Paul Jackson, analyst, Forrester Research
Five years ago, sending e-mail
via TV or using a PC to play DVD-based movies was science fiction, but this
functionality is now commonplace. This blurring of device use will increase
as more and more devices work together or have overlapping functionality.
This creates flexibility but, critically, makes buying decisions and brand
loyalty much harder for consumers. The future will see more consumers buying
technology that fits into their overall technology universe rather than following
the device-by-device buying decisions made today.
For now, we can broadly group consumer
technology into three segments: mobile technology and telephony; TVs and
home entertainment systems; and PCs and peripherals. Few of today’s
consumers (9 percent) own eight or more core devices from these three areas,
and those that do exhibit typical early-adopter characteristics are young,
male, high-income technology optimists.
As technologies like wireless networking,
mains ring networks, and Bluetooth become increasingly popular, interconnections
between devices will increase. PCs will communicate with home entertainment
systems; mobile phones will sync with iDTV sets; and digital home hubs will
seamlessly distribute content—be it a TV program, MP3, or address book.
The result: Consumers will look at technology buying holistically, selecting
technology brands that fit into their technology universe.
When positioning consumer technology holistically today, Sony stands out as
a clear leader in terms of both technology portfolio and consumer trust. Sony
has near universal recognition, the highest trust rating, and is second only
to Philips for ownership.
Sony has good coverage in each
of our three segments. Although mobile used to be the weak spot, the Sony
Ericsson alliance has considerably strengthened this position. Compare this
with Philips—Sony’s closest rival in Europe—which has stronger
coverage in the TV and home entertainment world but little presence in the
PC or mobile business. No other tech manufacturer measures up to Sony on
both portfolio breadth and consumer trust.
In addition to running highly successful
marketing and advertising campaigns for distinct brands like PlayStation,
WEGA, Walkman, Discman, Cleo, and VAIO, Sony drives an overarching vision
under its “Go Create” banner. This is aided by its emphasis on
the virtues of connecting technologies like the multiproduct memory stick
storage device or iLink connectivity, Sony’s version of Firewire.
Even Sony doesn’t hold all
the cards needed to win the minds of future multidevice consumers—yet.
All manufacturers, including Sony, will have to convince skeptical mainstream
consumers that they can deliver on the promise of an interconnected “digital
home.” As well as having implications for the design, packaging, and
deployment of the technology itself, this battle will also extend into the
control of digital content—playing to consumers’ ultimate use
of digital technology. Future multidevice visions will need to be based on
the following four core principles: use easy interconnection and standard
formats; develop and deploy new devices quickly; offer easy creation and
distribution of content; and give mainstream consumers feature/price tradeoffs.
Partnerships between manufacturers
can just as easily win the multidevice technology brand battle by combining
the core principles with the following vision. The ability to bring the right
combination of features and price to market—based on all-important
open standards for interconnection and content distribution—will be
crucial for winning mainstream multidevice consumers. Best-of-breed manufacturers
in mobile, TV, and PC technology must bring their individual manufacturing
and product design expertise together to meet these needs.
First and foremost, brand partnerships
need to be built on trust—between the manufacturers and their consumers.
By analyzing the trust consumers place in major technology brands and looking
at the shared trust consumers have in groups of brands, synergistic partnerships
Philips, Siemens, and HP make the
strongest three-way team. This combination of brands from each of the three
core product categories yields one of the highest combined trust scores.
The presence of two strong European brands is a particularly compelling aspect
of this partnership for European audiences.
Nokia and Philips have the best
chance of pulling off a duet. Philips and Nokia would be a pairing that consumers
would trust to bring an overarching multidevice brand to market. The potential
downside here is that both of these manufacturers are light in the PC space.
However, they could use a new multidevice brand to launch a white-label PC
portfolio that could fill this gap.
Many superficially attractive combinations
will never fly. A grouping like Apple, Nokia, and Panasonic—for example—has
all the consumer technology needed to build a multidevice portfolio, but
deeper investigation uncovers very little shared trust among consumers. PC
brands like Apple are among the brands least trusted by European consumers;
despite Apple’s focus on design, quality, and innovation.
About the Author
Paul Jackson is
a senior analyst for Forrester’s European Technographics group based
in Amsterdam. He focuses on understanding how European consumers perceive,
adopt, and utilize new technologies. Prior to joining Forrester, Mr. Jackson
worked for HHCL Ltd., a full-service advertising agency in London, and
also spent 5 years as a management consultant with Deloitte Consulting
and Logica Business Consulting.