A month or two ago I submitted an offer to buy a house. I received the paperwork about an hour before the submission deadline.  Five years ago I would have needed to meet someone in person to sign the required paperwork.  Or possibly I might have been able to receive the paperwork electronically but I still would have been required to print a copy, sign the physical copy, scan it and finally submitted it electronically. Five years ago we weren’t yet in a world capable of supporting an all-digital transaction.

But this time was different.  I received and signed the documents through DocuSign Ink.  I was able to electronically sign the required paperwork which then went immediately to the next parties required to review and sign the paperwork.  I was able to save a copy of the submitted paperwork within my account which I could subsequently access within the app on either my iPhone or iPad.

For the first time I felt like I finally saw the potential of tablets and smartphones.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an extremely heavy use of smartphones and tablets. But I’m also a heavy use of traditional notebook computers.  I’ve always been a believer that smartphones and tablets make sense for situations defined by a time/location/task  context.  In other words, tablets and smartphones make sense, but some times traditional computing makes more sense.  This experience called that believe into question.  I’m beginning to think innovation over time can close any chasm between what one can do on a tablet and one can do more easily on a notebook computer.  Notebooks are still far more efficient than smartphones and tablets for some activities (again defined by time/location/task) but I’m no longer convinced that is always going to be the case.

Since 2010 ownership rates have increased significantly – rising from roughly 10 percent at the start of 2011 to over 40 percent today (in another post I’ll talk through why I think tablet ownership rates are actually close to plateauing).  While this ownership rate has largely been driven by entertainment consumption, I’m beginning to think that could change.

In the last three years I’ve witnessed my kids relying almost exclusively on tablets and smartphones. While I’ve largely assumed this was a result of the type of computing activities they are involved in (gaming), I’m beginning to wander if tablets will mature and evolve quickly enough to satisfy their future computing needs. We might soon start talking about “notebook-nevers” as a cohort of heavy computer users who never owned a notebook computer. A recent survey of smartphone and tablet adult owners found 35% of users prefer to access the Internet on their smartphone and 14% prefer their tablet – suggesting a bare majority prefer desktop or laptop computers to access the Internet.

Tablets and smartphones are more personal than traditional PCs – as a result they are redefining what personal means.

One of the next big hurdles for the tablet/smartphone platform is file organization. Apps are largely siloed and as a result related documents are siloed within the apps. Yes, there are cloud storage services like Dropbox or services like Google docs and these services might play a large role. In the recently released iOS 7, Apple redesigned the photo gallery by adding curation features – organizing the photos into “moments.”

With a rapid rate of technological change, comes another technological development. In the digital world that we now live in, it has become common we often create technology to stop other technology from working which in turn spawns additional innovation designed at stopping that technology from working.

Wide deployment of home telephony spawned the creation of the answering machine.  While it’s intended use was to field calls while the homeowner was away, it was frequently used to help individuals avoid certain incoming calls. Caller ID frequently serves a similar purpose today. Universal home telephony service spawned technology use that places limits on the prior technology.

Over the last thirty years we’ve built a ubiquitous cellular network. We are now building technologies to limit and control the ubiquitousness of this technology. As mobile phones have become tools used to detonate bombs for example, we are deploying technologies to block cellular reception in presubscribed areas. We are exploring using technology to stop your cell phone from working while you are the driver of a call.

There are a plethora of examples around us. The iterative nature of technology has us constantly attempting to curb technology application. Technology seeks ubiquitousness. In turn we use technology to guide, mold, and hinder that ubiquitousness. Constantly trying to stop what we’ve started.

Much of the focus on UltraHD to-date has been on resolution.  Even the nomenclature – 4K – is a focus on resolution. I’ve seen dozens are articles written in the popular press that – in attempting to convey UltraHD attributes to the layperson – describe UltraHD in terms of Full HD (ie 1080P). These articles often focus on the characteristic that UltraHD is roughly four times the resolution of Full HD – hence 4K. While factual – this misses one of the real opportunities for UltraHD. I believe the success of UHD will be decided by much more than just “more” resolution.

It is first worth pointing out that a move to higher pixel density screens isn’t happening solely in the TV category.  Across all screens, technology is migrating to higher pixel density screens. Mobile phones, tablets, computers and of course TVs are all moving to higher high resolution screens.  This was a large – though under-reported – story coming out of the 2013 CES – where we saw many of the first mobile phones and tablets to have full HD screens.

