Plato used to define the human species as "featherless bipeds". This thought came to me this afternoon as I stood looking at the Venus de Milo in The Louvre (I'm in Paris for Forrester's I&O Forum) and pondered what Microsoft was about to unleash on all of us. Why, might you ask? Well, as the story goes, Diogenes (the guy who invented cynicism) plucked a chicken, brought it into Plato's Academy and declared: "Behold: I have brought you a man!" After this incident, "with broad flat nails" was added to Plato's definition.
It struck me that that's pretty much what Microsoft and its OEM partners have been doing to us with tablets for a number of years now. "Behold! I have brought you a tablet!" But of course, now we know that a "tablet" is a device that we can use with nothing more than fingers with broad, flat nails.
But there's more. Microsoft's ability to respond in its modern day Peloponnesian War with Apple, has been hampered by three things:
The PC OEM vendors remain one (maybe two!) steps behind Apple in making well-differentiated hardware. To wit: Ultrabooks are just now beginning to match the MacBook Air, and no one else has a Retina Display in their lineups.
They haven't had an operating system for tablets without styli or mice, or that will run longer than a few hours away from a power outlet.
The upgrade process for Windows PCs is labor-intensive. IT organizations upgrade operating systems only when Microsoft forces them to, so end users are frustrated. Nearly half of organizations are still on Windows XP 11 years after its release.
Tablets aren’t the most powerful computing gadgets. But they are the most convenient.
They’re bigger than the tiny screen of a smartphone, even the big ones sporting nearly 5-inch screens.
They have longer battery life and always-on capabilities better than any PC — and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop.
And tablets are very good for information consumption, an activity that many of us do a lot of. Content creation apps are appearing on tablets. They’ll get a lot better as developers get used to building for touch-first interfaces, taking advantage of voice input, and adding motion gestures.
They’re even better for sharing and working in groups. There’s no barrier of a vertical screen, no distracting keyboard clatter, and it just feels natural to pass over a tablet, like a piece of paper, compared to spinning around a laptop.
Apple launched its next-gen tablet, the new iPad, yesterday at a San Francisco event. Among the standout features includes a Retina display with 2048×1536 resolution, meaning that the new iPad has 1 million more pixels than a 1080p HDTV. Further, the device packs a dual-core CPU, a quad-core A5X graphics processor, LTE support, worldwide 3G support, and 10-hour battery life (nine hours on 4G). I expect that these upgrades will undoubtedly be enough to attract consumers and enterprises alike and further consolidate Apple’s resounding tablet market leadership globally.
So what will be the impact of the new iPad on the rapidly evolving telecom industry? I believe it will disrupt the market due to the following:
The As will rule the tablet market. The tablet market is moving towards a likely duopoly between Apple and Amazon due to their aggressive pricing strategies. Through Kindle Fire, Amazon has wiped out the competition in the sub-$199 price range while with the new iPad, Apple will knock out competitors starting from $499 upwards. Moreover, as iPad 2 will coexist alongside the latest incarnation and Apple will slash iPad 2 prices to $399, it reduces the market play of other OEMs such as Samsung even further.
When revisiting our 2011 mobile trends, Julie Askand I concluded that many, if not all, of them were still evolving and relevant. We have placed the main new trends for 2012 into four categories: business, ecosystem, consumer expectations, and technology.
Mobile Is A Key Business Strategy Enabler
Product strategists must work with other roles in the organization to:
Develop a scalable approach to delivering mobile services. Organizations will need a strategic approach to building and spreading institutional knowledge as well as governance for the development of mobile services.
Craft a mobile strategy that extends beyond phones. The emergence of tablets in particular will require a different approach than smartphones.
Differentiate on the delivery rather than the content of mobile services. In 2012, “how” mobile services are delivered will differentiate them — not what they offer.
My blog post Apple Infiltrates The Enterprise: 1/5 Of Global Info Workers Use Apple Products For Work! got lots of visibility because of how hot Apple is right now, but our data is much broader than just Apple. Our Forrsights Workforce and Hardware surveys have lots more data about all types of PCs and smart devices that information workers use for work, including types of operating systems — and we even know about what personal-only devices they have.
For example, as of the fall of 2011, the top three smartphone OSes have essentially the same share of the installed base of smartphones used for work by information workers across the globe (full-time workers in companies with 20 or employees who use a PC, tablet, or smartphone for work one hour or more per day). See the chart below and the reference in the Monday, January 30, New York Times article on Blackberry in Europe.
Carrier IQ software, which consists of embedded software on mobile devices and server-side analytics applications, enables mobile operators and device OEMs to understand in detail a wide range of performance and usage characteristics of mobile services and devices. These include both network-facing services such as core voice and data offerings, as well as non-network-facing capabilities such as music players, cameras and other side loaded media, in order to assist with product and service development and roll-out [emphasis added].
Customer Intelligence is not a spying operation. The promise of CI is not reductively commercial. Instead, proper CI practices help businesses – with their customers' consent – to understand the preferences and needs of their customers. Firms also use CI processes and technologies to determine and enforce an optimal and respectful relationship with customers.
What lessons does the Carrier IQ incident highlight?
CI pros have an ethical responsibility to customers.CI pros are customer advocates after all. They cannot truly represent customers unless they also help their employers understand appropriate boundaries for data capture. Helping customers also helps businesses, protecting firms from the risk of public outrage and litigation. CI pros: Help your employers understand when data capture goes too far.
Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Apple’s iPhone and Android’s growing traction — more than 550,000 Android devices are activated each day — many product strategists tend to assume that smartphones are a mass-market phenomenon.
The reality is that in a global population with more than 5 billion subscriptions, smartphones are still niche. However, in the US and some European countries, smartphone penetration is racing past 25%; smartphones are going mainstream, albeit at a varying pace across the globe.
Consumer product strategists should anticipate the consequences of moving from a smartphone target audience of early adopters to one that is more mainstream.
When targeting the second wave of smartphone users, we believe strategists should:
Design specific mobile products by better understanding new smartphone owners. New segments of smartphone owners will emerge, with a much more diverse profile than the first wave of smartphone early adopters. One way to obtain more detailed information about these consumers is to use the basic connectivity of the smartphone to establish the beginnings of a digital customer relationship. The promise of ongoing product upgrades is one incentive that may convince these new customers to share their information, but free content such as an application is more likely to win their confidence.
Carefully monitor new smartphone owners’ usage. There is always a huge gap between the features available on a smartphone and the actual use of these features. It is critical to constantly analyze how smartphone users are using their devices; this will allow strategists to optimize the road maps not only for new devices but also for those products and services to be delivered to the second wave of smartphone users.
It’s a couple of days after Google announced its intentions to jump headfirst into the hardware business. By now everyone — including my colleagues Charles Golvin and John McCarthy — have expressed their thoughts about what this means for Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and all of the Android-based smartphone manufacturers. This is not another one of those blog posts.
What I really want to highlight is something more profound, and more relevant to all of you out there who might classify your day job as “product strategy.” To you, the Google/Moto deal is just one signal — however faint — coming through the static noise of today’s M&As, IPOs, and new product launches. But if you tune in and listen carefully, two things become crystal clear:
The lines between entire industries are blurring. Google — and some of the other firms I mentioned above — are just high profile examples of companies that are diversifying their product portfolio, and the very industries in which they play. There are several instances of this over the past "digital decade." What's different now is the increased frequency of the occurrences.