Is closed brand hardware meant to fail?
Open The F*** Up !
Over the last years, I fell in love with all kinds of well designed futuristic projects from major and so called innovative brands. Only problem : these brands didn’t want me to take part to their thinking or try to feedback. I was there to buy, shut my mouth and play with a ridiculously small fraction of the possibilities.
I remember jailbreaking my first iPod Touch back in 2007. This was not about downloading premium apps for free, not about feeling like a russian hacker running someone else’s code either, and even less about ‘killing the industry’. Jailbreak was the solution the community came up with to boot home-brew games on a device capable of but not meant to do it (yet).
Take the Nike Fuelband, a classy 2012 stylish brick of wearable tech that won’t ever take off. Long story short : the tech is insanely closed, overprotected : Encrypted code, unique function, unique app and a secret API only happy few can lay eyes on. In one word, its asphyxied.
I just hope people actually understand what they’re doing lacks of logic, that closing up potentialities on a such fertile tech is wrong on the long run, as most of the value won’t make it to the end-user who actually pays for it.
Build a cathedral,
make a parking lot instead.
How can you dream bigger, go further, when you keep driving around your block, hoping people will just swallow your ideas? How can a user get the feeling he’s concerned? That things have been build around his needs and not on the brand’s static vision of these needs?
Even if it was by constraint, Microsoft showed the way, by finally allowing third parties & amateurs into the circle in one particular situation.
The Kinect and all it could do just attracted everyone, but wasn’t meant to hit anything else than Wallmarts alleys. How did they ended up releasing developers kits ? They saw how far people could get without any of their help, how undergraduate students broke this thing up in hours, days maybe, making things they’d never dreamed of, and decided to officialise a dev kit soon enough to keep mothership on their newborn.
Months have passed, and you won’t ever come in a modern art gallery without crossing the path of a hacked Kinect anymore. There it is, glowing, throwing your own processed physical data, or activating kinetic sculptures upon you moves.
Build a consumer product that ends powering art pieces.
Is it big? Yes.
Was it planned? Of course not.
In no other ways, Microsoft could have ended in these galleries and be used by growing names in the digital art scene. It’s not even about money, no figures and no rational business approach could have achieved this.
Let’s go back to Nike Fuelband, because unlike the Kinect, this bracelet is vanishing of the grid way too fast : people didn’t get to break it yet, and Nike lawdogs will do whatever it takes to avoid this particular empowerment.
Well, the results are here: no hacking, no curiosity, no original thoughts, no bright idea, no killing features, and a dying pool of flashing led-driven early adopters.
So why is it so hard for brand to let go their hardware in the hazards of creativity and co-design? Why is full power this crucial? Don’t you have any idea of what a community is? I’m confused, you all spent fortunes to get millions of Facebook likes…
Brands have to understand what the new digital paradigm implies, they no longer own the things they keep pushing in our heads, hands and hearts. They’d rather emphase on connection and community before it’s too late. Before people with vision get autonomous enough to create their own devices, loosing the ego to get freedom, users, feedbacks, better products, the whole package.
5 Years ago, people were still trying to adapt a market product to their real needs. Today they design it themselves, and pitch it to others in order to crowdfound it.
Brands aren’t dead,
some people are just way more alive.
The funniest thing is, would people have gather around these ‘let’s do my own thing’ move if brands hadn’t put neat barriers everywhere in the first place ?
Is closed hardware meant to fail ? I believe so.