Sarah Rotman Epps is the senior analyst on my team who leads our research on tablets (and consumer computing) for product strategy professionals. She’s written extensively about the future of tablets but also about the characteristics of software and media experiences that succeed on tablets. (Forrester clients can read “Best Practices for Media Apps,” for instance). At the same time, I have written about how mass customization is finally the future of products in an age when customer-centricity reigns.
Tablets and configurators – the typical tool that consumers use to co-design customized products – are a match made in heaven. They share a number of characteristics that product strategists should consider when developing mass-customized product interfaces. For example, they both:
Yesterday, Apple announced that it had sold 4.19M iPads in its fiscal Q4 2010, up from 3.27M in Q3. That means it sold more iPads than Macs in Q4, even though quarterly Mac sales were the highest they've ever been: 3.89M, a 27% unit sales increase from the year-ago quarter. Given that calendar Q4 sales typically account for 35%-40% of consumer electronics sales, we could be looking at 15M+ iPads sold globally for Apple in its first, three-quarter year. I am not the only analyst saying "Wow" right now.
There were tons of interesting tidbits in Apple's earnings call yesterday but I want to focus on a two points that I know are plaguing product strategists in this area. In particular, Steve Jobs attacked:
I spoke last week at The Big Money’s Untethered 2010 conference in NYC. I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but I really enjoyed seeing Phil McKinney, CTO of the Personal Systems Group at HP, interviewed by James Ledbetter. He wowed the audience with a little show-and-tell: a flexible screen display printed on a mylar scroll that’s bi-stable (meaning that, like an E Ink screen, it can use very little power to display text) but can also display video at 60 hertz.
[Photo courtesy of ZDNet UK (not from Untethered, but it’s the same demo)]
According to McKinney, we’re about 24 to 36 months away from seeing this display make it into products on the market. Imagine walls papered with the stuff, furniture covered with it. Your “device” would be your portable connectivity, which would trigger your data to appear on one of these screens in your home, office, or public space as you approach. I’m envisioning something that looks like the world in “Splinter Cell,” which my gamer husband has been playing on our Xbox 360:
As Apple announces it has sold more than 2 million iPads (no indication of US/global split), would-be competitors are unveiling their tablets at Computex in Taiwan. With so many products in the mix (and so few on the market), it can be hard for a product strategist to keep up with it all. So here’s Forrester’s quick guide to the tablets that are taking on Apple in the near future (note: this list doesn’t include devices that may have a tablet form factor but are primarily eBook readers, such as Acer’s planned 7” Android tablet. It also excludes tablets that are more rumor than reality. And I know just by putting together this list I will leave some off, and if that’s the case leave a comment and tell me which ones you think I should add. Okay, enough caveats!):
“Curation is the positive flip side of Apple’s locked-down approach, decried as a major, negative development in computing by many observers, present company included. Who would have thought that in 2010, so many people would pay good money for a computer that only runs approved software?
It runs counter to the idea, prized by geeks, that computing equals freedom. If it were Microsoft doing this, we’d all be storming the Gates with torches and pitchforks.”
I don’t think that you have to exercise Apple’s level of control (e.g., not letting developers use third-party tools like Flash, not approving apps that threaten your business model, etc.) to create a compelling, curated experience — an experience in which content and functionality are deliberately restricted to serve a new form factor like a touchscreen tablet or a wearable device.
iPad mania has reached full tilt: Apple announced that it has sold more than 1 million units, and Apple’s competitors (like RIM and potentially Google) are rushing to get their own products out (or not, as the case may be for HP). But there’s something very significant about the device that has nothing to do with how many units it will sell. What’s revolutionary about the iPad is the experience that it delivers: The iPad is a new kind of PC that ushers in an era of Curated Computing.
Forrester defines “Curated Computing” as:
A mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences.
In the weeks since the iPad launch, there’s been a spate of rumors, “leaks,” and PR pushes around would-be competitors to the Apple iPad. By the end of the year, consumers will be able to choose from an array of multimedia touchscreen tablets including tablets that:
Hello world…I’m back from maternity leave and taking on a new coverage area for Forrester: I’m expanding from covering eReaders to covering all consumer PCs. This makes a lot of sense given the evolving nature of the PC, and the convergence of eReaders with other devices like tablets and netbooks. My colleagues, James McQuivey and Nick Thomas, will be picking up more of Forrester’s coverage of media and content strategy, while I focus on the hardware and software. It’s particularly appropriate that this change coincides with the launch of the Apple iPad—a device that, more than any other to date, blurs the line between device categories.
So in the interest of getting right back to business, here’s our call: