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Put up a wall

There's an excellent reason why smartphone apps are hot news. The smartphone packs all the computing power and peripherals most people need, into a compact and affordable gadget. They are already opening up new markets for niche products that were not previously possible. They will also displace many existing niche market products. 

In the past few months I've spoken to several entrepreneurs who are developing new smartphone apps. A recurring theme in those conversations was how a manufacturer can put technical barriers in front of potential competitors.

IkeGPS neatly illustrates an effective solution. They have miniaturised their existing product into a very compact smartphone attachment. This contains a complex suite of hardware and software that has evolved over more than a decade of practical development. It's difficult for an aspiring niche-market entrepreneur to break into the market by copying this type of product. Back-engineering and new tooling is as costly as developing a product from the ground up. And while the competitor is copying the existing product, a company such as ikeGPS can be hard at work making the existing product obsolete, by developing something smaller, smarter, and less costly. (I've seen this in real life. The imitator made an idiot of himself.)

Many smartphone app makers do not build a defensive strategy. Their products are pure software. You don't need sophisticated tooling, and you don't need complex testing and calibration facilities.

I reckon smartphone attachments will shake up existing niche markets. Manufacturers who develop smartphone attachments that potentially make their existing products obsolete stand to increase market share. Some will keep making their old products. Some will make a total commitment to the smartphone attachment. Niche market manufacturers who ignore the opportunity will go the way of Exicom, Collier & Beale, and a bunch of other Kiwi technology companies you and I have never heard of.

The customer wants the app. if it needs an attachment, so much the better.

 

Kevin Cudby is a Wellington-based Freelance Writer and Technologist who loves writing about cool new technology. Email him to discuss your communication reuirements: hello {a} kevincudby.com.

 
 
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