Arcade Fun

April 28, 2017

An arcade often refers to an entertainment establishment or an area within an amusement park that houses different coin-operated machines and video games. It is a popular hangout for many teenagers and young adults alike. However, there are still a number of adults who still enjoy a game or two when visiting arcades. The different types of arcade games include video games, pinball machines, shooting galleries, ball toss games, crane machines, dance and music games, and simulated games, among many others. Most, if not all, arcade games are coin, token or magnetic card operated, and you can get a prize immediately or collect tickets or points for redemption of various items depending on the number of tickets or points.Arcade and video games’ origins can be traced back in early 20th century and grew in popularity in the 1970s with machines built mostly by Japanese companies such as Atari. However, coin operated games can actually be traced back as early as 350 BC during the time of Alexander the Great. According to one story, there was a man who presented Alexander the Great a game that once you placed a coin in it, the players would be able to bring balls up and down to disappear in several holes as controlled by the players. The winner could get twice what was given as a bet. Another coin operated machine used as a game of chance and to win some money was a slot machine invented by a jester in 1108. It was described similarly to the slot machines we know today – put in a coin, operate the level and get a chance to double your money.

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Subsequently, other coin operated games were invented and introduced to the public with intention of providing entertainment and multiple chances of winning more than they betted. The rise in producing different kinds and types of coin operated machines for entertainment started around the late 1800s but reached its highest peak, including other arcade and video games, in early 2000. However, from 2004 until pretty much today, there was a decline in arcade games with the rise in popularity of portable video game gadgets such as Play Station and PSP, Xbox, Wii, PCs, and even mobile phones, among many others.Nevertheless, arcades in different parts of the country still have considerable following especially as part of amusement parks and inside shopping malls. Young kids and teenagers can still be seen hanging out in arcades to meet friends and to compete with others who have the same interest on playing arcade and video games. Nowadays, the most popular arcade and video games include Sega’s Extreme Hunting 2 Tournament (video kit), JVL’s Retro (countertop), Raw Thrills-Betson’s Fast & Furious (video dedicated), Raw Thrills-Betson’s Fast & Furious Super Bikes (video simulators), Stern Pinball’s Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (pinball game), Skee-Ball’s Skee-Ball Too! (alley bowlers), Skee-Ball’s Super Shot (sports games), Rainbow’s Rainbow (cranes & rotaries), Betson’s Sponge Bob Jellyfish (children’s games), ICE’s Deal or No Deal (novelty games), Family Fun Co.’s Football Fortune (coin drop), Benchmark’s Wheel Deal (coin drop), Andamiro’s Hammer (bopping/stomping games), and LAI Games’ Stacker (prize vendors), among many others.

What Is the Relevance of Technology?

April 28, 2017

“Technology in the long-run is irrelevant”. That is what a customer of mine told me when I made a presentation to him about a new product. I had been talking about the product’s features and benefits and listed “state-of-the-art technology” or something to that effect, as one of them. That is when he made his statement. I realized later that he was correct, at least within the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But I began thinking about whether he could be right in other contexts as well.What is Technology?Merriam-Webster defines it as:1a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering 2 b: a capability given by the practical application of knowledge 2: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge 3: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor Wikipedia defines it as:Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia[1]) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.Both definitions revolve around the same thing – application and usage.Technology is an enablerMany people mistakenly believe it is technology which drives innovation. Yet from the definitions above, that is clearly not the case. It is opportunity which defines innovation and technology which enables innovation. Think of the classic “Build a better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools. You might have the technology to build a better mousetrap, but if you have no mice or the old mousetrap works well, there is no opportunity and then the technology to build a better one becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are overrun with mice then the opportunity exists to innovate a product using your technology.

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Another example, one with which I am intimately familiar, are consumer electronics startup companies. I’ve been associated with both those that succeeded and those that failed. Each possessed unique leading edge technologies. The difference was opportunity. Those that failed could not find the opportunity to develop a meaningful innovation using their technology. In fact to survive, these companies had to morph oftentimes into something totally different and if they were lucky they could take advantage of derivatives of their original technology. More often than not, the original technology wound up in the scrap heap. Technology, thus, is an enabler whose ultimate value proposition is to make improvements to our lives. In order to be relevant, it needs to be used to create innovations that are driven by opportunity.Technology as a competitive advantage?Many companies list a technology as one of their competitive advantages. Is this valid? In some cases yes, but In most cases no.Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.A revolutionary technology is one which enables new industries or enables solutions to problems that were previously not possible. Semiconductor technology is a good example. Not only did it spawn new industries and products, but it spawned other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, integrated circuit technology, microprocessor technology. All which provide many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Looking at the number of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones forming every day), I’d say not. How about microprocessor technology? Again, no. Lots of microprocessor companies out there. How about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you have Intel, AMD, ARM, and a host of companies building custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and easy access to IP mitigates the perceived competitive advantage of any particular technology. Android vs iOS is a good example of how this works. Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gained an early market advantage. However, Google, utilizing their variant of Unix (a competing technology), caught up relatively quickly. The reasons for this lie not in the underlying technology, but in how the products made possible by those technologies were brought to market (free vs. walled garden, etc.) and the differences in the strategic visions of each company.Evolutionary technology is one which incrementally builds upon the base revolutionary technology. But by it’s very nature, the incremental change is easier for a competitor to match or leapfrog. Take for example wireless cellphone technology. Company V introduced 4G products prior to Company A and while it may have had a short term advantage, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G products, the advantage due to technology disappeared. The consumer went back to choosing Company A or Company V based on price, service, coverage, whatever, but not based on technology. Thus technology might have been relevant in the short term, but in the long term, became irrelevant.In today’s world, technologies tend to quickly become commoditized, and within any particular technology lies the seeds of its own death.Technology’s RelevanceThis article was written from the prospective of an end customer. From a developer/designer standpoint things get murkier. The further one is removed from the technology, the less relevant it becomes. To a developer, the technology can look like a product. An enabling product, but a product nonetheless, and thus it is highly relevant. Bose uses a proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet a set of market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables is relevant to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, what’s the price, what’s the quality, etc., and not so much with how it is achieved, thus the technology used is much less relevant to them.

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Recently, I was involved in a discussion on Google+ about the new Motorola X phone. A lot of the people on those posts slammed the phone for various reasons – price, locked boot loader, etc. There were also plenty of knocks on the fact that it didn’t have a quad-core processor like the S4 or HTC One which were priced similarly. What they failed to grasp is that whether the manufacturer used 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores in the end makes no difference as long as the phone can deliver a competitive (or even best of class) feature set, functionality, price, and user experience. The iPhone is one of the most successful phones ever produced, and yet it runs on a dual-core processor. It still delivers one of the best user experiences on the market. The features that are enabled by the technology are what are relevant to the consumer, not the technology itself.The relevance of technology therefore, is as an enabler, not as a product feature or a competitive advantage, or any myriad of other things – an enabler. Looking at the Android operating system, it is an impressive piece of software technology, and yet Google gives it away. Why? Because standalone, it does nothing for Google. Giving it away allows other companies to use their expertise to build products and services which then act as enablers for Google’s products and services. To Google, that’s where the real value is.The possession of or access to a technology is only important for what it enables you to do – create innovations which solve problems. That is the real relevance of technology.