Sunday, September 08, 2013

Beating the Tin Drum

As far as the consumer is concerned is it the device, or the functionality it enables, or is it the content it can render that is ultimately the decider? Is it in fact cyclical and does the technology always come first, closely followed by the features and functions and the actual content come last, or are we now at a point of change?
Who today would buy, or even want the pre iPhone mobile? Was it purely down to the iconic design and presentation of the iPhone, or the apps it unleashed and app store? Would the device have been enough without the digital content?
We then have the drivers behind the major offers.
Apple’s iPod enabled iTunes to go mobile and was a phenomenal success like the Sony Walkman before it. But the iPod was nothing more than a mobile jukebox and when smartphones started to compete they needed to do more and the iconic iPhone was introduced. This masterpiece of design was king and spawned the lucrative world of apps and multimedia mobile. But again as Android replicated Apple’s offer they had to once again find something different - enter the iPad. The iPad was another winner and the true multi media player of choice but it wasn’t a phone and it wasn’t small enough to put in your pocket. Apart from the telephony the only real difference between the iPhone and iPad was size and in a mobile world the smaller size does matter too many. So when others started to introduce smaller tablets and larger smartphones the world started to change again.
Interestingly, the only real difference between many of today’s offers is the content and how well it renders of the device.
Some suggest that books are different and needed eInk dedicated readers. The reality is there are not and don’t. Amazon, Nook, Kobo have all adopted an increasingly agnostic device and operating system approach. This ‘platform’ approach is not dissimilar to all the major content services across all digital media. Today you can now play music, watch films and TV, play games, deal with emails, perform full office functions, access all media, community services and the internet on a device agnostic basis.
So devices are basically today’s fashion and quickly becoming tomorrow’s scrap. The apps are being developed for all operating platforms of significance, browsers are fully agnostic and content is available from all with everyone trying to mirror each other’s offer across all platforms. We now have the emergence of the super toys in the form of mobile watches, external snap on lenses and glasses, but is there no reason to believe that these will decide who wins and who losses? Some would suggest that they are a mere distraction and that, like so many before them, they do not offer sustainable advantage.
Maybe we are now entering the world where even the availability of media is not enough and it is the commercial package that will decide the winners. Perhaps the winners will not be the tin manufacturers, who as we have seen, now play on an increasingly level playing field, but the content packagers and community hubs who are becoming the ‘must haves’. Perhaps it’s those who have multi-faceted information on their community. This is where Amazon is scoring day in day out and where those who can design a place in their side lines can also survive. Amazon announced when it launched Amazon Matchbox that it had data on every book purchased since 1995 and I bet every search, basket and much more.
The latest rumour is that Amazon is about to launch a smartphone and give it away free within their service community. It isn’t such a farfetched idea and would certainly fire a shot across of the bows of the mobile technology companies who rely on selling units, be it to network providers, or direct. The shift would be from a device centric world where people watch the sales of smartphones to a service centric world where the consumer is attracted to who offers them the most convenience at the best price on whatever device.

As John Lennon once said, ‘ I may be a dreamer but iam not the only one.’

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