Entropy

Entropy is the amount of disorder a system has.

Disorder can be detrimental. But some level of disorder is important, even needed, for generating new ideas and being creative.

New, exciting materials are first created because of chemical reactions. These reactions can only occur when molecules interact and collide with one another with sufficient energy.

A Crystal Lattice

Let’s consider for a moment the converse: a perfectly ordered system. In chemistry, a perfectly ordered system would be a crystalline latticed structure at absolute zero – the molecules are completely stationary. Entropy is zero.

These molecules cannot move around or recombine into new molecules. New things cannot be created in this environment. If we put this into the context of an organizational structure, we would find a bureaucratic and hierarchical environment. When an organization is highly structured and bureaucratic, new ideas and innovations can get stifled and suffocated.

Introducing entropy to an ordered and organized system will help the system become more conducive to creativity and innovation. When a shock to the system is not opposed and embraced, budding ideas will be able to interact with each other, morph, recombine, evolve and grow into full-fledged working ideas. Innovation and creativity are sparked.

Be wary not to introduce too much entropy. When the idea-nurturing environment is in disarray, ideas will die and get lost in the chaos.

Sketches of Building 1

Building 1 was first a thought experiment in how to develop “garden” space in vertical buildings. The goal was also to have beautiful balconies that would give different views/vantage points.

In past years I’ve toyed around with the idea of a Rubik’s cube where each tier was shifted off-centre so that the corners of the lower tiers will act as a balcony space for the upper tiers. However, the design of a cube-shaped building was not as elegant as I liked.

Fast-forward to 2012, I drew the concept sketch one night while sitting in a Starbucks. It took me a few tries to get the working concept of what you see here. After drawing it, I realized it looks a bit like stacked sardine cans. Maybe that’s what I’ll call the Building. Maybe not.

From Waterloo to London, with love

So, Valentine’s day is upon us.
Millions upon Billions of men across the globe are starting to think about Valentine’s day.
I’m here to show a little love to the home town crew at Waterloo.
Today I came across a very interesting article, read it from Engadget here.

It’s a really sweet looking phone. Sleek, matte, and a very big shift in the traditional design for the Waterloo crew.

Snagged this snapshot on here.

Is this a bold move on their part?
It is, and it isn’t.

I’ll explain by making a slight digression…

Although the company is in desperate need of innovations, but they really need to re-evaluate what is their enduring endearing point for their current customer/fan base.
My hunch is that they are still garnering support based on two points:
1. Enterprise/business integration (email, BES etc)
2. Physical keyboard

It used to be that Blackberry’s are a symbol of corporate success. Not that long ago, every graduate from a business program would either be already using a Blackberry or would “upgrade” their Nokia (yes, their Nokia phone) or Sony Ericsson (yes, back then they were still a couple) to a Blackberry. Ah, those were the glory days of those companies. Of course, when every business person owns (with pride) a Blackberry device, the brand becomes extremely sought after as a status symbol.
Frankly, since Apple release the iPhone, there was has been shift in the perception of what is considered the new prestigious status symbol.
Along came Sammy (allegedly-on a side note: many others were “prototyping” Apple’s design; for example: HTC) copying the design of the iPhone (read one of the most popular posts here on this topic). This further cemented the Big A’s design as the top dog in the industry.
But going back to RIM.
Is it really such a great idea to ditch your one USP and “innovate” by following the general industry’s design?
Is that really innovating?

Granted all the phones with a physical keyboard that have been on the market in recent years kinda sucked and was lacklustre.
Case in point: the Droid series, Palm Pre
At first, both seemed like physical keyboard’s second coming. But both flopped out.
Given this track record, it doesn’t make sense to bet the company on physical keyboards.

But with all that noise in the market and every other phone looking extremely similar to the next, what can make Blackberry’s stand out nowadays?
Surely it’s not the BB App World.
BBM? iMessage, Whatsapp say, “What’s up”.
BES? Possibly. But Microsoft also has a very good hold on the corporate/enterprise solutions market. Also, Mango seems deliciously good.

Frankly, I’d spend more time on reinventing the physical keyboard. Make a device that people would love to caress with both hands. Size the device so that it sits perfectly in two palms or one. Design it so that it makes touch typist feel at home with the ergonomics.

I actually am working on a few sketches for this along those lines. Perhaps I’ll upload it when it’s ready.
/end digression

Back to the point: is it a bold move.
No, because technically all they are doing is following the industry trend on what is popular and what works.
Yes, because this is a drastic change from what their traditional designs are. Users may not want to adopt this.

