As Bill Buxton pointed out in Sketching User Experiences it took 3 years and 4 iterations for the iPod to become an overnight success. A few days ago I wrote (opaquely) about rapid prototyping and iteration as a way of achieving successful products, where a product is the outcome of the Design Journey. I referred to Charles Arthur's critique of the Vodaphone Live music download service available to mobile phone users and the shortcomings of this offer. Charles commented there
"Yes, Vodafone Live is a pain - but you should look at tomorrow's paper, where I review MusicStation - which really does do music to the mobile, properly. It's fantastic."
His review of Omnifone's MusicStation in the Valentine's Guardian. Arthur wrote:
"......It's a music subscription service, and you'll surely find yourself listening to more music, even if you don't actually buy more as a result....
It's very, very slick. There are 1.5m tracks on offer which does include jazz and classical,.....
In just a few days of testing I tried out a far bigger range of music than I'd ordinarily come across in a month. That's because it's subscription.....
Pros: Intuitive, cheap, good range of tracks, "community"
Cons: Sucks up batteries: your phone needs regular recharging"
So why do I talk of iterating to perfection? I have mentioned the concept of Iterative Capital (It is a resource that gives companies the ability to play seriously with more and more versions of various ideas in less and less time says Michael Schrage)- the capability to design>build>play>reflect>redesign>... in an accelerating process that gets to the successful product much faster than trying to do it perfectly first time of trying.
If an organisation cannot spend its iterative capital wisely then other organization's innovation teams will and act to improve the offer. In the iPod example Apple iterated to the tipping point of success itself ... in the case of music on your phone it seems the iterations are passing between organisations... so iteration I1 seems to be the Motorola+iTunes offer- the ROKR E1- September 2005
I2 might be the Vodaphone Live
I3 could be MusicStation
so will we have an Iteration 4 and will it take the three years too launch THE SOLUTION... and yes I've deliberately left the iPhone out... The point I am trying to make is that getting the solution nearly right gives you a chance to try again but you have to have 2 capabilities: that of reviewing your own products and saying "could do better" and the capability to quickly act "better for us to do better rather than let our rivals do it for us".... or to put it another way
"Good enough is rarely good enough; excellent is usually better.. and the consumer is the arbiter."