"When will Google launch a bank and what will it look like?" is a question I frequently hear from our banking clients. Google’s activities in digital wallets and payments, as well as its reputation as one of the most disruptive firms in the market, have obviously left many banking executives worried. Unfortunately, they’re asking the wrong question.
I’ll leave aside the issue of whether Google or perhaps Apple or Amazon should be the focus of this increased attention. Each of these players has its unique strengths and growth plans, and some of these correlate more or less closely with financial services. That’s not what makes the question so wrong. As I write in my new report, it’s the assumptions that are faulty here; assumptions that reveal precisely the type of legacy mindset that makes many retail banks so vulnerable to disruption.
Many retail financial firms still haven’t grasped the full potential of digital disruption. They think that new competitors will use their digital might to beat them at their own game, be that through more efficient processes, brilliant algorithms or better user experience. While these three things do matter, what matters most is the purpose which they serve. As I have written elsewhere, digital disruptors like Google are disruptive because they don’t play by the rules. Instead, they use digital technologies to deliver better or entirely new ways of meeting customer needs, often bypassing regulation and re-defining a given industry in the process.
You’ve probably already seen the announcement of the partnership between IBM and Apple; Forrester clients can read more about it here, along with our deeper analysis.
While I can’t comment on the trends in North America and Europe, I know that there are some interesting dynamics in the enterprise mobility space in Asia Pacific at the moment. The penetration of technologies like BYOD, customer mobility, and employee-facing mobile apps has been relatively low in many Asian countries, putting the region’s companies behind their North American peers for the most part. I still speak with CIOs and marketing leaders about why they should have a mobility strategy or how they can help their employees stay productive regardless of location.
Don’t get me wrong: There are a lot of smartphones and tablets — particularly iPads — in businesses across the region. But many of these devices, especially the tablets, were personally acquired by employees — so they’re an “accessory tool,” not a core productivity tool; often, corporate tech management doesn’t support them and app-dev teams don’t develop for them.
Apple’s new "Extensibility" feature took somewhat of a backseat to a host of exciting new developer tools announced at Apple’s developer conference a week ago. I’d like to briefly highlight its importance to the enterprise.
In short, Extensibility makes it easy for apps to talk to each other, facilitating more complex mobile workflows and easy access to data stored in personal cloud services. It will spur app developers work together to speed the advancement of what employees will be able to accomplish on mobile.
To elaborate, Extensibility will enable:
Complex inter-app workflows for mobile employees. More advanced content creation apps have been slow to develop on mobile platforms, in part due to lack of app interoperability. Think of the multiple software tools we use to pull a contract from email, sign it, and send it back on a PC. Data must similarly flow across a variety of apps to accomplish this on mobile. Apple has done little to address this, until now.
Access to the personal cloud in enterprise apps. Employees rely on personal cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote to manage an expanding array of digital content online. But these repositories don’t integrate with the enterprise off the bat. Extensibility can act as a router to connect personal data with the apps your employees use every day on the job.
My colleague Ted Schadler explained here how Apple's iOS 8 focuses on developers building new mobile moments.
Once again, Apple increases the value of its ecosystem and will create more stickiness and loyalty by enabling developers and marketers to build new app experiences. The first building block to tap into the new opportunities that wearables and connected objects are opening up is to create a service ecosystem. That’s the reason we haven't heard any product announcements yesterday.
From a marketing standpoint, Apple introduced some new App Store features for developers, like app previews and app bundles. Marketers will be able to let users buy multiple games or apps at once and for a discounted price. App listings can now include feature video demonstrations to showcase the value of your app. The new “Explore” tab - including the trending topics and the vertical scrolling - will also facilitate app discovery.
However, in comparison with the great iOS differentiated innovations announced to create new app experiences (e.g., HealthKit, HomeKit, Swift, TouchID, and open APIs), Apple mostly implemented incremental changes to its App Store marketing. Most marketers sill complain about Apple’s black box and the lack of transparency about Apple App Store’s ranking algorithm and ratings and review systems.
The rumors turn out to be true. Apple is buying Beats for $3 billion, just slightly less money than originally suggested. Now that it's official, I'm confidently reiterating my conviction that Apple cannot be spending this unprecedented sum on Beats for either its headphones or its subscription music business. Because while the company may be worth that much, it's not worth that much to Apple, the world's most innovative consumer electronics and consumer software maker. Because choosing to buy Beats purely for its existing businesses and revenues would represent Apple significantly lowering its sights, aiming to graduate right from innovative leader of life-changing technology to kinda-cool company that makes stuff teenagers like. Not that selling to teenagers isn't a good thing; it can certainly bring in money, but it doesn't typically generate long-lasting brand relationships.
