Innovate and Disrupt – With a Slant On Sociology

October 2, 2009

Publisher App Store via App Store in future through iPhone? …maybe…

Did you ever notice that the “App Store” icon is listed with other Apps on the home page instead of at the bottom along with Phone, Mail, Safari and iPod? Did Apple decide to leave the “App Store” Icon along with other Apps because of lack of space at the bottom – too hard to put the 5th icon in there? Then again, they also short changed Settings, iTunes, Messages and Camera – by leaving them along with other Apps.

Regardless of where the App Store Icon is, I wonder if there is a future, where brands and publishers can create “Publisher Stores” – similar to “App Store” – where they Catalog all their own branded Apps – conveniently located in one location – for users to select all and download all and pay for all them at the same time.

For example Sony Music Entertainment has deployed 6 iPhone Apps on the App store. Instead of downloading each of those 6 Apps separately, wouldn’t it be cool to download all Sony’s Apps with one click?

Enter Publisher App Store !!!!

With Apps on App Store reaching 100,000 in next few months, it becomes critical for Apple to consolidate as well as make it easier for iPhone users to download Apps. Users don’t have to search for different sub brands multiple times. If you are looking for all super hero comic apps, all you need to download is Marvel App Store.

Then again, does the Publisher App Store need to be a downloadable App OR could it be an aggregated list of apps via a microsite available through Apple’s App Store?

Download or webapp – doesn’t matter – there is a huge need for such a feature. Its long due …..

Why limit this concept to just grouping within a publisher? Aggregator can group Genre specific Apps in one location and give option for their user to search, download through one interface.  There could be App stores for all free casual games, all card games, all music apps and all news apps ….


There is a start up idea right there …..what are the challenges? Well, for one, Apple might not approve such an App!!!!

No harm in giving it a try. Create a shell App and let all these brands customize the Shell App the way they want to and list out their on deck Apps, Icons, descriptions, and hook it up to iTunes store.

Even if Apple doesn’t approve such an App, at least publishers can start creating such Microsites and let user’s download ….Disney has around 12 iPhones Apps on the App Store. Couldn’t Disney or Sony or some of these big brand names build microsites by partnering with Apple – giving options for fans to download all the Apps in one go?


September 30, 2009

Digital TV Vendors might borrow few ideas from iPhone market model …..right around the corner

Filed under: Apple, Apps, CE, Consumer Electronics, Customers, Gadgets, HDTV, iPhone, Uncategorized, Widgets — vsistla @ 2:55 am

iPhone and its smartphone clones have rejuvenated the mobile industry in the past few years. Not only that, consumer electronic (CE) vendors might be taking a page or two from the smartphone market, very very soon …

Enter Widgets and Apps on digital TVs.

Last year at CES, most of the CE vendors have offered Widgets and Applications that come built in and can run with the help of network connectivity.

Does this mean, five years from now, one might have 100s of applications, widgets and gadgets running on their HDTVs in their living rooms ….. I see the signs all over the place ……This is equivalent to “Decoder cards” for the 1930’s era television viewer.


The biggest challenge or issue for this to happen until now is lack of network connectivity in these TVs along with less software footprint and so forth …..

While current CE vendors offering limited “premium” App/Widget capabilities (from the likes of Netflix, Ebay, Amazon) as a customer acquisition strategy rather than an up sell or increased revenue potential, the tables might turn in a few years, where DTVs with unlimited Apps and Widget support are bound to command a premium over DTVs without any such capabilities.

While the current generation is spending more time on the web, TV still continues to command a health share of attention in the media consumption verticals. In fact, a research done by Nielsen concludes that more U.S Teens are spending as much if not more time in front of the boobtube as of 2008 …..


With that kind of end user loyalty, the future generation TVs with Widgets, Apps and Gadgets are well positioned to steel the thunder back from the PC Monitors, in the near future ….

PS: Note to PCs and Laptops – the party is coming to an end ….. pack up and clean up …..

September 27, 2009

Product Roadmap – Why What and How

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — vsistla @ 4:45 am

Just pressed a very simple presentation using Presi about Product Roadmaps …..

