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.
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.