TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Competition
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:4
Column Tag:Inside Information

The Competition of The Future

Do you know any dinosaurs headed for extinction?

By Chris Espinosa, Apple Computer, Inc., MacTech Magazine Regular Contributing Author

In the personal computer software industry we’re extremely fortunate to have a couple of natural forces that help keep ahold of our customers. First, there is the normal upgrade cycle, where for a small amount of work we can make an improvement on the products our customers already own, and do a "trade-in" at a very low cost of goods. You can’t do that with refrigerators, for example, because most of the costs are in materials and manufacturing. The revenue stream from upgrade products is what keeps most companies profitable in the software industry.

Second is the "switching costs" that keep customers on that upgrade path. Once you’ve bought a product, learned its interface and features, committed a lot of your data to its file format, and (consciously or unconsciously) designed your everyday habits around it, you’re pretty reluctant to switch to another product, even if it promises to be A Whole Lot Better. It has to be so much better that it overcomes the pain of learning a new feature set and user interface, the time-consuming and inaccurate process of file conversion, and the discomfort of losing old habits and gaining new ones.

In many cases, the switching cost is always higher than the benefit. A modern application has so many features that it’s rare for a different product to completely satisfy its users. Everybody has one crucial feature that they love in one application and won’t give up. It’s hard for a competitor to cover all of the cherished features well enough to really steal customers from an established product.

As long as software remains large and hand-crafted, with each application having its own file format and user interface, the switching costs for users will remain high. That means that you can generally trust that your installed base will be a ready market for your upgrades, and you can focus most of your effort on adding features that please them, get the attention of new computer purchasers, and (maybe) attract some people who already own your competitors’ products.

But OpenDoc and the component software revolution change the technical basis for many of these switching costs. Because the information edited by part editors is stored in the Bento file format, it’ll be easier for one application to read another’s data. Because OpenDoc lets you add part editors to any document, you can keep the user interface and cherished features of the most important data, and integrate them easily into another application. So when someone creates a compound document with your application and a lot of OpenDoc part editors, it’s not that difficult for them to take those parts and move them to another application without a major upheaval in file format, user interface, or features.

It will be a long time before software components become truly interchangeable parts, but just a little interchangeability can make a serious difference in how you develop your products -- and how you keep a hold on your customers.

In development, you should see your application as a whole, not just (to use the cliché) the sum of its parts. For example, consider constructing your graphics-editing application so that the bulk of the work is done in a graphics part editor, but your “container” application adds automation, management, and control. Though people might be tempted to just use your part editor in other applications (as well they could), they’d soon miss the advanced features only available in the container.

Or focus on customizability. One of the tempting things about General Magic’s Magic Cap environment is that it’s terrifically personal, and people will get attached to it: not to the environment itself, but to what they’ve done to it. When users personalize your software to the degree that moving away from it is like moving out of their homes, your chances of keeping them are stronger.

As software becomes interchangeable, the less it will cost to switch. Ultimately we’ll have to deal with the fact that some kinds of software will become commodities, just like clone PC hardware today. And that means that a lot of the things that are important in today’s software business (like upgrades and new features) may become less important, and things that are most important in other industries might become most important in software as well.

Things like great customer service, personal customer support, high quality (the first time, not in the .1 version), and heavy direct marketing. Things like licensing terms that are not only convenient, but understandable (have you even read the license agreement you put on the software you sell?). Things that make YOU different, not just things that make your product different.

For many technologists this will be extremely annoying. At its worst it’s a “marketing-driven” industry. At its best, it’s a great foundation for innovation, though your innovations of two years ago don’t give you a natural customer base for next year. In any case, a lot of the things that we have gotten away with so far must end: bugs and instability, rampant featuritis, and “upgrades” that are bigger and slower than the current version. When your users can take their data and use a different product, they’ll be less tolerant of your mistakes and foibles.

Perhaps this will never happen. It’s possible that interchangeable software parts are still a long way away. If so, we can probably get away with proprietary data formats, buggy code, and feature bloat for a few more happy years, dragging our poor customers with us. But even if the component revolution doesn’t happen on schedule, it might be a good idea to clean up our act anyway: remember that phones, TVs, and video games are creeping up on our personal computer industry just like we crept up on minicomputers ten years ago. If we don’t pay attention to what people really want, we could be the next dinosaurs.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

FileZilla 3.24.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.24.0: New The context menu for remote file search... Read more
Bookends 12.7.8 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.8.3 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
BusyContacts 1.1.6 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
MarsEdit 3.7.10 - Quick and convenient b...
MarsEdit is a blog editor for OS X that makes editing your blog like writing email, with spell-checking, drafts, multiple windows, and even AppleScript support. It works with with most blog services... Read more
BusyCal 3.1.4 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. Its unique features... Read more
VirtualBox 5.1.14 - x86 virtualization s...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
Bookends 12.7.8 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
VirtualBox 5.1.14 - x86 virtualization s...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
FileZilla 3.24.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.24.0: New The context menu for remote file search... Read more

