Tag Archives: Samsung

Galaxy Gear: Minimum Viable Product or Niche Accessory?

Yesterday, Samsung announced the launch of their new Galaxy Gear “smartwatch.” By now, you can read a multitude of reviews about this device. In general, they praise features like the Gear’s 1.9-megapixel camera (something neither the Pebble or the SONY SmartWatch has) and the 70 native apps that will be available at launch. However, many critique the Gear’s limited compatibility (at launch it will only pair with Galaxy devices running Version 4.3 of Android Jelly Bean). This conflict of better-than-market features with limited market applicability begs an important question: does the Galaxy Gear rise to the threshold of a Minimum Viable Product (“MVP”) or is it only a niche accessory?

Galaxy Gear - 6 colors, but few connectivity options (Samsung)
Galaxy Gear – 6 colors, but few connectivity options (Samsung)

Why Launch Now?

In his post “What Now? Product Release” Peter Levine (of Andreessen Horowitz) defines an MVP as a product that satisfies the 3-5 most compelling customer needs with highest attention to quality.

MVPs are not just for startups; they are essential to the successful launch of any disruptive innovation. The digital music players market illustrates this powerfully. For nearly a decade, many leading (large-cap) tech companies launched digital music players. However, none of these met the threshold of minimum viable product (easy to download music or copy over CDs, easy to play, work with the majority of PCs) until Apple launched combination of the iPod with iTunes (for Mac and Windows). From here, the rest is well-known history. Clearly, a successful MVP can open up a highly valuable product category for a company with the size and smartphone market share of Samsung’s.

By launching the Gear ahead of it major competitors (i.e., “Apple”), Samsung has attempted to seize several first-mover advantages, namely early market leadership and mainstream definition of a new product category. It has also seeded expansion of a series of interconnected portable computing devices and established platform from which it can obtain data on everything from usage patterns to marginal cost.

But is the Galaxy Gear Viable?

However, the Gear’s first-mover advantages are only useful if it is a viable product. The Gear does appear to have the required level of Quality (as any user of Galaxy S3 or Note can tell you). But does it satisfy the most essential consumer needs?

  1. Can it serve as a watch? Yes—both analog or digital
  2. Can it serve it run apps like a smartphone? Yes—apps built on the most widely used OS
  3. Can it keep me connected like my smartphone? Only if you have a compatible Galaxy device (the Galaxy Note 3 pre-sales only begin today; US retail price is approximate $700) AND this device is within 1.5 meters
  4. Can it be bought and used by most people? No. Only a small number of people can buy and use the Gear (unless they want to buy another more expensive device alongside it)
Not Yet
Not Yet

While the Gear technically meets the essential consumer needs, it does so with extreme limitations. The Gear is not the ultra-convenient smartwatch that finally lets me take my smartphone out of my pocket in evening (or lets me stop worrying if I am missing key alerts while I am working out). Instead, in its current form, it is an ultra-niche accessory.

What’s Next?

While the Gear is not MVP, it is only Samsung’s first mainstream foray into connected wearable computing. I—like many others—would love a standalone water-resistant watch that is part connected smartphone, part fitness band, part MP3 player, and looks nice. It would much more convenient to use outside of business hours—especially while our shopping or working out at the gym. Hopefully, we will see this true smartwatch MVP in the Gear II. If not, we will likely see it from somebody else over the next 12 months.

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.