Posts tagged tech
Sony Marketer: “Our radical camera designed for selfies needs a name!”
Sony Engineer: “Well we called it DSC-KW1…”
Sony Marketer: “Sold!” (snatches camera and runs out of room)
Danger Room reports on a Texan Megachurch’s new sermon series:
The sermons begin with a slick video of a drone flying over a city. A live band plays in the background. A huge model drone looms on stage. Smoke billows from underneath it. Young emerges—a grin on his face—to explain his thinking on killer robots.
“Drones are everywhere,” Young says. “They can see things we never thought possible. Well, God makes a drone seem like a drone doesn’t know a thing.”
Young explains that he first encountered drones while filming a reality TV series. While sitting on the back of a boat, he heard a strange noise and looked up to see a buzzing camera drone belonging to the film crew. “This would be a pretty cool series—drones,” Young says. “Love them or leave them, they’re everywhere. I immediately thought about God.”
“ To Foursquare’s credit, the default recommendations you see upon opening the app are more personalized, as they’re largely based on the “tastes” you’ve picked prior. Which is a nice feature, certainly. But in all the times I’ve used Foursquare over the past few years, the one discovery feature I favored over all others was the ability to only search places where friends had previously checked in. Now that that filter is gone, the best you can do is impotently scroll through places the people you follow have “recommended.” It may sound like a technicality, but the lack of control makes the entire process feel more distant.”
Per our analysis yesterday, FourSquare isn’t even at Trust Level 2: recommendations are not trusted blindly, only with outside qualifications which the human trusts.
Gizmodo’s review of the new Foursquare app highlights a problem: we never trusted Foursquare recommendations, just the recommendations of our friends. This doesn’t bode well for the two-app strategy.
Time for more Yo thought pieces (and you thought they were done!) as the one-touch design model spreads. Today Push for Pizza, an app that does exactly that. Watch the usually well-made Sandwich video:
The current wave of convenience-tech products (Uber, Push for Pizza, all 1-day delivery applications…) suggest that our technical capabilities outstrip our ability to package them.
It feels like 1999 all over again. Suddenly anything can have a webpage, so it can. Suddenly anything can have an app, so it can. Suddenly anything can be on-demand, so it will be.
This phase of the tech industry is what I’d like to call the Malcolm Phase, named after a wise man who once commented that people become “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” And we all know what happened next.
But unlike cloned dinosaurs, all of these applications are inevitable. The question is are they inevitable right now.
Why the failure then and success now?
As I see it, while technology may advance quickly, human behaviors are sluggish. We are advancing slowly on a road towards complete faith in digital transactions. Using pizza as an example, here are the phases of trust we’re advancing along:
- Trust in Digital Purchases: “If I pay for pizza on a website, will they receive my money and actually delivery a pizza to me?” (this wasn’t present in 1999)
- Trust in Digital Recommendations: “Does this service know of a better place to get pizza than I do?” (we’re barely at this point now)
- Trust in Digital Completion: “Does this app know a great place to get pizza from and how to get it to my house?” (Push for Pizza is aiming here)
- Trust in Digital Instigation: “Does this app know when I’m going to want pizza?” (Some are already planning for this)
Another good way to think about this is the various job we’re hiring the app or service to be:
- Cashier: Take my money, give me goods.
- Concierge: Give me a few ideas, let me make the choice.
- Admin: Go research and complete a transaction for me.
- Proxy: Anticipate my purchase needs and execute them.
Obviously these trust levels are related to disposable income. If you have a ton of money you won’t mind if an Admin or Proxy screws up every now and then. But for most people, we’re only at trust level 1 and 2. Yelp and other’s recommendations have a high enough hit rate that we’re willing to spend money on an untested restaurant regularly.
But Push for Pizza jumps to trust level 3. And I’m not sure we’re ready for the commitment.
