I've spent the day at Microsoft's unveiling of Office 2013 at the Metreon in San Francisco. This product has been years in the making. It was conceived before the iPad hit the shelves, and its improvements are largely PC-focused--Excel, Word, and PowerPoint deliver richer and more fully-featured experiences on the PC than ever before. It's a product that has adapted to the multi-device lifestyle, with user-based subscription pricing (Office 365) and cloud-streamed Web apps (Office on Demand)--but the PC is still the star, and tablets are an afterthought. Office does have a mobile strategy, but that's explicitly not the focus of this event today. Even Microsoft's own Windows 8 platform won't get native Metro apps for all the Office programs at launch. (The version of Office that will be available for Windows 8 and Windows RT at launch is touch-optimized but won't use the Metro UI, except for Lync and OneNote, which will be native "Windows 8-style" apps.)
Office is a $20 billion business, and Office 2013 is the best version of Office yet. It will sell millions of licenses to consumers and enterprises (Office 2010 has sold more than 100 million copies, and that doesn't include the millions of users who use pirated versions of Office). But products at the peak of their success can still be vulnerable to disruption, and Office 2013 certainly is, especially to competitors who put mobile first, and who deliver less-good experiences for cheap or free.
The poorly kept secret that is the Google Nexus 7 tablet was just announced amid much developer applause and excitement. The device is everything it was rumored to be and the specs — something that only developers care about, of course — were impressive, including the 12 core GPU that will make the Nexus 7 a gaming haven. True, it's just another in a long line of tablets, albeit a $199 one that competes directly with Amazon's Kindle Fire and undercuts the secondary market for the iPad.
But as a competitor to the iPad, Nexus 7 isn't worth the digital ink I'm consuming right now.
But Google isn't just selling a device. Instead, the company wants to create a content platform strategy that ties together all of its ragtag content and app experiences into a single customer relationship. Because the power of the platform is the only power that will matter (see my recent post for more information on platform power). It's unfortunate that consumers barely know what Google Play is because it was originally called Android Market, but the shift to the Google Play name a few months back and the debut of a device that is, according to its designers, "made for Google Play," show that Google understands what will matter in the future. Not connections, not devices. But experiences. The newly announced Nexus 7, as a device, is from its inception subservient to the experiences — some of them truly awesome — that Google's Play platform can provide through it.
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.
Microsoft’s announcement that it is launching its own first-party hardware for a family of Windows tablets is welcome news: If you want a job done right, do it yourself. While Asus, Lenovo, Nokia, Samsung, and Toshiba are expected to launch their own Windows RT products this year, other major OEMs are notably absent from the list, either because they’re focused on x86 devices first or because they were locked out of the launch like HTC. Microsoft's Surface tablets will run on both chipsets.
Microsoft has so many assets to bring to its own hardware: Smartglass, a “Kinect camera,” Skype, Barnes & Noble Nook content, Microsoft Office (although that won’t be exclusive to Windows), just to name a few. While skeptics rightly criticize past Microsoft hardware failures like the Zune player, Xbox is a more recent example of resounding success. With the next generation of the Xbox “720” due out soon, Microsoft will have ample opportunity to bundle and promote the two products together and sell its tablets through the same consumer retail channels — although to start at least, the Surfaces will only be available at Microsoft Stores and online, which certainly limits adoption potential.
This product line marks a crucial pivot in Microsoft’s product strategy. It blends the Xbox first-party hardware model with the Windows ecosystem model. It puts the focus on the consumer rather than the enterprise. And it lets Microsoft compete with vertically integrated Apple on more even ground.
It's been three months since we published "Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement," and we've learned a lot by listening to CIO customers and industry professionals talk about the stories and strategy of mobile engagement.
The thing that leaves people scratching their heads is the mantra, Design for mobile first! "What does that mean, exactly?," they ask. "Is it about user interface design?" The industry answer is that it's about user experience design, but that's not quite right. Design for mobile first! is really about business design. Let's start with a thought experiment to re-imagine what's possible on a touchscreen device:
Imagine that your service is in your customer's pocket at all times. Imagine what you could do with that honor.
You could serve your customers in their moments of need. You could use data from device sensors and your own data to understand their context, the time of day, where they are, what they did last time, what they prefer, even their blood pressure, weight, and anxiety level. You could design your mobile experience to be snappy, simple, and built around an "action button" to (you guessed it) help them take the next most likely action.
With the right data and predictive analytics, you could anticipate your customer's next move and light up the correct action button before they even know they need it. You could serve them anywhere at any time. Not just give them self-service mobile access to your shrunken Web site or forms-based transaction system, but truly serve them by placing information and action and control into their hands.
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.
Analysts and press have paid much attention to the cannibalistic relationship of tablets and PCs — but there’s another screen whose relationship to the TV is worth considering. My colleague Annie Corbett and I published a new report today on the relationship between tablets and TVs. A few key takeaways from the report:
Tablets complement TV in the living room. Tablets are displacing PCs and smartphones as the “couch computer” of choice: 85% of US tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV, and according to Nielsen, 30% of total tablet time is spent while watching TV. The tablet’s complementary nature to the living room TV gives a raison d’etre to “second screen” apps like Miso, GetGlue, and Viggle that engage consumers in conversation and content related to what’s on the big screen.
Tablets also turn TV into a “dumb” device. A surprisingly high percentage of tablet owners — 18% — say they connect their tablets to their TVs via HDMI or VGA cables (the second- and third-gen iPad can do this, as can many Android tablets, but the Amazon Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets cannot). As much as Samsung and others have promoted “Smart TVs,” the reality is that consumers with tablets think their tablets are even smarter, and at least some of the time prefer to watch the content from their small device on the big screen.
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.
Apple has already announced that it’s got 100 million signups for its personal cloud service, iCloud, and repeated that today. Now Apple supports movies — in addition to TV shows and music — in iCloud. Apple added PhotoStream to iCloud support in Apple TV, including the previous black Apple TV, with the new Apple TV software update. With the new iOS iPhoto app, I believe Apple will use iCloud to sync albums and the new journal information that displays weather information from the date a photo was taken — although full support will probably require an update or new version of iPhoto on the Mac.
Apple’s vision of personal cloud deeply integrates across Apple products and a wide range of personal and purchased content, including books and iTunes U-class materials. It’ll be interesting to see if the company opens up any API access. My hunch is that Apple will create tools and an app store for iCloud to interact with the personal content in the service rather than do large-scale API access.
As my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps so aptly observes: the third generation of iPad is a gut renovation masquerading as incremental innovation. The new iPad looks basically the same but now carries a snappy 4G radio and a much more powerful graphics processor than its predecessor. The big hardware advance lies in the components, particularly in the graphics processor to handle the high-fidelity Retina display and rapid-response touchscreen control. How will an iPad with much better graphics and a faster network connection affect the enterprise?
Some Forrester data from our workforce surveys and forecasts to set the stage: