Smart Home Activities Will Align With Existing Markets, Rather Than Create A New One

Consumers are implementing connected home activities one gadget at a time - Forrester surveys show that about 13% of US online adults use one or more smart home device. But unlike mobile, where a brand new technology established a new category, smart home products will transform existing home markets, such as insurance, energy, health, water, and food, rather than create a new one.

Sure, Apple and Google will battle to be the dominant app interface and software platform – but they won’t be controlling or taking over those markets. Instead, individual companies will soon be experimenting with how to promote and even subsidize smart home products to create interactive relationships with their customers that simply weren’t possible before. Liberty Mutual and American Family just started subsidizing Nest Protect smoke detectors in return for monthly confirmation that the homeowner is keeping them on and connected to Wi-Fi. Similarly, grocers and food brands such as Nestlé and Unilever will begin promoting smart devices, like the Drop baking scale, and recipe filled apps to encourage shoppers to keep coming back.

Emerging smart home devices will perform 13 activities that can be organized into two domains: crucial background activities that automate everyday tasks like environmental comfort, home access, and home safety, or fun and helpful foreground activities that sustain engagement, such as entertainment activities, cooking and health management, and monitoring family members. Clients can see more details and many examples in our report, The Smart Home Finally Blossoms

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Microsoft’s Windows 10 & HoloLens Will Return Microsoft To Innovation Leadership; Challenge Will Be Drawing New Mobile Customers

Microsoft’s event, Windows 10: The Next Chapter, showcased an impressive vision and plan for: 1) transforming Windows, including free upgrades; 2) gaining relevance in mobile; 3) launching a new computing experience with HoloLens; and 4) reinventing group collaboration with Surface Hub.

Based on what we saw today and on background conversations, Forrester believes that Microsoft’s Windows 10 will persuade enterprises and consumers to upgrade from Windows 7 (something Windows 8 didn’t do) and be an easy upgrade from Windows 8. Getting the world’s 1.5 billion Windows PCs on this new software platform will re-establish Microsoft’s dominance in personal computing with a mobile extension.

The technology advances in Windows 10 include a single and integrated experience across PCs and tablets with a single platform and app store; continuous software improvements, and big security improvements, and a new set of enterprise features. (Forrester clients can get our enterprise perspective in our new report, ‘Microsoft Gets Its Flagship OS Back On Track With Windows 10.) Windows 10 even brings together Windows and Xbox -- giving gamers and game developers access to Xbox experiences on the PC.

HoloLens Is A Powerful New Technology To Deliver Mixed Reality Experiences

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Internet Of Things Software Platforms Will Become The Rage In 2015

The hype around the Internet of Things was on full display over the last six weeks, with announcements and events from vendors such as ARM, Cisco, GE, IBM, Intel, PTC, and others. Much of the hype has focused on the possibility of saving lots of money because of all the new information that can help improve utilization and maintenance of expensive business assets. But in this age of the customer, where customer engagement rules, a focus only on cost savings is misplaced. When we look forward to 2015 and developments around the Internet of Things (IoT), we are predicting four key trends and implications for clients. Here are two of those predictions:
 
  • IoT customer success stories will displace “billions of devices” hype. Enough already with the Carl Sagan–like references to billions and billions of devices — we’ll finally see a focus on customer success stories about improved machine uptime, better customer experience, and new as-a-service business models.
  • IoT software platforms will become the rage, displacing the hardware. Much of the early hype has been about cool new sensors, high-tech wearables, and new wireless technologies. In 2015, we’ll see increased focus on the software and especially the cloud services to make all these sensors connect, upload data, and drive analytics that generate insights and enable business improvements.
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Microsoft Bets On Its Digital Platform And Sheds An Outdated Industry Focus On Operating Systems

Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella just finished his first event, announcing Office for iPad, the Enterprise Mobility Suite, and a renewed commitment to Windows. Finally Microsoft has realized two key things:

- Office should be on any device or web site that customers are using to get work done. See my colleague Phillip Karcher's take on Office for iPad.

