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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Waiting for the economy? That won't work.

by Adam Hartung

Waiting for the economy? That won't work.Every day it seems someone tells me they "are looking forward to an improved economy." When I ask "Why?" they give me a horrified look like I must be stupid. "Because I want my business to improve" is the most frequent answer. To which I ask "What makes you think an improved economy will help you?"

This recession/depression is the result of several market shifts. What people/businesses want, and how they want it, has changed. They no longer are willing to part for hard earned (and often saved) dollars for the same solutions they once purchased. They want advances in technology, manufacturing processes, communications and all aspects of business to give them different solutions. Until that comes along, they are willing to put money in the bank and simply wait.

Take for example restaurants. Many owners and operators are complaining business was horrid in 2009, and still far from the way it was years ago. And regularly we hear it is due to "the recession. People fear they'll lose their jobs, so they don't eat out as often." Nicely said. Sounds logical. Makes for a convenient excuse for lousy results.

Only it's wrong.

In "Dinner out Declines: Economy Not Sole Factor" MediaPost.com does a great overview of the fact that dining out started declining in 2001, and has steadily been on a downward trend. Across all age groups, eating out is simply less interesting - at least at current prices. When the recession came along, it simply accelerated an existing trend. Increasingly, people were less satisfied with cookie-cutter, similar establishments that had similar food (almost all of which was prepared somewhere else and merely heated and combined in the restaurant) and exorbitant drink prices. For years restaurant prices had outpaced inflation, and simultaneously family changes - along with the growth of better prepared foods at grocers and specialty markets - was enticing people to eat at home.

This is true across almost all industries. A revived economy will not increase demand for land-line phone service. Nor for large V-8 American autos costing $60,000. Nor for newspapers, or magazines - or even books most likely. Or for oversized homes that cost too much to heat and cool. In fact, it was the trend away from these products which caused the recession. People simply had all of these things they wanted, so they stopped buying. Fearful of economic change, they simply accelerated a trend brought on by shifts in technology and underlying ways of doing things. When we once again talk about better economic growth in America it will not drive people to these purchases. Rather, people will be buying different things.

For the recession to go away requires a change in inputs. Providers have to start giving buyers what they want. They have to understand market needs, and give solutions which entice people to part with their money. Waiting for "the economy" will make no difference. Government stimulus can go on forever, but it won't create growth. It can't. Only new products and services that fulfill needs create growth. That will cause spending (demand), which generates the requirement for supply.

There are companies that had a great 2009. Google, Apple and Amazon are popular names. Why? Not just because they are somehow "tech" or "internet" companies. 2009 saw the demise of Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics, for example. The difference is these companies are studying the market, looking to the future and introducing new products and services which meet market needs. Because of this, they are growing. They are doing their part to revitalize the economy. Not with stimulus, but with products that excite people to part with their cash.

Those who are waiting on the economy to improve are destined to find a rough road. An improving economy will be full of new competitors with new solutions who did not wait. To be a winner businesses today must be bringing forward new products and services that meet today's needs - not yesterday's. And if we start getting winners then we will climb out of this economic foxhole.

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Adam HartungAdam Hartung, author of "Create Marketplace Disruption", is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for "Forbes" and the "Journal for Innovation Science."

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Love My iPad Mini

So There is No Reason Why I Won't Like My iPad. Just Add A Camera.

by Idris Mootee

I Love My iPad MiniSome are comparing the iPad to Netbooks, but it is not a fair comparison. I don't like Netbooks myself. I used to have a Sony one 14 years ago. It was a very powerful mini notebook with a built-in camera (a first at that time). It costs me $2,300 when I purchased that from a now bankrupt computer store chain in San Jose. It was a good one except keyboard was too small and battery life short. According to the guy at a local Best Buy store, 8 out of 10 Netbooks sold are returned. I am sure that's not the case in Asia. I think many people have the wrong expectations, and are not aware of the limitations of Netbooks.

There was one kid working at Best Buy who asked me if I like the iPod Touch Jumbo, he was referring to iPad. I said I like the iPad mini (iPod Touch) that I have now, so I think I will like the iPad. The only disappointment for me is the lack of a camera, because I think if I carry that all the time and being able to use Skype is great plus. It doesn't add much to the cost. The camera needs to be in the front obviously. It is still a little heavy; adding 1.5 lbs to my Louis Vuitton briefcase is pushing it. No video output is a negative; the other Lenovo Ideapad I bought has an HDMI output. The Lenovo tablet is a pretty good one with robust design for business use. Even with many criticisms, iPad will be an isntant success. I guarantee you the iPad is not another Newton.

iPad preorders are pouring in. Investor Village's AAPL Sanity board (subscription needed) noted that iPad pre-orders dropped from an estimated 25,000 per hour on Friday, the first day of availability, to around 1,000 per hour over the weekend. For the three-day period, the cumulative total was estimated at 152,000. That's pretty good.

I think the iPad will open up opportunities for print media and help shape portable media experiences. I can't read magazines from my Blackberry of iPhone, but with the iPad, it is a different story. The iPad platform has more than enough screen real estate and resolution to build interesting media sharing and communication experiences. Of course we have choices of other manufacturers - Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Lenovo, and almost everyone else, are all working iPad-like devices - in addition to those who have products in the market (such as Amazon).

Microsoft's Courier is an interesting one, currently in "late prototype" stage of development. At least they are not making the tablet mistake, the dual 7-inch screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers. There is a camera at the back too (sorry Apple). Currently, Microsoft is working on the user experience and showing design concepts to outside agencies. Microsoft's tablet heritage is digital ink-oriented, and this interface, while unlike anything we've seen before, clearly draws from that, its work with the Surface touch computer and even the Zune HD.

Sony is doing some catch-up although they are stuck with their paradigm of competitive advanatage. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony is working on a device that's described as being part Netbook, part e-reader and part PlayStation Portable. Sources within the electronic giant also report that Sony is working on a "PlayStation Phone," which would be capable of downloading and playing PlayStation games. Sony needs help.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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Keep Moving Forward - Apple, Microsoft, Google, RIM, Hearst

by Adam Hartung

Did you ever notice how often a large company will introduce a new solution (often a new technology), but then retrench from promoting it? Frequently, the market is developed by an alternate company that captures most of the value. We can see that behavior looking at smartphones.

Keep Moving Forward - Apple, Microsoft, Google, RIM, Hearst
Source: Silicon Alley Insider

In 2008, three early leaders were Microsoft, RIM and Palm. But Microsoft chose to invest in Defending & Extending its PC software business - with updates to the operating system in Vista and OS 7. As the market has shifted toward mobile computing, Microsoft has been clobbered. But largely because it remained stuck trying to protect its "core" while the market shifted away. Palm also tried to Defend & Extend (D&E) its early position with updates, but because it did not follow the pathway to greater usage with new applications it also has seen dramatic share decline.