But seriously, all these are just superficial fixes. Curing the symptoms and not the root cause.
As I mentioned before, it isn’t product redesign that would keep the company competitive. They need a company-wide restructuring and corporate culture/process-oriented refresh. Why products cannot meet deadlines and launch dates is symptomatic of a process problem.
FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS.
Software: Focus on the OS (BB10, or BB Roman Numeral 10 – Haha, BBX is not copyrighted by RIM).
Hardware: Focus on phone design (Please, pleasePLEASE don’t make another dud like the Torch/Storm… Go along the lines of Bold)
Process: Focus on streamlining the process from product conceptualization to hardware design to distribution. Facilitate communication and information dissemination effectively so that inefficiencies do not build up in the information pipeline.

Note: Excuse any mistakes or if this was poorly written. I only had 15hrs of sleep in the past 4 days…

They have left the building!

Frankly, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.

Co-CEO’s Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are now done being the CEO’s.
I am a huge fan of RIM.
Their QNX and BB10 (too bad they can’t get the bbx trademark) os is really good. A strong contender to Android and iOS in terms of UI and UX. Definitely failing in the ecosystem department though.
I really applaud RIM’s move of porting QNX into car tech (http://cnettv.cnet.com/qnx-puts-apps-web-your-dashboard/9742-1_53-50118126.html). This is, in my opinion, the next innovation from mobile solutions manufacturers (smart phones, tablets etc) is the “Connected Life” concept (more on this in an upcoming post).
In a nutshell, it is all about integrating all aspects of your life with your mobile devices. From waking up in the morning and being able to access the information you need such as weather, emails etc. then to the drive to work and then in the office. All is being connected to your mobile solutions. The goal is to create a more wholesome and integrated experience for the user.

Who knows what will become of RIM?
I do hope that there are no more delays in their release schedules. With a shake up at the top management level, I feel that the company structure down to the individuals level will need to be redefined and streamlined. Processes and practices will need to become more efficient if they are to compete with the “big boys” such as Microsoft, Apple and Samsung.
I’m gonna make a bold prediction here.
Putting this on record as well.
RIM, assuming releases are back on schedule and app porting becomes easier for Android developers, will regain some of the lost market share at the expense of Windows Phone 7 Mango and Apple’s iOS.
Android will undoubtedly remain in a dominant position in terms of market share.
This is for the next two-three years.

I still love this video ad:

The winning factors for RIM in the battle of the OS’s and ecosystem is two-folds, BB10 and the ability to port Android apps into BB10 and QNX.
If they can get the next generation phones out (and on time), the company will be able to move forward and start to be able to compete in the smartphone and tablet space.

ps. Licensing BBM is not a good move.
pps. I’m pretty sure the quality of this post isn’t that high, but cut me some slack… I have blogger rust.
Cheers

EDIT:
I came across this cool article: http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/23/rim-new-ceo-thorsten-heins-still-in-trouble/
Did a tl;dr


But I do agree with the sentiment that CEO swap-out isn’t the be-all, end-all saving grace that RIM needs.
It needs a shake up at the process level and re-evaluate why products aren’t ready as scheduled.
If there are some kind souls out there, it’ll be great if you can summarize what that article’s about for me.
Thanks!

The Connected Life

I believe the next step for manufacturers of mobile computing solutions to add value to their customers (and to expand their business and wallets) is to create for the customer/end users what I call the connected life.

This requires the manufacturers to have Total System Integration (TSI).
First step is analyse the customer’s life and their points of contact for

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Obviously I haven’t been writing in this for a long time.
As a new year’s resolution, I’ve decided to pick it back up.
It only took me 20 days get around to writing this post.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication – Leonardo da Vinci

I just finished reading Steve Jobs’s biography. Very well written and provides a fair (and slightly, disguised biased) opinion. This quote captivated me the moment I read. As I ruminate more and more, the complexity of the quote and its execution settled in. It’s really difficult to take a difficult concept, product or idea and strip it down to its bare minimum to present the end result as intuitively as possible.

My approach to simplification,

Fear as a marketing tool

I had a discussion with a few coworkers the other day.
Somehow, the Y2K bug was brought into the conversation as the biggest marketing ploy ever. (Enjoy this bit of fear propagation by Spock himself.)
All its success was based on the primal instinct of fear.
One of them later proclaimed emphatically that fear is the biggest marketing tool.

After some thought, I tend to agree on the whole.
Next to, of course, lust and love (http://marketing-bee.blogspot.com/2011/06/turning-up-heat.html).

Do you drink beer?
Heard of Miller Light?
Seen their ads recently? (Example: SkirtCarry-all)

Clearly this plays on the self-esteem issues that men have (yes, men have that).
Appearing unmanly in front of the “boys” is a huge fear factor.
The general consensus is that light beers are enjoyed more by the ladies.
And it is often depicted as the burly men drinking the hard liquor or darker beers.

What Miller Light as done here is taken a different spin on the problem by shifting the focus to the taste instead of light beer vs regular/dark.
Clever.
Not directly addressing the main issue of what is deemed “unmanly” behaviour.

