“The first moment when we thought ‘wow, this could be big’, was when Apple agreed to sell Hue lights bulbs in their stores. At that point, we knew this was something really different. We were looking not just at a lighting product, but at an industry-defining paradigm shift for how we approach the way we interact with light in our homes.”
But like so many of its predecessors, Philips Hue didn’t start with a fully formed idea. In April 2020 Hue was ranked number 21 on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 greatest designs of modern times. But to get to that point we need to understand where it came from. And for that, we need to skip back a decade.
“I was working in the pre-development department, designing remote controls for Philips LivingColors lamps,” recalls George. “The iPhone had just come out, and I decided that, rather than building physical prototypes of the new remote control concepts, we would mock them up on an iPhone so that we could do user testing, try them out, and make small tweaks, without having to go through a hardware cycle. And that was actually the trigger. We found we had created a better way to control lights.”
The concept that became Hue could easily have stopped there. But the idea landed on fertile soil, thanks to the company’s innovation culture.
“I made a rough prototype of the first app-controlled lighting system. And it really was rough – we had computers in suitcases with loose circuit boards hanging around! We showed our prototype to the leadership at a company innovation day, and on that basis, we created our internal venture.”