September 13, 2009

August 25, 2009

When Brand’s interests are competing against their Customers interest?

Filed under: Anti Trust, Apple, Bing, Competition, Google Voice, iPhone, Legislation, mobile — vsistla @ 1:49 am

Have you tried to open Yahoo! Mail using Google Chrome Browser? Try it ….try sending an email ……

Have you tried searching for the keyword “Google” on Try it ….. I urge you …..


With the recent spat of controversy – Apple pulling down Google Voice from App Store, what kind of decision process do Brand’s go through when their interests are against their’s user’s interest?

Did someone within Google Chrome product teams consciously made a decision not to optimize Yahoo! Mail for Chrome browser? Or Maybe they just thought it was not important enough?

Brands and organizations competing with other brands for customers has existed since commerce existed – but has there ever been a situation in the past history where Brands had to deal with competing interests of their customers – especially when their competing brands are involved?

I went on a tail spin searching Wikipedia on any historic precedence of what we are living through …….but no luck.

We have managed to coin few new words such as “Frenemy” that sort of addresses the strange relationships the current generation brands and corporations deal with but “Frenemy” doesn’t really cover the context I am talking about – where a brand’s product delivers subpar experience or limits access to their end user when the experience in question is a competing brands product or solution. While some of this might fall under anti-trust laws but there is no law against smaller and insignificant misdemeanors I am talking about. Can regular anti-trust laws be extended to smaller issues as well?

At the end of the day, do brands assume that by providing a subpar experience of a competing brands’ product, will their customers abandon the competition and adopt the brand’s own offering (in case of Google Chrome, Google hopes users will abandon using Yahoo! Mail and switch to Gmail on Google Chrome?)?

It worked for Microsoft in case of Internet Explorer during the First Browser Wars” but will this work for Google OR Microsoft in case of Hard to imagine.

While FCC is investigating Google Voice App denial on Apple Appstore, who will tie the bell to optimize Yahoo! Mail on Google Chrome?

PS: By the time I pressed this blog, someone pointed to me that even keyword “AOL” doesn’t result a whole lot of results when you type in

August 19, 2009

Venture Capital Backed Mobile App Startups Remain Predominantly Mobile OS Agnostic | The ChubbyBrain Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — vsistla @ 3:54 pm

I wonder if someone has done research on how successful multiple platform focused mobile app businesses are compared to single platform focused start ups? Conventional wisdom of a VCs suggest to hedge their risk by focusing on more than one platform, but are the rewards that much higher? For example, more platform support = longer development cycles = more COGS = more sales efforts = higher revenue compared to just single platform focused businesses?

Is the primary driver in multiple platform strategy is to hedge the risk OR double the returns?

March 1, 2009

Remix is the new religion, new art and next generation! Welcome to the Age of Remix!

Few days back I went to NYPL Live with my friend Caroline Waxler to listen to Lawrence Lessig, Shepard Fairey & Steven Johnson (Twitter’s 35th rank).obama-remix2

Shepard with his Obama photo remix has ignited an age old debate between creative artists and bureaucrats.

While the focus of the session was on remix of music, video and art, I realized that we live in an age of remix!

Most of the religious that sprung up in the past millennium have their origins from older religious. As Thomas Friedman put it, with the world becoming flat, different races, religious and cultures are remixing and creating their own versions.

horse_chariot2 bullock-cart_sml1

Royal chariot remixed into a farmer’s cart centuries ago …….

Science, awareness and opportunities are bulldozing the age old dogmatic barriers of the hierarchical societies.

Seal and Heidi Klum are remixing;  sealheidiklumpregnant1

Taye Diggs and Idina Mendel are remixing; Eva Longoria and Tony Parker are remixing;

Tiger Woods has remixed twice.


Remix has been part of our DNA since the advent of primordial soup – only now, we kicked it up a few notches.

In 2008 two bloggers Robin and Danielle ran contests for Recipe Remixes – and many people flooded them with their morphed up remixed recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Arfi, an Indonesian living in New Zealand  has created remix Crepes. green-crepes

Remixing is part of our evolution! Remix is innovation!Remix is normal!

