Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What are the characteristics of a great product?

According to Guy Kawasaki, a great product should have the following characteristics. I think it's quite true for some category of products such as eletronics:

  • Deep. A great product is deep. It doesn't run out of features and functionality after a few weeks of use. Its creators have anticipated what you'll need once you come up to speed. As your demands get more sophisticated, you discover that you don't need a different product.
  • Indulgent. A great product is a luxury. It makes you feel special when you buy it. It's not the least common denominator, cheapest solution in sight. It's not necessarily flashy in a Ferrari kind of way, but deep down inside you know you've rewarded yourself when you buy a great product.
  • Complete. A great product is more than a physical thing. Documentation counts. Customer service counts. Tech support counts. Consultants, OEMS, third-party developers, and VARS count. Blogs about it counts. A great product has a great total user experience¡ªsometimes despite the company that produces it.
  • Elegant. A great product has an elegant user interface. Things work the way you'd think they would. A great product doesn't fight you¡ªit enhances you. (For all of Microsoft's great success this is why it's hard to name a Microsoft product that you'd call ¡°great.¡±) I could make the point that if you want to see if a company's products are elegant, you need only look at its chairman's presentations.
  • Emotive. A great product incites you to action. It is so deep, indulgent, complete, and elegant that it compels you to tell other people about it. You're not necessarily an employee or shareholder of the company that produces it. You're bringing the good news to help others, not yourself.

"If you want a smashing example of DICEE product, you need not look any further than iPod. Deep: thousands of songs, podcasts, and recently video plus third-party add-ons that have added functionality Apple never anticipated. Indulgent: yes, you could buy a cheaper MP3 player, but that's not the point, is it? Complete: total integration with online buying, Apple's support (other than a battery or two), and online support by independent web sites. Elegant: One wheel does it all, right? Emotive: How did you first find out about it?"

The learning point for an investor is to be able to recognize the company with such a franchise product or service early and buy into it.

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