Smart wearables – ‘Game Theory 101’ case study in the making

Google announces a platform for wearables, inviting its industry partners to conceptualise, design, and deliver actual devices.

Apple will release its device(s) – polished, with unified design, closely integrated with rest of its hardware offerings.

Google can then choose to let its industry partners respond, or actively force direction with a Nexus watch kind of product.

Apple might choose to respond by adopting features from Google where it’s lacking, attacking with lawsuits where it’s leading, and with refining the allure of its own product where it sees the need.

It’s a multi step game, one side has huge brand loyalty and an integrated device-platform play, the other has flexibility in strategy and ability to flank. One wants to maximise earnings from hardware sales, other wants more users on its platform.

Neither will play for a draw, though that’s a result both will gladly (eventually) accept.

Place your bets, buckle up, and get ready for a ride.

It’s Game On. Again.

Continue reading Smart wearables – ‘Game Theory 101’ case study in the making

Tapping A Pain Point

Every new version of smartphone operating systems (iOS / Android) brings forth a ton of new features. Frequently, these new features include some (IMO) pretty flaky ones like Siri and face-recognition login. I don’t have in-depth knowledge of how Apple and Google decide which new features to include in their OS platforms, but if I was in their place, one way I would like to figure new features would be by addressing pain points.

One big pain point I discovered with my beloved Nexus One was that it could be lost / stolen, and once it was gone, I had no way of ensuring that all my data and applications on it could be secured. Yes, after I lost it, I did find a ton of applications that could have possibly helped me in tracking, wiping and even recovering my phone – but it was ‘after’ I had lost it. And that makes these applications slightly redundant. A person has to feel the pain of loss of a smartphone (or a close contact’s smartphone) before realising the need for an application that could have helped recover the lost/stolen phone.

I’m assuming that smartphone loss/theft would have taken off with the rise in popularity of smartphones over the last few years. Given the price of many of smartphones these days, losing them hurts. But that hurt can be somewhat lessened with phone insurance. The bigger pain point is the huge loss of data that we keep on these phones, specially if the phone was not locked and the data can be easily accessed by whoever got/took the phone.

My question is, given how big a pain point this potentially is, why have none of the major smartphone platform vendors – well, mainly Apple and Google – done anything about it?

Steve Jobs famously told Houston that Dropbox was not a product, but a feature. But, in my opinion, if there’s just one functionality that needs to be a feature of the OS/platform and not a 3rd party product, it is this: ability to wipe/encrypt, lock, trace lost and stolen smartphones.

Most smartphones these days come with GPS chips and regularly ‘check-in’ with the platform provider’s servers. Tapping into these two features, it should be relatively easy to provide a simple lost/stolen phone service.

What I suggest is this: Google, say, should provide a web page where I can sign in with my Google ID and see a list of all devices originally registered with that as the primary ID. When I mark a device there as stolen / lost, Google should:

  1. wipe/encrypt all the data on the device,
  2. remove all the applications I bought/downloaded from the device,
  3. disable most communication functions on it,
  4. start logging the GPS location of device, and
  5. display a static message on the device stating that it has been reported lost, thus disabled and should be returned to owner / police.
The first 2 steps would ensure safety of any user data that was there on the device, and the next 3 will help in recovery of the device.
Along with the option of marking a phone as lost/stolen, Google could also provide a ‘un-register’ device option so users can disassociate their IDs from the device before selling or disposing it off. The basic action required from Google’s side in this case would be:
  1. wipe all user data and applications from the device,
  2. reset the device to factory settings after dissociating all services and user IDs with it.

Yes, any smart thief might still be able to bypass all this by simply wiping the device and installing a custom ROM, but a lot of devices could still be recovered  and it would help protect user data on the phone from easy unauthorised access. More importantly, bricking phones this way would send out a strong signal to people who find/steal these lost/stolen smartphones that they are worthless bricks and they can have a greater chance of reward from returning them than trying to take them for keeps.

Continue reading Tapping A Pain Point

Wither Windows?

The bias towards Apple in mobile apps is already well established with many developers bringing out apps just/first for iOS. Two recent launches might be an early indicator of how that shift towards Apple is taking place on the desktop as well:

  1. Lytro, the click-now-focus-later digital camera would only work with Mac at launch, Windows to be supported later.
  2. Bitcasa, the upcoming unlimited cloud storage service too works only with Mac right now, Windows & Linux support to come later.

This could just be a coincidence, but those responsible for Windows over at MS should take this pretty seriously. It isn’t that there haven’t been Mac-only developers in the past, but this time it’s different. Back then Mac was a niche platform used by heavy graphics users, apple-fans  and few others. Today, Mac is going mainstream, fast. Most developers and designers these days have Macs as their primary PC and their investors mostly work on Macbooks too. This creates an ecosystem, specially for startups, where most people involved work primarily on a Mac. So far, though most of the folks in this ecosystem use Macs, they still consider Windows support as a core for success on the desktop.

This is where these two launches could make a difference. The issue is that both Lytro and Bitcasa are relatively high-visibility product launches within the developer / startup community. If they do even moderately well with Mac-only launches, it sends out a signal to all the app developers out there that Mac-only/first works. Add that to the popularity of Mac as a platform within the community, and we are only a small step away from a flood of independent developers deserting, or delaying, support for Windows.

Folk at Microsoft will remember how support from 3rd party application developers was a big factor in Windows taking off initially. If they don’t act soon, they’ll see the same flood of 3rd party developers start to migrate to Apple, hurting MS much more than piracy or cloud computing has.

If I were responsible for Windows at MS today, I’d throw everything – money, influence, marketing support, etc – to get these and any other high-profile apps / devices to launch with Windows support, if not exclusively on Windows.
Continue reading Wither Windows?

Apple + Sprint – Exclusives.

(click image for original BGR article)

With $20 billion worth of inventory involved, I believe it’s more a case of Apple getting exclusive access to Sprint’s customers than Sprint getting exclusive rights to iPhone 5.

With such a huge inventory to push, I doubt Sprint will want to sport any high-end Android or WP phone for the next few years.

Apple advertises Samsung Tab

This is going to be launched on the market with the velocity of a fire hose and is going to just come in and take away iPad 2 sales so quickly that by the time we get to final hearing the full impact of the patent infringement will be to the detriment of Apple and to the benefit of Samsung.” – Apple’s Lawyers on the Galaxy Tab 10.1

If I were Samsung, I’d highlight those quotes in my product advertisements.

Might even finally offer Apple some royalty payments, for using the quote :)