FastCompany, Kit Eaton, Jul 14, 2011
Prodcast. That's the name of the tool Microsoft would love to get under the noses of as many tech-buying consumers as it possibly could. The idea is to better inform buyers in advance about products so they can make smarter decisions or be less resentful if their brand-new HDTV is just weeks away from being upstaged by a newer model, causing its price to drop by 20%. "Buyer's remorse be-gone" would be a decent slogan.
Prodcast is set for its public reveal at the Knowledge Discovery and Data mining conference in August. And while the name's admittedly clunky, since it's in no way related to podcasting, it does sound as though it will provide real utility to consumers.
The tool scans a large historical database of product histories, and then makes smart guesses about which way the price of a piece of high-tech hardware will vary in the coming months. The guess it reports is a simple number, expressed as a percentage. Prodcast would tell you, for instance, that it's xx% confident the product you've specified will cost within a price bracket it specifies for the next month (or whatever time scale you choose). To back this up, it also displays historical price graphs for your chosen product and others like it, so you get a visual sense for how volatile the price tends to be.
Paper: Ameliorating Buyer's Remorse (PDF), by Rakesh Agrawal, Samuel Ieong, Raja Velu, Proceedings of KDD-2011, San Diego, CA.