My goal is to write one 'Pattern Recognition' a week. Just the top 3-4 stories that stayed under my skin. Here's what stuck this week:
- Mobile Web > Mobile Native > Bifurcated Native: In the continuing 'banjo duel' between Mobile Native and Mobile Web, three threads got into my bones. One, is the idea that whereas Apple has the best combined story in terms of providing BOTH a superior mobile web environment and the best mobile native platform, the reality is that their unfair, defensible advantage lies in iOS. Hence, it makes sense that Apple would boot Google from Maps, a native app, but keep them in Search, a mobile web environment, a decision that Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land called 'Containment' (in lieu of Thermonuclear). After all, Apple is not at war with mobile web, but definitely wants to WIN mobile native. Two is the fact that whereas all of the banter is that HTML5 is the great disrupter to be of all things Native, the hard truth is that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. In abandoning their HTML5 gaming ambitions, featured Facebook Platform developer Wooga cited insurmountable challenges with discovery, performance and connectivity. I guess the contender is still a pretender, but then again, I have been waiting since 1994 for Web apps to offer a caveat free application model, as opposed to merely a (quasi) universal one. Finally, the meme of what it means to be mobile NATIVE, has been buzzing in my brain since reading Fred Wilson's excellent post on the topic. I think that I have a thesis around the evolution of native apps. If the first generation of native apps were knocked as being little more than native wrapers on web functionality, and the second gen were mostly parallel to the web, what we are going to increasingly see are what I call 'Bifurcated' Native Apps. These are apps, like Instagram and Path, where the optimal creation, consumption and service-ready environment (e.g., social share + discovery) is within the native app itself, BUT one of the output methods is in a web-friendly format suitable for blogs, tweets, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn pages and the like. In other words Native first, with a 'best-practical' gateway to the web. I can see a great many application scenarios for such apps.
- TV's Blind Spot: Peter Kakfka of AllThingsD argues that the TV business is vulnerable, but it's not with highly pirated premium shows like 'Game of Thrones,' but rather, cheap to produce, cookie-cutter reality shows. I have two takes on this one. One, "must-see" programming and live sports are the straws that stir the drink, and everything else is bundles and fillers. That's why ESPN drives Disney profits, and HBO cares not one whit that GOT is most pirated. It's the same reason that Bravo, the den of reality programming, has cultivated the hell out of their few franchises, including continuous advertising, which cost serious coin.In other words, cost reduction is not the silver bullet in itself, even if it has real prospects as a low-end disrupter. What will be a silver bullet is when the next wave of web "tv" programmers start creating media units that are native to the web/app medium, and deeply integrated from the first storyboard. Whether that means integrating community into the programming, designing in locality handles, reinvigoration of live to create a new shared experience, game-ification, or something else, that's the bucket, and it's a different animal, in the same way that TV was not simply radio with pictures. So far, what we've seen are loosely-coupled approaches that I view similarly to the dog that walks on its hind legs. Interesting, but nothing that anyone would conclude was designed from the ground up to be that way. As an analog, think of the distinction between our concept of the smart phone pre-iPhone (see Blackberry) and post (see iPhone, iPad and beyond). TV has a long way to go in that regards.
- Integrated to the Point of Invisibility: One of the books that has deeply influenced my thinking about industry, economy and technology models is the book 'Waves of Power' by David Moschella. In WOP, the author shows how technology evolves in waves, such that in the initial wave, the technology is so new, complex and brittle that the only way to deliver a real solution is to be verticalized. As the technology matures and becomes understood, the trend is towards commoditization. Here, the best model is to be horizontal, so as the leverage the broadest swath of innovation, and to be able to focus on the narrowest slice of differentiation, where your margins will come from. One can see how the mainframe and mini was the first wave of computing, and the PC era was the second wave. What's interesting is that Moschella, who wrote the book way back in 1997, goes on to show how the wave after horizontal is the embedded wave where the technology becomes so pervasive and the best practices are so well-formed that computing becomes both ubiquitous and invisible. Apple's dominance is best understood in this light. In an industry organized around 'speeds and feeds' and loose-coupling, they correctly realized that once everyone understood what technology could do, they would want it to work well. To do so, it would need to be an extension of their aspirations, their vanity and their daily outcomes, not the other way around. I thought about this in comparing my iPad 1 to my new iPad; namely, marveling at the many elements where the 'magic' lies not in some cool new feature, but rather in the tiny bits of integration 'finesse' that turned functionality that I formally noted, 'Wow, I can do that,' to instead, 'Wow, I no longer even think about the steps to doing it.' The source of delight is in the fact that it's simply invisible, an extension to what I am doing in the moment. I thought this an interesting contrast to Microsoft's announcement of Surface earlier in the week (which I like, even though it's vapor at this point), where they were touting the hinges on the kickstand of the device's case as being 'designed to feel and sound like a high end car door.' It's the opposite of designing invisbility, IMHO.