After a few years of testing prototypes and forming partnerships to procure artwork, the collaboration resulted in the 2017 introduction of the Frame TV, a Samsung television that resembled a picture frame. It used motion sensors to show art when people were present and shut off when nobody was around. The TV has become a best seller.
Mr. Béhar, who founded Fuseproject, an industrial design firm, said he understood Amazon’s approach as a retail company to rapidly test ideas — like when it measures how customers respond to different prices in its stores. But “with hardware, people end up being left with stuff that’s useless or doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “In the world that we live in today, with global warming and plastics and waste, I do think it’s something to be very careful about.”
Don Norman, who founded the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, and wrote the book “The Design of Everyday Things,” said that throughout his career, he had seen some other companies use approaches similar to Amazon’s. In the 1990s, when Mr. Norman worked with Apple as a user experience architect, the company collaborated with Sony on a product. He said Apple had planned to spend years doing market research and testing prototypes before shipping it.
“Sony laughed at us and said: ‘What a stupid way of doing things. We just build a product, and we sell it. We get the feedback, and we kill it and do a better one. It’s much more efficient and faster than your method,’” Mr. Norman said.
This on-the-fly approach to development is unpopular, he said, because most companies recognize that customers get angry when gadgets are quickly killed. “There’s some logic to it but also a complete disrespect to what it might mean to your customers or environment or the world,” Mr. Norman said.
Kyle Wiens, the chief executive of iFixit, a company that sells parts for people to repair gadgets, said there were better ways than Amazon’s to discontinue products. When Pebble, a smartwatch maker, shut down in 2016, the company said the software would continue to work. People continued to enjoy the product years after the company’s death.