“In order to stand out from everything announced at CES 2021 and win Best in Show, a product needs to make an entrance. The Kensington StudioDock did just that, causing most of the team to say, ‘I want that.’” – How-To Geek Best of CES 2021
At the start of CES 2021, Kensington StudioDock had already been honored with a prestigious CES Innovations Award. By the end of the week, StudioDock had been named to eight Best of CES 2021 lists from organizations including Newsweek, Fox News and Rolling Stone, was covered in more than 70 articles reaching nearly one billion readers, and was named the Best Home Wireless Dock for Apple Devices by Tech Times.
How does a product generate so much coverage, rack up so many awards and capture the attention of technology journalists and industry pundits around the world months before the product even hits the market?
Innovating to Make Great Products Better
“Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.” – Peter Drucker
The initial concept for StudioDock was born out of Kensington’s ongoing mission to bring to market products that expand and enhance the capabilities of computing devices including tablets, laptops, and desktop workstations in the office, at home and on the road. “By listening to the needs of our customers, we gain valuable insight into the features they desire and the challenges they face,” explained Rafi Khusro, manager of global product marketing at Kensington.
When those desired features and challenges are not addressed by existing products, the Kensington team gets creative.
“This is not the first time that we’ve designed an innovative docking station that enhances the usability of a mobile device,” said Ada Yang, director of global product management at Kensington, referring to products such as the award-winning SD7000 Surface Pro Dock, which has been well-accepted in the market. “With Apple adding more productivity features to iOS version 13.5, we felt the need to create a docking solution that would make the iPad Pro more productive and easier to use in a desktop environment.”
Khusro explained that with Kensington’s extensive experience in the connectivity space, it made sense for the company to develop a dock for the iPad Pro because it is powerful enough to serve as a full desktop workstation. However, before moving forward with the development of the new product, which would truly be the first of its kind in the market, research would need to be done to ensure that the final design included the unmet needs of the iPad Pro user. Khusro said, “we conducted focus groups and large market research surveys among our target audiences to determine how they would use this product, what would be the most important features, and how often would they use the iPad at the desk versus on the go. We also conducted research on how the iPad Pro was being used creatively in applications such as sound engineering and graphic design.”
According to Yang, the product would be designed to target professionals who value the combination of mobility and production that the iPad Pro provides. “An increasing number of business users prefer a compact alternative to laptops when outside of the office,” she said. “When those iPad Pro users return to their home or office, they need to be able to use the iPad’s productivity features for content creation without having to transfer the content to a MacBook or other PCs.”
Khusro explained that while their research uncovered an abundance of YouTube videos and photos from individuals showing iPad setups on desktops, these examples used USB hubs for connectivity and lacked integrated docking and charging capabilities for their various Apple products.
Designing for Form and Function
“Its design is superb and it holds the iPad Pro ergonomically and elegantly, to create what seems to be the cutest all-in-one computer. Its base even has a wireless charger for your phone. Apple should have made that one, but we’re glad Kensington did.” – Ubergizmo Best of CES 2021
The development of StudioDock began in late 2019, with some initial concept drawings by Erik Campbell, senior lead industrial designer at Kensington. “The two issues I was originally trying to address from the design standpoint were ergonomics and device charging,” Campbell explained. “The dock needs to be able to elevate the iPad Pro to eye level. I also wanted to provide the ability for the dock to charge all of a user’s Apple products. I felt that solving those two major challenges could really benefit users.”
Khusro agreed that with many (if not most) iPad users being invested in the Apple ecosystem, providing the ability to charge the iPad Pro, iPhone, Air Pods, and Apple Watch would be a critical capability.
While the StudioDock’s early design featured a mounting slot for the iPad, Erik explained that he created a new design focused on improving the user experience. “I wanted to find a way to take advantage of the iPad Pro design and materials to develop a mounting solution that meets the needs of users who would be installing and removing the iPad from the dock throughout the day,” he explained. The result was a unique and convenient solution that enables users to magnetically attach the iPad Pro and easily position it in portrait or landscape modes.
