Sunday, March 18, 2007

Learn a lesson from the Wii

I just recently (finally) upgraded to a Wii. Only had to pay about $50 over retail on an auction site to get it. Good luck trying to find one in the LA area, most stores told me it would be April before they had more. Try finding accessories once you have one too. Had to hit a half a dozen stores before I found additional controllers. It's not that nobody carries them, it's because they fly off the shelves as soon as they come in.

Until the release of the Wii, Nintendo's game console sales came in a distant third compared to sales of the Xbox and Playstation. In addition, Xbox and Playstation had new releases pending that provided even better graphics than the current implementations that were already outselling them. So what did Nintendo do? Did they try to play catch-up in graphics capabilities? Hardly, the graphics capabilities of the Wii aren't noticeably different from those of it's predecessor: the GameCube. What they chose to do instead, which was a huge gamble, was to focus on innovation. And as a result, they are now winning the console race.

The thing you most hear about is the new controller, which is wireless out of the box and is full motion range sensing. While that is great, I was also impressed with:

  • Internet connetivity - including a news channel, a weather channel, a shopping channel and it's own email address

  • Multi-media capability - I inserted the SD card from my digital camera, and immediately was able to browse photos and videos on my television, including a slideshow.

  • Backwards capability - it's the first time that I've been able to use all my old games and accessories from the previous console (Gamecube) on the new one. The device also has a 'virtual console' which you can purchase games from the even older systems (e.g., Nintendo 64) through the shopping channel to play on.

With the internet connectivity and the multi-media capability, this is the closest thing to a true convergent device that I've seen. The most important thing I need to see added there would be support for an external keyboard. The on screen keyboard is a bit trying when entering longer blocks of text. The device does have USB ports, but so far it doesn't appear that it recognizes external keyboards plugged into it.

So, what does that have to do with PowerBuilder? The point is that instead of trying to play a losing game of catch-up with their competitors, Nintendo took a gamble and leap-frogged them by focusing on innovation instead. That's what Sybase needs to do with PowerBuilder. Innovation was why PowerBuilder was originally such a popular tool, and the only way it could become one again. Nintendo has shown that its possible if a company is willing to take a risk. The only question is whether Sybase is willing.


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