Wednesday, February 06, 2013

BlackBerry Z10 – A resurrection!

If you are into mobile industry trends then you already know BlackBerry is back! BlackBerry announced the launch of its new touch screen smart phone – Z10. BlackBerry was dead. Since June 2007 (iPhone launch) It had failed not only to retain the market share but also to live up to its customer expectations. In last five years, BlackBerry has suffered a set-back after another which led to event the most hardcore fans of BlackBerry to leave. They eventually gave into the peer pressure and moved to iPhone or Android devices.

After 5+ years of issues, It seems 2013 is the year of born again for BlackBerry. Z10 is the first true competitor to Apple, Windows and Android devices. The impressive list of features and functions makes it worthy of competing. First and foremost, Z10 offers great hardware, looks, camera and other details that consumers expect in their smart phone. Secondly, It is sized right (screen size between iPhone and Samsung Galaxy). And finally, Z10comes with access to 70,000 apps starting day one. Availability of apps is a win-win for both consumers and the company (lesson from Windows Phone playbook). While we are talking features, I have to bring-up the Adaptive touchscreen keyboard – The keyboard intelligently predicts the next word that you may type when you are composing a sentence. If you consider all of these things together, you know BlackBerry has something "smart" going on.

Armed with great product, nothing should stop BlackBerry right? Well not so fast! Remember the 4 Ps – Product, Pricing, Placement and Promotions. In Product category Z10 rocks (at least rocks hard enough to compete). In Placement category, I have to say Blackberry has hit it home too. All major carriers in US will offer Z10 (what a win). BlackBerry simply needs to make sure enough devices are in hand and on display at all AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile stores. That leaves us with Pricing and Promotions. What I have read so far (these are not real numbers) but it seems Z10 will be offered at a pricing equivalent to Samsung Galaxy S-III with two year contract. I guess this is a good pricing strategy but for BlackBerry to make true dent in the smart phone market, it will have to come-up with creative ways to push the product. A good combination of promotion and marketing strategy is called for.

So what do I think will happen? First of all I think Z10 is a BIG WIN for BlackBerry. This is the first alternative to iPhone that BlackBerry has offer to its hardcore fans. Secondly, I sincerely thin this device and future version of this device will shape the future of the company. This a good story and BlackBerry simple needs to tell it the way it is. I also have a word of caution for the hopeful – Z10 is not the David who can take on the Goliath that is Android and iPhone but in 21st century both David and Goliath can live side-by-side.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Goodbye 2012... Welcome 2013

2012 was a dramatic year. A year of change, hope and courage. I took few big decisions that can make or break my career aspirations. After spending 8 years with Razorfish, in 2012, I decided to move on. The decision was very hard to make but today reflecting back, I believe it was a right move. In addition to career move, I had some personal life changing events. So 2012 was one of the longest years I have lived recently. I was expecting it to be so... after all it was the year of Dragon.

During 2012, I slacked off on writing anything on this blog. Even my twitter and facebook accounts did not get the attention they deserved. When you put off your social needs it say something about how busy you are... lol... But as I enter 2013, I wish to get back on track with few things:

  • Continue to write blog: Writing this blog helps me take a pause and reflect on items or share my views on things. Sometime very blunt but making prediction is one the things I enjoy.
  • Get back on that treadmill: Yep, that's right. Another area that deservers attention.
  • Voluntary work: This area is mostly to continue to do voluntary work. In 2012, I tried my best so this part of my life does not fall off my plate. In 2013 I would like to do more. The rewards of selfless voluntary work make it selfish. And I don't want it to go away.

    So anything changed in 2012 while I was gone? Well not really. Obama is still the president. Congress is still fighting. Microsoft is still struggling with PC and Tablet conundrum. Apple is still the best. Twitter still rocks. Facebook has not lost momentum. Interest rates are still down. Unemployment rate is still aahhh. NY and NJ are still functioning. Guns are still sold in open market. People are still looking forward to next olympics (Brazil). And despite Mayan prophecies, world is still rotating on its axis.

    What has really changed in 2012 is our perspective on all of the items above. We are more aware, smarter and look at these things in a different light now. 2012 was full of various events and they taught us a lot. It was a year of learning.

    Now to 2013. Someone asked me what is the most anticipated story for me in 2013? The answer is simple... Apple please re-invent the TV in my living room.
  • Monday, February 06, 2012

    Innovation - A must have! Don't know how.

