Why Starbucks, BMW, Honda, Nike and Android are suffering from fragmentation

Starbucks is offering coffee in lots of different sizes and flavors. Obviously this business model is doomed out of the following reasons:

1.) First and foremost the production of coffee at Starbucks has a higher complexity than in a shop which only produce one flavor. A business model which makes coffee harder to make, can only fail as the producers of coffee make the final decision about the success of a product.

2.) Customer only want one sized coffee with exactly the same flavor. Offering different flavors and even different sizes confuses the customers, especially as they all have to handle their coffee differently.

If Starbucks does not start controlling this fragmentation mess, it is destined to fail very soon.

Other companies are also doing it also wrong. BMW, Porsche, Honda, Nike, etc. They also offer variation of their products which drives the customer mad. Just image how a person need to handle different sized cars differently. Even the radio in the cars is not standardized. Customers hate this concept. In the past Ford had only one type of car the T-Model (1908 und 1928) and customer really want this today also.

The only product which follows the correct strategy is the iPhone. One phone for everyone. Apple did figure it out. Others will follow or fail.


About Lars Vogel

Lars Vogel is the founder and CEO of the vogella GmbH and works as Eclipse and Android consultant, trainer and book author. He is a regular speaker at international conferences, He is the primary author of vogella.com. With more than one million visitors per month this website is one of the central sources for Java, Eclipse and Android programming information.
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14 Responses to Why Starbucks, BMW, Honda, Nike and Android are suffering from fragmentation

  1. Micha Kops says:

    that’s a nice analogy for the fragmentation discussion that really made my day 🙂

  2. Noah Lampert says:

    That’s a pretty astute point. The more complex something it is, the more intricate the distribution process. Variety also has its’ place too. A “one size fits all” approach can stifle innovation and not meet each individuals needs.

    Apple certainly honed in on a few key concepts and has parlayed that into success for some time. The concept of turning users into promoters is also a major component of Apple’s success.

    Nice post, Lars.

  3. Derek Reynolds says:

    Whats wrong with customization and choice?

  4. What about competitors and every customer wishes?

  5. Bino says:

    One Phone to rule them all..? xD

  6. Jesper Eskilson says:

    Fragmentation will not be the death of Android. But I don’t think your analogy with Starbucks or is very relevant. Making a device with features which fit a very large group of people is much easier than doing the same thing with a car. Note that much of the functionality which make smartphones so versatile is in the number of different apps, and if you consider which apps you install on your phone, both iPhone and Android phones are practically infinitely customizable. Buying a car today usually means that you have to decide — when you buy the car — the exact feature set which you need for the years which you will have the car (which is usually longer than the lifetime of a phone).

    The same thing applies to Starbucks, of course. You cannot easily change an espresso to a latte macchiato. 🙂

  7. Lars Vogel says:

    @Jesper, from you comment I not sure if you saw the big #IRONY tag. The above is of course a joke. I just use the silly argumentation which typically is used to discuss Android and ridicule it.

  8. I think that fragmentation is never the death of something. It is just about developer frustration!

    Just one example from the past: Microsoft Windows.

  9. Starbucks: sells more coffee than Dunkin’ Donuts.
    BMW: sells more luxury cars than Mercedes.
    Porsche: sells more sports cars than Ferrari.
    Honda: sells more sedans than Ford.
    Nike: sells more sneakers than Reebok.
    Android: Samsung alone sells more Android smartphones than Apple sells iPhones.

    They don’t drive customers mad. The only people that go mad is the people that do not know what they want, they rely on a corporation to tell them what they need.

    All the companies mentioned above are companies that create products for the discerning customer. Products for people who show confidence in the choices they make, people that do not need to be told what they need because they know what they want.

    They have all been around since before you and I were born. They must be doing something right.

    If a company does not offer choices people will grow tired of their single offering (unless they sell cola drinks in bottles with red labels). Apple knows this, have you seen their product lineup lately? It’s full of fragmentation. 😉

  10. Maxim Zaks says:

    I see the irony tag under the post, and I also believe to smell a little bit of sarcasm in it. But it is a very interesting point indeed.

    What you are talking about is horizontal fragmentation. Something that most companies do these days. The idea of horizontal fragmentation is genial discussed in this TED talk (17 minutes well spent):

    Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce

    But it seams that it doesn’t apply to Apple products at all.
    They don’t do variety, they focus. We don’t know how they select thing they focus on, but they do a good job.
    On the contrary horizontal fragmentation is something that almost killed Apple in the 90’s. They started to be successful, only after they killed all experiments, and focus on few strategic products. Btw. Macs and iPods do have horizontal fragmentation, but Apple always adjust the amount trying to keep it to minimal.

