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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

No one knows what to do with new technology

December 22nd, 2009

Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief and publisher of (MIT’s) Technology Review, has written an important essay titled “On the Evolution of Technology.”

The second sentence in the essay articulates the very reason I founded Rainier back in 1993: “When a technology first appears in the world, it is not understood: no one knows what to do with it.”

Pontin discusses Brian Arthur‘s book The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves, and Arthur’s explanation of why truly new technologies are so slow to be adopted. New technology domains, he says, betray “missing pieces” that technologists must develop before useful applications can be successfully commercialized. One of these missing pieces, I believe, is the ability to clearly communicate new technologies to the market.

Pontin says the real economic value of new technologies is almost always imperfectly understood because the technologies’ markets do not yet exist. It’s been interesting for me to note over the years how true this is for so many of the technologies we are involved with bringing to market – especially those which are truly disruptive, or don’t quite fit into existing market categories.

Brian Arthur’s question, “What [does the new technology]allow people to do that could not be done before?” is one we ask our clients all the time.

The answer(s) are so crucial to successfully marketing a product, that we won’t even agree to launch a new technology until we’re satisfied the disruption, and all its necessary ecosystem components of success (what Arthur calls the “missing pieces” technologists must develop before useful applications can be successfully commercialized), has been thoroughly and defensibly defined.

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The ‘Next Major Computing Cycle’ will change everything

October 22nd, 2009

Internet Evolution site editor Nicole Ferraro shares a compelling story from the floor of the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

Nicole reports that Morgan Stanley‘s managing director, Mary Meeker says that over the next few years the mobile Web will be “bigger than most people think.” In fact, she’s calling it “the next major computing cycle,” and says mobile-related technology shifts will change all the dynamics between incumbents and attackers, and will create a wide range of winners and losers.

mobileinternetMeeker presented 68 slides, starting with an economy update / dashboard. Included were positive leading indicators like rebounding global stock markets, narrowing credit spreads, reduced market volatility, and rising earnings estimates.

The technology sector (as has been previously noted in this blog), Meeker says, is leading the charge back to financial health as the largest sector measured by S&P 500 market capitalization (19%). She also showed how global technology revenue estimates mimic the 2002 recovery that followed the tech nadir of 2001.

Now granted, when Meeker turns to domestic GDP and consumption, she is only able to call the trends “less bad,” and she does say that low capacity utilization in manufacturing, horribly low home sales, rising consumer credit and mortgage defaults, and high unemployment all imply economic weakness.

But unemployment peaks are typically key for economic turnarounds, Meeker says, and global GDP growth forecasts, led by China and India, are positive for 2010. Advertising spending, too, should grow in 2010, and consumer confidence seems to have bottomed out in February and has been heading up all year.

Then Meeker turned to the promise of the mobile Internet. And Meeker is bullish like crazy about mobile Internet! Driven, she says, by unprecedented next-generation-platform-induced changes in communication and commerce, mobile-related share shifts will “create/destroy material shareholder wealth.” YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are well noted. And not shockingly, the poster child for the uptake of mobile devices on IP-based networks is iPhone/iTouch usage (“fastest hardware user growth in consumer history” ).

The next big thing in computing follows a logical evolution, Meeker illustrates by slide 32. Increasing levels of integration will provide an incredible opportunity in semiconductors, hardware, software, and services as the rate of mobile Internet adoption makes desktop Internet adoption look so last-century. This statement I particularly loved: “Mobile devices will evolve as remote controls for ever expanding types of real-time cloud-based services…empowering consumers in unprecedented and transformative ways.”

Quoting from Mathew Honan in Wired magazine’s January issue, Meeker shares this: “Millions of people are now walking around with a gizmo in their pocket that not only knows where they are, but also plugs into the Internet.” Heavy mobile data users will triple to more than 1 billion by the end of 2013 (AT&T alone has had a 50x increase in mobile data traffic in the past 3 years).

These are exciting times for technology makers, marketers, and users. My passion for, and faith in technology has kept me bullish throughout the downturn, and I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for what’s coming as we turn this innovation economy skyward once again.

The full set of slides from Meeker’s presentation are available here, and are worth going through in their entirety.

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I will finally start backing up my computer. Seriously.

October 8th, 2009

I’m one of those computer-savvy geeks who’s absolutely awful about backing things up. But I think I’ve finally seen something that will change those bad habits. We launched Vembu Home today, and I think it’s a really usable backup application.

vembuscreengrabClearly there’s no shortage of on-line backup solutions on the market, but our assessment is that Vembu has done a great job taking things to a new level. This isn’t just a blatant endorsement of a Rainier client – I’ve downloaded the product and am using it (to try it, go to Vembu Home and enter the limited invitation code: BACKMEUPSCOTTY).

Both in terms of flexibility and the user interface (it’s the first backup application built using the Adobe Air+Flex platform) Vembu’s come up with a good solution, in my opinion.

First of all, this is the first and only unified backup product, meaning you can backup locally or to the Amazon (web services) Cloud, or to both, from one user interface. Second, the user interface is gorgeous. Finally, the product is based on Vembu’s company’s StoreGrid technology, which already runs on something like 100,000 enterprise computers worldwide.

Basically Vembu Home is enterprise grade stuff repackaged and priced for home users who never back their stuff up. Until now.

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Creative analogies for new technologies

October 4th, 2009

Mary Tripsas from the Harvard Business School writes that “Humans instinctively sort and classify things. It’s how we make sense of a complex world.”

She rightly points out that when technology companies develop innovative products and services that don’t obviously fit into established categories, “managers need to help people understand what comparison to make.” Without this step, the marketing job of storytelling, we’re often left wondering, “What is it?”

proto_spanWe are often confronted with this paradox with our startup clients whose innovations don’t exactly fit into existing product/market boxes, or in categories covered by industry analysts. Sure, we’re all dying to be in a Gartner Magic Quadrant, but what if such categorizations aren’t able to reflect the disruptive qualities of some technologies?

These are the kind of strategic discussions that can make or break the launch of a new technology. And this is where the marketing part of the innovation equation comes into play. Is it an innovation or just an invention? Good storytelling, through good public relations, can be the crucial factor.

Read Mary Tripsas’ article in the New York Times.

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