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The MFA is the New MBA: Illustrations by Steve Jobs and Apple

In March 2005, Dan Pink asserted “… the MFA is the new MBA”.
Why?

… businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate their goods and services in today’s overstocked marketplace is to make their offerings physically beautiful and emotionally compelling. Thus the high-concept abilities of an artist are often more valuable than the easily replicated L-Directed skills of an entry-level business graduate.

I can’t think of a better illustration than Steve Jobs’ story of how the Mac became the first computer with beautiful typography.
And of course, true to form, Jobs illustrated Pink’s assertion more than two decades ago.
And since 1984, Jobs and Apple have made the illustration even more compelling with the current generation of Macs, the iPod, and most recently the iPhone.
Note-to-self: Look into MFA programs!

Aside: I’ve blogged previously about Pink’s book and its implications for displacing knowledge workers.
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BlackBerry Rules the Back Office – For Now …

I’ve had a BlackBerry 8830 for a few months now. And I must admit, I’m getting over my iPhone envy. (iPhone’s still aren’t officially available in Canada!) The 8830 has the tactile keypad I’ve grown to love, a (two-dimensional) trackball in place of a (one-dimensional) thumbwheel, GPS-based mapping, etc. This means that built-in WiFi is about the only capability for which I find myself wanting.

But enough about the client-side device (CSD).
So much of the value delivered to the CSD is because of what’s in the back office – behind the scenes, as it were.
In writing a book review on BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) installation and administration, I was reminded of this aspect on the ongoing BlackBerry vs. iPhone battle.
What’s in the BlackBerry back office?
Allow me to itemize:
  • Integration – The BES integrates the CSD with the enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) and the rest of RIM’s BlackBerry universe. In addition to email and calendaring, this has the potential to include instant messaging (e.g., MSN, IBM Lotus Sametime, etc.) and more.
  • Security – Because the BES provides a single locus of control (the BlackBerry domain), it can and has been leveraged extensively to deliver an industry leading environment for end-to-end security. Encryption, authentication, plus six levels for administrative roles, are all present.
  • Policies  – To quote from my review:

The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices … The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments. 

  • Provisioning – The BES facilitates provisioning of users, groups, devices as well as associated software. Software can even be bundled and targeted to specific CSDs.
The back office supporting the iPhone has a long, long way to go to catch up with all of this – if that’s even a plan that Apple has.
In fact, a far greater threat to the back-office portion of RIM’s BlackBerry universe is the ecosystem developing around Google Android.

iPhone Envy? Live Vicariously!

Canadians are faced with the ongoing reality of iPhone envy.

And although we’re not alone, the iPhone feels so close …

Therefore, in the interim, I’m living vicariously by channeling experiences from those in the US.

I recently asked a tech-savvy, former-coworker, who actually has an iPhone: “How do you like your iPhone?”

Here’s what he had to say:

My wife and I both bought an iPhone. She is madly in love with hers. I really like mine. Occasionally, email doesn’t work the way one would expect which can be frustrating. The problems are related to 1) yahoo.com problems, 2) timing issues of using pop or 3) cannot connect to edge/wifi. But it hasn’t dampened our overall satisfaction with the phone.

Also, I can’t get work email as our exchange server doesn’t have IMAP enabled, but that’s cool since I don’t want work email on my personal phone. 🙂 Everyone who see’s the phone oohs and aahs about it even if they don’t realize that its an iPhone. It just has a really slick appearance to it. In particular, when you bring up photos or a web site and you turn the phone and the picture automatically reorients itself and then you use gestures to move around or to move to the next picture and resize the picture, they REALLY get excited.

Mostly, I just appreciate it because the interface works the way you would expect/want it to.

It is definitely 1.0. Can’t wait for 1.1 both to fix small issues and to see what features it brings along!

I heard rogers is supposed to carry it, but there have been issues in the negotiations.

