Consumers love easy-to-use electronics. Consider the Flip camcorder, which is a model of point-and-shoot simplicity. Sales of the Flip phone grew at an unbelievable 44,667%. Yes, you read that right—growth exceeded forty-four thousand percent this year. Or consider the Wii game console. Nintendo has sold 30 million Wii consoles so far, two times more units that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined.
The New York Times recently covered this trend. It is an interesting read, but it really misses the point. Here's what the NYT should have said:
You don't need cutting-edge hardware. It's what you do with the hardware that counts. The Wii hardware is pretty wimpy compared to what's inside the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The iPhone uses boring commodity processors.
Convenience trumps quality. The video quality on the Flip camcorder is only so-so. The music quality on an iPhone will never impress an Audiophile. But who cares? Most consumers don't know what to do with top-notch quality anyway. For example, X high-definition televisions are hooked up to standard definition sources.
Consumers aren't geeks, so keep it simple. Most customers just want to get the job done. They don't want to fiddle around with settings and options they don't even understand, so don't bother putting those options into the product. If you must put these options in, at least put them somewhere out of the way.
Complicated products doesn't have to look complicated. This is where the NYT got things really confused. Complicated hardware and software doesn't equate to a hard-to-use product, nor does simple hardware and software guarantee an easy-to-use product. Consider the iPhone: The hardware and software powering this device is quite complex, yet the device is famously intuitive to use. The key is in how you present the product features. You have to focus on what the product does, not how it does it.