Now that CES 2012 has been over for a couple of weeks, Stephane Lussier (Macadamian's VP of Engineering) and I, thought it would be interesting to see what still remained top of mind for us from the show. The following 6 were the big winners!
Windows Phone is a serious contender: Never mind that Nokia is a force, with strong presence and brand globally. Windows Phone is gathering steam, and will gan market share with Windows 8. Microsoft is strong in enterprise, and over the next year, IT departments will be looking for a way out of managing apps and support for a multitude of devices. They will be looking for common platforms on which to deploy in-house enterprise apps. Because of it's strong installed base of Windows, IT organizations will be drawn to the promise of interoperability between desktop, smartphone, and tablet apps on Windows 8.
Smart TVs lack compelling use cases: There were an overwhelming number of Smart TVs on display, and other than streaming from services like Netflix, which most Blueray players, gaming consoles, and PVRs already do, Smart TVs lack a compelling use case, and a compelling reason to buy. So far, consumers see it as a "nice to have", but will you really tweet from your TV? And besides, Angry Birds on your TV just isn't the same...
Android tablets - where is the differentiation? Just like last year's CES, I counted dozens upon dozens of tablet manufacturers, and many had at least 2 different form factors. There was no clear differentiation between any of them. Most were using very similar (or exactly the same) hardware, and almost all were running plain-vanilla Android. Aside from price, why would I be compelled to buy a Viewsonic tablet over one from Huawei? The only standout was the Samsung Note, which offers a new form factor a bit bigger than a smartphone, great for portability and note taking. And their launch was brilliant, employing artists to paint portraits of attendees using Samsung Notes.
Design is King: I was really impressed with a few companies that clearly stood out from the pack with great design. One was Belkin, a company previously known for commodity accessories like cell phone chargers. Belkin has been investing heavily in industrial design and User Experience design, and it shows - not only are their products beautiful, but they were showing a number of very useful, compelling products for home security, networking, and energy.
The Healthcare Democracy - a number of companies like Withings and Zeo are producing personal health devices that are now at consumer-friendly pricepoints. With low-cost sensors, wireless connectivity, and smartphones, personal health monitoring is about to hit mainstream.
Android will be everywhere - the real story for Android is not in tablets and smartphones, it's in embedding it in cars, appliances, and TVs. As I looked around, I saw hints of Android peeking through everything from in-car navigation to kitchen appliances. With low-cost hardware, it's becoming cheaper and easier to make everything touch, and everything Internet connected.
2012 will be a very interesting year in consumer electronics. We'll see who suffers from innovators dilemma, and who breaks through with well designed tablets, TVs, connected home devices, and personal health devices that stand out from the crowd.
Poor product designs are often the result of structural and process-oriented problems. Clients will often say, “The product manager presented a great-looking product concept, but the final product just didn't live up.” or “Our developers are really frustrated with our designers. You guys aren’t going to give us a blue sky design are you?”
Avoid Functional and Geographical Silos
There are a number of underlying root causes for these problems. Here are a few we frequently encounter:
- Product management works with the design team at Global HQ, then ships the design offshore. Everyone crosses their fingers and hopes the finished product comes back as beautiful as the original design (hint: it won’t!).
- An understaffed design team (in many cases, a single designer) within the organization serves all of the development teams. Naturally, design is swamped. Managers and developers lose faith that design can deliver and, as a result, begin to exclude designers from projects.
- An external design firm creates a design and “throws it over the wall” to your development team, never to be heard from again once engineering begins. Leading product firms like Apple, Google and Facebook are much more integrated, because the silo-ed approach inevitably leads to problems. When a design team is pushed to work in a vacuum, the development team often end up with a bunch of pretty pictures (in their words) and is left to interpret and fill in a lot of blanks. What does clicking this button in the corner do? What happens when the user navigates back? What do we show when the app loses connectivity? How should controls resize and anchor on the screen when you pinch and zoom?
Certainly there are advantages to working in a functional group or having multi-site teams spread out geographically. But being in a separate function or geography is no excuse to work in a vacuum.