Archive for the 'New Product Development' Category

The Death of Commoditization. The Birth of the Small Business

October 20, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

Image Source: Wired.com

Image Source: Wired.com

In today’s society, there is the belief that “free is good.” I have this belief as well, but I do think there are times when the saying isn’t always true. A situation that stands out for me is new products in the marketplace. When you see or hear about a product from a friend, in the news, or by any other means, what you’re hearing a someone’s invention. It is something they (the company) created by trying to understand their customer (often themselves) and making a product that serves their customer. That is the essence of new product development. You find a need in the market, and then you try to fill it with a product that you think the consumer would enjoy and purchase. And you, as the creator would be rewarded. In today’s society, that reward is financial, social, or some other high value asset.

Source: stock.xchang

Source: stock.xchng

So back to the inventor. This inventor has created something that they think you will like. And by buying their product, you say, “I like your product and I will support you.” What makes you decide to buy it? Maybe you tried it. Maybe a trusted friend recommended it to you. By some marketing initiative, you became aware of the product and decided that you wanted it enough to be willing to pay for it.

Source: Stock.xchng

Source: Stock.xchng

The problem with commoditization is that it drives down the quality of the product as the price drives towards zero. One example of this direct relationship between quality and price can be seen in toilet paper. Toilet paper is, in essence, free. If you wanted to, you could get toilet paper free for the rest of your life and never have to pay for it. Now I don’t know where to get reliably source of free toilet paper from, but a quick search would answer that question. The bigger point is that even in a market with free products, people pay. And people will pay a fair amount for high quality toilet paper. The point is that a commoditized product is often of poor quality, so the majority of consumers will pay for a higher quality product. You can pay with money, as in toilet paper, or with information, as in Google.

Source: stock.xchng

Source: stock.xchng

My proposal to you, the consumer, is to consider, “Why would somebody create something in a commoditized market?” Are they trying to make a quick buck? Or are they making something they believe in and think will improve your life. If you believe the reason they made the product is to make your life better, then I ask you to buy it. By buying that product, you are supporting the inventor’s dream. You are an early adopter. You buy into their dream product. The current iteration of the product may not be your dream product, but by supporting them, you give them another chance to make something better. You keep their company in the race. By selecting a commoditized version of the product, you don’t give them the chance to even try again. Aren’t we supposed to support smart risk taking? Without such, society wouldn’t grown and flourish.

An iPhone without Contracts

September 25, 2009

By joseph.young.2009

apple-iphone-3gs-1

The best smartphone on the market today is the iPhone 3GS. This isn’t news. They’ve sold over 30 million iDevices (iPhone + iPod Touch). The app store has had over 1.8 billion downloads and hosts 75,000 apps. Compare these stats against the Palm Pre, Google G1 or myTouch, Blackberry Storm, or Nokia N-Series. Apple is killing it. That’s not to say that the other players aren’t working hard and may some day catch up. Just not today. But that’s another discussion.

What were here to talk about is how to get the best smartphone on the best network, today. We’ve already determined the best smartphone is the iPhone. But even if you don’t think it is, this method works for your smartphone of choice. The best carrier for coverage and download speed in San Diego is Sprint. Yes, Sprint. I thought it was Verizon too, but recent studies show that Sprint has spent a lot of money on the network and it’s starting to pay off.

sprint

How do you get iPhone on Sprint? Beyond the technical issues of CDMA vs. GSM radio frequencies, the iPhone is tied to AT&T by an exclusivity contract. We’d have to wait a year to hear if there’s the possibility of Apple’s iPhone on Sprint. And the truth is, Verizon would probably snatch up Apple before Sprint, as recent rumors have pointed to. So the solution is to get one of Sprint’s snazzy new personal Wi-Fi devices. Marketed as “MiFi 2200,” it’s a personal hotspot that goes wherever you go and gives you 831K (about 1/2 DSL or 1/3 cable internet speeds) of bandwidth in San Diego. Now get your iPhone, or better yet, iPod Touch, and connect to your MiFi and have high speed internet with you at all times. With any iDevice, you can use the Skype app and have people call you directly. Eventually, the Google Voice app will be released and you’ll be able to use your Google Voice number to call, text, and everything else you need a phone to do. But instead of paying $199 down and $75 a month for 450 minutes and 200 text messages, you pay $199 down and $60 a month for (nearly) unlimited calls, texts, emails, and webpages. Plus you’re on a faster and more reliable network. I could go on about how the MiFi would allow you to surf at the airport, in long car rides, and at any coffee shop, but Steven Levy already talks about it in this month’s issue of Wired (Oct. 2009).

