Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Lewis Hamilton, in his debut season in Formula 1, looks set to take the world championship title this very weekend if he wins the Chinese Grand Prix. And with his claiming of the pole position, it looks like no one can stop him...
read more | digg story
Posted by Greg at 8:10 AM
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Persistence is sometimes looked upon as a strength. Persistence in a vision and carrying out effectively is necessary. This is Apple’s model. They have proven it with both their iPod and iPhone. Nokia, on the other hand, is about to be persistent…yet again. The communications giant is planning to re-launch the Nokia N-Gage series after failing twice.
Back in 2005, N-Gage was one of the first to offer an integrated mobile phone and video game console device. The idea was interesting and a novelty. The younger generation opted for it as they could good quality games on their phones.
The concept of two in one devices is not new. History and statistics tend to indicate that single application devices are more successful than integrated ones. Integrated devices would be better off if they clearly defined its priorities.
We can already play games on our phones though there are limitations in terms of resolution, speed and genre. The same applies to snapping photographs on our phones. However, we accept these limitations because we understand the primary function of the device. If you try to promote a video game console on a mobile phone, you undoubtedly risk disappointing your core audience.
Nokia learnt this lesson the hard way and will now introduce new features in their product. For example, you do not have to remove the battery to play games. You can play online with your friends. You will be match to similar ranking players to avoid competing with advanced gamers. You will even be able to demo games before purchasing it.
Will these be enough to make the third series of N-Gage into a success? Somehow, I am skeptical because of the mere presence of PSP and Nintendo DS. If you are a hardcore gamer, chances are you will lean towards PSP, upcoming PSP2 or even Nintendo DS. Sony and Nintendo have produced consumer-appreciated devices in terms of size, portability, battery life and game quality.
N-Gage, on the other hand, has been unable to match it from either a size or game titles perspective. So if you are not a hardcore gamer or are someone who is satisfied with typical games on mobile phones, why would consider a bulkier device with limited game choices? It will be an unlikely option for teenagers even if Nokia dropped its price.
This is a good example of lost focus. Nokia is trying to find reasons to make N-Gage successful. Changing the design or incorporating new features is probably going to make consumers more confused. I hope for Nokia’s sake that I am wrong. The missing element here is consumer insight. Trying to hard to fulfill your desire, may only lead you to lose focus on the primary objective.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Flashback : Remember the old Napster time where everyone could download illegal music without any protection. Some years after, iTunes Music Store signaled their intention to capture the online music market by selling DRM songs. And they did just that, having secured more than 70 per cent of the market share.
Let's remember that DRM did not originate from Apple but was a request by music record companies, who are reluctant to release their music catalogue for free distribution online.
Progressively, the Pandora's Box was opened.
EMI shot first and offered a 'more expensive’ free song with a better quality on iTMS. Now, Universal has joined the fray by allowing Walmart, the biggest retailer in US, to sell music without any protection, albeit at a lower quality of 256kbps.
From a consumer’s point of view, it means that music purchased online is no different from what they’ll get from a music compact disc. There is no restriction on copying, sharing or distributing the content.
The question is: what is the repercussion on businesses?
We can expect a major shift in the industry in the months ahead. There is no reason why other studios will not follow suit. This will probably impact the sales performance of the iTunes Music Store as well.
There are several options:
- All online retailer will drop their DRM
This will include Apple, which could translate into an increased in the potential sales for iPods capable of reading music without protection. It also points to a complete rethinking of the iTunes Music Store that is currently tied up exclusively with iPod. In such a case, all MP3 players will be able to download music from iTunes.
- Market will be segmented
Some stores and record companies will continue to sell DRM songs. Among these, some DRM songs will be released, while others will be marketed as part of dedicated packages. These packages could promise higher quality encoding for more value, or offer different price alternatives. I sincerely hope it will not happen. This will create confusion for the consumer and affect sales. The only winner will be the illegal music pirates who continue to peddle free downloads.
- DRM will be dropped, BUT
Under the pressure of music studios, some players like Apple might drop the DRM system. But it is likely to strength tie-ups between iPod and the iTunes Music Store. Microsoft is expected to do same with Zune and Sony with its own player. This is not the best of outcomes. Unfortunately, history speaks for itself and the consumer will find themselves back to square one.
So, what do we want?
We want to be able to download good quality songs to our music system or portable player. We agree to pay, much like the way we pay for a CD or a DVD, but YOU, the industry, have to ensure we can play it on all our devices.
Please, make it happen.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Today is a sad day. Regardless how loud we shout, how we persevere, today is just one of those days where you are not heard.
Dreamworks and Paramount just announced their exclusive support to the HD-DVD. Their decision is based reduced manufacturing cost, simpler technology manufacturing processes that will ultimately result in lower prices for consumers. This would probably remind you the old Betamax-VHS case.
Do not get me wrong. I am not judging their allegiance to either the BRD or HD-DVD camp.
As a consumer and a marketer, I still believe BRD outperforms HD-DVD, at least in terms of quality and features. I am truly sad not to be able to watch Bumble Bee on my high-end BRD High Definition system. But that is besides the point.
What makes me sad is the use of a single word in their Press release - 'Exclusive'. Yet again the consumer held hostage…right in the middle of a crossfire. The CD format gained enormous success due to its universality. Many others such as DAT, MD, SACD, Dolby Digital Audio failed because it was tied to a proprietary format.
Now entire industry is looking at High Definition as the next cash cow. It is a battle to be won over the next few years. However, it may end up being a long drawn fight. Consumers are already finding it complex to grasps between 720, 1080i, 1080p, HDMI 3.0, DVI, True Dolby Digital. Introducing a Media selection is only going to make it more complex.
Mister Manufacturers, please do us a favor, to make both our lives easier. Find an agreement to ensure we can all enjoy High Definition. Consumers will be the winner and industry will grow and profit at the same time. This may be tedious but definitely a win - win situation.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Well, a new code has been cracked today. I am referring to the San Jose Semaphore from Ben Rubin. For those not familiar with it, you can read on at the earstudio website.
Imagine a tall building (Adobe Headquarter in San Jose) with 4 wheels. Each of it can assume four distinct positions: vertical, horizontal, and left and right-leaning diagonal; together, the four wheels have a vocabulary of 256 possible combinations. The San Jose Semaphore transmits its message at a steady rate; its four wheels turn to new positions every 7.2 seconds....
