Sunday, December 19, 2010

The most basic failure

In this holiday buying season the Kindle and the Nook continue to be very popular, and the battle still ranges over the viability of dedicated e-readers versus general purpose devices like the IPad.

Poor Sony.

I own one of the Sony E-Readers and quite like it. It has many advantages over the Kindle, Nook or IPad and yet its largely forgotten. I have a theory as to why.

Sony forgot to give its product a name! Quick test: what is the name of Sony's e-reader? Its "E-Reader". Since thats also the generic term for the device it amounts to not having a name.

Sometimes having the generic name for the device is a good thing. Xerox has the generic name for the photocopier. The important thing however is the timing.

Its a Good Thing to have your product name become the generic name. Its a Bad Thing however to simply use an existing generic name.

Imagine a device making introducing an MP3 player and calling it "MP3-Player". Rather than subsuming all the good will associated with the general product this new device would feel like a cut-rate generic device.

I think thats what happened to Sony's device. You can't even talk about their reader. I can't tell you how many times people have asked me: "is that a Kindle?". I say "no, its Sony's Kindle", which is certainly not an answer to warm the hearts of Sony's marketing department.

I don't know what surprises me more, the fact that Sony forgot to name their device, or that no one seems to have noticed this failure.