Technology’s value to a business derives at least in part from its ability to increase productivity. The 1987 Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow demonstrated that technology increases the productivity of both capital and labor to create economic growth.
Some technologies radically reshape productivity. Take, for example, the cotton gin (1792), which fundamentally transformed labor. A quote from Wikipedia claims: “With a cotton gin, in one day a man could remove seed from as much upland cotton as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound a day.” By profoundly increasing worker productivity, the cotton gin revolutionized both the textile and agricultural industries.
We’re living through several technological revolutions of our own right now – in, for example, cloud services, mobility, and big data. One technology that leverages all three to some extent is the tablet, a device I follow very closely.
Tablets drive worker productivity through a variety of vectors. One of those vectors is portability. In our Forrsights Hardware Survey, we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon why they would do so. IT decision-makers’ #1 answer, at 62%? Because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.” This response eclipsed end user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers.
Windows 8 is a make or break product launch for Microsoft. Windows will endure a slow start as traditional PC users delay upgrades, while those eager for Windows tablets jump in. After a slow start in 2013, Windows 8 will take hold in 2014, keeping Microsoft relevant and the master of the PC market, but simply a contender in tablets, and a distant third in smartphones.
Microsoft has long dominated PC units, with something more than 95% sales. The incremental gains of Apple’s Mac products over the last five years haven’t really changed that reality. But the tremendous growth of smartphones, and then tablets, has. If you combine all the unit sales of personal devices, Microsoft’s share of units has shrunk drastically to about 30% in 2012.
It’s hard to absorb the reality of the shift without a picture, so in the report “Windows: The Next Five Years,” we estimated and forecast the unit sales of PCs, smartphones, and tablets from 2008 to 2016 to create a visual. As you can see below in the chart of unit sales, Microsoft has and will continue to grow unit sales of Windows and Windows Phone. But the mobile market grew very fast in the last five years, while Microsoft had tiny share in smartphones and no share in tablets.
If you look at the results by share of all personal devices, below, you can see how big a shift happened over the last five years as smartphone units exploded and the iPad took hold.
Are you or someone you know a Mac lover but brutally forced to use a PC at work? Don't fret or give up yet. Many firms such as Genentech are saying "no" to PCs and "yes" to Macs. And other firms are instituting BYOC (bring your own computer) programs that allow Mac followers to worship at work. Is this a trend that has legs, or have we entered the post-PC era where it doesn't really matter what hunk of hardware employees use?
Macs have less than a 10% share in enterprises. But, Senior Analyst and Forrester's resident Mac-whisperer Dave Johnson says that is changing and changing fast as a result of increasing BYOC programs and smaller firms that standardize on Macs.
Listen to Dave's authoritative, balanced analysis in this episode of TechnoPolitics to find out if Macs can make it in the enterprise.
There are more than 100 new features in Apple’s next version of its Mac operating system, dubbed “Mountain Lion” or Mac OSX. The ones that interest me most are those that advance the notion of post-PC productivity: experiences that help people be productive using multiple modes and devices. In particular, product strategists should pay attention to Apple’s:
iCloud integration of Docs and Notes. Mountain Lion users will be able to sync notes created in Apple’s Notes app, and documents created in its iWork apps, across Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Think of it as Amazon’s Whispersync for productivity. The catch is, though, that the synching is only within the same “app”—so if you create a document in Pages on your Mac, for example, you can sync it through iCloud to a Pages app on your iPad, but iCloud synching wouldn’t be compatible from Pages to another document editing app like Quickoffice. Third-party developers could use the Documents in the Cloud feature, but it would be sandboxed only within their app. This is an interesting twist for the many product strategists developing cloud-synched productivity apps. Evernote, for example, would have less value to users of ONLY Apple devices, since iCloud Notes synching is built into the OS. Evernote’s value proposition, and Quickoffice’s, will now revolve more around the multi-platform use case — users that need access to their stuff across iOS/Mac, Windows, and/or Android. Luckily, this is still a big market: Forrester’s data as of Q4 2011 show that 58% of Mac owners also own at least one PC, and 60% of iPad owners own another type of phone besides iPhone.
The name of Apple’s event today “Let’s Talk iPhone” indicates where much of the news focus is — on the new iPhone. But that focus distracts vendor strategists from understanding the deeper implications of Apple’s advances in online services and user experience.
Apple’s iCloud is an important new software platform and service that will integrate Apple’s customer experiences across their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac products. This first version creates a personal cloud experience of the individual’s work, personal, and purchased content being seamlessly available across all their Apple products, in contrast to the fragmented experience of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Beyond music plus contacts, calendar, and email, Apple is supporting iCloud push in iMessage, Safari’s Read It Later feature, and push distribution of photos. Be sure to watch Apple’s iCloud concept video — that really conveys the personal cloud idea.
The Siri feature is the beginning of a new user experience built around context that will eventually create a much more personal, intimate experience for using all of Apple’s mobile and Mac products. Both of these offerings will have enduring impact beyond the latest model of the iPhone. Though only supported today on the iPhone 4S, I believe it is the beginning of a new form of interacting with all mobile devices and PCs. Voice control and input have not been widely used despite long-standing offerings from Nuance and Microsoft’s Tellme, though they do have strong adoption in specific segments. Apple’s integration of the user’s context will make the experience compatible with mainstream users.