- the cloud service platform (OneDrive, Office 365, and Azure), not the operating system (Windows), is now the focus of the platforms wars. 

I'd like to elaborate on the second point. The measure of a person's commitment to a particular platform or ecosystems should be the user accounts that they have, the content they store in those cloud service, and whom they trust with stored credit cards. So you can't tell if someone is an Apple customer just because they use an iPhone - you have to look inside the device to see who's apps they use most, and what cloud services they use. Many iOS customers are in fact more involved with the Google digital platform than they are with Apple's and many Android customers have little to no engagement with Google because they use the apps and services that the device maker or service provider put on their home screen. Microsoft's challenge is to get more customers engaged on their digital platform - using Outlook.com email, OneDrive for file storage, and Office 365 for productivity. So Microsoft can win in the digital platform, regardless of who's operating system is on the device. 

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Lenovo Bets On The Mobile Mind Shift And Aims To Be A Digital Platform

Lenovo’s made three strategic moves in just one month: 1) Buying IBM’s x86 server business, 2) Reorging into four business units – most importantly including one called “ecosystem and cloud group”, and 3) Buying Motorola Mobility. The later two are driven by the mobile mind shift – the increasing expectation of individuals that they can access information and service, in context, in their moment of need. Smartphones are central to that – as are the ecosystem and cloud services that deliver value through the smartphones.

Lenovo has stated intentions to become a leading smartphone maker globally, building on their leading position in the China market. Buying Motorola Mobility is a much quicker way for Lenovo to access the premium smartphone market with a leading Google Android (not forked Android) offering - than trying to do it with their existing design teams and brand reach. Using Motorola, just as Lenovo used the IBM ThinkPad brand, to gain quick credibility and access to desirable markets, and built critical mass makes a lot of sense. 

But Motorola has not been shooting the lights out with designs or sales volumes in smartphones. So the value is simply in brand recognition to achieve market recognition faster - and to dramatically expand the design and marketing team with talent experienced at US and Western markets. 

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Google Bets On Internet Of Things And Connected Home, Not Just Data From Our Nest

Google’s acquisition of Nest has stirred a lot of interest and reaction, some of it misguided. After talking to lots of reporters, here are ten quick thoughts on why Google bought Nest and what it means:

1.    Google bought Nest for talent and strategic perspective, not products or data. Nest is too small and not scaling fast enough to justify the acquisition. This is about getting a great team that can teach Google about a new market realm, how the Internet of Things comes into the Connected Home.

2.    The price is ridiculously high – unless Google gets a huge head start on Connected Home. Google’s acquisition of Waze for $1 billion and Nest for $3.2 billion look pricey – but they are strategic bets for the long run, and can’t easily be compared.

3.    Building the next generation of Google Now is the goal, not snooping on our temps, room locations and smoke alarms. The Nest Labs team will help fuel development of the next generation of Google Now as it shifts more toward proactive assistance and advice.

4.    Google’s aim is to get an early start on identifying and adding software interfaces (APIs) to Gmail/Google Drive that connect it to smart products. This is not about Android in the home or about a battle for the device OS – it’s a battle for whose cloud service platform will coordinate an individual’s smart products – and their digital self.

5.    Identity, privacy, and security will also crucial in building out the Connected Home. Blanket privacy policies won’t be enough. Fatemeh Khatibloo’s research on contextual privacy shows the new way that privacy and identity will have to be managed.

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With China Mobile, Apple Finally Cuts To The Core Of The World’s Biggest Phone Market

The deal between Apple and China Mobile has been a long time coming, with lots of folks disappointed it didn’t happen in September when the latest iPhones were announced. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile phone operator, with 760 million subscribers. That’s more than 1 in 7 of all people alive, and, as my friend Charlie has reminded me, more than 6 times the number of the largest US carrier, Verizon Wireless, or 3 times the size of AT&T and Verizon combined. 

