Venturesome Consumers: The v1.0 Mistake
I'm reading Amar Bhide's The Venturesome Economy and he mentions Apple's iPod as an example of "the venturesome spirit of U.S. consumers". He quotes a WSJ article about Apple:
"Steve Jobs can introduce 'clumsy, overpriced, 1.0 versions[s] and trust that the army of several million Apple true believers will rush out and buy. That is the crucial, often overlooked, key to Apple's continuing success."
I could not disagree more. Apple's success is not based on clumsy 1.0 versions at all. This is a simplified explanation of why their products often define new categories, and this type of thinking is why entrepreneurs and venture investors think the "fail fast" strategy will work. Focus on the early adopters and iterate the product until it is ready for the mainstream.
The problem with this analysis is it does not focus on the job that Apple helps consumers get done. Consumer jobs are complicated and each one has potentially 50-150 different metrics related to performing the job with speed, efficiency, and predictability.
So why does Apple succeed? Because it focuses on the job the customer is trying to get done, and it is exceptionally good at identifying underserved jobs and satisfying the metrics (the outcomes) related to getting the job done. Think about the jobs they addressed with the iPod: storing music, listening to music, finding music, organizing music. The reason iPod v1.0 was successful was not because "true believers" bought it. It was because it got those music related jobs done better.
I still use my v1.0 iPod as a music storage system for my car. And in 2009 it still works as well as it did when I bought it because Apple helps me get the job done better.