We’re only in it for the Users
It hasn’t always been the case but the current era of mobile devices and services is with few exceptions built on user experience. Good user experience is clearly easy to talk about but very difficult to realize and darn hard to copy. Case in point; Apple’s mobile devices and interfaces have been around for many years now and none has yet managed to push them off the interaction throne. So if you win consumers through a great product and service experience, what’s the state of the mobile nation? Starting off by analyzing the two giants of the current mobile services space, Apple and Google, you find a fight over partially the same market but with two very different strategies.
In line with the experience-based trend they helped launch, Apple provides people with products that for most are a pleasure to see and use but aren’t necessarily technically outstanding. Apple wants people to love one device (like iPhone) and surrounding services (like iTunes) so much that they buy more devices from Apple (like the iPad, Airport an Apple TV). The more Apple hardware and software you buy the better total integrated experience you get and the more money Apple makes. This has been Apple’s strategy since the dawn of iPod and iTunes.
Google on the other hand, no doubt aware of how important user experience is, consistently chooses not to try beating or even competing with Apple in terms of holistic and fulfilling user experiences. Google instead emphasizes get-things-done and extremely rapid functionality innovation with bare-bones and okay user interfaces, visible in everything from Gmail to Android Market. In a step maybe too far on functionality focus, the recently presented Google TV interface seems to be made for (and probably by) techies. So far Google has got away with their strategy because they create services that blow competitors out of the water regardless of user experience. At the end of the day Google doesn’t make money from great product experiences like Apple does, but by having huge amounts of users to push advertising to.
Looking beyond the Big Two, many companies have both good vision and execution in terms of business model and user experience but some are seriously barking up the wrong tree. Operators have had an awkward (though improving) approach to providing what their customers really want, but some of their industry organizations have not caught on. Too many still see operator market power – i.e. a shift back from Apple, from Google, from the consumer or from anyone else – as the ultimate goal. Reaching this goal is apparently more important than providing user experience and fast-paced technology innovation that benefit their consumers.
If you want to be part of the game today, you need to provide superior customer experience regardless if you’re a mobile operator, service provider, device manufacturer or content creator. Everything but a consumer-centric world view is a dead end today. Defining this experience and then making sure your organization lives up to the expectations is difficult, but it’s vital if you want to be on top of your competition. If your business model doesn’t allow this vision to be executed it’s time to re-model the way you do things. It’s no doubt a tough – and different – job but unless you act now a competitor of yours soon will.