The Nike+ is a device that often comes up when talking about what makes for a smart product development roadmap because the product embodies all three steps that I think are essential. For those who are unfamiliar with the device, it is pedometer which you attach to your running shoe and which connects wirelessly with your iPod (see Apple’s site for a good introduction). Here are the aforementioned steps:

  1. SERVICIZE IT:  Part of what sets the device up for success is that it’s positioned to turn a product into a service. In this way, its reminiscent of the first iPod which took most of the features out of the actual device and relocated them in the management software, iTunes (the service). This may seem obvious today but at the time all the mp3 player manufactures were competing on how to get more features into the player, which was a losing proposition. In the case of the Nike+, they’ve taken the idea of defeaturing the device even further. The device itself has no display and no interactions. You simply put it in your shoe. The display of your iPod can then offer information about how far you’ve run, how many calories you’ve burned, etc.
  2. ACCESSORIZE IT: One beauty of servicizing is that it also opens new revenue streams. For example, users can download PowerSongs from iTunes which will play on your iPod if you start falling behind your normal pace, or when you hit that massive hill. Now that you’ve got people online, there are also opportunities to sell them other stuff to enhance their running experience.
  3. COMMUNITIZE IT: Getting users online has many benefits. Connecting the Nike+ to your iPod means that you’re connected to your community because your iPod gets synced with your computer, and your computer get synced with the internet. Now you can not only look at all your runs and highlight trends, but you can share them with your friends. Of course, your iPhone may be GPS enabled which means that it can track where you run as well. Perhaps you’ll set up a special  route in your city so that you can participate in a marathon that is a continent away in real time. And, fostering communities online is the best way to power future  product development because you’re users are the best source of market research, new ideas, innovations, etc.

Now there’s another device that may do it even better, it’s called Fitbit. What I like about Fitbit is that it goes beyong running to address the larger implications of this kind of product. In other words, why stop at running? How about walking? How long I was sitting during the day? And, how I slept? Yup, you got that last part right. How I slept. Wearing the device at night while allows it to gather information about how you’ve been sleeping. I wonder if there’s a market for PowerNappingSongs? Fitbit also presents all the infomation it collects in a digestible and intuitive way.

These two examples just go to show that there’s always more roadmap. I remember feeling like the Nike+ absolutely nailed it and that no other product would have a chance to catch up any time soon. And then, Fitbit took a step ahead. I can’t wait to see where they go from here. If you’ve got a product I encourage you to think about these two examples as you look ahead.

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