On New Product Development and Saying No

The Apple Way (using the 2007 iPhone launch as a case study):

  1. Solve the hard problems first (iPhone in 2007: fluid GUI, long battery life). Make hard decisions (remove hardware keyboard) and stick to them. Be careful to avoid justifying bad ideas and instead work hard to alleviate valid potential issues (work hard to make software keyboard really good).

  2. Learn to say no. Pro-actively postpone all possible non-core features (copy-paste, 3G, 3rd-party apps, fancy double cameras).

  3. Give ample time to integrate and QA, polish and hone a well-crafted product that delights at every level. This is what customers enjoy paying for.

  4. Ship before competitors, let them blow their feature-list vaporware smokescreen, complain about the price, etc. Customers only buy shipping products.

  5. Iterate: work on postponed feature ideas once you've solved those core hard problems, then keep ahead in the market. Customers will come back for version 2.

  6. Profit. In fact, inhale over half the profits in your new market. Use this money to make version 2, 3, 4, causing more and more customers to line up for each new product update.

The Non-Apple way:

  1. Have no vision, no opinions (use focus groups). Look too hard at data, specs, numbers but ignore human factors, psychology, design. The numbers can help you convince yourself of anything, so start there. The design can be spray painted on later, so worry about that later.

  2. Say yes to everything, try to be all things to all people. Throw features at the market and see what sticks.

  3. Plan way too much up front -- whilst building way too much raw tech, up front.

  4. Ship poorly integrated, yet "featureful" crap, way too late to the game.

  5. Force this crap on customers. This can be done by finding a way to force your product to market indirectly. For example if you are a handset manufacturer, funnel your crappy handsets through carriers, even letting the carrier make your products look and function worse when they pile more crap on your crap. If you sell an operating system or an office suite, levy a monopolistic tax on the heads of IT departments and force their employees to use your products (and take all the margins away from the commodity hardware makers while you're at it so they have no hope of moving to a different software platform). Alternately, compete in a market where everyone naturally expects to find poorly designed crap, for example microwaves (does anyone really use all those features and why is it so hard to simply nuke something for 30, 60, or 90 seconds? why is the door open button so hard to operate?) or other large household appliances.
  6. Turn your back on your users and never update your device. (If you make a mobile OS, blame the handset manufacturers or carriers since the handset user is not your customer, they are the product you slice in pieces and sell to advertisers).