One of the spectacular side effects of digital is its uncanny ability to muddy the waters between industries—the “theoretical” roles of businesses and the reality of their business models. Once upon a time, manufacturers were manufacturers, media was media and distributors were distributors. And inside these big families, the lines were clearly drawn: car manufacturers made cars and salesmen sold them; record producers produced records and the radio played them. Major retailers predicted the future by introducing private labels (which really disrupted the model at the time), but this evolution remained confined and thus easily understood.
As more time passed, the more difficult it became to organize the new economic actors derived from digital into one tidy box (of course, however, I just labelled them “new economic actors derived from digital”, which isn’t a vocation at all). But, they had an asset that gave them an almost insurmountable competitive edge over certain other “old” economic actors: Agility.
The Googles, Amazons, Twitters and Facebooks of the world—also including companies such as Netflix, Airbnb and Uber—aren’t where we expected them to be, having developed their business models according to what opportunities arose. They learned to manage the abundance of new combinations made possible by digital rather than the shortages (of space, of products to sell, of consumers) imposed by the physical world. It’s Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail” concept.
Companies with a history of fixed processes and closely managed client relationships aren’t agile—it simply isn’t part of their DNA. For example, many brands are back-peddling to catch the e-commerce train. Above and beyond having to learn a new trade (end-user distribution), they are often paralyzed by the idea of having to ruffle their existing networks or change the internal structure of established employee roles. We can’t blame them for being scared to shake things up. But in the time it takes for these established organizations just to start thinking about it, players in the digital age have already tried, abandoned or validated several value proposals and as such gained priceless experience…
That’s what makes the competition from an entity such as Amazon so absolutely unfair (concretely, not legally…). The incredible speed at which the company adds new categories to its catalogue or can drum up alternative ways to generate revenue or connect with consumers is not at all the same as that of a traditional economy. Their latest acquisition? Double Helix Games, a game production studio. Google participates in this full-on growth movement, too, with its purchase of Nest, as does Netflix, which produces its own television series.
The challenge in the years to come for many traditional agents (major brands, large retailers, even certain public services, such as Canada Post) will be to invent ways to “crack” their own organization. To break the taboo of conventional roles. To communicate the urgency of accepting to do certain things differently. To accept the idea that doing something differently doesn’t necessarily mean making concessions to existing benefits. To assume its power and reinterpret its size and local presence as opportunities rather than threats. Each company’s culture can find its own way without abandoning its soul, either by a full-out, head-on transformation or by implementing agile units in parallel with normal operations.
No company can avoid facing the extent to which digital will impact its future. No matter the line of work, it’s essential to go after pure-players on their own turf, with their strengths and weaknesses, or sooner or later, they’ll be the ones coming to do it.
This article was first published on Infopresse.
Since the advent of recorded music, musicians have had a complicated relationship with technology. For audiophiles and purists, nothing beats experiencing music at live venues, but for most of us, we’ve long settled for listening to highly compressed audio files on our portable digital music devices. It’s gotten to the point where most people no longer have a real sense of what a true high-fidelity recording sounds like, since we’ve become so accustomed to the highly engineered sounds of the mp3.
But there’s a movement by artists and musicians looking to provide a better high-fidelity experience for music lovers, and it’s being led by technology.
On March 11, iconic Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Neil Young started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $800,000 for the PonoMusic project. Within the first 24 hours, the project received over $1,000,000 in funding, doubling to more than $2,000,000 in the first 48 hours, and then doubling again to more than $4,000,000 a few days later.
So what’s all the fuss about? The PonoMusic project is working to provide the best possible listening experience of digital music. How? By using technology to maintain the musical integrity of studio master recordings with resolutions that range from 6 to 30 times better than that of an mp3, and making these high-resolution recordings accessible to a much broader audience. According to the project’s Kickstarter page, “PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard. PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio.” The high-resolution music will be available for purchase on the PonoMusic online store. The store will use the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) audio format as its standard, but the player will be able to play other most popular, high-resolution music formats from other sources.
The difference between the low-resolution format such as mp3 and FLAC format is that in order to support a small file size, the mp3 compresses the original music file so much that it loses a lot of the original musical information, affecting the final sound of the recording, whereas the FLAC format retains much of the high-resolution integrity of the original recording, allowing significantly more details of a song to remain. Mp3 format has a bit rate of 192kbps or 256kbps, while the ultra-high resolution FLAC format utilized for PonoMusic has a bit rate of 9216 kbps, which is “about 30-times more data from which your player reconstructs the song,” according to PonoMusic.
The PonoPlayer has an unusual triangular design, evoking the form factor of the “Toblerone” chocolate bar. Unlike the skinny profile of the latest iPod nano, the triangular body of the PonoPlayer houses the larger audio and battery components needed to deliver the ultimate in sound quality. The device features a touchscreen swipe navigation that auto-rotates depending on the orientation of the device.