Making “Top Videos” Better

April 6, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

top-videos

I was recently watching the “Top Videos” feature/widget on ESPN recently and thought 2 things. First, the widget has achieved the same functionality as watching SportsCenter on TV.

I can happily watch through it and get the same feeling as watching SportCenter on TV. A couple of stories, a commercial. They don’t make the commercials too long. Let’s hope they keep it that way.

The second thought was a feature they could use to spread the word of the product and increase usage. The “Top Videos” widget should allow people to share clips, tag clips, and make their own “Highlights” to pass to buddies. These features would introduce people to the widget, increase the return rate of readers to the ESPN website, and increases the number of high quality commercials views. As banner ads lose value, video ads that people will actually watch become the most valuable real estate on a webpage. Hulu currently charges a CPM rate of $25, which is apparantly a bargain for video commercials. A rough estimate of CPM for banner ads is $5. This means, that websites, including ESPN want to convert as much space to video ads as possible. SportsCenter has found a way to do this. But it must increase the viewership. By allowing customers to share clips and add tags, you add more value to the “Top Videos” widget and get more people using it, whether to tag, or to share clips.

One way to implement the tag features is as follows. Show the top 10 tags, and allow users to give a thumbs up or thumbs down for a clip selection. To avoid excess tags, the same section (or close proximity) should be selected 3 times before it shows up on the website to prevent clutter. And people can get “points” as they get more thumbs up rankings. This will encourage more participation for “tagger” and “rankers.”

ESPN currently has 15M viewers. If “Top Videos” is getting 10% of the viewers, that’s 1.5M viewers. If they could get that increased to 20% they could be doubling their revenue from that one widget alone.

Apple’s New Closed System

March 16, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

ipodshuffle_original

For all the talk about how revolutionary Apple is and how draconian Microsoft is, I find it a bit interesting that Apple has managed to turned headphones into a closed system. With their latest version of the iPod Shuffle, Apple has made headphones something that you have to buy from Apple directly, or from authorized accessory manufacturers.

The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time they’ve done this. Remember the iPhone 2.5G? When the product first came out, only iPhone or iPod headphones would work with it. The recessed outlet forced user to use Apple only headphones. Got a pair of $300 earbuds? Great! All you have to do is pick from the rapidly growing adapter market. I’m sure there’s warehouses full of these adapters today with little to no market value.

Back to the announcement of the latest iPod Shuffle. After watching the video on how to use your new Shuffle I realized that I have to memorize how to use my iPod Shuffle or be stuck with a fashionable piece of metal that I don’t know how to work. There’s a point where simplicity goes too far. I’m still not sold on the one button for my iPhone, but at least having a large touchscreen for a strong user interface. A heaphone with a ‘+’, ‘-‘, and blank button do not scream intuitive to me. More important than usability is the fact that I now have to use Apple headphones for listening to music. It’s well known that the standard headphones for iPods are not the greatest. Now I have to live with the fact that the headphones suck and I can’t use anything else. My true fear is that I’ll loose the headphones and have to pay Apple at least $29.99 just to listen to my music again. In an effort to simplify design (and reduce cost), the data connection shares the same port as the headphone jack. So every time I sync music onto the Shuffle, I run the risk of loosing my headphones. Fantastic.

Now I don’t want you leaving this post thinking that I hate Apple. That’s completely untrue. I like them. A lot. But I’m not so enamored by the Apple hype not to see a closed system when it’s staring me in the face. I just read a post stating that 3rd party headphones will require and Apple-licensed authentication chip. They obvious feel that they’re not making enough money off their users already.

