The New Elegance: Have the Guts to Leave Something Out

Howdy Pierce

I sat recently through a long, multiple-day design review for a major appliance manufacturer. This company—my customer—has a competitor who has recently launched an IoT version of their product. In response, my customer is planning a large IoT offering, with a complex app that will support every possible option that their product offers. There are many models, with many features, and the features interact in subtle ways and sometimes behave differently (and have different branding) in different geographies.

This manufacturer has, thankfully, engaged Cardinal Peak to develop their app. However, the product’s complexity is causing us to sit in large meetings to discuss the fine details of all the required interaction. If you read this blog you can imagine the refrain I’ve been singing: Minimum viable product, keep it simple, launch quickly, listen to your end users after launch, react via software updates as necessary. It’s the lean startup anthem, and it’s just as applicable to a Fortune 500 company as it is to a venture-funded startup.

More broadly, though, I want to posit that the axis of competition has changed slightly in the smartphone-and-IoT world.

In the past, many products were sold on the basis of how many features they offered. Microsoft Word, famously, had hundreds of features that were not used by the majority of people—most people just wanted to crank out a memo or business letter. And I’ve previously blogged about all the buttons on the remote control for the InFocus projector in our conference room.

In their day both Microsoft and InFocus were successful, well-managed companies. The take-home lesson is that in the olden times—maybe 10 years ago—it made sense to pack many features into your product, and surface each feature to the end user in the form of a button in a dialog box or on your remote control.


image courtesy of Kristian Bjornard

Today, I assert, the winning product doesn’t try to do everything. Instead, elegance and simplicity are the name of the game. Think about two of the hottest app-driven companies: Spotify and Uber. Both of them are very complex businesses, but both their apps are very easy to use. I don’t think Spotify is losing market share to Apple because iTunes has features that Spotify lacks. Instead, it’s Apple who is having to react to the initiative taken by Spotify. And iTunes has become a confusing, bloated mess.

Uber’s story is similar. The app does one thing—gets you a ride from A to B—and that’s it. Sure, they’ve added features over time, like UberX and options to split fares, but it’s still the same clean interface that does one important thing extremely well. And talk about disruptive. A friend mentioned to me last week that he takes an Uber ride several times each month, but he can’t think of the last time he was in a taxi. It’s not that Uber took those rides from a cab company, it’s that cabs—because of their inconvenience and lack of a simple way to know when or if they were going to show up—were never in the consideration set. Uber, through simplicity, actually opened up its own market.

The bottom line, at least for me: There’s an opportunity for large companies to adopt a new elegance as they move their legacy products onto the Internet of Things. Instead of trying to match your competitor tit-for-tat with every last feature in your app, think hard about what your end user really wants to do. And build a clean, simple app that does only that.

Cardinal Peak
Learn more about our Audio & Video capabilities.

Dive deeper into our IoT portfolio

Take a look at the clients we have helped.

We’re always looking for top talent, check out our current openings. 

Contact Us

Please fill out the contact form below and our engineering services team will be in touch soon.

We rely on Cardinal Peak for their ability to bolster our patent licensing efforts with in-depth technical guidance. They have deep expertise and they’re easy to work with.
Diego deGarrido Sr. Manager, LSI
Cardinal Peak has a strong technology portfolio that has complemented our own expertise well. They are communicative, drive toward results quickly, and understand the appropriate level of documentation it takes to effectively convey their work. In…
Jason Damori Director of Engineering, Biamp Systems
We asked Cardinal Peak to take ownership for an important subsystem, and they completed a very high quality deliverable on time.
Matt Cowan Chief Scientific Officer, RealD
Cardinal Peak’s personnel worked side-by-side with our own engineers and engineers from other companies on several of our key projects. The Cardinal Peak staff has consistently provided a level of professionalism and technical expertise that we…
Sherisse Hawkins VP Software Development, Time Warner Cable
Cardinal Peak was a natural choice for us. They were able to develop a high-quality product, based in part on open source, and in part on intellectual property they had already developed, all for a very effective price.
Bruce Webber VP Engineering, VBrick
We completely trust Cardinal Peak to advise us on technology strategy, as well as to implement it. They are a dependable partner that ultimately makes us more competitive in the marketplace.
Brian Brown President and CEO, Decatur Electronics
The Cardinal Peak team started quickly and delivered high-quality results, and they worked really well with our own engineering team.
Charles Corbalis VP Engineering, RGB Networks
We found Cardinal Peak’s team to be very knowledgeable about embedded video delivery systems. Their ability to deliver working solutions on time—combined with excellent project management skills—helped bring success not only to the product…
Ralph Schmitt VP, Product Marketing and Engineering, Kustom Signals
Cardinal Peak has provided deep technical insights, and they’ve allowed us to complete some really hard projects quickly. We are big fans of their team.
Scott Garlington VP Engineering, xG Technology
We’ve used Cardinal Peak on several projects. They have a very capable engineering team. They’re a great resource.
Greg Read Senior Program Manager, Symmetricom
Cardinal Peak has proven to be a trusted and flexible partner who has helped Harmonic to deliver reliably on our commitments to our own customers. The team at Cardinal Peak was responsive to our needs and delivered high quality results.
Alex Derecho VP Professional Services, Harmonic
Yonder Music was an excellent collaboration with Cardinal Peak. Combining our experience with the music industry and target music market, with Cardinal Peak’s technical expertise, the product has made the mobile experience of Yonder as powerful as…
Adam Kidron founder and CEO, Yonder Music
The Cardinal Peak team played an invaluable role in helping us get our first Internet of Things product to market quickly. They were up to speed in no time and provided all of the technical expertise we lacked. They interfaced seamlessly with our i…
Kevin Leadford Vice President of Innovation, Acuity Brands Lighting
We asked Cardinal Peak to help us address a number of open items related to programming our systems in production. Their engineers have a wealth of experience in IoT and embedded fields, and they helped us quickly and diligently. I’d definitely…
Ryan Margoles Founder and CTO, notion