The store seemed rather like a paradox at first. I don’t recall its name–it was some luxury french clothing company. Une entreprise de vêtements de luxe. But it was huddled in a section of the mall that seemed to have some kind of invisible barrier between it and the rest of the complex. On the bustling beat of a pleasant Sunday, and where every other part of the mall was packed like sardines, this section alone stood sparse. And the store itself reflected that same feeling. Unlike the tidily stuffed behemoths of H&M or Uniqlo, its interiors were adorned by nothing more than perhaps 15 outfits– each taking up the equivalent of a full display closet they would in their more casual brethren. There were maybe only 4 people inside. Three whom I believe were employees. Because of the sparse collection, the walking space in there was wide. Open. Empty. Dead.
It took me a month to realize the irony.
Because rather than the rest of the mall–abuzz with the laughter and energy of life– it was this almost barren landscape that symbolized and laid the clues to our future of retail. Not that retail was dying– rather that it would simply be transformed. And surprisingly, it would be transformed away from the model currently enjoying the veracity of a Sunday crowd. Continue reading “Reforged in Fire: Brick and Mortar”→
Just the other day, Jasper and I were discussing buying Amiibos, those character figurines with NFC chips built-in that give little unique boosts in select Nintendo games.
“I don’t want to end up with a bunch of plastic figurines at home.” He was vehemently against them for both lifestyle and economic reasons.
“Why not?” I asked: “even though you want to build a library?” A library, full of real, tangible books made of tree pulp.
If you know anything about me, you know I mostly prefer electronic books over paper. Yet I didn’t find the idea of owning a shelf of plastic figures conflicting. But why is that?
The conversation got me curious: what are the real differences between a digital display and analog book? And in general, how do we psychologically perceive the ownership and consumption of intangible digital goods as opposed to tangible analog goods?
The Battle of E-Books vs Paper Books
When Borders declared bankruptcy in 2011 after e-book sales soared 1,260% between 2008 and 2010, the industry genuinely feared the digital apocalypse. 6 years later, the mere vitality of paper books in 2017 would probably come as a puzzling surprise to the digital advocates at the advent of digital book revolution. Why didn’t paper books go the way of CDs and vinyl?
…evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.
I was intrigued by the studies the article quoted. What exactly is missing in e-books? Are we losing inherent signals in e-books that aid our learning and understanding, or can we just write it off as a case of nostalgia? I bugged a friend of mine to pull out the research papers from some psychology database and took a deep dive into them myself. Continue reading “On Digital and Analog”→
Above is a screenshot of gameplay in Hearthstone. Those six bubbles are the entire world of communication in the game. No matter how angry, upset, excited, or happy you are — the entire social interaction you will ever have with the person you are playing will be confined to just those six preset options. There is no direct messaging unless you’ve added them to your friends list. There is no audio. There is no chat.
Apple quietly announced a video camera app today with a characteristically generic name: Clips. What does this mean?
Clips seems to be a bridge between the iOS platform and video-based social media apps. You shoot once with Clips and publish to third party apps (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). You can annotate videos, put stickers on them, like what you can do on Snapchat. Also thrown in there are a few unique features like smart recipient suggestions based on facial recognition and live text-to-speech captions with custom styles.
This seems to address the social butterfly’s problem of having to shoot and post multiple times across different apps.
Since 2008, the iPhone has been sitting at the center of Apple’s ecosystem. Apple’s strategy has always been to foster an ecosystem that is frictionless within, difficult to replicate, and disruptive to get out. A big part of that strategy is to continuously add iOS-exclusive sticking points to keep its users happy. One of iPhone users’ hard-to-part features is iMessage. But over the past few years it failed to capture the absolute explosion of casual video communication in the media space. iMessage is slowly becoming detached from where high-bandwidth digital communication is headed, which poses a direct concern to the stick point of iOS ecosystems.
I think Clips comes at an interesting time because while iMessage is missing out, Snapchat-esque media are getting a huge tail wind from major social platforms who adopted this format. Clips could become another sticking point between iOS and third party apps if I could use it to shoot once and post hip videos and pictures to multiple social media. That’d be a major advantage of iOS as a platform vs other competitors. And as much as people laugh about it, this appeals directly to emerging Millenials and Gen Z power users.
At the same time, it feels like a big experiment on a new communication format for Apple. If young users receive the app well, Apple might add it to iMessage as a built-in feature, further validating the trend of video-first communication that Snapchat and other companies are betting on.
When Nintendo Switch was first revealed in October 2016, there were mostly two crowds that reacted. One group had been following the rumors for years and scoffed at the Switch’s graphics power and hardware capability. Another group absolutely adored the puppy-ear resemblance and hailed the system as an innovation in the physical multiplay space.
Both crowds are right, and the reason is because they aren’t the same user demographic. One sees the Switch as an Xbox-PlayStation status quo contender that has some portable gimmicks. The other group sees the console as a console-class handheld that supports TV output. With a product poised to be both a living room and handheld console, Nintendo is targeting an extremely lucrative and strong market as well as an anemic and declining segment at the same time. This dying category, of course, is the handheld market — the once glorious group of culture icons that has been experiencing a steady YoY decline of sales in the past decade.