Hrmm... Amazon has dozens of people working and supporting just that one feature. You're trying to engage me to do an entire project. On a fixed budget. With a fixed time frame. And you've changed your mind 3 times in the last 3 weeks on key points.
Of course, yes, there are amazing things you can do with software that weren't remotely feasible even just 5 years ago. But there's always a moving target - the market leaders (Apple, Google, Amazon, etc) are constantly pushing the boundaries of what's considered 'normal', and most people have 0 idea of the real cost and effort involved in having the functionality come across as polished and error free as the big boys.
Want to add anything new to the page? Well, at Amazon-scale, your little widget is going to have to go through some pretty intense design review and load testing, because at over 150 million page views per day, tiny time penalties can add up to significant capacity issues.
Amazon is also notorious for deep introspection of user behavior, so any little thing you want to add is going to have to go in to the big bin of factors that might influence a customer to "click the button" (or not). Data about your new feature will have to be integrated in to the models that are used to evaluate user behavior, or at a minimum, the group who handles that will have to sign off on not tracking the impact of your new feature on user behavior.
The whole concept of "the group that manages that" isn't unique to Amazon, but once you pass a certain size, you don't simply add features or new products without a involving lots of people. That is a challenge unique to Amazon-sized companies.
If you have a client asking for million dollar features on a 100k budget, the only solution is to find new clients. Some people are beyond help.
Clients and stakeholders alike will never cease the asking for more than you can reasonably deliver because they have absolutely no way of knowing how reasonable their request is. That is why pulling all nighters and heroics are so bad for developer / business relationships. They set a precedent for what is reasonable or possible.
If the client or stakeholder never really can have the data necessary to fairly judge whether you are "holding out" or not then the only thing you can do is build personal trust by doing what you say you will, not a damn thing more, not a damn thing less.
Hardware, software, anything really - there's probably an analog to this in most things.
Personally, what I run up against most often aren't questions about fulfilling the initial requests, but the aftermath of someone focusing on specific details to the exclusion of the bigger picture.
An organization spending a few million on software licenses, but nothing on staff / support being the most common example.
I feel like people in tech are particularly prone to this for whatever reason.
I'd wager a person will typically to sustain more criticism for a sub-optimal, but complete, functional implementation than a disjoint pile of fine-tuned components that doesn't add up to anything.
Can you provide an example to back up your claim?
Now of course none of this was impossible to do before, but the advent of all major browsers now supporting web sockets, and the existence of this framework and community which has already solved all of the hard parts of the implementation makes it actually feasible.
Twilio. Maybe Twilio is within the 5 year window too.
Mobile apps in general - the hardware infrastructure in peoples' pockets lets us do stuff with software that was not on most peoples' radars 5 years ago.
The difference is mostly related to the number of parts being ordered. For a startup, ordering 100,000+ parts just to get pricing reasonable is a no-go unless you (or your backers) take a major risk.
Makes you feel like getting off the ground is almost impossible, when you can't even get your wholesale cost below the retail cost of similar products.
"The difference is mostly related to the number of parts being ordered. For a startup, ordering 100,000+ parts just to get pricing reasonable is a no-go unless you (or your backers) take a major risk. Makes you feel like getting off the ground is almost impossible, when you can't even get your wholesale cost below the retail cost of similar products."
We just had 150 years where this was so normal that most people didn't think much of it, and very few people ever thought about starting their own business, exactly because it was understood that you could not compete with the economies of scale enjoyed by John Davison Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Andrew W. Mellon.
What's interesting is that this attitude has recently been changing. The economist Larry Summers has made this point about WhatsApp, using WhatsApp as an example of the falling need for capital:
"Ponder for example that the leading technological companies of this age, I think for example of Apple and Google, find themselves swimming in cash and facing the challenge of what to do with a very large cash hoard. Ponder the fact that WhatsApp has a greater market value than Sony with next to no capital investment required to achieve it. Ponder the fact that it used to require tens of millions of dollars to start a significant new venture. Significance new ventures today are seeded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the information technology era. All of this means reduced demand for investment with consequences for the flow of - with consequences for equilibrium levels of interest rates."
He suggests a negative consequence, that it is difficult to get real interest rates above 0% in a world where people can start a business with little capital, and he suggests that this might contribute to secular stagnation.
Of course, things don't need to be as grim as he suggests. Ideally, the low costs would lead to a flood of research, but that hasn't happened so far, in part because VCs are scornful of what they refer to as "science projects" and the financial community continues to look for returns within 10 years, which is almost certainly the wrong timeframe for 0% interest rates (the low rate suggests a low discount rate which suggests that investors should think long term).
The problem is that people are increasingly applying software-business logic to businesses that aren't software businesses, where it falls down horribly because suddenly costs scale with output and economies of scale are a real and powerful thing.
