Case Study: Ideo Product Development

Topics: Palm OS, Jeff Hawkins, Palm, Inc. Pages: 17 (4900 words) Published: November 28, 2010

This report is based on a case presented by Harvard Business School, titled “IDEO Product Development.” The goal of this report is to examine whether an engineering design company, IDEO, should have requested more time to complete a design for a Personal Data Assistant (PDA) that was to be called the Handspring Visor. The key events take place between March 1996 and September 1999. IDEO is an unconventional Silicone Valley based company, and the hiring company was the then newly formed PDA manufacturer Handspring. IDEO was in the process of completing a related and competing PDA design, the “Palm V,” for 3Com’s Palm division, when they were approached by Handspring. Additionally, the founders of Handspring worked for 3Com and closely with IDEO in creating Palm’s “Palm V” design before they left 3Com to found Handspring. This report concludes that IDEO should not have asked for more time to complete the Handspring Visor design. This conclusion was reached due to the risk that the PDA market would only become more crowded with direct competitors as more time passed.  

Table of Contents
2.IDEO Company Description5
2.1.IDEO’s Work Culture5
2.2.IDEO Design Process6
2.2.1.Phase 0 – Understand/Observe7
2.2.2.Phase I: Visualize/Realize7
2.2.3.Phase II: Evaluating/Refining7
2.2.4.Phase III: Implement/Detailed Engineering7
2.2.5.Phase IV: Implement/Manufacturing Liaison)7
2.3.More on Prototyping8
3.Palm V Project8
3.1.Predecessors to the Palm V8
3.2.IDEO’s Design of the Palm V9
3.3.Palm V Design Phases9
3.3.1.Phase 0: Understand/Observe9
3.3.2.Phase I: Visualize/Realize9
3.3.3.Phase II: Evaluating/Refining10
3.3.4.Phase III: Implement/Detailed Engineering10
3.3.5.Phase IV: Implement/Manufacturing Liaison10
4.Handspring Project11
4.1.Product Development12
4.2.Market Research/Analysis12
5.SWOT Analysis of Handspring Project13

Table of Figures

Figure 1: Early to pre-production Palm V prototypes11

Figure 2: Timeline of Palm V and Visor design development13

Figure 3: Views of Handspring Visor15


IDEO is a product development firm based in Silicon Valley. While helping other companies create products and build their brands, IDEO has effectively branded itself. IDEO’s brand of design is iconoclastic and built on the freewheeling creativity of individuals. IDEO provides an environment where the designers are allowed and expected to follow the muse or muses of their choice. The design process that IDEO employs and the work environment that IDEO fosters probably looks like anarchy to individuals from other companies, but they have also built a reputation for being dependable, as demonstrated by the many successful products that they have designed.

An IDEO team that worked on 3Com’s Palm V PDA design applied all of IDEO’s unorthodox approaches in completing that project. IDEO was subsequently asked to work on Handspring’s Palm-compatible Visor PDA project, with some overlap in time between the Palm V and Handspring efforts. However, Handspring’s proposed schedule would not allow for IDEO to perform a full version of their design process.

This report examines the circumstances surrounding the Palm V project and prospective Handspring Visor project. With respect to the Visor project, this report seeks to answer the question: Should IDEO ask for a longer schedule so that they can apply all of their design know-how in order to create the best product possible, or should IDEO accept the Handspring project as a “design to cost and schedule,” job with minimal need for creative design?

2.IDEO Company Description

2.1.IDEO’s Work Culture

IDEO’s corporate philosophy is a significant departure from the typical business’s standards for behavior, attitude, expectations and status....

References: Barnett, Shawn. “Handspring Visor.” Pen Computing Magazine. May 10, 2000. Jun 12 2010 .
“The Deep Dive.” Narr. Jack Smith. Niteline, ABC. Jul. 13, 1999.
May 31, 2010 .
“Handspring (company).” Wikipedia. May 29, 2010.
Morse, Lucy C., and Daniel L. Babcock, Managing Engineering and Technology. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010.
“Palm Announces Acquisition of Handspring to Bolster Industry Leadership; Board Approves PalmSource Spin-off.” News release. Palm Inc. Jun. 4, 2003. Jun. 13, 2010 .
Thomke, Stefan, and Ashok Nimgade, M.D. “IDEO Product Development.” Case. Harvard Business School. 9-600-143 (rev. Apr. 26, 2007): 1-21.
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