By Udit Chaudhuri
It happens again and again. A smart product enters the market. Technology makes it smaller, cheaper, and multifunctional. The product bloats until you don’t know what to call it. And it dies, reborn in its oldest avatar. But does industry learn?
Once upon a time there was born a digital calculator. You clamped it under your thumb, raised your elbows and strutted about the office. Cynosure of all eyes, it killed the dread of math in accountant and student, businessman and engineer, farmer and doctor, all alike.
Then came a storm.
One model added stats for business calculations, another built scientific functions. One added a clock and the other gave a calendar. One shrunk to pocket-size while a larger one adorned your desk. Races between Makes got hotter. Prices dropped, excitement soared. One offered programming and another, a phone book. One married a ball-point pen and another, a digital watch! But then you tired from the multiple batteries and useless buttons to remember. One needed a matchstick and another needed a good old thump. Displays were tiring. Calculators evolved into PDAs, PCs and cell-phones but you still needed to check the doodwala, dhobi and newspaper bill. So, back to the 4-function dabba from the local China Bazar!
Look at the other gadgets. You bought a 99-Channel TV, but how many do you actually see? Only one if you have a set-top box. Today, there’s a bundle of fine-adjustments, connectors, a choice of displays and ICT functions just designed to muddle you. The once-ubiquitous VCR too died from a similar bloat. Digital cameras now offer movie-shooting while cell-phones come with movie cameras.
Focus and Constraint are integral concepts in any marketing and design training. But is it the fear of competition or rising costs that make companies exploit technology to bloat their products in the name of maximising opportunity?
Photography: Courtesy World Wide Web