Product launches that failed to launch
Outside of Microsoft fans, who has heard of SPOT Watches? What about Google Glass?
The thing that makes these products interesting is not their failure, but the success of similar products. SPOT Watches failed back in 2004, and just 10 years later smartwatches became the Next Big Thing, with a market size of $32.9 billion projected for 2020. Google once led the wearable space market with Google Glass, but failed in a world where augmented and virtual reality is going to be a $162 billion industry by 2020.
The Microsoft SPOT Watch, at its product launch, was nothing less than revolutionary. It was launched at a time when the first generation of smartphones were just starting to gain traction amongst the general population. The watch was supposed to offer information at a glance, without the immersion and interaction other devices required. SPOT stands for Smart Personal Object Technology; it was the way Microsoft tried to make household electronics and other everyday gadgets “smart”.
SPOT watches were expensive, retailing for $800, they were bulky, they contained a battery you had to charge every few days (which hasn’t really been improved upon), and they required a wireless service with a subscription fee – hindsight being 20/20, it is clear to see why these watches failed.
More recently, Google released Google Glass, which was named one of Time Magazine’s 2012 Best Innovations. Google Glass started selling to select audiences in 2013 and became available to the public on May 15, 2014. Just eight months after the public release, Google announces that it would stop producing Google Glass. Last July, however, Google announced that Google Glass was back, with the new Enterprise Edition.
When Google Glass was announced, their PR folks did a fantastic job of building excitement by limiting sales to Glass Explorers, a select group of "geeks” and journalists. Although this created a buzz with potential purchasers, consumers were unable to buy the device. The excitement seemed to do a 180 degree flip once tech reviewers were finally able to test Glass. They described it as “the worst product of all time,” mainly noting its poor battery life and buggy interface. Simultaneously, privacy concerns arose and it was banned from many bars, movie theaters, Las Vegas casinos, use while driving, and many other places.
What makes a successful product launch?
These products had the opportunity to be great, but they missed the mark because of limitations that could have been managed with proper structure and rigor, had they not been overlooked. While large companies do have a higher success rate with innovative ideas, they still need a robust go-to-market strategy for their product launch.
A Product Innovation Framework is designed to anticipate and address potential pitfalls, giving each product the best chance possible to succeed in the marketplace. The Market Sizing phase establishes the total available market share – if SPOT had undergone analysis, they could have determined that their release schedule was too early. Although there was high interest from technology loyalists, the product did not resonate in the total market. During the Customer Segmentation phase, companies identify what the customers’ wants and needs are; this information is imperative for the engineering teams to ensure that the product features what the customers are wanting. This step of the innovation strategy would have been useful for Google Glass, whose early release exposed glaring gaps in product features, compared to what the users wanted. The Go-to Market phase within the framework would focus the right features to the right audiences in a way that creates momentum and interest, rather than a big bang approach.
Regardless of company size, having a well thought out product innovation strategy for development and launch is a critical component for success. Utilizing this strategy can open new marketplaces and predict (then solve) possible sticky spots for new product launches.