Category Archives: Motorola

When the air itself becomes the gadget

One irony of our virtual-networked age is consumers are still gaga about gadgets. The Internet and apps may give us a million different ways to view weather forecasts on a screen, but as soon as Apple launches a thinner MacBook Pro Air with a black bezel, we’ll run to the mall.

The challenge of course is computer product designs are converging into flat panes, and eventually panes can only go so far. When screens and smartphones achieve the apex of glass, product differentiation will be difficult. Which is why devices soon will move out of solid shapes.

Two examples are laser keyboards and miniature projectors. The Cube Laser Virtual Keyboard is a $180 gizmo that beams glowing keys onto any flat surface, and somehow tracks the position of your fingers as you “click” on the flat QWERTY layout. You pair the device with an iPad and suddenly can type away like mad. (Flatscreen tablets suck at typing, yes.) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that within two years Apple and Samsung will add such laser-keyboard inputs into their tablets and phones. And for output, miniature projectors do exactly what they sound like — beam images from your phone and tablet onto the wall, so you can regale dinner companions with cat videos or hold an impromptu PowerPoint presentation with that executive you meet in the bathroom stall.

The third and most promising way devices will leave their hardware shells behind is virtual reality projections. Google announced this week it is expanding its Google Maps 3-D modeling (which renders photorealistic images of major metro buildings, streets, water, and flora from aerial imagery) to mobile phones. Now your handset can unveil a virtual earth tied to your location. If Google has figured out how to compress this powerful software into small handsets, the next step will be putting it inside your glasses, and soon you can overlay any fiction on the world you wish. Some clever hackers twisted the Google Project Glass teaser video to show how you could overlay the “Battlefield 5” game onto your neighborhood walk, if only you wore the right pair of virtual-reality spectacles.

Soon, keyboard inputs, video projections, and virtual reality will dance in the air around our fingers and eyeballs. The hunger to buy the next Apple product will fade, because slightly recast aluminum shells will become commoditized and a glass tab that transforms into a high-def screen is just another piece of glass. Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung, Dell, HP and other gadget manufacturers will need to spend more time thinking through virtual interfaces than concrete shells. Play it forward and you’ll see plenty of opportunity for garage startups to break into this new anti-product world. When the air itself becomes the gadget, the definition of product design will change.

Pushing demand to push up your price (or why iPods are getting cheap)

Remember that classic old supply-and-demand curve in Econ 101?

We’ve been thinking recently that marketers are in a constant battle with consumers over where the demand curve falls. At any given supply (shown above by the vertical line), marketers want demand to be higher (and thus be able to sell products at higher prices). At the same given supply, consumers are constantly evaluating other choices, which could shift demand (and thus prices) lower.

A classic example is land; they aren’t making any more of it. So marketers could push property in Florida to raise demand and prices, or consumers could realize the real estate bubble has burst and avoid land in Florida, pushing down demand and prices. Supply is what it is; the demand curve shifts, and prices must follow.

The role of marketers is to attempt to shift the demand curve at any given supply quantity.

This dynamic is especially at play in the release of new technology gadgets such as the Apple iPhone, or the GPS devices now being affixed to car windshields, or flat-panel TVs. These new products emerge with no real competitors; producers plan to ship a set amount; marketers therefore send out messages to try to manipulate where the demand curve falls.

What’s interesting about this push-and-pull is that eventually consumers wake up, realize the new product isn’t that special, and the entire demand curve shifts downward at any given quantity. The Motorola Razr phone launched in 2004 and people were willing to pay $800 (the initial price without a service agreement). Now, the Razr is fading out. Same phone. Same features. Same quantity on the shelves. But marketing could only keep the shift of the demand curve at bay for a little while.

Why does the demand curve shift down for technology? We think it is perceived scarcity. When a new gadget appears, the marketing message is this is special, rare, and thus scarce. Perceived scarcity drives up the demand curve. Eventually, consumers begin to view the “new thing” as a commodity, say, just another cell phone, and the perceived rarity/scarcity goes away. Demand then falls down at any given supply.

Really, the current consumer mania over technology is just bubbles of perceived scarcity floating over our innate demand. What today looks hyper-cool, special and scarce tomorrow looks like just another computer or cell phone. The scarcity bubble always bursts, and the marketers of technology then blow more.

Interesting lesson for your own business. What will you do to make your product appear more rare? And how will your marketing keep the demand curve up, to support prices and margins, while consumers gathering intelligence constantly begin to push it back down?

Cell phone asks, will you marry me?

Darryl points to a wicked new promo for the Motorola Z10 cell phone, shot and edited entirely on the gadget and featuring, yes, this real home-made marriage proposal. Not only does it show what the current iPhone can’t do, it also highlights the power of real people and real stories in advertising.

Unlike those oh-so-apparently fake Citi ads.

Campaign by CakeGroup. (Video link updated.)