It was a surprising weekend for those of us who had naively imagined that after crossing the River iPad, we might actually get some Elysian rest. But, alas, the fates conspired against us and handed us the curious case of Amazon vs. Macmillan. Or Macmillan vs. Amazon?
For those who actually took the weekend off, let me summarize what happened. John Sargeant, the CEO of Macmillan Books, gave Amazon a wee-bit of an ultimatum: switch from a wholesale sell-through model, where Amazon buys digital books at a fixed wholesale rate and then can choose to sell those books at whatever price it deems appropriate (even at a loss, as it does with $9.99 bestsellers), to an agency model, where Amazon agrees to sell at a price set by the publisher in exchange for a 30% agency fee. Sargeant explained to Amazon that if it did not agree to the switch, Macmillan Books would make its eBooks subject to significant "windowing" wherein new books are held back from the digital store for some period, say six months, while hardback books are sold in stores and possibly, digital copies are sold through the iPad at $14.99.
This is more detail than we usually know about a negotiation like this because of what happened next. Sargeant got off of a plane on Friday only to discover that Amazon had responded by pulling all Macmillan books from the Kindle store as well as from Amazon.com. He then decided to make it clear to the industry (and his authors) that this drastic action was Amazon's fault, in a paid advertisement in a special Sunday edition of Publishers Lunch.
New technologies follow a pattern. They start by imitating older technologies before they evolve to their true forms. The first automobiles looked like horseless carriages. It wasn't until the Vintage Era of the 1920's that cars evolved to a form that we'd recognize today with features like front-engines, enclosed cabs, and electric starters. Televisions started off copying radios - they looked more like an armoire with a small screen stuck on the front.
In the process of working on my latest piece of research, it became clear that the Web has followed a similar pattern. Early sites imitated a much older medium - paper. And even though 'web page' still dominates our thinking, online experiences have begun to evolve away from the page-based metaphor. In the next 5 years, the evolution of online experiences toward their true form is about to take off at a much faster rate than in the previous 5 years.
Consider that today's default Web platform - a browser running on a PC - is rapidly giving way to diverse online environments. The types of devices we use to connect to the Web are proliferating. In addition to the growth of netbook adoption, there are new devices like the Chumby and the Energy Joule. Portable devices are rapidly getting more powerful - as a result, the tradeoff between mobility and capability is shrinking. And even as the hardware evolves, the interfaces on the devices we use to connect to the Web are becoming more and more customizable. And the reason any of this matters at all is because consumers are already adopting these technologies.
So what are the implications of these trends? What does it mean for the future of online experiences? At Forrester, we've concluded that the resulting online customer experiences of the future will be:
Netbooks are one of the hottest consumer product categories in the consumer technology industry at this moment - at least from an industry perspective. And yesterday, after Apple's iPad announcement, consumer electronics analysts immediately started commenting and sharing their views via blogs, and twitter.
But what I've been missing is the consumer view. Let's take a look at how interested consumers are in small computers like netbooks in general, and how this has changed in the past year.
Note: I realize that the industry may not see the iPad as a netbook but both the netbook and the iPad serve the same consumer need: an easy to carry, multifunctional mobile Internet device. So consumers are likely to compare and contrast them in the product purchase consideration cycle.
What we see is that consumers are mostly interested in netbooks as a second or third PC that they could use while on the go, or that they consider giving one to their children. Netbooks serve a distinct purpose, for more insight please see the report 'Netbooks Are The Third PC Form Factor' by my colleague J.P. Gownder.
I've recently had several interesting discussions about one of the assessment criteria in the Forrester Vendor Positioning Review (VPR). A new VPR on IT Management Software Vendors should be out this time next week (it's been stuck in our Editing dept. for several weeks now.)
I've just returned from Apple's launch of the new iPad. Am exhausted from the anticipation and the intensity of the event. For a full analysis of the iPad, please check out the blog posts from my colleagues James McQuivey and Charles Golvin. See yesterday's blog. They were really dead on with their comments. I'm sure they'll post more today.
