11.07.2005

Simple choices

Each month for the paper I survey a handful of business and technology magazines and summarize the ideas behind some of the most interesting articles, offering our readers a snapshot of what's on newsstands in case they don't have time to get through the magazines themselves. This month, cover pieces in Wired and Fast Company seem to complement each other quite nicely.

Wired's piece deals with "The Battle for the Soul of the MP3 Phone," which offers analysis about why highly touted duds like the ROKR phone didn't excite the marketplace. In part, they write, it deals with not offering consumers what they have very clearly said they want, including a large amount of memory, easy on-board navigation and access to a lot of cheap music.

In Fast Company, the topic of the month is simplicity, Google, for example, offers it and does exceedingly well. Others do not, and pay the price. It offers a wonderful quote from Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer web products: "Google has the functionality of a really complicated Swiss Army knife, but the home page is our way of approaching it closed. It's simple, it's elegant, you can slip it in your pocket, but it's got the great doodad when you need it. A lot of our competitors are like a Swiss Army knife open--and that can be intimidating and occasionally harmful."

So what's the common thread? Not only giving people what they want, but giving it to them when and where they need it. Gadgets these days offer so much, but most of the time these extras get in the way. It's part of why the iPod was so successful even though it came late to the marketplace, and why Google has been able to fight off numerous challenges. The functionality is there, but only when you need it. A quickly evolving theme of this blog is to advocate for consumer choice. Part of offering that should involve listening to what consumers say they want, and then doing your best to offer it. It's clear from these two interesting pieces and the products they cover, that doing that will put you on the path to success.

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