Getting The Timing Right For An Innovation – Like a slate!

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I'm a firm believer that the difference between a good idea and a great idea is getting the timing right.  There are a number of items to consider when deciding when is the right time to bring an innovation to market.

getting the timing right clock

For example:

  • Is there a technology coming that will transform the experience/market?
  • Are customers ready to accept and adopt this innovation?
  • Is the sales channel mature enough to support the introduction of a new innovation?
  • Can you bring it all together at a price that will drive broad adoption?

It takes management discipline (and support) to hold off.  The constant mantra of “not yet” can wear on even the most resilient of executives.  But getting the timing wrong can mean being way ahead of the market and the result is a quickly forgotten bump in the innovation landscape.

Let's take the new slate form factor as real-world example.  The timeline for the slate that we've been working on is as follows:

  • Nov 1998 Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Research Group – “Virtual Book
  • May 2004 – HP Labs unveils “E-Book”
  • July 2007  – Public video demonstration of “HP Labs E-Book Device”
  • August 2009 – Video of device form factor discussion including slate
  • January 5, 2010 – Video  of my annual predictions for CES (including a prediction of the slate category)
  • January 6, 2010 – Video showing highlights of the HP slate device
  • January 7, 2010 – Video of the reveal of the HP slate at CES
  • January 10, 2010 – Video at following CES reviewing how well I did on my predictions
  • January 25, 2010 – Video demonstration of the slate device deep dive

Only time will tell if any given innovation is getting the timing right.

 

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14 thoughts on “Getting The Timing Right For An Innovation – Like a slate!

  1. The slate is a tricky thing. From what I’ve read and from talking to friends and family, people think it’s cool, but they don’t know how a slate fits into their lifestyle. I think it’s a justified thought. What does a slate provide that I can’t already get using another device and what need is a slate fulfilling that I may or may not know about? Watching the video above, the only thing a slate currently provides that I can’t get from a laptop or a mini-note experience is touch. But does that mean I’m going to give up my laptop or mini-note in favor of a slate? What if touch is simply integrated into the monitor of a PC or laptop and is able to wired or wirelessly communicate with the computer base?

    The honest truth is that a slate would be an auxiliary device to a primary PC or laptop and a smartphone. With the exception of not being able to read manga, my iPhone delivers most of what I’d do if I had a slate. I think in order to be successful; a slate has to stand on its own. However, I don’t think this is the job of the device; so much as it is the applications it runs. As of now, slates are being pushed as e-readers, multimedia players, and gaming consoles. When I think about it, in term devices, I think multimedia players and handheld gaming consoles have things pretty well locked in, especially with young people. With respect to e-readers — I’m all for it up to a price (about $149)…and there’s still that nagging issue of not being able to take an e-reader into the tub, which is where I do most of my pleasure reading, which is why I’m still buying books. So, beyond the “cool factor,” why would I buy a slate? The truth is I wouldn’t buy one in its current incarnation. If I want an e-reader, I’ll buy a Kindle or the Nook because they have established very nice and easy methods to purchase content.

    Okay … let’s step aside for a minute from me as a “busy housewife” consumer. I think if the slate is taken out of the consumer context and put in the commercial context, then there’s more opportunity. Some examples:

    -Interactive signage
    -Interactive menus
    -Notepad replacement for doctors, delivery folks, waiters and waitresses, lawyers …
    -Collaborative surfaces
    -Entertainment
    -Libraries
    -Paper form replacement

    So getting back to the primary question posed, is now the right time to release a slate from factor? YES. And I say this only because if other computer manufacturers don’t get their slates out now, then they will be conceding the future market to Apple. Apple is on track with the applications because independent developers will do the application innovation for them. They have a sizable head start due to all of the already available applications and the Appstore, which are going to be porting to the iPad. In order to catch up with that, competitors would at least have to have a similar Appstore and a community of independent developers. That’s big hurdle considering that companies saddled with Windows have conceded most of the user experience to Microsoft. This still leaves one question open to me though:

    What kinds of useful functionality would make a slate stand alone outside of a laptop or a smart phone? I think if you figure that out, then you got yourself something .

