Wearable computing devices (like Google Glass, Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand, iHealth, and Samsung Galaxy Gear, among others) have made a big splash in the consumer market. My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps’ analysis shows that Google Glass could be the next big App Platform. Fitness wearables might be a bit overhyped, but it’s nevertheless becoming common to see people sporting Nike+ FuelBand devices everywhere you go. No less a tech industry luminary than Mary Meeker recently declared wearables the next wave of computing (see slide 49).
On September 23rd, Microsoft launched its next generation Surface and Surface Pro devices with a splashy media event in New York City. The improvements to the hardware and software of both models are largely incremental – though that doesn’t obviate the value of these releases, since gradual innovation has long been an industry hallmark, particularly for Microsoft.
WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN:
Let's start by looking at what didn't happen:
First, the struggling Surface (which runs Windows RT 8.1, though this fact is downplayed) hasn’t disappeared from the lineup, despite poor uptake and Microsoft’s $900 million financial write-down last quarter. It's been given a sucessor, the Surface 2.
Second, despite the hype around 7" and 8" Windows 8.1 devices (for example, from Acer today... and many other OEMs in coming months), Microsoft hasn't chosen to enter this market. Given the popularity of smaller tablets, this qualifies as a bit of a surprise.
Third, there was no radical rethinking. No crazy, innovative, out-of-the-box disruption. That's not necessarily bad, but it's noteworthy.
I recently spoke with metaio, an augmented reality solutions provider based in Munich, Germany. The company develops both enterprise- and consumer-oriented augmented reality solutions for smartphones, tablets, and -- increasingly -- for Google Glass.
Although metaio creates augmented reality applications for a wide variety of usage scenarios – enterprise tools to assist assembly lines, factory floors, design studios, and consumer shopping experiences for IKEA and Macy’s – I’m particularly struck by the potential of augmented reality for use by sales reps.
SCENARIO 1: AUGMENTED REALITY AS A SALES ENABLEMENT TOOL
At their best, augmented reality tablet applications can reshape the entire sales process. Metaio created an app for Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating to create a new interaction model between salesperson and homeowner. Prospective buyers considering Mitsubishi’s mini-split, ductless central air systems must install wall-mounted units in various rooms of their home. “The number one question prospective buyers ask is, ‘what is that unit going to look like on my wall’?” said Sudhanshu Kapoor, Business Development Manager at metaio.
Using the augmented reality app with an Apple iPad, homeowners receive a vivid representation of what the unit will look like, as this video demonstrates.
Results: (1) A richer customer experience during the sales cycle. (2) Allayed fears among buyers who worry what the units will look like. (3) A faster sales cycle, performed on site. (4) Higher close rates and revenues. (5) Lower printing costs for sales collateral.
Infrastructure professionals are now all too familiar with the dynamics of bring-your-own (BYO) technology and devices: Their workers walk into the office with consumer technology all the time. This post is one in a continuing series on how consumer retail stores act as de facto extensions of the IT department in today's BYO world.
The rumors have abounded for more than six months: unconfirmed whispers that Google will open up its own major chain of consumer retail stores. The company has dipped its toes into the retail waters with Chromebook-focused kiosks in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past few years, with installations inside larger retailers like Best Buy, Dixons, and Currys.
A Google Kiosk in the U.K.: Not Yet Reaching Revolutionary Heights
Yet while kiosks – particularly those staffed by Google employees – offer some value in promoting Google’s products and services, the company has a much greater opportunity for late 2013 into 2014. Kiosks aren't going to foment a retail revolution. To quote the popular Star Wars geek meme, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."
No, it's time for Google to think big – to go gangbusters. To do something nobody has done as well previously. Why is this imperative?
Microsoft’s recent purchase of Nokia affirmed the company’s entry into the hardware business, which now forms a core component of its “devices and services” strategy. That journey began with entertainment devices (like the market-leading Xbox and the now-defunct Zune), continued with the Surface and Surface Pro Windows 8 devices, and reaches its logical conclusion with all of Nokia’s smartphones.
Microsoft’s move cements and validates a number of trends in the computing industry:
All the major platform players have gotten into hardware. Apple is of course the most vertically integrated platform player, creating hardware, operating systems, and software for its ecosystem. Google is in the hardware game too, having acquired Motorola in 2011, partnering to produce Nexus 4, 7, and 10 devices, and, most tantalizingly for the future, selling Google Glass. Amazon makes its Kindle and Kindle Fire HD devices, which are tightly coupled with its content and services. Even Facebook tentatively experimentedwith hardware in its collaboration with HTC on a Facebook Home phone.