Some Companies Get it and Some Companies Don’t

Some Companies Get it and Some Companies Don’t

Before I begin let me point out a few things gone awry.

More specifically let me point out three screwy occurrences, and from there I may wander off in tangents.

Motorola, HP and Sony Ericsson

Motorola – The good people at Motorola are clearly living in a fantasy world by pricing the cool looking but unproven, Motorola Xoom tablet out of damn the stratosphere. Somebody over there is obviously drunk with nostalgia of Motorola RAZR sales long forgotten and past brand perception.

HP – The gargantuan printer company that happens to sell all the bloatware loaded laptops and PC’s that are either waiting to be fixed (by a friend of a friend) or are for sale on Craigslist and eBay, unfortunately decides to completely scrap the Palm brand.

Sony Ericsson – Thirdly, Sony Ericsson unveils the Playstation Phone. Wonderful. Except for the fact that the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play phone is not the Playstation phone it is a Playstation phone. More specifically, it is a Playstation Branded device. If that isn’t a crock of shit, I don’t know what is.

Only the Tip of the Iceberg

Now those three screwy things happened in the tech world recently, more specifically in the mobility world. Of course, there are more mammoth topics I could pierce; like the fundamental implosion of Nokia and the passive aggressive takeover by Microsoft. However, we (as good-natured people) hope for the best. Besides, there are at least three reasons why the Nokia Microsoft partnership is good.

However, the memo that led to the official unofficial announcement was a mixed bag of shit and peanuts. That is to say, that the burning platform memo obviously had some good parts and it had some bad. Unless of course you are allergic to peanuts then it’s just all bad. Still, my hat goes off to the prolific Nokia PR team and the suspected Microsoft mole of a CEO Stephen Elop, for generating interest and good media coverage in the news cycles preceding the official announcement. *golf clap*

How was the burning platform memo written by Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop a mixed bag of shit and peanuts?

I will tell you the good parts first, but somebody needs to get a few execs from over at places like Motorola, Sony, et al to pull up some BigBerries screen time. There are a few things I am going to share in this diatribe that they can use and learn. In fact, executives and leaders everywhere can use this information. Common sense stuff not commonly executed. That is, in addition to the profound revelations you are fortunate enough to be about to experience. Let us begin.

Admitting your failures does not make you a failure. In fact, admission actually opens the window of opportunity for you to improve where you are falling short and can help you become a winner.
(Or at the very least in Nokia’s case, it can help you validate radical changes in the company).

Contrived or not the Stephen Elop memo took balls to roll out. Stephen gets all the credit, but in reality, he is just the point man. Nokia as a company had to look at itself in the mirror and get real. Sure, some of the highly dedicated Nokia engineers responsible for scrawling out the antiquated Symbian code got upset about the Microsoft announcement. But damn, they should have been mad at the piss poor code they were cranking out for the past few years. Open source does not make something a godsend or good.

The burning platform memo showed a willingness to be open to possibility, to be open to newness. In addition, it plainly showed the bravery required to be willing to face the unknown.

Of course, we all know damn well that Steph and Steve have been cooking up this current batch of hooch to serve Nokia employees, loyalists and rest of the world for quite a while. What I am talking about are the messages the Stephen Elop memo conveys, not the obscured reality or intentions behind it. And even still, although members of the Directors Board and Leadership Team knew that the Microsoft and Nokia partnership was coming, none of them know what the results of this collaboration will be.

For Nokia to take a risk like this takes guts. Elop laid it all on the line and regardless of how many websites write flattering Nokia opinion pieces or positive phone reviews, the final judge of genius and Nokia’s new direction will be if any of it translates into sales.

Aside from using the memo to generate press, (which depending on your view of marketing strategies may seem like a good thing) and not making the memo for industry insiders, tastemakers and the investing public only, there is one ugly flaw in the memo. And that flaw gloats hidden unsuspectingly in the guise of understanding and the neatly wrapped package of a proposed solution.

Where is the fatal flaw in the Nokia memo?

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

Yes, there is an ecosystem war. However, there is a flaw in Nokia’s approach to the war.

How so?

1. Nokia chooses to become simply a hardware manufacturer for Microsoft.

2. Nokia did not have to join only one ecosystem.

3. The ecosystem war did not replace the device battle. There is a device war and it is ongoing.

Regarding the third issue, some might argue that it always has been an ecosystem war. Only that the ecosystem has evolved from brand awareness and how companies leveraged that into purchases and other products. And that technology merely advanced the way of fighting the war. No arguments from me.

The war of ecosystems as perceived and addressed by Elop in the memo is good. And for Nokia, that portion of the memo much like the rest was simply drama. It was more buildup for the announcement. Microsoft as now known was in the wings wearing a snugly fitting red cape, shiny boots, with OS in hand waiting just off stage as the hero that would rescue Nokia on the day of the announced partnership.

In the end, the good news is Nokia came to terms with itself, and decided that as the company moves forward, Nokia is better at making phones than operating systems. Other companies may understand the “war of ecosystems” concept, but are approaching it in a questionable manner.

