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Avoid the App Trap

It's time to get real when it comes to putting apps on connected cars and TVs. That reality is about three hard, cold facts: 1. Your platform is tiny compared to mobile OS platforms 2. Your device is used differently than a mobile phone 3. Google and Apple want to turn your car or TV into a phone peripheral

Millions of cars or 10s of millions of TVs (even assuming 100% user connect rates) are a small potential user-base compared to 100s of millions of smartphones. Add to that the fact that mobile apps are designed to lock the user into staring at a tiny screen and you have a stark contrast between mobile apps and the rest of the CE device space.

Now these facts wouldn't be a problem, except that most connected car and TV makers seem to pretend that they don't exist. They create open platforms and expect that the top app brands will port to their environment complete with a new UX. They start competing API developer programs and expect that top app makers will integrate their connectivity API because, "of course the app maker want to be in our prestigious brand of car," forgetting that even willing app makers need to manage 6+ APIs, each with their own QA requirements and release cycles. This is before even mentioning the fact that the additional revenue the app maker might see from these efforts is far less than the investment required in development, ongoing maintenance, and QA.

The bottom line is that if your goal is simply to get 3rd parties to put apps on your platform, then you are already fighting a losing battle. Apps on your platform will always be released later and will most likely not be optimized for your platform's unique UX requirements. Users looking for their favorite app on your platform are sure to be disappointed eventually because your selection of compatible apps will always suffer in comparison to Google Play or the Apple App Store. In addition, having their favorite app on your platform doesn't give you a benefit of differentiation, it just brings you to parity. To put it simply, Pandora on HondaLink compared to Pandora on Ford SYNC AppLink does not help sell a Honda instead of a Ford.

Apple and Google both see this reality and are pushing their advantage. On the automotive side, Apple Siri 'Eyes-Free' provides some driver functionality and Google has multiple projects with increasing levels of automotive integration. On the TV side, Google Chromcast and Apple AirPlay let apps take over the screen. By embracing these methods, connected car and TV makers would end up having no differentiation or control where it matters most: the user relationship.

To avoid the app trap, connected car and TV makers must think about the problem in a different way.

The key is to realize that each device has its own unique use case and to build a connected experience optimized for that use case. In cars, the driver has the primary goal of getting from point A to point B safely while keeping in touch and being entertained on the way. On TVs, the viewer is seeking primarily a lean-back style of entertainment, often in a social setting. Both cases can be described in a task-driven language. In the car, I want to find a great coffee shop near my destination. I may prefer Yelp results, but my goal isn't to "use the Yelp app." On the TV, I want to share photos with my family. I may have those photos on Facebook, but my goal isn't to "use the Facebook app."

By defining the UX in terms of task, the device maker can focus on delivering a differentiated and compelling way for the user to accomplish that task. The device maker is now out of the "app trap" because they are no longer trying to provide every app under the sun. Instead they are using Internet services "in service" of a defined set of tasks well suited to the device's use case. The device no longer competes with the mobile phone for app time, rather it allows the user to interact with their favorite services away from the Web and phone in a way that adds to overall time spent with the service.

Technologically, the best way to achieve this task-driven model is using an aggregation platform like Media Tuners MT-One. MT-One allows connected car and TV makers to create task-driven user experiences without having to build a different app for each Web services and without having to predict which Web services people will want to complete their tasks 4 years down the road.

If connected car and TV makers want to succeed, they need to avoid the app trap. Don't let Apple and Google set the rules, change the rules to be in your favor. Use lessons learned from your long history of building unique value for your customers to build task-driven experiences that leverage the Internet. Then you will have happy customers and a new way of establishing a long term relationship with them.

Frerichs Speaking at CES 2014

CES 2014CES 2014 is fast approaching. If you are going to be there, be sure to see David Frerichs of Media Tuners speak as part of the Connecting to the Cloud conference track.

Based on over 15 years of experience leveraging cloud services for consumer electronics, he will give insight into the specific benefits and difficulties facing auto, TV, and other device makers today as they work to bring the features of the cloud into their products.

Impact of the Cloud on the CE Industry Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 5:15-6 p.m. LVCC, North Hall N262

Hope to see you there!

Building the Internet of Things since 1999

FWi-1000 Internet RadioWith all the noise in the connected device space, it is important to remember that experience matters. It is one thing for a company to claim that they have a connected platform to suit your needs. It is quite another for them to actually deliver on the promise. As amazing as it sounds, the team at Media Tuners has been working to build Internet powered devices since 1999. Starting with the Sonicbox remote tuner, we then went on to work on such ground breaking products as the Philips FWi-1000 Internet radio.

Throughout that time, we have learned some key lessons. One of the most important is the need to create a win/win/win scenario for device makers, content providers, and consumers. In our experience, most people only address the needs of two of them. The reality is that if you don't address all three, the product will eventually collapse under its own economic imbalance.

Another important lesson is making sure that your device uses the Internet in a way that differentiates it, not just as a check-the-box feature. Otherwise, why should they buy your product over the competition?

The great news is that by working with Media Tuners, you not only get the benefit of our technology platform, but also of our expertise in licensing and business modeling to help you create a winning connected services business concept for your device.

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