Meanwhile, RIM has promoted new uses within the corporate world for mobility, and thus grown its market share. And Apple has made a huge impact by bringing forward dozens of new mobile applications, closely followed by Google. What we see is a classic example of the early entrant fading largely because they decided to Defend the old market, rather than investing in the new one. Really too bad for shareholders in Microsoft (losing 20 share points) and Palm (losing 10 share points), while good for shareholders of RIM, Apple and Google.

And in Apple's case we can see that the company continues using White Space to grow revenues by expanding the new marketplace. The iPad is off to a very strong start, with tens of thousands of units ordered last week. But of greater importance is how Apple is promoting the shift to mobile devices from traditional PC devices. At SeekingAlpha.com, in "How the iPad, Slates Will Evolve the Next Two Years," the reporter projects how demand for all laptop products will decline as more capability and functionality is added to mobile devices like smartphones and these new slate products.

Microsoft can keep trying to Defend & Extend PC technology, but it won't be long before their efforts largely won't matter. Don't forget that once Cray computers was a rapidly growing super-computer company. But increasing performance from much alternative products eventually made Cray irrelevant. Same for Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.

Today the market capitalization of Microsoft is about $250B, about 4x sales. Apple's market cap is just over $200B, about 6x sales. Google's market cap is about $180B, about 8x sales. All reflect investor expectations about future growth. The D&E company is simply not expected to grow - and in fact is much more likely to disappoint than the companies growing share in growing markets toward which customers are shifting.

And any company can choose to participate in growth, versus Defend & Extend. While Tribune Corporation is trying to find a way out of bankruptcy, and struggling to figure out how to deal with market shifts away from newspapers, Hearst is taking positive action. The Wall Street Journal reports in "Hearst Jumps Into the Apps Business" how the old-line newspaper company has set up a White Space project, complete with dedicated people and its own funding, to begin developing mobile applications for news!

Even when business leaders see a market shift, far too many choose to Defend & Extend the "core." Unfortunately, that leads to disappointments. Keep in mind Microsoft and its rapid loss of Smartphone share as users move increasingly to mobile devices from PCs. To succeed leaders need to drive their organizations in the direction of market shifts, and growth. Like Apple, Google and even Hearst.

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Adam HartungAdam Hartung, author of "Create Marketplace Disruption", is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for "Forbes" and the "Journal for Innovation Science."

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Escaping the Internet Commodity Trap

by Rowan Gibson

Escaping the Internet Commodity TrapThe Internet is like a black hole that relentlessly sucks in, digitizes and democratizes content of every kind. While that may be generally good news for consumers (hey, look at all the great stuff we can now get for free), it has turned out to be unbelievably bad news for the content providers. Ask anyone in the print media business, or the music business, or the movie business. For at least the last decade, industries that primarily produce content have been struggling hard to find a viable new financial model in a world where internet users (particularly the young generation) don't expect to pay for anything they read, listen to, or watch. As one popular mantra puts it: "Content is no longer king". The fact is, content distribution is now king. Power has shifted to the content aggregators - think Google, YouTube, Digg.com or iTunes - and to new media platforms like Amazon's Kindle reader or the Apple iPad. So how exactly are content providers supposed to make money in an era of rampant digital commoditization? The only option they have left is to innovate like never before; to reinvent their industry business models before they become obsolete.

I remember talking to Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine, back in 1995 about the future of the Web. He told me he viewed the Internet as a "planetary-sized copying machine" and added that "trying to stop copying on the Net is impossible." Indeed, within a week of my latest book "Innovation to the Core" being published in Chinese, there were at least two websites in China offering a digital version of the book for illegal download. Consumers clearly win - why buy the physical book when you can get the digital file for free? But in terms of book sales and royalties, the author (i.e. me!) and the publishers lose out entirely.

That's why the book publishing industry is feverishly exploring a variety of new business models. One option is to sell eBooks direct to customers, cutting out middlemen like distributors and retailers, and building a community around the books and authors. Since eBooks have a relatively low price tag, the hope is that consumers will be willing to pay for the genuine article (a la iTunes) rather than download an illegal copy, especially if it comes with social-media-enabled tools that help them discuss and share the book with others. Another option is to make the eBook itself a richer multimedia experience (with audio, video, hyperlinks and so forth) rather than just a text-based medium. Instead of embedding all of these media in a single digital file (which would still be relatively easy to copy and distribute illegally), publishers could give consumers a code when they purchase the book that offers exclusive access to a dynamic, integrated online application environment.

A similar challenge faces today's music business. Over the last decade, music labels, retailers, and the artists themselves have seen their revenues fall off a cliff in an era when teenagers can - and do - get all the music they want for free. Last year, 95% of music downloads were still from illegal file-sharing sites. And although Apple is now the world's biggest music retailer, its iTunes store has never been a massive revenue producer. Instead, it simply serves as a provider of low-cost content for the iPod, helping to drive sales of Apple's premium-priced music player. So far, the latest trend - cloud-based, streaming music sites like Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora - has not been very helpful to the music industry either. Until now, these sites have employed a free-to-users, ad-supported model which doesn't generate much money for the labels or the artists. As an example, it's estimated that a million plays of Lady Gaga's popular song "Poker Face" on Spotify only earned her a paltry $167.

Frankly, I'm not too worried about the artists because most of them make their money these days on concert revenue and merchandising, not on the sale of recordings. And since people go to live concerts to hear artists performing songs they already know, it's actually in the artists' interests to have their music distributed as widely as possible, even if it's for free, in order to generate a lot of fans. Yet what about the music labels? How can they possibly compete against free downloads? Only by finding innovative new ways to add value. That's what MusicDNA is all about. It's a new digital file format that contains not just music but additional content such as lyrics, images and interesting info like interviews, tour schedules, or updates to the artists' social network pages. Anyone who downloads the file illegally would miss out on all these extras. So MusicDNA offers hope that the industry can open up new revenue streams. It may also point the way forward for Hollywood studios as they look for ways to battle illegal movie downloads.

Another victim of the Internet commodity trap has been the traditional news media industry. According to a new survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more Americans now get their news from the Internet than from newspapers, and three-fourths say they primarily learn of news via updates on social media sites like Twitter. So as readers (closely followed by advertisers) make a mass exodus from print to digital media, 'The Press' as we know it seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. In the face of mounting bankruptcies, mass layoffs and plunging advertising sales, some publishers have already thrown in the towel. As an example, McGraw-Hill recently signaled their despair by selling off BusinessWeek at the bargain basement price of less than $5 million.

