When technology is fashion

My latest Engadget column takes a look at what happens when technology and fashion intersect. It’s a different world out there as mainstream consumers care a lot more about aesthetics than just “feeds and speeds”. Color, form factor, materials used are now part of the purchase funnel as users are making their buy or no buy decisions. Vendors that aren’t factoring in fashion as part of what they create are making a big mistake.

My wrist watch and automobile were chosen in no small part due to aesthetics — so why not my phone, desktop or laptop? In fact, if more vendors spent more time on the physical design and attributes of their devices, they’d probably sell more of them.

My Thoughts on Flash and Apple

I got off the plane a short time ago and found my inbox and voice mail were full of questions about the open letter Steve Jobs posted about Flash support on the iPhone and iPad. It’s a well written letter and outlines in the clearest and most direct way yet why there’s no Flash support on the iPhone or iPad. I suggest you read it yourself but it comes down to two issues, technical and business. Jobs lays out his case well although I’m sure there will be endless debate about each word used as folks attempt to read between the lines.
So, what does it mean?

1. Don’t expect Flash anytime soon on the iPad or iPhone. If that’s a deal breaker for you, than these aren’t the devices for you. Apple is going to preserve the app experience as they see fit as that’s a core differentiator for the platform. It was Steve’s last point and it’s the one that likely matters most.

2. Like Steve, I have not seen Flash work well on a mobile device. That doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t. Adobe needs to not respond to Apple with words but rather actions and showcase shipping devices and how well they can run Flash. I’m especially interested to see how Flash works on Tegra 2 based devices.

3. The digerati can debate open and close and Apple’s motives (and they will) but none of that matters. This is the age of the connected consumer and the mass market adoption. If enough of Apple customers are frustrated to the point of not buying Apple devices, perhaps Apple will reconsider their position. Fact is, the lack of Flash does not appear to have slowed down Apple sales in the slightest. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Apple’s customers, being viewed as valuable, are causing major content stakeholders to re-tool their content to make it available on Apple’s mobile platforms.

HP buys Palm – First Take

In what’s already become a pivotal and transformative year, HP announced they were buying Palm for 1.2 billion dollars. At a time when the mobile platform market has become very crowded, this is an important event that now puts HP/Palm as a major player in the mobile market. HP is no stranger to mobility, the iPaq was a defining mobile product a decade ago but over the years HP has been unable to replicate their success in the PDA market with similar efforts as the dynamic shifted to smartphones. Here’s what the HP/Palm deal means.

First, Palm has found a good home. In addition to Todd Bradley, there are lots of Palm alumni in the PSG group at HP. This means that there should be a relatively smooth transition and overall good cultural fit. HP is now a force to be reckoned with in the mobile space.

Second, WebOS should now be viewed as a serious contender in the mobile platform wars. While critically acclaimed, Palm simply did not have the resources needed to effectively compete with players such as Apple, Google and Microsoft with deep pockets and the resources to sustain themselves in the market. The combination of Palm technology and brand combined with HP resources and channel partners will be a strong combination for HP to drive their mobile efforts forward.

Third, the nature of this deal underscores the velocity of mobile and how that speed is affecting long term winners and losers. Many had written off Palm’s relevance in the market and depending on where Palm ended up, that could have been correct. Expect the rate and pace of innovation, product launches, alliances and lawsuits to pick up even more speed as platform providers attempt to gain ground on their competitors and survive longer term consolidation and shake outs.

HP challenge short term is to survive the market velocity. There will be precious little time to integrate Palm into HP offerings, create an effective marketing message and focus on customer and developer evangelism. Creating close ties to other HP services for both business and consumer will be critical short term to create a story that can resonate across the board to HP customers and partners.

Apple buys Siri – First Take

The big news of the day was Apple buying mobile search startup Siri. This is pretty big news as it effectively blunts one of the key advantages Android has had, namely very tightly integrated search at the OS level. Voice recognition doesn’t hurt either.

This year continues to be transformative as Apple is not only now in the mobile advertising business but also has the platform to enable and monetize mobile search at the OS level as a core service. Siri has already gotten rave reviews as a next-gen search service and now it’s a Cupertino exclusive. Look for expanded services to be included as part of the Siri offering as well as a huge value for those services selected to be chosen a part of the Siri eco-system. Deep and tight search services as part of the core mobile experience are now going to be table stakes as an offering. Expect more deals in the space in the weeks ahead.

Why I like the Kin Concept

There have been few products that I can recall that have been a polarizing as Microosft’s Kin. My latest column on Slashgear talks about why I think Kin is actually a pretty good idea. The real test, however, won’t be what the opinions of the digerati are, it’s how “gen upload” views these devices and in what numbers they adopt them.

Coupled with a proper marketing and pricing message, I think Kin can be a success for Microsoft and achieve their goal of creating an optimized experience aimed at a very targeted demographic. Kin shows we’re past the phase of one size fits all for mobile technology, and it needs to be looked at and evaluated through that lens, not how well it maps to horizontal audiences.

It’s way too early to judge Blackberry 6 for better or for worse

This week at their WES conference in Orlando, RIM showed off Blackberry 6 for the first time. (not Blackberry OS 6, Blackberry 6). Reactions have been interesting, such as my personal favorite “Blackberry 6: So 2008, So 2000 and late“. I’m not going to make the call just yet because it’s way too early to make a judgement call. It was pretty uncharacteristic for RIM to even show anything at all before launch. It does underscore two points.

First, it’s never to early to have an uninformed opinion. It shows how vendors have to be careful just what they say, how they say it and sometimes saying a little is worse than saying nothing at all.

Second, RIM clearly has a perception issue here. There’s a pretty big disconnect with what RIM does well and how they are perceived by the market. They’re clearly a different standard to how mobile platforms are judged.

Of course, there’s another way to look at this entirely. As my friend Ross Rubin says, “Three-foot, translucent floating screen responding to touch from behind by dancing demographic stereotypes pretty innovative.” Hard to argue that point even a little bit.