Next tech revolution: What next after the smartphone?

Published: December 12, 2016 6:39:34 AM

It is the synergy of connected hardware and services that will pave the way for the future and provide the best possible user experience

History has it that every revolution has dethroned established norms and replaced it with something new. Building on the smartphone revolution, what’s under way now is a smart product revolution—from TVs to self-driven cars.

Smartphones have laid the foundation on which the future of technology is getting built, paving the way for a new ecosystem era. The focus has now shifted from just smartphone hardware, mobile

operating systems and applications, to what these can enable in a connected ecosystem. The ecosystem era, as we call it, connects devices, applications, content, and platform in order to enhance user experience.

Globally and in India, we’ve now entered an ecosystem era where superior services come bundled with smart and matured products giving users an experience like never before. However, before deep-diving into the ecosystem era, let’s take a step back and see how it came into being, with products becoming interwoven with key services. And what has led smartphone manufacturers to focus on building a comprehensive ecosystem instead of offering tech products to users in isolation.

The premise of the ecosystem era is a smartphone that has come to serve various purposes. It has evolved from a basic handset to a single device integrating and cannibalising features of camera,

calculator, radio, maps, files, calendar, laptop, etc. Similarly, TV, car, etc., with IoT at the heart of this revolution. However, over the last few years, smartphone manufacturers are finding it too hard to come out with a real breakthrough as far as their specs and hardware are concerned.

Analysts believe that real innovation in smartphones is coming through OTA (over-the-air) rather than through a newer model. While innovation on the hardware part has been sputtering, the saving grace is the ample number of service opportunities that can be generated from the same set of hardware. This has resulted into brands looking towards a complete ecosystem company consisting of many parts, including both hardware and services. Companies are developing their own ecosystem around their core competencies.

We are at the intersection of hardware and software, and from here onwards, the ecosystem will lead us. Companies will build more new products that have synergies with their existing smart range of products. Over time they will build a thread that connects their hardware products to work well with their software or services. Doing this, they are only raising the bar for a superior user experience.

Another important aspect of an ecosystem is that companies are carefully building consistencies across their platforms and devices. They are being consistent in terms of “fit and finish”, “level of customisation”, and “hardware and design”. In the process of being consistent, they are also making their products quite distinctive from their competitor’s.

To illustrate, let me again give the example of TVs and smartphones. Brands customise the skin on Android, making their products different from others while at the same time maintaining consistency across their line of devices.

In the tech industry, the recent bent of esteemed technology companies towards “hardwarisaton” is a case in point. They are trying to build an ecosystem centered on their core products. Google revolving around the Google search engine and Microsoft Surface Tab using its own OS are steps in that direction. Not to miss, LeEco’s case of diversifying from video streaming towards manufacturing phones and TVs, when LeTV renamed itself as LeEco.

Specifically, in India, the ecosystem in smartphones has been developed rather methodically. The ecosystem in smartphones came into being in India in 2009-10, when app developers jumped the bandwagon of developing apps independently. While the smartphone industry saw innovations on both the hardware and software front, there never was such a need for phone brands to get into the service economy of the smartphone business. As innovation on hardware, processor, and camera started becoming irregular, manufacturers started looking towards the greener pasture of service economy connected with smart products, in turn giving a holistic and imposing user experience to customers.

Lapping up the exciting opportunity that new India offers, a few smartphone brands have subsumed shopping, payment and ticket booking services into their phone’s ecosystem.

LeEco has gone ahead of the curve by bundling a plethora of services including content, storage,

offers with its Superphones and SuperTVs.

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the next big trend in the tech space is the ecosystem era. It is the synergy of connected hardware and services that will pave the way for the future and provide the best possible user experience. We believe that the industry should strive for both assimilation and innovation together. The ecosystem assimilates content, big screen, mobile, sports, automobile, Internet financing and the internet and cloud ecosystem and each sub-system is a lynchpin that together will bring a sublime experience to users.

Atul Jain

The author is chief operating officer, Smart Electronics Business, LeEco India

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