Apr 132012

Hypothetically, there are two customer segments we are considering targeting for new product development. We haven’t really started searching for the product idea yet. First we’d like to decide which segment we’d prefer. Let’s suppose one customer segment is a small, hard to reach market that doesn’t have much money and the other customer segment is a huge market with deep pockets that’s easy to reach. Now imagine the product solution we eventually come up with for the smaller market revolutionizes the world of that customer but the best product idea we can come up with for the bigger market is just a so-so, nice-to-have.

Which market should we choose to pursue? It’s not even a contest. Go for whichever market you have a revolutionary product for. Even if that market doesn’t have much money and they are hard to reach. If the product rocks their world they’ll crawl over broken glass to get it. We can build on that passionate adoption and branch out to more products and even cross over to adjacent markets. Do you know how many people on food stamps somehow find the money to support a $1,000+/yr iPhone habit? Create the right product and customers will find the money. Create the right product and you don’t have to reach the customer, they will find you. Google has still never run a product ad. Continue reading »

Mar 032012

Canon made a “brilliant mistake” with their 5D mkII camera unleashing a profitable market disruption. Now they’ve released the 5D mkIII and, unfortunately, they’ve “fixed” that mistake instead of building on it. Canon could learn a thing or two from Intel. Note: This my personal opinion and unrelated to my employer’s views. 

I’ve always loved Canon’s consumer DSLRs cameras, starting with the digital Rebel, arguably the first truly ‘consumer’ DSLR because it was priced under $1,000. Three and a half years ago Canon launched the 5D mkII, a new flagship camera in their mid-high end professional line. It sold for about $3,000 or nearly $4,000 with an included lens. Normally I would never have noticed this kind of camera. I was happy with the price and performance of cheaper DSLRs. But a few months after release the 5D mkII started generating a lot of buzz from video shooters and indie filmmakers. The camera included a video mode that was rather primitive but the camera’s still photography strengths, including the large 35mm imaging chip, low-light performance and high-quality interchangeable lenses made the imperfect video mode capable of some truly sensational results. You had to crawl over some pretty big flaws to get those results but there had never been anything like it anywhere near the 5D’s price point.

As great as the results could be with the 5D, the shortcomings in the video mode were serious. It could only shoot in auto mode which caused the camera to change brightness in the middle of a shot, the external audio input was nearly unusable due to high noise and the frame rate was wrong, 30fps instead of the film standard of 24 or even the video standard of 29.97. But what the camera could do was so appealing, clever users started working on the problems and came up with a variety of hacks and workarounds to solve the worst of the issues. With these tricks, indie filmmakers and adventurous hobbyists started shooting truly sensational scenes and posting them online. Canon noticed that sales were skyrocketing and thousands of requests were pouring in from users begging Canon to fix a few things with the camera to make it more suitable for video and films. A few months later Canon released a downloadable patch for the camera that allowed users to disable the auto mode, improved the audio recording and let users select 24fps. The day Canon released that update, I started shopping for my 5D. Continue reading »

Feb 062012

ipad tablet & child development

Our iPad toddler at 18 months

Done wrong, an iPad can be cerebral junk food to your child. Done right, it’s a magical looking glass into a world of discovery. Our family had to experiment on our own offspring. We didn’t have a choice. There are no scientific studies on whether iPad usage accelerates or impedes child development. Until the science is done, our family (and perhaps yours) are the cutting edge of research. My 2 1/2 year old has used an iPad for nearly two years. We monitored what worked and what didn’t; making adjustments on the way. We’ve learned a lot. It boils down to five principles that can make all the difference.
The 5 Rules

1. Tablets are for two

When a toddler uses an iPad you must be there observing and interacting the entire time. This is hard. Tablets are the best electronic babysitters ever invented. A child might sit there lost in the “10-inch gaze” for days. This tempts weary caregivers to take a much needed break. Don’t. Tablet time = together time.

The results of our real-world experience are clear: Tablet time alone yields poor results, even with the best educational apps. However, with an engaged parent alongside, even a non-educational game can become a wonderful learning experience. The other day we were playing Angry Birds together and saw an intro scene of the pigs putting on an old-style Japanese outdoor play. This triggered a discussion about kabuki theater, what emotions the masks represent and how an alternate tonal scale can make different sounding music. That can’t happen if you’re not there. Continue reading »

Feb 052012

ipad tablet & child development

My toddler with iPad at 18 months

Is that iPad making your kid smarter or dumber? For the moment, no one really knows. Impassioned opinions are readily available on both sides but rigorous scientific studies have yet to be published. Are tablets+kids our generation’s developmental thalidomide or merely another fluoride, beneficial in measured doses but harmful when free-based? Today’s kids are guinea pigs in a massive uncontrolled experiment to find out and I worry about my toddler. I love technology. I believe in the ability of tech to empower individuals, connect communities and unite our species. I believe this deeply. Yet I would turn into a born again Luddite in a heartbeat if I thought technology was harming my child. Two things I care deeply about appear to be in mortal conflict and I need an actionable answer NOW.

There is a study, “Young Children, Apps & iPad” (pdf), funded by the Department of Education’s Ready to Learn initiative, which looked at kids 2 to 8 years old and their engagement with iPads. Read into the study though, and you’ll discover it was based on briefly interviewing and observing 60 kids over a very short period of time. It contains such insightful findings as, “Children’s initial reaction to touch screen devices is characterized by fascination and immediate engagement”. Yes, the same could be said of Twinkies, but it doesn’t mean Twinkies are beneficial. In short, there is little in the study that will be surprising, or even informative, to anyone that’s spent much time with kids and tablets. This study can shed a little light on how kids engage with tablets but tells us nothing about whether their development is being stunted or accelerated. Continue reading »