Improving The Experience of Ownership: Is Integration The Answer?

There’s no point pretending any more, writing blog entries on a daily basis is impossible. I spent three days and a weekend a few weeks ago on holiday and one of the tasks which I set myself on the train home that Friday was to spend at least some of the time writing good blog articles. Yet here I am on the 07.42 from Ipswich punching into my laptop in a desperate bid to keep the legions of readers sated.

Having spent three hours (count ‘em) at a florist on the Saturday morning talking through her designs for our wedding (last mentioned in this blog some time ago) I was just about ready to begin suggesting I make daisy chains for each table and surround them with cow parsley and hen’s teeth. Seriously, the combinations became ever more ‘personal’ and had started to ‘take references from (y)our backgrounds’ … there’s only so much of this level of floral granularity you can take. It put paid to Saturday’s attempt to blog anyway. The rest of the time I was either ensconced in the Winter Olympics, watching Deal or No Deal, on a treadmill or in a record office looking at dusty parish registers. It certainly was a mindless few days and exactly what I needed to re-focus on what’s important.

Of course, coming back to an inbox swollen and engorged with the gentle ramblings of colleagues and customers was a joy and I tucked in with gusto.

Something which did catch my eye was a (now dated) article about “Why Features Don’t Matter Any More”. Evidently my observations on the iPod had caught someone’s eye and this piece by Andreas Pfeiffer provided just the sort of pseudo journalistic guff that fuels my imagination. The central tennet of this article is that marketeers are focussing on the experience of ownership or use of a product rather than simply relying on a technological pissing contest to show whose item has the most features, best capacity or fastest processor. The success, it contends, of Apple’s iPod has not been the size of the memory, the sound quality or, to be honest, the ease of use, it has instead been the wider integration of the iPod into our digital lifestyle. Here is a device that despite being cutting edge is roundly taken up by traditionally late adopters of technology – the middle aged and the retiree. Not for Apple the skewed market share of the moneyed young, their blissfully effective support through iTunes has allowed them to reach a far wider market share than their nearest competitors. They simply made owning an iPod integral with simple, unfettered access to the biggest and fastest growing music library on the net, regardless of platform and in so doing providing a complete user experience.

Ok, ok, so clever marketing played a part but the product sold itself when word got around that ripping music and downloading cheap tracks was child’s play with iPod and iTunes. I’m interested in how this extends to other products and services. Will it, for example, be more effective for mobile phone companies to begin packaging better control software with their phones, allowing people a smoother route to upgrading ringtones, sending messages and accessing organisers? My phone came with software but it was pretty basic stuff, synchronise with outlook and tinker with files/folders. I wanted to be able to make calls on it through my laptop, send texts and manage settings … to do that I have to get third party kit such as Float’s Mobile Agent. The user experience of the phone should extend across the different channels with which I interact with it.

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