About these ads

Apple iPad and Google Buzz: Harsh Reality of Innovation

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

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:

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:

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:

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.

Indeed.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

About these ads

Apple iPad and the Radical Innovation of Meaning

Ultimately, the iPad is a large iPod touch: a great device to draw your inspiration from, but perhaps not the seismic shift in technology that we were expecting.

Claudine Beaumont, Apple iPad review, The Telegraph

The much anticipated announcement of Apple’s iPad tablet was met with a resounding…”ho hum” or worse from much of the technology crowd. The biggest criticisms were its lack of key features (no Adobe Flash, lack of USB ports, where’s the camera?, etc.). Apple iPad as a technology innovation disappointment.

But with Apple, and Steve Jobs, that’s not really the point now, is it?

Sure, Apple has had plenty of technological innovations along the way. But then, so has its competitors. Yes, Steve Jobs is a showman, but that effect only lasts for MacWorld presentations.

No, what Apple does well is put forth “radical innovations of meaning”. That term is from Roberto Verganti, who wrote about the concept in his excellent book Design-Driven Innovation.

Apple’s skills with design-driven innovation are what will make the iPad a success.

Design-Driven Innovation: Innovation of Meaning

“Market? What market! We do not look at market needs. We make proposals to people.”

Ernesto Gismondi, Chairman, Artemide, Design-Driven Innovation

Verganti’s books builds the case for a different form of innovation. One in which companies tap the undercurrents of societal changes early, and create products addressing them. As Artemide chairman Gismondi puts it, these products are so different, they are akin to “making a proposal” to a market. They are not linear updates to existing products.

As Julian Bleeker notes in his review of the book, design-driven innovation is not a “follow the trends” approach. “Trends” are what any company can do. Rather, it’s deciding that conditions are right to introduce a product that plumbs changes previously unexplored in your industry.

Verganti describes this work as the radical innovation of meaning. Many purchases are based as much on meaning as they are on features. Innovation of features is an ongoing process for companies. But innovation of meaning is a stunted process for many firms.

Take a product that has an accepted use, a common set of features, and provide something new that turns the traditional meaning of the product on its head. In the book, he describes multiple examples of this, drawn mostly from Italy, his home country. For example, Alessi, a manufacturer of household items, successfully innovated the meaning of many common items. It introduced a series of playful characters that represented everyday kitchen items:

While it may sound trivial as you read this, this product line was an absolute gangbuster in sales. Alessi figured out that people still enjoyed playful experiences, even as adults. No one else was thinking this way in the industry at the time. But now the kitchenware actively pursues emotional design. It was no accident either. Alessi spent time researching changes in societal norms. That we still like to be kids was a change they saw (and one that many of us today take for granted).

Companies that do this well are both influencers and participants in what Verganti describes as the “design discourse”. This is an ongoing conversation with thinkers, tinkerers, researchers and companies who target the same evolving changes in societal context. Often, these are people outside your industry who are studying the same changes you are interested in.

It is by accessing these networks where companies can “see” evolutions of societal norms that offer opportunity. These are opportunities not driven by expressed consumer desires, but by shifts in cultural norms. Done well, companies that successfully innovate the meaning of products enjoy significant growth and profits.

Oh, and early on, these innovations of meaning can be slow to gain acceptance by the market. Explains the early iPod and Nintendo Wii reactions.

Apple iPad: What Is Its Radical Innovation of Meaning?

OK, if iPad is innovating meaning even more than it is technology, what meaning might that be? Here’s my best guess:

iPad is tapping into an emerging dynamic of a more interactive, tactile experience with digital technology and information. These interactions make technology less of an interface, and more of an extension of ourselves and our environment.

The tweets above are a couple that show the natural way children engage with technology. Given the iPhone experience, they turn around and want to apply it to other devices. Buttons on devices, our traditional form of interaction, are divorced from the screen. They provide a measure of distance from the digital experience.

