Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Tech News08 Nov 2007 04:46 am

It was time to upgrade. The home PC is 5 years old. Truthfully, it probably will still serve for Quickbooks and other household tasks for another 3 years, so ok, the geek in me wanted a new PC. I had filled every PCI slot in the PC, and besides, a new computer is so shiny and cool. Now, this is where the story turns strange. For the fist time in over 20 years, the new PC I bought is a Mac.

For a little background, a few months ago I got a new laptop at work. Now, I know better, but I ordered it with Vista because the new laptop was a tablet and Vista has great new features for tablets. Folks, this is the worst operating system I have used ever. Sure, the new transparent windows are neat and the new explorer windows are definitely an improvement, but I’ve never been more frustrated. Vista is a classic story of attempting to solve a problem by accretion. OS insecure, add another layer of firewall, user annoyance, and make many device drivers incompatible. Really, I could write a dissertation on why Vista is a POS, but that’s not the point.

The point is that there is a powerful lesson here for all of us software professionals. It is a lesson I have been thinking long and hard about. The lesson is that building ever more complex solutions via accretion while delivering more problems and obstacles to users is a good way to lose customers.

Apple did something incredibly daring by chucking their investment in MAC OS and rebuilding the new OS X on BSD unix. Of course, they had a head start by leveraging the work of Next. This bold move has paved the way for their current success and a stock price that has gone from around $6 to todays close at over $186. Clearly the iPod had a lot to do with this, but this and the iPhone are part of an integrated strategy to drag Mac sales.

But back to the point. Clearly featuritis, where more and more features are pumped into a product will at some point form an over bloated, difficult to use, and hard to maintain product that is vulnerable to a new competitor with a fresh idea. See the Innovator’s Dilemma for some case studies on this. This experience has driven this lesson home for me. What do you think?

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