Chris Dixon wrote in his Experience Economy post:

The trend toward experiences is important for technology startups. The era of competing over technical specifications is over. Users want better experiences from devices, applications, websites, and the offline services they enable.

I agree this trend is happening. But I’m not sure it’s an inexorable, monotonic movement that started in the 1950s. Rather, it represents a fundamental shift in technology – a shift from performance to design as a differentiator. This is the hallmark of an industry that has reached commodification.

Ten years ago, consumers cared about megahertz, megapixels, megabits per second. We were trained to care about specs because they really mattered. There was a noticeable difference in a Pentium I and Pentium III. Today, that’s no longer the case. Any computer will do what a user needs. So will most smart phones. From a performance point of view, most devices are functionally identical.

This is the same state of the industry as cars and planes. Any car will take you from A to B; they are all functionally identical. But how you get there, the experience, is the differentiator between a Prius and a BMW. Or United compared to Virgin America. Cars and air flight are commodities. The only way to differentiate is experience and brand.

Technology hardware has reached the same (temporary) apogee. I look at the current focus on design as a wonderful event because it means we’re on the cusp of some new disruptive force that will reinvigorate hardware and eventually software and eventually design again.



4 thoughts on “The Drivers of the Experience Economy

  1. This is so importantly right. Those who understand design, who get that the consumer seeks the experience and the feeling and not the quantitative edge, i.e., more pixels, more gigs, more gimmicky tech, will lead the way. Some day we will say- do you remember the days when Apple was the creative force, the days before X? Only someone who understands the point of this post can create that X.

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Tom,

    I think you are both making complimentary points. Every generation of technology goes through 3 general phases:

    1. The first clunky generation of product which is mainly a proof of concept and hobbyist (this is where the automated home is today though Electric Imp seems to be gearing it to the next level).

    2. Refinement of the rough edges. Getting a technology to be usable by a mass market is very difficult and requires a lot more than just getting it to work in the lab or at experts or hobbyists of a particular field. (This also includes he beginning of getting the components to be priced for a mass market)

    3. Finally only after you get the core product and technologies to work well can you go about creating an awesome experience around it. This includes platform, industrial design, interaction, user experience, etc.

  3. Pingback: Skeuomorphism | ex post facto

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