    Innovation – “The introduction of something new” ; “A new idea, method or device”… These are traditional and simple definitions of innovation. In business world, innovation is not that simple. Companies work hard to make their employees think differently; to think outside the box; to be innovative. Historically, most successful companies are those that innovate rapidly and change with time. GE, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Tata Group, Goldman Sachs etc. have a history of bringing new product and services into the market in a timely fashion. They continue to survive and thrive despite weak economy or recession. Innovation is a necessity for companies not just because of street’s high growth expectations but also because it is now the basic ingredient to compete. The physical world around us is changing rapidly. The expansion of internet and access to information has enabled people with very limited means to be able to challenge big brands. As Thomas Friedman quoted in his book, “The World is Flat” – Internet has leveled the playing field. Big or small, if you can innovate and be agile, you will succeed.

    Recently, I met with Erick Mott from Ektron. Ektron hosted developers meet-up in San Francisco. As a keynote speaker, my presentation focus was on change - The dramatic shift that is happening around us in digital world that is also altering our genetics. You can download the presentation here: .This change is forcing companies to think differently. Following is the video of my interview with Erick as part of Ektron’s “Web Innovation Now with Erick Mott” program.

    I personally, grapple with how to innovate or standardize a process where innovation is inevitable. I don’t know how. In philosophical terms one can write a book on innovation but when rubber meets the road, those philosophical thoughts are nothing but whims of fancy. I hope one day we as collective community can wrestle this beast to the ground.

    --Salim Hemdani

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Google Chrome Web Store goes Global - Why should I care?

    Last year in December, Google officially unveiled the Chrome Web Store for US audience. Since then it has added feature on developer dashboard that lets developers enable their apps for multiple countries across the globe. Web Store can be defined in simplest term as a hub with collection of web application URLs that are useful and entertaining but hard to find. The key is “hard to find”. Thousands of developers around the world, every day, create amazing web experience that if supported by marketing budget can make our life easy or entertaining. There are thousands of productivity apps, entertainment apps, social apps, educational apps, lifestyle apps and list goes on. These apps are not always backed by strong companies with huge marketing budgets thus, we never hear of them. Discovery and awareness of these apps is the biggest challenge for their creators! Google Chrome Web Stores solves the discovery problem. It provides a single location with categorized access to web applications. These applications show-up as a bookmarked items on any new Chrome browser tab. Apart from packaging your web URL as Chrome Web application also known as hosted apps developers can now leverage power of HTML5 to develop applications that are standalone and can be accessed offline. Chrome Web Store provides full support for deploying standalone applications known as “packaged apps”. Packaged apps can get per-approved permission to utilize powerful HTML5 features such as “unlimetedStorage”, “geoLocation”, “notifications” etc. One of the packaged apps I am particularly fond of is Stickies apps. You got to check it out!

    Deploying your hosted app or packaged app on Chrome Web Store is a simple process. You create a manifest file, package your manifest in a .CRX file and boom it is ready! Developers have to pay a nominal fee to deploy applications to the store. The question is what’s it worth to use this new channel to get you application on Chrome?

    Discovery: The biggest benefit of using Chrome Web Store is discovery. Your audience can easily access your application in right category. Imagine you build an application but no one can find it in billion + sites on the web. Google Chrome Web Store can act as a channel to distribute your app. As a seasoned marketer will tell you, no matter how good is your product, a strong distribution channel is what will make it sell!

    Reviews and Ratings: Chrome Web Store allows users to rate and review applications similar to Android marketplace. The rating and review is a powerful tool to get user testimonial and word of mouth marketing. Ratings and reviews is like icing on the cake.

    Credibility: Google brings credibility to your application! This happens in two ways. a) If one finds an application on the web via Google search there is always skeptics on how secure the site is, Chrome Web Store provides credibility to your application since no one ever has a second thought about security when using an application from such stores. b) Google supports in-app payment via Google. The payment gateway backed by Google is trusted more than random site asking for user’s credit card!

    Finally, think of Google Chrome Web Store as an additional distribution channel for your web application. If you have not thought about putting your application out there, you should!

    -- Salim Hemdani @shemdani

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Apple and Adobe: Will HTML5 Win?

    It’s been a little while since Steve Jobs publicly called out Adobe’s laziness and banned Flash applications for Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad products. Subsequent to the news, we all saw a big wave of questions, discussions, concerns, and opinions on the subject. Lately it seems like the internet and its users have come to terms with the topic. Though there are no more discussions, the fundamental issue between Apple and Adobe stands as it was. Looking at the advancements and experiences released in past few months for apple products, I think, yes, the Apple and Adobe conflict will have lasting effects on the future of Flash. Steve Jobs will also be remembered in the history for bringing a change to the status quo interactive experience tools. What the future holds for developing interactive experiences is still a big question. Will HTML5 win it all? What about Microsoft’s Silverlight or something new from Adobe itself?

