L3: What If’s

Lagrange Point 3 (L3): Exploring “What If” scenarios and flights of fancy

An Opportunity Missed: The Olympics-as-a-Platform

Article first published as An Opportunity Missed: The Olympics-as-a-Platform on Technorati. Embedded video of “Rethink Possible” added in this blog post.

The Summer Olympics are very special. Every four years, for over two weeks, people all over the world (even those who are not normally sports fans) spend hours every day engrossed in the innermost details of dozens of sports—at home, at work, at school and at play.

However, in 2012 the IOC had opportunities never seen in any prior Summer Olympics…

olympic_open_data_280pxThis year was not just the first Summer Olympics since social media, multi-media mobile phones, and smart phone (and tablet) apps have become the ubiquitous means that over a billion people use to find and share information, opinion, photos and video globally—and instantly. It was also the first Summer Olympics since the rise in use of Open Data Platforms and Apps Competitions to tap the innovation of thousands of people to create better ways to access information (without adding the cost and complexity of hiring thousands of designers, developers and testers).

The IOC could have taken advantage of this by doing four things:

If the IOC had done this they could have created the biggest, most exciting Open Data and App competition we have ever seen. Not only would this have tapped into the innovation of tens of thousands of developers, it would have harnessed competition between teams who wanted to highlight the technology strength of their countries, their love of their country’s history and culture, and their passion for the athletes representing them in their favorite sports.

Imagine what kind of Apps this global technology could have created:

  • Apps written by ex-gymnasts that combined athlete bios and explanations of events and rules with (official and fan) video of preliminary rounds and the World Championships. Apps that even let the audience score what they saw in real-time.
  • Apps combining location-based data with captured photos and video along the entire 26-mile, 385-year course of the marathon, letting you play back key parts of the race, see every part of the course at once, and cheer on runners via Facebook and Twitter
  • Fantasy Olympic Team apps that let you assemble your own dream team for events and compete with your friends—or globally in the Olympic spirit
  • Training gamification apps that let you record and visually display your running and swimming times (like Nike’s training apps) to understand in new ways the tremendous the speed, strength and endurance of Olympians


AT&T’s Rethink Possible Ad: Imagine if the swimmer did not have to write down the new record (and instead an App logged his times and showed them again every record Olympic Record—and every qualifying round—back to 1896)

Apps like these would have made these Olympics more interactive and participatory than any in history. While we did not get this in 2012, I am keeping my fingers crossed for a 2014 Sochi Winter Apps Competition, and perhaps an even 2016 Rio Summer Apps competition.

How Can BlackBerry Regain Leadership? Go Android

Article first published December 16th as How Can BlackBerry Regain Leadership? Go Android on Technorati.

Yes, it has been a really bad year for BlackBerry. Their security architecture was almost blocked by several national governments. They have lost significant market share. Their PlayBook has not sold well. Their earnings have dropped precipitously. And now, their new line of BlackBerry 10 (f/k/a “BBX”) smartphones have been delayed until the end of 2012 and their stock hit an eight-year low today.

Right now it would be really easy to pile Pelion on Ossa and bash BlackBerry. However, that would not be terribly productive. Instead, I’d rather offer some unsolicited—but potentially very useful—advice as to how to turn around their brand and market position: get rid of the BlackBerry OS move to Android—at least on a few new smartphones

This may sound like surrender. It is not. It would be one of those rare situations when a company applies creative destruction to itself to regain leadership. Here is how it could work:

  • BBandAndroid-200pxwBlackBerry’s OS and Enterprise Server Architecture—the very thing that let them create the smartphone market—is now exactly what is holding it back. It is more vulnerable to outage than newer mobile architectures. It has a smaller developer community and much fewer apps. It does not have the features Android and iOS have. It is no longer a competitive advantage for BlackBerry. It is time to move away from it. Luckily for BlackBerry, Android is open available for their use—without license fees
  • However something far less technical—the BlackBerry keyboard—remains a key unique selling proposition for them. Many people stay on their BlackBerry’s (or at least keep one for work) for one simple reason: BlackBerry’s (patented) keyboard remains the easiest, fastest keyboard to use for “power” email and text users. Imagine how compelling a smartphone would be with Android OS, Android Market and BlackBerry’s Keyboard.
  • Finally, BlackBerry has something else of enormous market value: established enterprise relationships with near every Fortune 500 company (and many, many SMEs). BlackBerry sales reps and re-seller partners could bring a new Android-powered BlackBerry to the enterprise, introducing this new product to a “captive” audience of enterprise-issued smartphone users faster than anyone else. Pleasing these users would later lead to a return to growth of BlackBerry’s consumer market share.

The interesting thing is that BlackBerry does not have to do this for 100% of their product line. They can try it on a few smartphones, in partnership with Google (I am sure Google would be happy to oblige). I am also betting this innovation would create a lot of buzz around their product lime and give $RIMM a much-needed price bump.