It feels to me that capitalism has successfully created abundance of capital, so we need something else to now to allow longer-term projects to run.
- Start with the high end/low volume market.
- Minimize custom parts.
- Architect a completely different approach to change the cost equation. (Throw software at the problem instead of hardware.)
I'll bite: what does that sentence even mean? How did Tesla "architect" a different approach to the "cost equation" of manufacturing, sourcing, and assembling the parts of an automobile? What are they "throwing" software at?
The irony is that many software startup wizards brush off mechanical design the same way that naive managers treat software development. "It's just a [box/case/app/website], how hard can it be?"
Of the hundreds of retail startups I have seen that are going to contract manufacturers, none have had a manufacturing expert or even one with any experience. In fact, it's severely undervalued with respect to importance. If they do have someone from manufacturing, they probably aren't being paid relative to their market scarcity.
The best manufacturers also design what they make, their own product, and do not make for others.
Apple has manufacturing experts and manufactures themselves, hence they control what they make. <startup-person class="random inexperienced" /> does not, so they cannot have their quality level, by definition. Hence, they pay more because they didn't capture the margin, and because they have to get in line to pay a contractor who knows how. But they cannot bring a serious order unless they are funded by deep pockets.
Here in America, we have lost most of our manufacturers, leaving three generations missing manufacturing experts. This is a no-brainer, obvious to all. However, the connection is rarely made that we have lost our manufacturing capability because /it is difficult/. It's so difficult it had to go to a highly efficient country with cut-throat competition, abundant labor supply, and abundant poverty. The perfect conditions for plunging down manufacturing costs.
Manufacturing is quite different from "making." We are having a resurgence of interest in making in this country, which is exceptional. Arduino is amazing! It manufactures for the people, not for other companies, reducing cost and providing access. Making doesn't scale without manufacturing expertise. I hope manufacturing is part of the renaissance as it grows.
Wouldn't that be why they are trying to contract manufacturers?
Basically I was trying to say, it really helps to have someone with some manufacturing experience in-house if your startup involves it, even if you're not the actual manufacturer.
Plastic parts are often made by pouring hot plastic into a mold. When the plastic is done drying, often a robotic arm or crane needs to pull it off to bring the plastic to the next stage of the manufacturing process. But it's hard to get the plastic off the surface once it's dried; it needs to be "popped" off of it. So manufacturers build ejector pins into the mold. When the plastic is done drying, the pins pop up and push the plastic off the mold, into the crane or whatever will take it to the next part of the operation.
In terms of electronic components however, you can nearly always get more bang for your buck, the exception sometimes being the screens.
Doesn't matter if you have a powerful gizmo if the hinges are broken and it overheats, however with PC's you can buy a high-end motherboard and find a power supply in a skip and just nail them to the wall if you like. Build quality is far more optional.
Use 100% recycled cardboard and print the box in a single color water based bio-degradable ink.
Then claim you do this to save the environment, win-win ;).
While I like the higher-end treatment from Apple and similar companies, I can't help but think of the waste involved in producing that fancy box that I'm just going to throw away in a few days.
And Apple doesn't need the fancy packaging to sell to me - I'd but their stuff regardless. I wonder if they could/would consider generic cardboard for online orders, and save the fancy stuff for retail?
Their packaging has actually gotten very good in the last several years. They use recyclable air bags for fill, and even their tape now is paper so you can recycle the whole box as one material.
I'm curious to know how a company can get to a point and say, "Ok, we can do something really cool, on a massive scale and make it successful." Is a slower transition, or more of an abrupt change that takes place?
It is jargon, but it's jargon that someone who would be concerned about "not showing ejector pin marks" would probably know.
Are there any articles or book sections about this? Seems very interesting.
separately, i imagine not just leica, but the entire optics industry has answered the question of precision/quality at scale before?
and finally, there're more , right? like mercedes-benz, bmw, lexus, porsche, medical instruments, the aerospace industry... don't all of them have to solve 'quality at scale' problems?
and at smaller scales..parker pens? zippo lighters? swiss army knives?
and then..something like http://www.muji.us/store/ could be good enough as far as the perception of quality goes?
I don't know as much about Leica, but Canon grinds and polishes their own glass for their lenses (the higher-end ones at least, not sure about EF-S lenses). Other companies create lenses with OEM's elements.
As for volume, they aren't shipping millions upon millions of their devices in a month either.