Over the past year, several people have tried to decrypt that message unsuccessfully. But now two analyst, Bob Mayo and Mark Snesrud, from Silicon Valley have succeeded. Their conquest which is revealed on their website was essentially a broadcast of the entire text of from Thomas Pynchon's “The Crying of Lot 49”.
I think this is awesome.! It is great to see how technologies can be used in Art. Ben Rubin was using digital components, XML code, to express his vision, his ‘Art’ sense. We are maybe entering a new era where artist will mix conventional art with 'new medias'. We can probably expect to see more of such messages coming up in the future. Previously, the only location where one could see a mix of Art and New Media was in the 'Modern Art Museum’. I guess we should now call them 'contemporary', but in that case, what will be the next phase of the modern art?
I am not only amazed but also admire the imagination and determination of the people who can crack such codes. Digital and technologies are new ways to express messages and can be great way to stimulate peoples’ skills / imagination.
Finally, I think this is nice to see that movies can be linked to reality. Whilst Da Vinci Code remains as just a great movie, the coding activities and riddles continue to be part of lives indefinitely.
Posted by Greg at 8:59 AM
Monday, July 16, 2007
As consumers, there are few things we can accept and others we will not bend over for. When we decide to accept a cheap product, we have to inevitably accept that it may be inferior in quality. Similarly, when we pay for service, we should expect to get a certain level of service.
No matter the scenario, we should never accept being fooled. We must insist getting what we paid for. However, in reality, there are many occasions when this does not happen, especially when we are not in control of the situation.
A very common situation, where many can relate to – car maintenance. Many workshops attempt to take advantage of vulnerable car owners by advising them to change parts that really never needed to be replaced. Many of us have blind faith that “if the mechanic says so…then it should be right”. The question then is - Should we take the risk? Should we be so trusting?
Yet another common experience is internet connectivity. Many service providers proudly claim to offer significantly high internet speeds. We, in turn, get excited with their various promotions offering 30Mpbs or even 100Mbps. I am sure this is prevalent in most countries.
Unfortunately, many fail to realize that these speeds are rarely reached. There are many elements that will effectively bring the internet speed down. On average, you will probably hit speeds of 1-2Mbps. Elements such as distance from your terminal (if you are on wireless), number of simultaneous connections, type of modem and type of wireless device….all have an impact on the internet speed you can attain. Those on ‘shared’ broadband services (such as Starhub), also have to contend with the fact that if there are more subscribers in their area, they may have lower speeds.
In such cases, you have a right to be upset. These elements are usually never explained to you explicitly. We can probably accept if those speeds cannot be attained due to technical limitations. However, when we are not informed of the other elements, we are effectively being fooled!
If you are already concerned about what speeds you are getting, I invite you to check out Speedtest . It’s a fantastic tool to measure your internet speed at different times of the day. Try it and please share your experiences with me.
On my system, based on the time and, I do not know what other parameters (maybe even the weather!), my speed kept fluctuating between 1Mbps to 13Mbps. The same system, the same network, the same measurement tools got me a swing of 13x!!! That is ridiculous.
Imagine driving your car and you realize that your speed varies from 10 mph up to 130 mph.... Of course, traffic congestion influences your speed. It is the same on internet.
As a consumer, we have the right to know. Mister providers, Singtel, Starhub of this world (for singapore), please be honest and treat your customers with respect.
Posted by Greg at 8:30 PM
Sunday, July 15, 2007
An interesting read, along similar lines, which I recommend you check out – “The world was our office” from FT. Its about mobility and communication.
It relates about the challenge put forth to two managers from a digital company, Enable. They were supposed to work entirely off their mobile devices for 1 week. I am not going to summarize Matt Connolly and Darius Pocha’s experience but instead extend an invitation for you to share your thoughts with me (so please read the article).
We all claim to be ‘mobile’, connected and reachable anytime whether to a client, your company or even friends. But is being mobile, really the way to effectively run a business? Strangely, similar to what the two faced in their 1 week challenge, the main issues people faced were battery life and preparation time. Have you noticed whenever you go on a holiday or business trip, you spend a considerable amount of time packing cables, batteries and chargers for all your devices. When you forget 1 cable, it can drive you insane! Let’s hope our prayer for a all-in-one charger or cable solution comes along soon.
The second take away for me is the relation between productivity and connectivity. We tend to mistake quality with quantity, urgent with important. Focus on quality not quantity, deliver what is important, not urgent. It’s simple as that!
Is it the same with connectivity? Are we really more productive when we are reachable 24 by 7? During my fight back from Beijing in a plane, I was so glad not have any internet or mobile phone connections. That gave me some precious space and time to think, to plan, to clear my minds on what I wanted to do next.
I think we should start a new campaign called ‘get unwired’. We are fast becoming prisoners of technology and connectivity. Just like drug addicts, we go through withdrawal symptoms without these devices.
Posted by Greg at 10:07 AM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Apple is close to proclaiming that an amazing 100,000,000 iPods sold.
That’s why I bring up that question “how many iPods do you own?”. You probably say they are mad….but I know some people with more than 5 iPods..
Well, if you are not a techno freak, chances are you will be contended with one iPod most probably selected on your needs based on form factor and capacity storage.
If you like to watch movies (lucky Americans can even purchase movies through iTunes Music Store) or require large capacity storage for insane amounts of music, you will go for the iPod Video.
Most probably, you own less than 100 CDs , and therefore do not require a large capacity storage. Chances are that you may purchase the sleek iPod Nano should you have fewer songs to keep it mobile.
Finally, if you are looking for a 'Press and Play' MP3 player, you will probably go for the iPod Shuffle. Hang it it to your jean, your jacket, shuffle your library randomly, this is the easiest way to tune your life.
Evaluating Consumer needs only give you part of the total picture. It is interesting to understand Consumer's usage behavior to complete the picture.
Some people like to have music at Home, in different rooms. There are currently several way to do it. The Old School method would be to get multiple HiFi systems in each room. For the advanced users, they might stream from a central location like iTV, or a Mac/Pc using Airport or any other streaming device. Finaly, some other people will plug multiple iPods in multiple rooms to stand alone speaker sets. In such a case, there is an high chance you run for multiple iPods, one especially in the bedroom to wake up to the sweet crisp music from iPod.
