Clients frequently ask me about the big picture: How is consumer computing changing, and what’s coming next? My new Forrester report, published today, takes on that question. It’s called “Smart Body, Smart World,” and it describes the paradigm shift in computing that we see happening now. Computing has evolved from the mainframe to the desktop to the shoulder bag to the pocket, and now computing is taking over new frontiers: Our physical bodies and the physical environments we inhabit.
When we look at new, sensor-laden devices (SLDs) like the larklife or Progressive Snapshot,we see the beginnings of a new phase of personal computing that will transform the way we live and work. Sensor-collected data, when combined with intelligence and advice, will influence our decision-making and self-expression in domains as diverse as health, finance, shopping, navigation, relationships, work, and communication. SLDs could take any shape; in this report, we talk about them in two broad categories:
Wearables. “Wearables”—devices worn in or on the body—include accessories like Google Glass or the Nike+ FuelBand, but can also include electronics actually enmeshed in our skin and organs like the “electronic tattoos” developed by Nanshu Lu at the University of Texas at Austin, or the heads-up display contact lenses developed by researchers at Washington University (one of whom, Babak Parviz, is now leading Project Glass at Google).
If Apple had a motto for its product strategy, it would be, "Don't take anything for granted." The new iPhone and iPods are re-formed from the guts to the skin: Faster processors, faster connection speeds, better cameras, more microphones, new connectors, taller displays, and they're thinner and lighter to boot. iTunes and the App Store are redesigned to feel more modern and help with content discovery. These product improvements are aimed at convincing consumers that there's enough value to upgrade from their current Apple products, as well as growing market share by convincing non-iPhone users that it's finally time to trade in their BlackBerrys, Droids, and flip phones and join the iOS fold. Apple will be successful on both fronts -- not just because its products are well designed, but also because Apple's product marketing is on point. It will be the fastest iPhone rollout ever, available in 100 countries on 240 carriers by the end of the year. Older models of the iPhone will be cheap (4S for $99 with contract) or free (4 with contract)--including on Verizon and Sprint in the US, not just AT&T, which will positively impact market share.
But I think there's a more interesting story to be told than just market share. These products tell us a lot about Apple's vision for the post-PC future. Apple has sold more than 400 million iOS devices through June 2012, and it has more than 435 million iTunes accounts with one-click purchasing, so it will certainly have great influence over the post-PC experience of many millions of consumers. And here's what that experience is likely to be:
One of the most popular questions clients ask me is, “When will tablets be used for productivity, rather than just consumption?” My answer: They already are, but in different ways than we have come to expect from the PC era. As I discuss in a new Forrester report, tablets, smartphones, and future devices like wearables are tools of a new era of post-PC productivity.
Combining the native capabilities of post-PC devices with cloud connectivity yields powerful new productivity scenarios that weren’t available in the PC era, such as:
On-screen, in-person presentations. With a laptop, the screen is a wall that divides participants; tablets enable participants to share a screen, and their lightweight, instant-on form factor makes spontaneous presentations using apps like Slideshark possible in hallways or trade show floors — not just conference rooms.
Scanning, processing, and sharing from a single, portable device. The combination of a high-quality camera combined with the ability to annotate and share documents condenses document workflow, using apps like DocScanner and PaperPort by Nuance Communications.
Remote, anywhere document access, editing, and sync. Before its acquisition by Google, Quickoffice generated $30 million in revenue in 2011 with products that allow users to remotely access, search, edit, sync, and share documents across devices, platforms, and cloud services.
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.
Wearable devices, or “wearables” for short, have enormous potential for uses in health and fitness, navigation, social networking, commerce, and media. Imagine video games that happen in real space. Or glasses that remind you of your colleague’s name that you really should know. Or paying for a coffee at Starbucks with your watch instead of your phone. Wearables will transform our lives in numerous ways, trivial and substantial, that we are just starting to imagine.
In a new Forrester report out today, we argue that wearables will move mainstream once they get serious investment from the “big five” platforms — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook — and their developer communities, and we give advice to product strategists who want to stay ahead of the wearables curve. Key takeaways:
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.
