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Alok's Posts / Startup

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, who is the UGLIEST of them all?

First, an important announcement.


I have decided to change my name to Alok ‘Apple’ Kejriwal. 


Oops, I forgot about Rodinhood – so how about Alok ‘Apple-Rodindinhood’ Kejriwal?


All this in absolute honor of APPLE – whose design aesthetics and acute attention to consumer delight just win the hearts of millions of consumers like me.


(PS – Apple is the second most valuable Company in the world).


This brings me to the subject of this post:


WHY (and I STOMP my feet) and ask  – WHY CANT the rest of the world’s electronic companies understand design aesthetics and consumer experience basics??


Check out these 3 amazing remote controls that I use regularly:



Now, I am sure that even if you have had 6 large pegs of very bad whisky, you can figure out the one that is a Sony remote control , and the second a silly TVR remote control.


The third one is actually the remote control of my Macbook.


The difference in design elegance is more than obvious!


Also, take a moment to check out this piece of what I call Satellite Wreakage (its supposedly a Music Player)  that decorates my office’s conference room :





Trust me, I have tried a couple of times, but I just never understood how to operate my office Music system..


Now, check out this Harman and Kardon iPod music system that sits in my home living room actually plays much much better music than the wreck above.




I mean why do I ever need to buy that Sony piece of ugliness ever?


So, the question is – Why is UGLINESS the big favorite amongst Billion $$ giants who want us to spend our hard earned money on the incredibly ugly pieces of metal garbage they produce (that look like robots that have suffered heart attacks)?


These are my theories:


– Most of the Japanese consumer electronics seem to be designed by Engineers for Engineers. Its like they like to see all their tools in front of themselves all the time and hence decided to pile on the same on the hard device itself. All the buttons, switches and keypads visible in one place.


– At a deeper level, I think that since the WEB (the Internet) never existed at the time when these devices and electronic products were created, these designers never understood the concept of TABS and layers of Sections WITHIN layers. The Internet has taught us a lot about UI and UX (user interface and user experience).


– The Japanese really concentrated on compactness and longevity – coz they were fighting a battle of ‘Bad Quality perception’ post the World Wars. Consumer aesthetics were never on their minds.


– Companies like Philips (yup, you remember that Company that invents eveything and then never does anything about it) always was a like a LAB of Invention – hence claiming the flag of discovery was first and probably their only priority (they never had commercial success of any of their inventions).


Actually designing consumer friendly products was never ever on Philip’s mind.


– Bose, the American pioneer did a lot in making very beautiful and very elegant products and came closest to amazing aesthetics. However, Bose remained an expensive and somewhat exclusive brand to the more affluent class of consumers, and the Company really never made a big large scale impression on mass consumers. (Check the lowest price of a Bose Product Vs. the lowest cost of an Apple iPod).


– The Europeans – The masters of design, consumer delight and the best fashion masters of the world never got into producing large scale consumer electronics and so the world missed out on their contribution.


The space was left for Apple and Steve Job’s obsession with design, consumer experience and pure entertainment (remember Steve J founded PIXAR) to capture the imagination of millions of consumers and change the consumer hardware entertainment space forever.






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  1. Jyoti this is fascinating. Thanks

  2. I definitely agree that Apple has changed the way innovation is built on hardware. The aesthetics are amazing and bring in an image of absolute consumer delight. Now, even I don’t own an Apple product and may not got for one in the near future (will have to wait and see if I ever change my mind on this). However, I wouldn’t want to steal a lot away from MSFT. They have stopped innovating, could be a guess, but definitely created a product that changed lives. It made companies across understand the power of software and its application to a large scale to hardware. Had MSFT created a windows today, we may have been singing a different story. Apple has recently innovated their suite of products and it will be interesting to see their performance for the amount of years MSFT has been around. On an ending note, I hope the Apple euphoria continues, only for Mr. Jobs 🙂

  3. Jyoti, is that by any chance the seminar on ‘Motilal Oswal MF”s Most Shares NASDAQ 100 NFO”?

  4. IMHO, Apple is a lot more than a “much-hyped company”. As Alok pointed out, Apple (and in particular, Steve Jobs) has an almost fanatic devotion to aesthetics and design, which is clearly reflected in their products.

    Most other companies design and create products that have a few good “features“, while meeting the overall “requirements” for what the product should do. This has been the case for decades, and continues to be the case even now. On the other hand, Apple doesn’t come out with a product that “meets the requirements” of what it is supposed to do. Instead, Apple pretty much “defines the market” for what the product should be like – they set the the standard for what every other product in that segment aspires to be.

    Take the iPod. It’s not like portable music players didn’t exist prior to the iPod, but the iPod pretty much defined what a good portable music player should be like. Several other companies, including Microsoft (anyone remember the Zune?) have attempted to build similar portable music players but none have even come close to achieving the beauty and simplicity of the iPod – forget making something better than an iPod.

    Similarly, the iPhone and the iPad defined the market for smartphones and tablet computers respectively. Again, it’s not that smartphones or tablets didn’t exist prior to the iPhone or iPad, but no other company has succeeded in making a smartphone and a tablet so desirable to the mass consumer that even people who have absolutely no need for either one (and I can name several such people), still want one or both, and are willing to pay ridiculous prices for them just because “it’s cool to own one“.

    Apple’s stock price, and correspondingly it’s market valuation is simply a reflection of the fact that investors recognize this capability of Apple, and place a very high value on its ability to come up with new and exciting products that no one has ever thought of before.

    BTW, I should point out that Apple’s stock price has been steadily rising since 2003 (when it launched the iTunes store). And if you give it some allowance for price correction due to the stock market crash of 2001-2002, then the stock price has actually been rising since 1998, when Steve Jobs returned to the helm of Apple. This is reflected in my own analysis shown below:

    ^IXIC = NASDAQ Composite Index
    AAPL = Apple share price
    MSFT = Microsoft share price

    The share price increases seen in the above chart are pretty much inline with the corresponding revenue increases that accompanied the launch of each of the major products outlined above.

