iPod

by havoc

Ben,
interesting that Europe has different sales numbers. For purposes of
thinking about product design though, to me the $50 flash players are
a distinct product category from the iPod or the Toshiba. People buy
the small solid-state players for different reasons (and at $50, the
reason need not be as compelling as the reason to buy a $400
gadget). iPod Shuffle tries to put the flash player into the iPod
design vision, and Apple markets it specifically for jogging and other
cases where you could not use the regular iPod. But the Shuffle’s
positioning and design is not typical of flash players and I don’t
know if it’s been successful.

Not sure comparing absolute number of $50 solid-state players sold
vs. $400 all-your-music players sold means much; it’s similar to
comparing CD-R sales to iPod sales, or Corolla sales to Mercedes
sales. The success of the iPod was in giving people enough value over
a CD player or radio that they wanted to buy a new product category
with a base price in the hundreds of dollars.

“But they both play music” is a
generalization that clouds thinking
in my opinion. “Play music” is
not specific enough as a design vision to understand a product and its
tradeoffs; it doesn’t explain how the product will be different from
alternative products or product categories. It’s like the
empty mission statement “do good things well.”

Dom
– there are certainly other music players that work, but I would argue
that the iPod was the first one to figure out the formula that defined
its product category, and it continues to stand out.

Your point about marketing goes right to why I was mocking
Toshiba’s new campaign. I think you are wrong to say that Apple’s
marketing is better because of the marketing budget; though that
doubtless helps, to me a fundamental reason their marketing is better
is their understanding of the product design. They don’t waste their
breath on irrelevancies like “music is better in color,” nor do they
bombard you with feature lists. They know what the product was
designed to do and how it was designed to make you feel. And they
market it by telling you exactly that. The visual and emotional
design are part of it; far from merely cosmetic, they make people like
the product more.

You and I might bother to research the iAudio (I did when I was
shopping for players), but their marketing blows goats. I just went to
their X5 product page (can’t link to it because it’s all flash), and
their front-and-center pitch is a huuuuuge feature list, where many of
the features are irrelevant noise. Most people are going to tune that
out in a hurry. And let’s not neglect the marketing handicap of the
unknown brand name.

Apple seems to be sinking further into feature wars recently, as they
try to distinguish their new iPods from their old ones – their product
web site used to be better. But in particular their TV ads still stick
to the emotional experience of the product.

Unlike the iAudio people, Toshiba and Sony and friends have large
marketing budgets. But if they waste their money saying the wrong
thing, the budget won’t help them vs. Apple. You can see Toshiba’s
lack of understanding of the product in both their
implementation/engineering and in their marketing message.

Calum
brings up the music store; another important thing about Apple’s
approach is that they understood the user experience to be more than
the hardware device. It includes the store, the iTunes software, and
yes, the marketing. I’m hardly an expert in music player history but I
don’t think anyone else had put all the pieces together before Apple
did.

BTW, one word that waves the big red flag of Clueless is “content”
(with “media” as some kind of synonym). Whenever you see someone
saying “content” you know they’re being too imprecise to think clearly
about product design. When was the last time you heard a
non-technology person wandering around saying “I wish I had a better
way to access my digital content!” Apple is notable for using specific
words like “music” or “photos” almost always (in both marketing and
user interface).

(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2005-11.html#13)

My Twitter account is @havocp.
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