Public concept products hurting the bottom line?

Conceptual products are fun. There’s no denying that. Everybody wants to see a car that looks like a jet, spaceship or rocket. Just the problem is, more often than not, the concept car does not exist in real life.

A recent article by Kontra alleges that concept products are actually bad for the company, citing the success of Apple as evidence. Apple internalizes all of its concepts, even going so far as tearing down the prototype of their first retail store before unleashing them on the public. With real-world parameters and a drive to market as the main focus, designers and engineers are forced to produce results that will sell.

Microsoft externalizes at least some of its concept products. Surface, and now Sphere are two examples where concepts have been introduced to the public above and beyond the needs and means of most people. At least for now. A more pure example of Microsoft’s conceptual wanderings might be their all digital concept homes and kitchens.

On the one hand, concepts help stabilize a company as whole with real world presence. People see the innovations that are coming creating not only brand awareness, but also brand association. On the other hand, concepts can drain the focus from a company, creating lofty ambitions that have no real-world chance of ever coming to market.

In the end what really matters is innovation. Both Apple and Microsoft are successful companies by any measure. I certainly like seeing innovation on display and think – like anything else – moderation is key.