It's that time of year again! Next week I'm headed to Las Vegas for CES 2012, along with 140,000 other people (bring your hand sanitizer!). Here's what I'll be looking for among the masses of gadgets:
Tablets: Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows 8, and all the rest. Last year, there were more than 80 tablets that debuted at CES. This year, I expect the field to be whittled down some, but there will be plenty of CE manufacturers strutting their stuff. Look for new Android 4.0 tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, Acer, and others. Will they sell better than last year? I don't expect to see any barn-burners, but there's reason to be optimistic: The percentage of US tablet shoppers who say they prefer Android as the operating system on that tablet doubled from 9% to 18% between January and September 2011. Meanwhile, the percentage of tablet shoppers who say they prefer Windows decreased from 46% to 25% — still more than those who prefer Android. We'll be looking for the dazzling Windows 8 demos at the Microsoft booth and elsewhere. In addition, we'll be looking at how smaller companies are using Android as an enabling platform but building their own curated experience on top. For example, I'm meeting with Jean-Yves Hepp to check out the Qooq, an Android-based tablet optimized for cooking and kitchen use that's selling well in France.
With CES 2012 a month away, it’s a good time to look ahead at what’s next for consumer technology product strategy. All eyes have been on tablets: Apple sold 40 million iPads in just 18 months, with 11 million sold in this past quarter alone. With the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet finding their own successful markets, it’s easy to see why tablets attract so much attention and excitement. But computing evolution doesn’t end here—tablets, while still growing rapidly, are not the final form factor. We’ve identified these five form factors as the best candidates for what comes next, which we describe in more detail in a new report for clients:
Wearables. Wearable devices are devices worn on or near the body that sense and relay information. The Lark sleep tracker and BodyMedia wristband both sync with iOS devices and target health and fitness scenarios. WIMM Labs' wristwatch runs on Android software, and targets multiple scenarios including news, social networking, health, and personal finance.
Minutes after the Wall Street Journal reported that HP plans to spin off its PC business, I'm already getting press inquiries. There's still a lot we don't know, and I hope we'll learn more on the earnings call tonight. Based on what we know now, here's my take on what product strategists at HP are thinking:
HP's PC product strategy is squeezed by two macro-trends: The commodification of the PC market, led by Asian manufacturers like Asus, and the transition to a post-PC era, led by Apple, Inc. (formerly Apple Computer). HP is the biggest PC manufacturer in the world, but its position will rapidly decline if it can't adjust its product strategy to combat both trends.
It makes sense that HP shareholders don’t want its low-margin PC business dragging down its high-margin enterprise services business. As for HP’s chances as a standalone PC manufacturer, it’s tough to be a PC maker in a post-PC world. HP’s competition is Apple on the high end, which has justified higher margins based on non-hardware offerings: service (Genius Bar, Apple Store reps), channel (Apple Store), and software (iTunes/App Store). On the other end, all of HP’s competitors, other than Dell, are based in Asia and have very different manufacturing and labor economics. HP has been caught up in a race to the bottom as the PC market has commodified. Now it needs either to become comfortable with commodification or to build out the elements of an ecosystem to enable true competition with Apple.
My colleague Sucharita Mulpuru and I just published a substantial new Forrester report on tablet commerce, Why Tablet Commerce May Soon Trump Mobile Commerce. Basically, it’s huge already: In a recent study of 2,333 tablet owners fielded by Forrester and Bizrate Insights, we found that 47% of tablet owners report shopping and buying for something on their tablet, and an additional 13% say they’ve shopped on their tablet without buying. Even though smartphones far outnumber tablets, retailers surveyed by Forrester report that 21% of their mobile traffic comes from tablets. With tablets forecasted to reach one-third of US adults by 2015, tablet commerce only has one way to go: Up.
These findings suggest there’s a sea shift coming in tablet product strategy, which we see unfolding in three phases:
Phase 1 (2010-2011): Apple’s iPad catalyzes a media revolution. There’s no doubt that the iPad is used for more than just media — 20% of iPad owners report creating and editing documents on the device, for example, and the massive catalog of business, education, and other non-media apps attest to the iPad’s versatility. But our data shows that after email, media (playing games, watching videos, viewing photos, reading) are the most popular iPad activities. Apple has wrangled the best content from premium publishers, inspiring News Corp to launch an entirely new company just to produce an iPad app.