Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy on Feb 19th, 2008. What a ride. A brand known for innovation, cool products and great customer service couldn't keep up with the pace of innovation, differentiation and rigor needed to build and market today's sophisticated products. Not only did the company suffer from bad publicity and lawsuits related to their flagship product Ionic Breeze Quandra but the company also couldn't differentiate enough over time. Ove the years, I have seen similar products to those made by Sharper Image sold elsewhere for 50% less. I have also seen Sharper Image product catalog gravitating more towards (non-Sharper Image) third party products. Hard to charge a premium for similar products (or 95% similar products). Differentiation in our industry requires more discrete innovation whether in hardware or software (or both). And product lives are shorter requiring faster pace of such discrete innovation to survive and flourish.

In last four years when Sharper Image has gone downhill, we have seen Apple flourish. What Sharper Image couldn't do well, Apple did. Apple introduced such discrete innovation. And Apple introduced such innovation at a much faster pace (and obsoleted its own products before competitors could). And Apple has been able to keep up with the sophistication and rigor required to build, market and support these products. I like Sharper Image brand. It is unfortunate that the company that Richard Thalheimer started with a vision and great execution came to such an end.

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