High pixel-density screens allow us ultimately to cram more ‘stuff’ onto a screen without the user losing clarity of view. I think the best example is with something like Microsoft Excel. Imagine Microsoft Excel running on two screens – both the same size.  One is a traditional Full HD screen.  The other an UltraHD screen. While on the HD screen you might be able to comfortably view say columns A to P – on the ultraHD screen you might be able to comfortably view columns A to X in a single view.  Because of the higher pixel density, you can more clearly see more information on the same size screen.

We typically think of higher resolution giving us a better picture image of the same content we are viewing on a lower resolution screen.  But higher pixel density screens can actually give us not just better but more.  And therein lies one of the real opportunities for UltraHD.


I’m at the beach this week and took along my Chromecast.  A few thoughts from the week:

  1. It works awesome.  A very seamless experience.  I used the new iOS app to set it up and it worked perfectly from the start. A great user experience which will enable it to go a very long way. Too many devices miss a seamless and quick out-of-the-box experience.
  2. Rethinking the home theater. Chromecast and future services and devices like it will cause us to rethink the traditional home theater. These devices and services will cause us to rethink the hardware systems we use and the way in which we use them. Chromecast essentially opens up a window for streaming through HDMI port. The house we are currently staying in has a traditional dedicated home theater room with an overhead projector. While we can connect the Chromecast to the HDMI port in the back of the projector we weren’t able to support streaming the accompanying audio because that was run through the separate receiver. In all of this, I think Chromecast-like services and ultimately Chromecast-like functionality will cause us to rethink what we do – or want to do – with different hardware configurations.  The role of dedicated home theater rooms will start to evolve as will other viewing areas.  What we watch and where we watch – all has the potential to change.
  3. Local content is key.  To what extent Google will allow local content to be cast remains uncertain. But streaming local content is ultimately key in the traction Chromecast and competing services will garner. Several friends staying with us this week – and being exposed to Chromecast for the first time – remarked Chromecast addressed a problem they were previously trying to solve with long cables.  In almost all of these instances they are looking to stream/cast local content. This is especially true as more screens become Internet-enabled directly.  CEA data shows roughly 30% of LCD TVs being sold YTD are Internet-enabled – up from 23% last year during the same time period. If the TV or other “screened” device are already connected to the Internet the story is less about trying to deliver mainstream media and more about delivering local content like photos or videos.  As an aside – Google casting a tab from within the Chrome browser also worked seamlessly.
  4. Shifting media purchases. In the short-term, Chromecast has the ability to shift media buying channels. When looking to rent something not available on Netflix, I might typically turn to Amazon Instant Video or some other service. But Amazon Instant Video doesn’t currently stream through Chromecast so we found ourselves turning to Google Play instead.  The ability to cast Google Play videos through the YouTube app worked seamlessly.  I’d presume Amazon Instant Video support will come eventually. More importantly will be Ultraviolet support through apps like Vudu – allowing users to stream their growing digital libraries.

Apple released quarterly results for their fiscal third quarter yesterday.  While a tremendous amount of ink has been spilled dissecting every ounce of the most recently concluded quarter as well as pontificating about the implications, I thought it worthwhile to look back over the last 15 quarters to see if any insights might be gleaned. Here are few nuggets:

On Unit Volumes

Apple reports quarterly unit sales for iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Macs.  All, but iPhones experienced a unit volume decline in the fiscal third quarter on a year-over-year basis.  iPhone sales were up 20 percent on a year-over-year basis – driven in part by international growth. Mac sales were down 6.6 percent – the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines. Sales are off about 4.5 percent over the last three quarters. iPad sales slipped 14.2 percent on a year-over-year basis – the first quarter to experience a decline in sales. Apple suggested the decline was primarily driven by tough year-over-year declines.  As the chart below illustrates, the iPad sales growth on a year-over-year basis has been slowing over the extended time period as the product category matures. Growth in the second fiscal quarter was 65 percent on a year-over-year basis. Even comparing 3Q13 unit volume to 2Q12 unit volume shows a growth rate of 23 percent. iPod sales declined 32 percent on a year-over-year basis and have been in decline since at least the close of 2010.

One Average Selling Prices

Because Apple reports both unit volume and revenues for the segments for which they provide breakout details, one can also look at changes in realized prices over an extended period of time.  Beginning in the fourth fiscal quarter of their 2011 fiscal year, Apple changed slightly how they report revenue for the four hardware categories for which they provide a breakout. While they had previously included product specific accessories in the reported category revenue (ie iPad accessories in the iPad category), they stopped doing so with the first fiscal quarter for their fiscal year 2012.  The prior inclusion of revenue for these accessory categories essentially inflates the average price (because it increases reported revenue without a corresponding change in units sold) so take that into account when looking at average price information.  With that said, year-over-year information for the last three fiscal quarters is a like comparison. For the fourth fiscal quarter of 2012 Apple reported results in both ways.  The average iPhone price is about $18 less under the current method and the average iPad price is about $27 less. I believe these figures also provide a rough estimate of the dollar value of accessories purchased by consumers.

