Tag Archives: product design

Why are companies so afraid of “think(ing) different”?

You’d think that companies would want to make their products different from their competitors, wouldn’t you? ?After all, if there’s a difference, people might actually buy your product rather than someone else’s?

Not always the case, as Matthew Taylor notes:

“Then a few days later a friend was comparing prices from Virgin and BT to have a broadband package in the home. Leaflets came through the door with attractive and strikingly different all-in monthly prices on their cover. It took a couple of hours of ploughing through the small print to work out that the actual cost was two or three times as much and, if everything was included, the prices were virtually identical.”

(Caveat: BT are a client, so naturally I’d dispute part of this! :) )

In his fabulous list of “Top tips on how to get the worst out of your agency“, James Myers notes much the same thing from a marketing perspective:

“Under no circumstances provide information that suggests your product or service is different in any way shape or form.”

So why on earth does this happen? My guess is that there’s two reasons. First, when you’re supplying a commodity good or service, all companies are working with the same basic products and similar margins, which means you have to work very hard to do something different. 

The second – and I think what James is getting at – is that differentiation is risky and most corporations are notoriously risk-averse. If you’re doing something different to the competition and it fails, you – the middle-level manager with a budget – are going to get dumped on from a very great height. If, on the other hand, you’re doing the same thing as your competitors then it’s likely they’ll fail as badly as you – and then everything will be fine. 

Which leads me to a question which will form a decent book for someone: How does Apple manage to be a company which apparently doesn’t take too many risks, but which manages nonetheless to do marketing, product design and development so differently to everyone else? How, in a market which everyone is convinced is a commodity one, do they differentiate?

As I mentioned, I think there’s a serious book in that. One that, once he’s retired, I hope Steve Jobs will write. 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Why Microsoft lose and Apple wins, part two

There are some very interesting facts about the reaction of Microsoft to Spotlight after its first demo revealed in the comments to a post on Joe Wilcox’s AppleWatch blog.

"MSFT has worked on WinFS for more than a decade without success in
making it fast, reliable, and easy-to-use enough for release. The
Longhorn "reset" in 2004 was in large part the realization that WinFS
was still not ready for primetime.

At the June 2004 WWDC, Jobs blew away the MSFT engineers in
attendance by demonstrating lightning fast Spotlight searches on Tiger
(OSX 10.4). The court-released MSFT emails show how flabbergasted they
were, and the imperative of getting the Tiger preview DVDs back to
Redmond for reverse engineering. Comments by MSFT’s Jim Allchin and
Lenn Pryor were priceless.

Here’s Pryor:

" You will have to take Vic’s disk…I am not giving mine up. ;) Tonight I got on corpnet, hooked up Mail.app to my Exchange server
and then downloaded all of my mail into the local file store. I did
system wide queries against docs, contacts, apps, photos, music, and my
Microsoft email on a Mac. It was f*cking amazing. It is like I just got
a free pass to Longhorn land today."

Here’s Allchin:

"Yes. I know. It is hard to take. I don’t believe we will have search this fast."

And years later, Microsoft still does not have search this fast – and, from the looks of what Joe is saying, probably won’t have it for many years.

So why is Apple so good at this stuff, while Microsoft keeps churning out concepts – like it’s latest, "table top computing" – that it never implements properly?

Continue reading