This week’s mobility market buzz is almost overwhelming in “wow” potential:

  • Apple is mere days away from thrilling us all yet again with a “new” iPhone and/or/maybe a smaller iPad (no pressure, there)
  • Speaking of which, Amazon is going to wow us with the next Kindle. Soon. They said so.
  • Google is this week trying to “wow” us with new Moto Razrs, albeit without the most capable version of Android installed.
  • And Microsoft’s Finnish telephony contractor, Nokia, rolled out the latest Lumia models (btw, what should be the plural of “Lumia:” “Lumiae?” “Lumiati?” “Lumiatidae?”) .

The Lumiae reception got the most media notice, mainly because Nokia’s share prices dropped as analysts expressed a lack of “wow” factor. Apparently, the new phones are nothing more than colorful, functionally-capable communications devices with improved OS, apps software, camera, and more. There are only about 100,000 apps available. Massive disappointment ensued.
Sarcasm aside, what truly fed analysts’ disappointment with the Lumiati and its parent firms was the business basics, i.e., no rollout timetable, no pricing,  no Win8 demo, and what really came across in the calls I attended as an ongoing disconnect between MSFT and Nokia in terms of information sharing. They come across as one not really knowing what the other is going to say, and there is a tendency for one to rely on the other to fill in important blanks, leaving leaders on both sides to deliver  disappointing “we’ll get to that” statements. That seeming lack of business competency/vision is what really drove investors to push prices down – but every blog post and media report leads with “disappointment” in the phones’ “Wow” factor.

The episode reinforces a bad feeling that I started to get with the MSFT “Surface” rollout. Basically, with the Surface tablets and the new Lumiatidae phones, MSFT has lost some of its critical marketing panache and ability. To over-simplify, they are putting colorful-yet-partially-empty boxes up in the store window, placing them under spotlights, and telling us how cool they are or will be.

Google/Moto is doing similar types of things, rolling out a set of sexy devices and pushing for “wow” but leaving out the biggest potential “wow” factor – the Jellybean OS version that would drive larger masses of developers toward their devices. The phones are functional, stylish, capable, yet lacking in the biggest thing that would wow the marketplace.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing to market devices that work well, that are stylish, and that may only be incremental advancements/improvements over previous models. That is progress. And as I have complained/explained before, today’s hot-tech media focus too much on the “next big thing” while ignoring important and beneficial improvements.

Unfortunately, it appears that when it comes to mobility and associated markets, Master Brands like MSFT and Google are pursuing positive press and analyst coverage, and therefore potential share price improvements, by focusing on potential and promised “wow,” rather than traditional “how,” i.e., “how” the device/OS/ecosystem improves the user experience and ability to do business. The craving for media and analyst attention, however fleeting, is disabling these former marketing giants’ abilities to drive and influence markets by forcing them to build or chase the latest shiny object – which pushes them to deliver more shiny objects of their own, which increasingly shortens development and improvement cycles to the point where they focus on colors and packaging rather than real IT utility and benefit. The accepted/expected pace of innovation is outstripping the realities of development and marketing for too many providers (read the Research Alert, “IT Innovation: New Models and Methods”).

As we regularly explain to our clients, and as will be presented in detail at our Nov. 14 Cloud Business Summit, the pursuit of the “next big thing” is a vendor/media-driven hype monster that distracts from “real” IT value and cost propositions, and complicates IT and Finance executives’ ability to effectively manage their domains (read “Change, and Change Again: The Shape of IT Orgs to Come”). We don’t advocate ignoring the “next big thing” by any means; we advocate making sure that we know what it is, where it’s coming from, and what to do with it.

This blog originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.

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