So is there any hope for this ailing industry? Some think it might still be possible to go back to the old 'paid content' model. Rupert Murdoch, illustrious media mogul of News Corporation, has been making headlines over the last year with his plans to erect a pay wall around his media. And, if it works, others will almost certainly follow. An analogy could be the advent of cable TV in the 1960s and 1970s. At first, very few believed that anyone would be willing to actually pay for TV shows and movies after spending decades watching them for free. But today the average household in North America pays about $50 a month for Pay-TV, so why shouldn't the same principle work for the Internet? There is also new hope on the horizon in the form of emerging digital media platforms like Kindle and Apple iPad, that promise to bring fresh revenues to the news industry by charging readers to access publications in an exciting new way.

Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, has co-founded a company called Journalism Online to help newspapers find new payment models. These range from micropayments - where readers pay for individual stories - to "freemium" models like the one used by the Financial Times, where readers can view 10 free pages every 30 days.

One of Rupert Murdoch's properties, The Wall Street Journal already charges readers US$119 a year for an online subscription. The WSJ is also experimenting with a new kind of media mix that takes it beyond the written word. Last September, its Digital Group rolled out News Hub, a twice-daily video news series. In January The Wall Street Journal Network delivered a record 5.5 million streams, with about a million or so views being generated by News Hub. This February the group launched Digits, a video series focused on technology which streams live each weekday, and plans are now in the works for several other original live series.

As whole industries see their traditional business models sucked into the Internet commodity trap, their only hope of escape has become radical innovation. For content providers of every stripe, success and survival in the future will be based on the ability to fundamentally rethink, re-imagine and reinvent themselves by innovating around who they serve, what they provide, how they provide it, how they make money, and how they differentiate from the rest. Stewart Brand's maxim may have famously stated that "information wants to be free", which is at the heart of utopian Internet democracy, but the cold reality is that every business has to make money. That means that whether you produce books, newspapers, magazines, music, movies or TV shows, somebody somewhere has to pay somehow. Figuring out who that could be - and how the financial model would work - is one the greatest business battles of our age.

Related Articles - "Content is No Longer King" - Part 1 - Part 2 - by Stephen Shapiro

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Rowan GibsonRowan Gibson is widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts on enterprise innovation. He is co-author of the bestseller "Innovation to the Core" and a much in-demand public speaker around the globe. On Twitter he is @RowanGibson.

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Are You Prepared to Lose Control of the Idea?

Are You Prepared to Lose Control of the Idea?
Photo by chavals

by Glen Stansberry

People are awfully protective of their ideas (myself definitely included). There are plenty of reasons for not sharing ideas:
  • We're afraid people won't like them, or worse, won't understand them.
  • Someone might steal them
  • They might, in reality, be total crap
  • They're hard to explain, especially when the proverbial ink is still dry in the mind
  • etc., etc., etc.

But the biggest fear I have of sharing ideas is losing control.

There is an awful lot of ego that gets attached to our ideas, (see: the God Complex), and the thought of losing that grip is crippling.

One of the most intoxicating aspects of having an idea is having control over the idea. We thrive on building, planning, analyzing, almost anything but actually doing.

It's not just little companies or amateurs that struggle with letting go. Some of the biggest companies in the world suffer from these 'idea insecurities' listed above.

Microsoft's Decline In Innovation

I read an interesting sad article about the causes of the downward spiral of Microsoft's innovation. For the past ten years, Microsoft has been playing catch-up to companies like Google and Apple. Instead of creating breakthrough products that once made the software giant famous, the company has relied on a monkey-see, monkey-do approach to production.

The article goes on to explain that the top brass at Microsoft were directly responsible for the void of innovation, simply by harboring the fears listed above. Products were never made because of petty differences between divisions. The main reason for the lack of innovation was the stubbornness of division heads to work together on technologies.

They were afraid of losing their ideas in favor of someone else's better idea.

Letting Go of the Idea

Some people never understand that if they hand over control of the original idea, something better might come out of it. Flickr was set to be a gaming company until the founders discovered a really efficient way to serve photos. There are plenty of examples of this happening throughout history.

Letting go is one of the absolute hardest concepts to grasp as an entrepreneur. But sometimes our idea outgrows us. The trick is to swallow the thick pride and embrace the potential of what could happen.

If the powerful suits at Microsoft had put aside petty differences and allowed other departments to improve their products, who knows what Microsoft would be today. They might have had a Google killer, or the iPod. We'll never know.

This wasn't an excuse to single out Microsoft. Every single company and entrepreneur deals with control issues at some point. I know I have. The important thing is recognizing when we're holding on a bit too tightly on what's "ours" and not recognizing the full potential of the idea, with the help of others.

Related article - Microsoft and Creative Destruction - by Scott Berkun

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Glen StansberryGlen Stansberry writes at LifeDev, a blog that helps people make their ideas happen. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Setting Expectations for White Space - Apple iPad

by Adam Hartung

It's easy to misunderstand White Space. About twenty years ago Apple launched the Newton. The company sold about 375,000 of the first commercial PDAs, but Apple's leadership thought the market wasn't really there - and decided instead to focus on growing Mac sales. Obviously, as Palm and other PDA makers demonstrated, there was a tremendous market for PDAs. Apple misread the feedback from White Space.

Look now at the recent iPad launch. Silicon Alley Insider headlined "Now That They've Seen Apple's iPad, Most People Don't Want One." The headline keys on the fact that after the launch the number of people who said they were not interested to buy doubled (26% to 52%). Wrong fact to grab onto.

Apple iPad Sentiment
Instead, look at the fact that the number who said they would buy one tripled, from 3% to 9%. This is incredible, and should excite Apple's management as well as employees, suppliers and shareholders.

Most people will see a new, innovative product and say "why would I want that? I already have this other thing and it works great." And that is what marketers should expect. Most people are just trying to 'Defend & Extend' what they regularly do, and thus all the want is a product that helps them do their thing a little easier, faster, better and cheaper. They want minor improvements - variations and derivatives of what they already have. Improvements that are immediate, without them doing anything new or different.

All new deeply innovative products start with customers who are under-served or unserved. And this is why it is so important they be launched in White Space. White Space teams aren't intended to develop the big, mass market of known customers looking for something new. White Space is about doing new things that bring in new customers, give new solutions that attract real growth. And White Space teams have to learn how the market is evolving, how they fit into the market shift and how their solution will advance the market in order to sell more.