To their credit, they’re taking a smart approach: the risk costs are low for the user (pizza is cheap and relatively commodified), the audience is focused and impulsive (did you catch the brief shot of one of the kids exhaling smoke in the video above?), and the trust precedent is set (Uber has paved the way, which was handled cleverly in the video without being tired). We’ll have to wait to see if these tactics will be enough. Best of luck to them1.
The biggest reason I think they won’t succeed, beyond slow user adoption, is that these three strategies (commodified product, focused audience, early adopter customers familiar with the business model) are rarely all aligned. Pizza is not a commodity in affluent, tech-savvy markets like New York, San Francisco, and LA. The core audience will never try again if they hit the button and Dominos arrives. ↩
“ Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. In one set of experiments, they were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass.”
Another reason backing off from that always-on Kinect was a sound decision.
Perhaps the best way to think about Apple’s acquisition of Beats is to think about Disney’s acquisition of Marvel. Here’s what The New York Times had to say:
The brooding Marvel characters tend to be more popular with boys — an area where Disney could use help. While the likes of “Hannah Montana” and the blockbuster Princesses merchandising line have solidified Disney’s hold on little girls, franchises for boys have been harder to come by.
Disney bought an audience to which their current products did not speak. When you’re selling content, there are no tech specs. Appeal is based on emotion, culture, and fashion. Disney bought Marvel in order to buy the attention and devotion of comic book fans, an audience which is strong in demographic segments where Disney was weak.
I believe Apple bought Beats largely for this reason: Beats is popular with the same 14-25 year olds that care less about Apple products. It is no mistake this is the audience Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have been addressing. Each of these firms did their market research and realized Apple was weak with youth.
Consider this and feel ancient: the first iPod or iPhone this youth audience had access to was likely their parents. The ways in which Apple was cool do not apply to this segment (U2 iPods anyone? Alicia Keys announcements?) Cool is fickle, and only very rarely does one remain in vogue across two consecutive generations1.
Compounding Apple’s waning cool is the trend of technology products to be evaluated for qualitative reasons. This is a trend Apple itself kicked off, starting with the first Bondi Blue iMac. The features and specs of a technology product are becoming less and less important. Read Sam Biddle’s excellent back-room history of Beats to see this in action: the alleged technical brains behind the original Beats were literally ousted and the company didn’t miss a step.
As technology becomes wearable, this trend towards quantitative assessment is exacerbated. People hesitate to buy a gadget they keep in their pocket or bag if they don’t like the way it looks. People will never buy a gadget they keep on their wrist if they don’t like the way it looks. Period.
If Apple isn’t fashionable, any wearable they launch is dead in the water. Regardless of it’s technological abilities. Apple is cool for the older, “U2” audiences. If it is even questionably cool for young audiences, a wearable product will never become a mass success. Young people are crucial for new product categories. They have high disposable incomes and lots of disposable time (to take on learning curves).
Apple’s purchased Beats for it’s demographic appeal. Without this appeal, all wearable product lines were at risk.
Though generation-skipping cool is the norm. (We’re just borrowing our grandfathers Filson bag, scotch, and facial hair.) ↩
Rolling your own crypto currency has become the first tech trend of 2014, driven by Mastercoin who’s built a platform atop Bitcoin’s chain. And custom coins is proceeding like clockwork along the adoption path.
- Technicians interested in a proof-of-concept: The people who built Bitcoin and then traded with it out of curiosity. Nothing major was sold. What was appealing was that you could sell.
- Outsiders interested in a land without rules: The Silkroad denizens. The people who badly wanted to do something but had been blocked out of existing platforms due to cultural norms and laws. Major things were sold. So major, that the inconvenience of a new platform was an acceptable overhead.
- Entrepreneurs interested in a land without competitors: Those who bought mining machines and purchased reserves of coin.
- Bored teenagers interested in something illicit yet accessible: See above. These people put up with the inconvenience overhead (a) because they have time and (b) for the lolz.
Who’s next? If videotapes, digital music, radio, the internet, and smartphones are any indicator, next up are: legitimate businesses, your friends, your parents.