Launching a new product is as much an art as it is a science—a risky endeavor with no guarantees. Successful products aren’t lists of ingredients—they’re thoughtful recipes. Success depends on the perfect mix of ingredients, time and craft. The market’s tastebuds are fickle and there’s only a few degrees difference between a success like the iPad and a failure like the TouchPad. This video is fascinating because it shows the focus Apple applies to its recipes and shows that its products aren’t lucky flukes, marketing hype or the result of Steve’s reality distortion field. They’re the result of laser-like focus on a product category and feature set.
I recently had the honor of product consulting with Gauri and the fantastic team at SpotOn. In one exercise, we reviewed the iPod product launch because it so beautifully demonstrates the questions product-focused CEOs ask themselves about their offerings. If I had to summarize the strategy from Jobs’ pitch it would go like this: 1) Find something meaningful to you; 2) Find something meaningful to others; 3) Survey the existing landscape; 4) Identify the valuable segment to focus on; 5) Create multiple improvements to that segment’s existing offerings.
Obviously these lessons apply to the more recent successes of the iPhone and iPad, but the parallels between the iPod and Apple’s previous innovations in personal computing and the GUI are striking to me too. Apple’s less an R&D house and more a synthesizer and popularizer of existing research. The company excels at translating innovative technology experiences to mass markets. Panasonic used to claim that they were “just slightly ahead of their time” but I think it’s a better slogan for Apple. Too far ahead of your time and you have expensive technology that won’t find a market (Apple learned this lesson with Lisa, Xerox with the Star). Too close to your time and you’re chasing the puck on falling prices for commodity hardware. The Lisa made a home appliance out of a decade of research from Xerox. But the Mac reduced Lisa’s price by 75% and changed the world. Likewise, with this video we see how Apple’s laser-like focus created a new product category and forever changed how music is listened to and distributed.