ThoughtPiece: Simplicity Sells
David Pogue, technology editor for the New York Times, once remarked that “simplicity sells.” All things considered, consumers generally opt for the most simple, elegant solution.
Consider Google: it’s the most valuable piece of web real estate in the world, and yet its home page is remarkably simple and basically unchanged from when it began. Google’s philosophy is to keep the complexity as far removed from the consumer as possible.
The iPod is another success story where simplicity has won out. There are more fully featured music players on the market, and there are ones that are less expensive, yet the iPod still beats them all, largely because it is perceived as the easiest to use.
Why did the BlackBerry win out as the portable email device of choice, and not, let’s say, the laptop or a Palm device? The BlackBerry attained an advantage in the market largely because it has been perceived as the simplest solution of its kind: the one that most easily syncs with your desktop, the one that offers the simplicity of push email, the one that offers the ease of operation using the track wheel (and now the track ball), all in a convenient to carry package.
Then there’s the concept of convergence, or putting as many related functions in one device as possible. This is desired only to the extent that it makes life easier on the user. Interestingly enough, people reject convergence when the operation of individual functions in one device is more difficult than carrying multiple devices that are easier to use. That is the reason why so many smartphone owners still buy iPods, even though their phones can play music. It’s often seen as easier to carry the iPod as a second device than to master the clumsy music interface on most smart phones.
As RIM branches out into the consumer smartphone market, what will largely determine their success is whether they are perceived as the one offering the greatest amount of simplicity. Of course, as they add the features that consumers expect, it gets to be more difficult to preserve simplicity of operation. To borrow another line from David Pogue, “easy is hard.”