The Web Is Improving Consumer Software By Cutting Out Middlemen
from the keep-it-simple-stupid dept
David Pogue quotes an interesting reader email about why high-tech consumer products are so often bloated and poorly designed. It points out that when large companies design a product, they tend to be overly focused on adding lots of complex features in order to put "more check marks in more boxes" on comparison charts and impress reviewers. That raises the price of the product and can often confuse novice users. But in the old days when software was sold in a box at Best Buy, it was hard to avoid this fate because the overhead of producing, distributing, and marketing the software required charging a high price and sucking up to reviewers. The web has eliminated a lot of overhead and allowed an entrepreneur to put his product directly in the hands of users without going through a lot of middlemen. That shifts the marketplace in favor of small, lightweight, easy-to-use software.
Software that would never have been judged serious enough to put in a box and sell at Best Buy can now carve out a niche in the market by appealing directly to customers. And that's a good thing because comparison charts are often a lousy way to judge software. For example, the original Google search engine would have stacked up poorly in comparison charts against larger rivals like Yahoo! that were rapidly transforming themselves into "portals." But Google was a lot better at the one feature that really mattered: search quality. They had trouble convincing the titans of the web to buy their search technology, but luckily they could just put it on the web and let the customer try it. As more and more software migrates to the web, it's likely to result in more responsive and higher-quality software.