A Lesson To Learn From Apple

Apple recently unveiled their new line of iPods and this time around, they’ve included video in the mix – sort of. It isn’t really the official video iPod. It’s an evolutionary step of sorts. You can’t rewind or fast forward. It isn’t a “PVP” (Personal Video Player). It’s just an iPod that happens to play video.

They also unveiled a beautifully simple Apple remote control that can be used to control other Apple products – like iPods that happen to play video and Mac Mini’s.

After thinking about these announcements a bit, you’d wonder why Apple would make such a half-hearted attempt at video and release, of all things, a remote control. Is Apple slipping? If not, then what are they up to?

Well, I think one of the lessons designers can learn from Apple – whether we’re talking about interaction design or product design – is that products don’t mean a hell of a lot to people when thought about in isolation. The press tends to focus on products A, B & C that Apple releases, but Apple doesn’t seem to think that way.

Instead, they are more interested in augmenting and enhancing broader user experiences. Their products are part of larger holistic picture. iPod conquered portable music because Apple didn’t think about the hardware alone but rather the entire experience: search for music, gather music, organize music, listen to music (on your iPod or your computer). Sure, iTunes and iPod are the pieces of the puzzle, but the real value Apple delivered was the end-to-end experience.

This week, Apple began to unveil the pieces that will eventually fall into place for managing, mobilizing and enjoying video – anywhere. Dock your video-capable iPod. Flip on your monitor. Sit back on the couch with your iPod remote and enjoy. Want to finish watching something at your friends? Just unplug and go. Your content goes with you – whether for mobile use or viewing elsewhere.

A couple of days ago, I blogged about how the adoption of RSS was lagging because the initial step, subscribing to a feed, is broken. If we think about RSS in the context of the entire experience: finding channels, subscribing to them easily, getting content wherever we are, there’s a lot of work to do.

So let’s all learn a bit from Apple: the technology pieces don’t mean a hell of a lot on their own. We’ve got all sorts of neat technology in our hands these days. All we need to do now is design worthwhile experiences and think about how to leverage them.

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