Dear Gadget Maker,
There, there, don't cry. I know Samsung and Apple got soooo much press this year. You want to fight back with a hit product that'll sweep the Internet like gadget-porno wildfire? You have to build a device that stands out from the background noise. You can't possibly win by turning out yet another cellphone with Bluetooth, a speakerphone, EDGE and that dials just fine. Will the gadget blogs pick it up? Will the Digg-horde descend upon the story with a rain of a thousand clicks? Will Chen put it in his pants? Likely, no.
Instead, here are a few guiding questions you might want to ask yourself as you create the world's next, hot gadget.
Does your gadget have a lot of buttons? Unless it's a phone—and, really, even if it is a phone—buttons are yesterday's news. No one likes to press anything—we like to touch, sure, but press? In the morning? Before coffee? Come on. So, if you've just made a hip new stereo that plays CD's, MP3s, and the thoughts of your enemies—take a book out of the iPhone page and give it a touchscreen, because touch beats out press any day of the week.
Is it made by Apple? Anything shimmering white or eternally black and made by Apple is a sure sell, but you can use this to your advantage by pretending your device is made by Apple. No matter if it's highly overpriced, no matter if it barely works, no matter if you can get the same thing for six times less, if Apple made it, people will not only buy it, they'll find themselves sexually attracted to it (I'm looking in your direction, PowerBook). Microsoft's J. Allard is slowly mastering this effect. Just look at all those $20 knockoff iPods from China. Say your company can't industrial-design itself out of a paper bag, and even knocking off Apple is too much to hope for. Then, just trademark everything with the letter "i" in front of it. (iPooPoo, for example.) And wait for the eventual conflict in trademark to give your low-profile gadget cough*ciscoiphone*cough a high-profile lift.
Does it have sexual appeal/undertones? There are the subtle gadgets—a phone that vibrates a little too much, or an MP3 player that looks surprisingly phallic, and then there are the gadgets covered completely with breasts. Whichever you are, subtle or blunt, sex sells, and nothing sells better than a computer monitor with a nice ass.
Does it do something Sci-Fi-ish?
1) Does it hover?
a) Is it a car?
i) Does it go really fast?
ii) Can it travel through time?
(1) Is it a DeLorean?
b) Is it a hovering iPod?
c) Is it a hovering bra?
i) What size is it?
2) Does it shoot lasers?
a) Do they burn?
i) How badly?
ii) Can you survive the burns?
iii) Does it burn enough to be funny but not enough to cause irreparable damage?
b) Can you annoy people in the theater with them?
i) Can you burn said annoyed people?
c) Do the lasers come in different colors?
i) Are the colors pretty?
3) Can you clone yourself with it?
a) Can you clone other people with it?
b) Can you clone people you've never met with it?
c) Can you do what the people from Weird Science did with it?
i) Will the chick not only be hot but be able to grant wishes?
4) Will it destroy Human Life?
a) Will it do so spectacularly?
b) Will it do it slowly, but with a lot of Robot-related involvement?
c) Will it create a black hole?
i) Will the black hole end up not killing us but sending us into some sort of gate to other planets. A Stargate, perhaps.
ii) Will the black hole send us into the past where we have to stop ourselves from destroying ourselves?
iii) Will the hot chick from Weird Science comfort us while we are torn apart by the horrors of whatever lay inside the black hole?
Does it help avoid the cruelties of life? Life isn't pretty—but a new cellphone that streams TV is beautiful. We all want to escape—so be it a good virtual reality game or a portable media center, people will not only buy it, they'll use it until everything they know and love leaves them, and they are left an empty shell—with nothing but your hip gadget held tight in their dying hands. Which means you and your company are doing well.
Does it help you get fatter? Sure, ice cream machines and chocolate fountains are fun, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about gadgetry that assures us, the consumer, that movement is not only unnecessary, but practically obsolete. Who needs to lose the calories? Gadgets like the Roomba, the Segway, or any number of robots that the Japanese have made not only succeeded because they're cool, but because we as a people hate anything to do with movement. Or exercise. Or not eating.
Can it do more than three things? In many ways, gadget features are like bathrooms—the more you have, the richer you feel. If your gadget can act as an MP3 player, a camera, a Tazer, a cellphone and a sufficient replacement for food, you're in. Just make sure it tastes good—my last RAZR tasted suspiciously like microchip.
Finally, is it actually useful? Sure, breasts are nice—but so is usefulness (which isn't to say that breasts are useless—just that you probably don't need to have your LCD screen covered in them). It's all good and well to make a bright, colorful gadget with 17 features and a promise to "revolutionize the world"—but you've really got to mean it. The market is as oversaturated with useless gadgets as the Internet is oversaturated with videos of naked people—make something useful, something that helps people or impresses them, and your gadget is a guaranteed success.
Lastly, can Chen fit it into his pants?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you've got your foot in the door; three to four, it's likely Giz will show you some love. If you answered yes to more than five, congratulations: You have created the best gadget in the world.
Yuri Baranovsky write about gadgets, and the internet sitcom that he co-wrote and co-created at www.breakaleg.tv