So, in case you didn’t follow any of the ‘big’ news, Apple has introduced with the usual understated fanfare, iCloud. Of course this all comes with the usual legal hassles from people who claim, perhaps correctly, that this infringes on their name - but I digress. iCloud is a mammoth undertaking by Apple to essentially change the way Apple customers interact with their computers and herein lies some very intriguing insights into customer experience and customer value. BTW, If you want to know more about all of Apple's news, check out the WWDC keynote presentations.
As Dan Moren, Macworld Senior Associate Editor, points out in his great article on iCloud, like the iPad, “has set out to change the idea of computing”. Wow, that’s a significant step I’d say. Kind of a “small step for man, giant step for mankind” kind of thing. So what’s this monumental change?
Get rid of files...
Really! On the surface this seems pretty underwhelming, especially for those of us who have grown up during the earliest stages of personal computing and have learned to be file-masters to survive. But, the fact of the matter is that files and all the concepts related to the care and feeding of them are just as counter-intuitive and anachronistic as floppy disks, command-line prompts and punch-cards, for that matter. It’s not the way “normal” people think.
Moran points out, I believe so correctly, that users shouldn’t have to deal with files, finders, directories. And while they’re technically still needed, just like microprocessors, the user shouldn’t have to know anything about them. So what do people want to do on their computers? They want to look at pictures, listen to music, write documents, give presentations, analyze data, read web blogs. “It’s about actions instead of objects, verbs instead of nouns.”, Moran says. Amen!
Why do I need to remember to “save” this document that I’m writing right now? Why do I need be concerned about moving it, finding it, copying it or doing anything else with IT? iTunes was of course the precursor to this and probably the customer experience laboratory for this. And we know what that paradigm-shifting approach to music has lead to besides incredible amounts of money for Apple - 5 billion songs sold!
I’m not saying that Apple will get it perfect, or that the iCloud will transform modern computing, that’s not my point here. What is important, I believe, is the underlying truth driving these kinds of changes - that superior value is all about truly understanding, in deep and profound ways, what our intended customers want to accomplish and then providing it to them through an overall experience that reflects what is intuitive and important to them. Ruthlessly find and eliminate the inferior experiences - Apple found a big one, I believe. After all, isn’t this what we all want, a computer that “just works?”
MobileMe, Apple’s initial “cloud” experience was quite a personal disappointment to Steve Jobs (and to many customers I’m sure) because it failed to deliver a superior customer experience, but it was also a valuable learning step for them and we’ll see now how well they learned. How’s you’re customer learning going? What inferior experiences can you eliminate for your customers? Do you know what they are?