Howard's RedBerry - Differentiation is Standard, Sunroof is Extra

Mathew Ingram had a cool piece in today's Globe & Mail. He featured Howard Thaw's fabled "RedBerry", and the story behind how it came to be. Readers of my blog will be familiar with Howard - he's the COO of Iotum, a promising Ottawa-based startup. I've blogged about his souped-up BlackBerry before, and I think it's the coolest thing out there. Mathew seems to agree!

Great to see Howard getting the attention, and it also resonates with the messages I was hearing at the Triple Play Symposium that I spoke at last week in Boston. IP is really the great leveller, allowing anybody and everybody to offer everything to everybody. Ultimately, service providers of all stripes will have no inherent competitive advantage except for intangibles like creativity and innovation. My takeaway from the symposium is that it won't be enough to differentiate with variations on the bundle. That will work, but can only take you so far.

I believe that in this age of unlimited options, it's all about a customer-controlled experience where they get to customize the services any way they want.The tools are there with IP, but service providers aren't quite ready to give that much control over to subscribers. But I'll bet that time will come sooner than later, and Howard's RedBerry is a great example of what I mean. If the customer wants it in red, give it to him in red. It works just the same, and if that's what makes for a loyal customer, then that's what you should do.

There are just too many choices out there, and it won't take long for some service provider to figure this out. Think about the process you go through to buy a car. You have to take the base package, but the rest is up to you, and that's how you make it your car. It's really no different here. Sure, it's a risky strategy, but there's a big, growing generation of Internet boomers who respond very well to a highly customized, personalized experience. All I have to do is ask my kids, and it's as plain as day to me.