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Can trying to please everyone end up pleasing no one?
Author: Jeremy Herring
April 1st 2012 - One of the more humorous aspects of the ongoing battle between tech rivals is the perspective with which observers view their current favorite contenders. Google’s Android operating system has been criticized for its fragmentation, a result of customization for each device brand and mobile carrier using it. At the same time, there are those who see that very attribute as its greatest strength. Meanwhile, Apple is very stalwart in keeping its mobile device operating system completely separate from its desktop computer operating system in order to preserve the unique qualities which allow each to excel within its own market. Which brings up the question of Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8 operating system. In an effort to unify the user experience, Microsoft has gone out of its way to write the programming code for Windows 8 to be flexible enough for use on a PC, a notebook, a tablet or a smart phone. .. but in the fullness of time will this approach backfire as Microsoft tries to be all things to all users, regardless of platform? Only time will tell. The reason why a ‘please everyone’ approach usually fails is because everyone expects different things and more widely you try to cast the net to please those whose expectations lie on the outer fringes of the mainstream the more significant the compromises which must be made in order to allow these minority expectations to dictate the experience of the mainstream. Pushed to the extreme, the mainstream will begin to fall away because they will feel neglected or misplaced in the grand scheme of things. Put in the context of revenue, the appeal of the minority fringe ends up costing more in the loss of opportunity toward the mainstream. This is one of the challenges which constantly face any company which develops a product or service offering to a consumer public. When I was working in the auto parts industry, the software ‘wish list’ was virtually nonexistent simply because the application was built in unison with the supply chain. A closed supply chain ensures that the functionality of the application will be uniform and the user experience will be dictated by the standard operating procedures commonly accepted by the industry model. In contrast, the indoor tanning industry is about as far from that model as it can be. The business model is highly individualized and the supply chain is fragmented. There are numerous choices for software vendors, product vendors and even equipment vendors. With so many choices, just in the software market the number of requested options and possible scenarios can overwhelm the wish list with requests that may only focus on the desires of a small segment of the user base. The challenge for a software development team is to evaluate which requests can be accomplished given the complexity of the function, will meet the needs of the widest segment of users, offer the most flexibility to meet various business models and promote the best value for the growth of the software product’s own business model… no small feat when trying to satisfy many competing requests and sometimes demands. The choice of software vendors is the counterbalance in the equation. In a competitive marketplace, the consumer is free to choose another product which more closely meets their needs. It is unlikely however that any single product is going to meet every need or desire – that accomplishment is reserved for the arena of custom development tailored to individual need. When one supplier makes a conscious move towards a particular goal or away from a legacy, it is because they believe the rewards (profits) are better in the new direction. If that direction loses some customer base along the way, the resulting new customers won by the new direction are most likely worth the risk. There is no way to continue to be the company of the past building the technology of the past and simultaneously remain on the cutting edge of new technology. The two are mutually exclusive.
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