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Chapter 5. Customer Disloyalty > Time to Market - Pg. 55

Customer Disloyalty 55 --offered a viable networking product. Novell's huge market share utterly failed to insulate it against the market forces. On the other hand, Apple--which never owned more than 15% of the computer market--has steadfastly resisted the onslaught of numerous powerful and cheap competing com- puters. Apple is a company whose products are desirable. Its commitment to design has allowed it to over- come lackluster technology and survive calamitously self-destructive behavior. Had Novell added design to its mix, it could have overcome its weak business moves. If Microsoft ever awakens to the value of interaction design, the competition might as well hang up its gloves and go home. Apple was as self-destructive as a grunge-rock star, but if it can continue to clean up its act, it might become viable again. Business students at Harvard and Stanford are not usually taught the value of design in their case studies. Although design is essential to the success even of industrial-age products, its application is easier. Also, those industrial-age products are older, and their problems and solutions are well known. In the information age--in the age of rapid innovation and extreme cognitive friction--design is a primary necessity. Time to Market After a vendor has claimed a market by being the first to offer needed functionality, there is little advantage to hurrying to market with something equivalent. You have already lost the time-to-market race, so no amount of raw speed can ever gain that position for you. However, it is quite possible to take leadership from the market pioneer with better design. Design makes your product desirable, and that will make your customers actively seek out your product instead of the competitor's, re- gardless of who got there first. The company that first claimed the market had to make certain sacrifices to get there. Chances are that design was an early casualty. This makes that company quite vulnerable to design, even if it is not vulnerable to speed. Being the first to add extra features, however, is not the same thing. Features do not benefit users the way that good behavior and primary problem-solving abilities do, and adding features won't have the same beneficial effect that better behavior will. In a marketplace of equally poorly designed products, added features will not influence a broad segment of the market. 2 Many markets consist of multiple vendors selling similar products, none of which are designed, but all of which compete on features. Every time one vendor introduces a new feature, all of the other vendors add that feature in their next version. These markets are characteristically balkanized into many tiny segments. There is no dominant product or manufacturer. For example, the market for personal information managers (PIMs) is fought over by more than a dozen vendors. The same is true for cellular telephones. The battle between capability and viability can go on unabated for years with users getting no relief. The only force that can convert a fragmented, feature-dominated market into a more stable, design- dominated market is the imposition of some outside force. The outside force can be the Brobding- nagian business acumen of Bill Gates, or it can be the studied application of design. But all of Bill Gates's hard work is still not making his products lovable. What's more, the average level of desirability of almost all high-tech products remains about on a par with Microsoft's, despite all of the intelligence, sincerity, and hard work invested in them by their makers. In the next section, I'll show that simple but almost universal flaws in our process for creating software-based products are causing this proliferation of unpleasant, undesirable, dancing-bearware products. 2 As Geoffrey Moore points out in his excellent book, Crossing the Chasm, the additional features have appeal only to the early adopters, not to the larger marketplace.