What Product Managers Can Learn From Apple About How To Handle Cooling Products

Hot products don't stay hot forever
Hot products don’t stay hot forever

Image Credit: Geraint Rowland

Hot products is what all of us product managers really want. We want the product that we are responsible for to be the one that is flying off of the shelves. Although this may be a great fantasy for most of us, some of us do find ourselves in this situation. However, nothing lasts forever. What’s a product manager to do when your once hot product starts to cool down?

The Problem With The Apple iPad

Gosh – I sure would like to have one of those super skinny Apple iPads, wouldn’t you? When Apple first introduced the iPad we were all amazed – this was a revolutionary new form of computing. It was all touchscreen and a lot smaller than even the smallest laptop. There for a while they seemed to be showing up just about everywhere – car dealerships, restaurants, etc. However, apparently the answer to the question “do you want an iPad” is not so much anymore. Clearly a change in the iPad’s product development definition is being called for.

iPad sales have been falling for six straight financial quarters. In the past six month, the amount of revenue that iPad sales have brought in has been declining by 24% when compared with the year before. It’s pretty clear what is going on here: the newness of the iPads has worn off. People were very excited by this product when it came out; however, now that novelty has worn off.

The Apple product managers are in a bit of a bind here. We are all highly aware that Apple releases new versions of their products at press conferences that are globally anticipated events. However, sales of their iPad product are falling right now. Sure, they’ll probably get a boost when the new version comes out, but that could be a long time in the future. Additionally, that boost might just be temporary – the iPad will seem “cool” again for just a little while. A better solution is needed.

How Apple Is Trying To Make The iPad Hot Again

Clearly what is needed here is some innovative thinking by the Apple product managers. Now if you know anything about the company Apple, you’d know that they like to do things their own way – they don’t really need anyone else to help them out. However, in the case of the declining iPad sales this may not be the case. Maybe it’s time to ask for some help.

What the Apple iPad product managers are doing is they are starting to take a look at the markets that the iPad has worked its way into. Despite declining sales, the business market continues to be a very good market for the iPad. What the product managers would like to have happen is to have even more businesses buy iPads. In order to make this happen, the Apple product managers are starting to reach out to iPad software vendors, even the small ones, and offer them some assistance. This is going to look good on their product manager resume.

What the Apple product managers want to do is to build an ecosystem of iPad apps that work well together in order to make iPads appear to be more desirable. In order to make this happen software developers are being invited to Apple internal meetings and conferences. Apple is reviewing their products and making usability suggestions. Additionally, in the Apple stores when business people ask for advice, they are being steered to iPad software vendors who can offer them iPad based solutions to their problems.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a product manager in charge of a hot product is a great thing indeed. However, the reality of the world is that even the hottest product will eventually start to cool down. Our product manager job description doesn’t tell us what to do in this situation. As product managers we need to be ready for this with a plan. The Apple iPad product managers are experiencing slumping sales and so they need to figure out a way to boost their sales.

The iPad has been losing ground for quite some time. The one bright spot in the market for them has been business customers. This has caused the Apple product managers to start to reach out to iPad business software development firms in order to see how they can help capture more customers. Apple is working with these firms to try to create seamless business solutions that will cause potential customers to purchase more iPads.

This approach to solving the problem of the cooling of their once hot iPads actually seems like a very good idea. We all know that Apple is probably also working on a new version of the iPad that will be announced in the future. However, by creating a strong software infrastructure the Apple product managers will have made it so that customers will want to buy their product for what it does, not just how great it looks.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that talking about the business software environment for the iPad should be part of the next iPad release?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Does anyone remember the shoe company Adidas? Back in the day, they were hot stuff. However, in the world of highly competitive sports shoes, their product development definition and the company just faded away over time. However, they didn’t go away and they are in the process of trying to stage a comeback. It’s going to be up to their product managers to make this happen. Can they do it when they are competing with big, well established companies like Nike and Reebok?