Should you have a car and carry your favorite tunes, you can plug and unplug your iPod to dedicated car stereo system or even stream it through radio waves (which I will not recommend unless you do not care about music quality). The easiest would be to have a fixed iPod in the car. This saves the hassles of commuting your iPod back and forth from home and forget it sometimes in one or the other location while you need it in the other one.
Should you jog or go to gym , you can definitively use the iPod Video or Nano.However, you wont probably take the risk to damage the hard disk of the video iPod and avoid to get sweat on the sleek designed Nano. For such a reason, you might be tempted to go for your cute little iPod shuffle and even have a matching colored one carrier to hang it on your tee shirt or short.
Finally, the best companion for a daily usage is still the iPod nano. Take it with you, carry it in your pocket, bring it at work and it will supply you with enough music for the day.
Well, If you are anything like people who focus on usage, yes there is a chance you would carry multiple iPods and at same time contribute to the Apple Stock raise.
Oh, I forgot to add one important point. You need to have an iPhone as well....
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Couple of the year, wedding of year…look at it any way you want. It is a match made in heaven.
One of the best applications is now available on the best phones in the market. More specifically, Meebo with iPhone. In my earlier contribution, I talked about Netvibes. Meebo is successful in the same area – aggregation of content.
iPhone is already regarded as the ultimate revolutionary phone. Meebo, on the other hand, is just as revolutionary. It allows you centrally manage all your various messaging applications such as Yahoo, MSN, AOL, etc. The takes away the pain of not only keeping track of difference chat windows but also multiple applications loading each time you start your computer. Not only that, you can even post it as a widget on your website. This will allow you to have live chats with people who visit your site. That’s the fantastic Meebo for you
You can read more about Meebo on iPhone on many other sites. You can try :
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
I am not referring to the movie, storyline, cast, etc. Feel free to find out more about that from IMDb (Transformers | Die Hard 4.0) . You can even read on an interesting comparison between the two movies here.
I am more interested in exploring the spirit of the movie from both a consumer and marketing point of view.
Die Hard still rides on its old age successful formula, a very traditional ‘good guy saves the day’ approach. It very likely that the director, Wiseman or even Bruce will tell you that they wanted to capitalize on past success while injecting more zest in the form of action and humor. But you know, it doesn’t impress the consumer anymore. We have been flooded with so many action movies since Die Hard 1 that it will take a lot more to get us to the edge of our seat!
Transformers, on the other hand, got it right. Not only were the action scenes unique, you can literally feel the ‘physics’ involved in those incredible action scenes. I can go on and on about all the aspects they got right, the awesome stunts, the appropriate slow motion sequences, etc. Even the robots were executed to perfection making it seem almost real, that is if you can accept robots being able to be transformed into cars.
Hey! There was even fresh new humor thrown in as opposed to the recycled tacky jokes in Die Hard 4.0.
Launching a campaign or a product is the same. There is a common saying, “Do what you used to do and you only get what you used to get”. At most, you take the risk element out. The best recipe for success is ‘change, adapt and be reactive and innovative”. This applies in movies as well. This is probably why Transformers will shoot through the global box offices.
Monday, July 2, 2007
The iPhone is not just a mobile phone but MP3 player, camera and web browser all rolled into a ‘sexy’ looking device. Then again, there are many other similar devices already in the market, all vying to be your ultimate all-in-one gadget.
The question that begs to be answered: Will Apple succeed where many other brands failed?
Let’s look and the iPhone feature by feature and see if we can predict the outcome.
The iPhone offers one of the best integrated music player as it rides on the same iPod interface. It behaves like a real iPod and has a seamless synchronization with your computer. However, unlike the iPod, its storage capacity is currently limited to 8GB. We can probably expect Apple to introduce higher capacity iPhones closer to the holiday seasons when the Flash memory capacity storage will increase.
This alone will draw many Apple and iPod fans alike to purchase an iPhone.
Being in control of its own ecosystem, Apple enable users to transfer pictures from their phone to a computer with relative ease. The built-in iTunes will serve as a multimedia manager not just for songs but digital pictures as well.
The iPhone has been hailed as revolutionary and rightly so. Though many of its advanced features are currently tailor-made to work between Apple and AT&T, it is only a matter of time before other operators both in US and internationally join in the game!
Its not only the in-built Safari browser that allows you surf via wireless or GPRS connections which is amazing but its automatic screen rotation. You can even zoom in and out using Minority Report’s gesture control. Unfortunately, websites are becoming more sophisticated and require a lot of resources. A majority of these websites are not designed for surfing through mobile phones yet.
As with other devices, the iPhone allows you to check emails. We probably need to see how the security system works is compatible with major professional emailing and VPN systems.
As mentioned earlier, the all-in-one concept is not new. PIMs (Personal Information Manager), as it is commonly known, has been around for some time. New technologies continue to be embedded or some would claim invade mobile phones. Does this mean one will stop using dedicated devices? I highly doubt so.
Both the all-in-one and dedicated devices serve specific needs of consumers and will continue to do just that. The market is large enough for it to flourish. Business users, who rely on a WM5 or Blackberry device, may still own the iPhone as a multimedia companion. For the Mac user, the iPhone helps complete the digital hub. For students, it probably will be the ultimate ‘cool’ or in thing to own an iPhone despite costing over US$1500 for a 2-year contract.
The iPhone goes beyond its claimed list of features. After the PSX (PlayStation 1), after the iPod, after the PSP, after the Wii…the iPhone is the new product in the list of ‘must haves’. Forget any rationale on whether you should or should not get the iPhone. .
At the end it does not really It doesn’t really matter. After all, the only difference between men and boys is the price of their ‘toys’
Friday, June 29, 2007
iPhone – Apple’s newest flagship product is set to debut soon. After the phenomenal success with iPod, Apple is prepared to venture into the mobile space.
The iPod and iPhone share not only similar features but ‘genes’ as well. They were designed by people who truly understand consumer needs and placed emphasis on design rather than just technology.
This ‘thinking’ and approach is probably the main factors that fuelled iPod to such greatness and why competition lagged behind. Many others simply went out bought high capacity hard drives or Flash memory, engaged a low cost design firm in China and produced MP3 players. However, though many of these MP3 players had more sophisticated features, it failed to compete with iPod.
iPod succeeded because it provided more than just a player. It integrated hardware, software and content. It essentially had its own eco-system.
