Microsoft Kin is User Centered Innovation at its Best
I’m sure most of you have heard of the Microsoft Kin by now. Furthermore you would probably have moaned about how this product lacked innovation and how it was a failure in strategy to introduce a “dumb phone” in a world dominated by smart phones.
Remember our last discussion on how “User Centered Innovation is Dead“? Well, you might like to know that the Microsoft Kin is a fine example of a product that went through a user centered innovation process. Any doubt that user centered innovation is dead?
I’m sure designers would find these (above & below) consumer segmentation images familiar. I prepared a few in my time. However, before we go on, do have a ponder if product segmentation strategies are still relevant in today’s market, especially when more and more consumers demand customization due to individual needs. Just how much customization is required these days?
Gizmodo has an interesting review of the phone cum interview with Aaron Woodman, director of the product management team, on the business strategy behind the Kin. Despite the Kin not being an innovation in a radical sense, I personally think this is the right strategic move for Microsoft.
As the world runs like mad to follow the iPhone way, Microsoft bucks the trend by going backwards and launching a phone that does not do much except bring a focus solution to a very narrow market, i.e. teenagers. It does looks like hard keys on a phone are a must for a texting teenager eh?
The reality is Microsoft understands the smart phone market is lead by a King, and is extremely crowded with Princes. So the only way for a new or small player (in terms of market share) can beat the market is in niche offerings. This is the advantage of using a user centered design process. It allows for the creation of a very optimized solution for a specific target market, thereby beating the competition with a superior product that excels in fixed set of criteria.
It is useful to note that at the end of the review, the author points out what is likely the main pit fall in a user-centered design/innovation process. Designers and businesses walk a slippery slope of over market segmentation. The example that Gizmodo uses of the car industry is a great one.
Over market segmentation leads to too many product SKUs (i.e. the car industry etc.), an un-manageable product range, and a confused consumer. That’s where propositions like the iPhone, with an expandable interface, has an advantage of one product doing a lot. Not to mention, the creation of a much simpler and easy to understand product lineup.
I’m looking forward to see how the Kin performs in the market, as despite all the research, the market is still the final arbiter. Let’s hope the Kin does well, because the other problem with a focused product is if you did not totally get your target market, your product will likely not fit anyone else.
Images via: Gizmondo
Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Brian is a multidisciplinary Design Leader with more than 18 years of experience leading strategic design programs that drives successful Brands and Fortune 500 businesses such as GE, Philips, Nakamichi, Flextronics, Ericsson, Hannspree, and HP. His passion is in helping organisations leverage on Design Driven Innovation to make people’s lives better.