An interesting trend is emerging: the downward percolation (can you say that?) of the stylus/touchscreen to mid-range devices. (I define mid-range as $75-$150.) While the consumer electronics business has always had a steady trickle-down of features from high-end to mid-range to low-end, touchscreen devices never made that migration. The assumption was that touchscreen features were too expensive / bulky / overwhelming to succeed in the basic / fashion-conscious / mass-consumer markets.
The frenzy over the iPhone has changed all that. (How much impact has the iPhone had on industry attitudes to touchscreen interfaces? I attended more than one meeting last Spring in which a participant started a sentence with, “Since January 8th…” — i.e., since the iPhone marketing launch. That was before the product was even released in June.)
Of course, Apple were not the first to realize the power of the touchscreen. They just executed so well that no one could afford to ignore direct input anymore. The market response with “iPhone killers” (many of which were planned for release well before the iPhone was announced, of course) is only the beginning.
Take a look at Palm’s Centro:
The higher Centro sales, though, are another case of good news/bad news. It’s great the the Centro is more popular than even Palm had expected, but its low cost (and thus low margin) must sting a little. [via Treo Central]
Over the past 18 months, almost every major cell phone manufacturer has come out with a product to address this market. RIM introduced the BlackBerry Pearl, a slimmer version of its BlackBerry device with an abbreviated QWERTY keyboard for typing. Motorola came out with the Q, and Samsung introduced the BlackJack.
But up to this point, price has been a major barrier to truly penetrating the consumer market. Most “consumer”-oriented smart phones have still been initially priced above $300. The iPhone retailed initially for $500 and $600. Prices are starting to come down, but experts say the hefty price tag of these devices has prevented them from reaching the mass market. [via ZDNet]
Mid-range device touchscreen input is not just a fluke, it’s the (overdue) future. I’ll go further, though: I’ve been predicting for over a year now that touchscreens will show up on low-end phones, too, in the next 3 years.
Never mind One Laptop Per Child… the one computer that is entering every single home in the developing world is the cell phone. The cell phone is where illiterate women and children will learn to read (a pet project / dream of mine). The cell phone is where contacts, photos, correspondence, business and banking will not only originate, but be archived. To me, the trickle-down of expanded interaction and handwriting input is blazingly obvious. (Of course, I expect to see those phones enabled by Power2B’s technology, but that’s another story!)
You heard it here first.
Mr. Gartenberg said people often first go to an Apple store out of curiosity. “Apparently a lot of them like what they’re seeing in the stores, they like the experience and they go back to buy the products,” he said.
The stores’ architecture also makes consumers feel good about spending money there.
In nearly a dozen high-profile urban centers — including New York, San Francisco, London and Glasgow — the signature feature is a glass staircase. Some of the staircases go straight up and others ascend in a spiral skein that appears to be held in place by nothing more than Apple hype. [via NYTimes.com]
There’s this one thing about glass stairs…
While I was in the London Apple store in March, one of the glass stairs about five from the top shattered suddenly and completely with a huge crash into thousands of “safety glass” smithereens (much to the surprise of a startled customer just a step or two below). The broken glass was contained by the surrounding glass enclosure, which was good, although it made it impossible to sweep up. After a missed beat or two, the dozens of customers went back to their serious shopping, and the store manager went up to punch out any remaining shards, and stomp on each remaining step to ensure it wasn’t about to go anywhere.
Yet another example of trust and design.
More than you ever wanted to know about the Apple stores’ glass stair construction here and here. I’ve seen indications that Apple was involved in the patents on the stair design. Why am I not surprised?
[image of Apple’s London store stairs from here]
Other ways that people tweak time? The relatively common practice of trying to ‘buy time’ by setting one’s watch or alarm clock a few minutes ahead of the actual time; inter-city drivers trying to talk up the time it takes to travel between two points to talk up an all inclusive fare; setting meeting’s ahead of time to account for late arriver’s.
In real life, our office tweaks time by just trying to keep it from jumping unpredictably.