Actually, these lite guards are very beautiful.

Snagged from here.

golden apple

It seems that everything Apple touches now turns to gold.

This was found here.

 

The above pictures were spotted here.

 

To keep up with demand, Foxconn (the Chinese manufacturers of iPhone; and yes, your iPhones are made in my glorious motherland by unfairly-treated and overly-stressed workers) are planning to hire 1 million robots to work in their plants. Talk about robotic armageddon eh?

But that’s beside the point.

What I want to talk about today is the disillusioned people that are nonsensically buying into this apple plot to take over the world.

Let’s not talk apples for now, and focus on oranges.
Imagine walking into a dealership and you see someone insistently asking for a particular car.
“I want that new car I heard so many great things about. I don’t care whether it’s a v4 or a v6. Horsepower is irrelevant. I just want it because it’s the latest thing”
Sounds stupid right?

I get furious and irate when I hear people say, “I want a new phone – oh, maybe I’ll just wait for the iPhone 5 and get that”. It’s insane, these people doesn’t even know how the phone looks like (let alone the phone’s innards) and they are sold on the idea of purchasing it already.

Frankly, there are many, many phones out there that are equally good as (if not better than) the iPhone 4 and people still mindlessly get drawn in by the wholedistortion field.

But this also brings up a very valid point in consumer behaviour. This is a case in point for the emotional aspect of the purchase decision-making process. Consumers (particularly the ones highlighted in this article) are ingrained with strong emotional ties to the brand and the product. It is this emotional attachment that can cause the purchase decision to be heavily influenced by the emotional processing centre of the brain rather than the rational centre.

This also can be seen in car sales.
The whole purpose of the test drive to allow you to get emotionally attached to the car. The idea of ownership and envisioning yourself driving/owning the vehicle can be a strong subconscious leveraging point even most sales people aren’t aware of (I may revisit this idea with an interesting article).

In hindsight, apple deserves to the top dog. Utterly brainwashing people into believing their elegant design and unique (read: enclosed and dictatorial) ecosystem is worth the premium you are paying (not only that but you’re getting a good deal).

/Apple rant

the science of product design

Did you know this is called a Taraxacum?

Ever made a wish and blown on a dandelion when you were a kid?
Or soccer kicked one out of frustration (or joy)?
I stopped doing that when I found out that the weed was  a nuisance to gardeners and what I was doing was helping the weed proliferate.

Whether you know it or not, plants reproduce in two broad categories: making a lot of seeds and investing very little energy into making them or making one seed and investing all your energy into making them.

People say you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket; but clearly, Mother Nature thinks it’s a fairly good idea.

The dandelion (if you’ve guessed it) employs the first method. It makes a ton of seeds and hopes that at least one of them will make it to a full plant later on. Kinda like cell phone manufacturer Nokia. In their heydays, Nokia had a huge cell phone portfolio producing inexpensive cell phones that proliferated the market.
However, due to their late entry into the smart phone arena, their strategy started shifting.
They churned out phones less and less frequent.
As with plants, if your reproductive strategy is to devote a lot of resources into making one offspring, that offspring better have a high chance of survival.
In this analogy, the cell phone that you produce better be a game changer. Or else the resources put into it will have considered been wasted.

Another case in point is RIM. As much as my patriotism demands me to sing praises for the Waterloo, On-based company, they did screw up quite a few times in the past.
Their strategy route is a mirrored opposite to Nokia’s.
They were successful with pushing out well-designed corporate phones one a fairly regular basis (by no means often though). Focusing on designing the phones and the software and enterprise compatibility.
Then the Torch happened.
There was so much potential. It was touted as Blackberry’s best phone, the game changer.

But it was a bit of a let-down.
Sluggish sales had a pronounced effect on the company’s stock (Aug 2010news).
Then earlier this year, with the introduction of the LG and Samsung phones, it only compounded the problem because these phones gained market share mostly at the expense of RIM.

However, there is a sliver of hope on the horizon (a silver lining if you will).
RIM recently announced the introduction of SEVEN (yes, 7!) new phones.
Read here.

With this, hopefully they can keep up with the competitors and churn out more phones within a fiscal year.
This will help them turn the company around and regain their North American market leader position that they lost to Apple in the smart phone arena.

The take home message is:
Figure out which reproductive strategy you will employ.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages; so choose carefully.

Make sure the strategy aligns with your market position and brand image.
For example, Nokia was “everyone’s phone” so they produced a lot of products. They were the market leaders in the cell phone era which afforded them certain luxuries such as economies of scale.
Later, the sparse product launches did not fit very well with their market position and brand image. Soon people forgot about their phones in favour of newer cooler phones. Nokia was then swept away by the competition.
Nowadays forever relegated to commoner status. Sad.

Any how, I’ve been sitting on this article for way too long.
Publishing it without rereading it.

Just because I can. =P