Friday, September 30, 2011

More history lessons! The long trail. And some weekend homework.

When I had a job with a major handset vendor reporting on market conditions and disruptions, market shares and market movements, I often liked to remind the audience of what the market looked like going back five, 10, or 15 years. This acted as a reminder just how much things can change over time.

Right now I'm looking at some market stats I have from 1994, which is when the handset market was just taking off in earnest. That year around 27 million handsets were sold globally. To put that in perspective, significantly more handsets were sold last week. And considering that last quarter something like 350 million to 375 million handsets were shipped, 27 million is almost a rounding error.

Needless to say, the market of 1994 looked a lot different than it does today. Motorola was the dominant global player with more than 1/3 of the global market, followed by a distant Nokia and an even more distant Ericsson. And at least four of the top-ten vendors were Japanese (NEC, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Oki).

Only five years later, in 1999, Nokia became the dominant global handset vendor and was also running away with the U.S. market. For those analysts and journalists who write that Nokia has never been strong in the U.S. market, consider 10 years ago Nokia had 40%, about three times the number two at the time, Motorola. (Those were the grand pre-Cingular AT&T Wireless TDMA days.)

So now it's time to think different. Who will be the global handset market leaders in five years from now? In 10 years? Will it be Apple or Samsung? Amazon or ZTE? Nintendo or Nokia? Perhaps Lenovo or Micromax or Foxconn?

It's not too risky to guess that it will look very different than it does now. And new business models, new platforms, and new architectures will alter the landscape more than we can imagine.

Global Handset Market Shares, 2016 (please fill in the blanks):

Tongue in cheek: Melt into your changing business ecosystem... or prepare for extinction.

Guess what. Here comes another potential disruption to ruin your rock-solid business model. And your day.

Sure, you had a good thing going. A unique skill set. Quality merchandise. A loyal customer base. You chipped away day after day to grow your business. You left no stone unturned. You left no loose ends untied. It was great while it lasted. But now this.

So, is this new thing a passing fad or a real long-term trend? Is it the next hot must-have product, or just the flavor of the month? It's not always easy to tell.

One thing is certain: it's vital that you be honest with yourself and prepare to change. Prepare to adjust. And prepare to retrain. There's no use living in the past.

Extinction doesn't sound like much fun, so if there's a window of opportunity for the future of your business, take it, or your company might be history. Please remember: the future isn't written in stone. And for all you know, this might be a golden opportunity. Roll the tape:

Can you teach an old dog new chips?
The great Mitchell & Webb

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In a league of their own. Introducing the HTML5-focused mobile OS “Tizen.”

Linux Foundation PR >> site >>

When it comes to mobile, it seems that Intel is always a bridesmaid, never a bride. And now, after being left at the alter, Intel is in a quick rebound OS relationship. But this is something a little different.

Intel is breathing new life into MeeGo with the formation of “Tizen,” a platform being described as a next-generation Linux-based mobile platform. Tizen will bring together the experience and remaining energy from MeeGo (which itself was intended to be the best of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo platforms) with LiMo. Like MeeGo, Tizen will be hosted by The Linux Foundation. This time Intel has partnered with Samsung as the key handset vendor. Samsung's involvement isn't strange: I've always said Samsung never met a mobile platform they didn't like.

The twist here is the intention to skip directly to an HTML5-biased mobile platform, an evolved form of life where mobility meets the cloud.

Imad Sousou, director of the Intel's Open Source Technology Center, wrote in a blog post: "We believe the future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5. Shifting to HTML5 doesn't just mean slapping a Web runtime on an existing Linux, even one aimed at mobile, as MeeGo has been."

The Tizen website claims that the OS will be developed for television sets, tablets, and netwbooks as well as smartphones. So here's the problem: this all sounds so familiar. Tizen is coming from a dubious pedigree with a rocky track record.

To their credit, Intel is forming a respectable league of Linux. Teamed with the power of MeeGo, the blood of Moblin, the speed of LiMo, the strength of The Linux Foundation, and the determination of Samsung, will Intel be able to get itself out of this one in time? Can Tizen leapfrog other platforms in a single bound? Stay tuned. But note, history isn't on their side. Let the battle begin.

Intel forms a league of Linux:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Will Nokia's N9 be the biggest one-hit wonder from the Nordics since, well, you know?

Nokia N9 pages >>

MeeGo fans, don't feel so blue. At least one model made it this far. Buy it, use it, and get hooked.

