and Web-based services
Most competitors still face
a significant gap not only in UI,
but also in integrated services
To understand the success of iPod, compare all four measures of design quality, not just product-design quality. Apple and its
competitors are roughly even on manufacturing quality and product design, but Apple has a considerable lead in both interaction
design and service design.
to attract business. Like manufacturing quality,
product-design quality has become a necessary
part of competing at a world-class level, but great
product design is not sufficient. Competition has
again moved on—to interaction design and beyond.
Curve 3: Interaction-design Quality
William Gibson said, “The future is already here.
It’s just not evenly distributed yet [ 2].” The same
is true for interaction design. Some firms, such
as Apple and Starbucks, “get” interaction design
in a deep way. Other firms are just waking up to
it. The discipline is less than 25 years old and far
Interaction design has emerged as a new field
of competition, a way for organizations to differentiate their products. Today this competition
has become intense in the mobile phone market.
Motorola’s troubles and Nokia’s long-term success
are due, at least in part, to the quality of their
products’ interaction design. Motorola’s Razr was
a hit largely because of its slim metal profile—
because of its product design—but the Razr interface was often described as difficult (or worse).
Last summer Apple’s iPhone set a new standard
for mobile devices, largely on the strength of its
interaction design. Of course the iPhone’s product design is good, as is its packaging design
and advertising design. And the manufacturing
quality appears to be good too. But its interaction
design sets the iPhone apart.
Google has entered Android, a new mobile platform, into the competition. By the time this article
is printed, devices running Android will be available, and its effect on interaction design—and on
competition for developing new mobile products—
should be discernable.
Curve 4: Service-design Quality
While competition increases in the field of interaction design, a new domain is already emerging:
service design—the integration of hardware, software, and networks to deliver services.
Apple is becoming a leader in service design,
shifting the field of competition and creating a
new system of differentiation before rivals have
even noticed. Other consumer-electronics firms
envy Apple’s success with iPod, almost to the point
of obsession. Differentiating an MP3 player on the
basis of manufacturing quality is almost impossible, but many companies have worked hard to
improve the quality of product design for their
The New York Times reported that Samsung has
hired one of the original members of the iPod
interface team, Paul Mercer, to work on the interface of one of its MP3 players, the Z5. David Pogue
wrote in the Times, “The result is the easiest-to-navigate software since the iPod [ 3].” He adds,
“Samsung has even improved on the iPod’s design
[ 2] William Gibson,
interview by Brooke
Gladstone, Talk of the
Nation, National Public
Radio, 30 November
[ 3] David Pogue,
“Almost iPod, But in
the End a Samsung,”
Ne w York Times,
9 March 2006.