Product Management :: Product Marketing

16 January, 2013

Hybrids unveiled at CES Show in Las Vegas

After my previous post on hybrids (Netbook + Tablets Hybrids) in early December, the Consumer Electroncs Show occurred in Las Vegas at the start of January.

Below are some machines that caught my eye from explosion of tablet-esque devices announced.

4. Dell XPS 12

Basically an better Duo (ie an ultrabook) with a faster processor and Windows 8. For £999 (ouch!). The Register gives it a favourable review.

What I do like is this feature:
The XPS 12 shares a hardware feature with the Microsoft Surface tablet that really improves the Windows 8 user experience: a recessed Windows home button below the screen. Press it and the display swaps between the traditional desktop and the Modern tile-based UI no matter which way the screen is facing.
Also with SSD memory plus Windows 8 boot time is a mere 14 seconds!! (I wander what is the boot time from hibernation?)

5. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
This Ultrabook whose hinges allow the screen to rotate 180 degrees to make the tablet - ie the keyboard on the bottom - a feature that I don't care for.

The Register review like it too and mentions:
  • Boots in 15 secs
  • 6 hours of battery life in casual use
  • 1.5kg+ in weight
  • Suggested Price: £1000

15 January, 2013

Exuberance about 3D Printing

I have been passively following the 3D Printing excitement. 3D Printing is a a new method of printing a thin layer of plastic onto a surface - if repeated the layers can build up and a finished object can result. The image above came an article in Forbes:  3D-Printing Firm Makerbot Cracks Down On Printable Gun Designs

Enthusiasm abounds for 3D Printing:
  • Here's the story from the Economist of a PhD student at MIT building a grandfather clock. He took it off the printer, hung it on the wall, pulled the weight and it ticked! (The Printed World - Three-dimensional printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing and allow more people to start making things)
  • Here's another from the Daily Telegraph: Make your own: the 3D printing revolution.

I have been less than enthusiastic about its potential to radically reshape manufacturing industries + inject trillions of dollars back into the manufacturing industries of the First World.

This article from the Technology Review,  The Difference Between Makers and Manufacturers, (thanks to Tim Minshall for pointing it out) spells out the reason why this technological innovation requires some product management / marketing acumen to bring this advance to market effectively.

.... truly advanced products more typically come about when designers and inventors understand manufacturing processes. “You can create a CAD design,” he says, “but you need to understand what a production process can and can’t do.”

Many types of manufacturing require a sophisticated series of steps and processes to be done in precise sequence. Selecting the right materials and technologies is key to high-quality, low-cost results. If designers don’t understand the manufacturing processes and materials that are practical, they will never come up with the most advanced and compelling new products. It’s a lesson that has been repeatedly learned over the last decade in the development of new clean-energy technologies. Innovators may create smart designs for technologies such as solar panels, but ignoring the costs and practical details of manufacturing the new products is a sure path to failure.

Real world usage for 3D Printing:
  • Rapid Development
  • Prototyping
  • Rapid Feedback
  • One-off of craftmanship

11 January, 2013

Litmus Test for B2C User Interfaces

A while ago, I was discussing the User Interface (UI) / User Experience (UX) with a friend who was building a B2C internet service. We're discussing the user process flow through the service's most critical feature.

Whilst building a B2C service at Midentity, I was handed some painfully humiliating lessons about the level of (in)competence of my users / what they understood about my product and its features / how much information they retained when they moved from screen to screen.

I emphasised to my good friend the very high standard of the user experience that is required for a B2C service. It has to be crystal clear.

My user experience litmus test

Here's the ideal usage scenario vs the actual scenario
Ideal UsageActual Usage
User is focussed on the task in hand
User is insanely multi-tasking:
  • Intermittent interruptions on the computer - possibly Skype logins popping up or irritating pop-ups due to the number of browser taskbars / browser extensions or adware
  • Fanatical Facebook or Twitter usage: following posts, commenting on pictures, Facebook IM etc
  • Constant text messages interruptions - all of which require immediate response.
  • Emails arrive that need to be responded to
  • Possibly telephone calls as well - these might on a desk phone as well as the mobile phone.
  • Background music - or if the user has headphones on, it might be 'foreground' music
Timely Completion of Task
  • User concentrates on the task in hand without huge gaps between each step
Intermittent Usage
  • Significant breaks in usage
  • User walks away half way through registration. They return 30 mins later (ie their machine requires them to log in again). They look at the screen and wonder, 'What on earth am I trying to achieve from this service again??'
User has clear understanding what the service provides  Very hazy comprehension of the service
  •  User skim read the home page and thought the site looks cool, so ploughed into the user registration
  • If it doesn't follow their preconceived expectations, the user will exit and say that 'the service was confusing to use', when, in truth, the user failed to follow instructions however clear they were. 
Clear understanding of what parts of the user will benefit from User discovers the product's benefits by using it, not be reading about it.
  • Access to help must be very close at hand
  • Service must protect the user from their own silliness (ie lots of defensive logic and error checking)

What's the difference between B2C and B2B UX?