So, here we have literally the one and only. The first and last of its kind. Will it become a one-hit wonder?

Will the N9 be the biggest hit single from the Nordics since...

...well, you know.

Tongue in cheek: The smartphone market: is it my imagination or is it getting crowded in here?

Come on in, the water's fine. There's plenty of room for everyone. What's this? A party crasher? No problem. Welcome, welcome, welcome. Just find a seat in the back there somewhere.

Knock, knock. And who could that be? ZTE, Huawei, Lenovo, Tianyu! Well come on in. You've come this far. And what's this? Even more. Well, you can come in too, but I hope you brought your own booze. And your own hope.

And oh brother, who's this big guy at the door? Why it's Amazon. You already had an Android “appstore,” so I had a premonition you would show up. What's that you have there in your hands? A little Android-based tablet? Well, you qualify.

Yes, the entry of Amazon into the market marks some real changes going forward. The smartphone market: it's officially a jungle out there.

Things are starting to get rather crowded for sure. Something tells me this isn't going to end well.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who will be the third man? The Windows Phone enigma. Well, it looks like Microsoft is about to become the new Harry Lime.

Is the "rule of three" about to take effect in the dark, shadowy underworld of the smartphone platform market? It looks that way. So, here's the mystery question: who will be that third man? The answer is quite clear now.

From experience I tend to completely dismiss most analyst forecasts, especially when it comes to predicting smartphone platform market shares. If you take a look back to some forecasts made only two years ago by some major mobile industry analysts, none predicted Android or Linux would take 50%, most predicted Symbian would be in the lead going into 2014 and beyond, and Microsoft's miserable Windows Mobile was expected to inch its way up to become a top-two contender.

In other words, most forecasts have been completely useless, and some have been so far off that taking them even slightly seriously could have been harmful to your business's health. I do appreciate that making predictions, especially about the future, is very risky.

Those analysts who had forecast that Windows Mobile would be a top-spot contender now have some explaining to do as Microsoft's total smartphone platform share has reached record low after record low during the past few quarters. This week BGR blog wrote about an NPD Group study which offered some hope to Microsoft. NPD, which does consumer research, points to what I would call casual interest in Windows Phone from future users. According to the American consumers NPD contacted for the study, 44% said they would consider a Windows Phone device for next smartphone.

As the smartphone platform market concentrates around the balance of three major players ("the rule of three"), it's clear that iOS and Android will make the podium. But who will take the bronze? Windows Phone is looking like the favorite. WP has a solid user experience, an expanding ecosystem, and the backing of the world's most stubborn company. Throw in the fact that most of the world's largest handset vendors including Nokia, Samsung, LG, and HTC are in the Windows Phone business, it would be a shocker if WP flops in the long run.

While things are looking grim for other mobile operating systems to be anything other than a niche player down the road such as Bada, BlackBerry, QNX, MeeGo, and WebOS, things still aren't so black and white, it's never wise to dismiss any competitive force.

But provided Microsoft plays their cards right, by hook or by crook, it's soon time to welcome Windows Phone to the adults' table at the platform party. It's time for WP to coming out of hiding. It's time to welcome the third man.

A classic mystery. Who will be the third man in the smartphone market?
Is Windows Phone about to come out of the shadows? Very likely.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Google Wallet. The cards are in it.

Back in the year 2000, I saw a great presentation about the potential of the mobile wallet. The presenter was working with the world's largest handset maker at the time, and he gave a convincing mobile finance pitch: he pulled out his wallet and began pulling out one plastic card after another after another after another. The use case was clear: this mess would be cleaned up with an electronic wallet embedded in our handsets. The presenter assured the audience that within a few years, this would be the case.

So, here we are, almost a dozen years later, and such concepts of convenience haven't gotten very far. At least until today. Google has just rolled out its "Google Wallet" service together with U.S. operator Sprint via the Nexus S smartphone. The Nexus S is a vanilla Android phone, but Google did have the foresight to NFC enable the device, thus making it a good technology demo machine for mobile finance.

Eventually, a MasterCard, Visa, American Express and/or Discover card could be embedded in your device as well as many loyalty cards to be used at payWave- or PayPass-enabled point-of-sale terminals.

Will Google Wallet succeed? One thing is for sure: Google's timing is very good: the cost of NFC has come down considerably, and we can expect most mid- to high-end smartphones coming out over the next few years to be NFC enabled. And Android's critical mass could be the key driver: around 50% of new smartphones shipped run Android. But success is a double-edged sword, and the other major U.S. operators aren't so keen to give up this business development opportunity. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have their own mobile payment partnership project, ISIS. And Apple will likely give Google and the operators a run for their money with the iPhone 5.

