What I thought about on my summer holiday?! Of course, I'm way overdue for a post, even for a "what I did while I was away" post. As usual, thank you to my loyal readers for your patience. I have a backlog of ideas percolating, and hopefully I will have time to get to a few of them in the near future.
To get back into the swing, I thought I would recap some observations and thoughts from my time away, and direction I intend to be going over the next few months as a result.
It's funny, but when things slow down, and you simply observe and think for a while, some things become obvious that were always staring you in the face, and things you've previously observed and thought (and written) about either prove themselves true, or new insights percolate to the surface.
The Never-Ending Circle
In the category of "proving themselves true", predictions about the popularity of the iPhone and its likely success were pretty close to bang on, with Apple announcing 1 million sold just 74 days after the initial release. While many may have expected more sold, this is about the top end of what one would expect for a disruptive product. The usual pattern is to seep into the market relatively slowly and then really take off as subsequent versions add features and correct problems, becoming good enough for more and more people until they reach the tipping point and explode into mass market consciousness. With the unparalleled hype about the iPhone, it's not surprising that it was strong out of the gate, despite many noted complaints about all the ways it wasn't up to snuff (also very common for new disruptive products).
We also discussed the likelihood of a family of mobile handhelds using the iPhone platform, and already we have the next generation iPod, which not surprisingly is an iPhone without the phone. Along with that new product came a brilliant move of partnering with Starbucks to offer free Wi-fi access at any of their locations. It's actually pretty smart for both sides, because the days of charging for a Wi-Fi connection are almost over, and this is a way for Starbucks to be a bit ahead of the curve and benefit from the glow that surrounds the iPod and iPhone.
Watch for iPhone Sr. coming soon to an Apple store near you -- I expect it will be outfitted as a true business-oriented handheld, with connectivity to corporate systems, better security, more horsepower, a suite of office applications (note that Apple's iWork product was also upgraded over the summer to offer a spreadsheet tool for the first time and integration with Office 2007. With the "holy trinity" of word processing, presentations and spreadsheets now covered, the Mac becomes a lot more viable as a PC replacement, and will suddenly be "good enough" for many who've been waiting for a real Microsoft alternative, and the iPhone also gets closer to being a viable substitute for the notebook, especially for road warriors tired of airport security hassles. Don't know if we'll get it before Christmas, but I promise, the writing is on the wall.
Microsoft is probably wondering about some of the horrible mistakes made in Office 2007, such as imposing the "Ribbon" interface on power users who not only don't need it, but find that it slows them down. Personally I don't like it because it is a big keystroke waster, makes it hard to find all the things you knew, and it wastes a ton of screen real estate. Not offering an option to use the old menus or the keyboard interface was a really bad idea.
Although the XML underpinning was a great idea, it also makes it easy for someone like Apple who is better at tools to eat Microsoft's lunch, and with such a huge change in the interface, there's plenty of incentive, and what has anyone got to lose by giving Apple's products a try? It's a classic case of overshooting the users' needs on the one hand, and not fulfilling them on the other. And, it's the kind of arrogant decision that could only come from going so long without real competition. Ripe for disruption indeed!
It's also been noted that Apple's first OS upgrade for the iPhone turned some people's hacked toys into iBricks. I will be addressing that in a future post.
For many, summer is a time to re-connect with family and think about relationships. Of course, we did that too, and got to attend that rarest of events -- my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Even more amazing, my wife's parents celebrated their 50th a couple of years ago. How many people can say that their parents and in-laws are not only still all alive, but have both managed to stay together for 50 years? There must be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow somewhere.
And, check out the picture. Gotta love the skinny people and skinny ties. They just don't make them that way any more.
In the category of "growing realization of the obvious", there's another sort of relationship that comes to my mind. Namely, the relationship between marketing and disruptive innovation. With a couple of decades of technology marketing experience behind me, and a current focus on disruption, you'd think I would have spent more time considering the connection. It's a relationship that's lived in my head without expression.
Strangely, Christensen comes close to alluding to it a few times in his books, but never really addresses it. In fact, it's almost as if all those innovations that he describes were so obviously fantastic products that they grew to dominate markets without anyone making the smallest effort to target the right niches and make them appealing to customers.
I've been developing a theory about that relationship, and looking for the evidence to test it. It's a simple but profound notion. Namely, that disruptive marketing is the secret sauce that takes the potential of a disruptive innovation and turns it into a reality. Yes, there are accidents along the way, and occasionally disruption happens without intent, but it's become increasingly clear to me, both by looking at missed opportunities for disruption, and at products that succeeded in turning the tables, even against the odds, that disruptive marketing is a necessary component.
I will be delving into this idea in more detail over the next several months with case studies, examples, definitions, and description of how disruptive marketing works. I hope to elicit a healthy discussion around this idea and get "war stories" from marketers about how they did it, and what disrupts versus what is plain vanilla.
Carrying on with this idea, I will be making a keynote address to the International Marketing Congress in Lisbon in a few weeks. The conference theme is The Disruption Point, and I will be addressing the connection between Disruptive Innovation and Disruptive Marketing. This will be the first public forum where I will be presenting my theories and observations, and I'm looking forward to a great discussion and debate.
Several books crossed my desk this summer, and I know that I fell asleep reading at least three of them. Lot's of good stuff to talk about there too, but, for now, here's a list -- click on any of them to find your own copy at Amazon.