    Overall, I would say that I have yet to see another company that is as innovative, or as capable of defining market segments as Apple. Of course, I like many other people believe that this is largely due to Mr. Jobs. It remains to be seen what will become of Apple once he is no longer at the helm of Apple.

  5. Alok, isn’t this true that the first two remotes perform many functions (and so the number of buttons) and third one has very few functions to perform?
    Just my two cents.

  6. the wega tv has a rich interactive panel. lots of these buttons could then be replaced on the screen itself (like an iPhone) rather than having them on the remote itself!!

    I mean if you have scroll buttons, then everything is available via the screen right?

    Mobile companies ask you to press buttons to make choices – here also you can ask me to choose click areas…

    Sure, if I am operating an air conditioner and there is no display, then its fine..

    But on that note, I just looked at my Voltas AC remote control and its almost Apple’esque!!!!

  7. Qualcomm was one of the first companies to have an app store, developer community & they ruled the hardware as well. But they just can’t get out of the licensing mode. Their technology is surely great but again they lack at UE. What keeps them second is their first mover advantage and their long standing association with Verizon.

  8. I love Steve Jobs design philosophy.

    “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
    -Steve Jobs

  9. This is one of the most educated and intelligent replies I have seen on ever!!

    Ashish, consider authoring some discussions for the community here??

  10. Qualcomm and hardware??? What? Where? When??

    Kinnari… U sure that this happened on planet earth?

  11. They heavily defined the internal hardware of the phone & left it to the OEM to come up with the actual phones. Their chips & technology are one of the best for data transmission. Btw, they did come up with their own phones as well but that again were not great on UE but yes on technology they were good.

  12. long discussion on design….in India TATA and Mahindra create these ugly designs …but they are for India market after all….I dnt know wht all you apple fans will say when u hear…..I installed windows XP on my MAC BOOK PRO
    bcoz I hated the fact of right click left click etc….and used it some times to keep it underneeth my car sit in scorching heat…also just not to b visible for others when th car was parked.

  13. Hmmmm.  I also like Apple’s design esthetics but I get bummed out by its corporate megalomania.  And that it just occurred to me is actually part of a larger philosophical problem that was best identified by Robert Pirsig in Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  An underlying fault line in the structure of 20th century reason (yes we’re in the 21st century but the current version of rationality we employ was primarily built in the 20th century) that drives permeates a sense of ugliness.  Apple driven by the romantic sentiment of its founder was able to avoid this ugliness on the surface (ie at the level of products and usability).  But its a standard edition Hitler regime when it comes to everything else.  


    Sony and Philips have no such guiding light to combat the ugliness. I am betting when Jobs goes this ugliness will return to apple too.  There will be no one left to shepherd and protect romantic quality.  That I guess must also be the primeval terror that Apple investors realize and want Jobs to be immortal for that reason.  There is no one to shepherd and preserve and nurture that romantic quality….


    On a separate note I just read in super freakonomics that if information retrieval systems take more than a second to display results we experience what is known as cognitive drift…which is why those who convert to Mac tend to stick and which is why Google gets a 30% lift in search consumption when they improve their display results by a fraction of a section…..

  14. Nice! Mirrors my sentiments exactly as far as the source of the design ideologue goes. 

    What we need is a system to transfer the spiritual aspects of design….guru to shishya style….this is the new artisanship only everyone is peddling gurudom…and being a shishya is only a stepping stone to becoming a guru and we end up deep in the ugly side of town….

  15. Perhaps we are missing a couple of points here – 

    No Apple product is hardware alone! It has an entire ecosystem backing it up. The iPod has iTunes backing it up, the Macbook has OS X backing it up.

    The remote is great for presentations and for Frontrow [media player] on Mac but it depends heavily on the great software backing it up to continually improve the UX.

    This isn’t possible with standalone consumer electronics that have embedded firmware. Yes some devices have had OSD’s [On Screen Display’s of Menus eg TV’s, DVD Players & the DTH DVR EPG’s], but these are still way behind the capability of an internet connected & constantly updated OS/App combo that Apple uses.

    While I am as big an Apple fan as anyone out there, I still think this comparison is “Apple(s) to Lemons”.

    Let’s acknowledge that Apple is more a 21st Century company as compared to Sony/Philips et al, and so it is obvious that it will be better because it doesn’t lug around a legacy – of disconnected satellite wrecks.

    Apple though is creating its own legacy of tightly knit hardware & software components.


  16. great point Abey, as a Indians we are Utility driven, and we think appreciation for design and aesthetics is a rich mans fancy. the same thinking reflects in our every day life.

    to stress upon ur point…we see this guru shishya relation in bollywood …the more recent examples are flock of dir and editors that got groomed under Ramgopal Verma…one learns a lot under such person…wht he imparts is vision …I tell you its contegious…its like u match your thinking pattern with him …but the fun is you never copy him …but your self discovery begins later.

  17. Nice. I saw the news on Techcrunch.  Notice how Android is sopping up market share outside the iphone garden? The battle has a long way to go.

  18. +1 integrated/great ecosystem is a basis of good design .. 

    imagine web 2.0/MMOG/Online gaming without broadband ..

    Imagine facetime without WiFi / 3G ..

    It’s also a time 2 market issue .. how many entrepreneurs/business owners have the b@!!$ to hold up product releases till they get the perfect product like Steve Jobs does?

    BTW just for record Sony in my opinion had a great product design sense when they invented VHS / Walkman … it does not seem to have percolated down in this generation of products ..

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