by Angela McIntyre | April 11, 2013 | Comments Off
My colleague Hugues De La Vergne and I discussed how T-Mobile’s “Un-carrier” approach to end smartphone subsidies will not seem heroic to consumers choosing their next smartphones.
Angela: Why was the T-Mobile announcement risky?
Hugues: T-mobile recently announced their plans to remove subsidies for smartphones. They will also no longer offer wireless contracts and supposedly will simplify the wireless selection process. All operators have spoken about the problem with high subsidies effecting their earnings and the desire to get subsidy expense lower. T-Mobile is the first to do something about subsidies, but that is risky for T-Mobile because consumer perceptions on what they should pay for a smartphone will not change overnight.
Angela: How will T-Mobile’s taking away the smartphone subsidies affect consumers? Is it better or worse for consumers’ wallets?
Hugues: T-Mobile simplifies the rate plan side of the decision while confusing the device side of the decision. Instead of the traditional way of purchasing subsidized phones that consumers are comfortable with, consumers can finance them over 2 years, which is the average life of a phone. After two years the total amount a T-Mobile customer spends on a smartphone and wireless service could be less.
Hugues De La Vergne
Angela: What challenges does T-Mobile have in promoting the new pricing to consumers?
Hugues: Consumers won’t understand the benefit to them. Americans love a deal and what deal sounds better than a free smartphone? How could paying more for a smartphone be good? Consumers have been used to these “deals” on handsets for close to 15 years, so T-Mobile has a lot of work ahead to re-educate consumers.
Advertising campaigns need to educate consumers on how they should look at the total cost of ownership of the device and rate. Most would assume that consumers already do that, but they typically do not. T-Mobile does not have the advertising budgets of the larger operators like AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile needs to use its limited advertising dollars in a very efficient manner to change consumer perceptions and really needs more than what we have seen so far with the “Magenta Hat” commercial to pull this off.
Members of the press who wish to contact Hugues De La Vergne for further comment, can do so through Gartner PR.
Thank you for reading my blog!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: carrier, mobile phone, rate plan, smartphone, subsidy, T-Mobile
by Angela McIntyre | February 27, 2013 | Comments Off
My colleague Tuong Nguyen and I discuss the line-up of announcements surrounding Mobile World Congress last week. Tuong was in New York City at briefings by HTC, Canon, Metaio and Sony.
Angela: What was cool and “meh” about what you saw at HTC?
Tuong: I went to the launch of the HTC One. Physically it’s a nice phone – sleek looking. HTC’s Blinkfeed and Zoe features are interesting. Blinkfeed enhances HTC sense by aggregating your favorite social media, news and other content onto your homescreen.. Imagine a “mash-up” of Windows Live Tiles and Blackberry’s social feed and you’ve got the gist of Blinkfeed. Zoe takes a 3 second video while you take a photo. It automatically creates a montage from these pictures and videos. It would be a nice addition to the still photos in an informal album, for example of a day with your kids at the zoo. HTC was also highlighting Beats Audio, but the app I demo’d didn’t have haptics so you couldn’t feel the beat, which would have been cool. Overall, the HTC One is interesting, but won’t make users drop their current contract to go and buy it.
Angela: You cover augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and said Canon and Metaio had news.
Tuong: Yes, Canon is targeting product development and manufacturing with a mixed reality solution of AR and VR. The headset costs $125K plus a $25K/yearly maintenance contract, which means only enterprise can afford it. It’s still early days in this market, so I expect to see more elegant solutions in the next 3-5 years.
Angela: You told me that Metaio is working with ST-Ericsson and may shake up the AR component market.
Tuong: Right. ST-Ericsson will be offering an AR enhanced chipset that is optimized for the Metaio’s augmented reality engine. Metaio is an AR solution provider. This means the ST-Ericsson-Metaio solution will compete head-on with Qualcomm’s Vuforia solution on Snapdragon-powered devices.
Angela: You seemed a bit disappointed the day after Sony announced PS4.
Tuong: Well, it seems Sony rushed to announce this product before there was much to say about it. In the case of PS4, perhaps Sony thought they needed to announce it before Microsoft announces their next version of Xbox in a couple months. Unfortunately, Sony’s briefing was sparse on details – like detailed specs, a launch date, price, etc. They did showcase some key developers for PS4, for example Blizzard, Bungie, Capcom and Ubisoft. In addition, Sony discussed some of the social features of PS4, such as a “share button,” which allows you to do things such as broadcast and watch friends play, remote game assist and item drops, and even post gameplay screen caps and videos. Yet, many of these features are already on the market. However, Sony certainly has an opportunity to improve on existing solutions in the PS4. Overall, Sony seems to have an idea of how the future of gaming should evolve, but the sparse details around PS4 did not instill confidence they could execute on that vision.