When I travel (monthly), I do not adjust my computer or my cell phone clocks to the new time zone, nor do I allow my devices to automatically update their time settings from the network. If I do, all of my appointments will be out of whack.
When I enter an event into my calendar, I’m usually in Israel (GMT +2). The meeting is at 9.00am? I enter it for 9.00am on my calendar. When I get to Japan (GMT +9), my 9.00am meeting doesn’t show up until 6.00pm… hard to explain to the person you’ve come thousands of miles to meet. So the times stay set on Israeli time, and my friends and family are left to puzzle as best as they can at the oddball hours at which they are hearing from me. (Or not. In the midst of jet lag or work overload, my communication times appear to be perfectly normal when viewed from many timezones away.)
Why not set the appointment for the appropriate time zone in the first place? I’m sure many programs support that feature (as far as I can tell, iCal for Macintosh does not support timezone definitions for events on an event-by-event basis, although that’s hard to believe). But who has time to mess around and find out if the Macintosh solution matches my Nokia phone, or my Blackberry? If something in that loop doesn’t work, and the “synchronization” process ends up unsynchronizing my life… I’m in deep trouble.
If operator hardware sales behavior started to threaten a device manufacturer’s own revenue stream, would the manufacturer continue to be cautious about not offending carrier sensibilities? Or would they throw the first punch by offering service themselves?
It’s not so farfetched, is it?
Related and perhaps illuminating business cases:
- Helio / SK Telecom
- Vertu / Nokia / Ovi / Nokia-Siemens Network
- iPhone / iTouch / iTunes /.Mac
- Google / Android / YouTube / Flickr
Consider that consumers get bored with devices really quickly. Consider that people are always looking for the next thing. Now consider a little statistical anecdote:
DVICE is asking readers to vote for “the best gadget of 2007″, as part of a sweepstakes. What appears on that list? Wii — a 2006 product. Which device (at the time of this writing) had the most votes for coolest? Wii — outscoring even the iPhone.
It’s a stunning testament to the resonance of the product.
Finnish vendor Nokia announced an extension of its mobile music platform on Tuesday, with the unveiling of a subscription service that allows users to keep their music.
At its annual investor day in the Netherlands, Nokia announced its ‘Comes With Music’ platform, that enables people to buy a Nokia device with a year of unlimited access to millions of tracks.
Once the year is complete, customers can keep all their music without having to worry about it disappearing when their subscription is over. [see telecoms.com for the full story]
This is very similar to Nokia’s purchase and inclusion of mapping software on high-end devices (something we discussed in the Mobile Marketing panel at the MoMo Summit). The buzz is that “it’s all about content” — that future revenues are going to be driven primarily by content.
Take a look at how Apple’s iTunes fits into its strategy: revenues are huge at 36%, but the importance is in the content’s role in driving sales of the iPod and computer hardware lines. That lesson hasn’t been lost on others. Think Amazon and Kindle, Nokia and Ovi, Sony and their upcoming revamped music store.
But is the buzz true as a trend?
What do these activities say about company strategy? Where are these players expecting their future revenues growth to come from?
- Hardware sales? The device is the money maker, with higher prices/differentiation justified by including free content — sales of devices driven by consumer desire for the “free” (or premium) content included; or
- Content sales? The hardware is a one-off sale, but the ongoing revenues from online content and subscription sales are the real money-maker; or
- Something else entirely?
It’s clear that the future of computing in general — the big future — is in mobile. Desktop computers, home media centers, and laptops will be nice CE moneymaking appliances, like microwaves and large-screen TVs. Sure, they’re more necessary than luxuries like designer espresso machines, but you can live without them, for example, if you are struggling to pay off student loans.
Mobiles will be like refrigerators or washing machines. You just can’t manage without them. That’s already true now, but at the moment it’s more of a psychological need to not miss anything. As mobile email improves, flat data plans roll out, web browsing becomes usable, phone memory grows to accommodate video and audio entertainment realistically, downloading becomes easier rather than sideloading… as those things happen, the mobile device will be completely embedded as the primary computing device in fact, not just in theory. As the N95 ads say, “it’s what the computer has become” and it’s true (but not of the N95, I’m afraid).