Out of every 50 twits I get, 10% are retwits with a twist of their – again a remix!

Viral videos in a completely different context is a type of its own remix.

Can you think of any other interesting remixes?Remixes that have influenced the society, culture and religion?

For example –





autorikshawAutoRisk – a remix of Scooter + Rikshaw

February 26, 2009

Will no inhibition virtual world impact/influence us in the physical world?

Filed under: anti-social, Network, sociology, virtual world — vsistla @ 5:27 am

When you go to a networking event or get together and you run into someone you know and they snub you for NO apparent reason – what would you do? Would you confront them right then and there to make peace or would you 2-parrots-dont-talk-mad-look-away3keep it to yourself even if it bothered you or reason out that there might be a valid justification for that person’s behavior and move on? Most of us end up choosing the later – keep that to ourselves and move on even if it bothered us to some extent.

Recently someone removed themselves from my Linkedin contact list. I realized that when I wanted to drop a note to say hi and see what that person is up to. Removing someone from your network – after accepting them once – on Linkedin or Facebook is as good as snubbing someone at a party or get two-monkeys-ignoringtogether in our real world. Should we follow a similar physical world protocol and move on or should we try to find out and then decide – either to make peace or move on?

While our response to such situations might vary based on the circumstances – ex girlfriend, disgruntled subordinate, rude neighbor, etc – we tend to be lot more audacious in the virtual world.

Last fifteen years in the virtual world showed that people show less inhibition than in the real life. For example, more people blog or write on the web than actually go to a podium and deliver a speech about the same topic. More people upload their silly videos than act silly on a stage or in public.

Virtual world is also lot less intrusive than the physical world. For example we can accept complete strangers as our friends or contacts in the online world where as complete opposite in the real world. One of the main reasons why Burger King’s campaign for a free whopper for every 10 deleted friends on Facebook took off so quickly (until Facebook pulled that out) is because of this laissez faire mentality in the virtual world.

Now the question is – will these habits or behavior in the virtual world influence our physical world? If so, in what way and how? Can we drop our inhibitions and be more audacious in the real world?

On the flip side …..

Over time will we start to emulate our real world behavior in the virtual world? Will the virtual world start to become as intrusive as the physical world in the future?

Thoughts on Ideation

What if social networking sites – LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace provide more options for people to communicate their emotions and true intentions?For example, I don’t want to connect/be friends with you anymore because we don’t have anything in common or you spam too much or don’t like your content or links, you are marrying my ex love, etc, etc.

It would be a good research area to investigate if the virtual mores are influencing our real life interactions and if so in a positive or negative way.

January 19, 2009

January 12, 2009

CES 2009 Review – CE Behemoths are shifting their focus towards Web and User Interaction

Filed under: Consumer Electronics, Convergence, Digital, Home, Innovation, Web — vsistla @ 7:09 pm

Just got back from CES show in Las Vegas and I found some interesting trends at the show …..there was an all around endorsement from CE behemonths for the following –

Viera Cast YouTube

Viera Cast YouTube

1. Web is here to stay and consumer electronic industry cannot ignore that any more – While last 10 years of CES was all about Plasma, LCD, HD TV, Thin TVs, Large Screen TVs and some home networking, this year I saw clear endorsement for Web from the CE 800 pound gorillas. For years, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and HP have tried to make this marriage happen but this year it felt like the CE manufacturers are ready to welcome the web into the living rooms. Across the board, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, LG and the likes have demoed technologies and products welcoming Web, Web Video, and other rich media into their TV sets. Some of them showed widgets (although closed) while others showed custom home growth interfaces to access Netflix, Amazon, Flickr and so forth.


While most of them showed proprietary implementations of hooks into the Web, this could be the start of the Web on mainstream CE devices. It felt like CE manufacters will start to do an arms race to get premium relationships in place for their next generation TVs and DVD players.

6a00d83451c1bb69e200e553e182c68834-640wiThis could turn into a wind fall for Internet giants – Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Yahoo, etc – for many years to come.

