Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Microsoft and Apple Need to Learn from the Blackberry Fiasco

The Globe and Mail is running a really good, in depth story about how Blackberry failed.

I think it contains some important lessons for Microsoft and Apple, both of which have been dominant, but are slipping at an alarming rate.

The first major point applies to both Microsoft and Apple:
"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers," said one former RIM insider. "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did. Consumers would say, 'I want a faster browser.' We might say, 'You might think you want a faster browser, but you don't want to pay overage on your bill.' 'Well, I want a super big very responsive touchscreen.' 'Well, you might think you want that, but you don't want your phone to die at 2 p.m.' "We would say, 'We know better, and they'll eventually figure it out.' "
Microsoft is guilty of believing they know what's best with Windows 8. The desires and feedback from customers were ignored and not surprisingly Windows 8 flopped. Windows 8.1 is a half-hearted attempt to appease customers while still doing things their own way.

Apple has always had an attitude that the customer doesn't know what they want _yet_. And as they have been good at delivering things the customer really did want, they have succeeded. With iOS 7 though, this radically changed. They delivered something that nobody really wants and did so in an incredibly abrupt fashion. Its numerous bugs will not help. This attitude that Apple always knows best manifests itself in many other ways, the most famous being the one-button mouse and the menu bar at the top of the screen... everyone knows they are inadequate... but Apple keeps pushing them anyway. The most serious manifestation at this time is Apple's refusal to support bigger phones and the insane notion that "one size fits all" that pervades Apple's product line.

Blackberry believed they knew what was best. It is not shocking that what they believed was best, was what was best for Blackberry. Microsoft and Apple have this same unreasonable view. Windows 8 is what is good for Microsoft. Microsoft's Surface flop is now being followed by a Surface 2 flop, using the same design consumers have already rejected. Apple's redesign of iOS 7 was all about making up for years of stagnation, not serving customer needs. Apple's refusal to create cheaper phones and tablets serves Apple's needs, not customer needs. Their refusal to create a larger iPhone, their insistence that there be one size of iPhone and their cramming an out-of-date iPad 2 into an 8" form factor to make the iPad mini are all signs of their not caring about their customers needs.

There was an additional lesson in Blackberry for Microsoft:
Trying to satisfy its two sets of customers – consumers and corporate users – could leave the company satisfying neither. When RIM executives showed off plans to add camera, game and music applications to its products to several hundred Fortune 500 chief information officers at a company event in Orlando in 2010, they weren't prepared for the backlash that followed. Large corporate customers didn't want personal applications on corporate phones, said a former RIM executive who attended the session.
Microsoft has been failing consumers and businesses alike from Windows Vista onward. Windows XP almost bridged the gap, but it has all been downhill from there. The merging of consumer and business operating systems in Windows XP was to serve Microsoft, not to serve their customers.

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