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Blog: Design

Microsoft and the iPod Nano

12 Sep 05 by DL Byron

After reading the Time article about how Apple made the ipod Nano and this quote

What's really been great for us is the iPod has been a chance to apply Apple's incredibly innovative engineering in an area where we don't have a 5%-operating-system-market-share glass ceiling," Jobs says. "And look at what's happened. That same innovation, that same engineering, that same talent applied where we don't run up against the fact that Microsoft got this monopoly, and boom! We have 75% market share."

I thought that Microsoft should issue all of its employees a Nano and then have them report back a week later on why they can't make a product like that. Microsoft has the funds, the smarts, but the creativity is burdened by the weight of their monopoly. That's never been more evident than with the Nano. You go MS with another bloated Word feature, while the world embraces the modernism, the simplicity, form and function of the Nano. Even a post a day from Scoble can't get the sales figures up on Tablet PCs. And tell me again that design doesn't matter. 75% market share based on best-in-class design proves that claim wrong.

Stuff that in your brand gap

Another quote to pull from the Time article is this one about how Apple replaced a hit product only 11 months into its life cycle.

It was a gutsy play, and it came from the gut: unlike almost any other high-tech company, Apple refuses to run its decisions by focus groups.

Coincidentally, I just finished reading the Brand Gap. It's a great book that talks about bridging the distance between business strategy and design and doing some of that with focus groups. Apple dispenses focus groups for guts, intuition, determination, and a small team. Makes you wonder how focused grouped Tablet PCs, Windows Vista, and more are.

filed under: Design | Link Cosmos | View Comments (10) | Post a comment


Posted by mcloki | 12 Sep 05

Focus groups will never produce a great product. Apple products impress because they come out of nowhere. Even the nano impresses and it is just a smaller version. It's one person almost singular vision that propels them. Steve Jobs is willing to put it on the line and say this is what I want and I think everyone else will want it to. Focus groups try to please too many masters. Hence the market research driven MP3 player crap the everyone else is putting out. A 96 x96 pixel video screen on an Mp3 player. Why?

Posted by apropos | 12 Sep 05

Except, as you know, MS doesn't make the Tablet PC's. They don't make the nerdy phones or watches either. They don't make much hardware at all associated with them, save for mice, keyboards,Xbox's and a few minor items, some of which are quite cool. (Note: they don't actually "make" those either, but at least the MS name is on them and they're designed by MS, as opposed to an OEM.)

Are you saying they should be making/designing Tablets and the like rather than leaving it to the OEM's to botch, like Apple did with their clunky new phone?

Posted by Damien Guard | 13 Sep 05

It is worth noting that Apple is engaged in the "whole process" from hardware design and manufacture, firmware coding, peripherals, codecs, operating systems, applications, web store etc. This sets them up in a unique position within the IT industry.

Microsoft doesn't really have a hardware division outside of input peripherals so how could they produce somthing like the iPod? They also don't have online stores.

Part of it is also the desirability factor where Apple's low-desktop marketshare is a positive point. People are fed up with PC's in general, and touting a player powered by the same company that causes their PC woe's is an immediate turn-off. But this Apple, we'll they haven't seen what they can do...


Posted by -b- | 13 Sep 05

Right on. And even down to the packaging. The out-of-the-box experience is second to none with Apple. In the Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier argues for a chapter on still using focus groups, but for packaging at the retail level. Nope, not Apple.

MS does make some good hardware, I'll admit. That one ergo mouse they have is great. I can't speak to games, as I'm not a gamer, but that's good too. I'm speaking in broader terms, a company as a whole, but yes doing it all may help. Their ecosystem, as they refer to it, is broken and you can certainly see them struggle culturally (remember the don't wear iPods edict from management). I also agree on the phone, dated, clunky, and unimpressive. That'll be interesting to watch, to see if it sells because it's there or it's a desirable phone to the consumer.

I think it was last year, when Ives said, we don't care about marketshare (well, of course they do see the switch to Intel), but making great products and that's what drives them. It's the passion to build an amazing product instead of shore up the Office monopoly or roll out XP 3 with "Retsyn," cause everything else important was gutted.

Posted by Neo | 13 Sep 05

Loads of cribs going in from what I read above. My whole argument rests on the fact that whatever be the scenario, you JUST cant compare apples and oranges (pardon the unintentional use of the pun).

Both MS and Apple are two big players in two non intersecting planes. Both have different product lines as well as different business models. While Apples can be counted amongst the burgeoning fraternity of OEM's, MS on the other hand is not budging out of the OS,Software products niche that has been created. As far as mononpoly is concerned, can anyone point out one great product that can compete with any of the MS products out there? I mean, whenever a talk meanders down this road, everyone is quick enough to point out that there are so many glitches in MS products. Noone complains about the glitches in say any of the open source products because the problem is there is no body to take responsibility for those problems. Whereas MS infact takes ownership and ensures a good experience for the folks who face problems.

On the same note, everyone has been kind enough to forget the big glitch that happened during the launch of the ROKR check it out...(conveniently ignored!)

Posted by -b- | 13 Sep 05

I didn't noticed that the ROKR glitch was ignored, but did see it, and didn't think much of it, I don't see a conspiracy. I'm not thrilled by the phone, but I no fan of the cell phone industry either. Allow me to drive across town without losing a connection, then try to sell me song downloads, or photos, or I think you can watch TV on your phone now -- whatever.

OS X certainly competes with XP head to head and beats it, as does Firefox to IE, but the problem with a monopoly is that there's not enough competition, especially when it's crushed. There's no MS bashing here, but it doesn't take much to see them on the ropes. Be it Ballmer throwing chairs around about Google, that hilarious pre-emptive press release before the Apple Event touting Plays for Sure or adding RSS to Vista.

A colleague left MS because he felt they'd lost their way and he described it as a spiral of discontent, not being cool, and like just sucking. All big companies go through this, including Apple (see the Scully days and that Centris line). The best thing that can happen to MS is Firefox, Apple, Google, and whoever else comes around and cause them to spin, get mad, and innovate instead of copy.

Posted by Anthony | 13 Sep 05

Apropos - like Apple did with their clunky new phone?

Apple has a phone? Correct me if i am wrong but I think it is a Motorola phone.

Posted by Gordon | 16 Sep 05

I think the iPod phone will be out next year (Nano and "mobile iTunes" are the stepping stones??).

Anyway, is there a reason that Microsoft can't establish a "light" design section?

Having seen screenshots of the new version of Word, for example, why not dual develop it and offer two versions. One for the corporates who pay the bills, the other for joe user, with cut-down functionality, and a more user friendly approach??

Microsoft has the money to do pretty much whatever they want but they never seem to look beyond the "burden of their marketshare". Vista will sell in droves (maybe LESS droves than before granted but "droves" is still a LOT...) so where is the alternative? Build a mini-company within Microsoft, give it some freedom and see what they come up with?? If you lose $30 million dollars on the venture will you even notice?!

P.S. The Nano is awesome. Fact. ;-)

Posted by -b- | 16 Sep 05

I haven't touched on yet, but will stop by a store soon. I don't think MS will ever offer a light version, but I just read there's like 8 versions of Vista planned. On Word, is that ribbon menu the same thing as Adobe's?

Posted by Zoso | 08 Oct 05

People, Apple only designed the iTunes software for the
ROKR phone. Motorola was the cmpany that designed the phone! Get your facts straight, in fact, Steve Jobs is believed to be happy with its slow sales (less competition with iPods)

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