Is the Norm for Developing New Consumer Computing Hardware Veering Off Track?

Whether one considers Apple’s September 9, 2014 debut of its watch, and new iPhone models, or Brian Krzanich’s Keynote for Intel’s IDF14 event on the day before, a common product marketing approach permeates both presentations: the audience is presented with a lot of features, but little, if any statement of benefits to consumers.

One can certainly argue Krzanich’s audience is made up of developers, and, given his audience, his presentation is appropriate. But, in this writer’s opinion, even developers need to spend some time collecting, and studying the needs of the people who should end up consuming their new tech hardware devices. Turbo charged development is great, but if products of little interest to a broad consumer market hit the market much faster, the end result will, nevertheless, be the same — poor sales.

Yet neither Krzanich, nor the speakers at Apple’s event spoke to any burning consumer market needs for anything they presented. This oversight is unfortunate and a possible harbinger of a near term future disconnect between tech hardware manufacturers and the consumers they desperately need to service if they are to survive.

The history of manufacturing is filled with similar examples. In the past, when production technology advances, but product innovation fails to keep pace, engineering methodology can be said to have plateaued. Vertical ascent only resumes when some event serves as a shock to breakdown the walls between manufacturers and consumers. But, absent such a shock, a state of mediocrity can persist for an extended period of time.

Readers will do well to take note of the use of the term “innovation” in the paragraph above. When product development ceases to address the burning needs, really the pain points, consumers present, then, one can argue, new designs lose innovation. Unfortunately, Intel and Apple debuted less than innovative solutions at their respective events. As much of the online social media chatter has already unearthed, the “new” features of the iPhone 6 are not really new, at all. Rather, they are features some Apple competitors (Samsung and Windows Phone) have offered for years. So, to what extent would one call these new smart phone models “innovative”?

Unfortunately, this writer holds the opinion the relentless appetite the investment community maintains for publicly traded companies like Apple and Intel to maintain double digit sales growth, year after year, provides much of the impetus of the kind of product development we saw debuted at both events.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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