Great piece by Ben Thompson discussing the histories and strategies of Nintendo and Microsoft as they relate to the Switch and Surface Studio.
Over the last couple of years, as it has become clear that rounded rectangles of glass and aluminum running either iOS or Android “won” the smartphone wars, it has been tempting to fret that hardware innovation would slow; and, arguably, in the case of smartphones, it has. In fact, though, I expect that the reality of the smartphone being the dominant general purpose device will open the doors for more and more devices like Surface Studio and the Nintendo Switch.
What might be created if you start with the assumption that the smartphone exists? Perhaps you would make sunglasses with a camera, or a watch, or an activity tracker, or a drone. I noted in Snapchat Spectacles and the Future of Wearables that the establishment of the PC led to an explosion of dedicated devices like PDAs, digital cameras, GPS devices, and digital music players. Now that those have been subsumed into the smartphone there are new opportunities, and in a twist of fate it is smartphone also-rans like Microsoft and Nintendo — along with smartphone native companies like Snapchat — that have more freedom to experiment given they have nothing to protect. It’s never been better to be a geek!
I hope that the dominance and primacy of smartphones continues to allow for interesting and bold hardware in smaller categories like the PC.
If the smartphones is a car and PC is a truck, I hope we start to see many kinds of trucks. The Surface Studio is a very specialized kind of PC. So is the Mac Pro. I hope this category continues to diversify until we see pickup trucks, dump trucks, semis, etc. These can be very specialized devices that fit the needs of a very specific group of people.
I'm glad the smartphone is enough for most people so that companies have the freedom to experiment without there being too much risk.