Touch, however, represents a new level of intimacy in the digital experience. In technology terms, it’s just an alternative form of interface. Touch, mouse, tab, whatever. But touch is a vital human sense, and a core part of experience. It’s how we interact with others, how we shop, experience textures and so much more.

In terms of the “design discourse”, there are pointers of changes ahead in terms of integrating touch more deeply into our digital engagement.

Digital Wellbeing Labs: Responsive Feedback Behaviors

Designer Alexander Grünsteidl noted the impact of both the iPod and the Wii on our perception of how to interact with technology:

The Wii and iPhone, and before the iPod click wheel, have created a popular introduction to gesture based interfaces, demonstrating responsive feedback behaviours, applying “natural” physical effects like flipping and inertia, similar to the ones we are accustomed to in the real world, to improve usability expectations of an interface.

As new “cultures of use” emerge we are creating opportunities to form a language of gestures, similar to the conventions of “right-clicking” and standardised keyboard shortcuts.

Note the term “culture of use”. Not industry trends. Because the dominant form of interaction for computers and video games is still mouse and buttons. And consumers aren’t asking for touch.

But there is an underlying change in thinking about how people interact with technology and information.

Architectural Design: Digital Intimacy

University of Nottingham Nottingham UK student Stephen Townsend received a commendation in the recent President’s Medal competition in the U.K. His entry, Digital Intimacy, depicts a concept where interaction is built into the architecture.

If you notice the graphic to the right, you will see people reaching out their hands and interacting through touch. Townsend calls it the “kinesthetic interaction space”. Kinesthetic refers to a style of learning based on physical activities.

He designed this kinesthetic interaction space as a therapeutic solution for children with special needs. Here’s how he describes it:

The ‘Kinesthetic Interaction Space’ is conceived as an interactive architectonic intervention aimed at children with autism, providing sensory stimulation to assist with intervention methods and aid interaction with other children through shared kinesthetic experience. The focus of the thesis is on the development of dynamic material systems that could enable new forms of interactive environment. Architecture is conceptualised as an embodied interface and physical space has been fused with digital media in order to stimulate the imagination of inhabitants. K.I.S. is intended to facilitate playful explorations and fluid dialogues between people. The user learns to interact with their environment through an intuitive process, engaging the physical presence of inhabitants and forming spatial narratives.

While Townsend’s concept addresses children with autism, the underlying design is consistent with greater digital intimacy overall.

TEDEx Talk: Phones That Touch Us

PhD student Fabian Hemmert presented at a recent TEDx talk. He is working on a concept where phones include physical movements that better connote actions to people using them. In the video below, you’ll see him describe how the phone would shift weight in relation to changes in movement on a map.

As Hemmert notes, humans live in a physical world, one “which tastes good, feels good smells good”. He wants to design products that better integrate that experience.

iPad: The Future of Computing

Those three examples I just gave are part of a larger design discourse about the nature of digital engagement in our future. Are we “locked in” to the mouse and keyboard? Or will we continue to evolve the interaction experience?

In Wired, Brian X. Chen sees things similarly:

If you think about how a computer like this will impact people sociologically, suddenly the iPad is far more than a larger iPod Touch, as many have described it. It’s the computer for everyone: an idea Apple has been working toward for years.

That doesn’t mean the iPad will be the only computer for everyone and destroy every PC on the market, because that’s not even remotely likely. But it will introduce a significant new category.

They won’t live on desks, the way desktops do, and they won’t be carried everywhere, the way mobile phones are.  They’ll just be there, around the house, on tables and counters, the way today’s books, magazines, games, and newspapers are, booted up, ready to use.

Keep in mind student Stephen Townsend’s kinesthetic interaction space, built into the house. How about an iPad in every room of the house, ready to go? You can see thinking evolving on similar lines here.

I can see people becoming quite attached to their iPads. Their little units of digital intimacy.

