Thursday, November 3, 2011

Steve Jobs and the HMD

The Web is buzzing about iTV, Apple's HDTV and what it could look like and do. Though Apple has filed some patents related to HMDs, it does not appear that Steve Jobs left us with an HMD design.

What would an HMD designed by Steve Jobs look like? What would it do?

As a business person, I want to build successful companies, and while success can be measured in many financial metrics, one aspect of a successful company would be a company that creates an emotional attachment with its customers.

My little personal story with Apple began many years ago, when I was about 12 years old and living in Boston. I was one of these kids that stood at the corner Radio Shack stores trying to do fun stuff with their TRS-80 computers. The personal computer revolution just started. IBM had not introduced the PC yet, and I wanted a computer of my own. My family lived in an apartment building which, for a 12-year old, was fertile ground do earn money babysitting. Lots of babysitting. Once I decided I wanted an Apple (other candidates were the TRS-80, the CompuColor and perhaps some others that I don't remember), I saved every babysitting penny towards the $1200 goal of getting an Apple II. My parents opened a bank account for me and I would stand in line to deposit $12 here, $30 there, until I reached the magic number and get my Apple II. Its serial number had 4 digits and it was that older model that had a reset key on the keyboard that, while spring loaded, was too easy to press and wipe out everything. I spent hours and hours programming, playing and hacking on that computer. Many years later, my mother donated it to a local school - it was the right thing to do but I miss my old Apple II. I can't say I miss any of the numerous PCs I've went through since.

What was so good about that Apple II? I loved its design. It was open so that you could plug cards inside. It was simple to use and "it just worked" year after year after year. That allowed so many people to write cool software and so on in a vitreous cycle.

What can we learn from Apple about HMDs?

  • Design matters. Make people want to use or - in the case of HMDs - wear your product
  • Keep it simple. Plug and play. No drivers to install. No configuration to go through. "It just works".
  • Open it up so that value could be added outside your company.
  • Price matters, but you don't have to be the lowest-cost product to succeed
  • Make it simple to use content that you already own
  • Humanize the product, if possible. 

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