Clement Charles

Clement Charles 's thoughts
September 5th, 2014

Innovation VS Product Lifecyle

Innovation VS product lifecycle: must innovation always be doomed by product’s lifecycle?

 In 2009, I was invited to speak to Lift Conference, here in Geneva. I gave a short but dense speech, on why in my perspective, product lifecycle was killing innovation. It still relevant today, so here I share :  ) You can also view the video from the conference. Cheers. CC

Clement Charles “Innovation VS product… par liftconference
Hello Lifters !!


We all know that innovation goes fast: good idea burst in one second. On the other side, we know that product lifecycles dictate the tempo of all industries based technologies and R&D, if not all. As you know, as will be said over and over during those uplifting days, alternative energy, low fuel cars, water engine, all the things we need to save the day…. were there already yesterday!


So, how can we explain that we still use the same model of motor than the one in Ford T and the same keyboard than the earliest typing machine?


My thesis is that the short-term financial vision of product lifecycle dooms innovation and slows the mass market adoption of new technologies. I will advocate long-term strategies to build new markets. A strategy where the concept of product lifecycle, managed product by product, is replaced by larger vision of industrial lifecycle, that reflects the fact that various products, various technologies are actually milestones along the same road, steps on the same stairway.


Swiss dairy farmers say no different things when they explain that, if you keep milking the same cow for ever, you won’t stay long a producer of cheese or chocolate ; ) Having a wider scope, focusing on the full livestock rather than on the individual cows, is certainly a key to farmer’s sustainability.


If you had to draw a scheme of product lifecycle, they could be two axis: one with time, one other with the various type of messages addressing the different receiving communities that you find in most industrial process: project phase, engineering and conceptual phase, market stage with media, professional and last but not least consumer. Most companies will combine various products in one scheme. Therefore, the management of the timing of the product lifecycle will be central to their success.


Now, I want to share two visions with you looking back on the failure of mobile content services by operators, and looking ahead on the necessary move that medias must make towards a next industrial cycle.


In 99, I attended ITU Telecom and two majors innovations convinced me that my future were, as citizen, as person and as a professional, in the field of digital media. The first one was mobile broadband, and the crazy idea that you would soon be able to carry the whole world with you in your pocket. The second one was Web Television, internet video and the opportunity to create medias and TV’s at nearly no cost.


Mobile broadband is just emerging now in the mass market, but also for a large amount of IT professional that discovered mobile surfing only last year with their iPhone. Again, Jobs and its team succeeded where others failed, thanks to a great user interface and more than anything else, thanks to communication orientated towards the devices’ services, a thing that surely changes the ton for the technical speech of telcos’ engineers.


People don’t care about technology, they care about services: Trust me, if you had to be able to explain how a motor work to drive a car, pollution would not be problem : )


With WAP, they were in theory selling a full mobile internet access directly in your pocket, but were actually providing a slower, hardly-working service-less version of the French Minitel of the 80’s. Telco still pay this communication mistake today. They also repeated it with 3G a few years later.

3G was the same: telco announced to everybody that full live tv and video services would be available in 2001. When they finally launched their services in 04, all the money of those technical companies went to technology, and therefore, the whole communication also underline the tech aspect. Nothing was thought for services, no room was created for services provider, no one thought that the pipe should contain something. Consumers perfectly understood the message. They did not care about that new technology at all. And now, as handsets are sponsored and often changed, most people do indeed have a 3G phone now, although nearly none of them use any 3G services. Indeed, most people don’t care about technology, they care about services: Trust me, if you had to be able to understand how a motor works to drive a car, pollution would not be problem : )


As companies wait the very last stage of the product lifecycle to introduce the next generation, they are not allocating a sufficient time for the necessary services ecosystem to emerge. They then enter a terrible vicious circle of overselling technologies, providing no services no added value. This leads early adopters to spread the word negatively and engage a truly destructive buzz on the novelty. You don’t get back on the ring after that.


The story was similar with web tv, internet video and high band. In 99, video codec and DV technologies were largely sufficient to create web TV, which lead to the foundation of plenty of start-ups. But operators were still the middle of dial up lifecycle, and really enjoyed minute / based Internet fees. In the rare case were they provided high band ADSL line, the traffic was charged. Well, start-ups are not banks, and when they crash, they crash, without any public money to guarantee their bonus. Therefore, nearly all the companies created between 98 and 2001 around Internet video had ceased to exist in early 2003.


In 2003, operators were actually deploying broadband quite massively, and had the exact same problem. As they kept to dial up lifecycle running for too long, they killed in the egg the broadband services’ ecosystem. As they started to sell broadband, they faced the lack of services to provide to their consumer to justify the high band pipe. A this time, if you remember, all those ISP and operators that are now in close contact with majors and anti-piracy leagues, were airing adds on all media showing how much free music, free video and free games you would be able to access with their high band offering….