The iPhone is likely to embark on a journey. Apple is building strong connections with network operators to build a sustainable ecosystem. However, operators and content providers are independent and thus Apple will not have full control. This is one of the reasons why Apple took such long time before entering the mobile phone market. They needed to ensure that all parties in the eco-system could provide the require backbone to support its phone features.
The iPod story is a key lesson for all current and aspiring Apple competitors. Do not simple launch a fully featured or touch screen phone, it will not be able to compete with iPhone.
The iPod and iPhone are like myths and it will go down in history for good reasons.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The Apple iPhone will be available in a couple of days. Most of IT websites, news web sites, analysts, professionals are predicting a immense success.
For sure the iPhone will be a success. It might even be as successfull as the iPod. The iPhone and and the iPod share the same 'success genes ' which are : Brand image, Ease of use, Design, Integration and finally the most important one 'a consumer product designed and taylored for consumer by consumer thinking people'
However,some differences can be identified between the two products :
- Operator locked
In order to purchase the iPhone, you need to take a two year contract with AT&T. Eventhough you would consider to buy it and get it shipped overseas, it will not work.
- Operator backend related
Most of the iPhone unique features require an operator taylored made set up . In order to expend its geographical coverage, Apple need to engage other operators in the rest of the world.
- USA Availability only
Back in 2002, the iPod was released in all region at the same time. The iPhone will be limited at launch to USA and sales figures might be down by 20% because of the lack of sales from Europe or Asia.
We should not forget that despite the immense iPod success at launch, it only started to sky rocket later when iTMS service was fully available, when the TV commercial was released and when the marketing actions hit all regions.
The iTunes Music Store customer experience is not similar in all regions. Europe is for example dying to get movie video download while the Asian music stores availability are lacking behind. Despite that, the iPod is still a huge success in those regions, eventhough sales would even be better if the iTunes Music Store features would as advanced in those regions as they are in the USA.
The iPhone success might face a similar situation and its full potential might be totally unlocked in a near future. However, most probably like you, I am dying to get my hands on it....
Thursday, June 14, 2007
It's probably true for most of us that the first thing we do when we reach the office is to turn on our computers and grab a cup of coffee. These actions are not just a habit but now very much a necessity.
Our world has changed dramatically over the last decade. It has become very increasing important to stay connected. Information is no longer channeled to us through radio and TV.
However, knowing how to turn on your computer is not enough. Picture this: You know how to drive but you also need to be knowledgeable in how to get your way around. You need help.be it a GPS device, roadmap, traffic new via radio, etc.
Similarly, information available through computers is in abundance. You need help here too. The new trend for sharing and acquiring information is blogging. Again.blogging is also is not without its downside. How can one possibly keep abreast of the tons of information from various sources? It can be sheer a nightmare and you will probably get a headache!
There is a cure..Netvibe! It helps you create a simple page where you can conveniently add your favorite sources of websites. That's not all, it even summarizes the information. Netvibe helps to get all the relevant elements you need..whether is a widget, RSS feed, etc. Its all there.at the touch of your fingertips.
My point is a long winded way (as usual).."Welcome to the start of Web 3.0 - delocalization of information".
Monday, June 11, 2007
Test for the brave: Leave home tomorrow without any electronic gadgets. No laptop, no handphone, etc. You will probably take 5 steps out your home only to run back in to grab it all with you. Another test: Try calling your close friend, relative without using the contacts feature in the phone. Can you remember their telephone number..confidently. by heart?
Welcome to the digital world!
We have, without a doubt made great technological leaps since the 60s. Techology has evolved from analog to digital, tapes to MP3s, conventional TVs to Plasmas, camera films to memory cards...the list goes on.
Where are we heading from here? My guess is 'virtualization of information'.. When you need something, you simple search it on the web. When you need to reach a friend, you go to LinkedIn, Myspace, messenger, etc. . Over 100 million videos are downloaded daily from YouTube. All these point to the fact that people are changing the way they consume videos, media and information.
Consumers are no longer alone. There is a tight interaction between technology and consumers. They go hand in hand. The consumer is connected and mobile more than ever before. But don't be mistaken, not only are we adapting to technology, it is adapting to us as well. In a recent US survey, it was suggested that the dexterity of the new generation's thumb has increased. As weird as it seems, it is true. Have you observed differently people interact with their phones, especially teenagers!
As a result, there is a tendency to bombard consumers with information through various digital channels in the believe that he will be more receptive in a shorter period of time. Personally, I do not feel that launching a CRM, digital or mobile campaign is going to be more effective or reach out to more customers. The consumer is clever and getting increasingly smarter. There is less brand loyalty and convincing them to purchase a specific product or service is only getting harder.
Sure, I would not consider a 360 marketing campaign to be complete if it does not include digital, and mobile elements. Forget these two mediums and there is a high chance that you failed to maximize the impact of your campaign.
Technology is not an end goal. It is merely a new way to reach your consumer. So let us not forget our basics marketing principles. Do not forget that our job is to answer consumer needs. Use technology as a media, a way to reach them and use it wisely. Do not overload your consumer with too much information. Digital is a way to better select and understand who you want to talk to, how you want to talk to him and what kind of message you want to deliver.
Digital is a excellent weapon. Use it wisely with marketers who know how to handle it. Use it with marketers who first understand your audience, your market and your products. Marketers need to evolve to cope with technology but they need to learn how to use this new tool.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
The first A Brand company to release a NAND Flash notebook was Sony with the VGN-UX series like the UX180P model.
Other companies like Palm and Asus (just announced the EeePC, see at http://www.asus.com.tw/news_show.aspx?id=7317) are following the trend and we can expect more products to be released in the future.
The Eee PC seems to have additional benefits compared to the Palm Foleo. First of all, it is not positioned as a 'mobile phone accessory' but as a stand alone product. Second, the price range (around $200) seems to be more in line to the target audience expectation. Asus is proving that a good concept can be well executed, let's wait for the first units to be tested and evaluated and let's hope it is really up to its promises.
The reason why company are looking for NAND Flash notebook is because they want to answer the consumer needs for mobility and connectivity.