Apple Feats

February 19, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

apple-feats

“Apple Feats is an achievment system for developers of iPhone and iPod Touch applications. The Apple Feats business model is a dual licensing model. Feats is distributed under the GNU public license (GPL) with a clause that allows you to buy out the GPL with a commercial license. By releasing under GPL, Feats increases its distribution and userbase size. It also creates a standard for a rewards system for iPhone/iPod Touch developers who want to reward heavy users of their applications whether they are games, entertainment, productivity, or utility apps. Licensing costs will be used to maintain website and widgets to display users accumulated ‘Feats’ along with other statistics.”

This is not a real product (today). It is an elevator pitch for a new product that would benefit the iPhone/iPod Touch development community to increase user activity while adding a reward system to heavy users. It follows the business model of MySQL which we just covered in our Tech Strategy class. If you have feedback, please leave it in the comments. Let me know your thoughts.

How Dell will Revolutionize the Mobile Industry

February 6, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

I was reading one of my preferred blogs and came across some news that Dell is trying to decide between Windows Mobile and Android for a potential mobile device.One quote that tipped me off was

“SAI also heard that the device would focus on ‘customization,’ whatever that means” – MG Siegler

“Customization” means that Dell is going to do for mobile phones what it did for the PC industry: just in time manufacturing.

The mobile industry has been making one-off designs for as long as I can remember. Though there where form factors that had lasting power, Motorola’s StarTac and Razr series, no cell phone company has standardized phone designs and operating systems. Dell will enter the mobile market with two popular form factors: candybar and slider.

The first is the candybar touchscreen. The leader in this form factor is Apple’s iPhone. It’s the gold standard that all other candybar touchscreen phones aspire to be.

Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

The other rumored form factor is the qwerty horizontal slider. Though there isn’t a design leader in this form factor, and the best one that comes to mind is the T-Mobile G1. Though it’s not a pure slider, it’s the best of the bunch.

t-mobile G1

t-mobile G1

With these two form factors, Dell will offer at least two operating systems. Windows Mobile will be targeted towards business users, and Android will be tarted towards the consumer. Dell can create a unified OS for the two operating systems so that using them can be very similar. The idea is to get customers used to the Dell smartphone. It can have the design team that worked on the Studio line of laptops work on the phone too. By knowing your form factor and your operating system, Dell can create products almost as well as a vertically integrated company (Apple).

If these initial shapes and OS’s are succesful, Dell will most likely attack all segments of the market quickly to capture as much market share as possible. They may also try to integrate Symbial s60 into their phones as well. At that point, Dell would only need to focus on hardware design and integration with a limited number of platforms. The combinations for customers is tremendous though. Three operating systems and four form factors results in 12 different devices. But from the manufacturing standpoint, it’s all the same. The only difference is the firmware you load on all the last minute with region and OS specific cables and documentation.

Did you Hulu it?

November 17, 2008

by joseph.young.2009

wikipedia.org

Source: wikipedia.org

Two things recently happened to me relating to Hulu. The first happened last night when I was talking to a classmate at Rady about the most recent episode of The Office, and a funny bit about “microgement.” The gist of the conversation went as follows:

Joseph, it sounded like Jim just messed up the line in the show.


Did you Hulu it? I think he intentionally made up the word.


Did you just call me a name?

My classmate had not heard of Hulu yet. But shortly afterwards, we were able to confirm that it was “microgement” and not “micromanagement.” But how is this different than trying to look it up you YouTube? 1. It’s legal, the show is posted by NBC, and Hulu created tools to allow sharing clips via e-mail and social networks easy. Very easy. 2. The video quality is great. I can’t emphasize this enough. What makes Hulu stand out from YouTube is that the production and video quality is high. Some people thought that YouTube meant the end of television. Partially because you could watch illegally uploaded television there, but partially because people thought that there was enough good user generate content to overwhelm network television. They were wrong. As I’ve emphasized before, it just means that crappy content goes to the wayside, and great content rises to the top. Whether it’s in games, movies, television or any other form of entertainment.

