By Patricio Cavalli, Buenos Aires, October 1st, 2012.
When the Apple iPad was introduced in 2010, most of the debate in media and experts about the digital world turned around the new device’s capability to become a “PC Killer”. It didn’t work that way, mostly because one of the iPad’s secrets is not trying to emulate or overcome PCs computing capacities, but turning the corner and developing a whole new framework, mostly designed for information, entertainment and -growing more slowly- for creative activities.
This has proven to be a good strategy for Apple. Until the iPad, most tablets (which have been around for nearly two decades now), tried to use the same operating systems than desktop PCs did.
Nevertheless, the iPad has cemented a profound change in the digital arena, a change that is still in its early beginnings: the fast-paced and steady replacement of desktop devices by mobiles.
According to a 2010 Morgan Stanley report published by Mashable.com, the mobile web is poised to dominate the web access by 2015.
In its findings, the report highlighted the following keypoints:
- 48% of all Internet users come from just five countries (Brazil, Russia, China, India and the U.S.).
- Video accounts for 69% of mobile data traffic.
- Facebook is the single largest repository of user-generated content such as pics, videos, links and comments.
- Apple and Android platforms are gaining in the mobile OS market, while Windows Mobile, RIM and Palm are on decline.
- More and more, we are expecting to have access to our “stuff” in the cloud; i.e. music, documents and applications, in the cloud.
- The overlap between mobile users and social web is increasing, as user access to the social web from a mobile device continues to grow.
- If Skype were a telecommunications carrier, it would be the largest one in the world, with 521 million registered customers.
- Games are bigger than any other app category — both for the social web and for mobile devices.
- Online ad sales are growing, as virtual goods, premium content and other models are becoming huge businesses, especially for the mobile web.
- The average iPhone user only spends 45% of his on-device time making voice calls.
Even after the Morgan Stanley report, most actors in the mobile development have had their heads and desktops filled with statistics that point to the same place: mobile devices will be the near future web-surfing tools of choice.
On March 6, 2008, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone Apps SDK that would allow third-party apps to be used in iPhones and sold via the newly created App Store. In the keynote, he left his signature “One more thing” ending to John Doerr, head venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Today, with more than 500,000 apps and 10,000,000,000 downloads in the Apple App Store alone, Doerr’s words sounded as the early vision of an incoming era: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it. [...] Today we are witnessing history, with the launch of the iPhone SDK as the third platform. Think about it. What the iPhone is all about is that it is in your pocket : You have something that is broadband and connected all the time. It’s personal. It knows who you are and where you are. It’s a really important deal, and it’s bigger than the personal computer.”
In the distance, the Post-PC Era was looming.
This Whitepaper will try to shed some light to the changing scenario that brands face when entering this new time.
Post PC Era 101
There is no “one single definition” for the Post-PC Era. But there is consensus that its moment came to be at 11:30 am on January 20th, 2010, when Steve Jobs officially introduced the iPad: “Do we have what it takes to create a new category ? -he asked-. We think we’ve got the goods, because we shipped more than 75 million iPhones and iPod touches, there are 75 million people who already know how to use them. Among the three stores (iTunes, App Store, iBookstore), we have over 125 million credit cards on file. People have downloaded over 12 billion products. So we are at scale” -he concluded while introducing what he called- “Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”
There is, as a matter of fact, no definition in Wikipedia on the term “Post-PC Era”, but if the wiki-wisdom is to be believed, there is some common ground on what a Post-PC device is.
“A tablet computer, or a tablet, is a mobile computer, larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant, integrated into a flat touch screen and primarily operated by touching the screen rather than using a physical keyboard. It often uses an onscreen virtual keyboard, a passive stylus pen, or a digital pen.The term may also apply to a variety of form factors that differ in position of the screen with respect to a keyboard. The standard form is called slate, which does not have an integrated keyboard but may be connected to one with a wireless link or a USB port”
And while the “Post-PC Revolution”, as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook called it in his 2012 keynote speech, is not exclusively based on tablets (be it Apple’s iPad, Microsoft’s Surface, Amazon’s Kindle or other), and smartphones play a key role in it, tablets seem to have been the final detonator for the so-called ‘revolution’.
So, by broad definition, a Post-PC device (smartphone or tablet) is one with similar computing capabilities of a PC, but one with wich the user works with while on the go.
To us, Post PC Devices have three core characteristics that define them:
- They are sleepless
- They are ubiquitous
- They are fluid
Sleeplessness means they have the capacity to perform many operations even in their idle mode and they do not require long waking time when the user desires to use them, as most desktop PCs do.
