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iPod Engineer Tony Fadell On the Unique Nature of Apple's Design Process

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the I-am-so-great dept.

Apple 193

An anonymous reader writes "Often referred to as the godfather of the iPod, former Apple executive and current Nest CEO Tony Fadell played an instrumental part in Apple's resurgence. Recently, Fadell opined on what makes Apple's design process different from the rest of the pack. Fadell explained that a key and yet often overlooked, difference between Apple and other tech companies is that Apple ships 99% of the products that pass certain internal milestones. By way of contrast, during Fadell's tenure at Philips — where he was charged with overseeing the company's audio strategy — the iPod guru noted that Philips would axe 9 projects out of 10, even if a particular product was about to ship."

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IPOD ?? THEY STILL MAKE THAT ?? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622113)

AAPL is going dooowwwwnn !!

Re:IPOD ?? THEY STILL MAKE THAT ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623283)

They are sitting on more cash than any company in existence, past or present.

500 may be a local minimum, but all Apple has to do is step into another market like automotive audio, and people will be pissing over themselves to buy the latest iDeck when it comes out.

I'm not worried. Too big to fail applies to banks, not Apple.

One word: (1, Troll)

TankSpanker04 (1266400) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622115)

Control.

Steve Jobs (re)invented it.

Re:One word: (2)

Blindman (36862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622775)

iControl

Re:One word: (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623575)

iCuntTroll

How many products reach that internal milestone? (5, Insightful)

joeflies (529536) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622145)

Sounds like that internal milestone is a special bar. How many projects reach that milestone? Is it more than 1 out of 10?

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2)

Robadob (1800074) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622189)

Or even how long does it take for projects to reach that milestone, they might just keep reworking them.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (4, Interesting)

milkmage (795746) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622863)

maybe not reworking but waiting for tech to catch up with the idea.... don't forget the iphone was born of the ipad.
i guess at the time, given current technology, Apple could't reach that milestone in a 10" formfactor, but they could in 4"

"I thought, 'My God we can build a phone out of this,"' Jobs said at The Wall Street Journal's "D: All Things Digital" conference in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Apple must have had the ipad idea as early as ~2000.. (phone launched in 2007, assuming 5 years in the oven... the idea came to him in 2002.. so the ipad must have been researched/prototyped at least a year ot two before that before they decided 2002/3/4 technology wasn't going to work for an ipad)... 8-10 years or so before the ipad actually made it to shelves.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623127)

Apple had the Newton in the 90's...way before anyone.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622881)

Or how many projects are even allowed to get past the first milestone.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622243)

Exactly. It depends on which point you take a peek at the process or how you define a product.

1000 ideas -> 50 good ideas -> 10 preliminary projects -> 3 in-depth projects -> pick the 1 winner and develop it into a product

100% -> 5% -> 1% -> 0.3% -> 0.1%

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623045)

Well, while you're thinking of the numbers, let's look at the product lineups. Philips has bajillions of products from light bulbs to shavers to stereos to all kinds of miscellany whatnot. So how many products were killed in development if this anecdote is anywhere near correct? Apple has the iPx mobile things, a handful of laptops and desktops, a server or two, and accessories for all the aforementioned. Do they have even 1,000 current products?
Whatever the exact number, the real point is that It sounds like everything at Apple is really tightly driven with a focus on only even bothering to start products that have a place in the lineup whereas Philips has a shotgun approach.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (4, Interesting)

harperska (1376103) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622249)

It would be interesting to know exactly what that internal milestone is. Obviously, the ability to axe projects is core to Apple's business, as evidenced by the tiny number of SKUs they offer at any point in time compared to most electronics companies. And there have been rumors that Jobs could be particularly brutal when it came to shutting down projects that he didn't think were worthy.

The difference must be that while all companies axe projects, Apple makes cuts earlier than other companies and only lets the few chosen projects make any progress in the lifecycle. Whereas other companies take a 'throw everything at the wall and see what sticks' mentality, and only cut projects later when they aren't good enough. Sometimes they cut too late (e.g. MS Kin).

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622329)

What he's saying is that Apple has an actual functional interal milestone systems.
Other companies say they have a milestone system, but it's really bullshit lip service. What ships is up to the whim of whoever in charge, and failures are scraped under the rug because whoever in charge met the "milestone" and thus gets his bonus.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2, Insightful)

Smauler (915644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622359)

Judging how a company performs by how few projects it axes is laughable. Every company when growing heavily invests internally in everything. Every company when not growing heavily does not, and axes a lot of stuff.

