Death of Google Wave – Another Innovation Infanticide

So Google Wave is dead. Google killed it. It wasn’t as unlucky as Larrabee. It did see some light of the day. But it lost life in it’s infancy. When Wave was launched about a year ago, it received mixed reviews. It roused fear, suspicion, awe and a subtle sense of mystery. Google called it, “a new web application for real-time communication and collaboration”. Soon there were mixed reactions from different users. On one hand there were users who hailed it as a tool that would substantially hurt emails, hurt Facebook and wipe Twitter off the face of this planet. Well, nothing of these happened. Several experts and geeks slammed Wave for its apparent complexity and slowness. Martin Seilbert on TechCrunch wrote “Google Wave sucks….” mainly because of its complexity, instability and slow speed. However there were hopes that as people will start using it they will get accustomed to the tool and gradually Google Wave will be accepted. Experts also hoped that at least its collaboration feature will help it survive and win users.

However, Wave optimists, who were an obvious minority, finally accepted defeat with Google itself announcing suspension of Wave. The main reason for its suspension according to Google has been lack of user acceptance. This entire episode leaves us with two questions. One, why Wave didn’t succeed, given the user-base that Google enjoys? Two, Is Google hurrying in pulling the plug? Is it a right strategy to altogether abandon the innovation for lack of acceptance? Karim Lakhani of HBS has hailed Google’s decision saying that, “…….admitting failure and moving on is another key lesson in managing innovation.” He further adds, ” The ability to (quickly) shut down failing projects and reallocate intellectual and financial resources to other more promising endeavors is critical to innovation success as it releases individuals and budgets to take on the next big challenge.

We don’t know what are the internal investment criteria at Google.  But the signal that this decision gives is that Google is both ambitious and ruthless with itself at the same time. On one hand, it doesn’t hesitate in launching highly ambitious tools like Wave and on the other doesn’t hesitate in abandoning it if it doesn’t perform well enough. The only mystery here is, what is that ‘performance criteria’ in a tool as radically innovative as Wave. Or, is it simply the performance of Wave, or is it a change in the product portfolio strategy? Shall we soon see features of Wave being integrated into other Google products? Well, only time will tell. As of now, as Google Wave and the Users’ manual to Google Wave both, are history. But as the author of its Users’ manual, Gina Trapani said, we can also say, “…I respect any product that shoots as high as Wave did, even if it misses in the market.”

For some academic work on a similar question, have a look at Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper and also the paper that I am citing below.

ResearchBlogging.org

Sanjay Jain, & Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment Production and Operations Management, 14 (3), 362-376 : 10.1111/j.1937-5956.2005.tb00030.x

Microsoft Courier – Just a Dream! or Logic of Abandoning an Innovation

Microsoft Courier (courtsey : http://www.engadget.com)

Last Thursday several Gadget lovers mourned with deep pain when Engadget wrote about sad premature demise of Microsoft Courier. It kind of made almost every Microsoft Fan (Who are an absolute minority now) a bit sad. Rumours about Microsot developing a dual-screen tablet started last September, and soon it’s images and even videos were leaked out. Microsoft however never confirmed it officially, until it decided to scrap the project.

The question however is, why would Microsoft abandon such an interesting product? Before Apple launched iPad nobody was sure of utility or commercial appeal of a Tablet PC. However, Apple’s iPad is one of the most successful début products in our recent memory. In the very first month of it’s launch it has sold 1 Mn units. Vladislav Savov at Engadget writes, Steve (Jobs) told us it’d be revolutionary, and if sales are the measure of a device’s success, then the iPad seems to be well on track to validating its creator’s bold claims.” Now when future of Tablet Computing was looking so rosy, why Microsoft abandoned something, that was already creating some excitement among Techies?