Angela: Tuong, thank you for spending time to give your take on these announcements.
Tuong was featured in a podcast by WNYC about augmented reality. You can hear him and read more about augmented reality here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newtechcity/2013/feb/19/
Thank you for reading my blog.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: augmented reality, Ericsson, HTC, Metaio, Mobile World Congress, PS4, Qualcomm, smartphone, Sony, virtual reality
by Angela McIntyre | January 15, 2013 | Comments Off
I was looking out for wearable electronics at CES. Here are some that caught my attention…
Aftershokz (www.aftershokz.com) – bone (tissue) conduction headset sits in front of the ear. Let’s you hear communications while “keeping your ears open” to hear what is going on around you. Bone conduction is useful for first responders who need to hear ambient noises for safety. Aftershokz is marketed to athletes and other active persons, who for example, want to listen to music, but also need to hear traffic noises while on-the-go.
MC10 (www.mc10inc.com) – concussion monitor beanie. Athletes and kids participating in contact sports can wear this skullcap under their helmet. It monitors whether a collision or fall took place that may have resulted in a concussion. The monitor could detect the smaller concussions, which may otherwise go unnoticed and untreated, resulting in brain damage.
MC10 also announced their hydration monitor, which is a thin, tattoo-like sensor that adheres to the skin under a band-aid. It can be used by athletes and others to advise them when to take a drink.
GeoPalz (www.geopalz.com) – activity tracker for kids. Devices come in kid-friendly characters to be more fun to wear. Parents can track metrics, e.g., number of steps, calories, and sleep. Kids may choose to join more fitness activities to boost their GeoPalz scores and win prizes. Rewards keep kids motivated via gamification. School days are becoming shortened for cost savings, which results in fewer physical education classes in elementary schools and junior high. Schools may adopt fitness solutions such as GeoPalz as an alternative to regular physical education classes.
Cra-Z-art (www.cra-z-art.com) – light-up blocks that are Lego compatible. What’s wearable about these? Snap together, connect the wires, and clip to clothes to get customizable, light-up fashion for kids age 6 through twelve. Here is the concept dress… http://www.youtube.com/watchv=Xk1qBgz5rxw
What have I been up to besides CES? One of my latest reports on Gartner.com is about innovations in smart fabrics, http://www.gartner.com/resId=2282415
Thank you for reading my blog!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: CES, children's technology, consumer electronics, fitness tracker, headsets, Internet of Things, mobility, wearable electronics, wearable sensors
by Angela McIntyre | July 9, 2012 | 1 Comment
The Toshiba “medical test subject” ad is edgy, a bit gross, and caused a stir. From the buzz, viewers remember Toshiba after seeing it. Yet, the images and portrayal of medical trials are disturbing and can lead to unintended negative connotations for the Toshiba brand. So why may Toshiba have chosen this commercial?
Toshiba’s “medical test subject” ad plays to a sophisticated young buyer, the Tech Savants. In Gartner’s consumer segmentation, Tech Savants are highly engaged in new technology, but care less about particular brands, and they comprise 18% of the market. Toshiba is experimenting not only with edgy marketing, but how to appeal to a group of buyers who are brand agnostic. That’s not so easy.
We know from Gartner focus groups that Tech Savants tell stories of faddish technology they or friends bought, which broke or just didn’t work well. Tech Savants would be skeptical about the quality of Ultrabooks coming to market. They remember how netbooks quickly came to market and ended up as a fad with few repeat buyers. Toshiba features a Satellite Ultrabook in the commercial and uses it to deliver the message that Toshiba will not take advantage of consumers by offering products that are not ready.
The targets for these ads seem to be college students and recent college grads who have to watch their budgets instead of follow the latest fad. They have taken or considered taking a range of odd jobs to help pay expenses and are savvy enough to enjoy the hyperbole of the medical experiments.
The protagonist, a professional medical test subject, is a character with which folks in their twenties may empathize. It’s difficult finding a first job and many end up in jobs that are far from what they hoped.
Will the “test subject” ad make folks reconsider participation in a clinical trial? Some in the short-term, unfortunately. Who wants to be referred to as a “test monkey” as they do in the commercial?
