Where’s The Game-Changing Innovation?

Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. The keyboard was quite a pleasant surprise. It worked much better than anticipated. Note to laptop manufacturers: Be worried, be very worried.

Last Monday Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, took the stage to introduce Windows 8 Mobile and a bevy of new Windows 8 phones from Samsung, HTC and Nokia.  This announcement followed Friday’s release of their new Windows 8 Surface tablet.  On the same day, Google also announced a new Nexus 4 smartphone, an updated Nexus 7 tablet and a new Nexus 10 tablet.  The week prior, Apple announced the iPad Mini, which, as we all know, was on the heels of the prior month’s iPhone 5 and iOS 6 releases.

It would seem that upgraded operating systems and refined/new devices are rigueur du jour. Yes, its true that Microsoft took the biggest step forward with their most dramatic operating system upgrade in years, but let’s face it, there was nothing in any of the three announcements that offered the kind of innovation that would fundamentally redefine the mobile experience in a profound way.

Don’t get me wrong; each of these companies is doing really fine and impressive work.  In fact, I’ve been particularly impressed with the direction Microsoft is taking with their NFC focus as well as with their new Surface tablet, which BTW I’ve been using for several days and find to be surprisingly handy.  What I’m lamenting is the lack of revolutionary innovation that we saw when Apple changed the mobile experience with the app-centric mobile ecosystem. What we’re seeing is a perpetuation of the current model — complete with its flaws and deficiencies.

So what would I do if I ran one of these companies? Where would I direct the innovative focus?  Well, I’d focus on creating an integrated solution that did three things:

  1. Simplify the mobile experience for the consumer.  In today’s model, a consumer must find and then download an app before they can use it.  This can be a daunting task for the average consumer – especially when having to do it on a real-time basis while in-venue.   Think about it. How many average consumers walk into a store, or any venue for that fact, and search for an app specific to that type of venue, download it and then engage with it.  How many consumers even know what apps are available or suitable for a given venue?   Very few venues publicize app availability so unless a consumer walks into a venue with an app pre-loaded, there’s little likelihood that they’ll get involved in a mobile engagement. With 700,000+ apps from which to choose, there has got to be a better way to bring the mobile experience to the average consumer.
  2. Streamline how consumers, businesses, retailers and brands engage with one another.  The current app and mobile website models offer very little predictability for the consumer and deliver very little commonality among mobile experiences.  Consumers must learn to navigate the features, functions and layouts of each app or mobile website with which they want to engage.  This learning curve complicates the mobile experience for the average consumer and lessens their willingness to embark on a mobile engagement – particularly when in-venue.  Perhaps this is the one reason why the buzz is so great around mobile payments and mobile wallets.  These are applications that offer a usability model that everyone can understand and articulate.
  3. Help businesses administer the mobile experience in a more, cost effective and manageable fashion.  It is clear that many businesses struggle with understanding the mobile paradigm.  Many have a hard time designing, creating and deploying mobile experiences that will engage the consumer.  Once deployed, they have an even harder time raising consumer awareness to their mobile experience. They then struggle continually to maintain the relevance of their mobile experience over time.  Finally, they have a hard time creating a measurable ROI.

Can this type of solution be developed?  You bet. Since I’m not one to point out problems without having a solution in hand, if you happen to be a senior executive at Apple, Google or Microsoft, give me a shout, and let’s discuss this further.  I think you’d be surprised what you’d learn.


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