This is the post in which I make the seemingly crazy claim that the "next big thing" for Apple -- and for consumer tech -- will be smart pets. Don't say I didn't warn you. :)
Trying to predict what Apple will do next or what Apple should do next (these are two different things) has fueled some of my best work and most enjoyable after-work conversations. I'm not alone in this endeavor, of course. For the past few years -- ever since the Apple Watch came out -- clients, the press, and just people in my neighborhood ask me: "What's the next big thing for Apple?" There are several key candidates that often get proposed – many have suggested an Apple car though late developments make that less and less likely, others think a virtual reality headset is around the corner while I myself have suggested a voice-based personal assistant (Siri in your ear, as I have been known to call it). In none of those cases would Apple be introducing a market-changing product that leaps years beyond competitors, like the jump from Blackberry to iPhone was. Even Siri in your ear is already happening, the latest version that has captured my attention is the Vinci, currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, a headphone and intelligent agent device which exactly fulfills my prediction of what Apple should have done with Beats but for some reason chose not so, at least so far.
The explosive growth of the data economy is being fueled by the rise of insights services. Companies have been selling and sharing data for years. Axciom and Experian made their name by providing access to rich troves of consumer data. Thompson Reuters, Dun and Bradstreet and Bloomberg distributed financial and corporate data. Data brokers of various kinds connected buyers and sellers across a rich data market landscape. Customers, however, needed to be able to manage and manipulate the data to derive value from it. That required a requisite set of tools and technologies and a high degree of data expertise. Without that data savvy, insights could be elusive.
The new data market is different with insights services providers doing the heavy lifting, delivering relevant and actionable insights directly into decision-making processes. These insights services providers come in a number of flavors. Some provide insights relevant to a particular vertical; others focus on a particular domain such as risk mitigation or function within an organizations such as sales, marketing, or operations.
Recently, the largest annual get together of the mobile industry, Mobile World Congress (MWC) took place in Barcelona. In my opinion, the biggest themes at MWC in 2017 that are relevant for enterprise customers were the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), platforms, collaboration, and connectivity. These themes underline how mobility is becoming part of the broader digital transformation initiative. I discuss this shift in this separate blog and report. MWC provided several valuable insights for business and technology leaders to align their mobile to their digital strategies:
-> Not everything that claims to be AI is true AI. Many vendors that claimed during MWC to be AI-proficient are in fact able to deliver true machine-learning solutions to generate transformative customer and operational insights. Most solutions that were branded as AI at MWC rely on preprogrammed responses and statistics rather than machine learning.
■ Text analytics makes sense of unstructured data.Unstructured data, such as tweets, call center logs, and social media comments, provide an increasingly important view into consumer sentiment and trends today. Text analytics software facilitates the analysis of this unstructured data, allowing companies to mine these new data sources for insights. We project that the text analytics software market will grow 16% annually over the next five years.
■ Geospatial analytics harnesses the power of maps.Traditionally, geospatial analytics has focused on mapping data from geographic information systems (GIS). Today, we see an ever-expanding array of sources of geospatial data connecting customers and locations.Forrester believes theinternet of things(IoT) presents a massive opportunity for companies to uncover insights from spatial relationships, as every connected device can be located by some means. We forecast a 10% compound annual growth rate in geospatial analytics over the next five years.
IBM hosted an artificial intelligent (AI) event at its Munich Watson IoT HQ, where it underlined its claim as a leading global AI and internet-of-things (IoT) platform providers in the enterprise context. AI and the IoT are both very important topics for enterprise users. However, there remains some uncertainty among enterprises regarding the exact benefits that both AI and IoT can generate and how businesses should prepare for the deployment of AI and IoT in their organizations.
One year into the launch of its Munich-based Watson IoT headquarters, IBM invited about one thousand customers to share an update of its AI and IoT activities to date. The IBM “Genius of Things” Summit presented interesting insights for both AI and IoT deployments. It underlined that IBM is clearly one of the leading global AI and IoT platform providers in the enterprise context. Some of the most important insights for me were that:
AI solutions require a partner ecosystem. IBM is well aware of the fact that it cannot provide IoT services on its own. For this reason, IBM is tapping into its existing partner ecosystem. Those partners are not only other vendors. IBM’s ecosystem partnership approach embraces also customers such as Schäffler, Airbus, Vaillant, or Tesco. The event demonstrated how far IBM has matured in living and breathing customer partnerships in the IoT solutions space. For instance, IBM’s cooperation with Visa regarding secure payment experiences for any device connected to the IoT is an example of a new quality of ecosystem partnership.
"This new initiative is amazing, right?"
- Just about every executive on the planet, pretty much every day
This year marks the ten-year anniversary of my return to the analyst world of Forrester from academia where I had spent a wonderful, several-year break. Leaving teaching was a hard call to make. Teaching smart students is very fulfilling, energizing, and informative. In fact, it was a student on the back row of one of my classes who first introduced me to YouTube in 2005. When I made the tough decision to return to analyst life, there were two things about teaching that I knew I wouldn't miss, however: 1) faculty pay, and 2) student uptalk.