    HTML 5 at least at theoretical level seems to promise a good future. It is true that everyone needs to start thinking about adoption of HTML 5 but there are some major problems. HTML 5 is not yet supported on all browsers. Video streaming –basics of interactive experience – is still not standardized on all browsers. Browsers such as Safari, Chrome and Firefox which support HTML 5 do not agree on using standard codecs. The power of Flash comes from the fact that it runs on more than 96% of browsers worldwide. Flash provides a way to move beyond standards issues. HTML 5 has a long way to go to get there. Additionally, HTML 5 cannot do everything that Flash can so we need to understand that it is not 1:1 switch. Microsoft’s Silverlight on the other hand offers almost everything Flash does but its adoption levels are still very low and close to just about 55%.

    Steve Jobs thinks Adobe is a lazy company. I think he is right. Apple wants to change the game for how video streaming and digital interactions works. Apple can take this kind of risks because it controls everything it develops. Apple controls hardware to operating systems to basic software to applications that run on its products. But for larger industry to make this kind of move it will take a lot of time, energy and resources. So in a short run I do not think marketers and publishers need to worry about Flash. In a long run innovation will define what will replace Flash. Will it be HTML 5, Silverlight, something new or Flash itself!

    I like to place bets, and this time looking at how category for tablet and smart phone is growing, I think it will be Flash that will replace Flash nothing else!

    -- Salim Hemdani

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Apple iPad... iPhone with a big screen?

    Apple’s release of iPad, a new multi-touch gadget with 10” display is making a lot of buzz in the marketplace. So far there is skepticism on the demand, utility and future of this type of device. Historically, Apple has a reputation of developing products that are disruptive in nature and truly game changing. From iPod to iTunes to iPhone Mr. Jobs and his team have changed how people use digital gadgets and consume digital content. Apple has a responsibility to defend this reputation and iPad might have fallen short in the minds of some critics. Critics claim iPad is an iPhone without a phone. Of course it looks like an iPhone with a bigger screen but there is more to it. As I learn more about this device, my opinions are shaped contrary to those critics.

    At a very broad level, there are two types of computing device users. People who use PC for productivity (workers) and people who use PC for genuinely personal use. The category of people who use PC for personal use is growing faster than ever. Social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut, Bebo or CafeMom have increased number of digital content consumers. These users want a computer for web browsing, music, gaming, sharing photos, watching videos and consuming other digital content. The ultraportable devices (Netbooks) are invented solely for this kind of PC users. If you look at Apple’s line of products you will soon realize that this segment is particularly underserved. iPad will server this segment really well. And look at the beauty of research Apple has done, we all know that this segment does not buy high ticket items thus iPad starts at just $499.

    I think critics are too focused on eBooks on iPad and how Apple is trying to change eBooks publishing business. Yes the whole story of re-writing the publishing rules should be debated but don’t lose the sight of this cool computing device over just eBooks. iPad can do a lot more than just reading books online. Yes, Kindle iPad can do a lot more than you can. At least for now.

    I wish Apple can improve the device with just two more things a) allow all Mac software to run on iPad not just iPhone apps and b) install a camera in front of the iPad so people can do live chat. These two features will make it a true device of the future.

    From where I stand, Apple has successfully defended its reputation!

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    Social Media Revolution - are you on-board?

    This an interesting video that can open your eyes in a big way (thanks @equalman). Brands must think about how they are spending their marketing dollars? And beyond that they must revisit the need for a traditional marketing department. Running TV ads, outdoors or print media is no longer sufficient. Are you building your marketing department to meet the needs of future generation? Here are some facts that I find astonishing. Watch the video to see more…

    • By 2010 generation Y will outnumber Baby Boomers and 96% of them will be using social network.
    • 12.5% of couples married in US last year met via social media
    • It too Radio 38 years, TV 13 years, Internet 4 year and iPOd 3 years to reach 50 million.
    • Facebook added 100 million users in just 9 months.
    • If Facebook were a country it will be world’s 4th largest country on earth after China, India and United States.
    • 80% of companies using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees
    • Ashton Kutcher has more than 3 million followers on twitter.
    • YouTube now has more than 100 million videos submitted by users.
    • Wikipedia has more than 13 million articles.
    • There are more than 200 million blogs on the internet.
    • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands
    • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendation only 14% trust advertisement.

    People no longer search for news. News finds them (do you think products will find people?)

    -- Salim Hemdani