Setting Expectations for White Space - Apple iPadFor the iPad, the 3% to 9% shift in likely buyers is huge because it shows that the iPad is an offering that appeals to people who are not today well served by their existing PC, laptop, netbook, mobile phone, kindle or mix of these solutions. 9% of respondents are saying that they see the iPad and they see a solution for what they want to get done. And if 9% of potential buyers see this option, that is HUGE. By White Space standards, often there are only .5% or 1% or 2% of people who initially see how the new product fulfills their under-served needs.

Set expectations right for White Space. White Space is not for launching variation 4 of an existing product - targeted at existing customers. That's what the marketing and sales department can do fine, thank you very much. White Space is the team that finds the 3% (or in Apple's case 9%) of users that see value in this solution, then works with them to implement the product/solution in order to make sure it fulfills the market need and is priced to sell effectively while providing a profit to the company.

Apple understands this, you can be assured. Look at how successfully the Apple White Space teams found the underserved users that jumped all over the iPod and iTunes, the iTouch and then the iPhone. They got the product positioned and selling in a hurry. And now that Apple has that skill, the company is going to apply it to the iPad. If you understand this chart correctly, you understand that it bodes very, very good things for Apple.

And it tells you the importance of having White Space teams, setting their expectations correctly, and managing them for the kind of results that can turn your organization into the next Apple. It took Apple 10 years to reach this skill level. It did not happen overnight. Or with one product introduction. And it will take your organization a few years to build this skill. So, what are you waiting on?

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Adam HartungAdam Hartung, author of "Create Marketplace Disruption", is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for "Forbes" and the "Journal for Innovation Science."

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Microsoft and Creative Destruction

by Scott Berkun

A recent NYT article by former Microsoft VP Dick Brass has caused quite the stir, but for the wrong reasons. Every follow up article I've read, including one from Microsoft, gets much of it wrong some key things wrong.

The premise: The core point of the Brass article is how the introduction of middle management and bureaucracy has killed innovation at Microsoft.

My counterargument: Microsoft has always been a conservative, platforms company. Visionary design and creative leaders think in terms of great products, which Microsoft has never been good at. Brass assumes the challenges that hampered Tablet PC were new and local, but they have always been there. Microsoft's best, and most creative, work has come when a competitor forced one of the few Renaissance-VPs (VPs who were not over-promoted engineers but actually had a diversity of management skills) to take product design seriously.

My credentials: I worked at MSFT 1994 to 2003. I was on the IE 1.0 to IE 5.0 team among others (Windows, MSN, and MSTE/Best Practices, where I worked with many groups across the company). I wrote a bestselling book about Innovation and I've spoken and consulted with various groups at the company dozens of times since I left in 2003.

My take:
  1. The primary problem at Microsoft regarding good design & innovation is the diffusion of creative authority. The problem is not the numbers of people at the company, or the layers of management, as many gripe about. Layers don't help, but it's not the problem. The real issue is the inability to grant creative authority to the few people worthy of it. Microsoft has always been a place that gives way too many people a say in matters of design, vision and user experience, and it shows in the pervasive mediocrity of the majority of its products. Films need directors. Orchestras need conductors. But if you divide things into 30 pieces and ask 30 people to play creative visionary, mediocrity ensues. The better products at Microsoft are the ones where VPs modify the distribution of authority to create clear creative authority.

  2. Few VPs are qualified to be creative leaders, at Microsoft or elsewhere. And there is no creative lead role at Microsoft. There never has been. This is not new, it has always been true (at least since 1994 when I started). This is why when brilliant, genius type software designers come to the company, they are baffled by how little creative power they can earn, so they retreat to research or future thinking groups that have no skin in the game (e.g. Bill Buxton, Steve Capps, Ray Ozzie, Jim Gray (RIP), etc.). Microsoft is simply a hard place for to accumulate wide authority over design, which is required to make coherent visions, user experiences and innovations come true. Worse, it's rare for leaders to acknowledge death by too many cooks since those who have never worked elsewhere, and have no conception of creative process, can't imagine any other way. The culture has always been a heavily consensus/collaboration driven place for managers, which waters down ideas, and shifts what goes out the door heavily towards conservation.

  3. Management at Microsoft is fat with inbred managers who are not worthy of their title, but this has always been true. If you are hired to manage version 5 of something, you inherit a host of decisions made with skills you do not have, yet get credit for anyway. If the team you inherit does good work, and you happen to be the manager, you receive credit, regardless of how little you did. Entire unprofitable, failed divisions, funded by the rest of the company, promote people out of corporate obligation, creating the existence of middle managers who have never actually successfully managed anything in the marketplace. For the 90s, this was MSN and Consumer products, which were perennial failures. The quality pool of people who managed in those divisions was below average and as the company aged more of these groups were born. Microsoft, like all companies, has suffered from the Peter principle, or worse, perhaps the Paul Principle (people who are lousy at even simple management skills but inherit mediocre projects they don't understand, and simply manage not to get fired via their team's noble but unheralded efforts, which hide their shortcomings). As a result, there are line level managers at Microsoft who are more competent than some middle or senior managers. But this has always been true, given the diversity of the company. It's worse now because of the size.

  4. Real layoffs would be a blessing. In 1999 when I left the Internet Explorer team (before the ill-fated IE 6.0 release), I looked around the company for other teams to work on. I couldn't believe how many lost, misguided, sad, self-destructive teams I saw. This was in 1999! The company has more than tripled in size since then. Mini-Microsoft is so clearly on the mark about his core ambitions. I don't wish unemployment on anyone, but I'd say a) the ratio of managers to programmers is insanely out of whack b) The number of projects and divisions that have never made profit and are market laggards is obscene. If the company were split apart, few groups are competent enough to survive a year. This defeats the "strategic value" these properties supposedly have, as dumping of buckets of money earned by Office and Windows profits into their bonfires of incompetence does not a strategy make. You need basic leadership competence, which all too many groups at Microsoft don't have (and many never did).

  5. Microsoft's best and most inventive work has often been driven by competition. A visible and serious threat is the only situation where leadership, historically, was forced to be creatively aggressive, giving a chance for creatives to obtain enough power to do good work. Windows 95, Office 95, Internet Explorer 5.0, MS Natural Keyboard, XBOX 360 were all excellent products by most standards, and were made possible by strong competition. The question executives need to ask is why divisions like Mobile & MSN,or the entire Vietnam like 15 year history of imploding efforts of web search (there is a great book to be written by someone about this), have been disasters despite clear and strong competition - this is the analysis to post on every office door at the rest of the company.

