The winners of the 5th screen will be …..

….. probably not the advertisers as discussed on this piece on ‘5th screens’ on Fast Company. I maybe wrong or simply short-sighted but I think the commercialisation of these screens just needs to be different.

The 5th screen’s role in life is simple – to tell you something useful and in a way that is easier and more beneficial than just getting your smartphone out of your pocket. It has to be designed to be useful in even more fleeting glances than the ever increasing times we spend engrossed with our smartphones.

So the winners in the 5th screen device market will have learnt from the 3rd screen (smartphone) and 4th screen (tablet) and be those that get the user experience right so that consumers actually want to view and in this case actually wear their screen.

As someone lucky enough to have used the Sony SmartWatch for the last couple of months I can tell you how important it is to get the design and navigation right. This is pretty cool but you really don’t want to be spending time fumbling around with your watch and looking a geek. This needs both a good resolution display and of course simple software UI.

This is what I think will define the winners and the good news is that that it doesn’t have to be Apple. I say this because:

  1. The smartphone user base is now much bigger than just iPhones given the massive rise in Android
  2. Hopefully enough players have hooked onto simple & smart UI design and can develop as quickly as Apple would need to for this new type of device

As an entrepreneurial lover of technology and gadgets I think it’s great that the Allerta Pebble smartwatch has raised so much funding to hopefully secure a successful launch. It does appear to have taken further steps in the right direction but the areas that I think need to be delivered by whomever wins in this area are:

  •  provide us something compelling that will genuinely get us to value this over a normal watch – This could be as simple as easily changing/personalising the clock/calendar but obviously has scope for other applications such as messaging, location, etc.
  • simple content presentation without too much scrolling around – you really don’t want to be pressing too many buttons or dragging content around the screen otherwise you will simply get your smartphone out!
  • battery life has to be good and easily charged – I love the built-in USB charger on the Nike Sportswatch that just plugs into computer, charges and updates apps
  • do not do what is inferred by the FastCompany post and clutter my watch experience with adverts – my watch is arguably more personal than even my phone and is definitely going to be smaller so a completely new thinking of commercialisation needs to be considered.
Sure, I recognise that monetisation of the business model can happen and potentially subsidise the cost of these sexy 5th screens in the same way as my post on monetising smartphones but let’s start by creating rich services that consumers would be willing to pay for rather than simply seeing it as another screen to serve adverts.
In my opinion this should be more ‘experience value driven’ by offering things such as a golfing GPS app or running/exercise app than by seeing it as another screen to monetise with adverts. Of course there are many other great opportunities for brands to get involved and build value into the experiences like this and use this to drive their business.
But do this in the smart way of adding value to the consumer on their new 5th screen rather than trying to find the right way to shoe-horn your advert onto the screen!

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The power of dreams – not quite yet

As someone who would pay good money for a better night’s sleep I was drawn to the exciting news of the new Dream:ON app that helps to influence your dreams and give you a better sleep.

I’m not sure about you but I have had many nights’ sleep ruined by my dreams being distracted by thoughts of work, things I have forgotten to do and other mundane things. I certainly know that I sleep better when the dreams are about enjoying a relaxing family holiday, shooting a 68 at Pebble Beach or of course doughnuts if you’re Homer Simpson!

What a beautiful and simple innovation – giving people better dreams and helping them improve their sleep. How much would you pay for that as a business proposition?

But can this dream become a reality? At the moment the Dream:ON service is linked to a study at the University of Hertfordshire so isn’t really a commercial venture but I tried it myself last night and here’s my thoughts:

Well initially I was struck by the simplicity and ease of use of setting up the service. I wasn’t too sure how the 2 free soundscapes would influence my dreams but I went to bed excited about the night’s sleep ahead.

Sadly, I guess you can argue that it didn’t work! I didn’t get to hear any of the soothing music and I certainly didn’t get any better dreams. In fact, I actually had a worse sleep as I was worried about my iPad laying on my bed and even had to rescue it when it fell off and smashed against the bed side table.

However, looking at it optimistically I can see that there is real potential for developing the service whereby it works better both functionally and commercially based on a few tweaks:

  • using a specialist device such as the Jawbone UP to monitor your sleep patterns rather than leaving your mobile phone or tablet laying on your bed. This should give much more accurate results and save you worrying about your phone as much. It would also allow the service to work on memory foam beds!
  • having the Dream:ON app working with wireless/bluetooth speakers so that the music can be played via your existing bedside audio system
  • a simpler business model that gives a two-week free trial to a wide range of dream soundscapes so that consumers get happy the service works for them before then charging a small monthly fee – something I would happily pay for a proven way to better dreams and sleep!
So I won’t be using Dream:ON again tonight as I try and catch up on some sleep.
However, maybe the guys at Jawbone or anyone else that has a potential interest in this exciting new proposition can dream something up so that we can all sleep a little bit more peacefully!

The mobile innovation conundrum

Well this may not exactly come as news to many of you but this week really reinforces the conundrum facing mobile operators – and therefore all of us – in the quest for new service innovations to support their future business.

In the week that we have seen Facebook’s staggering $1bn acquisition of a non-revenue generating business we have also seen the recent results showing that revenues at the UK’s leading mobile operators have declined by 2.3% in 2011 as their customers are simply using their latest smartphones & data packages to communicate and entertain themselves in many other ways than the high margin voice business.

Clearly the mobile operators are not starting from scratch and some such as O2 have had a business innovation unit going for some time looking at creating new services in areas such as health, mobile payments and monetisation of mobile search and web.

However, this week clearly demonstrates the need for them to accelerate their innovation even faster and I just hope that they focus the resources and take the appropriate risks to make this happen.

Don’t forget if the operators don’t get this right and help find new profitable revenue streams they will be forced to continue ongoing cost-reduction measures.

And the worst income in this would be a continued reduction in their subsidy of the shiny smartphones and tablets we are all using to drive the innovation in the first place.

Of course another scenario is that the over-the-top services such as Apple, Amazon & Google continue to drive the innovation themselves. However, even though Amazon are reportedly subsidising the Kindle Fire to a tune of $50 per unit that’s an awful lot of incremental margin they need to make and even then it’s a much smaller subsidy than the mobile operators have typically been able to support on new devices.

So let’s hope that between them they can get this right –  especially how the operators can better partner with the OTT service providers as they plan the build of their new 4G networks – so we can continue to enjoy the shiny new smartphones and tablets driving this fantastic innovation.