User experience and product innovation

Recently, at the Web 2.0 summit, Palm’s CEO said (as reported in All Things Digital):

Palm created the PDA space with the Pilot and the smartphone space after it with the Treo…So by birthright, Palm should have owned the smartphone market, but it just lost its way.

I’ve been intrigued by this facet of the “smartphone era”: Palm’s, NOKIA’s, Motorola’s whole job—theoretically—was to understand the needs, wants, desires of the mobile phone user. Theoretically they each spent millions of dollars a year in R&D, consumer research, prototyping, product development, etc. Yet Apple smoked them all. Apple focuses on the user experience—from the moment a user decides to enter Apple’s commerce stream, to the moment a user opens a box, to the moment a user first sets up a device to the moment a user interacts that device. With Apple, product = experience and experience = product. It seems a superior user experience—a 365 degree, multi-dimensional experience—is the ultimate killer product/app.

One Comment

  1. Ed Kohler says:

    Palm’s user experience really was ahead of its time . . . at the time. For example, it crushed comparable offerings from Microsoft. My wife had a Treo 700w, which was unusable compared to the software Palm created.

    I think this may have been a case of Palm underestimating how fast technology was advancing, so didn’t imagine what would be possible with faster processors, more storage, better cameras, motion sensors, and more advanced touch screens. I’m pretty sure that they still had 64MB of storage in their devices when the first iPhone came out. Apple had the vision of what could be done with the technology of the day. That being said, Apple made plenty of compromises on their first phone, such as no copy/paste and no ability to run multiple apps.

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