I was in Dalian, China last month at the World Economic Forum's summer event where I moderated a panel on Digital Asia. The punch line: Asia will be a center of digital innovation . . . counter-balancing the US.
My panel included Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the biggest cell phone operator in the world (China Mobile), Takeshi Natsuno, the founder of iMode at DoCoMo, Michelle Guthrie, Director of Goggle Asia Pacific, and other distinguished panel members. You can watch our conversation on YouTube. Here are the panel’s five predictions about Asia and digital:
1. Asia will lead the world into the use of e-money.
Consumers in Hong Kong -- with their Octopus card -- and Singapore and Japan -- with the FeliCa system -- already use this technology and are thriving on its efficiency and convenience. This is an opportunity for Asia to demonstrate digital leadership.
2. The digital divide in Asia will shrink.
Data from Forrester suggests that this transformation is already taking place. Internet adoption is up across Asia this year – increasing 9% in India and 13% in China. Mobile internet adoption is growing too – up 12% in China and 10% in India.
In January of 2011, Forrester's research showed that tablet owners used the Web far more than apps on their device. Over the last few weeks, visitors to my blog indicated that apps had passed the Web (check out the results at left).
Now this survey was not scientifically significant, but it's another signal that users are shifting away from browsers to apps. Why? Better experience, speed, ease of use. The App Internet approaches.
At a conference of CIOs that I attended this morning in Lisbon, all of our group were reflective and emotionally affected by the news of Jobs’ death – many heartfelt words were spoken from the stage, as they have been on stages, social networks, phone calls, and conversations all over the world today. And as we all mourned, many of us were literally holding Steve in our hands as we communicated via iPads, iPhones, Keynote, and Macs.
Steve leaves a vast and extraordinary legacy and I will let the more eloquent pay tribute. But I will make a prediction and I will express a hope.
I believe that we will look back at the 2002-2011 period as a golden age of technology – driven by Jobs at his most visionary. All of the promise of digital was finally being delivered in a way that was truly powerful, simple, and matched to human beings. I predict that we won’t see such an outpouring again for decades.
But I hope that I am wrong. My hope is that Steve inspires all of us in the technology business to stop creating confusing, poorly-designed, slow, complex, ugly, maddening products that weigh down rather than lift up the work and souls of people. My hope is that Apple’s next ten years are more insanely great than its last and that its competitors are inspired to keep or exceed the pace. My hope is that Steve’s lessons will bring about a better world.
To the Apple and Jobs families, Forrester sends its best thoughts.
Forrester believes that the world will move away from the Web toward App Internet -- powerful local devices (like an iPad) running programs that transparently link to resources in the cloud. My impressionistic view would support our thesis. As an example, I was recently with Susan Lyne, the CEO of online retailer Gilt. She told me that her customers were increasingly accessing her site via apps, and not the Web -- because it was faster and offered a superior experience.
The last time Forrester surveyed tablet users (in January, 2011) we found that 16% were spending more time on apps, 39% were spending more time browsing, and 45% spend about the same amount of time browsing and using apps.
How about you? Apps or Web on your tablet? Click here, then vote in the right hand column below "About this blog." After you vote, you'll see the results of the vote to date. Thanks.
As CEO you have undoubtedly heard about cloud computing. Under cloud your company's data and applications can be contained and run on the computers and networks of a third party like Google or Amazon, theoretically lowering your cost and reducing your data centers (along with staff).
If I sat you down for coffee, here are five things I'd tell you about cloud:
1) Pure cloud constitutes an interim step -- App Internet will offer better solutions. Local devices like your iPhone or Android tablet or server are becoming ever more powerful -- under App Internet those devices will join up with the cloud to solve problems. Compare an iPad (with apps) to a Google Chromebook and you'll get the idea.
2) Storing your most sensitive data in the cloud is a bad idea. Because cloud vendors typically do not reveal their security protocols, there is no way to verify how safe your data will be. And if it is lost, you are liable, not the cloud vendor.
3) The cloud can be cheaper. Some vendors are claiming 50% cost reductions -- that's hogwash. But in some cases it could reduce operational costs by 10%-30%.
4) You can't just flip a switch and go to the cloud. Before you go, Forrester recommends a full audit and rationalization of: 1) your data portfolio, 2) your applications portfolio, and 3) your security architecture. In other words, your roadmap must be plotted before you go cloud -- or you'll be repaving cow paths.
