Posted on The Near Futurist: August 25, 2008 1:58 PM
John Hagel pointed out in a recent post, when designing for the future, we should not assume that the internet will be on our desks—but integrated to our daily lives, fluid, mobile, and social. Apple's iPhone and App Store are the starter kit for executives to learn how to thrive in this new market of content which is user-created, market-sorted, and available everywhere (see Umair Haque's recent post).
So the question is: Can you use this new, portable, low-cost, user-friendly
platform to sell more and serve customers better?
The Apple iPhone is the first portable, networked media platform that enables almost any person, company, or government to create new applications. Apple's App Store is selling over a million dollars a day in new software. Big software companies like Salesforce.com already have interfaces to the iPhone, but the field is wide open for traditional companies to get their brand into this environment.
The first step would be to sponsor some of the innovations that are emerging naturally. For example, a car company could sponsor the software that turns your iPhone into a flashing emergency light to put in the back of your stalled vehicle at night. There's also a pedometer app that uses the on-board accelerometer to measure how much you have walked or run—Nike could count how much you Just Did It. There is even a glucose counter, which I'm sure will soon have a Bluetooth-enabled glucose tester, which will enable you to prick your finger and automatically update your record and your doctor—which should be of interest to Bayer Diabetes Care, to name just one.
Companies should be encouraging end-user iPhone innovations consistent with their brands—and let the App market sort which ones are useful. Because the medium is so new, the costs are very low.
More broadly, media is an integral part of all products and services. For example, many consumers love barbecue. Tech savvy cooks could design a barbecue widget for the iPhone that displays YouTube instructional videos and has markets voting in real time for the best recipes with their phones. Kraft could sponsor it. W.W. Grainger, the $6.8 billion dollar industrial distributor, has a catalog that has 80,000 items in it and is inches thick—which only represents a fraction of their 250,000 SKUs. There should be an iPhone version of that catalogue to serve up the firm's full inventory in real time—with "how to" videos created by enthusiasts drawn from the millions of people who use their products. And any company with a sales force could use iPhones to show prospective buyers up-to-the-minute customer testimonials—in the middle of the sales process.
Build the content, serve it up through iTunes—and let the market decide what it wants. Many sophisticated phones can communicate content, but Apple has the best market for ideas. Now it is cheap and easy to learn and differentiate. Over time, there will be devices like the iPhone in every pocket, in every car, and even in airplanes. You should be ready.