In 2003, we at launched our first web tv bouquet, with 50 programs with weekly update. Honestly, I really started to sell this product last year.




Media face a similar problem, at the other end of the pipe. Although their product, the content, stays king in the new millennium, the lifecycle they have been living in, is now over. Indeed, media are facing today the biggest paradigm shift since Gutenberg. No all of them are getting it, but they should. Indeed, non-changing media won’t disappear tomorrow early morning, but they surely will, as surely as electricity did replace steam.


Those traditional media are often wailing on their terrible situation but they remind me of a hungry guy dying from hunger because he doesn’t make the effort to pick up the food lying at its feet. The media industry is supposed to be a sector of smart curious people asking question and finding answers, it’s just a shame they never questioned their own status, their own fear of power loss and their own practices. If they did, they would definitely have found answers. They then can surely implement those new logics and strategies, as – we – in rather small and independent media company – Geneva born and bread – we’ve been doing it since 2001.


First of all, all the content should always benefit of a fully multimedia production process. All print journalists should tape their interviews on video, or at least, have an audio file and take some pictures. All the TV companies should be able to derive text, still pix and audio files from their audiovisual products.


Secondly, newsrooms should be digital and built as an electronic workflow where the traditional hierarchy is translated into paths of validation with nodes of decision. With their current resources, doing so would create the tool and the intellectual incentives to provide various streams of information to customers.


Those flows could be:


–       a raw / uncut flow as things arrived from the fields and from the agency

–       an eye on the editorial decision process: choice is an angle, a view, let’s share it

–       access to sources and raw material used to produce the final content

–       enrich content with open standard meta-datas and enable automated encoding to ensure optimal cross-plateform devices

–       insert the content into a map of a meaning, a map of stories, with hyperlinks, on demand multimedia and mash ups


Of course, letting media consumer into the newsroom is a risk of loss of power. That’s why most media don’t do it. It’s also why strong brands like CNN take the risk and succeed.


On the economic side, media brands should really focused their USP based on their specialization and the on the added value they bring to their segment. They really should avoid to re-invent the wheel on daily basis and focus their resources of their specialization, instead of spending 40 to 70% of their HR budget in telling the exact same stories that their neighbor and competitor.




Despite the move initiated by 2.0 applications and web-services, media are still very much network centric. The future will be user centric.
Today, the use is still in the situation of a guy entering plenty of rooms (services with login and any kind of conditional access) that is obliged to have one key per room. The future will provide 1 unique personal key per user that would open all the doors, 1 key to open them all, as other said with rings : )


Clearly, yesterday’s and today’s media run as network centric broadcaster. Tomorrow, user centric broadband data network will enable user to create their own personal narrowcast.


First of all, a unique digital ID will be required. The type of ID – ID card number, VISA card, social security number, gmail address – is not really important.


Logically, this unique ID would linked to a unique profile with a fully integrated payment system (again, if it’s VISA, pre-paid or reported on monthly invoice is not central). The unique profile will also integrate more personal data, both static data like birth date, height, shoes size and dynamic data as center of interest or main keywords typed.


With that unique ID, that unique payment system, that unique ever-changing personal profile, the user can really be at the center of its web of interest, communities or services.


The promise is anything, anywhere, any time. The anywhere and anytime are easy to set up, already available with the most popular content such as news, sports and erotic. The anything really depends on services provider and their common will to open the standards insuring interoperability of systems, content, billing methods, conditional access. It’s a hard move, as it forces competitors to share proprietary information, but it’s a necessary one, as mass market and revenue generating retail industries will never be built on highly fragmented user base.


Well that’s it. I leave the conclusion to you, thanks you for reading this largely longer version on my speech online and am looking forward to discussions that I would be more than happy to have with you during Lift conferences or anytime if you contact me.


Clement from



Was our future killed by product lifecycle ?

Who’s fault is it if we presently live the past ?

Open innovation seems to go faster, with quicker cycle from conception to market. Is it because it’s free, that they is no finance in the loop ?

Are decision and will able to reduce the gap?

Can we do otherwise?
















September 1st, 2014


Capture d’écran 2014-09-01 à 18.35.29

5 years ago, I looked crazy stupid naive when I mentioned the idea, that in the future (which is now), telco’s will be selling disconnection as much as connection, access restriction as much full access.

Similarly, when I spoke at ITU last year on data privacy in World Telecom in Bangkok, I mentioned the fact that selling privacy and secured data access, I remember people being really surprised in the audience. Then, later during the event, I was happy to see fellow future-thinker (Swiss too) Gerd Leonard mentioned the exact same concept when he addressed the crowd of operators and regulators telling them “telcos are in the trust business”. You can view the full keynote here.