Once you see where this is going, it should come as no surprise that Apple may be working on a larger version of its iPad, as a full computer. Steve Jobs is placing his chips on this radical innovation of meaning.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012910

From the home office at the annual retreat of Republican members of the House of Representatives in Baltimore, where I’m taking questions on my blog care plan…

#1: RT @cbneese My coworker: “Hey everyone I got the iPad, only I got the smaller, more portable version, with internet, a camera, and a phone.”

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe The PC officially died today: http://bit.ly/aATwBS Nick Carr probably does the best sum-up of the week.

#3: RT@ jbrewer RT @fchimero: Headline: “Tech nerds everywhere pissed Apple made a product for someone other than them.”

#4: Cisco’s I-Prize – the Next Wave of Open Innovation (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/bKq9vI #innovation #openinnovation

#5: RT @IdeaSandbox Don’t Demolish Your Own Innovation http://bit.ly/9hTRiw

#6: Nice post on HuffPo by @craignewmark about City of Manor’s citizen innovation site http://bit.ly/c4JOYQ (using Spigit) #gov20 #innovation

#7: Sketch, sketch, sketch http://bit.ly/djKsgE by @jbrewer “The end goal of the drawing process is what you learn while sketching” #innovation

#8: “I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.” Conan O’Brien http://bit.ly/66vppK > amen

#9: Nice response to the Westboro Baptist Church protest http://bit.ly/dteuTf > @meganphelps you did have donuts there, didn’t you?

#10: Stars Wars “6-pack” arrived today in the mail. Prequel Trilogy & the Original Trilogy. Got to get my 5 y.o. son up to speed. #lifelessons

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 103009

From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…

#1: NIH grants $12mm to create a national, Facebook-like social network for scientists http://ow.ly/xtAD Goal? Find collaborators

#2: RT @jowyang Ritz Carlton’s mktg chief says hotel mgt at each property spends 1 hour reviewing online convos each am –even tweets #forbescmo

#3: The Time I was Written Up for Blogging http://ow.ly/x3ph by @tacanderson Lesson on employees and social media

#4: Skating to where the puck will be – Apple & advertising http://ow.ly/xnXJ Apple has offered to rebuild a Chicago mass transit stop?

#5: Very cool: Los Angeles adopts Google e-mail system for 30,000 city employees http://ow.ly/x3hP Cloud makes inroads #saas

#6: 84% of firms say #innovation is important to firm success. 51% of firms do not have anyone who is steering the innovation ship. #iai09inno

#7: 10 examples of minimum viable products http://ow.ly/xbi1 Cool list of minimalist approaches to engage customers & build product

#8: Stuck trying to write that next blog post? 100 Ways to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts http://ow.ly/wA1T from the LifeSnips blog

#9: Geek alert! RT @PaulSloane: @DougCornelius RT Awesome T-Shirts for twins: http://bit.ly/14LYeI

#10: OK, figure this one out. @gaberivera created a tweet that links to itself. See for yourself: http://bit.ly/2IIkJG

Bonus just for this week…

#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 071709

From the home office in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.

#1: Reading: Your Idea Sucks, Now Go Do It Anyway http://bit.ly/10Dwi0 Most important thing is to get started, not be right #innovation

#2: Love this quote: “Disruptive innovation has been held up as the Olympics of innovation sport.” http://bit.ly/15ypw6

#3: Google and Apple “are accidental competitors. They just don’t seem to know it yet.” http://bit.ly/4xjXCJ

#4: Reading: Adoption stories http://bit.ly/6hNJr by @panklam on The AppGap #e20 #e2adoption

#5: Social Computing Journal picks up my post – Enterprise 2.0: Culture Is as Culture Does http://bit.ly/eTA43 #e20

#6: P&G’s @JoeSchueller has a nice comment on Google Wave’s potential in the enterprise on Socialtext’s blog: http://bit.ly/xRkGj

#7: I like @fredwilson‘s take on customers. Active transactors vs. active users. http://bit.ly/WrHQ2

#8: RT @markivey Why BusinessWeek Matters (from a former BW writer) http://bit.ly/fe9GC Really GREAT post, why we *need* our news institutions

#9: An entrepreneur who has built companies in both Silicon Valley and NYC describes the issues w/NYC for startups: http://bit.ly/G2Hss

#10: I ♥ wikis

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 050109

From the home office in La Gloria, Mexico…

#1: Not sure if it’s good or bad that I just learned that David Souter is retiring from the Supreme Court via Twitter Trending Topics.