This is simple stuff.

more to it (2)

v1 (525388) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622513)

I see more to this "milestone" thing than a single hurdle. It's probably better to look at it as a "product development cycle" where there are several tiers a product has to pass through, with similar but higher requirements at each step.

1. throw some money at it
2. add featuers
3. remove / combine features / refine
4. in-house and user testing
5. decide if it's worth continuing

and then it repeats, with more money, fewer new features, more careful and thorough refining, and more thorough testing at each next stage. Go through that three or more times and you will probably have a few winners out of the hundreds you went in with at the start.

You could call passing each iteration's part 5 a "milestone" I suppose. But most of the discussion above acts like it only hits this point once during development. And I suppose for some, that's true. But that's a bad way to do it. You can't consistently produce a lot of winners and very few bombs if your development tree has no depth to it.

I like how a previous comment discussed Phillips and their "throw a bunch of crap at the wall and see what sticks." That really suggests a 1 or 2 iteration development cycle, and it's going to perform poorly over the long run.

I don't see any idealogical difference between each of these "milestones". Either it's worth continuing on, or it's not. If your development wing is only supposed to bring one product to market, then it's a simple game of "survival". If you start with 250 ideas you can just say you're going to go to the next stage after removing 75% of the ideas, then it's just a simple comparison, and you still have enough "keepers" to carry forward that things that are still "a little iffy" can make the cut, at least once. Do that four times and you are down to ONE idea. No need to change milestone strategies at each stage.

If you've got low depth, say 2 levels, think of how you'd have to do it. Split it evenly, and you have to drop over 90% of your ideas both times. The first cut probably won't be hard, but then having to compare 16 items to come up with the one best, you could easily kill what would have been the best idea. Do a hard cut on the first round and you are down to having to pick so few to keep from amongst so many you may as well pick them by lotto. A deep cut on round 2 I hope everyone sees would be suicidal. Milestone depth is the only solution to this problem.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (-1, Troll)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622585)

Apple makes cuts earlier than other companies and only lets the few chosen projects make any progress in the lifecycle. Whereas other companies take a 'throw everything at the wall and see what sticks' mentality...

A "mentality" that seems to work fine for Samsung as evidenced by Apple lagging far behind in market share. And what was Apple's special superpower again?

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622649)

For phones, Apple is outselling Samsung 219 million units to 131 million. For tablets, apple has greater than 50% market share, compared with 18%. If you're going to spout falsehoods, try something you can't fact-check with a 10 second google query.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (-1, Flamebait)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622901)

Fanboi should read something other than MacNews... Samsung has been outselling Apple for quite a while [reuters.com] , and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Your unreferenced claim is, in fact, incorrect - Apple has sold more iPhones (all models) than Samsung GALAXY phones. Not all Samsung smartphones. Samsung has led the smartphone sales for over a year and is predicted to continue to do so for the next 5 years [cio.com.au] .

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (4, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623349)

Fanboi should read something other than MacNews... Samsung has been outselling Apple for quite a while, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Your unreferenced claim is, in fact, incorrect - Apple has sold more iPhones (all models) than Samsung GALAXY phones. Not all Samsung smartphones. Samsung has led the smartphone sales for over a year and is predicted to continue to do so for the next 5 years.

Well, Dell ships more computers than Apple, as well. Samsung ships tons more phones, yes, but not many of them are their flagship ones. Every Samsung smartphone is called a Galaxy something, and they range from the completely free crap phones with crappy screens, to the S-III. Heck, Samsung just introduced their S-II something with a huge screen but... 800x480 screen.

So yes, Samsung better ship more phones, because they have probably over 50 smartphones in their entire product line, including ones that run Windows Phone, amongst others. Apple only had 3 models, 2 of which are laughable just to have a price point. Of course, Dell has a similar situation - they probably have hundreds of PCs, while Apple has what, 7 different ones?

These days, Apple's not about marketshare. Just the part of the market they want to make money on. (It helps that that part of the market is willing to spend money as well, because it's why iOS App Store is #2 in developer money (#1 is Blackberry, believe it or not), followed by Amazon App Store at #3 (about 50% of the Apple App Store). Distant last is Google Play - under 50% of what the Amazon app store brings.)

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623133)

Apple's superpower = Making the most money. Isn't that why companies are in business?

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624025)

Marketshare is not the goal of a all businesses. Apple is a niche market business, it's not in their goal to take the marketshare of general-purpose companies.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622679)

The difference was Jobs.

Still apple does nothing more than evolving "Jobs products"

Lets see how much different will apple be in a few years.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2)

mlts (1038732) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623451)

What Jobs brought to the table was unquestionable authority, which is what Bill Gates had during MS's heyday. He gave the marching orders, and people under him performed.

Tim Cook is doing quite a good job, but he is a CEO. He may have the authority to hire/fire, but he doesn't have the "mandate" that made Apple under Jobs a cohesive entity. There is no RDF anymore.

Ultimately, Apple is going to need to find new markets if they are going to grow, as opposed to just stay still and try go squeeze more out of existing markets. There are still plenty of niches out there that would become rules by iDevices.

One idea would be a home audio "head" that would essentially be an iPod on steroids, designed to offer pro-level/audiophile-level audio. It would not just do what an iPod does, but because of the larger form factor, offer recording, playback, streaming of radio stations, high quality digital audio out (AES/EBU, S/PDIF), equalizing, and more DSP controls that could be packed in an iPod form factor. If Apple promised that it would not change dimensions or docking connectors for 10 or so years, third parties would be falling over themselves to make home audio systems that would accept the Apple "brains". It might even be useful in studios, provided it had a Thunderbolt connector for low-latency tracking/sequencing/recording.

Another would be car audio. Apple makes a 1-2 DIN "head", with some decent security features [1], have it do all the functions of an iPod Touch except with streaming, and Apple would have that market in a heartbeat.

[1]: Apple has always made devices where if they are locked, there is a method of resetting them, although it might cause the contents to be lost. With an audio deck, Apple would have to find a way of being able to have them lock when removed, and do it in such a way that there is no easy way to reset them. Even then, there is always just parting out the unit and selling the components. One ideal might be to have the unit come with not just a passcode that is typed in if the battery power goes out, but perhaps some type of physical key similar to how some Blaupunkt decks used to work.

For Apple to not stagnate, they will have to expand their market, and as a devicemaker with a good amount of cash, this probably can be done fairly easily.

Of course, there is always the enterprise. Apple historically has not been an "enterprise" vendor, but they can easily make inroads in the market given some thought.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622687)

Apple might actually make cuts or finally commit at the same point as other companies, with the difference being that Apple then refines far longer before release.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622835)

The MS Kin was a special case.

It wasn't so much that it was a loser that should have been culled; rather, it was destroyed by poor decisions from Microsoft middle-management.

Basically, MS bought a successful company, Danger. Danger's "Sidekick" was a feature-phone with a well-chosen feature mix. Kin was to be the next Sidekick, and it should have been the same success the Sidekick was. The most interesting feature: it was supposed to have a special low-cost data plan. Instead of being a full smartphone, it was going to be a "social media" phone; SMS, Twitter, and Facebook wouldn't put too much load on the data network, so Verizon agreed to offer a special low-cost data plan.

Well, a Microsoft middle manager forced the guys working on the Kin to scrap the old Danger code base, and rewrite everything to Windows CE. After all, Microsoft didn't want to have to support two code bases, right?

But the delay caused by the rewrite was fatal. The special low-cost data plan evaporated (Verizon was pissed at the delays), and instead of being a low-cost phone with a low-cost data plan, it became a phone that cost about the same as other phones, and had a data plan exactly as expensive as other phones, but wasn't a smartphone so the built-in apps couldn't be added to. That last was really stupid: since the Kin guys were forced to rewrite to Windows CE, it should have been possible to put a Windows Phone app store on the device, and the Kin team wanted to do it. They were denied, again a stupid decision by MS management (and I guess internal MS politics).

Had the Kin shipped 18 months earlier, even 12 months earlier, with the less-expensive data plan? It should have been a big hit like the Sidekick. Had it shipped as a smartphone with an app store, it might have had some sort of a chance. But as a featurephone that cost like a smartphone, it was instantly doomed.

So yeah I guess MS should have culled it rather than endured the embarrassment around the Kin disaster. But better still they should have had less broken decision-making by their own middle management.

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2010/07/a-post-mortem-of-kins-tragic-demise/ [arstechnica.com]

http://www.engadget.com/2010/07/02/life-and-death-of-microsoft-kin-the-inside-story/ [engadget.com]

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622285)

Apple are nothing like Philips. Philips, like Sony, try to come up with new products and formats, and hope to license the idea. Apple wait until a form-factor is established, and then jump on board.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (3, Informative)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622379)

Really? what was the form factor precedent for an original Mac? Or a 1st gen iMac? Or a modern iMac? Or an original iPod?

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (1, Interesting)

harperska (1376103) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622497)

I think it's product category rather than 'form factor' per se. There isn't a single product category that Apple makes that Apple 'invented'. However, they only enter a category if they think they can make significant changes to the status quo of that category. Sometimes that change involves a new form factor (like the iPhone), sometimes it doesn't. It could be argued that the original Mac wasn't a new form factor. The TRS-80 came as an all-in-one several years before the Mac. The Mac's innovation came in turning the GUI (notably also not 'invented' by Apple) from a science experiment into something that people would want to buy.

The form factor precedent for the 1st gen iMac was all previous all-in-one computers before it. I don't know if the colorful cases constitute a new form factor, or just an iteration on the idea based on Jony Ive's asthetic. The modern iMac is just an iteration on the same idea that came naturally with the state of technology migrating from CRTs to LCDs. The original iPod was a new form factor, but also an existing idea. Portable mp3 players had been around for years, as evidenced by the now famous slashdot post dismissing it as nothing new when it was first introduced.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622553)

...yep... or the original iPhone or iPad as full screen multitouch devices, a SUCCESSFUL ultralight notebood w/ SSD...

And no, we don't need example of past failed devices that implemented some of those features. The key word is ESTABLISHED, and in most of the past decade Apple has been the establisher and others the jumpers.

And seriously AC - Philips and Sony haven't done anything new in consumer electronics in years. In fact Philips doesn't even make TVs any more, they just license their name to Funai. And Sony hasn't made most of the parts in their TVs for years, they just buy panels from Samsung and Sharp.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622323)

That internal milestone is when Steve Jobs gets on stage and talks about the product at WWDC.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622839)

except he's been dead for well over a year. try again.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622427)

Number of products that Philips actually produces and ships: ~20,000+
Number of products that Apple actually produces and ships: ~50

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624017)

Is that supposed to be a good metric considering what Tony Fadell just said? How many projects did Philips then axe? I have no problem with projects being axed, but do it according to a plan, not on a whim. That is what Fadell said differed between the different companies he has worked with.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (1)

pebbert (624675) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622445)

Considering he shipped 18 iPods and 3 iPhones, it must be pretty good.

And still Philips ships too much (-1, Redundant)

aliquis (678370) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622529)

Such a shitty brand and product quality.

YMMV.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622565)

Sounds like that internal milestone is a special bar. How many projects reach that milestone? Is it more than 1 out of 10?

At Apple, the milestone was "Steve approved it." Everywhere else, it's decided by committee. That's why 9 out of 10 are yanked... just like anything else decided by committee.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (1)

milkmage (795746) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622795)

yeah, it's a special bar..

https://plus.google.com/+VicGundotra/posts/gcSStkKxXTw [google.com]

"CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday."

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2)

schnell (163007) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623203)

CEOs should care about details

CEOs should care about details that are important to customers and the company's long-term success. There are lots and lots of details a CEO should NOT care about.

For example, I have worked at smaller companies where the CEO wanted to review each travel request to see if they could find a lower airfare - and the usual result was that by the time they checked it, the airfare cost had gone up. So if your CEO asks you "what is the customer experience for this product, end to end, and are we delivering on everything we are promising?" then you have a good detail-oriented CEO. If your CEO wants to reorganize your company's office parking spaces with the highest titles closest to the front door, you have a bad detail-oriented CEO.

From what I understand, Steve Jobs was both - but he was lauded because his accomplishments as the former outweighed his annoying tendencies as the latter.

you're on the right track, but its not that simple (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623243)

The big difference between Philips and Apple isn't whether projects are killed earlier or later.

The difference is how the projects come to be and reach these milestones.

Philips uses a "technology platform" system, or at least did during the time Tony was there. I don't know what they use now. That means someone in a technology division at the company develops a technology. Then they develop some platforms that use the technology. They then produce reference platforms or designs that use the technology. Then they take those reference designs around the company and try to find a product group in the company that wishes to ship a product like that.

The problem with this is that it is pushing a rope. You frequently will make up products that show off a technology but that few people would want to use let alone buy. This system was commonplace with companies at the time. You can still see this system if you look at something like dealextreme or meritline. You will see many companies (barely more than entrepreneurs in these cases) who make products simply because the technology lends itself to them, regardless of whether anyone would want to use it.

The big difference in how Apple did it, and still does it, is that Apple identifies a product people would want to use and doesn't currently exist or at least doesn't broadly exist in an easily usable form. Then Apple goes out and buys, develops or partners with a company to develop technologies that make that product work or work better. The company then evaluates the product before shipping it, deciding if the product is really something people would use. Rarely does the company have a change of heart about the basic product, but sometimes products get killed because the result doesn't really work in a way the customer would like it. For example, if a product doesn't work smoothly, it may be delayed until faster processors come along. The G5 MacBook Pro was fully developed and then killed because (among some other issues) the battery life was so short no one would find it useful.

And that's why Apple products usually ship, because they were designed to ship from day 0. Philips products started out being made simply because they could be, and so many of them died on the vine when it was realized no one wanted them or even if they just can't convince any product division they would like to ship that product.

Sources: I know people who worked at Philips. I have worked at Apple. And I've talked to these Philips people and Tony Fadell specifically about these particular differences between Philips and Apple.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (2)

Swampash (1131503) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623263)

Sounds like that internal milestone is a special bar. How many projects reach that milestone? Is it more than 1 out of 10?

Apple decides to not even start on projects, or cancels them EARLY, if they won't reach that milestone. Compare that with companies that devote time and thought and energy to products that get killed or suck at launch because they're not good enough.

Jobs in 1997:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying "no" to 1,000 things.

Re:How many products reach that internal milestone (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623365)

Even if it is, it means projects get axed well before those responsible have put their heart and soul into it.

brilliant (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622159)

is this the genius who decided the clickwheel ipod volume control should be stuck on a modal menu instead of external buttons?

Is Apple that unique? (1, Interesting)

Megahard (1053072) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622185)

Seems more likely that Philips is the one that's different from the pack.

Re:Is Apple that unique? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622311)

Seems more likely that Philips is the one that's different from the pack.

I guess what he meant was most other companies ships about 900%~ 2300% products that passes their internal milestone.

Re:Is Apple that unique? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622411)

Yeah, especially in the software industry. Maybe it would be better to say, "axing 9 out of 10 projects is one of many ways to make your company fail" rather than to say, "not doing that is how Apple succeeded." Pretty sure there is a lot more to Apple's success than that.

Killing them early (4, Interesting)

Kergan (780543) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622197)

Excuse me for asking, but... How is "products that pass certain internal milestones" (aka Steve Job's early scrutiny) in any way related or comparable to "9 products out of 10, even if a product was about to ship"?

Re:Killing them early (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622227)

The point is that it's better for worker morale if they know the products they're working will actually be produced, as opposed to getting axed down the road. If you kill it when it's still in the conceptualization stage, it doesn't matter.

Re:Killing them early (2, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622347)

Well, the morale of Apple workers is clearly generally great. And their products are pretty good, but you also pay for it. But that's no different from most other manufacturers of expensive luxury products, and that's what Apple effectively is.

Re:Killing them early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622485)

Don't you think that worker morale being good might partly be attributed to the design milestones policy?

Re:Killing them early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623963)

Perhaps. But Apple can afford that policy because they are a luxury goods maker and can focus a lot of resources and talent on a few products. It's not an approach that other companies can adopt.

Re:Killing them early (4, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622583)

Another way of saying that is, "If your team meets the goals and commitments that you have made, then we (corporate) will commit to funding your project".

I've worked for a few outfits that did this, and it works well. For those that didn't, it invariably was traced back to someone in management who had some conflicting side deal. Either they were marketing our technology to a competitor, who didn't want us building our own. Or in a few cases, some manager who was just taking stock options from the competition to kill projects.

Philips (as an example) suffered from the former problem. They make quite a few chip sets and license their technology. I wouldn't be surprised if the VP of semiconductors called the head of an internally developed consumer product and said, "Kill it. The people who we sell chips to don't want our competition."

Re:Killing them early (2)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622941)

Yep. Not long ago, I got caught in a management change that resulted in a complete lack of actual production. The first week seemed great because we were going to finally put resources into projects that had been lingering for months or years. But the next week, all that got pushed out by a new set of projects that were all promised within a week. Too bad it was a month's worth of work. The next week, those projects were pushed aside by a new set of projects. Every damn week, there would be another month's worth of projects approved with delivery dates of 1 week. Eventually, nothing ever got started, let alone completed because we knew any effort we put into this week's projects would be wasted when those projects get shelved next week. Any benefit from working? No. Any immediate negative consequences to not working? No.

After a few weeks, I just ignored the new projects and picked ones I considered critical and worked them to completion. After a few months, I left. I had other stuff going on IRL and decided to retire to focus on that. Couldn't be happier. The thing is if the job hadn't gone completely sideways, I'd probably still be there contentedly plugging away and banking more cash.

Philips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622217)

Philips has warehouses in Tennessee full of products from the 90's and 00's that were ready for shipping to shelves, but were canceled at the last minute.

Re:Philips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622257)

The only thing I have made by Philips are lightbulbs (LED ones)

That said, there has been very few items by that brand in my house, even as a child. I think my Dad may have had a razor or hair dryer by them, but was almost always lightbulbs (and those were either Philips or GE.)

Re:Philips (1)

_merlin (160982) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622523)

Philips clothes irons are the best I've used. My GC4420 works really well, and the weight of it makes it feel satisfying to use. No shit, a heavier iron feels better to use than a lighter one just because it's heavier. I also use a Philips electric shaver, but I'm considering switching to Panasonic on that front.

Re:Philips (1)

hedley (8715) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622845)

Somewhere then, there are 9 disgruntled Philips clothes iron design teams who are burning their hands waiting for a new SKU.

H.

Re:Philips (1)

ti-85 (2706779) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623765)

I want to go to there.

Brings to mind HP and the touchpad (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622237)

Philips would axe 9 projects out of 10, even if a particular product was about to ship.

I also know a few bad organisations which can't seem to follow through on projects. They seem to get dumped for no reason at all.

Re:Brings to mind HP and the touchpad (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622767)

Google Nexus Q?

Heck, the Apple Hi-Fi?

Re:Brings to mind HP and the touchpad (1)

Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623493)

Apple Xserve?
Heck, the Apple Mac Pro? (just kidding, I know they still sell those. Kind of I guess.)

Re:Brings to mind HP and the touchpad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623993)

Yeah... the Mac Pro is more of a customized type of purchase.

Queue for the cue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622245)

Cue unrelated Apple Hate in 3... 2... 1...

Failure of modern western buisness (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622293)

Modern business have degenerated from organizations to make and sell products/services to support systems for management employees, CEOs, and the financial/banking sector to whom they all report to. They are in the business of business for the sake of business. Modern companies honestly see making and selling products as a nuisance that gets in the way of their real goal, which is making sure management gets paid and the stock price stays inflated.

OP's remark about 9/10 products being axed on a whim smells of the terrifying bureaucracy and labyrinthine organization that company must be. Microsoft has been rumored to be organized like a medieval kingdom with lords defending their territory with force, politics, and guile.

Personally, I expect to see an enron-like collapse of any number of large companies in the near future. The cause? Routing loops. Eventually every last function and service will be subcontracted and outsourced. Nobody will be able to tell who makes what, and where anything comes from. Eventually someone will realize that they've attempted to subcontract a product to themselves.. Many times over, the trail going dead after too many iterative loops.

Re:Failure of modern western buisness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622425)

how do you think the easterners do it genius

I have worked for asian companies before, its the same, at a more extreme, or a flat out dictatorship where the dictator is flawless, is that really different than kingdoms and lords?

I also love how you guys think you are quick and sharp tongued, but too stupid to see it on your own land, course that is what happens when your brainwashed from birth, and terrorized for even thinking about criticizing your superiors

Re:Failure of modern western buisness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622587)

WTF are you talking about? People in the US badmouth their bosses and leaders continuously.

Philips killed my childhood (5, Interesting)

Lexor (724874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622307)

The Odyssey Command Center (Odyssey 3) video game console was axed by Philips just as it was about to ship. It wasn't the strongest offering at the time but it offered backwards compatibility with Odyssey 2 games and was to be expandable with a modem and BASIC.

I was saving my dollars and ready to buy but it was axed shortly after they promoted the hell out of it at the CES and Knoxville World's Fair. Jerks.

Re:Philips killed my childhood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622573)

You'd rather they axed it after you spent hundreds of dollars on it, leaving it in purgatory with no official or unofficial support?

Re:Philips killed my childhood (2)

The Optimizer (14168) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622591)

It did get released in Europe by Phillips as the Vidopac G7400 / G7401 (where the markets for the videopac games was stronger)

A handful of Odyssey 3 prototypes still exist and are in the hands of collectors.

Re:Philips killed my childhood (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622685)

And it still had the awful membrane keyboard? Did it still have the fiddly quasi-analog yet directional joysticks?

Re:Philips killed my childhood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623085)

Smart move for Phillips. The entire video game industry was crashing and burning. If they had released it, they would have ended up pulling it from the market by the next year.

Hopefully you spent your savings on a real computer.

he's my hero for saying this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622381)

"Check out my NEST at home! Watch, I'm going to freeze my wife!"

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21728985.900-tony-fadell-from-iphones-to-sexing-up-thermostats.html

Also helps if your single product (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622419)

or make it essentially two product company.

Say what? (5, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622449)

...Apple ships 99% of the products that pass certain internal milestones. By way of contrast ... Philips would axe 9 projects out of 10, even if a particular product was about to ship. ... "Nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of 100, they would kill the project, either at the beginning, the middle or right before the product was supposed to be shipped."

OK, I ready I read TFA - is this incomprehensible? Does it mean anything? Is there any useful data anywhere in this?

Re:Say what? (4, Funny)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622605)

There's an 80% chance that, 75% of the time, 44% of the data in TFA is 87% right, but only nine times out of ten.

You didn't get that? Really?

Re:Say what? (4, Informative)

socialleech (1696888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622899)

I moderated this Funny, but felt a need to respond.

If we accept your numbers as the correct numbers, and that anything outside those numbers is guaranteed to be wrong; we can then calculate the likelihood of any one piece of data in any TFA's posted to /. .

For one piece of data, we have 1. We know that 20% of the time, it's going to outright fail. So, 0.8 chance, 1 being 100%. Of that amount, we know that 75% of the time, it will be right. So, 0.8 * 0.75 = 0.6.

We also know that 44% of that 0.6 is possibly correct. So 0.6 * 0.44 = 0.264.

We again know that 87% of that 0.264 is correct. 0.264 * 0.87 = 0.22968.

But, only 9 times out of 10. 0.22968 * 0.9 = 0.206712.

Now, we can state that for any given piece of data, on any TFA on /. there is a 20.6712% chance of it being correct.

Which, oddly enough, doesn't sound that far off.

Re:Say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623673)

the next time you feel a need, just ignore it and save yourself 5 minutes and the rest of 2 seconds

Re:Say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623131)

So there is a 2.3% chance that any data in TFA is correct. Sounds about right.

Re:Say what? (1)

AdamStarks (2634757) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623375)

I composed all the numbers you gave, expecting some kind of secret knowledge. Maybe the number of the beast, or e, or how many Apple Engineers it takes to create a proprietary light-bulb socket.

Instead, all I got was 20.6712% :(

Re:Say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622673)

It sounds to me that at anytime in the development process, Philips may kill the project; whereas Apple wont commit those kind of resources unless they're damned sure they want to go that far.

Much more efficient that way. To spend money on design, prototypes and tooling only to have the project killed is a complete waste of capital.

Re:Say what? (2)

feedayeen (1322473) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622761)

If you move the bar far enough, then everything passes. Who's to say that the 'certain internal milestones' that 99% of products which reach, pass isn't 'Foxconn has assembled the first device'?

The good side of it (-1, Redundant)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622469)

How many people got lost due to a defective Phillips GPS/maps combination?

(ducks)

Re:The good side of it (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624039)

Probably the same amount of people that buy it...
(ducks)

the interview _is_ the strategy (0)

cathector (972646) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622577)

perhaps this whole interview is a red herring attempting to get apple competitors to go ahead and sink resources into lousy products.

Apple products? (1)

MonkeyPaw (8286) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622597)

Apple has what? 5-6 core products and 4-5 variations on the core products?

They must not have very many ideas.

