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A leading innovation and marketing blog from Braden Kelley of Business Strategy Innovation

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Napkin PC and Other Innovative Ideas

I came across the web site for a Microsoft-sponsored alternative computing form factor contest the other day, and I must say there were a few interesting ideas that might help people begin to see the future of computing.

The most interesting concept was coincidentally the winner of the contest, the Napkin PC.

If you follow the link above you'll see the artist conceptions and get a good sense of the vision. The gist is that some of the greatest advances in the world have been conceived on the lowly paper napkin in restaurants and coffee shops all over the world, so why not take the napkin high tech. Just don't try and wipe up spilled coffee with it.

The concept consists of a rack to contain and potentially recharge the OLED "napkins" and the styluses that go with them. These "napkins" provide a computing interface much like a tablet computer and can be pinned up on a board or connected together to make a larger display.

The concept is targeted squarely at the brainstorming, ideation, collaboration space and if the designer can ever manage to pull it off, I think it would be a welcome tool for organizations everywhere.

So what is your vision for the future of computing?

Are there other sites on this topic you think others would find interesting?
-- If so, please add a comment to this article with the URL

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Battle for Mobile Dominance Escalates

Lest anyone thought that Apple and Google's latest assaults on Nokia's dominance in the mobile space would go unchallenged, news came out today that Nokia is acquiring the rest of Symbian that it did not already own.

This would be interesting news by itself, but Nokia, recognizing that its future as a handset manufacturer is at risk ratcheted up the competition at the same time.

How are they doing this?

By making the bold and correct move of making Symbian instantly the largest open source mobile platform through its transfer to an entity called the Symbian Foundation. Nokia really has no other choice but to make this move. RIM is evolving to become a more capable competitor, PALM and Motorola are both making their last ditch efforts to save themselves, Samsung and HTC continue to gather strength, Apple is opening up and poised to gain significant share, and Google has already launched an open source platform.

So who stands to lose the most as a result of Nokia's move?

Probably Google...

Google launched the android platform to try and ensure their search advertising dominance moves from the desktop/laptop world into the mobile world. Developers looking for an open source solution for their applications (corporate or otherwise) are more likely to choose a more robust and widely adopted OS like Symbian now that they have the choice.

And also Microsoft...

Windows Mobile has the advantage of trying to pair with Windows Live and Windows Vista, but with open source Symbian on one side and Apple on the other, Microsoft may end up stuck in the middle. Not quite as a elegant as the Apple offering, and more expensive and closed than the Symbian offering. Now of course Linux hasn't overtaken Windows in the PC market, but the mobile market is more of a green field and people are still defining their expectations of a mobile OS. Unfortunately this environment favors Symbian and Apple.

Which of those two will win the race, remains to be seen...

What do you think?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

iPhone Pro Update

For those skeptics out there who doubt that Apple will launch an iPhone Pro sometime between October 2008 and January 2009 at Macworld, check out this BusinessWeek article. The synopsis is that the iPhone 3G is $53/unit cheaper to manufacture than the original iPhone according to analysts. This puts the cost to produce the iPhone 3G at $173 versus $226 for the original iPhone, and they go further to predict that iPhone 3G costs will fall to $148 in 2009. They go further to estimate that Apple is selling the iPhone 3G to Apple for $499, leaving Apple a huge $281 profit per unit (or about 56%).

This means there is plenty of room for Apple to drop the price of the iPhone 3G to AT&T when they are ready to launch the iPhone Pro, in order to support AT&T dropping the iPhone 3G 8GB to $99, $49 or even free.

Now that Apple has embraced the subsidy model and launched the AppStore, they have a lot to gain by getting to a free phone as soon as possible to boost their volume and increase their chance of winning the mobile application platform battle. Even if Apple doesn't win this battle and only continues on their current desktop/laptop share accumulation trajectory they stand to make big money through increased desktop and laptop sales.

Microsoft has good reason to be obsessed with Apple...

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mandatory Excellence

There has been a debate in the United States over the last several years around whether or not the government should institute a program of mandatory government service like other countries in the world.

In most countries this takes the form of military service, but some allow work in other government capacities to satisfy the obligation.

The United States does have mandatory government service, it's called jury duty but it probably amounts to only a number of days over the course of a lifetime. In addition the government has implemented schemes to help address acute shortages. AmeriCorps was founded to help alleviate the shortage of teachers in the inner cities by forgiving some or all of participants college loans.

But I have never heard anyone pitch mandatory government service as an opportunity to create competitive advantage.

Instead, governments engage in repeated wealth transfers to consulting companies for consulting projects that too often don't translate into sustainable results. What would happen if a government instead harnessed what citizens were truly good at for long enough to affect real accountable results in service to their country?

I write this not to advocate mandatory government service, but to call attention to the fact that countries and regions are going to increasingly compete in order to preserve their standard of living, and that those without a public sector innovation strategy will lose out to those who find a way to continuously become more efficient.

After all, every government must collect tax dollars to operate, but the more efficient a government can be, the fewer tax dollars it needs to collect in order to provide basic services. The lower the resulting tax rate the more profitable companies can be and the more likely they will remain in or be attracted to locate in that country.

As a result, governments should look at all possibilities of improving their efficiency through government innovation. Innovation, after all, is not only a necessary or desirable goal for businesses but for governments and individuals as well.

Could an innovative mandatory government service program be one way to achieve competitive advantage?

