I know what you’re thinking, what does a book about Microsoft have to do with building a phone? On the surface absolutely nothing, but metaphorically it screams rather than speaks softly about the transformation many companies will be making in the near future. Some background on the author, Mary Jo Foley is to Microsoft what I am to Nokia. When that company blinks, she writes about it. Bill Gates, for those of you who haven’t been keeping track, is leaving the company next summer to work on deleting a disease from existence. The corporation who was competing for space on your hard drive is now trying to dominate your internet experience. It used to be all about the product, now it is about the “experience,” A marketing term that you will no doubt be tired of hearing in the upcoming years.
When people say experience they are trying to talk about how the product interacts with all aspects of your life. Microsoft sells an operating system and an office suite that millions of people use around the world to get work done and play videogames in their leisure time. Over the past few years however more and more people have begun experiencing their work and leisure time thru a platform that Microsoft does not own, the internet. What was a physical disk you purchased or a one time download has become a living and breathing entity in either a browser or a rich internet application. This is called a service. Where do phone manufactures come into this?
Nokia is in the processes of radically transforming into a company that not only sells you a device, but the experience around it whether that be games via N-Gage, music via the Nokia Music Store and soon to be many many more services under the brand name we know today as Ovi. They are realizing that selling you the hardware is a great business model, but how can they make money after that transaction happens? Operators used to be in charge of providing that experience, but they innovate at the pace of a snail. When phones started becoming IP based devices and unlimited data plans began emerging, that new platform called the internet became something that lived in your pocket. That platform was no longer dominated by the operators. Who will innovate in this space?
If Marry Jo Foley can tell the story of Microsoft’s transformation than other companies should listen as well because they will, sooner or later, have to begin selling the consumer something more than a device or a piece of software. Companies will need to sell the consumer a service that integrates with all the other services he or she already uses. It needs to become apart of their life.