    However Apple is King of Synthetic Happiness. I have to recommend another TED talk:

    Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness

    Sorry now you need at least 40 minutes to deal with this comment, but I think either you think I am an idiot and already give up reading, or it is interesting and than it is time well spent.

    So people who buy Apple products and accept there choice, become happy in the “i” Universe. And Apple is not rude or greedy with it’s costumers. Good stuff has it’s price.
    And by the way if you buy Apple product you should consider buying Apple stocks. I my self get more profit from Apple stocks than I ever paid for Apple products. And I am happy to be a fan of a company that makes products I like and let’s me profit from there success. There are many companies that also do products I like but they are not that profitable. So the conclusion would be, they do right things, but they execute badly. Apple at this point of time does right thing with good execution as the earnings indicate.

    So who are we to judge, if they need a brighter horizontal fragmentation?

  11. Birgitta says:

    Cannot help but comment on the analogy: I think this might be a cultural thing. I live in the US right now, and yes, the choices sometimes drive me MAD. Not particularly in Starbucks, I have that one figured out by now, but sandwich shops, or places like Chipotle, can really put me off. I have to go there a couple of times until I get the order exactly as I like it, by “trial-and-error”. I want “best practices”!

    So as a fellow German, I agree with you, but I think a lot of Americans would disagree, based on the business models of basically ALL the franchise food and beverage chains over here.

  12. Justin " Frostysmooth" Mirabal says:

    I love food for thought and your post gave me a bit to think about…

    If a business can manage to incorporate fragmentation, basically in the form of consumer individuality and customization without becoming fragmented itself then it is viewed as a success.

    It is true that if a business does become fragmented it will eventually fail, but until it reaches that point it will continue to exist. If by chance there was only one type of shoe, one car, one coffee, one phone, one whatever it may be there would always be the person who would “invent” mind you, new colored laces, a new type of car, a new snozberry coffee, and a new phone. Once again the cycle has started all over again.

    The best indicator hands down is…wait for it….wait for it…us the consumer and product reputation! If a product or business comes along that can do the same thing others are doing and manage to do it better and more efficient then it is consumer nature to jump on over to something new. On the flip side if a product or company begins to garner a negative reputation or complicated process then consumers will go else where. Trust me, no one loved Logo on an Apple IIe more than me…but something better, faster….blah blah blah came along, and now it’s working with fragments on Android go figure! We also know that no one wants to be cranking up their car when it is like 10 below outside…convenience, individuality, customization, and necessity are now the modern mother of invention.

  13. Grismar says:

    I’m sorry, but this piece suffers from a major error in logic. You compare Android to Starbucks coffee, but you fail to make a proper analogy. Now, if Starbucks required different types of milk for each of its coffee types, only some types would be able to dissolve sugar lumps and you could only get specific types of coffee in particular cups – that would be a closer analogy. However, this is not the case and that’s why Starbucks is not at all like Android in the way you’re falsely suggesting.

    The problem with Android is *not* that there are many versions, this is not what the problem of fragmentation is about. The problem is that these many different versions don’t offer sufficient application compatibility, forward nor backward. And most versions of Android only run on particular hardware. Again, both because new versions of the OS won’t run on all hardware that ran previous versions and because old versions won’t run on most new hardware.

    You could argue that MS Windows has the same problem and this is partly true. But the success of Windows depends on MS working very hard on backward compatibility and hardware vendors working very hard on ensuring forward compatibility.

    Just so you know, I only own Android mobile devices and some Windows and Linux PCs. I hate Apple’s business model for its approach to DRM and I dislike the level of control they exert over apps in their stores. I won’t buy iOS devices anytime soon and I see no reason to buy Mac OS devices. But your article will only serve to prove that Android fans don’t even know what they’re talking about and that’s unfortunate.

    I hope Google helps solve the fragmentation of their platform by providing backward compatibility in future versions of Android and by ensuring greater cross-device applicability of applications written for any version of their OS. There are many approaches to achieve this, but all of them require Google’s cooperation and leadership.

  14. FrankBro says:

    Oh wow I think you are missing the point completely. The fragmentation problem of android has nothing to do with the number of models available. Fairly sure nobody was stupid enough to ever say that too. The fragmentation problem of android lies in the fact the control of updates and flavor of android are controlled by too many actors. The phone/tablet manufacturer controls part of it but also, for phones, the phone carrier (and google too obviously). Which means that some models don’t behave the same depending on how you got them. Updates can be blocked by carrier A but not carrier B. That’s the fragmentation issue with android.

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