NAND Flashed computers benefits are :
- Faster bootable time
- Shock proof
- Reduced physical foot print that will allow to reduce laptop form factor
- Extended battery life time based on lower consumption
- Faster information access time
- Size limitation compared to OS and software storage needs
- Cost for high capacity memory
In the short term two new product categories are expected to emerge :
1) NAND Flash laptops
Those products will focus on battery life, size, wireless connectivity
2) NAND Flash + HDD Laptops or Desktops
The NAND Flash will be probably used to speed up the boot time and allow a faster resume time. New laptops will as well be able to be used as a media player while they are turned off.
It is expected to see more and more products taking benefits of this new technology. However, in order to succeed, company should continue to focus on consumer needs and not the technology.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
One would probably be impressed by the Foleo concept if you go to the Palm website and check their product demo.
It seems to be the ideal solution for everyone who is looking for a way to stay connected through emails and internet. The Foleo has a comfortable screen, large enough to ease reading and surfing, it comes with a real keyboard, it can download Office files, it is very light, it has a long battery life, it is embedded with wireless technologies and can boot up instantly thanks to the flash memory storage.
However, despite it seems to be the ideal travel companion, the Foleo fails to really convince about its concept on several points :
- No touch screen
- No simcard embedded
- Expensive price
- Positioning does not answer totally its target audience needs
Let's review some scenarios :
Business travellers are already equipped with a laptop, most probably a light unit (up to 14") and a email enabled mobile phone. It is unlikely that they will sacrifice their phone or their laptops to the Foleo. It is difficult to believe they will as well carry a third mobile unit.
Most of students nowadays carry a mid range laptop, a phone with multimedia capability. They might be attracted by the Foleo promises. However, it is unlikely they could afford a Foleo that cost almost the same price as a second hand laptop.
The Foleo could be considered as well as an Home product, to surf internet and check emails easily. However, the price of this unit would probably turned down most of purchase intentions.
It is difficult at this point of time to predict a great success to the Foleo. We might expect this product to be succesful to a limited audience, fan of mobility, high tech, with high income.
The Foleo failed to convince that it really answer the consumer needs. It would have been interested to add a simcard chip and of course to lower its price positioning.
However, we have to acknowledge that the Foleo shows a new trend on mobile computing and could hope that future product will really answer consumer needs. Let's recognize Palm efforts to try to break in that new segment.
Learn more :
Sunday, May 27, 2007
There has been significantly important information circulated recently on Sony’s PS3. First, Sony’s is discontinuing the 20GB version of the PS3 and introduced an 80GB for Korean market only. Then the rumor mills are churning with that Sony plans to cut prices of PS3. Is this a natural product evolution cycle or a defensive move that may relate to sales?
Sony operates like any other company; they abide by the manufacturing and industry rules. The rules of the gaming industry was defined almost 15 years ago when Sony unveiled its PS1. Consoles were sold below cost but good margins made on software. As production capacity increased, consumers enjoyed further price cuts on the console. This was obviously made possible by reduction of key production material costs.
Industry rules are generally driven by product roadmaps and component costs. Both new and End-Of-Line(EOL) models are decided in advance taking into consideration market demands, competition and component roadmaps. Manufacturers negotiate with suppliers in advance to secure production materials suppliers at low prices. Finally, various components and price combinations are evaluated to determine the one that best suits the market and consumer needs whilst preserving a profit margin for the company.
The question then arises as to why new models are being introduced 6 months after the first.
During the launch of PS3 in Europe, Sony announced that 600,000 units were sold in 2 days. This was view as a disappointing launch from a event perspective (source: TF1, LCI, Launch of Playstation 3 in France). If sales to do meet expectations, it is crucial for manufacturers to make quick decisive measures based on market needs. In this case, consumers opted to purchase the 60GB version of PS3 as the price difference with the 20GB unit was $100 only. The 60GB unit came equipped with Wifi capabilities as well. We can safely assume that the entry-level unit was meant to drive people to stores.
Another possible factor is the contract between Sony and its hard drive suppliers. Component issues or shortages would mean Sony has to review its product roadmap. Sony announced that the demand for its 60GB unit is much higher and they are assessing how best to address the consumer needs. However, the fact that the 20GB units are discontinued is not good news at all.
PS3 is one of the best and most powerful gaming unit in the market today. The question is whether Sony has found its right audience. Microsoft’s XBOX is continuously increasing its presence in the market. I am not referring to market shares but ‘love shares’ and ‘technological shares’. Their games are getting better and providing new experiences for the consumers. GRAW II and Halo III is an example. It has even introduced the HD DVD and an Elite edition XBOX 360 with HD support. In addition, they are now binding the console with Home Theater, taking the fight full on with Sony. More recently, they announced linking XBOX with Windows Live Messenger, which is definitely a good way to attract additional audiences.
Let not overlook Nintendo’s Wii. Nintendo continues to produce great games for gamers. They focus less on technology compared to its competitors. They fight on a different front. Nintendo survived with its GameBoy while many of competitors folded or faded away. Lynx from Atari, GameGear from Sega and the fantastic portable PC Engine from NEC are now all defunct. Nintendo continues with its success on Nintendo DS and now Wii is making heads turn and raking up the cash register. This is despite they fact that Wii has nether great games nor HD or Blue Ray support. It does have, however, games that entertain.
So where does Sony fit into all of this? The Blue Ray battle that has started on the Home Theater market will be fierce but Sony using the PS3 as a primary advantage to promote its format. By introducing entry-level units, it is enticing consumers to take up its format. Discontinuing the 20GB unit, may displace Sony from some markets. Unless Sony immediately introduces a higher capacity PS3 model at a lower cost.
Some of the more recent announcements seem to suggest that Sony is taking greater defensive actions. Though PS3 may not be as successful as they anticipated, it appears the new PSP model will help strengthen its dominance. Sony has to continue to innovate to survive. It cannot afford to lose the battle in the HD format as they did in the Betamax many years ago.
We can probably expect Sony to react aggressively in the coming months and years. The PS3 is just one of its ammunition from the arsenal. Hang on, sit tight…the battle is getting interesting.
Friday, May 25, 2007
One new feature of the Sony PS3-PSP ecosystem is called PSP Remote.
As you could imagine, it is a way to control your PS3 through your PSP. Imagine that you could have all the content of your PS3 on your PSP. This is exactly what offers you the PSP Remote feature.
