Ugliness (was Re: 10 PACK UPDATE!!!)

Lowell Higley higleylh at
Sat Apr 26 20:20:59 CEST 2008

On Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 5:58 AM, Stroller <linux.luser at> wrote:
>So please don't be offended but saying "I don't like it and neither do my
friends" is totally irrelevant - come back when you've interviewed a hundred
different people and >they've scored the Freerunner (alongside several other
phones) in a range of 1 - 10 on size, colour, design attractiveness,
comfort-to-hold and so on. You need to establish >with each respondent why
they chose their last phone - was price a factor? features? You can probably
rule out everyone who got their phone "free" from their mobile >supplier,
because the Freerunner's market is those who are prepared to pay a premium
for the features they want in a phone. Now interview another 100 people,
those who >are prepared to pay a premium for the features they want in a
smart- or business-phone - do they find the Freerunner attractive or ugly?
Do they care?

I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with you so I'll just dump my thoughts
and you decide..

I have spent the majority of my adult life in hi-tech, and much of that in
product marketing.  My specialty has been taking "engineering driven"
projects and turning them into actual market driven products.  I have come
into multi-million dollar projects and bet the engineering team a month's
salary that they would sell less than "x" products.  Why? Because they had
NO clue what the customers wanted.  They just built what THEY wanted.  Each
time I made that bet, I won.  No, I never collected the money but my point
was made.

When I see a product I like and it doesn't seem to have "marketing polish" I
do a little informal research. I ask various people what they think.  These
people aren't my friends.  Ok, some of them are but not many.  No, it isn't
a full focus group but I have learned over the years as a professional
marketer than I can get a pretty good idea of how a product would sell based
on the feedback I get from my little research projects.  Just informal chats
with people on their likes and dislikes.  There was a statement someone made
earlier about us techie types forcing complex phones with unwanted features
down people's throats.  VERY true statement.  Unfortunately, the FreeRunner
Consumer Edition will have to fight products like the iPhone head to head.
Consumers see the "bling" of the iPhone and have very high expectations, all
based on cosmetcis and the "wow" factor.  To make matters even worse, if you
can't get the FCE (FreeRunner Consumer Edition) into the phone shops
(Orange, TMobile, etc.) it will never sell big numbers.  In Europe I think
there is a better chance of that happening.  In the US, the carriers LOVE
their closed, crippled phones.  The deck is stacked against Openmoko ever
making inroads as a major Treo, Blackberry or iPhone alternative.  Maybe
this niche market it perfect for them?

To me, FreeRunner has the smell of being an engineering driven project.
Shawn has put a lot of effort in making it marketing driven but I don't see
the conclusive results. (Forgive me Shawn)  I do acknowledge at this point
that we are NOT targeting consumers.  That's ok.  But if we all want this
product to REALLY succeed, we have to at some point.  Who knows, perhaps
Shawn has a business case that involves just the niche market of hobbiests
and developers such as ourselves. At one point I asked on this list how the
design was derived.  I received no response from the core team but did get a
heresay response that a company approached FIC to make a prototype, which
they did.  That company then decided not to go forward, Shawn got a hold of
the prototype and Openmoko was born.  If that story is true, I don't see any
overt marketing involved there on FIC's part.

Marketing is much more than holding focus groups and creating sales copy.
There is competitive analysis, business cases, marketing requirements,
"negotiating" with engineering over the final product, schedule.. and the
list goes on.  My point is, as I look at things and put the picture
together, I see no strong marketing presence in the FreeRunner.  Where's the
MRD?  Where's the focus group?  Where's the business case?  I'm not saying
this to throw dirt on the Openmoko project, just to point out that there is
a LOT of work involved on the part of marketing.  Most of it we never see
and perhaps we shouldn't.

Let's look at this another way.. I have spent most of my professional life
in Silicon Valley... Home of Apple, Netscape, Google, and Yahoo,  Between
1998 and 2001, I received invites almost weekly to interview with some new
startup.  Sometimes I would accept and go talk to them.  In two years, I
probably interviewed with 15 companies.  I would always insist on talking
with the Director of Engineering (or whatever his title was) prior to
talking offer, etc.  I would always ask the same question.  "Why do you want
to hire a Marketing Manager?"  The first 14 companies responded with
something like "Because our venture funding says we have to."  If I pressed
the issue it would come out that they thought they had the best product and
technology and it would sell itself. No marketing required. Silicon Valley
is littered with the remains of companies like that.  We won't talk about
company 15 because I did go work for them and the did pretty well. :)

My last statement.  Openmoko and FreeRunner is REALLY cool stuff.... but
it's not going to sell itself.  Ok, I'm late to my LUG meeting. I'll get off
my soapbox now.

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