The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Tuesday, 27 February 2007]

Doing it for free

Why the first job for any technology company is to make their product easy to use.

Having an iPod-enabled car with its attendant enjoyment of all sorts of time-and-location-shifted content on my commute has me thinking about how fine the line is between easy and hard, and how much that affects behavior.

Downloading a podcast to iTunes then burning it to CD is enough of a pain that I won’t do it except in special circumstances. Just connecting the iPod, having everything happen magically, and then having the content in the car means I will do it.

Got a podcast? I’ll check it out. If I don’t like it, there’s no sunk cost.

It’s the same thing as the difference between a VCR and a DVR. Technically, they do the same thing, but its the comparative ease with which they do it that makes all the difference in the world. Time-shifting content on a VCR means figuring out how to program it, checking every week to make sure the frigtards at the network didn’t change the time your show comes on†, and making sure you’re not going to run out of tape.

Very much doable, but enough of a chore that it has to be a great show for you to go through the hassle. On a DVR, it’s a matter of clicking a button and the machine handles it for you. Badabim!

Just goes to show that the reason Apple is kicking butt in the areas of the consumer market it has entered is that the big computer manufacturers don’t understand the difference between consumers and employees—a consumer does things when they are easy or fun to do, whereas an employee does things because they’ll be fired if they don’t.

If your product technically can do something, but it’s a pain to actually accomplish, most consumers will not buy it, since their friends, along with a whole Internet of people who are early adopters, will tell them what a clunker your product is.

Compare this with an IT manager who will buy something for 5,000 seats if it has the right checkbox in the feature list.

†Seriously, why do they keep moving shows around? Is viewer loyalty that elusive a concept?

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