore out after two and a half years. Not that I ever used the gimmicky video-phone on it, but they'd been around for a while already before I got mine.

  • I have Verizon. My options are crappy phone or less-crappy phone. In either case, I get a really crappy OS/UI.
  • educating and licensing "sommeliers" to help potential buyers wade through the vast sea of options available


    Where I am from, we call them "sales staff." Imagine: the staff on the sales floor actually helping you buy instead of just regurgitating the price sticker or sending you to the right aisle.
  • It always pays to bring an expert along when you are an unskilled customer. If I'm buying a used car not backed by a factory warranty, I'm going to have my mechanic look the thing over first. If I'm buying a new car, I'm going to talk to people who know cars and see what they like, I'll talk to people who own the model and see if they have complaints. I like computer stuff but there's no way I can keep up with all of the hardware advances. If I were building a desktop, I'd go directly to the geek boards and
  • Translation (Score:3, Funny)

    by bperkins (12056) on Monday January 21, 2008 @05:16PM (#22131310) Homepage Journal
    The guy at Best Buy is going to get a haircut, and a suit.
    He will clench his teeth together as he tells you what phone you need.

    Sounds great.
  • Am I the only one who, until like two minutes ago, thought 'sommelier' was a small country in East Africa?

    New words humble me.


    -FL

  • Part of the problem with the world's economy these days (at least in fully developed countries) is that there are far too many people making money 'consulting'; IE not producing anything.

    Sure, there is a need for SOME consultants, but at some point, something has to be manufactured, put to market and sold for the economy to carry on.

  • I know those specialists. Like the "specialists" in shops like BicCamera, Kojima or Yodobashi - you name it. Please spare me.

    Ask them anything (in Japanese of course) beyond "could you please tell me what the price tag on this product says?", and they'll start reading the brochure for the product aloud or go and ask a guy who will then call the maker's hotline and have you wait for 10 minutes. Hopeless. There's no such thing as an informed opinion or critical analysis of the products weak points with any ki
  • we are not afflicted with confusing choices among an abundance of features and a range of competing prices here in the US. you go to Verizon or you go to ATT and they say "bend over and show me your wallet" Then they say "here is your phone, have a nice day"

    seriously ...they routinely say their bottom-of-the-line phones are really worth about $300 and you have to sign up for 2 years of their spotty service with a bunch of hidden surcharges to to get the crappy phone for $50. The crappy phones never ha

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