Overview of the Segway PT
The Segway PT is a two-wheeled, self-balancing transportation device that consists primarily of a set of tall handlebars on top of two disc-like wheels. There are no chains or visible mechanical workings. Riders lean forward to move forward and back to move backward. Turning is done mechanically via hand controls. The device is driven by a quiet, nonpolluting electric motor and can travel up to 10 miles per hour. The name "Segway PT" stands for "Segway Personal Transporter. "
Segway's failure to address its potential users' questions in these areas provides an important reminder. When conducting product analysis, it's important to evaluate how the product or service will fit into the existing way that its potential customers live and behave. A company may have a product that on a stand-alone basis is fantastic. But people don't use products or services in isolation. They must fit into the existing framework of their environments and lives to be beneficial.
Segway scrambled to try to fix some of the usability issues, with mixed success. For example, the company hired lobbyists to try to persuade large city governments to make using the Segway on public sidewalks legal. Ironically, San Francisco, usually thought of as a progressive city, passed a law specifically making the Segway illegal on its sidewalks as a result of safety concerns. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors was convinced that the Segway posed a risk to pedestrians.
The initial reaction to the Segway PT was enthusiastic. Venture capitalist John Doerr predicted that it would be as important as the Internet. Apple's Steve Jobs predicted that cities would be built around it. To cope with the expected demand for the product, Segway's factory in Bedford, New Hampshire, was designed to build up to 40,000 units per month. Initial sales were targeted at between 10,000 and 50,000 units during the first 12 months. But, after 21 months, only 6,000 units had sold. What went wrong?
Yet, curiously, although the company put substantial effort into the Segway itself, people immediately questioned its price and how it could be used. First, it was priced at $4,950, which put it out of reach for many consumers. Second, while there were a few Segway dealers initially, there weren't many so it was unclear to people that if they bought a Segway, where they'd get it serviced. Finally, while most people admired what the Segway could do, they just couldn't see it fitting into their environments and lives.
• How do you take it with you in your car?
• How do you park it?
• How and where can you ride it? Sidewalks or roads?
• Where and how do you charge it?
• If you park it outside a building, how do you keep it safe? Is it something you park like a motorcycle or a car, or do you chain it to a bike rack, as if it were a bike?
• Is it safe to drive on the street if it can only go 10 mph?
• What if the battery runs out before you get it home?
• Why do you think that the Segway team did not do a better job of anticipating the problems that the project was likely to face?