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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
In 2007, 10,000 people around the globe were asked about portable digital devices. It was part of a study conducted by the global media company Universal McCann. One of the hottest topics at the time was the first iPhone, which was announced but hadn’t yet been released. Once researchers tallied the results, they reached an interesting conclusion: Products like the iPhone are desired by consumers in countries such as Mexico or India, but not in affluent countries. The study stated: “There is no real need for a convergent product in the US, Germany and Japan,” places where, one researcher later theorized, users would not be motivated to replace their existing digital cameras, cellphones, and MP3 players with one device that did everything.
There’s a growing feeling that something is not working with market research, where billions are spent every year but results are mixed at best. Some of the problems relate to the basic challenge of using research to predict what consumers will want (especially with respect to products that are radically different). But marketers face one additional key problem: Study participants typically indicate preferences without first checking other information sources—yet this is very different from the way people shop for many products today.
In the Universal McCann study, for example, people were asked how much they agree with the statement, “I like the idea of having one portable device to fulfill all my needs.” Indeed, there was a significant difference between the percentage of people who completely agreed with this statement in Mexico (79%) and in the United States (31%). So, in theory, people in the United States were much less excited about a phone that’s also a camera and a music player.
But it was a different story when people got closer to making a decision. They heard about the iPhone in the media, where it was declared a revolutionary device, and read blogs and reviews from real users. As iPhones started rolling into the marketplace, the idea of “having one portable device to fulfill all my needs” was replaced by actual reports from users.
It’s easy to blame the market research firm for this, but this is not our point. We are trying to explain the inherent difficulties in assessing consumers’ reaction in this new era. First, more decisions today are impacted by what we call O sources of information—“Other” information sources, such as user reviews, friend and expert opinions, price comparison tools, and emerging technologies or sources—whereas market research measures P sources—“Prior” preferences, beliefs and experiences. But let’s go beyond that: As we discussed, consumers have limited insight into their real preferences. This is especially true with respect to products that are radically different. Universal McCann correctly reported what it found. What market researchers often underestimate, though, is the degree to which consumers have difficulty imagining or anticipating a new and very different reality. What makes the task of a market research firm even trickier is that just as consumers’ expectations may be wrong (as was the case with the iPhone), there are many cases where industry expectations about what consumers will buy are wrong.
This is just like the research before Sony came out with the Walkman, and found there was zero market demand for a portable cassette player, but management decided to go to market with the innovation anyway.
Breakthroughs can’t be predicted by market research.
Steve Jobs said, in 1998,
It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
I think Typo will sell a shit ton of these cases. Apple should snap up the company, and make it a standard offering, like the smart cover on iPad.
I so want this Saidoka stand!
(via A Dock That Turns an iPhone Into a Snoozing Alarm Clock - Roy Furchgott)
It’s been a period of changes, and I am contemplating a few large ones.
A Three-Part Mind: GigaOM Research, stoweboyd.com and underpaidgenius.com
I stepped into the role of lead researcher (‘curator’) for GigaOM Research’s Social focus area back in early December, and as a result, I’ve been capturing a great deal of my thnking about social business, social tools in the business setting, and the future of work, over there. And there is a lot going on in that sector. [Note that GigaOM Pro has been renamed GigaOM Research, although the subdomain is still pro.gigaom.com.]
Probably because of that reorientation more of the writing that used to find its way to underpaidgenius.com is winding up here, on stoweboyd.com. There are a few reasons, but the most critical factor is this: I don’t think I can effectively and meaningfully discuss the impacts of technology on business, media, and society without including a great deal from other disciplines, especially cognitive science and psychology, economics, and even politics. By politics I don’t mean handicapping who will be voted in as dogcatcher, but I do mean the political issues that shape the contours of our increasingly webified world culture. This means more of my mutterings here will have a strong element of social criticism. So be it. I will be more gonzo here, from now on: there will be more of what I believe, here, and not just what I am observing.
One side effect is that underpaidgenius become a place to see what I am cooking, eating, watching, reading, and listening to, along with handicapping the dogcatcher election. However, everything else is now fair game for stoweboyd.com, so brace yourself.
