January 30, 2004

Survey of Indian UX Community

Rashmi has created a survey to document the progress of the user experience community in India. If you're a practitioner/student do take the survey and pass it to others.

UPDATE: The survey results are now in and they look encouraging.
Rashmi is also conducting a Workshop on Remote User Experience Design in March. Don't miss it!!
The Indian User Experience community has been growing by leaps and bounds. I have created a survey to learn more about everyone involved with this community. Please take a few minutes of your time and take this survey.

The results of this survey will be shared with all. So please do participate, because you will also have access to the results!

Also, please do pass on this survey to others who might be interested. Our goal is to reach EVERY PERSON associated usability/HCI/Usability in India. People who do not currently reside in India, but are associated with Indian UX community in some manner are welcome to participate as well.

We need your help to reach as many people as possible. Please pass on the survey to your colleagues, friends, teachers or students who work in or are interested in this field. Feel free to post it on your blog, if you have one visited by a lot of the people who might be interested.

The results of the survey will be posted on my website www.uzanto.com in a few days. Thank you for your time. You can email me if you have any questions or if you have any problems with the survey itself.


Uzanto Consulting
San Francisco, CA

January 11, 2004

The Great Apple Turnaround?

Steve Jobs unveils the mini iPod at MacworldMore confirmation arrived this week that Apple's foray into digital music is quickly becoming a turning point for the company. This week, Apple surprised everyone by signing a licensing agreement with a rival to market its products. HP, the long time Microsoft partner announced that it will soon start selling Apple manufactured iPods. In turn, all HP PCs will carry a shortcut to Apple's iTunes music store on the desktop. It is also speculated to be a revenue sharing deal.

It's a win-win for both companies. HP gets a great platform to take off its entry in digital music and Apple's iPod and iTunes suddenly reach 120,000 stores worldwide that sell HP products. Apple has already sold over 2 million iPods on its own - over a third of them only in the last three months. Imagine what this partnership can do.

Apple is a small fish in the PC market, relatively speaking, primarily because it never competed with companies mass producing PCs for the business world. Fighting the onslaught of new, cheaper digital players from such biggies like Dell, MS, Sony and others would have been a challenge. Now, with this new marriage it's poised to hold on and even grow the amazing over 50% market share [by revenue] for digital music players it has achieved in such short duration.

It seems that Apple gauged the big opportunity here right from the start. In an interview to the Rolling Stone magazine, Steve Jobs described the struggle they went through to convince the music companies for selling music online through their iTunes store. Then, they made iPod work with both Mac and Windows. iTunes followed the same path six months after its launch. And now they're focussing agressively on growth with new models and great partnerships. The iPod is already becoming much more than a music player. You can now listen to audio books, radio and even the web.

Apple made a fateful decision in 1987 against licensing the Mac OS to other companies. Well, they seemed to have learnt from the mistake alright. The licensing pact with HP is a departure from their long held strategy. Apple does with music what it should have done with Mac. If they don't screw up on the way and build up on this success with more such cash cows in the next two years, they should be on their way to becoming one of the big names in the industry.

We might have just witnessed a turnaround event in Apple's history.

Notes and links to recent stories on Apple

Two excellent interviews of Steve Jobs. NYT on the iPod success story and the Rolling Stone magazine on the strategy behind iPod.

A fascinating account of how someone discovers that iPod has irreplaceable batteries, posts a movie about it on the internet and within days Apple begins to accept replacements.

The mini-iPod pricing is all wrong, says Business week. According to them, it's "far less capacity in a slightly smaller device for nearly the same cost." But shouldn't price cuts wait for competition? Why reduce now when there's none.

News.com stories "HP, Apple harmonize on iPod" - talks about the pact and "Apple drinks its own juice" provides hints on the changing face of Apple - a rare look inside Apple HQ, see the hardware and software that powers it.

And this MIT economist claims Job's decision not to license the Mac OS was the "biggest business blunder in the past half-century." The solution he prescribes however, is ridiculous. A Chief Knowledge Officer that will magically take all the right decisions by being, hold your breadth "unbiased". Ha.


January 05, 2004

Guru's Guru on Innovation

Harvard Business Review’s December issue has a feature on management thinkers that influenced today’s top management gurus.

“We asked 200 management gurus – the business thinkers most often mentioned in the media and management literature – who their gurus were, and we received more than 60 responses. The “gurus’ gurus” who received at least two mentions are listed here[1].”

At #1 is Management theorist Peter Drucker. I've just finished reading his treatise on “Innovation and Entrepreneurship: practice and principles”. Although I haven’t read most of the other [47] thinkers, I can vouch for the excellence of thought that Drucker has put in the book, way ahead of similar titles that bookshops today are awash with. Drucker wrote the book back in 1985.

The most remarkable part of the text are the chapters detailing the sources of innovation. In my opinion, this is one of the three critical steps in the process that leads to innovation. One is hiring the right people – those that are most likely to accept change. Second is identifying the opportunity to innovate, which Drucker handles so well in th ebook. And third is leading the innovating enterprise[2].

Fast Company is running a cover story this month on “Apple and the limits of innovation”. I didn't like the way they came down on Apple, and the notion of innovation in the first half of the of the long article[3]. But overall, I agree with the conclusions that “business-model innovation” [or innovation in strategy] is much more profitable than “technical innovation” [or design innovation], the kind that Apple specializes in.

The importance of strategy over design is something -- and I say this with due respect -- that most user experience professionals are entirely clueless about. Hurst, the only person that seems to get the business side of design, still believes that ease of use is the most critical element[4].

Drucker however doesn’t differentiate between the two kinds of innovation. Almost all his examples are from business strategy but the sources that he described are equally applicable for design innovation. I found several threads that can help us identify opportunities for innovation in design.


1. You may order a PDF version of the article here.

2. The listed steps do not necessarily have be sequential.

3. "So what's wrong with being small and profitable," argues this person in a comment on another story of the same issue.

4. In the latest Good Experience Newsletter, while referring to ease of use, he said, “in my book, [it] is the single most important advancement any digital technology can make”. The single most important factor is the value the technology provides - the critical problem that it solves. Ease of use is important as it enhances that value but it’s not the end in itself.