Archive for June, 2012

Surface tension

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Microsoft’s whizzy new Surface slates — unveiled June 18 at a high-profile Apple-style announcement event in Hollywood — have triggered wildly disparate reactions across the technology world, with some pundits calling them a revolutionary bridge between full-fledged PCs and tablets, and others declaring their hybrid format an evolutionary dead-end.

Our own take falls in the latter category. We believe Surface may sell well out of the gate to Apple refuseniks and users who believe a keyboard can make large-scale text entry on a tablet more viable. But ultimately, we don’t believe this is a serious competitor to the iPad — or, longer term, a rival for Android-based tablets. The future of Surface is likely as a niche player for enterprise environments; if it has any sustained life in the consumer space, it will be due primarily to massive investment on Microsoft’s part.

The problem is not that Surface is not innovative. It’s that it’s innovative in the wrong direction. Surface’s keyboard is beautiful, sleek and smart — and anchored in the 1980s. Microsoft’s stubborn addition of stylus input to the Surface reinforces this point. The primary thing that Surface offers is compatibility with legacy interfaces.

Only disruptive innovation can create new revenue streams. Innovation that’s focused on preserving the past can only cannibalize the existing installed base. Even in the enterprise, Surface adoption won’t come at the expense of the iPad — it’ll be purchased as a lightweight substitute for Windows laptops.

Meanwhile, over in Cupertino, Apple has asserted that it is “doubling down” on its voice-based, natural-language Siri intelligent agent. Voice recognition opens up a range of alternative use cases for iPads — e.g., hands-free or multitasking control. That’s the kind of disruptive interface that Microsoft proved it could deliver with Kinect, for big screens and large areas.

The jury is still out on the future of interfaces for small screens and enclosed spaces — that is, the mobile computing interface. But we know one thing it’s not going to spring from: Better versions of old and increasingly outmoded technology.

Below the fold, we’ve taken a look at the spectrum of reactions from analysts across the web.

The picture of the Surface at the top of this post is from dotTech, and is used with thanks.

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26 June 2012 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

Close to the edge

Sarah King writes:

Yesterday’s news reports indicating that seven million Britons were only one bill away from disaster came as no surprise to anyone at The Futures Company. Our Feeling the Pinch study has been taking the temperature of UK and Irish consumers in recessionary times since 2008. We have identified and tracked three broad swathes of consumers, the self explanatory ‘Plain Sailing’, ‘Choppy Waters’ and ‘All Hands on Deck’ groups.

Across the study we have seen a significant increase in the size of the ‘All Hands on Deck’ [AHOD] group as more people move down from ‘Choppy Waters’ into a more pressured position. 60% of AHOD say that the level of debt they have is ruining their quality of life, and 37% of them say they could only cover their living expenses for less than a month if they or someone in their household became jobless.

At a Kantar event last week, the sentiments and behaviour of these three segments were mapped across polling by our colleagues at TNS-BMRB and retail analysis by Kantar Worldpanel. This work demonstrated that while value-seeking behaviours are entrenched in all groups, strategies differ.  Those in AHOD buy offers that involve less outlay and actually reduce the volume of food they buy. It may be that they are wasting less food, but the possibility exists that some are going hungry.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are much more comfortable, playing their hand carefully and tactfully in tough times but essentially doing fine. This is characteristic of recessions which tend to be spikey. The challenge for marketers is both to find ways to help one set of customers and to identify the pools of money that do exist out there, and which offer the ‘new sources of growth’ discussed in our latest Future Perspective report.
The image at the top of this post is from the personalfinance4ll blog, and is used with thanks.

21 June 2012 at 9:00 am Leave a comment


The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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