Microsoft Courier is an interesting case of a proactive exit. There is lot of academic work on Innovation and Innovation system however there is not sufficient research available on abandonment of innovations. As it’s important for companies to know, how and when to commit to an innovation, it’s equally important to know, when to abandon an innovation.  Research suggests that a company might abandon to pursue a new product, in case (i) the market doesn’t move according to its expectations or (ii) the planned innovation is not strategically important for the company.  I found another interesting explanation in an article by Sanjay Jain and Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Using examples from Videogame industry they elaborate on what they have termed as a pace keeping approach to product development. In Videogame consoles, the development cycle ranges from two to five years, whereas the development cycle for graphics processing unit (GPU), which is a core underlying technology, takes about six months. In an industry like this, where core technology evolves much faster than the product, at times it makes sense to abandon a new product development, just because it’s neither easy nor profitable to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.

Going back to the Microsoft Courier, do we really believe that this was a reason? In this case, it seems more the problem of ‘Apps’ rather than core technology. After successful launch of iPad, most of the applications developers have strongly invested their efforts, energy and creativity in developing killer Apps for iPad. Any new Tablet, with a different platform than iPad, could face a temporary ‘Apps-Drought’. In an article in March, Fastcompany had predicted a similar outcome based on the same logic.

We don’t know, and probably would never know why Courier was shelved. Maybe Bill, The Gates has some other surprises up his sleeve. Maybe Microsoft just lost interest in Courier. Maybe it was just pure bureaucratic problem of ‘cost overruns’ etc etc. The bottomline is Courier will never be a reality. A dream, that never came true!

So here is a video of a wonder product, you never had!


References

(1) Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper.

(2) Jain, S., K. Ramdas. 2005. Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment. Production and Operations Management 14(3) 362–376.



Jugaad – Indian style of Innovation?

A Jugaad Vehicle (Courtsey - Wikipedia)

I was surprised to see this article in Businessweek. The article introduces ‘Jugaad’ (pronounced as joo-gaa-rh) as the next management buzzword in making. Translating ‘Jugaad’ is rather difficult. It rather means ‘getting something done by any means’. In this article Jugaad has been presented as a new Innovation philosophy. As per the article, the term has already entered MBA classrooms and in-company training sessions.

Interestingly Jugaad also reminds us of ‘Jugaad vehicles’ we normally find in rural parts of northern India. These vehicles are made by using a diesel engine and a wooden cart. But, how different is Jugaad from improvisation, ingeunity or creativity? Well, only time will tell, how the term evolves within management lexicon.

Marketing during Crisis : Negotiate the Un-negotiable

In Harvard Law School’s newsletter ‘Negotiation’ I came across an interesting piece about David Burke Townhouse, an upmarket restaurant in New York City.  The newsletter cites an article by Katy McLaughlin in NY Times (which I can’t locate on its website). In the month of May, David Burke Townhouse adopted a creative strategy to navigate economic downturn.

The article states

“…Imagine you’re celebrating a special occasion with friends at an upscale restaurant. Soon after you take your seats, the wine director introduces himself and hands you a list of high-end bottles of wine. You notice that the prices – all in the $200 to $600 range – have been slashed through with a red pen.

“The prices on our reserve list are negotiable tonight”, the wine director says. “Would you care to make an offer on a bottle?”……….”

Wine director of the restaurant reported that at least on five bottles per night the restaurant earned more than the reservation price (the minimum that the restaurant expected).  It’s always been said that customer is always ready to pay a huge premium for additional prestige.  Possibility of quoting a high price at a posh restaurant earns you get prestige. Well, the result was that while other upmarket restaurants in Manhattan experienced about 15% decline in revenues, David Burke Townhouse’s sales was down by only about 8%.

An interesting strategy indeed!!

Source : Negotiation; Vol. 12 No.8; August 2009. Harvard Law School.

The most creative man in Business – Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive - The most creative individual in business

Jonathan Ive - The most creative individual in business

Recently Fastcompany has come up with the list of 100 most creative people in business. It’s an interesting list and over next few posts we will talks about some interesting individuals featuring in there.  Apparantly there is no common criteria for selection. The introduction to the text states that they “……looked for dazzling new thinkers, rising stars, and boldface names who couldn’t be ignored.” Inclusion and exclusion of several names from this list, could be debated. However, one name that can’t be questioned, neither for its inclusion in the list nor it being at the top: Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple.

