Holographs captivate, stimulate and engage. It is a technology that can be impactful, transforming the mundane into the extraordinary, the impossible into the very real. But, is it a business? Does it represent a very real business opportunity, or will be relegated to a gimmick that offers little strategic value? This is an existential question facing the nascent holographic technology sector, and it requires an answer predicated on the discipline of creating solutions that matter.
Whenever a new technology enters the marketplace, and exciting new possibilities permeate the public’s sphere of consciousness, it isn’t too long before the industry pundits and taste makers perform their magic and make an array of projections regarding sales, profits, strategic partnerships, M&A, and the inevitable market acceptance that will redefine the technology sector.
This has happened countless times. It occurred when the internet was first introduced, when VoIP was launched and, most recently, when mobile payments first entered the scene. When the latter happened, app developers, device manufacturers—and even banks—wrongly assumed the American public would instantly eschew traditional credit card payment processes in order to conduct transactions by phone. What happened instead was a massive miscalculation. Consumers revolted because they did not want to use new technology just because it existed. They did not find paying by physical card to be a nuisance, and they certainly weren’t going to change behavior just because of a shiny new object. As a result, mobile payments languished, and didn’t really gain traction for a good ten years.
What pundits often fail to accurately project is that consumers, by-and-large, avoid complex technologies if they require changes in behavior. It doesn’t matter how advanced, complex, beneficial or compelling a particular innovation is. If consumers are asked to do something radically different, it will most likely take an exceedingly long time to gain acceptance, if it happens at all.
This is the exact paradigm occurring with holographs. Developers continue to bring exciting solutions to market, and there is a palpable groundswell of excitement among certain vendors and other thought leaders that expect a land rush among customers looking to take advantage of holographs. But, unless the industry heeds the lessons of the past, it could be an arduous road for some of these providers, regardless of how promising their solutions may be.
The Disruption Misfunction
Industry pundits regularly cite ”technology disruption” as something universally positive, drawing legions of venture capitalists and other investors into a pool looking for the next great idea to back. This is the false choice facing holographic solutions providers. While being a ”disruptive force” may catch the attention of financial backers, the term also has some serious connotations that hinder success.
The reality is that most businesses and consumers despise the term ”disruption.“ It conjures up images of confusion, cost, and obsolescence, giving potential channels, customers and end users good cause to run in the opposite direction. Regardless of how compelling a new solution may be, customers will always fear the forklift or implementation process, and expect existing workflows and behaviors to forever change, resulting in inefficiencies, higher costs and dissatisfaction.
Rather than proudly shouting that they possess the next disruptive technology, savvy holographic providers would be well advised to take a step back and frame their solutions to complement existing applications and use cases. Adding tangible value is an even more attractive attribute than disruption, and will be well received by the channels and customers that would benefit from holographic technology.
For The Love of Devices
Another poor assumption developers and providers make is that consumers have elastic relationships with their smartphones, and that new applications will compel customers to switch out their hardware to use holographs. Upgrading to the latest version of a loved device is easy, but sacrificing familiar apps and functions to get something new is a much higher bar to clear.
The proliferation of smartphones and the profound loyalty consumers have for their preferred device certainly indicate that customers are not eager to switch out hardwarefor the opportunity to try out holographs. Vendors with technology that works off a single operating system—or worse, requires the purchase off an entirely new phone—are at a distinct disadvantage in an era when customer choice and self-determination rule the day. Vendors who take a more holistic approach and offer technology that works with multiple operating systems are much more likely to gain traction.
The Fantasy… and Reality… of Holographs
The consensus among many thought leaders is that the gaming sector is an obvious target for holography, with potential markets existing in additional sectors like automotive, manufacturing, retail, and others.
But the stark truth is that this a completely nascent industry, and predicting where the biggest opportunities lie is not much more than educated guesswork. Yes, gaming is a given, but there are probably much more lucrative markets. It’s just that holography providers haven’t unearthed these opportunities and, on their own, they may never, especially if they do not have the expertise and insights into a specific vertical market.
Instead of hunting and pecking, perhaps the most efficient route to market is to leverage the unique developer community—such as Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)—to create compelling, market-centric solutions. These providers already have the expertise and relationships within industries. They understand the route to market and by adding holographic capabilities into existing solutions—or creating new ones altogether—ISVs can build a lucrative business that is recurring and sustainable. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, holographic solutions providers that elect to offer a foundation or framework to enable ISVs and other developers can accelerate adoption and quickly increase revenue.
Find the Money
Building a sustainable market for holographs must rely on fundamental business principles, not just the glitz of new technology. The path to solid business development has not changed. Let the pundits shout from the moutaintops; leverage them when you can. But, concentrate on adding value, partner with market experts, and empower them with development tools and access to create solutions that make life better, business more efficient and, when it makes sense, captivate the mind and the imagination.
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