Hardware without software

My wife has a Lexmark x125 printer/scanner/fax/copier that she bought when we were refinancing the house. (Banks still use fax machines! Can you believe it) The printer works great--for faxing. Oh we've had some funny fax experiences. At first I was aghast that the bank needed a fax of our documents. I implored, "Don't you want me to email it to you instead?" So we faxed some paper documents, and printed some electronic ones so that we could fax them. It was like going back in time.

Then there was the realtor who couldn't figure out how to email us pictures of an apartment for our son. So he faxed them to us. Have you ever seen a FAX of a color photo? It's a big black square. Used a whole inkjet cartridge. (sigh). But I can't blame the hardware for ID 10T errors. Where her fax machine falls down is in its interface to Windows. It can be a scanner and a printer-- if you don't leave it on overnight. Every day, my wife has to restart her computer to restart the software that drives the printer. Is it just me? Shouldn't a printer be able to run more than a day without requiring a restart? (For those of you who want to offer tech support, I have disabled the option to "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power." Other suggestions welcome.)

It seems to me that hardware people think about the software last, rather than seeing the software is their key differentiator. TiVo is better than a generic cable PVR because of the software. Macintosh people will certainly bend your ear about the elegance of Mac OS X over Windows. HP printers combine rock-solid hardware with rock-solid software drivers. Sony hardware gets better acceptance because its software is easier to use. Hardware doesn't sell by itself. Hardware needs software to make a device into a product. (The same is frequently true for software. Do you need to deliver your software embedded in hardware to create a problem-solving product?) Are you selling drill bits? or holes in the wall?

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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