This means two things: first, the device can save us time by performing operations without being commanded to (seamless syncing of programs, downloading newspapers or magazines, etc…); and the device is always on call to perform rapid search and request operations.
Even if a person is at home, he or she will most likely fire up his or her smartphone or tablet to do quick searches, such as a restaurant with open tables or the closest pharmacy, rather than its PC.
Ubiquity means not only the in-your-pocket-24/7-advantage, but also having the capacity of knowing where the user is at all times. The proper handling of this information has given way to a constellation of opportunities, be it from mapping software clients (such as Google or Apple Maps) to marketing efforts (geotagged couponing) to dedicated applications (such as Yelp or OpenTable).
And last but certainly not least, fluidity, which means the capacity to rapidly mold and fold between functions, following the users’ various needs.
Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets or touchpads) are made of plasticine: one minute a person is having a stroll down the street following a walking plan in a map, the next he or she is sending an SMS, receiving an email or streaming a web-based radio, and then he or she is playing a game.
These computing capacities define the three main activities of the mobile users: on the go information; ubiquitous connectivity; and playing (be it pure gaming or activity gamification).
If an era can be defined by the products that shape it, that is the outlook of what the Post-PC Era looks like.
In an interview with Steve Jobs, Gary Wolf of Wired asked: “Is the desktop metaphor going to continue to dominate how we relate to computers, or is there some other metaphor you like better?”
“To have a new metaphor, you really need new issues -said Jobs-. The desktop one was invented because, one, you were a stand-alone device, and two, you had to manage your own storage. That’s a very big thing in a desktop world. And that may go away. You may not have to manage your own storage. You may not store much before too long. I don’t store anything anymore, really. I use a lot of e-mail and the Web, and with both of those I don’t have to ever manage storage. As a matter of fact, my favorite way of reminding myself to do something is to send myself e-mail. That’s my storage. The minute that I don’t have to manage my own storage, and the minute I live primarily in a connected versus a stand-alone world, there are new options for metaphors.”
When confronted with the same subject by AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg in the 2010 D:8 Conference, Jobs essayed a response: “I’m trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy… because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we’ve embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years? … We like to talk about the post- PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.”
Needless to say, Apple is not the only company working to make the Post-PC Era a reality. Amazon, Sun, Oracle, SAP and IBM have all come to great lengths with its cloud-computing developments.
And Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility (acquired by Google) and Nokia are also playing a great part in the collective effort.
But to this day, Apple is the driving force when it comes to the massification of mobile and Post-pc technologies, with its iPhone, iPads, iPod Touch and iCloud technologies.
Hopefully, other companies -Amazon, Samsung and Google are on their way with their Kindle, Galaxy Tab and Nexus line of tablets- are joining the effort and raise the playing field.
On March 2012, a Canalys research found that “two major computing milestones were achieved at the end of this year: smartphone shipments outpaced PCs for the first time ever, and Apple became the world’s largest PC maker, if you count iPads as PCs (as well you should). Combined, what these numbers tell us is that the post-PC era is happening now. Right now. And maybe we need to think about how we define ‘PC’. In Q4 2011, vendors shipped 158.5 million smartphones, up 57% more than the 101.2 million units shipped in Q4 2010. For the year, there were 487.7 million units shipped, increase of 63% on the 299.7 million units shipped in 2010. Meanwhile, the global PC market grew just 15% in 2011 to 414.6 million units. The smartphones have won. [...] Also in Q4 2011, Apple became the leading worldwide “PC” vendor (if you count the iPad as a PC) with 15 million iPads and 5 million Macs shipped, representing 17% of the total 120 million client PCs shipped in Q4. It overtook HP (now #2), Acer, Dell and Lenovo in the process. Overall, the PC market grew 16% year-over-year, last month. Without tablets, it declined 0.4%. [...] Case in point: netbook shipments dropped 25.3% from 2010 to 2011. Desktops rose a paltry 2.3% and notebooks grew just 7.5%. This is the end of the PC era in action. While the 209.6 million notebook shipments still make the largest category of PCs, the growth trends here, if sustained, dictate that’s its only a matter of time before the shift to tablets becomes even more pronounced.” (The whole research can be found at http://www.canalys.com/newsroom/apple-storms-past-hp- lead-global-pc-market)
Enter The Cloud
According to a recent Gartner research, in 2014 the “cloud” will replace the PC as the epicenter of the user’s digital life: “Major trends in customer-oriented computing have moved inside the market, from a source located on personal computers to a number of devices that provide a wider range and incorporates smart phones, tablets and other consumer devices”, said Steve Kleynhans, VP of Gartner investigation group.