The second interesting tidbit about Hulu is that it’s on the tipping point of going huge. Becoming genericized. I’m definitely not the first person to say this. But within the span of 12 months, Hulu has gone from the top 100,000 websites in the world, to the top 400. There’s a shift in the consumer’s mindset who now considers Hulu as a network rather than a portal. You can watch what you want, when you want (some limitations), and in great quality. And all you have to do is sit through a couple of 30 second commercials.

While I’m on this topic, there are some people that are understanding how to advertise on Hulu, and other who do not quite get it yet. The one who gets it is the team running Christina Aguilera‘s advertising campaign. Tradition television take a commercial and blasts it at the consumer over and over again. We’re smarter than that (at least we think). So if you play the same commercial over and over again, I’m going to take a 30 second break between segments rather than a 2 minute break, or fastforward. Christina’s crew created 4 separate 30 second commercials that formed a single 2 minute commercial that was unique and kept me interested. I’m much less likely to go on a bio break if I know the commercial is a continuation of a whole mini-show that happens to be a commercial.

Hulu did television on the internet right. Other’s are sure to follow with competitors, or if they’re smart, partnerships with Hulu. There’s already great technology and leadership behind them. It’d only be smart to build your own site if you have deep pockets.

Innovating in Established Markets: Candy Buckets

October 23, 2008

by joseph.young.2009

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I’d treat our readers to a new segment. I get really excited about innovation. I guess that’s why I work in the technology sector. But innovation is more than Web 2.0 and Software-as-a-Service. It’s about finding a solution to a problem, new or old. It’s always amazing to see products stand out in established markets where people believe there’s no more room for growth because one company has significant market share. It’s partially an underdog mentality, but also the belief that you can do better than what’s out there. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways from the New Product Development course at Rady.

While shopping for halloween costumes, I came across the candy buckets that kids usually tote around to each house, holding their treasures. Growing up, these things were pretty basic. An orange plastic bowl with a black strap. I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone improved upon the old design. The pain with the old products were their lack of sturdiness, as well as the difficulty in emptying out the candy at the end of the night. The solution? A more durable bucket with an upsidedown hing to pour the candy out the bottom. Brilliant! The photos below show a new Elmo candy bucket that conveniently opens at the bottom.

Happy Halloween!

SuperSaiYoung@flickrSource: SuperSaiYoung@flickr

SuperSaiYoung@flickr

Source: SuperSaiYoung@flickr

Content is King Regardless of Medium

September 16, 2008

If you ever follow the video game industry, there’s a saying going around these days, “Content is King.” For the past 10 years, technology has been what drives the games industry. The reach to get the most realistic environment for your story became what drove the industry. Nowadays we’re close enough. There are still those going for the last 10%. But on has given up goals oon graphics in one iteration to focus more on content. That company is Nintendo. They reduced their R&D on technology and cranked it way up on interactivity. The result is the Wii. And by the way they’re printing money these days, I think they made the right choice.

So going back to the original topic where “Content is King.” The realization is that games need great design and gameplay over great graphics. Read the rest of this entry »

TechCrunch50 – Differentiation in the DemoPit

September 13, 2008
Natalie Terashima o.b.o. FiveSprockets)

TC50 DemoPit (photo credit: Natalie Terashima o.b.o. FiveSprockets)

They billed it as the Sundance of tech conferences and they didn’t disappoint.  At least twice during TechCrunch50, I thought to myself, “Wow.  I just witnessed history being made.” (That distinction goes toSwype and tonchidot which, I swear, was straight out of Minority Report.)

But for those tech companies that weren’t showcased on stage like the chosen 50 and instead had to pay to exhibit, it was a much bigger challenge getting their voices heard.  Read the rest of this entry »

What’s in a Name?

August 21, 2008

Recently, I was helping a friend try to figure out a name for a mobile software start—up. The field’s so crowded with ventures now that it’s not easy to pick a name that hasn’t already been taken. And it’s even harder to avoid names that are too techy, too cutesy, too clunky or just too, well, plain. The only thing we were certain of was not taking a regular word and starting it with the letter “i.”