Logically, in the space of personal data, especially with lifelogin and quantified self data, trust is not an option, it must should be a central piece of the product offering.  This is way I’ve loved the concept of Pryv from the very start, in the field of QS  meta platforms to aggregate your various data. Contained in the name (Pryv, as in private) , but also in their DNA (they’re Swiss, and as such love secrecy), their concept is really right and fair, proposed in a rich user interface.

Now to the business, I just discovered the business of Respect Networks, dubbed as “the leading platform for secure, verified and mutually agreed sharing of personal data”. This is just a start of new business, where people will pay for trust.

July 12th, 2014

On Switzerland

Juste looooooooooooovvvvvvveeeedddd that quote. You know it’s right if you live and/or work in Switzerland.



March 19th, 2014

5G in progress

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1

As we proudly have a now a full 4G/LTE coverage here in Switzerland, it’s good to see that next steps are getting ready. As part of many industry group, I was happy to receive this morning an invite to contribute in the current process of shaping the future soon-to-come 5G network, expected by the end of the current decades.

If you want to give your voice, the 5G Infrastructure Association is is currently share a working paper about on the future mobile network, with code name 5G-PPP.

Interestingly, the future of mobile is still lead by the very one that brought us a lot of innovation we live with today, Nokia. Indeed, the association is lead by Dr. Werner Mohr, head of research alliance at Nokia Solutions and Network Management.
October 8th, 2013

INvest in the future instead of managing degrowth

I followed yesterday the complete and exciting presentation of Guy Crevier, CEO of La Presse, a group that holds multiple titles in Canada.

As any paper business, times were not very happy a few semesters ago.  “It’s not very fun to manage de-growth. A vicious circle is not exciting”  says Guy. So the company decided to invest in the future, invest in digital.

 Their survey shows that people need information, but need to be suitable for current consumption practices. For Crevier, “tablet are becoming a medium, a delivery platform, in itself – even more with its quicker than ever penetration rate”.  In its perspective, to provide “free information is now compulsory”. He adds that “paywall are only right with global brands, with large audience an very unique content, for people that can invest the cost of subscription, often covered by professional expenses” . So it may for the NYT or the WSJ, but not with the rest : /
He adds that paywall – does not allow to touchy the 16-25 generation, just an other way to touch the 50+ generation that does not really interested advertisers anymore. Need to do something else. Interesting take.  In “La Presse” perspective, the strategy of “mirroring” websites to those new devices is not relevant. “To create a new medium, we’ve invested 40 M CAN$ put 100 people in a lab and worked closely with Apple people.”
You knew innovation cost money. Now, you know how much.
Evernote Camera Roll 20131007 163807
Numbers are big, but always a lot smaller for having a printing plant with all the associated permanent OpEx to run that business. So, it is a digital plant, than can scale as much as needed,, with no limitation.
It imposes new ways to create story telling.
Evernote Camera Roll 20131007 163812


Various ways to browse the content, to see other things or to share what’s more important. Also, it is needed to propose ways to access other services, while not going out of the application, to , for example, get some eCommerce services (buy movie ticket or reviewed fine foods products). On side, this could also lead the way to eCommerce that could lead to new stream of revenue for publishers – I have said it and wrote it, many times.
Ads needs to be different too.
Evernote Camera Roll 20131007 163810
Have some interactive elements, with little games inserted on the ads. Based on their study, 100% of users did use the game and all of them remembered the brand.  Interesting, although the attention that you have in a focus group is very different from the one that you get when people use the product on the side on their day to day life.
Logically, those interactive ads are a lot more efficient. And the can now be sold, with the proof of usage, to prices that are closed from print pages price, without having all the “physical” costs associated to print ! Impressive ! !  Crevier adds that 5 out 7 users do confirm that  viewing and playing with ads it part of their “pleasure of using the apps”.
The impact is unique . And measurable.
Evernote Camera Roll 20131007 163804Evernote Camera Roll 20131007 163809
Why is it free ? They boast 300’000 subs today. If payment was needed to access content, they would have invested the same amount of money , and possible, have had 25’000. Not enough to be a mass media to advertisers.
Also, the growth potential is huge, and they believe its a new medium in itself, and it will be the dominant medium in the future. Target to transfer 80% of paper revenue to digital and tablet edition. One day, print edition will stop, and we will spare 100M $ per year – not money in the core business, which is to produce good content, but to side spent such as print, distribution and plant management.
I was happy to see a traditional news publisher demonstrating success and being sincerely optimistic about the coming times. Future is bright, but you have to believe in it ; )
Picture of slides with iPhone, from the floor, so please excuse medium quality.