  2. History says… No.

    I’ve bugged Rahul Sood a lot about this issue over the years. I’ve always felt that one of the biggest limitations with tablets is their reliance on MS Windows for the user experience. Windows has just been woefully inadequate for the task. I’ve always been an advocate of purpose built devices and UIs for the mobile space. Now that Win 7 is more finger friendly, it may make a difference. HP seems to have taken the reins of developing UIs more tailored for their computers and their specific functions… maybe the work it is doing will be compelling to the market. I was underwhelmed with the slate (and the iPad for that matter) but maybe the failure of tablets was indeed just a matter or cost and timing. I don’t think so but I’ve been wrong before, though not very often (see: Vivienne Tam netbook).

    This is one of those situations where HP can benefit from Apple’s leadership. The iPad is beginning to show what is possible with the tablet form factor. As more compelling content is produced for it, people will equate the experience with the tablet form factor in general and it may spur really big innovations in how content is produced and delivered on the platform as a whole. Ultimately, it isn’t about the device, but what you can do with it. And the iPad has the potential to really show people what the tablet form factor can do. The slate may succeed simply by drafting the iPad.

    The slate itself isn’t really compelling to me. I don’t know enough about the design work to be suitably impressed with its engineering and people have already shown that a small, underpowered Windows PC without a keyboard is a solution looking for a problem. I’ve always felt that a mobile device is made or broken by its ability to input text efficiently. Tablets start at a deficit when it comes to usability. The iPad has the advantage from a usability standpoint in that the entire concept was designed from the ground up for touch. Can an HP/Microsoft hybrid match it? Not from what I’ve seen. But it still might be good enough for many people.

    I’m hedging because I’ve had my confidence drastically shaken with the whole Vivienne Tam thing. Up is down, right is left. But I guess my best analysis is…

    root for the iPad to succeed.

  3. If it’s any consolation, I wouldn’t rush to buy stock in 3D TVs either. Unless they have standard 2D functionality as well, I don’t think the world is in a rush to wear sunglasses when they watch the tube.

  4. A thought I’ve had since the iPhone: Why would another company invest in developing hardware when the Apple hardware is “good enough” and widely accepted? It seems to me it’s a better strategy to let Apply eat all the cost of hardware development and then other companies act as a developer making software for the device. I would imagine there are ways to promote other company initiatives by developing software for the iPhone and iPad. Is there anything preventing a company from “bundling” an iPad with specialized software? Also, developing for the Apple products could be a great way to get a toe in the door so there’s brand recognition if the company decides to enter the hardware space. There’s a lot to learn from Apple and such a strategy may allow a company to build out commerce infrastructure in preparation for a hardware play. It could also serve as a source of funding for that venture.

    Ah, and an aside: I agree with James King about 3-D TV. 3-D has always been gimmicky and has yet to add to the quality of a movie to TV show. As seen with “Avatar” vs “The Hurt Locker,” story and characters always trump pretty pictures and gloss.

  5. The timing is perfect for the slate to come to market this summer.

    The tech savvy amongst us want a tablet devide that WE can decide how we are going to use it, that WE can decide what we are going to install on it. But this isn’t about Apple hating.
    I sccumbed to buying an Iphone six months ago and, as anyone who has used one will attest, the UI is simply fantastic. It works and that is the only summary that is needed. It works.

    Why is that the most important thing about the Iphone and, now, the Ipad? I’ll tell you why? I’m a fat middle aged tech geek who has watched his two year old daughter be shown an Iphone and be using it confidently in half an hour. She doesn’t know or care what the processor is, what memory is available, she knows how to start her puzzle, story and game apps and then when she presses and scrolls things happen. She doesn’t know or care that Daddy has jailbroken it and does all sorts of things with it that the manufacturers don’t want him to. It works for Daddy, it works for two year old Emma. It just works!

    The Slate has to allow the tech minded of us to do what we want but it, if it is to become a truly mass market device, has to do everything that the non tech routinely do on their pcs with a totally intuitive touch interface. It MUST be able to do everything Apple’s OS can do. It has to and it just has to work.

    The lastest video certainly looks as if that’s the route the Slate is being taken down and that’s a really encouraging sign.

