27 February 2011

Understanding The Smartphone Battle – Rise of Apple & Android & Fall of Nokia & Others

The title is actually wrong.

If you think the battle is about smart-phone, then you will fail to understand the rise of Apples & Android and the fall of Nokia, Microsoft and the Symbians. This is also where Nokia and others get it wrong. It is the battle above the smart-phone. It is more about serving the needs of the social networked people and creating a wow-experience. A not too good description but better than smart-phone is the term ‘media device’.
Our innovation worldview is shaped by our experience.  Nokia, Microsoft, etc are all well known innovative companies. They are good innovators and great executors.  But how could such innovative people miss the the changing trends? They are shaped by their past experience and are blind to the change. Their past mindset can’t grasp the new changes.

Their History Explains their Worldview Mindset and Forecast their Success or Demise.

Nokia got their success by riding on GSM adoption (Motorola was late to GSM), coming out with great ease of use, reliability and incremental innovations (if not too many). Their tag-line is great – “connecting people”. But their mindset is phone based. Linking up SMS to create a mobile email-like system is great. But the world is using email. Making the phone smart by incorporate PDA-PIM features is great too. But the world is going social media network. Adding features to link to the new media is great too but just not natural.  Have a separate team to focus on SYMBIAN, a consortium effort is great. But standards are often by-passed by more useful and widespread market trend. The rise of iPhone and Android make a mockery of SYMBIAN. We wasted much time on standards ( I can’t even recall the name!) to get the web display on a small phone screen!

RIM stated from paging to messaging to email devices and then add a phone link. Since the world then runs on email, they got good success and become the smart-phone of choice for corporate business use. However, the social media is much more than email and PDA.

Microsoft approaches the phone from the PC mindset. From PC-Window to CE-Window, Smartphone Window. Taking all the time a PC centric mindset. Which is fine but they see Smart-phone as a subset of PC-Window, a sub-standard PC-Window experience – ending up as a PDA-PIM device and miss the rise of the social network. Window-7 is supposed to change that. But typical of Microsoft engineering and technical orientation, you can do it but with  relatively (to Apple) difficulty and lack of depth (i.e. no wow experience and actually leaving me a pit disappointed with all the marketing hype. I gave the HTC WD7 away.  A side lesson – branding is not about blowing horn through big marketing budget. If the experience is not matching the message, more marketing is more disappointment). You can do it but you don’t get a wow experience. MS and Nokia think they can win by sheer size! Unless there is a drastic change in mindset, they are just going to continue to loose their market share.

The Apple Story
Most engineers don’t get the secret of Apple Success. They think it is a feature war. We keep hearing that their new devices will have more features than Apple’s such as cameras, usb, multi-tasking, flash etc etc. Features are means to an end. But itself, more features means more choices means more confusion. See my posts on Choices could be Bad – Dummies are right!

Apple’s secret of success is about satisfying a need with a wow-experience that ask for more. I always tell people that iPod is not just a mp3 player and Apple did not get into the mp3 player market. iPod is just a delivery mechanism in the offering of $1 a song on the go. Apple’s ipod business is a game changing music business model. Instead of paying $20 for a CD with 16-20 songs that you don’t particular like just to get the 1-2 songs you like.  Apple itunes, ipod and partnerships with the music suppliers provide the wow-experience.

After iPod comes iTouch. The nuisance in the iPod music experience is the need for the PC, even if it is Apple. If only iPod can have iTunes within. That device is called the iTouch. Now that iTouch can connect to the Net, why not just add a phone function so that we can do away with the phone (Nokia or Motorola?). That is called the iPhone. With iPhone, comes a common complain … can the screen be a big bigger then I can finally get rid of the PC? Then come the iPad. The success is history. Oops! .not yet, they are continuing to out sell others in the time others are still trying to come out and iron out their offerings.

Google – Androids
Google’s mission is about organizing the world information and making them available universally. It is naturally that from PC, they will move other platform. Doing Android and making a platform that is widely adopted by others is great for Google but not so good for the Android based suppliers. They are killing each other to differential themselves while Google get his Android platform revenue and great market share. An excellent strategy to fight Apple. Apple vs Google could be a good topic for another post and we can draw many good lessons from it. Will try to write it in future.

The History of Smart-Phone Competitors

Lessons Learned
  1. Our worldview determine our long term success or failure.
    1. Disruption is not just about technology. It is about our mindset of needs, business values and experience.
  2. We need to Discover and Create The Leading Business Worldview
    1. There is a tip – find out the significance and meaningfulness
    2. Be aware that we are the product of our past experience and we are likely to miss seeing the thing that we should not. Hence, always be humble and get people from different backgrounds to participate in our planning.
  3. With the right Worldview, innovate and execute the new business model, creating wow-experience that ask for more.
    1. Wow-experience is a multi-steps process.
    2. Get the purpose right first. See that the means are just ways to achieve the purpose. Make the process simple, effortless and fulfilling.
    3. Apply the MinMax Principle to create your differentiated unique advantage.
      1. See Choices could be Bad – Dummies are right!
      2. Differentiated and High Payoff Innovations
    4. Apply the BVITS thinking to help you think and discover the myriads of possibilities. See BVITS ideas generation.
Bvotech Copyrighted Feb 2011.

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