[I am also writing at beaconstreets.com, but that is local activism for a more walkable Beacon NY, where I live. Nothing much is going to change there.]
A New Generation Of Gear
I am reaching the end of a gear generation. I currently write almost exclusively on a 2011-era 10” MacBook Air. It has been the best laptop I’ve had, following on in the tradition of four or five other macbooks that preceded it. I have an iPhone 4S, which is a good smartphone. I had a first generation iPad until recently, but found it really difficult to integrate into my world: it was not a good writing solution, was roughly the size and weight of my Air, and lacked a good keyboard. I had to lug around a bluetooth keyboard if I was traveling with it, and that made it less appealing than the Air. Lastly, I have a 2006 Apple Cinema display on my desk, and the Air can drive the monitor well, with great resolution. However, the monitor is so old that iTunes’s HDCP-encoded movies won’t play on it.
Recently, I had a discussion with Per Håkansson about his set up, and I am tempted to experiment with something similar to his, which is fairly radical.
I don’t like phone calls. I mean, I am perfectly happy to have a synchronous audio-only conversation with someone if we’ve arranged to do so. But otherwise, I’d rather not. If you’re a pal, and it’s urgent, text me or tweet me. If necessary, I’ll call you back, but If it’s not urgent, use text, email, or twitter.
The iPhone is a convenient form factor since it’s small enough to put in my pocket, but it’s too small for almost everything, like writing, or reading anything more sophisticated than an email or a Kindlized text-only book. It’s ok for maps, I grant you.
So, I am contemplating eliminating my cell phone and Air, and transitioning to two devices:
(I say ‘proximal’, because these are not primarily mobile devices: they are the devices we keep on our person. They are always with us, even in the home or office.) The Mini will be fully loaded, with wifi and cellular, and I plan to switch to using Google Voice as my only ‘phone number’.
I already use Google Voice as my voice mail, and as a way to make calls when I am sitting at my desk. The only oddball case will be walking down the street with my Mini in my jacket pocket or in my backpack when the ‘phone’ rings. I guess I will have to get used to keeping my Mini earphones plugged in. That’s the part we’ll have to see about. I can easily see myself walking along, texting on the Mini.
The biggest difference in this set up is that I won’t be walking around with two devices — iPhone and Air — when I leave my office for any length of time. I will just have the Mini. No adapter to connect the phone to the Air. No tethering the iPhone to provide data connection for the Air. Today, I am stuck with schlepping two devices whenever I travel.
One interesting wrinkle is that I will be able to use the same Logitech keyboard for both the Mini and the iMac, which would make going back and forth easier. And of course, with Dropbox, all my files are available on both devices, although I don’t keep much in my files except photos, and things to read, watch, or listen to.
So: I plan to buy the Mini early next week and move the iMac back to my office around the same time. I will keep the iPhone and the Air for a few months, just to see if it all works.
There is something almost seismic about making such a huge shift.
I’ve been motivated in part by the team at Hyper Island. I sat in on a master class led by the Hyper Island folks in NYC this week, and several (all?) of the teaching team used Minis when presenting, and the form factor looks perfect for that. Very liberating to walk around with the Mini in one hand, and not bound to a laptop on a lectern. That’s where I met Per, and learned about his similar gear switch.
I also think the Mini will be the perfect reading device, and not just for kindlized book, but anything.
I am certain I will have to invest effort into approximating the Chrome plugins I use on my Mac everyday — Asana, Buffer, and so on — but I am already certain that bookmarklets work as expected on the Mini.
One interesting side effect of this is that I would retire my Northern VA cell phone number, after two years in NY.
And this does not mean I am planning to wear an iWatch if one appears.
It will be a grand experiment. Wish me luck.
An alternate universe – Marco Arment
I gotta get me one of these!
ADR would like to create a iCamera Photo Lens in order to greatly enhance the functionality of the existing iPhone camera.
The Swivl is like having your own personal cameraman!
Just stick your iPhone, Android or camera in the stand, and it’ll follow your every move via a sensor that you wear!
Shoot videos of yourself or your friends without worrying about who’s going to hold the camera.