Last week I had the (good?) fortune of experiencing two separate product launch failures. Coincidentally, both were for iPad products.
The first was Flipboard, a social media reader app that, if you are on the iPad and have not heard of, you are surely living in a box. After hype that verged on hysteria, the demand for Flipboard apparently far exceeded their capabilities. Once I signed in, all it told me was that Twitter and Facebook were unavailable. This continued for several days. At which point (and only if you loaded a new version) you were asked to join a mailing list to find out when you could access Twitter and Facebook. Almost a week later, I received an email saying -- Hey, you can join! Except that it was sent in error, apparently to a lot of people. Later that day, I finally got my actual invite, signed into the site and it subsequently worked for approximately 1 day. Ever since it has been bolloxed. No access to the social media sites. While it still sits on my iPad, I do not feel compelled to open it regularly. I'll stick to the tools that I had pre-Flipboard which actually work.
The second was my Redeye mini, an infrared attachment for the iPad that allows you to use your iPad as a universal remote. I originally heard of this item months ago and considered it to be one of the killer apps for my iPad. I already keep the iPad next to me when I watch TV (never know when you might want to check IMDb or bang out a few RSS feeds). Consequently, I was pretty excited when I got the shipping notice. Unfortunately, it didn't work. I was literally twiddling with the settings when I received the email that I've copied here.
The letter begins:
Dear RedEye mini customer,
Thank you for supporting us by being one of the first to purchase the new RedEye mini. As such, it is with deep regret that we write to inform you that we will be recalling the entire first lot of RedEye mini units - all those with serial numbers beginning with C0101. Although many of you may not have experienced problems thus far, we plan to replace all RedEye mini units with new hardware at no cost to you. Customers who do not wish to receive a replacement unit may instead choose to receive a refund of their full purchase price. There is no need for you to return your RedEye mini to us - if it is working for you, please continue to keep and to use it.
It goes on to discuss an issue they have discovered with the adhesive used by their manufacturer. They apologize and give you a choice of a free replacement in 3 to 4 weeks or your money back.
I'll tell you what, I was a little bit disappointed that the device doesn't work. But I was very happy with this response and I am confident that I will receive a proper device in a few weeks.
Two very different ways to handle a launch issue. One left me cold and confused, the other left me warm and confident. The difference was quick and decisive communication.