Campbell noted that one of the main design challenges that had to be overcome was one of the StudioDock’s highest-profile features, the Apple Watch charger. “The Apple Watch charger is designed to be elevated and off to the side of the main docking surface, and that presented a bit of a challenge to keep the watch securely attached while the iPad rotates between portrait and landscape modes.” He ultimately designed a lip that prevents the Apple Watch from falling during rotation and keeps it out of the way of the iPhone and AirPods charging below it.
Khusro noted that other design requirements included the incorporation of storage for the Apple Pencil, a fast SD card slot, and both USB-C and USB-A ports to provide flexibility in connecting a wide variety of accessories. “Our team paid great attention to detail in all aspects of the product’s design, including the colors, materials and fabrics that were used,” he explained. “Recognizing the trend of incorporating fabrics on different surface areas for both aesthetics and device protection, our ID team did a great job of incorporating fabric into the location where charging takes place.” The design would also seek to increase the speed of device-charging through the use of 37.5 watts of charging versus the standard 18 watts provided with the charger provided with the iPad Pro.
“From a design standpoint, keeping the product sleek and minimalistic while being fully functional was really important to us and even little things like making sure the iPad’s camera was not covered while on the dock was really important,” Khusro added.
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” – Theodore Levitt.
The achievement of developing StudioDock, which began with Campbell’s initial design sketches in late 2019, and is scheduled for availability in early 2021 took a team with the vision to see an unrealized need with the backing of a company that is focused on improving the lives of its customers through innovation.
Telling the Story of an Innovative Product
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
The thing about truly innovative products is that when they are the first of their kind, one of the main challenges is communicating their value to the target customer. “Once we had a vision for the product, we set forth to determine the best way to communicate to customers the benefits and ideal use cases for incorporating StudioDock into the consumer and business environments,” explained Khusro.
Connecting with potential customers to build awareness and drive excitement around the benefits of StudioDock was critical in creating initial demand for the product, and the first key public-facing element was the product landing page to which all initial product inquiries would be driven. “The page is very interactive and everything on the page has movement to help visitors visualize StudioDock in various settings,” Khusro said. “We wanted to avoid using static images in a gallery view and instead bring the product to life by giving people the ability to dynamically move around the product to see it from all angles. Equally, it was important to focus on the engineering elements of StudioDock, to highlight the design, angles and attention to detail that Erik and the team incorporated into the product.”
StudioDock – An Award-Winning, Game-Changing Product
“For those of us who are serious about using the iPad as our primary computer, the Kensington StudioDock seems to be the perfect product.” – iMore Best of CES 2021
“The Studio Pro is poised to become a work from home essential for any serious iPad user.” – Rolling Stone Best of CES 2021
“The Kensington StudioDock: besides its eye-catching aesthetics, you can dock your iPad while charging your iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch. Attach a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and it looks a lot like an iMac." – Fox News Best of CES 2021
“Many iPad accessories claim to turn the tablet into a laptop replacement — but few have attempted to transform it into a desktop computer. This is where the Kensington StudioDock comes in, with its elevated magnetic mount, dual wireless charging pads for your iPhone and AirPods, and a wide range of connections.” – GearBrain Best of CES 2021
“The Kensington StudioDock is an iPad Pro docking station for your desk. It's designed for people who use the iPad Pro as a standalone tool or to use it next to your computer when drawing, using the iPad as an external display or for video calls.” – Newsweek Best of CES 2021
“I believe StudioDock is a game-changer because there is no other docking station that can create such a productive environment for iPad users,” Yang opined. “This is the first dock that can turn the iPad Pro into a fully-functional desktop – a capability that is not available with any other device on the market.”
Khusro explained that while there are people that already use the iPad Pro in a desktop environment, there is nothing that offers them the convenience and feature integration of StudioDock. “Without StudioDock, users have to carry around and plug in a bunch of devices like a USB-C hub, SD card reader, extra video cables, keyboard and a mouse, and that still does not give them all of the capabilities provided by the dock,” he explained. “StudioDock enables users to establish a dedicated, clutter-free work environment that is ideal for users that have invested in the Apple ecosystem.”