I’ve been writing a lot about technology in recent weeks, as I am fascinated by the new markets that have blossomed in the past few years. We now crave technology that most of us never imagined could exist, and we are consuming that technology at a ferocious pace.
The market for handheld and portable electronics is sizzling hot.
Google says that searches on Android phones more than tripled in the first half of 2010, and on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Google VP Marissa Mayer said on October 5th that there are more searches on Android powered devices than online.
According to the Apple Insider, Apple expects iPads to outsell Macs in 2011, estimating 21 million iPads to be sold next year.
Amazon says that more Kindle e-books now outsell hardcover books.
Voice, music, video, print – we have so many choices on how to consume data, and these choices are likely to continue to evolve at a very speedy pace.
Of course consumption is made possible by affordability. Today it’s possible to purchase a smart phone, a tablet, an e-reader, and an MP3 player for less than half of what I paid for my first personal computer in 1984. And consumption is made practical by portability. I can carry them all around in a handbag.
We can choose between dedicated devices that are specialized for a single task such as book reading or music, or we can buy a device that does it all. It’s the age-old question that we have seen in the server industry for decades with the debate between mainframes versus distributed/dedicated servers/blades: Do I buy individual devices that are truly great at one thing? Or do I go with a single device that meets all my needs, but is not optimized for a single task?
Nowhere has the debate between specialized device versus multi-purpose device been clearer than in the e-book market. The specialized devices (such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook) are optimized for what they do, but now readers also have options to read on their smart phones (such as the Motorola Droid or Apple iPhones) or tablet computers (such as the iPad).
Who will win?
I think both can win. The market for both specialized technology devices and multi-purpose technology devices will go nowhere but up. I’m not likely to take an iPad to the gym to listen to music while I’m on the elliptical machine; I’ll use an iPod Nano for that. On the other hand, if I’m traveling or on-the-go, a tablet or a multi-purpose smart phone rules.
Technology manufacturers will be best served by focusing on what they do best. For the dedicated device manufacturer, the goal is excellence, improved user-experience, and reduced cost. For the multi-purpose devices it all about the applications, operating systems optimized for multi-tasking, and – you guessed it – reduced cost.
Your turn – what’s your take on portable technology devices?