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

TextSoap 8.3.2 - Automate tedious text d...
TextSoap can automatically remove unwanted characters, fix up messed up carriage returns, and do pretty much anything else that we can think of to text. Save time and effort. Be more productive. Stop... Read more
Apple Remote Desktop 3.9 - Remotely cont...
Apple Remote Desktop is the best way to manage the Mac computers on your network. Distribute software, provide real-time online help to end users, create detailed software and hardware reports, and... Read more
Paragraphs 1.1.4 - Writing tool just for...
Paragraphs is an app just for writers. It was built for one thing and one thing only: writing. It gives you everything you need to create brilliant prose and does away with the rest. Features... Read more
Amazon Chime 4.0.5528 - Amazon-based com...
Amazon Chime is a communications service that transforms online meetings with a secure, easy-to-use application that you can trust. Amazon Chime works seamlessly across your devices so that you can... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.3.2 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
ForkLift 3.0 - Powerful file manager: FT...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
VueScan 9.5.70 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
SoftRAID 5.5.6 - High-quality RAID manag...
SoftRAID allows you to create and manage disk arrays to increase performance and reliability. SoftRAID allows the user to create and manage RAID 4 and 5 volumes, RAID 1+0, and RAID 1 (Mirror) and... Read more
Sparkle 2.1.0 - $79.99
Sparkle will change your mind if you thought building websites wasn't for you. Sparkle is the intuitive site builder that lets you create sites for your online portfolio, team or band pages, or... Read more
Logic Pro X 10.3.1 - Music creation and...
Logic Pro X is the most advanced version of Logic ever. Sophisticated new tools for professional songwriting, editing, and mixing are built around a modern interface that's designed to get creative... Read more

Blasty Bubs is a colorful Pinball and Br...
QuickByte Games has another arcade treat in the works -- this time it's a mishmash of brick breaking and Pinball mechanics. It's called Blasty Bubs, and it's a top down brickbreaker that has you slinging balls around a board. [Read more] | Read more »
Corsola and Heracross are the new region...
Generation 2 finally launched in Pokémon GO, unleashing a brand new batch of Pokémon into the wild. Even before the update went live people were speculating on how to catch elusive Pokémon like the legendary "dogs", Unknown, and whether or not... | Read more »
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Games)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: An epic adventure through a mysterious mountain filled with monsters, magic and mayhem! “...it looks downright... | Read more »
Fantasy MMORPG MU Origin’s receives a hu...
Developer Webzen are looking to take their highly popular fantasy battler MU Origin to the next level this month, with its most ambitious overhaul yet. The latest update introduces the long sought after Server Arena, new treasure dungeons, and much... | Read more »
RPG Djinn Caster (Games)
RPG Djinn Caster 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE 38% OFF(USD 7.99 -> USD 4.99)!!!A Fantasy Action RPG of far foreign lands! Summon the Djinns and rise to... | Read more »
Alto's Odyssey gets its first trail...
There's finally video evidence of Alto's Odyssey, the follow up to the 2015 App Store hit, Alto's Adventure. It looks just as soothing and atmospheric as Alto's last outing, but this time players will be journeying to the desert. Whereas Alto's... | Read more »
Last week on Pocket Gamer
What’s going on in the wider world of portable gaming? Each week we ask that question of our sister website Pocket Gamer. The PG team covers iOS gaming, just like 148Apps, but it also strays into the world of Android games and handheld consoles... | Read more »
Pokémon GO Generation 2 evolution guide
At long last, Niantic Labs finally unleashed the Generation 2 Pokémon into the wild. Pokémon GO trainers are scrambling to grab up this new set of 80 Pokémon. There are some special new tricks required to catch all of these new beasties, though.... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
It feels as though the New Year got off to a creaking start as far as mobile games go, but that's changed over the past few weeks. The last few days alone have seen the debut of a number of wonderful games, so we thought we'd take the time to... | Read more »
Recruit more scallywags and discover new...
Get ready to show off your sea legs all over again in Oceans & Empires’ new grand update, which aims to make the act of rising to the role of seven seas ruler even more fresh and appealing, thanks to a richness of new content on both iOS and... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple restocks refurbished 2015 and 2016 13-i...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 and 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $759. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2016 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (Apple refurbished...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (MD101LL/A) available for $829, or $270 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook... Read more
QuickerTek Announces 5TB Apple AC AirPort Tim...
QuickerTek Inc. has announced their new 5TB hard drive upgrade for Apple’s AC AirPort Time Capsule. By customer request, this upgrade also features six external antennas and offers the highest... Read more
Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available f...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Apple offering Certified Refurbished Series 1...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watches for 14-16% off MSRP, starting at $229. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each watch. Shipping is free: Series... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $50
B&H Photo has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for $200-$250...
Newegg has the 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook (sku MLH82LL/A) on sale for $1349.99 including free shipping. Their price is $250 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model.... Read more
13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale...
Adorama has the non-Touch Bar 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro in stock today for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray... Read more
13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has select 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook... Read more
KSI-1802R SX Disinfect-able Keyboard With Wav...
KSI has unveiled a new, innovative medical keyboard, the KSI-1802R SX, at HIMSS 2017, running February 19-22 in Orlando, Florida. KSI-1802R SX is the only keyboard that combines dual factor... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
*Apple* Technician - nfrastructure (United S...
Let’s Work Together Apple Technician This position is based in Portland, ME Life at nfrastructure At nfrastructure, we understand that our success results from our Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.