Something often attributed to Apple's astonishing growth is the "iPod Halo Effect" which is the idea that lots of people who bought iPods will buy other Apple product because they like the iPod so much. But there's another iPod Halo Effect at work that's reaching beyond Apple to the entire technology industry. The other iPod Halo Effect is that technology companies are finally realizing that customers want attractive, easy to use products, that interface seamlessly with their computers and, furthermore, that all new products need to be expertly marketed. The effects of this newfound interest in design can already be seen. Belkin has released a steady stream of new computer accessories with compelling designs, like the laptop@home products designed by Mike and Maaike and their line of attractive surge protectors. Also, Microsoft's Zune is another great example. With the Zune Microsoft abandoned their normal strategy of making the software platform and letting other companies make the hardware. Instead Microsoft created the Zune device as well as the Zune software and music store to deliver a much more cohesive user experience (at least in theory). Dell and HP have even stepped up their advertising with some pretty sweet tv spots. Dell also is ramping up their design capabilities, as evidenced with the new M1330. In this interview with Vio Luminosu, one of Dell's lead industrial designers, he says:
we've built up our internal design department we have a stronger goal and a stronger focus on design within our group
Of course companies trying to match Apple's product design may still find it difficult without also making some serious changes to how they approach hardware. One of the reasons Apple is able to execute such attractive and specific designs is that many of the components inside Apple's devices are custom manufactured just for Apple. Companies like Dell and HP, for instance, typically just design their own enclosures for someone someone else's hardware, which is often the same hardware used by countless other companies. That can make it difficult to achieve a unique appearance, feature set or sleek form factor. Of course, the M1330 is good indication that we may see Dell begin to change all that, and hopefully the M1330 will work as good as it looks. Also, while Microsoft's XBOX 360 looks great and is a leader in the current generation of game consoles, it's also suffering from terrible hardware failure rates. Microsoft made a big splash with Surface, but it's bulky hardware is destined to be upstaged by something thinner and more advanced. While hiring great industrial designers designers, user interface designers, experience designers, and marketing companies is a great first step, many tech companies will also need to increase their hardware capabilities so that the are able to support the vision of the designers and marketers they hire.