People Don’t Know What They Want Until You Give It to Them..

via MacBook Air, Ultrabook spell doom for optical drive | Nanotech – The Circuits Blog – CNET News

Apple is different. The Apple of Steve Jobs held focus groups in contempt. In essence, Jobs believed consumers don’t know what they want until you give it to them. So, present them with a MacBook Air–as Apple did in January 2008–and consumers will eventually come around.

I pretty much found this to be the case in my professional life as well.  Focus groups/committees just are not forward looking. They tend to be stuck in the past.  If you have something forward looking, that will of course be a change, they will resist it. I don’t know how many times I stumbled across this fact!

Of course Apple was the company to introduce the “mouse” (they are now in the process of eliminating even that). Microsoft scorned the mouse/graphical user interface idea as being totally unnecessary. Apple was also the first one to eliminate the floppy disk from their computers. I imagine there are regular computer users today who don’t even know what a floppy is 😉  According to this article they are now in the process of removing CD drives and I will attest to the fact that my MacBook Air works very well without that and without the humming hard drive as well. It has been replaced by a solid-state drive. I never dreamed I would someday be using a half inch thick three pound laptop with no moving parts as my main computer but thanks to Apple that is the case today.

I want to finish off with the Jobs quote that I used in the title of this post. The consuming public is just not one to know what they want before they see it. That is why the innovators among us are so valuable. We in the U.S. have claimed the title of world “innovators” and rightly so. But it seems that we are losing that edge as well. If you read the biographies of most of the famous innovators they were found to have troubled childhoods in that they just did not conform to the kids of their day. Most often they were considered trouble makers as they weren’t inclined to do what the other kids do. We have an answer to those types of kids today and that is to drug  that sort of behavior out of them. Are we in the process of eliminating our next generation of innovators? I certainly hope not but it is a possibility isn’t it?

The area of innovation is one where China or India just can’t seem to compete with us, at least up till now. China, especially, is trained from birth to just go-along. Different thinking is very much discouraged in those environments.  Maybe that fidgety kid who sits next to you in church will be the next Edison/Ford/Einstein/ Jobs. That is if we let him just be himself.

But what do I know…


  1. So true. So many things I pooh-poohed when they first came out: cassette players (and then CD players), microwave ovens, EZ Pass…..

    Save me from my own lifestyle inertia and obtuseness. :-0


  2. Over the course of my career I personally moderated hundreds of focus groups and watched another few hundred through the one-way window. In only a handful of cases did I or the client learn anything new. They were best for confirming or rejecting decisions already made, but almost useless as a predictor of future behavior.


  3. Thanks guys for the comments. I am always looking for the “new” idea and did invent a few new things in my R&D career. But for the most part I was not much of a forward thinker either. But I did know a good thing when I saw it. I knew years ago that Amazon was going to grow into the major force they are today. I have been a steady customer of theirs for years. I did buy some of their stock early on but didn’t have the patience to wait it out for the big profits!


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