Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

What’s a phone anyway – the end of mobile strategies?

November 29, 2013

Since the iPhone first launched in 2006, I’ve maintained that having a mobile strategy is pointless – an opinion usually deemed either naïve, or contradictory for the sake of it. There were two reasons behind my stance: First that mobile handset technology would evolve quickly, driving constant changes in user behaviour as the increasingly powerful handsets are exploited in new ways. The second was that planning for mobile would be as ludicrous as planning for desktop, tablet, TV and other devices separately.

A third point that has come up more recently is that, while many mobile strategies have focused on phones, if you can make calls from tablets, desktops or even TVs, what is a phone anyway? Clearly the lines between devices are blurring, with smartphones the size of small tablets, tablets the size of large phones, laptops that behave like tablets, and TVs that work like PCs.

mobile strategy redundant - internet of things

As Dom Joly’s comedy sketch foreshadowed, the lines between devices are blurring

The Internet of Things

This isn’t an ‘I told you so’ post, but rather an explanation of why I think mobile strategy is becoming redundant, or is only part of a larger picture – that picture being the ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT). By now you will likely have heard about IOT, after all, it is being championed by the father of the internet, Tim Berners Lee himself. If you haven’t, then quite simply it is the concept that anything and everything, from microwaves to mousetraps, can be connected to the internet.

Driving this trend is the ever decreasing cost of computing. About ten years ago, the industry worked hard at bringing the cost of a laptop down to less than $100. Today, an Android tablet can be bought for less than $50. In fact, the cost of a chip and board that will allow you to connect to the internet has dropped to below $30 for a single unit, and below $15 for mass purchase.

Many ‘things’ can be connected

Right now, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and innovators are connecting ‘things’ to the internet. Good Night Lamp, a UK-based company, has designed a pair of lights that connect via the internet, to allow users to share their presence and availability – for example, a university student could switch on their light when home for the night, and their parent’s light would come on too to let them know their child was safe.

Mousetraps have been connected to the internet so that the owner of the trap receives an alert when the trap is set off. My personal favourite is the voice enabled / bar code scanning microwave, which scans your meal’s barcode, looks up cooking instructions on the internet, then automatically sets the cooking programme and provides voice instructions.

The next step will involve these devices talking to each other, for example, your alarm clock going off and putting on the TV, opening the curtains and turning on the lights.

mobile strategy redundant - internet of things
Good Night Lamp – one of several entrepreneurs discovering ‘things’ that can be connected to the internet

Low cost of hardware driving innovation

The low cost of the hardware is currently driving technology enthusiasts to experiment, and I believe we are in the calm before the storm. The real trigger for mass development will be non-technical people gaining the tools to build their own products and solutions, without electronics or programming knowledge.Of course, planning for a world where anything and everything is connected can incorporate a sub-strategy for mobile handsets, but planning for each device separately would evidently be counterproductive. And to prove that even the giants can get things wrong, Microsoft’s ‘three screen strategy’ (PC, phone and TV) has already been shown to be redundant.

The end of Apple?

February 2, 2012

We are clearly in the web age an era that has turned everyone into readers and publishers of free content. In this era we have seen the rise of open source, free software and the move to software and services freely available in the cloud.

Yet in the “free age”, Apple maintain a huge client base locked into its proprietary and closed hardware, operating systems and stores. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, even the great Bill Gates proclaimed that the world had changed, and that Apple would not survive with Steve Jobs maintaining the company’s control over platforms from end to end.

Despite this Apple is a huge success. Is it likely to last?

As a techie, I’d hope not, because we do want to be able to upgrade our hardware, we want the option to use any suppliers’ parts and we want the same to be true of our software. Do we care what the hardware looks like as long as it’s fast and powerful, not really.

However as a consumer, too much choice is not necessarily a good thing. As a consumer, we are in a world where things get replaced rather than fixed or upgraded. For the majority style is every bit if not more important than features, and customer experience does matter.

How quickly and easily I can use my device has become more important than whether it has all the latest and best features. Going back to one store is easier than have to search several for apps and music.

Apple started with some engineering innovation, and when Steve Jobs was first ousted focused heavily on engineering; this was its downfall in the late eighties. However with the return of Steve Jobs, and his partnership with Jonathon Ives, a return to a focus on customer experience and design revived the ailing technology company.

