October 25, 2008

Mobile phone OI on the cheap

It’s not just Kellogg’s that wants to fund user (or open) innovation ideas on the cheap. Now Sony Ericsson is running a user-oriented developer contest with very modest prizes.

There is an online press release, but this is the email message that I got announcing the 2008 Sony Ericsson Content Awards:
Sony Ericsson is accepting entries for its 2008 Content Awards. These awards are open to anyone that has created a market-ready application, game, graphic or service for Sony Ericsson mobile phones. There are no limits on the number of entries and developers are encouraged to learn more and submit via the Content Awards 2008 Web site at www.sonyericsson.com/contentawards.

Winners will receive the 2008 winner's symbol, and the winner of each category will get an exclusive "behind the scenes" two day workshop at Sony Ericsson's development site in Lund, Sweden, where they will be able to present their company and winning content to Sony Ericsson managers and decision makers.
The allowable content formats include Java, UIQ, Windows Mobile, Flash Lite and Project Capuchin. IT also includes themes, graphics and multimedia. Special mention is made of the Sony Ericsson X1, its first Windows Mobile phone.

In the past, Apple, Google and others have run programming contests to build interest in their new platforms. Sony Ericsson’s platform is hardly new, but I can certainly see how in this world of the BlackBerry, iPhone, gPhone and dominance of Nokia smartphones that it has a hard time getting attention.

Still, Google gave money and Apple gave cool computer or other electronics toys. I can see that meeting Sony Ericsson VIPs might tend to skew entries to more serious (or at least professional) content. Still, it seems like they could throw in a current-model phone to their top 5 finishers at fairly low cost. Also, at least for the US market, impressing SE execs isn’t going to do anything to get past the AT&T or T-Mobile control of the preloaded (ondeck) content.

Classifying this depends to some degree on SE’s intentions. This could be considered ecosystem development — encouraging third party development. It would be open innovation both if these third parties are going to sell (or give away) their software, or if SE hopes to procure software to install on its phone. It would be user innovation if the producers of this technology are phone owners rather than companies that already produce mobile phone software and/or content.

October 14, 2008

Open Innovation on the cheap

Kellogg’s (the cereal company) has a website soliciting “GR-R-REAT Ideas!” It offers: “Ideas or innovations? Team up with Kellogg.”

Food industry blogger Dan Mitchell is not impressed:
Kellogg Might Pay You a Paltry Sum for Your Ideas. Or Not.
By Dan Mitchell
October 13th, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

Kellogg has never scrimped on research and development. Its W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition Research is considered to be among the best research facilities in the corporate world. The company spent $179 million on R&D last year.

But Kellogg can always use some new ideas. So it is asking you for yours.
Mitchell’s point is that Kellogg wants these ideas cheap — it’s willing to pay a small amount (maybe) for some ideas and nothing for other ideas.

To me, it looks like Kellogg is really looking to stimulate user innovation — the self-revealing that Eric von Hippel argues is essential for firms to learn what their users are thinking.

So Mitchell is right — no commercial firm in its right mind would sell its ideas for these kind of sums. But perhaps users — lacking other ways to commercialize their ideas — would be willing to share their insights in exchange for a nominal incentive payment.

Update Nov. 24: Kellogg's has posted a comment (below) that clarifies its position. Here’s the money quote:
Kellogg will work directly with the individuals and businesses whose proposals have intellectual property protection (patents or copyrights) to negotiate the appropriate compensation for these innovations.