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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Death of Deadline driven mobile development

I recently realised a fundamental subtle change that the iPhone has caused. It has literally killed deadline driven product creation. A classic way to develop products is to launch them early, the moment they somehow work and then promise a shipping date in the future. It can also be done privately in deals. This tactic by management to leverage public promises to get the engineers to work harder is used world-wide in product development. The problem is that it does not work anymore when Apple started to making phones. This insight and thoughts emerged from two widely expected terminals, which both are disappointments among early adopters. The Google G1 phone and the Blackberry Storm both started shipping for the Christmas market. The Google G1 phone was not announced when the Android platform was announced, but it was announced that products would ship in October, a promise that was kept, but was shipped was not mature enough. The G1 is ready by classic mobile quality standard, but not by the new standards set by Apple. The experience is simply not polished enough. Let me use three examples to illustrate this point:
1.    When one opens the device and starts typing the device performs a search in the phonebook, there is no opportunity to extend it seamlessly into the Internet. Such a simple idea, and one I certainly would have insisted on leveraging a search brand as basis.
2.    When the user is in the idle experience and presses the Menu key it highlights an add function on the left. The thumb is naturally leaning on the black pearl and the most ergonomic action would be to scroll to the left, but this little menu does not loop. I would certainly have demanded that the design made such that the highlight is on the right most item, it would be add and one could then easily scroll left and provide looping of the menu. This however breaks some interaction design rules, but it would be elegantly simple, the type of design we aspire to do at Fjord,
3.    When one opens the market place app and put down the finger to scroll the among the apps, an irritating flicker occurs, when the OS thinks the finger wants to select an item, rather than scroll. These kind of issues take time to polish, but they are crucial in the new mobile world. Thinking that users will not notice is naive, as some users will notice and as their benchmark is iPhone they expect nothing less from premium suppliers like Google.
The G1 one phone is designed by geeks for geeks or like my friend who worked on lots on Microsoft mobile stuff  “This is what Microsoft would have done” The good news is that now there is an Android phone out and next year several more, of which one will be a stellar success. Google seems to have some kind of Japanese genes with Kaizen style continuous improvement. I sure that Android will be successful, but it will take longer than people think, and in the meantime Apple will make a lot of money.
The other example is the Blackberry Storm, the first touch screen solution from RIM. I think this was rushed to market. I think they promised Vodafone, that they would be ready for the Christmas market and now lots of somewhat negative press is emerging, which certainly will tarnish their reputation, which has been built on excellence. I actually think this device will hurt the self-esteem of some RIM product makers, the qwerty fanatics. I am sure that there was a giant debate about killing the qwerty for a touch screen, I do not think that the Blackberry users will dare to buy another touch Blackberry in the near future after being burned by the Storm. Storm is an appropriate name for what I think is happening inside of RIM. Keys are good! Don’t let Steve Jobs fool you. Focus on making the world’s thinnest slider and you have best of both worlds.

09:06 PM in Technology | Permalink

Comments

Played with a Blackberry Storm in the Vodafone shop yesterday.

I spent 5 minutes trying to input dabase.com to run a browser test. Gave up.

Quite shocking.

Posted by: Kai Hendry at Nov 30, 2008 11:58:54 PM

Christian, could you go into more detail on how iPhone has led to the end of deadline-driven product development? I'm intrigued - and familiar with some of the nastier practices around public pressure that you refer to - but don't quite follow how iPhone is changing this.

iPhone apps, for instance, are easily updated via the App Store. When Audi released its first (dreadful) iPhone app, I understand that their ad agency got wind of this and quickly rolled out an update.

Compared to traditional app distribution, this is a massive step forward; and Apple leverage iTunes to apply this sort of upgrade to the OS as a whole.

I realise Nokia can offer this sort of thing (OTA firmware upgrades) but don't see it done too often. The explanation I've heard from knowledgeable folks is that this is a technically risky thing to do and therefore not something many product managers are willing to put their necks on the line for ;)

Isn't the ability to quickly roll out upgrades and iterate software products supportive of the "launch quickly and upgrade" approach you describe? Or are you talking about this at the level of the handset itself?

Posted by: Tom Hume at Dec 1, 2008 1:30:48 AM

I love the way iPhone OS apps are almost automatically updated. I just click App Store and the notifications tab tells me if there are updates available. Then I click I want them all updated. After the download I have my apps updated. Who has ever done this easier? Not Microsoft (Windows Mobile) or Nokia (Symbian) at least.

In my opinion the biggest problem from user perspective with App Store is that the very simpe UI is no longer able to sustain for all those thousands of apps. I mean, how am I able to find what I need? Text search and TOP 25 / 50 lists aren't enough anymore.

Posted by: Tero Lehto at Dec 1, 2008 9:40:34 AM

In my helpless time, you give me help. Sincerely thank you!!!!!

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