Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Risk of Missing the Boat

Yesterday, I caught an article about an upcoming video game console release from Sony. It has not yet been announced, but it’s widely expected that Sony will announce its followup to the Playstation Portable (PSP) for release sometime next year, and yet many analysts are already calling it a DOA device because of the prevalence (and affordability) of touch devices like phones, iPods, and tablets.

Then, this morning Google finally unveiled a full functional version of their Chrome OS, announced a little over a year ago as a super lightweight OS solution for netbook computers. And yet, many people are saying that this development is also coming just a bit too late as many companies start pushing to sell off their netbook stock and replace it with Tablet PCs.

Now, we all know that the tech industry is a very fluid machine. At any given point, a development in technology or a swing in consumer interest can tank one product and raise another to multi-million selling status. And while I wouldn’t call the current trend toward touch technology a full on revolution, it is definitely having an impact on the way business is done.

Specifically, people are getting used to sleek, technically advanced devices and simpler, single-access solutions for multiple problems. They don’t necessarily want gaming devices anymore when they can use their phone to check email, make calls, and play games. They don’t necessarily want a netbook when they can have a tablet, which looks so much nicer and is even more portable.

And while companies like Sony and Google are not exactly going to bite the dust because they released a device or technology that is past due, there are other companies that need to be careful. It can and probably should make some developers at least a little nervous. The risk of getting so excited that they throw all of their eggs in one basket only to watch the basket get knocked over a couple months later.

I wished I had advice for manufacturers and developers on how to avoid this trap, but honestly I am excited by what it represents. We’re seeing more new ideas, developments, and opportunities opening up every week right now than we saw in personal computing for years last decade, and that means more efficient options not just for the average consumer, but for developers, businesspersons, students, and health care professionals.

What do you think? Are there devices or technologies currently in development that risk being overshadowed by what the tablet or smartphone industries are currently doing with touch? What can the big boys (Microsoft, Dell, Sony, etc.) do to stay ahead of the curve and help revolutionize the personal computing industry instead of trying to play catchup? It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. One thing I can be sure of, though, is that the consumer will win out in the end.

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