Daily question: When designers run out of ideas


ASUS is blessed with one of the world’s top R&D teams. With unyielding commitment to innovation and quality, ASUS won 2,568 awards in 2007, meaning on average, the company received seven awards every day last year.

What happens when “one of the world’s top R&D teams” runs out of ideas? Why, you ask the customers! It’s the longest-running sucker’s bet: let end-users design the software/hardware/service they’ll be using. How complicated can that be? They already know what they want. You take everybody’s “dream,” run’em through the filters of “one of the world’s top R&D teams” and sprinkle some “Intel Inside” magic on it, presto:

You Dream It. ASUS Builds It. Intel Inside It.

Imagine your perfect PC. Now imagine top engineers and innovators working around the clock to make that Dream PC a reality. That’s the dream WePC.com is all about.

ASUS and Intel have created WePC.com, a place where users like you come together to share ideas, images and inspiration about your ideal PC. But what if it’s not just talk. Your designs, feature ideas and community feedback will be evaluated by ASUS and could influence the blueprint for an actual notebook PC built by ASUS with Intel inside.

Ever wondered who would own your “dream” idea?

Ownership: You acknowledge and agree that the Site Operators [ASUS] own all legal rights, title and interest in and to the Materials and Site, including any trade names, trademarks, service marks, logos, domain names, and other distinctive brand features therein (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist), and that they are protected by worldwide copyright laws and treaty provisions. They may not be copied, reproduced, modified, published, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way without prior written permission. Except as expressly provided herein, the Site Operators do not grant any express or implied right to you under any patents, copyrights, trademarks, or trade secret information.

The Site Operators may freely use the User Content you submit in the design of a personal computer or netbook with no obligation to provide compensation or reimbursement to you;To the extent that you claim any proprietary interest in User Content submitted for the Create Your Dream PC and Share Your Ideas activities, you assign to the Site Operators all rights, interests and titles you now possess or will possess in the future (especially the right to register patent rights).

Would you like ASUS to patent and exploit your dreams?

5 thoughts on “Daily question: When designers run out of ideas

  1. No, I was not aware of Idea Storm. I leafed through the “storm” of ideas they are receiving. It seems most of the ideas are not design ideas, but ideas on improving customer service.

    I don’t suppose they saw that coming, huh?

  2. Kontra,

    Old Schot-anus here tried to sucker you into a debate about the validity of your “daily question” approach, but you didn’t fall for it. I’m impressed.

    As to the question at hand, the beige box makers have frequently tried to camouflage the lack of flexibility in their software offerings by convincing the customer that they were benefiting from an expanded ability to customize (recall Dell’s assembly line commercials). This would seem to be merely an extension of that promotional mindset.

    Conversely, there is another large computer maker which makes no pretense of allowing the customer to participate in the design process. For this they are often characterized as closed and arrogant. However, they are also supremely confident in their ability to innovate and to create products which will appeal to the market they are targeting. Over the last decade, they’ve been right most of the time.

    The contrast between this philosophy and “send us your ideas and our crack design team may use them without credit or compensation” is quite striking.

  3. Berend: “Asian culture of permanent small improvement and refinement”

    You’re absolutely right about that, and nicely explained. However, there are exceptions, Sony being one of them. Before Sony lost its collective mind and focus, it was able to transition from small refinement to fairly significant design innovation across many product lines to the point of becoming associated with engaging design in consumers’ mind. Who knows, perhaps ASUS can one day get there. Samsung has been trying to do that over the last decade, without too much success despite all that PR.

    But, yes, I do have a problem with two aspects of this. First the notion that disparate, disjointed, random “suggestions” can be simply “filtered” to achieve innovation. Continuous refinement, as you put it, yes, design innovation not bloody likely. My objection is the mislabel “design innovation” (in general) attached to it, as opposed to refinement.

    The second part bothers me even more: that the originators of the ideas/refinements get no rights or compensation. I see that as exploitation in the name of “openness.” Now, nobody is obviously forcing anyone to contribute but the arrangement is unbalanced. It lulls the mind into thinking that design is just that simple: set up a site to collect suggestions, filter and ship it.

  4. First this, Kontra: when you write a daily question you are asking your readers to put in their ideas for free so you are basically doing the same thing as Asus. OK, you are not claiming the rights and you are putting in a fair amount of high quality content yourself, so I don’t think you are treating your readers unfair. But you must have thought about this and you might have experienced you get more and better response when you write a longer / better article.

    Then about Asus. My perception of Asus is they operate from a typical Asian culture of permanent small improvement and refinement, like Sony or Toyota. But you shouldn’t expect conceptual revolutions the way Apple can do it.
    It was Philips (in competition with Grundig) who came with the concept of portable audio and developed the “Compact Cassette” audio tape followed by the “Compact Disk”. But the devices they made were rough and clunky and it was the Japanese refinement that ultimately allowed for the “Walkman”.
    It was the Dutch car manufacturer DAF who invented CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission), which is now one of the key components of Toyota Prius: similar story.
    When Asus is asking about Dream computers it might be just another way to get customer feedback and find small but valuable improvements. Just the kind of chitchat customers would be happy to tell anyway. No grand new designs, no conceptual revolutions. Still they are very likely to reach the same amount of improvement over our current Dell/HP/Microsoft laptops as Sony’s Walkman did over Philips’ portable cassette player or Toyota’s Prius over DAF 66. And we will be happy with that.

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