Wednesday, 17 June 2009

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?

2 comments:

  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.

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  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).

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