Is offering too many products or features a bad thing?

This is an open discussion that addresses a common problem of too many products or features flooding the market place. Do you think it is an issue or not?

My friend and I got into a very interesting conversation the other day about how companies tend to focus a large amount of energy creating products or versions of their products for particular market segments. Now, I’m not talking about the act of language localization. Instead, what I’m referring to is how companies actively pursue any of the following:

  1. Create a product for a very particular market space. For example many Japanese electronic manufactures tend to create products that only make sense within the Japanese marketplace. In Japan this called Galápagos syndrome. A really good example of this syndrome can be found with Japanese cell phones manufacturers. Despite being way ahead of their time in the 1990s, they first defined and adopted cell standards that were rejected everywhere else and then created fenced-in Web services that only provided content within Japan. Then in early 2000 they focused on 3G too fast, which left their phones too advanced for the rest of the world markets. Lastly, because they initially had a huge market within Japan, they had very little incentive to tackle overseas markets.
  2. Create many different versions of a product to fit many different market spaces. This one particularly bothers me. Rather than making a really good product that should meet almost everyone’s needs, companies will pump out a bunch of different models of the product in an attempt to meet everyone’s needs. A perfect example of this can be found on Panasonic's Web site. This link gives you a list of around 64 new camera models for the year 2010. Really, 64 new camera models and this is just for the USA region.
  3. Lastly, modify an existing product to make it more appealing to a particular market segment. This can range from needed changes like Google addressing Google Maps privacy issues to silly changes like modify the name of a movie as shown in the following image. You will notice that the name Karate Kid has been replaced with Best Kid (in Katakana).

So just how does this relate to information technology or even Microsoft for that matter? Well, my friend is a product designer. In a sense, he is kind of responsible for “The Too Many” product syndrome and made the argument that companies need to design products that fit or can be adapted to the needs of the market place. I on the other hand like to design IT infrastructure architecture (it’s a hobby of sorts). Naturally, I advocate standardization and economies of scale for anything and everything. :>)

In other words, if a product (hardware and software) is presented to me that suffers from any of the three detractors that I noted, then these are solutions that I might choose to pass on. After all, there is a very fine line between being feature rich and being a POS.

What are your thoughts?

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