What if Toshiba offered coupons and sponsored drawings for free PCs for participants in clinical trials? All for the cause of furthering science – medical science and marketing science.
Here is the Gartner report with more detail on our consumer market segmentation. The ability to access it depends on your subscription.
“Consumer Dynamics’ Impact on Technology Markets, 2012”
Thank you for reading my blog. You can watch the commercial on YouTube.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: advertising, brand, consumer, focus group, Intel, marketing, PC, Toshiba, Ultrabook
by Angela McIntyre | May 9, 2012 | 2 Comments
“Most people don’t know Microsoft sells PCs,” is how James at the Microsoft Store responded to my initial surprise at the layout of their new store. Microsoft has 19 retail stores in the US, and the Microsoft Store at the Stanford Shopping Mall opened a couple weeks ago. I was surprised that the Xbox and software were in the back corners of the store. Instead, PCs, tablets and smartphones were front and center, and Samsung and Acer had the strongest presence. The Microsoft Store encouraged visitors to try out the products and placed stools in front of most displays to make shoppers feel comfortable staying for a longer period of time.
I got to try out Windows 8 on a Samsung Slate 7 when I was there. Cool device. It had a Core i5 processor, so plenty of compute power. James walked me through Windows 8, and I liked the Metro interface on the slate screen. The Slate 7 comes with a pen, which I wish was tethered so I could just let go of it without having to snap it back into its holder at the top. I liked the flexibility of being able to switch from handwriting to soft qwerty keyboard to a thumb-style keyboard. With thumb-typing, the tablet tended to waggle too much at the far end due to its 11.6 inch screen size and 16:9 format. As for the Office apps, Word was usable with the touch interface, but Power Point was a pain without a separate keyboard. I hope Microsoft effectively incorporates touch in Office 15. Otherwise, Office will soon feel like a dinosaur.
The modern, minimalist design of the Microsoft Store’s retail space mimicked the design of the Apple store, and as at Apple, the hip, Microsoft staff were more like advisors than sales persons. Hey, why reinvent what works? The Microsoft Store is right next door to the Apple Store – to promote comparison shopping? Whereas the ratio of staff to shopper in the Microsoft Store was about 4 to 1, the Apple Store was packed with visitors. With Apple it’s not only the user experience and devices, but the brand cache of a designer label. Copying a retail environment is easy for Microsoft, but evolving the brand is a significant challenge.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: Acer, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, PC, Samsung, smartphone, tablet, Windows 8
by Angela McIntyre | November 28, 2011 | Comments Off
I was behind the mirror for a few consumer focus groups Gartner held recently. We asked consumers in six cities about how they use technology, attitudes about consumer electronics, and what influences their purchase decisions the most. The focus groups highlight how differently consumers think about mobile, video and social media than marketing directors, product managers and industry analysts. Focus groups are fantastic for us to step away from the tech-centric world to hear what matters to end users. It’s exciting to hear insights about consumer usage trends straight from the end users themselves.
For example, in cities where smartphones usage among focus group participants was high, consumers commented that smartphones have changed the way they watch TV and reduced the time they spend using their PCs. Smartphones are the connected device that is most convenient to carry around, even around the house. Participants multi-tasked on their smartphones while “watching” TV, by doing on-line social networking or browsing the internet. Because smartphones are at hand, participants cited various ways that they use them when they have a few extra minutes or at the moment they think of an online task they should do. They don’t have to wait to get home to check a bank account or watch videos. Key consumer trends are to use mobile devices more and PCs less and to multi-task across multiple screens.
Marketing organizations use the data from consumer surveys and focus groups to guide their messaging, for product development, and to request budget. The quotes, sound bites and video clips from focus groups help build a convincing case when communicating consumer attitudes to executives across the enterprise. Gartner will have published 20 reports this year about consumer attitudes from our primary research. Topics span how to influence late adopters, preferences for customer service, and what devices consumers want to carry with them. I have links to a couple of my reports below:
Findings: Press ’0′ to Speak with a Live Agent
Survey Analysis: San Jose Focus Group Reveals Divergent Paths to Technology Purchases
Access to these reports depends on your Gartner subscription.