The “content driving sales of content” model: Amazon’s Kindle appears to seek its profits not on device sales, but on opening the market to ebook sales. Is this how they intend to compete with Google’s devaluing of books… by making books affordable through non-printing? Cutting out of the loop the paper, the printing, the ink, the distributor, the store? Making it palatable by including the cellular connection? (Worthy of note: O’Reilly Radar)
The “content driving sales of hardware” model: This appears to be Nokia’s: rolling the cost of the content into the hardware, and keeping the content free by owning it themselves and amortizing the cost over tens of millions of hardware units.
The “content driving sales of advertising” model: Google. The evolution of the tried-and-true broadcast television model. It certainly works for Google. Will we see the day when Google struggles to maintain its advertising value as broadcast networks have? Surely a company is incubating somewhere that will eventually grow to challenge Google’s dominance… then what?
The “hardware driving sales of hardware AND content” model: Although you might argue that people purchase iPods because they want to use iTunes Music Store for price and ease of use… I wouldn’t buy that argument. I would believe that after the hardware sale, the content is a huge follow-on market.
If Nokia is trying to emulate Apple’s model, why are they including all this free content? It erodes the follow-on possibilities. On the other hand, follow-on content sales for mobile devices have been anemic all along (ringtones, music, video, mapping, whatever). So… is Nokia taking for granted that follow-on sales are not that valuable for some reason on this platform? Or are they betting that by getting people to use the content, later on (say, in two years) they’ll be unwilling to give it up, and will pay for subscriptions, and that that will be worthwhile?
I’m not a believer in educating the market. You see, once people become accustomed to not paying for content (eg, television programming), it’s hard to get them to pay for that same delivery later on. What you CAN get people to pay for is previously free content in a more convenient delivery (think buying a song via iTunes for “only” $0.99 rather than hassling to load a CD that’s down in the basement).
What do these models all have in common? With the exception possibly of Apple’s hardware business*, everyone is trying to figure out how to harness desire for content as a driver for sales of whatever it is they sell. Or how to change what they sell in order to make it driveable by content desire.
Why does content desire matter so much? Content is what you experience when you use the device. It is what brings you back again and again to use the device — you want to talk to someone, you reach for the phone. You want to hear a song — you reach for the iPod. You want to watch a movie — you reach for the TV remote. Only now, you can just reach for the mobile phone to do any of those things. It’s the mobile-able content that matters most, because it’s wherever you are.
* You could make a decent case that Apple’s “hardware” sales are actually sales of experience: combined hardware and operating system. Consumers pay more for Apple’s products not because they are beautiful, although they are, but because they want the usable, beautiful, stable operating system and applications. Which are themselves content, in a way.
An advertisement for private jets in Economist magazine (I think):
The headline reads: “Simply the World’s Most Advanced Technology”. Honestly, there doesn’t appear to be anything simple about it.
In the world of private and corporate jets, complex = sophisticated. I suppose the interface complexity suggests the knowledge and training required to fly the machine, leading to security in the pilot’s ability to do so.
How does this differ from the trend (better late than never) towards simplicity in user interface design for consumer electronics? In CE, we’ve finally come to realize that a simple interface empowers the user, and creates a great feeling about the product. Since the user is typically the purchaser, making the user feel powerful is a good thing.
In aviation, the purchaser is typically not the user (the user is the pilot). There is no marketing benefit in making the interface simple; in fact, if the interface looks too simple, the purchaser (CEO) is liable to think either that the airplane isn’t “good enough”, or that the pilot shouldn’t be paid so much for doing such an “easy” job. On the other hand, if the plane looks complicated the purchaser can believe that it is “better” for having so many “advanced” features, and will be more secure in their pilot for knowing how to fly the thing. A perpetuation of the mystique of the valiant aviator, perhaps?
(This is not a commentary on Honeywell’s airplanes (I know nothing about them); it’s a commentary on the marketing decisions.) You’ve got to wonder: WWAD (What Would Apple Do?)