So although it pains me to see Apple thrive in such a closed environment they really do highlight that style, ease of use and the overall customer experience really does matter to consumers. Hence I would not forecast the end of Apple for some time in the near future unless it loses its way again to “engineering”.

iPad an evolution not a revolution !

June 21, 2010

What’s been the big UK story of the last couple of months? The Icelandic ash cloud has certainly garnered some significant column inches and the General Election has been a definite headline hogger.

Yet one topic – the launch of the Apple iPad – has received attention way in excess of its news value. Not that the iPad isn’t a significant technology launch; as I detail below, the portable device requires a new approach to application development.

But how significant is a technology launch? At the time of writing, ash receives 50,000 Google News results; Apple receives 55,000. Could any other company receive so much media attention, eclipsing a once-in-a-lifetime volcanic eruption that has led to huge economic and social consequences?

The answer, of course, is no. While Apple devices are beloved by the media clique, they are only – lest we forget – well designed computers. And while the excitement surrounding their products is excessive, an element of sensible analysis that understands the potential impact of the iPad is required.

Much has been made of the device’s form; what actually is an iPad? Wikipedia – again, at the time of writing – refers to the iPad as a tablet computer that is “unlike many older laptops”. As understated definitions go, that takes some beating – particularly given the level of media hype associated to the device.

So, let’s be clear. What makes the iPad different is its resting place in the middle ground between smart phones and laptops. Its multi-touch screen provides a new way to interact with information in a portable device.

Its intuitive user interface, and Apple’s strong link-up with publishers, will help drive the next generation of electronic books. The device also has a different screen aspect – instead of a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, the iPad screen uses a traditional 4:3 TV ratio.

Analysts have suggested that Apple is trying to find a middle ground between the requirements for publishing, video and gaming. Once again, such converged thinking should be of concern to developers.

Apple is far from taking an all-encompassing approach to software and services. Rival technology giant Microsoft has talked about its three-screen strategy, an attempt to ensure that Windows can give people access to information on the PC, television and mobile phone.

For developers, the message is clear: do not make the mistake of creating an application for a single platform. In the future, successful developers will have to accommodate applications to fit more than one screen size.

 While the iPad isnt the social and economic revolution suggested by media type, it is a significant evolution in technology and developers must be prepared

Further reading


Mobile Delusions

June 14, 2010

2010 – the Year of The Tiger, according to the Chinese calendar – and the Year of Mobile, according to technology experts.

 The plethora of internet-enabled, handheld devices means analysts and journalists are queuing up to report how important mobile will be in this first year of the new decade.

 There’s just one catch; every year – since the hype surrounding WAP at the turn of the Millennium – has meant to be the time mobile comes of age. So, why should 2010 be any different?

 The rhetorical question – given previous false dawns – is a good one. But let’s not be too negative. Now is your opportunity to take the challenges associated with mobile and make a real, lasting difference.

 Mobile is hitting the mainstream this year, but not in the way your business might expect. The high profile nature of certain platforms – notably Apple’s iPhone – will mean the IT department is likely to come under pressure to create a public-facing app.

 Before you follow the herd, take a step back and think about the business reasons. How will your application create a return on investment (ROI)?

 Take mobile banking as an example. Certain high profile financial institutions are heavily promoting their newly created iPhone Apps as a way of completing banking on the move.

 Great, but how many people will really want to complete banking transactions on their mobile phone? First, not everyone will have an iPhone; of those that do, not everyone will want to use their iPhone to complete banking.

 Second, think of the interface. Not every transaction is best suited to being completed in the palm of the hand. Third, think of the security implications. Many consumers all still not keen to undertake home-based online banking, never mind on the move through a portable device (which they often lose or change without wiping data !).

 What you’re left with is probably a small percentage of users that are willing to use their phones to complete transactions. And that means creating an ROI is difficult, especially once you’ve spent a great amount of money developing the app – which is likely to be for one device (the iPhone), rather than multiple platforms.

 Such issues mean you will need to make sure the business understands the challenges and opportunities of mobile. There’s nothing wrong with creating an iPhone app as a means of advertising and as a means of showing your company is first.

 But don’t – at the same time – expect a big financial ROI. Being first has an associated range of pitfalls. And if you’re second, don’t fear about being left and behind.

 Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. And in the fast-changing year of the mobile, well thought-out business plans will always win in the long run.