Ideation and Disruption –

What are the opportunities for Ideation and Disruption in this case? While CE industry will try to do this their way initially, there might be opportunities for open platforms and aggregation down the line. Startups could focus on intergrating various web services and package them to sell to each of the leading CE device manufacturers. This way CE manufacturers can focus on what they do the best and leave the Web integration to the Web experts. While Microsoft, Yahoo and Google might take the lead on such efforts, startups still might have interesting role to play in such a future.

090109-ces-hmed-730arp350x3502. Man to machine interfaces – At the show it felt like CE industry is very keen on upgrading the user interaction to the 21st century. Panasonic, Toshiba and others have showed some really cool “man to machine” interfaces. Toshiba’s Spacial Motion Interface is certainly interesting. Microsoft’s Surface is note worthy. Panasonic’s next generation remote control could bring the innovation “remote controls” needed for so long. Over all this is a great trend for content industry in general as this will lead to better user experience and engagement …..

December 8, 2008

Virtually Super-Social but Physically/in real life Anti-Social ….Side Serving of Technology

A month ago I was visiting Korea and Taiwan on business with some of my colleagues. I was sitting in a cab with my colleague Adam Powers heading to our hotel. It was a 45 min ride back to the hotel. As soon as we got back into the cab, we pulled out our Blackberries to check our emails followed by our voice mails. Then we both joked about the fact that we are so hooked onto our “email” clients and went back to our Blackberries. I checked by Facebook account to update my status to make sure all my virtual friends and contacts know where I am, responded to few of my MySpace buddies and posted few comments to Twitter. Congratulated a contact in Italy on his first born, posted a comment to one other friend regarding his obsession with Heather Lockear and scanned recently uploaded photos on my Flickr account. Before we knew we were at the hotel. 45 mins went by without me knowing anything more about Adam or his interests or his latest projects or his weekend plans. We conversed for less than a minute in those 45 minutes. In the “pre-Blackberry” era we would have talked up a storm.


Have we become “anti-social” in our physical life where as “super social” over electronic communication?


What are the sociological implications of a society that is tethered to be electronically social but not so plugged in with the surroundings?

What are the physiological implications – especially our eyes, ears and other sense organs with gadgets plugged into our ears and glued to our eyes?

We are so oblivious to our surroundings – in public places – trains, buses, etc – we have become completely irrelevant to the person sitting next to us. Days are gone when you can eves drop on the conversations  to either quench your gossip curiosity or use that to build a new friendship or join in the conversation or help them with something – because you are so busy listening into your iPod and playing solitaire on your iPhone.

Seeds for Ideation …..

The way I see, there are few questions that are yet to be answered – in turn lead us to some innovation.

1. Physiological implications of getting plugged in electronically – on our sense organs.What can be done to mitigate them in the long run?

2. Sociological implications of being anti-social in the physical world.

If we put aside physiological implications, I feel the sociological angle could be tackle much easily with the help of same technology that brought us to this juncture.

Innovate on head phones that let you capture noise from the surroundings, filter/distill the relevant information into your ear drums. This could be a feature that you could set on or off. For example, you could customize the headphones to capture words such as your name, bomb, or your mother tongue and so forth.

Come up with applications that run on your mobile phone that tell you if any0ne in your address book is also on the same train in the same compartment using LBS/GPS/Bluetooth technologies.

The goal should be to use the same technology to fulfill use cases in public spaces that were prevalent in the pre-cell phone/blackberry era.

November 13, 2008

How to Serve the unbanked and underbanked sector using Mobile Networks?

For these unbanked and underbanked audience, I feel the money transfer feature has a higher value/benefit than payment (mobile commerce) model. Because they are not looking to purchase their six pack of beer or clothes or pay for their mobile bill (as they are prepaid – maybe for refills but that is not a major revenue driver) using a mobile handset.

While I don’t discount the potential of mobile commerce aspect, for this particular audience, money transfer becomes the primary drive followed by mobile commerce once MMT has penetrated significantly.

If we focus on money transfer –

Currently most of these are using Money Orders or Western Unions to transfer funds across. Even Paypal doesn’t address their context in the most convenient way – bank authentication and email (which is not as prevalent as mobile).

