Tag Archives: Innovator’s Dilemma

Building apps for tablets? Think “Augmented Reality”

aug_reality_samsungGartner is projecting that more than 55 million tablets will be sold this year (growing past 200 million in 2014). While most of these will be iPads, millions will be from Samsung, RIM, Motorola, and 75+ more. Buyers of these tablets will be from all walks of life: homes, SMBs and large enterprises.

This is a VERY BIG deal. We are seeing a shift in how people use computing devices (what Clayton Christiansen would call a “disruptive innovation.”) However, what is now different is whereas smartphones added a new way of computing, tablets are displacing an existing one: the keyboard-based personal computer.

Taking advantage of this displacement requires a new way of thinking. Tablets are not just “flat PCs with touch keyboards” or “big smartphones without the phone.” They represent a new way people interact with technology: moving, turning, tilting, swiping, tapping, pinching, and more—all on something that is about the size of, the most widely used form of information storage in history, a piece of paper. Going from near-zero to growing annually by 50+ million units every year for four years will drive many more new ways to interact with tablets: better cameras, IR and barcode sensors, directional microphones, voice recognition, projectors and more.

What tablets are doing—in a big way—is providing the first low-cost, compelling and easy-to-use (i.e., mass-market) platform for augmented reality. Those who want to take advantage of this new growing market need to realize this (those who don’t will miss multiple generations of product development). Oh, if you don’t think augmented reality will soon be mainstream, check out The Black Fin.

How do we make the jump to take advantage of this change? First we need to drop the old concepts of the mouse and keyboard–or the PC—and ask more elemental questions:

  • How do I interact with world today without tech—be it work, life or play
  • How would I improve the experience by capturing or adding information in multiple forms: touch, motion, sound?
  • How do I combine this old and new in a way that is natural and intuitive?

tricoder-140px-highWe are starting to see just the very beginning of this with some very cool applications (interactive maps, iBooks, virtual pianos, and lots of cool games). These are only Generation One ideas. It will be exciting to see what comes next—especially for things we spend hours doing each day. Once we get this in place, we will have a Star Trek-like like. Although it will look whole lot better than the futuristic 24th century tricorders we saw on TV 20 years ago.

The risk of NOT innovating

We are at that time of the year when many of us are working on next year’s strategic plans. A question that often arises is, “What is the risk of [doing something new]?” What is asked less often is, “What is the risk of not doing something new or distinctive?”

‘Innovation = life’ when you court early adopters

In newly emerging markets—be they as high-tech as augmented reality or as low-tech as fashion—the answer is obvious. Innovation is occurring all around you; those who so not innovate enough will be left behind. The challenge here is to stay ahead of everyone else (instead of copying the innovation of others).

Examples:

  • Facebook out-innovated MySpace, Friendster, and everyone else
  • Can you name three competitors of Amazon from the late 90s?
  • FourSquare crushed Gowalla (and is standing up to Facebook)

Innovation allows you to ‘cross the chasm’

When you are entering the tornado, (i.e., when demand takes off and the top leaders are established), the speed of change requires innovation to shift from creation to speeding and scaling execution. You need to be able to out-market, out-deliver and out-support the competition. If not you will find yourself as Chimp (or worse).

Examples:

  • AOL out-ran all other ISPs—including a buy-or-break challenge by Microsoft
  • McDonalds’ innovations in franchising has enable it to serve billions
  • Ford’s Model T made cars affordable for the masses

Innovation keeps leaders on top

When you are the leader, everyone is aiming to displace you. Innovation in marketing and promotion will keep demand for your product fresh. Innovation in partnerships and distribution will create barriers to block you competition. The challenge is ensuring your teams know they have to keep innovating once they have reached the top.

Examples:

  • Intel is still the worlds largest chip maker (in a world with Moore’s Law)
  • GE is the only original Dow Jones stock still independently trading
  • Nike has been the top provider of sporting equipment for decades

Innovation is the only way to disrupt the leader

The familiarity and market share of leaders gives them enormous advantages in terms of cost of sales, speed of sale, distribution, etc. If you are smaller, you cannot disrupt a market leader by being playing “me-too” (unless the leader makes a big mistake). You need to “change the market” by meeting needs your customers did not realise they had or delivering in ways established “leaders” cannot match.

Examples:

  • Salesforce is worth nearly 3x what Siebel was when it sold to Oracle
  • RedBull has wings
  • President Obama’s campaign managers used social media, mobile, and CRM software to raise more money than more-established opponents

Innovation is the only way to ensure life in the future

Clayton Christensen has written volumes on need the foster disruptive innovation to ensure your remain a leader in the future (see my notes below). If you do not invent the future, someone else will—moving your market to a place where they lead (and you do not). If you want to avoid this, you have two option (ones that need not be mutually exclusive): 1) create incubation teams to innovate the future or 2) acquire proven innovators (this can be expensive).

Examples:

  • Apple continuously invents the “next big thing”
  • Amazon is selling more books on Kindle than in print
  • IBM went from typewriters to computers to services (and acquisition of many business information infrastructure innovators)

So what is the risk of not innovating?: your entire future

Notes: This post draws on two of my favorite books, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “Crossing the Chasm.” If you like this post, I encourage you to read “iPad’s Climb Up the Disruptive Innovation Cycle” by Hutch Carpenter and “Social Networking Sites, Market Segmentation and the Innovation Cycle” by Digvijay Singh.