#2: Had to do it, subscribed to @whitehouse

#3: The #TCOT grass roots conservative movement on Twitter is riven by feuding at the top: http://bit.ly/nwr1m

#4: Interested in corporate innovation? Join Forrester’s @oliveryoung & me for a webinar to learn practical ways to improve  http://bit.ly/cGI4W

#5: Reading: How to Get the Most From Your Best Ideas http://bit.ly/kuWci by @Accenture

#6: Looking at BW’s 50 most innovative companies http://bit.ly/18nBe7 How much of what #1 Apple & #2 Google do really applies to most companies?

#7: Reading – Enterprise 2.0 marketing score card: solid ‘C’ http://bit.ly/T1yJi by @sameerpatel Great Google Trends charts

#8: Joined foursquare, which asks you to add/rate stuff for cities. Hard to be hip as a parent, here’s my playground entry http://bit.ly/MBsE4

#9: Really interesting study and hypothesis about how our brains forget/rewrite memories just by recalling them http://bit.ly/1941k8

#10: Today is apparently a big day 4 college acceptance letters. Here’s a post that describes harshest/nicest reject letters http://bit.ly/1anN7p

Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?

I’m in the market for a new phone. And I’m pretty damn easy.

Apple has now released the next version of its phone, the 3G iPhone. With all the buzz around it, it’s hard not to consider buying one. But before taking the plunge, I wanted to understand what I’m getting myself into. I also wanted to consider what many people claim is a superior phone on the market, the Nokia N95.

But first, about my being pretty damn easy…

I’m a Mobile Phone Luddite

When I bought my current mobile phone, I really didn’t want all the fancy stuff. Just the ability to talk to someone. And that’s just what I got with my Nokia Sprint phone, pictured below:

Not much “smart” about that phone. Just cheap and functional. Any phone that does the things I list in the picture above will be a quantum leap forward for me. Obviously, I’m no early adopter.

Hence, I’m easy when it comes to smart phones.

Apple iPhone vs. Nokia N95

The crux of the argument seems to boil down to this:

  • 3G iPhone offers a superior web browsing experience
  • N95 offers superior camera and actually has video

Oh, there are other things…

Apps for the iPhone are supposed to be really cool. But I’m really not interested in Tap Tap Revenge. One thing I learned from Facebook is that most of these little apps grow boring quite quickly. However, there’s always the possibility that some interesting app will be developed.

There’s also Apple’s closed platform and restrictive DRM, which means all development requires approval of Apple. But considering that I’ve been using a phone without anything that would cause such concern, I’m mostly unconcerned about this as well.

The Knocks Against the iPhone

Here are the the biggest knocks I’ve seen on the iPhone. Gotta know what could ruin my day if I buy one.

Short battery life. This consistently comes up as a negative for the iPhone. It sounds awful, especially in comparison to my current lowly Nokia phone. The battery on that phone can last for days. But it sounds like any 3G smart phone may suffer a similar battery life issue. Here’s what GigaOm said about the Nokia N95:

The battery on this device [Nokia N95] simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off.

Apple does provide tips for preserving battery life. In addition, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira reports that a simple change to one feature – push email – can dramatically improve battery life.

Crappy camera, no video. There’s no getting around this one. The iPhone’s 2 mega pixel camera is woeful compared to the N95’s 5 mega pixel. Here’s a picture that Fred Wilson took with the N95:

Look at that quality! And with two young children, I think great pictures would be nice. Not to mention the ability to do easy video.

Forced to go with AT&T. This is a big one for many folks. They don’t like AT&T for whatever reason. AT&T appears to have good 3G coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area. But outside the region, coverage gets dicey. As Robert Scoble tweeted about his drive from southern California back to the Bay Area:

Out of the past 7.5 hours of driving we have had 3G for less than an hour. AT&T needs to do a much better job at coverage.

