What Makes A Gadget Compelling?

by Randy Murray on September 8, 2010

The new Apple TV is a very interesting device, but I still expect it to fail in the marketplace.  Why? Because it does not have a simple, compelling story of why a consumer would want one. I’m not talking about Apple fan boys (I’m one) or general tech early adopters, but any of the people you would meet while shopping at the grocery store. For them, you need a story that isn’t about the technology, but about what the device will do for them if they own it. And the story must be one that gives them something new or of real value. And you must be able to relay what that value is in a short, single sentence.

For example, these are compelling stories:

  • VHS Video Cassette Recorder: buy this and you can watch movies and record TV shows.
  • DVD Player: just like a VCR, but higher quality and the movies are cheap!
  • iPod: carry thousands of songs in your pocket.
  • iPhone: access the internet from anywhere (also in your pocket).
  • iPad: touch the internet, but not a computer and not in your pocket.
  • Netflix: for a single monthly fee we keep mailing you DVDs.

These stories are not compelling and the products are either failing or very slow for general adoption:

  • Blu-ray: slightly better than DVD and the discs are much more expensive.
  • Zune: kinda like an iPod, but made by Microsoft.

Apple TV is still too hard to sell. At its best it’s this: another way to rent movies and TV shows — or use Netflix, if you already subscribe.

And of course, we can already do that a number of ways. Not as easily or as elegantly as Apple TV does it, but we can do them. And you can’t replace your cable with it. Not if you want to watch news and sports. Or any of the hundreds of shows from networks that haven’t yet signed up for iTunes. I’d love to try it out, but it doesn’t add much incremental value to what I already have and it can’t replace anything so that I’d save money.

But it could be compelling. Apple could have simply BOUGHT Netflix outright and made Apple TV this: for a monthly fee you can watch any of the movies or TV shows in our library. But that’s just wishful thinking. The negotiations with the movie studios and TV networks are difficult and the device just can’t be as compelling as I’d like.

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The What Makes A Gadget Compelling? by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Les Reynolds September 8, 2010 at 10:18 am

I think “Lets you buy and rent movies and TV shows without leaving your couch” might do it for a lot of people.


2 Randy Murray September 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

Maybe. But I can rent movies with my cable box and I can record all of the programs I want on my DVR. I think they might be more successful with that approach if they gave away the device.


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