After umpteen passes with random imagination we decided to take a different approach. Rather than just brainstorm names, we would first identify the qualities we thought would constitute a good name so we had something against which to judge our ideas. Here’s what we came up with:

FLEXIBLE — A word with multiple meanings and interpretations. Better yet — a word that can be used as a verb or a noun. Not only does this open up more possibilities for your marketing communications, it gives your design team a lot more options. At one point we had gone down the road of fly—fishing imagery (tangential, yes, but we still think it’s cool) and words like “fly,” “lure,” and “catch” all fit this bill.

EVOCATIVE — You want a name that conjures up interesting imagery. Imagery that will be powerful in telling your story and conveying your brand image. Words attached to common metaphors (like “window,” “door,” “sky”) are also more apt to translate internationally. But beware: you also want to conjure up the right imagery. One name that we came up with was quickly squashed by the graphic designer because the first thing it made her think of was the creature in Alien. Not so friendly. Google got this one right with the name of their new mobile platform, Android, even if it is a bit scary. Flickr got it right too. And Richard Branson really got it right with Virgin.

WE LIKE TO SAY IT — Maybe it’s hard to quantify this, but we all know it when we hear it. There are onomatopoeic words like “sizzle.” Words with hard sounds like “hatch” and “jot.” And just plain goofy words that are fun to say like “Google,” “Zoho” and “Twitter.”

AVAILABLE DOMAIN & DEFENSIBLE — a minor detail (heh)

We never did come up with a name. I think the lawyers are duking it out over a bunch of second string ideas. Turned out the one we liked most were too polarizing. But, we still think these are useful guidelines for those of you undertaking the Sisyphean task of naming your start—up. Good luck.

New Product Development Spotlight

August 18, 2008

This is not a regular segment, but there is a company who’s products are standing out to me. A company that’s using empathetic design or the groundswell to lead their product development cycle.

Belkin


They have products that really show they understand the customer’s perspective. Whether it’s a washable mouse (with great marketing story), or a zip-up mousepad, or a USB hub with a clip, all the products show thought as to how they’re used in the real-world, and how they’re solving problems that people have with these products, or the modifications they make themselves.

Great Job Belkin!

Now Rocking My Phone

August 12, 2008

by atremble

Last month Pandora launched an iPhone application that has revolutionized a corner of my world. The service is already the 4th most popular application on the phone (first in music) and it drove a record 3.3 million songs streamed in one weekend to iPhone listeners alone. Yet it has no ads. Given that Pandora’s revenue model depends on clever advertising with high CPMs, how can Pandora afford the royalties and bandwidth? One explanation is to view the launch as a massive—and massively successful—marketing expense until the user base can be monetized.

It’s not yet clear how Pandora and Apple plan to do this. Read the rest of this entry »

Product Marketing Management

July 9, 2008

Many people would argue that titles don’t really matter. Perhaps. But, if they do matter, what do they mean? Transitioning into my new career as a “Marketing Professional,” I needed to first decode the numerous marketing titles I came across on various job websites to clearly understand the job function, before applying to a particular job. When I began to understand the role of a Product Marketing Manager, I knew I had found my calling for the time being.

Being a PMM in a small company is like being an entrepreneur with funding already secured. It’s akin to the next step in the “Lab-to-Market” course which occurs after you’ve pitched your idea to investors and secured funding — the phase where you get to move your idea from the concept phase into the development phase and then launch it into the marketplace. The only difference is that it’s not your idea that you get to develop and take to market. But, if you’re looking to take your own idea to market one day, experience as a Product Marketing Manager in a start-up company is probably the best preparation for future success.

Read the rest of this entry »

Harnessing the Wisdom of Customers: Free Social Networking Tool Brings Companies Closer to Their Consumers

May 15, 2008

Connecting with Customers Quickly and Cheaply:
MBA students learn a few core marketing concepts over and over: First, we learn that customers are key to the development of any sound marketing strategy. Second, we learn the value of listening to customers and the wisdom of crowds. We also learn that the mere act of responding to a customer often increases loyalty. Unfortunately, maintating an ongoing customer dialogue can be both costly and time intensive. Social networking utilities are increasingly being used as a quicker and cheaper alternative to close the feedback loop. Read the rest of this entry »