You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around
Communication is Glue
It’s easy to take the stickiness and ubiquity of IP-based communication for granted. In the military, one can’t.
It’s weird to think that one military plane might not be able to talk to another of the same type, just because they were made in different years. But that is reality in some cases.
One of the most important US military assets today is a couple of old planes (old - like, based on a design 60 years old, most planes of this family are in museums!).
Why? Because those planes are excellent platforms for all sorts of electronic ‘stuff’ - so they ended up being communication hubs, translating and relaying conversations between military equipment that otherwise would have a hard time talking to each other.
The value of the high-tech military equipment is glued together at the communication hubs. That’s powerful.
Even in the case of ‘free to user’ internet communication (called ‘Over the Top’ in telecoms circles) there is a value and power that doesn’t equate directly to the actual communication - it comes from the things that the communication ‘glues’ together.
If you’re interested in a preview of a report on OTT/internet communication players, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
If someone is demo-ing the Next Big Thing on a PC - then it”s not the next big thing
when Apple announced the iPhone 4S, a lot of experts helpfully explained why it was a huge disappointment and a sign that Steve Jobs’ absence as Apple’s CEO was already hurting the company. But someone forgot to tell consumers…
Predicting the Future
I am once again getting engaged in one of those sessions that tries to predict future challenges and opportunities for companies.
What’s the likely level of success?
Partial - very high.
100 percent - quite low. That’s my educated guess. but why?
1. We tend to extrapolate from what we know.
The illustration above comes from ‘Dan Dare’s book of Space’ from 1954. My father had these books and when I was young I used to read them too - it was still fascinating to read about space flight dreamed up before anyone had gone into space.
Dan Dare was a sort of extrapolation of the tech successes of the British Empire . But things didn’t go that way. Some things kicked in, some may still happen, some never will because the assumed scenarios were never realized in full.
2. We promote what we like
- or what’s politically correct.
Once there was a major IT company that made some visionary scenarios for fourteen years ahead. One of the scenarios was the one most like the world’s IT situation today. But it was the least favorable for the IT company … and I guess the other scenarios got more attention.
3. We don’t like disruption
- unless we’re the disruptor of course.
The most fascinating thing about the scenario I mentioned above that was least liked and that was most like the future - was that it largely happened about ten years ahead of forecast.
How can one miss by a decade? Well, just think back to 2005. Nokia wasn’t a big brand, it was a leading brand. Apple’s first attempt to bake iTunes into a phone - with Motorola and an operator (!) was not a success. If we would have tried to explain how the mobile phone market would look in 2012, most people would have laughed their head off.
What happened in 2006 and onwards was disruptive. By mid-2007, telecoms had tipped and would never tip back again.
Many future scenarios have the rosy, utopian touch about them that sells well upwards. Sorry, you have to consider disruption - the darker scenario of being disrupted, and the challenging disruptor scenario (challenging because you can disrupt yourself).
I was once in an innovation workshop where the host (another major IT player) said: “look, let’s think disruption because it can take us to a new position from where we can do something else that we can’t imagine yet”. I liked it. They were trying to position themselves over the hill, to create what they couldn’t yet see.
Trying to predict the future might help you do something in response.
A disruptive move could well help you create it.
Multitasking the Phone Call
One of the newest buzzes in the app space is Sidecar, which aims to make ‘doing stuff during a phone call’ a little easier.
Now the idea’s not new - it’s been in development in different forms for at least 15 years, demo’d for a decade, touted in standardisation (IMS), etc. Startups like Dialplus were picking up awards back in 2008 (Dialplus won so many prizes at an event I was at in ‘08 they almost had trouble carrying them home :-) . Consumers have said in surveys they would love to ‘do things during phone calls’.
So why hasn’t the likes of Sidecar emerged as a ‘killer service’ with mass-market adoption earlier?
iPhone made its breakthrough as a 2G phone (EDGE), without multitasking or the ability to do stuff like surfing during a call (which one could with 3G phones at that time).
The iPhone demonstrated that doing the task well (task = internet browsing, messaging) goes before enabling people to juggle two tasks. Human beings don’t strictly multi-task (with rare exception), but like to think they do, and some of us like the idea.
Having said all that - I’m downloading Sidecar to a couple of phones and will give this a thorough play-around - it might make it because:
1. It’s on iPhone and Android.
2. It’s not bound one single mobile operator (known in the branch as ‘Over the Top’).
Both points 1. and 2. are important for getting quick mobile user adoption of a communication service - which you need for the next point
3. You work out what works as people use it. Don’t try and write everything in stone first.
If Sidecar gets all three points right, it will get its user community.
(Back in 2008, Dialplus were grabbing the rave reviews but didn’t get past points 1. and 2).
Now I’d better stop writing, it’s distracting me from downloading that app…
In the case of reverse innovation, the cost of inaction (by mature businesses) is much higher than the cost of cannibalization. Unless the chief executives of Western multinationals can overcome their fears of cannibalization, they are likely to be disrupted by emerging market giants.
Handheld devices have less room for ads and Facebook’s long list of features. Currently, Facebook only shows a few mobile news feed ads per user per day, while it shows as many as four to seven ads per page on the web. But if Facebook chokes mobile with too many ads, usage could plummet. As more users shift the time they spend on Facebook from the web to mobile, it will make less of the money that keeps the lights on for the whole service.
Golden Tickets, golden relationships
There is a facinating story buzzing the media right now of the man who bought a Golden Ticket from an airline for 250 000 USD (or more). It entitled him to a lifetime of air travel - that was back in 1987. Since then the man has reportedly clocked up travel costing the airline over 20 million USD - and they drew in the Golden Ticket, saying they had discovered fraudulent use.
I don’t want to go near the rights or wrongs of this case and others. The most important thing is that the business environment changes, usage changes, costs change (the airline in question filed for Chapter 11 a while ago, and whilst their situation can’t be blamed on Golden Tickets I can understand them wanting to review their revenue situation). But there’s a contract in the picture here. I think the whole idea of loyalty needs to move towards a suite of products and customer relation rather than the ’big deal’.
I have an ‘unlimited’ mobile calling and data plan - in practice that means a limit of 10GB per month. For me right now, that is as good as unlimited because I have no desire or need to turn my phone into a video streaming server, and I can cover all my needs without thinking about how close I am to the limit. I am happy - for now, but what happens when my needs change - or the operator’s for that matter?
'Unlimited' usually can't be - because almost everything has a limitation. A life without boundaries. Relationships work within boundaries, need boundaries and can evolve beautifully to meet an ever-changing future. A 'gold membership' or 'gold relation' sounds like it could be the basis of something future-proof. You keep paying for services above let's say €40 and the operator makes sure those services are covering your needs - say (at least) by clicking on some relevant radio buttons in a survey each month.
Will my network operator follow up my usage and come with a really attractive offer when my phone contract is up for renewal? I don’t know. I’d like to talk about it with them in the meantime. That would be shining in the right direction.