For a long time futurist have been predicting the transition from Mass Production to Mass Custom Production. And if one looks over the past 50 year or so products have gone well beyond Henry Ford’s “any color you want so long as it is black”. Now many products have an array of add-on features. And of course, these same features have become the dread of car and appliance customers because Marketing has taken over. The wisdom of Marketers is to make the purchase choices a)often price vexing and plain difficult adding to the uncertainty that the customer “is getting what they paid for” and b)disappointing because the combination of features you really want is either not on hand or simply not available.
Yes, many of these features are tied into the increasing use of cheap microprocesors to make ever many more products and appliances “smart”; but Bosch’s Tassimo shows that computing smarts is not the essential ingredient to mass self customization. In fact easy of finding, buying and then installing/using the customizations are critical. And as Apple has shown in its iPod/ iTunes and iPhone/App Store there is money to be made in creating that mass self customization market.