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Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

The Long Tail and Unused Manufacturing Flexibility

Frog Design recently sold itself to Flextronics. Frog is a world-renowned design firm famous for (among other things) designing the original 1984 Macintosh. Frog reported that their interest in this merger was that it would give them an ability to manufacture many of the products that they design. That made me ask myself, does this have the potential to be a long tail in manufacturing? From the Businessweek article:

“[Mix and match is] possible because factories have far more flexibility than most outfits are able to exploit, says Esslinger.”

The long tail has shown that the lifting of limits on shelf-space due to ecommerce has created tons of new niche markets. If manufacturers are currently capable of greater flexibility as Esslinger says, then will the end result be on-demand product design? The author of the article thinks so and presents this fictional example:

Indeed, collaboration between frog’s designers and Flextronics’ manufacturing specialists will help the company get a jump on what he says will be a future of “personalized production.” Imagine going into your local cell-phone store. Instead of looking at a few shelves of existing models, none of which precisely match your needs, you would instead be able to design your product, with the color, features, and price you want (say, a simple $20 phone in purple, but with just one button to push).

Esslinger claims that his sale of Frog to Flextronics is not some attempt to get out of the market. He says he’s leaping ahead of the curve. I think it looks like he’s right.

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