Thank you for reading my blog.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: brand, consumer, customer service, focus group, mobility, PC, smartphone, survey, technology trends, TV
by Angela McIntyre | November 11, 2011 | 3 Comments
An example of technology, once a kids’ fad, which will increase data traffic in the Cloud
My daughter turned nine recently, and with her birthday money she chose to buy a necklace with a cat pendant that turns hues of green and blue from her own body temperature when she wears it. The necklace reminded me of mood ring from 30 years ago! They turned pretty shades depending on how warm one’s finger gets. What a blast from the past for this old mom! I think I was in 5th grade when my aunt gave me one as a present. It was the top fad at the time, and I just had to have one. I had been envious for months of the rich-looking purple color the “stone” turned when my friends wore their rings. I was disappointed that all my skinny finger could generate was a muddy brown color. “Cold hands, warm heart,” my mom would offer in consolation. Geesh.
Yet mood ring technology has evolved into useful thermal sensors. I was reading news about Near Field Communication (NFC) and SMART (Status and Motion Activated Radiofrequency Tags) technology and came across announcements from American Thermal Instruments, Inc. ATI got its start manufacturing mood rings in 1980. After mood rings, ATI turned their attention to more useful applications of thermal monitoring, such as forehead thermometers; they supplied more than 30 million of them last year. ATI announced pilot programs for sensors and mobile software that track temperature and send alerts if temperatures go outside a programmed range. The sensors provide data, which can be transmitted and stored in the Cloud, via NFC-enabled smartphones or RFID scanners.
Thermal sensors with wireless connectivity can lead to improved product quality and safety benefiting both business and consumers. Medicine can lose potency above certain temperatures. The shelf-life of produce will be shorter if temperatures are too high during transport from the farm to the market. Temperature increases in the wheels of cars, trains and airplanes can indicate they need repair. A variety of wireless sensors may be used in the home, such as in appliances to send maintenance alerts, to inform parents if their child develops a fever, and on food containers to indicate the leftovers are going bad. Consumers will want the option of receiving alerts on their smartphones or tablets.
ATI is an example of companies entering the connected device market. The number of devices intermittently connected to the internet is 50 billion worldwide, but with trends, such the increasing use of sensors and greater penetration of smartphones and tablets, the number will grow to 200 billion by 2015. Gartner analysts Sylvain Fabre and Jessica Ekholm write that by 2020 there will be more cellular connected devices than conventional subscribers. By 2015 data traffic through cellular networks will increase to 26 times its volume in 2010. The increase in data traffic holds opportunities and challenges for communications service providers, and Sylvain and Jessica discuss them in “4G: The Next Frontier for Cellular Networks.” Sylvain recently did a Talking Technology segment, “4G Services: A Premature Call,” which provides an introduction to issues surrounding 4G.
The growing trend for real-world objects to be connected forming an ”Internet of Things” is included in a webinar by David Willis and me, “iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds.” It was well-attended, and you can download the slides or listen to the replay through the link above. (Access to Gartner content depends on your subscription.)
Note: SMART technology has a patent pending from the University of Dayton Research Institute, whose inventor Bob Kauffman developed it in part to detect and report mechanical failures of certain clamps on aircraft.
Thank you for reading my blog. Have a great day!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: 4G, big data, Cloud, computing trends, Internet of Things, NFC, SMART
by Angela McIntyre | September 20, 2011 | Comments Off
One of the computing trends from the Intel Developer Forum 2011 in San Francisco was the use of Microsoft Kinect as a platform for controlling electronics with gestures. The demo showcased a prototype electronic sign that could be used as an endcap display in a retail shop. The sign was a large LCD panel mounted vertically with half a dozen images of drug store products, arranged as if in a high-end magazine ad, making razors, shaving cream, sun block, etc. appear as glamorous as they possibly could. For the demo I was a shopper seeking information about the air fresheners advertised on the screen.
Getting the sensors to recognize my hand took a couple of tries. The demo staff suggested I shift my feet 6 inches left and then modified my wave to something between Queen Elizabeth’s and a warm Howdy. Hovering my virtual hand over a product image brought it to the foreground, and icons at the bottom of the screen let me choose among price, product information, and reviews. The sensor and software technology may evolve so that almost everyone can activate the display on the first try.
The demo illustrated well how gestures can be useful for interactive advertising and product information in retail. Similar applications include interactive signage or large screen kiosks that the public can use to access information about locations, schedules, events, transit, menus, and so on. In the workplace, using gestures to control computers and electronics will make tasks easier. Creative prototypes from developers using the Microsoft Kinect SDK show some of the ways gesture interfaces will change how we work. When giving live presentations, gestures can replace using the remote control “clicker” to advance slides or zoom in on a chart. In warehouse or factory uses, guiding some heavy equipment or robots by gesture could be more economical and potentially safer than with push-buttons and levers. Gestures can be especially useful when analyzing large amounts of graphical data, such as manipulating multiple charts, graphs, tables and images on a large screen for business dashboards or to plan treatment for patients with multiple health issues.
