October 20, 2014

In Silicon Valley the Hunted Becomes the Hunter Almost Overnight

Have you guys been seeing all the attempted murderers running around Silicon Valley? Without even paying full attention, one can’t help but see a headline pop up every few days about some company working on an “X” killer. The latest target, as everyone is fully aware of, is the Apple iPhone. With their touch screen user interface and simplistic navigation, everyone is taking a shot at dethroning the current king of mobile handsets.

Here are three recent devices that have popped up and set the iPhone in their sites:

  • Sprint and Samsung Instinct
  • Nokia 5800 XPress Media ‘Tube’
  • RIM’s 9000 BlackBerry Series

While it’s likely that each of these devices will have tremendous hardware and software capability, it might take more than that to unseat Apple. Jobs and Co. have done a fantastic job of making people believe they need to buy their products whether they need it or not. Apple has been appealing to emotions and not so much intelligence to sell the iPhone and the train does not look like it’s going to slow down. The 3G version is right around the corner and with it might be another segment of users who have been waiting for that moment. That segment will draw people away from somewhere else, shrinking market share its wake.

There are a few companies out there who had better be watching their backs or the iPhone might be the device that ends up killing them instead. Shoddy products, terrible concepts, and poor execution could quickly send companies the way of the dodo bird. A few that spring to mind are Motorola and Sprint. Neither of these is ready to go quietly as they’ve both begun to transform and position themselves for a long term fight for relevancy.

Motorola has split off their handset division and moved executives around. They’re trying to more effectively market their devices to the right users. My advice is to back up even further. Eliminate any future handsets that can be stopped. Start over and come up with fresh ideas and approaches to design. Stop thinking thin and start thinking practical and logical. You guys have great hardware sitting under the hood – show people what they can do with it. But keep it simple. Android and the other members of the Open Handset Alliance might be just what the doctor calls for. The open source platform could be the key component in putting Motorola back in the black.

Sprint has a couple of things going for them right now. They have the exclusive Samsung Instinct handset coming out and the Xohm network is right around the corner. They’ve also got the best unlimited rate in the world with the $99/month Simply Everything plan. Their new ad campaigns are gearing up as Dan Hesse seems to be breathing some fresh air into the company. My recommendation to them is to focus on the small things. Customer satisfaction goes a long way to retention and acquisition. Ask T-Mobile where they might be if they weren’t winning all the JD Power and Associates awards. Engage the customers at every level possible. Reach out to them proactively. Watch how far a little “wow” factor goes.

Two companies working together like AT&T and Apple pose a serious threat to anyone in the industry. They have a combination of factors that will make them very hard to overcome. That won’t stop the competition from trying though. Imitators and emulators just go to show you who the best is.

Here’s a little basic math to gauge your potential or worth. The more ‘X’ killers there are, the better your chances. I’m just hoping a year or two down the road we’re seeing “Android Killers” springing up.