So who will spark the mobile finance market for real? My money is on Google. They have the global reach, critical mass, adjacent services, and name recognition to pull this thing off. It's in the cards.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Will billboards replace the supermarket? Barcodes provide the missing link

Consumers, cameras, codes, and connections. This gives the hands-on shopping experience a whole new meaning.

I've been seeing the use of mobile-readable barcodes such as QR codes more and more in both Europe and the U.S. lately. Practically every street-level billboard has one, such as those at train stations and bus stops. But I've yet to see something quite like this: a virtual store linking the consumer to an entire shopping experience through the use of QR codes.

This concept by UK-based Tesco developed for their South Korean subsidiary redefines the retail experience. It brings the store to the wait instead of waiting to go to the store. I'm not sure I would use this myself, but that probably shows that I'm just not busy enough. But is this what's in store for all of us sooner or later?

This is not a supermarket, but an incredible simulation.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hey automakers, you're driving me crazy. It's time for auto manufacturers to make a dash towards clarity.

When it comes to usability, it seems that automakers are going in reverse. Who will become the Apple of the auto industry? There's opportunity here for somebody.

A few weeks back I rented a Ford Focus, a compact car with an expansive user interface. Ford clearly stuffed a PC into the dashboard, not because it was useful, but because they could. The car had one screen, and then another, and even another. It had irritating glowing lights and buttons and more buttons and menus and sub-menus and sub-sub-menus. You had to dial and press and select and dig and find and figure. At times I was certain a DOS-prompt would pop up. Ford together with partner Microsoft took the simple and obvious and made it confusing and obscure. And this in an environment in which clarity could be a life-or-death situation.

When it comes to stuffing technology into a device, it seems the auto industry is going through the same growing pains that handset vendors went through earlier last decade. Car makers have discovered feature creep as if it were a good thing, and they are driving it hard onto the consumer.

I have to wonder if the auto industry has taken any notice of what has happened in the smartphone market, and how quickly vendors can be leapfrogged when a sleeker UI comes along. It's good to learn from your own mistakes; it's better to learn from the mistakes of others.

For your consideration, please check out this Engadget video (the link opens in a new tab) of a ludicrous concept in-car user interface from Volvo. All knobs and buttons are replaced with screens and menus with the goal of "cleaning up" to create a "nice, clean interior." But clutter comes in many forms. After watching the Volvo video, watch the hilarious "Macbook Wheel" video embedded at the bottom of this post by the Onion. "Everything is just a few hundred clicks away." Was this Volvo's inspiration for their "clean" UI?

Here's some advice for automakers: it's time to Focus on usability. We drivers can take the clutter of big, clearly-marked buttons. And for smartphone vendors, there's some great opportunity here to correct the mistakes being made by Ford, Volvo and their contemporaries. Give them a crash course in usability.

A mad dash toward tech heavy. Does Ford know how to Focus on usability?
The vast, space-aged, mind-boggling interface of a Ford. Blue screens of death?

Volvo's concept UI. It seems like everything is just a few hundred clicks away.
Is Volvo giving customers features they don't even realize they want?
(Click on the PIC below to watch the video. It opens in a new tab.)

Is this "the Onion" video Volvo's inspiration for their hi-tech interior?
"With the Macbook Wheel... everything is just a few hundred clicks away."
" cutsomers features they don't even realize they want..."
Alternative link if the embedded video below doesn't work:,14299/
or see,14299/

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tongue in cheek: Problem: Your company is headed in the wrong direction. Solution: Assume the other guy is an idiot.

Are your company's results headed the wrong way? Are you losing market share... along with the consumers' interest?

Not paying attention to what you're doing? Got distracted for a moment or two?

Well, have no worries! Just blame that guy, the one over there. Use denial for all it's worth. It's a very powerful tool.

And what should you do about the potential on-coming crash? No problem. Just cross that bridge when you come to it.

For all you know, you might just scrape by. Good luck with it -- and roll the tape:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can Microsoft change the trajectory of a glacier? Will “Xbox TV” change an industry that refuses to change?

Oh no! Not this old re-run again: “TV as we know it is about to change.”

I've been semi-following the dull world of the U.S. subscription television for the past decade or so: it’s the walled garden of walled gardens. It’s an industry that crawls forward for many reasons: after all, why should service providers such as cable operators mess with a good thing?

