The Importance of Adopting Meaningful Product Improvements

Earlier today I posted an article titled "Corning, Apple, and Other Musings," which discusses Intel's reluctance to adopt ARM-based chip designs for its mobile chips.  Intel has continued to push its own mobile chips (the Atom line), which are based on Intel's x86 architecture.  x86 chips typically have some computational speed/power advantages over ARM chip designs, while ARM designs typically deliver better battery life.  The problem with Intel's decision to push x86 chips for mobile devices may be the consumer's desire for better battery life instead of enhanced computational power, at least when it comes to cell phones and tablets.  With mobile devices, Intel is focused on functional improvements in the wrong area:  chip speed/power.  Chip speed/power for mobile phones is arguably "good enough," while battery life is not.  By failing to adopt ARM chip designs for mobile devices, Intel has failed to make sustaining, functional improvements in the area that's still not good enough:  battery life.   Incumbents that fail to make sustaining improvements to product elements/attributes that aren't yet good enough get left behind by competitors that are making these improvements.  See Concepts page and discussion of Clayton Christensen.  In Intel's case, one of those competitors is Qualcomm, which has successfully embraced ARM chip designs for mobile devices.

The functional performance of any product can be measured across any number of elements/attributes.  With computer chips, these elements include speed, power efficiency, size, and so on.  Regardless of industry, companies that fail to make sustaining improvements to functional elements/attributes that aren't yet good enough, and continue making improvements to elements/attributes that are more than good enough, eventually lose market share and become irrelevant.  To stay relevant companies must adopt or create meaningful product improvements that users will value, and that will truly enhance the user experience.

The author does not own stock shares of Intel.