There also always seems to be much speculation about what the next big trend will will be, but usually we end up being very wrong. For example, many people are betting on the tablet PC to be the next BIG innovation, however, I will suggest something later in this post that could make the tablet PC obsolete, and even if it isn’t realized now, the chances are that someone will realize it eventually, and it will then take the place of the tab. I will give you a very recent example of why this issue occurs.
Currently, and widely because of this years CES Convention, the web is buzzing about tablet PC’s and iSlate speculation, and eReaders. It seems to me that in both categories, there are many competitors with extremely similar products. At least all of the big brands out there seem to be following a trend. There aren’t very many different solutions in terms of features and technologies.
How could they all have come out with similar products at the same time? The future of eReaders and portable PCs is so uncertain.. How could they all have come up with the same answers to the same questions, and especially when there are many different directions left unexplored by any of them?
It seems to me something fishy is going on, like they’re all talking to one another.. However, the fishy big companies aren’t the only causes of the problem. There just doesn’t seem to be any push from new companies to completely out-do their bigger competitors and introduce an innovation that makes their competitor’s products obsolete. Maybe it’s lack of resources, but I know if I’m a venture capitalist, I’m going to invest in innovation*.
The one hardware example of a new company at least slightly distinguishing themselves from their competitors has to be Plastic Logic with their Que proReader (shown at top) that is designed specifically for business solutions. But as luck would have it, eReaders may be in danger of becoming obsolete all together due to evolving portable PCs that can do almost infinitely more.
I think the winner of this debate for the hardware would be Light Blue Optic’s Light Touch 10 inch touchscreen projector; but even this has many problems, or holes, in functionality that could prevent this particular model from going to the next level. Imagine if this product was also a mini PC, but the screen expanded to Microsoft Surface proportions. It could potentially make the Surface obsolete, and in the process maybe the tablet PC as well, due to no limitations on screen size, with much less hardware, therefor less price, and the same capabilities. Why hasn’t Light Blue Optics figured this out?
It’s the same story with websites and apps. There’s about 182,000 (not accurate) music websites out there, all with extremely similar models, and if not, with similar problems. For independent artists, they either charge you too much upfront without you being guaranteed results, or they’re free but offer you no way to actually promote your music other than spamming people, or you need to use more than one site because one provides a tool that you need that the other doesn’t have, and vice versa. There’s many similar problems from a fan’s perspective as well. Why can’t someone come up with a website that solves ALL of these problems for everybody!?! (Beat-Play)
It seems that even with all of the amazing possibilities that the web is capable of providing, with a market place driven by poor competition, still, nothing is easy.
You might say “But Dante, it’s not so easy to innovate in a field these days. Where do you even start?” And I’d say to you “But it really is! And you start with your competitor’s products.” An innovation doesn’t have to be some huge evolutionary leap, like morse code right to Telephone, it just has to solve a problem that is currently put up with by society. Be the person to solve that problem, and your company should be off to a great start.
Try using your competitor’s products. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. If you don’t know what industry to start with, chances are you’re a consumer of something..what problems do you face with products? I once saw a great TED Talk by Charles Leadbeater, about the occurrence of innovation. He talked about how the invention of the mountain bike didn’t come from the R&D labs of major companies, but they came from the consumers. Avid bikers became fed up with the restrictions placed on them by the big companies, and they began modifying, and eventually selling their modified bikes. The mountain bike industry today accounts for 65% of all bike sales in America
By looking at all of the slate computers, and finding the fundamental problems, creating an alternative to these problems becomes a lot easier, instead of creating something that poses the same problems. It seems that many times the major company’s definition of “compete” is to create a product with almost identical features as the other company’s products, so when you’re in the store staring at both of them on the shelf, you’re so confused that hopefully you’ll end up picking their product. This is either lunacy, stupidity, or treachery towards the consumers. I have a feeling there’s a little bit of all three floating around in this marketplace somewhere.
People only pay attention to the products of existing companies when it comes to hardware. The web is the only medium where mass mainstream media advertising can have absolutely no effect on the success of a website. In other words, a website can completely explode, seemingly overnight, with no TV commercials or billboards up initially whatsoever.
For almost every other major industry, advertising could make or break you, which is why new competitors don’t arise very often. But, it turns out that the internet and social-ecommerce could very well offer a solution to this problem as well, especially with the massive networks of people being created by the Web 2.0 revolution. However, how the internet can make advertising obsolete is a subject for another blog.
For now, if you’re a consumer who wishes they weren’t constrained by company or brand restrictions, then now is the time to do something about it, and come up with the solutions to those problems. You might as well, the big companies aren’t going to solve them. The key to success is knowing something nobody else knows…or admits..
Written by: Dante Cullari, Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC
*However it is worth noting that most venture capitalists are probably in their 50’s-70’s and they’ve seen so much innovation in their lifetimes, that to them, they kind of have the outlook that enough is enough. They may even resent the fact that the world will continue to advance without them. At least this is my theory. I also happen to think the world would be a much better place if run by intelligent people in their 20’s. I should also note that I’m 21 :).