So, how does that work ? First you need to download the lastest firmware on both PS3 and PSP. Then, you have to 'pair' the two units together using an USB cable. After selecting the PS3 Remote option on the main unit, you just have hook up your PSP on any free access WiFi hotspot and select the same option.
Automatically, the PSP will then go on line, and granted you accedd to the PS3 interface.
I was able to watch trailers and preloaded video on my PSP directly from the PS3. This is a great option if you want to use your PSP as a media player while your PS3 is used as a media server. You can as well shop on the Sony PlayStation Store.
Unfortunately, I was not able to play preloaded games (even the arcade games) nor was I able to stream DVD.
I have to admit I was quite positively surprised. Sony is trying to engage consumers both from a mobility and living room prospective and it is about to succeed.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Wii-volution your life
When the gaming industry was buzzing with the launch a new revolutionary entertainment device from Nintendo, I view it with some skepticism. After all, I was left slightly disappointment with the release of recent gaming console. It was not because they were not were not good but more due the hype played out in the industry.
In fact, when Nintendo finally released Wii, I became even more skeptical even after some of my friends kept raving about how cool and fun it was. While passing through an IT mall, I watch a demo and decided to risk buying a set for myself. Mind you, I did this with as much skepticism.
This skepticism has been replaced with a greater amount of admiration for Nintendo. Over the last decade, Nintendo has continued to innovate and differentiate itself while others compete for technology supremacy.
Each gaming product tried to convince you that it was the right entertainment for you. However, they focused on technology rather than the real customer needs. What we got were mobile gaming devices with possibly color screens with 3D capabilities but were subjected to poor battery life spans and limited games. Nintendo understood this and survived with its GameBoy and successor products.
Nintendo’s Wii is not only cheaper than other major gaming consoles but comes with a gesture-control motion sensor. For those not familiar, it means that instead of controlling a character on the screen through a game pad, you physically perform the action in front of the screen. You can probably understand the reason for my skepticism now. Amazingly, Wii really works as claimed. The magic is not the technology but more in how Nintendo has applied. They have introduced a completely new level of excitement and fun to gaming.
It is only in recent time times that gaming has become a family entertainment activity. In the past, many considered it to be disruptive as the traditional approach was where you either played alone or with a virtual body online.
Go try a game like Rayman. You will have so much fun with your friends trying to throw a cow or dance to the rhythm of Kill Bill music that it will generate new feelings, new emotions and most importantly you will have a great time.
Trust me…. Nintendo will Wii-volution your life.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
How to succeed against Apple ? How to come back to profitability ? What product should a company create in order to try to bring its sales closer to the 10 000 000 iPods shipped during last quarter ?
When Apple stock sky rocket to $100.40 , reaching his highest level for the past 10 years, Creative stocks falled from $31.75 in March 2000 to $5.91. The market sanction is tough, the lesson to learn tougher. However, one should acknowledge the number 2 position of Creative Labs in terms of sales.
Manufacturing an MP3 player is easy. Technology becomes affordable, design shop houses are opening at every corner of the street to propose the 'iPod killer' design to any manufacturer, software is know. So , why is it so difficult to find the iPod, why is it difficult to get profitable on that market ?
First of all, more than on any other market, margins are tight, really tight. Accurate distribution process, strict inventory control, proper component prices are some of the key elements that can turn your 'gold mine' products into a financial disaster for your company. For a product sold at $99, it is not rare to have a margin around 5%. When you have to consider the taxes, import duties, shipment and retail margin, any swing in market price, key component, inventory is extremely dangerous. Driving profitable MP3 sales is becoming a exercise close to driving an F1 formula.
A key success element comes through your product creation. However, companies like Creative Labs need to make choices. How to you want to fight Apple ? Choose your battle and strategy and stick to it. When you have an opponent as strong as Apple in front of you, the direct and frontal attack rarely succeeds. It might hurt from time to time, disturb you but it is unlikely it is going to win over the long run.
Trying to fight Apple can be assimilated to a judo fight. Use your opponent strength against him. If your opponent is stronger and heavier, be faster and smoother. Make him swing until he falls on the floor.
Apple does not succeed only because iPod is better designed, integrated with iTunes or properly supported by the music industry. iPod is becoming a generic name, an icon. People want to buy an iPod regardless of your technology or your price.
It is not because you will offer a $10 cheaper product than iPod that you will sell it. It is not because you offer an higher capacity product than the iPod that you you will sell more. The result will only be a drop in your margin.
Creative new product Zen Stone is a nice designed product. However, will it capture the iPod shuffle product market ? It will certainly capture some sales and take some market shares from other competitors but will not shuffle the iPod supremacy.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Microsoft just announced that it will be making Live Messenger available through the xBox 360 game console. This move is a reflection of the long ongoing battle which started more than 10 years ago to control the Digital Home market.
This announcement indicates that though the battle for the Digital Home continues, it has moved from the living room to the mobility sector and new weapons introduced.
In previous time, similar industries, for example PC or Consumer Electronics, would be fighting a ‘war’ among themselves. Then a decade ago, people started talking about convergence. This was essentially a declaration of war by the PC manufacturers who decided to invade the living room territory controlled by CE manufacturers.
10 years on, there are still no winners. However, two companies Apple and Sony have clearly taken the lead even though they hail from opposing sides. One from the computer industry whilst the other from the Consumer Electronic industry.
Apple is promoting itself from the ‘Digital Hub’ angle. For Apple, the lifestyle centers around the computer and all your digital peripherals are connected through it. The computer is used as a central storage location. Progressively, Apple is adding components to its digital hub and moving towards the Multimedia entertainment.
It has made numerous announcements over the years but there are 6 very important ones:
1st : Easy connection through all your digital peripherals.
2nd : Release of the iPod, to manage your digital music collection on the go.
3rd : Release of iLife, to manage your digital life (pictures, movies, DVDs) easily.
4th , : Release of the iPod new generation with Pictures, Movies support.
5th : Release of the iTV, to centrally control your digital life from your TV set.
6th : Announcement of the iPhone, to allow interoperability between communication and mobility
Sony is coming from the consumer electronic universe. Computerized technologies are integrated in order to contain the consumer in the Sony Ecosystem.
1st : Integration of a unique interface (iLink) with HiFi components
2nd : Creation of new media to facilitate easy to share between devices. The DAT and MD failed. The UMD and Blue Ray Disc are their new bets.