Most will recall from when it was a topic of wide conversation that uptalk refers to arbitrarily raising the pitch of your voice at the end of a phrase or sentence, as if asking a question though usually when no question is present. Uptalk was rampant on college campuses back then along with the more standard verbal pause, "like," which I also was not sad to leave behind. I tried to teach my students to exert more effort in their use of words and phrasing; some benefitted from my lessons, others did not. In the end, uptalk, while not a reason to leave teaching behind, was also not a reason to stay.
At last, I thought, I can move into the corporate world, where everybody understands the power of words and exercises more discipline in their choice of just the right word for just the right occasion. Wrong. While I was out for several years engaging in energizing discussions with young, smart students, something happened in the business world. A pernicious fad had arisen and spread itself pandemic-like into every industry. That fad, that disease is the word, "right?".
Cincinnati, wedged between Kentucky and Indiana at the southwestern tip of the state, is where swinging Ohio blushes deep Red. Except for a few pockets of anomalous defiance that cling Blue, one of which boasts a Nordstrom store. Nordstrom, like a growing number of brands, finds itself caught in the drama of a political America at war with itself. The upscale retailer, facing boycotts from Left and Right, has been forced to pick one. And while it may appear that Nordstrom has picked Blue over Red, it’s actually picked Green above all else.
Some brands choose to affirm fealty to a cause, and while this choice may not be overtly political, it defines the brand along the political spectrum. Hobby Lobby's owners are unabashed about Christian principles in its mission statement. Domino's Pizza, until its sale to Bain Capital, was heavily influenced by its founder’s Catholic activism. But most brands tend not to have such a foundational imperative. Many find a purpose because experts have told them it will strengthen their brand equity. Taking a stand may appear to be a shallow calculated decision, bereft of heart, but it does deliver on the one ethical responsibility that management has – its fiduciary responsibility to its principals, the shareholders.
This week, NTT DATA brought together a select community of industry and financial analysts to introduce the new NTT DATA, following the recent acquisition of Dell Services. Though not a well-known brand to most, NTT DATA wants to change that and has launched a series of new campaigns to run on TV and in major publications such as The Economist.
This $4.3B+ services firm is a rollup of many acquisitions including Keane, Carlisle and Gallagher Consulting Group, Optimal, Intelligroup, Centerstance, and most recently Dell Services (which included the erstwhile Perot Systems) -- and forms the largest operating company of Japan-based NTT DATA Corporation. The provider's capabilities span consulting and technology implementation and support, including SAP and Oracle and Salesforce services. NTT DATA is strongest in healthcare and life sciences, financial services, manufacturing, and public sector. NTT DATA boasts clients all around the globe – from Japan to the US to Western Europe and beyond.
NTT DATA has a unique and leading partnership with Dell (due to the Dell Services acquisition) and has a network of companies in the broader NTT Group such as DOCOMO, Dimension Data, and NTT Comms – that it can seamlessly leverage for mobile, data center, and network needs. For example, NTT DATA has collaborated with NTT Communications and Dimension Data when clients seeks a broader range of hosting and infra services related to SAP HANA deployments. NTT Group also has substantial investments in R&D and innovation including in advanced technologies such as sensors and voice recognition and holograms, which NTT DATA can bring to bear for clients.
The discussions at eCommerce MoneyAfrica Confex last week definitely sharpen my African perspective on digital commerce. While behind in some ways the continent is miles ahead in others.
I was specifically impressed with some of the informal discussions on the rise of peer-to-peer commerce and engagement. Its potential impact on collapsing the value chain between supplier and consumer made me sit-up and listen as the resultant disruption –should p2p deliver even an iota of its promise- is staggering.
What is to become of large financial services enterprises and centralized trading organizations when the majority of services are provided by crowds and peers coordinated by software? Same for wholesalers and retailers? Consider a scenario where we order shopping lists via the future incarnations of Alexa and Siri. These agents then negotiate (on our behalf) for products directly from mulitple primary suppliers before “Uber-like” services collect from multiple locations; and deliver the requested product list at the exact time and location of convenience. How relevant will the supermarket be then?
It feels like a P2P wave is not too far off – and the vast majority of enterprise are blindly staring into a tsunami of disruption the likes of which they can't even imagine never mind prepare for.
This week I was chatting with a client, explaining how today's consumer has more power than ever before: More information, more choices, more flexibility for exercising preferences, and most especially, less risk associated with changing their behaviors. It's a theme people are already bought into -- Forrester calls it the age of the customer -- but it's also a theme that people are too quick to believe they understand without grasping the kinds of changes this requires for a business to serve such an empowered customer. To get to that extra level of awareness, during my conversation this week, I came up with a way to describe it that I call the puzzling consumer.
Back in the day, a company designed a puzzle for you and saw you as a missing piece. They defined a hole with a certain shape, one that was convenient to them based on the analog tools they had, the historic mindset of their industry and so on. Then the company invited you to reshape yourself to fit that hole.