  6. It's lazy arguing to assume an organization of 10,000 or 100,000 is uniform in any way. Groups at Microsoft have a different culture, and some have been wildly more successful than others (e.g. Office vs. MSN/Live/whatever it's called this week) in part because their leaders have developed superior cultures that diverge widely from other groups. Windows 7 is an excellent product no matter how it stands in comparison to Apple's work, and the turnaround from Windows Vista, which many heralded as the end of MSFT, was beyond noteworthy. If Windows 7 or XBOX 360 is made in the same company that makes all the products you hate, you have to realize the limits of painting broad strokes. This is where many critiques of Microsoft fall short, including the one by Brass. They assume uniformity, projecting a local set of experiences in part of the company as the model for the entire company.

  7. If you talk only to people who quit and were disgruntled you can't possibly have the whole story. I've never met Dick Brass, but I know the Tablet PC was a commercial failure. As smart as Dick is, its likely he never understood how IE beat Netscape (it was more than the monopoly stuff), or Office beat Lotus/WordPerfect etc. He also might not know the long history of Windows and Office rejecting most requests from most other teams as a matter of both basic sanity and arrogance. Specific to Tablet PC, it started as a Bill Gates pet project. Working with Bill, who Dick curiously never mentions, was no treat, and unlike Steve Jobs, his direct involvement in matters of design is likely not a godsend. Articles like this one reads too much into corporate policies, as many of them are old (e.g. the review process) and good managers have always had ways to work within these rules to reward good employees. I'd agree the processes could be improved, but all the good VPs find ways to bend rules into loopholes.

  8. The greatest disease at Microsoft is lack of sharing lessons from failure, especially where innovation is concerned. Microsoft has made many big, visible bets. Many of them have failed, but that's par for the course. The problem is these expensive lessons are swept under the rug, encouraging others in the company to repeat the same mistakes. Everyone loves to make fun of Microsoft Bob, but few can articulate why it failed. If you don't understand why it failed, you don't have any reason for laughing so hard, and you likely aren't half as smart as you think you are. A case study on Vista, MSN Search, Microsoft Bob, The Tablet PC, etc. should be produced by an outside consultant, and stapled on the forehead of every manager at the company, once a day, until they read them all word for word. Then they'd take advantage of Microsoft's so called experience and wisdom. Otherwise, they are being set up to make the same expensive mistakes again and again.

  9. The idea of Innovation, and Innovation Systems, is a distraction. Success in the market is a better scorecard and the most reliable source of criticism. Innovation, as the word is used in these articles, is a matter of taste. You can be very inventive and still get your ass kicked. Or do a great job with mostly conventional ideas, and kick more interesting competitors off the field. Apple, if you study their choices, doesn't pull things out of the sky (digital music players, cell phones, and tablet PCs were all established ideas). They enter games others are already playing and kick their ass. But innovation is the least useful lens. The best criticism of Microsoft's management is how, or how not, they've done against their competitors in terms of customer satisfaction. If innovation matters as much as people seem to claim it does, it's well reflected in either market success or customer satisfaction, so worry more about those solid measures, rather than the ethereal notion of who is innovative and who isn't.

Editor's Note: Scott Berkun will be speaking at The Economist's event - "Innovation Fresh Thinking For the Ideas Economy" at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley on March 23-24, 2010. As an added value for our loyal Blogging Innovation readers, we have negotiated a $150 discount when you register using our discount code - "BLINN" - register now.

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Scott BerkunScott Berkun is the bestselling author of "The Myths of Innovation" and "Confessions of a Public Speaker." His blog and lectures can be found at scottberkun.com.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Harsh Reality of Innovation

by Hutch Carpenter

Nothing like putting your heart and soul into innovation, and then getting this:

Harsh Reality of Innovation - Apple and Google
Man, tough audience. But very much in keeping with some the best advice on innovation. Which is, you can't have innovation without some failure along the way. It's inevitable.

That advice is both true, and glib. Innovation consultant Jeffrey Phillips catches the right spirit when he says:

"Another thing about 'failure' is that we try to kid ourselves that failure is a 'good thing' a learning opportunity. Well, not in most cultures.

This is the reality of innovation. It's tough. The more disruptive an innovation, the tougher it gets. And we're in the middle of seeing how it plays right now with Apple iPad and Google Buzz.

Let me ask you this: Do you personally think either the iPad or Buzz will be guaranteed successes for their respective companies? Be honest now.

My guess is you're like most of us: I don't know.

Well, truth be known, neither do Apple and Google. But they've got a history you'd bet on.

Apple and Google: Big Time Failures, Big Time Innovations

Both Apple and Google have had their share of duds in the market:

Apple and Google Failures
Obviously, these companies do not have a perfect record of successful innovations.

But they do have a record of pressing through failures and continuing to roll out innovations. In fact, they're consistently ranked the best in the world:

BusinessWeek ranks Apple and Google top two for innovation
It pays to stick-to-it in trying out innovations. But can everyone?

Does Your Company Really Want Radical Innovation?

In Psychology Today, a professor at the University of Michigan gets to the issue:

From vaccines to Velcro, many inventions were spawned from accidents, seeming failures. But when Fiona Lee, psychology and business professor at the University of Michigan, explored which conditions help people experiment with novel ideas, she uncovered an interesting phenomenon: "Managers talk a lot about innovation and being on the cutting edge, but on an individual level, many people are not willing to try new things."

What's holding us back? A fear of failure.

Think about your own reaction to the question of whether the iPad and Google Buzz will be successful. It's easy enough to be uncertain as an observer. But imagine if you have to put shareholder capital in to it, affect your brand in the market and risk some career trajectories?

I will often read of the importance of taking risks and accepting some level of failure for companies to be innovative. This is very true. But it can be glib to summarily dismiss companies for not 'getting it'. When they're made up of people like you and me who possess ordinary... well, human characteristics.

Because how do you know when you're iterating toward a true high-value innovation, or you're just spinning your wheels? I'll turn again to Jeffrey Phillips:

"As Edison and countless others have demonstrated, you rarely get it right the first time, and if you are stymied by early failure, then you'll never find and implement the best ideas. Innovation, as has been pointed out by individuals with far more to say about it than me, will create some failures. Your job isn't to avoid the failures, since you can't predict them in advance, but to reduce the cost and impact of the inevitable failures. In other words, keep moving."

As I said before, I can't know for sure whether the Apple iPad or Google Buzz will be successful. But kudos to those companies for rolling out innovations that might fail. And in case you're wondering whether allowing employees some latitude to fail is worth it, check out the 5-year stock performance of Apple and Google versus the S&P 500:

Apple and Google Stock Performance

Let's take this one out with the great speech from Teddy Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."


