I am not a gadget lover by any stretch of the imagination but I have to confess to readers that I have recently fallen in love with the new Apple iPhone. In this blog, I wanted to simply write about what I view as compelling innovation. There is too much innovation where no problem is really being solved.
I like to receive emails when I am on the go. That makes sense to a lot of people as being able to deal with emails when you are on a train allows you to make the most of your ‘down time’. I therefore got myself an XDA. It was great for emails and diary management but was not very good as a phone. As it was a touch phone, there were many occasions when whilst talking on the phone, if my ear touched the screen, I would have terminated the call or dialed up someone else by mistake. The quality of the calls was not that great either and it was a bit big – listening on the phone sounded like there was a Porter Cable 895pk router going on the other end.
I therefore got myself an additional phone which seemed to solve the problems. And of course I had an iPod. I can honestly say that this is the one gadget that has transformed the quality of my traveling in the last ten years. I love listening to music and when I travel, I used to miss my music collection. I simply love the idea that I can go anywhere in the world and take my entire music collection with me in something marginally larger than a business card.
The iPhone has allowed me to carry just one item instead of all three items. That is just one of the many things I love about it. I also think it is a great case study in terms of innovation. They seem to have looked at all the things that customers do not like with the existing solutions and really improved on them. Then they have gone one stage further and included other things like a Satellite Navigation system.
That is the technology. They have also innovated on the business model. The last time Apple introduced a phone they made the model expensive for the networks. They wanted a share of the phone revenue which was a new business model which was not to the liking of O2! The result was that the first phone was perhaps not promoted as well as it could have been. I certainly had come across the old model but did not feel compelled to own it – or have it heavily promoted to me by O2.
This time around it is a very different story. The marketing has been phenomenal and the revenue deal is the standard deal. The supplier of the phone gets paid a fixed amount and the network operator gets the revenue from the calls and downloads.
The lesson from here is that if you are going to enter a market – such as trying to design and sell a tofu press – which is already competitive and crowded with an innovation, make sure you have as many angles covered as possible. Making the innovation aimed just at the consumer is often not enough. Think about the route to market and the distribution channels. How can you galvanize them to get the consumer excited?
Business History is littered with stories of great technical innovations failing to make it such as Betamax and Fujifilm. There are an equal number of case studies of inferior products making fantastic headway because of marketing innovations such as Windows (Internet Explorer, PowerPoint and Excel ouch!). In another blog I would like to give the example of Direct Line insurance which revolutionized the insurance market with a product which was 300 years old.