05 October 2006

Business devices as consumer electronics

I love my Mac. Using it, and reading about BlackBerry's new consumer handset, has got me thinking about the differences between business and consumer electronics, the closing gap between the two, and the interesting consequences for the way we use them.

If BlackBerry can succesfully create and market a consumer device with the purpose of giving you push email and the web on the move, then it means one thing: consumers want access to their email all the time. Even down the pub on a Friday night. So what's wrong with phone calls? Well, nothing, but there are several reasons for email and the web on the go; it's cool (honestly - that's a big factor for the sort of people who'd buy one), the world's growing smaller but timezones aren't (it's easier to email someone in New Zealand than call them) and attention spans are getting shorter. Waiting for someone to get to the pub? Now, rather than eyeing up the barmaid, you can fire off a couple of quick emails, organise the next night out, maybe even keep ahead at work. Blog a bit. Shop online.

So what are the consequences for business? They're two-fold. Firstly, it means small businesses can get hold of business tools for lower, consumer prices, and for phones on cheaper, consumer tariffs which still fulfil our needs. Often we have to sacrifice some functionality or benefit - in the case of the BlackBerry, it's ruggedness and keyboard size. But for a small business that's fine - and it can kill two birds with one stone because our business tools become something we're not ashamed to be seen with out and about.

Secondly, it means people are using our websites and services in new ways. At different times, on different devices, and with different restrictions. Site "stickiness" changes when we come to using a mobile or small screen; before, it was a comprimise between giving people what they were looking for and pointing them to other things to browse to that they *didn't know* they were looking for. On a mobile, though, people don't want to browse for ages. It's about giving them what they want quickly but - after the transaction is complete - encouraging them to return. Doing a site variant for the mobile web is less and less about just fitting it on a small monochrome screen - it's about changing the whole navigational system and user experience.

No comments: