I am torn on the battle to get things to market vs. create good product. As a product manager you are always working with engineering to make trade offs. Can I get my product to market in time? Can it make it at least in time for CTIA? No.. hmm, can we cut a couple of features? No.. don’t worry.. no need to test that right now, we won’t demo that piece. Seriously.. how many times have people either been a part of this.. or used a product that they can predict is a result of this exact way of life for us. Market timing is essential in most any case. My concern for companies is really around two areas. One is what Google does. Keep everything in BETA, set expectations low yet deliver a fairly competent product. (or great in some cases). I am not saying I agree with perpetual beta.. but after a while crutches even start to rub you the wrong way. The other area where I have concern is around rushing product to market to a “release” that is not solid. In many cases you can get away with it, in most you cant. In a recent article about Smart Phones, Jim Balsillie was quoted saying that buggy phones are the “new reality“. (Another RIM Article Here) He not only admits that they got it a little wrong on their first touch screen, but most people get it wrong the first time around. The issue with this in my view is two fold. Mr. Balsillie was coming to market with his touch screen 1.5 years AFTER the killer touch screen came to market, and not only did it come late.. it had many issues with it. Sure, Apple had some serious issues with the original version however they were competing with nobody in the market with this phone. It stood alone. RIM also had a problem with RIMs stellar reputation. Sure it is good to have such a solid reputation with “enterprise class” devices, but it makes it impossible to hit the market with a flawed device without severely damaging the brand equity they had built up.
I came across this great chart showing RIMs market share in the corporate world of smartphones. Sure.. the chart shows Apple passing Palm for market share, but look at the separation between RIM and Apple. Significant yet starting on the closing trend. Why give your strongest competitor another advantage by releasing a device that is NOT ready for prime time. Sure.. I am coming down hard on RIM here but if I were in charge of the brand up there in Canada, I’d be worried about the next device. Do you come to market 6 months earlier? With Issues .. since your CEO already set the stage for you.. or do you refine it and release a knock down Apple iPhone enterprise killer to help keep your secure placement in the worlds of corporate IT gods. HTC, RIM, Microsoft, Samsung.. face it. Apple did the right thing. They drove a product through proper design and testing, they have fantastic people and you are NOT going to replace the iPhone. Find your niche and focus there. Do not lose sight of your core business… bad reputations are hard to repair.