The Problem with Product Showcases

Here in the Air Canada lounge at Dorval Airport there are two “showcasing” areas: a Sony-branded entertainment area, and an IBM-, Xerox- and Steelcase-branded business centre.

Presumably the thinking goes “we will expose our products to the elite and powerful and thus increase sales.”

I used some peachy IBM software down there at the airport, Bob… I think we should buy IBM!”

The problem is that these “showcase” setups are usually new and twinkly and wonderful when they’re first installed. And then they get old. Fast. And people use and abuse them. To the point where here in the IBM slash Xerox slash Steelcase Business Centre the showcase is more of a disincentive.

The workstation I type this on, for example, is a slow old IBM NetVista PC running Windows 98. Internet Explorer took about 30 seconds to start up. The keyboard is a replacement — a generic one that probably replaced the original IBM one several years ago. The Steelcase furniture is dirty; part of the foam is ripped out of the side of the chair handle and it no longer adjusts properly. The sleek, well-designed lamps are missing bulbs.

The whole picture is akin to a grocery store handing out samples of rotten produce to entice people to buy.

The solution: treat showcases like this as a constantly evolving system rather than an <>install. Every time a new product is released, make sure 5 get sent over here and installed. In fact you should probably rotate bring young tech people through here — set them up with a desk and let them help people out of jams. Then give them a free trip to Paris for putting up with all the grief.