Never has a social platform launched simultaneously with a piece of hardware and skyrocketed to success.
Twitter and Facebook were both launched before Apple’s iPhone, yet it was the iPhone’s mobile capabilities that drove them to astronomical success. People were able to access things mobile when they had previously only been able to access them via computer and a dial-up connection. Even though the two were completely unrelated, now we can’t think of one without the other. Our phones have becomes mini computers in our pockets and hold our lives in the palm of our hands.
When the iPhone launched, many other companies jumped in to capitalize on this new Mobile frontier. Apps were designed to work seamlessly with Apple’s iOS which in turn, gave Apple a lot of control. Suddenly, a lot of other people wanted in on the mobile devices and wanted a piece of the action. Designing an app these days is less exploratory and more along the lines of, “I beseech thee Mightly Apple, please accept us into your app store.”
Hardware Drives Software
Ask any tech professional and they’ll say the same thing: “Hardware is hard.” The iPhone would be nothing without software and visa versa. So why didn’t Apple release their own social media platform? When Apple was starting, there wasn’t software without hardware. It’s like buying a CD–sure, you have the CD, but if you didn’t have a disc reader, there was no way for you to enjoy the CD. You needed the system before you got the program, and even if you got the program at that point, you were lucky. Even though hardware is indeed hard, it’s the host of the entire system and is absolutely necessary. You can’t run programs on thin air alone–there has to be something for the program to run on.
Software Has Never Been As Impactful As Hardware, Until Now
Before smartphones, software was built to support hardware. Though today, software has the ability to function independently as its own product, it still relies on hardware for success, even working exclusively to support it. It’s amazing to think not only of how many social platforms the iPhone has made possible, but how many millions of dollars have been made for how many apps entirely unrelated to Apple.
Creating Hardware is expensive, but less expensive as it was 10 years ago
10 years ago, most bootstrapped startups couldn’t afford to develop an app/social media platform as well as hardware. Most developed them independently of each other so that if one didn’t succeed, they could pivot and leverage the other.
The Formlabs 1+
Today, you can buy a pretty decent 3D printer for under $2,000 and make a working prototype in your living room. Companies like Voltera are even making 3D printed circuitry possible. This is a difference of tens of thousands of dollars, which is HUGE for any startup hardware company. Before only businesses with serious funding could enter the hardware space, now there’s room for more.
It seems obvious, but knowing who you are and what you offer is incredibly important, particularly if you’re a hardware company. I learned quickly with my own consumer electronics company that every logo, every ad, every comment needed to broadcast our consumer electronics identity. If it doesn’t connect to your brand or product identity, it isn’t going to come across to the audience at all and you’ll look like a big mess.
Despite offering the same products: a strong branding presence, limited text and immediate video tutorial is what distinguishes Hooke as a consumer product when compared to the enterprise oriented VisiSonics.
Software Drives Hardware Drives Software
It’s time for a sea change. More than ever, software developers are expressing mobile app exhaustion. Just last week at NYVR’s Meetup in NYC I met three new VR companies launced by ex mobile-app developers. They’re tired of making apps and websites. They’re looking to make new content that comes in new packages. Now more than ever it is possible for a company to launch hardware that is driven by it’s own social platform. The more hardware itself creates its own social platform natively, the less distinguishable the two will become. Instead of thinking of hardware and software separately, we will assume every piece of hardware has a software equivalent and vice versa.
Here are a few examples:
HOME – Nest – https://nest.com/
COURIER – Uber – https://www.uber.com/
RETAIL – Echo – http://www.amazon.com/Amazon-SK705DI-Echo/dp/B00X4WHP5E
TRANSPORT -Tesla – http://www.teslamotors.com/
MUSIC – Cone – http://www.aether.com/
ENTERTAINMENT – Sonos – http://www.sonos.com/
In Tomorrowland, the distinction between software and hardware will disappear; it will simply be referred to as product. Even if the two started as completely separate things, now we can’t imagine one without the other as the lines start to thin and blur. It’s only a matter of time before our lives are further run by whatever is in our pockets.
From One Ear To Another,