Apple Avoids the Temptation of Jetpack Design
Since the late 90's, most of Apple's product releases have been met with a yawn by industry watchers even as the products themselves sell better year-over-year.
This is not a coincidence.
A lot of Apple's success comes from avoiding the temptation of jetpack design. Here's how they do it:
- They pick one feature
- ... that the market is familiar with
- ... and they do it better
- ... then they let you know about it
Pick One Feature
Apple has mastered the art of saying "we did hundreds of things in this release, and here are the highlights" while reserving their massive marketing firepower for a single feature.
Don't Be Too Early
The Newton was a double-edged sword for Apple. On one hand, it had a big "wow" factor and reminded the world of Apple's innovative DNA. On the other hand, it was expensive and Apple had to spend considerable time and energy explaining why a "portable digital assistant" was necessary. It failed.
Now Apple waits for markets to mature a bit before they enter. They've de-emphasized "first" in favor of "best". Facetime is just video chat. Retina Displays are just higher resolution. Siri is just voice recognition. But in all three cases, they grabbed a tremendous amount of mindshare in a short time.
Skip First, Aim for Best
By picking a single thing to trumpet, and by making sure the market is ready for it, Apple just needs to focus on a great execution of their highlighted feature.
Apple has always been upfront about this facet of their strategy. Tim Cook recently said "[Apple will] participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution."
Tell the World
So you've got a new spin on idea that the market has seen before. You've executed on it well. You don't have a ton of other features cluttering your marketing message.
Now to go market. Go big. Let everyone know. Blanket the airwaves with a single, powerful, well-honed message that no one can miss.
(Many companies only do this step, and forget about making a product that anyone will care about. This is not recommended.)
Watch the Yawns Roll In
We're conditioned to think that more features are better. That "innovation" means "no one has ever seen this idea before". That new ideas always win in the marketplace.
As product designers, we could learn a thing or two from the way Apple ships "boring", "passé", "me-too" features once a year, like clockwork, and "makes them look pretty".
I'm with Gruber on this one: Apple may be on to something.