Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Sunday, September 24, 2006



Keep It Simple Stupid!

If you live in Ottawa, you might have noticed how ridiculously windy it was on Sunday... not the greatest day to be out. As is often the case, my 5 year old has a way of seeing the silver lining. "What a great day to fly a kite" she says. How right she was so we proceeded to grab one of the new, fancy kites in the shape of a blimp. It would get up, twirl around and crash to the ground to the point of demolishing itself. I proceed to get old faithful ... a basic, old, triangular kite while my daughter goes and designs her own (seen above). We both have a great time flying our kites until a gust of wind pulls my kite so hard that the handle pops out of my hand, flies across the yard nearly knocking my wife out and proceed to get lodged somewhere on our roof where it remains. My daughter continues to fly her kite successfully. Sometimes simple is best .... a string, a few pieces of paper, some tape ... done.
Some of the most magical and amazing things are simple ... at least to the end user. When things get so darn complicated and fragile without actually helping you do what you need any better, you know there's a problem that needs a solution. As I've said in a previous email, PCs are definitely due for a major correction. The funny thing is that no one is actually working very hard at fixing this. They are working at making them faster, with more features while remaining affordable.
While most of us grumble and bear with it, these issues, coupled with fear, keep a huge and growing population away from owning computers. Unless they have a relative that can help them, many elderly simply stay away from computers entirely. We just gave grandma a little laptop. She is getting the hang of it but I know the thing will end up with problems and I'll have to fix it. She is getting so used to MSNing with her kids that I'm sure she'll freak when it crashes and I'll be taking the first flight out to Florida.
This leads me to the idea of the week .... an ultra simple PC for the elderly (or paint it pink or blue for kids). Here is what I think this device should be like:
-automatically connects to Internet over wireless network ... grandma shouldn't have to set-up a cable modem and a wifi network
-ultra simple keyboard with very readable keys
-big on/off button ... that actually says ON/OFF (grandma doesn't know what O/I means)
-absolutely no wires, except for power
-when it boots up you get 5 big icons that clearly say, EMAIL, INTERNET, MESSENGER, PICTURES, GAMES
-default font and color scheme appropriate for people with reduced visibility
-comes with a wireless printer that automatically works with the computer
-computer comes with wireless Internet service automatically and email already created for you based on your requirement when you ordered the computer, you should be able to unpack the box, hit the ON button write an email in 5 seconds
-minimal upfront fee (say $100) and monthly payments which include Internet access and a help desk that you can reach by hitting the big HELP button
-device is ultra simple with nearly all applications running on a network based server
-nearly all user data is stored on the network (no need to worry about backing up data)
-no need to worry about viruses either
-awesome dictation S/W .... one finger typing is really painful when you are on MSN
This type of computer must be marketed in a very different way. Don't tell them about how many gigs, video ram and usb ports the thing has. It must also be sold through entirely different channels to reach the targeted customers ... home shopping channel, retirement homes, bingo halls ....
Recall one of my previous posts that suggested looking at consumers and markets the major players are not interested in (a major tenet of "The Innovators Dilemma"). This group may be irrelevant to Dell and HP but a company that focuses exclusively on this market and gets a significant share of this large and growing niche is going to do very well. Next thing you know, the simple PC thing catches on and people start buying these for their kids and as extra PCs to throw in the kitchen, at the cottage ... and you don't know what to do with all the money!! All this without any fancy technology. You might want to call the company "The Simple Computer Company" ... nice and simple.
The beauty of simplicity! As easy as flying a kite.
Note: There won't be a post this Friday. I'll be at Wired Nextfest in New York City. I should have lots to tell you on Monday though!


Blogger Victor said...

Kind of like the $100 laptop that Nicholas Negroponte is chasing?
Forget Grandma', I'd buy a few of those for almost every room in the house.
I struggle with the "IT" responsibilities of all the laptops and PCs in the house and frustrate my "clients" (myself included) almost on a weekly basis.
Definetly a missing piece on the market; but the same goes for the gold-making-machine.. The question is, can it be developed and maintained with a cost structure that ensures it remains affordable?
Lots of good ideas can sprout on this baby tree :)

1:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Answer = Commodore 64
Not really sure why I got rid of it!
I smell a comeback....

12:06 AM

Blogger ROKPIG said...

I think the trickiest part would be getting wireless at the cottage...everything is already done...just needs someone with enough capital to front it!!!

7:20 PM

Blogger ROKPIG said...

I think the trickiest part would be getting wireless at the cottage...everything is already done...just needs someone with enough capital to front it!!!

7:21 PM

Anonymous jayco said...

This reminds me of a business opportunity that I squandered in the early 90's.

Waaaay back then I made a house call to the head of a retirement community in Bridlewood, which happened to be associated with a number of retirement communities across the city, to set up their first PC. I brought a new PC and configured the dial-up/e-mail, set up the printer and gave them some brief training. When I finished, the elderly couple was amazed at my knowledge of this stuff -- I was chuckling inside because it was just something that I was learning at the time.

Back to the squander part….They said, “You know, we think you have an opportunity to be the go-to guy for our entire city wide retirement association, because we are the chair people we can champion your efforts; you have provided a service that we think might spread across the retirement communities of the world “ – well not world : )

Am I ready for this? I just got started! To my chagrin, these guys were calling me at home every few hours wanting to know this, and that, and why, how come everything about PC’s? That was enough for me! I could imagine 300 people calling me at home wanting to know this, and that, and why, and come to my house to show, fix……it wouldn’t be worth the headache!

With all that said, we now have Geeks on Wheels, Geek Squad, Geeks on Call, Tweaks for Geeks and Greased up Cheeks – whatever. This could have been a great business; my wife still reminds now and again - D’oh!

Perhaps the landscape has changed as far as the above types of businesses go, but one thing is certain – there are millions of elderly folks that need products that the younger folks have/use, but are afraid to get into it because of the complications. This sounds easy and most importantly – trustworthy. And a little post sales service on the side wouldn’t hurt either.

….. you may have something here.

11:44 AM


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