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iPad’s Climb Up the Disruptive Innovation Cycle

Blockbuster’s recent bankruptcy filing was yet another chapter in the Clayton Christensen annals of disruptive innovation. A major brand with convenient locations that got disrupted by a website and the U.S. Mail. Note that we’re seeing the backend of the disruption, when it all seems so clear.

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How easy is it to see such a disruption beforehand? “Not very” would be the honest answer. What distinguishes a truly disruptive technology or business model from a flash-in-the-pan idea? Keep in mind the basis of a disruptive innovation:

A technology initially addressing low-end market needs that slowly moves upstream as its capabilities evolve.

From that perspective, think of all the things out there that have stayed low level and did not disrupt industries. Disruptive innovation is like a Category 5 hurricane: powerful, slow-moving and rare.

Which brings me to the Apple iPad. Are we witnessing a disruptive tropical depression?

DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION LADDER

The graphic below (via wikipedia reproduced on the TouchDraw iPad app) describes the levels of usage for disruptive technologies.

Disruptive Innovation Cycle

The target of the iPad here is the global laptop market. In that context, the beautiful, sublime, innovative iPad is solidly…in the low quality usage band of the chart above.

What represents the iPad’s “low quality use”?

  • Email
  • Surfing the web
  • Facebooking
  • Tweeting
  • Playing music

“Low quality” is not a pejorative term here. It’s a reflection of the computing power needed for the listed activities. This is the iPad’s entre into the laptop market. Consider how much of your own digital activity is covered by those items listed above. IPad already offers a great experience here.

Indeed, the Best Buy CMO recently confirmed the iPad’s move into this end of the market.

MEDIUM QUALITY USE

When you see those low quality uses, they’re primarily consumption oriented. If they are production oriented, they’re pretty basic. But there are things that can be done at the next level, medium quality use.

Games are well done on the iPad. They take advantage of the touch aspect of the device. In my opinion, games on the iPad are quickly moving up the quality ladder.

For the office, there are Apple’s apps. The Pages word processing app looks like a winner. For document production, Pages appears to fill the bill. Especially without a Microsoft Word app on the iPad. The other major office apps – spreadsheets and presentations – are available as well.

I really like the graphics program TouchDraw on the iPad. You can create very nice graphics, for business use, with just your finger. The simple graphic above was done with TouchDraw.

While I couldn’t possibly survey all apps that address different activities, I get the sense that a number of them qualify for medium or high quality uses. The question is the breadth of apps addressing the “power use cases” of laptop owners.

Finally, a word about the keyboard. I love it. I find it very easy to type out this post. It’s not without its imperfections, but generally I’m flying around it as I type. One disclaimer: I hunt-n-peck to type. I’ve never learned real typing.

GAPS THAT NEED TO BE CLOSED

In my experimenting to see how much I could do with an iPad instead of a laptop, I’ve found several areas that need to be shored up to move the overall experience to the medium quality use level.

Safari usage: Safari is the browser used for the web on the iPad. It is surprising how many sites aren’t built for usage via Safari. For example, wordpress.com, surprisingly in my view, doesn’t work well with Safari. Google Docs? Similar issue. Doesn’t work well, or at all, with Safari. I’m embedding HTML tags in this post-by-email blog post.

I cannot accept an event into my Google Calendar via Safari. I cannot create a WebEx meeting from Safari, and the WebEx iPad app doesn’t allow you to create an event. In short, doing business via iPad is tough.

As the iPad continues to gain market share, expect better support by websites for Safari. Which will dramatically improve the end user experience with the iPad.

Graphics uploads: Want to add a graphic to a document, presentation, wiki, blog or email? Hard to do. We’re used to having graphics on our local drive, and a simple button to upload/embed that graphic.

Where’s my master upload button on the iPad?!!

Answer: there isn’t one. The graphic above is one that I emailed to Flickr, grabbed the embed code and pasted it into this post. Which works fine for publicly accessible graphics. But not so much in the work context.

I’d like to see the native Photos app become a universal location for accessing graphics in any app.

