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Monday, 17 June 2013

Change Everything, Change Nothing

Somewhere in the 2012, smartphone and computer users all over the world start demanding one thing and that was CHANGE.  Were all of a sudden millions of smartphone owners all across the globe inspired by President Obama's campaign slogan or was there indeed a need for a change in the way smartphones and notebook computers looked?

Without exception, most mobile and desktop operating software companies were being told that they were behind the times whether it be Blackberry, Windows, Google and Apple.  The powers that be behind these companies eventually relented and in late 2012 and 2013, we've seen CHANGE.

What have been the results so far?

Blackberry initially took a beating for their BB10 operating system when the Blackberry touch-screen only Z10 smartphone was launched but bounced back into the good books of most consumers when the keyboard model Q10 smartphone was released.

Microsoft was singled out by research firms for the decline in the PC industry because they released a radically different version of Windows called Windows 8.  Microsoft has had to respond within a year by releasing Windows 8.1 that brings back some of the functionality of previous versions of Windows.  In the smartphone space, Nokia released a series of Windows Phone 8 devices which have been critically acclaimed by pundits for being functionally excellent but panned by consumers who still don't see it as a viable alternative to iPhone or Android devices.  Poor Microsoft has also suffered the wrath of gamers by radically changing the next generation of Xbox devices whereas Sony stuck to their age-old agenda with their PlayStation 4 (the video link below shows how Sony responded to all the changes Microsoft made to sharing games by having two gentlemen standing in front of a camera handing a game from one person's hand to another).

Google was singled out for fragmenting their user-experience by allowing manufacturers to customize their own skins of Android responded by announcing a series of Nexus and Google-edition smartphones.  Despite all of this, it turns out consumer wallets still prefer buying Android devices from Samsung despite the pre-loaded Samsung Apps or skin on Android.

Facebook also tried to innovate on Android by releasing Facebook Home, a skin that they placed on top of Android which they felt made the phone more personable.  Despite taking the bold step of doing things differently, they got slammed by poor reviews on the Google Play store.

Apple last week came back with their most radical change to their iOS operating system for smartphones and tablets to a rather mixed response.  Apple CEO, Tim Cook called it the "biggest change" since the introduction of the iPhone but so far several pundits have gone to great lengths to criticize a lot of changes made.  The pressure that Apple has been under to change was evident in the rather aggressive presentation given by Apple exec Phil Schiller during Apple's developer conference where he blurted out: "Can't innovate anymore, my ass!"

Tim Cook at Apple's iOS 7 unveiling

What has all this meant then?  In short, CHANGE EVERYTHING means CHANGE NOTHING.  As  consumers, many of us have gotten so used to doing things a certain way that when a brand comes forward with a radical change, we shun it.

Just like the days of the classic Nokia user-interface on their old-school mobile phones, consumers have learned how to use an operating system and then said they're comfortable with it.  They may complain it looks dated, they may say it is limiting their productivity but often when brands or manufacturers have been bold enough to make radical changes, consumers have said they don't like it.

Image: wikipedia
This then leaves me wondering, will the old school typewriter start to make a comeback anytime soon...

Posted by: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics LLC