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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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Radical Innovation is a Proposal, Not a Product

by Thomson Dawson

Radical Innovation is a Proposal, Not a ProductWe've noticed a common thread among many companies these days. When thinking about innovation - most seem to be heavily focused on providing incremental features and benefits as a cornerstone for their competitive advantage. What seems to elude many executive leaders is a lack of understanding that people do not buy products, they buy into meanings.

Maybe the reason for this is simply the physics of most organizations inhibits radical innovation and the competitive advantage that results. What matters the most to people is not the function of a product, but their emotional, psychological and cultural connection to what a product means to them. The key to sustained competitive advantage for companies is to innovate around meanings rather than function and performance. Radical Innovation does not happen when you bring people an incremental improvement of what they already know. Rather, radical innovation (and market leadership for that matter) is the result of 'proposing' an unexpected meaning. This meaning, unsolicited by user needs, once discovered, turns out to be the very thing people were waiting for!

There are countless examples of companies who have mastered this. Of course, Apple is an easy one. And there are other compelling examples. Back in the early 80's, Seiko and Casio were driving technological innovation in quartz watches, believing people wanted technical precision. However, a Swiss watchmaker realized people cared more about self-expression than technical precision. Swatch was born and proved to be a radical innovation of meaning that created radical market success. While Seiko and Casio were closely observing user needs and existing meanings, Swatch created new ones.

Forget User-centered Innovation

With so many such examples in every industry to benchmark from, I am surprised most companies don't seem to "get it". Most are heavily invested in traditional market innovation - finding a consumer need and filling it. From our own experience working in early stage product and brand innovation, seemingly the conversation starts by the client explaining how their new product innovation has more buttons and is easier to use than the leading brand. A radical innovation of meaning rarely, if ever, comes from user-centered approaches.

In my view, this explains why so many high user involvement product categories are being commoditized. Most companies continue to improve incremental performance within existing market concepts leaving only a few visionary companies to gain competitive advantage (market leadership) by proposing new and different meanings. Did I mention Apple yet?

Good and Different

In his whiteboard book "Zag", noted consultant and author Marty Neumeier outlines the fundamentals of good and different. The premise is simple - you can't lead by following the leader. To remove uncertainty and hedge risk in innovation, many companies rely on focus group testing. While useful for certain kinds of learning, people in focus groups have a frame of reference that is based on what is currently known to them. Most people usually want more of what they currently know - only with more features and cheaper. This is not an effective venue for discovering new meanings or competitive advantage.

Today the marketplace is over-crowded with good. Good is expected. Good = the same! Different on the other hand, is more elusive. When a company proposes a radical innovation of meaning, it's no surprise it will be first judged as crazy or impractical idea. Radical innovations of meaning don't test well. A product that is radically different is always radically different than the current dominant meaning in the category. Think back to the Swatch example; personal expression trumps precision instrument. Indeed Swatch is still good and different.

What is your innovation strategy?

In his book, "Design-Driven Innovation", author Roberto Verganti outlines a framework for mapping strategy for innovation as a radical change in meanings. Check out his thinking in the diagram below:

Design-Driven Innovation
Verganti describes the process of product innovation and competitive advantage as historically being the result of product performance enhanced by disruptive technology advances and intense analysis of users' needs. Radical innovation, on the other hand, is more about baking the more elusive unexpected meaning into the product. People discover something unexpected that, when delivered, is somehow what people have been waiting for, just not asking for. Radical innovation is a proposal to people. Radical innovation is not about function and form, but about function and meaning - never driven by users.

As your company maps its innovation strategy, this distinction of radical innovation of meanings rather than features may be noteworthy in your product development. If you're not thinking about radical innovation right now, you can be sure your competitor is. Lead, follow, or get out of the way has never rang so true.

Please share your thoughts with us.

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Thomson DawsonThomson Dawson is the Managing Partner of PULL Brand Innovation. PULL helps leaders and teams gain more insight, clarity and confidence to pursue their most promising opportunities to create new value.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Entrepreneurs and Innovation

"Mr. Edison, please tell me what laboratory rules you want me to observe?"

by Janine de Nysschen

A good friend of mine once sat down to lunch with Stephen Covey and a group of fellow executives. During the course of the meal, one of the men commented on the unusual tablespoons, and said "Look at the backend of it." All the people at the table flipped their spoons over, but my friend - quite unintentionally - angled it up so he could look at the bottom tip of it. Laughter ensued. But Covey raised a hand and pointed out that my friend's actions suggested something interesting in his behavior: the ability to look at the world in an unexpected way. So I guess it's not surprising to hear my friend is one of the most innovative entrepreneurs I know, as well as a successful millionaire who has transformed the industry he is in.

The story reminds me of an important fact. Entrepreneurs are often at the forefront of innovation. They possess a unique set of skills that lends itself to inspired invention and driven change. Really good business solutions and radical transformations in history have one thing in common. Somewhere, someone believed that you could do something better, different or completely new. Someone challenged the status quo or saw failure as an opportunity to try again. Often, those people were entrepreneurs.

One reason is that entrepreneurs tend to see the world around them differently. As Thomas Edison said to his laboratory assistant:

"There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish somep'n!"

Innovation is most often simply a matter of having a different perspective than everyone else, and the perseverance to make it happen. For example, some of the most creative people I know had learning disabilities growing up. Forced to adapt so they could fit into a rigid school format, many developed alternative ways of making sense of the world.

Tony Buzan, father of the world-renowned creative technique of Mind Mapping, is a point in case. Tony admits he came up with mind maps because he was "doing badly at school." He was also smart enough to realize that the way people were measuring intelligence was rather limited. Quick experiment: in your mind's eye, picture the moon, the sun, the earth and a lemon. Which one is different? While you may be like most people and select lemon as the odd-one-out, Tony would point out that if you were using color as your filter, earth would be odd because it's not yellow.

Innovation is therefore inspired by understanding that there's not always only one right answer. Or realizing you may have an answer to a problem that doesn't yet exist. Did you know that the parachute was invented before powered flight? In a "fascinating facts" piece about Sir James Dyson, you'll read that his inspiration for cyclonic technology happened one day while he was vacuuming his house (in itself, fascinating!) and he realized his top-of-the-line machine was losing suction and getting clogged. Dyson refused to accept there was only one good way to build a vacuum cleaner, and the cyclonic suction, roller-ball Dyson vacuum cleaner was born.

Innovation is also about seeing an idea for what it's really worth. Think about all those stories of accidental invention. Like Wilson Greatbatch back in 1956, who was experimenting with a device he was building to record heartbeats. He grabbed the wrong resistor and connected it, and discovered that the circuit emitted a pulse. Voila, Greatbatch realized his device could be used to control heartbeat, and the pacemaker was invented.