This takes me back to what I presented earlier about HP. More specifically, the WebOS banner that HP is proudly waving. To be clear, when it comes to operating systems there is Apple and iOS, Google and Android and Microsoft and Windows. Everything else is noise instead of signal.

Regarding HP and any other company half baking an operating system or seriously shitting themselves by calling a GUI with a few features an operating system, unless you are going to go balls to the wall with it why waste time? Even then, what’s the point? Unless you want change horses midstream.

HP made a smart move in acquiring Palm. Palm is an iconic brand that with the power of HP behind it could do wonders. But sadly, co-branding of some webOS devices or complete removal on others seems to indicate that Palm is indeed dead. There however, is the problem.

HP needs to flush Palm from our minds like a goldfish down the toilet.

The half-hearted mash up is poor form. And that is the first issue. HP unloads the Palm Pre 2, and then will likely release HP Pre 3 within the next six months. (I wouldn’t want to be a Pre 2 user, would you?) And although the Palm Pre 2 is a nice swan song for the Palm brand, it does unpleasantly affect the all-new, all-exciting HP webOS image pushed by the company. If HP is killing Palm anyway why not kill the webOS name too? It’s not like millions of people are bombarding HP servers foraging for the next webOS release with baited breath. Plus, you’re switching everything else that was Palm to HP, why piss around?

The second issue is that, HP if you are going to try to sell WebOS, really sell it. Do not show us another damn way to manage contacts, look at email or surf the web. Show us that with an HP TouchPad that when outside and needing to connect inside, like say send a document from the TouchPad tablet directly to an HP printer with one click. Then tell us that even without an HP TouchPad or whatever hardware currently being hawked that with an application download to any current HP laptop or desktop that we can add this or some other similar functionality. Show us how your ecosystem works for us.

HP, are you really going to roll out webOS to all products, against Windows, Apple and the Google OS? Don’t pretend. HP, for you that is not an operating system, as it stands it is a waste of resources.

You see, you can’t force us into the pool. You can’t fool us into the pool. Sure, you can tempt us and even lure us, but you can’t keep us there if there is no there, there. An ecosystem is a natural occurrence. A healthy ecosystem is a practical environment that thrives on the ability of those within it to function. This is not something you can cook up with products alone. The products are merely extensions of the desires, already implemented behaviors and expectations of users.

Hardware is a connectivity agent

of an already functioning ecosystem.

Don’t believe me?
Here are the three examples that had to come at some point in this John Holmes length fulmination.

Microsoft, Google and Apple

Microsoft – provides a personalized digital experience through Microsoft Windows that users express themselves upon using applications, Office, Bing and even Windows itself. A Windows tablet, laptop, Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone or whatever they are calling the mobile software currently is merely an extension of the expression in which Windows is the chosen medium. The limitations of technology previously preventing the practicality of mobile computing no longer exist. Thus, the Windows ecosystem currently enjoyed by Microsoft is a natural progression of the previous model.

Google – The tremendous growth of Android is because when people use computers, ultimately they do one thing. People ask questions. Every action taken on a computer is to find an answer to a question. That is computing in the simplest most pure form. Even with no applications or web access, when in front of a computer people at the very minimum ask themselves, “What can I do?” Google reigns supreme in the minds of millions when it comes to providing answers to questions. Google is the default search, shopping guide, navigator, email, library, news resource, movie critic and a litany of other things for hundreds of millions of people. The Google Android platform and the accompanying ecosystem merely made the existing activities easier.

Apple – The ecosystem created by Apple is a blend of social proof, the emotions of man expressed through the arts and then art expressed by Apple as technology that is simple to use. Apple through imagery and technological implementation subtly conveys power, intelligence, vibrancy and fun. All characteristics people draw to on an instinctual level. Initially using music, which people use to feel good and to express themselves, Apple attached their products to emotions and through the user experience gained preference over other manufacturers. This preference leads users deep stream to other products or services provided by Apple. Additionally providing a clear path for users to what they want fuels the Apple ecosystem. If user wants music, ringtones, movies, TV shows or essentially any other media they can use iTunes. Easy promotes growth.

This is where companies like Motorola and Sony fail.

Where Sony once stood as the gold standard for quality and style in electronics, Apple has clearly snatched the baton and has no intention on returning it. But for Motorola it seems that if the company can get out of its’ own way Motorola is one company that when given the time, can produce great products.

However like Sony, Motorola prices itself out of a functional competitive price range. It seems though Motorola is under the impression that price is always the determining factor when attempting to convey quality or high status. A perfect example of this type of displaced pricing Motorola tends to drape itself in is the Motorola Xoom tablet. Unless the Xoom tablet provides a user experience that deeply connects with people and resonates on a wide scale where it translates into success like Motorola had with the RAZR, pricing the Xoom so far ahead of the industry leader is essentially begging for the tablet to fail.

Think about this.

After someone buys a Motorola Xoom tablet what app store will they use?

