The Next Device: On Your Wrist

pebbleWhat possibly could you do with another device? You now have your laptop, your tablet and your smartphone – and most of these devices you take with you everyday, at least the smartphone. Add to this the big screen TV. And now people are talking about smart watch. Why would you need another device like a smart watch? If you think about it, the smart watch has the potential to disrupt some of the functionality of the smartphone.

One of the biggest news for the Consumer Electric Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year (2013) was the avalanche of smart watches. This is five years after LG introduced it’s smart watch at the same show in 2009 and 63 years after Dick Tracy. What’s different now is the interoperability of the watch with your smartphone and even the cloud. As I have argued, the important development in last few years is how our digital profile is becoming cloud based. That means, our information is available in all device all the time. Syncing is ubiquitous.

The latest hit is undoubtedly the Pebble from Pebble Technology. This Kickstarted developed watch is already famous for asking for $100.000 and getting over $10 million in funding. It is also crowd-developed with potential buyers deciding what they find important in a watch. For example, which colours to support.

Now Apple is rumoured to be developing iWatch a companion to the iPhone and the iOS ecosystem. Some reports say that this is some years away since the glass technology is not ready, but others say that it may become available soon.

This interesting may seem strange, in particular because it is coming from a generation that simply don’t wear watch. The digital generation which grew up with computers and cellphones, never got used to wristwatches. There was no need. The environment is surrounded with time. Why have a single function device that is also redundant. Now the watch less generation is discovering watches.

The idea of a smart watch is not new. Microsoft developed it’s SPOT technology at the beginning of the century. SPOT stands for Smart Personal Object Technology and was not specifically targeted at watches but every day household items, such as coffee machines, alarm clocks and satnav devices. The service was based on FM radio signals and was more like a broadcast. The service started in 2004 and was discontinued in 2011. SPOT is an interesting technology. It was too late in the race for GPS devices it was too early for watches.

The new generation of watches is different. There are three ways in which this is different now. First, smartphones have become very popular and widespread. Having a watch that syncs with your smartphone is possible. Of course watches can have 3G or 4G connectivity. Second, we now have contant connectivity. They are always-on and syncs with your smartphone. And thirdly, these are powerful computers. These computers can be built today. So according to the adjacent possible, smart watches are ready for the market.

Another thing that is also different is that smart watches are customised for your own content and can display notification such as emails or messages. Having a constant view of what is going on is sure to fuel the  checking habit, a syndrome where people are in constant need to check for something new.

We have yet to see if the watch will take off significantly and disrupt traditional watches. We have to realize that these watches are just one of many things we will see come in the next few years. It represents a whole category of things – Internet of things. New objects as well as old everyday object are becoming aware of their environment and connected using wi-fi or 3G/4G. We are seeing the beginning of the wearable revolution. Indeed, this will become the decade of the wearables.

The Multi-screen Future of the Living Room

Plotting the future of the Living Room

For decades the most important device in the living room has been the TV. People may have stereos and some music speakers but the center of attention is the TV. And to control the TV you need the easily lost remote. Today, more devices are being used in the living room. It turns out that 87% of people are using a second device when watching TV. Still, these devices are isolated and not connected. This is changing. The future of the living room is to have multiple devices, all connected, working together to create an entertainment experience.

When the iPad came out many technology pundits wondered what people would use if for. It was not clear what problem the device would solve. What possibly could it do that a laptop or notebook could not do they would wonder. That did not hinder people from getting a tablet, and it turned out to have many uses. Most people use a tablet to browse the web but many are using it for email, games, and movies. But the real benefit was the ease of use and the multi-touch interface. Grab the tablet and it is instantly on, ready to be used. The laptop still has few minutes of bootup time and using it feels like working anyway.

The tablet turned out to be a perfect companion device when watching TV. The only problems is that the two devices being used, the TV and tablet are two independent devices, not connected in any way. This is what will change. When the TV becomes a software platform, it opens up the possibilities for other devices, tablets or smartphones, even laptops, to communicate with the TV. Controlling the TV with tablet software, is an obvious examples. Other examples are displaying additional information for example in live sports events. Simple example is a tablet app that can ask the TV for which hashtags to look for.

Playing two-screen games is also a good example. In two-screen games, some information can be private, on your tablet or smartphone but shared information can be on the TV screen. Game companies like Nintendo have recognized this potential and will release Wii U, a multi-touch game console, later this year. Both a special purpose devices like Wii U and the tablets have great potential for innovation. The TV revolution is starting.


How Smartphones are Disrupting Cameras

Since Apple redefined the smartphone as a software platform, people all over the world are finding new ways to use their mobile device. Most phones have decent cameras and software to manage photos. And since people don’t go out the door without their phones, this is the device that is more likely to be in their pocket when a photo opportunity comes. One result of this is that the smartphone is taking over the role of the camera. The smartphone is disrupting the camera and camcorder market.

Few weeks ago Cisco announced that they are shutting down their Flip camera devision. Although it is not clear why they would do this, or if it has anything to do with smartphones, it is one sign that digital cameras and camcorders as a special device are facing hard times. Camera retailers are seeing decline in sales and less profits. Some have shifted the focus on printing and framing.

Flickr has a page which shows the most popular cameras ( According to this page the Nikon D90 is the most popular, followed by iPhone 4. Furthermore, the page suggests that point and shoot cameras are declining in market share at least compared to cameraphones.

Most Popular Cameras in the Flickr Community (source:

We are seeing cameras getting disrupted. This disruption is caused by smartphones. There are several reasons why this is happening. First, the mobile phone is the most widely used device on this planet. Everyone has one. And you don’t leave the house without your phone. This is the device you have on you all the time. Morgan Stanley reports that 91% of people have their phone within arms reach 24/7. This means that whenever you find yourself presented with a photo opportunity, the camera device in your pocket is your phone.

Second point is about the quality of camera phones. Some years ago, in the early days of digital cameras, I asked a person that worked at a company selling film, film cameras and development of film, if she was worried about digital cameras. “No” was the response, with the explanation “have you seen the quality of these things  – it’s horrible”. This is the nature of disruptive products, like the camera was – they offer low performance in their early stages and slowly get better over time. Point is that cameraphones have good-enough quality.

Third is the constant connectivity. The mobile phone is a communication device (or used to be). Thus, it is always connected. With wireless hotspots all over the place and 3G networks, sending pictures to sites like Flickr is easy. You don’t have to get a wire to connect the device to your laptop, you just send the picture. So if you’re at an event or in a special place you want to make sure your friends know about this, and you want to send them the picture right away.

This has to be easy which leads to the last point. The Software. Smartphones with apps have great many  applications that manipulate pictures. Selecting them and sending is only few touches on the device. Sharing can also be automatic – which might get people into trouble.

But are cameras and camcorders dead? That is unlikely, they will become the high-end professional devices. The users of Nikion D90 on Flickr are likely to be serious photographers, either professionals making a living taking pictures or amateurs that just love taking photos. While the casual users might prefer their phone as a camera, the serious user will still want the high-end product. The result is consolidation in the camera and camcorder market. As a last point, even if the numbers show that cameras are getting disrupted they don’t say anything about the artistic quality of the pictures taken.