Which brings me to a final point on inspired innovation. I believe the most profound and valuable innovation and creativity has to come from a sense of purpose or a powerful cause - it is unbounded thinking about how to make life and the world more meaningful that leads us to solve great challenges and achieve impossible objectives. Just look at how one company's mission transformed the lives of millions of people: Microsoft, with its tagline of "A PC on every desk." And behind that audacious goal, an inspired cause to find ways for people and things to achieve their greatest potential.

Innovation comes in many forms and is a tool that's wielded well by many entrepreneurs. Having a different perspective has inspired many of Apple's products - simply because Steve Jobs refused to accept that everyday things such as radios and phones and computers had to be mundane and ugly. Ergo: Apple is synonymous with easy, simple and beautiful. Sometimes the entrepreneurial way out has to be invented. Understanding that there's not always only one right answer gave us solutions like Galileo's telescope and Sir James Dyson's vacuum cleaner. Then there are the accidental innovations, like 3M's experimental polymer that turned out to be less of an adhesive and more of a sticky fix that today everyone calls a Post-ItTM note. Ultimately, there's the kind of innovation that really makes this world a better place, because it comes from a passionate sense of purpose. Like Google's search engine, motivated by the cause of organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful.

Because entrepreneurs have had the courage to ask questions and take risks - wheels were invented, men learned to fly, machines were made to work more efficiently, and the world has moved forward. The spirit to invent and innovate lies at the heart of true entrepreneurship. Or, to loosely paraphrase Peter Drucker:

innovation is the specific tool that entrepreneurs use to increase their capacity to create wealth.

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Janine de NysschenJanine de Nysschen uses purpose dynamics to create unique change strategies for difficult problems, helping CEOs and companies increase their impact and performance.

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2010 - Beginning of a Touch and Gesture Future?

by Idris Mootee

2010 - Beginning of a Touch and Gesture Future?With the proliferation of multi-touch technologies and innovations, we face an exciting new future of physical interactivity that will be like doing tai-chi.

Will multi-touch become the mainstream interactive experience on small devices? The holy grail of touch interactivity is bringing together the simplicity of hand gestures with deep navigation. Will multitouch create a new user language much as we learn how to type? Imagine when multi-touch is deployed in home appliances such as washing machines and microwave ovens? Gestural commands can be much less obvious to users than those written on buttons and menus and can create a whole new set of challenges. It means more challenge for human factors people.

It is interesting to envision how a broad-based, mass-scale utilization of the technology beyond the iPhone/iTouch/iPad/iDesk. I want to see a digital desk where there are no computers, the surface is the computer and my smartphone connects to the cloud. And I want the desk to look like a Herman Miller Sense desk. I want to have a built-in Skype conference call widget and... oh yes, Facebook on my desk. I guess we need to retrain ourselves to use this, as we need to create a set of hand gestures standards in order to be productive with our digital desk.

Asus already has a dual-screen laptop, still in concept stage, but with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard, opting for a virtual keyboard just like the iPhone. This is a step towards the digital desk. The dual panel offers a flexible working space in which users can adapt to suit their prevailing usage scenarios, for example adjusting the size of the virtual touchpad and keyboard. Through hand gestures, handwriting recognition and multi-touch, users are given with a control surface that is both flexible and intuitive.

The touchscreen display market will be growing from US$2.2 billion this year to US$3.4 billion in 2014 according to NanoMarkets, a research firm. The growing demand for touch-screen technologies in mobile and portable computing will create new opportunities for suppliers of conductive coatings, substrates and sensors in addition to the display firms themselves. Mainstream display makers have begun to develop their own "in-pixel" technologies as an alternative to the current industry practice in which third-party suppliers add a touch sensor subsystem on top of an LCD display and then sell to OEMs. Instead of supplying companies such as HP, LG, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony, these mid-size touchscreen OEM manufacturers may end up competing against them. These companies include FlatFrog, RPO, Microsoft, NextWindow, TouchCo and Vissumo.

In the next 24 months we can expect to see the increasing prevalence of physical and gestural interactivity, beyond the Wii and the iPad. One thing for sure is that we're all going to be dealing with the fun as well as the challenge of interacting with and designing devices in different ways. One big challenge is simply due to the lack of transparency into the "commands" or actions available with a given device or environment, we don't see a switch in the air and there is nothing for us to touch.

Looking into the exciting new future of physical and special interactivity, we will need to create idioms and new vocabulary that are as discoverable and useful as possible. We will find out in 10 years time whether these new touch-based interactive paradigms such as gestural interfaces will be making life easier for us or creating a new interactivity divide between those who can use it and whose who gave up on it. Instead of learning to type like my parent's generation, the next generation may be learning how to do the 'tai-chi' of interactive gestures. Human Factors guys now need to learn tai-chi.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Profitable are the iPad and Kindle?

by Idris Mootee

How Profitable are the iPad and Kindle?How much money are Apple and Amazon making from selling the iPad and the Kindle?

Get ready for the iPad to come to an Apple store near you, and for iTunes TV show downloads. Apple will be offering US TV shows for $1 each, as reported by the Financial Times. This coincides with the scheduled release of the iPad sometime in April in an attempt to boost adoption and pull sales through the channel. TV episodes are normally $1.99 for standard-definition and $2.99 for high-definition through iTunes. There was talk before the iPad launch that Apple might at last introduce an iTunes TV show subscription service, but it never happened. I am sure that is still on the table, but there are no further details about when this could come together.

Some wonder how much money Apple can make with the iPad. Obviously the higher end models are usually more profitable for Apple, and the iPad is no exception. I've done some quick and dirty research with OEM suppliers and whipped up some estimates. The high-end iPad model with 3G and 64 GB of storage will retail at $829 and produce a profit of $455 for Apple (and retailers), while the low-end iPad model with 16GB of storage (and no 3G) will retail at $499 and bring a profit of $213. My assumptions for marketing and customer support costs total $15. I have not included in the calculations any volume discounts that Apple might grant to corporate or educational buyers.

Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle DX costs
I have yet to confirm the components configuration but am using industry's current suppliers' prices. These costs will come down when volume increases, and memory prices fluctuate. The display is the most expensive component, followed by the NAND flash memory. If you drop your iPad, I am guessing the replacement cost would be $250-$270, although the net cost is $76 excluding labor. I've also included a quick comparison with the Kindle DX, which is not an apple-to-apple comparison, and is just there for reference. Kindle doesn't have many of the expensive components that the iPad has, but is an elegantly designed book reader. Remember the basic rule of design? Make sure you do at least one thing really, really good. Kindle makes the downloading experience so easy. Anywhere in the world, your 3G can work to download books in the background.

