The latest product from Herman Miller
Herman Miller also plans to launch Motus, designed for museums, big-box retailers, and others who utilize large spaces, later this year. This adaptable interior architecture system features ceiling-suspended lights, partitions, and digital displays. Motus aims to let users redesign interiors faster, without costly renovations.
Both Babble and Motus come from the company's Creative Office division, launched in 2001. Herman Miller feels that the division is key to its goal of double-digit growth over the next five years.
While both products sound like interesting ideas, I can't help wondering if they're the best focus for Herman Miller -- particularly Babble. The company argues that it needs to expand beyond its core business to continue to grow beyond the industry rate. Herman Miller has evolved from a home furnishings maker in 1923 to its current business line, but while its designs may be sleeker and more innovative, furniture remains the company's focus. Its attempt to transition to acoustic technology seems like a bit of a stretch to me, even if products such as Babble may be useful in an environment the company helped create. Computers are also used in offices -- should Herman Miller start building those, as well?
I'm not saying the new products won't be successful. I just think there's plenty of room for the company to grow in its core office furniture business. In my opinion, the company's plans to expand in India, China, and Brazil should drive its growth over the next few years or more. Herman Miller's success ultimately depends on the strength of the economies in which its products are sold. If those countries continue to grow as expected, there will be a plethora of new white collar workers looking for a place to sit.
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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own shares of Herman Miller.