3rd : Creation of the Memorystick, a uniformed media storage for digital elements across Sony products
4th : Release of the first Playstation, that revolutionized the gaming industry (from both a technology and business point of view)
5th : Release of the PSP, the ultimate technological portable entertainment system.
6th : Release of the PlayStation 3, bonding video games with HD / Home Cinema.
7th : Announcement of Sony Home, a central storage place where you can share all your digital life through the Playstation 3.
Companies continue tofight this battle but none are emerging as a clear winner yet. Most of them lag behind Sony and Apple. However, some of them are extremely strong in technologies (Philips for example) and some of them have good products (Samsung for example). Nevertheless, they fail to share the same success as Sony and Apple. Sony and Apple managed to find that extra ‘little something’ which made the difference. They understood how consumers needs and how they interacted. Other companies either attempted to copy this success or flooded the market with product imitations to gain market shares.
What about Microsoft? In this battle field, Microsoft has the most powerful army but at times failed to launch a coordinated and timeline attack.
The Windows Media Center seemed to be the right move to try to convince the consumers to setup a computer in the living room. However, the complexity and the lack of services at that time contributed to its failure. WMC is now embedded in Windows Vista OS and will hopefully be more successful.It is also surprising to see Microsoft late arrival to the digital music battle.
Zune was Microsoft’s response to Apple’s iPod. It is even more surprising to witness their inability to create sustainable technology. Last year, Urge, supported by PlayForSure technology, was created with the support of famous artists (i.e. Justin Timberlake) and MTV. MTV was supposed to be the ‘cool’ version of iTunes and create a new way to download and share digital music. PlaysForSure technology was intended to be shared among all manufacturers and music stores to allow interoperability among consumers. It failed to materialize. One can probably attribute it to a lack of communication and marketing support from Microsoft. PlaysForSure was promoted through retail stores in USA and manufactures who tried to create a new label similar to ‘Intel inside’. There was also a lack of direct communication from Microsoft to consumers, convincing them to go in the stores and ask for a ‘PlaysForSure’ product. Ironically, Zune does not support PlayForSure.
So, what should we think about the latest announcement from Microsoft on Live Messenger?
This is a clever strategic move that may propel its future success in the digital home battle.Most major companies are now linking mobility to entertainment and digital home. PSP can be hooked up to PS3 and ‘Sony Home’ to allow digital gaming transfer and upload of content. Nintendo DS is linked to Nintendo Wii and can share mini games. So far, these moves do not have strategic or financial impact but will help cement its position as a leader in the digital home battle.
By linking xBox users to windows live messenger, Microsoft is moving in the right direction :
- Connecting users from various databases
- Providing mobility at home in order to increase the consumer experience
- linking games with chat
This is a right move and consistent with its other major initiatives. One was to allow consumer to connect its iPod to xBox 360 and play his own music while playing video games. The second was to create a new label Game for windows and allow consumer to interact between video games and PC.In this digital home battle, the various actors are fighting for the control of the Digital Home and the mobility. Any initiatives to merge technologies and bind consumer is a good move and Microsoft proved they can overcome internal challenges to create future winning platforms.
Let’s see how consumers will react .
Monday, April 9, 2007
The rising sales of notebook (out performing desktop figures for the first time) and growing at a rate of 25% this year, is expected to be sustained over time (Source: Consumer Electronics Association).
The important consideration here is not merely technology but what consumer need is being answered.
Notebook sales continue to grow and it extends to both the consumer and business segments.
Most of businesses will continue to use laptops primarily because of its mobility needs. Generally, only backroom operation personnel, interns, administration staff and designers require desktops.
Businesses tend to restrict notebooks purchases from selected vendors to ensure cost savings and IT support. In that respect, the selection of future laptops for businesses is much easier compared to consumers’.
Depending on the type of business and level of mobility required, you would typically base you purchase decision on criterions such as screen size, weight and the battery life. These criteria directly answer their mobility needs. Other factors such as CPU speed, HDD size, memory are still important but are merely supporting the technology needed for your needs. In some instances, you may decide to upgrade the memory and/or hard disk capacity. However, the decision to upgrade is generally fuelled by the requirements of the OS and software applications.
As long as business mobility needs continue to grow, laptops sales supersede desktop figures. Manufacturers will continue to add more technologies into their laptops to differentiate their products as businesses will look for more security, more connections, and greater mobility than ever before.
However, some new product concepts will continue to serve a niche markets as it doesn’t completely answer the audience's needs. For example, UMPC is a great technology to showcase, but do you really need it? It is too small to allow anyone to type long emails and too big to be carried in your pocket. Tablet laptops are great but the system often hangs and is definitely not as flexible as your traditional pen and paper. Finally, ultra light notebooks may be ideal for heavy business travelers but the high cost remains a major obstacle. Nevertheless, these niche segments provide a good opportunity to showcase good technology and eventually some may succeed.
In the consumer market, purchase criterias are slightly different.
It is still a real challenge for consumers’ to choose which laptop to purchase. Besides the number of brands, decision making is made harder by the fact that new models are being introduced and older ones discontinued almost every three to six months.
We can probably identify 3 key segments in the market :
1) Undecided consumer who may be a first time buyerThis person will go for price. They are usually not brand sensitive, and will be attracted by special offers. They may look for a end of life or secondhand product with limited mobility.
2) Decided consumer who may be a first time buyer laptopThese group tend to have specific needs. They may want a notebook for studying, for working at home, for their kids, for sharing pictures., games, multimedia, etc. They generally will seek recommendations from sales personnel or experts.They will go for the model that directly answer their needs
3) Decided consumer but not first time buyerThis group of consumers’ usually has an existing laptop or desktop. Through the years of usage, they tend to have some knowledge and experience on personal computers. Brand loyalty and sensitivity are common traits. This is a primary target audience for laptop manufacturers, they are loyal to the brand.
What is the trade off?
What are you willing to sacrifice when you choose a laptop over desktop to gain mobility? Everything comes at a cost. Manufacturers who can segment their offer and their product range will continue to win. However, they should not overlook the fact that the needs drive the sales, not the technology.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Steve Jobs commented yesterday that 'he would not hold a parallel at all between the video industry and the music industry'. It is not surprising that there is no rush to open DRM for video.
In our earlier article, we mentioned that the music revolution phase II has started .
It is true we can question what will happen about the video. Let's now be realistic and reasonable.