I was there so I got to touch the big iPod Touch-esque iPad. Curved edges. Not too heavy. Great video resolution - if there is HD video. (Watching full screen low resolution YouTube clips posted by European soccer fans - average). Baseball isn't my thing, but the MLB app with integrated video - looked sweet.
- Browsing - good.
- Photos - I like taking photos and I like slide shows so this was one of my favorite features - the iLife-esque photo slidesshows with music. For me as a photographer, this would be more about showing photos than creating the slide shows on the device - fun way to share with friends. Apple - if you're listening - next on my wishlist is iLife photo editing on one of these devices. I want to travel with this device, transfer photos from my fat Nikon to this, delete, edit and then sync back to my computer at home so I can then sync to my Apple TV ... could you see a mini-iLife for $9.99 for this device please?
I have a weakness. I like to think big. And when we heard so many juicy rumors about the Apple tablet device, now named the iPad, I knew that with Steve Jobs at the helm, I could afford to think big. So big did I think, that I suggested the iPad should take media consumption to the next level and create an entirely new category of device.
At first, Jobs appeared ready to confirm my suspicions. He said seductive things like, "Everybody uses a laptop and or a smartphone. The question has arisen lately. Is there room for a third category in the middle?" I was sitting on the edge of my seat, ready to hear Jobs demonstrate that new category of device. But he didn't.
Instead, what Apple debuted today was a very nice upgrade to the iPod Touch.
Don't get me wrong. I love the iPod Touch and I was this close to getting one for myself. Now that the iPad has arrived, I can finally get one, the new, big one. But it's not a new category of device. It doesn't really revolutionize the 5-6 hours of media we consume the way it could have. It doesn't even send Amazon's Kindle running to the hills for cover. In fact, the competitor likely to take the biggest hit from the arrival of the iPad is Apple, in the form of fewer iPod Touches sold and fewer MacBook Airs sold.
One of the great things we can do with our Consumer Technographics data is compare user behavior and technology adoption in different international markets. Our recently published report The Global eCommerce Adoption Cycle uses data from four continents to provide a snapshot of eCommerce around the globe.
One of the key themes I saw popping up in 2009 was the need for market researchers to communicate insights instead of information (or even worse: data). I've been at a number of events where this was discussed and I followed multiple discussions in market research groups like for example Next Generation Market Research (NGMR) on LinkedIn. Personally I added to this discussion by publishing a report called The Marketing Of Market Research - Successful Communication Builds Influence.
The general consensus is that market researchers should stay away from elaborating on the research methodology and presenting research results with many data heavy slides and graphics. Instead, they should act more like consultants: produce a presentation that reads like an executive summary (maximum 20 slides or so) and starts with the recommendations. The presentation should show the key insights gained from the project, cover how these results tie back to business objectives, include alternative scenarios and advice on possible next steps.
However, another consensus from the conversations is that not all market researchers are equally well equipped to deliver such a presentation, where they're asked to translate data into insights, come up with action items, and tell a story. Most participants in the discussions agreed with the statement that the majority of market researchers still feels most comfortable when they present research outcomes (aka numbers).
This week, Forrester released the 'new and improved' Social Technographics. Over two years ago we introduced Social Technographics, a way to analyze your market's social technology behavior. In these years we've seen that with the rapid pace of technology adoption, the rungs on the ladder have shown steady growth, with some (like Joiners) growing faster than others (like Creators). In these years we have helped clients understand the social media uptake of their customers with data for 13 countries, and for various segments and brands. But, in the past year we did feel we missed out on something: Twitter.
As you can see from the graphic, we added a new rung, "Conversationalists". Conversationalists reflects two changes. First, it includes people who update their social network status to converse (both in Facebook as twitter). And second, we include only people who update at least weekly, since anything less than this isn't much of a conversation.
Lately, there are so many cool Infographics popping up, with lots of global information. Yesterday I shared a link to an infographic from the World Bank. Today, you'll find a link to a tool from the United Nations Development Programme.