Even companies like Parker Pens are part of large companies -- (e.g. Parker is part of Newell Rubbermaid with 19,000 employees and almost $6 billion in revenue).
i think there're plenty of small firms, from furniture makers to knive makers to bicycle makers to audio equipment makers, that do quality at low volumes. i'd imagine a startup is exactly that - low volume. and they could probably figure out how to scale when they need to? its a good problem to have, right?
i'm thinking of a car analogy.. its like.. i can't imagine that porsche, when they first launched the 911, were thinking about how to make 100000 of them a year.. or for that matter, a more recent example like koenigsegg or even tesla..they didn't exactly start with a 100000/year plant either..
What the article doesn't mention is that you can manufacture in Apple's wake. After Apple started purchasing 4" touch panels and LCD displays for iPhones, and then larger displays for the iPad, the capacity increased and prices went down. Same with all the CNC machines purchased for the iPhone 4 frame - they are no longer being used to manufacture Apple devices, but they are being used to manufacture other devices.
Second part is that modern manufacturing tech means you can have lean hardware startups. As much as cheap hosting, software as a service, etc. have made software app development cheaper manufacturing tech has made hardware manufacturing cheaper. You can now get rolling with complete custom hardware in thousands of units (as opposed to millions) with 6-figures in capital.
The key is knowing one of the small number of people who understand design, materials, the capabilities at the ODM's, the right people at these companies, supply chain etc. and have them design the product to fit the current manufacturing capacity without requiring customization. It is easy to hire an industrial designer sitting ten thousand kilometers away from Shenzhen who can CAD something nice, but knowing that manufacturing that fancy designed device would cost extra millions in tooling and setup is where the real skill is. Good ID people can design great products and in a way where they can be manufactured easily and with a smaller investment. If you don't have one of these people on your team, your either going to get something that is very ordinary looking (think Chinese knockoff) or you'll attempt something ambitious, run out of money and fail.
What Nest did is use clever ID to create a product that looked unique without over-stretching the manufacturing requirements. They didn't go anywhere near the scale Apple does.
 not certain which, but it is 3-4 possible companies.
> White plastic
> CNC machining at scale
I'd be shocked if they CNC machined any piece of the nest. There's no need.
> Laser drilled holes
> Molded plastic packaging
I guess they did this. They probably had the experience and money to pull this off.
> No ejector pin marks
Not relevant because there is no exposed plastic.
> 4-color, double-walled, matte boxes + HD foam inserts
Most of the things mentioned in the article is correct BUT,
If you are going to make a product and you think that your product is going to be as revolutionary as Apple was at the beginning, then don't worry. You will be good to go.
If you can provide a unique, mind blowing product just like Apple Lisa in 1983, you can sell it for really unrealistic prizes.
Apple Lisa was sold for US$ 9,995 at the time it was released. You could buy a new house around $86000.
So the question is not how expensive is going to be, the real question is,
Is your product mind blowing?
Perhaps financially, accountants weren't able to attribute black pennies to it.
But spiritually it was a big success. Everybody wanted one. And it was the roots of the Macintosh.
If Apple didn't do the Lisa, I cannot see what else they could have done at that time, and still become the biggest company of the world 30 years later. Without it, they would probably have disappeared long ago as so many people predicted.
I would disagree with this, but keep quiet, if you removed "you think". As it is, the advice just seems irresponsible.
If you think your product is going to be as revolutionary as Apple was at the beginning, you are probably wrong, and you should adjust your expectations accordingly.
> 4-color, double-walled, matte boxes + HD foam inserts
> I know you’re going to do this anyways, but be aware that these kind of boxes will literally be the most expensive line item on your BOM. It’s not unusual for them to cost upwards of $12/unit at scale. And then they get thrown away.
...which is talking about your costs, not Apple's.
Please correct me if I've missed something.
$12 is a lot of money for a box, and would be one of the most expensive things you buy, unless you want the latest communications chipset or next years display technology. I guess apple do. But it's still a lot of money for a box. News to me.
I've designed and purchased a lot of retail boxes for my needs. If you can get away with a heavy-duty paperboard (which will suit most non-luxury products), the combination of full-color box and custom foam can be had as low as $5/unit, or less, in quantities starting at 500 units. Once you start getting into custom multi-wall product, you're often having to pay die costs which greatly drive up the per-unit price.
The entire article written toward a hypothetical manufacturing startup who might be tempted to try to do things the Apple way.
> Many small Apple products come in polycarbonate + ABS/PC mix molded packaging. This is both harder and more expensive than you might think. Recycled cardboard is your friend
I always assumed the iphone packaging was polystyrene. I am pretty sure it is, and I think the author is wrong. Of course the S in ABS is polystyrene, but my limited knowledge is that ABS is never clear in any formulation.
You're thinking about the iPod packaging, which is indeed molded plastic: http://www.slashgear.com/ipod-touch-unboxing-first-impressio...
Here's an example. Note, it's Bentley, but the process is just more refined. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rxjhDb_IAo