Yearly Archives: 2011Blog

Smartphones Reaching Tipping Point

The smartphone revolution marches on. Data from Nielsen (via cnet) shows that more than half of those aged 18 – 24 carry a smartphone today. And numbers for those over 44 are continuing to trend upward. Given the almost limitless functional capabilities of these phones via the apps that run on them, smartphones are poised to take over a huge amount of the work of transactions that time-pressed people need to make while on the go. Also, given that Moore’s Law continues to hold weight, the advent of powerful, pocket-sized computers being everywhere is not unexpected. Add to this users’ love of those tiny apps that “just work,” and the proliferation of smartphones will only continue.

There’s a lot of technology that makes perfect sense on smartphones — technologies that just wouldn’t be as useful on desktops or laptops. These include bar code scanning, NFC (near field communications) and voice recognition like the iPhone’s new Siri. Combine these and you have almost instant, far-ranging research when making buying decisions, and an instant transaction once you find the perfect widget. Today, people buy smartphones for convenience — connecting and communicating with others, accessing information, carrying media and entertainment, playing games, taking photos and videos — all on one, easy-to-carry device. But soon smartphones will be essential to transact business and buy things. Once a tipping point is reached, changes, especially around commerce, tend to snowball.

All of us in business need to consider smartphones. As I often say, if you want to know where markets are going don’t listen to tech companies. Look at the devices people are using and how they use them.

Article  and infographic:

An Icon Is Gone. Thoughts On Steve Jobs

In business today we’re all trying to keep up with technology and grasp its implications. We’re all constantly learning. Through these years of seemingly light-speed changes, the one company to consistently watch has been Apple. Now with the passing of Steve Jobs, it’s very possible that an era of imagination and creativity in the world of consumer technology has ended. From David Pogue:

Suppose, by some miracle, that some kid in a garage somewhere at this moment possesses the marketing, invention, business and design skills of a Steve Jobs. What are the odds that that same person will be comfortable enough — or maybe uncomfortable enough — to swim upstream, against the currents of social, economic and technological norms, all in pursuit of an unshakable vision?
Zero. The odds are zero.
Mr. Jobs is gone. Everyone who knew him feels that sorrow. But the ripples of that loss will widen in the days, weeks and years to come: to the people in the industries he changed. To his hundreds of millions of customers. And to the billions of people touched more indirectly by the greater changes that Steve Jobs brought about, even if they’re unaware of it.

Jobs was the lynchpin in the transition to digital for many industries, most notably entertainment. His devices weren’t just “cool;” they brought with them whole new businesses and new ways of creating wealth. Part of his special magic was his ability to convince corporations, solidly entrenched in the physical realm, to become digital. Now that that force is gone, who is there to exert the same kind of influence? His unique combination of leadership, passion and persuasion are what changed industries. Who can duplicate that?

There’s a sense that without Jobs, not just Apple, but whole industries – maybe the entire culture – is without a guide, at least in the digital realm. After all, Apple is the one company that’s always been copied, and that affects lots of things in society. Jobs took good ideas, made them better, sold them to consumers, then compelled industries to change. That’s how he fulfilled his dream of “changing the world.” Like him or not, the world is different because of him — maybe not ideologically, but  in very tangible ways.

I’m looking forward to reading his official biography. Maybe there will be something in it that will cause us all the “think different,” look beyond today, and bring a new level of imagination and creativity to the things we do. That would be great. Maybe it will even spawn another Jobs-like leader. But there will never be another Steve Jobs.

Read full Pogue article:

Some Tips for Using QR Codes

Are QR codes useful? Are they here to stay or just a stop-gap technology? Here’s an interesting article that explores productive ways that print publications are using QR codes along with some helpful tips if you’ve been thinking of implementing them.

Walk past a bus shelter, check product packaging, visit a home improvement store and you’ll see Quick Response (QR) codes. They have gone mainstream, as 14 million people scanned a QR code in June, according to a new report from comScore, and it turns out that half of the time they scanned codes in a newspaper or magazine. Newspapers (and some broadcasters) are exploring how they can make good use of these codes to drive traffic from the print product to the Web via mobile devices, and it may be working.