It’s not an easy industry to change. And there have been many attempts. Over the years, there have been some real good tries from companies such as Nokia, Apple, Google. But the business model is still more or less the same.

Today CNN is reporting that Microsoft will introduce something called “Xbox TV” later this year. The story is dry of detail, but it looks like Microsoft might give TV business a go. Perhaps with more focused content, TV on demand, great search.

There’s no doubt that there is room for such innovation. But Microsoft is going to meet the same resistance as the others.

To be fair, there have been some successful external forces affecting the market over the years. Devices like TiVo and services like Netflix have driven some serious re-thinking for operators. But when change can be successfully resisted, it is.

It’s easy enough to find consumer dissatisfaction: paying for 300 channels when you only watch five, an extra TV is an extra fee, big ugly boxes sucking up juice 24-7, long-term contracts with price jumps after 12 months.

So, can Microsoft win at the TV game? I’d be surprised. Let’s watch this one closely.

"TV is about to change." Promises, promises. Do you believe?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A farewell to ARM? Not likely. The PC-Mobile clash has gotten white hot. All chips are in.

For more than a decade, Intel has been trying to get into the mobile market. But now it looks like the mobile market is about to get into Intel. And for Microsoft, there appears to be an inverse correlation to spend and success in mobile.

The clash between the mobile and PC milieus reached a peak this week with public displays of affection between Google and Intel. And between Microsoft and ARM. To me, these deals highlight the long-term failures of both Intel and Microsoft to break into the handset market in any significant way. Sure, an Intel chip made its way into the first Nokia Communicator back in 1996. But not a heck of a lot has happened since. And Microsoft's share of the smartphone market has reached a record low --under 3%-- last quarter. This despite having two mobile platforms on the market and some heavy ad spending.

The announcement from Google & Intel that Intel-powered Android smartphones will be coming out next year is certainly an interesting development for the market. And this means an additional boost for Android at a time when the platform has already taken 50% of the market. Intel's jumping on a bandwagon, and we should see more converged devices running Android including tablet- and laptop-like form factors.

Looking at the other side of the coin, the counter press release from Microsoft & ARM with additional cheerleading by processor vendors such as NVIDIA have ARM-based Windows PCs coming out in the near future. Porting Windows to run on ARM could be the shot across iPad's bow. Microsoft's use of the tile-based Metro UI in Windows 8 indicates that mobility and touch are leading the way. Windows 8 looks a lot like Windows Phone 7. Metro is the new WIMP. Introducing such an entirely new interface in Windows is a risky bet by Microsoft, but the software vendor knows it needs to do something to pull itself forward.

In reality the above announcements are not new. But at this point they stress the changes in the market: the partnerships, the form factors, the paranoia.

The collision course between PCs and mobile devices is all set. Let's see if something tasty comes out of all this:

Hey! You got mobile in my PC...
Two great tastes that taste great together?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The real McCoy? AT&T appoints Chief Medical (Information) Officer. Is mobile healthcare for real now?

Are you feeling good about the mobile healthcare market?

At what point does the hype deliver? I've been hearing talk about mobile healthcare and well-being for more than a decade. And it makes perfect sense. Nearly 100% of the populations of most developed market are connected 100% of the time. Sensors of all sorts are cheap and getting cheaper. The enablers are in place. So, what happens now?

I came across an AT&T press release about the creation of an executive position called “Chief Medical Information Officer.” The title is being filled by a physician with an MBA named Dr. Geeta Nayyar who will guide AT&T's “ForHealth” venture.

Note that Sprint recently appointed a “chief healthcare executive” to create a strategy for that operator’s health venture. As telecommunications has become an integral part of the healthcare infratructure, operators are positioning themselves to become more than a bit pipe. The potential for value-added services is certainly somewhere for some player.

As hardware and services become more commoditized, all mobile players should now ask themselves, do we need a top-level CMO (Chief Medical Officer)? Should all handset vendors have a central role for mobile health ventures, looking at the new opportunities along with the regulatory aspects of that market? Should infra vendors feel for their place in well-being? Are the APIs looking good to enable a new market?

So, is it time to get well soon?

AT&T Press Release >>

Mobile healthcare. Is it now the real McCoy?

"DiabetesManager:" keeping subscribers connected to life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Book Review: “How the mighty fall.” Read it and weep.

The “Five Stages” of falling. Where are you now?

Move over “In search of excellence.” Now we have: “In search of arrogance.” This is a new must read business-school book. And for broken-hearted businesspeople everywhere.

