The fact that they both have their user hostile moments could be a reason why mass market consumer adoption may take much longer than it otherwise would for certain in home technologies. Sure, the penetration velocity of Smart Phones is stunning, especially as compared to other historical technologies. But where are we with the living room set top box? Or home automation, which could arguably save real money and offer some environmental benefits? Not very far. Why?

Because for Core Important Items we Use All the Time, the Stuff Really has to Work.

Somehow manufacturers stepped up to this challenge for mobile Phones, but still don’t get it for the home.

Microsoft and Apple are both great companies in their own ways. But they also suck in their own special ways as well. And people likely have at least a general sense of this. Personally, it scares the hell out of me when I think of people using some of their products for any kind of serious mission critical applications. Whether it’s using the iPad as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) as a pilot for charts and such, or Windows as embedded software in medical devices. It could be that embedded Windows uses a very stable version of the OS. It’s just hard to reconcile that idea with just how bad some of their other items work. (Or don’t.) How either one of them will fare in the race to own the set top box is a total crap shoot to me. Because mass market consumers simply will not let their televisions or homes be messed with unless they have confidence their couch ensconced butts will not be overly put out just to tune in The Biggest Loser. Let’s consider…

Apple Elegance. Unless You’re Multi-Platform

I love my iPhone. And my iPad. And my MacBook Pro. Sure, I’ve got some little nits here and there, but in general I could semi-gush about these products. Except for one thing; perhaps two. I’ve also got a powerful Windows 7 box that for historical reasons has my iTunes running on it. And it’s going to stay that way because my traveling laptop gets beat on so much there’s no way I’m putting everything on it just to wait for the day I kill it for good. Ever run iTunes on the Windows platform? Well… don’t if you can avoid it. It’s just begging to see this…

It’s a scary thing. Even if you back up your stuff and you’re fairly sure you can restore it all after you get past this, there’s a moment of just “oh #@$” It’s not just about potentially losing data. It’s about all the TIME it takes to deal with such things. Couple this with the fact that the restore files are somewhat opaque. That is, your Contacts, for example. Sure, you can back them up to Outlook or Windows Contacts on a pc; but even these aren’t very accessible platforms. That is, let’s say I just want the file with the Contacts so I can save it in an online backup or an old-fahsioned thumb drive. It’s do-able. But you’re basically going to have to either install an App to help with this, or go through Outlook or Windows Contacts and then do an export or similar. This post isn’t about this or any other problem in particular. It’s about being CUMBERSOME. And that for day-to-day living, typical consumers fear these hassles; and rightly so.

What customer who’s been PC based – which is still most of them – who is integrating Apple products into their life is going to trust something like Apple TV to work properly? Who will trust any of their boxes to integrate with other technologies; especially when a game console ┬álike the PS3 or Xbox can already do so much more; albeit at a higher price point?

Exactly.

Microsoft Piggishness: Trying to Keep the Gate

Meanwhile, let’s take a peek at some recent behavior from the people who brought us Windows ME and Vista, but at least seem to have Windows 7 working ok, and see how they’re doing in the home. The only place they exist besides perhaps a PC is the Xbox. And thanks to the genius of the Kinect system, they’re still alive here. And yet… will people adopt this system to do more? To control more of their living room or their home? Will people adopt the Xbox when Microsoft forces you to pay $100 / year to be a Gold Member in order to use a Netflix subscription you already pay for? Sony’s PS3 doesn’t force you to do that. And what about the Microsoft Credits to pay for On Demand shows or TV Series? Why not just use dollars? Someone in marketing probably realized the dollar costs are too high, so let’s figure out some other units. Then we can have bonus packs and giveaway’s and so on. Just one problem. You force people to have to do mental gymnastics every time to figure out what stuff costs. So they’re either going to abandon right there or finish the math and realize the stuff is radically overpriced. Maybe they’d even try the Xfinity service, IF they can get the Authentication Server when it’s in good enough of a mood to work. What Consumers with this kind of experience are going to want to embed such technologies further? Who wants to run more of their home services on Xbox vs. PS3 vs. (or in addition to ) AppleTV, etc., when what they already use is so clunky.

Being Teflon Lets You Get Away With Good Enough

Ever search for an App on the Apple App Store? It’s among the worst search experiences you can have with modern tools. And yet, Apple is King of the App world in terms of dollars spent. It’s amazing. Stunning.

Ever try to pipe web content through a Windows Media Server to an Xbox to get around the fact that there’s not an open browser on the Xbox? Fun, huh?

I do understand… deeply… and sincerely… issues of product roadmaps, product feature planning, market timing and so on. And some things unquestionably require market ecosystem maturity before release. Nevertheless, today’s modern ideas of Agile product development for the web does not necessarily translate easily to mass market consumer electronics and their associated service components. What constitutes “Minimum Viable Product” still requires a wide swath of related products and services to work well together. It all comes back to the time issue. And money of course. But time, which is essentially attention, is the most precious item in short supply now. Products will not break through the early adopter phase with these kinds of problems. But worse, having shown such problems to just about everyone, even when they are ready there’s quite possibly going to be a much longer adoption period. Simply due to lack of trust garnered from very real disappointing experiences.

How can such problems be avoided? It’s simple. Make the stuff you put into the world work. Being a little faster to market than the next guy doesn’t help if the whole marketplace sector is tainted by bad experience from multiple vendors.