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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Software Strategy - II

So far, I have identified two software strategies:

1) "All things to all people" - The Marketing-Driven Approach (Also known as the "checklist" approach)

2) "Sense and Respond" - The Microsoft Approach

Sense and Respond is a very real thing. In fact, it's covered in pages 120-126 of Information Systems Management In Practices, 6th Edition. You can buy the seventh edition from Amazon here.

My problem is that Sense and Respond is still a perfection-driven, so-everything, be-the-best approach. It is a modern approach; it is a better mousetrap.

So, let's look at the iPod. Keep in mind, there were MP3 Players already on the market before the iPod. They had some software. Why didn't they sell?

A) The Big Checklist was a problem. The "add features fast" theory led to features that were not well thought out, no one would use, and cluttered up the user interface.

B) That approach appeals to early adopters and the tech savvy. There was a vast, untapped market that just wanted to listen to music, just like they used the VCR to listen to movies. Keep in mind that clock still blinks 12:00 in many households.

C) The vast multitude didn't want to take pictures, record audio, and make phone calls ... They just wanted to listen to Britney Spears. To do that, they had to "rip" music from the CD's they owned, and the MP3 Players rarely shipped with software that was useful. (After all, the companies thought "We make hardware, not software.")

Enter Apple. Enter the iPod.

The fist thing I find interesting about the iPod is that it does one thing (music), and does it well.

It's the "one check box" approach. Check the box, but check its so well that you create barriers to entry. Heck, make a patent.

In fact, to make the iPod, Apple took things that are on the checklist of any MP3 player and no one even thinks about (like the ability to switch batteries) and it took them off.

That's right. You can't switch batteries on your iPod. What's more, you probably don't care because it's so fruity-good.

Under this model, usability and simplicity are king. So Apple made iTunes, and made it really easy to transfer music from CD to PC and MP3 player, or to buy music online. Apple then let an entire line of partners make tools - armbands, radio trasmitters, and car chargers. Each partner either does an awesome job at one thing, or, well ... Probably loses the market.

Simplicity. Usability. Do one thing and do it well. Make sure that your one thing integrates well with the world around you.

Here's my argument: These ideas are inherently post-modern. Over the next ten years, in the competitive market of ideas, I think they are going to win.

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