Certainly a novel interface. It calls to mind the Nintendogs bubble-blowing function. The “twist” (sorry!) here of getting into the mindset of a blender is funny.
Blendie is an interactive, sensitive, intelligent, voice controlled blender with a mind of its own. Materials are a 1950’s Osterizer blender altered with custom made hardware and software for sound analysis and motor control.
People induce the blender to spin by sounding the sounds of its motor in action. A person may growl low pitch blender-like sounds to get it to spin slow (Blendie pitch and power matches the person) and the person can growl blender-style at higher pitches to speed up Blendie. The experience for the participant is to speak the language of the machine and thus to more deeply understand and connect with the machine. The action may also bring about personal revelations in the participant. The participant empathizes with Blendie and in this new approach to a domestic appliance, a conscious and personally meaningful relationship is facilitated.
…but seriously, folks, what about areas in which it would be important to get into the mindset of an appliance? Have you never had the experience of trying to accomplish some task on a computer, and saying to yourself, “Now, where would they have put that function?”
If you speak the language of the computer (programming code), then you are a software programmer with the mindset of a blender anyway. Sorry. If you aren’t a software engineer, it’s a lot nicer to have the appliance go to the trouble of speaking your language rather than vice versa. Which is why the Macintosh OS is so much easier to use than DOS was.
Certainly when trying to understand other people and especially other cultures, we have to ask: Does speaking their language in fact help you to think their thoughts, feel their feelings? Yes, learning the language shows respect and facilitates communication, but does it run deeper than that?
Who couldn’t find a use for “neko-neko,” an Indonesian word for “one who has a creative idea which only makes things worse,” or “skeinkjari,” a term from the Faroe Islands for “the man who goes among wedding guests offering them alcohol”? Some words […] are surprisingly affecting, like the Inuit word “iktsuarpok,” which means “to go outside often to see if someone is coming.” And then there’s “tingo” itself, from the Pascuense language of Easter Island: “to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by borrowing them.” (from Amazon.com’s description of The Meaning of Tingo, by Adam Jacot de Boinod)
On a PRI Geo Quiz podcast, I heard the above author say there is a Norwegian word for dunking someone’s face in snow!
Having a word for an idea means you have the idea in your mind. Lack of words can result in lack of recognition of subtle distinctions and nuances. When one culture expresses these distinctions in its vocabulary and another doesn’t, important meaning gets lost in translation.
A very basic example that I’ve often noticed is in the Israeli and English words for “blue”. In English, we use blue as a general term for everything from pale sky to dark navy. In modern Hebrew, techelet is used for light blues, and kachol for darker blues. As a non-native Hebrew speaker, I have referred to an object as kachol only to get a blank look from the Israeli who can’t figure out what I’m pointing to; all he sees is something techelet. There is no mental equation of the terms; kachol and techelet are seen as distinct colors, just as blue and purple are to English speakers.
I’ve found that when someone behaves in a way that I’m having trouble interpreting, if I mimic the facial expression and tone of voice (no, not in front of them!), I can try and answer the question: “What feeling would I experience or thought would I think that would cause me to react this way?” Language is not always be expressed as words (hence the term “body language”).
Speaking the language -> understanding the mind.
Garr Reynolds is the guru of presentations. I have subscribed to his blog for a very long time, although I don’t always make time to read it. I subscribe not because I am specifically looking for tips on creating attention-grabbing presentations (although that doesn’t hurt), but because his blog is focused, passionate, and speaks with authority. This post is a keeper.
Presentation Zen is great example of someone finding something he is good at (or wants to be good at) and becoming an expert. Not just good, but great. If only every manager (and company founder) were forced to read this blog as part of their training… the world would be spared much of the pain and suffering of PowerPoint. Let’s not get me started on PowerPoint tonight. If Darwin’s theories of evolution were true, PPT would have gone the way of the Dodo, and for the same reasons. (Ungainly. Over-hyped. Inefficient. Inept. Irredeemably stupid.)