Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stick to plain vanilla

The Economist calls for an end to the gadget features race.

“Why is it” the article asks “so many manufacturers cannot leave well alone? They go to great pains to produce exquisite pieces of technology. Then too often, instead of merely honing the rough edges away to perfection, they spoil everything by adding unnecessary bells and whistles and unwarranted girth. In the pursuit of sales, they seem to feel they must continually add further features to keep jaded customers coming back for more. It is as if consumers can’t be trusted to respect the product for what the designers originally intended.”

It concludes: “The poet-aviator Antoine de Saint Exupéry, who pondered the meaning of flight as he ferried mail through the North African night in the 1920s mused : “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

The cry for simplicity is quite common these days. But in fairness to the gadget manufacturers, what they offer is a ‘buffet’ of options. A buffet meal may look like an unnecessary big spread, but it operates on the principle that different people will opt for a different set of dishes to suit their tastes. For the restaurant, management of the process becomes simpler, as the menu is standardised for the day.

Similarly, a laptop manufacturer offers an array of features numbered say 1 to 10. I may use features 1, 3, 5 and 7 only, whereas you might use features 2, 4, 6 and 8. Someone else may use 1, 2, 9 and 10 and so on. Each of us will find additional or redundant features, but the standardisation of the model helps the manufacturer save on design costs, inventory, channel costs, etc. Sometimes, offering ‘more’ can work out ‘cheaper’.


Balajisblog said...

Raj - I am waiting for the day when there will be a mobile with a washing machine attached...or the other way around !

Actually, I would like it if there is a simple mobile with shoe shine capability...think about it...we can keep our shoes neat and clean always !!...Balaji...

Raj said...

Balaji, Mobile phone to shine shoes is a good idea. Patent it fast.

ramesh said...

in the immortal words of kapil dev "simplicity main ek adbhot shakti hai" .. he should sue economist for copying his theory