Monday, January 09, 2006

Forrester Research: The Killer Gadget

Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research blogs about his killer gadget from CES. After attending the Sony keynote with Sir Howard Stringer, CEO, Bernoff skipped "over the Sony Ericsson Walkman phone, the digital cinema projector, the announcement that Wheel of Fortune will now be in HD, the 60" LCD, and the Blu-Ray Playstation 3. Because they're all about what we expect from Sony -- incredible gadgets that extend the state of the art, but don't necessarily change the game."

Bernoff thought the "most exciting thing in the Sony announcment was -- an e-book reader" that was based on technology from E InkAAs bbernoff describes it:

imagine a package about the size and thickness of Dr. Suess' The Cat In the Hat. Open it up and there's a high-contrast page, not a backlit display, but more like a book page. Sir Howard didn't quote a price, but PC World says $399 or less. Light and low-power, unlike the bulky Rocket e-books of a few years back. It doesn't flicker. It looks like, for the first time, an e-book will be as easy on the eyes as printed pages. And of course Sony (and Sir Howard told us in the press conference later, maybe others) will sell the content for it, so you can take a while bunch of them with you on vacation. I also like the idea of putting all your college textbooks in this thing.
Bernoff believes the e-book reader "has the earmarks of a must-have gadget," but as he notes:
CE devices are completely commoditized, and with Chinese manufacturing as soon as they get popular the price plummets and all the profit goes away. The only way to make real money is develop something unique -- and proprietary -- that consumers fall in love with by the millions. Think iPod. Think BlackBerry. And while you're at it, think Sony Reader. When you come up with one of these, you build 'em, let the gadget lovers spread the viral demand ("what is that thing?"), watch the volume build as the profit margin remains high, and then sell the heck out of the accessories and content. All it takes is brilliance and a bit of marketing. Anybody else have a candidate? If not -- wouldn't it be ironic if, just as online video seems poised to take the stage, text was the sexiest thing at this year's CES?