Decide.com: For gadget buyers, timing is everything
A new service predicts whether the price you see for an item you want is going to be as good tomorrow as it is today.
The Web is a great resource for the disciplined shopper. You can research the price of an item you want; shop around; collect coupons and offer codes; and pretty much make sure you're getting the best price known to mankind for anything, at any moment.
A new site, Decide.com, takes the research a bit further, helping you decide if the moment, not just the price, is right to buy. If it's not, the site will advise you to wait.
There are other services that offer historical pricing, including Shopobot, which does a good job of illustrating historical price volatility of items; and Retrevo, which maps products to a generic life-cycle curve. Neither of these services is as clearly focused at predicting future prices, though.
Decide.com was founded by Farecast (now part of Bing Travel) execs Mike Fridgen and Oren Etzioni, and, like Farecast, is based on what appears to be a brawny system for ingesting not just historical pricing data but also textual analysis of news content, rumors, and what CEO Mike Fridgen calls "model lineage" data that is used to predict when products are going to be superseded by their next model.
The revenue model is straightforward. As other price-finding sites do, it makes money from sending transactions to online stores.
I tried a preview of the site (both the standard and the mobile version--an actual mobile app is forthcoming), and found its advice on purchase timing to mostly mirror the opinion of product experts on the CNET reviews team. It was a bit more aggressive with "wait" recommendations than our editors would be, though the reason for the advice was always given (such as, there's a new version likely to come out in three months). To illustrate the potential attraction of this service, one reviewer asked me to look up a camera for her. Nobody here has ever asked to use my access to a preview version of a Web site before (except Google Wave...so maybe that's not a completely reliable metric of success).
I like this service because it tells consumers what a retailer never will: That prices are likely to go down on a product, or that a new version is likely to come out soon. It will also give buyers some confidence that what appears to be a good price actually is.
Farecast wasfor a reported $115 million. I'd say a similar fate awaits Decide.com. But I'd buy now, before the price goes up.