Thursday, September 01, 2011

Putting your company's futures planning on ice?
Foresight now... or face extinction.

Ask yourself: what refrigerator equivalent will come along and disrupt my industry... and kill my job?

When you’re in the ice business, you had better be prepared for the invention of something like the fridge. Or face a cold, dark future.

Disruptions happen. Just ask the once happy shareholders of the Knickerbocker Ice Company. Once a major supplier of frozen H2O to homes and businesses along the East Coast of the United States --and beyond--, Knickerbocker Ice had it all: an extensive and complex distribution network, fantastic supply chain, brand recognition, scale. And apparently a killer recipe for ice. Yes, Knickerbocker was flying high, and the company’s executives certainly never wanted the ice age to end.

With company headquarters next to a crystal fresh-water lake very close to the Hudson River, and only 40 kilometers north of New York City, Knickerbocker Ice had smooth-sailing access to one of the world’s largest markets for ice. By the mid-1800s, Knickerbocker Ice had become a major utility. The company employed thousands at its peak, had ice warehouses (“icehouses”) up and down the East Coast, employed expert global ice traders, and established a brand name via the ubiquitous “iceman” who yelled “ice” from the city streets. Consumers would rush down to buy ice by price. “Give me 10 cents worth of ice, Tony.”

Then along came electric utilities, a killer enabler as far as Knickerbocker Ice should have been concerned. Electric juice enabled refrigeration. And the fridge put an end to the profitable business of pushing ice. In 1924, the Knickerbocker Ice Company closed up shop. The ice age had come to an end for KIC.

What does this have to do with trends in the wireless industry? I suppose nothing directly. But there is a lesson to be learned here. (Living through the current power outage in the New York region was my inspiration for this initial post, having to hunt down ice at various supermarkets.)

Looking at the wireless industry, certain companies are flying high right now. Smartphone sales are exploding across the globe, consumers are cutting the cord, and the internet is headed toward mobile favoritism. Yes, things are hot in the wireless business these days. The device form factor is in place, service providers have sliced up the pie, and adjacent industries are beginning to melt into the mobile milieu.

So, now is the time for mobile-related firms to prepare for the day when the mobile industry as we currently know it dries up. What will be the disruptive enabler? It’s a tough call.

After years of following and reporting mobile developments for a major handset vendor, I plan to use this blog to share my observations and opinions a bit more widely. I enjoy trying to catch trends and spot opportunities. And uncover that coming disruptive enabler.

Remember, every business goes cold at some point. And then it’s time to move on to the next hot thing.

A Knickerbocker Ice factory:
A great supply chain & logistics weren't enough to keep the firm afloat

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the years of reading entertainment that you brought weekly to my email. I really enjoyed your spin. I look forward to visiting this site regularly.

Best of luck.


Peter Bryer: Mobile Foresighter said...

Thanks Anonymous. It was a great pleasure doing this in Nokia. Now to go global.


Dipankar said...

Peter, good to know I can continue reading your blogs here now!
(PS: I hope you managed to start using Symbian Anna by now??)

RSA said...

Hi peter, please add share on linked in to your blogs. I would love to share with my 500+ contacts.