In the past it was impossible for products to improve over time. The wine in my cellar seemed to be the only product that did do so. Nowadays almost every device is operated by software. A clear opportunity thus for companies to have their products improve over time. Surprisingly, amongst the wide array of products in my house like the heater, the oven and the car, the only two products that do improve over time are my audio system and yes, our wines.
While busy managing a complete renovation of my home, I was confronted with many products that are operated by software but are in fact still static. Products that are obviously being developed with a usage in mind that is opposite to the product philosophy I stand for. People’s expectations for features and software UI’s are constantly rising. And they should have rising expectations- that’s totally fair. Further, brands should develop to meet these expectations. Because the state of a product when you buy it only keeps you happy for a short instant. It’s the way the UI and features change over the lifespan of a device that determine whether you love or hate the product in the long run. Because it is your ability to change and improve over time that determines how great your customer experience is.
ATAG only supports…ATAG
For example, hot water for two showers at the same time is a must have in every house. Part of our renovation was the installation of a new heater that can actually provide this. Based on Consumer reports I bought a huge ATAG heater and although the thing is working without faults, I hate it. Why? It’s the UI. ATAG comes with its own brand thermostat (BrainQ). Some rip-off designer thought it would be cool to have a thermostat look like an iPod, including the obligatory round disc to operate it. The result is that even simple things like a day and night schedule can’t be done without entering 20 different time blocks, through a round disc!? But the worst thing has yet to come. I would happily spend an extra 200 euros for a Honeywell or even better a Nest. Through the OpenTherm protocol different vendor thermostats work with different vendor heating systems, but my ATAG doesn’t support OpenTherm. It just supports ATAG. Yikes!
Bake like the chef does
And how about the new Siemens oven? It has preset recipes for different kinds of meat with different weight, the UI is great and it works well. But I’d really love this oven if every 6 weeks or so I could download a new improved baking program. Imagine watching a chefs’ show on TV and being able to download and install that signature heat setting the chef uses right away in your own kitchen! I am sure that in three years from now I will start to hate my oven, if another brand does introduce those features.
Shared motor management
Same goes for cars. Something I always found weird is that the engine management software for my Volvo is the same in Sweden, the Netherlands and for someone living in Switzerland. But it is a huge difference if you are driving in the mountains or through a flat country like the Netherlands. Also you can optimise power or fuel usage. Why can’t we share motor management plans and upload them and find the optimum for my situation?
The Linn DS philosophy
How different is this from my Linn DS? I am somewhat of an early adaptor, so back in 2008 I made the switch to Streaming Audio for High-End audio. The audio quality is just superb. My wife didn’t like the device in the beginning. Again the UI was awkward and crashed regularly. I had to spend an extra 30 euro’s for a third party program called Songbook to operate the device properly. But the good thing was that Linn supported an open way of communicating with the device and I could solve the problem. But the story gets even better: since last week my wife is a fan. I showed her that she could tap the Linn in Youtube on the iPad and it would play the music over our stereo. An easy product with a great sound. But hey wait a minute… that’s Airplay and Airplay didn’t exist in 2008. How can that be? What happened is that Linn continued to improve the device. In 2009 they introduced a new software edition that actually improved the sound, by changing the noise filtering algorithms and they also kept improving the UI software by adding support for things like Airplay. How incredibly cool is that. You buy a device that gets better over time!
This goes for the way we look at our CMS also. Core to our product philosophy is the idea that we want the customers that use our Hippo CMS platform to be agile and to keep on innovating. One key requirement to achieve that is openness. Because without it you are stuck. This is why we foster Open Standards and keep investing in open source. This allows our customer to continuously hook into new (or old) systems, develop new applications, adapt to new technologies and improve customer experiences.
- Jeroen Verberg, Hippo CEO