First off, let me say this: I hope that Steve Jobs' health improves, and that he comes out of whatever challenges he's going through in the best of health. He's an amazing, visionary leader of a dynamic company -- and he's also a person with a family. Let's all wish him well.
While famously a CEO, Steve Jobs is also, it should be known, a product strategist par excellence. He's clearly been involved, in a deep way, in the development of Apple's product ideas, product designs, business models, go-to-market strategies, and responses to competition. These are the job responsibilities of product strategists. In his (and Apple's) case, product strategy has risen to the very top of the organization.
Product strategists of two different flavors are wondering how they might be affected by his resignation as CEO (and concomitant request to become chairman):
Product strategists who compete with Apple. Product strategists at companies like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, HP, Dell, HTC, and similar firms wonder if Steve Jobs' change in role might benefit them. They actually shouldn't wonder: His departure from the CEO spot won't benefit them -- not for a very long time, at least. Apple's product development road map stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built. Jobs' departure won't affect Apple's product portfolio, quality, or competitiveness for a long time -- if ever.
For eBusiness leaders, software app stores represent a new and disruptive distribution channel for PC and Mac software.
Three weeks ago, Apple launched its App Store for Macs, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful app store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. With the new Mac app store, Apple is hoping to change the way Mac users discover, download and purchase software. At launch the store contained more than 1,000 apps, and Apple was keen to report an impressive 1 million downloads on the first day. For Mac users it’s a compelling story:
A convenient one-stop shop. Users can launch the app store right from the Mac dock, revealing a powerful set of discovery tools to browse and search the library of apps on offer. eCommerce best practices are employed throughout including search, faceted navigation, what’s hot, top sellers, favorites and customer reviews to create an intuitive discovery experience.
Frictionless purchase and install experience. Downloading and buying in the app store is a simple one-click process. By linking the checkout and payment process to users' iTunes accounts, Apple is able to streamline the buying process significantly versus a typical multipage checkout process common on software publishers' eCommerce sites. The apps in the Mac store have been packaged to comply with the Mac app install process, making the installation quick and seamless compared to the multistep install process common with most software.
Today Apple announced the new version of its iLife software, the new version of its Mac OS ("Lion"), and two new MacBook Air products. (I recommend PC Mag for great live blogging coverage.) I'm seeing five takeaways for product strategists of devices and content:
Software rules. It’s notable that Apple started off its conference talking about software, not hardware. It’s what you can do with the device that matters. Also, software is now officially known as “apps.” Software doesn’t come in boxes anymore, which make initiatives like HP’s new Download Store look outdated already.
Synchronization drives affinity across devices. Apple is smart to launch the App Store for Macs with apps that sync with iPads and iPhones. In doing so, Apple is trying to maximize the value consumers get from buying more than one Apple device. Companies that are trying to figure out how to compete with Apple on tablets should use their strengths in other product categories to drive their tablet strategies forward. RIM is already planning to do this, by creating the PlayBook as a Bluetooth-tethered device to a BlackBerry. Companies like Toshiba, Lenovo, and Sony should do this as well, bundling tablets with PCs (and TVs and game consoles, in Sony’s case) and have content sync across devices.
The next wave of PC design will be inspired by mobile devices. This isn’t just about apps, it’s also about the experience of using the device. Including a solid state storage drive (SSD) in new Macs give the devices the nearly instant-on, long battery life that consumers have come to expect from mobile devices but struggle to get in a PC.
A funny thing happened while we in IT were focused on ITIL, data center consolidation and standardization. The business went shopping for better technology solutions. We’ve been their go-to department for technology since the mainframe days and have been doing what they asked. When they wanted higher SLAs we invested in high availability solutions. When they asked for greater flexibility we empowered them with client-server, application servers and now virtual machines. All the while they have relentlessly badgered us for lower costs and greater efficiencies. And we’ve given it to them. And until recently, they seemed satisfied. Or so we thought.
Sure, we’ve tolerated the occasional SaaS application here and there. We’ve let them bring in Macs (just not too many of them) and we’ve even supported their pesky smart phones. But each time they came running to us for assistance when the technical support need grew too great.
Product strategists struggle with the issue of value all the time: What constitutes a revenue-maximizing price for my product, given the audience I’m targeting, the competition I’m trying to beat, the channel for purchase, and the product’s overall value proposition?
There are tools like conjoint analysis that can help product strategists test price directly via consumer research. However, there’s a bigger strategic question in the background: How can companies create and sustain consistently higher prices than their key competitors over the long term?
The Mac represents a good case study for this business problem. Macs have long earned a premium over comparable Windows PCs. Though prices for Macs have come down over time, they remain relatively more expensive, on average, than Windows-based PCs. In fact, they’ve successfully cornered the market on higher-end PCs: According to companies that track the supply side, perhaps 90% of PCs that sold for over $1,000 in Q4, 2009 were Macs.
Macs share common characteristics with Windows PCs on the hardware front – ever since Apple switched to Intel processors about four years ago, they’ve had comparable physical elements. But the relative pricing for Macs has remained advantageous to Apple. At the same time, the Mac has gained market share and is bringing new consumers into the Mac family – for example, about half of consumers who bought their Mac in an Apple Store in Q1, 2010 were new to the Mac platform. So Apple is doing something right here – providing value to consumers to make them willing to pay more.