But more than a platform issue, the Post-PC Era is shaping itself to be a people-and- behavior issue. To its followers, the Post-PC World is more a way of living than a tech thing.
For people actually living the Post-PC Era, the PC is neither a useless device (to the contrary) nor their only one. It is one more of the gadgets they own. What ‘Post- PCeratis’ use is not a single ‘gizmo’ but many, and consider the connectivity between these a must.
The Post-PC Era does not mean by any definition that the PC is dead or obsolete. It just means that its dominance has ended, and that it has become just another technological appliance, performing just some functions for the user.
In his March, 2012 New iPad Keynote presentation, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said: “I’d like to get started by talking about the Post PC Revolution. It’s happening all around us, at an amazing pace. [...] When we are talking about the Post PC Revolution, we are talking about a world where the PC is no longer the center of your digital world, but rather just a device. We are talking about a world where your new devices, the devices you use the most, need to be more portable, more personal, and dramatically easier to use, than any device has been.”
As a matter of fact, this very whitepaper has been researched on an iPad and iPhone, written in a laptop PC, stored in the cloud and fined-tuned again in an iPhone while train commuting, before being sent to its recipients via an iPhone or a Windows Phone.
Listening to music, reading a book, watching a video or podcast, chatting with friends, playing games, checking in via apps, writing and sharing a cloud-stored document when commuting, at work or at home are common everyday activities for Post-PC people.
They expect not only the perks associated with mobile devices (as said before: sleeplessness, ubiquity and fluidity), but a comprehensive approach to these capacities as well.
Being connected is not enough, connectivity must happen even without the user’s knowledge. These are people with their minds focused on doing things (i.e. writing a book, or reading one), instead of seeing that those very things are performed by technology. Downloading, uploading, drag-and-dropping, syncing… all of these are time-wasting tasks that the user wants the device to perform on its own, seamlessly.
This, of course, has deep implications for brands and their relationship to people.
3. Post-PC Era implications for brands
Imagine we had a particle accelerator in which we could run a very simple test: on one end we shoot the Post-PC Era, on the other we shoot the Post-PC Era consumer, and in the middle we put branding (as a collective for advertising, digital marketing, design and all brand-building and marketing communication techniques).
What would come out of the clash of elements would be the different particles of this ecosystem.
From the Post-PC Era we would gather -as said before again – Ubiquity, Fluidity, and Sleeplessness.
From brands, we would get their constant need to remain relevant; their quest to engage in long-term meaningful conversations with consumers; and their capacity to influence transactions, be it in the form of final on-the-counter purchases of a product or services, or be it in top of mind positions.
And from consumers, we would find their desire to profit more and more from their time (and the apparent shortage of it); their low-intensity nomadic way of life, which takes them on a permanent quest out of the modern urban claustropolis; and the permanent need to get away from the noisy and confusing mediatic atmosphere that has emerged along with new technology.
If the collision in our particle accelerator worked just fine (and why wouldn’t it?, we are just human beings playing with untested technology), we could synthesize the guidelines of branding to people in the Post-PC Era.
First, brands are still trying to engage with consumers via traditional (or digital-desktop) media in a different and new environment. The use of ads, banners and even mobile webs are a reminiscence of PC digital marketing translated directly (and without much success) to mobile devices. But the new scenario commands the use of new techniques, such as geotagging, seamless syncing and relevant content.
Second, people are demanding from Post-PC devices more engagement and personalization than they demand from PCs. They want their content ready to use even without a data connection, they want their content to follow them and recognize them, and they want their content to be displayed in simple, useful, and elegantly designed platforms. More than on the web (or their mobile counterparts: the mobilewebs), people spend their time on apps.
Third, people seem to be able to let brands enter their mobile realms, but only on condition they are given truly useful, personalized, connected and relevant content. Think of it this way: when Nike entered people’s iPods and iPhones, it did it via the Nike + app, not via a mobile web or an app that showcased their products, as it is the case on the web.
Therefore the magic numbers in our collision are as follows:
One, is the way people want to feel when touched by brands in the Post-PC arena: one person, one of a kind, treated as a tailored-made, personalized way in the one place they are at that moment in time.
Two, which means that there is almost no activity performed in a Post-PC device that involves the user standing alone. Mostly anything is subject to sharing, tweeting, texting, emailing, checking, liking, +1ing, syncing and the likes.
Three, is the number of inventions usually owned and synced by a person: a smartphone, a laptop or desktop PC, and a tablet.
