Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Scoring Apple’s March 9 Product Announcements for Creation, Consumption, and Engagement

Scoring Apple’s March 9 Product Announcements for Creation, Consumption, and Engagement

On Monday night March 9 I watched the 90 minute Apple product announcement show via my Apple TV. This show revealed a lot about what Apple believes about its products and its customers.

Our household is already home for multiple iPods, iPhones, an iPad, an Apple TV, along with a variety of digital and analog TVs, a Comcast DVR, a large Panasonic flatscreen TV in the living room, a small Samsung flatscreen TV in the kitchen, a couple of Windows 8.1 laptops (Asus and Samsung), and a variety of Blu-Ray (Sony) and DVD players, a Roku, two Kindles, and an Amazon Fire TV stick.

Overall I was impressed by what was shown. Products like the MacBook and Apple Watch are, in my opinion, beautiful. What has always appealed to me about Apple products, though, is how they work. Apple pays attention not just to aesthetics but to functionality and usability. Over the years my fascination with gadgets has evolved into a much greater concern over usability and reliability. Apple seems to satisfy that focus.

What I’d like to do here is to look at this week’s Apple announcement in terms of how personal technologies are used. I say “personal technology” since that is what Apple and its competitors seem to be focusing on as they work through the challenges of delivering a positive customer experience to individual users.

In my view there are three things personal technology can help the individual to do:

  1. Create data, information, and other media.
  2. Consume data, information, and other media.
  3. Engage with things, people, and groups of people.

Table 1 is my attempt to score this week’s Apple announcements along these three dimensions where my subjective rating of 1 equals “low”, 2 equals “medium”, and 3 equals “high”. Here they are along with a row total that reflects a general ordering of how important I think these Apple announcements are with respect to advancing the value of personal technology:

Table 1: My Scoring of March 9 Apple Announcements

Apple Store Announcement. The Apple Store video announcement at the beginning was a statement to the Chinese people and the Chinese government of how important the Chinese market is to Apple’s growth. The store adheres to the Apple model of design aesthetics and its focus on enabling people to interact using technology. The store has little to do with Creation and a lot to do with Consumption. Engagement with customers is in the middle; if you’ve ever been in an Apple store that was mobbed you’ll understand why I rank Engagement as 2 not as 3!

Apple TV & HBO Deal. Apple TV is definitely a Consumption device, not a Creation device. Engagement I rate in the middle with a “2” since the user interface is simple and straightforward (based on my comparison with other platforms) but still lacks true voice interaction. HBO Now is more evidence that the cable TV monopolies are crumbling.

ResearchKit. This was the most impressive thing I saw during the program. I applaud Apple for the time and attention they devoted to this. One of the main reasons I rate this highly is because I used to manage statistical research projects involving data collection from many individuals and organizations and I see the amazing potential for a handheld device that integrates both human and automated data collection and interaction with the research project. This may not be functionally new – people have been using remote and mobile devices to gather structured data “in the field” for many years – but Apple pushing this toolkit out and supporting it is significant.

MacBook. I am impressed with how gorgeous and well-engineered this machine looks. I can also believe its lack of a touch screen is not a drawback despite the pleasure I get from using our little Asus Windows 8.1 laptop. I give this “3” in all categories since it (as well as other portable computers, not just Apple’s) is a jack of all trades. I was a bit surprised, though, that almost 100% of the focus of this announcement was on the device itself and not on how it is used by real people. After all, if you use a computer all the time in your business why shouldn’t it be a thing of beauty?

Apple Watch. Devices like this I think will eventually be bigger and more important – and more pervasive – than smartphones. I also think that that Apple did a reasonably good a job at explaining that this device is a heck of a lot more than a timepiece. Also, reading all the negative comments in social media about the Apple Watch suggests to me that many people still have very limited imaginations about what wearable technologies can evolve into. If we had listened to such naysayers years ago we might still be dependent on MS DOS! (My wife says she wants one, by the way.)

* * *

I am pleased that Apple is devoting money and talent to the development of such products that support creation, consumption, and engagement. In previous generations such resources might have been devoted to the creation of weapons of mass destruction. Now we have companies like Apple that are developing technology based products that are not only beautiful but really do have the potential to impact how people live, work, and interact with other people.

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Copyright © 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. His experience includes consulting company ownership and management, database publishing and data transformation, managing the integration of large systems, corporate technology strategy, social media adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. Clients have included the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Library of Medicine. He has worked as a project manager, analyst, and researcher throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Egypt, and China. His web site is located at www.ddmcd.com and his email address is ddmcd@yahoo.com. On Twitter he is @ddmcd

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