So I’m on this car kick – While I’m not in the market for one, I find myself drawing a parallel connection to autos and computers (pcs, servers, solutions, etc.). Perhaps it was the competition between the pc manufacturers back in the day (Thinking Dell and Gateway) where systems were mass customized and appeared that the consumer had full control. A prospective buyer would spec out the system, selecting and de-selecting components such as higher performance video boards, chips, etc., with clear and instant pricing.

With automobiles we have seen this happen over the past 5+ years – online applications where prospective buyers can build their own dream car, selecting and deselecting packages, paint colors and transmission types. The car’s new price is then displayed on the screen with an image of the ‘custom’ car with an easy link to a local sales rep to purchase the vehicle. Granted this price was MSRP (and floor mats were most likely not included) but a pricing baseline was set. In essence you could virtually kick the tires, before dealing with the dealer.

Today most everything that we buy as consumers is marketed on the web – whether it be all natural toothpaste, jogging strollers or music – consumers are now used to experiencing their products virtually (…well food and drink are still a bit off, but there is an enormous amount of imagery that gets the stomach growling) before they make a purchase. The pc and auto examples are business to consumer examples – but is there a market for more of this type of virtual ‘experience’ marketing in the business to business space? – Absolutely (duh right?)

We have seen this transformation of über complex systems in data warehousing go from lightly coupled best practices of installation and configuration to optimized bundles to now appliance-like offerings that in some cases carry their own PID. In essence these pieces and parts are now being marketed more like consumer vehicles (ie The Balanced Warehouse named by class.) yet I might yield at the need for custom paint jobs – but who am I to tell the consumer what they need.

In the end, warehouse appliances (and other types) should take the next step and start enabling users the ability to virtually kick the tires. Some of the competitors do a great job of productizing their solutions – Some through slick (and innovative) marketing and others through brute force (…twisting the truth as well). I would like the next battlefield in this space to move to virtual experience of these offerings. As a consumer I would love to really understand what I am getting in the box – As well as what it is going to do for me now. Show me the analytics (and reporting tools) that I get in the appliance – Let me interface with the system – Let me virtually scale the system to my needs, etc…

I think that we are almost there – will be interesting to see what the next stage brings. Just do me a favor and keep it simple…

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