Though Bryan Wang in our Beijing office points out that Apple’s iPhone offerings are very expensive by China standards, starting at about $740 unsubsidized, he also reports that there is lots of interest among China Mobile subscribers. With this deal, we’ll finally find out how far Apple can get in China without offering products that match the prices of market leaders Samsung, Lenovo, and Huawei, or innovator Xiaomi. Based on Forrester survey data, we estimate that Apple sold over 16.8 million iPhones in mainland China in the four quarters ending September, 2013. We estimate that Apple will be able to sell 17 million new iPhones to China Mobile users in the first 12 months – that’s on the low side of public estimates we’ve seen ranging from 15 to 30 million. So Apple will boost global iPhone sales – and iPhone revenues – by over 10%.

After waiting so long, why is China Mobile interested in the iPhone? Because they’re concerned about losing their best customers, which are some of China's most valuable ones, to China Telecom and China Unicom. And China Mobile is just launching the first 4G network in China, and Forrester believes it will have at least a 6 month head start before other operators begin adding 4G. The iPhone 5s and 5c give China Mobile showcase products to show off the power of their 4G network.

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Emerging Services For The Digital Self Are A New Source Of Digital Disruption

How much stuff do you own? The answer for most people ranges from a few changes of clothing to a large house full of possessions – your material self. It turns out that most of us also have a digital self – the information and items we create or that others collect about us. It is your footprint, your impact on the digital world. Without a digital self, you don’t exist in the world of computers and the Internet.

Now it turns out services for the digital self is one of the emerging battlegrounds of digital disruption.

The era of Internet has spawned riotous new forms of business disruption as cheap tools and services combined with Internet reach and social media have empowered anyone on the planet to compete with the largest, most established businesses. James McQuivey’s reports and book on digital disruption highlight the fast rise of new hardware devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect and Apple’s iPad, and the fast mainstreaming of new Internet services such as Dropbox, Twitter, and Facebook. Companies in the business of retail, books, movies, and music have been toppled or transformed, with more to come.

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Microsoft’s Surface Hardware Additions Show Creativity And Perseverance In Cracking Mobile Innovation

Microsoft’s Surface generation 2 announcements today show that they are firmly committed to the hardware business for tablets and PCs, not just Nokia Windows Phones. See my colleague JP Gownder’s blog post for his take on how Microsoft will need to update branding and go-to-market to succeed.

As with the original Xbox bet more than a decade ago, Microsoft will persevere in creating premium, fully controlled hardware and service experiences. This will create more and more contrast with low-end Windows devices from many OEMs. I predict that Microsoft will eventually anoint a handful of OEMs, two to four, as premium providers — which means that Microsoft will have to create a premium Windows label or branding to distinguish these premium hardware offerings from the budget offerings that many buyers will still focus on.

The details of the new Surface devices — better performance, battery life, kickstand, displays, and more — and the range of new accessories — such as dock, battery and backlit keyboard covers, and more — are proof of an expanding hardware ecosystem. The Surface Remix, a musical controller that magnetically clicks in like the TouchCover, is a very creative and novel addition to the possibilities of mobile devices.

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The Battle To Serve Your Digital Self

Forrester’s surveys show that individuals all over the world are using personal cloud technologies to store their personal and work stuff — files, contacts, photos, music, and videos — in online services. In the US, 77% of online adults use one or more of these services, while in Europe 61% do so. As a result, there’s now a new Internet gold rush to help you build your “digital self” — to help you access, manage, and benefit from your digital information using any smartphone, tablet, PC, or web browser.

Once your digital self is stored in online services, it becomes possible for providers to serve you with not only automated storage but also advice. These providers do things like automatically uploading your digital photos, synchronizing your contacts everywhere, and automatically assembling your expense report from photos, scans, or emails of receipts. Or even advising you on the right financial strategy or workout times based on your spending logs and work calendar.

The companies offering these services are a mix of leading startups, big tech companies, and new players.

For example, Phil Libin created Evernote to help you remember everything easily after he grew frustrated at fiddling with files to organize information from work and home. Now Evernote has 45 million accounts and a new deal to serve Telefonica’s wireless customers worldwide. When you enter new notes, Evernote suggests related notes from your notebooks and those of coworkers you’re linked to.

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