Re:Apple products? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622703)

If you think about it, in order to reach 99%, he must have (at minimum) seen 99 projects with only 1 rejected.

It's the lowest number to get 99% (99/100).

I suppose each configuration counts, so 7 colors * 2 to 3 sizes * 5 products (phone, MP3 player small screen, MP3 big screen, MP no screen, tablet) is about 105.

That said, it's pretty sad that he counts "red" as a project. LOL

Re:Apple products? (1)

MonkeyPaw (8286) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622859)

The product rejected - The jumbo large Chartreuse iPad.

They buried it with Lisa.

Re:Apple products? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623155)

I suppose each configuration counts, so 7 colors * 2 to 3 sizes * 5 products (phone, MP3 player small screen, MP3 big screen, MP no screen, tablet) is about 105.

That said, it's pretty sad that he counts "red" as a project. LOL

They have at least 30 different software products, ranging from QuickTime Player to iMovie to Final Cut Pro and Motion. Or perhaps you don't consider those to be "products"? What about their web browser? If you think WebKit is a small project you should have a look at the list of hundreds of people employed by Apple and Nokia credited at webkit.org. What about more arcane/under the hood projects like Grand Central Dispatch and ProRes 422; they're not something you can buy, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineer wages alone (not to mention patent licensing) must have gone into developing those.

And while Apple has a handful of core products (more than 4 or 5 though, they have 4 different MP3 players alone unless you think the iPod Touch and iPod Shuffle have anything in common besides the earbuds... not even that actually, the shuffle earbuds have no microphone), there are many other products too. Somebody had to design the keyboards and the AA battery charger and the cinema display.

Tony Fadell didn't say 99% of the products *he* has worked on, he just said 99% of Apple's products. And they have several hundred products available for purchase now, let alone ones that have been terminated in the last few years.

Re:Apple products? (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622731)

You don't need a lot of ideas, just a few really good ones.

Re:Apple products? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624013)

Apple's philosophy is to concentrate on core product technologies. It's the reason they downsized as they did back in the mid 2000's, also.

BitcH (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622635)

they're gone Came there are only A popular 'news it simple, confirming the And mortifying needs OS. Now BSDI ARE THE IMPORTANT polite to bring head spinning it was fun. If I'm Most people into a FreeBSD at about 80 unless you can work all parties it's to decline for [samag.com] in the obsessed - give distribution. As like they are Come Apple too. No, out how to make the Sux0r status, *BSD FreeBSD showed confirming the Much organisation, move any equipment coming a piss code.' Don't are a pathetic BUWLA, or BSD a previously any doubt: FreeBSD minutes. If that. before playing to won't be shouting or chair, return as poosible? How

EraTown c Khi - EraTown qun 7 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622729)

Cn h EraTown qun 7 - Era Town c Khi

99% VS 1 in 10.. (2)

sjwt (161428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622779)

Apple ships 99% of its products because it makes so few... Phillips axes 9 in 10 because its trying to hit every thing and produces so much, even after axeing 9 in 10, it still would put out magnitudes more products than apple.

Re:99% VS 1 in 10.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624003)

It's like emptying a 100-round magazine at a target to hit it 10 times versus emptying a 10 round clip and hitting it 9 times...

Sony process = multiple teams (2)

jtara (133429) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622883)

Dunno if Sony still does this, but at one time it was not uncommon for them to have multiple teams working on the same concept without any knowledge of each other. Best one wins.

I worked on an outsourced project (insourced? From Japan to U.S.) that was similar to WebTV, though it was meant for the Japanese market. (Dig that - product for the Japanese market designed - or at least implemented - in the U.S.) This was more than 10 years ago.

Turns out there was a second team doing the same thing.

Then they licensed WebTV and canned both of the other projects.

Great fun watching Beavis and Butthead videos (Cornholio) at 2AM (on a Death March) with the "Sony spy", a junior engineer obstensively sent because he wrote the software for the front-panel processor.

Google/Nokia (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623103)

A friend of mine has worked at google and before that nokia since completing his software engineering degree 5 years ago.

So far, nothing he has ever worked on has shipped. Every single project was cancelled... except for the one he's working on now, which hasn't shipped yet either and might not.

Apple Design Process (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624037)

1. Take existing product from competitor
2. Put in shiny box
3. Remove functionality until usable by two-year old

End of process.

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