Super Mario Run dashes onto Android in M...
Super Mario Run was one of the biggest mobile launches in 2016 before it was met with a lukewarm response by many. While the game itself plays a treat, it's pretty hard to swallow the steep price for the full game. With that said, Android users... | Read more »
WarFriends Beginner's Guide: How to...
Chillingo's new game, WarFriends, is finally available world wide, and so far it's a refreshing change from common mobile game trends. The game's a mix of tower defense, third person shooter, and collectible card game. There's a lot to unpack here... | Read more »
Super Gridland (Entertainment)
Super Gridland 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Match. Build. Survive. "exquisitely tuned" - Rock Paper Shotgun No in-app purches, and no ads! | Read more »
Red's Kingdom (Games)
Red's Kingdom 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mad King Mac has kidnapped your father and stolen your golden nut! Solve puzzles and battle goons as you explore and battle your... | Read more »
Turbo League Guide: How to tame the cont...
| Read more »
Fire Emblem: Heroes coming to Google Pla...
Nintendo gave us our first look at Fire Emblem: Heroes, the upcoming mobile Fire Emblem game the company hinted at last year. Revealed at the Fire Emblem Direct event held today, the game will condense the series' tactical RPG combat into bite-... | Read more »
ReSlice (Music)
ReSlice 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Audio Slice Machine Slice your audio samples with ReSlice and create flexible musical atoms which can be triggered by MIDI notes or... | Read more »
Stickman Surfer rides in with the tide t...
Stickson is back and this time he's taken up yet another extreme sport - surfing. Stickman Surfer is out this Thursday on both iOS and Android, so if you've been following the other Stickman adventures, you might be interested in picking this one... | Read more »
Z-Exemplar (Games)
Z-Exemplar 1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.4 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
5 dastardly difficult roguelikes like th...
Edmund McMillen's popular roguelike creation The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth has finally crawled onto mobile devices. It's a grotesque dual-stick shooter that tosses you into an endless, procedurally generated basement as you, the pitiable Isaac,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Twelve South Releases RelaxedLeather Cases fo...
Inspired by the laid-back luxury of burnished leather boots and crafted in rich tones of taupe, herb and marsala, RelaxedLeather cases deliver smart, easy protection for the iPhone 7. Each genuine... Read more
Week’s Best Deal: New 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz Mac...
Amazon has the new 2016 13″ 2.0GHz non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for a limited time for $225 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro, Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1274.99 $225 off... Read more
Back in stock: Apple refurbished Mac minis fr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
Apple Ranked ‘Most Intimate Brand’
The top ranked ‘”intimate” brands continued to outperform the S&P and Fortune 500 indices in revenue and profit over the past 10 years, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2017 Report, the largest... Read more
B-Eng introduces SSD Health Check for Mac OS
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based independant Swiss company- B-Eng has announced the release and immediate availability of SSD Health Check 1.0, the company’s new hard drive utility for Mac OS X. As the... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free: -... Read more
4-core 3.7GHz Mac Pro on sale for $2290, save...
Guitar Center has the 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro (MD253LL/A) on sale for $2289.97 including free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Their price is a $710 savings over standard MSRP for... Read more
128GB Apple iPad Air 2, refurbished, availabl...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 128GB iPad Air 2s WiFis available for $419 including free shipping. That’s an $80 savings over standard MSRP for this model. A standard Apple one-year warranty is... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina Apple MacBook Pro on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (MF839LL/A): $... Read more
Laptop Market – Flight To Quality? – The ‘Boo...
Preliminary quarterly PC shipments data released by Gartner Inc. last week reveal an interesting disparity between sales performance of major name PC vendors as opposed to that of less well-known... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* MAC Infrastructure Engineer - InnoCo...
Summary: Responsible for all aspects of Apple Desktop hardware. This includes research, design, test, and deploy technologies being researched by the desktop Read more
*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Manhattan, NY Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most Read more
Senior Workstation Administrator - *Apple*...
…with extraordinary HR. QualificationsJOB SUMMARY/OVERVIEWThe Senior Workstation Administrator - Apple supports the mission of TriNet by providing advanced level Read more
Intermediate *Apple* macOS Systems Integrat...
**Position Summary:** SC3 is actively seeking an Intermediate Apple macOS systems integration administrator that will be responsible for providing Apple Mac Read more
*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Los Angeles, CA Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.