Posts Tagged ‘Mobile Industry’

The Trap of the Better Mousetrap

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

5G Press ConferenceThe “better mousetrap syndrome” is where a basic, cheap, functional and familiar product is reinvented with something that does the same thing, but is potentially better and costs more. It’s a recognized trap for product designers and companies, and yet it still occurs.

Here are two examples of this syndrome that I recently experienced:

1. I was assisting an associate respond to a request for tactical marketing support for a new product from a relatively established company entering the fiercely competitive mobile space. The more we discussed this the more it became apparent that this company had a solution but didn’t really know the problem they were trying to solve. Their solution provided certain advantages /benefits but they hadn’t found out if these were something that their mainstream customers really needed or wanted.

Having been actively involved with a startup that offers a new technology solution to an age old problem, I have spent much time exploring the benefits of minimum viable products and the use of business model frameworks to best test and define customer needs and value propositions. It is therefore mind blowing to see that companies don’t learn from this process before rushing blindly into product development, market extensions or new products; or more significantly, close their ears when being informed about the folly they are about to commit.

2. During a 2009 visit to Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona the following astute observations were made about the mobile business by a colleague from outside the industry:

  • There’s a tendency to start with a technology and build it into a product, instead of starting with consumer behavior insight and creating a product to serve it.
  • This industry tends to approach development in a sequential manner: firstly, system and network decisions are made to accommodate long infrastructure lead times. Then devices and user interfaces are developed, next applications and services are developed and, finally, a consumer proposition is made – but this is often late in the development cycle when critical decisions have already been made.

These perceptive observations returned to me as I attended a press conference at this year’s MWC in Barcelona, when the EU sponsored initiative to create 5G was announced. At this same conference, and indeed over the past 12 months, I have heard and read nothing but moans and groans about the sorry business situation of mobile operators as voice revenues decline, data volumes increase and over the top providers piggy back on their networks, providing the messaging services that consumers want instead of operator provided expensive text and picture messaging services.

Has this industry learned nothing over the last 6 years? The OTT and software startups see the need to create a product and are, in the main, testing and refining their product and pivoting in accordance with lessons learned from consumers. The mobile industry, on the other hand, seems hell bent on creating a better mouse trap without checking that it’s something that the customer wants or, more importantly, is willing to pay for.

There are mechanisms that can bring consumer understanding to the forefront of the product development process; there are also business model frameworks that force holistic thinking about the solution, value proposition, and customer experience across all the business touch points. In some cases they are freely available and in others they are proprietary, but they are there for companies to explore. In today’s connected world, solutions shouldn’t be continually created for no known problem or for no identified customer need.

To learn more about effective approaches to more successful product development, contact us at info@keysoglobal.com

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Are New Players Forcing the Mobile Industry to Change?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

As much as this year’s CES was about the influence of mobile at the center of consumer electronic growth and development, there was little that was outstanding from the perspective of new mobile device introduction.

Certainly Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia and Intel talked about enhanced chip set technology that has increased performance and graphics while cutting back on power consumption, and Samsung showcased their new flexible screen technology; but apart from the above, no real breakthrough or “wow” products were announced.

Most mobile device manufacturers tend to hold off until Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February to showcase their new product portfolios for the upcoming year. Increasingly a minority of the big guys have premier events before MWC. Apple has done this is past years and in all probability RIM is planning to introduce its new Blackberry this year. The audience at MWC is made up of global operators that provide the purchasing power and the ability to make or even break manufacturers with decisions to range their products and link them to new services and subsidy provision.

The dawning of a fundamental shift in the composition of the mobile industry may, however, have been observed at this year’s CES. The two major Chinese infrastructure manufacturers that have struggled to gain market position in the U.S. – and in one case is being actively barred – are working on building their customer brand and device portfolio. ZTE and Huawei both had large stands and comprehensive product offerings at CES, and the two companies showcased their new products that clearly targeted the Samsung S3 and Galaxy Note. ZTE launched its Grand S LTE unit and seemed determined to let everyone know that they are now the number 4 smartphone manufacturer worldwide. Huawei’s main product introductions, however, lack LTE capability which is a little surprising given the North American market focus on LTE growth. I am sure that there will be an announcement at MWC, or possibly later at CTIA in May that will address this hole in the U.S. portfolio. The real point is that these two companies are striving to build brand awareness and become household names; at the same time they are targeting Samsung which, together with Apple, is taking a 90% chunk of the profit currently generated in the smartphone market.

The Chinese are known for their long term strategic plays and it is likely that they will be the root cause of a complete shake-up of the mobile space that we are about to witness. The Apple’s and Samsung’s will undoubtedly survive but will be under increased pressure to maintain their brand and technology prowess, and at the same time sustain the margins that Wall Street has become accustomed to. Those manufacturers in the middle of the mobile market will find it a struggle. HTC, which showcased a star product at Mobile World Congress last year, now has non-existent profits and has failed to maintain its technology and brand presence. At CES this year, rumor had it that a major European / U.S. carrier was considering deranging and dropping HTC because they no longer offer hero products or have the brand to support them.

Amongst this turmoil, RIM will also face the challenge of re-establishing itself in the market, despite the introduction of its new Blackberry 10. Both LG and Sony may be forced into a niche, and Nokia could become to Microsoft what Motorola has become to Google – a hardware capability but with no direction or insight into how to recreate the Apple model.

Playing in the background are the major equipment manufacturers, such as Foxcomm, which build products for major smartphone, tablet and PC manufacturers. Within the last year Foxcomm has acquired the brand, Sharp, primarily for use in China but, one would suspect, ultimately as a potential global distribution channel.

With the stage set, the next 18 months could prove to be pivotal in terms of the strategic scenarios that play out. More significantly, the role of the mobile operator as orchestrator could once again be changing to the role of king-maker or breaker as they decide to support the upstarts or partner with the incumbents. Watch this space!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global