Earlier this year, some Tesla models began to automatically recognize and
respond to traffic lights and stop signs. For many brands, this type of
enhancement would require a trip to the dealership for a hardware upgrade;
for Tesla owners, it was simply a software update delivered over-the-air.
Consumers are growing accustomed to seeing their software-enabled things
continuously evolve long after they buy them—everything from the apps on
their phones and the operating systems on their computers to their
computer-enabled cars and virtual reality headsets.
Enterprises are beginning to design updateable products with the ability to
expand services and experiences in the future, making it possible to respond
to changing customer demands and expectations at a moment’s notice. This
sets the stage for feedback loops that support true partnerships, where
customers can see the value and utility of products grow over time rather
However, as we inhabit this state of “forever beta,” our traditional
perspectives on ownership are being challenged. Products that consumers
think of as “theirs” are being redefined at the drop of a code release. The
risk is that customers are having to constantly play catch-up, not knowing
if the next system update is bringing exciting new capabilities, a critical
security refresh, a new user interface to learn or a dramatic change to
functionality. It’s not surprising that some customers are growing weary of
what’s around the corner.
Call it the beta burden: the unintended consequences when products, and their
contained experiences, are constantly in flux.
As products increasingly transition into platforms that deliver digital
experiences, new challenges arise that, if left unaddressed, will alienate
customers and erode their trust. The true value of a product is increasingly
being driven by the experience, a facet of the product that manufacturers
today retain strict control over.