Then how does one go about build a money transfer functionality for mobile? Well there are many ways of doing it as long as these constraints are taken into account. Here are some of my thoughts …..but have written detailed business concepts around this topic over the past year …..would love to discuss offline if there is interest ….

1. Security and Identity – build security or process in place to make sure that the person receiving the funds is the intended one. How do match someone’s identity when there is NO social security card or government issued ID? This is a critical issue in most of the emerging and developing countries.

2. Eliminate Bank account or Operator dependency – This is very critical. One could start a service and do tie ups with Western Unions and Post offices. Post offices are practically in every village, nook or corner, across the world. If Post offices don’t provide a reliable option, there are many other institutions that might save the day.

3. Make it purely mobile – no dependency on email or PC access – make it completely mobile as the target audience for such a feature might have not access to a PC or have an email account. In developing countries, mobile is lot more pervasive than email/PCs. Or at least make this optional for those who might want to benefit from it.

4. Business Model – how do you make money? There are couple of ways of doing that – You can take the “build the dependency to become a crucial backbone for this use case and make money around this experience” model OR charge your user’s directly. Considering the demographic you are going after, second option might not be the best one ….

I have ran across few companies that are focusing on these aspects but are struggling to build the critical mass and traction ….. at the end of the day this is NOT a technology problem – it is identifying those “change agents” who could make mobile money transfer pervasive in the target demographic ………it is a marketing maven’s challenge to transfer the value and emotion to the target audience.

Thoughts …..

April 21, 2008

Unsolicited Telemarketers Model – Revisited.

House lawmakers have introduced a legislation to put unsolicited text ads under do-not-call rules as part of SMASH Act 2008.

How different are unsolicited phone calls – land or wireless – from unsolicited conversations and communications in the physical world?

What makes communication over airwaves any different from a street peddler trying to sell a souvenir or tour tickets or handoff local business fliers or free ad supported local newspaper? Are people more annoyed about receiving an unsolicited phone call than an unsolicited offer on streets and pubic domains?

Well, if one argues that unsolicited phone calls in their private premises (home) is lot more intrusive than an unsolicited offer in a public space, how could one justify this regulation on a cell phone – where the receiver could be at a public space?

Well, one could argue that the unsolicited is getting charged for such calls but would this be okay in the world of unlimited calling plans?

City of North Olmsted, Ohio has created a “do not knock” list to ban door-to-door salespersons to sell their wares.

Unsolicited communication occurs – everywhere around us – in the house or outside the house.

Everybody encounters advertisements, billboards, posters and neon signs on the streets. We choose to consume what we like and ignore those we don’t care to know about. While these are unsolicited visual messages, how different are these compared to phone calls? If unsolicited visual messages are ok, then why is it not ok for telemarketers to send an unsolicited graphic or video (as long as the receiver doesn’t get penalized for the communication by the telecom operator) to a mobile?

These visual messages are to drive awareness-knowledge so that when there is a subjective need for a particular message, it becomes easy for us to go seek those messages out. But then again, most individuals play a passive role when being subjected to awareness-knowledge. For example, even though there are restroom signs everywhere in malls, we usually have to seek out them when we have the need to go.

Predisposition of individuals does influence their reaction towards these mass (visual and audible) communications.

Coming back to passive role individuals take towards mass media communication, does this mean we are forced to take an active role when someone drives an awareness-knowledge via an unsolicited telephone call? What if there are technologies and solutions for telemarketers to communicate over airwaves that eliminate the need for active involvement? For example, caller IDs communicating to the recipient that the caller is a telemarketer and the message is regarding – a credit card or non-for-profit donation or travel promotion? All the cell phones have caller IDs and landline users without caller IDs phones are dwindling by the minute. Another option would be to catalog all the telemarketer calls and let users retrieve appropriate messages based on their disposition. While one could argue that Google is currently addressing that need, but I question how effective a job is Google doing in finding me what I am looking for.

