OK, so relying on eBay for product ideas is probably a bad habit to get into. But gleaning the occasional inspiration for a new product from the ber-auctioneer's Web site is not necessarily a bad idea.
Take Apple, a perfect example of a company that could benefit from its own past products. Sure, Steve doesn't need a trap to kill a mouse, just his ego. But sometimes you have to admit when someone else had a good idea -- notably the Newton, and Apple's popular 2400 sub-notebook.
Have you searched for either of these products on eBay lately?
I recently searched for a 2400 on eBay, and found two going for just under $1,000. When compared to older PowerBooks, you'll see that price is pretty exceptional. For example, the PowerBook 5300 is going for around $400 on eBay -- and that's after the news of a $700 rebate you can get from Apple when you trade the 5300 in for a new PowerBook 2000. Meanwhile, a PowerBook 1400, which has available G3 upgrades, is going for around $500 on eBay.
Apple's once popular handheld device, is still popular. I've seen Newton 2100s go for as much as $500, and a quick check on eBay found one for $150 with eight bids. The Newton, I should point out, is no longer supported, and using one successfully may require hours of time finding and downloading software.
It seems to me if a product you removed from your product line had a high resale value three years later, that should be a good hint as to what your company needs to create.
Sure, an updated Newton would need a smaller frame, a new color, and maybe even a color screen; however, considering people are paying more than they would for a new Palm Pilot or Handspring Visor for a used, video-cassette sized 2100, I'm sure they'd settle for slightly less. Adding a handheld device to Apple's product line would be great for Mac users, especially if it ran a simplified -- and significantly smaller -- version of Mac OS X. And if it incorporated a Palm OS emulator so you could run your favorite Palm applications, well that's even better.
As for a sub-notebook, that's even longer overdue. How much longer do Mac portable users have to lug around almost six-pound laptops? And how many of us have stared enviously at the new line of tiny laptops from Sony and wished "If only I could get that in Mac." I'd be the first in line with my spare $3,000 dollars (OK, spare space on a credit card) for a Mac that small.
We can all speculate about what's to come from Apple. We can all hope and dream and even draw up what we'd like to see. Yet, when it comes to great ideas, they're already there. Perhaps it's just a matter of someone accepting the fact that he's not the only one who has good ideas.