Ten Tips for iPhone Competitors

The iPhone’s out!In no specific order, here are ten tips for competitors:

  1. Reaffirm your position. In the best-case scenario, this requires you to provide evidence or facts that your business is great. RIM provided a text-book example by boasting better-than-anticipated profits, a stock split and a new product offering the day before the iPhone was released. Nice work. Excellent timing.
  2. Ride the marketing tsunami. You have the market’s ear, so it’s an excellent opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of it. Again, RIM’s day-before triple play provides an excellent illustration.
  3. Flaunt the imperfection. Apple likes to make a big splash. And although the iPhone will offer a lot on day one, it doesn’t have it all. This presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the iPhone gaps addressed by your offering. For example, Helio will tell you that the iPhone doesn’t provide a chat functionality whereas their Ocean does.
  4. Be open. In many ways, Apple’s offerings are more proprietary than Microsoft’s. From anti-trust suits to informal banter, Microsoft gets beaten up on this on a daily basis. Despite a number of objections relating to the highly closed nature of the iPod, Apple gets off relatively easy. This may be an angle to exploit, but it’ll take some work. And Apple may have just made this a more difficult angle to exploit. How? They’ve made it clear that AJAX-enabled Safari is their platform for third-party iPhone developers. Based on JavaScript and XML, AJAX is about as open as it gets.
  5. Engage in coopetition. In some cases, it makes sense to juxtapose cooperation and competition. This results in coopetition, and examples of it abound. Although I wouldn’t expect Apple to be too receptive to a competitor’s advances at this time, it may still be possible to engage in a little gorilla coopetition. For example, iPhone competitors like RIM could offer feature/functionality enhancements to their desktop offering for Apple Mac OS X computers.
  6. Partner. Relative to Apple, RIM is small fry. (Forgive the hyperbole, I’m trying to make a point!) Through partnerships, however, RIM could reduce to topple the size imbalance. For example, a RIM-Google partnership could be interesting. With many of Google’s offerings already available natively for the BlackBerry, there’s an established starting point.
  7. Wire continuous improvement into your DNA. In other words, avoid the big splash. As captured by a recent item in Information Week, this is the Google way:

    Google Apps, which includes Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Start Page, received several other improvements Monday. This is in keeping with Google’s strategy of incremental product improvements, said Chandra, who noted that Google Apps had seen some 30 new features and updates in the four months since it was introduced.

    The Google way works, in part, because the Internet, Web, etc., have been wired into Google’s DNA from the outset. So, although the continuous improvement sentiment has wide applicability, adaptation is likely required to ensure effective execution. In some ways, Dell’s just-in-time approach to inventory offers an analogous potential for continuous improvement in the production of computer hardware.

  8. Leverage the marketing tsunami. Arguably, the iPhone introduction is taking Apple into new markets with a new product. apple_markets_products001.pngOf course, Apple has to some extent limited their exposure by making the iPhone a convergence play – Phone + iPod + Internet. This means they have both product and market experience they can readily tap. iPhone competitors can also leverage the tsunami from established products and markets to new ones. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of the tsunami that Apple has established means that others can progress systematically from an established situation to a new one. apple_markets_products002.pngFor example, a competitor could progress from an established product and market to a new market with the same product. Alternatively, the trajectory could be from an established situation to a new product for an established market. Such lower risk entrays have been primed by the iPhone tsunami, and iPhone competitors can progress towards new products for new markets incrementally.
  9. Balance awareness with distraction. This one is tough! You need to be aware of the iPhone, and all that that embodies, while at the same time not be distracted from your focus. By staying close to your customers, while being sensitive to the broader market that the iPhone and other products will drive, you will have the best prospects for ensuring success. In terms of something a little more concrete … Listen. If customers complain the your desktop software needs improvement, or that it takes too many clicks to navigate with your Web browser, listen. Listen and then address these issues as opportunities, one by one.
  10. Leverage your community. In the case of Apple, the community is so polarized that it’s been described as religion in the past. Although I haven’t studied it in a lot of detail, the Apple community appears to be a consequence of the cool and innovative way that Apple allows you to “Think different”. Engage with your community. Even though there are so many ways to do this, I don’t see enough vendors doing this.

Agree? Disagree? More tips? Please chime in.

 

With the iPhone, The Pie Just Got a Whole Lot Bigger!

For months now, many of us have been pitting the iPhone against some other device.

In my case, I’ve staged gedanken challenges between the iPhone and various BlackBerry offerings from RIM.

With the iPhone finally being launched later today (June 29, 2007), we’ll soon have an opportunity to collect some real data to quantify its introduction and progress.

Of course, it’ll be interesting to see how various markets, market segments, etc., respond to the iPhone.

It’ll be even more interesting, however, to monitor metrics that quantify the overall size of the market, market segment, etc.

Market share quantifies (via a relative percentage) how the pie is sliced.

Market size, however, quantifies in absolute terms (e.g., monetary), how big the pie is.

Size matters.

