Your Next Big Thing: Simple, but Super!

Written by Kim Shiffman

In 1984, consumers were warm to the idea of a home computer, but wary of text-based operating systems such as DOS. Enter the Macintosh, whose “point, click, and drag” interface made computing easy for everyone-and Apple a household name.

By bringing the assembly line to restaurants, Mickey Dee’s made fast food consistent and predictable. That was the perfect formula as the car culture took people away from familiar neighbourhood eateries. System-wide sales now top US$37 billion.

It combined the enduring urge to sell-or collect-old junk, the ability to connect disparate buyers and sellers, and the auction model, which makes pricing fair and easy. Total 2004 auction value: US$34.2 billion. eBay’s cut: US$3.27 billion.

PCs used to come off mass-production lines as is. Dell let buyers customize them while taking advantage of plummeting long-distance phone rates (and later the Internet) to bypass retailers. With 2004 sales of US$50 billion, Dell is now the world’s No. 1 PC maker.

President’s Choice
Loblaws started the private-label craze back when private labels were lame. How? By creating a President’s Choice mythology using the seasonal Insider’s Report flyer, and leveraging its existing-and massive-marketing and distribution channels. PC now yields most of Loblaw’s $5.6 billion in sales of controlled labels.

Coffee in North America used to be cheap and unmemorable. Starbucks transformed that with a coffeecopia of high-end products in chic European-style cafés, expanding aggressively just as educated urbanites
were looking for small-if not expensive-indulgences. Sales now top US$6.4 billion.

Would consumers be willing to assemble their own furniture in exchange for contemporary style at gee-whiz prices? IKEA asked that question, and continues to be rewarded by the answer. Its sales last year: US$17.7 billion.

Business needs to boost productivity. Cellular providers crave new revenue streams. E-mail is getting huge, and miniaturization is at the tipping point. At the crossroads of these trends is RIM’s BlackBerry, now the linchpin of a multibillion-dollar market for wireless e-mail services.

The home-shopping pioneer (revenue: US$5.7 billion)avoids hefty retail overheads by selling direct to an aging society’s growing ranks of couch potatoes. QVC also tracks sales by the minute, allowing it to prolong sales of hot items-or quickly drop the duds.

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