Argument that consumers do not want to receive unsolicited communication in private premises would not hold water either as we are subjected to unsolicited messages through our television, newspaper, Internet (at home), etc. Then, are “do-not-*” legislations emerged to protect the interests of mass media outlets? Because, small vendors who are banned to reach out to their target audiences via telephone solicitation, are forced to pursue mass media outlets – which dolls more money to mass media owners. Also, lets not forget the fact that mass media marketing comes with a value add to the consumer – free broadcast television or radio along with marketing messages, free news and so on.

Am I barking up the wrong tree? Network owners – wired and wireless operators – want to control communication on their networks. Then is it safe to say that the real motivation for do-not-call list is not really to protect the consumer but to provide a better control for the network operators? Similarly, we are subjected to unsolicited messages in the mass media because marketers are sponsoring the actual content or service and that content/service is of high quality.


So, we can draw some interesting conclusions from this rant …

Ø Unsolicited messages that are non-intrusive might be tolerable.

Ø Unsolicited messages as part of something valuable – subsidized content or service might be an acceptable model. It is critical that the quality of the subsidized content or service should be at par or better than other available choices.

Ø Consumers don’t want to be charged for unsolicited messages.

If one argues that these “do-not-*” lists are there for consumers to make a choice to not to receive such unsolicited communication, consumer’s selective exposure to the messages that are consistent with their current disposition might not be accessible to them. For example, just because I don’t need a 0% balance transfer credit card offer deal this very minute, don’t restrict my ability to find that message when I need it. If I am able to retrieve all the telemarketer calls that offered 0% balance transfer credit card offers, when I really need one, wouldn’t that be lot more useful than completely blocking my ability to receive such messages for ever. What if consumers could program their telephones to receive certain messages based on their current dispositions? What if consumers could search and query certain solicitations as needed. This means there should be a technology for telemarketers to load up their daily, weekly and monthly deals, promotions and offers in some centralized location and make targeted messages available to consumers based their current dispositions.

Incidentally, UK’s MVNO Blyk is subsidizing service for eyeballs. While this is an innovative model within the mobile space, there were many such models in the early days of Internet and computer industry. Most of business models such as PC giveaways and free Internet for watching advertisements survived but for few months in the mid to late 1990s. The reason earlier efforts failed mainly because of lack of quality unlike their older cousins – broadcast media. Second reason for PC giveaway failure was commoditization of PC industry that didn’t differentiate this model from conventional models. If Blyk doesn’t fall pray to lack of quality and mobile industry commoditization, they might actually have a chance to survive a few years with this model.

April 14, 2008

Garmin Cooks Up Mobile Swiss Army Knife

Garmin is highly successful in what they have done so far – built an excellent brand and convenient solution to their target users. They just announced to offer Mobile TV and bunch of other features in their up coming product nuvi 900T and I think is a big mistake – and here is why.

Companies typically fail (typically being the operative word here) when they try to bring new features and functionality into their products without proper contextual and circumstantial usage analysis.

The biggest problem with technologist and innovative companies is they tend to offer features based on product attributes and demographic rather than “jobs-to-be-done”. Few Harvard researchers have concluded that circumstance based product evolution has a higher rate of success than attribute and demography based product evolution.

For example ….

When a user is using a particular product or device, that particular user is trying to get a job done for which he has “hired” that product to deliver that job. When I am waiting at airport, and quickly checking my email on my blackberry, I am trying to be productive in the limited amount of time I have, while I am waiting at the airport. I have “hired” my blackberry to help me get the job of “being productive while I am waiting in boredom” done. Similarly, I “hire” my blackberry or cell phone to make quick phone calls to be productive in my professional and personal life.

Marketers need to recognize the circumstance in which I am going to hire a particular product for a particular job. Continuing with the same blackberry example, when I don’t have any limitation of time or resources, I would hire my laptop or my work PC to check and send emails. For the same job of making call, I would hire my landline when at work, where as I would hire my cell phone or blackberry when I am away from my landline. Landline vs. mobile phone might be bad example outside the business environment, as most people are replacing their landline completely in their private life, but you get the point.

Harvard research concluded that …

Users “hire” products for jobs based on the context and circumstance in which they need to get those jobs done.

