Jeff Jarvis tweets: “Many early adopters recognize no distinction between what you *can do* with a device and what it’s *made for.*”
My response: most early adopters ignore what a device is “made for” and spend more of their time figuring out what you “can do” with it. And that’s a very good thing for the rest of us.
I’ve seen many device manufacturers create gadgets with one usage model in mind, and early adopters (being the obstreperous nonconformists that they are) ignore that and instead wind up using those devices for the purposes for which they are actually best suited. I wound up using my Palm (PALM), my iPod Touch (NASDAQ:AAPL), and my Moto BACKFLIP (MOT) for purposes other than those advertised. I’m not alone. Short message capabilities in mobile phones were an afterthought, but they became the most popular mobile data application for pre-3G handsets, especially in Europe and China, to the extent that many people text more than they call.
Wise device manufacturers, in my opinion, will recognize this reality and create and market devices accordingly. What delighted me about the iPad from the beginning was that Apple seemed to be saying “Yeah, this beast can do some cool things, like email, music, browsing, books, and games, but we know you’re going to be the ones to actually figure out when, where, and how this device makes your life better. And you’re going to do it by playing with the thing. We’re just going to sit back and watch.”
Make no mistake, taking such an approach is inherently risky, and cannot be used with every device. Even the iPad had (and still has) its share of detractors who wonder what use the thing is, anyway, because a clear compelling usage model was not spelled out for them in 25 words or less. Yet I suspect Steve Jobs remembers another generation of detractors (including some brilliant and successful computer engineers) who couldn’t figure out why any normal person would want to have a personal computer.
Going with what the users want to do with your device seems an obvious approach to marketing gadgets. Sadly, it seems only a few really excellent companies are tuned in to that reality.