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Second Coming of the iPhone

To commemorate the launch of the second version of Apple's iPhone, I'd like to revisit my original iPhone article from one year ago. In that article I theorized why the iPhone would not succeed, at least not in its first incarnation, and why it would not be until its third version that it would be a runaway success.

So, one year on I still believe that it will be the third version that will cement the iPhone's position in the same way that the third version of the iPod led to the iPod becoming pervasive. The iPhone definitely has the potential to become as pervasive as the iPod, but it is still not ready.

When I look back at the specs I predicted would lead to ultimate success, Apple has only moved part of the way there with its second iPhone. If Apple is truly honest with people, this new iPhone really only serves to take the iPhone global (through the addition of 3G) and to enable more accurate location-enabled applications.

Those are really the only two new features of note on the phone. This new iPhone is really only a minor tweak, a repackaging of the existing iPhone so they can drop the price and have it better accepted globally, not the revolution that is truly necessary to finish the job of making the iPhone the number one mobile phone in the same that the iPod became the number one digital music player.

And what about the price drop?

Here is my theory on that. The price drop serves two purposes. The first is to hopefully increase sales outside of the USA where people looked at the original iPhone as an over-priced, under-powered toy (no 5MP video camera, no 3G, etc.). This offering fixes the 3G and price problems, but does not address the camera issue. This leads to the second purpose of the price drop. This "new" iPhone is to be the entry-level phone in a new expanded lineup that will come at Macworld in January, if not before. My leading thought is that the new iPhone Pro is likely to launch in October - just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The iPhone Pro will likely come with the specifications I listed in last year's article. Apple's strategy is brilliant really. By "launching" the low end phone before the high end phone, it is an easier sell, and in that October-January timeframe the carriers will be able to drop the price of the low end phone even more (to either $99 or even to FREE) and spread it even farther. The other reason to launch the low-end phone first is to give developers an incentive sooner to develop applications for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform sooner, which will serve to enhance the value of the iPhone Pro when it launches.

At the launch event for the iPhone Pro in October or January, Apple will be able to make a lot of noise about all of the applications that the new iPhone Pro will be able to take advantage of and they will be able to highlight a few new ones that take advantage of the capabilities unique to the iPhone Pro. The main new features of course will be a 5MP swivel video camera (or a front/rear facing camera combo) and a video iChat application for the iPhone Pro. This capability will then be introduced into a new low-end phone this time next year at the WWDC.

As a recap, here are the features that I predicted one year ago for the third version of the iPhone (noting those achieved), which I now believe will be the iPhone Pro that will launch in the October-January timeframe:

  1. 5-megapixel swivel camera (or paired with a 2-megapixel screen-side video-enabled lens)
  2. Video iChat capability (iChat AV)
  3. Next generation Bluetooth
    • DONE - I think - Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  4. A slightly bigger screen (every millimeter counts) - if the bevel can be reduced
    • UPDATE - Phone might get smaller instead
  5. 16gb or 32gb of flash memory
  6. Hopefully a faster 3G or WiMax network connection
    • DONE with 2nd version
  7. 802.11n WiFi
  8. Faster processor with lower power needs
  9. Improved battery life
  10. Lower price - $299 or less
    • 2nd version hit $199-299 - iPhone Pro will also be priced at $199-299 and v2 will drop in price to FREE-$99

So, who thinks I'm right?

Note: These are purely my opinions based on my understanding of technology and of strategy and are not based on any inside knowledge.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Decreasing Standard of Living, Increasing Profits

We are at an inflection point in the developed world, and the fate of your standard of living rests either in the your own hands (if you are an entrepreneur) or in the wisdom (or lack thereof) of a few key politicians.

The question is will the direction be up or down?

Economic factors in our newly globalized world dictate that individuals in lesser developed countries like China and India will experience rising wages and an increasing standard of living while individuals in the developed world experience flat or declining wages and standard of living in a race to the middle.

This began happening some time ago, but has been buried under a pile of easy credit.

Housing costs have increased, food and fuel prices are surging upwards along with commodity prices as demand grows faster than supply. Meanwhile, real wages are declining. Sounds like a depressing situation, right?

Well, all is not lost. If we can't avoid the inevitable decline in the developed world, then as individuals--and even as states and nation--we can seek to slow its decline or reverse the trend completely.

How do we do this?

As states and nations, we must invest in improving our ability to efficiently provide the basics, while at the same time reducing our demand for scarce commodities.

Our businesses must move from being product-led or even customer-led organizations to maintain their lead by transforming into innovation-led organizations that can move faster than competing organizations overseas with lower costs that seek to copy their innovations.

As individuals we can either go along for the ride as employees and hope that our government and business leaders make these adjustments faster than foreign competition, or help to lead the charge as entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurs among us must recognize this new reality in the world and identify ways to profit from it. We must uncover the new or amplified business and consumer pains and the solutions to them. These truths will exist across the developed world and thus will scale for entrepreneurs or businesses bold enough to pursue them internationally.

What does this look like you might ask?

Well, one example would be satisfying the need for consumers to increasingly downgrade from restaurants to other types of less-expensive prepared foods when time is scarce. UK supermarkets like Tesco and their ready meals offer a great example that could be replicated in fast-paced American cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco.

Another would be exporting used American SUVs to take advantage of their rapid repreciation in the era of $4 gasoline to places that benefit from the weak dollar and/or lower fuel prices.

There are a million more ideas and innovations out there for people to find and put to work even as developed economies crest.

So are you going to let this new wave pummel you or are you going to find a way to ride it?

That answer is up to you...

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