|Issue:||Europe II 2007|
|Topic:||Blurring the lines|
Roy Bedlow is the Vice President of Palm EMEA. Mr Bedlow was previously Director of Palm EMEAís Wireless Business Unit, with responsibility for the Treo family of smartphones and alliances with operators in Europe. In this role he successfully built the foundation of Palm EMEAís wireless business around the Treo product family. Prior to joining Palm, Mr Bedlow was EMEA marketing director at Handspring, before it merged with Palm in 2003. Earlier roles included European Business Unit director for Iomega International in Geneva, and a variety of sales and marketing positions at Apple Computer over a period of six years, based in London and Munich.
Many technologies – computers, for example – were first developed for the high-end, professional users. The devices are expensive and they can be difficult to use. With time, the designs are refined, prices drop and usability improves. Today, devices such as the smartphone and PDA, originally aimed at the business user, are increasingly finding their way into the home. This is not surprising, since the business user, once accustomed to the convenience that technologies bring, wants to use them at home as well.
Cutting-edge technology was originally the domain of the state – the costs involved were so high that not even businesses could afford to use it. As costs came down, these technologies crept into the domain of the business and then eventually reached the consumer. As disposable income increases and the cost of new technology plummets, many technologies have now reached the mass market. The host of devices and applications used and experienced by consumers and business users alike cannot help but shape their perception and the way users interact with them. This shift in usage is not so much caused by the demands of users, but more by the availability of the technology itself, which may not always be used for its initial purpose. The example of SMS is excellent in this respect. SMS was created as a means to alert individual mobile users to events such as incoming voice mail. However, within a matter of years, SMS became a hugely popular means of communication. As users adopt technology, they will use it in a manner suited to them. This has driven business users to become heavily reliant on email as a means for communication, which in turn slipped into the more social use of email. Mobile phones, again originally the domain of the high-income professional, have now become ubiquitous, to the point where many consumers have discarded their landline telephones altogether. Itís easy to draw a line between business users and consumers on paper, but really they are all the same people – just fulfilling different roles at different times of the day or week. It follows then that they will have a tendency to want to use similar devices at home and in the office. For example, a worker who has been using Microsoft Windows at work for years and decides to invest in a home PC is likely to buy Microsoft at home. Similarly, someone familiar with Windows is also likely to prefer a smartphone working on the same operating system – simply because of the comfortable familiarity of the user interface. The desire for people to achieve work-life balance will also inevitably have an effect on the way they use the technologies they have access to. It is another example of the blurring of the boundaries between what is work and what leisure is – the two are converging rapidly. In an international survey we sponsored recently, the Global Mobile Mindset Auditô, it was found that mobile users were just as likely to use their mobile device in business environments as they were for recreational use. We described this trend as ëlife blendingí, where users demand the kind of functionality that enables them more effectively to manage social and work commitments simultaneously and on one single device. In a similar vein, 40 per cent of those questioned stated they are ëhighly dependentí on and ëstrongly attachedí to their mobile phones. This ëemotional attachmentí is stronger in the case of mobile devices than with any other electronic device included in the study. Furthermore, an additional 15 per cent of respondents said that they plan to increase their mobile usage over the next year to 18 months. We believe that if users are looking to increase device usage, they are likely to invest in a device that enables ëlife blendingí as a priority. Referring again to the Global Mobile Mindset Audit, for more than 80 per cent of respondents, access to personal information management, PIM, such as calendar and contacts information, is considered the leading advantage of owning a mobile device after, obviously, being able to make calls and send text messages. PIM data is actually valued more, and used far more often, by smartphone users than such capabilities as music playback, MMS/video messaging and camera. Indeed, PIM functions such as calendaring and contact management are used ëall the timeí or ëfrequentlyí by 55 per cent of smartphone users. The natural progression is for consumersí demands to continue to grow and become more sophisticated, which is where the complex business devices such as smartphones may become more popular, as features traditionally associated with leisure use are added, allowing users to blend work with leisure. Consumers will continue to drive developments in technology. Business devices are already becoming more and more consumer friendly and multi-functional; this allows them more truly to reflect usersí converging ëworkí and ëleisureí values. One area that some technology companies need to guard against is in focusing too much on the ëleisureí, to the detriment of the professional uses the business users still require from the device. This can lead to design hindering the intended functionality. On the other hand, the appeal of attractive, familiar-looking devices that are designed with ease of use, as the primary consideration, could drive greater adoption amongst users who traditionally would have shunned mobile computing devices. The companies that succeed will be the ones that can best strike this balance between functionality and consumer appeal; something that has always been crucial to design values. As new technologies and applications appear, from social networking sites to virtual worlds such as Second Life, decision-makers should ensure they are well informed and open minded. They should consider all emerging technologies as potentially beneficial to the business (and also some as potentially harmful. Think, for instance, of the risk of viruses spreading via non-secure instant messaging applications). Businesses should stay abreast of all these developments and monitor personal and professional uptake of these technologies, as they can provide competitive advantage and create a happier, more productive workforce. Conducted by GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.), the CMO (Chief Marketing Officersí) Council research initiative is part of an extensive authority leadership programme by FAME, a strategic interest group of top marketers, associations and experts drawn from all sectors of the wireless ecosystem.