When “Magical” Isn’t “Good Enough”

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The consumer electronics market is a tough field to navigate. On the one hand, you have amazing, magical devices for sale that have revolutionized industries, on the other, you have devices that aren’t those devices, but look like them, or may behave similarly, or provide an experience that is “not unlike” the real thing.

They’re “good enough.”

This is an interesting predicament.

Most people want the real thing. They’ve seen it and held it and talked to it and had a great experience with it. When it comes to price, however, they start to squirm.

“It costs how much?”
“I have to get the contract?”
“But what if I transfer from another carrier?”

Or, the killer:

“The guy at the other store told me that the other phones are open. And open is better.”

So, at some point, people start looking for this thing called “good enough”. Truth be told, it’s a pale shadow of what the real thing is, and it’s really not necessarily all that much cheaper, but it usually is cheaper, which makes people feel like they’re being thrifty and smart by not spending the extra $100 and getting the real thing.

I fell into that trap, too. You feel good about yourself for maybe all of a few days, until you realize you spent a lot of money for something that simply isn’t, well, real. It’s close, it’s almost there, but it’s not. Then you get a week into it, then a month, and soon you realize that this thing you’re using ever single day, something that you’re essentially integrating into part of your life, falls short. You purposely didn’t get the real thing in order to save a little money, but the gap widens as time increases. After a few months, you start to wish you had dropped the extra Benjamin and picked up something that will actually satisfy you, instead of something that leaves you perpetually empty.

One of the interesting trends this year (and highlighted by CES), as pointed out by many websites and commentators, is the rampant Apple-copying taking place. It has now become systemic. Manufacturers left and right are creating products to compete with Apple products that don’t even exist yet. Furthermore, they’re building software to match what Apple has in a way that will undeniably leave consumers saddened and confused.

What will happen when a person buys a rip-off Apple phone with a rip-off Siri voice interface that connects to a rip-off cloud service? They will, inevitably, feel ripped off. They’ll see people who actually considered the long-term cost of their purchase and feel resentful towards them, because they had the chance to buy something real and didn’t.

Take, for instance, this:

The consensus is competing voice control technology demonstrated at CES does not yet outperform Apple’s Siri, but the expectation is companies will continue to invest in the technology and result in great improvements in the years to come. Nuance, which licenses its voice recognition technology to Apple for Siri, said competing smartphones with improved speech technology will arrive in the fall of 2012, or one year after Apple launched the iPhone 4S.

The issue here is that these companies are reacting to Apple’s presence and innovative use of technologies that they may have disregarded for being too clunky. Instead of simply waiting for another company to come along and show them “how it’s done”, however, Apple decided to actually do something. Now that their competitors see how good it can be, they’re scrambling to put something on the market that people will also like.

But it’s not, however, the “real thing”, it’s “good enough”.

Now, people are going to start looking around, they’re going to see more of this voice-recognition and voice-control software out there, and they’re going to think “Siri? Who needs Siri? This is just as good as Siri!” Only it won’t be, and they’ll realize that after a few weeks of using it, they paid almost as much as their Apple-toting friends for something that’s not even close to what Siri can provide. Add to that the ability for Apple to continue to improve their software and Siri backend. Do you think Samsung is going to continue to improve their software for free? No, they’re going to include their speech recognition technology as a bullet point on a slideshow, to pay lip service to the consumer, to sucker them in. Then, when it’s time to sell more phones or tablets, include a new version of the speech recognition engine, weather the storm of insults and complaints, and collect money.

“Good enough” isn’t. Remember that.

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