I didn't plan on including any book reviews on this blog, but a number of my colleagues recommended that I read this book given its painful relevance. “How the mighty fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In” is a 182-page do-it-yourself guide on ruining a company from the inside. Close your eyes, ignore the warning signs, lose concentration, and find something or someone else to blame. Full of solid examples and illustrations, this book will teach you how to destroy any well-run and successful company with brutal efficiency.

While in no way specific to the technology industry, given the fast-paced leapfrogging going on in industries such as wireless, this book's subject is painfully relevant to technology vendors of all sorts. As we have seen in the mobile biz, blink and another company is on top. Blink again, and the audience has forgotten your name altogether. As the book's author, Jim Collins, puts it, companies move on a path “from iconic to irrelevance.” So true.

Collins identifies the “five stages of decline:” hubris born of success, undisciplined pursuit of more, denial of risk and peril, grasping for salvation, and capitulation to irrelevance or death. But like Ebenezer Scrooge’s visions of miserable things to come, none of these stages necessarily have to pass. There is always room for R&R: recovery and renewal. Quoting Merck’s CEO Dick Clark, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Companies should feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad.

The point that Collins is making throughout the book is that any company must detect and address the warning signs early. Success is not an easy thing to handle and is often the beginning of failure. The euphoria of being on top is a sort of Novocain that numbs the senses, making it difficult for the top executive to feel the small pinches below. As the book says, “When you are at the top of the world… your very power and success might cover up the fact that you’re already on the path to decline.” Detect, detect, detect. And be brutally honest with yourself.

What often happens is successful companies get distracted into failure, ignoring the successful parts of the business while concentrating on business building. Collins calls it being “obsessed with growth.” The “waterline” metaphor Collins uses, quoting Bill Gore of W.L. Gore & Associates is particularly poignant, and is a way all executives should think. A ship can take a hit above the waterline, but below, and the water comes gushing in, and all hands are suddenly working on saving themselves. For any company, the cash cow has to be cared for. Ask yourself: where is your company’s waterline? Mind your foundation.

I could take issue with many of the anecdotes that Collins uses to make his points. Victory has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan. Collins points to Zenith, for example, as a company who had reached the top, becoming the number one black-and-white TV vendor in the U.S. in the late ’60s. Collins states that Zenith’s top executives then ignored the onslaught of competition coming from Japanese electronics manufacturers as the company began to dabble into adjacent industries such a VCRs and home security video cameras. While these ventures failed, I think it would be fair to take a look at the other side of the coin: had these ventures succeeded, any of these moves would have been identified as genius and visionary.

The book is also extremely American centric, with practically no mention of companies outside of the U.S. And more details of headline-grabbing examples of failures would have made this book a more interesting read for me. I would like to have read more about Apple and its near collapse in the mid-'90s. And a lot more about General Motors on its path to becoming a government-sponsored charity organization.

Of course, the truth is, there is no neat formula to failure. Every company has an amazing ability to fail in innovative and unique ways. But the general guidelines are all here in “How the mighty fall.” As a scenario-planning exercise, I would recommend that all top executives write a paragraph or two about the situations that would have them appear in any potential follow-up to this book: Perhaps it could be entitled “How the mighty fail.”

So, for anyone who has ever been part of the slow-moving train wreck that is a company in an obvious and painful decline, this book is for you. For those of you who have been forced to look up in frustration to arrogance and ignorance, to denial and distraction, this is for you. To those of you who have worked in an organization that was sure it could re-org its way back to the top, “How the mighty fall” is for you.

Complacency is a deadly disease. Build up your antibodies early, or choose your coffin now.

A & who? “From iconic to irrelevance”

“How the Mighty Fall.”
Please read it. And weep.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Who invented the tablet?! Who invented oxygen?

So, who invented the tablet form factor? This is certainly a topical discussion.

To anyone who has ever watched any sort of science fiction, from The Flintstones to The Jetsons, from Star Trek to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the concept of PDAs and tablets seemed rather obvious. It was a natural metaphor of touching and writing. Of paper and pen. Of pointing and gesturing.

I like to point to the Nokia MediaScreen, a proof-of-concept device introduced at IFA in September 1999, as the start of big thinking when it comes to the tablet. The MediaScreen was a Linux-based tablet concept device with a GSM uplink and DVB-T reception. It was hip, connected, exciting, and slightly ahead of its time. Nokia was at its peak during the time, and when Nokia spoke, the audience listened. The MediaScreen drove the fans wild. Was Nokia about to make the market for this new form factor? No.