My Sprint phone actually has pretty bad coverage inside my house. So I’m not sure AT&T can get much worse, unless I was unable to get any signal. I did ask about what happens when 3G isn’t available on FriendFeed (comment on Scoble’s tweet). Here’s what Zach Flauaus said:

The iPhone’s priority is 3G, then EDGE, then GPRS. Aka: Fast, ehh… And “Oh hell no!”

So even if I can’t surf the web, I get a phone signal. OK…I probably can live with that.

The new apps crash the iPhone. Let me repeat that: NEW APPS CRASH THE iPHONE! Tim O’Reilly describes the laments of iPhone users and their crashing phones. He includes a Summize Twitter search for iPhone crash. The search reults are frightening:

  • “so it seems writing mobile applications is not such a trivial task. On the iPhone they crash like crazy”
  • “first iPhone crash since I restored it 4 days ago, I guess my strategy has worked, and coincidently it crashed on a newly installed app”
  • “Experienced my first iPhone app crash tonight. Screen turned black. After a few tries the phone came back to life but I deleted the app.”
  • “Just had my first iPhone app crash. Facebook!”

Sounds like it’s best to avoid putting apps on the iPhone for the time being. But I am hopeful about  downloading some good apps down the road.

No copy and paste. Honestly, this one doesn’t bother me so much…yet. The iPhone doesn’t support a clip board to copy things you find. My initial reaction is “so what?”. But I”ll probably want that. One example: wordpress.com’s new iPhone interface. You can post blog entries from the iPhone. As you can see in this post, I’m a huge fan of copy-n-paste. Not having this feature could chafe.

The Nokia N95 Knock: Web Surfing Is Bad

The N95 does include web surfing and email. But this is what I’ve been reading about that experience:

  • “@Jonathan – does Nokia have a decent web browser?” – Yolanda
    “@Yolanda, no, it’s crap. But there’s Opera mini (http://operamini.com) which is somewhat decent.” – Guillermo Esteves (link)
  • Question: “If you could only take one device to a tropical island would it be a smartphone or a laptop?”
    Robert Scoble: “Assuming I am going on vacation to get away from it all? My Nokia N95. Good camera to take pics and videos of me drinking MaiTais. GPS so I can get around. But hard to use for Web and Email so I am not too tempted.”
  • “After seeing, feeling & experiencing the Web on the iPhone, I Know I need one, even though I have an N95 (hate it for browsing)” (link)
  • Yes, I borrowed a friends N95for a day and they had my Blackberry. Phone quality is important to me with a hearing aid. The web browsing sux on the N95, phone was ok. The camera and video were way cool though, nice but not necessary toys.” (link)

iPhone Gets Some Real Love Though

I’m impressed by the number of people expressing their affection for the iPhone, despite its limitations.

Ryan Spoon blogged: Confessions of a Blackberry Addict – I’ve Moved to the iPhone 3G

Yahoo EVP Jeff Weiner was raving to Tim O’Reilly about his new iPhone, urging him to write something that explains why the iPhone is such a paradigm-shifting device.

Gina Trapani of Lifehacker wrote this in a generally negative piece on the iPhone: “But Mobile Safari’s tabbed browsing convinced me to trade in my principles for convenience. This job requires me to be online everywhere I go, and as far as I could see, the iPhone was the best way to do that.”

And here’s the Twitter search for “love my iPhone“. Look at all that love!

What About You?

So I’m close to making a decision. My use case is more web browsing than picture/video taking. But there are definitely issues with the iPhone.

If you’ve got thoughts about the 3G iPhone or the Nokia N95, I’d love to hear ‘em.

UPDATE: ReadWriteWeb covers the Apple vs. Nokia issue this morning as well here.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Should+I+Buy+the+Apple+3G+iPhone+or+Nokia+N95%3F%22&public=1

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 675 other followers