Today, we tend to think of an avatar as a digital image that represents a person in an online environment. It’s the face or icon that represents you in your Twitter stream, or on your Facebook page. But the original word avatar comes from ancient Sanscrit, based on the root words ava (descent, coming down) and tatari (crossing over). The original meaning of avatar is the divine made flesh; an incarnation or physical manifestation of an idea or god. In Hindu belief, Buddha was an avatar of the god Vishnu – a physical manifestation of the deity descended to earth. Energy transformed into matter.
In the same way, a product can be considered as a physical manifestation of a service or set of services: a service avatar.
Products come with knowledge and services embedded within them. A car is the manifestation of years of learning, accumulated through research, crash testing, metallurgy, electrical engineering, design and a score of other disciplines, including good old trial and error. And as we have seen, a car itself provides the service of getting you comfortably from one place to another.
The ratio of knowledge to matter in any product is continually increasing. A modern car contains more computing power than the system that guided Apollo astronauts to the moon.
Consider the difference between a TV and a TiVo. The knowledge and services embedded in a product are what gives the product its value.