Skip to main content

That Segway moment

Back in 2001 there was a huge buzz in the air. What would it be? Something, with the baffling codename 'Ginger' was coming out and it was going to be huge. It would revolutionize transport. Whole cities would be designed around it. What was it? The Segway PT.

What followed when the product was produced was pitiful sales after a vast investment and huge hype. Why? The backers must have all been asking 'Why aren't people buying it?' They were asking the wrong question. The real puzzle was 'How could anyone fool themselves into thinking people would buy it?'

The Segway had a triple whammy against it. First was the price. Who would pay the cost of a good motorcycle (or even a cheap car) for a high speed kids' scooter, however technically advanced? Second was where to use it. Until someone bothered to design those cities around it, the Segway just didn't work in most environments. Finally there was the prat factor. As the Mall Cop movie (and NASCAR clip above) demonstrates wonderfully, anyone using a Segway looks totally silly.

I'd suggest the people behind it were fooled by the 'It works for me' syndrome. These were likely to be multi-millionaires - so the price wasn't important, and it was wonderful for riding round their 200 acre estate. They were probably technical enthusiasts - the technology that makes it work is great. And, well, they were geeks - so, hey, appearance isn't everything. They loved it. But who would really buy one? Sadly there wasn't a large enough market of multi-millionaire, techie geeks.

We can laugh at the Segway - but remember this next time you write a book, or dream up a great product that you love. Are you having a Segway moment?


  1. Amazon’s second “Segway Moment” is surely the Kindle. After months of spouting opinions (pro and contra) the e-reader, I’ve actually got one. It’s far, far worse than I was expecting. Just dire. The comparisons are stark: both putative mass-market devices that weren’t, both created to fill a “need” that only existed in the mind of its creator. I’m appalled, really, that anyone thinks these devices have a future.

  2. I haven't seen a Kindle in the plastic, but have played with the Sony ebook reader, and ebooks on iPhone.

    I think there is a difference - Kindle is a badly implemented version of something that could be effective. Segway doesn't match reality at all. Certainly a lot more Kindles have sold than Segways (but that wouldn't be difficult).


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou