Simplicity in Technology

23 Mar 2008|Leigh Marinner

Remember “The Year of the Internet”? It was predicted year after year until it became a joke. But look where we are now. Who could imagine life without the Internet? (I know that’s a little bit of an overstatement, but not much.)

Maybe we are at the beginning of the Year of Technology Simplicity. Or the Year of Technology Where Easy Trumps More Features. Here at Cheskin we’ve been telling our clients for years that consumers and workers want fewer features because technology is too complex and even those consumers who use the technology only access a minority of the features that already exist. And this year we’ve seen some simpler products that became big hits.

The Nintendo Wii expanded the market for video gaming to a whole new group of consumers who never played videogames, leaving most of the traditional videogame world wondering how they missed this opportunity. Hindsight is so useful, but prior to the release of Wii, most pundits predicted that Nintendo was going to continue to lose share because they were planning to introduce a product with inferior chip and graphics technology.

Then there’s the new Flip camcorder which was glowingly reviewed by David Pogue this week in the New York Times. Flip is a stripped down video recorder with a user’s manual one paragraph long which has taken 13 percent share of the camcorder market in the year since its release. I would venture a guess that the Flip hasn’t taken much share from the existing camcorder market but has expanded the market to a whole new group of consumers who would never have bought a camcorder before.

I’ve got a couple free suggestions for technology products I’d love to see simplified. What about a TV/DVR/DVD player set up that let’s the frustrated user in the home access the most basic features with only one remote control (turn on the TV, play a DVD, choose a show to watch). How about an easy way to sort and backup all your photos online, and send selected photos to friends? (A lot of companies are trying, but so far I don’t think anyone has succeeded in making it truly idiot-proof. I have friends who still buy a new memory card when they run out of space.) How about a car navigation system that can find the nearest Peet’s coffee in the direction I am traveling, instead of giving me the stores that are closest to where I am?

If you have a wish list for simpler technology, let me know.

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