I would like to extend that theory further and say ….

Users are willing to pay incremental costs for features that help the “jobs” a particular product is hired to do.

Users would also be willing to have additional features without incremental cost and unwanted inconvenience to their present context or circumstance.

Just because I read my daily news on the Internet, I would not try to read news while I am driving. I get it from my audio/radio devices. At the same time, I could use my Bluetooth headset to talk on my blackberry while I am driving or not driving because hands free talking on the phone is not as dangerous as reading news on my blackberry while driving.

Who uses Garmin?

Ø People who are traveling to new places/locations where they need help with directions.

Ø Some people use it for places/locations that they are familiar with but challenged directionally.

Ø Some people use them to go from places they don’t know to places they know (for example returning home, etc)

What are the limitations of the context in which user’s use Garmin?

Ø Typically when you are driving and little concerned about your ability to navigate to your destination, your stress levels are higher than normal levels.

Ø “Typically” it is on the dashboard in the view of the driver. Driver is constantly switching between his view of the road/traffic and Garmin step by step directions. This gets little easy when you have voice activation.

Ø When you have voice activated navigation and it is not integrated with your car speakers/audio, you are limited to consume radio/music through your car speaker system.

Ø No matter how good Garmin’s navigational system is, drivers would like to reconfirm or revalidate their paths by speaking with someone in that neighborhood – gas stations, etc – as long as it is possible. Most of the time they call the destination host to revalidate their path.

Why use Garmin?

Ø People “hire” Garmin device for getting from point A to point B and for getting step-by-step voice activated directions.

Garmin is a highly differentiated product and the success of this product is directly dependent on how accurately it navigates its “hirers” to get to their destination in the least amount of time, avoid traffic jams and stress free journey.

What else can you offer Garmin “hirer” that help them in the context in which they use Garmin?

Ø Ability to customize frequent locations – such as home, office, day care, etc.

Ø Ability to do local business searches – restaurants, post office, police station, nearest gas stations, etc.

I believe Garmin and their competitors do offer above two benefits.

What else could Garmin offer to their “hirers”?

Ø Users could “hire” Garmin for navigating them in case of traffic jams and construction – dynamically instead of getting stuck in the gridlocks. Currently most of them offer detour option only if the users select voluntarily. Dynamic navigation based on the current traffic conditions could be a great feature to have. (am not sure if they offer this currently and I stand corrected if they already do)

Ø Users could “hire” Garmin for radio/news/music – mainly to those users who do not have integrated navigation systems. This way, users could hire Garmin for audio entertainment instead of having to “hire” their car audio systems. Garmin offers satellite radio. Some of the navigation systems offer MP3 capabilities but that doesn’t fit user’s usage context as most of the time people leave their nav devices in their cars and forget to load or reload music from their mp3 collection. I feel a radio to be a better feature than mp3 or Photo viewer.

Ø Garmin could let me make some phone calls while I am driving. We see lot of people “hiring” their mobile phones to talk while driving. When you use a cell phone along with Garmin’s voice activation, the user experience is not the best as both voices could overlap with each other. If you integrate calling service within Garmin, then voice feature could be integrated much more efficiently with the ongoing phone call (more though required here to define this user experience). Nuvi 900T offers this.

Ø Garmin competes with street maps, gas stations/seven eleven’s where user’s would pull into to get directions. If users are not completely happy with the navigation they are getting from their Garmin, Garmin could build a “direction helper” network with gas stations and businesses where store cashiers could take dynamically routed calls from Garmin users who are in their neighborhood to provide “human” navigation that would help the drivers have a stress free journey. Garmin could pay these “helper networks” per phone call they have received or on a monthly basis, while charge their own customers extra for this “premium” one of a kind navigation feature. “Helper network” could also offer additional suggestions from locals – offer suggestions based on their own experience of the neighborhood – best restaurants or safe neighborhoods or local entertainments.

Ø Garmin could compete with the likes of OnStar in providing roadside assistance to those users who do not have similar benefits from their car brands (esp. in the low-end car market).