Read full article: How 6 news organizations are using QR codes to drive traffic to news content

The Post PC Era

 “Post-PC Era: a social and technological phenomenon in which computing experiences become ubiquitous, casual, intimate, and physical.”

It’s upon us. But why the big deal. Does anyone really “like” PCs? Yes, they help us do lots of creative, productive things — when they work (or if we know how to get them to do what we want). And computing power keeps getting smaller and smaller, just like it always has. Isn’t it just a matter of time before we can bring an entire system with terabytes of data embedded into a wrist watch? So is going beyond PCs really a surprise?

But of course it’s not as simple as that. With heightened technology comes shifts in the way we do things. And when this happens on a mass scale, business, society and culture all end up having to change as well, and not always without some pain.

“Tablets are breakthrough devices. You can see that in the way that people have adopted them into their daily lives. Their deep functionality and highly attractive form (plus the cool quotient of simply being seen with one) have made tablets a normal element in many backpacks, briefcases, and fancy purses, and with good reason: with the iPad and the many other tablet offerings, we are finally seeing the transition of computing ability away from being a distinct activity (“I’m going to the living room to surf the web”) to simply being a thing we can do whenever, wherever, and whyever we want.”

The Post PC Era means that more people will be connected and have access to in-depth information much more of the time, on smaller and cheaper (and hopefully easier to use) devices. And it will come faster than anyone expects. In fact, it’s upon us.

Read full article:

Tablet Content: Apps or Browser?

We all know that the success of tablet computers is tied to the content they deliver. In selling tablets, we never hear the typical whizzy specs that are touted for desktop and laptop computers. What we see are people on the go, happily bringing their content with them. The idea is that tablets give us the ability to go anywhere and have all our books, movies, photos, music, magazines and newspapers with us, available in a light-weight, instant-on, easy-to-carry and easy-to-use device. The problem for publishers, however, is to create a user experience that’s as satisfying as the original medium, and that can be difficult when it comes to reading. How should pages turn? How should they be numbered? What about fonts? And is it even possible to “curl up” with an electronic device?

Consumers are beginning to answer these questions, but are publishers responding to their preferences? Or are they, instead, endeavoring to create a “value added” experience that exploits the new technologies with the hope of “wow-ing” consumers into buying? The following article addresses this concern and shows how publishers, in their efforts to “enhance” the reading experience, may be giving consumers far more than they want — which is simply, content. In that vein, a question arises: is it worth delivering textual content in apps, or better to just use the browser?

Developers on the mobile web know how problematic app development is. Separate apps must be created and maintained for each platform, and consumers must first purchase and install the apps. Browsers, on the other hand, provide much more reliable delivery, the content is more easily shared, and a much wider audience can be reached. Presently publishers seem to be favoring apps for the “rich experience” they offer. Are consumers impressed?

Read full article: Publishers Should Be Developing for the Mobile Web Instead of Making Replica Apps

QR Codes: Dead End or On-Ramp?

I love QR codes, but here’s an interesting thought. Are they just “a transitional technology, to be quickly replaced by near field communication (NFC)?” This article presents some great ideas for utilizing QR codes in meaningful ways.

QR Codes: Dead End or On-Ramp?:

iDevices and iCloud Portend a PC-less Future For Consumers

Forgive my continued references to Apple, but they have the Vision. There are a multitude of companies and individuals out there, that possess the potential to harness technology in ways that transform the way we live, but only Apple has done so consistently and continually. Now, with the talent, connections, money and clout they have, Apple has become THE company to watch.

The following article makes a good case that the latest step in Apple’s ongoing iStrategy, announced this week at their annual developers conference, will result in the assured decline of the PC industry and the ascendance of burgeoning mobile. Consumers are showing a strong preference for devices that are portable and that are easy to use and maintain. Tech geeks may want total control over their devices, but consumers could care less. Consumers just want these things to work — and do cool, useful everyday stuff easily. Why does it appear that only Apple understands this?

