In the past few years Apple has released some of the most innovative products we’ve ever seen, and Apple’s growing popularity in the mainstream means more and more consumers are paying attention to design.
After seeing new products like the MacBook Air, the iPhone 4, the iPod Nano, and the iPad be released one after the other, what would happen if the next few years of product and design innovations don’t look radically new or different?
Periods of radical innovation happen, and so do periods of incremental innovation. But what happens is consumers have taken radical innovation for granted?
With consumers hungry for never seen before designs, can a company survive on product refinements?
Google+ was supposed to be a better social network than Facebook. It’s two biggest strengths were better privacy tools, and a more focused UI. It improved on what came before it, but the end product didn’t look or work very differently than Facebook.
The initial reactions Google+ received weren’t tremendously positive. The product looked good and worked well, but even now there’s not enough reason (and not enough activity) to make it worth your time.
Google+ made modest improvements to Facebook. It may have been better, but it’s improvements weren’t enough reason for many to switch.
I think what people expected from Google+ if they were going to make a switch away from Facebook was something much better and very different.
Google+ is an example of a refinement that failed because out of the gate they refined on someone else’s product. If they wanted to win over users from their competitors they should have released something remarkable and made refinements from there.
Coming back to Apple, the biggest changes to OS X and iOS are moving further behind the scenes. In the case of OS X Lion, the most important new features are Versions, and iCloud. These two features will hide complexity from the user and move it behind the scenes.
On one level, things will look the same and you’ll use the software just like you did before, and on another level everything about how you work is different. This is an example of an innovation that won’t look radically different, but that’s an important improvement.
The Platforms are Maturing
We’re in the post-PC era where the mobile and tablet platforms mature a bit more everyday. In this period we won’t see radically new product announcements year after year, and product and design innovation won’t look radically new.
We should expect more thoughtful refinement. The companies making these platforms have all already defined their values when it comes to design, standards, user experience, and social. It’s time for these companies’ visions to mature.
I just hope for their sakes all of their “new”-hungry consumers feel the same way.