Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jobs’

BlackBerry and JC Penney: Two Giants That Have Lost Their Way?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

What do BlackBerry and JC Penney have in common? Possibly more than you might realize.

1. Both missed the shift in their industry.

2. Both changed leadership.

3. Both implemented radical change.

4. Both achieved less than impressive results after this change.

5. Both implemented change following agitation from Wall Street – even though Main Street reacted neutrally or negatively to the change.

JC Penney even went as far as to hire the retail guru from Apple, Ron Johnson, as its new CEO to turn the company around but, in so doing, the needs of the customer were ignored. The introduction of tablets at point of sale, a relaxed dress code for the sales staff and the removal of coupons and store cash registers confused the target shopper – a very different shopper to the one found at the Apple store. The application of technology in this case was not the issue. The crucial question overlooked was whether the benefits of that technology outweighed the resistance to adopting it; in the case of JC Penney they did not. Not only was there resistance from the customer but Ron Johnson failed to gain the collaboration of staff and management, which proved to be a critical mistake.

Sales of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system based products – the Z10 and the Q10, and most recently the Q5 – are down as BlackBerry has lost significant market share to Apple, with its sleek and easy to use operating system and beautifully designed product. It was BlackBerry’s misconception that its superior new operating system and good design would enable it to reclaim its former position in the market. The reality was that BlackBerry started as a technology but developed into an experience. In the early 21st century the device became widely known as a “CrackBerry”, referring to the excessive and obsessive email-checking by its owners, for both business and personal use. The technology was convenient and secure and, most importantly, BlackBerry had become a trusted household name.

BlackBerry’s demise, however, was not just related to the fact that the operating system did not evolve; it put too much focus on the consumer and lost sight of its valued customer base, the corporate IT customer, whose growing desire was to access both their corporate digital networks and their social media networks on the same device, but this was ignored by BlackBerry. The infamous “BlackBerry outage” was the final straw and violated the trust that former loyal consumers had in the BlackBerry experience. RIM, as it was, was an engineering company that had no idea how to continue to design experiences and now, as “BlackBerry”, does not have the marketing knowledge or clout to rebuild consumer trust in the brand.

Both companies tried to emulate Apple in a classic “best practices” way but failed to understand that the Apple store and its devices were designs that embodied feelings and experiences, and created by a man with exceptional vision; someone who posed questions such as “how do we reinvent the store?” and “how do we do things differently on a phone?” Steve Jobs never just produced a “me too” product.

So, what’s the walk away? Wall Street hates failure but, more than that, it’s terrified of change. Both however are essential for innovation and creativity which are cornerstones of modern day business success. Wall Street’s demands for continuity of performance can ultimately result in giants being brought to their knees. What’s more dangerous is that when Wall Street sees these giants falling they demand a change of leadership. This new leadership is then faced with the challenges of innovating and risk taking to enhance performance when, in reality, all Wall Street wants is to preserve the status quo. JC Penny and RIM, as well as Motorola and Nokia, are prime examples of this. Apple looks as if it is unassailable at this point of time but calls by Wall Street activists to withdraw cash from the company will ultimately weaken its ability to take the risks that are necessary to sustain it going forward.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Apple and Huawei – Zen and the Art of the Long View

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Article first published as Apple and Huawei – Zen and the Art of the Long View on Technorati.

The telecoms and technology markets have always taken the long view with regard to product and business development. This week has seen two companies look to the future in different ways. Apple, the original Zen Master of strategy, coming to grips with an apparent hiccup in their recent string of successes and Huawei struggling in the aftermath of rejection by the U.S. government.

Apple has been in the press recently due to the substantial fall in its stock price and the increasing demands from shareholders to receive part of the $145 billion cash mountain that it has amassed. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, finally acquiesced and has just announced a capital buyback program that will increase the return to shareholders from $10 billion to $60 billion, as well as increasing its quarterly dividend by15%. This may quell the unrest of Wall Street investors in the short term but it exposes the company to a significant long term threat to their enterprise viability due to their increasing risk adversity and lack of innovative product introductions, particularly when compared to those of Samsung. It’s very easy to slip from grace and require cash to sustain operations if you miss market turning points – have a look at what happened to Motorola, Nokia and Rim! Steve Jobs, with his Zen Master ability, excelled at recognizing long-term future opportunities and betting the company in order to secure that future. He was protective of the cash, understanding that to “bet big” you need to cover the downside mistakes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Apple today.

Contrast this with Huawei that announced within the last 48 hours that it would abandon its pursuit of penetrating the North American telecoms network market after five years of battling the U.S. government. At the same time as this apparent retreat, however, Huawei has begun focusing on building its consumer product brand in the U.S. The company’s introduction of new products at this year’s CES gave it significant presence, and this month it announced a new marquee handset along with sponsorship for the Jonas Brothers tours, starting in Chicago. Huawei appears to be adopting a long term strategy to establish itself at the heart of the U.S. psyche as a “brand of trust”, potentially making it more difficult for them to be politically blocked in the next round of network purchases. Equally, since 4G networks have effectively been sold and rolled out in the U.S., the market opportunity is now elsewhere. The reality is that the market momentum of Huawei globally over the next five years will probably cause two of the five remaining network providers to be eliminated, meaning that Huawei will be the only real alternative to Ericsson when network operators look to upgrade their systems in 5 years time. The bet is that the U.S. government will have little choice but to reluctantly accept Huawei, even if it’s not with open arms.

