Thursday, December 22, 2005

Switched On: The Year of the Switch

NPD Group's Ross Rubin writes his regular "Switched On" column at Engadget tht serves as a year in review. Rubin writes that "more than any year in at least the past decade, 2005 stood out as a time when far more than just the iPod got shuffled. Sacred cows were tipped as companies embraced major technological and sometimes philosophical switches in order to court new markets or move in new directions."

Of the companies that Rubin points out for taking the biggest left turns (i.e Apple and Intel and IBM and Lenovo), Rubin writes the following about Palm:

The announcement of the Treo 700w marked the first Palm-branded device to use Windows Mobile. The move struck an emotional chord with many Palm devotees who had long embraced Palm’s tight integration with its now drifting operating system. Palm, in fact, has reiterated its support to the PalmSource operating system, doing more than its new owner Access to assure its future viability. The adoption of Windows Mobile will surely help sell Treos to the enterprise, but Palm will have to broaden its smartphone appeal to compensate for the shrinking PDA market.

In addition, Rubin notes some other, less dramatic shifts such as:
  • Sony took a step toward embracing popular standards by adoptingd native MP3 support in the PSP and portable music players.
  • After years of criticizing portable video, Apple stealthily entered the market by providing video playback “free” with the fifth-generation iPod and creating a new TV show distribution channel overnight.
  • Former iPod vendor HP dumped the portable music juggernaut once it realized it couldn’t differentiate its iPod offerings from Apple’s.
  • Finally, oft a naysayer of the value of online gaming, Nintendo switched gears in a big way with its Nintendo DS, embracing multiplayer gaming through a free Wi-Fi initiative.
Rubin concludes with the following:
Change, as Michael Jordan once commercially reminded us regarding underwear, is good, and some switches have already proved themselves some smart moves. For those that aren't, the next 12 months should help validate which are natural matches for 2006, the Year of the Dog.