They will use the same Android Marketplace as tablets that cost $199 or $299. This means that aside from a few Motorola interface tweaks to the Android OS users get practically the same experience for more than twice the price. They get the same email, apps, maps, games and search. The same everything.

There would be no difference.

Unless the Motorola Xoom connects. Judging by that Empower the People Super Bowl commercial it won’t. You tell me, besides the geeky Orwell 1984 reference and the failed jab at Apple, what exactly did the Motorola Xoom commercial convey? Convey so as to compel you to want to buy it? Doodling flowers? Using Google maps? While you sit there en route to busting a blood vessel, pondering those questions I will not even mention the Motorola ATRIX 4G and the all mighty $300 laptop dock for the $200 phone.

Yes, you read that correctly, a $300 accessory for a $200 device.

Moreover, that $300 price is only if you buy it bundled with the phone. God forbid, should you decide to purchase the dock separately, because then the asinine price jumps even higher to $500. What type of nonsense is this? Now on the other hand the Motorola ATRIX phone is utterly kickass. You can read the BGR review here, but who over at Motorola fell asleep sniffing paint thinner to let this fly out the barn with that lame duck accessory. This lack of focus is what allows Motorola to be highly susceptible to even the slightest speculations. Shares of Motorola stock fell 5 percent on rumors of another version of the iPhone.

Before I go back to that failboat of a Motorola Xoom Super Bowl commercial, just for giggles, watch the 1984 Apple commercial that introduced the world to Macintosh.

Now watch the Motorola Xoom commercial

Let me identify a few significant points to you.

In the Orwellian world of the Apple 1984 commercial everything is dark dreary and there is a sense of gloom and woe. In the Motorola commercial, everything is uniform, bright and clean.

In both commercials the masses are represented the people dressed in similar garb, doing the same things, plugged in to the same “matrix” so to speak, the person representing the new product; the woman in the Apple commercial and the man in the Motorola commercial are in color standing out. Great.

From there it goes down hill.

In the Apple commercial the woman represents change in the status quo, she is running in chased by guards who want to stop her from bringing change and smashing the methods in which control is being forced upon the people. She is destroying the factory.

In the Motorola Xoom commercial, the man is going to work with the status quo. He is not going anywhere different. Despite the fact that during the commercial he looks lost, confused and unsure about what he is doing or where he is going. He is getting on the same train and going to the same cubicle warehouse as everybody else. He works at the factory.

Even with all the awards, attention, debate and analysis given to the 1984 Apple commercial, Motorola still got it wrong.

That Xoom commercial was no jab at Apple it was homage, poorly conceived but still homage to Apple. Maybe it took too long for Motorola to get it together after splitting into Motorola Mobility and the other, but the Willow Smith Whip My Hair video does a far better job at relaying the message of changing the status quo and injecting life, color and vibrancy into the mundane.

Maybe for their next commercial Motorola can hire video director Ray Kay.

Despite given the opportunity at CES with a recent award of “Best of Show” Motorola still shows the behaviors that led to division sell offs and the split of the one-time giant into two separate independent public companies in 2008 (actualized in 2011).

Now I am saying these things not merely to single out Motorola, HP and Sony, but to use them as examples to demonstrate the type of shit that has to stop, to get them to do better and to help other companies to identify the types of missteps to avoid. In the end, the goal here is for them all to become, do and create better products and services, so we can use their creations not only to entertain us, but as tools to enrich our lives and better our world.

A world where Sony, partnered with Ericsson to form the hodgepodge outfit called Sony Ericsson (SE) and seems to think that a Playstation branded phone and not a Playstation phone is the key to victory in the “war of ecosystems”. Can you see it? Imagine a litany of Playstation branded phones and tablets all with varying abilities successfully diluting the Sony Playstation brand. Rather reminds me of the Walkman Phone with too many handsets, too many names and too little too late technology.

The Playstation Phone is Sony’s chance

at having an ecosystem that can rival Apple.

However, it is sad to watch Sony Ericsson dilute every great mobile phone brand by branching it into various subsets and models instead of allowing any one phone to shine. You can see it happening with the Sony Ericsson Xperia, which now has a mini version, neo version, kids’ size and a super size.

More of the same will only get Sony Ericsson, more of the same. The nearly 4,000 people Sony Ericsson fired in the last year were not holding Xperia back; it was the leadership, lack of focus and direction. Same as Motorola, revenue for Sony Ericsson is down.

SE is making changes however, but lack of commitment in creating one phone, a flagship Sony Ericsson phone that is accessible to a wide audience, with a brand that connects and is globally identifiable like say a Sony Playstation phone, does not seem to be change SE is willing to make.

I am pointing out three specific companies but they are merely representations (functional examples if you will) of the different problems plaguing tech companies today. They have very specific, yet different issues that prevent each of them from rising to the pinnacles of innovation and technology and transforming from mere companies into representations of excellence within the industry. Besides having problems with upstarts like Samsung, LG and HTC nipping at them from the bottom, they are each very different from one another. However, they all share one common trait.

They just don’t get it.

Editorial, Tech
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Mark One Carbon Fiber 3D Printer Sony PlayStation 4

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