From Plastic Bricks to"¦Java, Visual Basic and C++?

Social Commerce is all the rage these days. Smart companies all over are starting to realize the power of tapping into online communities. Would you believe that way back at the height of the Dot-Com 1.0 bubble, one of the pioneers of this coming web evolution was a toy maker from Billund, Denmark? That’s right Lego was one of the pioneers of social commerce. In 1988 the last of Lego’s patent’s expired for their interlocking plastic bricks. As a result a myriad of imitators entered the market and began eroding Lego’s once dominant market share. In 1998 as a result of a changing marketplace and a changing consumer, Lego launched themselves into a whole new era of toys with the Mindstorms.

Today you can still get the classic bricks and build a fragile little, blocky, X-Wing Fighter, but the big story in Legoland these days is robotics. You still get to build stuff with Mindstorms, but the real power of Mindstorms is that it lets you become an amateur robotics engineer. With Mindstorms Lego has decided to put even more of the power of creativity in the hands of the users. Lego created a forum on their website for sharing and creating different robotics. Soon thousands of people were flocking to the Lego site to post and share concepts. Lego was able to expand their market well beyond their tried and true sub-12 year old crowd. Robotics enthusiast of all ages began building complex robotic designs. Mindstorms is even being used in the academic world.

When Lego decided to update the Mindstorms kit this past year someone at Lego must have remembered what made Mindstorms great in the first place. They actually turned to a proven group of Mindstorms enthusiasts and asked them to design the new kit. The story behind this is pretty cool stuff. It’s worth heading over to Wired to read the February 2006 article yourself.

So finally this past August the new Lego Mindstorms kit hit the markets under the name Mindstorms NXT. Unfortunately, according to Compete data it doesn’t look like Lego has gotten much of a lift in traffic from Mindstorms in August. There’s a few more Mindstorms focused visitors, but overall traffic was flat in August during the launch. Of course the Christmas season will be the true test.

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