SAIL’s FKP innovation awards, the PDF

SAIL fkp 2006

I’m glad to see that Sail has posted a PDF of this year’s Freeman K. Pittman awards (downloadable from this page). In honor of former Technical Editor Pittman, every December four of us choose what we think are the most innovative, exciting products recently introduced in the category we cover. I take it quite seriously. Regular Panbo readers won’t be too surprised to learn that I singled out Garmin’s 376C with XM Weather, Navman’s 3380 autopilot, Uniden’s UM625C VHF, Navionics’s Platinum charts, and Si-Tex’s AIS receiver (which I qualified as a contrarian choice due to its poor build quality). What did I miss, or better yet, what brand new product should be on my candidate list for the Feb., 2007, awards? 

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

4 Responses

  1. Russ says:

    I think that it’s important to focus on both innovation, and proven / available. Proven doesn’t have to mean it’s been on the market for three years, but it does mean that there is more than a press release and a prototype. Should customers buy the products that are implicitly recommended, or merely watch them for another year and wait for PS to do a real review of them?
    Are the Pittman awards going to companies with the best PR agency, or to actual products? I believe that if the product is not generally available, and you haven’t actually used a production version, then it doesn’t deserve an award until next year. Perhaps you could have a category for products “to watch”.
    It’s dramatically easier to be innovative with a press release or prototype than with a product that is on the retailers shelves with a three year warranty.
    I don’t think the objective is to turn the readership into beta testers.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I thoroughly agree, Russ, and always try to distinguish between products that are ‘announced’ and ones that are actually shipping. In the case of these awards, I tested retail versions of every product except the Navman autopilot. I did get a pretty thorough demo of the pilot’s software, and know the product is real, but actually testing one on the water, or even getting an on-the-water demo, would be very difficult. That’s a real issue with autopilots, radars, integrated systems, etc.

  3. Russ says:

    Yes, it’s certainly a challenge on the the more sophisticated units, but the challenge should be on the vendor’s marketing staff. I ran product marketing for a large consumer electronics company for a few years and understand the problem from that side. It’s not the reviewer’s problem, it’s the vendor’s problem so long as the press doesn’t let them off the hook.

  4. Russ says:

    A further thought, is that I think it’s easy to be seduced by some color and a nice UI, but the real test and value of most of these products is in how they work. From my perspective, the quality of an autopilot is determined by how it holds a course in a seaway, how accurately it compensates for a current when tracking to a waypoint, or “auto tacks” a sail boat. Radios by their transmit and receive clarity, radar by it’s ability to resolve a target and communicate tracking information, etc. These are tough to evaluate in an afternoon on a demo boat under ideal conditions, but they are what ultimately determines the products I want on my boat.

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