Four, are the senses used by most mobiles, contrary to desktop devices that seem to ignore almost totally touching (multitouch, gestures, accelerometers, swiping), and voice (Siri and Niri, for instance). Smell is still a hard to find sense, except for some perfume dispersing cases sold in Japan.
And finally, Five are the major players in the Post-PC field: Apple with its iPhone, iCloud, iPad and iOS operating system; Google with its Android OS; Amazon, with its Kindle line of tablets; the duet Twitter-Facebook, the world’s largest social networks, for which incoming major operations will come from mobile instead of desktop (a move that could totally alter the landscape both for people and specially for brands); and the Nokia-Samsung-Microsoft armada with it Windows Phone powered devices, which could become a big player in the field, completely displacing RIM’s BlackBerry.
4. Enter the Apps
“People are not doing search from their phones. For some reason, when they search for a Thai restaurant around them, they don’t go to Google, they go to apps like Yelp”, said Steve Jobs in 2010.
In the core of this encounter lies the platform brands which are relying on to connect with their consumers: apps.
Apps are the epicenter of the connection among brands, people, and the Post PC Era.
Their relevance to the latter can be seen in Apple’s Tim Cook 2012 Keynote: “You can’t think of the Post PC Revolution without thinking of the App Store or oCloud. [...] We think of the iPad s the poster child of the Post PC Revolution. [...] Part of the reason is the incredible bundled apps for the iPad. And the +200,000 ones , that have been custom built to take advantage of the big, beautiful, multitouch screen. These apps are gorgeous and ground breaking. They help you create, learn, or do almost anything.”
If further proof of the importance of apps is needed, let’s just remember that, in compensation for the outage of its email service in 2011, BlackBerry offered their customers US$ 100 to use in their app store; Nokia did a similar thing when its Lumia 900 kicked off with a system flaw in 2012; and Facebook’s purchase of mobile app- based social photographic network Instagram for US$ one billion.
But brands cannot enter this realm with any kind of apps. Brands need, more than any other player, personalized, greatly designed and completely useful apps, always on, delivering great and relevant content (be it news, videos, connectivity, coupons, geo targeted coupons, socially-redeemable offers or whatever method they use).
This does not mean other tools don’t work. They just don’t seem to be relevant enough working as a standalone.
Ads, banners, coupons, tags, QR codes, SMS, etc, must all perform or relate in someway to an application that engulfs the customer in a relevant, time-spending experience.
Brands can, and will, continue to reach consumers in mobile phones via these mechanisms. But they need to begin building apps that rock people ́s core, apps that, far from interrupting their content (as done on TV or banners), give them relevant and contextual contents. Apps that relate to people in the same way as brands do (or try to): emotional, but which are also useful all through the day for that person.
There are brands which are putting their apps in the app stores, “just for the sake of being there”.
This can’t be the case anymore. The next generation of branded apps, seen as the best way for brands to engage with people in the Post-PC Era, must be carefully thought, greatly executed and beautifully designed apps.
Branded Apps, that, for lack of a better word, we will call Beacon Apps.
Brands, we are told, must be like beacons that guide people in the fog of their daily consumer lives and the endless sea of choices they face.
But it is brands that also find difficult choices and questions:
What will happen now, when brands, instead of calling (or “getting in touch”) with the consumer at a time and manner of their choice; have to put up with a changing tide, in which it is them who are “on call, twenty four hours, like the rest of us” (as the character Jelly tells Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Cristal) on the movie Analyze This)?
What will happen, when the Empty Rooms Theory (which contradicts the eighties’ Cocooning Theory by stating that brands will, in a mobile future, speak to audiences which have emptied their living rooms to regain a life lived mostly in the open and public space) takes full effect?
What will happen, most of all, when The End of Deaths finally arrives, ending the permanent new-media-kills-old-media myth, putting more pressure on advertiser’s budgets ?
The Post-PC Era offers brands a unique opportunity to re-engage with their consumers, to relate in new ways never before thought possible, and, most of all, to impact their lives in a good and relevant way.
If mobile and Post-PC devices have grown at such a starling speed, it is exactly because of that capacity.
“Thank you for the way in which you changed my life and daily routine”, read a Post-It note left by a consumer at Apple’s Fifth Ave store in NYC, after Steve Jobs died.
Will a consumer ever leave such a note on a brand manager’s desktop? It remains to be seen. But it could happen.
After all, why not?
This whitepaper is not a watertight compartment. We welcome new ideas, contributions and needless to say, different and contrary points of view.
Please join the conversation at firstname.lastname@example.org