After a few years of testing prototypes and forming partnerships to acquire artwork, the collaboration resulted in the introduction in 2017 of the Frame TV, a Samsung television that resembled a picture frame. It used motion sensors to display art when people were present and turned off when no one was around. Television has become a bestseller.
Béhar, who founded Fuseproject, an industrial design firm, said he understood Amazon’s approach as a retail company to test ideas quickly, such as when measuring how customers respond to different prices in their stores. But “with hardware, people end up with things that are useless or that no longer work,” he said. “In the world we live in today, with global warming and plastics and waste, I think it’s something you have to be very careful about.”
Don Norman, who founded the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, and wrote the book “The Design of Everyday Things,” said that throughout his career, he had seen other companies use approaches similar to those of from Amazon.
In the 1990s, when Norman worked with Apple as a user experience architect, the company collaborated with Sony on a product. He said Apple had planned to spend years doing market research and testing prototypes before shipping it out.
“Sony laughed at us and said, ‘What a stupid way to do things. We simply build a product and sell it. We take the feedback, kill it, and make a better one. It’s much more efficient and faster than his method, ‘”Norman said.
This on-the-fly development approach is unpopular, he said, because most companies acknowledge that customers get angry when devices are killed quickly. “There is some logic to it, but also a complete lack of respect for what it could mean to your customers, the environment or the world,” Norman said.
Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that sells parts for people to repair devices, said there were better ways than Amazon to discontinue products. When Pebble, a smartwatch maker, closed down in 2016, the company said the software would continue to work. People continued to enjoy the product years after the death of the company.