I’m currently reading Geoffrey Moore’s classic Crossing the Chasm and read a piece that caught my attention.
Moore describes the beginnings of the PDA market and how several companies including Apple and HP tried and failed to break into the mass market.
PalmPilot came along and was successful where its predecessors failed. They built a simple device that cut out a lot of the superfluous features that caused Apple and HP to fail. According to Moore, the PalmPilot:
just nailed the problem … Success through subtraction is the key lesson here. And that subtraction was made possible by a vote of confidence in design aesthetics and in target marketing. By contrast, the companies who failed had overdesigned for the target market because they were hedging their bets. Ironically, in the act of trying to reduce their market risk, they actually increased it.
This is a beautiful example of focusing on your niche and not trying to be all things to all people. If you’re not sure what to cut out of your feature list, ask your customers.