As a CEO, you want low prices and innovative products from your suppliers. You will get neither in the network business if AT&T buys T-Mobile. That deal will trigger the inevitable merger of Verizon and Sprint -- limiting your choices and slowing the development of new offerings.
We've seen this movie before. The US car industry devolved into a few players, and decades of decline were the result. A few years ago in a post, I asked the question: "Why can't America build a great car?" Bob Lutz, a 40-year car executive, answers the question in his vinegar-soaked book (which I recommend).
I'll take license and distill his answer: The American car industry faded because of poor leadership and management. Lutz blames the failure on a culture of over-planning and bureaucracy. Spreadsheets were valued over common sense, customers were ignored, and too many over-educated over-analyzers focused on arcane process and rules rather than the job at hand: building great cars that people want to drive. It's not the unions' fault, it's not bad workers, it's not government regulation, it's not healthcare costs. It's leadership.
Which brings me back to the network business. When markets are reduced to a few players (as was the US car business), you run the risk of under-diversifying management thinking. In nature, a lack of diversity increases the risk that a species will be wiped out by a single infectious disease -- as almost happened when the group think pathogen ravaged Detroit.
Twitter is searching for a way to make money -- a prerequisite for a Bubble II IPO. An idea it's been pushing since April is something called promoted tweets -- auctioning the rights to place advertising at the top of popular Twitter streams.
Google places ads -- why can't Twitter? One big fat reason: Twitter's ad imposes itself into a discussion among real people. It's as if you held a dinner party and an uninvited stranger barged into your house screaming self-serving non sequitors -- and you can't get rid of him. A search ad has the potential to help you; a "conversation ad" is simply disruptive.
Promoted tweets appear to be directed at the B2B space. Only one problem: Forrester's research indicates that Twitter possesses very limited influence over B2B transactions, at least in the technology space. Twitter influences one half as many Business Technology (BT) buyers as Facebook, and only a third that of LinkedIn. You can find a very short precis of the report here. Promoted tweets are a bad idea on many levels -- Twitter should scrap them and head back to the whiteboard in search of a less intrusive way to justify its irrational market valuation. I'd love to get your comments...
Intelligent CEOs scan the horizon for distant threats and unaccounted-for risks. Add this to the list: getting caught in the crossfire of a growing trans-national cyber-war.
It appears that independent and government-backed hacking groups in China, North Korea, the U.S. and other countries are engaged in a contest of escalating computer attacks. The most alarming recent salvo saw the compromise of one of the most commonly used authentication mechanisms -- RSA’s Secure ID technology. Since the breach many government contractors including Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications have recently disclosed that their networks were targets of cyber-attacks apparently using information stolen via the RSA breach. The U.S. government has threatened to retaliate, putting the world on footing to begin a "Code War" mirroring the decades of Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the U.S.
The problem for you is that this quiet war will injure many innocent bystanders -- corporations whose systems are breached by the highly complex new attack technologies. Instead of employing a smash-and-grab audacious approach, the attackers are increasingly utilizing a "low and slow" attack methodology, gathering sensitive information over weeks or months. Increasingly these hackers are targeting intellectual property that companies and governments have built over decades. Google, Northrop Grumman, and Siemens have recently been caught in the cross-fire, and some have said that RSA, a subsidiary of EMC, may not be able to survive as a business given the breach of its core system.
CEOs must assiduously guard against ideology. They should avoid choosing a path for their business based on a rigid worldview. Ideology has killed many great industries, from railroads to word processors to fax machines. It interferes with logical, market-sensitive thinking, leading CEOs to ignore, and ultimately offend, their customers.
Google's announcement of its Chromebook constitutes a real-time case study. Chromebook hinges on the idea that we no longer need local storage or applications on our computers -- that the Web can handle most tasks.
Without the Web, Google's business model fails. Every time we search, Google gets a chance to make money based on advertising. That's why the company wants us to ditch our powerful laptops and trade them in for Web-centric workstations that won't work unless they are linked to Google's servers.
There's only one problem. While networks get cheaper and faster every year, processors and storage devices improve at even faster rates. That's why the iPad 2 has the power of a 1990s-era supercomputer. This means that the dominant future architecture will leverage powerful local devices and services available in the Internet cloud. Forrester calls this App Internet, and we believe that it will push the Web (and Google's current advertising model) into the background.