About a year later 3Com introduced the Audrey. It was the time of internet-appliance madness. The Audrey was almost as pretty as its namesake, Audrey Hepburn, but the product never made it as big. It was canned mid-2001. But around the same time, Microsoft began talking about tablets and pen-based computing. The products weren't mature enough to succeed, but the ideas were still flowing.

Of course, the truth is credit is due to many. Gene Roddenberry and Arthur C. Clarke. 3Com and Palm (who were one in the same for a while). Apple and Nokia. Microsoft and Amazon. And many more.

It's a shame to see innovation go flat as it is these days. Hopefully going forward, the industry will be on a roll.

Flintstone's tablet: sometime between 50 million to 100,000 years ago:
Note: Dinosaurs roam free in the background, making accurate time determination a bit tricky.

Star Trek tablet: mid-1960s.. or the future:

Apple's Newton from 1993:

Palm Pilot PDA circa 1997:

Nokia's "MediaScreen" concept device, introduced in 1999:

3Com's "Audrey" introduced October 2000. Killed June 2001:

Nokia's 770 tablet, announced in 2005:

Microsoft's Slate computer introduced Jan 2010.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Damned truth and statistics. Is Google buying a major global smartphone vendor in Motorola Mobility? No.

"Verticalization and integration. Distribution and production. Global reach and blah blah blah."

I've been reading and listening to the opinions of many analysts and tech reporters about Google's planned takeover of Motorola Mobility. All mention the importance of Motorola's patent portfolio as part of Google's buying decision. Agreed. And most go on to talk about how Google will take this much further. "They will take tighter control of the Android ecosystem." "They will have vertical control like Apple has now." "They have purchased a major manufacturer of smartphones." I don't agree. The stats and facts of what Motorola really is don't fully support this.

Unfortunately for Motorola, this isn't 1995 any longer. The truth is, Motorola is no longer a major global player in much of anything. And for the most part, they don't "manufacture" anything either. (That's been outsourced to companies such as Foxconn.) For those who propose that Google is buying a big smartphone player with grand scale and great global reach, let's check the stats. MOTO's share of the global smartphone market is around 4%, most of that from sales in the U.S., Brazil, and China.

Motorola is only the 8th global smartphone vendor, with both Huawei and ZTE breathing down MOTO's neck. Motorola's smartphone market share across Europe hovers around 1% (due to an intentional concentration on the part of Motorola), and Motorola's handset unit has been running on negative profit margins nearly every quarter over the past five years, meaning Google will be diluting their margins going forward if they really do plan a serious push into the hardware business, all things being equal. Diluting margins? That would be a bizarre strategy on the part of Google.

Was Google really searching for a way to become a significant global smartphone vendor? If so, I think their luck has run out.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Times is a-changin. The mobile industry's greatest rebel? The Financial Times? YES!

Who would have thought that The Financial Times would lead the revolt against Big Brother?

Last week the expected happened: Apple's bouncers threw The Financial Times out of the iTunes mall. That's a lot of potential foot traffic that the publisher is missing out on. FT's crime to deserve such a punishment? Their desire for independence and freedom. And for maximized profits. And their desire to hold onto their own subscriber data. And to connect to the outside world from within Apple's domain.

The significance here is the use of HTML5 instead of using a native SDK. HTML5 looks like it has the potential to be a key enabler for simple and even rather complex applications. Take a look, for example, at Google Voice on an iOS device, and you'd think you're running a locally installed application. In an HTML5-world, every webpage as the potential to be an app.

FT is claiming success with its app-in-a-web-link approach. And other content owners and app developers are looking at this case very closely. With profit margins slim as things are, the ability to move outside of Apple's walled garden to keep the 30% commission that Apple takes could be an attractive option for content owners with strong name recognition.

Ironically, Apple is one of the key supporters of HTML5 development in the World Wide Web Consortium. But Apple is a pretty swift company, and while not historically very active in standardization, they see the need to influence the future rather than stick their heads in the sand.

For now, we need a couple more major publishers jumping to HTML5 and away from native apps before labeling this one a trend. Remember, three makes a trend.

But the times are a-changin.

It's time to change... or sink like a stone.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Tongue in cheek: free advice. three out of four ain't bad.

While all the advice on this blog is free,
Results do not come with any sort of guarantee.

Sometimes it's best to mind your own business. Cheerio and roll the tape:

Permalink to this entry

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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