As many of my friends know, I have been looking for my next great career move since the end of July. Given that it's now December and I still haven't found anything, I realize that perhaps sharing my knowledge (and my struggle) might help to boost my visibility to the outside world.
However, this isn't the topic or even the rationale for this particular blog entry, rather it's the question of whether to blog about the incidentals and innuendos of information that I've gleaned over the past several months while interviewing, reading and pondering some big questions. I wouldn't say that I've heard anything earth shattering, but some of the small pieces of data that I picked up have challenged at least some of the pre-conceptions that I have had about particular items. So in that vein and before I get down to the serious task of actually creating substantive blog posts here are a few particular gems to ponder:
- Blackberry Curve is the best selling "consumer" device sold by RIM. To me this was somewhat shocking, not because I thought that the Blackberry Storm was any big success (I knew it wasn't) but rather I never viewed the Curve as a direct to consumer type of device. In my previously view, I really only thought about the
and the Storm as the two main consumer devices in the Blackberry stable. Both of these were heavily marketed to consumers and have a better consumer facing proposition (IMHO) than the Curve. Yes, the Curve retails often for $0 with contract, but somehow I just didn't see the consumer mass market wanting to buy a full QWERTY device with software that is mostly antiquated. I can understand "Sally" the knowledge worker buying one to deal with both personal email and communication as well as being able to keep up with the company email etc, but to do that out of her own pocket seems a bit odd. Of course there may be more going on here than meets the eye... Sally may be getting some sort of reimbursement from her employer either in terms of the purchase price of the device or possibly the cost of the data service or even the entire phone bill, but obviously that's not something that would be "tracked" relative to the consumer purchase point data. Regardless, it is an interesting factor that deserves some more consideration; in fact I've got some ideas as to why this might be the case, but will save those for a later post. Pearl
- Windows Mobile is in more trouble than you can imagine. The eye opener here isn't all of the stuff that you typically read on the blogs and it's not that they are losing market share like crazy to Android, RIM and Apple as the key operating systems in the mobile OS space. Part of the problem is a result of Microsoft feeling like it has to compete head on with Apple and RIM who both produce not only the hardware but the software for the device. As anyone with any experience in the industry can tell you, the best consumer devices always have the hardware and software designed in coordination. This factor led Microsoft to create some specifications for "ideal" devices - which Microsoft was than going to use to build out software that matched those particular specs. While a decent plan in theory, it creates problems when hardware manufacturers have other ideas about what features, functionality and timing of device launches need to be included in their device offerings to the carriers who end up purchasing the devices; and the manufacturers are trying to react quickly to market changing conditions. The rest of the problem is most likely in how Microsoft is organized, the structure, size and responsibilities of the organizations involved. I will say however, that you shouldn't count Microsoft out, but there is a lot that needs to be done to get back on proper footing. Something that can definitely be saved for future discussion...
- Netbooks are everywhere and while a strong growth category (for the time being), many users are still hung up on needing that good old DVD drive. For the average home consumer a netbook or similarly spec'ed cheap laptop is more than adequate for the task. Sure it won't play the lastest and greatest graphically intensive first-person shooter, but the vast majority of gamers are casual gamers who want to play Bejeweled or MouseHunt on Facebook in which case these little computers are perfectly suited for the task either in the home or on the go. Obviously connectivity is still an issue and the data plans or subsidized devices from the carriers are available (in my opinion a terrible option for general consumers), but what is really missing is rich content specifically geared to these devices. You could stream NetFlix or Hulu directly to the device, set up Boxee, etc, but on many the playback quality isn't all that great and you need to stay constantly connected. Amazon does have a movie download service and there are a few others out there that allow for content to be acquired, but the cost is prohibitive, the amount of content is lacking, and the awareness to the general consumer of these services is laughable. Improving this situation for these consumers isn't that difficult and I'll share some ideas for this space...
- The fight for the living room continues... I think this is one area where there is a lot of technology floating about, but no one has really come up with a solution that is appropriate for the mass consumer in a way that really makes sense. And of course just about everyone is playing in this space, but today there still is no winner because I think from a consumer stand-point, the winning solution shouldn't be a compromise, but something that is customized to their needs. After all in the living room there are gaming consoles, HTPC (home theater PCs), remote network devices (Sling, Roku, Boxee device, etc) and you now have web-tablets such as Tabbee (haven't seen it yet? Sagem made this for
and it's pretty cool, though brush up on your French first), Tap 'n tap, Chumby and of course the mythical Apple Tablet (if it ever becomes real). Honestly it's a mess out there, not because of the dearth of solutions, just that it's hard to have one that makes sense. I have some ideas... Orange
- Finally, everything comes down to the user experience. From portable media players to custom consumer electronic devices to smartphones to PC software, how the customer interacts with the device has to be met with three key components - usability, usefulness and need. This is pretty standard knowledge to many, but what most forget is that these aren't static traits and the software needs to evolve and change with the end user. Ideally all of your devices are capable of self-updating and thus you always have the latest and greatest. This ensures you're able to give your users the best possible experience since you can make critical changes in functionality and usability to better meet those needs.
Over the next few months, I'm going to continue to explore these ideas and share my thoughts and experiences as I continue to look for the next great career opportunity. Hopefully I'll be able to continue, but when you like working on the bleeding edge of consumer offerings its can be hard to provide meaningful details :-)