And that’s why, to some extent, it’s not surprising to hear Apple competitors (many of them incumbents in the marketplace) welcoming the release of the iPhone. In other words, they may concede (especially in the short term) market share to the iPhone. However at the same time as the market itself grows, these Apple competitors may also experience growth.

[Update: Are there any early indicators? Perhaps. On the eve of the iPhone release, RIM made a number of powerful announcements. Their profits are soaring, their stock is splitting and they’ve introduced a new product. Not a bad way to capitalize on Apple’s marketing tsunami around the iPhone! (And who said it was a marketing faux pas to make press releases late in the week!)]

At least in this respect, the iPhone certainly does appear to have the opportunity to drive the handheld market.

And that could make matters quite interesting!

My Next-Gen Mobile Platform: A Plain Old Cell Phone Plus Jott Plus flipMail?

In April, I stated that my next-gen mobile platform could just be a Plain Old Cell Phone (POCP) with Jott’s solution for “Mobile Note Taking and Hands-Free Messaging”.

In so suggesting, I thumbed my nose at the BlackBerry (my existing mobile platform) and the highly anticipated iPhone.

I’m not down on the BlackBerry or the iPhone, I’m just impressed by the Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) effect of the POCP when combined with Jott. (Please see the Aside below for more on this LCD effect.)

Even though it’s only been a few months, my next-gen mobile platform has just improved significantly – and I haven’t lifted a finger or spent a $!

Enter flipMail from TeleFlip:

The Teleflip beta story At Teleflip, we love creating exciting and innovative services for our customers. Three years ago we introduced our original service that allowed you to send an email to a cell phone as a text message. That service is now called flipOut. Since we first introduced the service, millions of flipOuts have been sent.

We’re very excited to launch our new service called flipMail beta. flipMail allows you to get your email on your cell phone for free.* No new software, no downloads, no new phone necessary. It’s that simple. Because we’re in beta, we invite you to share your ideas, suggestions, and feedback about how we can make this new service even better.

* SMS charges may apply – this, of course, depends on your plan.

This means I have email on my POCP. It could even be a Jott-generated email!

Because this is an SMS-based offering on the POCP, SMS-based limitations do apply:

What is a fliplette?A fliplette is a text version of your email that we flip to your phone. fliplettes are limited to 120 characters each. When an email is longer than 120 characters, you receive a series of fliplettes.

On my BlackBerry, I have the native BlackBerry email client. In my case, this client is integrated with The University’s enterprise messaging platform (IBM LotusNotes). I also have a native client for GMail on my BlackBerry.

So, even on my BlackBerry, I can see the value in making use of flipMail for email services that are not available natively for the BlackBerry.

Aside on the LCD Effect

Nicholas Negroponte’s USD 100 laptop is an excellent example of an attempt to raise the bar of the LCD in developing countries.

Whereas this laptop is intended to “… revolutionize how we educate the world’s children …”, the POCP plus Jott and flipMail embraces and extends the connectivity possibilities for those that already have cell phones:

The international implications for the service are even more impactful, as Teleflip solves a significant issue by providing e-mail access to millions of cell phone users in emerging e-mail-developing countries. As many as 70 percent of the world’s current 2.5+ billion mobile phone users do not have access to the Internet or e-mail. By establishing a flipMail account through Teleflip, this large population will now have instant access to send and receive worldwide e-mails on their regular cell phones, and again, without any new software downloads, special mobile Internet plans, or any new hardware or devices. So their existing cell phone number will be their onramp to the worldwide e-mail network.

While such a platform could have an impact in developing nations, where cell-phone usage often eclipses land-line usage, the POCP++ platform may have a broader global impact.

And although the USD 100 laptop has WiFi (including wireless mesh) capabilities, it may also benefit from cellular-based connectivity. Such a possibility could be enabled by, for example, adding a Bluetooth capability to the laptop’s already impressive array of technical specifications. In other words, with Bluetooth on both the laptop and cell phone, there exists an alternate vehicle for minimizing the connectivity gap.

Negroponte’s vision for the USD 100 laptop is compelling.

POCP++ could be a part of it – or some other humanitarian effort.

Google Office for the iPhone: No Problem

In January of this year, I blogged that:

… it may be some time before Google Docs & Spreadsheets makes it to the Blackberry.             

In striking contrast, this is highly unlikely to be the case on June 29, 2007, when the Apple iPhone is released. 

Why?

  • Google Docs & Spreadsheets is built on AJAX
  • AJAX-enabled Safari will be available on the iPhone
  • Ergo, Google Docs & Spreadsheets will be available for the iPhone

No problem!