B2B users are paid to use your product or service. They are much more compelled to read the instructions / follow the process / get it right. They may have distractions but, in general, these will be much less than in the B2C environment.


  • Use your product in the Actual Usage mode above - even better get your love one to use your product in the  Actual Usage mode - and prepared to be depressed!
  • Every screen needs to be self supporting ie don't conclude that the user knew what button they pressed to get to the current screen OR why they pressed it originally. 
  • Revisage constant restarts (eg multiple registrations, forgotten password requests half way through registration). 
  • Watch 'virigin' / untouched new users as often as you can.
  • Use focus groups.
    • BUT be wary, users will say they want X functionality, but once produced never use it.
    • Groups are also susceptible to Group Think ie one person makes a suggestion and the group conforms to that opinion, even if all the individuals individually don't profess to have that opinion.
  • Track what users actually do, not what they say they do.
Any suggestions from elsewhere?

08 January, 2013

Trust and Trustworthiness - one begats the other and vice versa

A BBC article poses this question: Which comes first - trust or trustworthiness? It's an excellent article which summarises the major points of the discussion and asks, "How can we restore trust?".

The answer:
  1. Be trustworthy.
  2. Provide others with good evidence that you are trustworthy.

As Abraham Lincoln pointed out, "You may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

So how do you build evidence that you are trustworthy?
Things are harder when we have to decide whether to trust experts, or complicated institutional processes. Here we often can't find or judge the evidence by ourselves.
So the argument runs: 
We need more accountability and more transparency. Both can be helpful, but both can also obfuscate rather than make it easier to judge others' likely trustworthiness. 
Systems of accountability won't make trust easier unless people have reason to trust these systems. If they are too complex or designed for other purposes - as they often are - most of us will find it difficult to follow them, and it's hard to know whether they are trustworthy guides. They may damage professional performance - as a midwife commented recently, it takes longer to do the paperwork than to deliver the baby and that's surely the wrong way around.
Transparency is another fashionable remedy, and has become technically easy. It can be achieved merely by pushing information into the public domain. But as lots of people will not find the information, or will find it obscure, or will not be able to work out whether to trust it, transparency is no guarantee that others will be more likely to trust.
Web 2.0 functionality of user ratings (eg ebay ratings) is certainly a great way of demonstrating transparency. These systems work well when trading commodities, when one is assessing the individual trader alone and not the product or service. When the products or services become more complex or more subjective, Web 2.0 opinions can merely muddy the transparency puddle further.

03 January, 2013

Internet Trends from Mary Meeker

Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, published her '2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update'

The full presentation is on Slideshare, first seen on Venturebeat.

Here are some of the figures that caught my eye:
  • 2.4 billion Internet users with 8% year on year growth. 500 million of these (ie 20%) are in China - this only represents 40% of penetration in China.
  • Let's contrast China's figures with the US: 250 million users with only 3% annual growth with a penetration of 78%.
  • 29% of adults in the US now own either a tablet or an e-reader.
  • Mobile devices now account for 13% of worldwide internet traffic - 4% in 2010. In India, mobile Internet traffic now exceeds desktop Internet traffic.
  • The graph above shows the dominance of Windows and Intel in the 90s and early 2000s - and the explosion in Android devices.
  • The number of landlines peaked in 2006 with 1.3 billion.
  • In 2102, it is estimated that 2 billion bluetooth devices were shipped (up 87 times in 10 years); 1.5 billion Wi-fi devices were shipped (up 5 times in 4 years)
  • By Q2 2013 it is esimated that the number of Smartphones + Tablets will exceed the number of PCs in the world.
  • If 2,000 zettabytes was created and shared in 2011 then 8,000 zettabytes are estimated to be shared in 2015. (1 zettabyte = 1 trillion zettabytes).
  • In 2006, Nokia Symbian operating system was shipped on 65% of smartphones (globally). By 2012, 65% of smartphones were shipped on Android and another 20% were shipped on iOS

02 January, 2013

Linux Mint - the best Linux Desktop

My enthusiasm for Linux Mint has many other admirers.
I declared that 2012's Best Linux desktop was Linux Mint 13. I've changed my mind since then. Now, I think the best desktop Linux is Linux Mint 14.1. I'll be telling you more about it in the next few days.
said by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on ZDNET

In their usual style, The Register declared, The year GNOMES, Ubuntu sufferers forked off to Mint Linux.