Price changes over the last 15 quarters provide interesting insights into the evolution of these categories. Quarterly sales for iPod were down 32 percent from a year ago, 39 percent from two years ago, and over 50 percent from three years ago. At the same time, the average price has increased slightly (up 2 percent on a year-over-year basis).  While unit volume is down significantly, the units they are selling have a slightly higher price. This could simply be an iPod Touch story (raising the average selling price) – though the average iPod price is very close to the price of the iPod Nano. iPod prices remain nearly ten percent below their high.

Mac prices have actually been up for three consecutive quarters on a year-over-year basis and were up over six percent in fiscal Q3 – though they remain about 5 percent below their highest quarter. Conversely, iPhone prices were down roughly 4.4 percent on a year-over-year basis and have fallen for six consecutive quarters. Prices are down about 12 percent from their peak.

The biggest change in average price come from the iPad category where average prices have fallen nearly 35 percent from their peak. Prices were down 15 percent on a year-over-year basis in fiscal Q3 – consistent with recent quarters. This price story tells perhaps the richest story and highlights the evolution within this category. When iPad first launched, cellular connected tablets were a significant share of sales but as usage patterns became more solidified consumers came to learn more clearly how they would use tablets. As opposed to devices that you frequently used in a mobile-connected setting, they became devices that one uses more heavily in a static location (like a home or office) where Wi-Fi  is readily available. Wi-Fi networks have at the same time become more prevalent. Perhaps the long-run decline in price is also a story of consumers shifting more tablet activities to the cloud and therefore requiring less storage on their devices. At the same time Apple did most recently introduce a model with 128GB of storage. Price declines in recent quarters are clearly a sign of composition shift – as consumer adopt the smaller screen (and lower priced) iPad mini.



For many tech categories, new models were historically announced at the beginning of the year and then brought to market in the Spring period (March/April). I think some if not all of this timing was driven by the need to sufficiently inventory the supply chain in advance of the holiday season.

A few years ago I did an analysis of the seasonality of sales for consumer tech products. The results surprised me. The fourth quarter represents about 27 percent of total annual sales volume – the most of any quarter – but significantly less than what I would have expected. I also found that new product categories are heavily dominated by the fourth quarter. Regardless of when they are announced or when they ultimately hit retail channels, a new category will typically see well over half of its annual sales volume in the fourth quarter.  Over time, as the product category matures, sales in the fourth quarter move from 50%+ of annual sales volume to roughly 27%.

I think this phenomenon is driven by the fact that consumers like to both give and receive “new” tech products during the holiday season.  As a product category matures it becomes more heavily driven by replacement cycles – consumers buy a new one when the old one breaks.

This relationship holds across a number of categories and time periods.  I refer to it as the Law of Nascent Product Seasonality. Here’s a recent example.  Apple launched the iPad in April 2010.  They would go on to sell 14.79 million units in 2010, but 7.33 million would be sold in the fourth quarter.  Despite the category being well received, Apple still sold about half of their first year total sales in the fourth calendar quarter.

Supply chain dynamics are improving significantly. The world is becoming flatter and not only can goods be moved quicker and more seamlessly around the globe, but so can ideas and the marketing messages of these products.

Take for example the Xbox Kinect.  It was launched globally in November 2010 and would go on to sell 8 million units in its first 60 days on the market – laying hold to the Guinness World Record of being the “fastest selling consumer electronics device.” This is an incredible supply chain feat that is rarely given its due credit.

Historically announcement and release periods were months apart. While that is still the case for a myriad of products, it is equally not the case for a large number of products that are coming to market on the day they are announced or quickly thereafter.