Jonathan Ive is one of those who are responsible for the design revolution that Apple brought about a decade ago. He has been the chief designer for iMac, Apple Powerbook, MacBook, iPod and iPhone. Creativity scholars define creativity as “Useful novelty” and in that sense Aple’s products are a great example of creativity in business. The fusion between art, technology and customer focus has been the strongest driving force behind Apple’s success in last decade. Last year, Daily Telegraph named him the most influential Briton in America. Celebraing his influence the article mentions, “If this is the age of the media gadget, Ive is its multi-platform deity figure.”

Necessity is the Mother of Invention….and Innovation : Mercedes-Benz’ F-Cell Roadster

Sustainability is the order of the day. Many industries and organizations are facing the pressure to come up with eco-friendly products. However, pressure on Automobile sector is probably much more than any other industry. Mercedes-Benz has been doing some interesting research on this front through its “F-Series” Concept vehicles. However the latest in this series is an extremely innovative product, with not only some great technological innovations but also some interesting Design Innovations built in.

707025_1277365_5616_3744_09c191_001This model draws inspiration from Formula One cars on one hand, and on the other hand it uses the original M-B Patent Car, designed in 1886. The official press release of the product states, “As an allusion to the Benz Patent Motor Car from 1886, the vehicle is fitted with large spoked wheels. Moreover, the F-CELL Roadster incorporates stylistic elements from diverse eras of automotive history, such as the carbon-fiber bucket seats with hand-stitched leather covers and the distinctively styled fiberglass front section, based on the component from the Formula One racing bolides.”

The original Benz patent Car

The original Benz patent Car

Apart from the interesting design, another innovation in the car is, replacement of the traditional steering wheel with a Joystick. This interesting example of a creative use of advanced technology and diverse Designs, was achieved with the help of 150 trainee students from various branches of Engineering, related to the Automobile manufacturing. F-CELL will not only be environment-friendly because of its emission-free fuel cell system, located at the rear, but it has some impressive claims to speed as well. The official press release states that “With a power rating of 1.2 kW the F-CELL Roadster reaches a top speed of 25 km/h and has an operating range of up to 350 km.” However, the important question is, will it ever make it to the production floor? Or, it will stay just another Concept Vehicle.

The Link on the Company’s page

Firefox and Brainstorming

Mozilla has effectively used public participation strategies time and again. A great example was the ‘download movement’ for Firefox 3. They released Firefox 3 on 17th June 2008 and appealed internet users all over the world to download it the same day, in order to set a record for maximum downloads in a single day.

Eventually the results were beyond what they had expected. By the time the download day had ended they had registered 8.2 million downloads, in a single day.

Now they have come up with a new project, impact mozilla.

The introductory text on the project site says that it’s an “…………….open source marketing project“. Here users are asked to submit an innovative idea to devise a marketing strategy to make sure people who download Firefox become regular users.

To ask users to suggest ways to improve products is one thing but to ask them to devise new marketing strategy is an innovative idea. On top of it, they have nicely packaged it in form of a contest. The process somehow resembles Alex Osbourne‘s Brainstorming. While developing Brainstorming technique for creative problem solving, Alex Osbourne suggested that one of the biggest hindrances to idea generation in a team is quick evaluation of an idea. Hence, while applying brainstroming technique teams are strongly advised to abstain from any sort of judgmental evaluation of ideas that have been expressed. Since, in case of “Impact Mozilla”, users suggesting ideas will mostly be working separately from the rest of the user community, the possibility of quick judgment is nil. Firefox 3 is already enjoying very positive reviews and with creative marketing strategy that would emerge from this contest, will definitely increase pressure on the leader internet explorer.