Neil Young isn’t alone in his quest to preserve sound integrity—PonoPlayers were tested by an electric roster of music artists, including Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Beck, Norah Jones, Jack White, and James Taylor. The music industry’s love for the new digital music player is evident in the array of endorsements that comprise most of the PonoPlayer promotional video (Warning: some language NSFW).
For music lovers and casual fans, PonoMusic could signal a return to high fidelity music.
The PonoPlayer can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter or on PonoMusic.com. The first batch of PonoPlayers are scheduled to be delivered to Kickstarter backers in October 2014. It will have a 1-year warranty and will retail for $399.
On March 26 through March 28, 2014, we invited 30 Nuruners from our global network to participate in a Design Process Workshop, at the St. Paul Hotel in Montréal. The workshop was facilitated by Jean-Pascal Mathieu, Tracy Pilar Johnson, Sebastian Cavanagh, Steve Tremblay, and David Bliss. Participants explored design thinking principles to better understand how emerging technologies impacted people’s behaviors and transform businesses.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at how putting people first has helped reinvent and transform some of our clients’ businesses—as well as our own. You can also check out our photos from the workshop on Flickr.
With a blog called Digital for Real Life, we’ve come across some pretty interesting ways that technology has been used to enhance the offline world. One pretty sweet example is Boomf magical mallows. The London-based startup prints your Instagram photos on to fluffy, square marshmallows. While the pairing of food with technology is still relatively new, we’re excited to see what’s to come.
We’re excited to announce that we’ve been selected by Blu Homes, North America’s leading provider of premium prefab, eco-friendly homes, to design and build a new consumer web experience for the brand. The project, which begins immediately, includes in-depth consumer research, branding, visual look and feel, site architecture, and interactive content development.
Blu Homes’s unique business model and high-quality, environmentally responsible products makes them one of the most innovative companies in America. We are excited to design a new web experience that reflects Blu’s vision.
This is the 14th edition of the Nurun IT Download, with the latest news stories from the technology industry and insights from Nurun experts.
1. iOS 7.1 Launched with CarPlay: Apple launched iOS 7.1 with a new feature called CarPlay that allows owners of selected cars to use their iOS device with their car’s built-in touch screen display.
Applications that are designed for CarPlay will be displayed in a car-friendly user interface that is easy to control and not distracting for the driver. While some cars already had good integration with the iPhone (through the Made for iPhone compatibility system), the experience was not standard and thoroughly controlled by Apple. Furthermore, some features such as Apple Maps turn-by-turn navigation were not integrated in the car.
At the moment, only a few applications have been selected by Apple to be CarPlay enabled, but Apple has already provided some documentation as part of the iOS 7.1 release to let developers integrate the features required for CarPlay.
The Bottom Line: With Google also pushing for better Android car integration, the car industry will see interesting developments in the near future.
2. Audi Offers In-Car LTE: While cars have had Internet connectivity for some time now, high-speed offerings have been limited. Audi is the first automaker to offer LTE connectivity through the AT&T network.
The Bottom Line: While the data plans aren’t affordable enough to use Netflix for long road trips, they will enable other Internet-dependent navigation systems and in-car touch displays. With CarPlay and Android integration coming soon, cars cannot stay offline for much longer.
3. Samsung Launches Milk Music: Samsung joins the growing list of streaming music service providers with the launch of their new platform, Milk Music. The free service—currently only available on Galaxy devices in the USA—provides 200 ad-free stations and allows users to skip to six songs per station per hour.
The Bottom Line: Other than the obvious fact that the music streaming space is overcrowded, this news demonstrates the fact that Samsung is continuing to compete against Google on multiple angles, an approach that is far from the typical Android strategy.
4. Sony Presents Project Morpheus: At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sony announced a new virtual reality headset called Project Morpheus. The headset intends to offer gaming and non-gaming virtual reality applications on the Sony PlayStation platform.
The Bottom Line: With Oculus Rift releasing the second version of their development kit and rumours about Microsoft also working on a similar solution, there is a strong push to get virtual reality products in the marketplace. What surprises us most is how such a technology has existed for so long without any successful commercial results. Does anyone remember playing Quake at the end of the ‘90s?
5. Google Announces Android Wear: The rumour of a Andorid OS designed for wearables has finally come to fruition with the recent introduction of Android Wear at a developer preview. In its usage patterns, Android Wear is designed very similarly to Google Glass. It allows users to quickly see contextually relevant information at a glance. The device can be controlled by voice commands or with minimal touch interactions, allowing the user to navigate between cards from each of their applications. Existing apps can be easily integrated with Android Wear through the use of notifications.
The Bottom Line: Android Wear is not the first Android OS ported to wearables—Samsung, Sony and other already have Android-based watches. This news comes interestingly after Samsung released a proprietary OS for its wearables called Tizen.
6. LG and Motorola launch Android Wear watches: Following the announcement of Android Wear by Google, both LG and Motorola announced new smart watches that use the SDK.
The Bottom Line: The watches look very promising, and for now, we’ve picked Motorola’s as our favourite based on its great design.