All cost calculations here are based on our estimates only, not sources from Apple or Amazon and no one has confirmed if these numbers are close or off. I think they are close.

Considering the Kindle DX selling for $489 produces a profit of $297. There are costs for some free content not included in the Kindle DX costs. There will likely be many iPad clones in the market selling in the $180-$250 range. The margin for iPad clones will be as thin as $30-$40, but you can't really compare the iPad with those poor cousins. Let's see what the iPad's net contribution to Apple will be by the end of the year.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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What does Apple do when it all goes pear-shaped?

by Yann Cramer

What does Apple do when it all goes pear-shaped?Most CEOs would say that innovation is critical to their companies' success. Loads of people would like to exercise their creativity and innovate, but whether at the corporate or at the individual level, something holds everyone back: risk. "What if it all goes wrong?" This can be more or less marked depending on the degree of acceptance of trial-and-error as a learning process, but to some extent it exists in all cultures, countries and companies.

What can we do about it? There are process answers around framing the project and keeping it focused, rapid prototyping different versions of the product or piloting in the market. But most importantly there is a mindset answer which is both accept it and don't accept it.

Accept It

Forbes provides an interesting list of Apple failures: a few forgotten computers such as the Lisa, the Mac portable, the Taligent, the power mac G4 cube, and a raft of other products that most people may be surprised to hear about: the Newton PDA, the Quicktake digital camera, the Macintosh TV, the Pippin video-game console, the Motorola Rokr mobile phone/mp3 (Apple developed with Motorola).

For all its resounding successes from the Apple II to the iPhone, Apple has not been immune to failure. The difference that makes the difference is that they accept that there will be some failures along the way. They have a portfolio mindset: they continuously scan the environment, they identify potential opportunities, they try, they go for it. When it does not work they pull the plug decisively, but when it works: bingo!

Don't Accept It

Apple may have failed with the Newton, the Quicktake and the Rockr but they have remained true to their multi-media vision, they sticked to the strategic challenge they had set for themselves to get into the handheld market, and ultimately they found "the magic number" to succeed with the iPod and the iPhone.

Accepting failures does not mean accepting that these mark the end of the road. Too often, a company's response to a few innovation failures is to abandon the field and shift strategic priorities in another direction. As they do so, they actually reduce the relevance of what they have learned (or should have learned) from their failures, they land themselves in a new field where they need to learn everything, and their chances of success are actually lower than if they had sticked to their initial strategic priority.

So, accept that you will be thrown off-balance along the way, but don't accept being blown off-course.

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Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He's lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he's travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fantastically, Brilliantly, Insanely Amazing

by Kevin Roberts

One thing about the January 27th launch of the Apple iPad clashing with President Obama's first State of the Union address was that they both focused on Jobs.

And check out the awesome enthusiasm Steve Jobs and his team have for their new baby in this video!

A lot of hype and hyped-up criticism have accompanied the launch of the iPad. Nothing new there. Apple attracted lots of criticism with the launch of the iPod in 2001 (total sales: 220 million) and the iPhone in 2007 (total sales: 34 million). They centered on a perceived lack of functionality. So it's not surprising to hear gripes that iPad doesn't support HDMI or Flash graphics, or have a built-in camera.

The critics have missed the point. The iPad is not a netbook or scaled-down laptop. In fact, it is only a distant relative to the traditional PC or Mac. Instead, its lineage is the DVD player, the VCR, the television set, the radio, the newspaper, the telephone, the telegraph. It is not a workhorse loaded up with functions and hardware. It is a platform for story-telling, interactive, personal and immediate.

The story of human technology is the relentless advance in the direction of greater utility, connectivity, immediacy, affordability and flexibility. The iPad represents a quantum leap in that direction.

We want to communicate with each other, cheaply and easily. We want information where and when we need it. We want to be entertained and to entertain ourselves. We want to get closer to the people and the things we love. The iPad promises to do that. Technology that fails to serve that purpose is just a gadget, suitable for little more than collecting dust.

There's an interesting blog post in the NY Times predicting that the iPad will become an irresistible toy for children because kids will love the tactile nature of the device (they love to jab at things!), 'painting' software allows for mess-free splatter, it's an ideal distraction for car trips, and the screen offers endless story opportunities. I couldn't agree more, but the author could go even further: They are pretty compelling reasons for adults to get their hands on an iPad, too.

Related Articles:

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dear Cable TV Executives,

by Steve McKee

Dear Cable TV ExecutivesI don't want 300 channels. I only want 18 channels. OK, the average person wants 18 channels. I really only want six. Why can't I have just six?

I know, I know, it's the economics of the industry. But industries change, don't they? I mean, look what has happened to the music industry. I used to have to purchase an entire CD just to get the one or two songs I want, but now I can buy and build my own playlists song by song. It's funny, but I'm sure I spend more on music now than I used to.

You should know I just bought an Apple TV box. That's not your fault - since the Blockbuster Video stores near me closed (and RedBox, while cool, doesn't exactly offer a huge selection) I didn't really have a good option for renting movies. So I thought it was worth a try. Now I can select from a huge selection of movies and TV shows, and when I'm not in a buying mood I can use it to watch YouTube on my HDTV. I'm beginning to think of YouTube as the ultimate TV network - there's so much on-demand entertainment there. (Hmm. You might want to make a note of that.)

Speaking of entertainment, I've held off on getting a Kindle because I knew Apple was coming out with a similar device. I'm excited to get my iPad, not only to check my email and surf the web but to download books. I guess Apple is shaking up the book publishing industry just like it did the music industry. "Saving it" is probably a more accurate description; I'm sure my book purchasing behavior will mirror my new music buying habits. I wonder if they're thinking along the same lines when it comes to TV. I guess time will tell.

So if you don't mind, I'd like to subscribe to individual cable channels. For that matter, I wouldn't mind subscribing to individual programs. I know you won't get as hefty of a monthly fee from me, but I'd be willing to pay more per network than you're getting now. And I suspect other people would be too.

Anyway, it's something to think about. But no pressure. If you don't do it, I'm sure I can find other things to do with my time and money.

Editors Note: I'm with you Steve. I've got limited cable because I don't have much time to watch television. When I really want to watch something specific I can get it online. Cable TV is going to face much the same problem that fixed line phone service faces now (declining subscriber #'s). And, if more and more networks develop their own 'apps' for a variety of mobile or IP platforms (Apple TV, iPhone, Blackberry, iPad FloTV, etc.), it's only going to accelerate.

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Steve McKeeSteve McKee is a BusinessWeek.com columnist, marketing consultant, and author of "When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You're Stuck, and What To Do About It." Learn more about him at www.WhenGrowthStalls.com and at http://twitter.com/whengrowthstall.

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