Monday, September 17, 2012

The New IBM

When DisplayWriter, by IBM, was still the dominant word processing software, my company was faced with a decision on upgrading. I don't recall what decision was made, but I do recall that it wasn't DisplayWriter. DisplayWriter was ruled out because it could not write to an Ascii file which was the universal word processing file type at the time. It could read Ascii, it just couldn't output to Ascii, meaning that once you modified a report in DisplayWriter, future modifications had to be done with Displaywriter. Rather than cementing the IBM software as the only choice, the Ascii situation cemented Displaywriter as a definitely not. Personal tech decisions can be less pragmatic. However, repeated instances of not putting the consumer first can wear on a company's brand and, eventually, marketshare.

In Europe, cell phones are required to have a micro-USB connector. In addition to convenience for the customer, this minimizes waste from having to continually buy multiple new chargers and discard the old. Preserving connections such as preserving connections to other types of word processing software minimizes the headaches and expenses of upgrading system components without having to upgrade everything. In some sense, this is more important to the consumer as no one wants to toss all of their old peripherals in order to upgrade particularly if their peripheral is an automobile with a dock made for the old device with the old connector. I imagine the automakers are not pleased with the idea of a new connector either as they had been considering closer integration of car functions with the owners mobile device.

In Rugged Displays I mention how, although consumer cared about every bit of weight, they held little value for increasingly thinner notebooks once they got under an inch. We also now know that 80-90% of cell phone users jacket their phones, sometimes increasing the thickness by triple. As with many factors in consumer design, thinness can be pushed to the point of diminishing returns or even no value beyond bragging rights. To be sure, bragging rights are important for branding but they are easily trumped by features that carry real benefit.

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