The Zen Master, it seems, has actually moved back to China.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Galvin & Jobs: Great “Men of Ideas”

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Article first published as Galvin & Jobs: Great “Men of Ideas” on Technorati.

The onset of autumn has brought the passing of two significant individuals who have shaped what the Economist refers to as “the era of personal technology”.

Since October 5 the media have been swamped with eulogies to Steve Jobs and coverage of memorials set up outside Apple stores by devoted followers. Without doubt, Steve Jobs possessed the unparalleled ability to combine design and technology, and infuse this with the emotive spark that consumers can relate to. He was highly skilled at identifying the right design for the right technology at the right time. Very rarely, however, did the products he introduced push the limits of the technology curve. His passion did not lie in the pursuit of leading edge technology or in the next great breakthrough but instead in the creation of user centered elegant and simplistic devices that slip into everyday life.

October 11 saw the passing of Robert Galvin, better known as Bob Galvin. Bob was long time CEO of Motorola and son of the founder, Paul Galvin. During his tenure, Motorola became an early pioneer in semiconductors, paging and cellular communications. These major milestone technologies required incredible foresight and the tenacity to overcome the challenges of long development cycles and innumerable roadblocks. Bob’s inspiration and commitment resulted in Motorola not only becoming a global player in these industries by delivering multiple breakthrough products but, more importantly, creating a wealth of knowledge and experience that has moved across the industry and the globe.

The life work of each of these men enabled the dawn of an exciting new era. Over the last 30 years computing, telephony, entertainment and consumer electronics have been on a converging path, and many recent landmark products and technology innovations were the result of the vision held by these two remarkable individuals. Their lasting legacies within Apple and Motorola will continue to exist as questions:  “What would Steve do?” and “What would Bob do?” The challenge for the next millennium is to build on these legacies; corporate leaders, employees and new entrants in all industries need to ask themselves “how do we take ideas and make them relevant to the consumer?” and “how do we turn ideas into the technology to make them possible?”

It’s sometimes hard to believe that innovation and growth can survive the turmoil of the current economic climate or that creative solutions can be found for the world’s problems. Statistics show, however, the world’s GDP has actually increased 7 fold over the past 30 years and it’s my belief that these two “men of ideas” were key contributors to this growth. Both were highly innovative and successful men who never lost touch with reality. Most significantly, they both had faith in the power of ideation to generate a sense of optimism for the future. May they now rest in peace.

At KeySo Global we are advisors and consultants about the impact of digital technology on society, business and individuals. Please contact us at info@keysoglobal.com, +1-847-478-1633 or visit our website www.keysoglobal.com

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC

Smart city architects – would Aristotle and Steve Jobs make a good team?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Smart City InforgraphAristotle and Steve Jobs would, I believe, have worked well side by side.

While researching for his book the “Politics”, Aristotle studied the Greek city/state of Polis and questioned why people live together? He concluded that “the city… is a partnership for living well”.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, not subordinate to them”. The design philosophy of the iPhone, iPad, iPod and iTunes reflects this, enabling simple usage that adapts seamlessly into a person’s lifestyle. Business at Apple has become the “art of life”.

What has this to do with smart cities? About three months ago I wrote a paper about the Internet of Things (IoT) based on an all-day discussion at the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET), a Washington based think tank. This paper addresses the challenges associated with this emerging technology, and examines some of the considerations from a government and regulatory perspective.

The paper covers topics such as the state of global collaboration, innovation, government and industry partnerships, infrastructure development, cost and motivational factors that prompt government and industry to pursue and develop these technologies on a global basis. It also touches upon four main areas of concern for society: privacy, control, security and elitism. At the heart of these issues is the principle of double power; that although this technology has the power to greatly enhance the way we live, it also has the opportunity to do significant harm to things we hold dear.

The Internet of Things, along with other Information Communication Technologies (ICT), are key enablers in the future world of smart grids, smart buildings and smart cities. The concept of smart cities has been emerging around the globe; in China it addresses the anticipated 350m people likely to move to urban living in the next 10 years; in other countries smart cities are being developed to take advantage of emerging technologies and to combine new concepts of urban living with better management of scarce resources.

Convergence of technologies has resulted in the creation of vast and ever more complex networks or systems. Within the systems, most attention tends to be paid to the components (IoT, ICT) making them up but really the true value of a complex system lies in the interaction between all the components. Smart cities are an extension of these complex systems and they will languish or flourish based, not on the technology used, but on the interaction facilitated between machine to machine, machine to humans, and humans to humans.

The principles of business as the “art of life” and the city as a “partnership for living well” should guide the holistic systems architecture and integration of IoT and ICT technologies into smart cities of the future. This should ensure that smart cities do not fall prey to the double power issue. More significantly, smart cities should be designed to foster communities of people, linked together through smart networks, which enable partnerships to grow and flourish. As a global community, we should listen to philosophers of the past and embrace practitioners of the present, to encourage the creation of smart cities in which we can live our smart lives to the fullest.

To obtain a copy of our comprehensive report on the “Internet of Things” or to find out how KeySo Global can assist you in taking advantage of Digital Life opportunities, contact us at +1 847-478-1633 or visit our website at www.keysoglobal.com.