Converging thoughts

The saying goes great minds think alike and designers should also know that while you’re thinking of one thing where ever you’re sitting at this moment, someone else is thinking the same thing. So I guess it’s a matter of what company can actually produce the thing first.

I just saw this interesting product from Playaway on the Gizmodo website. Basically, it’s an electronic audio book and hardware device all in one. No need for the ipod or mp3 player, just the content. Neat idea, but without actually using the product, here’s my initial thoughts. Each book costs about $30-$50. (DaVinci code $50, on Audible $20) That’s a lot of money for one book. It also looks like each package has its own ear buds. Seems wasteful if that’s the case. Let’s talk about the package, which in itself seems wasteful, open it to get to the player, throw away the PETE. This product seems like a netflix model could work here.

So back in 1999, the idea above was initiated by Tad Toulis while at Lunar Design. He called it Service as Product. The basic premise was that you buy or rent the service or content but not the hardware. The thought was that you could buy for instance, travel guides or a book at the airport, use them on your trip, then return them after you are done. Another scenario could be one where you pick the book up at Safeway, “listen” to it, and then return it later. The manufacturer could reuse the electronics and just implement graphics changes to match content changes. This was also a greener solution in that the packaging itself, was the product exterior. Just plug in headphones and press play. It’s sort of like disposable cameras in a way, buy the pictures, not the camera. (Re: the disposable cameras manufacturers do reuse many of those parts; it’s a pretty amazing process) Yes this “concept” wasn’t perfect either, look how big this thing was back in 1999!

I give the folks at Playaway kudos for actually getting something like this to market as I do believe that in the future, we will be buying more content and less hardware. We’re doing it already, prepaid cell phones, city share cars and netflix. What’s next?

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