    Apple have done half the marketing for HP. Everyone knows that there is an Ipad. Everytone knows there’s a tablet device out there and it’s ‘cool’ even if they don’t have a clue what it can (and can’t!) do. Even my sixty five year old mother has asked me if she should have one. (I have said NOOOOOO!)

    Marketing is going to be everything for the Slate and HP have to make some noise about it. Please don’t just slip it out through the usual channels. Get it on TV, put some weight behind the advertising and get a buzz going Tell the masses. This isn’t another laptop, desktop, printer. This is something new, something that is going to be FAR better than the competition and HP have to make the non techies salivate too. I think it will work. I showed my mother the latest video, explained a tiny bit about what I think it will be capable of and she immediately said, ‘Well can you get me one when you get yours?’

    Can HP bring to market a device that can meet the expectations and desires of the tech savvy brigade but also became a mass market because of a great UI? Are they aiming that big, that high?

    I for one can’t wait to find out.

    (And don’t forget to include a stand as standard.)

  6. As long as timing means release soon, then yes, the timing is right. You have let Apple build all the interest and desire for a device and if you can get it out the door quickly while the momentum is strong, your capable hardware, Microsoft’s powerful OS, a plethora of relevant (meaning run my life/run my business) applications for the Microsoft OS and web content designed specifically for the multitouch, entertainment, mobile life gives you all the right ingredients for success. We can’t wait to see what you guys deliver! Hurry, please!

  7. This question is too broad, in my mind. The iPad is the first “slate” in the minds of most of us. So if you (Company X) are going to release a slate to compete with Apple, then you are an “also ran” and should probably save your money (R&D, Production, etc.). But, it seems to me that the iPad is not a business tool, nor was it intended to be. It is a consumer tool and as such has a limited market (large, but limited). I cannot use one for work. If your slate is going to address the business user, then yes the time is right to release a slate and you’d better hurry. The form-factor is interesting and we need to see what the pros and cons are of this type of device. I can only do limited work on a phone and my laptop is a pig to lug around and wait for Windows to boot, wake-up, etc. But also be aware that this is a throw-away product because there will quickly be a v2 and v3 as the gaps between smartphone, slate, and laptop shake out. If you want to release a slate for the sake of releasing a slate – go ahead; you will just be the thin slice of a pie chart.

  8. Is the timing right? I think it’s awfully close to being right, especially if HP’s device is close to or beats the feature set and price point of the iPad. (I’m intrigued by the iPad, but I don’t like the locked-down mentality of Apple.)

    A side thought: Am I crazy to think that the Windows Phone 7 UI would be great on a multi-touch tablet/slate device?

  9. I like Roy’s take on Windows Phone 7 UI if it is similar to the UI on my Zune HD (which looks to be similar). WebOS is also a possibility but these two OSes seem better suited to compete with the iPad crowd that is looking for reading and games being the main uses. Feedback from a lot of my own friends has been they want PC-like functionality (i.e. ability to use Office Suite and complete more complicated tasks that the iPad doesn’t allow for). I hope that there are two versions released with one running Win7 for sure. This will allow HP to capture a wide spectrum of the market.

    Also, keep creating proprietary S/W such as TouchSmart and MediaSmart. This will enhance the experience on a smaller touch-focused device…

  10. I think most people who can’t imagine where a slate/tabletPC would fit into their “lifestyles” (including work), haven’t really used OneNote. The ability to have years worth of notes and sketches at your fingertips and *SEARCHABLE* has value that is just beggin some marketing genious to sell. You can even record audio of a lecture or meeting within the program while you are taking notes and all your inking is timestamped allowing you to immediately listen to what was being said when you wrote each note.

    I live in OneNote. It’s the first thing I open after booting the machine, and it doesn’t get closed to the machine has to shutdown. I’m currently using an old 5 pound tabletPC and would dearly love to have the 1.5 pound HP Slate 500 if it ever actually starts shipping. I ordered it on day 1.

    To use OneNote effectively, you have to have an active digitizer though (the Slate 500 evidently has ntrig’s digital pencil, which I’m hoping has a decent inking experience, but since this is the first product to ship with this solution from ntrig, that remains to be seen). No other slate device is offering anything like that and I think that a Windows 7 slate device with just capacitive touch is pretty useless (but then, I think the iPad is too, for me).