We have seen a shift as companies like Apple began to make more product release announcements in the Fall. Note how Apple’s announcements have change.  Until the iPhone 4S was released in October 2011, Apple had primarily released new models in the June/July time frame. The same is true for iPad. Only the iPod series of products have historically enjoyed a fall release.

iPhone releases
iPhone: June 29, 2007 (4GB and 8GB), February 5, 2008 (16GB)
iPhone 3: July 11, 2008 (4GB and 8GB)
iPhone 3G: June 19, 2009 (16GB and 32GB), June 24, 2010 (8GB Black)
iPhone 4: June 24, 2010 (16GB and 32GB), February 10, 2011 (CDMA), April 28, 2011 (White), October 14, 2011 (8GB)
iPhone 4S: October 14, 2011 (16GB, 32GB, and 64GB)
iPhone 5: September 21, 2012 (16GB, 32GB, and 64GB)

iPad releases
iPad (1st generation): April 3, 2010
iPad 2: March 11, 2011
iPad (3rd generation): March 16, 2012
iPad (4th generation): November 2, 2012
iPad mini: Novemeber 2, 2012

iPod Touch releases
1st generation: September 14, 2007
2nd generation: September 9, 2008
3rd generation: September 9, 2009
4th generation: September 8, 2010
5th generation: October 15, 2012

Following the success of Apple, other companies began making September launches and we saw in 2012 not only releases from Apple, but also from Amazon and others.  Even Microsoft released Windows 8 in the fall.

Today, speculation abounds that Google will launch their new Nexus 7 at an event July 24th and their Moto X at an event on August 1st. Here’s a full list of rumored upcoming launches. We are seeing companies like Google attempt to get in front of the back to school selling period as well as a slue of September release announcements.  And so with it August becomes the new September.


I’ve been meaning to write about these studies for several days – but I keep getting distracted. Read more about the impact of technology and distraction here and here.

Most think of a second screen experience as one narrowly defined around viewing and engaging with content related to what is happening on a different (first) screen at the same time. Just see the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page for “second screen:”

Second screen, sometimes also referred to as “companion device” (or “companion apps” when referring to software applications), is a term that refers to an additional electronic device (e.g.tablet, smartphone) that allows a content consumer to interact with the content they are consuming, such as TV shows, movies, music, or video games. Extra data is displayed on a portable device synchronized with the content being viewed on television.

But second screening is often much richer than simply consuming and engaging with companion content on two different devices simultaneously. More frequently we are consuming content on a secondary screen that is separate from what is happening on the first screen. Perhaps we call this simultaneous media consumption – mixed second screening.  The idea of mixed second screening is consistent with recently released research commissioned by Microsoft.

As the release notes, the study found consumers typically follow four multi-screening pathways:

  • Content Grazing: This is the most common pathway 68 percent of consumers Content Grazing. This occurs when consumers use two or more screens simultaneously to access unrelated content; for example, watching a show on TV while at the same time checking email on your PC and texting a friend on your mobile phone.
  • Investigative Spider-Webbing: This is the second most common multi-screening pathway with 57 percent of consumers in this category. It’s a simultaneous path where consumers embark on a content driven investigation across devices at the same time, either to gather more information or for pure exploration. For example this could consist of watching a movie on the TV and looking up what other movies the actors have been in on a tablet or PC.
  • Quantum Journey: Forty-six percent of consumers land in the Quantum pathway. Here, productivity and efficiency are paramount as consumers are trying to accomplish a task.  Each screen separately and additively takes them closer to achieving their goal. For example, you snap a picture of a pair of shoes on your mobile that you see for sale while shopping, and then look up reviews about the shoes on your PC at home before purchasing.
  • Social Spider-Webbing: This is the least common multi-screening pathway with 39 percent of consumers engaging here. Consumers in this instance are extroverted and focused on sharing content and connecting with others across devices. For example, you beat your friend’s high score for a game on your Xbox, and then use Skype or other social channels to brag about your win to friends.

Last month, NPD published research suggesting individuals are heavy mixed second screen consumers and those who do engage in related second screen viewing don’t today rely heavily on the apps designed specifically for related or companion second screening, but rather rely on general Internet properties like IMDb..

Some of the big news out this week came from ABC who announced they would start streaming parts of their entire linear programming schedule in real-time to viewers in specific markets.



    1. IHS IMS Research predicts Google Glass will sell 50K units in 2012, 124K in 2013, 434,000 in 2014, 2.17 million in 2015, and 6.6 million in 2016.  Forecast seems low in the near-term years and high for the further out years in my opinion.
    2. The Ten Commandments of sales from Dan Cole
    3. AT&T recently launched their home connectivity/automation/security system (read more here and here).  A natural evolution of service providers to focus on in-home connectivity.  I expect this service area to be a strongly contested market in the coming years.  Consumers want it, but don’t necessarily want to do it themselves.  Moreover, they want it to work seamlessly.  The rise of small cells seems to fit within this business approach as well (see Qualcomm story).
    4. World’s first Braille smartphone
    5. a few past articles on the Internet and the Boston bombing (here, here, here, and here)
    6. is the future of genealogy all in the DNA
    7. DARPA-sponsored crowd-sourced tank