Stuff at my fingertips: The ability to easily click around different apps on the PC tray at the bottom of my screen, and to click quickly among different websites via tabs, is a great productivity benefit. If you’re like me, you’re zipping around easily.

With iPad, it’s slower going back-n-forth. A lot of clicking the home button to get to other apps, or clicking the button on Safari to view other sites. Which is a pain, reducing the pace of work.

iPAD’S INEVITABLE CLIMB UP THE DISRUPTION CYCLE

So the iPad is still fundamentally in the low quality usage band, but with some clear indications of moving up. I’ve taken to using my iPad for my non-work hours computing needs.

My full expectation is that slowly, but surely, Apple and the third party app developers will improve the utility of the iPad experience. It will take some time.

But the key observation is this: Apple has the time to enhance the iPad. Two points:

That’s why I expect iPad to get better over time: market momentum. How about you? Are you thinking the iPad, and even the new crop of competitor tablets, will disrupt the laptop industry?

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Sent from my iPad

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 031210

From the home office at SXSW in Austin, where I’m not…

#1: Is Collaboration Enough for Knowledge Management? http://bit.ly/bXdNhj by @deb_lavoy #e20 #km

#2: What Enterprise 2.0 vendors can learn from FourSquare http://tinyurl.com/y9bsxc6 by @markfidelman

#3: RT @Irregulars Wikipedia’s Decline and the 7 Types of Human Motivation http://bit.ly/atzPLC

#4: White House expands Gov 2.0 with landmark crowdsourcing directive (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/auo6FK #gov20 #innovation

#5: “Contests are increasingly being used as a tool to solve society’s most entrenched problems” http://bit.ly/9KFJmy #crowdsourcing

#6: RT @VentureBeat Spigit offers social media platform for company contests http://ow.ly/1q0m44 #crowdsourcing

#7: RT @elldir Woops! Too long ago I told @bhc3 that I would post how I think about different dimensions of innovation. http://bit.ly/dcNd7s

#8: Five inter-related innovation problems that an organizational structure should address – Scott Anthony HBR #innovation http://post.ly/SOB2

#9: Reading @bokeen‘s write-up of his chatroulette experience. Damn funny, and pretty much what I’d expect. http://bit.ly/9Wnd20

#10: RT @anildash I’m surprised none of you dorks camped outside of your own house last night, then ran back in to order an iPad

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022610

From the home office at a table in front a congressional hearing where I’m explaining why I didn’t actually put any brakes in my cars…

#1: All your authentication are belong to us http://bit.ly/d2S177 by Forrester’s @TomGrantForr > Facebook Connect is pulling away

#2: RT @defrag wow. twitter moving to Cassandra (#NoSQL) – http://bit.ly/9z8nvp – so, FB, Digg, Twitter all on NoSQL. oracle, are you listening?

#3: Interesting: Why the iPad can’t use flash http://bit.ly/bG6X9K > How do you “mouseover” with your finger?

#4: RT @BBHLabs Bored of reading that @foursquare is the ‘new Twitter’; it’s a different kind of utility altogether – http://j.mp/9s8GDD

#5: Study – Distributed Idea Generation Outperforms Team Brainstorming (Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/dffHzL #innovation #crowdsourcing

#6: Crowdsourcing Collaboration in Education http://bit.ly/aPmSj0 by @eduinnovation > Educators can tap large networks #innovation

#7: How to Fail at Innovation http://is.gd/98YUh by @timkastelle > “The way to fail at #innovation is to try to avoid failing”

#8: The Side Effects of Open Innovation http://bit.ly/9hIaQI by @lindegaard “it’s very much about managing change” #innovation #e20

#9: 10 tips for Successful Crowdsourcing http://post.ly/OxhU

#10: RT @exUnited Southwest Airlines selects Spigit for innovation mgmt http://bit.ly/blTGO3 Innovation is like LUV – deliberate, not accidental

Apple iPad and Google Buzz: Harsh Reality of Innovation

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

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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.

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?

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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