Smart phones and tablets are much easier to use than PCs and many, many mobile, hand-held Apple Internet device users will abandon their PCs. Microsoft will be in a cleft stick.

iDevices coupled with the iCloud service promises to give consumers easy access to their everyday data from all their devices. If this works out it will presumably be a no-brainer that consumers will embrace wholeheartedly (and financially), the same way they’ve embraced other Apple ideas going all the way back to the Apple II. Why is this? Because Apple has never departed from the Vision: make it useful, easy, reliable, and cool, and they will buy.

Read full article

Amazon Now Selling More Kindle Books Than All Print Books

This is interesting. Back in the ’90s it was being said that, “all things that can be digital will be digital.” This makes perfect sense in an Internet world since “bits” are said to be “weightless” when compared to “atoms.” There are little marginal costs in their production, they are cheap and easy to ship, they can often be sold without typical intermediaries, and information (text, photos, audio, video and movies) can easily be converted. It would be the “democratization” of information where anyone could be a publisher / movie producer / rock star, with direct access to audiences.

And of course, in a large way we’ve seen this come to pass, with blogs, YouTube and social media leading the way, along with a great deal of consternation, too, eg: Napster leading to lawsuits against music consumers, the decimation of newspaper revenues, and Hollywood’s foot-dragging as it clings to antiquated business models despite Apple’s best efforts to coral them into the iTunes store.

Add to this today’s revelation that, at least for Amazon’s Kindle, digi-books are outselling paper ones. This should not be surprising as we’ve already seen the same shift from physical product to digital in the music industry. But it’s telling that consumers are preferring digital in a growing way across all media. The prophecy is coming to pass.

But also telling is that this conversion is not always consumer driven. Online banking, digital tax filing, medical records and more are also proliferating because businesses understand the cost savings that digital provides. Whether consumer like it or not (think phone menus and computerized customer service — “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that …”) we’ll see more and more of our lives going digital, especially with smartphones making it possible for almost everyone to be connected relatively cheaply. If you are looking to leverage these advantages for your business just be sure to look past the bottom line. Implement digital in ways that benefit — make that delight — your customers, as Amazon has done with the Kindle. But beware of saving money at the expense of the customer experience — the other side of the two-edged digital sword.

Read full article:

Apps 6 Times More Popular than Web on Phones, Less Popular on Tablets

The debate among mobile developers is on. Are apps the sure-fire way to consumers wallets, or is it mobile websites? On smartphones, apps have proved hugely popular. These tiny programs that usually do one thing really well have clicked with consumers to even Apple’s, the company that first brought apps to us, surprise. Apps have made some developers rich, and for others provide a viable income stream. But the fact is apps are not an efficient way to deliver functionality. Each app must be developed several times — once for each smartphone platform — in order to reach the widest number of users. They must also be maintained and updated across these platforms, and in order for people to get them they have to be found and purchased, or provided free, through an app store.

On the other hand is the mobile web. Functionality that can be developed for delivery through web browsers only requires one vector of delivery and maintenance, and the programs are automatically accessible to all. Browser technology is great for almost all of the functionality that apps now deliver, and there’s no app store policies for developers to deal with. Typically consumers follow the easiest route, right? Well, not according to the following recent data. Maybe it’s the shiny icons, cool names or flashy home screens, but consumers greatly prefer apps on their smartphones (although not quite as much on tablets).

The study, conducted in April 2011, found that on smartphones, apps were used 85% of the time, but the Web browser was used just 15% of the time. On tablets, apps were still popular, but were used just 61% of the time as compared with Web browsing, which was used 39% of the time.

Says Jing Wu, from Zokem’s research team, “it can be speculated that for tablets, the bigger screen and the better overall user experience in browsing contribute to the relatively higher face time for Web browsing. On smartphones, on the other hand, a smaller screen and of course, better availability of apps, contribute to the apps’ dominance.”

It makes sense that the smaller the screen the more likely a consumer would prefer an app. It’s a shame though to have to lose your collection when changing phones, or borrowing one.

Read full article: [no longer available]