Product iteration vs innovation: Apples and watches

Like many tech enthusiasts out there, I have been closely following the conversation happening around Apple and Samsung lately. For those of you who haven’t heard, Apple recently unveiled two new versions of the ever successful iPhones: The 5C and the 5S. Around the same time, Samsung also announced the release of a completely new tech toy: The Galaxy Watch. It’s clear that Apple has decided to refine their existing line of smartphones rather than introducing a radically new innovative product. On the other hand, Samsung was all about introducing the-next-big-thing into the tech industry. In short, these companies chose two different routes: Apple iterated while Samsung innovated.

To iterate or innovate? That is the question.

CaptureThe mobile tech marketplace has become a crowded place filled with gadgets and devices very similiar in form and function. Thus, making your products stand out is challenging. In addition, tough economic times and increased competition force companies to iterate faster with less resources. On the other hand, a market full of copycats is an opportunity for a company to seek new ways of innovating. The question is, how does a company decide which path to take? What are some the factors that lead companies to chose product iteration over product innovation?

Determining The pace of the industry
Many organizations fail to do their marketing homework before plunging into the development of a new product. Whether or not you chose to iterate or innovate will depend on the industry in question. For instance, the technology space is a dynamic and rapidly shifting industry. Innovation is a strategy that will enable companies to stay ahead (because you can’t be a snail amongst a group of cheetahs.) For these reasons many question Apple’s choice to iterate not innovate. This is further highlighted in Michael Krigsman’s recent post: “Apple was once the leader, innovating rapidly and bringing the most interesting products in the world to market. Today, the company lives on past success and future promises, without the innovation we expect.” (www.zdnet.com)

The mood over at Samsung is completely different. They believe that to be great you must “make the best products and be first to market.” This is certainly true and reflects the company’s innovative organizational culture: “Samsung’s R&D unit continuously works on new innovations enabling the company to come out with the products and services that meet the ever-changing needs of the market ahead of competition.” (http://technology.inquirer.net)

Many, like Krigsman, argue that today organizations will need to innovate faster to stay ahead of the game, while others like Scott Anthony of Forbes Magazine, believe that product iteration and innovation go hand in hand. Regardless of the view, what matters is the reasons that motivate the decision to chose one product strategy over another. At the end of the day, it is these decisions that will play a huge factor in the success or failure of the product.

Share your thoughts: Should companies focus on product iteration or product innovation?

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