Boyle has three alternatives for approaching the Visor project: he can decline the project, he can move forward with the project without a thorough Phase 0 and Phase I as requested by Handspring, or he can request additional time to complete the project using IDEO’s established design process. The advantages of the first option are that IDEO would not risk being associated with a sub-par design.
However, they would also lose the opportunity to spearhead an exciting new project and would lose the revenue associated with that project. Additionally, there’s the possibility that declining to work on the project would jeopardize the close relationship between the IDEO and Handspring teams and prevent future collaboration.
Boyle also has the option of accepting Handspring’s timeline and constraints and moving forward with a modified product development process. The advantages of this alternative are that they would be satisfying one of their client’s primary requirements.
Also, the early release may help position Handspring as a leader in the PDA industry with opportunities for future product development. The main disadvantage to following this course of action is associating the IDEO brand with a possibly inferior product. Boyle already noted that that “Visor would have to sacrifice style and settle on an inexpensive plastic housing, and on AAA batteries instead of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery found in the Palm V.”
The third alternative would be to ask Handspring management to delay the release so that more time could be spent indulging in experimentation and the early phases of IDEO’s legendary development process. These processes were designed to encourage creativity and Boyle was confident that they could create a superior product under these conditions. The disadvantage of this option is missing the window for optimum market entry which could cut into profits or allow competitors time to gain control of the market.
I would recommend that Boyle pursue the third option and request additional time to fully engage in Phases 0 and I of IDEO’s product development process. Because the price point for the Visor is less than half that of the Palm V, the target market and use cases are likely to be significantly different such that the research conducted as part of the Palm V development may not be relevant.
Similarly, the “Springboard” functionality of the proposed device was completely new and the potential uses were unexplored. New research and customer modeling should be done to understand the opportunities and pitfalls of this new audience and new technology.
If Handspring is unwilling to delay release until after the holidays, Boyle should nevertheless accept the project. Although the first release of Visor may not showcase IDEO’s trademark superior design, the relationship with Handspring will provide future opportunities for innovation in the PDA industry.
The Visor was released in September 1999 as desired by Handspring. While the release date was met, critics noted that the lack of rubber between the buttons and metal contacts made the buttons harder to press.
“There were also complaints that the screen cover was not connected, making it easy to lose, despite its ability to attach onto the back of the Visor exactly as it attached to the front.” One can’t help but wonder if these design flaws could have been avoided if IDEO had been able to spend more time on the early phases of product development.