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 these phones’ almost limitless functional capability (via the apps that run on them), we should expect the use of smartphones for more and more of the transactions that people make while on the go. And, since Moore’s Law continues to hold, and users love those little apps that “just work,” the proliferation of powerful, pocket-sized computers, aka smartphones, will only increase.

A lot of technology makes perfect sense on smartphones — technologies that aren’t necessarily as useful on desktops or laptops. These include bar code scanning, NFC (Near Field Communication) for speedy transactions, and photography and video recording. Combine these, and right in your hand, you have a wide range of capabilities in a single device.

Today, people buy smartphones for convenience in connecting and communicating with others, accessing information, carrying media and entertainment, and playing games. But soon, smartphones will be essential for transacting business and making purchases. Once we reach a tipping point, changes, especially around commerce, will snowball.

All of us in business need to consider smartphones. If you want to know where markets are going, look at the devices people use and how they get information. And then start planning for the changes that follow.

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 constantly learning. Through these remarkable years of light-speed changes, the one company to consistently watch has been Apple. Now with the passing of Steve Jobs, it’s 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 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 appreciated him feels the loss. But the ripples from it 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 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 about 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 will exert that influence? His unique combination of leadership, passion, and persuasion is 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 others copied, and that affects lots of things around us. 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.” He said, “Think Different.” Like him or not, the world is different today 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 some of us to “think different,” to look beyond today and bring a new level of imagination and creativity to the things we do. It may 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 passing tech fad? Here’s an interesting article that explores productive ways that print publications use QR codes and some helpful tips if you’ve been thinking of adopting 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. And computing power keeps increasing while the chips they run on get smaller and smaller, just as it always has. Isn’t it just a matter of time before we can have an entire system with terabytes of data embedded into a wristwatch? So why the hype?

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 changing 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 finally see 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 more of the time, on smaller and cheaper (and hopefully easier to use) devices. And it will come faster than anyone expects. 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. We never hear the whizzy specs typically touted for desktop and laptop computers in selling tablets. We see people on the go, happily bringing their content with them. Tablets allow us to go anywhere and have all our books, movies, photos, music, magazines, and newspapers available in a lightweight, instant-on, easy-to-carry, and easy-to-use device. However, the problem for publishers 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 offering answers to these questions, but are publishers listening? Or are they trying to create a “value-added” experience that exploits the new technologies to “wow” 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 when all they want is content. A question arises: is it worth delivering textual content in apps, or is it better through 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 purchase, install, and maintain the apps. On the other hand, browsers provide much more reliable delivery, more easily shared content, and a much wider audience that can be reached. Presently publishers seem to be favoring apps for the “rich experience” they offer. Are consumers being properly served?

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’re the ones with The Vision. There are many companies out there with the potential to harness technology in ways that transform our world, but only Apple has done so consistently. With their talent, connections, and money, 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 decline of the PC industry and the ascendance of burgeoning mobile. Consumers are showing a strong preference for portable devices that are easy to use and maintain. Tech geeks may want total control over their devices, but consumers couldn’t care less. Consumers want things that work — and do cool, useful everyday stuff. Why is it that only Apple seems to understand 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 likely be that consumers will embrace mobile solutions the same way they’ve embraced other Apple ideas, 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 said that “all things that can be digital will be digital,” which makes perfect sense in an Internet world. “Bits” are “weightless” while “atoms” are not. There are few marginal costs in their production, they’re cheap and easy to ship, they can often be sold without the usual 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, or 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. But not without some consternation, eg: Napster, which led to lawsuits against music consumers, the decimation of newspaper revenues, and Hollywood’s foot-dragging as it clings to antiquated business models.

And now we’ve learned 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 products to digital in the music industry. But it’s telling that consumers prefer digital in a growing way across all media. The prophecy is coming to pass.

But also telling is that such conversions are not always consumer-driven. Online banking, digital tax filing, medical records, and other services are also increasing because businesses understand the economies that digital provides. Whether consumers like it or not (think of humanless phone menus and automated customer service: “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that …”), we’ll see more of our lives converted to digital. This conversion of daily life is especially true with smartphones connecting almost everyone relatively cheaply.

If you are looking to leverage these advantages for your business, remember to look past the bottom line. Implement digital in ways that benefit, better yet, delight your customers, as Amazon has done with the Kindle. And beware of “economies” at the expense of the customer experience, which is the other side of the digital two-edged sword.

Read full article:

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

There’s a debate among mobile developers. Are apps the surefire way to consumers’ wallets, or are mobile websites the golden road? On smartphones, apps have proved hugely popular. These tiny programs that usually do one thing well have clicked with consumers to even Apple’s surprise. Apps have made some developers rich and, for others, provide a viable income stream. But apps are not necessarily an efficient way to deliver functionality. To reach the widest number of users separate apps must be developed for each mobile platform and maintained and updated across these platforms. And for people to get them, they have to be purchased, downloaded, and maintained on their devices.

On the other hand, is the mobile web. Functionality developed for delivery through web browsers only requires one vector of delivery and maintenance, and programs are much more easily distributed and maintained. Browser technology is great for almost all of the functionality that apps now deliver, and there are 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.

Read full article: [no longer available]