To be clear, if Apple is buying Beats purely for its headphones or music subscription business, then Apple is making a mistake. However, there are those of us who still believe that Apple hasn't thrown in the towel. And why would it? There are still many consumer markets to dominate — entire markets like wearables and home automation tech and even in-car experiences, all of which are in their infancy — and Apple still has the smarts, the brand, and certainly the money to make a run for any of those things, if not all of them. So why would Apple instead sign up to become a holding company for fashionable but not life-changing brands?
Apple's reported earnings revealed a strong product mix contrast: iPhone sales increased 17% in units and 14% in revenues, while iPad sales decreased 16% in units and 13% in revenues. What accounts for this contrast? Is the iPad's growth trajectory broken?
Simply put, the iPhone's addressable market has only continued to increase with Apple's continued international expansion. Only recently, for example, has Apple broken out in Japan (still the world's third-largest economy); only a few months after releasing the 5S and 5C across all three of Japan's largest carriers, iPhone models made up 9 of the top 10 phones sold. And for iPhone, unlike iPad, the route to sales comes through carrier relationships -- of which Apple has landed more recently.
By contrast, the iPad's year-over-year results lagged because:
Price competition in tablets has been fierce. With Android tablets under $200 now commonplace -- including Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX -- Apple's premium pricing is catching up to it.
Replacement rates are lower than expected. Why are prices catching up to iPad now? Because replacement rates haven't been as quick as with iPhone. The pace at which people purchase smartphones is quicker than that of iPads, even among the Apple faithful. This means that Apple is seeking an ever expanding market -- people without tablets. For later adopters, who didn't see the big deal early on, price matters more than for earlier adopters.
Google acquired Nest for billions, and then Facebook spent several more billion on Oculus VR. We’re only a few months into 2014, and already billions have been spent by some of the world’s largest digital players, with each of these companies eager to own the next big thing. Mobile is right here, right now, but everyone knows that very soon, there will be something else. But what else?
In the battle to find and claim the next device that everyone will want, these companies will soon realize that next big thing is not a thing at all: It’s your voice.
Voice control suffers from the same things plaguing augmented reality or virtual reality: It has been around for so long that we think we know what it is. Any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation knows that voice control involves invoking an invisible computer with a command, “Computer,” followed by a query, “How many Klingons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Maybe that’s a question you don’t want the answer to, but the computer — as voiced by Majel Barrett in the TV series — would know it.
It’s possibly a long history of popular depictions of voice control that made us collectively show so much enthusiasm for Siri when Apple first debuted it in 2011. It’s also partly to blame for why we quickly turned on Siri, declaring her soothing semi-robotic tones to be merely amusing at best or irrelevant at worst.
When Microsoft recently announced its long-rumored Cortana voice service for Windows Phone 8.1 as a catch-up to both Siri and Google Now’s own voice interface, the interest was modest, perhaps because if Siri hasn’t changed the way millions of Apple users use millions of Apple devices, how can Microsoft initiate a wave of behavior change when it has so few Windows Phone users?
When Clippy, Microsoft’s paper-clip assistant, disappeared in 1998, it was hardly missed; it was both annoying and offered little value to users. Zip forward 16 years: Microsoft has just introduced Cortana, a new personal digital assistant that the firm will launch on Windows Phone in the coming months. Powered by Bing, and about two years in the making, Cortana will be important if Microsoft gets it right. Here’s why it’s an exciting development:
Mobile-first is a growing enterprise strategy. The whole idea of creating a mobile-first enterprise strategy has taken root in many enterprises, as they recognize that users now expect any information or service they desire to be available to them, in context and at their moment of need. Users are cognitively and behaviorally ready to embrace wearable technology as an extension of mobility — and to weave it into their business processes. My colleague JP Gownder shares his views on wearables here.
Lenovo’s made three strategic moves in just one month: 1) Buying IBM’s x86 server business, 2) Reorging into four business units – most importantly including one called “ecosystem and cloud group”, and 3) Buying Motorola Mobility. The later two are driven by the mobile mind shift – the increasing expectation of individuals that they can access information and service, in context, in their moment of need. Smartphones are central to that – as are the ecosystem and cloud services that deliver value through the smartphones.
Lenovo has stated intentions to become a leading smartphone maker globally, building on their leading position in the China market. Buying Motorola Mobility is a much quicker way for Lenovo to access the premium smartphone market with a leading Google Android (not forked Android) offering - than trying to do it with their existing design teams and brand reach. Using Motorola, just as Lenovo used the IBM ThinkPad brand, to gain quick credibility and access to desirable markets, and built critical mass makes a lot of sense.
But Motorola has not been shooting the lights out with designs or sales volumes in smartphones. So the value is simply in brand recognition to achieve market recognition faster - and to dramatically expand the design and marketing team with talent experienced at US and Western markets.