Ø Garmin could offer location based services based on the time of day – such as Lunch/Dinner deals, rest room breaks, service station alerts, and so forth.

Garmin’s nuvi 900T comes with TV Player, audible player, picture viewer, FM radio, Music/MP3 player …. this is a Swiss army knife …..I question the quality of what it can deliver to me ….. all-in-one type of devices are not best suited in an emerging market place – it just dilutes their value prop. Potentially other handset vendors could replace Garmin as a navigation device. Everyone starts to copy everyone else’s features and functionality …..arms race to out do others …..

There are three questions here –

1. Is market really looking for a Swiss army knife type of device for these particular jobs? I don’t think people are clamoring to have mobile TV in their navigational device. There is definitely value in having hands free calling capabilities within a nav device. Not many people have really used the mp3 functionality in the existing nav devices. There is value in Radio/FM. I highly question the need of a photo viewer in this device.

2. Is this the right move for Garmin in particular? I personally think this will dilute their core value prop. Traditional handset vendors will flood Garmin’s vertical, a.k.a Nokia/Navtec followed by everyone else. Garmin and Nokia are trying to enter each other’s markets as a defensive strategy, end up doing feature arms race commoditizing their core products.

3. What else could they do to keep their value prop? Focus on additional other value add services within the nav vertical and provide a superior nav experience. Make it so hard for other traditional handset vendors to compete in the nav market – sort off become the iPod of mp3 market. No matter what Microsoft, Samsung and Sony offered, they couldn’t touch iPod market share. Garmin could do the same even if Nokia and the likes try to enter the nav market.

Here is another example of why companies should focus on the context in which their users use their products rather their technological capabilities ….

Apple did not include camera in their iPod even though technologically they could. Its been 5 years and many version of iPods, including iTouch doesn’t support a camera. Where as first version of iPhone comes with a camera. While people “hire” iPod for music and audio needs, they could potential take photos with the same device when there is a context for it, but “typically” one takes pictures/photos when you are in groups of two or more and most of the time people are using their digital cameras or camera phones. You also take photos when you are traveling but when you travel you also carry a digital camera with you. People carry their digital camera photos on their iPod by side loading. Providing iPod users with photo loading capabilities didn’t increase the cost of delivery for Apple and some users do make use of this functionality although that is the not the primary reason for them to carry their iPod. When the integration of camera feature into iPod does not significantly increase the cost of iPod, user would be ok with that feature. Since mobile cell phone users are already using camera functionality, it was critical for iPhone to enter the market with that feature.

iPod commands the highest premium in the mp3 player market even after 5 years of entering this market and the only reason they are able to do is by providing a superior product that is highly focused in delivering what it is hired to do.

In the evolution of a product or technology, one-size-fits-all type of products make sense only when the technology is completely mature. When the technology and markets are still emerging, one-size-fits-all doesn’t really provide a superior user experience. From a usability standpoint, creating undifferentiated products and doing arms race to add every possible technological feature to your product will lead companies towards a dangerous collision course and ultimately usher commoditization.

If one looks at user’s subjective value, a user would not want to pay for features they are not hiring that product to delivery. This triggers brand disloyalty. Worse, will make way for new entrants who could potential steal your unsatisfied customer base. Microsoft and its products are an example of this where they have so many features that majority of their users do not even use but end up paying for it since there is no other option. It is only a matter of time when new entrants will go after these unsatisfied and non-consumers.

So, when companies want to add features or functionality that do not fit the exact context or circumstance of usage, it is critical that companies do not penalize/charge the user for getting those unwanted features – from a cost and user experience standpoint.

For example, buying a Swiss army knife saves me space and number of devices to buy or carry. The drawback is only one person in my family can use it at a time. I am not in need of ALL the features Swiss Army Knife provides me. The screwdriver, knife and bottle opener do not work as efficiently as the respective standalone devices. Now, I have Swiss Army Knife as well as all the other standalone tools. So much for reducing space and carrying just one device …..

Note: Some of the inspiration came from Harvard Research, James Gibson’s seminal work on Visual Perception and Anthony Ulwick’s papers and articles.

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