To discuss how new user interfaces are shaping computing, I invite you to join David Willis and me for our webinar on October 27th: “iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds.” Here is the link to register.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: gesture recognition, Intel, Microsoft, user interface
by Angela McIntyre | July 21, 2011 | 1 Comment
I was working from my hotel room yesterday afternoon with a couple of hours between client visits, and I couldn’t get on the internet. I was on-line after checking-in the evening before, no problem. It was one of those hotspot services where you click on a portal, enter your credit card number, and get on. I called the 800 customer service number on the placard on the desk. The lady on the phone did everything she was supposed to, except get me back on the internet. She walked me through the steps to connect and the proper set-up, which was all a waste of time since I had connected successfully the night before.
I wanted to know; had my hotspot password expired too soon? Had a problem been reported with the internet service in the hotel? After 20 minutes the lady had exhausted her script. She seemed like a kind gal and told me that I would receive a call back from a technician who would continue to help me with the issue. I got the call from the level 2 help desk within 10 minutes.
It wasn’t long before he said, “Well, I can see why you can’t get on. The internet has been down at your hotel since around noon.”
“Why didn’t the first person I spoke with simply tell me that?”
“Oh, she couldn’t have known. She doesn’t have that information.”
I asked for my hotspot charge to be refunded for the day, and he hesitatingly agreed. By then almost an hour had passed. Maybe next time I will take the advice my colleague gave me, “I always insist on talking with higher level staff right away.”
Yet since I cover customer service, I find myself rooting for the companies I contact to give me a good customer experience. I want to have their customer support processes work well instead of going around them.
What could have been different? It would have been great if when I dialed the 800 number, a virtual assistant told me the internet service was down at the hotel and how long it would be before service would be restored. Anyway, the first contact person could have access to the same knowledge base as higher level staff to know about outages, etc. For issues that are more difficult to diagnose, the first contact person could ask more experienced staff for help and resolve the issue in one call.
I hope the internet hotspot provider actively looks for ways to improve its customer support experience and optimize its internal processes. If they do, they will find ways to become more efficient, they’ll improve their bottom line, and give customers a better opinion of their brand.
I recently presented a webinar on customer experience that emphasized customer support. Here is the link.
Webinar: Build Your 2012 Customer Experience Action Plan Now
Presented by: Charlotte Patrick and Angela McIntyre
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Angela McIntyre | May 11, 2011 | 1 Comment
When I have trouble with a product, I often find myself on the company’s website tracking down how to fix it. Often the info on the webpages doesn’t go deep enough to help my particular circumstance. I try on-line chat if available and sometimes wonder if the agent is virtual or a real person. It’s not so easy to tell at first.
Most consumers prefer to have a conversation with a person to help them resolve issues with after-sales support. The cost to staff call centers or live chat can be prohibitive for some companies, especially in mature market countries where labor costs tend to be higher.
Virtual agents handle many consumer questions and help diagnose problems with devices. As with a human agent, the ability of the virtual agent to provide help depends in part on how good their knowledgebase is. For virtual agents, their ability to understand my question in any of the half a dozen or so ways I choose to ask it is key. Several companies are improving the virtual agents’ ability to process natural language and give a response in a conversation-like manner.
With consumer electronics, it can be difficult to know whether the trouble is due to the device, or its connector box, or the software, etc. Some providers of virtual assistant technology seamlessly link the virtual agent for the company that makes the device, with the virtual agent of the company that makes the connector box, with the virtual agent of the company that provides the software application, etc. They go right through the checklist for diagnosing a problem, and it is easy not to notice the hand-off to another company. There is no “hold” while being transferred between agents. As a consumer if there is a problem with a device I’ve purchased, I want to get it resolved conveniently with one chat session or call, if possible. The latest virtual agent capabilities in on-line chat are one way to improve the after-sales support experience.
Thank you for reading my blog! I suggest you take a look at the following Gartner reports on consumer research, emerging chatbot technology and players pertinent to the virtual assistant market.
Findings: Press ’0′ to Speak With a Live Agent
Cool Vendors in Emerging Technologies, 2011
Virtual Assistant Vendor Landscape
You may need to be a Gartner client to view these documents.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: artificial intelligence, knowledge management, virtual agent