We can always debate on the illusion and wish to live in a society where products such as videos and audio are free. Will such a debate be of any consequence? We are living in a world driven by rules, economics, constraints, both financial and technical. It is amazing to see so much debate arising as a result of internet and the new digital revolution.
Regardless of whether the audio or video is produced on tape, DVD, broadcasted on radio or made available online, the content remains the same. The only difference is the medium that is used to allow the consumer to access it. In the past, (the hardware time versus the internet time), you needed to go to a shop and buy a movie. If you decided to give a free copy to your friend, you would have to find a way copy it. Most were aware that making copies for reasons other personal backup, was illegal . These restrictions make sense, as the artists and the record companies need to protect themselves against free distribution.
In my opinion, Steve Jobs is absolutely right in his statement that the concept of DRM-free audio cannot be completely applied to video. There are just too many differences from technology to business, including from consumers’ point of view that videos can now be freely distributed.
New distribution systems are now being introduced. Various factors will influence the type of system developed to deliver audio and video. Some factors may include the type of content (e.g. movie, music video, audio book, etc), and length (e.g. trailer vs full length). Another important consideration is how the content will be consumed. For example, will it be used primarily at home through devices such as the home theater system, computer, etc or if it is mean to be used while mobile ? Consumption while being mobile may also vary, as it depends on how and where will be used.
Video on Demand (VOD) is already available to consumers and newer ways to distribute content are being explored. What is the ultimate goal ? Definitely to generate additional revenue for companies and also to satisfy the consumers’ need mobility and virtualization. This goal is not necessarily by choice, because traditional channels of content distributions are suffering.
Consumers needs will only increase.They want more and faster access to unrestricted content.Providers will want to cash in on these needs.The bottom line is that everything comes at a cost and requires time for technology to be developed. We can either continue to live in a dream world or face the reality we need to accommodate current standards.The industry and professional are working on answering ‘our’ needs. In the meantime, let's be patient and take one step at a time.
I am sure that in time, the lines between that dream world and reality will be blurred.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Are we entering the phase II of the Digital Music revolution ?After releasing the iPod, launching the iTunes Music Store and capturing almost 80% of the digital market, Apple(NMS:AAPL) is now answering some specialists scepticism on digital music by releasing free DRM music on iTMS (iTunes Music Store). Is it just an evolution or the era of a new revolution ?
EMI just announced they will be releasing a major part of their catalog through a free DRM system on iTunes Music Store from May. The songs will be sold at a more expensive price ($1.29 instead of $0.99) but will be encoded at 256kpps AAC instead of the regular 128kbps for the other songs.
Is it the start of the Digital Music revolution, phase II ?The first wave started in November 2001 when Apple introduced the iPod. It was the first time a company really understood consumer needs and introduced a music player, made for consumer by 'people-thinking consumer' to answer one need : listen music seamlessly without reading a 10 pages owner's manual.
However, it is only in April 2003 when iTunes introduced for the first time a seamless approach for digital music download that the 'in depth' revolution has started.This ecosystem mastered not only the software (iTunes), the hardware (iPod), the OS (Mac OS X) and the content (the music). Consumer were finally offered a viable choice to download digital music without violating the law and the artist rights.
April 2007, almost 4 years after releasing the iTunes Music Store, the consumer will now be able to pay for 'free music' without protection. What are we talking about ? From a technical point of view, the DRM is a digital locker, requested by record companies, to protect the song from being copied between multiple computers and multiple devices.
One could argue the system does not make sense, that the music is free when it is posted on internet and we should not pay for it. We must not overlook the fact that without the DRM system, consumers may not have add the opportunity to enjoy legal on line music.This DRM system does not differ from any other locking system that is applied from industry on various formats or technologies.All music store have unique DRM and for the inconvenience of the consumer, they do not share the same lock. Music bought on a specific store is not compatible with another store and same goes with the player. Even the latest released Zune player for Microsoft(NMS:MSFT) is not compatible with the in house initiative 'Playsforsure' that tried to unify the DRM around one camp (digital player manufacturers + music content + Microsoft) against the iPod-iTunes alliance.By removing this DRM, consumers will be able to share content with anyone else, regardless of platform or devices. It means people will be able to buy music on an iPod and, play that same song on another device (but not through iTunes).
Is Apple taking a risk ? No, Apple is again leading the revolution. This move could see increased revenue for the company while its competitors continue a price war. Most importantly, it will benefits the market, the consumer and the investors. This abolishes the views of many critics on the closed Apple - iPod - iTunes ecosystem.
Now, there will be questions that still need to be answered.
1) Will it be available to other regions ? When ?We can expect this to be introduced to US market first. Music rights are usually managed locally, so how will the other regions be impacted and at what cost ? Let's not forget that there are still many regions not covered by the iTunes Music Store to date. At the same time, there are some regions which do not have the full service (for example video download).
2) Other labels ?EMI has opened a hole in the DRM fortress, we can bet that other labels will follow. They will not only see the opportunity for additional revenue, but the ability to be closer to their audience. Most probably, they might not have other choice than to follow the others in that battle.
3) Consumer reaction ?What now will be the consumer reaction ? Is he going to spend more money for having a free DRM ? iPod - iTunes users are divided in two categories. The first one are the 'Apple fans'. Whatever happens, they will remain loyal to the brand. They will probably upgrade some of their songs, to try the system, promote it and listen to the sound quality difference. Not only AAC is already more qualitative than MP3, but doubling the bit rate to 512kbps will definitively make a difference.The second category is the mass market. Progressively, they will prefer to buy non protected songs because they will like the freedom.4) Video impactWill this system be adopted by the video industry ? Probably yes but not in the short term. The video market download is really immature today. Consumer have a different attitude compared to audio. You normally listen to music multiple times whilst you hardly watch a video as often. Secondly, listening to music can be a passive activity while watching a movie requires full focus.There are more reasons that will prevent to movie industry to follow the same system immediately. For example, the size of the file and the financial impacts related to Cinema, DVD, Blue Ray Disc and HD DVD are many hurdles that need to be overcome.
The above points are not part of a natural evolution of the digital market. A complete new revolution is now happening. Selling free DRM songs a couple of years ago was just not possible. Let's not underestimate the impact it will have on the market, on the industry and the consumer.
The revolution of the digital market phase II is on and is not over.